It's that time of year already -- pitchers and catchers for the New York Yankees and New York Mets are down in Florida, getting ready for the season. So as we dream of warm days ahead filled with baseball, let's take a look back at the best single-season pitching performances between the two teams. As a benchmark, we'll use pitchers' WAR (from Baseball Reference.com) -- it's only a reference (and sabermetrics is, of course, not an exact science and has its own little quirks), which leaves plenty of room for argument. And the arguments can start here: The one year that everyone would guess would make the Top 5 is Ron Guidry's great 1978 season, in which he went 25-3, with a 1.74 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 208 ERA+. But his 8.5 WAR that year doesn't get him into the Top 5 -- in fact it ranks eighth. The sixth, seventh, ninth and 10th spots go to Jack Chesbro (1904, 8.8 WAR), Jon Matlack (1974, 8.6 WAR), Lefty Gomez (1934, 8.1 WAR) and Tom Seaver (1975, 7.7 WAR), respectively. The highest Yankee from the past 20 years is Andy Pettitte, who had a 7.6 WAR in 1997. Catfish Hunter's great 1975 season and Seaver's 1969 season, both producing a 7.6 WAR, didn't make the Top 10, either.
5. Lefty Gomez, 1937, 8.9 WAR: The Yankee Hall of Famer won the pitching Triple Crown in '37 (not to mention going 2-0 in the World Series, which the Bombers of course won, and starting and being the winning pitcher in the All-Star Game, throwing three shutout innings). During the regular season, Gomez won 21 games, lost 11, had a 2.33 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP, started 34 games, completed 25 of them, threw six shutouts, tossed 278 and 1/3 innings, struck out 194 batters, walked 93, gave up 10 home runs and had a 193 ERA+.
4. Russ Ford, 1910, 9.0 WAR: Maybe we shouldn't even count the dead-ball era, since baseball was a completely different game back then, but even if we deleted Ford (and Chesbro), Guidry still doesn't slide into the Top 5 (nor does the other Ford -- Whitey, whose best WAR year was 1964, with a 6.3 mark), so we might as well list the old hurler. Russ Ford spent four seasons with the Highlanders/Yankees, before jumping to the Buffalo Buffeds of the newly formed Federal League in 1914. After pitching in one game for New York in 1909, Ford recorded a 26-6 mark in his first full season. He started 33 games (with three relief appearances and one save), threw 299 2/3 innings, had a 1.65 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 29 complete games, eight shutouts, 209 strikeouts, 70 walks and had an ERA+ of 160. The Manitoba native is thought to be the originator of scuffing up a ball with an emery board. The spitball was also in his arsenal, so, yes, he had a pretty big advantage over the modern guys we've mentioned.
3. Tom Seaver, 1971, 9.2 WAR: This is one of the most underrated, great-but-forgotten seasons a New York pitcher has ever had. There was no Cy Young for Seaver that year (he finished second to Fergie Jenkins) and no World Series either (though he was an All-Star), so maybe that's why this one gets lost in the couch cushions. The Franchise went 20-10 (with the Mets scoring a total of 18 runs in those 10 losses), in 35 starts, throwing 286 and 1/3 innings, with a 1.76 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 21 complete games, four shutouts, 289 strikeouts, 61 walks and a 194 ERA+. He led the National League in ERA, strikeouts and WHIP that year.
2. Tom Seaver, 1973, 9.5 WAR: Winning the second of his three Cy Youngs in '73 (and pitching a scoreless inning in the All-Star Game and making two starts in the World Series, with a 2.40 ERA), Seaver also clinched the NL East in the last game of the season for the Mets, with a win in Chicago, completing their Ya Gotta Believe last-place-to-first-place miracle. He led the league in ERA (2.08), complete games (18), strikeouts (251) and WAR. He had a 19-10 record, a 0.98 WHIP, started 36 games (290 innings pitched), tossed three shutouts, only walked 64 batters and had a 175 ERA+.
1. Dwight Gooden, 1985, 11.7 WAR: This is most likely the least surprising name and season on the list. Not only does it surpass all other Met and Yankee pitching performances, but it tops all Brooklyn Dodger and New York Giant ones as well (except for an 1894 Amos Rusie season, where the old Giant had a 12.8 WAR, but that was two whole centuries ago), making it the greatest single season for a pitcher New York has ever seen. Gooden had his own Linsanity going on at Shea that year, when he won the pitching Triple Crown and the Cy Young Award, on the strength of his 24-4 record (in 35 games started, with a league-leading 276 and 2/3 innings pitched), 1.53 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 16 complete games (which led the NL), eight shutouts, 268 strikeouts, 69 walks and a 229 ERA+ (also leading the league). He never lived up to his Hall of Fame potential, but we'll always have 1985.