A combination of strong starting pitching and timely hitting got the 2012 Mets off to a great start. But the team that began the year 46-39 has gone 8-20 since then, with three of those wins coming thanks to the efforts of R.A. Dickey. The offense crumbles whenever a LHP is on the mound, the team has little power and all of the speed of a three-legged turtle, the less said about the bullpen the better and only the Herculean efforts of St. Dan Warthen (all bow in his greatness!), who taught Dickey the knuckleball and showed Matt Harvey how to throw 97 mph, have kept the starting pitching afloat.
We were supposed to be optimistic because Sandy Alderson and his team were smarter than not only what the Mets had previously, but smarter than what other teams have assembled. But the brief success that the Mets enjoyed in 2012 had much more to do with the talent left behind by Omar Minaya than anything Alderson did to push it forward.
It’s certainly true that Alderson has been fighting with one hand behind his back due to the payroll constraints that he has. But he sunk the vast majority of his available dollars into the bullpen, which has been the biggest problem area for the club throughout the entire season. He’s either outright lied about the amount of money available to him – remember our $110-$120 million payroll? How about our ability to add payroll during the season? – or rolled over without a whimper of protest as Fred Wilpon lied to him. Which one seems more likely from the former Marine?
Instead, let’s focus on what we know for sure Alderson did do. Here are the players Alderson has contributed to the current 25-man roster, ranked in descending order of their fWAR, with their 2012 salary:
1.4 – Andres Torres ($2.7 million)
1.3 – Scott Hairston ($1.1 million)
0.7 – Mike Baxter ($0.48 million)
0.6 – Ronny Cedeno ($1.15 million)
0.6 – Jeremy Hefner (no details available)
0.3 – Chris Young (minor league deal)
0.3 – Jon Rauch ($3.5 million)
0.2 – Tim Byrdak ($1.0 million)
0.1 – Ramon Ramirez ($2.65 million)
0.0 – Frank Francisco ($5.5 million)
0.0 – Rob Johnson (minor league deal)
0.0 – Garrett Olson (minor league deal)
Of the five top players Alderson is responsible for on the team, four are platoon players and the other is an emergency starter. But more damning is the $12.65 million he sunk into the bullpen for four guys with a combined 0.6 fWAR.
For all of his attempts to piece things together on the cheap, Alderson would have been better off picking up four random AAAA relievers, DFAing Jason Bay and signing Carlos Beltran. The money would have been essentially a wash and the production would have been a giant step forward.
In a team where the pieces just simply didn’t fit, Alderson made just one trade (Angel Pagan for Ramirez-Torres) which can at best be called a wash. When everyone else could see that the team needed a RH bat and bullpen help – Alderson did not make a move. Many have credited him for not mortgaging the farm in a misguided attempt to chase a playoff spot. But there’s a difference between surrendering Harvey for the 2012 version of Victor Zambrano (a move no one was suggesting) and dealing from strength in C-level prospects for a better reliever than Pedro Beato or a better reserve than Johnson.
Alderson lost Nick Evans and his lifetime .849 OPS against LHP for nothing. When he lucked into Vinny Rottino providing power against lefties, he waived him so that Terry Collins could have a second lefty reliever in Justin Hampson, who pitched all of 1.1 innings before being replaced on the roster.
Collins earned a lot of goodwill with how he managed in 2011 and he seems determined to spend it all in 2012. His insistence on playing Jason Bay, his love of the platoon advantage, the daily usage of Byrdak for one batter, the burying of Ramirez, the sniping at Ruben Tejada – more steals, really? – , the constant threats to tinker with Dickey, the failure to get more out of Lucas Duda, the undue drama he created over Johan Santana’s pitch count in the no-no…
As for the players:
Josh Thole is an even bigger question mark going forward
Ike Davis had one hot stretch but is now a platoon first baseman with a .703 OPS
Duda was banished to the minors despite hitting better than Davis and now has zero trade value
Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Jordany Valdespin were exposed with additional playing time
David Wright’s OPS has dropped every month of the season and sits at .718 in August
Torres did not recapture his 2010 hitting magic
Bay is performing even worse than he did previously
There’s no hitter in the farm system ready to make a contribution
What exactly are we supposed to be happy with here in August of 2012?
It’s not really this bleak. Much like the past offseason, the Mets have some obvious holes but they are not without talent and with some tinkering they could field a team with a shot at the playoffs. But Alderson really needs to have a more productive season.