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Chat: Jonah Keri

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday March 21, 2005 7:30 PM ET chat session with Jonah Keri.

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Jonah Keri is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Jonah Keri: Howdy chatters. With a nod to Kenny Mayne, everyone throw their hands in the air, and wave them around as if there were no repercussions...

lawman04 (New York): Hi Jonah, Does the recent move to Los Angeles increase Jason Phillips' value to $7 in a nine-team NL only keeper league? Or should I pass on his projected 10-15 HRs and take a $2-$3 catcher who will hit 5-10 HRs and use that extra money on pitching, where I am weakest?

Jonah Keri: Getting Phillips for Ishii was a nice move by Paul DePodesta and the Dodgers. Kaz Ishii is pretty awful, he isn't cheap, and LA needed catching help. I do think Dave Ross would have surprised a few people given 400 AB, but this way they have Phillips, and hopefully they smarten up, toss Bako overboard soon, and field a Phillips-Ross tandem.

That said, in a 9-team NL keeper league, talent is abundant. I'd throw Phillips back and wait on something better. At worst you can draft him again for that price or less once the bidding starts.

tcfwine (Philly): Is PECOTA (and everyone else) overrating Matt Clement???? I know he's got great stuff, but he's never been able to put together a top season in his entire career in the laid back Cubs environment. What makes everyone so sure he's going to be a top 5 starter in a new league, with a DH, in a big time hitters park, with more pressure on him than he's ever faced? He's replacing PEDRO MARTINEZ, right?? If Vazquez couldn't handle similar circumstances, shouldn't we be a bit more cautious in our optimism with Matt Clement?

Jonah Keri: I can't speak for anyone else, but PECOTA works by taking the three-year weighted average of a player's performance, sizing up his most comparable list, and sprinkling in some biographical data (age, height, weight) for seasoning. There's no representation of pressure situations or anything like that involved.

As far as Clement goes, if you look at his PECOTA card you'll see a projection that reflects the typical ERA bump expected from an NL to AL switch (AL inflates offense by a little less than half a run per game these days). A lot of Clement's value lies not only in his solid performance, but his durability--he's thrown 94 starts in the last three years. A good pitcher who takes the ball every fifth day is going to rank among the elite by virtually any measure, whether it's VORP or roto value.

dcbove (Albany, NY): Brad Hawpe crushes Dustan Mohr in PECOTA-land (and VORP-land too). How much of a battle is it? And why did they sign Mohr? Especially since the Rockies seem to have pledged to go with Generation R?

Jonah Keri: For the curious, Mohr's projected at .277/365/475 according to his PECOTA weighted mean, while Hawpe's seen as .288/.359/.549. Hawpe's shown some solid power in his minor league career, though largely in high-offense climates. Mohr on the other hand put up a moderate-power/impressive OBP season in the pitcher's environment of SBC Park (which if I'm not mistaken played a bit more as a hitter's park last year). Mohr also has injury concerns with his arm.

I'd give Hawpe the bulk of the playing time and use Mohr as a 4th outfielder in the Jason Michaels mold, fully capable of starting for a few weeks at a time (actually Michaels should be the starting CF in Philly, but that's another story).

gerry (san diego): Jonah -- another great book this year. i assume you guys will be putting out PECOTA cards on guys who were passed over, but in the meantime, what's your reasonable expectation 9if you have one) for Phil Humber of the Mets, Alex Escobar of the Nationals, Pete Orr of the Braves and Seth Smith of the Rockies. Thanks!

Jonah Keri: Thanks very much, Gerry--the book is a labor of love that swallows our social life and would drive non-awesome baseball wives/significant others to complete distraction. (And for those of you who don't have the 2005 BP book yet, there's still plenty of time to get one...heck buy one for a friend).

To answer your Q's, we write an article a few weeks into the season, every year, which covers guys who've made the majors who weren't covered in the book. There are usually only a few of them. Humber won't be one of them, as he still has a way to go. Same goes for Seth Smith, who's athletic, but will need to show good pitch selection to tap into his talent and become a real hitter for the Sox down the road.

In addition to cementing Jim Bowden's reputation as loving toolsy oufielders (not that there's anything wrong with that--IF done correctly and not to the detriment of the team), Escobar's injury problems make him a p;erpetual question mark. I'd consider it a big upset if he got more than 100 MLB ABs this year, and expect another lost season in what's been a disappointing career.

iggith (Philly): Can you please give an estimate on Dallas McPherson's chances of being a bust? His K and BB numbers in the minor leagues and his short stint in the majors last year lower my hopes for him.

Jonah Keri: I think McPherson's going to be a very good player. His walk were down a little in 2004, but he drew 138 between 2002 and 2003, about one for every 7-8 times up. Yes, you'd like to see his plate discipline improve sooner rather than later. But power remains the number one skill a top prospect can have to find success. If his health isn't an issue, he'll start swatting pitches out of the park, and he'll get some of the benefit of "power hitter walks", where he reaches base simply because the opposing pitcher doesn't want to face a quick 2-0 deficit.

ian (Philly): What are the chances of Dustin Pedroia putting up a career .300/.400/.400 line for his career? Do you think PECOTA overshoots him by a large margin or are you bullish on his outlook?

Jonah Keri: Ian, I like Pedroia in the sense that he had a great collegiate career after leaving ASU, then looked good last year as well. I think it's too early to define precise statistical boundaries for him at this stage, though. If his power fails to develop, he could be a somewhat better Jackie Rexrode. If he starts hitting bombs as he reached the upper levels of the minors, he's got star potential.

Forecasting low-minors players, even position players, remains a difficult enterprise.

bobbailey (montreal): As an ex-Expos fan (by definition there can be no other kind) I looked at the National's roster and see a horror show. The rose coloured glasses have come off. Vidro plays old and is broken. Wilkerson's a very good player but impossible to imagine as an elite player. Livan was a joy to watch, the full package, pitching, hitting, fielding, but is a tier 2 ace. Are there any positives going on as far as on field play is concerned for the team? I, for one, certainly hope not.

Jonah Keri: Bob,

The Vidro contract, when it was signed, engendered lots of enthusiasm among Expos fans, as it appeared management was now committing to signing its best players long-term. Of course the one that really mattered got away, and things went downhill from there (not that they were skipping stones by Beaver Lake before Vlad's departure).

Livan in my mind is underrated. He isn't going to put up monster numbers, but give me a mid-to-high 3s ERA and 230+ innings a year, and I'll show you a guy whose contributions come just a hair shy of the elite, even if he seems a Tier 2 on first glance. Your take on Wilkerson sounds about right, though I could see him becoming Berkman Jr. with a breakout year.

The problems lie in years of frnachise neglect, with the draft becoming an afterthought due to depleted staff and depleted resources. Signing Cristian Guzman and Vinny Castilla is only going to make the team ugly in addiiton to being bad. If you're a jilted Expos fan who big on schadenfreude, this is the team for you.

deeray (new orleans): Jonah, what do you expect from Oliver Perez this year? His talent is undeniable, but he strikes me as someone who could easily become a bust in 2005 - due to injuries and perhaps a bit of regression with his control. . .

Jonah Keri: Depends on his usage. People get riled up about Perez' major league workload in 2004, but he threw just 22 more innings than he did across 3 levels in '03. Control is definitely the key though. If Perez's walk and high pitch count troubles resurface, that'll not only affect his performance but also raise his injury profile.

Lloyd's McClendon's ability to know when to hit the throttle and when to ease up will be a big part of Perez's immediate future. To date McClendon hasn't done anything particularly galling that would suggest they'd burn Perez out, and you have to like the Pirates' insistence that he stay out of Winter Ball and be eased along very slowly in spring training. I'm bullish.

Gavin (SF): Given the emphasis that BP puts on roster construction, player value relative to salary, and long-term salary management I'm surprised that you folks haven't developed a VORP/$ or WARP/$. PECOTA forcasts could also incorporate over the life of contracts of players etc. Any talk of this among you BP gurus?

Jonah Keri: Gavin,

Ben Murphy has continued some of the terrific work done by the late Doug Pappas in discussing Marginal Dollars per Marginal Win. You can break down any team into component players and do the same calculations, to an extent.

That said, two things:

1) It can be a little disingenuous to rate players this way, because of the many-tiered pay scale associated with playing time. I'd love to have a team full of Khalil Greenes and Jason Bays making nothing while performing at or near elite level, but that's a loaded discussion, since both are cheap and under control service-time wise.

2) Given 1), while we may not put out formulas looking at this, really every word that BP writes, whether in the annual book or on the Web site, is predicated one way or another on teams getting the most out of their available talent and dollars. Read any player comment from BP05, for instance, and odds are there will be some discussion of the player's long-term performance forecast, his contract status, or often, both. It's at the core of everything we do.

Anthony (Long Island): What do you expect from Felix Hernandez both now and in the long run?

Jonah Keri: Considering I'm moving to Seattle in June and plan to salivate over him alongside Derek Zumsteg, I expect superduperstardom, starting the second I roll into town.

(I like the Mariners' approach of limiting the number of sliders he's thrown in the minors, and see the same rmping up process occurring here as with Ollie Perez, only with more caution and possibly more upside involved.)

Adam J. Morris (Houston, TX): In this humble reader's opinion, PECOTA is wildly overrating Alfonso Soriano for 2005. Is PECOTA still treating Soriano as a 27 year old in 2005, rather than a 29 year old? And why so much confidence in a rebound for him this season? I'd set the over/under on his 2005 EQA at about .275...

Jonah Keri: PECOTA's projecting a rise from:

.280/.324/.484
to
.301/.348/.538...meaning basically the entire difference is predicated on Soriano finding 20 more points in his batting average. Really? That's wildly overrating the guy.

Fast (I typed fat initially) players profile well in the PECOTA system, particularly when it comes to batting average. Combine that with power and a favorable home park (his adjusted weighted mean forecast is .290/.340/.519) and Soriano's great track record with the Yankees, and I think it's optimistic, but not unreasonable.

If the Rangers can ever, team-wide, solve the mysterious road hitting woes that continue to plague them, Rockies-style, Soriano could beat the projection set forth.

Youppi (Homeless): Do you still love me? Remember that afternoon in May when our eyes met from across Section 221, sigh!

Jonah Keri: I own:

A Youppi doll
A Youppi bag

I was aced out of and am still bitter over:

A Youppi bobblehead by a fellow Expo fan/lifelong buddy.

My love for you will never die, Youpster. Call me.

link (hoboken, nj): Jonah, do you expect Daric Barton to play at first, or will he end up as a full time dh? also, just how good of a hitter is he?

Jonah Keri: Same issue as Pedroia. Great raw power, good early results, but if our razor-sharp, info-hungry readers didn't clamor for prospect evaluations of low-minors guys, I'd steer clear until they show something at higher levels (Double-A would be ideal).

Where he plays may depend to a certain extent on the A's roster construction when Barton's ready for the show. If they find some Justin Morneau clone elsewhere, he probably goes to DH. If Durazo's still around, it's hard to see Barton being any worse defensively.

chris (queens): I guess it makes sense to limit Felix's usage of the slider, but what happens when he gets called up and uses the slider on a regular basis? will his arm be conditioned to deal with the stress of throwing that pitch? or am I just completely ignorant when it comes to this stuff?

Jonah Keri: Derek Zumsteg and the terrific crew at USS Mariner have monitored him closely, and they've said the plan is to ramp Felix up to his full repertoire as he hits Tacoma and gets eased into the bigs. The M's will certainly pay close attention to every facet of Hernandez's development--they're sitll smarting over Raffy Soriano going under the knife, and while I like Soriano, he's no Felix.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): Your Game of the "Week" column is already down to .500, but we still love you. Are you going to adopt a core set of categories like Baker used to when he did this? Are you going to try alternative channels like radio and MLB-TV some weeks? Pls announce your game choices in advance so locals can give you some things to watch for. Two weeks to go!

Jonah Keri: Thanks for noticing, Cris, but I said in my first Game of the Week column that my initial effort was merely a spring training preview of what was to come starting Opening Week of the season. That plan is still on track, and if I have to write while shackled to the back of a U-Haul this summer to keep the weekly gig going, so be it.

As for format, the only format will be...no format. Sometimes I'll have fun, goofy categories like Jim does. Other times it'll read as a minute-by-minute diary. Still other times it'll be me taking copious notes while watching or attending the game in question, then writing off of those that night or soon afterwards. Honestly, it'll be whatever strikes my fancy at the time, and more importantly, whatever y'all want to read.

As for which game I'll be covering, let's call it...oh, Mets-Reds, Monday April 4, 2:10 pm ET. I like the idea of covering the Reds, given for years they had the first, or at least the traditional "true" opening game of the year.

So set your TiVos and VCRs to Mets-Reds, Monday April 4, 2:10 pm ET. That'll be the next Game of the Week.

jgalt73 (Portland, Oregon): I love the new BP '05 book, including the final page with author bios. Just curious if you guys have any squabbles about covering specific teams for the reports? Do those of you with open favorites get to cover those teams, or is that against the 'rules'?

Jonah Keri: No squabbles. This group has been together so long, that even with great new (newer, anyway) blood like Dayn Perry, Steven Goldman, James Click, Jim Baker and others cming in, there's a great team concept at BP--we all love baseball, and want to share ideas with our great readers.

The way the teams for the book typically get doled out is the book's editors, myself and Chris Kahrl, pow-wow with the authors, and we work out a system that works best for all those involved. While some people will cover their favorite teams, other times we'll switch it up. Derek Zumsteg, for one, did a tremendous job of covering the Nationals--both in the team chapter and in his back-of-the-book essay--after years of me covering my beloved Expos. Shows you what new blood, especially from a great writer like Derek, can do.

elizabeth (seattle): Jonah, do you think Oakland will have four quality starters this year? Zito should be solid, Harden possibly a lot better than just solid -- but what do you expect from guys like Haren, Blanton, and Meyer?

Jonah Keri: Love Haren. Big strikeout rates, he'll have a more forgiving park--I'm writing an article in the neart future for our syndication partner, the New York Sun, and I can tell you that Haren will be on my list of 10 breakout players for 2005.

They'll get enough from Blanton to hold up, and I expect the A's to go after another arm if they're in the race, should Yabu and Meyer struggle the first few months.

Anthony (Long Island): What's the best nickname in baseball today?

Jonah Keri: Nicknames are virtually extinct in the game, which stinks.

What I want to know: Why aren't there any Pittsnoggles in MLB?

Cliff Lee, Adam Eaton, Gil Meche (various): Jonah, are we gonna break out this year?

Jonah Keri: Lee: Sort of. Expect a season somewhere between his great first half and horrible second half.

Eaton: Yes. The peripherals have been there, the hit rate was a little elevated last year and should come down a bit, and his HRs will fall in his second go-round in Petco.

Meche: I don't see it. I know he came on last year, but labrum injuries to me are still guilty until proven innocent. I'm a Luke Hudson fan and I know some people who predicted big things from him this year, but the inflammation in his shoulder he's suffering through right now shows that his labrum woes of old mean he's in trouble, and I worry Meche is going to run into similar problems eventually.

An interview I did with Dr. Frank Jobe three years ago continues to shape my opinion of shoulder vs. elbow injuries. There's just so much *going on* in the shoulder--four joints, 21 muscles--that when something gets out of whack, it's often discovered later that it's even worse than first feared.

phillip (miami): dayn perry's got his top 100 rookie list on another site, how 'bout giving us your top 5?

Jonah Keri: Andy Marte
Felix Hernandez
Delmon Young
Brandon McCarthy
Carlos Quentin

Draft Brandon McCarthy. Right now.

Scot (NY): Jonah! with the expos no longer in Montreal, which team will you be following this year? And how do you think the Nationals will do?

Jonah Keri: Hey Scot,

I definitely have a soft spot for the Pads. Great ballpark, great fans, some likable players (Greene and Peavy especially) and an organization filled with bright people who also take the time to reach out to fans. Last year's Ballpark Pizza Feed at Petco drew about 100 people, and Kevin Towers talked for way longer than could've been expected--with no compensation--and was unbelievably candid...we hope to do a similar event this year in a bunch of MLB parks. Check the BP site in the coming weeks.

Given I'll be at Safeco so often this summer, I imagine I'll follow the M's pretty closely too.

prhood (St. John's): I've noticed that John Smoltz has pitched in only 3 games with 9 innings of work so far this spring whereas other starters (Hampton && Thomson) have pitched 14 and 13 innings respectively. Is this an indication of some possible arm problem or just the Braves being cautious in working Smoltz back into a starting role?

Jonah Keri: Well I wouldn't call the difference between say, 9 and 13 innings all that dramatic--that's really just one spring training start. The Braves are ramping up Smoltz slowly to ensure he re-adjusts gradually to starting.

That said, while the spring numbers don't make me nervous, I do think his arm won't make it through the year intact. I'm in the Joe Sheehan camp on Smoltz: 140 IP, max.

Joe (NYC): What do you expect out of new Met Kaz Ishii? and will the Mets be hurt by playing Castro ~UGH~ for 50 games instead of Phillips?

Jonah Keri: Lightning round.

I like Ramon Castro. Guys like Castro and Dave Ross have shown good power in the minors, but made their organizations sour on them because they hit .1-something playing a handful of games in the majors. I think all of us--fans, analysts, major league teams--often fall victim to the recency effect. If Castro hit .380 in 96 ABs last year, people would likely love the guy--and it would be just as meaningless as his .135 BA. He's got some pop, he's adequate defensively, and he;s a fine backup for Piazza.

The bigger questions is why the heck would they want Ishii?

marlette (reno): On players returning from injury: what do you expect from guys like Glaus, Pettitte, Kearns, and Berkman?

Jonah Keri: Bullish about all 4, to varying extents. Pettitte worries me most being a pitcher. Glaus should rake, Berkman's should be back to full strength by the All-Star break, and Kearns finally starts to fulfill his potential this year.

genghis (new york): thanks for another great edition of your "guide". I see you predict a very, very nice year for Cal Pickering, with a VORP of 36.6 in 337 at bats. Any second thoughts?

Jonah Keri: Great power, good eye. The Royals have shown a greater affinity for the suspect Ken Harvey, but if they trade Sweeney as rumored (who'll take Sweeney's contract is another story), Pickering should hopefully find his way into the lineup. I could see a short-peak Kevin Mitchell-type career from Pickering if everything breaks right.

TomR (Oriole Country): Hi Jonah, I've enjoyed reading your stuff about the Expos in the past. There's been a lot of derision in BP about Bowden's free agent signings. Do you see the Nationals as a poor team, period, or merely too expensive (poor MP/MW)?

Jonah Keri: Both. "Poor" is by far the bigger issue, though I'm surprised the other 29 teams at least tacitly supported the team's off-season spending, given they're still, for now, wards of the state.

Doug Nazarian (Baltimore): Should we stick a fork in Matt Riley?

Jonah Keri: My Strat team keeper list says no. I think he could still succeed, but I'd like to see him get a change of scenery. Dodger Stadium perhaps?

rb (dallas): any thoughts on the BoSox talk of moving Hanley Ramirez to center? Is it too early to make such a decision? Has he proven he can't handle short?

Jonah Keri: They like Pedroia, but to me the bigger issue is if Damon demands a monster contract this off-season, they'll want a contingency plan. He'll be 32 by the time the 2005 Red Sox World Series parade happens (yup, predicting a repeat), and if he has another good season, he'll probably demand mad cash, more than the Sox may want to pay him. Push comes to shove I could see the Sox signing or trading for a strong CF, though if Hanley pans out, who knows.

craig (ny): josh beckett? finally becomes an ace this year?

Jonah Keri: He's out of the injury nexus, he's put up excellent numbers in the reduced innings he's pitched, his IP have been ramping up, and his blister problems are much better than they once were.

Call it 18-8, 3.37 ERA, 190 IP, 200 K. (Let's just say I love the Fish this year to do damage...you'll see how much in the next week or two).

Jonah Keri: All right, it's been 90 minutes, and I should call it a Chat for now. Those of you in Seattle, please come on down for this Saturday's book signing. Here are the coordinates: Lake Forest Park (WA), Sat Mar 26 Saturday, March 26 @ 6:00pm Third Place Books 1717 Bothwell Way NE Lake Forest Park, WA 98155 206-366-3333 I look forward to seeing you then. Drop me a line any time at jkeri@baseballprospectus.com, especially if you have suggestions for Game of the Week. Thanks!


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