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Chat: Ben Lindbergh

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday June 27, 2013 1:15 PM ET chat session with Ben Lindbergh.

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Ask the E-in-C.

Ben Lindbergh: Hi everyone. I find myself awake, at my computer, and relatively unencumbered a little earlier than expected, so I'm starting the chat now. We'll do it live1

Josh G (Sacramento, CA): On a recent EW episode you said interned for a team-out of curiosity, what team was it and what department were you in?

Ben Lindbergh: I interned in Media Relations for the Nationals while I was going to school in DC in 2008, then went home for the summer and started interning for the Yankees. At the time, the Yankees put all of their interns into one big pool, then figured out what to do with them when they got there. I was the only one who was majoring in English, so I was put into Publications (the department that produces the team magazine, yearbook, etc.). I spent the summer there, and after I graduated in 2009, I went back, starting in Publications but gradually working my way into Baseball Operations, where I spent all my time time from oh, September of '09 or so to May of 2010. And that's my story.

Alex (Anaheim): After the Dodgers have hit it big with Puig, is Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez going to get even more money?

Ben Lindbergh: Certainly sounds like it. Danny Knobler wrote the other day that he could get as much as $60 million for five years. He's a free agent, so he's not subject to the international spending cap. That puts him in a very pretty position.

oloughla (Boston, MA): The Omar Vizquel discussion on Effectively Wild got me thinking... If a team wants to sign a player to mentor young players, purely for his impact on team chemistry, why would they waste a roster spot on him instead of simply signing him as a bench coach but having him practice on the field with the players, hang out in the clubhouse, etc.?

Ben Lindbergh: Well, a few reasons, I suppose. For one thing, maybe they have their eye on a particular player, but that player isn't quite ready to retire yet. For another, you probably want your bench coach to be someone experienced and well-versed in the ways of in-game management. You could make him a base coach, which would leave the more vital bench coach role free for someone else, but maybe players are more open to being mentored by a fellow player than a member of the coaching staff. Some advice that could be taken as constructive criticism if offered by another player could be regarded as lecturing if it's delivered by a coach.

MLB's antitrust exemption (Spud's hip pocket): Am I an endangered species?

Ben Lindbergh: Yes, probably, but I don't know that you'll go extinct soon. I would guess that if MLB starts to feel that San Jose's suit truly endangers the antitrust exemption, they'll find some way to settle.

edwardarthur (Illinois): I love that you post catcher framing articles on Saturday. Is there a way to get more weekend content? Perhaps there are some good hungry young writers who'd appreciate the exposure while the regular crew gets some down time....

Ben Lindbergh: I've been posting them over the weekend mostly because they take a long time to put together and I'm often working on another article or two for Friday (which looks like it's going to be the case this week as well). So we do have those, Clint Chisam has been posting new Daily Roundup articles on Saturday and Sunday, and every now and then I or someone else will do a weekend blog post. We don't have plans to offer more weekend content, for the simple reason that not as many people would read it, and we want to get the most bang for our buck. But if someone wants to pitch a weekend feature, feel free to email me.

Grasul (MN): What stats available on BP do you like best for determining if a MLB hitter is actually improving (as opposed to SSS)? LD%? lower K%? others?

Ben Lindbergh: I like the PITCHf/x plate discipline stats, especially over small samples. Some of those (like swing rate) stabilize pretty quickly, and they give you a pretty good picture of a hitter's process. You can find the batter plate discipline report here.

thatjerkjames (Manhattan): Ballpark % likelihood of a female holding these positions in MLB in the next 30 years: general manager, manager, position player, pitcher, umpire.

Ben Lindbergh: Good question! And probably a good podcast topic. Okay, I'll guess: 85, 20, 2, 8, 90.

Donald Loria (Milwaukee): 20 team dynasty league, keep w/out cost. How would u value these assets long term: Stanton, Kemp, Braun, Heyward, Strassberg, Kershaw??

Ben Lindbergh: Stanton, Braun, Kershaw, Strasburg, Heyward, Kemp.

Free_AEC (South Jersey): Should the Phillies offer to take Pujols and Hamilton to get Mike Trout?

Ben Lindbergh: Kind of a fun scenario, but don't think the Angels would do it or the Phillies could afford to do it even if they would. Can you imagine Howard, Hamilton, and Pujols on the same team in 2016? Goodness. Between those three and Hamels, the Phillies would owe $104.5 to four players, not to mention whatever Trout is making by then. They should get a big new TV deal after 2015, assuming the broadcast bubble hasn't burst by then, but yikes.

John (CT): Buxton = Alfonso Soriano in his prime?

Ben Lindbergh: I suppose his ceiling would be that, but better defensively. Which isn't to say that he'll get there.

John (CT): Odds that Dylan Bundy makes a full recovery?

Ben Lindbergh: 85-90 percent is the probability I usually hear cited for TJ today.

Jay (Vancouver): What do you think of Ryan Braun? I'm getting more and more skeptical about his long-term future. yeah yeah I know people are saying he is not gonna be suspended during this season.. But MLB seems just dogging him to the hell.. It seems like the suspension is coming on some time in the future at least. On the other hand, Chris Davis transformed himself from strikeout machines to Barry Bonds, well with more strikeouts, of course. Who do you like better for the rest of their careers: Ryan Braun or Chris Davis? Will Ryan Braun ever stop from free falling?

Ben Lindbergh: "Free falling" seems a little extreme, and even if he is suspended at some point, I don't know that that would affect my expectations for his long-term future all that much. Chris Davis is incredible, but Braun has been on a Hall of Fame-type trajectory for some time. I think it would be premature to jump ship.

Hank (NYC): How do you write so much and so well? Is writing articles easy for you?

Ben Lindbergh: I feel like Ian McKellen in Extras. "How do I act so well?"

There are people I'm in awe of who write much better and much more often than I do. Ask them this question! As for me, I wouldn't say writing is easy for me, but it's probably easier than researching and coming up with topics.

Nate (Indy): Paul Blackburn has put up good numbers in his first three starts. I realize it's short season A ball but is he a legitimate pitching prospect?

Ben Lindbergh: There are probably big-league pitchers at the back of bullpens and hitters at the back of benches (most of them Marlins) I haven't heard of, so I definitely don't have a dossier on a 19-year-old in the Northwest League who's pitched a total of 35 2/3 innings as a professional. Full disclosure: when I get a question like this, I scan the names on my Gchat contacts list, hoping to see someone on our prospect staff available. Then I paste it to that person and type the word, "Help."

This time, Mark Anderson was the lucky recepient of my IM. Here's what Mark said: "Definitely a legitimate prospect...projectable guy, good body, low-90s FB that can reach 94 and there's more in the tank down the line, CB and CH both project to at least average. possible mid-rotation guy."

So now we know those things about Paul Blackburn. I'm amazed by the knowledge of people who write about prospects, and even more amazed by the knowledge of people who don't write about prospects, but still want to know everything about them.

Alex (San Jose): Since you cornered the market on catcher framing, what big market inefficiency do you see being exploited next?

Ben Lindbergh: I think there's plenty we still don't know about framing, but probably pitcher usage, injuries, and mechanics. Maybe sequencing, maybe clubhouse chemistry (though I suspect the gains to be made in the latter are modest). I'm sure the teams that do the best job of analyzing the volumes of information FIELDf/x is about to start providing will have a temporary edge in player evaluation and defensive positioning. And I still think there's some inefficiency in the way the typical front-office-field staff relationship works, as I wrote here.

Joseph (Texas): Next big BP #hashtag?

Ben Lindbergh: I'm only peripherally involved in the hashtag creation process, but probably something sensual.

Karl (Chicago): Will anyone ever bring back the player-manager? The Marlins could save some cash.

Ben Lindbergh: I'd love to see it, but I'd be very surprised. Too many demands on players' and managers' time for one person to do both well. It would be like the restaurant scene in Mrs. Doubtfire--at some point, he wouldn't be able to keep up the act.

Michael (CA): Do you agree with Dave Cameron that Chase Utley to the A's makes too much sense to NOT happen?

Ben Lindbergh: Haven't read Dave's piece, since it went up just as I started chatting, but it seems to me that the biggest obstacle in the way of Chase Utley going to any one particular team is the other teams that it might also make sense for him to be traded to. Most trades that make sense don't happen.

Brady Childs (Boulder): So the Cardinals have an awesome problem. What are they going to do in 2014 with Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong, and Matt Adams when Jon Jay, Matt Carpenter, and Allen Craig already in their respective positions?

Ben Lindbergh: I wish we all had the Cardinals' problems. Carlos Beltran will be a free agent, and Craig can play a lot of positions, so finding time for Taveras, Adams, and Craig seems doable. Carpenter's emergence makes Wong a valuable trade chip.

RotoLando (Cloud City): I, for one, would enjoy an article on sequencing. I would be interested in what 2- or 3- pitch combination seems to be the most effective. Stuff like that.

Ben Lindbergh: I, for one, would also enjoy this. So we're up to two.

Donald Loria (Milwaukee): 2 weeks ago I tried to "get younger" on my staff. Traded Cain and Rd 1:20 for Bucholtz, Bundy, & Rd 1:2 (can draft Bradley, Syndergaard, Sanchez). With injuries & Cain picking it up, having second thoughts, even though my pitching still string this year. Which side u like?

Ben Lindbergh: Your timing isn't impeccable, but there's still a way for this to work you for you. You're just going to have to wait a while and hope your league survives the ravages of time.

Scott (PA): Who is Jeff Locke? And how is he 2nd in the NL in ERA?

Ben Lindbergh: He's a starter for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the guy with a bigger gap between his FIP and ERA than any other pitcher. Granted, the Pirates have a good defense, but that .225 BABIP and .115/.192/.148(!!) line with runners in scoring position aren't going to last. He gets grounders, so he's not a bad guy to have toward the back of a rotation, but you probably don't need me to tell you that he's not this good.

justarobert (Santa Clara, CA): Will the cap on the number of coaches allowed in the dugout go away soon? And why do we have it in the first place?

Ben Lindbergh: They expanded it from six to seven this season, right? But I wouldn't expect it to go away. I'm sure the sizes of coaching staffs will continue to grow, but I don't think every coach needs to be in the dugout. There's only so much coaching that goes on in there, and only so much room.

Ron (Texas): What do you think of Out of the Park Baseball? Fun? Useless waste of time? Somewhere in between?

Ben Lindbergh: Haven't played it, but I had a college roommate who became completely addicted. Certainly fun, probably more useful than many recreational activities.

Kris (Seattle): I know teams have available to them mounds and mounds of research that seem to discredit the theory that bigger pitchers don't necessarily mean better pitchers. Why do teams still seem to have a bias towards taller pitchers?

Ben Lindbergh: I haven't looked at the mounds myself. I don't think anyone would argue that bigger is necessarily better, but all else being equal, I'd be sort of surprised if being bigger doesn't translate to a higher probability of success (up to a certain height). If there's research that says that's not the case, email it to me. I'd like to learn.

Free_AEC (South Jersey): Philadelphia is a huge market and sports are one of the few ways for advertisers to reach people. I was watching commercials for both the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S4 two nights ago at midnight while the Phils played the Padres from San Diego. The Phils would have to ship either Pujols or Howard to an AL team. By the way, Trout is a huge Phillies fan, not that it matter$.

Ben Lindbergh: Yeah, just too many immovable parts would have to move for that to happen, I think.

Paul (DC): Christian Yelich has been selected to play in the Future's Game. Love the guy, but he hasn't played in like a month. And that's after he missed games to start the season. He also missed a bunch of games in 2012. As justifiably a top rated prospect, is it time we faced the fact he lacks that 6th tool, staying healthy?

Ben Lindbergh: Certainly too soon to consign him to the Jeremy Hermida Memorial Wing of Perpetually Fragile Florida Prospects, but it's something to monitor.

Alex (Chicago): Any chance the BP Tour will be coming to Chicago this year? I especially hope it does so Sam Miller can awkwardly tell me he doesn't want cracker jacks.

Ben Lindbergh: Joe Hamrahi is the man to email/tweet at about ballpark events. I seem to recall something that was in the works with the White Sox for this season but didn't come together. Not aware of anything upcoming, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's not happening.

Matt (Springfield): Do the Pirates actually stick around til the end this year, or do they fade in the second half?

Ben Lindbergh: Pirates in first place, and tied for the best record in baseball! What a world. I don't foresee another soul-crushing second-half fade. I think they've played a bit over their heads (we already touched on Jeff Locke), but they'll certainly stay in the race. Probably wouldn't pick them over the Cardinals or Reds.

Jakeasaurus (Baton Rouge): More likely to happen: Hamilton returns to form during the second half OR Victorino has at least one more DL stint?

Ben Lindbergh: Define "returns to form."

Mike (Philly): If the O's knew Bundy was a 100+ pitches per start in HS, why did they put an IP cap on him (3IP, 5IP) in his pro debut rather than putting him on a pitch limit of 100 pitches? He was breezing through the 3 IP starts and probably never reached 100 pitches in those starts and was more in the 60-75 pitch range. He built up arm strength in HS to throw 100 pitches, by not reaching that ceiling in pro ball you could argue his arm became weaker, and when he tried to ramp up this season the injuries occurred. Why are most baseball people focusing on his high pitch counts in HS, but not focusing on or blaming the O's org. for mishandling their prospect?

Ben Lindbergh: I find it difficult to blame organizations for mishandling prospects, because I'm not confident that I know how to handle a prospect. You could argue that, but you'd have to have some data to back it up to convince me. We complain if a team works a prospect a lot or a little, but I don't know if we know at what point a lot becomes too much or a little becomes too little, especially since it varies by player. Maybe the Orioles knew he was an at-risk arm (either because of the HS pitch counts or something else) and were trying to protect him. For all we know, he might have gotten hurt sooner or more severely if he'd been handled differently.

Chad Reno (Illinois): Which is more likely to happen first: a Rube plays again in the majors or a Dickie?

Ben Lindbergh: Rooting for Rube, but probably Dickie. As recently as 1990, there were two Dickies in the majors! I don't think there's been a Rube since the late 1950s. What we need is a Ruben who's willing to drop the last letter.

DetroitDale (Tallahassee (eternal spring training)): Is Tigers poor record against other winning teams a bad omen for playoffs?

Ben Lindbergh: I probably wouldn't read too much into it.

justarobert (Santa Clara, CA): How much of your time do you spend on each of the various hats you wear (researching, writing, copy-editing, podcasting, BP big picture, non-fedora, counting to round numbers)?

Ben Lindbergh: This could be completely wrong, but probably 50% researching/writing, 30% BP big picture (which would include a bunch of different things), 20% editing, and 5% podcasting. I give 105%.

Chad Reno (Illinois): Best case scenario: There's a Louisiana high-schooler somewhere named Dickie Rube LeTouix that's getting ready to explode.

Ben Lindbergh: Fingers crossed.

RotoLando (Cloud City, Bespin): Should we still hold out hope for Josh Reddick, or is he just riding the coattails of his awesome year last year?

Ben Lindbergh: "Awesome" seems like a strong word to describe what he was last season, which ended with a slump. He's had injury issues this season, and his glove helps even when he's not hitting. He's probably better than this, but not what he was last May-July.

AJ (Phoenix): I'm in a 20-team dynasty (25-man rosters, 25-man minors rosters). When it comes to trading, everyone thinks their guys are amazing, but that the guys you want to trade them are crap. Without totally grabbing my ankles to make a deal, what's the best way to get around such egotism?

Ben Lindbergh: I haven't played fantasy for a few years, but when I did, I never had much luck trying to convince other owners that they were overrating a player of theirs. Especially if I was trying to trade for that player, since the response would always be, "If he's not as good as I think he is, then why are you trying to trade for him?" It was frustrating. No wonder I stopped playing fantasy. Paul Sporer wrote a BP piece with a bunch of useful trading tips last month. Go read that.

Free_AEC (South Jersey): Another question sort of related to your catcher framing analysis. Everyone blames PEDS for the rise and fall of run scoring, but no one talks about the massive change in how Check Swings are wrung up. Back in the PED glory days the big sluggers would routinely "check" their swings by stopping their bats a foot to a foot and a half in __front__ of the plate. Now it is normal for hitters to get zonked when their barrel touches the back of the plate.

Ben Lindbergh: I'm on board with the idea that there's much more behind changes in run environment than players' PED use. The way check swings are called could be part of that, but I wouldn't expect it to be a big factor, just because check swings don't happen all that often. At the very least, it would be difficult to prove, since we don't have data that goes back very far (as I found out when I wrote a bunch about check swings last month).

Ben Lindbergh: I've answered all of your questions, except for the spam ones (sorry, spammers), so my work here is done. Thanks for participating, and for spending part of your day with Baseball Prospectus.


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