Trying to pick the best lineups in Mets history is a task governed by limited selection.
The Mets have only had two periods in their history in which they ranked at or better than league average in runs scored, on-base percentage and home runs in the same season (1985-1990, with the exception of 1989, and 2006-2008).
That's what happens when you play home games in Shea Stadium, and hitter-unfriendly Citi Field for most of the team’s existence.
So it’s hard to justify picking a team from outside of those seasons. We made one exception in coming up with our choices.
Best Lineups in Mets history
1. 1986: In terms of raw numbers, the 1986 team pales against other Mets squads, but in terms of offensive success relative to other NL teams that year, the 1986 squad comes out best.
Compared to NL Averages
The '86 Mets were well-suited to face both left and right-handed pitching, simply changing up their No. 1 and No. 2 hitters (Len Dykstra and Wally Backman for Mookie Wilson and Tim Teufel) and plugging in super-sub Kevin Mitchell as needed. Their No. 3 hitter -- Keith Hernandez -- was the game’s best hit-and-run man and had the best eye.
Power hitters Gary Carter and Darryl Strawberry combined for 51 homers. Ray Knight (98 RBI and a penchant for big hits) may have been the best No. 6/7 hitter the team has ever had.
2. 1999: By raw numbers, this is the best Mets offensive group. It scored a club record 853 runs, and .797 OPS (also a franchise record). It excelled relative to the league at getting on base, with a .363 on-base percentage in a year in which the NL average was .342.
The Mets were strong at the top whether they opted for Rickey Henderson or Roger Cedeno. When the Mets went with a 1-5 of Henderson, Edgardo Alfonzo, John Olerud, Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura, it gave them five straight hitters whose OPS+ (OPS compared to league average, with an adjustment for home ballpark) was 125 or higher. It’s the only time in their history that the Mets have had five hitters with an OPS that high.
3. 2006: This (and the 2007 lineup) might be the best combination of power and speed that the Mets have ever had. The 2006 lineup set a club record for homers with 200, powered by the 41 from Carlos Beltran, 38 from Carlos Delgado and 26 from David Wright. It also stole 146 bases in 181 attempts, with Jose Reyes nabbing 64, Wright 20 and Beltran 18.
4. 1988: The numbers from this team -- a .256/.325/.396 batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage slashline -- are hardly overwhelming until you realize that they hit 30 more home runs than any other team in the NL, had four players with 20 or more steals and scored 33 more runs than any team in the league.
Best Defensive Team?
This was a down year for some of the team’s big stars. Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez began to show their age.
But Strawberry and Kevin McReynolds had what were considered big years at the time (a combined 66 home runs and 50 stolen bases). Dave Magadan proved to be a capable fill-in for Hernandez (.393 on-base percentage)
And Gregg Jefferies (.321 batting average, six home runs in 109 at-bats) had the best September call-up stint of any player the Mets have ever had.
5. 1990: It took me almost an hour to fill in this spot, because I wanted to do it in a smart way. I could have picked the 1987 team, but I’ve previously noted my disdain for that juiced-ball season. I could have picked the 2000 team (and won’t quibble if you do), but it feels disingenuous to pick a team that had the sixth-highest OPS and seventh-most runs scored in the NL that season.
I’m settling for the 1990 Mets in this slot, a team of transition that would mark the last of the seven-year run of contention in which every game for the Mets was a meaningful one. Darryl Strawberry had quite the last hurrah (.277 batting average, 37 home runs). Dave Magadan (.328 batting average, .874 OPS) may not have been what Mets fans wanted, but he was better than they knew at the time. Even Kevin McReynolds in a down season (.269 batting average, 24 homers) was better than most.
One of the primary lessons from this exercise is this: The Mets don’t have a lot of impressive from which to pick.