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Inside the Numbers: Who Wins the Wandy Rodriguez Salary Arbitration Case? PDF Print E-mail
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Salary Arbitration
Written by Maury Brown and Joe Tetreault   
Thursday, 18 February 2010 02:31
Wandy Rodriguez
Wandy Rodriguez was named the Astros
Pitcher of the Year in 2009, but will it be
enough to land him his $7 million asking
figure in salary arbitration?

UPDATE: The Astros have won their case with Wandy Rodriguez. That makes The Biz of Baseball 2 for 2 in predictions (see our analysis on Cody Ross)

 


At just around noon ET today, arbitrators Richard Bloch, Elizabeth Neumeier, and Fredric Horowitz will rule on whether SP Wandy Rodriguez will be awarded his $7 million asking salary or get the Houston Astros $5 million offering figure. With the gap being $2 million, both sides have much to lose.

On Weds., Rodriguez’ agent Barry Praver made his case, while the Astros were represented by Tal Smith, the president of baseball operations for the club, and the head of Tal Smith Enterprises, and general manager Ed Wade. Smith is legendary in salary arbitration, having represented nearly every club in the league through the process since the put in place in 1974 (see the 2005 Biz of Baseball interview with Smith).

Here’s how the sides likely focused:

THE CASE FOR RODRIGUEZ

Praver will argue that Rodriguez had an exceptional season in 2009, posting career bests in ERA (3.02), innings pitched (205.2), Hits per 9 (8.4), Walks per 9 (2.8), and WHIP (1.240). In the National League he ranked 9th in ERA, 15th in innings pitched, tied for 20th for giving up hits with Rich Harden (205.2), tied for second with a large group of pitchers for starts (192), and he ranked 9th in the NL in Ks with 193 (His K-rate was just off his career best mark, but his gross strikeouts were the best of his career). He anchored Houston's rotation as Roy Oswalt struggled to find himself. In addition, he was very effective in division play, posting a better ERA, WHIP and K-rate in games against the five division rivals in the NL Central.

Wandy Stats
Select the image above to see a comprehensive
stats history for Wandy Rodriguez

(Select the image to the right to see complete stats for Wandy Rodriguez including splits by opponent, splits, and his complete game log)

To add to this, Rodriguez had a scorching July. The left-hander posted a perfect 4-0 record in July, garnering him National League Pitcher of the Month for July, marking his first monthly honor of his career.

In five starts during that stretch, Rodriguez posted a 4-0 record with a 0.75 ERA, allowing just three earned runs with 34 strikeouts over 36.0 innings. He posted the lowest July ERA for a starting pitcher in Astros history, besting Andy Pettitte’s 0.90 mark in 2005. In addition, it was the second-lowest ERA in the Majors during the month behind Clayton Kershaw (0.71) of the Dodgers. On July 8th, Rodreguiz threw a complete-game shutout, allowing five hits and one walk against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Minute Maid Park, matching his career and season-highs with 11 strikeouts in the outing, previously set on May 14th against the Colorado Rockies. Rodriguez, who tossed 18.0 consecutive scoreless innings from July 2nd-21st, followed his shutout with 6.0 shutout innings against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on July 16th. At that point in the season he was 10-6 and ranked fifth in the N.L. with a 2.63 ERA and seventh with 128 strikeouts.

When the book closed on the season, Rodriguez had a 14-12 over 33 starts. He only went 7-7 in Division play, which Pravar likely blamed on the Astros offence. No matter, the performance for Rodriguez landed him Astros Player of the Year honors for 2009, something, that along with the monthly MLB award can be used in arbitration.

THE CASE FOR THE ASTROS

If it seems odd the Astros would give Pitcher of the Year honors to Wandy Rodriguez, but then take him all the way to salary arbitration. As we’ll see, salary will have much to do with it.

Looking at Rodriguez’ career season, for the Astros, it may well boil down to that torrid July. Here is his totals for 2009:

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

HBP

ERA

H/9

BB/9

HR/9

SO/9

SO/BB

205.7

192

77

69

63

193

21

5

3.02

8.4

2.76

0.92

8.45

3.06

Here is just the July numbers:

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

HBP

ERA

H/9

BB/9

HR/9

SO/9

SO/BB

47

35

4

4

9

41

3

2

0.77

6.7

1.72

0.57

7.85

4.56

 

Here is his line with the 47 innings pitched in July removed:

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

HBP

ERA

H/9

BB/9

HR/9

SO/9

SO/BB

158.7

157

73

65

54

152

18

3

3.69

8.91

3.06

1.02

8.62

2.81

 

Now, look at his 2007 and 2008 line

2007

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

HBP

ERA

H/9

BB/9

HR/9

SO/9

SO/BB

182.7

179

102

93

62

158

22

5

4.58

8.82

3.05

1.08

7.78

2.55


2008

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

HBP

ERA

H/9

BB/9

HR/9

SO/9

SO/BB

137.3

136

65

54

44

131

14

5

3.54

8.91

2.88

0.92

8.58

2.98

 

Note that with the July stretch removed, his line looks very similar to his 2007-08 line. So, a key question that the Astros likely raised, was the July numbers being an anomaly in comparison to the rest of the season, especially since they compare closely to his 2007-08 numbers.

To add to the Astros case, Rodriguez did not fare nearly as well on the road as he did at home. He posted a sharp 2.08 ERA at Minute Maid Park, but a 4.05 ERA on the road, giving up 12 more hits when away from home (102 compared to 90), almost twice as many runs (26 and home compared to 51 on the road), and his strike out to walk ratio ballooned from 4.13 at home to 2.41 on the road.

LOOKING AT WANDY’S COMPS

A key point to consider is Wandy’s asking figure in relationship to compariable salary arbitration players. Here is how Rodriguez stacks up to starting pitchers with four years of major league service from this year’s class, as well as a look back at Zack Greinke from last year when he was at the same service time level. The players are shown with their salary they requested:

  • Wandy Rodriguez ($7,000,000)
  • Edwin Jackson ($6,250,000)
  • Justin Verlander ($9,500,000)
  • Josh Johnson ($5,000,000)
  • Felix Hernandez ($11,500,000)
  • Zack Greinke ($4,400,000)

By comparison, here are the offering figures for each of the same players by their respective clubs:

  • Wandy Rodriguez ($5,000,000)
  • Edwin Jackson ($4,600,000)
  • Justin Verlander ($6,900,000)
  • Josh Johnson ($3,000,000)
  • Felix Hernandez ($7,200,000)
  • Zack Greinke ($3,400,000)
Wandy Stats
Select the image above to see how Wandy Rodriguez
stacks up against comparable players, salary data
such as asking, offering, 2009, AAV, more

From the offering perspective, the Astros appear to have held the line sticking closely to other clubs based upon performance.

All of Wandy’s comps reached multi-year deals, so looking at how their 2010 salaries might be used in Rodriguez case is pretty much off-limits due to how the contracts could be back or front loaded. But, using these players stats, here’s how Rodriguez rates in several categories (select the image to the left to see complete salary, and stat comps for Rodriguez):

  • Of the six, he is last in winning percentage.
  • He had the second lowest ERA behind only Hernandez
  • He ranks behind only Greinke for IPs
  • Gave up the least amount of hits behind only Johnson

Other than these stats, Rodriguez floats in the middle for the most part. In terms of the comp he is closest to in terms of asking salary (Jackson), he had a lower winning percentage, posted a 3.02 to Jackson’s 3.62 ERA, Jackson pitched 8.8 innings more than Rodriguez over the same span of games (33), while Jackson gave up more across the board in terms of hitting stats (H,R, ER, HR) while walking more (70 to 63), and striking out far less (161 to Rodriguez 193). In terms of WHIP, Wandy holds a slight advantage (1.240 to Jackson’s 1.262)

In terms of awards, all the players, with Rodriguez and Greinke (at his comparable point in 2008), the exception, had awards in their 4th year of ML service . Jackson (All-Star), Verlander (All-Star, 3rd in Cy Young voting, 20th in MVP voting), Johnson (All-Star), Hernandez (All-Star, 2nd in Cy Young voting, 26th in MVP voting)

SO THE WINNER IS?

If Wandy Rodriguez were to not have caught fire in July, we’d be looking at him in a completely different light. Yes, he has the MLB award for July and the Astros Pitcher of the Year, but his $7 million asking figure could play a part in the arbitrators decision. There’s also the fact that Tal Smith has been playing the salary arbitration hearing game for some time.  While not cleaning up by any stretch, the Astros have won 54 percent of the 13 cases they have been involved in since 1974. In 2008, the last time the Astros went to hearings, they won both their cases with Jose Valverde and Mark Lorretta, and have not lost a case since 1996 (Rick Wilkins - see the arbitration scorecard for details).

Looking at the panel make-up is always coin flip, but we could do a bit of background work that gives an ever so slight edge to Rodriguez, if just looking at history . Elizabeth Neumeier has been on two hearings already this year, with one case going to the player (Hart), and the other the club (Rays over Upton). Richard Bloch and Fredric Horowitz are seeing their first case this year. Last year, Bloch was on the panel that ruled in favor of Dan Uggla over the Marlins while Horowitz was on the same Uggla panel, while also ruling for Shawn Hill against the Nationals.

So, how do we side? Salary arbitration is tricky to predict given the “selling the deal” aspect by the sides presenting. But, based on Rodriguez spike in July, his asking salary, and the Astros recent history in salary arbitration hearings, we’re going to side with the Astros winning the case. Rulings this year have been announced around noonish… We’ll see how we did then.


YAHOO! SPORTS ARTICLES ON SALARY ARBITRATION:

Inside a Tim Lincecum arbitration hearing - 2/10/10

Salary arbitration: Battle of the midpoint – 1/26/10

Evolution of salary arbitration: an ironic tale – 1/19/10

RESOURCES FOR SALARY ARBITRATION


Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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Joe Tetreault is a member of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey.

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