This week, the BBWAA will announce the winners of its three major player awards: MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year. Noah Syndergaard is the only Met with a credible case for any of those awards, as his league-leading fWAR should put him in the NL Cy Young conversation. Unfortunately, he was not even nominated as one of his league’s three finalists.
Syndergaard’s snub raises an interesting question: What other deserving Mets players were passed over for major awards? To answer this, we used both Fangraphs’s and Baseball-Reference’s WAR metrics, and found several examples throughout franchise history.
Of course, one can argue over what exactly it means to be the league’s “most valuable” player or the league’s “best” pitcher. However, for the sake of simplicity, we will assume that the MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year Awards should go to the league’s best position player, pitcher, and rookie, respectively, as measured by WAR.
While no Met has ever won an MVP, the franchise has had three Cy Young winners—Tom Seaver (1969, 1973, 1975), Dwight Gooden (1985), and R.A. Dickey (2012)—and five Rookies of the Year: Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972), Darryl Strawberry (1983), Gooden (1984), and Jacob deGrom (2014). Here are the Mets players who had strong cases to win major awards, but ultimately did not:
Al Jackson, 1962 NL Rookie of the Year
On its face, Al Jackson’s rookie season was fairly unremarkable. The lefty finished the year with an 8-20 record for the dreadful 1962 Mets, and compiled a nearly league-average 4.40 ERA (107 ERA-), with 4.59 K/9, 3.03 BB/9, and 0.62 HR/9. Jackson’s ERA may have been hurt by his team’s historically bad defense, as his 3.57 FIP (90 FIP-) actually registered 10% better than league average. As a result, Fangraphs, whose WAR metric relies heavily on fielding-independent performance, rated Jackson’s 4.0 fWAR as the best among National League rookies.
Actual winner: Ken Hubbs, CHC, .260/.299/.346, 70 wRC+, -0.5 fWAR
Jerry Koosman, 1968 NL Rookie of the Year
In 1968, Jerry Koosman broke into the league with the first of his many great years in New York. That year, the lefty went 19-12, with an outstanding 2.08 ERA (70 ERA-), a 2.70 FIP (96 FIP-), 178 strikeouts, 6.08 K/9, 2.36 BB/9, and 0.55 HR/9. While Fangraphs’s WAR metric values fielding-independent numbers, Baseball-Reference’s favors run prevention. By that latter metric, Koosman was the National League’s best rookie, compiling an impressive 6.3 bWAR in his inaugural campaign.
Actual winner: Johnny Bench, CIN, .275/.311/.433, 115 wRC+, 5.0 bWAR
Tom Seaver, 1973 NL MVP
It’s rare for a pitcher to be named MVP, but according to bWAR, Tom Seaver should have received the honor in 1973. That year, The Franchise went 19-10 and led the league with a 2.08 ERA (59 ERA-), a 2.57 FIP (72 FIP-), 251 strikeouts, 7.79 K/9, and 18 complete games, while posting an impressive 1.99 BB/9 and 0.71 HR/9. Seaver’s 10.6 bWAR were by far the most in baseball, and suggest that he should have taken home even more hardware than the Cy Young Award he received at the end of the season.
Actual winner: Pete Rose, CIN, .338/.401/.437, 140 wRC+, 8.2 bWAR
Tom Seaver, 1976 NL Cy Young
Seaver’s lack of run support in 1976 resulted in an unremarkable 14-11 record, which unfortunately—and unfairly—kept him out of the Cy Young conversation. The rest of his numbers that year were characteristically outstanding: Seaver led the league with a 2.47 FIP (72 FIP-), 235 strikeouts, and 7.80 K/9, to go along with a 2.59 ERA (77 ERA-), 2.56 BB/9, and 0.46 HR/9. Although his 6.8 fWAR were the most among National League pitchers, Seaver finished just eighth in Cy Young voting.
Actual winner: Randy Jones, SDP, 22-14, 2.74 ERA (83 ERA-), 3.17 FIP (94 FIP-), 4.6 fWAR
Jon Matlack, 1974 NL Cy Young
While fWAR and bWAR reach different conclusions on the four races mentioned above, they agree on this: Jon Matlack should have won the NL Cy Young Award in 1974. Matlack led the league with a 2.42 FIP (68 FIP-) and seven shutouts, while pitching to a 2.41 ERA (69 ERA-) and compiling 195 strikeouts, 6.61 K/9, 2.58 BB/9, and a paltry 0.27 HR/9. The lefty’s 7.2 fWAR and 9.1 bWAR were both top marks among National League pitchers. However, like Seaver, Matlack was victimized by a lack of run support and finished with a record of just 13-15. As a result, he received zero Cy Young votes in 1974.
Actual winner: Mike Marshall, LAD, 15-12, 2.42 ERA (70 ERA-), 2.59 FIP (72 FIP-), 4.1 fWAR, 3.1 bWAR
Dwight Gooden, 1984 and 1985 NL MVP
As we will discuss below, Dwight Gooden was absolutely robbed of a Cy Young Award in his 1984 rookie campaign. Interestingly, fWAR also rated Gooden as the league’s best overall player. Gooden’s 17-9 record complemented a league-leading 1.69 FIP (49 FIP-), 276 strikeouts, 11.39 K/9, and 0.29 HR/9, to go along with a 2.60 ERA (74 ERA-) and 3.01 BB/9. His 8.3 fWAR were the most of any National League player.
Both fWAR and bWAR agree that, in the following year, his signature 1985 season, Gooden was the best player in the National League. Doc’s 24-4 record, 1.53 ERA (44 ERA-), 2.13 FIP (58 FIP-), 268 strikeouts, 276.2 innings, and 16 complete games were all tops in the league. His 8.72 K/9, 2.24 BB/9, and 0.42 HR/9 were also exceptional. Although Gooden finished fourth in MVP voting, his league-best 8.9 fWAR and 12.1 bWAR suggest that he should have finished first.
Actual winners: 1984—Ryne Sandberg, CHC, .314/.367/.520, 142 wRC+, 8.0 fWAR; 1985—Willie McGee, STL, .353/.384/.503, 151 wRC+, 7.1 fWAR, 8.1 bWAR
Dwight Gooden, 1984, 1988, and 1990 NL Cy Young
Had it not been for Rick Sutcliffe’s memorable 16-1 run after his midseason trade to the Cubs in 1984, Gooden would have won the Cy Young Award that year. Doc’s 8.3 fWAR and 5.5 bWAR made him the best pitcher in the National League, but Sutcliffe’s tremendous record as he pitched the Cubs to the postseason was too much for Gooden to overcome.
Gooden had interesting seasons in 1988 and 1990, when he pitched to league-average ERAs while compiling excellent fielding-independent numbers. As a result, the FIP-reliant fWAR metric ranked him as his league’s best pitcher both years. In 1988, the righty went 18-9, with a 3.19 ERA (97 ERA-), a 2.54 FIP (73 FIP-), 175 strikeouts, 6.34 K/9, 2.07 BB/9, 0.29 HR/9, and 6.0 fWAR. After an injury-shortened 1989 season, Gooden came back strong in 1990, posting a 19-7 record, with a league-best 2.44 FIP (66 FIP-), 0.39 HR/9, and 6.8 fWAR, along with a 3.83 ERA (105 ERA-), 223 strikeouts, 8.63 K/9, and 2.71 BB/9.
Actual winners: 1984—Rick Sutcliffe, CHC, 16-1, 2.69 ERA (70 ERA-), 2.28 FIP (61 FIP-), 4.8 fWAR, 3.9 bWAR; 1988—Orel Hershiser, LAD, 23-8, 2.26 ERA (68 ERA-), 3.18 FIP (93 FIP-), 4.0 fWAR; 1990—Doug Drabek, PIT, 22-6, 2.76 ERA (75 ERA-), 3.28 FIP (88 FIP-), 4.2 fWAR
David Cone, 1991 NL Cy Young
A year after Gooden led NL pitchers in fWAR, teammate David Cone did the same in 1991. Cone’s 2.52 FIP (67 FIP-), 241 strikeouts, and 9.32 K/9 were all top marks in the National League. He complemented that with a strong 3.29 ERA (91 ERA-), 2.82 BB/9, and 0.50 HR/9. Unfortunately, the baseball writers could not look past Cone’s 14-14 record, and awarded him no Cy Young votes.
Actual winner: Tom Glavine, ATL, 20-11, 2.55 ERA (67 ERA-), 3.06 FIP (80 FIP-), 5.4 fWAR
David Wright, 2007 NL MVP
While they disagree on the order, fWAR and bWAR agree that the National League’s two best players in 2007 were David Wright and Albert Pujols. The baseball writers, however, have been famously reluctant to give MVP Awards to players whose teams did not make the playoffs. Seemingly because of this, neither Wright nor Pujols came particularly close to winning that season’s award, finishing a distant fourth and ninth, respectively. Wright had a career year in 2007, hitting an outstanding .325/.416/.546 (151 wRC+), with 30 home runs, 107 RBIs, 113 runs scored, 34 stolen bases, 12 defensive runs saved, and a league-best 8.4 fWAR.
Actual winner: Jimmy Rollins, PHI, .296/.344/.531, 119 wRC+, 6.5 fWAR