Here are the best Mets seasons by position

December 1st, 2021

NEW YORK -- David Wright is the greatest third baseman in Mets history. Tom Seaver is the best starting pitcher. But what about the best seasons by a Met at those positions? While the Wrights and Seavers of the world can certainly lay claim to their share, the Mets also have a long history of lesser-known players making appearances alongside the all-time greats on single-season leaderboards.

Here is a look, by position, at the finest individual campaigns in franchise history:

Catcher: , 2000
Key stats: .324/.398/.614, 38 HR, 113 RBI, 155 OPS+, 5.1 bWAR, 5.8 fWAR

It would be just as easy to put Gary Carter’s fantastic summer of 1985, which was likely a better all-around campaign, in this space. But it’s difficult to ignore what Piazza accomplished at the plate in 2000, posting a 1.012 OPS and a 155 league-adjusted OPS+ while swatting 38 homers as a catcher. Despite criticisms dogging him throughout his career, Piazza even rated as an above-average defensive catcher in 2000. Still, weighing Piazza against Carter is probably the most difficult assignment on this list.

First base: , 1998
Key stats: .354/.447/.551, .430 wOBA, 167 wRC+, 7.6 bWAR, 8.1 fWAR

Although Keith Hernandez was unquestionably the finest first baseman in Mets history, two of the three best seasons, by WAR, belonged to Olerud. Following a strong first year with the Mets in 1997, Olerud backed it up with an otherworldly campaign in ’98. Owner of one of the sweetest left-handed swings of his era, Olerud nearly chased down Larry Walker for the National League batting title. He finished second there but added 15 more hits, including three home runs, in the following postseason.

Second base: , 2000
Key stats: .324/.425/.542, 25 HR, 94 RBI, 147 OPS+, 6.4 bWAR, 6.4 fWAR

Remarkably consistent in his 1999-2000 seasons, Alfonzo ran into some better luck on balls in play in the latter. The result was historic. He added 20 points to his batting average and 40 to his on-base and slugging marks, delivering the best campaign of his eight-year Mets career. It was, somewhat remarkably, his only All-Star season. Offensively, Alfonzo regularly hit third ahead of Piazza, who also delivered his best season in 2000. Defensively, Alfonzo was not only reliable, but perhaps underappreciated due to his era’s lack of advanced metrics.

Third base: , 2007
Key stats: .325/.416/.546, 30 HR, 107 RBI, 34 SB, 8.3 bWAR, 8.4 fWAR

Statistically, Wright’s 2007 campaign was probably the single best season by a Mets hitter at any position. He did everything well, producing a 30-30 season and winning the first of his two Gold Gloves at third base. Even during the Mets’ historic collapse that saw them blow a seven-game lead with 17 to go, Wright was one of the few blameless players on the roster, batting .397/.451/.575 with two home runs, three stolen bases, 11 RBIs and 15 runs scored over that stretch.

Shortstop: José Reyes, 2006
Key stats: .300/.354/.487, 19 HR, 17 3B, 122 R, 64 SB, 5.9 bWAR, 5.7 fWAR

Reyes had a higher average in 2011, when he won the batting title with a .337 mark. He stole more bases in ’07, when he led the league with 78. He hit more triples in ’08, when he finished with 19. Nonetheless, '06 was the year when Reyes put it all together, shrugging off his early career injury woes to thrive on both sides of the ball. In terms of WAR, the top four shortstop seasons in Mets history all belong to Reyes; '06 was simply the best of them.

Left field: Bernard Gilkey, 1996
Key stats: .317/.393/.562, 30 HR, 117 RBI, 155 OPS+, 8.1 bWAR, 7.6 fWAR

Cleon Jones was the finest left fielder in Mets history, but even he couldn’t match the career year of Gilkey in 1996. It came seemingly out of nowhere for a player who had enjoyed some decent success over six seasons in St. Louis, but who transformed into a different player after the Mets traded for him in the weeks leading up to Spring Training. Some of it was the product of an offensive environment so bloated that Gilkey finished merely 14th in NL MVP voting. Still, the season was the best in Mets history by a left fielder, and one-of-a-kind for Gilkey. He never came close to replicating his success over the final five years of his career in New York and elsewhere.

Center field: Carlos Beltrán, 2006
Key stats: .275/.388/.594, 41 HR, 116 RBI, 18 SB, 8.2 bWAR, 7.8 fWAR

There haven’t been many better all-around seasons in Mets history than the 2006 campaign of Beltrán, who was still in his prime as a Gold Glove center fielder and five-tool player. Health issues did dog Beltrán a bit, limiting him to 140 games, but he made up for it with the highest home run and OPS totals of his career. Finishing fourth in MVP voting, the highest placement of his career, Beltrán also made the All-Star team and won a Silver Slugger.

Right field: , 1987
Key stats: .284/.398/.583, 39 HR, 104 RBI, 36 SB, 6.4 bWAR, 5.5 fWAR

Unquestionably, the top three (and maybe more) right-field seasons in franchise history all belong to Strawberry; a far more interesting argument is which to put first. Strawberry came closest to winning the NL MVP in 1988, finishing second to Kirk Gibson, but that wasn’t his most eye-popping campaign overall. In terms of fWAR, Strawberry’s best was '90, thanks in large part to some generous defensive metrics. Those can be somewhat hard to trust. What’s clear is that '87 was probably Strawberry’s finest offensive season, with his best OPS by a reasonable margin, a career-high home run total and strong advanced data to back everything up.

Starting pitcher: , 1985
Key stats: 24-4, 1.53 ERA, 276 2/3 innings, 268 strikeouts, 12.2 bWAR, 8.9 fWAR

While it’s difficult to exclude any of Tom Seaver’s best seasons -- 1960, ’71, ’73 -- here, Gooden’s ’85 is widely considered one of the most exceptional pitching performances in modern baseball history. Building off his stunning Rookie of the Year campaign in ’84, Gooden bullied the NL to such an extent that his bWAR total was not only a Mets record, but the highest by a big league starter since Walter Johnson. His eight shutouts are a franchise mark unlikely ever to be broken, while his 229 league-adjusted ERA+ is also tops in team history.

Relief pitcher: , 1983
Key stats: 13-7, 1.47 ERA, 62 appearances, 110 IP, 17 saves, 248 ERA+

Gooden’s ERA+ in 1985 may have been the highest by a Met, but Orosco’s mark in ’83 outclassed that of any qualified pitcher in team history, period. He backed it up with traditional stats as well, winning 13 games and posting the lowest ERA by any Met with at least 50 innings. More than that, Orosco pitched in whatever role he was needed out of the bullpen -- sometimes closing games, but often going for two or three innings at a clip in the highest-leverage spots. The length or inning didn’t matter to Orosco, who routinely executed his job with brilliance.