Throught the first 100 games of the season, the Mets pitching staff has a nearly identical Fielding Independent Pitching (3.77) as it did last year (3.79), but it’s ERA has greatly improved (3.53 vs. 3.78). So with peripherals that indicate similar outcomes, the results have been much better this year. That 0.25 difference translates to 42 fewer earned runs over the course of a season, or roughly four wins, assuming the same number of unearned runs.
The gloves behind the pitching staff usually are the reason why a pitching staff is able to outperform their FIP, so it stands to reason that the transactions made this offseason and beginning of the regular season by Mets GM Sandy Alderson are part of the reason for the bump. But does that assertion hold water?
So let’s start by establishing exactly what those moves are. The signings of Chris Young, Curtis Granderson and Bobby Abreu in the outfield, and the trade of Ike Davis in April. Other things, like sticking with Ruben Tejada at shortstop will not be included because that is not a transaction.
For the benefit of making the comparisons easier, we will use Defensive Runs Saved/Year as our metric of choice, even though it does come with the problem of extrapolating data. The easiest position to start is at first base, so let’s begin there.
So far in 2014, Mets first basemen have 4 DRS/yr, all of that coming from Duda. Combined in his work the the Mets and Pirates this year, Davis has -12 DRS/yr. That is a shift of 16 runs in the favor of the Mets, equating to roughly an additional win and a half this year for the Mets just in terms of the upgrade that Duda provides defensively. That’s a sentence that I’m sure has never been written before.
But of course, we’re looking at the upgrade this year in terms of better than last year, so the real impact of the move has been 2 DRS/yr, which is minimal.
At least at first base, it seems as if Alderson’s decision to trade Davis and keep Duda has been of some benefit to the pitchers, but what about in the outfield?
Last year, Mets left fielders had -5 DRS/yr. Most of that was owing to Duda’s ugly -29 mark, but was brought up by Eric Young Jr.’s 6 number. This year, the Mets left fielders have put up a 10 mark, good for a 15 run swing courtesy of similar production from Eric Young, and 13 DRS/yr from Chris Young. Once again, this provides a win and a half upgrade over 2013.
So at two positions, Alderson’s moves have resulted in 17 runs saved.
Then there’s right field. Last year, Marlon Byrd was stellar, leading the Mets right field corps to posting 9 DRS/yr. This year has been a bit of a different story. Curtis Granderson and Bobby Abreu have been, bad, to say the least, part of the reason Mets right fielders in 2014 have -10 DRS/yr, a one-year difference of -19.
Combining the differences at the three positions that receiving the biggest changes this year for the Mets shows a net “gain” of -2 DRS/yr.
So it seems as if Alderson’s upgrades haven’t been much of a help in aiding the pitching staff in terms of FIP-ERA. The biggest bumps have come at shortstop, where much better play from Ruben Tejada and a lack of Omar Quintanilla have given the Mets a 10-run bump, and in center, where a full season of Juan Lagares has given the Mets an 8-run bump.
The Mets defense has improved this year, and it is helping out the pitching to a certain extent, but the net impact of Alderson’s transactions has been largely moot – helping out greatly in some areas, and falling short in others, so no, he does not deserve all of the credit for the lower staff ERA despite the same peripherals.
Joe Vasile is the voice of the Fayetteville SwampDogs.