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Chat: Sam Miller

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday July 16, 2013 1:00 PM ET chat session with Sam Miller.

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Noted podcast co-host Sam Miller answers, or attempts to answer, your questions about baseball.

Sam Miller: Hello, gang, and please forgive me. Let's chat.

Dave Anderson (NYC): How much time do you spend using Vine in your average workday? Do you ever use it for non-baseball purposes?

Sam Miller: I have never used Vine. I'm not a particularly imaginative person, so it's hard for me to see the utility of things until I see other people using them well. And thus far I've seen very little worth seeing on Vine. The most common ways people have tried to create narrative out of Vine leave me empty. Have any examples that would make me reconsider?

bcat31 (RedBengalland): Apologize upfront for the long question, but I was watching the Reds lose to the Brewers the other day, when Votto appeared to hit a homer with two outs in the 9th that would have plated the go ahead run. Carlos Gomez robbed him of the homer. I started thinking of WAR and what credit Votto would pick up or lose for the out. This was a great at bat for Votto, but I don't think he gets any credit for it in his WAR tabulation. I'm for WAR, but I think Votto should get rewarded with a positive at bat. Does WAR credit the offensive player for a homer that gets robbed and do you think this may be a weakness of WAR if it doesn't?

Sam Miller: WAR/WARP don't, but I don't think we're that far away from having hitting stats that are entirely process based and don't look at "results" at all, sort of FIP for hitters. So in this case, we would know that a ball hit that hard/that location/that trajectory would be an out X percent of the time, a double X percent, a homer X percent, and overall would typically be worth X runs. So Votto would get credit for X runs, regardless of which event actually happened. One issue with this is that Votto isn't defended the same way as, say, Maicer Izturis, so he's more likely to have that ball caught than Izturis would be. But the basic premise -- hitting the ball hard is the hitter's no. 1 responsibility, and what he is most in control of -- seems to have real statistical value, at least in support of the other stats. It's been hinted to me that there is at least one team that already views its hitters through this lens.

Robert (California): So, the Angels sign Trout long-term this offseason, right? If they do, any guesses to what the contract length/$ will be?

Sam Miller: Well, it takes two parties to do this. The thing about Trout is that they've already gone so far with him that he's only one more year away from getting his first rich-for-life money. You need to get these guys before they're rich for life, so you can really gouge them based on their own personal fears. Trout's going to make $10 million his first arb year. How much of a risk-aversion discount would he really give at this point? That's why the cool kids pull off these extensions even earlier these days.

If there's a deal, I'd guess... uhhhhhh let's say .... six years, $105 million, and two club options for $50 million on the tail end. The insane thing is that if he signed that, and they picked up both options, he'd be only two months past 30th birthday when he hits free agency.

Alex (Anaheim): How was Kuroda left off the All-Star roster? Using wins as a justification?

Sam Miller: My guess is that Leyland thinks relievers are better in relief than starters are in relief, and maybe particularly a starter of Kuroda's profile. But poor Kuroda is so ridiculously underrated at this point. I noted a couple weeks ago that Kuroda and David Price debuted the same year and have the same ERA+. Price is probably one of maybe 9 or 10 pitchers in baseball who is considered an ace. Kuroda has never made an All-Star team.

Free Boosie (ATL): Do you think -- like he seems to think -- that C.J. Cron could catch? Or is he just saying whatever to get to the MLB quicker?

Sam Miller: Well, he's got the running speed of a catcher. But Cron is a huge man, and huge men are already at a disadvantage. More importantly, the curve for catcher defense really requires a ton of experience. It seems unfathomable to me that he could start now and have any hope at all of catching and pitch-calling at even a Double-A skill level, let alone major-league skill level, let alone Mike Scioscia-required skill level. Without doing nearly enough research/thinking to crush the young man's dreams, I feel pretty confident saying "wat"

The Wolf (Noggin): Sam! Saw Gabe Kapler interacting with you (and Benjamin) on Twitter. Have any other players admitted to listening to the podcast? (Big fan btw)

Sam Miller: No, but we don't care about other players, because Gabe Kapler is our favorite baseball player. We occasionally find out that some scout is listening, or some writer/podcaster/colleague who we admire, and it sends us into a few days of self-conscious tizzy. It's better for all involved when we forget that anybody listens to us.

It really is flattering, though. We are fully aware that we haven't got nearly the knowledge to hang with a player's knowledge, but it's nice to think we are thought-provoking in our search for more knowledge.

John (CT): Looking forward please list the five players, in order of success, from the Futures game who you think will have the best careers in MLB

Sam Miller: In order
Buxton
Russell
Walker
Correa
Lindor

I like that I put "in order" as though I actually have relevant information for ranking Correa in 10 years ahead of Lindor in 10 years.

Quaid (Mars): Is it challenging for beat writers to stay healthy while spending so much time at ballparks and hotels? How do you resist siren call of unhealthy press box food?

Sam Miller: I bring the same dinner to the park every time I go:

Cliff Bar (1)
Banana (2)
Almonds (too many to count)
Coffee (decaf, in an insulated mug)

But I rarely go to road games. Probably harder at road games, and on long road trips. The food in the press box (generally $10 for all-you-can eat for the day) is fairly healthy. There are hot dogs and stuff, but it's more or less Hometown Buffet-type stuff: pasta, salad, soup. You can do it.

Steve (Clearwater, FL): Leyland said point blank yesterday that he chose Tillman over Kuroda based on W-L record, so it wasn't a starter vs reliever thing.

Sam Miller: It's funny, too, because in the NL the big controversy was whether the 8-6 guy should start the game or the guy with seven wins. Kuroda is 8-6.

Kevin (St. Louis): More underrated 1B likely to retire after 2013: Konerko or Helton?

Sam Miller: Helton has been the better player by a lot, but how do I determine which player has been rated more appropriately? I guess the answer would be Helton for the first decade of his career and Konerko for the second. I mean I had completely written off Konerko as a going concern after his age-32 season.

vbarot87 (milwaukee): Continuing Twitter conversation: has there been a study on pitchers not being able to hit their targets?

Sam Miller: I think Hardball Times did the stuff that I remember, showing pitchers miss their targets by something like eight inches on average. I did a piece last week on whether pitchers should ever swing when it's a full count, and as part of that looked at how often 3-2 pitches TO PITCHERS were in the strike zone. The answer was 67 percent, which means that a pitcher with no incentive to do anything but throw a strike will still miss the zone completely a third of the time. Ben then did the same thing for 3-0 pitches to pitchers. In this case, it completely rules out the possibility that the pitcher is trying to do anything but throw it right down the middle, as there is absolutely no chance the batter will swing. Again, 67 percent. That's more or less what I mean when I say they don't know where they're throwing it.

Frank (Philly): Hey Sam. Love the podcast. Got a trade offer in my league (no keeper) Ryan Braun and Jarrod Parker for Matt Moore and Alex Rios. Oh, Gucci shades up on my braids when I Escalade. With the recent reports of biogenesis cases not being heard until later should I pull the trigger?

Sam Miller: Oh, please. Catch me lane switching with the paint dripping? Turn your neck and your dame missing. But you already knew I was going to say that.

Slightly serious answer: I would almost turn down every trade offer without even looking at it. These managers hate you and want to hurt you. Don't play their stupid game. Don't even look at the offer. Just punch back with a counteroffer on your own terms.

Turtle (Lake Flourish): In 10 team mixed league, 5x5, should I pick up Jeremy Hellickson and drop Mike Leake? Also does your wife know the password to your phone? If not, does she ask you what are you hiding like mine does?

Sam Miller: In a 10 team mixed league 5 x 5 you should not ever have a pitcher like Hellickson or Leake clogging up your roster.

My phone doesn't have a password. My phone is the most mockable phone. My phone probably has Snake on it.

Frank (Chicago): Boegarts seemed to get the most hype at the future's game, but I see you listed three other short stops from the game ahead of him in your projected career rankings. Will you please expand on why you think that way?

Sam Miller: Forgot.

Kevin (St. Louis): What do you think of the Altuve extension? Seems like it's going to be tough for him to walk through fields with those little paws.

Sam Miller: He's the same age as Ruben Tejada, he's done almost exactly as much, and it's almost impossible to see him playing any role besides second base. Tejada at least could be a utility infielder or a second baseman, besides playing short. Nobody's clamoring for a Tejada extension. I like Altuve enough, and it's hard for a team to really lose these extensions, and R.J. pointed out in his TA that it's a valuable signal for the Astros to be putting out. But seems like there's some degree of The Internet Likes Him Because He Quirky in the reaction.

No (Torious): Since this chat is going in a weird direction anyways: Favorite Yeezus song?

Sam Miller: Send It Up/Bound 2, which I (for no real logical reason other than proximity to each other) consider to be one song and the best, by far, of Kanye's career.

vbarot87 (milwaukee): Wow. That takes my faith away from the game a little. I'll have to remember this the next time I watch a no hitter.

Sam Miller: Once you start focusing on what the catcher's glove is doing, you can't stop focusing on what the catcher's glove is doing. It really makes you reconsider what's a mistake and what's not, where good outcomes come from. Really, what it comes down to is this: Pitcher gets the ball back from the catcher. Thirty seconds later, we know the result of the next pitch. When does luck start in that process? Probably way earlier than we give credit for.

James (Detroit): What's up with Nick Castellanos? Hard to imagine Andy Dirks is blocking him, so I have to think they're thinking about trading him and want to leave him in the minors to preserve his value. What do you think?

Sam Miller: Sometimes I think the Tigers' idea of chemistry is making sure the left fielder sucks. I don't know why that would work, but they have access to information I don't!

bcat31 (Blue Ash): Love me some E. Davis. Curious about his WAR(P), I noticed his dWar on BR was negative, even early in his career (couldn't find offense vs defense splits on BP, though most likely due to my ignorance). My question. Wasn't ED's defense reported as excellent or was that just biased Cinti reporting?

Sam Miller: In my memory he was always good, and he was winning Gold Gloves and stuff, but like you say there's that 1989 season when he won a GG and B-Ref grades him out as a -21 defender. Not sure what the answer is, and it'd be fun to dig in (is there a relationship between his injuries and his defense; does the artificial turf skew things; etc) but it's hard to say with too much certainty what the numbers even mean, going back that far.

To answer your question, though: ED's defense was reported as excellent.

bobbykester (DC): OK, it's been two months, so I'll ask you again: Is 1973's "The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book" (Boyd and Harris) the best baseball book ever written?

Sam Miller: It takes me five minutes to buy a book that's been recommended to me. It takes me two to six years to get to reading it. Ask me against in one year, 11 months.

dianagram (VORGville): Hey Sam! Selig says he is dismayed by Rays' attendance issues. Couldn't MLB loan the Rays the money to pay off rest of lease NOW? They loaned the Mets money to cover their debt load ... why not the Rays?

Sam Miller: Yes, and the federal government should invest far more in preventative health care instead of having uninsured people crowding into ERs when they get the flu. But there seems to be a feeling among Americans that people are responsible for lifting themselves up all the way until its an emergency, at which point somebody can step in for the common good. Or, maybe more succinctly: it takes an emergency before institutions act. (And for goodness sakes please take this answer apolitically.)

smitty99 (Federal Way WA): Oh wow. That Baseball Card book takes about an hour to read as I recall. I lent mine to a guy back in 83 and that was the last I saw of it. I loved that book. Need to find another copy. Should be easy right?

Sam Miller: Like $3 on Amazon as I recall

justarobert (Santa Clara, CA): Whom would you pick were you drafting a wiffleball team from MLB players? Feel free to turn this into a draft podcast episode if you prefer.

Sam Miller: Good question, not prepared to answer. Would probably want to play a few games of whiffle ball to remind myself which skills are most important. For hitters, probably just go on pure speed. For pitchers, maybe low arm slots.

Chad (Illinois): We are a family of four that loves baseball and follow three different teams, (Giants, Reds, Cubs), so we watch a lot of games. It's funny how the Cubs seem to be a victim of the "randomness of baseball" more than any other. Meaning, it seems they will have at least one inning every game where they will send six guys to the plate and tally a single, triple, walk, fly ball, walk, and ground out...but never in the right order to produce a run. Is there any math to explain this?

Sam Miller: There is math to measure it. Math to explain it? I guess you could create a lineup that was so badly put together than you'd be much more likely to have bad hitters up with runners on base and good hitters up with bases empty. I don't get the feeling that Cubs fans like their misery to be put under an analytical lens, though; just wrap into into the general Cubs cursedness and enjoy the feeling of losing that no other city gets to enjoy.

Sinatra (New York): Heya Sammer Sammer Yellow Hammer ... ha ha ... what do you think of Chris Davis' remarks re: 61 home runs being the 'REAL' record??

Sam Miller: Ben and I just talked about this on Effectively Wild today! Synergy!

I think it takes a long time for any number to really attain the prestige that comes with age. To be honest, right now Bonds' 73 isn't that emotional a number for me, not like 61 always was. If Davis hits 62, or 72, and people want to mentally adjust based on what they know and what they experience and how they feel, that seems extrememly legit. If MLB wants to do that, they should just shut the whole thing down now, because the governing body can't go tampering with records and stuff. They need to stay out of it. But if you want to, I'm fine with it. Maybe I want to, who knows. And certainly Chris Davis is allowed to process his accomplishments anyway he wants.

The slightly tricky thing about Davis' quotes is that they are self-serving. I'd have been pretty receptive of them coming from another player. From him it's a little tacky. Just a little, though. All power to him.

Jeff Mathis (Sam Miller's Brain): Favourite factoid of the moment: go.

Sam Miller: I've been telling everybody I know about that 3-0 one I mentioned above, and it makes people so mad! People really want to believe that pitchers are putting that ball exactly where they want to. And relative to, say, Carly Rae Jepsen, or a mentalist with no hands, or a strong gust of wind, they are.

Ben (CA): My OOTP Expansion team is just awful. What can I do to fix this?

Sam Miller: Cut payroll to $22 million, hire some prominent smart guys, and rebrand yourself as the team least afraid to lose in the interest of the long term.

Jim (Texas): Will there ever be a stat revolution in college baseball?

Sam Miller: I'm not sure how much incentive there is. The thing about MLB stats is that they're mostly about saving money, which is important because saving even one percent of your money is worth $1 million; or they're about squeezing out small gains over the course of many, many years -- the 10 years or so (minors+majors) that most players are under team control. Obviously there's some stuff about not bunting and lineup position, but that's pretty small beans. I think if there were PITCHf/x cameras at college parks you might see a bit more experimentation with pitch selection, pitcher types. But unless the players are really expensive, and they're going to be around a long time, I'm not sure there's a huge payoff or a huge incentive for teams to pursue.

Tim (Portland OR): What are the immediate prospects for Sonny Gray? Does he crack the A's rotation? Or is he only starting in an injury situation? Why did the A's give him the pre-break taste of the majors?

Sam Miller: Discussed in the Call-Up this week,

"This is a short term move for Oakland, as Gray is being allowed to get his feet wet now while Oakland makes use of an extra roster spot for as long as they do not need a fifth starter. His stay may be limited for this call-up, but while there is no immediate opening for Gray in the rotation, he will without question be the first call once a starter is needed. He could follow in the footsteps of Tampa standouts David Price and Matt Moore, joining the Big Club for good later this year to provide meaningful innings for a playoff push and through Octoberóbe it in relief or as a starteróand should establish himself as a rotation mainstay next April at the latest."

justarobert (Santa Clara, CA): What's the strangest thing your neighbors have seen you do in the name of baseball writing and research? Timing yourself trying to outrun Jose Molina to first base?

Sam Miller: Everybody at my church knew I was a baseball writer, and the ones who were Angels fans (many) always thought it was a real cool job. Then a couple years ago I did handsome rankings for Baseball Positions. bit.ly/qgofg3 That got emailed around, and ever since I think people have looked at the job/me a lot differently. They imagined me hobnobbing with stars; then they saw the reality. I would sum up the reaction thusly: "oh."

justarobert (Santa Clara, CA): Do you think Chris Davis's comments were self-serving solely in the sense of his home run pace, or might they also be partly motivated by the questions he's been getting about being on steroids?

Sam Miller: I was thinking about it as the former, but you have a point about the latter. In that sense, distancing himself from the previous generation seems smart and reasonable. I wouldn't want to be linked to Bonds just because I play the same sport, either.

OK, rolling out of here. But, for the heck of it, going to post some of the questions I *didn't* get to, so you can see the madness behind the curtain.

Chad (Illinois): Are you like me, when you see Edward Mujica you want to pronounce his last name like "Maan-teca!"?

Sam Miller: Like this one

Free Boosie (ATL): You get to be a peacock or an alligator for 24 hours ... which do you choose?

Sam Miller: and

IntheJungle (Pride Rock): If Bud Selig had to cast MLB stars for the Lion King who would be: Mufasa, Scar, Simba (young and old), Rafiki, and the Hyenas. 5 starts on iTunes!

Sam Miller: I very nearly answered this one. I have a half-completed list next to me!

Matt (Springfield): Speaking of Kanye, how may of his $120 white t-shirts are you in for? http://uscheckout.apc.fr/browse.cfm/4,3379.html?nav=kanye It is 100% cotton after all!

Sam Miller: probably none but thanks for the question!

Jakob (DeKalb): Which would you rather fight, one Yasiel Puig sized Ben Lindbergh, or 100 Ben Lindbergh sized Yasiel Puigs?

Sam Miller: I would rather fight the Ben Lindbergh-sized Puigs, because I don't want to hurt Ben and I don't want Ben to hurt me.

The Wolf (Noggin): Settle this for me ... if I go to a friend's house and ask for juice and he doesn't give me juice ... but then he catches me drinking out the carton am I in the wrong? I say no. He won't answer my calls. What do you think?

Sam Miller: I mean what?

Turtle (Lake Flourish): Piggy-back ride from Mike Trout around the bases or a tour of Saturn's rings?

Sam Miller: Ok a piggy-back ride from Mike Trout around the bases really does sound amazing. I've got a big ol' smile thinking about it. Thanks, Turtle!

Sam Miller: Apologies again for being late, thanks to all of y'all for bringin' it today. See you next time.


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