Starting Monday, we’ll be ranking the 50 top players in Mets history, counting down from #50-#1 over the next few weeks. But before starting, let me explain the methodology behind the rankings.
The backbone of the list is objective. It’s not supposed to be a list of the best loved Mets; rather, it’s supposed to be a list of the Mets players who helped win baseball games. The two usually go hand in hand, but not always. Hi, Joe McEwing. The objective part of the list can be broken into three components, which I’ll explain here. If you don’t really like baseball statistics, feel free to skip over this part, because it’s boring. It’s just the nuts and bolts:
1. Weighted Wins Above Replacement: This is Beyond the Box Score’s method for evaluating Hall of Famers. I started with each Mets player’s wins above replacement (WAR) with the team. Then “wins above excellence” are added, which are any wins above the 3.0 WAR level in a season. So if a player had a 4.5 WAR season – which is a very good year — that earns the player 4.5 wins, PLUS 1.5 wins above excellence (4.5 – 3.0 = 1.5), for a total of 6.0 wins. Finally, “wins above MVP” are added, which are any wins above 6.0 WAR in a given season. So if a player had an MVP season of 8.3 WAR, that would earn him the 8.3 wins,
plus 5.3 wins above excellence (8.3 – 3.0 = 5.3),
plus 2.3 wins above MVP (8.3 – 6.0 = 2.3),
for a total of 15.9 weighted wins above replacement. Essentially, any WAR above the 3.0 level is counted twice, and any wins above the 6.0 level are counted three times. This allows players who were great in short bursts to be more easily compared with players who were decent for long stretches, which is what I was looking for. Doing it this way makes it easier to compare Todd Hundley and Jerry Grote.
Every hitter had this done with both Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR and Fangraphs’ version, and the two numbers were averaged together. I only used B-R’s WAR for pitchers, as Fangraphs’ WAR only goes back to 1980 for pitchers.
2. Clutch: There is an ongoing debate about whether clutch hitting exists as a real skill, or if it’s just a statistical illusion. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that if Player A hits 20 home runs in blowouts and Player B hits 20 go-ahead home runs, Player B’s home runs probably helped his team win more games. The timing of those hits might be (and probably is) mostly a function of chance, but if a player hit well in the clutch as a Met, that should count towards his case. Timing is everything.
To account for that, I added (or subtracted) a player’s win probability added “clutch” score, which can be found on B-R or Fangraphs, to his weighted WAR. It didn’t change much, generally about 1 win in either direction. The biggest winner was Jerry Koosman, with 5.5 wins added to his final number.
3. Playoffs: Playoff performance counts, too. I added or subtracted a player’s playoff win probability added with the Mets to his wins number. If a player performed well in the playoffs, his number went up; if he didn’t, it went down. If a player was never in the playoffs for the Mets, he was neither hurt by this, nor did he benefit. Playoff performance was the smallest section of the rankings, as nobody gained much more than a single win in either direction. That said, I did consider playoff performance more if players were particularly close in everything else.
And that’s it. WAR, weighted, plus clutch, plus postseason. Every player wound up with a win score ranging from about 8 for player #50 all the way up to 133 for player #1 (guess who).
After that, subjective elements came into play, particularly when players were objectively very similar. Ten players had scores between 18 and 19.9. All things considered, there isn’t that much of a difference between any of them. So I looked at some other things: How many times were they the best hitter or pitcher on their team? Were they an important part of a playoff team? Who was with the Mets longer? Who had a better peak? Better facial hair? Important stuff like that.
That’s pretty much it. Here are some of the near misses (or just long time Mets), in no particular order:
Rey Ordonez, shortstop: The best defensive shortstop in team history, but also the worst hitter in team history.
Ron Swoboda, outfield:
Felix Milan, second base: Milan is the only Mets player to start all 162 games in a season, starting every game of the 1975 season. John Olerud is the only other Met to play in all 162 games of a season, but three of his appearances in 1999 came as a pinch hitter.
Ken Boswell, second base: A regular on the 1969 Mets, Boswell is hurt by not being a full time player, never breaking 120 games played in a season.
Gary Gentry, pitcher: Posted a 3.43 ERA as a rookie with the 1969 Mets, and won game three of the World Series, throwing 6.2 scoreless innings and driving in two runs at the plate. Gentry’s rookie season was also his best, as his career was slowly derailed by arm injuries.
Pat Zachry, pitcher: A 1976 rookie of the year with the Reds, Zachry infamously came over in the Tom Seaver trade. Also injury prone, he never threw more than 164.2 innings with the Mets. He would be remembered more fondly if not for the circumstances of his arrival.
Pedro Martinez, pitcher:
Roger Craig, pitcher: A severely underrated member of the original Mets. Leading the league in losses in both ’62 and ’63 is the main reason for this, but Craig threw over 230 innings in both seasons and Baseball-Reference credits him with 6.0 wins above replacement for his two year Mets tenure. Craig notably went 5-22 in 1963, but 12 of his losses came in quality starts and the Mets supported him with a whopping 2.3 runs per game. As a Met, he had a higher percentage of quality starts than Pedro Martinez or Mike Pelfrey.
Kenny Rogers, pitcher: Just kidding.
Also: 1B Carlos Delgado, LF Steve Henderson, RF Joel Youngblood, LF Cliff Floyd, 2B Ron Hunt, and P Jack Fisher.
That’s it for the near misses or otherwise important Mets. The list kicks off with #50 on Monday.