Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Brewers vs. Hart, Arbitration Hearing Preview

So it looks like the Brewers are headed to their first arbitration hearing in 12 years.

Time to breakdown the (probable hearing):

According to, the Brewers come into tomorrow's hearing with a 2-1 All-Time Record.

Brewers won their case against reliever Mike Fetters in 1995, but lost to reliever-turned-starter Jose Mercedes in 1998........Before that, the only arbitration hearing in Brewers history was with infielder Jim Gantner, in 1992. The team won that case.

First, i'll break it down applying to Corey Hart's body of work:

Case for Corey Hart:

The strongest part of his case is that he's a two-time 20/20 player thus proving himself capable with the bat and on the base paths. He put it all together in 2007 and it looked like he was headed upwards with his career and a solid complement to Braun and Fielder in the starting line-up. This momentum carried over to a strong first-half of 2008. His first half was strong enough to get the 33rd spot on the National League All-Star team.

Case Against Corey Hart:

Basically, things have gone less than smooth since appearing in said All-Star game. He followed up that All-Star appearance by having a less than stellar September .173/.192/.245 when the Brewers needed all the help they could get while they held on to dear life in the Wild Card race.
Not to outdo himself, he went 3 for 16 in the Brewers cameo playoff appearance against Philadelphia.

While 2009 wasn't an epic failure on this scale, it doesn't help his case. He missed a month-plus due to injury and was more or less an average hitter. Speaking of being a league average hitter, that seems to be his base ability level. In his four seasons of play his OPS+ has ranged from 98 to 101 in three of those seasons.

What about that 2007 season when he played better? Well, some of that can be attributed to luck as his BABIP was .327 that year a bit above his career BABIP of .311.

For something like arbitration and getting a higher salary than management wants to give a player it's about timing, timing and timing. Unfortunately for Corey Hart, he would have had a better chance to win after the 2007 season than he does tomorrow.


For kicks and giggles, let's see if there is any precedence we can see from the Brewers limited arbitration history.

Jim Gantner 1992- Gantner was coming off a '91 season with a line of .283/.320/.361 90 OPS+ and coming off his Age-38 season. Different position, different stages of their careers, this case doesn't really apply, plus the Brewers won this case.

Mike Fetters 1995- Fetters was coming off a very strong '94 season where he was 1-4 2.54 era 17 svs 198 ERA+. While he had no all-star appearances at the time, he was in the beginning of a strong 3 year run as closer. Despite Fetters coming off a much better season than Hart, the Brewers won this case.

Jose Mercedes 1998- As of now, Mercedes is the only Brewer to ever win an arbitration case against the team. Not my first guess. It does back up the argument that winning in arbitration is about timing. He was coming off his most (and only) productive season as a Brewer 7-10 3.79 era 123 ERA+ at around the same age as Hart (26).

Final Verdict: My prediction is that Corey Hart loses his arbitration case and the Brewers improve to 3-1 all time in this category. The first reason is that his general body of work indicates that the Brewers are getting a average player in this category, nothing special, nothing horrible (well usually) and 4.8 million seems to be too much to pay for this.

Second, precedence doesn't give him a very strong case. While Mercedes was around the same age when he won his arbitration case, the timing of the case was crucial as he played better in his arbitration year than in the past. The same can't be said about Hart.

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