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Friday, February 12, 2010
Corey Hart, the Brewers, and Baseball Salary Arbitration - Hart Wins

Corey Hart and the Milwaukee Brewers conducted the first arbitration hearing of the year yesterday. For the Brewers, this is only the fourth hearing in the history of the franchise, and it is the first for general manager Doug Melvin, who took over for Dean Taylor in 2002.

Here are the important numbers:

Brewers Offer - $4,150,000; Hart’s request - $4,800,000
Midpoint - $4,475,000; Gap - $650,000
Hart previous salary - $3,250,000; Increase requested - $1,550,000; Increase offered - $900,000

Hart has 4 years and 38 days of major league service. According to my research, there are 18 outfielders in the service group between 4 and 5 years. I would submit that this is the main starting point for setting up a list of comparable players. Perhaps the most interesting to consider from this list are the following players: Jeff Francoeur (New York Mets), Conor Jackson (Arizona), Jeremy Hermida (Boston), Ryan Ludwick (St. Louis), Cody Ross (Florida), and Josh Willingham (Washington). I will detail my analysis in the comments’ section of this blog.

If the arbitration panel consisted of a representative group of Brewers’ fans who have commented on this case, Hart would be in trouble. It seems to be that at least 67% of the comments that I have read are against Hart. Part of that, of course, is that many fans feel that all players make too much. The reported panel that heard the case is Elizabeth Neumeier, John Sands, and Sylvia Skratek. Neumeier is a veteran panel member. According to my research her panel record is 13-9 in favor of teams. Sands’ record is 4-2 in favor of teams, and Skratek decided her first case in 2008 when she agreed with the Astros in their hearing against Jose Valverde.

I am going to lean slightly toward the Brewers in part in deference to their history of trying to settle all of their cases and an analysis of the numbers. However, if the panel thinks that Francoeur and Willingham are two strong comparable players, they could go with the outfielder.

I have added five comments detailing my analysis of the outfielders in the same service group, the panel of arbitrators, and the general managers involved in the previous four decisions by the Brewers.


Here is my list of the decisions of Elizabeth Neumeier and John Sands.

Team Wins - 13

Dioner Navarro - Rays - 2009
Francisco Rodriguez - Angels - 2008
Joe Beimel - Dodgers - 2007
Kevin Gregg - Marlins - 2007
Sun-Woo Kim - Rockies - 2006
Rodrigo Lopez - Orioles - 2006
Alfonso Soriano - Nationals - 2006
Javier Vazquez - Expos - 2003
Neifi Perez - Royals - 2002
Osvaldo Fernandez - Reds - 2001
Charles Johnson - Orioles - 2000
Mariano Rivera - Yankees - 2000
Midre Cummings - Red Sox - 1999

Player Wins - 9

Shawn Hill - Nationals - 2009
Oliver Perez - Mets - 2008
Chad Cordero - Nationals - 2007
Todd Walker - Padres - 2007
Jack Wilson - Pirates - 2004
Sean Casey - Reds - 2001
Andruw Jones - Braves - 2001
Damian Miller - Diamondbacks - 2001
Scott Sullivan - Reds - 2000

John Sands

Team Wins - 4

Joe Beimel - Dodgers - 2007
Tony Tarasco - Orioles - 1998
Darryl Motley - Braves - 1987
Zane Smith - Braves - 1988

Player Wins - 2 Emil Brown - Royals - 2006
Ron Darling - Mets - 1987

Blogger Ed Edmonds -- 2/12/2010 10:01 AM  

I see that Adam MCalvy has already posted a story that Hart won his arbitration decision. That changes the panel records of the three arbitrators to 13-10 for teams for Neumeier; 4-3 for teams for Sands; and an even 1-1 for Skratek.

Blogger Ed Edmonds -- 2/12/2010 10:44 AM  

Here is some of my analysis of the 18 players in the same service group. Francoeur and Willingham are two players that I think might have persuaded the panel to accept Hart's number. The Brewers are now 2-2 in their four arbitration hearings.

Jose Bautista signed with the Blue Jays for $2,400,000

Matt Diaz signed with the Braves for $2,550,000.

Although Diaz is in the same service class, he is four years older (31 to 27). He has played in 46 fewer games. Diaz has an excellent .310 career batting average with a .459 slugging percentage. Diaz injured himself in May 2008 and missed all but the final game of the season. The injury limited him to a .244 batting average and .264 OBP.

Ryan Church was non-tendered by the Braves. He signed with the Pirates for $1,500,000 with performance incentives based on plate appearances.

Josh Willingham signed with the Nationals for $4,600,000

Willingham signed for a figure nearer to Hart’s requested salary. The Nationals are paying Willingham above Hart’s midpoint with the Brewers. They are close in games, plate appearances (Willingham has more), and slugging percentage. Willingham has 20 more home runs but only 20 more RBIs. Willingham’s batting average is nine points less, but his .362 OBP is much better than Hart’s .326. Willingham has a substantial advantage in career walks (235-129 for Hart) and walks in the past two years (109 to 70 for Hart)

Gabe Gross was non-tendered by the Rays. He signed with the Athletics for $750,000 with performance incentives based on plate appearances.

Ryan Ludwick signed with the Cardinals for $5,450,000.

Ludwick has a similar number of games and batting average to Hart. However, he is ahead of Hart on slugging percentage and OPS. He is also ahead on home runs and RBIs while Hart has 155 more plate appearances. That said, Ludwick signed for $5,450,000. The Brewers offered Hart $4,150,000.

Scott Hairston was acquired by the Padres from the Athletics in a trade in January. He settled for $2,450,000 after exchanging figures ($2,100,000 - $2,900,000)

Jonny Gomes was non-tendered by the Reds. He is still unsigned although the Reds are considered a possibility if Gomes will accept a minor league deal.

Shane Victorino signed a 3-year deal with Phillies for $22,000,000.

Jeff Francoeur signed with the Mets for $5,000,000.

Francoeur has a similar lifetime batting average and a solid partial season with the Mets last year after his trade from the Braves to the Big Apple. He has four years of 155 or more games played. His average home runs per season are similar to Hart, and his slugging average is well below Hart's number. Both he and Hart are rightfielders, and a case can be made that they are similar fielders (.984 and .983 fielding percentage). Francoeur signed for an amount higher than Hart's request.

Laynce Nix was non-tendered by the Reds. Nix signed a minor league deal with Cincinnati.

Conor Jackson signed with Diamondbacks for $3,100,000.

Ryan Langerhans was non-tendered by the Mariners. He resigned with Mariners for $525,000.

Cody Ross is headed for a hearing with the Marlins. Ross made $2,225,000 last year. He requested $4,450,000, and the Marlins offered $4,200,000. The midpoint is $4,325,000. Ross has a lower batting average but two recent years of 22 and 24 home runs. He knocked in 163 runs in the past two years.

Jeremy Hermida settled with the Red Sox for $3,345,000 after exchanging figures ($2,950,000 - $3,850,000). Hermida’s deal is $55,000 below the midpoint of $3,400,000. Hermida does not appear to me to be comparable to Hart.

Jeremy Reed was non-tendered by the New York Mets. He signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays.

Cory Sullivan was non-tendered by the New York Mets. He signed a minor league deal with the Astros.

Blogger Ed Edmonds -- 2/12/2010 11:02 AM  

One other comparable player of note is Carlos Quentin. Quentin has service time of 3 years and 65 days. Like Hart, he is represented by CAA. Quentin signed for $3,200,000 on January 16, 2010, to avoid going to a hearing.

Blogger Ed Edmonds -- 2/12/2010 11:02 AM  

The Brewers General Managers and Previous Hearings

Doug Melvin was the GM for the Hart hearing held yesterday. It was his first hearing since becoming the GM in 2002.

Sal Bando was the GM for the hearings involving Jose Mercedes (1998) and Doug Fetters (1994). Bando had personal experience as a player with salary arbitration. He and Charles Finley locked horns in 1974 and 1975. Bando was 1-1 and the legendary owner of the A's.

Harry Dalton was the GM for the Brewers’ first hearing involving Jim Gantner in 1991. Sal Bando became GM later that year. Gantner was represented by Ron Simon. Interestingly, Willie Randolph was an important bystander for that decision. Simon was quoted at the time as stating “‘It almost seemed like a situation where both parties would end up losing regardless of the decision’ . . . The club has invited (second baseman) Willie Randolph to spring training and, if Gantner won arbitration and $2 million, you could be sure the club would release him, in view of the fact Randolph is available for much less money.’” “Gantner Loses in Arbitration, He’ll Make $1 Million,” Madison, Wisconsin State Journal, February 20, 1991, 1D. See also, Jim Donaghy, “Gantner May Have Won Job By Losing,” St. Paul Pioneer Press, February 24, 1991.

Randolph played in 124 games for the Brewers in 1991 at age 36 after signing as a free agent on April 2 for $500,000. He had a .327 batting average in his next to last season while playing 121 games at second base. He was a designated hitter in two games. Randolph played for the Mets in 1992 after being granted free agency by the Brewers on the last day of October. Gantner, from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and 38 years old, played in 140 games for the Brewers in 1991 turning in 90 games at third base and 59 at second base. Gantner also finished his career in 1992. In his last season for the Brewers, Gantner made $1,150,000.

Blogger Ed Edmonds -- 2/12/2010 11:43 AM  

While I appreciate the chance to review your analysis, I have a hard time following it because you bounce between statistics.

As you probably know, there are "old school" statistics such as Batting Average, RBI, HR, fielding percentage, all-star selections, gold gloves, etc. There are also "new school" statistics such as WAR, OPS+, Zone rating, etc.

The difference between which statistics you use is significant, especially in comparisons to Willingham. For example, in "old school" categories, Hart is seen as a better player than Willingham. Hart's batting average, doubles (in less AB), triples (in less AB), stolen bases (in less AB),all-star selections, and fielding percentage are all higher than Willingham's.

However, in the "new school" stats, Willingham shines. Willingham's OPS+ and OBP are both higher than Hart's. Additionally, Willingham's SB % is higher (it does look like Hart's a slightly better fielder though).

As a fan of the "new school" statistics, I would say Hart is slightly inferior (but with more chance to improve) than Willingham. It is interesting that Hart won the appeal, as he seems to be slightly inferior and better paid than Willingham.

Blogger Paul -- 2/12/2010 4:27 PM  

Thanks for the comment, Paul, and you are correct that I jumped about a bit. With the space limitations on a blog, I did not go into greater detail. I believe that generally the binders that are presented to the panel contain a side-by-side comparison of statistics. Much of what I hear and read from insiders is that you should keep the statistics simple and stay with the more familiar ones. The panelists are not necessarily experts. However, Elizabeth Neumeier is a veteran, and she has heard many different presentations. One thing to keep in mind is the importance of the midpoint. Because Willingham signed above the midpoint of the exchanged figures, even a slight variation in appraisal is important. The rule of thumb is that if the panel agrees that the data shows that you are valued at $1 above the midpoint, you should select the player's number. If it is $1 below, you go with the team's figure.

Hart's fielding has been pretty heavily attacked by many of the Brewers' fans who have blogged on this hearing. I do not watch some of these teams enough to get a real good feel for that and statistics on fielding are often deceptive.

Blogger Ed Edmonds -- 2/12/2010 5:13 PM  

personally, I have seen Hart play. A very nice person, but plays lazy. I went to a Brewers game and he never even came close to trying to catch a catchable ball. He is not a good outfielder, I say, let him walk. There are other replacements out their. In todays economy, who really cares if he plays or not. Their are better players out there. He strikes out a lot.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 2/12/2010 9:58 PM  

Hart's strikeout totals for the past two years and his total plate appearances:

2008 - 109 strikeouts/657 plate appearances (16.59%)

2009 - 92 strikeouts/472 plate appearances (19.49%)

His career totals:

370 strikeouts/2015 plate appearances (18.36%)

Blogger Ed Edmonds -- 2/13/2010 9:04 AM  

I am not aware of an unrestricted free-agent outfielder who is better than Hart and signed for less this off-season. That's the great part about young talent and the arbitration process (for the teams). (Matsui got slightly more (and can no longer play the OF) and there is also Byrd and Nady with the Cubs who probably are not as good).

Therefore, if Anonymous is a Brewer fan, he should want Hart patrolling the outfield, as I am not aware of another outfielder who is better and signed for less this off-season.

P.S. While strikeouts can be an issue, some of the best players in baseball strike out much more than Hart. For example, Ryan Howard, who has the highest arbitration amount ever ($10 million), has struck out over 190 times per season over the past 4 years, including one year where he led the league.

Blogger Paul -- 2/15/2010 11:35 AM  

Paul - You have raised some good points. As to strikeouts, you are correct that there are some really strong hitters with high strikeout totals. In fact, higher strikeout totals are part of the current game. So, this is when the management philosophy comes into play. What are the component parts of the lineup? How does this player fit into that scheme? Where does he bat in the order? Etc. At the percentage where Hart sits, I think the Brewers can make points with the panel by harping on those numbers. Particularly if you do not have the RBI numbers that a guy like Howard delivers each year.

Here is a list of National League leaders last year from -
1. Reynolds (ARI)- 223
2. Howard (PHI)- 186
3. Dunn (WSN)- 177
4. Cameron (MIL)- 156
4. Werth (PHI)- 156
6. Uggla (FLA)- 150
7. Hawpe (COL)- 145
8. LaRoche (TOT)- 140
8. Wright (NYM)- 140
8. Bourn (HOU) - 140

Blogger Ed Edmonds -- 2/15/2010 7:44 PM  

Paul - I thought I would glance at the Free-agent Watch list on Sporting News Today regarding the outfielders in the market, and your observations about who was available. I see that Rick Ankiel signed for $3,200,000 with the Royals, and I would suspect that we both agree that Hart has better numbers. Although Ankiel did play all of the outfield positions last year for the Cardinals, he primarily plays center.

I also read a number of different views last night about where Hart's projected slot is in the batting order this year.

From what I have read, Hart is just not a great fan favorite with the bloggers. Most fans look at players who go to arbitration hearings as greedy. It seems to be no exception this year with Hart. Because he won, that will make him even more of a target for complaints if he does not get off to a good start. Further, players who go to hearings often are not in the best position concerning the general manager's view of the team future.

Blogger Ed Edmonds -- 2/16/2010 10:57 AM  

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Blogger susan -- 2/16/2010 11:13 PM  

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