Here are the Moneyball Players
On May 23rd, ESPN’s Mets beat reporter Adam Rubin asked where all the “Moneyball” players are. Where are the players you could sign at bargain-basement prices who could become the Mets’ version of Scott Hatteberg (as seen in the book and movie “Moneyball”)?
But since then, several “hidden-value” players worthy of Billy Beane’s teams of the aughts have emerged.
Marlon Byrd, OF
The most obvious and reported “Moneyball” player is Marlon Byrd. Coming off a PED suspension, no one knew what to expect of the 35 year-old veteran. But Byrd has stepped up to solidify the cleanup spot in the order in place of the maddening Ike Davis. David Wright has credited Byrd’s presence as a reason why he has seen better pitches to hit lately.
He’s making $700,000 this year on a 1 year contract.
Bobby Parnell, RHP
In Spring Training, the Mets named Bobby Parnell closer in place of injured Frank Francisco. Instead of signing a free-agent closer, the Mets promoted Parnell to the role.
The move wasn’t a no-brainer. Parnell has tried and failed at the closer’s role before. Many people felt he didn’t have that “closer mentality” that one needs to succeed in high-leverage situations. But Parnell’s transformation into one of the league’s best closers had little to do with psychology.
Bobby throttled back his fastball for the sake of control, and started mixing in his two-seamer more. He also incorporated a knuckle curve taught to him by Jason Isringhausen. Over the past two years, Parnell has mastered the pitch, which not only fools hitters on movement, but also gave him the offspeed pitch he so desperately needed.
He’s also become more of a ground ball pitcher. His K/9 ratio is down to 7.68, but his ground ball percentage is at 53.6%, which is in the top 25 of all relief pitchers in baseball. He’s yet to allow a home run this year.
A product of the Mets farm system, he’s signed up for 1 year at $1.7 million.
Eric Young, Jr., OF-2B
Eric Young has become the leadoff batter the Mets have been starving for since the departure of Jose Reyes. The Rockies’ castoff has hit nearly .300 for the Mets with a .354 OBP, .332 wOBA, and a 114 wRC+.
He’s shown consistency at the plate and speed on the bases. It’s still a small sample, but he’s given the Mets a boost at the top of the order.
He’s making $429,000 this year on a 1 year contract.
Jeremy Hefner, RHP
Jeremy Hefner was supposed to be a placeholder in the Mets rotation – just keeping a spot warm until Zack Wheeler could be recalled in June. Well, Hefner has turned out to be much more than that. His 3.39 ERA is the 33rd best in the major leagues. And that was after a slow beginning to the season.
In his 12 starts since the beginning of May, Hefner has a 3.00 ERA in 72 innings. He’s held opponents to a .665 OPS against in that time. Hefner credits a mechanical adjustment, which resulted in more velocity, suggested by pitching coach Dan Warthen, for his turnaround.
He’s under a 1 year contract valued at $501,000.
David Aardsma, RHP
The Mets picked up David Aardsma off the scrap heap. He missed the entire 2011 season due to injury, then made only 3 appearances in 2012 for the Yankees, who signed him to a 2-year, $1 million deal.
Aardsma has essentially taken over the eighth inning role for the Mets (though Terry Collins likes to mix-and-match in that situation). He’s posted a 2.35 ERA and a 9.39 K/9 ratio in 15 appearances.
He’s making $500,000 this year.
Scott Rice, LHP
His numbers might not be pretty at first glance (4.54 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 81 OPS+), but he’s been the Mets’ most reliable left-handed bullpen specialist this year. He’s held lefties to a .517 OPS against. Most of his failures have come vs. righties, who have shelled him to the tune of a 1.054 OPS against.
Rice should also get credit for the amount of appearances he has made – 46 of them, which puts him on pace for just short of 90 for the season. As they did with Tim Byrdak and Pedro Feliciano, the Mets love to overwork their lefties.
Rice spent 14 years in the minor leagues before throwing his first major league pitch on Opening Day. If that’s not finding hidden value, I don’t know what is.
Honorable mention goes out to Josh Satin (.382/.485/.600 in 67 plate appearances) and Carlos Torres (0.66 ERA, 0.73 WHIP in 13.2 innings pitched out of the bullpen). Each has done a surprisingly amazing job in a small sample.