“The Plan” – or trying to see the future forest amidst a bunch of presently broken trees.
We may agree or disagree on whether the current rebuilding of the Mets was inevitable or necessary or strictly financially motivated or even a vicious attempt to alienate the fan base. We may agree or disagree on whether the current front office has done well in their dual task of a) saving the ownership group from losing the franchise – whether we like it or not – and b) laying the groundwork of a longterm winner both talent wise and by creating a lot of payroll flexibility again.
However, what seems clear is that the future of this franchise over the next several years largely depends on the quality of pitching it will produce from within or acquire via trade & free agency. That seems to be the plan. And we´re not only talking about Matt Harvey or Zach Wheeler, but also about having enough depth and a strong bullpen to go with hopefully strong frontline SP.
Since teams like Washington & San Francisco have been mentioned as potential “role models” in all of this, I took a brief look at how those two teams did over the past 4 seasons in terms of scoring runs & allowing runs and what the actual difference between them and the Mets has been over that span. Also, let´s take a step back and look at the financial implications as well.
What´s pretty interesting is that all 3 teams have scored a very similar amount of runs over that 4-year span:
Washington: 2.718, i.e. an average of 679.5 Runs per season
San Francisco: 2.638, i.e. an average of 659.5 Runs per season
New York Mets: 2.691, i.e. an average of 672.75 Runs per season
None of these numbers is very high. However, all three teams play at least half of their games in at least slightly pitcher-friendly environments.
You guessed it – the main difference between the three teams has been the pitching:
San Francisco over the past 4 seasons has averaged 90 wins per season by allowing merely 2.418 Runs overall and thus 604.5 Runs per season on average.
The Nationals – after being terrible in 2009 and 2010, allowing 1.615 Runs in those two season and thus a whopping average of 807.5 per year – have merely allowed 1.237 Runs in 2011 and 2012 for an average of 618.5 Runs per season – or almost 200 less than before. Correspondingly, after averaging 63.5 Wins per season in 2009 & 2010, the Nats have now averaged 89.5 Wins per season in 2011 and 2012, while actually scoring a few runs less in those two years combined than in 2010 and 2009.
Finally, the Mets have given up by far the most runs among these teams over the past 4 years, a whopping 2.860 total and thus an average of 715 Runs per season. While the offense has been on par with the Nats & Giants, giving up 100 or so Runs more per year has been the back-breaker for recent Mets teams and thus has led to an underwhelming average total of 75.5 Wins per season during that span.
So, yes, using the Nats & Giants as role models may not be a bad idea. Building a strong & deep pitching staff over the next couple of years along with depth in the minors to be able to sustain it via trade or further promotions from within seems to be the formula to proceed with. And it has nothing to do with “Moneyball” but a lot more with common sense. And if it works, the Mets will be in a great position to sustain it financially over the long haul since revenue should rise significantly with a winning product on the field. Average 90 wins per season and I´m pretty sure Citi Field will be a crowded place again.
Oh, I almost forgot looking at finances which seem to be such a prevalent issue here these days:
The San Francisco Giants – who have won 2 World Series over the past 4 years while barely missing the playoffs in the other two – have spent an average of $107.442 million per season on their last 4 teams. Starting with an $82.566 million payroll in 2009 and recently culminating with $131.980 million spent on the 2012 World Champions.
The Nats – over their past two competitive seasons – have averaged payrolls of merely $82.681 million after being below $70 million in each of their dreadful 2009 and 2010 seasons. Even in the 98-win season of 2012, however, they spent merely $94.568 million in total salary on players.
The Mets – who have failed to even crack .500 in any of those past 4 seasons – had to spend a whopping total of $517.953 million over that span for an average of 129.488 million per year, starting with $153.550 million in 2009 to a mere $94.508 million in 2012 – or about the cost of one Rule V pick less than the Nats spent on their 98-win team.
And while you can witness a gradual rise in payroll for the Giants & Nats as their initially young team has started to age and become more expensive, the Mets have actually managed to remain a mediocre 75-win caliber team while cutting costs by almost $60 million per year total from their record in 2009 all the way to 2012. As of today, that total for 2013 figures to remain in the $95 to $100 million range, though the actual payout will be much lower due to deferred payments to Santana, Wright and Bay and probably in the $75 to $80 million or so range once the roster is completed. Looking at 2014, for now, we´re looking at a projected payroll in the $60 million range for the Mets – and thus plenty of room to get it into a range that is deemed necessary to start a competitive run again. Be it 85 or 95 or 105 million dollars.
Still, leaving out any individual decisions on players over the past couple of years or how good you believe the talent evaluation skills of the current front office are or aren’t, the general “Plan” sounds like a very sound strategy if you look at how the Nats & Giants have been successful with it, doesn’t it ?