The Curse of Paul Sorrento

When the Rays signed Pat Burrell, I made an ill-fated comparison to Paul Sorrento. Reflecting on that moment, I’m in utter regret every time I bring myself to look at this graph:

For those unfamiliar with Sorrento’s place in Rays history, he was signed prior to 1998 to be the team’s first big-time DH. From 1995-1997 (his 29-31 year-old seasons) Sorrento hit .268/.352/.511 in 1,433 plate appearances between the Indians and Mariners. Over his next two seasons with the Rays, he totaled 843 plate appearances, hit only 28 homeruns, and his line fell to .229/.329/.403. Suffice to say, this was not what the Rays had in mind when they signed him.

Burrell is coming off his 29-31 year-old seasons in which he hit .254/.385/.504 in 1,810 plate appearances for the Phillies. Thus far this season, Burrell is hitting .250/.349/.315. A stiff neck has sidelined Burrell at least three times this season and leaves questions about whether the stiff neck is really a bulging disk.

Pitchers are taking a more aggressive approach to Burrell this season. Throwing him 60% first pitch strikes and quite a few more curveballs than normal. As a result, Burrell is making more contact than ever before, but the ball has only left the playing field once. A few close calls have resulted in long singles thanks to Burrell’s below average foot speed. His speed score of 1.6 almost seems generous.

Moving forward, it seems asinine in expecting Burrell’s HR/FB% to remain at 2.5%. Over the last three seasons that number has been 18.1%, 16.2%, and 18%, so we should be looking at a few handfuls of Burrell homeruns from here on out. That is unless Burrell misses even more time with whatever it is that ails his neck.

Hopefully it’s not Paul Sorrento.

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17 Responses to “The Curse of Paul Sorrento”

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  1. DavidCEisen says:

    Burrell is very streaky. Unless he does have a serious injury, he probably has a few hot streaks left in him. Even in his hideously bad 03 season, he had moments of brilliance (specifically every time Thome was intentionally walked; Burrell took it personally)

    I wouldn’t bet a dollar on him hitting more than 25 HR on the season, but he might have a month where he goes insane. The ZiPS projection looks about right.

    How many close calls has Burrell had this year? I haven’t seen him play.

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  2. Chris R says:

    But the Phillies still signed the wrong guy…right?

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    • Davidceisen says:

      I think, if anything, this shows that the Rays probably should have gone after Dunn instead of Burrell.

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      • Sandy Kazmir says:

        Donkey’s a lefty. Rays needed a righty power threat so Los is sandwiched by righties. If anyone they should have gone after Abreu and his crazy demands. Rays signed PtB before the market truly crashed, so though they got him at a discount, they probably could have saved even more if they had gotten him a couple of weeks later. It’s not like Abreu has torn up the league, either.

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      • Marlowe says:

        If I recall, both Dunn and Ibanez were more than reluctant to DH. The Rays were looking at the same numbers as everyone else who thought it best to keep those guys (and Burrell) out of the field.

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      • Dunn wasn’t interested in becoming a DH.

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    • Based on what we knew at the time? Absolutely.

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  3. Bill says:

    Or maybe he just hit .215 after the All-Star break last year and is continuing that?

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  4. CH says:

    You can’t judge a 3-year deal, given to a 37-year-old player, in the first 2 months of that deal. I didn’t like the contract terms when they were announced, but I really like Ibanez as a player and he seems like a pretty cool guy, so I’m hoping he proves us all wrong by continuing to perform like this through 2011. A season in which he will turn 40.

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      Of course not, but you can look at the the player gotten rid of (Burrell) and the player brought in (Ibanez) and compare the two. Its not immediately apparent that Ibanez is going to decline faster at 37 than Burrell will at 31. You can also look at how long the Phillies team has a likelihood of competing for a championship (2 to 3 years), and measure the deal that way.

      Also assuming that Ibanez starts to decline, his biggest decline is going to come in the field (where is UZR is higher than what is expected anyway). If in the third year of the contract Ibenez is good bat (wOBA~ 350) with a terrible glove, the Phils could trade him to an AL team looking for a DH.

      The Phils were obviously thinking short term with the Ibanez signing. They want to win again. Call it incompetence if you like, but they managed to sign the league leader in .ISO and wOBA so far.

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      • CH says:

        I don’t think you can trade his salary to a team looking for a DH. The teams with the money available to take on $11.5 a year tend to have plenty of candidates for the DH role. Or, if you can trade him, you have to eat at least half of his salary.

        Plus, I never called it “incompetence,” although some others might have. I just said I didn’t like the terms of the contract itself. It’s not that Raul Ibanez isn’t a good enough player to sign, it’s that they’re paying him too much and for 1 more year that I would have liked. If they gave him a 2 year deal for $8 mil per year, I would have loved the deal. That would be $16 mil guaranteed instead of $31.5 mil guaranteed. That’s a significant difference, and the $15.5 mil that they would have saved could be spent on upgrading a pitching staff that drops off precipitously after Hamels.

        So, again, let’s wait until 2011 to say it was a good move, or at least until September.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        I should have added that the Phillies would have to eat some of the salary.

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