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March 27, 2003

From The Mailbag

Tout Wars, Pulled Groins, and The Four-Man Rotation Debate Continues

by Baseball Prospectus

BP DOES TOUT WARS

1) As you must have noticed, your team is an all-star team of "guys who deserve more playing time than they've been getting." PECOTA is designed to account for that--but some of those guys (Ginter, Lopez) just aren't going to get the projected playing time.

2) In calculating values, did you use PECOTA weighted means? For guys at the lower end of the value spectrum, making adjustments for their breakout percentages or their 75th or 90th percentile predictions will help you identify people who have a chance to really propel you to a championship (or 9th place), rather than maximize your chances of finishing 3rd/4th. You need high-risk/high-reward players to win such a league.

3) Punt steals, you can't get there from here unless two Cards outfielders go down at the same time. Trade your excess bullpen for wins or more power. Use the UTK light system to identify which of your three closers is most likely to get hurt and trade him early while still healthy.

--DE

Taking your points one at a time:

1) PECOTA isn't suggesting someone like Lopez is going to get say, 600 AB. But if he gets 350-400--and even if Larkin miraculously stays healthy, the Reds are saying Lopez will be a super-UT guy and will get plenty of playing time--he should be good for some homers and all-important steals. Given the weak field of NL SS, we felt that was easily worth $6, even if you disagree with PECOTA's projection of $16.

2) Two things. First, the breakout percentages are already accounted for in the weighted mean forecasts. Secondly, we did include columns for breakout and collapse percentage on the spreadsheet we used on draft day. Some of our investments late in the draft, like Bobby Estalella and Jack Wilson, are players that PECOTA thinks could get better in a hurry.

3) We're not prepared to punt anything this early. Between Dunn, Wilkerson and Lopez, we feel like 40 steals is well within reach. Yes, we'll need to wring some bags out of Robinson, Wilson and a few others for the rest, but we don't believe that most other teams have the kind of set-up where they'd blow us away. So while I'd imagine we might look to trade saves for something down the road, we're not holding ourselves to any one particular area, nor are we abandoning anything right now.

As for using Will's insight to make roster decisions, there's no question we'll lean on him throughout the year.

--Jonah Keri and Nate Silver

PULLED GROINS

My wife pushed me to ask this...what (more or less) happens when a ballplayer "pulls his groin?"

--Ron Goldberg

It's a simple muscle strain, which involves tearing of the muscle to some degree. Pull = strain. To use the rope analogy, any strain has three degrees of seriousness. Imagine a rope. If the rope is nicked, it is like a Grade I strain. A rope with a visible defect that is weakened is a Grade II. A rope that is hanging by a thread or completely torn, that's Grade III.

There's no difference in a pulled groin and a pulled hammy, other than location and pain.

--Will Carroll

BRAD KULLMAN Q&A

Enjoyed your article about four-man rotations with the Reds' Brad Kullman. I have a concept that I would like discussed. Many years ago teams would occasionally go with "short" rest for certain pitchers while keeping others on a regular routine. Sometimes this was dictated by a pennant race, other times because of an injury. My thought is: Could a team open the season with certain pitchers (like a Wakefield, for example) on a four-day pattern, and use the other starters on a five-day rotation? Maybe even revisit the "Sunday starter" idea where an older pitcher (Clemens?) would be scheduled with extra days off. This would necessitate an occasional extra day off for the other starters, which might be beneficial. Also the "rotation" of starters A,B,C,D would not always be in sequence. but perhaps each starter would begin each game with optimal rest and conditioning.

Could certain starters carry the load on a four-day rotation and the remaining others stay on a schedule that is beneficial for each one of them? Why must the entire staff be on one schedule or another, why not the best for each individual starter?

--JS

If you read Brad Kullman's comments closely, you can see that he shares your views about keeping an open mind when it comes to handling a pitching staff. In general, he's advocating a four-man. But more specifically, he's advocating any way that will help the Reds make the best use of their resources, get their best pitchers the most innings, and keep the staff healthy and productive. That can include ideas like a Sunday starter, occasional short rest starts for certain guys, plus a bunch of other ideas.

You can see the challenges that Kullman's facing in persuading the organization to go forward with the plan though. It takes cooperation at all levels, from the people controlling the purse strings to the people calling the shots on the field. It helps a lot that both Bob Boone and Don Gullett are on board with the idea, because properly managing any pitching staff, let alone a four-man that includes all kinds of provisos, requires tremendous attention to detail by the manager and pitching coach. Auto-pilot is not an option.

Sooner or later though, some team that has the front office and field staff on the same page is going to implement a smarter way of handling a pitching staff, and that team's going to gain a significant advantage on the competition.

--JK

PORTLAND BASEBALL AND CASINOS

I know that Portland is considering financing a baseball stadium, and might get proceeds from an Indian tribe in exchange for allowing a casino to be built in Portland. With baseball's stand on gambling being as stringent as it is, do you think that this would be a conflict of interest for the potential owners? I don't know whether or not the proposed casino would have a sports book or not or if that even matters in the first place.

--John Jacobsen

MLB's primary concern is maximizing the price it gets for the Expos. That means getting a new stadium built in the Expos' new home, with the new owner getting most or all of the revenues without having to pay for any of it. I don't think MLB would distinguish between a taxpayer-funded stadium and a casino-funded stadium, so long as the casino didn't operate a sports book (which it wouldn't).

--Doug Pappas

BOTTOM OF THE NINTH

We all know that Selig puts the short-term ahead of the long-term. With that in mind, he should move the Expos to Las Vegas. He should then reinstate Pete Rose to appease the average (read: Who cares about the rules?) fan. Once Rose is reinstated, hire him to manage the MLB-owned Vegas Vagabonds. This may seem crazy, but there's a way Bud can make sure Rose behaves, and temporarily (as always) inflate the value of MLB's sagging TV rights. In partnership with FOX, have the network follow him around 24/7, with TV cameras rolling, to make sure he doesn't gamble. They can package the new reality show "Temptation Desert" with the playoff rights at the next negotiation. In addition, for those real die-hards, there will be a 24-hour live feed available as part of the Extra Innings package.

--AP

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