*Opening Day 2011 will be the 50th Opening Day in Mets history. To honor that, around here we’ll be counting down the top 50 Mets in team history, one every weekday from now until we’ve done ‘em all. Today, #4, David Wright:*

It’s still close between David Wright and Darryl Strawberry for the title of best position player in Mets history. Strawberry remains ahead in runs scored, total bases, home runs, walks, RBI, slugging, and Baseball-Reference wins above replacement, while Wright holds the lead in hits, doubles, average, on base percentage, and times on base. The two are tied by Fangraphs’ version of wins above replacement. It’s been clear for a while that Wright was going to overtake Strawberry, but it’s not clear if he already has.

Here’s why I went with Wright over Straw at #4: Wright’s peak, 2006-2008, is better than any stretch in Strawberry’s career. In those three seasons, Wright averaged 30 home runs, 41 doubles, 23 steals, and a .312/.396/.537 batting line; he also played the best defense of his career at third base. From 1986-1988, the best three year stretch in his career, Strawberry averaged 35 home runs, 29 doubles, 31 steals, and a .271/.375/.546 batting line; he played questionable defense in right field. Wright’s 21 point advantage in on base percentage outweighs Strawberry’s 9 point advantage in slugging, while his 12 more doubles make up for the 5 fewer home runs, and Wright was caught stealing less often than Straw. That said, it’s close offensively; defense creates the real separation. Wright’s superior glovework at a more important defensive position elevates his value above Strawberry.

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I already did the first two of these — third best Mets team here, second best Mets team here — so here’s the top of the heap:

- C – Mike Piazza
- 1B – Keith Hernandez
- 2B – Edgardo Alfonzo
- SS – Jose Reyes
- 3B – David Wright
- LF – Cleon Jones
- CF – Carlos Beltran
- RF – Darryl Strawberry

And the pitchers:

- SP – Doc Gooden
- SP – Al Leiter
- SP – Jerry Koosman
- SP – Jon Matlack
- SP – Tom Seaver
- RP – Tug McGraw

I don’t think there’s any arguments here. Maybe you could quibble with Edgardo Alfonzo being the second baseman, as some of his best seasons came at third, but that’s about it. Note that every playoff team in Mets history had at least three of these guys.

Making a conservative eyeball estimate, this is a 98 win team if *everyone* has a middling-to-down year. Assuming they get a career years out of anyone, this team wins over 100 games. If they get multiple career years, this group threatens the 2001 Mariners’ record 116 wins in a season. They probably win the World Series two or three times in a five year period, if not more — the pitching staff is just absurd. Facing Seaver, Gooden, and Koosman in a short series, with Leiter, Matlack, and McGraw in the bullpen, would be mildly unpleasant for the opposition.

The biggest problem is constructing a lineup . . . well, the biggest happy problem. Reyes is the obvious leadoff hitter, but that’s the only gimme. Hernandez and Jones are the high OBP guys, so maybe one of them hits second, while the other hits seventh or eighth. As one of the comparatively weaker hitters, Edgardo Alfonzo probably hits in the other seventh or eighth spot. But the three, four, five, and six spots in the lineup are tricky — maybe you just alternate lefthanded and righthanded hitters in the middle of the order. I went with this:

- Reyes – SS
- Hernandez – 1B
- Piazza – C
- Strawberry – RF
- Wright – 3B
- Beltran – CF
- Jones – LF
- Alfonzo – 2B
- Pitcher – P

But I’m not sure. I’m always tempted to put Beltran in the 2-hole for some reason . . . oh wait, I know! Let’s hit Reyes third! Anyone have a better suggestion for a lineup?

I think it would be interesting to debate whether Johan deserves a SP spot over Leiter. Leiter may have accumulated slightly better total results in his best Met years (1998-2000) than Santana (2007-2009) but I believe Santana may have been better during that stretch and would have accumulated better total results if not for injuries in two of those seasons.

Of course, if you consider careers outside of the Mets, Johan would be the obvious choice. His 2004-2006 was legendary. I’m assuming you only were constructing the roster based on players’ careers as Mets?

Just Mets careers count. Inning per inning, Santana is the better pitcher — his ERA+ is the best in team history. But because of injuries, he’s only broken 200 innings once, in 2008. Leiter wasn’t as effective a pitcher, but he was healthier and on the mound more often. That counts for a lot.

“Wright’s 21 point advantage in on base percentage outweighs Strawberry’s 9 point advantage in slugging…”

Since I invented OBPIP (On Base Plus Isolated Power), I like to take every possible opportunity to promote it. Wright’s OBPIP is .621, while Straw checks in at .650.

Doesn’t sound too close, but let’s check the positional rating. The ‘standard’ OBPIP for third basemen is .471, so Wright is +150. The ‘standard’ for a right fielder is .522, reducing Darryl (and his other brother, Darryl) to +128. So, now David is looking better again.

But wait, none of these numbers has been adjusted for era (that’s ‘time period’, not ‘earned run average’). I’ll have to approximate it. According to Baseball Reference, David’s OPS+ is 135, while Darryl’s for his Mets years was 145. Rather than try to adjust both of these guys to the standard (I’ll explain ‘standard’ at the end), we’ll adjust David back to Darryl’s era.

.621 times 135 divided by 145 equals .578 OBPIP if David played back in Darryl’s day. Minus the .471 third base standard settles David at +107 to Darryl’s +128. And now Darryl’s back on top.

Looks like you’re right, it’s close offensively, but I think I’ll give it to Darryl. OBPIP difference does take into account, whether adequately or not, the defensive spectrum.

Definition of ‘standard’: The standard is based on all of the players who had 502 or more plate appearances in any of the years 2000, 2001 or 2002. In each year in which they qualified they were assigned to the position at which they played the most games. I then added the OBPIPs for all of the (for example) third basemen together and divided by the number of qualifying seasons at that position.

There were a couple of anomalies, since there were so few catchers and designated hitters who qualified. A similar system based on 162 innings was used for starting pitchers, and one based on 50 or more appearances for a reliever to standardize OBPIPA (the ‘A’ meaning ‘against’ or ‘allowed’).

The reason I like this stat, aside from it being mine, is that it compares players against the average full time starters at their position, not against AAAA guys.

It was developed for the purpose of drafting players for a baseball simulation game (Strat-O-Matic, though it works well for other games as well. In Strat they provide enough information to be able to calculate OBPIP and OBPIPA when facing left or right handers, so I used it to create lineups and calculate the situations in which pinch hitting or relief pitching was called for. I won six regular season championships, though was notably less successful in the playoffs (I’m going to plead small sample size, of course).

For those who care, the standard values are:

Starting Pitcher — .505

Relief Pitcher — .485

Catcher — .457*

Designated Hitter — .533#

First Baseman — .555

Second Baseman — .457

Short Stop — .435

Third Baseman — .471

Left Fielder — .515

Center Fielder — .483

Right Fielder — .522

*=represents the 80th percentile catcher, not the mean

#=I usually reverse the DH and 1B values, especially in DH leagues.

These were the two with tiny sample size.

Wow. What I meant to say was that OBP is about twice as important as SLG, which is why I thought Wright has an advantage — though I didn’t bother to adjust for the era in any of this. By Fangraphs, Strawberry was a better run producer overall than Wright, but it’s close. I still think the defensive difference between the two is enough to bump it towards Wright.

But I like this OBPIP — probably better for quick and dirty looks than OPS, which I think overvalues slugging percentage. I might end up stealing it for something.

Be my guest. Maybe it’ll become ‘a thing’.