Visitor Comment: The Moneyball Mets

This comment comes from loyal MetsToday visitor “Rob”:

Joe: One question that just occurred to me as I was reading your article was where is the moneyball analysis in all of these mediocre acquisitions? When Alderson was hired, it was “moneyball with money”. Now that we know that the Mets have no money, where is the moneyball? Because that’s where the strengths supposedly lay for Alderson and his brain trust. So where is the overarching plan…where is the moneyball? And while I’m asking, what the heck is moneyball as an overarching philosophy? Is it simply OPS? Is it some other statistical focus? It occurs to me that the success of moneyball is dependent upon the notion that you are signing players that no one else wants because the other teams fail to recognize the statistical value of those “castoff” players. However, now that more than half of the teams employ a sabrmatician and have GM’s that lean in that direction, isn’t the type of player that fits into the moneyball model more expensive because everyone is looking for him now? And if everyone is employing that kind of analysis, then moneyball is no longer a cheap exercise in building a team.
I’d sure like to know where the philosophy is with current management…besides saving money. Because I refuse to believe that there isn’t a long term plan that’s being employed in some way. I just don’t see it right now. I sure hope I’m wrong…

If I had an answer for Rob, then I’d be working in Flushing right now rather than Old Brookville. My best guess as to what is a market inefficiency right now is leveraging the knowledge and research of kinesiology scientists to find, keep, and teach pitchers safe and effective mechanics — while also detecting, preventing, and fixing bad mechanics. But, after seeing the signing of pitchers like Chris Young and Boof Bonser, the acquisition of Zack Wheeler, and the rehab programs of Johan Santana and Jennry Mejia, I’m guessing that hiring scientists is not part of the plan.

So what IS Sandy Alderson’s secret initiative to exploit a market inefficiency? What is it that the Mets front office sees and values that most others aren’t? Any guesses? Post them in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. argonbunnies January 10, 2012 at 8:10 am
    Moneyball was a specific moment in history reacting to a specifically huge market inefficiency (OBP). Moneyball is over.

    What we have in Alderson is simply Not Minaya. Minaya did some smart things, but he also did some indefensibly stupid things, and all impressions are that Sandy won’t do that.

    Spotting stuff that no one else is spotting comes down to creativity, and this front office has yet to show they’re thinking outside the box. Where’s the kinesiologists, 4-man rotations, splitters, screwballs, international signees, and zen batting drills?

    That said, who else out there is really distinguishing themselves? The only recent innovation I can see is the Rays’ bizarre defensive positioning. I wonder if we’ll be early imitators, but it doesn’t see like we have the personnel for it.

    Personally, I see two inefficiencies in terms of prospects:
    1) Most GMs overvalue them. So perhaps we could exploit that to get decent MLB talent for minor leaguers. Once he proves he’s healthy, I’d like to see what we could get for Mejia. Let someone look at that sick movement and imagine him as an ace, forgetting his shabby K rate and lack of stamina.
    2) Most GMs rush them. If you’re so thrilled to have a contributor on your team making league minimum, wouldn’t it be better to have them for more of their prime, instead of just their growth years? Would you rather have a guy’s age 22-26 seasons on the cheap or his age 24-28 seasons? I mean, sure, if you dominate AAA, great, come on up. But we’re seeing more and more young guys who were only competent at AAA, not dominant.

  2. NormE January 10, 2012 at 9:43 am
    It might be that one of the changes in philosophy is to look for
    h.s. players (Nimmo) rather than college players. It means a willingness to wait a little longer for their development.

    I think that the real reason for the hiring of Alderson is that Bud Selig was able to plant a trusted eye into the Mets front office. Once the Dodgers mess is over and the Madoff-related case is settled the way will be open for Bud to ease the Wilpons out of MLB. Selig is loyal to his friends and doesn’t want to make them look any worse than they do now.

    • Joe Janish January 10, 2012 at 11:21 pm
      The HS players could be the inefficiency, since Moneyball turned the focus to college players. I.e., the tables have been turned. Good suggestion.
  3. Dan B January 10, 2012 at 10:32 am
    AThe Mets’ philosophy seems to be 1) save money in the short term, 2) spend money in the long term more judiciously 3) sell the future as a way to generate revenue 4)improve the team. In that order. Or, to put it another light, their first, second, and third goal is to keep the Wilpons as the owners with controlling power. Their fourth goal is winning. If Alderson comes across as lacking a philosophy I think its because he thought he had more money to work with initially but now he is scrambling to make a team with KC Royals money.
    • JoeJP January 10, 2012 at 11:22 am
      That is parts of the team with KC Royals money. The KC doesn’t have the payroll the Mets have. When Bay and Santana is replaced with two people paid 5M, we would be closer to an actual KC arraignment.
      • Dan B January 10, 2012 at 11:43 am
        And as soon as Santana and Bay prove they are productive baseball players, the Wilpons will try to trade them and not because it makes baseball sense but because they are desperate to get their payroll down to KC levels. The same is true with Pelfrey. I believe if the Mets could wave a magic wand and rid themselves of Bay and Santana’s contracts, they would use the savings to pay off debt and not reinvest it into the team. This current business model doesn’t have the Mets investing in a significant contract for years.
        • JoeJP January 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm
          The KC Royals in 2011 had a 36M payroll, while the NYM had a 120M. The Mets are not going to get their payroll “down to KC levels.” They wouldn’t even if Bay and Santana were replaced with two players with the league minimum. Not even close.

          A tad bit of perspective is helpful. It isn’t a big secret or anything that the ownership wants to cut payroll, including letting Reyes go. But, the remaining team still doesn’t have KC Royals payroll. Not by a longshot.

        • Joe Janish January 10, 2012 at 11:19 pm
          On the contrary, I think Dan B is referring to what is a “typical” KC Royals payroll over the past decade — which isn’t necessarily the incredibly low level it was in 2011.

          Check it out the last 5 payrolls for KC:

          2011: $ 38,176,000
          2010: $ 74,985,210
          2009: $ 70,519,333
          2008: $ 58,245,500
          2007: $ 67,166,500

          That’s an average of just under $62M per year — which I believe is a number the Mets could very well be targeting within the next year or two. It’s certainly viable.

  4. Walnutz15 January 10, 2012 at 1:51 pm
    The Wilpons should be happy to learn that Uncle Buddy will be awarded a multi-year extension (“at least 2 years”, according to Buster Olney’s source).

    Even though he said he’d retire after his last deal was up.

    Rejoice, Met fans……he’s gonna ride it out for us!!


    • Dan January 10, 2012 at 8:52 pm
      Selig’s catch 22:

      Can’t save the Wilpons if he retires,
      probably will have to pull the trigger on them if he doesn’t.

      • Joe Janish January 10, 2012 at 11:08 pm
        Bud Selig has been “stepping down” or retiring since the day he took the job “temporarily”. I can’t see why he would walk away from $22M + performances bonuses every year, and I can’t see who the owners would hire to replace him.

        Truth is Selig should run for President of the USA. As much as I hate what he’s done to destroy MLB, you have to credit him for getting 30 owners to agree. Those Dale Carnegie skills would go a long way with the Senate and House of Reps … though, by the end of his term we’d likely be a communist country.

  5. Bill January 10, 2012 at 8:43 pm
    I don’t flatter myself that I know more about judging future baseball performance than Sandy Alderson. I can think of ways the market could be inefficient, but I don’t know whether it really is.

    It appears to me that the high attention levels in NY make it hard for the Mets to develop talent. Atlanta’s prospects are usually overhyped and they get more than they’re worth in trade, while for the Mets it’s just the opposite. Maybe the market inefficiency right now is not in the draft but in AA and AAA player development.

    • Joe Janish January 10, 2012 at 11:11 pm
      Bill, please flatter yourself — this is the platform to do so. It doesn’t really matter whether Sandy Alderson knows more than any of us, because regardless, the Mets are still going to finish in last place for the next two years at least and, besides, it’s all hypothetical — we’re all here for the fun of discussion and to exchange ideas.
  6. Dan B January 11, 2012 at 10:51 am
    I apologize Joeljp, I did not mean my response to sound like a comparison to any team. The point I wanted to make is the lack of coherent team building philosophy is because the Wilpons are focusing on financial issues at the expense of baseball issues. I don’t doubt Alderson is trying to make the best of it but the first question he will get asked after a move will be a financial question, not a baseball question.