February 1, 2011

Ross Ohlendorf's Arbitration Case

As mentioned today in Jennifer Langosch's mailbag, Ross Ohlendorf is the only remaining Pirate who hasn't settled his arbitration case. Ohlendorf asked for $2.025 million while the Pirates offered $1.4 million. Let's assess his case.

You no doubt know well that Ohlendorf was ineffective in his rookie year. He went 1-4, 6.46 with the Yankees and Pirates. The fact that the '08 Yankees had to resort to Ohlendorf 25 times out of the bullpen tells you a lot about why they missed the playoffs that year.

In 2009 Ross had a breakout year in which he went 11-10 with a 3.92 ERA. Making 29 starts, he threw 177 innings with a 1.23 WHIP. The only issue was his home rum rate, 1.3 per nine innings, but he was the Pirates' best pitcher and threw well enough to be a legitimate #2 starter and 15 game winner on an average team.

Last year of course, Ohlendorf again pitched well but was the biggest victim of the Pirates' ineffective offense. Despite a 4.07 ERA he went 1-11 in 21 starts (108 innings). His WHIP went up to 1.37 but his home run rate declined to 1.0/9. Ross also was injured twice. It was the greatest lost season of all time by a pitcher.

I think it's pretty uncontroversial that Ross's worth is closer to the higher figure. But the way arbitration works hurts him in two ways. First, players only receive about 40% of their market value. At that point Ross would be fine - his figure implies only a one year, $5 million deal on the open market, a price he would certainly command.

The second issue is more problematic: Arbitration is based on a player's baseball card stats as reflected in say, 1988 Topps. So the 1-11 record in 2010 really hurts him even though we know it's no reflection on how well he pitched. Same with the ERA - it won't be looked at as good, even though we know the Pirates' defense declined to a point where his 2010 ERA is actually the most impressive of his career. For arbitration purposes he's a guy who had a bad year in 2008, a good year in 2009, and a bad year in 2010 - even though clearly he's coming off two good years.

So my conclusion here is twofold. First, the Pirates likely would win that case. And second, it's not worth it. During an arbitration case, the Pirates would be forced to, in a quasi-judicial hearing, basically make the case that Ross Ohlendorf isn't a good pitcher. This is the kind of thing that destroys team-player relationships. You will very rarely see a player who goes to an arbitration hearing end up resigning with that team.

To save $600,000, it's just not worth it. Pay the man.

No comments:

Post a Comment