Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ryan Howard and Salary Arbitration

January 28, 2009 - We're going to go out on a limb here, ... Ryan Howard is not going to win his arbitration case this year. He's just not. Why not? You thought the same thing last year and he walked away with a record first year arbitration player figure of $10,000,000. Well, here's why not? Even at that figure last year, the SPRO model would forward a free agent salary (the salary if Howard were a free agent in 2008, to $22,222,000). That is within the parameters of a high value contract, within the salary structure of Major League Baseball. If Ryan Howard were to win $18,000,000 in his second year of arbitration, Howard would be setting a precedent that baseball could not sustain. His SPRO projection, if he were a free agent player in 2009, would be $30,000,000. But Ryan Howard is not a $30 million per year player. Ony one player even approaches that figure in today's reality, one Alex Rodriguez, (and that was prior to the economic downtown, even if one existed for a Yankee) he of the Hall of Fame career and a Gold Glove pedigree. And while Ryan Howard is a great player, with one fantastic season behind him, and two other pretty darn good ones, he is 29 years old and nowhere near the Hall of Fame at this point. Not that he won't get there, but we would be jumping pretty far down the path to state that now.

I know it sounds as if we're being unduly critical of Howard, but we're not. As a power hitting first baseman in his first four seasons, his counting stat power numbers are fantastic, but they greatly outpace his OBP and SLG numbers. What does that mean? Well, it means that some of his counting stat numbers are due to the two fantastic, League MVP caliber players who bat in front of him, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. How many RBI would Howard get if he played for Kansas City? Well, you say, that isn't truly fair, didn't Babe Ruth have a few good players around him, too, and isn't that true for Albert Pujols. For sure. But with the Babe or Al, not only were his counting stats through the roof, but his OBP and SLG not only keeps pace, but supercedes those counting numbers. And we won't even get into the fielding problems, which are certainly there, because for a player as productive as Ryan, Al, or the Babe, nobody really cares or values them on that capability.

Howard's arbitration win last year has forced the issue of increased arbitration values, and the Phils, perhaps with a lot of foresight that should be credited to new GM Ruben Amaro, have submitted an arbitration number of $14 million. That number will force the arbitrator to side with them. In fact, that number is even a bit out of line from past arbitration values. Howard is worth about $11 million right now as a 2nd year arbitration player, using past data, and would be worth a large contract according to SPRO if he were to sign long term, somewhere in the range of 7 years and $123 million. Remember, there are three arbitration years in that figure plus four years of free agency, so take that into account when you compare it to the Teixeira contract at $22.5 million per for pure free agent years.

Ryan Howard will not win his arbitration case this year, at least according to us. Now we'll have to see just whether we're right this year or not.

Ryan Howard
Name, Year, Team, Lg, HR, RBI, AVE., Age, PEVA

Howard Ryan 2004 PHI NL 2 5 0.282 25 0.200
Howard Ryan 2005 PHI NL 22 63 0.288 26 3.695
Howard Ryan 2006 PHI NL 58 149 0.313 27 35.507
Howard Ryan 2007 PHI NL 47 136 0.268 28 16.923
Howard Ryan 2008 PHI NL 48 146 0.251 29 19.227
Howard Ryan Total 177 499 0.279 75.552

* Age at end of year

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

To Sign Long Term or Not to Sign Long Term,

January 20, 2009 - To sign or not to sign, that is always the question. To know when to sign long term is an even bigger dilemma for baseball players and general managers. As arbitration eligible players mull this question through exchange day next week, we've been seeing many of the players in this category make this decision, of course, not by themselves, but with a cadre of agents, wives, psychics, and baseball execs. Oh, and don't discount the wives or the psychics. This isn't exact science or outside the realm of "take the money now, what if you get hurt" whispers in ears during bedtime conversations.

Let's take the case of Cole Hamels, for one instance. A stellar talent, who at 24 years of age, had a regular season much better than some experts were stating, mostly due to a lower win total, 14, than he should have gotten, if not for the fault of a very good Phils bullpen who seemed to only hiccup when pitching after Cole. And when Hamels was determined eleigible for Super Two Arbitration Eligible status, the game of sign long term or not sign long term was in the minds of all involved. As you recall, Hamels followed up that regular season with one of the best postseason pitching performances in history. In fact, #11, (see Best Postseason Pitching Years) pitching 35 innings to a 1.80 ERA and four wins. But he's a bit of a dilemma beyond the performance, mostly due to an injury history, particularly in high school and the minor leagues, but a confidence and savvy on the mound that at one time had minor league scouts stating something along the lines of he'll either never make the major leagues (due to injury) or be Sandy Koufax once he gets there. Well, last year, he was better than Sandy ever was at 24 years of age.

But now, how do you value that, and how long do you value it for. If Cole Hamels were to sign a full length long term contract at this time, he is worth, in SPRO terms, a 6 year, $81,515,000 contract, paying him for the four years of arbitration that Hamels would be eligible for and two years of free agency. But there were other options; the Phils and Hamels could have gone the Ryan Howard route, and trotted into the arbitration table and taken the chance on the arbitrator's decision. But that is a gamble either way; in fact, perhaps more so for the player who could be leaving lots of dough on the table if his next year is marred by poor performance or injury. Or they could choose the compromise route, which is where this ended, at a contract for 3 years and $20,500,000, leaving Hamels still eligible for one year of arbitration after the contract ends, and allowing both sides to negotiate the longer contract then. Will that be the best option in the end? Nobody really knows. But it is likely better than option two, the arbitration table, especially with that wife urging bedtime stories that might include "take the money now, stupid, what if you get hurt."

Monday, January 12, 2009

Henderson Gets Company in Hall of Fame Vote

January 12, 2009 - No big surprises came through in the voting announced today for the Baseball Hall of Fame, with swift outfielder Rickey Henderson inducted on his first try, while Jim Rice, the Boston leftfielder, gaining induction on his last, with 76.4% of the vote. But once again, Bert Blylevin was on the outside of Cooperstown, looking in, despite a stellar pitching career, albeit on average to poor teams for most of his career.

There was no doubt to the election of Henderson, the all-time leader in steals and runs scored. His 25 year career accumulated 331.490 PEVA Player Grade points, #27 All-Time among position players, averaging 13.260 per year, #94 All Time (among players with completed careers). Henderson had 3,055 hits and an OBP of 0.401. Jim Rice waited a long time for his induction, partially due to the debate over the length of his career and the fact that his accumulation stats were just below some important numbers; he hit 382 HR, not 400; he got 2,452 H, not 2,500. But the impressive part about Rice (224.084 PEVA, #93rd All-Time) was the fact that in his relatively short career, his per season averages were high (14.005 PEVA per year, #77 All-Time among player who have finished their careers). This is where Rice stands above some other players on the list with similar accumulation stats, including Andre Dawson and Dale Murphy. But Dawson, who's BBWAA percentage has now risen to 67.0, is a likely inductee in years to come.

Once again, however, the love for Bert fell short. Blylevin, with 287 wins, 242 complete games, and 3,701 strikeouts, came up just short with 62.7% of the ballots cast. Blylevin, in our opinion, should be in the Hall of Fame. He is getting left behind due to his 250 losses, due mostly to the ability of the teams he played on. With 271.050 Career PEVA Player Grade points, 21st among all pitchers, and a per year average of 12.320, there is no doubt, in the opinion of baseballevaluation.com, that Blylevin should be in. Will he? We think so, ... perhaps, like Rice, in the final years of his eligibility, or even from the Veterans Committee. Mark McGwire continues to languish, garnering few votes each year. The controversial slugger, mired in the question of performance enhancing substances, will likely be on the outside looking in, at least for the years to come. It is doubtful that he will see election on the writer's ballot. And we're fine with that. If performance enhancing substances were involved in McGwire's best seasons, it is doubtful that his statistics would elect him to the Hall of Fame. And for now, that is our criteria on a subjective basis. Without a pure objective basis to go on, that's the way we'd approach it.

2009 BBWAA Hall of Fame Voting
(Name, Vote, Percentage)
Rickey Henderson, 511, 94.8%
Jim Rice, 412, 76.4%
Andre Dawson, 361, 67.0%
Bert Blylevin, 338, 62.7%
Lee Smith, 240, 44.5%
Jack Morris, 237, 44.0%
Tommy John, 171, 31.7%
Tim Raines, 122, 22.6%
Mark McGwire, 118, 21.9%
Alan Trammell, 94, 17.4%
Dave Parker, 81, 15.0%
Don Mattingly, 64, 11.9%
Dale Murphy, 62, 11.5%
Harold Baines, 32, 5.9%
Mark Grace, 22, 4.1%
David Cone, 21, 3.9%
Matt Williams, 7, 1.3%
Mo Vaughn, 6, 1.1%
Jay Bell, 2, 0.4%
Jesse Orosco, 1, 0.2%
Ron Gant/Dan Plesac/Greg Vaughn, 0
Note: 75% needed for election

Hall of Fame 2009 Candidates - Position Players
(Name, Career PEVA Player Grade, Rank)
Rickey Henderson, 331.490 PEVA, #27 All-Time Batters
(13.260 per)
Mark McGwire, 261.187 PEVA, #53 (13.364 per)
Andre Dawson, 230.234 PEVA, #84 (10.964 per)
Dale Murphy, 228.943 PEVA, #85 (12.719 per)
Tim Raines, 226.257 PEVA, #88 (9.837 per)
Jim Rice, 224.084 PEVA, #93 (14.005 per)
Dave Parker, 202.394 PEVA, #126
Don Mattingly, 193.054 PEVA, #141
Alan Trammell, 189.326, #151
Harold Baines, 188.522 PEVA, #157
Mark Grace, 156.827 PEVA, #246
Matt Williams, 149.951, #269
Jay Bell, 135.350 PEVA, #320
Mo Vaughn, 132.140 PEVA, #333
Ron Gant, 117.848 PEVA, #433
Greg Vaughn, 118.489, #429

Hall of Fame 2009 Candidates - Pitchers
Bert Blylevin, 271.050 PEVA, #21 All-Time Pitchers
(12.320 per)
Jack Morris, 194.913 PEVA, #46 (10.829 per)
David Cone, 185.152 PEVA, #52 (10.891 per)
Tommy John, 182.842 PEVA, #56 (7.036 per)
Lee Smith, 113.816 PEVA, #179
Jesse Orosco, 77.010 PEVA, #401
Dan Plesac, 64.797 PEVA, #503

Career Best Baseball Pitcher List
Career Best Baseball Player List

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tale of Two Contracts

January 6, 2009 - After the two week lull of the holiday season when few contracts for free agents were announced, Monday saw an increase in activity as baseball teams sought to fill in the gaps in their rosters. And it was two contracts, not two for the most coveted free agents on the market, not future Hall of Famer Manny Ramirez or even Adam Dunn, but two outfielders just below All-Star caliber that were close in ability in 2008 and far apart in so many other ways.

Pat Burrell, long-term left fielder for the World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies was on borrowed time in the city he had called home for his entire career, even after commanding center stage at the parade down Broad Street. He had been a fixture in the town, a solid, hardworking player who fans liked, albeit a player who had a habit of putting up very good numbers, think 30 HR and 90 RBI almost every year, but doing so in such a inconsistent basis within the year that his value dropped on the market. Burrell was also, however, capable of carrying the team on his back for a month like the best in the game, see May/June of 2008 when he and Chase Utley overcame the poor start of Ryan Howard, and by the end of every season, had his 30/90, plus a great OBP and solid Player Grade (12.202 PEVA 2008). But the writing on the wall became magic marker when Raul Ibanez was signed earlier in the offseason to a 3 year contract that Pat's days were done in Philly. And yesterday he signed a 2 year $16 million contract with the World Series runnerups, the Tampa Bay Rays. The contract was below what many thought his value, below the reported 2 year $22 million contract offered by Philadelphis in midseason. And well below the 4 year $40.9 million contract the Stat Geek Baseball Salary Projection model thinks he is worth. And by the end of those years, think he will prove he is worth.

Milton Bradley is somewhere between soup and nuts, but he is a baseball player with ability. Unfortunately, it is ability wrapped in a package not too tightly wound, or too tightly wound, depending on your point of view. But yesterday, the Chicago Cubs offered Bradley a 3 year contract for $30 million dollars. This is a player who while playing in AA ball, got thrown out of a game while walking to the plate prior to the first pitch being thrown. It takes a lot of soup and nuts to do that. But in 2008, Bradley had his best year, with 22 HR and 77 RBI plus a 0.321 Batting Average, which calculated to a 13.810 PEVA Player Grade. And he does have value, but just what is that value. Bradley drives people crazy, has never put together two very good years in a row, and for the three seasons prior to last year, would not have been valuable to a team at all, beyond a reserve, don't count on me roll. But the Cubs, desperate again, preferred Bradley over Burrell, as the entire baseball community did, paying him more.

Don't get us wrong, we still think Bradley is worth good money, $22,476 million over 3 years, not too far below what he got. However, by the end of the next 2-3 years of these two contracts, we're thinking the more productive of the two players will be Burrell. Yes, he's two years older, but a whole lot more consistent as a person and player from year to year. Do we really think it's a coincidence that Bradley has now been a member of 7 different teams over his major league career while Burrell has been on one, which just won a World Series. I don't think anyone thinks that, even the Cubs.

Pat Burrell, 32
2004 - 24 HR, 84 RBI, 0.257 BA, 6.837 PEVA
2005 - 32 HR, 117 RBI, 0.281 BA, 12.813 PEVA
2006 - 29 HR, 95 RBI, 0.258 BA, 11.542 PEVA
2007 - 30 HR, 97 RBI, 0.256 BA, 10.726 PEVA
2008 - 33 HR, 86 RBI, 0.250 BA, 12.202 PEVA

Milton Bradley, 30
2004 - 19 HR, 67 RBI, 0.267 BA, 8.542 PEVA
2005 - 13 HR, 38 RBI, 0.290 BA, 3.882 PEVA
2006 - 14 HR, 52 RBI, 0.276 BA, 4.350 PEVA
2007 - 2/11 13/30 0.292/0.313 (Split Season), 4.233 PEVA
2008 - 22 HR, 77 RBI, 0.321 BA, 13.810 PEVA

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Article Blog Now @ blogspot

Our article and comment page at http://baseballevaluation.com will be moving over to http://baseballevaluation.blogspot.com. Now you'll be able to read current articles, past articles, and comment directly to each. A whole lot easier than our past approach, and all right here at your baseball fingertips. We think you'll like it. Tell us if you do. Your friends at Baseball Evaluation and Stat Geek Baseball. Please keep it family friendly. This is a great place to discuss our stats, player ratings, article, or anything baseball. But keep it clean. Tough. Opinionated. Yeh, they're just fine.