Dwight Gooden’s Epic 1985 Season (Part 1)

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A review of the single highest WAR pitching seasons of all time on Baseball Reference shows that Dwight Gooden had 12.1 WAR in 1985, the fourth highest single pitching season ever. That season was the highest WAR season for any pitcher post World War II.

For those who prefer traditional statistics, in that magical season, Dwight Gooden had 12.1 pitching WAR thanks to his 276 2/3 innings with a 24-4 record, a 1.53 ERA and 268 strikeouts. His ERA+ (ERA adjusted for league average and the pitcher’s home ballpark) was 229, meaning his ERA was 229% better than league average. In addition, his .226 batting average with one home run, 9 RBIs and 11 runs scored created an additional 1.1 offensive WAR. In this article we’ll begin to relive and review each start of Gooden’s historic season of 1985.

The first start of the season for Gooden on April 9 was not a good one. On opening day at Shea Stadium, against the rival St. Louis Cardinals, Gooden allowed four runs, three earned, in six innings striking out six and walking two. Jack Clark took Gooden deep leading off the second. Gary Carter had the game-winning home run in the bottom of the 10th against former Met Neil Allen.

The second start of the season went much better for Gooden as he pitched a complete game shut-out at Shea Stadium on April 14 against the Cincinnati Reds, striking out ten and walking two while allowing only four hits. One of the four hits allowed was to Hit King Pete Rose. Gooden dominated the Reds in a game that lasted only two hours and 26 minutes. A very different time, as no manager now would allow his ace to pitch nine innings in a mid-April game, especially with a comfortable lead.

The next start for Gooden came against the Phillies, in Philadelphia on April 19. It was a brisk 2 hour and 12 minute game, Gooden and the Mets defeated the Phillies 1-0 for Gooden’s second win of the season. Gooden pitched eight shut-out innings allowing three hits and one walk while striking out seven, before Jesse Orosco came in the ninth to record his first save of the season.

In his fourth start  on April 24, Gooden was again matched up against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, opposing Joaquin Andujar. The two matched goose eggs through six innings before the Cardinals broke through against Gooden, scoring two in the seventh and three more in the eighth against Roger McDowell, winning 5-1. For the game, which lasted two hours and 16 minutes, Gooden allowed four hits and two earned runs with three strikeouts and two walks in seven innings. This was Gooden’s first loss of the season, dropping his record to 2-1 while Andujar improved to 3-0.

In the final start in April, Gooden pitched his second complete game of the month at home against the Houston Astros. Gooden allowed four hits and two walks, good for one earned run (a first inning home run by Denny Walling), while striking out eight. With two in the seventh and two more in the eighth, the Mets won 4 – 1, finishing the month in first place with a 12 – 6 record.
Gooden’s April statistics:

Record

IP

ERA

Hits Allowed

Strikeouts

Walks

RE24

WPA

3 – 1

39

1.38

21

34

10

11.658

1.345

Notes: RE24, in the above chart is the base-out runs saved by the pitcher. Given the bases occupied, outs situation, how many runs did the pitcher save in the resulting play? The stat is compared to average, so zero is average and numbers above zero are above average.  WPA is win-probability added. Given average teams, this is the team’s change in probability of winning/losing the game. A change of +1/-1 would indicate a win added or lost.

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Gooden’s first start in May was on the fifth of the month on the road against Tom Browning of the Cincinnati Reds. Gooden allowed seven hits, three walks and two runs in seven innings in a 3-2 Mets win. Forty-four year old Pete Rose had three hits that day, but was caught stealing in the first inning. Orosco pitched the final two innings for his third save of the season.

On the tenth of the month, Gooden pitched his third complete game and second shutout of the season in a 5-0 whitewashing of the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium. On the day, Gooden allowed three hits and three walks in his nine innings of work, striking out 13. Gooden almost matched what he allowed from the batter’s box, with two hits and one walk.

The next start for Gooden came on the 15th against the Astros, in Houston. Gooden pitched “only” 6 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and two walks while striking out only one. Gooden allowed was responsible for all three runs the Astros scored that day before Jessie Orosco pitched the final 2 2/3 innings in the Mets’ 5 – 3 win, good for his fifth save on the season.

Dwight Gooden took the loss in his next two starts. On May 20th against the Padres at Shea, Gooden allowed at least one hit against every starter of the Padres with the exception of Tony Gwynn, who went 0 – 4. Gooden allowed two runs in eight innings, but took the loss against LaMarr Hoyt who blanked the Mets in a 2-0 Padres victory.

On May 25, the Dodgers visited Shea and handed Gooden his second loss of the week. In seven innings, Gooden allowed five hits, a walk, and three earned runs, two from a fifth inning home run by Greg Brock. Fernando Valenzuela pitched a complete game and beat the Mets 6-2. The loss was the Mets fourth in a row and dropped the team into second, a half-game behind the Cardinals.

Gooden bounced back in his next start, beating the Giants in Candlestick Park 2-1. The sole run by the Giants was a solo homer by former Met Alex Trevino. Gooden pitched his fourth complete game of the season, allowing six hits and one walk while striking out 14.

Record

IP

ERA

Hits Allowed

Strikeouts

Walks

RE24

WPA

May

4 – 2

46 1/3

2.15

38

55

10

9.335

1.146

Season

7 – 3

85 1/3

1.80

59

89

20

20.993

2.491

After Gooden’s May 30 start against the Giants, the Mets had a 27-15 record, their fourth win in a row, and they climbed into first place.

In the next part of this series, we’ll take a look Gooden’s June and July when he really started to turn it on with an incredible run of sheer dominance.

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About Carl Aridas 18 Articles
Mets fan since the Wayne Garrett/Craig Swan/Joe Torre days, Carl works as a bank consultant during the day, but at night enjoys writing baseball articles for Fangraphs, Hardball Times, and Metsmerized Online. He joined as a MMO Rookie of the Year hopeful in 2016 and has been a Mets fan for more than 40+ years.