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Chat: Sam Miller

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday September 20, 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: Chatting!

Aceathon (Texas): Do you like baseball?

Sam Miller: There is a bit of that thing where the more you analyze a joke the less funny it gets. After five years of writing about baseball, thinking about every thing through the lens of what it says about the sport, what it means about baseball, I do find it very hard to enjoy it the way I used to. The narratives and the suspense are no longer the subtext; they're all the text, they feel a bit obvious and on the nose. It's probably better when those things are unseen.

That said, there are a lot of things about baseball I absolutely love. I still love the feeling of throwng or hitting a baseball, and even though I never do either anymore, my muscles reverberate whenever I see another person do it. I like leaderboards, and I particularly like how many descriptive leaderboards there are -- all the o-swings and velocities and stuff like that. I love hearing nice people talk to each other, with no pressure on me to response, so I love the radio broadcasts. I love the puzzle aspect of putting together teams. I love the way every prediction, totally worthless and insignificant in the moment, becomes wonderful to revisit five years later. I love the behind-the-mound cameras, and I love to see what pitchers can make a baseball do. I love low-A stats, and I love empty stadiums in ninth inning blowouts, and there's almost nothing I love more than 15th innings on. So, yeah, I do. I like it more than anything else, at least.

Jape (Portland): Bearded Trumbo has been on fire. In your estimation, how many o-fers will it take for him to shave the beard?

Sam Miller: I think the right o-fer would be enough. In my experience, some players could homer 100 times in a row and if he goes oh for two he thinks he's in a slump.

Wesley (Texas): The 2014 NL MVP will be who?

Sam Miller: Bryce Harper

Kay (Chicago): Probability of these things happening in the next 10 years: Japanese manager Female player Female umpire Mark Reynolds still playing baseball Hit f/x being public You still writing for BP

Sam Miller: 1 in 30
1 in 14 billion
1 in 2.5
1 in 8
1 in 3.75
uhhhh 10 years ago I was into that TV show Joe Millionaire, so I put no personal changes of taste out of the question. I don't really know how to answer that.

Johns (Hopkins): How unusuaul are confrontations between players and media like the Bandon Phillips thing?

Sam Miller: I've never seen it happen. I've seen managers single out reporters, but it's been very rare in my experience. The media-player relationships are very conflict averse because it serves nobody.

My very favorite media/player interaction ever was this year. No names, but a fairly well known regional columnist approached a player before a game, made 30 seconds of small talk, took out his notebook. "Have a quick minute?"

Player: Uhhhhh I gotta go, I've got the meeting to go to.
Reporter: It'll be real quick, I promise.
Player: No, I mean, I gotta go now, it's now. It's 4:15. (points to the clock.)
Reporter: oh okay I'll catch you later.

Player walks away, leaves the clubhouse. MAYBE 20 seconds pass. Player walks right back in, past reporter, to his locker, sits down. No acknowledgement anything has happened. Sits down and stays there for 10 more minutes. (Reporter left without comment, too.) The funny thing is that when he pointed at the clock and said "it's 4:15," everybody looked at the clock and it was very clearly 4:09. Awkward moment of silence at that point.

Rick (Tampa): How many PA or IP do you think a player should get before we call them a good player or not?

Sam Miller: It depends on what we already know about that player, right? If it's Stephen Strasburg, maybe 30 innings? If it's Michael Fiers, maybe 350 innings? Depends on age, depends on track record, etc. Who do you have in mind? I'll tell you if he's good!

Dan Brooks (Boston): Why do many broadcasts and websites call it "the magic number to clinch the division?" Wouldn't "number to clinch the division" work just as well? What is magic about this number? Can we eliminate this odd invocation of wizardry?

Sam Miller: Before the "to clinch the division" clause had to be added, Magic Number was perfect. It sounded exciting, it had brevity, we all knew what it meant. Then the durned Wild Card screwed it up. Now, you're right. Nobody knows what the phrase means (First wild card? division? Playoffs, period?) so it has no function as shorthand. Kill the Magic Number! #killthemagicnumber

Larry (Indy): What pandora station do you listen to when writing your articles?

Sam Miller: I feel like i tried Pandora once in about 2005 and it sucked, so I've never tried it. About 50 percent of the music I listen to, maybe more, when I'm writing is the Hood Internet Mix Tapes: http://www.thehoodinternet.com/

Because they go for an hour without needing maintenance, they're all great, they move around a lot, and I just don't have to think about them, ever. (Foul language, so beware.)

Rob and Laura (New Rochelle): Women smelling Josh Hamilton and CJ Wilson's hair is annoying. What commercials are bugging you of late?

Sam Miller: I had adblocker most of this season so I never saw an mlb.tv ad until a couple weeks ago. The commercials that bug me the most are car commercials that show cars doing either a) extremely banal things, like driving down a New England hamlet's downtown or b) show the car, like, playing football and dodging tacklers, but in either case issue the "professional driver, closed course" warning. Buy our car! Just don't drive it exactly as it's intended, and don't use it to play football!

Dave (Pittsburgh): I'm a Pirates fan and I had no idea what "the magic number" was/meant until 2-3 weeks ago.

Sam Miller: :( but :)

Mike Scoisia (LA??): Will I keep my job after this year?

Sam Miller: I didn't think so, but now I think so. I'm surprised, to be honest, because I figured it impossible that a GM would get fired after only two years, and that seems to be the alternative to Scioscia. Especially when GM brought in basically an entire new front office.

Greg (Phoenix): How bush-league was it for the Dodgers to celebrate by swimming in the Dbacks pool?

Sam Miller: The stadium was empty, right? If the stadium was empty, not bush league. I know baseball is a competitive thing, but I don't know why baseball players are so intent on making sure no other baseball players are ever happy.

FlatbushDuke (Toronto): Hey Sam! This is a question I have asked many times and no one seems to know the answer. Is there a particular reason nearly every baseball broadcast shoots from behind the right shoulder of a pitcher? There are a few teams that shoot from directly behind, the Twins being one. It creates a completely perspective of how pitches move, and what a batter's swing looks like. In fact, I think this has had a huge effect on how players are described. Lefty curves are usually spoken of as "sweeping" and lefty swings are the ones that are most often called beautiful". I always wonder how different we would view players/picthes/swings if the camera were to shoot from over the left shoulder of the pitcher. Anyway, it is just something I have always been curious about. Love your work! Dave (When I was a kid in the late 80's, I began reading Bill James. I can't find the article online, but basically he tried to figure out who the best hitters would be if the earth was "flipped". All righties became lefties and vice versa,essentially making lefty pitchers far more numerable than righties and then looking at splits. Anyway- after that I started watching games in my bedroom mirror to see what guys would look like if it were actually true! That sort of led to this question)

Sam Miller: I'm with you; the dead-center camera is the best way to watch a game and I will sometimes choose which game to watch based on that center-field camera angle. The obstacle, as I recall, is that a lot of stadiums don't have a great place to put that camera, because that's where the batter's eye is so it's a geographic dead zone. Also, to get suitably over the pitcher's head, sometimes the camera is pretty high up in a way that some people find disorienting. In fact, Slate wrote about this two years ago. Excerpt:

The contemporary TV producers I spoke with guessed that it probably came down to the expense of building a platform tall enough to make a dead-center camera feasible. To prevent the pitcher and catcher from occupying the same space on screen, the camera needs to be at least 45 feet above the field. Consider the added physical labor and potential complications that come with rigging cameras and wiring at that height, and it's easy to see why baseball broadcasters of yore would prefer the low-rise setup.

Link: http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2009/06/you_call_that_a_strike.html

There are some pitchers who I actually feel differently about now that I've seen them from a centered camera. Lincecum, particularly, stands out. The movement on his splitter requires that angle to really appreciate.

Bill (New Mexico): What do the top few slots on your MVP ballot look like, for each league?

Sam Miller: Trout, Cabrera, Donaldson, Cano, Pedroia.
McCutchen, and then maybe Kershaw, Goldschmidt, Molina, Puig

German (lTPIASFUJd): Mr Tan, thank you for educating me, tuhgoh it's too late. That was exactly the situaton I fell into. And worst still for me, I use that sum of money to buy 3 things: Minibond, Jubilee and Pinnacle, thinking that I had extra safety because the sum was spread into 17different companies among the 3 and the chances of all 17 going burst is extremely remote. But history and your explanations had proved me so wrong, so stupid, so naive! By spreading my money into 3different "bonds", my risk actually increased by 17x. Until today I still cannot believe what I have done! I have little hope now except to pray everyday that the FI will be fair which I doubt it will because it just published a press release only talking about "vulnerable invstors". Although I did not lose everything that I have, it's still blood-sweat money that I saved. Everytime I see my children, I felt so sorry....Sigh. I will never ever trust FI anymore and I will tell my children of my experience and caution them when they reach working age. Hopefully I'm still alive by then.Henry...

Sam Miller: I guess... uh. Mike Trout?

baseballjunkie (sf): Price is still good, but maybe not elite... where do you rank him among all MLB SP for 2014?

Sam Miller: Top seven. Maybe top four.

Matt (Austin, TX): How is Michael Wacha's nickname not Fozzie Bear?

Sam Miller: Because obvious puns are the worst, worse even than if his nickname was M-Wac

Matt (Austin, TX): How is Matt Albers' nickname not "Hey Hey Hey"?

Sam Miller: It should be

Cal Guy (Cali): Better keeper, Walker or Gausman?

Sam Miller: Walker

Robert (California): Please tell me you think the Angels sign Trout long-term this offseason

Sam Miller: I don't think that. He's so close to his first big payday that he'd probably be a little dumb to take any discount now. He might get $15M his first arb year. He might get $65M his three arb years. He might get $35M in his first year of free agency. His agent should arrange for a nice big insurance policy that pays out $30M if he gets career-ending injured in the next four years, and then suck down every dollar he's worth.

David Copafeel (Trillville): You are tasked with remaking Grease using a current artist's songs. Drake? Kanye West? Kirko Bangz?

Sam Miller: With their actual songs? Or with original songs written for the movie? Or with their own takes on the Grease original songs? Anyway, the answer for all three is Animal Collective.

Cal Guy (Cali): Are we seeing Carpenter's career year? What can we expect for next season?

Sam Miller: Yeah, but i mean that more because this would qualify as any player's career year. I'm not on board with the idea that we should take him less seriously than any other player performing at this level.

Paul (DC): In a best of seven series between the Astros and the Marlins, who ... uhm ... wins?

Sam Miller: I think it's pretty well settled that the Marlins are better than the Astros right now. We played an entire season just to answer that question! And now it's answered.

Alex (Boston): How often do you listen to yourself on the BP podcast?

Sam Miller: Once a month a new episode, once a month an old episode in order to talk about it on a new episode.

Yeah. These beats are dope. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqB2X7-j9KQ

FlatbushDuke (Toronto): Gose or Rasmus long term?

Sam Miller: Rasmus, but partly because "long term" to me is about three years and anything beyond three years is "blind guess"

Dennis (LA): Do you think Jerry Dipoto (and staff) will be with the Angels next year? (I hope so, but I agree it looks like Scioscia will be back :(

Sam Miller: To be clear, I really have no idea, and I hope he is. But it seems like Jerry's gone. People seem to think he's gone. Sad and dumb.

ackbar (earth): 1. Do you think the bush league takes offense to all the low-class stuff that apparently happens within its confines, year-after-year, without anything ever changing? 2. Do you think they should stop playing in the bushes

Sam Miller: Bush league's origin, from Dickson baseball dictionary: "The term 'bush' probably originated as a condescending reference by the established players in the Major Leagues to the umkept and overgrown nature of the playing fields of lesser leagues than the Major Leagues." So when people say bush league, it is not about manners or politeness; it's about elitism and classism.

Freddy Guzman (Ya Basepaths): No love?

Sam Miller: Ok, imagine that baseball added a 26th man who was only allowed to run, and only once per game. Can never hold a bat or a glove under any circumstances, but the manager would have one interesting weapon to use every game. Would that be fun or not?

baseballjunkie (sf): Foresight is not 20/20 but by the year 2020 Correa will be a top ___ SS or will not be playing SS at all?

Sam Miller: Eight, conservatively.

Habyart (Mission): What would you most want to write about if you had total access?

Sam Miller: If I had total access and people would be honest with me, I'd really want to spend an offseason writing about Ken Rosenthal and what he does, how he does it. Or, maybe larger, an offseason; how an offseason develops, in the rooms, in the negotiations, every team starting with one idea about themselves and ending the winter with another one. The offseason is where the real personalities are, not on the field.

Also. In Moneyball, in the section about the year Billy Beane got drafted, they talk about how the Mets had the first overall pick. Quoting:

Plus, there was this one other thing: In the months leading up to the draft the Mets front office had allowed themselves to become part of a strange experiment. Sports Illustrated had asked the Mets' GM if one fo the magazine's reporters could follow the team as it decided who would become the first overall draft pick. The Mets had shown the magazine their short list of prospects, and the magazine had said it would be convenient, journalistically, if the team selected Darryl Strawberry."

That would be an amazing article to write and report, with enough access. I wonder how much that story is apocrypha, though. I went looking through the SI Vault and found no such story. Only an article about Strawberry two months before the draft, maybe 1,000 words. So hmmmmm. I'm now skeptical.

Christopher (TN): Maybe a dumb question, but why don't defensive WAR and offensive WAR add up to WAR? I understand there's a positional adjustment somewhere, but I get lost.

Sam Miller: This may be a dumb answer, but baserunning WAR, right? Like w/ WARP you have VORP, you have FRAA, and then you have baserunning runs? Maybe I'm wrong. I shouldn't have clicked on this question.

Alex (Anaheim): Please tell me someone other than Boston is coming out of the AL.

Sam Miller: There's like a three-in-four chance of it, in fact.

I was listening to the Rays' telecast and they were talking about which AL division winner the Rays would match up best against in the playoffs. "No question, the Red Sox." Really, no question? There is no question at all in your mind about which of three teams, almost totally even in quality, will be hardest to beat in a five-game series? Okay.

Flip (Clearwater): Does the increase in Ks make the old rule of thumb of one per inning less relevant? Are there any other of these numbers that are suspect based on changes in the game and need to be updated?

Sam Miller: What's the rule of thumb of one per inning? Just that it's a good benchmark? For relievers a K per inning doesn't mean much. There are still very few starters who reach that, though. Felix never has, for instance. I might be mistaken, but my sense is that for starters the K rate increase has mostly come from the bottom; nobody strikes out 4 per 9 anymore. But there's also no starters pushing the extremes at the top (though Darvish is getting there). With relievers, the increase has come mostly at the top, with 9/9 guys turning into 14/9 guys.

Broken Arrow (Austin): How often are you aware of the intro sounds / music that Ben chooses for the podcast? Just when you go back and listen, or does he tell you what he's picking?

Sam Miller: He doesn't tell me. He asks me for one two or three times a week, and I answer probably once a week. He does the heavy lifting on the show.

Omar (Cleveland ): Seems like power arms are more and more plentiful in MLB, do you see this rate climbing or do you think it will eventually hit a wall

Sam Miller: Climbing, forever, unless there is some major, major breakthrough in how we keep pitchers healthy that reveals velocity is the primary culprit. Otherwise, forever. Actually, it'll accelerate as starters' roles shrink more and more, which is a thing I should have mentioned I expect.

bobbykester (DC): All of us here love baseball, but I myself have found the current structure of the leagues totally unsatisfying. Can any true fan get worked up about winning one of these Division titles? Is it gratifying to win a 10-team (NCAA–style) tournament at the end of the year when your team went 83-79? I don’t want to go on and on like Bob Costas. Anyway, I’d appreciate your comment on my proposal in terms of its (1) fairness and (2) satisfaction for a true baseball fan (not on whether it’d ever happen). Expand to 32 teams by adding Montreal (Expos) and Brooklyn (Superbas or Tip-Tops) and have 4 leagues of 8 teams each: American League: Boston, NY Yankees, Baltimore, Washington, Detroit, Cleveland, CWS, Kansas City; National League: St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Chicago Cubs, NY Mets, Brooklyn; Pacific Coast League: Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco, LA Dodgers, LA Angels, San Diego, Phoenix, Denver; Continental (Rickey) League: Miami, Tampa, Houston, Dallas, Toronto, Montreal, Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul; 162 games. Each team plays 18 games against its 7 league members (126) and 6 against 2 teams from each of the other 3 leagues (3H-3A) in a 4-year rotation (36). Only the 4 league champs make the post-season. Every fan in the AL, NL, and PCL would be FAR better off (as would Montreal and Toronto) and the Continental gets a fresh start with their own ”hip” new league and 3 great local rivalries. Thoughts?

Sam Miller: Baseball is basically two seasons now, the regular season that tells you who the best team is, and the postseason that tells you which team won a not-very-instructive tournament. The tournament might not be instructive but it's incredibly fun! Don't you love October? I just love it. So I actually don't think it matters all that much if it crowns the best team, or if an 83-win team wins it all. And I do think it's great that the postseason lasts longer, has the do-or-die game, and gets more cities involved. I don't want *more* teams in the postseason, but, you know what, if there were I'd probably get used to it.

Your way would work, too. Anything baseball does just works.

Jake (Columbus): You recently did a podcast talking about sub-90 mph pitchers you would take in your rotation, how is that rotation holding up?

Sam Miller: After a week I was winning. There's a google doc somewhere, which I can't access but I believe is linked on the Facebook page, which I also can't access.

Sam Miller: And now I have to leave punctually. Thanks for the questions!


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