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Chat: Christina Kahrl

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday March 28, 2005 1:00 PM ET chat session with Christina Kahrl.

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Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Christina Kahrl: Hi everybody, I just got back from Phoenix and some spring training fun of my own, so let's forget about that miserably rainy Virginia day I can see through my window, and talk about the great game...

Cris E (St Paul, MN): Do you think the Twins' handling of youngsters like Morneau, Ford, Mauer, Kielty et al is intentional? It seems they run up enough service time to wreck the RoY candidacy but they stop short of Super Two status and don't allow for a full time role. There are probably two sides to this: a cynical grinding down of the kids' arbitration postition or a wise Earl Weaver-like transition to the bigs. What's your take?

Christina Kahrl: Hi Cris, thanks for this and so many other questions... Can I pick none of the above? In all seriousness, where we have seen teams manipulate service time (the White Sox of the late '80s come to mind), I don't think that the Twins are doing anything of the sort. And, to give Terry Ryan credit where credit is due, Kielty and Ford were worked into playing rotations the could fulfill. Mauer... well, he won the job, he got hurt, and they seem determined to press him back into action, even if his future as a catcher is in doubt.

Different from all of these is what happened with Morneau. Not sticking with him from May (at the latest) was a major miscalculation, but one inspired by the hope that Doug Mientkiewicz would resume being the player he'd been in 2003. The Twins should have made space for him, but it wasn't like the competition in the division ever inspires much fear, so the Twins futzed around.

So, while I'd like to see more Weaver-style usage patterns, I don't see this as a case of manipulating service time.

jonlewallen (Washington, DC): I know you get tons of fantasy baseball questions, but...I drafted Brian Lawrence with my final pick. Is he worth keeping, or should I drop him for someone like Rich Haren or Jose Lima (don't laugh, he has RP eligibility). This year's book is great as always.

Christina Kahrl: Jon, first off, thank you for the compliment; this year's book is a testament to the talent we're fortunate to have on the team.

As for the fantasy question, keeping in mind I'm more of a reality-oriented type of fan, you really ought to find a way to carry both Lawrence and Harden, unless you're in some sort of all-star league with eight or fewer teams or something. If it's a keeper league, though, go get Harden.

If you're talking Danny Haren instead of Rich Harden, skip all that, and keep Lawrence.

TGisriel (Baltimore): It looks like the Orioles will put Riley in the 5th spot in the rotation (despite pithcing poorly this spring) and will put Chen in the bullpen (despite pitching better in the spring). Chen also pitched better last year. This appears to be a team going with potential and avoiding cutting a player out of options (Riley) rather than being over-impressed with spring training performance. I actually approve (but I have a soft spot for Riley). What are your thoughts?

Christina Kahrl: Hi Tom, as always, a pleasure to "see" you here... I share you're hopes for Riley, but I think it's safe to say he's coming to the end of his Orioles career. Not that I agree, especially if the fifth starter winds up being Rick Bauer. However, Chen should get plenty of middle relief work in a rotation that will again see a lot of early exits from its starters. Bedard will be handled carefully, Ponson is an multipurpose explosion waiting to happen, and I'm not a big believer in Danny Cabrera. With Chen, the question is going to be how he handles this, or if he again winds up making himself unpopular.

jgalt73 (Portland, OR): You're Dusty Baker, but with your own brain transplanted into him (or does transplant imply that something actally has to be removed first). Would you trade for bullpen help now, or wait to see what the 6 armed monster you're trying to tame can do for a couple of months?

Christina Kahrl: I suspect if I woke up as Dusty Baker, I'd spend a lot of time bemoaning my fate, enough so that I wouldn't have time to do something as silly as trading for bullpen help. The Cubs have the talent to field an above-average pen; it remains Dusty's responsibility to recognize that guys like Jon Leicester can help him right now.

The real question is why the Cubs are so high on Ryan Dempster, and why they feel the need to ditch Glendon Rusch in the pen, but those are questions that involve unzipping Dusty's brainpan to see which way the wheels are turning.

lennyd (Portland): Hi Chris, Whose your pick for the surprise team, and most dissapointing team this season

Christina Kahrl: Hi Lenny... I know the Indians are in vogue among my fellow statheads, but I'm probably higher on them than even that. In part, it's because of my unreasonable expectation that Shapiro will do what it takes at the deadline to help himself (without giving away the future), something Terry Ryan has, in contrast, never done.

A more interesting choice for surprise team? The Dodgers, who I really think could end up with the best record in the NL, no doubt surprising the people who were writing about Paul DePodesta as if he'd just murdered every living O'Malley and thrown the bodies down a mine shaft.

Most disappointing team? The White or Astros. The Sox will fall to fourth, but the Astros could finish last.

impatton (Seoul, Korea): Just nitpicking...but...Why did you mention Scott Boras' name twice in your acknowledgement in the 2005 BP book? Are they two differnt persons sharing the same name? Or did you guys, at that time, feel thankful to him twice as much? Or do you send books with typos to Asian people? ;-)

Christina Kahrl: This year's book had an unusually bumpy production process, the responsibility for which is spread pretty broadly, but for which I feel particularly responsible. It's like that every spring, of course, the bittersweet recognition that some things weren't fixed in time in what is always a madcap scramble to put the book together. Mistakes were made, and when in doubt, blame me.

dianagramr (Brooklyn): Hi Chris! Which do you think will happen first this year: Juan Gone goes on DL ... or ... Bonds comes off DL?

Christina Kahrl: Juan Gone goes before Barry bounces back.

Chris B (Beverly, MA): What do you think of the Red Sox having Nixon bat in the 2 hole against right handers and moving Renteria to the fifth spot? Are they doing it to maximize Nixon's OBP and Renteria's 315 average the last 3 years while hitting fifth?

Christina Kahrl: I love the idea of having Nixon bat second, since it's a lot like when the White Sox dropped Fisk into the #2 slot and scored runs by the truckload in '83. Tactically, having him bat behind Damon won't create that many opportunities to force an opposing lefty to see a right-handed thumper coming in to pinch-hit for Nixon, but they can pinch-run Payton for him, if such was Francona's inclination.

As for Renteria hitting fifth, I'm less excited about that, but that's the problem with spending $32 million on a shortstop who should probably bat seventh or lower in this lineup.

prhood (St. John's): Thanks for the opportunity to ask a question. There seems to be almost universal consensus among the BP fraternity that Danny Kolb is unlikely to be an adequate replacement for John Smoltz in the Atlanta bullpen. And truthfully his 2005 spring has not been very productive. Who do you see as the most likely replacement for Kolb should he not prove effective? The other members of the bullpen who seem most effective so far this spring are: 1. Roman Colon (7 IP, 7K/2BB and a 1.29 ERA) 2. Adam Bernero (8 IP, 12K/3BB and a 2.25 ERA) Are these probable candidates or is someone else more likely?

Christina Kahrl: I don't have a lot of faith in Kolb, wondrous new changeup or no, and less still in Colon and Bernero, but one of the great things about the Braves is that they understand that finding good relievers usually isn't all that tough. They got Alejandro Pena for nothing back in the day, and despite making a mistake with Kolb, I think they realize they can scare somebody else up easily enough. In-house, Chris Reitsma is probably their best choice.

Dan (Boulder): Who do you like for the five spot in the Oakland rotation assumming Meyer starts the year in AAA? Yabu, Saarloos or Etherton?

Christina Kahrl: I'd prefer Meyer over any of these, but if the picks are limited to these three, then I'd pick Saarloos. Yabu has been awful, and wasn't all that great in Japan recently, and Etherton hasn't pitched much better than Yabu.

Mike W (Chicago): Worst bench - Cubs or Yankees. Discuss.

Christina Kahrl: It's the Cubs, easily. Henry Blanco, Neifi Perez, Jose Macias... when Jerry Hairston Jr. might be your most dangerous weapon on the bench, you're in a world of hurt.

People Magazine (NYC): So who is the best looking author at BP?

Christina Kahrl: We're generally not a lovely lot, but I'd probably have to pick Jonah Keri, although he's too modest to say so.

J.B. (Boston): Who will win the NL Cy Young in '05? Pedro, Schmidt, Sheets? Someone else?

Christina Kahrl: I'm leaning towards Sheets, in part because I expect the Brewers to score more runs this year, which ought to provide him with the run support that might make his wins total that much more glossy. Pedro could, if he made 25+ starts, but we'll see about that. Without Bonds, Schmidt could go 12-18 or something, so it would have to take leading the league in ERA and some smart voting from the writers, and I wouldn't bet on either of those things.

Dan (Kearny, NJ): Willie Randolph is apparently thinking about batting David Wright 8th in the lineup. This seems like a terrible idea to me.(And no, I don't have him in fantasy.) What do you think?

Christina Kahrl: I'm not sabermetrically orthodox in that I do think there are advantages to be accrued through lineup management, so dropping Wright to the 8th slot would be a really silly thing to do IMO. I guess too much exposure to Joe Torre has rotted out the common sense circuit in Willie's wiring.

Josh E. (Boulder, CO): Hey Chris, I'm a long time Cincinnati fan, and the rumors of trading Wily Mo to the Mets or Nationals for pitching, or possibly Griffey to the Astros for four prospects seems like a pretty good idea considering our glut of outfielding and lack of pitching. Who do you think they're asking for, will they get it, and is it a good move? Thanks!

Christina Kahrl: First off, the Reds' pitching problems are overstated. The fact that it looks like they'll break camp with Brandon Claussen in the fifth slot is an indicator that things are better. Not great, but a lot of mediocrity in the rotation would make for a significant improvement, and in total, I think Dan O'Brien acquired a good amount of mediocre pitching. Dealing Griffey or Pena now would be a mistake. I mean, who would you get from the Nationals? Antonio Osuna? Joey Eischen? Gack. I wouldn't trade Pena or Griffey for Ohka or Loaiza or Armas. Better to keep your chips for future barters, and see what's available at the deadline.

pjlahey (wrigleyville): Dusty recenly said Calvin Murray still 'remains in the mix' to make the roster, thus leaving out J- Dub and Kelton. Is the man serious? Are we going to see Steve Randolph instead of Weutz, Leicester, or even 'Wild' Bill Ohman? How will the Cubs roster shake out?

Christina Kahrl: A lot of Cubs questions, but what can you say, Murray used to play for Baker, so the man is probably serious. Dusty apparently thinks that runs happen, as opposed to building a lineup that scores them. I think Dubois will win a spot, but Dusty's unfortunate faith that he has to have twelve pitchers in April, when off-days are plentiful, indicates how insensible some people can be.

mjw024 (Burke, Va): Hi Chris, Do you agree? The Nats spring training hats (interlocking D & C) is way better than the offical script W.

Christina Kahrl: Disagree. As downright swishy as that ugly W is, the DC looks stupid too. The Potomac Nationals have a better logo, although the P in the flagpole would be better in a different font, with less of a lean. Switch to a W, add the banner, and the Nationals would finally have a log worth having.

emanski (trenton): Greene and Burroughs are, according to BP's defensive metrics, quite weak on the left side. That does not match up with my observations nor does it agree with what I've read in any number of analysis-minded sites. What are your thoughts?

Christina Kahrl: That all defensive metrics are crude tools, designed to different things. The great thing about the Davenport Fielding Translations are how they level the field between major and minor league stats, or overseas number. Still, like all defensive metrics, they provide a broad hint at a player's defensive skill. What I've said about Derek Jeter and defensive metrics still applies: look at a lot of different metrics; if they consistently rank a guy at the bottom, he's probably not a great defender. If he consistently ranks at the top, he's probably a great defender. Emphases are on 'probably' in both cases.

Patrick Sparks (Lexington): It's 2007. Who's the Phillies CF? Lofton, Micheals, Byrd, Bourn, Roberson, or Golson? Please tell me its not Lofton.

Christina Kahrl: Much depends on what happens in the meantime, of course, since if the right vet is available for the right chunk of change, Ed Wade might sign him. But among these choices, ot's probably Bourn, with Michaels in spot duty at most. Keep in mind, Golson probably won't be ready at that point.

Malcolm Little (Acadia): What has been the worst move a team has done simply because of Spring Training statistics? Flip-flopping Batista from the bullpen to the rotation and back to keep Chacin?

Christina Kahrl: I actually like the Batista move, as long as it's intended as a pump-and-dump, where the Jays pump up Batista's value by letting him rack up a few saves, and then dump him on the Cubs or Braves for the right package. It isn't like having Batista start will put the Jays in second place, after all.

The worst moves? Dropping Mark Bellhorn to the bottom of the lineup isn't so sharp, and trusting that Pablo Ozuna makes a better bench player than Willie Harris doesn't seem so bright, but these are minor things.

The bigger moves I'd criticize? I think entrusting CF to Alex Sanchez over playing Jonny Gomes takes a franchise-specific patented brand of stupidity. I'm also not so excited about Craig Biggio's move back to second base.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): Real life opportunity aside, do you think you'd make a good GM?

Christina Kahrl: No, I would not, and this is where I think I've been unfairly critical of most GMs over the years. A GM has to be the face of the franchise, has to have an even keel, and has to have considerable diplomatic skill. It's not enough to simply know the data or read scouting reports; it is a question of leadership.

By contrast, I'm a bit on the mercurial side of mercurial.

Jeremy (NC): Every year a few teams that no one expects to compete end up in the race until September. This doesn't mean the Indians, Dodgers and A's, but more like the Nationals, Diamondbacks or Royals. Who would you pick this year to do something like this?

Christina Kahrl: As I said last week, I think the Snakes are one of the most interesting teams around, but I don't see them contending. The surprise could be in the NL Central, because if something goes very wrong in St. Louis, then a team like the Reds has a shot. Not that I expect it, but the Cards are old, and an injury or two in the rotation could definitely spice things up.

stanky (san francisco): Branch Rickey had Allan Roth "chart" in play batted ball locations. If he noticed a hitter hitting more balls to the opposite field it meant,to Rickey, his bat speed and timing were slowing down(time to trade a year too early). Any discusion of this in BP?

Christina Kahrl: No, but keep in mind that here, you're addressing one of our clear weaknesses. I'd suggest that's the sort of information that is in the province of scouting; admittedly, generating this info, and acting on it, could be one of the thousands of ways in which scouting an performance analysis could wind up having some synergies.

bjmd (N. California): Chris, I just wanted you to know how much I look forward to your work on this site. You are so consistantly funny. It is always a treat to read. No question for the chat- just a word of appreciateion.

Christina Kahrl: You're too kind, but I do appreciate the compliment. That said, where humor meets analysis and insight, for my money there is no better writer than our own Steven Goldman.

Diane Firstman (Brooklyn): I'm thinking that Jose Reyes, with a full offseason of conditioning and a switch back to his natural SS position, will be greatly improved this year, perhaps even to NL all-star sub range. Your opinion?

Christina Kahrl: I'd have to disagree, but that's because I really see Reyes as a player who needs to spend a chunk of the season in Norfolk, working on getting some command of the strikezone.

metsRok (NYC): pls rank who will have... 1. the better 2005 season and 2. most value (or perform the best) over the life of their contract: Benson, Wright, Clement, Ortiz, Pavano, Lieber and Lowe. Thanks

Christina Kahrl: In both cases, I'd pick Clement, although I do think the backlash against the Benson deal is overstated; I'd tab Benson for second in both cases.

Christina Kahrl: With that, I really do need to run, but I'm happy to have spent the last hour with all of you, and hope you're all enjoying spring training as much as I have.


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