Thursday, November 29, 2012

Four Ways to Build Value for Arbitration

The arbitration season is a crazy time of year for baseball agents and The Sports Resource. So before it gets into full swing, here are strategies for making your briefs a winner.

Building a brief starts with telling a compelling story in the player profile section. That makes matching the player against key comparables easier and more convincing.

The approaches below work for both the player profile and comparables sections, and will make powerful points that complement a brief's core elements. 

History, All-time Greats, and Rarities. While their achievements may not find their way onto SportsCenter, players record historic achievements throughout the regular season. For example, Antonio Bastardo’s 14.0 strikeouts per nine innings rate this season has been matched by just two lefthanders in Major League history: Billy Wagner and Aroldis Chapman. We’re not saying Bastardo is as good as Wagner (obviously), but linking his name to an all-time great is huge. And such feats carry value even when they don’t involve common statistics. 

Marginal Value adds Major Value. Players on teams that narrowly reach the postseason – such as the Orioles and Cardinals this year – help their teams generate $25-to-$50 million of additional revenue. That’s according to research by Vince Gennaro, a consultant for Major League teams and author of the book “Diamond Dollars”. Reaching the playoffs also impacts club revenues for up to five seasons. Demonstrate how your player made that two or three-game difference for his club (and his key comparables didn’t), and you score a huge plus. 

Ballpark Figures. Park factors can be a tremendous weapon in arbitration. Hitters in Safeco Field, or any of the five California stadiums, are ideal for park adjustments. The same goes for pitchers in Coors Field, U.S. Cellular Field and Fenway Park. Our last newsletter addressed this topic for free agency. The concept works differently in arbitration – because the criteria does not allow for projections – but it’s a great tactic for evaluating past performance. 

Advanced Metrics. Clubs have used win expectancies and leverage index against relievers in recent hearings. So why not do the same? Even if they don’t help your case, it pays to prepare information for rebuttal. WAR is a powerful tool as well, but works better at some positions than others. Although their explanations consume some presentation time, advanced metrics complement core numbers extremely well.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Aircraft Carriers, Adjustments and Arbitration

Last Sunday, Syracuse faced San Diego State aboard the USS Midway in San Diego Harbor. The wind made shots beyond a few feet an adventure. One baseline jumper by Syracuse forward C.J. Fair seemed to blow two feet off course and wound up an air ball.

The shooting percentages were low for both sides, but especially dismal for the Aztecs. They made just one three-pointer in 18 attempts and shot 27 percent overall. At the foul line, they sank 42.4 percent. Broadcasters Dick Enberg and Steve Kerr commented frequently about the conditions, at one time saying the players probably wish these stats wouldn’t count in their season numbers.

While the statistics need to count, we can make adjustments for the context. Other teams have played on ships. Using those averages to adjust actual statistics provide a better indication of how well the teams and players performed. Of course, it’s only one game and won’t impact final season numbers very much.

Baseball players on teams with extreme venues like Safeco Field and Coors Field aren’t so lucky. They play 81 games in settings that have a huge impact on their statistics. While the Aztecs and Orange escaped the aircraft carrier after one game, Mariners hitters and Rockies pitchers have no such opportunity. The altitude never changes in Denver, and neither does its effect on statistics.

Fortunately, in baseball arbitration and free agency, we can make adjustments for context, but it’s not always simple. Just as the outside shooters struggled more than big men aboard the ship, ballparks affect different players in different ways. Left-handed power hitters in Minute Maid Park make a great example. Since the stadium debuted in 2000, there have been 28 20-home run seasons by Astros’ right-handed batters, just one by a lefty hitter.

Extreme environments call attention to the need for adjustments. However, we need them for less obvious conditions as well, not just for basketball games aboard aircraft carriers.