Is Ryan Theriot Worth $3 Million?
The actual figures submitted are $3.4M by Theriot's camp and $2.6M by the Cubs, and those unfamiliar with the baseball arbitration process might think that either side has to prove their figure worthy. But as one astute reader noticed, $3M is the halfway point between the two figures and essentially Theriot's camp has to convince the panel that he's worth $3M or more and the Cubs have to convince them that Theriot is worth less than $3M. If Theriot's camp is successful, he'll get the $3.4M, if the Cubs are successful, he'll get $2.6M.
There are plenty of primers out there on the arbitration process and if you really want the nuts and bolts on how the hearing goes, I suggest this BP article. Here's the basic guidelines:
- Each side submits their salary figure
- A panel of 3 arbitrators hear the case
- Each side gets an hour to present their case, then a half-hour rebuttal and final summation with the player side normally going first and the club getting final say(No wonder they win 60% of the cases).
- Neither side is informed of the final vote(3-0 or 2-1) until well after the proceedings, just who won.
- You can compare players with similar service time but not to exceed one year. Year 3 players (like Theriot) can compare themselves to three and four year service time players, but not five-year players.
- and let me just blockquote what cannot be argued, before I breakdown what can be argued.
- The financial position of the player and the club (though player
representatives often try to get this information in the back door by
presenting attendance information that implies the health of a club's revenue streams).
- Press comments, testimonials or similar material bearing on
the performance of either the player or the club, except for recognized
annual player awards for playing excellence.
- Offers made by either the player or the club prior to arbitration.
- Cost to the parties of their representatives.
- Salaries in other sports or occupations.
So let's see how this case will go, with the points that can be argued.
1. The quality of the player's contribution to his club during the
past season (including but not limited to his overall performance,
special qualities of leadership and public appeal).
His walk rate dropped from 11% to 7.5% and his K rate went up from 10% to 15.4% along with a drop in his OBP from .387 to .343.
He also seemed to whine more about Milton Bradley than any other Cub it seemed...a real leader of men here.
2. The length and consistency of his career contribution.
He does stay healthy for the most part and is pretty consistent...consistenly bad that is (wahaha, slaps self on back). Fangraphs' WAR values has him at 1.6, 3.1, and 2.8 wins from 2007-2009(BP has 2.3, 2.7, and 2.9 WARP1) which actually isn't too shabby. Among qualified shortstops, he ranked 11th out of 17 in 2009, 10th out of 14 in 2008, and 16th out of 17 in 2007 in OPS.
Of course, defense is a big part of the shortstop game and although there's a lot of complaining about Theriot's rag arm, his numbers seem to show that he's at least adequate. I have no idea if the Cubs have any idea what UZR is, but let me cover it with UZR, BP and standard fielding stats.
|Range Factor||4.04 (23/25)*||3.90 (18/18)||4.24 (14/22)|
* if he qualified, which he seemed to just miss with 108 games at shortstop
Range factor is of course assists plus putouts over 9 innings, but it's going to be heavily influenced by the type of pitching staff. In the Cubs case, they've always been a high strikeout team which usually translates into more flyballs as well so don't be fooled too much by that number. On the other hand, the Cubs should try and fool the panel with it.
3. The record of the player's past compensation.
$390K in 2007, $428K in 2008, $500 K in 2009. Theriot is asking for a jump of nearly 700% on his last salary.
4. Comparative baseball salaries (the arbitration panel is provided with a
table of confidential baseball salaries for all players broken down by
years of service).
Here's all the salaries for shortstops in their first year of eligibility in salary arbitration thanks to the awesome Cot's Baseball Contracts. Some players signed multi-year contracts.
||$2.75M - $1.8M
*Erick Aybar is still unsigned and arbitration eligible for the first time. He submitted $2.75M to the Angels $1.8M.
** Wittenmyer says he made $2.3M in 2009, Cot's has Betancourt at $2M with a $1.5M signing bonus on a four-year deal he signed before 2008 with the Mariners before being traded to the Royals.
I'll come back to this chart later.
5. The existence of any physical or mental defects on the part of the player.
Take all of Ryan Theriot's baserunning mishaps set to the tune of Benny Hill(also someone's idea in the comments). Easy win for the Cubs.
The Cubs could also present this video.
6. The recent performance of the club, including but not limited to his league standing and attendance.
Theriot's camp should be able to take advantage of this as the Cubs have done well since 2007 both on the field and financially.
As you can see in the table under argument #4, Theriot's case is pretty much tied to Stephen Drew, while the Cubs have everyone else to compare him against. And if Theriot's team is smart, they'll drive that point to death as he actually matches up favorably to Drew.
With just 5 plate appearances separating them, Theriot has the edge in BA, OBP, career Hits, Runs Scored, Stolen Bases. Drew leads in all the extra base hit categories, RBI's, SLG, OPS and OPS+. And remember, Theriot doesn't necessarily have to convince the panel he's just as good as Drew, but in the ballpark and the offensive numbers aren't that big a difference. If you throw in fielding, Theriot may actually come out ahead.
Career wise Drew has a .976% fielding percentage with with a 4.17 RF to Theriot's .976% and 4.06 RF. Then throw in some of the advanced metrics where Theriot's career UZR/150 is 4.8 to Drew's very poor -7.8 and BP has Theriot at a career 102 Rate2 to Drew's career 96. I imagine Theriot's crew looked at the comparasion to Drew extensively and that's where the $3.4M figure came from.
One important thing to remember is there are more than spreadsheets and stats involved in the argument. The people in the room and their abilities to convince the panel will be just as important. Remember the process, each side gets an hour to argue and then 30 minutes of rebuttal and a summation. If Theriot has the O.J. Simpson team in his corner, they could conceviably knock out everyone of the Cubs' points and convince the panel that Theriot is every bit as good as Stephen Drew and Troy Tulowitzki.
As for the case against Theriot, Drew made substantially more in 2009 on the original major league deal he signed when he was drafted ($1.5M in 2009), so the raise to $3.4M isn't nearly as steep as the one that Theriot is asking for from the $500K he earned in 2009. Historically, teams have won 60% of arbitration cases...yet another knock on Theriot's case. Also, teams have been paying about $1.1M per win for first year arbitration eligible players like Theriot. He's forecasted for a 2.2 WAR by CHONE, which means he'd be worth about $2.42M. Of course, a projection is never going to come up in an arbitration case I assume. They'll stick to the player's past contributions. If you take his average WAR over the last 3 years (2.5 WAR), he'd be set to make $2.75M for next year which would put the case in favor of the Cubs. Theriot's camp would be wise to argue that he's become a better player the last two years, where he's averaged a 2.95 WAR which at $1.1M a win would give make him worth more like $3.24M and give him the win in the case.
If you go to Fangraphs and sort by WAR for shortstops in 2009(no promise that links works), Theriot's smack in the middle and slightly above Drew, but behind Aybar, Bartlett and Tulowitzki. If you go by the last 3 years, once again he's ahead of Drew, but well behind Bartlett and Hardy, both of who made less. Of course he can try to argue team success and team profitability to try and make up the difference.
It should be an interesting case and I don't think it's nearly as cut and dry as people want to make it out in favor of the Cubs. I certainly don't think he's worth the $3M or more and Theriot does seem to be climbing an uphill battle. On the other hand, if he's got the captain of the debate team on his side and they can be more convincing than Jim Hendry and the Cubs, he does have some points he can make to drive his point home.