R.A. Dickey and the 10 Best Individual Pitching Seasons in Mets History

Shale BriskinContributor IIISeptember 7, 2012

R.A. Dickey and the 10 Best Individual Pitching Seasons in Mets History

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    Throughout their history, the New York Mets have been more known for their pitching than their offense. They have had Hall of Fame hurlers, some of the most promising young phenoms and now have one of the greatest pitching stories ever.

    That great pitching story is known as R.A. Dickey.

    Once a minor league journeyman, Dickey has transformed into the best pitcher in baseball this year and is quite the favorite to win the 2012 NL Cy Young award with the numbers he has put up. If he gets the honor, he would become just the third pitcher in history to win as a Met.

    Dickey's season is certainly the best of any Mets pitcher in at least the last 10 years, if not longer. But how exactly does it stack up to the seasons of the greatest Mets pitchers ever?

    Here are the 10 greatest individual pitching seasons in Mets history.

Honorable Mentions

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    It would be a dishonor to do this ranking and not acknowledge those who did not make the cut, especially since many Mets pitchers over the years have done quite well.

    In the 1970s, Jon Matlack won the 1972 NL Rookie of the Year with 15 wins and a 2.32 ERA. He became a fixture in the rotation through 1977. Later in the decade, Craig Swan became the Mets' ace, led the National League with a 2.43 ERA in 1978 and won 14 games a year later.

    The 1980s were full of great pitching seasons from various players. Ron Darling was one of the most consistent pitchers from 1984-1989, highlighted by 15 wins and a 2.81 ERA in 1986, plus 17 wins and a 3.25 ERA in 1988.

    Sid Fernandez was another dominant pitcher for the Mets in the 1980s. His best season was in 1989, with 14 wins, a 2.83 ERA and 198 strikeouts.

    The Mets' pitching for most of the 1990s was not as solid, but then again, neither were most of those teams.

    The one notable exception though was the 1994 season Bret Saberhagen had. Unfortunately, it was cut short due to the players' strike, but in by far his best year as a Met, Saberhagen won 14 games, had a 2.74 ERA and finished with a remarkable 143/13 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

    The Mets' most consistent pitcher of the mid-1990s was Bobby Jones, who had double-digit win seasons in each year from 1994-1997. His best year was his career high 15-win season in 1997. He made his first and only trip to the 1997 All-Star game and struck out both Mark McGwire and Ken Griffey Jr. in his lone inning of work.

    Also, in 1997, former replacement player Rick Reed surprised everyone by winning 13 games and finishing with a 2.89 ERA that was sixth in the National League that year. Reed followed that up with 16 wins and an All-Star Game appearance in 1998 and became another cog in the 1999 and 2000 Mets rotations.

    Jones and Reed, though, were comfortable with not being high-profile aces because beginning in 1998, Al Leiter filled that role very well.

    He won 17 games and had a 2.47 ERA in his first year as a Met. He then never won less than 10 games in any season through 2004. His 16 wins in 2000 led the Mets to the World Series, while his 15 wins in 2003 accounted for nearly one quarter of the Mets' total wins that year.

    Aside from Leiter, the 2000s did not feature very many great pitching seasons. Steve Trachsel was surprisingly one of the more consistent pitchers of the decade. He made up for one-quarter of the Mets' total wins in 2003 with 16 of his own. He then won 15 games in 2006 to help lead the Mets to their most recent division championship.

    Only two other pitching seasons stood out in the decade. The first was Pedro Martinez's 2005 season. He won 15 games and had a 2.82 ERA that year. The second that stood out was Johan Santana's 2008 season.

    After an average start at best, Santana had an amazing second half that was capped with a complete-game shutout on the second-to-last day of the season. He won 16 games and had a 2.53 ERA that year.

    As for Tom Glavine, he had some good years with the Mets, but they were never up to par with the Cy Young seasons he had in the 1990s with the Atlanta Braves.

    The Mets have had numerous great individual pitching seasons, and these were just the honorable mentions.

10. R.A. Dickey (2012)

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    Season Stats (as of 9/7/2012)

    Record: 18-4

    ERA: 2.64

    WHIP: 1.025

    Strikeouts: 195

    Walks: 45

    Innings Pitched: 198.0

    Complete Games: 5

    Shutouts: 3

    R.A. Dickey has simply had an amazing season this year and could become the third Met ever to win the NL Cy Young award at the age of 37. Dickey's career had been a long struggle, but with all the work he has put together over the years, the results are finally starting to show in a huge way.

    The Mets were not expected to do much this year, but stayed in the race for the entire first half largely thanks to Dickey's performance. With 12 wins at the All-Star break, the common prediction was that Dickey would not pitch as well in the second half.

    While he did struggle in a few starts, he now has 18 wins and will likely have at least 20 by the end of the season.

    Hopefully, the baseball writers will make the right decision and honor Dickey and his season with a Cy Young award. It would certainly be the exclamation point of a remarkable journey full of courage, persistence and determination.

9. Bob Ojeda (1986)

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    Season Stats

    Record: 18-5

    ERA: 2.57

    WHIP: 1.090

    Strikeouts: 148

    Walks: 52

    Innings Pitched: 217.1

    Complete Games: 7

    Shutouts: 2

    The acquisition of Bob Ojeda prior to the 1986 season was a huge move for the Mets. It gave them a second left-handed starter alongside Sid Fernandez and another addition to an already stacked rotation.

    Despite the success of Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling and Fernandez, all of whom had been with the Mets since 1984, it was Ojeda that had the best season in 1986. He led the team with 18 wins and finished fourth in the NL Cy Young award voting that year. The Mets were 22-8 in his starts.

    Ojeda continued his success that year with a 2.57 ERA in the NLCS and a 2.08 ERA in the World Series. He won Game 3 of the World Series and pitched well in Game 6 to keep the Mets alive.

    Unfortunately, Ojeda's Mets in the years after 1986 were not the same. He missed most of the 1987 season due to injuries before pitching well again in 1988, but not at the same level he did in 1986.

    Ojeda unfortunately injured his finger late in the 1988 season and ended up missing that entire postseason. After a solid, but not great season in 1989, Ojeda's pitching fell apart in 1990 and he spent most of the year in the bullpen. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers after that and retired a few years later.

8. Frank Viola (1990)

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    Season Stats

    Record: 20-12

    ERA: 2.67

    WHIP: 1.150

    Strikeouts: 182

    Walks: 60

    Innings Pitched: 249.2

    Complete Games: 7

    Shutouts: 3

    Frank Viola's best days were with the Minnesota Twins. He helped lead the Twins to winning the 1987 World Series and then won the 1988 AL Cy Young award in dominating fashion. However, the Twins decided to trade him to the Mets at the 1989 trade deadline.

    Viola went 5-5 in 12 starts to wrap up the 1989 season before putting together a 1990 season that included 20 wins, a 2.67 ERA and seven complete games. He is the most recent Met to reach 20 wins in a season, although R.A. Dickey could very likely get there this year. Viola finished third in the 1990 NL Cy Young award voting.

    1991 at first looked like a duplicate of Viola's 1990 season. After going 11-5 in the first half of the season, Viola, and ironically the entire Mets team fell apart and his record after the All-Star break was 2-10. The Mets then chose to not re-sign Viola, which led him to signing with the Boston Red Sox the following offseason.

    After spending time with the Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds and Toronto Blue Jays, Viola retired in 1996.

7. Jerry Koosman (1976)

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    Season Stats

    Record: 21-10

    ERA: 2.69

    WHIP: 1.096

    Strikeouts: 200

    Walks: 66

    Innings Pitched: 247.1

    Complete Games: 17

    Shutouts: 3

    For years, Jerry Koosman was the left-handed second fiddle to Tom Seaver, but in 1976 Koosman finally had a season better than his Hall of Fame teammate. He won 21 games with a 2.69 ERA that year and finished a very close second in the 1976 NL Cy Young award voting to Randy Jones of the San Diego Padres.

    Koosman struggled in both 1977 and 1978, which prompted the Mets to trade him to the Twins prior to the 1979 season. Not surprisingly, he won 20 games in his first year with the Twins. After 13 years with the Mets, Koosman spent three seasons with the Twins, three more with the Chicago White Sox and two with the Philadelphia Phillies before retiring after the 1985 season.

6. Tom Seaver (1975)

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    Season Stats

    Record: 22-9

    ERA: 2.38

    WHIP: 1.088

    Strikeouts: 243

    Walks: 88

    Innings Pitched: 280.1

    Complete Games: 15

    Shutouts: 3

    The legendary Tom Seaver will be taking up quite a few slides because he had many amazing seasons and won three NL Cy Young awards with the Mets. The third of the three occurred in 1975. Seaver led the National League with 22 wins and 243 strikeouts.

    Following the 1975 season, Seaver won 14 games in 1976 and seven in 1977 before all of a sudden getting traded away in the "Midnight Massacre." It took years for the Mets to recover after that trade was made.

5. Tom Seaver (1973)

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    Season Stats

    Record: 19-10

    ERA: 2.08

    WHIP: 0.976

    Strikeouts: 251

    Walks: 64

    Innings Pitched: 290.0

    Complete Games: 18

    Shutouts: 3

    Seaver's second Cy Young season occurred in 1973, when the team won its second National League pennant, but ultimately lost the World Series to the Oakland A's.

    Seaver led the league in ERA, complete games, strikeouts and WHIP. He won the 1973 NL Cy Young award by a good margin.

4. David Cone (1988)

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    Season Stats

    Record: 20-3

    ERA: 2.22

    WHIP: 1.115

    Strikeouts: 213

    Walks: 80

    Innings Pitched: 231.1

    Complete Games: 8

    Shutouts: 4

    David Cone might be better known as the 1994 AL Cy Young award winner as a member of the Kansas City Royals and a member of the New York Yankees teams that won four World Series championships between 1996-2000. But before all that, he thrived as fixture in the Mets' rotation from 1987-1992.

    Cone made his major league debut with the Royals in 1986, but got traded to the Mets the following offseason. He made 21 appearances, including 13 starts in 1987 with a 5-6 record before breaking out in a huge way in 1988.

    In a rotation that already featured Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda and Sid Fernandez, Cone made that 1988 rotation arguably the best in Mets' history. And it was Cone that ended up having the best season of any Mets pitcher.

    Cone went 20-3 with a 2.22 ERA and 213 strikeouts. In most seasons, he would have won the NL Cy Young award, but that year, Orel Hershiser of the Dodgers was simply better and won the award by a landslide.

    Cone continued to pitch well for the Mets and even struck out 19 batters on the final day of the 1991 season. Unfortunately, the Mets were unable to come to a contract agreement with him in 1992 and they traded him to the Blue Jays midseason.

3. Tom Seaver (1971)

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    Season Stats

    Record: 20-10

    ERA: 1.76

    WHIP: 0.946

    Strikeouts: 289

    Walks: 61

    Innings Pitched: 286.1

    Complete Games: 21

    Shutouts: 4

    While Seaver did win three NL Cy Young awards, one could make a case that he should have won a fourth in 1971, which happened to be one of Seaver's best seasons by far.

    Despite the 1971 Mets team not playing particularly well, Seaver certainly did his part with 20 wins and a career-best 1.76 ERA, which led the league. He also led the league in strikeouts and WHIP.

    However, Seaver ultimately finished second to Ferguson Jenkins of the Chicago Cubs, who had 24 wins and just 37 walks in 39 starts and 325 innings pitched. On the other hand, Jenkins' ERA that year was 2.77, compared to Seaver's 1.76.

2. Tom Seaver (1969)

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    Season Stats

    Record: 25-7

    ERA: 2.21

    WHIP: 1.039

    Strikeouts: 208

    Walks: 60

    Innings Pitched: 273.1

    Complete Games: 18

    Shutouts: 5

    Among all the great seasons he had as a Met, Seaver's greatest and most defining season was his 1969 season. That year, he won his first NL Cy Young award and led the "Miracle Mets" to a World Series championship for the first time ever.

    Seaver led the league with a career-high 25 wins, which is still a Mets' single-season record to this day. He got all but one of the Cy Young votes, with Phil Niekro of the Braves getting the one vote that prevented Seaver from winning unanimously.

    Seaver also finished a very close second place in the 1969 NL MVP Award voting to Willie McCovey of the San Francisco Giants.

    Despite struggling a bit in the 1969 postseason, Seaver managed to win Game 4 of the World Series with a 10-inning complete game.

    At the end of the year, Seaver even won Sports Illustrated's "Sportsman of the Year" award.

1. Dwight Gooden (1985)

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    Season Stats

    Record: 24-4

    ERA: 1.53

    WHIP: 0.965

    Strikeouts: 268

    Walks: 69

    Innings Pitched: 276.2

    Complete Games: 16

    Shutouts: 8

    Despite all the magnificent seasons Seaver had with the Mets for many years, none of them were as dominating as that of Dwight Gooden in 1985.

    At just 20 years old, Gooden had one of the greatest individual pitching seasons in MLB history. He won the pitching Triple Crown with 24 wins, a remarkable 1.53 ERA and 268 strikeouts. He also led the league with 16 complete games and 276.2 innings pitched.

    Gooden's miniscule 1.53 ERA and eight shutouts are still Mets' single-season records, and they both figure to last for many more years.

    Gooden became the youngest pitcher ever to win a Cy Young award and the youngest pitcher ever to start the All-Star game.

    Gooden's later Mets years were never up to par with his 1985 season, but he was still one of the best pitchers in baseball from 1986-1991.

    Injuries and drug abuse would catch up to him and he declined a bit in both 1992 and 1993. In 1994, Gooden had a 6.31 ERA in seven starts before getting suspended for 60 days. He then got suspended again for the entire 1995 season while serving the first suspension and it took quite a while for Gooden to recover from those disastrous events.

    Gooden returned to baseball in 1996, but as a member of the Yankees. He got a no-hitter that year that Mets fans had hoped would have occurred during his Mets years. But other than that, he never found the same success he did with the Mets.

    Gooden ended up spending brief stints with the Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, plus a second stint with the Yankees in 2000. He retired in 2001 after getting cut from the Yankees in spring training.