Richard Hidalgo – 2006 Fleer

December 10, 2010

The Baseball Prospectus Cover Curse

First, notice the new sub-title?

I think it’s apt.

Now, on to Mr. Hidalgo.

What the hell happened to him, except the Baseball Prospectus cover curse?

Baseball Prospectus started publishing their book in the late 90’s. At first, they used a blurry photo of a player that I couldn’t identify. For the 2000 edition, they used a photo of Adrian Beltre.

In 2001, it was Richard Hidalgo. For 2002, Adam Dunn was the cover boy, and Johs Phelps was on the cover in 2003.

From 2004 onward, they’ve either used no picture on the cover, or a group of six or so players.

Why the change?

Well, in 2000 Beltre had a good year but not a breakout year, and then he regressed from 2001-03.  His 2004 was a monster, but they were expecting that much, much earlier at BP land.

Adam Dunn’s 2002 was again good, but more was expected of him. His offensive positives are limited by his negatives (defense and strikeouts). Strikeouts aren’t as bad as many think; they do limit the upside of a player’s offense though. I do remember a hilarious (well to me anyway) debate in Reds radio land about why players like Dunn don’t lay down a bunt with a runner on first and no one out, you know, like they used to. Well, there’s a simple reason for that.

“If you play for one run, that’s all you get,” says Earl Weaver. When Dunn can hit the ball to Covington, Kentucky you don’t just play for one run.

Josh Phelps probably was the last straw for BP putting one player on the cover. He had so much potential, and was every sabremetric geek’s dream player. He supposedly learned strike zone judgment in AA in 2001, and his 2002 in Toronto he had a great 1/2 season. If, if, if he’d keep up the improvement, watch out.

One problem, though. He couldn’t make it through the season without getting hurt.

His power leveled off, the strikeouts came back, and the injuries piled up. After 2003, the four cover boys of BP’s annual tome were not stars leading the new wave of sabremetric baseball players – they were struggling along as pitchers found their weaknesses.

This leads us to Mr. Hidalgo. After a decent 1998 debut, and a 1999 where he showed signs of struggle, his 2000 was tremendous. Power, some patience, speed, defense – it added up to a 6.6. WAR. He was 25. Certainly the good times would roll on.

Ker-PLOP! He dropped from 44 home runs to 19. Every other relevant measure was down. In 2002, it was even worse. Hidalgo had an OPS+ of 147 in 2000 and 87 in 2002. YIKES!

Of course, in 2003 he went crazy again with a season almost as good as 2000, but instead of a rising star he was seen as mercurial and ‘inconsistent’ (as Joe Morgan would put it).

In 2004, he was off to a bad start again, and sent along to the Mets for almost next-to-nothing. His power returned but that was it. He elected free agency and signed with Texas.

His one season as a Ranger, pictured here, was frustrating as well. He devolved into an ‘all-or-nothing’ hitter with a low BA and OBP but only occasional power bursts. He didn’t return to Texas and signed a free agent contract with Baltimore in 2006. He didn’t make the club, and he toyed around independent leagues and the Mexican League briefly since then.

You have to wonder why Hidalgo received a Fleer card in 2006. He was a free agent as of November 2005 and didn’t sign with anyone until February 2006. Gary Matthews, Jr. played in 43 more games in 2005 but didn’t get a card in that Fleer set.

Very odd, very strange. Much like Hidalgo’s rise and fall (and rise and plummet).



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