The Mets currently have a front office in place that has earned them the nickname the “Moneyball Mets.” Mets G.M. Sandy Alderson was once Billy Beane’s mentor, and the Mets have also added a couple of other front office executives that once worked with Beane. Does that mean the 2012 Mets are on pace to have the success the A’s had ten years ago that was chronicled in the book and movie Moneyball? Not likely.
For those of you who haven’t read the book, or seen the movie, Moneyball is based on a form of analysis called sabermetrics. Simply stated, sabermetrics theorizes that in order to win games, a team has to score more runs than their opponent. Thank you Captain Obvious. It goes further to analyze which players actually help you score more runs using a series of mathematical equations. This inevitably goes against everything the traditional scouts have been saying for over 100 years while they search for the coveted five tool player. Sabermetrics allowed Beane to take advantage of players often ignored by other teams in order to build his historic 2002 team. Ignored because teams didn’t understand their true value because they weren’t using sabermetrics. At least that is what we are led to believe. We will return to this later.
The movie alludes to the point that Beane was looking for a way to analyze talent that was different from the traditional scouts due to the fact that he was once a five tool player selected in the first round of the MLB draft, and never lived up to expectations. They allude that this has him at odds with scouts because he believes there is no such thing as a sure thing. It ultimately led to his drafting strategy. Beane believed in drafting more polished college baseball players who proved they can play the game at a high level, versus drafting high school players that possessed the coveted five tools, which more often than not, doesn’t pan out the way scouts envision. I personally agree with Beane’s view on drafting talent.
Back to Beane’s 2002 Oakland Athletics team which was the basis of the book and movie Moneyball. First, let me say that the movie was actually entertaining. Unfortunately, it paints a picture of Beane building the entire 2002 A’s from a bunch of players that no other team wanted. It reminded me of the scene in the movie Major League when they are trying to build a team bad enough that will help the Indians move out of Cleveland. Nobody was previously playing in the California Penal League, and the team was actually stacked before Beane added the final few pieces of the puzzle using sabermetrics.
The movie fails to mention the fact that the pitching staff consisted of the Barry Zito (2002 Cy Young Winner), Mark Mulder, and Tim Hudson who were affectionately known as the “Big 3.” Let’s put it this way, if Beane didn’t win the division with those three guys he should’ve lost his job. By the way, the closer was Billy Koch, and it gets even better. The A’s had Miguel Tejada (2002 AL MVP), Eric Chavez, Jermaine Dye, Ray Durham, and David Justice all in their lineup. So was the success of the A’s due to sabermetrics being used to add a few players that nobody even remembers from the team, or the fact that everything came together for the A’s due to great player development? And if you thought the 2002 pitching staff was scary, the 2003 & 2004 A’s added a young Rich Harden to the mix. How did the Athletics manage to never win a World Series with those guys on their pitching staff?
Now let’s get back to the Mets. I think everyone will agree the Mets don’t have anything remotely close to the players the A’s had in 2002. Not only that, but the A’s are a small market team, they had to come up with creative ways to compete with big market teams. The Mets are a large market team. It doesn’t make sense for them to play down to the small market teams. Use your money and crush them like the Yankees. The Mets can certainly learn a thing or two about player development from the 2002 Athletics, but I’m still not sold on the fact that sabermetrics had anything to do with the success of that team after looking at the players on that roster.
Are the Mets so financially troubled that they have to use strategies of small market teams? Is the hiring of Alderson a sign of things to come and a shrinking Mets payroll? Can the Mets build a winning team using sabermetrics? I know one thing for certain – no small market teams have won a World Series using sabermetrics alone in the past ten years. If the Mets want to win, they better start taking the money out of Moneyball and start spending it.