The New York Mets
I grew up on Long
Island, New York. I used to take the subway from the
Babylon train station in to Flushing Meadow. Although I saw
a bunch of games at Shea during my teenage years with my
brother, we almost never missed Banner Day. My brother and
I, with our mother's help, would fabricate simple
paint-on-bedsheet banners in order to get the privilege of
going on field and parading around in a big loop between
games of the double header. That was when you could still
bring in a cooler to the stadium. We brought our lunches
and sodas had a great time.
Anyway, I thought I would put together a list of the best 20 New York Mets players of all time. I've been reading a lot of Bill James. He's the most influential baseball writer of the era and probably the most influential baseball writer in the history of the game. He is so thought provoking. I've read a book called Win Shares and the upshot of my reading is that Bill James has put so much thought into developing an objective system for relative ranking of baseball players that it is very difficult to argue with the method or results.
So, I'm going to use the Win Shares ranking system for my analysis as it was delineated in Bill James' The New Historical Baseball Abstract, published in 2001. The system was explained on pages 339 to 358 in that book. The rating system is split into six categories of which one category won't apply to my analysis. Below are the categories considered in the ranking system and a brief explanation of what each category means.
To qualify to be considered as one of the all-time best New York Mets you need only one qualification; you have to have played at least parts of five seasons as a Met.
How many players have been in a Met uniform for at least parts of five seasons? Not many for a team with 51 years of baseball history. It is a sign of our modern times that a player doesn't stay on one team for long. The number of players who have spent a least parts of five seasons in a New York Met uniform is ninety-eight (soon to be ninety-nine as soon as Johan Santana steps onto the field in 2013).
Here they are in alphabetical order: Tommie Agee, Rick Aguilera, Neil Allen, Edgardo Alfonzo, Bob Apodaca, Wally Backman, Carlos Beltran, Armando Benitez, Bruce Boisclair, Bobby Bonilla, Ken Boswell, Hubie Brooks, Gary Carter, Ramon Castro, David Cone, Ron Darling, Duffy Dyer, Len Dykstra, Kevin Elster, Nino Espinosa, Pedro Feliciano, Sid Fernandez, Doug Flynn, George Foster, John Franco, Matt Franco, Dan Frisella, Wayne Garrett, Tom Glavine, Dwight Gooden, Jerry Grote, Bud Harrelson, Tom Hausman, Aaron Heilman, Keith Hernandez, Ron Hodges, Todd Hundley, Jeff Innis, Jason Isringhausen, Al Kackson, Gregg Jeffries, Howard Johnson, Bobby Jones, Cleon Jones, Mike Jorgensen, Jeff Kent, Dave Kingman, Jerry Koosman, Terry Leach, Al Leiter, Skip Lockwood, Ed Lynch, Barry Lyons, Dave Magadan, John Maine, Teddy Martinez, Jon Matlack, Lee Mazzilli, Jim McAndrew, Roger McDowell, Joe McEwing, Tug McGraw, Kevin McReynolds, Felix Millan, Keith Miller, John Milner, Randy Myers, Bob Ojeda, Rey Ordonez, Jesse Orosco, Jay Payton, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, Mike Piazza, Todd Pratt, Rick Reed, Jose Reyes, Grant Roberts, Nolan Ryan, Brett Saberhagen, Ray Sadecki, Mackey Sasser, Tom Seaver, Rusty Staub, John Stearns, Darryl Strawberry, Craig Swan, Ron Swoboda, Ron Taylor, Steve Traschel, Alex Trevino, Turk Wendell, Mookie Wilson, Vance Wilson, David Wright, Pat Zachary.
Notably missing is John Olerud and Lance Johnson. These two players had some great seasons with the Mets, but it just doesn't make sense to me that two or three seasons makes you one of the all-time best Mets in team history. I'm willing to be wrong about this.
1) Career Win Share total as a Met
What is a Win Share? To quote page 2 of Bill James' Win Shares, "Win Shares are, in essence, Wins Created. Win Shares takes the concept of Runs Created and moves it one step further from runs to wins. This makes it different in essentially two ways. First, it removes illusions of context, putting a hitter in Yankee stadium on equal footing with a hitter from Colorado, and putting a hitter in 1968 on equal footing with a hitter from 2000. Second, the Win Shares system attempts to state the contributions of pitchers and fielders in the same form as those of hitters." James then embarks on more than 100 pages of mathematical and statistical discussions of how he got what he got. Great stuff. I'm a fan.
Players are assigned a Win Share total that is commensurate with their contributions toward making their team win- as a hitter, pitcher, and fielder. The bigger the Win Share assigned to the player's contribution, the more he had to do with creating wins for the team. A Win Share total of 40 or more for a specific year is an exceptional, historic year. A player garnering a Win Share total of 30 and above had an MVP / Cy Young Award-type year. A year between 20 to 30 Win Shares is an All-star-type year. A year of approximately 15 win shares is a run-of-the-mill year for a full-time player. Below 15 Win Shares would be below par for a full-time player.
Adding all these Win Shares up from a player's career, dividing by 10, then taking the harmonic mean between that number and 25, and you have the first component of the player analysis to determine the best 20 Mets of all time.
2) The player's Win Shares in his three best years as a Met
You find the player's three best Win Share years and average them. This is the second part of the analysis. This part of the analysis is designed to enumerate how good a player was when he was at his best. For example, at his best did a player average 15 Win Shares per season, or 25? Big difference.
3) Five best consecutive seasons as a Met
You find all the Win Share totals for a player throughout his career as a Met, locate his five best consecutive seasons, and determine the average value for those five years. This is meant to get an indication of sustained performance level.
4) Career Win Shares per season - Not Applicable
This is the one Bill James categories that does not apply to my analysis. This was designed by James to analyze players who played in 154-game seasons along side of players who played in 162-game seasons. Of course, all Met players played 162-game seasons so we needn't bother with this category.
5) The time line adjustment
Bill James points out that players, on the whole, have gotten better over time. Although this is something hotly disputed by some, it is not disputed by me. I have no doubt that a well-conditioned average player of today is bigger, stronger, quicker, and smarter than a player of 1880. This factor accounts for the betterment of players with time and thus accounts for the difference between a Met of 1962 and a Met of 2009.
6) The subjective factor as a Met
To keep this category simple I am considering two things here: on-field leadership and World Series play. I am judging on-field leadership as follows; if you led the Mets in Win Shares for a specific year, I'm calling that on-field leadership and a player will be awarded 2 points to his ranking total. For World Series play, if a player had a great World Series they get 2 points onto their ranking total, a good World Series gets 1 point. That's it. Subjective rankings can cause mischief, so I am trying to keep it measurable and real.
Let's take an example. Tom Seaver's ranking breaks down like this:
25.78 (Career Win Share total) + 31 (Win Share average of best three seasons) + 28 (average of best five consecutive years) + 14.4 (Time Line adjustment) + 16 (Subjective Factor) = 115.18 total ranking points. Tom Seaver ranks as the #1 best Met of all-time. This makes lots of sense to me.
Ranking Method Update (Feb 2011):
I’m a big fan of Baseball-Reference.com. It is a terrific site. I’ve recently been giving the player ranking method on that site, Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a lot of thought and I like it. I don’t like it more than BIll James’ method used above, but I do think it has a lot of value. Its another way of looking at player value. It measures how many wins a player is responsible for above a typical replacement player for that league and year. A WAR of between 0-2 means a substitute (or replacement) player, a WAR of 2+ is a major league starter, a WAR of 5+ is an All-star type player, and a WAR of 8+ is an MVP-type player.
I’ve decided to also list the B-R WAR for each of the Met players and to combine the two scoring methods into one player score. I know there is no statistical rationale for doing this, but the results do make sense. So, what I am calling a “player’s score” is the sum of the Met players career Win Share Analysis a la Bill James, added to the players career Wins Above Replacement value a la Baseball Reference.com.
Click here for the 20 best Mets players of all time.
I am currently working on an analysis of the five best New York Met player seasons of all time.