I came across a piece yesterday (linked by Craig Lerner in his article) by Dave Lennon of Newsday that caught my eye.
Is the ”Moneyball” approach paying off for the Mets?
In some respects, the answer to that question is yes, as they have climbed to the top of the National League in targeted offensive categories such as walks and on-base percentage.
What a statement. Look, I’ll be honest here. I don’t like sabermetrics, and I don’t like the Moneyball approach. It worked with the Oakland A’s? That’s cute. They had to do it because they were forced into that situation. Necessity is the mother of creation, yes? Their approach to signing players, valuing prospects, and analyzing specific aspects of the game was impressive. They discounted traditional wisdom and found success for the short term by using sabermetrics to analyze. You can see Sandy Alderson employing those techniques by signing undervalued players such as Capuano, Bucholz, Young – which by the way, are three signings that I did and still do support because they were cheap and low risk. Hey, injuries happen and that will be that. (And for the record, no, I’m not supporting signing Chris Young again. It was worth a shot, though.)
Now think again about what Lennon said. So apparently, the philosophy for signing players and valuing them differently has a direct correlation to the fact that the team is walking more and getting on base more overall? Just because we have a GM who uses sabermetrics (focusing on getting on base more), the players magically got better at it? That’s Moneyball in action? Don’t feed me that crap. It’s more of a testament to the fact that the Mets played their hearts out for the majority of the season than it is to the Moneyball theory. What I am saying, is that the GM does NOT have 100% control of what happens on the field. He does not play the games nor is he some kind of puppet master that controls how his players perform. He can put together a team, but what happens after that is a combination of what that player is capable of plus the HUMAN ELEMENT.
That’s my problem with sabermetrics. It does not nor can it ever account for the human element. Things such as emotions, attitude, and even growth. I’ll allow the SABR crowd a few seconds to laugh at that. News Flash – Believe it or not, there was a lot of talent on this roster. Nobody could have accounted for the injuries to Davis and Daniel Murphy – and there was even hope that Santana could have been back in July. Even with not one significant addition during this offseason (releasing Perez and Castillo was probably the highlight), this team still is going to finish very close to a .500 season.
Many of the Mets younger players grew and progressed as MOST young players do: Murphy became a more patient and mature hitter, Ike was in the midst of a breakout campaign, and Tejada was no longer over-matched at the plate. Wright was returning to his old self, Reyes having the best season of his career, Beltran was swinging with authority, hell, even Bay showed some flashes this season!
So without the offensive and defensive contributions of Ike Davis, and without the contributions of Daniel Murphy, and without an ace or even number two starter, and without a closer for three months, and without Carlos Beltran – arguably the best hitter on the team at the time of the trade, this team is finishing close to .500 for the season. That’s about 81 wins. In my book, 90 wins is a damn good season and that’s only nine more than .500.
So let’s say the Mets finish with 78 wins. Don’t you think that half a season from Santana, Carlos Beltran staying in the lineup, and a non-injured Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy could have gotten this team to near 90 wins and at least kept us in the wild card chase?
Having Alderson at the helm can lead to a interesting future for the Mets. He was brought on to cut payroll, make smarter decisions in terms of long-term deals, and perhaps draft prospects who reflect their sabermetric ideals. The difference is: The A’s were forced to work with an extremely low payroll, the Mets are not.
If Alderson wants to cut payroll and not deal out long-term contracts (except maybe a 5 year in the direction of Jose Reyes), that’s fine with me. If he’s here to cut payroll and NOT try to help us win (which seems idiotic), I’d be pissed off. But on both sides, the jury is still out – at least until the end of this offseason.
Bottom line in my eyes – We will never be the Moneyball Mets because we have more payroll accessible to us and that’s great. I don’t want to see the Moneyball Mets.
So what happens in the offseason if Alderson simply signs Reyes and a closer like he said he would, and that’s all?
Is that his formula for winning or just some token moves while keeping payroll on the down low?
Obviously GMs are never hired to create a losing franchise, but after this offseason, we’ll know more as to whether the main priority for this front office is winning OR cutting payroll. It can be both, but there will be a point where they will clash.
As to the original point – No, the Mets aren’t walking more because of the result of some Moneyball experiment or the direct result of Alderson’s sabermetric Jedi Mind Tricks.
These current Mets players, almost all of which are Minaya’s and not Alderson’s, are simply progressing, learning and becoming better hitters. The players are evolving, fighting hard and showing resilience – if you’ve watched the games, you know what I mean.