Back in January, I went about trying to find a comp for the upcoming Cardinals. That seed grew into a larger article that I recently contributed to The Hardball Times. You can read the full article, which includes a more detailed methodology, here. The general idea was to create fingerprints for every team at the dawn of their respective season, going back to 1988, and find historical doppelgangers for 2016 MLB teams. There are six categories: a team’s previous season pythagorean record, their previous 3-year pythagorean record, their previous season’s WAR from age 25 and under players, their 3-year average Baseball America organizational rank, the net 3-year WAR (WAR3 gained minus WAR3 lost) in free agency, and their payroll relative to league average.
My next fun execution of this project is that now we can compare organizational footprints across eras, across front office philosophies. If you’ve followed the Cardinals over the last decade, you know that there’s been a significant shift in the way the roster has been constructed. It’s a shift that pretty clearly happened when Walt Jocketty departed and John Mozeliak took over. That said, let’s take a look at the average fingerprint for Jocketty’s Cardinals teams vs. Mozeliak’s Cardinals teams.
Since Jocketty was saddled with a weird ownership transition in 1995 and had only just taken the job in October 1994, I didn’t include his teams’ standing at the beginning of 1995 and 1996, which I think is completely fair. And on the flip side, Mozeliak was the GM in spring 2008 but the backbone of that team was Jocketty’s, so Jocketty gets saddled with the team’s mediocre footprint in April 2008.
There’s nothing too revolutionary or crazy here. All I did was take the average percentile rank during the time frame for each GM in each category.
And the results are about what you’d expect. Jocketty had higher payrolls and got more free agent value (though neither GM, on average, are anything to write home about- both falling below the 50th percentile in FA value).
Mozeliak’s 25-and-under value has been exceptional (80th percentile average! Over eight seasons!). His BA organizational rank percentile has been climbing in leaps and bounds (the average Mozeliak BA org. percentile was 35.1% in 2013, then 40.6% in 2014, 47.8% in 2015, and now 52.4% entering 2016).
Both had a lot of on-field success but Mozeliak trumps Jocketty both in his average 3-year window and his average season. In fact, Mo’s just a cat’s butt hair away from 80th percentile in both categories. Jocketty was no slouch, hitting the 67th and 70th percentile in those categories.
Basically what you see here are two slightly different fingerprints, both bringing success, but a pretty clear nod to the Mozeliak years. Taking a wild guess, I would imagine the gap in some of these categories will only grow in the coming years, specifically the two youth categories and free agency.