The Dubious Importance of a Strong Finish

Buy Hold And Sell Signpost Representing Stocks StrategyLast year at the trade deadline the Mets were neither buyers nor sellers, and sat on their hands. With the team hopelessly out of contention by July 31, Sandy Alderson was asked why he was so inactive, as he had a player in Scott Hairston who should have had some interest from other clubs. Sandy mentioned that he felt the offers for Hairston, an impending free agent, were not worth pursuing as it would be more important for 2013 if the 2012 Mets finished strong. A year later, on July 31, 2013, the Mets were once again in a hopeless situation, despite all that goodwill generated by the extra two months of Scott Hairston in 2012. Just as at the 2012 deadline, the team had a player that was logical to trade in Marlon Byrd. True to form, Sandy did not pull the trigger on a deal.

The 2013 trade deadline was a strange one, with very little activity from any teams, so perhaps there was no deal to be made for Marlon. Byrd’s season has been hard to fathom, and considering his PED past he would come with serious red flags. All fair enough. But, when pressed about why no deal was executed, once again Alderson went to the strong finish defense. Since this was two years in a row that I heard this, I figured maybe it’s me, since it sounds like such complete nonsense, and he was barely challenged on the point by the press. So I looked at some numbers, and, as I did when I looked at our historically bad home/road splits, I looked at a basic metric. Wins and losses.

I started by looking at every team that was under .500 in 2012, and then looked for any team that was over .500 in 2013. One game over would do, I didn’t look for anything too dramatic. Just a clear turnaround from bad team to at least mediocre. There are four teams that had records below .500 in 2012 and were over .500 as of August 24.


  • 2013: 76-52, .594
  • 2012: 79-83, .488


  • 2013: 75-55, .577
  • 2012: 69-93, .426


  • 2013: 69-59, .539
  • 2012: 68-94, .420


  • 2013: 64-63, .504
  • 2012: 72-90, .444

Next I looked at each team’s records from August 1st, 2012, until the end of the 2012 season to see how they finished last year.

  • Pittsburgh: 20-39,  .338
  • Boston: 16-42,  .276
  • Cleveland: 18-41,  .305
  • Kansas City: 30-30,  .500

Only one of the four managed to play better than their overall record for 2012, Kansas City; they have used their .500 play in August and September to eke out a .504 mark in 2013. On the other hand, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland are all serious playoff contenders.

Now that we looked at the numbers, there is one more set to look at, payroll numbers.

  • Pittsburgh: Payroll Up $14.9 million
  • Boston: Payroll Down $20.7 million
  • Cleveland: Payroll Up $15.2 million
  • Kansas City: Payroll Up $17.9 million

Boston remember, shed a massive amount of payroll at the deadline last year, and, yes, their a-rod-plunkedoverall numbers go down year-over-year. Despite that, they still invested heavily in the offseason in the franchise, signing free agents such as Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, and Ryan Dempster. The other franchises all increased their payrolls dramatically. It’s important to note how all of these teams had no problem getting free agents to sign with them, despite how they finished in 2012. This was another feeble comment made by the team, how free agents could be swayed by how many games you win in August and September. Free agents are swayed by how much you are willing to pay them, anything else is talk.

There are still games to be played in 2013, and even with yesterday’s injury to Matt Harvey, reasons to watch them. It’s a great time to get further information on Zack Wheeler, Wilmer Flores, Travis d’Arnaud, and Juan Lagares, as a start. How many wins we get the rest of the way is sadly not one of the reasons to watch. Fred Wilpon is right when he says that meaningful September games is a goal. We are not having them in 2013.

Don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise.









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  1. Way too logical. And the press NEVER questions him on ANYTHING. He lies with impunity-comfortably, when the situation dictates. Sandy takes no responsibility for anything. Either the hitters aren’t taking enough fastballs down the middle, or you shift focus to the ace pitcher when you’re pressed for reasons why THIS pain prompted a Dr visit whereas the pain he’s dealt with all year did not. He is shameless.

  2. If the long view is always measured in months ahead, not games behind, the answer is quite simple, shed that which will not be part of your plan months ahead.

    I suspect the problem with Alderson and these bit parts is he always wants to be getting John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander or Jeff Bagwell for Larry Anderson.

    I refuse to believe a guy who was able to get three very good to projectable prospects for RA Dickey could not squeeze a projectable prospect for Hairston or Byrd. He just wants to always look to have won instantly.

  3. James Preller says:

    In fact, it’s a reasonable hypothesis that a bad finish can serve as a motivational springboard for the following season. For players and management. Look at the Pirates and Red Sox. Look at the devastating World Series for the Tigers. Of course, OTOH, the Mets have specialized in bad finishes since 2007 to no effect whatsoever.

  4. Obviously, this is a topic fraught with context. Matt Harvey, Matt Harvey, Matt Harvey. Yesterday morning — as I commented here, yesterday afternoon — we had Terry Collins talking about the need to win games, the need to fill seats, the need to keep Matt Harvey on the mound while, of course, monitoring his health. I don’t know if Harvey’s injury was preventable, exactly, and suspect that it was inevitable (unless they ruled out sliders entirely). But I also don’t believe that the organization can honestly say they did everything they could to protect their most prized player. Terry Collins is managing with a mandate for a strong finish. His career depends on it. That’s the message. Was it in Terry’s best interest to shut Matt Harvey down? What happens when “a strong finish” becomes a priority?

  5. Alan K. says:

    Obviously Terry Collins has an interest in seeing the Mets finish strong, but the Wilpons have an interest in getting as many fans through the turnstiles as possible and clearly shutting down the #1 drawing card doesn’t put money in the owners pocket. I’m not pointing fingers but I would tend to agree with you they didn’t do everything they could have to protect Harvey, and that was possibly motivated by the Wilpons economic short-sightedness.

  6. Michael Geus says:

    I can’t make the leap from Harvey being injured to any mismanagement, unless we leap all the way to over coddled. Which I cannot.

    Pitchers blow their arms out, and the more teams try to prevent it, the more they find out they can’t.

  7. I still go to the fact, the Mets allowed Jennry Mejia to throw baseballs when they knew with 100% certainty that he would need to have surgery to deal with his elbow. And Jon Niese is throwing with damage to his shoulder.

    Both are moves I could get behind if the Mets were fighting to make the playoffs, but alas, they were not, so I simply can’t find the logic in either injured player throwing baseballs at this juncture.

    To me that is where the suspicion lies in the Harvey case. Preventable, likely not, it falls under at some point it was odds to break away. And yet, to allow him to pitch in apparent discomfort since March begs some questions.

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