The U Files #32: Mathematics of Met Manipulations

The biggest headlines in Metsville early in the off-season were the changeover in field management and the loss of Edgardo Alfonzo. The latter move turned out to be a driving force in the later Mets off-season. Unable to sign Japanese slugger Norihiro Nakamura, the Mets turned their focus on signing Cliff Floyd. The Mets came out with the better player, but also suffered a huge downgrade at third. Whether the Mets won in this round of trickery may be harder to determine.

It was only after the Mets started receiving uncertain signals from the Land of the Rising Sun that they went all out for Floyd. This it is less likely that the Mets would have signed Floyd had they had not struck out with Nakamura. Only a last minute turnaround by Nakamura after he turned away from the Mets would have landed both. Obviously had the Mets thus came away like a bandit they would have felt nearly the full effect of adding Floyd to the outfield, as Nakamura isn't nearly as big a step down from Alfonzo as Wigginton is. As it is, the downgrade at third cancels out the upgrade in left field.

With this assumption in mind, let us presume that had the Mets signed Nakamura, the lineup would feature him at third, Roger Cedeno in left, and a platoon of Timo Perez and Tsuyoshi Shinjo in center. As it stands, the lineup features Wigginton at third, Cedeno in center, and Floyd in left. The total difference between these packages is what the Mets would have felt.

The one commonality between the two lineups is the presence of Cedeno. We'll pencil him in for the same numbers in both scenarios. He's shown very little power, and little variance in his slugging numbers. The assumption that he'll slug around .380 is a safe one. He has displayed on base skills erratically. It is safer to assume he won't get on base much than to assume he will. Let's say he's due for an OBP of .330.

Bill James created a stat called Runs Created to estimate how many runs a batter contributes to his teams run total. It is based on component stats like total bases and walks. It multiplies an on-base factor by a slugging factor by a player's number of AB. Thus a quick and dirty way to estimate RC is to take OBP*SLG*AB. It is now one of a number of runs estimators, but due to the simplicity of the estimate we'll use the formula above in these figurings. Were Cedeno to post an OBP of .330 and slug .380 in 500 AB (it's a nice round number. To keep things simple I'll use this same number for every player) his RC estimate is .33*.38*500, or 63 runs.

Cliff Floyd is a known quantity. Over the last three years he's been healthy, and he's produced these years: .300/.378/.529, .317/.390/.578, and .288/.388/.533. Let's put his projection right in the middle: .300/.380/540. With a .380 OBP and a .540 SLG in 500 AB, he projects to 99 runs created.

Timo Perez and Tsuyoshi Shinjo are known quantities. As to a platoon, we'll have to guess a little more. Timo is capable of posting a .350/.500 year against righties alone. Shinjo should be able to post a .330/.400 year against lefties. In a 375/125 platoon split (totaling 500 AB), Timoshi Shirez would then post a .345/.475 year. His multicultural RC estimate comes out to 82.

Nakmaura is not known quantity. However, there have been by now a considerable number of players to jump one way or another between the Japanese leagues and MLB. Based on these data, it is possible to project the numbers of a Japanese batter in MLB. These conversions are similar to the conversions used for minor league players. This system has been successful in projecting the numbers of Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Ichiro Suzuki in MLB. For Nakamura, the projection is about a .360 OBP and a .460 SLG - an .820 OPS. His run estimate is then 83.

Wigginton is not a known quantity in MLB. However, he has amassed a considerable time in the minor leagues. Forecasting his numbers in MLB, he projects to around a .300 OBP and a .400 SLG. Thus his run projection is 60.

If you're keeping score, the run estimates are: Nakamura 83, Shimo 82, Cedeno 63 for a total of 228 runs; and Wiggy 60, Cedeno 63, and Floyd 99 for 222 runs. The difference is minimal.

However, we have not yet considered defense. Cedeno, the common link, is a bad defender. Let's say he'll cost you 15 runs. Nakamura's defense is hard to project. In Japan he won their version of our Gold Gloves award. Let's conservatively estimate he's neutral defensively. Wiggy is known as a poor defender. Let's say he'll cost the Mets 12 runs. Floyd is a below average defender. Say he costs you 10 runs. Timoshi Shirez is the best defender of the group. Shinjo is superb defensively, and Timo can hold his own. Say together they save 7 runs.

Then, if you're keeping score, the Nakamura group is worth -8 runs. The Floyd group is worth -37 runs. Here the difference is more substantial. In total, the Nakamura group is worth six runs over the Floyd group offensively and 29 defensively. The Pythagorean formula estimates a team's won -lost record based on runs scored and allowed. Let's say, to keep things simple, that the Floyd Mets are a .500 team - 700 RS and 700 RA, an 81-81 record. Then, the Nakamura Mets would score 706 runs and allow 671. The Nakamura team would then project to a record of 84-78. We can then see that signing Nakamura and using a Timo/Shinjo platoon is worth three wins over Floyd and Wiggy.

Were the Mets not sharp enough to go to the Timoshi Shirez platoon, then with Timo alone the difference would still be almost two wins. Of course, even with Floyd and without Nakamura, we can recover two of those wins by using Timoshi in center instead of Cedeno.

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