Remembering Five of the Mets' All-Time Best Pitching Seasons

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The Mets may not have had half the lumber the Yankees flaunted over the last century, but they definitely do approach the Bombers' pitching orbit. With this latest list of NYC MLB superlatives, we strip all but one prerequisite - no player may appear on this list more than once - and just jump on the five best single seasons by a Mets pitcher.

David Cone, 1988In a tight fight between this and Jerry Koosman's 1976 season, Coney gets the edge for an ’88 campaign where he posted an astounding 20-3 record, which led a Mets club that coasted to 100 wins, and pitched a career-best eight complete games, with four shutouts. Coney also allowed just 178 hits in 231 1/3 innings while allowing a meager 10 homers - the fewest of his career when pitching at least 130 innings.

In most other years, Coney would have coasted to a Cy Young, but it makes sense that he finished behind Orel Hershiser in ‘88, as Hershiser owned the sport and set the all-time mark for consecutive scoreless innings – but what doesn't make sense is the fact that Cone was third, also behind Danny Jackson. Coney’s ERA was a half-run lower ERA than Jackson’s and he had 50 more strikeouts despite pitching 29 1/3 fewer innings, so by any reasonable metric, Cone should have finished second.

R.A. Dickey, 2012He didn't pitch his first full MLB season until he was 28. He didn't qualify for an All-Star game until his ninth season. And he threw the oddest pitch in the book, the knuckleball, which barely blew the dust off a catcher's mitt. But, at age 37, R.A. Dickey put it all together as a Met, and for one season, the least likely of pitchers was king of New York. 

The grizzled knuckleballer posted a 20-6 record with a sublime 2.73 ERA in 2012, and became the first Mets pitcher since Doc Gooden in 1985 to win the NL Cy Young Award. Dickey led the league in starts (33), complete games (5), and shutouts (3), as well as innings pitched (233 2/3), strikeouts (230), and batters faced (926). 

It was the only year Dickey qualified for an All-Star Game, got votes for NL MVP, or won more than 14 games in a season, yet Sandy Alderson deftly parlayed Dickey's year into a trade with the Blue Jays for Noah Syndergaard.

Jacob deGrom, 2018If his 10-9 record doesn't impress you, then maybe the 1.70 ERA in 32 starts, or his 269 strikeouts in 217 innings pitched, will.

Okay, so that was a setup, but deGrom won the NL Cy Young in 2018 because he was so utterly dominant everywhere else that even if wins mattered, wins didn’t matter. Since MLB lowered the mound in 1969, only two pitchers have made 30 starts or pitched at least 210 innings and posted an ERA as low as deGrom's (and one of them is on this list.), and Jacob is only the 11th qualifying starting pitcher over the last century to pitch to a 1.70 or better ERA.

In 2018, deGrom ended the season with 29 straight starts in which he allowed three or fewer runs, an MLB record for a single season, and he also set another MLB record with 24 straight quality starts. He's also the only pitcher in MLB's modern era (since 1900) to have a line that included a sub-2.00 ERA, 260 or more strikeouts, 50 or fewer walks, and 10 or fewer home runs allowed in a season. Oh, yeah, and the final strikeout of deGrom's 2018 season was the 1000th of his career, a threshold no Mets pitcher has reached faster than the 897 2/3 innings it took deGrom.

Tom Seaver, 1971Before you shriek about 1969 and the Miracle Mets, just consider Seaver's '71 season; sure, he had more wins in ’69, but Tom was more terrific in '71 by almost every other metric. That year, Seaver went 20-10 and led the NL in ERA (1.76), strikeouts (289), ERA+ (194), WHIP (0.946), and strikeouts per nine innings (9.1). The rather weird part, though, is that like Cone in ’88, Seaver didn’t win the Cy Young – he came in second behind Ferguson Jenkins, even though Tom Terrific had a better year.

So, sure, it would have been easier to pick 1969, 1973, or 1975, since he won the Cy Young in each of those years, but they just weren't his best – which is saying a lot, considering Seaver’s place in history even after getting robbed of a Cy Young in '71. 

Dwight Gooden, 1985What else could top this list? Gooden moonwalked to the Cy Young with a 24-4 record, 1.53 ERA, 16 complete games, and 268 strikeouts in 276 2/3 innings – all totals that led the NL. He tossed eight shutouts and posted a microscopic .0965 WHIP in anchoring a Mets rotation that led the club to 98 wins.

There were murmurs from key players such as Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez that this team was the best of the bunch, even better than the '86 team, but like so many Mets dreams, this was one was crushed – this time by the Cardinals, who finished three games ahead of the Mets to win the NL East in a year where both New York teams came up just shy of division titles. 

Still, in just his second season (and second All-Star season), Gooden became appointment television in an era before DVR or digital platforms. In his day, you either had tickets to the game, watched or listened on WWOR or the Mets radio network, or maybe jogged to your local Crazy Eddie (remember those?). Doc had the talent to own a wing at Cooperstown, but while his torment made his career a sad parable, Gooden was the king of the baseball world in 1985.

Follow Jason Keidel on Twitter: @JasonKeidel

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