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”)?
It was a fair question, given that the Mets were still fumbling with players like Collin Cowgill, Shaun Marcum, and Scott Atchison (as he mentioned) at the time.
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.
Byrd’s WAR (1.6), wOBA (.339), and wRC+ (119) are equal to or better than those of Justin and B.J. Upton, Josh Willingham, Alfonso Soriano, Jason Heyward, Yoenis Cespedes, and Adam Jones.
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.
Parnell also has a better WAR (1.3) than the likes of Aroldis Chapman, Mariano Rivera, and Craig Kimbrel (all of whom are going to the All-Star game).
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.
Still can’t forgive him for letting Jose Reyes walk without an attempt to trade him. Have to believe the Wilpons had a hand in that.
It seems that it is all or nothing with Alderson, love him or hate him. I try to be objective but critical. While I appreciate the effort, I don’t agree with Paul’s article. Young gets an incomplete…he has been good but so was Ankiel for a couple of weeks. Let’s see where he stands after the season finishes. No way Parnell can be included as a moneyball victory. Same for Satin, who also has too short a sample to declare anything. Moneyball implies acquiring a player undervalued by the market. This excludes players under team control. Aardsma is like Young, a possible but more sample is needed. Byrd is interesting. He clearly is a steal give price and production. However, Alderson really lucked out getting him and not Hairston (a double win). He was pretending to be in the Upton chase and actually lost Hairston to the Cubs (a good thing). Byrd was basically all that was left. Now, if he went and got Byed in early December I would give him credit, but this was not the case. Hefner is by far his best acquisition to date still with the team. Capuano was pretty good too, and there are a few others. However, overall, anyone grading his moves at the major league level objectively really can’t come to any legitimate conclusion other that collectively they have been poor, let’s say a grade D at best.
Norm, the Reyes really hurt. In May, Alderson was saying that every player was available and we all knew what that meant. Reyes had gotten hurt in early July, but he was back by late July. However, Alderson explained that he didn’t want to trade Reyes because he wanted the franchise to have a chance at its first batting champion. Get it: SELL TICKETS. 😉 Moneyball has nothing to do with batting champions, but tickets sold, ahhh, different story. Guess which Wilpon called that shot.
The D applies to the MLB acquisitions only. Dan B. explains it very well below. I am not as down on the farm system as Dan. While their system isn’t ranked overall as high as we wish, and while the top prospects were acquired by dealing all-star major leaguers, Alderson has built a trememdous depth of pitching that may be the best in all of baseball…time will tell on that and his #1 picks.
However, I believe that Alderson’s sole mission is to take care of the Wilpons, not the fans. He is an employee. His admission of being frustrated by the finances and that if things don’t change he will leave after 2014 was shocking to me because he seems like he is fine with the status quo. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wilpons let him leave to save that money too. They are in full survival mode and we are all casualties.
Letting Parnell close instead of shelling out big bucks for a proven closer on a sub-.500 team isn’t smart, it’s merely not moronic.
As for Hefner, Satin and Rice, I’m not entirely sure what we have in these players.
I would gladly trade every name on this list if it’d get us good prospects. If these guys don’t get us good prospects, then their 2013 performance can be considered an utter waste. (Unless you value watching the Mets lose 90 games instead of 100.)
I guess a GM evaluation depends on your standards, though. If Minaya had shown as much competence in bolstering the 2008 bullpen, the Mets would have won the wild card that year.