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May 17, 2009

Prospectus Idol Entry

Tyler Hissey's Initial Entry

by Tyler Hissey

Bio: My name is Tyler Hissey, a 22-year-old baseball fanatic from Connecticut. My love for the game started young, as I was born into a big baseball family. Unfortunately for me, most of the athleticism and talent went to my cousins, David and Peter, a fourth-round selection of the Boston Red Sox in the 2008 draft. I played my first two years at Eckerd College down in the Sunshine State Conference, but I fell on the wrong side of Value Over Division II Replacement Player. After an arm injury and the lack of secondary skills ended my collegiate career, though, I began reading and writing about baseball in order to help me cure my baseball fix. Luckily, the Internet has given me the opportunity to voice my opinion on the sport to the world. After reading Moneyball for a business course, I begin to get into sabermetrics. I pretty much learned more reading Baseball Between the Numbers than I did in my 12-plus years as a serious amateur player. My experiences in baseball journalism coincided with my improvement as a student there, and I finished my career reaching the Dean's List in my final four semesters while graduating with honors. I was also nominated for the school's Writing Excellence Award during my junior year, an honor that would have never been bestowed upon me if not for my interest in baseball blogging and desire to improve as a writer as a result.

When I saw this post on BP, I really thought it was such a great idea. In the country club baseball world in which outsiders are generally ignored (though this is changing), I really appreciate that you are offering such an amazing opportunity. I feel that I would be a good Idol candidate due to my writing ability, passion for the game and willingness to learn as much about baseball as I can. Most important, I have garnered some solid baseball writing experience the past few years, working for several different websites. I started out my own baseball-themed blog (click here) back in 2006; not having to go to the field for 40 hours per week left me with a lot of free time. I was then recruited to write for MVN.com, which eventually led to an opportunity with Scout.com/FoxSports. I covered the Rays for Scout from April 2007 through January 2009 (click here for archive). Several of my articles on Scout were even featured directly on the Fox site, and I hosted the trade deadline live blog on the MSN MLB page as well. Since I stopped writing at Scout earlier this winter, I have contributed at Dugout Central (click here for archive) and have become editor of Around the Majors (click here), a national baseball blog on MVN.com. I have gone back to my blogging roots at MVN, but I am doing it right this time. I have assembled a pretty talented staff of writers, and our traffic is increasing each and every day. Through Dugout Central, more of my work has been syndicated on FoxSports.com. I also am the co-host of Minor League Notebook Weekly (click here to listen to previous shows) and my own podcast (click here) on BlogTalk Radio. I have interviewed some noteworthy guests on both shows, including Jonah Keri, Tommy Rancel, Dave Cameron, Kevin Goldstein, Toby Hyde, Tim Dierkes, Michael Andrews of SoxProspects.com, Benjamin Kabak and several other prominent MLB bloggers.

Thanks for coming up with this outside-the-box idea, providing a great opportunity for many baseball bloggers in my shoes. It was a difficult decision to choose which article to attach, but I decided to go with my piece from this winter criticizing the Raul Ibanez contract.

Entry: Raul Ibanez Contract Analysis

Here is a tale of four players and their quest for a big pay day on the free agent market this winter.

Player A entered the offseason expecting to cash in after coming off a season in which he hit .296/.371/.471 with 20 home runs and a 120 OPS+. Although he is about to turn 35, he has been a durable player throughout his career, reaching the 150-game plateau every year since 1998. His lowest OPS+ total during that time span came in 2007, when he put up a 114 mark, but he has been a consistent offensive performer and a tough out since he emerged as a full-time regular. The major drawback with him, though, is his below-average outfield defense; he produced a -22.9 UZR rating in 2008 and has been in the red in this category since 2004, giving back a lot of the runs that he helps create with his bat.

Since his team declined to offer him arbitration, though, Player A was not attached to a draft pick. He has posted the following value win totals (all data courtesy of FanGraphs) since 2005: 4.2, 3.4, 2.8, 1.5.

Originally looking for a multi-year contract entering free agency, Player A, with less than a week before the start of spring training, agreed to an incentive-laden one-year deal that guarantees $5-M.

Player B was productive offensively in '08, batting .250/.367/.507 with 33 home runs to help his team to a World Series championship. Since '05, he has put up OPS+ totals of 128, 122, 127 and 125, respectively, belting 124 home runs. A former number one overall pick, he has been a consistent right-handed hitter while playing in the same city for his entire career. He is about to turn 33, and, while he has old-player skills, it is unlikely that is headed for a major decline in the short term. Similar to Player A, though, he is a liability in the outfield, which negates some of his offensive contributions and negatively impacts his overall value. His UZR marks range from -1.1 to -19.2 during the time span mentioned earlier in the paragraph.

Player B was also not offered arbitration, meaning that he would not cost a draft pick if a new team were to sign him on the free agent market. He has put up the following value win totals since 2005: 4.4, 2.4, 2.1, 3.2.

Player B signed a two-year, $16-M contract in early January.

Player C is a polarizing figure within the industry, but it is hard to argue with his plus power. He has hit more than 40 home runs five consecutive times, including 46 in 2004. Since then, he has blasted exactly 40 homers each year. Player B also has excellent on-base skills, with the ability to post consistently above-average OBP figures despite a perennial low batting average. A Three True Outcome hitter, a large portion of his plate appearances end with a long ball, strike out or walk.

Like his counterparts available on the free agent market, Player C is also a poor defender. As a left fielder, he has ranked near the bottom of the pack in the National League in UZR, with totals ranging from -4.0 to -20.0 since 2003.

About to turn 29, Player C was also looking for a big payday in his first dive into the free agent waters. According to teammates, he had his hopes set on $100-M-plus early in the '08 season. Since he was also not offered arbitration, he did not come with any draft pick baggage, either. His value win totals since 2005: 3.0, 1.8, 2.8, 1.3.

Player C agreed to terms with a perennial loser at two-years, $20-M on the same day as Player A. He will likely play first base for his new team.

Player D has been able to consistently hit for a high batting average, having topped the .280 mark every campaign since 2001. His on-base skills have not been nearly as impressive as the other players in this story, though; he has never topped the .360 mark in on-base percentage. He also has hit the fewest amount of homers out of the group since '05, with his career-high, 33, coming in '06. Regardless, he is still a nice hitter (his ballpark suppressed his output) who has posted an OPS+ total above 120 for three straight seasons.

Player D is a mediocre defensive outfielder as well, however, costing his team several runs on the other side of the ball. Like the aforementioned players, he has been in the red in UZR, including a terrible -21.2 number in 2007. Player B is the oldest of the group, born in 1972, and the most likely candidate for a decline. In addition, as a Type A free agent who was offered arbitration, suitors were aware that he would cost the team an early draft pick. His value win totals since '05: 2.2, 2.9, 0.8, 2.3.

Player D was given $31.5-M over three years-he will be close to 40 at the duration-in the second week of December. Essentially, his new team, perhaps unaware of the full extent of his poor defense, set the market for similar players while incurring the cost of a draft pick. Also, he is a left-hander hitter headed to a team featuring a lefty-heavy lineup.

This offseason there was a surplus of players who provide offensive pop on the market. The majority of these free agents, though, are terrible defenders. While advanced defensive data has its flaws, the majority of scouts agree with the data when it comes to the players included in this exercise. Front offices across the league are finally valuing defense appropriately, it seems, and this contributed to the plummeting prices. Combined with the poor economic climate and the perfect example of demand exceeding supply, there was no reason for the Philadelphia Phillies to sign Player D, Raul Ibanez, at that price so early into the game.

The Ibanez signing was criticized at the time-rightfully so. However, after seeing what Player A (Bobby Abreu, Los Angeles Angels), Player B (Pat Burrell, Tampa Bay Rays) and Player C (Adam Dunn, Washington Nationals) received in a depressed market, the decision seems even more foolish in hindsight. Ibanez is arguably the least productive player out of the four. He is a poor defender who is not an upgrade defensively over Burrell, who is also younger and less likely to fall off the map offensively. Plus, he cost a draft pick, is a major decline candidate and was overpaid (he was given the longest and most lucrative deal on an annual basis) relative to the market; the law of supply and demand is not all that difficult of a concept. Another big slugger who costs his team runs in the outfield, Manny Ramirez, is still available as well. There were (and still are) also a number of lesser-type corner outfield/DH bats who were (and will be in the coming weeks) forced to take pay cuts on the free agent market.

Ruben Amaro has made up for this clear-cut blunder in the arbitration process, but he used the wrong processes in his first major move as general manager of the Phillies. Even if Amaro truly felt that Ibanez was the best available option, Philadelphia likely could have had its man for cheaper, preserving precious financial resources.

Setting the market with so many players with similar skill sets, of course, is usually not the most effective strategy for general managers, especially so during an economic recession. Hopefully Amaro has learned his lesson and will not fall into the same trap in the future.

20 comments have been left for this article.

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