The WAR statistic is sometimes unkind to first basemen because their defense is practically counted against them when compared to other positions. However, the best WAR season by a Mets first baseman somehow manages to rank fourth all-time among all position players.
It wasn’t Keith Hernandez who hit and fielded his way to the title nor was it Carlos Delgado or even Pete Alonso who slugged a franchise-setting WAR while playing first base. The best WAR season from a Mets first baseman came from a guy who did a lot of other things real well.
The best NY Mets WAR season from a first baseman belongs to John Olerud in 1998
John Olerud’s 1998 season was record-setting in Queens. Olerud managed to stay only three seasons with the Mets but continually raised the bar for what we should expect out of the position. He somehow did it by channeling a lot of what made Hernandez so special in the 1980s. Olerud hit for decent power, fielded his position well, and in 1998 was worth a total of 7.6 WAR.
This is an impressive number and made possible by his .354 batting average. No Mets player has ever finished a season higher. He didn’t just settle there either. Olerud had a .447 OBP and .551 slugging percentage. All of these combined created a unique player who happened to also swat 22 home runs and drive in 93.
Olerud’s ability to draw more walks than strikeouts was something to behold as well. He finished the year with 96 walks and only 73 strikeouts. It paled in comparison to his 1999 campaign when he’d set a new franchise walks record with 125 and somehow only struck out 66 times. In 1998, Olerud was more determined to take action with his bat.
Defense is somewhat irrelevant in the WAR statistic in terms of a positive contribution. At a career-best 0.6 WAR on defense, it helped push Olerud into the top slot for Mets first basemen when it comes to this statistic.
Was Olerud’s 1998 season the best of any first baseman? There are some seasons that would disagree. It is, nonetheless, one of the more remarkable outlier campaigns of any Mets player regardless of their position. It’s going to be tough for anyone to ever beat his batting average. His WAR, too, might be an unbreakable record for first basemen.