Best Mets Opening Day Starts

In honor of Opening Day's rapid approach, I took a stroll through the historical boxscores and WPA graphs at FanGraphs and checked out the past 25 years of Mets Opening Days. Why just 25 years? FanGraphs' boxscore data relies on play-by-play files from Retrosheet, which is only complete since 1974 (if you happen to have any play-by-play boxes from 1947-1973 lying around your house, maybe you can help them fill in the blanks). I suppose I could have used game scores from Baseball-Reference.com, which do run all the way back to 1962 and beyond, but I like that WPA is context-sensitive and that it rewards a pitcher for pitching well in a close game.

Mets rosters have featured a number of fabulous pitchers over the past quarter century, and quite a few of them started on Opening Day. Here are the ten best, by WPA.

10. 3/31/2008
Who: Johan Santana
WPA: .231
Result: Mets 7, Marlins 2

Santana's first start as a Met was a 7-2 drubbing of the Marlins in Florida. Santana struck out eight and walked two in seven innings, getting scoreless relief -- rich, I know -- from Jorge Sosa, Scott Schoeneweis, Aaron Heilman and Matt Wise. The Mets roughed up Mark Hendrickson for six runs in five innings, led by Angel Pagan's .124 WPA and David Wright's bases-clearing double.

9. 4/3/2006
Who: Tom Glavine
WPA: .240
Result: Mets 3, Nationals 2

Tom was terrific on this day in 2006, striking out five and allowing just one run in six innings of work against the Nationals (and going 2-for-2 at the plate meanwhile). Aaron Heilman made things interesting in the eighth but Billy Wagner closed the door in the ninth to seal the 3-2 Opening Day victory. Xavier Nady was the offensive star, going 4-for-4 in his Mets debut, while Paul Lo Duca went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes combined to go 0-for-12 with a walk.

8. 4/9/1981
Who: Pat Zachry
WPA: .277
Result: Mets 2, Cubs 0

Zachry's only Opening Day nod for the Mets was a dandy, as he hurled 5.2 innings of shutout ball against the Cubbies. The path wasn't pretty: six hits and four walks to just one strikeout, but the results stood up for a Mets 2-0 win. Rusty Staub provided .119 WPA via a 1-for-3 day that included a walk and a solo homerun. Lee Mazzilli's solo blast accounted for the other run, while Tom Hausman and Neil Allen backed up Zachry to preserve the shutout.

7. 4/7/1987
Who: Bob Ojeda
WPA: .287
Result: Mets 3, Pirates 2

Dwight Gooden missed the first two months of the season in rehab after testing positive for cocaine during spring training, so the call went to Ojeda for Opening Day. Ojeda gave up ten hits in seven innings, but he "scattered" them, evidently, as he allowed just one earned run in leading the Mets to a 3-2 win over the Pirates at Shea. Jesse Orosco pitched the final two innings for the save. Darryl Strawberry provided all the offense the Mets needed, clubbing a three-run homerun in the bottom of the first.

6. 4/5/1983
Who: Tom Seaver
WPA: .330
Result: Mets 2, Phillies 0

After pitching five-plus seasons with the Reds, Seaver was back where he belonged: pitching Opening Day for the Mets. Seaver struck out five, walked one and allowed three hits over six shutout innings. Seaver wound up with a no-decision as the Mets weren't able to muster anything against Steve Carlton through six. The Mets broke through in the seventh, manufacturing a couple of runs against a tiring Carlton. Doug Sisk pitched the final three innings for the win.

5. 4/8/1986
Who: Dwight Gooden
WPA: .385
Result: Mets 4, Pirates 2

Gooden went the distance in a 4-2 victory over the Pirates, allowing six hits and two runs while striking out six. Keith Hernandez went 2-for-4 with two RsBI and Strawberry walked thrice and scored a run. Gooden even pitched in a single of his own.

4. 4/7/1978
Who: Jerry Koosman
WPA: .394
Result: Mets 3, Expos 1

Like Gooden at #5, Koosman didn't need any help from his friends in securing this Opening Day victory. He threw a complete game 3-1 gem against the Expos, allowing eight hits and striking out seven. Lee Mazzilli, Ken Henderson and Doug Flynn each knocked in a run to support Koos.

3. 4/8/1991
Who: Dwight Gooden
WPA: .450
Result: Mets 2, Phillies 1

Another brilliant OD start for Gooden, who allowed just one run on six hits while striking out seven over eight masterful innings against the Phillies. John Franco would pitch a perfect ninth to preserve the 2-1 win. Gregg Jefferies drove in Vince Coleman with an RBI double in the first and Hubie Brooks stole home on the front end of a double-steal to provide the margin of victory.

2. 4/5/1993
Who: Dwight Gooden
WPA: .457
Result: Mets 3, Rockies 0

Gooden's third and final Opening Day start on this list was the best of the bunch (obviously). He struck out four and allowed just five Rockie baserunners en route to a complete game 3-0 shutout. Eddie Murray, Tony Fernandez and Bobby Bonilla drove in a run apiece to provide Gooden all the offense he needed.

1. 4/8/1975
Who: Tom Seaver
WPA: .466
Result: Mets 2, Phillies 1

Seaver just squeaks by the Doc to nab first on this list with his nine strikeout complete game win over the Phillies. Dave Kingman tied the game at one with a solo shot in the fourth and a Joe Torre single off of Steve Carlton in the bottom of the ninth plated Felix Millan for the walkoff, Opening Day victory at Shea Stadium.

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