Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

Free Agent Watch: Richard Hidalgo

Posted by Mike on February 13, 2006

With only a short time until pitchers and catchers report, I thought I’d address the Richard Hidalgo rumor going around. Now- I have no idea as to it’s validity, but that will not be the focus here. I’m going to take a look at the player- where he’s been and where he might be headed.

Most of you know the name- Richard Hidalgo- as a function of his 2000 and 2003 seasons with the Houston Astros. In those years he hit .314/.391/.636 and .309/.385/.572 respectively. Before those seasons, he posted a season and change that looked pretty good and a horrible one. In between those years, he posted a solid season and a horrible one. Since those seasons, he’s posted two horrible seasons. Last year, he basically hit like Sammy Sosa v.2K5 – even in the Arlington bandbox. You see what I’m getting at– Hidalgo is one of the most remarkably inconsistent players in baseball.

A telling indicator of his inconsistency is his isolated discpline (OBP-BA). Have a look.

1997- 0.52
1998- 0.52
1999- 1.01
2000- 0.77
2001- 0.81
2002- 0.84
2003- 0.76
2004- 0.64
2005- 0.69

There are a few trends worth noting here. First, like many eventual all-stars, Hidalgo gradually improved his plate discipline before it declined and settled into the realm of decidedly average. Second, Hidalgo’s best seasons do not correlate at all with his most disciplined seasons. For instance, his 1999 and 2002 seasons were nothing short of terrible. Yet, those are the seasons he posted his highest iso. discipline. I don’t need to reiterate the high correlation between getting on base in any form and scoring runs, but there are exceptions out there that are more valuable offensively when they are more aggressive at the plate.

If I am venturing a hypothesis here, it is that Hidalgo is the type of hitter that thrives on being aggressive at the plate. Without having anything in front of me to quantitatively support this claim, that style of hitting lends itself to athletic (or toolsy) types- which scouts will confirm that Hidalgo is amongst. Of course, the downfall of this style of hitting is that it isn’t often sustainable beyond a player’s physical peak. In this example, you’ll notice that Hidalgo will turn 31 in July. Moreover, his stolen base totals (another indicator of athleticism) have declined to a career-low of 1 in 2005 after a peak of 13 in 2000. All this leads me to the conclusion that Hidalgo spent his formative years altering his batting style, trying to figure out what worked for him. In the years he was able to most effectively determine his optimal plate aggressiveness, he was an all-star caliber player. But, since the approach he settled on is more reliant than others on sheer athleticism, he has had trouble maintaining success as he’s aged. Accordingly, I find him to be an unlikely candidate for a rebound season.

Defensively, Hidalgo has played all three spots in the outfield adequately. He’s even had a few outstanding seasons in right field where his arm strength is most valuable.

And just so I mention it, Hidalgo has no particular platoon advantages. He bats right-handed but has posted similar .276/.357/.480 and .266/.341/.493 lines vs. lefties and righties, respectively, over his career. In 2005, he even showed a reverse platoon advantage.

Disclaimer: For this particular example, I’ve only loosely relied on scouting reports. Most of my conclusions are based on analyzing his career major league statistics.

  • In other news, The New York Post has named Javy Lopez one of the 5 most likely players to be traded, either in Spring Training or during the season. I’m constantly surprised by the lack of respect Javy gets. His career places him squarely in the Hall of Very Good. Of course, I’d still like to see him moved for whatever young talent the O’s can get.

54 Responses to “Free Agent Watch: Richard Hidalgo”

  1. Anonymous said

    Interesting anlysis. I wonder what a scout that is familiar with Hidalgo would think.

  2. Eddie said

    I wonder what Javy could possibly net?…injuries happen all the time during the Spring so that could necessitate a trade for some team…if, an ill-opportune injury happens for a contending team, Javy might be a very good add for a desperate team…

    …What level of young player/prospect could Javy net if we were to eat some or all of his contract?…Could he land a Dallas McPherson? Kotchman? A Dodgers pitching prospect?…anyone who would be added onto our list of young hopefuls on the Cabrera-Bedard plane? or at least sit at the top of our prospect rankings?…or, would he more likely land a low B prospect and throw-ins at best?…or is he more like a Fontenot-Hairston type of trade bait?…

  3. Mike said

    From everything I’ve heard, the O’s likely wouldn’t get back anything more than a mid-level prospect. I, too, would love to go after a Kotchman or McPherson, but it doesn’t look like Javy is going to get it done. There was some speculation that Javy could go to the Dodgers for someone like Dioner Navarro. Personally, I’d rather go after Hee Sop Choi. Apparently they came pretty close to non-tendering him this off-season.

  4. Eddie said

    I wouldn’t mind a Hee Sop Choi. He is still young and even tho he doesn’t seem to excel in especially one area but his value may be suppressed because since he left Wrigley, he may have been hitting in the worst parks for hitters. My understanding of him is that he could be a hard-worker type of player who gradually gets better at various areas of his game without especially excelling at either. He strikes me as a Lyle Overbay type of player except he has more pop but less discipline but comparable defense. I wouldn’t mind Choi since we need to find young infield solutions in the coming years and we haven’t really found a decent 1B solution since Conine left. It would be nice to at least stabilize that spot for the time being. He wouldn’t need to be the big dog since we have Tejada.

  5. Eddie said

    Speaking of Wrigley, I always wonder what things would have been like if that runoured trade of a few years ago was pulled off for Derek Lee. Imagine what last year would have been like having him AND Roberts in the same lineup with the years they had? That being said, I also wonder who we would have given up? Bedard?…maybe I’m glad we didn’t do that trade.

  6. Anonymous said

    While I’m disappointed Flanny didn’t deal Javy this off-season, it looks like the market for Javy is pretty limited, especially considering Molina was available for most of the winter.

    If it were up to me, I would package Javy with Rodrigo or Chen. I think that could get a good prospect. The Angels seem like a real good fit (losing Molina and Washburn) (one wonders if their GM gets the success cycle due to Colon’s age and Vlad’s back), but they seem unwilling to part with their prospects (even somebody like Morales). The Dodgers are another good fit, I would love to have Choi, although I believe he needs a platoon partner.

    I don’t get the Orioles affinity with some of these vets. I fail to comprehend why players like Javy, Millar, Conine etc. are on this team. Why was BJ Surhoff on the team the last few years? They wasted how much playing time on guys who aren’t going to bring much in return and further, aren’t going to be a part of a winning Orioles team. It all adds up to a waste of money, all the more frustrating considering the Orioles have ZERO young prospects for first or third…

  7. Eddie said

    …if you look at it this way, our INF might be the only areas on the current ML team with good talent in Tejada, Mora, and Roberts…but we need guys who can play baseball without losing much, while, not getting into longterm bad contracts for average players who’ll likely block our prospects…among the top players we bid for, we had the highest bids for Vlad + Konerko. We have nixed deals where we could not get an extension with Derek Lee and Tim Hudson. Average players regularly expect us to overpay in both high annual salary AND years…I think one of the marked philosophical differences in the GM regime pre-Flanny is that they were much more willing to pull the trigger on deals even if the money was bad…Flanagan-Beattie/Flanagan have shown better patience…I think signing guys like Millar, Conine, etc is more of a move we have been forced into because we can’t get market prices in an inflated market…

  8. Anonymous said

    True, but you get what you pay for, and we won’t get much out of Millar and Conine.

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