Saturday, December 13, 2014

Joey's Letter To Sandy Claus (2014)

I hope Sandy Claus leaves everything I ask for under my ridiculously huge tree.

Dear Sandy Claus,

It's me, Joey Beartran!  And if I'm writing you this letter, that means it's that time of year again - the time when you have to decide who was naughty and who was nice in order to determine who gets what they want this holiday season and who gets coal in their stocking.

I know you must be tired from all your recent travels.  I mean, I would be pooped as well if I was spending all my time and energy trying to find good bargains on coveted holiday gifts like Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry, Jr.  I'm sure you had to fight off many people to secure them.

But unlike others who absolutely have to have the best in right-handed hitting outfield/first baseman hybrids, I'm a simple bear.  And that is why this year's list shouldn't be much of a challenge for you.  Because my list is so simple, you should have no problem finding everything on it and we can overlook whether or not I should be on the "naughty" or "nice" list.  (Personally, I don't think causing one of the toilets to overflow in the Caesar's Club last summer should put me on your "naughty" list.  It could have happened to anyone who was trying to flush their autographed Chris Young baseball.)

Are you ready, Mr. Claus?  Here goes!

The home run apple outside Citi Field seems like a good place to write my letter to Sandy Claus.

I would like Matt Harvey to return to the rotation in the best of health.  You already wouldn't let him pitch in 2014 despite his constant nitpicking, so he should be good to go next season.  (And don't worry, I'm not going to accuse you of wanting to extend his free agent clock another year by not pitching him at all in 2014.  Remember, I'm nice, not naughty.)  Also, please don't let Harvey pitch too many innings in 2015.  I'm expecting the Mets to compete for a postseason berth so I'd like him to be as fresh as possible for any potential starts in mid-to-late October.

Speaking of returning to health, I would like a return to form for David Wright.  After all, he gets paid more than your reindeer and elves combined, so he might as well earn his salary.  Eight home runs and eight stolen bases is just not enough for a player who produced a 30/30 season in 2007.  I mean, if you want that type of production, just bring back Jason Bay.  That's what he averaged in three seasons with the Mets, although Bay averaged just 96 games per season as a Met, while Wright put up his 8/8 season in 134 games.

I'd also like a new and improved shortstop.  Yes, I know we already have Wilmer Flores and that Hakuna Tejada guy, but Flores' best position is hitter and Tejada is probably going to press next year now that he knows he produced more walks, doubles, and RBI than Nationals' wunderkind Bryce Harper, all while striking out fewer times than Harper and reaching base at a similar clip in just three more at-bats.  Don't believe me, Sandy Claus?  Take a look for yourself.

Player RBI Year AB 2B BB SO OBP
Ruben Tejada 34 2014 355 11 50 73 .342
Bryce Harper 32 2014 352 10 38 104 .344
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/13/2014.

Would it be too much to ask for another good year from the bullpen?  After three seasons of throwing relief pitchers at a wall and hoping some of them would stick, you finally found some with good adhesive qualities.  They also had good fastballs and off-speed pitches.  Jeurys Familia was so spectacular that he finished tied for seventh in the Rookie of the Year vote, a feat almost unheard of for a middle reliever/set-up man.  Vic Black earned two wins and 12 holds, allowing more than one run in just one of his 41 appearances.  And Jenrry Mejia's 28 saves set the franchise record for most saves by a homegrown pitcher, surpassing Tug McGraw's 42-year-old record by one.  Please make sure they continue to provide a spark for the team in the late innings.

Speaking of Jenrry Mejia, could you please let him know that it's okay to toss a 1-2-3 inning every once in a while?  Mejia made 56 relief appearances in 2014 and retired every batter he faced in just 21 of those outings.  In sixteen of his 24 one-inning saves, he faced a minimum of four batters.  The numbers "1-2-3-4" might have been staples at Ramones concerts, but they shouldn't have to be staples of Mejia performances.

I'd like Daniel Murphy to stick around for at least another season.  In 2014, he became the first second baseman in Mets history to reach base 200+ times in three different seasons, so why shouldn't the Mets keep him around?  And if they did trade him before Opening Day, who would they give the job to?  Eric Young, Jr. was just non-tendered and Dilson Herrera, who won't be old enough to drink until March, still needs more minor league seasoning.  If the Mets do make the playoffs in 2015, Murphy should be there to enjoy it as the second longest tenured player on the team.  His teammates left him stranded on third in a crucial moment during the final week of the 2008 season.  His front office shouldn't do the same by trading him away just as the team appears to be heading toward contention again.

Are you there, Sandy?  It's me, Joey!

If it's not too much to ask, can you please make sure Lucas Duda has another solid season like he had last year?  Can you also have Curtis Granderson replicate Duda's power numbers?  And while I'm at it, can you get your decoder ring out so you can translate Travis d'Arnaud's second half performance into a full season of fantastic hitting?  Perhaps if all three hitters could give solid production, David Wright would have the protection he needs in the batting order and I wouldn't have to compare him to Jason Bay in future letters to you.

Finally, I understand the Mets have to trade a starting pitcher, especially with Matt Harvey coming back to claim one of the spots in the rotation, but does it have to be Dillon Gee?  I know how much you love dumping salary, which is why Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo were all given their walking papers before their contracts expired.  So maybe this is a good time to escort Bartolo Colon to the airport.  He served his purpose in 2014 at a $9 million cost to the team.  Now he's due to earn $11 million in 2015 and he'll be 42 before Memorial Day.  He should be the one to go to make room for Harvey.  And I'm not just saying that because he hogs up the Shake Shack line at Citi Field.  I just happen to like Gee.  What's so wrong with that?

I was only being held by Gee because it was easier to check up on his pitching arm that way.  Honest!

That's it for my letter this year, Sandy.  See, it was a very simple list.  All you have to do is remember to keep Matt Harvey healthy, prevent David Wright from watching his "Jason Bay Guide to Hitting" video, give me a shortstop not named Flores or Tejada who can hit AND field (not hit OR field), provide me with another dependable relief corps, show Jenrry Mejia how to count to three, make sure the Grandy Man can actually protect Wright (Duda and d'Arnaud can help in that regard), and last but not least, keep Dillon Gee from putting his arms around another team's uniform.

You've been able to provide me with many of the things I've asked for in the past few years, but not everything.  (I wanted a healthy Johan Santana in 2013.  Instead, you gave me a healthy Shaun Marcum.  Not the same.  Not even close.)  That's why I made this year's list a little easier for you.  As nice as I was this past season - pay no attention to the Chris Young Bathroom Incident - I don't expect you to make all my holiday dreams come true.  But as a long-suffering Mets fan, you owe me!  You owe all fans who have invested so much of their time and money on this team.  And while I'm on the topic of being owed, you also owe me change for a hot dog I had last September.  I paid with a $10 bill and only got a buck in return.

Thanks a lot for reading my letter, Sandy Claus!  I hope you can fit everything I asked for under my ridiculously huge tree.  I also hope you found a good plumber for the Caesar's Club.  I intend to use the bathrooms there at some point in 2015.  Maybe this time I won't have to bring a baseball with me.

All my love,
Joey Beartran

Hope this makes it to you on time, Sandy.  If not, I'll have to write another letter to my local post office.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Tale of Two Michaels: Should The Mets Have Gone For Morse Instead of Cuddyer?

Michael Morse will be dancing to A-Ha in 2015, but not at Citi Field.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

In early November, the Mets pulled off a stunningly quick free agent signing, inking Michael Cuddyer to a two-year, $21 million contract to play the outfield and fill in for Lucas Duda at first base whenever a tough left-handed pitcher was facing New York.  The Mets made this move even though they knew they would have to part ways with their first round draft pick in 2015, as Cuddyer was given a qualifying offer by his former employers in Colorado that he chose not to accept.  The signing reunites Cuddyer with his childhood friend, David Wright, as the two All-Stars grew up near each other in Virginia.

Cuddyer has an injury history, played his last three seasons in the thin air of the Mile High city and will be 36 years old by the time the curtains open on the 2015 season.  Clearly, there are lots of question marks with this deal, but if Cuddyer stays healthy, he should still be a serviceable player who will make positive offensive contributions to the team.  With that being said, why didn't the Mets make a stronger push for a fellow Michael who just won a World Series ring in San Francisco?

Michael Morse is coming off a season in which he missed 31 games.  However, he still managed to produce 32 doubles, three triples, 16 home runs and 61 RBI in 438 at-bats, averaging an extra-base hit every 8.6 at-bats.  In doing so, Morse was one of just six players in the majors who had at least 50 extra-base hits in fewer than 500 plate appearances.  Morse's .811 OPS was quite good in a season where just nine National League players posted an OPS of .850 or higher.

In three seasons with the Rockies, Cuddyer produced an .886 OPS.  However, that number was clearly inflated by playing his home games at Coors Field.  From 2012 to 2014, Cuddyer's OPS at home (.984) was far superior to his road OPS (.795).  His OPS on the road while with the Rockies was very similar to the overall .794 OPS he posted in 11 seasons with Minnesota, leading one to believe that he will produce around the same figure with the Mets.  Morse, on the other hand, has played the majority of his career in home parks that are not among the best for sluggers (Safeco Field, Nationals Park, AT&T Park).  However, he has been very consistent at home and on the road, posting an .809 lifetime OPS in his home parks, while producing an .807 OPS on the road

Going back to Cuddyer's injury history, the new member of the Mets has played 140 or more games in a season just four times since making his major league debut in 2001.  And since 2011, Cuddyer has missed a total of 229 games.  Morse is not the healthiest of players either, surpassing 130 games played just twice since becoming a regular player in 2010.  However, Morse has missed "only" 181 games since 2011, meaning he remains on the field more than Cuddyer does.

When considering what a player - especially one who is injury-prone - would do over the course of a full season, a valuable tool to use is's "per 162 games" stat.  Let's look at what Cuddyer and Morse have done per 162 games since both became everyday players in the big leagues.

  • Cuddyer (since 2004): .280 BA, .468 SLG, .816 OPS, 37 doubles, 22 HR, 89 RBI
  • Morse (since 2010): .279 BA, .479 SLG, .816 OPS, 32 doubles, 27 HR, 83 RBI

Basically, they're the same player when healthy.  But Cuddyer (born March 27, 1979) is three years older than Morse (born March 22, 1982) and could be on the decline sooner than Morse, especially now that he's left the thin-aired confines of Coors Field.

Now let's consider what Cuddyer has done against the NL East teams he will now be playing more regularly and compare that to what Morse has done against the same teams.  Since Cuddyer has less experience playing National League teams than Morse does, we will only consider non-cumulative stats for both players.

  • Cuddyer (vs. ATL, MIA, PHI, WAS): .302 BA, .484 SLG, .846 OPS
  • Morse (vs. ATL, MIA, PHI, WAS): .307 BA, .512 SLG, .870 OPS

Unlike the "per 162 games" stat, in this case Morse clearly has an edge over Cuddyer.  The experience factor (all but 612 of Morse's 2,296 career at-bats have come as a National League player) also gives Morse an advantage over Cuddyer, who spent over a decade in Minnesota.

Finally, and this has always been important in the Sandy Alderson scheme of things, Michael Morse was not given a qualifying offer by the Giants when his contract expired at the end of the 2014 season.  Therefore, had the Mets chosen to sign Morse, they would not have lost their first round draft pick next season as they did when they signed Cuddyer.  Furthermore, Cuddyer was finishing up a three-year, $31.5 million deal with the Rockies, meaning the Mets were going to have to dole out over $10 million per season to a player of Cuddyer's talent and experience, even with his recent injury history.  Meanwhile, Morse was coming off a one-year, $6 million deal with the Giants, just one season after finishing off a two-year, $10.5 million contract originally signed with Washington in 2012 (Morse was later traded to Seattle and Baltimore during those two seasons).  Given Morse's injury history, he probably would not command more than a two-year deal.  However, his average annual value would certainly not exceed $10 million per season.  Perhaps a two-year, $18 million contract would have been enough to lure him to Flushing.

So let's summarize.  Cuddyer is three years older than Morse, has similar offensive production to Morse (per 162 games) and is coming off a three-year stay in hitter-friendly Colorado to play at sea level in New York.  And although Cuddyer hits well against his new division rivals, Morse's numbers are better against those teams and Morse has more experience playing those clubs.  Oh, and lest we forget, Morse would probably have had a lower price tag than Cuddyer and would not have cost the Mets next year's first round draft pick - a pick they could have given up for another quality player in addition to Morse.

David Wright and Michael Cuddyer are friends.  So it's entirely possible Wright had a big say in the team's hasty decision to sign Cuddyer.  But had the team waited it out a little longer, they could have come up with a better deal in the still-unsigned Michael Morse.  Like Cuddyer, Morse is a right-handed hitting outfielder who has experience at first base and could play there in place of Lucas Duda whenever a tough lefty was on the mound.  But the Mets decided Cuddyer would be a better fit for the team.  Let's just hope Morse doesn't turn into a good fit for one of the Mets' main rivals.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Joey and Iggy Beartran Thanksgiving (2014)

Hello and happy Thanksgiving, Mets fans!  This is Joey Beartran, and I'm here with my sister, Iggy Beartran.  On this special holiday, we're not going to criticize anything the Wilpons have done over the years, or ponder why Chris Young (the batter) was a horrible acquisition last season or why Chris Young (the pitcher) won the Comeback Player of the Year award AFTER he left the Mets.

Iggy and I are thankful for many things that happened to us in 2014 and we'd like to share those things with you on this most American of holidays.  It's not a particularly long list, so you can read it during halftime of the Bears-Lions game or Cowboys-Eagles affair.  At the very least, you can take your time to read it after eating a plate full of stuffing and cranberry sauce.  And by taking your time, I mean enough time so we can come over and help ourselves to your leftovers.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone!

Joey:  I'm thankful for my sister, Iggy.  Without her in my life, going to Mets games - both at home and on the road - wouldn't be nearly as much fun.

Iggy:  You're so sweet, Joey.  I'm thankful for you as well.  I love to going to games with you at Citi Field, but I also enjoy visiting other ballparks with you, so we can sample the delicious ballpark food and drink together.

Chicken tenders and garlic fries.  Now THAT'S something we'd like to see at Citi Field.

Joey:  I'm thankful the Mets are making a sincere attempt to be relevant in 2015.  After six straight seasons of sub-.500 baseball, it's great to know that Michael Cuddyer and hopefully other proven winners are going to be wearing Mets uniforms next year.

Iggy:  I'm also thankful the Mets are trying to win games next year.  Maybe that will make lines at Shake Shack in Citi Field shorter because Mets fans would rather stay in their seats watching games instead of spending several innings waiting to order their tasty burgers.

Michael Cuddyer checks the line at Shake Shack.  If he does well, we might have shorter waits there.

Joey:  I'm very thankful that several Mets killers are no longer in the NL East.  Jason Heyward has moved from Atlanta to St. Louis, while Adam LaRoche has departed from the Nationals to the White Sox, who are not even on the Mets' schedule next year.

Iggy:  I'm more thankful that Cole Hamels in still on the Phillies.  That way the Mets can continue to beat that ugly ass on his ... uh ... ugly ass.

Even Cole Hamels himself thought that was funny.  Just look at those choppers.

Joey:  Finally, I'm thankful that Austin Mahone will not be performing at Citi Field in 2015.  Just having all those screeching young girls drowning me out when I was trying to start a "Let's go Mets" chant was very disenchanting.  They almost made me lose my appetite for those delicious bacon, cheddar and scallion fries from Box Frites.

Iggy:  I'm actually thankful for Austin Mahone fans.  Because anyone that can make Joey lose his appetite at any time just means more fries for me!

Bacon and cheddar and fries, oh my!

That's the end of our special Joey and Iggy Thanksgiving post.  Thanks bunches for taking the time to read what we were thankful for this year.  Feel free to share what you're thankful for in the comments section.  Or if commenting on blog posts aren't your bag, then take another bag and fill it up with your leftover turkey, stuffing and assorted pies.  That's our bag!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  And thanks so much for your continued support!




Saturday, November 22, 2014

Dillon Gee vs. Jonathon Niese: Who Should Be Traded?

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports/Getty Images via

I love watching Dillon Gee pitch.  Similarly, I am a fan of Jonathon Niese.

Although the Mets have been under .500 every season Gee has pitched in the majors, Gee himself has a won-loss record that is six games over .500 and he has never been more than one game under the break-even mark over a full season.  Jonathon Niese, on the other hand, is one of the few Mets left on the team who played at Shea Stadium (David Wright, Daniel Murphy and Bobby Parnell are the others, although Murphy and Parnell may not be on this list much longer).  Niese is also the team's only southpaw on a staff filled with right-handed pitchers.

As much as I enjoy having Gee and Niese on the team, I understand that the starting rotation currently has Bartolo Colon, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom taking up four spots, with Noah Syndergaard waiting in the wings.  Assuming Colon is traded at some point during the 2015 season (if not sooner), Syndergaard would be the obvious choice to replace him in the rotation.  That would leave one of the members of the Gee-Niese duo out of luck and perhaps out of a job in New York.

Knowing full well that either Gee or Niese will not be a Met by this time next year, I decided to see which player the Mets would be better off keeping.  One or both pitchers might be traded if the right deal comes along, but I think one of the two would be better off staying in the Mets' starting rotation.  Here's my reasoning for the player I would like to stick around.

Although he has a 3.91 ERA for his career, Dillon Gee has had only one full season in the majors in which he posted an ERA under 4.00.  Advanced metrics also have his lifetime FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) at 4.23.  For all you kids out there, FIP measures how effective a pitcher is at limiting home runs, walks and hit batsmen while causing strikeouts.  Basically, those are the four categories in which fielders do not determine an outcome.  Therefore, Gee's 4.23 FIP is considered a little higher than what is expected from an average pitcher.

Jonathon Niese has a 3.87 career ERA, but has posted a sub-4.00 ERA in each of his last three seasons, going under 3.50 in two of the last three campaigns.  But on the FIP side, Niese has a lifetime 3.72 FIP and has posted a FIP under 4.00 in each of his last four seasons.  Niese has walked more batters than Gee, but has hit fewer batters and allowed fewer home runs per nine innings than Gee.  And when it comes to strikeouts, Niese is far superior to Gee, as Niese has surpassed 130 strikeouts in a season four times, while Gee has done it just once.

Speaking of strikeouts, although Niese is just 28 years old (he's actually six months younger than Dillon Gee), he's already in the Mets' all-time top ten in career strikeouts.  Niese's 713 Ks are tenth on the team's lifetime leaderboard and he is just one strikeout behind Bobby Jones for ninth place.  Once he passes Jones, the only pitchers in front of him will be Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Jerry Koosman, Sid Fernandez, David Cone, Ron Darling, Al Leiter and Jon Matlack.  You may also know that octet as arguably the eight best pitchers in the history of the franchise.   Niese's strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.69; 713 K/265 BB) is also far better than Gee's ratio (2.26; 464 K/205 BB).

Let's look at another new metric to determine a pitcher's effectiveness - ERA+.  This metric compares a pitcher's earned run average to the league average and also accounts for park factors, with 100 being considered an average ERA+.  For example, Citi Field is generally considered a pitcher's park.  However, Dillon Gee has never posted an ERA+ of 100 in any of his four full seasons.  From 2011 to 2014, Gee has posted a 90 ERA+, with a career-best 98 ERA+ in 2013, which is still 2% worse than the average pitcher.  Meanwhile, Jonathon Niese has a 97 ERA+ since he became a regular in the rotation in 2010.  But since 2012, Niese has a 104 ERA+, making him 4% better than the average pitcher over the last three seasons.  Niese's career-best performance in this metric came in 2012, when he posted a 112 ERA+.

WAR (wins above replacement) is all the rage in this sabermetric era of baseball.  The higher the WAR, the better the player.  It's that simple.  Looking at the WAR posted by Gee and Niese since 2011 (the year both pitchers were rotation-mates for the first time), it's clear which pitcher has been more valuable to the team.  Gee has a 4.5 WAR since 2011, going above 1.0 just once in the four years (2013, when he posted a 2.2 WAR).  In the same time period, Niese has a 6.2 WAR, posting a 3.4 WAR in 2012 and a 1.7 WAR this past season.

WAR.  What is it good for?  For Niese, it might be good for keeping him in New York.  (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

Finally, let's look at one overlooked, but still important, part of the pitcher's game - his offense.  When a pitcher comes to bat, he's not expected to do much.  If there's a runner on base, he's expected to bunt him over.  If there's no one on base, the best a pitcher is expected to do is not get hurt swinging the bat and maybe make the opposing pitcher throw a few extra pitches.  When it comes to proficiency with the bat, there's no contest between Gee and Niese.

Since becoming a regular in the rotation in 2011, Dillon Gee has a .154 on-base percentage, reaching base 27 times (18 hits, nine walks) in 206 plate appearances.  Meanwhile, since Niese joined the rotation for good in 2010, he has reached base an incredible 66 times (38 hits, 28 walks) in 304 plate appearances, which is a .237 on-base percentage.  Of all pitchers with at least 200 plate appearances since 2010, only Zack Greinke (.274 OBP in 245 PA) and Mike Leake (.261 OBP in 338 PA) have a higher on-base percentage than Jonathon Niese and only Ian Kennedy has drawn more walks (32 BB in 342 PA) than Niese.  Kennedy and Niese are the only pitchers who have walked more than 20 times since 2010.

So let's review.  Jonathon Niese has a better ERA, ERA+, FIP and WAR than Dillon Gee.  Niese is also much more adept at recording strikeouts than Gee and has a better K/BB ratio.  And while Gee is almost an automatic out with the bat, Niese gives the Mets a ninth hitter in the lineup, reaching base just under a quarter of the time.  Niese isn't going to break into a home run trot any time soon, but he has proven to be one of the better handlers of the bat among National League pitchers.

Dillon Gee will blow out 29 candles during the first month of the 2015 campaign.  Jonathon Niese will be 28 all season.  Niese has more experience than Gee, having pitched at Shea Stadium.  Niese is also left-handed, something no other starting pitcher on the Mets can claim.  Although Gee is still arbitration eligible and will likely not command more than $5 million in 2015, Niese is due $7 million in 2015 and $9 million in 2016, hardly amounts that would break the Wilpon family piggy bank.

If the Mets are going to trade one of their veteran homegrown pitchers before the curtains rise on the 2015 season, it should be clear which one should go.  Although I've always enjoyed watching him pitch and still believe he can be successful in New York, Dillon Gee will probably be the victim of an overcrowded starting rotation.  Jonathon Niese, despite all the question marks surrounding his health, has still made at least 24 starts in each of his five full seasons in the majors.  Gee has surpassed 22 starts just twice in his four full seasons with the Mets.  Also, Niese may not always utter the most politically correct statements, especially when it comes to Mets fans' loyalty, but you can't say he was pulling things out of his posterior.  If the Mets are going to draw the crowds Niese was used to seeing when he was a neophyte, then the team has to play better.  And right now, I believe the team will perform better with Niese on the team instead of Gee.

Of course, trading Gee or Niese will depend on the package the Mets would receive in return, but if each package was similar and the Mets had an option of trading either player, then that player should be Gee.  The future of the team would look a lot brighter if it held on to Niese.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Doc Gooden's Greatness On The Mound Extended Past The 1986 Season

Photo by Ray Stubblebine/AP

Dwight Gooden, the Mets' hurler who helped exhume the team from Grant's Tomb and brought Shea Stadium back to life in the mid-'80s, is celebrating his 50th birthday today.  When Gooden was at his peak three decades ago, the baseball cognoscenti agreed that his first three seasons in the major leagues were among the best by a young pitcher in the game's history.  Gooden took the mound 99 times from 1984 to 1986, going 58-19 with a 2.28 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 35 complete games, 13 shutouts and 744 strikeouts - reaching 200 or more strikeouts in each season.

But after off-the-field problems came to light prior to the 1987 campaign, Gooden went from being Dr. K to being Dr. Just OK.  Or did he?

From 1987 to 1991, Doc's numbers were clearly not the same as they were during his first three seasons.  But they were still pretty darn good.  In his fourth through eighth seasons with the Mets, Gooden went 74-34 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, striking out 797 batters, completing 22 games and tossing eight shutouts.  He also finished in the top five in the Cy Young Award voting twice.  (Gooden was fifth in the Cy Young balloting in 1987 and fourth in 1990.)  He accomplished all of this from 1987 to 1991 despite making fewer than 28 starts in three of the five seasons.

Perhaps his greatest and most underappreciated accomplishment occurred in 1991.  After seven consecutive seasons of winning 87 or more games, the Mets finished under .500 in '91.  But Gooden still managed to finish with a 13-7 record, 3.60 ERA and 150 strikeouts in only 27 starts.  In 15 of those 27 starts, Gooden allowed two earned runs or fewer, but received losses or no-decisions in six of the games, mainly because he was surrounded by a putrid offense.

Keith Miller (.280) and Gregg Jefferies (.272) were the only players with 300 or more plate appearances to finish the year with a batting average north of .260.  Howard Johnson (38 HR, 117 RBI, 108 runs) was the sole Met with more than 16 homers, 74 RBI or 65 runs scored.  Gooden basically had to help himself when he was in the game, as he batted .238 with three doubles, a homer, six RBI and seven runs scored in only 63 at-bats.  His .333 slugging percentage was higher than the marks posted by Mark Carreon (.331 in 254 AB), Vince Coleman (.327 in 278 AB) and Garry Templeton (.306 in 219 AB).

In the five seasons immediately following the 1986 championship campaign, when Gooden supposedly went from being a great pitcher to just being a very good pitcher, the right-hander's winning percentage was .685 in 137 starts.  That was the highest winning percentage for all pitchers who made 100 or more starts from 1987 to 1991.  The rest of the top five included Dave Stieb, Roger Clemens, Bob Welch and Dave Stewart - pitchers who combined to win 909 games over their long and successful major league careers.

Dwight Gooden .685 137 74 34 3.39 2.78 .249 .304 .342 .647
Dave Stieb .667 137 68 34 3.32 3.78 .226 .306 .332 .638
Roger Clemens .662 172 94 48 2.74 2.61 .227 .284 .329 .613
Bob Welch .662 174 88 45 3.47 3.93 .245 .313 .375 .689
Dave Stewart .629 181 95 56 3.54 3.66 .246 .314 .366 .680
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/15/2014.

The Mets averaged nearly 99 wins a season from 1984 to 1986, with Gooden accounting for 58 of the team's 296 wins in those three campaigns.  Although several stints on the disabled list caused Gooden to miss significant time in 1987, 1989 and 1991, Doc still won 74 games in the five years immediately following the team's championship in 1986.

Averaging 27 starts per season from 1987 to 1991 should have allowed other National League pitchers to finish well ahead of Gooden in wins, but that never happened.  In fact, only Doug Drabek won more games in the Senior Circuit than Dwight Gooden did during that five-year stretch, as seen in the chart below.

Doug Drabek 77 165 162 26 12 .602 1106.0 1009 283 643
Dwight Gooden 74 139 137 22 8 .685 969.0 911 283 797
Greg Maddux 73 171 168 32 9 .549 1143.0 1107 374 718
Tom Browning 72 176 175 19 5 .576 1141.1 1123 297 573
David Cone 67 155 138 27 10 .620 994.2 829 336 945
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/15/2014.

When Gooden was at his best from 1984 to 1986, he was the league's premier strikeout pitcher, fanning 200 or more batters in each of his first three seasons and averaging nearly 250 Ks per year.  Gooden's propensity for throwing strike three earned him the nickname Dr. K, but just because he wasn't leading the league in strikeouts from 1987 to 1991 as he did in his first two seasons didn't mean he was no longer frustrating batters at the plate.

In his fourth through eighth seasons in the big leagues, the good Doctor struck out 797 batters.  Only one pitcher in the National League had more strikeouts than Gooden did during those five "post-dominant Doc" seasons - his teammate, David Cone, who won two strikeout titles of his own in 1990 and 1991.

Player SO SO/9 SO/BB K% GS W L W-L% IP BF
David Cone 945 8.55 2.81 23.1% 138 67 41 .620 994.2 4092
Dwight Gooden 797 7.40 2.82 19.8% 137 74 34 .685 969.0 4023
Sid Fernandez 733 8.40 2.55 22.8% 128 48 40 .545 785.2 3211
Mike Scott 719 7.13 2.72 19.4% 134 59 46 .562 908.0 3715
Greg Maddux 718 5.65 1.92 14.9% 168 73 60 .549 1143.0 4831
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/15/2014.

There's one last thing that won't show up in a boxscore or a Baseball Reference chart that helps assess Dwight Gooden's value to the Mets after his first three historic seasons with the team.  During the five-year period from 1987 to 1991, Gooden was outstanding at helping the Mets win games that immediately followed a loss, thereby preventing the Mets from suffering through extended losing streaks.  In Gooden's 137 starts during those five years, 65 of them came after a loss by the team.  The Mets' record in those 65 contests was 41-24, giving the team a .631 winning percentage in post-loss games started by Doc.  When any other starting pitcher took the mound immediately following a Mets loss during that five-year stretch, the team's record in those games was 147-148, for a .498 winning percentage.  That's how valuable Gooden was to the team after he had supposedly lost his ability to dominate hitters.

Dwight Gooden never had a winning percentage under .650 in any season from 1987 to 1991, while the Mets never posted a winning percentage above .625 in any of those five campaigns.  The entire team stopped being as great as they were in 1986, but not Doc.  He just continued to find ways to win.  If anything, he was one of the main reasons why the team continued to be competitive for as long as they did, until the bottom fell out in the early '90s.

Today is Doc's 50th birthday, making it a perfect day to look back at how golden he was not just during his first three seasons with the Mets, but in the years immediately following the team's World Series championship.  The baseball pundits might say Gooden wasn't the same pitcher after 1986, but that didn't make him any less valuable to the Mets.  The numbers don't lie.  Doc Gooden never lost his ability to be among the best pitchers in the league even when his club stopped being one of the best teams in the league.