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Chat: Jim Baker

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday March 14, 2005 7:00 PM ET chat session with Jim Baker.

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Jim Baker is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Jim Baker: Let's get started.

Jeremy (NC): BP has Andy Dominque listed for the Red Sox on the depth charts. He was in Mets camp and then sent to minor league camp some time last week. Just wanted to point that out.

Jim Baker: Dominique gets my vote as the most obscure member of the 2004 World Champion Red Sox. He's certainly better than Jason Phillips ca. 2004.

Johnny (Urbana, IL): dude start the chat

Jim Baker: It's on! I apologize for being late. Thanks for hanging in there. I'll curse a lot to make it worth your while since everybody likes ol' fashioned cussin!

brianjamesoak (Alameda, CA): Not sure if this went through last time: Any thoughts on the Prior injury? Swelling sounds fairly routine for spring training, but the reports have quite a serious tone, throwing around words like 'indefinitely.'

Jim Baker: The Cubs are certainly downplaying it, as I think we all would if we were in their shoes. Speaking fatalistically, this really stinks because this was the one guy we could all point to and say, "here's the next 300-game winner" when tons of articles are being written about how we're never going to see another. The fact that his injury is unrelated to last year's is either good or bad, when you think about it. Let's take it as a positive sign. Love or hate the Cubs, you've got to want there to be iconic pitchers like this in the game.

dantroy (davis, ca): For all the talk of Pedro and Beltran, the Mets will need healthy and productive season from Piazza, Reyes, and Floyd to get very far. What do you expect from those players and from the team as a whole?

Jim Baker: I think every player on the Mets comes with a question mark, don't you? Pedro certainly does. Beltran should be fairly predictable and you can always count on Mike Cameron to do certain things well and certain other things not so. David Wright will NOT have a sophomore slump. I would never count on Floyd for anything.

The Centerfielder (ann arbor): When will Stoneman et al convince Scioscia that, as great and dedicated a guy as he is, Erstad has no business playing first base?

Jim Baker: This is a sticky wicket, to borrow a phrase from a different sport -- albeit a related one. The organization laid a big pile of money on D.E., so he clearly has the approval of upstairs to some extent. They won the division with him there last year, playing 124 games. They could go all the way in spite of his presence there.

tcfwine (New York): In honor of the Veterans Committee, I have a Hall of Fame question. Which current player is most likely to get unfairly snubbed by the HOF? My pick is Mike Mussina, the most underrated pitcher of the past 20 years. He has plenty of erroneous and/or pointless and/or absurd strikes against him. 1. Never won 20 (robbed of two 20 win seasons due to strikes, notoriously bad run support in his prime) 2. No Cy Young Awards (8 top 6 finishes!) 3. Not a big game pitcher (patently absurd, when you look at his incredible postseason numbers) 4. Never Won a Ring (certainly pitched well enough, for his part). What do you think?

Jim Baker: I remember writing back in 2001 that Mussina was on a semi-Hall trajectory. I thought that would improve when he got to New York and started getting the support needed to rack up the big Win numbers Hall voters love so much. He's only been below league average in ERA two times and has a wonderful career winning percentage -- far better than a host of Hallers. I think he still has a good chance, especially if he sticks around another four or five seasons and wins another 50 games. A 265-145 career record would be hard to ignore.

Joshua Buergel (Seattle, WA): Jim, Which name is worse? The Nationals, or the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim?

Jim Baker: The Angels. At least the Nats have some historical background to theirs. The Angels name has the stench of a marketing team about it, doesn't it? It's like a name from Russian literature, over-long and over-used.

Joshua (Coronado, CA): When do the Padres give up on Sean Burroughs?

Jim Baker: How do you give up on a guy with a swing like that? Isn't it worth having him around just to watch that sweet whip? Results be damned, I say. Joking aside, he's only 24 this year. There are some things to like there, although the power shortage is disturbing. Oh, and he's not walking enough. OK, give him another year, how's that?

No 300 Winners? (Hall of Fame): Randy & Moose say Hi

Jim Baker: Getting back to the 300-game winners, what I meant was that most writers are saying that IF Johnson gets there, then the next generations will not produce any. I think that's wrong. Someone -- perhaps not Prior -- will come along and defy the limits of the times and make it happen. Who are we to say that someone isn't going to make it to age 44?

heavyhitter41 (Bloomington, MN): Who would you rather have on your fantasy team (AVG, OBP, SLG, HR, RBI, SB) Bellhorn or Vidro?

Jim Baker: I'd go with Bellhorn for the simple reason is that we're not quite sure how RFK is going to play over 81 games these days.

lentzner (Fremont, CA): The Nationals is a great name. The team is terrible and will be that way for the foreseeable future. OTOH, the Angels have a ridiculous name and should be pretty darn good for the foreseeable future. Bad names are good? Kind of like the old saw that the army with the best uniforms always loses. Not a question - just spouting off. :)

Jim Baker: That's OK. That's why I'm here for. I never heard that line about the losing armies, but it's a good one. I'm trying to think if there are any exceptions and none come to mind. The Napoleanic Wars had great unis on both sides, though, didn't they? Oh well, that's for my later chat on Military Prospectus. See y'all there!

Jason A (Chicago, IL): I love the many items available at BP Prospectus. Since BP writes many articles regarding team construction / transactions, I think it would be neat if in the statistic area would be team rosters with salary information spread out for this season and beyond. That way we can play GM alongside BP staff in evaluating trades and roster construction. Anyway, I think many readers would also like it. Thanks

Jim Baker: Good idea, Jason. Salaries, in some cases, are probably a little too complex to be boiled down to one number in a column, but I see where you're going with this.

lentzner (Fremont): Any predictions on who the first Japanese HoF'er? I think Ichiro! has the best shot. Everybody loves a high BA. Matsui (the larger) could be a dark horse. He is pretty young and seems to have gotten into a groove as of last year.

Jim Baker: I just read a very compelling case for Sadahara Oh in the SABR Research Journal. I had never considered the matter before and am warming to the idea. I'm of the opinion that baseball is the game the world should love and what better way to reach out to one of the best players never to be in the majors of the United States?

KoopaTroopa (Montevideo, Uruguay): Why is everybody so sure every year is the year Griffey Jr. will hit 50 homers again? I am a fairly new baseball fan (first game i saw was 2000 WS) so I think I am unbiased about him, and all I see is a player whose best days are way behind him, and who probably isnīt gonna have a power spike in his mid-thirties.

Jim Baker: That you only saw your first game five years ago and you're already using phrases like "power spike" is pretty impressive! Griffey will never hit 50 homers again. I'd like to see him play 50 games again, though. I think he has a couple of 30-homer years left in him if he can log 120 games.

DavidCrowe (Canada): Well if Ichiro plays the requisite 10 years (he'll be 36) - Wouldn't you call that a no-brainer

Jim Baker: Not unless Oh gets in first. I'm thinking that they might waive the 10-year thing for Ichiro and let his years in the Japanese bigs count. You just don't know. There is much political coin to be made from getting top Japanese players into Cooperstown.

Jason A (Chicago): How will these players perform (above or below) their PECOTA projections: Jaret Wright, Zack Greinke, Kelvim Escobar?

Jim Baker: Wright: below. Greinke: above. Escobar: right in the neighborhood. I don't think PECOTA could find a lot of comps for Greinke. Maybe he's this generation's 300-game winner that we were discussing earlier.

coreyk626 (Chicago, IL): Hi, Jim. Any chance for a return of the Mystery Matchup of the Week? Please?

Jim Baker: Hi Corey. Always nice to hear from an old Baker's Dozen reader. I could throw a few in there in 2005, I suppose. A lot of weeks it really hurt my brain to come up with those, so I will do what I can. (For those who didn't read Baker's Dozen, I used to take one matchup for the week and give clues to which teams were involved and let the readers guess at it. It was good fun. Nobody died from it.)

DrLivy (Charleston, WV): Can Rick Ankiel really make it as an outfielder? I think the Cards might just want to bring him north as a utility outfielder and give him some spot work as a mop-up man and see if he can get his act together. After all, he did have a 32-3 K/BB ratio at all levels last year.

Jim Baker: I'm liking this mini-trend wherein teams are willing to let guys play both ways. There is something very appealing about it. I mean, we all understand why pitchers can't hit, but do we really ACCEPT it? All of us think that a professional athlete who grew up in the game and was batting (oftentimes well) in high school and college should be able to get by in the majors. It makes sense, doesn't it? Yet, we have a hundred years of evidence that says it doesn't. I think it's a good idea to bring him along in this fashion and certainly fits in with the occasionally non-conventional way La Russa has approached things over the years.

george r (omaha): What are your picks for the major awards (MVP, Cy Young, ROYs) this year?

Jim Baker: It's too early for this, George. I have a hard enough time picking how teams will finish, let alone awards. The thing about predicting awards is this: you're not only picking who will have decent seasons, you're picking how a group of voters will react to those seasons. Sometimes, they get it all wrong and there's no way to predict that. One prediction I will make: Bobby Abreu will get hosed again. How about a repeat for Santana for the Cy?

KoopaTroopa (Montevideo, Uruguay): Thanks Jim, but the thing is I watch only 2 or 3 games a month, so most of my baseball info comes from the web, so it is only natural that I like "numbers" more than "tools". Iīve got a question about the Devil Rays. Are they ever going to contend? Is that franchise doomed?

Jim Baker: I've heard from several readers recently who live in countries where baseball is not much on the radar and it fascinates me that they gravitated immediately to the most intense end of the fan spectrum: BP readership. I think it speaks well of them. It's like starting kindergarten on Wednesday and being in high school by the following Monday.

To answer your question, the Devil Rays are doomed until they change management and/or ownership. The treadmill will not stop, although, for the first time, they have some serious talent in the pipeline. Until management shows it knows what to do with such a windfall, however, I will maintain they're not going anywhere, really (unless they swap divisions with Detroit.)

rma111 (Los Angeles): Where do you see the Dodgers finishing this year ? Some holes and big question marks persist on the offense despite a fairly solid pitching staff. Shades of 2003, perhaps.

Jim Baker: When is the last time the finish in the NL West was a given? The Dodgers made some very misguided moves this offseason, but I still think they have enough there to win the division, depending on who else shows up with guns blazing. Colorado and Arizona won't and the Giants? Man, I don't know about them. That leaves the Padres and you could go crazy marking the exact point in time when they'll finally get cohesified. It seems like L.A. could win this division by eight games or come in third.

Dan (Boulder): How about a Pizza Feed in Denver? Does the Rockies constant change in plans make it difficult to schedule?

Jim Baker: They don't allow me near the pizza feeds ever since I ate all 15 pies and smeared sauce all over a Barnes & Noble in Austin, Texas last year, but your idea sounds like a good one, Dan.

principal (Evansville, IN): Perhaps the new fans focus on statistical evaluation shows how nonsensical, even mythical the traditional methods of evaluation are. Oh, and perhaps your kindegarten analogy is a subtle indictment of the American school system?

Jim Baker: First point: well taken. Consider all the crappy "baseball books for boys" we all had to wade through as kids until we finally got our heads screwed on straight in later life by the Abstracts or BP. Someone from another culture who comes to the game at 20 doesn't have years of reading Baseball Digest and listening to talking heads drone on about "knowing how to win." They are clean, intelligent slates.

Second point: not at all. I happen to think our school systems are, by and large, very good. What we often lack in this country are parents who make homes where learning is valued. Some homes have no books in them at all. None. That's not the school system's fault.

dannew (tokyo): What's the over/under on games played before someone on the Reds gets hurt enough to let Wily Mo play? What are the Reds going to do with Wily Mo? Let him rot on the bench if everyone is healthy? Play him? Trade him? Is Wily going to turn into a player that the Yankees will regret having traded?

Jim Baker: Being the fourth outfielder on the Reds is like being a starter anywhere else. It's just a matter of time. Pena is still only 23, so the Reds can be patient. He won't rot, I'm sure of it.

As for the Yankees, they live life with no regret. They buy their way out of their unpleasant memories.

Rich Aurilia (Sarasota, Fla.): Will I win the starting SS job or should I look forward to riding the pine untill Machado returns and I'm designated for assignment?

Jim Baker: Rich: it was so cool that year you hit 37 homers. If you could just get back to your career slugging average of .435, all would be forgiven and many, many teams would welcome you with open arms.

Evan (Vancouver, BC): I want to take this opportunity to thank you for writing articles no one else does. Whether it's your absurdist humour (the only werewolf joke in BP history) or your willingness to defend positions no one else will (Non-voting, Wally Backman), you're providing a great service.

Jim Baker: Thank you, Evan. I usually don't post these sorts of things, but I needed a morale boost.

KarateChopArod (NY): Are the Marlins the most overrated pre season team? Many people are calling them division favorites while I have seen ZIPS projections that have them as a mediocre .500 team.

Jim Baker: I was just poking around one of those offshore betting sites and the over/under on the Marlins is 86. The Mariners, on the other hand, are at 81. I'm thinking that's more ambitious than the Marlins winning 86, so, no, I don't think Florida is the most overrated team.

kevin (takoma park, md): Another morale booster. The article you wrote for Baseball Abstract in '84 or '85 about taking your niece to a ballgame is perhaps the sweetest thing I've ever read about baseball. As the father of a 9 year old and 6 year old, will think about it when I take them to see the Nats this year.

Jim Baker: Thanks, Kevin, but I do believe that article was written by Mike Kopf. I wish Mike wrote more, because he always had an interesting take on things. I'll tell him you liked the piece. Maybe it will inpsire him.

Always, always take kids to ballgames and don't let them go on the rock climb or the other crap they have as distractions now. What is the deal with that? A game is two to three hours long. When did teams decide they couldn't draw people unless they filled the outfield with a bunch of nonsense. Man, I sound curmudgeonly, but keep the kids watching the game so that the next generation will like our national game even more than this one and the one before it.

principal (Evansville): Are all the Reds questions a harbringer of Eric Milton winning this year's Cy Young? Didn't I read a Baseball Digest about him brimming with heart and moxie and instinct?

Jim Baker: Speaking of offshore gambling, here's a proposal for your gambling houses: the over/under on the number of homers Mr. Milton will allow in 2005. Look out Bert Blyleven!

Einhard (Spring Valley, NY): Why is there no discussion of Brad Fullmer? Is his injury career ending? I would think that his hitting would elicit interest from somebody otherwise.

Jim Baker: You would think that, because he's just the sort of guy teams usually go for: impressive strength, glaring power in the right circumstances. He's on the bad side of 30 now, and can't play the field much. If you can't do that, then that eliminates a lot of teams. Doesn't he strike you as the kind of guy the Yankees would have hanging around the bench?

Jason A (Chicago, IL): Who are your picks to either out perform & under perform their mean PECOTA projection?

Jim Baker: I got a lot of questions about this. PECOTA, by admission of its creators, tends to be a little conservative -- especially on the upper echelon players. We know, for instance, that the best pitcher in the game is going to have a better VORP than the 64.6 that it sees for Randy Johnson -- the highest PECOTA projection for 2005. Just who is going to better that? Santana seems like a good bet. Schilling. Greinke will outperform his 33 prediction. He'll go over 40, don't you think?

Look for players who are coming off injuires. PECOTA hits them pretty hard. If they've recovered, they'll put their projections to rest early.

tenerelli (orange county, ca): How good do you think Bonderman, Harden, Pineiro will be this year. Their PECOTA projections are rather low. Is this because of their young age and limited majori league experience. How do you see them performing this year??

Jim Baker: An interesting trio. Bonderman and Harden are on the rise while Pineiro is on the rebound. Harden and Pineiro's PECOTAs are in the low 20s, which sounds about right. Bonderman is at 18 and I could see him going into the high 20s. There's no hurry, though. If he stays healthy, he will contend for a Cy Young Award someday.

KoopaTroopa (Montevideo, Uruguay): When (if ever) are the Yankees getting young (I mean having at least half their regulars below 30 years old). Canīt they concentrate on younger FA instead of going for the "proven veterans"?

Jim Baker: Last question as I have a column to write and it appears that, once again, the little column elves are not coming to do my work for me.

The Yankees do not need to ever get younger. Ever. As long as the money flows like Lightning Creek down a wino's gullet, they will be able to choose only the finest and most properly aged veterans. Men like Carl Pavano, Tony Womack and Jaret Wright -- wait, scratch those. You know what I'm saying, though. It's a truism in sports, talent will go where the money is. In soccer, where there are many, many major leagues, the richest clubs end up with the best players and so it is in baseball with the Yankees, the MF United of America. With their money, the can treat the rest of the sport like a giant farm system. They are, in a way, in the top tier of an elaborate pyramid scheme.

Jim Baker: Thanks to all who wrote in. Talk to you soon.


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