The U Files #31: Of Turmoil and Turnover

A staple of the Mets over the past few years is turnover. The roster has almost entirely turned over since the team reached a zenith in 1999. Save for Mike Piazza, Al Leiter, and John Franco, the roster would be unrecognizable. Much of the Mets crazed manipulation of late has been driven by a felt need to fix what hasn't been working as expected. One would naturally wonder whether these moves will actually transform the team.

Here I will strive to determine what effect the sum of the Mets moves in the recent off-season will have.

By move, I mean any act that will affect a change of the team's operational roster. I will compare the contributions that would be expected of the departed players with the contributions to be expected of the new Mets and sum the number of runs gained or lost. Then, I will use the Pythagorean formula to estimate the number of wins the Mets have gained or lost through roster moves. This number may not reflect the total change to be expected of the Mets record, as some returning players may be expected to improve off down years.

The major moves the Mets made were: letting go of Shawn Estes and Jeff D'Amico from the rotation and slotting in Tom Glavine and a fifth starter to be determined in Spring Training, letting Edgardo Alfonzo walk as a free agent and replacing him with in-system infielder Ty Wigginton, signing free agent Cliff Floyd and probably moving Timo Perez to the bench, and signing reliever Mike Stanton to replace departed Mark Guthrie.

The difference between Tom Glavine and Shawn Estes last year is impressively large if you look at ERA. There the Mets seem to have lost an ERA of 5.10 and replaced it with an ERA of 2.96. Departed Jeff D'Amico posted an ERA of 5.05, a number the new fifth starter should be able to improve from. Of course, Estes had the worst year of his career and Tom Glavine didn't pitch as well as his ERA indicates.

One thing Glavine is sure to provide is a lot of innings if he's right. Let's say he'll pitch 220. His ERA in 2000 and 2001 were 3.40 and 3.57. Let's say he'll post an ERA of 3.40. That would give him 83 earned runs allowed, or about 93 runs allowed in total (about 12 percent of runs are unearned). Estes has been fairly inconsistent in his career, but he should be able to pitch 190 innings to an ERA of 4.30. He'd then give up 91 earned runs, or 102 runs in total. The difference in innings (30) would go to the bullpen. Supposing it pitched to an ERA of 3.30, it'd allow 12 runs (11 earned). The Mets would gain the difference between 114 and 93 runs, saving 21 runs.

D'Amico has had only three "full" years (and hasn't pitched over 162.1 innings in any), posting ERAs of 4.71, 2.66, and 4.96. His 2.66 ERA in 2000 overestimates how effective he was that year, and that year is out of line with the rest of his career. I'll suppose he and the Mets fifth starter would pitch the same number of innings - 150. An ERA of 4.80 would be in line for D'Amico. For the mystery fifth starter I made up a number - 4.40. Here the Mets would save 8 runs. In total the Mets have improved their rotation by 29 runs.

Ty Wigginton doesn't have much of a major league resume so far. However, a reasonable estimate would have him creating 60 runs. Alfonzo returned from a back injury in 2002, and created 86 runs in 490 AB (per Runs Created listed at baseball-reference.com). The two years before the injury he created over 120 runs, the first of those years (1999) in over 600 AB. His 2002 season is close to his 1999 season in OPS+. I'll peg him at 90 RC.

Fonzie as a third baseman defensively is very good. The good men at baseballprospectus.com estimate that he saves 7 runs per 100 games (a game defined as 9 innings played in the field) compared to an average fielder. In a full season, he'd then save about a dozen runs. Wigginton is regarded as below average defensively at third base. Let's say he'll cost you 12 runs in a season.

In total, the exchanging Wigginton for Alfonzo costs you 30 runs created and another 24 on defense. This is an enormous blow to the team and cancels out much of the positive impact of other moves.

Cliff Floyd is a legitimate left-handed bat. He has created 83, 122, and 105 runs the last three years. Let's say he projects to create 100 runs. Timo created 64 runs in 444 AB last year. Suppose if given more regular playing time he'd create 72 runs. Then, this move would create 28 more runs in the starting lineup. Floyd is a below average defensive left fielder. BP insists he costs a team 6 runs per 100 games. Perez is a slightly above average fielder. He's saved 3 runs per 100 games in left field. Let's say Floyd would cost the Mets 10 runs per season and Perez saves 5.

Mike Stanton has been up and down in his career. Mark Guthrie has been more consistent in his career, and his career ERA is 4.11. Let's say Stanton should pitch to an ERA of 3.40 and Guthrie to an ERA of 4.10. Guthrie has been used more as a situational reliever, while Stanton has been something of a bullpen workhorse. Let's say Guthrie pitches 50 innings and Stanton 80. Stanton would give up 34 runs (30 earned), and Guthrie 26 (23 earned). 30 innings would go to the rest of the bullpen to make up the difference. If the bullpen pitches to an ERA of 3.25, it would give up 12 runs in 30 innings. The Mets save the difference between 38 and 34 runs, saving four runs.

Reys Ordonez and Sanchez are both light hitting shortstops known for good defense. Ordonez last year and in his career saves 4 runs per 100 games, per baseballprospectus. Sanchez saves 16 per 100 games as a shortstop (no, I don't have the two Reys mixed up). Let's say Ordonez saves 6 per season and Sanchez saves 24. The Mets have picked up 18 runs defensively. For his career, Sanchez has created about 50 runs per 500 AB, and Ordonez 44.

To recap: In the Glavine move the Mets save 21 runs allowed. In the fifth starters spot, the Mets save eight runs allowed. In the Wiggy move the Mets lose 24 runs allowed and 30 runs on offense. In the Floyd move the Mets lose 15 runs allowed and gain 28 runs on offense. In the Stanton move the Mets save four runs allowed. In the Sanchez move, the Mets save 18 runs allowed and gain 6 runs scored. In total the Mets save 12 runs allowed and gain 6 runs scored.

If an average team scores and allows 700 runs, it has a .500 projected winning percentage - it should go 81-81. If this team scores 6 more runs and allows 12 fewer, it would score 706 and allow 688. This team projects to a winning percentage of .512 according to the Pythagorean formula, or a projected record of 83-79. Thus saving 12 runs on defense and gaining 6 on offense is worth two wins.

We can see that the Mets have not gained as much in the offseason as many may think. This is due mostly to the fact that Ty Wigginton will replace one of the best overall third baseman in baseball. Were it not for this move, the Mets would save 36 runs on defense and gain 34 on offense - an improvement worth 7 wins. Still, the Mets should improve by more than two wins on their 2002 record. The most reasonable projection for the 2003 Mets is a mid 80's win team.



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