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Chat: Zachary Levine

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday April 23, 2013 1:00 PM ET chat session with Zachary Levine.

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"Skewed Left" author Zachary Levine shares his thoughts on the first few weeks of the season.

Zachary Levine: Live from THE State University of New York at Albany, which according to Baseball-Reference.com has never produced a major leaguer, let's chat.

BobcatBaseball (Athens, OH): So the Padres...what is going on?

Zachary Levine: I don't think we really had high hopes for this team, but yeah...

It's not good, and I don't expect it to get good. There's really nothing I can say to provide any hope in pitching. They've traded away their pitching for hitting as a general rule, and now all their pitching prospects are hurt, so it's time to keep waiting.

On offense, I guess you can say that Cameron Maybin won't be this terrible all year, and he's been more unlucky than strikeout-prone. Grandal will come back and the Padres won't pick first in next year's draft.

That's as optimistic as I'll get.

Garcia (Ft. Worth): What do you make of the early season performances by Matt Cain, Gio Gonzalez, and Dan Haren?

Zachary Levine: Haren worries me the most of the three because some of it had already been documented heading into the season. Maybe it's just confirmation bias that I didn't expect him to be good and I expected the others to, but even with what seems to be a small return of his velocity, I'm concerned because of recent body of work.

LoyalRoyal (Kansas): Wondering if you've moved any concerning the Royals odds after a solid start from your 50-1 odds? Also, are you seeing signs the Rays trade wasn't skewed as far as most pundits in the Rays favor or is the sample size still way to small move your (others) opinion(s)? Thanks...

Zachary Levine: I don't think those were my 50-1 odds unless I'm forgetting something I did. I remember writing about Royals odds early in the season and saying it was a good time to buy on them at 75 or 100 because I expected them to shorten and they did.

As for the trade, it's all how you look at it. Most pundits I heard weren't disputing that it made the Royals better in 2013. It's just how many years of Myers are they giving up once Shields hits free agency and has to be signed for market value. I don't think anything has changed, and even if they're really good, the pervasive anti-Royals narrative wasn't about this season.

Jason (KC): I drafted Brett Anderson this year in hopes for a relatively healthy year and a bounce back campaign in 2013. What do you make of his performance so far this early season?

Zachary Levine: A little clumsy, still a terrific Twitter follow.

And I'm not sure where the walks thing is coming from. That's the number I'd watch as you evaluate whether he's worth holding onto in the second half.

Marshall Hook (Boston): How happy are you that you're not on the Astros beat this year? Serious question - anyone on the current MLB roster you see sticking around over next 3-4 years for when they're (hopefully) good again?

Zachary Levine: Not sure if that was a question or just a greeting. I've heard that first part enough times, I figured it entered the vernacular as a common salutation. But I'll answer it as a question.

I'm really enjoying what I'm doing. It's made me really geographically flexible and has untethered me from the threat of 24-hour breaking news. (The Astros, if you weren't following closely in the last year, made all their news around midnight with hirings, firings, etc.)

Anyway, Altuve and probably Dominguez will be in the majors in 3-4 years, and I'm a believer in Jason Castro, though I guess he may not be a starter. Norris will be in the majors in three years and Harrell too. If you told me none of them would be Astros, though, in 3-4 years, I'd believe that.

Matt Trueblood (Fridley, MN ): If right-handed batters were allowed to run the bases clockwise, how would baseball be different?

Zachary Levine: Love the question. I almost want to shut down the chat and discuss exclusively this. Need more, though. I assume you're stuck running the bases in the direction you've started, but it's important to know: Can two players occupy the same base?

Lenny Melnick (NY): Will Ryan Zimmerman be forced to 1st base?

Zachary Levine: I think ultimately he either will be or will stick at third against the betterment of the team because of his veteran status.

I imagine that when the LaRoche deal is done or he's traded (which wouldn't be a terrible idea if Rendon can stick at third) the Nats will be better off with Rendon at third and Zimmerman at first. Whether it plays out that way isn't always easy.

Dave (Miami): This deal just went down in our 12 team mixed keeper league. Team 1 is the commishiner, team 2 a new team. Team 1 Josh Johnson and Ian Kinsler Team 2 David Price, Jorge De La Rosa and Matt Carpenter Fair?

Zachary Levine: Not a fantasy guy, but I'm not outraged by either side. Please ask again in one of our fantasy chats, though.

By the way, on things I actually do write, a quick plug for today's article on my favorite names discovered on the rosters of the independent Atlantic League. Ian Snell, Hayden Penn, Vladimir Guerrero, Adam Greenberg and many more.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=20323

LoyalRoyal (KS, USA): Josh Reddick, flash in the pan and what we've seen late season into this year is the real Reddick, or, will be just fine and finish with numbers similar to '12?

Zachary Levine: I don't think he's as good as his 2012. In the offseason, I suggested Oakland sell high on him out of what appeared to be an outfield surplus. However, it looks like the guys they did give away in the Jed Lowrie deal haven't amounted to much yet.

Reddick ought to be better than this and he will be, but 32 home runs is probably too ambitious.

Derek (St. Louis): Thanks for the chat! I had high hopes for Brandon Belt and Mike Moustakas at the beginning of the season. Should I finally give up on these two?

Zachary Levine: Of the two, I had a stronger pull toward the Belt fan club and I'm trying to find an escape route where nobody will notice me slip out the back door of the meeting.

But these things shouldn't be binary yes-no type of things. Every bit of additional information should adjust your expectations, and there's no question that this start lowers mine even if only a bit.

By the way, Giants first base has been a black hole for a decade with the exception of Aubrey Huff's quickly-corrected 2010.

Joe (Amsterdam): Given the relative success of the Yankees, do you consider Brian Cashman a genius for signing Lyle Overbay, Travis Hafner, and trading for Vernon Wells? I think the consensus was going into the season is that they were not going to contribute at this level.

Zachary Levine: No, I reserve "genius" for the guy who invented that cranked onion dispenser at the ballpark.

But I loved the Hafner move. If you're going to call Cashman a genius, it's for signing any lefthanded hitter who is undervalued in other ballparks because power is his only tool. That can play really well on the Yankees, especially at DH, it goes without saying.

As for Wells, I'm still having a hard time with it. If he saw something in spring that didn't show up in games, I'm more inclined to wonder what the hell Wells was doing in games.

Rather indifferent on the Overbay move.

Alex (Megadesk): Do you think the Angels' starting pitching will keep them out of the playoffs entirely?

Zachary Levine: No, I expect that they will both upgrade their pitching at some point and make the playoffs.

If they do miss, yes, it will be for failure to address the back end of the rotation with anything good. Not sure why they made their big spend in the outfield and not where they really needed big help.

John (CT): The Orioles need to bring up a starter to replace Jake Arieta. Isnt Zach Britton the logical choice? Has his value slipped that much? Question probably only an O's fan would ask.

Zachary Levine: Yes, I think he's the logical choice especially since he seems to be pitching well in Triple-A this year. His stock has definitely slipped, but I'm not sure it's slipped to a point below "fill-in call-up guy."

Robert (Chicago): Not a question...but I just wanted to point out that 18 games in, the Cubs are already under performing by 4.2 wins according to BP's third order winning percentage. It takes a truly special team to be able to catch that much negative randomness in such a short time.

Zachary Levine: Disappointed by the Cubs. For all the nonsense about the curse and such, I expected them not to finish last this year because I thought they did enough with their rotation to avoid it.

But yeah, what a terrific mess.

Brandon (Albuquerque): Better ROS: Simmons or Gyorko?

Zachary Levine: I assume that means Rest Of Season?

Simmons. I'm a big fan. Gyorko will be good and will probably hit for some average, but there's more value in Simmons.

Dave (Boston): Which of these AL-only pitchers is most worthy of picking up? McAllister, Roberto Hernandez, Colon. Thanks.

Zachary Levine: I would say Colon, especially if avoiding walks is a big thing. And if you get wins, he's on a team that should win.

Roberto Hernandez doesn't excite me at all.

LoyalRoyal (Kansas): After some underwhelming performances by current starters, do you see players like Avasail Garcia, who's ready to start a rehab assignment, or Anthony Gose carving out a significant role this season? Who are your favorite "waitin' in the wings for an opportunity" players currently? Thanks...

Zachary Levine: Sorry to say that Wil Myers tops the list as he finishes out his sentence in service time prison.

In the NL, I've heard good things on the outfielder the Phillies have come up the pipeline in A ball. I think this Delmon Young kid could do some things if only given the chance.

Jim (Kansas City): Should the Royals send Mike Moustakas back to the minors? He's a decent defender but is giving them nothing on offense. He's got one RBI on the year. One.

Zachary Levine: Always two ways to look at the question of sending a player, especially a top prospect, back to the minors.

1. The effect on the player. Will he learn from it, settle down, etc? Or is it something that can only be learned from facing major league pitching day after day? I don't know Moustakas' personality type well, but I tend to lean toward the latter. If they determine he needs a mental break or to gain confidence, I wouldn't argue with that.

2. The effect on the team. Can they put somebody there that you know or expect will be better. I'd be inclined to let it ride with Moustakas. In 62 plate appearances, he has 5 walks, 8 strikeouts and a .184 BABIP. Not to say that BABIP is entirely luck, but a lot of it is, and I'd expect that to go up. Not sure where the power is, though.

swarmee (Niceville, FL): For us 1-game eligibility leagues, is there a list of "emergency catchers" somewhere?

Zachary Levine: Not that I know of. A lot of managers talk to reporters about it at some point of spring training or when it almost comes up early in the season.

Do a search engine search (no product placement here) for "emergency catcher" within the last couple months, and you might find some teams having said who it will be.

So far this year, we are yet to see an emergency catcher as far as I can tell.

beckerharry (Guatemala): Grade your snark

Zachary Levine: Sort of lacking. And Yuniesky Betancourt is playing first base for a major league team, so no writers should have any excuse for lack of snark. It's like a golden era for snark.

brobinson (TX): Could Sardinas or Profar serve as the right piece for Price? or do you think Price will stay in TB?

Zachary Levine: I would certainly think the latter over the former. I've been trying to envision ways that Price stays, but I'm having a lot of trouble considering how good they've been at developing pitchers and the money already tied up.

If they do, it's the loudest voice yet in stating how much money there is in baseball independent of what your team does. The ESPN/Fox/TBS/MLBAM money would be the only thing that keeps him there.

If I were the Rays, I'd strongly consider ca$hing out early on him considering how much pitcher extensions are costing teams and then just take the prospects in return.

Matt Trueblood (Fridley, MN): I think the fair thing would be, they can co-occupy first or third, but not second, since second is second for either. I suppose another approach would be to simply rearrange the runners according to which base they occupy and the next batter's handedness, but I think I advocate the more chaotic approach.

Zachary Levine: This is regarding allowing right-handed hitters to run the bases backwards.

The first thing it would do is that it would really change the profile of who's a first baseman, and it would cost a lot of today's first basemen their jobs. You could still be mildly unathletic because you don't get a ton of balls hit that way, but you'd have to be able to throw. And if you did have unathletic first basemen, you'd see bunts on bunts on bunts by right-handed hitters.

Also, it would create huge problems on 1st-and-3rd situations when there's a ground ball. Both guys would go to second. Not sure what would happen then, but none of it would be good.

Zachary Levine: Thanks for playing. Hope to do this again with slightly larger sample sizes in the coming weeks. -Z


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