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Chat: Rany Jazayerli

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday September 19, 2003 12:00 PM ET chat session with Rany Jazayerli.

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Rany Jazayerli is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Rany Jazayerli: Hey everyone, let's get started. But first, I must ask each of you to bow your heads in a moment of silence, as we lay the Royals' playoff dreams to rest. Thank you.

Mario (Chicago, IL): What do I have to do to get you, Huckaby, and Woolner to write more?

Rany Jazayerli: Well, Keith and I could use a nanny.

Now if I can just convince the group to bring a couple more BP Interns on board…

Bart9102 (Indy): Do you like the Royals chances of defying the plexiglass principle next year?

Rany Jazayerli: It’s not the plexiglass principle – which states that teams that improve dramatically in one season tend to fall back the next – that I’m most worried about. It’s the Johnson Effect, and variations thereof (the Johnson Effect refers to the tendency of teams that outperform their Pythagorean record to regress to the mean the following season). The Royals have been outscored on the season, and they’ve scored more runs and allowed fewer runs than should be expected. Basically, they’re a 73-win team on paper, and they’re likely to finish closer to 73 wins next year than whatever win total they wind up with this season.

Mind you, how many games the Royals win in 2004 is more dependent on what they decide to do with Carlos Beltran than anything else.

David (Burnaby BC): Do you think it matters how well Oakland & Boston do in the playoffs this year or is the sabremetric revolution already in full swing? - who do you see as the next team signing on (other than Toronto)

Rany Jazayerli: As much as we’d like to think that how any team performs in a best-of-seven series doesn’t matter, the reality is that within the industry, there are front offices that are looking for any excuse to resist the Moneyball phenomenon, and if that excuse comes in a seven-game sample size, so be it.

The revolution is in full swing and will continue no matter what, but a World Championship in Oakland or Boston would definitely accelerate the process. If there’s one thing major league teams do well, it’s imitate.

As for which teams might be next, depending on how their GM situation shakes out in the off-season, I could see the Reds getting in line. There are low-level stirrings in Cleveland and Colorado, but the team that is quietly headed towards the front lines of the revolution is – surprise! – the Royals.

Mike (Detroit): How's Chicago treating you, Rany?

Rany Jazayerli: Very well, Mike. I’m so glad I moved here from Detroit – they actually have a major league team here. Two of them.

danielj (Davis): I'm rooting for a Mulder-less A's to win it all this year, as proof that the playoffs have a lot to do with luck. How about you?

Rany Jazayerli: I'd love to see the A's win, but I'd place them second on my pecking order behind the Red Sox, because I think they've got the best team in baseball, and because it would be fun to read Bill Simmons' Last Column and Testament after the Sox win and before the Apocalypse.

Bill Johnson (Los Alamos, New Mexico): An oddity of the BP coverage of the post-season awards this year is that there has been no mention of pitchers as MVP candidates. This is particularly odd given the BP history of derision (which I share) for MVP voters who downgrade or ignore pitchers. So, why aren't you guys (or anyone else, as far as I can tell) thinking of Esteban Loaiza as an MVP candidate? Since it's a pretty marginal crop this year among AL position players, and Loaiza is not only having a terrific year for a contending team but also providing an extremely obvious lift to a pitching staff that needs it, he looks like a natural to me. Opinion?

Rany Jazayerli: It's a fair question. Depending on the metric you use, Loaiza has been worth somewhere between 6 and 7 wins above replacement this year (69 VORP, 6.5 WAR). The only AL player clearly ahead of him is A-Rod; Loaiza falls into the second tier along with Boone, Carlos Delgado, and Bill Mueller.

I think Loaiza's candidacy has two main problems. The minor one is that his season is so unexpected that everyone keeps waiting for him to drop off. The more pertinent one is that, pitching in the AL Central, the quality of his opponents is so weak that his numbers don't have nearly the value that they appear to have on first glance.

He definitely belongs on the ballot, probably in the top half, but he's not a candidate to win it, and in my opinion he doesn't deserve to be.

Eric (Boston MA): How do the Red Sox get through the postseason with only one Pedro?

Rany Jazayerli: With a lineup of nine guys who all have an OPS above 750, an offense that has already set the major league record for extra-base hits in a season, and a better bullpen than anyone wants to give them credit for. Pedro's just the tiebreaker.

Kooz0988 (Seligdorf, WI): How come Seattle fans haven't risen up, stormed Safeco, taken the head of Stand Pat Gillick and put it on top of the space needle? Can you imagine what Paul DiPodesta would do with all those resources and that fan base? The revolution will be televised, live on KING. Mark McLemore will tried for crimes against humanity. Jeff Cirillo will carry his cross through the land to Rainier Beach, where the night sky will alight with his funeral pyre.

Rany Jazayerli: I don't really have an answer here, I just like the question. I must drive through Seligdorf someday.

Pat Gillick commands enormous respect within the industry, but at some point he has to be held accountable for the fact that the Mariners are about to miss the playoffs for the second straight year.

John Collins (Greenville NC): Rany, Love your BP and Rob and Rany stuff. You and Rob have criticized Tony Pena lately for some of his moves. Do you think he ought to be the AL Manager of the Year anyhow?

Rany Jazayerli: Oh, sure. On the whole, Pena has a done an incredible job this season, and who else are you going to give it to? Jerry Manuel? Alan Trammell?

danielj (Davis): You said that major league teams had a penchant for imitation, but I think compared to other sports, they do so a lot less frequently. NFL teams, in particlular, seem to frquently steal the ideas of its opponents. This is odd to me, as the sabermetric ideas championed by BP and others are freely available.

Rany Jazayerli: I should be more specific...it's not simply that baseball teams are prone to imitation, but that they are generally terrified of going against orthodoxy. Football is much more Darwinian than baseball - teams are always trying out new concepts, and the ones that work are going to stick. The West Coast Offense spread like wildfire BECAUSE IT WORKED.

In baseball, within three years after the Cubs announced that they would only use Bruce Sutter in "save situations", every team in baseball was doing the same thing, even though there was (and is) no evidence that using your closer in such a way does your team any good. There was yet no orthodoxy established regarding the use of a closer - the Cubs created one.

But when a team challenges the existing orthodoxy the way Oakland has, three playoff appearances in a row makes hardly a ripple in other team's thinking.

Scott (Evanston, IL): Bonds or Pujols?

Rany Jazayerli: Bonds. You could have saved time and left the third word completely out of your question.

Harvey W. (Cincinnati, OH): Rany: To extend Richie Sexson's contract or not? That is the question facing Doug Melvin. I say let him walk after 2004 if Fielder continues to excel (Midwest League MVP) and accept the draft pick compensation. The three other Brewer fans in existence tell me I am nuts.

Rany Jazayerli: It's a tough call, because Sexson is probably the most underrated power hitter in the game today - he's hit 175 homers over the last five years.

I like Sexson, and he's only 29, but the Brewers are still three years from even thinking about contention, and by that time Prince Fielder should be manning first base. If it's my call, I shop Sexson around this off-season to see if I can add a few more prospects to what might be the most improved farm system in baseball this year. If no good offers emerge, take the picks.

Rod (Corpus Christi, TX): How good is Laynce Nix?

Rany Jazayerli: Very good. He was pushed hard this year, all the way from Double-A, and it shows in his plate discipline (eight walks in 170 AB). But he's young, he's athletic, and he can hit. Plus, he's in an organization that knows how to develop hitters. That's a good place to start.

Darryl (Ocala, FL): Hi, Rany I love Aim For The Head. What do you think of the cluster of AL Outfield prospects: Gabe Gross, Grady Sizemore, David DeJesus, Jeremy Reed, Chris Snelling, Shin-Shoo Choo?

Rany Jazayerli: Uh...great. I'll be sure to let Keith Woolner know...

All six guys you mention are great prospects. Gun to my head, I like Grady Sizemore the most, although I'd take Snelling if we lived in a world where injuries don't occur. (Will Carroll is working on this.)

Ezra (Cambridge, MA): If it were anyone other than Billy Beane signing Hatteberg to a long-term contract or signing Guillen, sabermetricians would have ridiculed these as ridiculous moves. Agree?

Rany Jazayerli: Regarding Hatteberg, yes. But keep in mind we're not cutting Billy Beane some slack because he likes Sabermetrics, but because his track record has earned him the benefit of the doubt.

In the same way, I'm a lot less inclined to ridicule the Braves when they make a move I don't agree with, and no one has ever accused John Schuerholz of reading Bill James.

As for Guillen, what's wrong with giving up three marginal prospects for a player who represents a significant upgrade on the A's alternatives in the outfield? Sabermetrics isn't about the Church of Plate Discipline, it's about making your team better.

Trevor (Billings, MT): Rany, do you have any information or an educated guess on what's going to happen to the Expos?

Rany Jazayerli: What, do I look like Jonah Keri?

Actually, my inside sources tell me that Major League Baseball plans to sell the team to Rachel Phelps this off-season.

Jon (Miami FL): Marlins or Phillies?

Rany Jazayerli: Marlins, on the theory that Jeffrey Loria is two or three degrees removed from the Marlins on the field, whereas the Phillies have to deal with Larry Bowa directly.

Actually, it wouldn't surprise me if the wild card comes out of the NL Central. The Cubs play only Pittsburgh and Cincinnati the rest of the way.

Rany Jazayerli: I've gotta run now, but thanks to everyone who submitted questions. I hope to do this again soon.


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