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Chat: Sam Miller

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday February 11, 2014 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: I need to warn you: I have a keyboard that periodically doesn't type the letter t or the letter g. Right now, each letter is working, but over the past week that has been the exception. So things might get really weird midway through. Fair warning!

AL (Amarillo, TX): Hi Sam, I saw an interview Kevin Gausman gave before the draft and he sounded like a 5 year old and immediately downgraded him and took Kyle Zimmer in my draft. Do you have any thoughts on his maturity level ?

Sam Miller: I don't, but I will say this, which is extremely, extremely important in assessing players: Makeup and character are not the same thing. They're not even necessarily correlated, though they might be. Makeup, as it is usually used, and as it might be useful to somebody assessing these guys, generally means: The mental drive to make himself better; the steadiness to perform well in any situation, not just comfortable ones; and whatever characteristics might make those around him better. Character is totally different. Lots of guys you'd hate IRL who would grade out as having good makeup, for baseball purposes.

The problem is, you have a decent insight into people's character by seeing how they act in public, the words they use when they speak, etc. The makeup stuff isn't generally readily apparent to us.

So, yeah, I wouldn't make any decisions about players based on their interviews. Notably, I didn't draft Miguel Cabrera anywhere before 2012 because of his DUI/rehab. See?

Gila Monster (Boston): In the Effectively Wild podcasts on teams: Could you provide one player you are bullish and one you are bearish on?? Specifically those you think PECOTA is off on.

Sam Miller: Bearish, relative to PECOTA, on Jean Segura. Will have to think of a bullish one for you.

NatsGM (Washington DC): Are you attending the Saber Seminar this summer?

Sam Miller: No, but Jeff Luhnow is!

John (Russia): Hi Sam! Let's say a team's doctor actually develops a method to prevent pitcher injuries. Do you think he/she would feel any ethical obligation to share this medical breakthrough, or simply enjoy rolling in all of the money?

Sam Miller: Hmmmmmm. That's a good question. We're just talking about things that prevent pitcher injuries, not something that might presumably help kids with cerebral palsy or wounded war veterans? I generally think of baseball injuries as being outside the realm of health. I know most people find what I'm going to say slightly monstrous, but I have absolutely no discomfort rooting for injuries to my least favorite team, assuming they're baseball injuries--hamstrings and elbows and blisters--and not head injuries or anything that is really serious. The injuries we generally talk about in baseball only matter within the universe of the game, and the universe of the game is totally make believe. None of it means anything. Now, there is a spectrum where it gets harder to be happy about an injury. I wouldn't generally want anybody to be injured who is under a certain age, who hasn't gotten relatively wealthy already. There is a point where it gets flat sad to see a guy like Brian Roberts or Nick Johnson get hurt. I was moved by Miguel Bautista last year. This answer is getting off track. Are you all still here?

Anyway, to answer your question sort of, if we're just talking about a big advance in player upkeep, something that keeps pitchers healthy but isn't really a great medical breakthrough that All Of Science could and should benefit from, then no, no obligation.

Also: Players go see other teams' orthopedists and surgeons. So I guess the sport generally feels medical expertise is non-proprietary.

anon (CA): On Fangraphs' profiles for Sano, they suggest he may be 24-25. Thoughts here?

Sam Miller: The relative rarity of these age scandals suggests to me that they're not really worth trying to guess. There are LITERALLY six billion ways for Miguel Sano to fail. Each is unlikely, and they all add up to a lot of risk. This is one, I guess. So is the possibility that his girlfriend will stab him over the last slice of cheesecake.

Billy (Ocean): In five years which GM has a better career win percentage since today: Dan Jennings or Jeff Luhnow?

Sam Miller: Luhnow's next five years: 66 wins, 86 wins, 83 wins, 94 wins, 90 wins.
Jennings' next five years: 66 wins, 74 wins, 93 wins (World Series), 61 wins, fired.

Luhnow.

Cal Guy (Cal): Hi Sam, Who would you choose as your shortstop in a dynasty league, Bogaerts or Correa?

Sam Miller: Bogaerts, with the possible exception that if you're in a league like I'm in where third baseman are practically worthless and you don't want to risk having a really good third baseman and no shortstop. But Bogaerts will produce more.

Bwamps (LA): Who are some starting pitchers outside the Top 30 (think 30-50 range) that you are targeting to fill in the middle of your rotation this year? Thanks!

Sam Miller: Partly depends on your top 30. Pitchers outside my wife's top 30 that I'd target: Max Scherzer, Adam Wainwright, Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez.

If we use this top 30: http://espn.go.com/fantasy/baseball/story/_/page/2014_ranks_SP/tristan-h-cockcroft-fantasy-baseball-starting-pitcher-rankings-2014 then I'd say...Fister, Cueto, Walker, maybe Peralta. Medlen is 29 on that list and I'm exceptionally bullish on Medlen this year. Irrationally, one might say.

justarobert (Santa Clara, CA): What's your favorite one-name player in the Baseball Reference database?

Sam Miller: bit.ly/1dgS8C7

thank you for asking!

whjohnson37 (Houston): How does the industry view the Astros' decision to hire multiple BP employees (in respect to you guys being "industry outsiders")?

Sam Miller: I'm not sure! I don't think anybody considers Mike or Colin industry outsiders considering the roles they're in. Goldstein, who you think of as less of an outsider, was actually more of an outsider relative to the role he was hired for. And when they hired him there was some anonymous-exec sniping in, I believe, a Peter Gammons column. But, of course, now Goldstein's an insider. I think if the industry has any issues with the Astros (and this is just speculation), it's not because of who they hire, but because they might be violating an unwritten rule against tanking-for-future-benefits *too* much.

Rusty Shackelford (Arlen, Texas): What do you know about Miguel Castro of the Blue Jays?

Sam Miller: His employer. The surname of at least one of his parents. The thing he's better at than anything else in the world (baseball). Quite a bit, actually.

Mike (Rockies): Brothers or Hawkins closing for Colorado?

Sam Miller: I know possession is 9/10ths of the draft strategy, but I think Brothers will take it from Hawkins before long. This seems like a relatively safe guess.

Alex (Rockies): Why in the world isn't Rex closing games over Hawkins?

Sam Miller: Because if Brothers gets saves, he gets more expensive in arbitration. If Hawkins gets saves, he brings back a bigger return in a July trade. Considering the incentives, the decision is easy, though considering the relatively small incentives (Hawkins won't bring back *that* much, Brothers won't get *that* expensive) I'd argue the decision to just do the right thing is easier.

This is the most ironic Proven Closer moment ever, though. Hawkins used to be the go-to example of a guy who was a really good reliever but couldn't handle the ninth. I mean, the GO TO guy. I think Nate Silver or somebody used him specifically to debunk the claim. Yes, I'm sure of it. And now here's Hawkins, the Proven Closer, or at least the guy Colorado seems to be trying to position as such, even though he only has seven more saves (in the seven seasons since) than Brothers had last year. Wonderful!

Frankie (Space Needle): T.Walker - what can we expect from T.Walker? McClendon saying we expect him to make the rotation - truth to that, or just spewing the company line?

Sam Miller: I'd definitely expect him to make the rotation. 123 ERA+.

Spam Miller (Tangerine County): My keyboard works fine: Taylor Guerrieri

Sam Miller: My keyboard actually went out when I was trying to email a request to interview Jim Gott. That is not a lie!

Jason (LA): While I'm coming around to your side re: Elementary vs Sherlock, I'm not sure any character on is played better on the former with the exception of JLM's Sherlock. So I guess my question is how would you rank the characters from each show?

Sam Miller: The last two episodes of Sherlock this season actually have me reconsidering. The three strongest hours of the show, by far. (Though everything in the last 15 minutes, when (SPOILER and SPOILER took the heliSPOILER to SPOILER's house and SPOILER'd him, was pretty dumb.)

There are four shared characters, right? Sherlock is well played by both; I prefer JLM, but each is suitable to his show's tone. Watson is clearly played better by Bilbo, but is probably written better--at least with more of her own agency--in Elementary. Mycroft clearly better in Sherlock, the most lopsided comparison. But Aiden Quinn/John Michael Hall, as the cops, are both very strong. The strength of their characters, and the prominence of their roles, gives the show a much fuller universe than Sherlock can provide. The cases in Elementary suck, fwiw.

Rocko (NY): Bet between Yankee/Met fan - D.Gee or I.Nova - who's better in 2014?

Sam Miller: Nova, though I have always liked Gee more. I don't know how that works. But, right, Nova is better.

John (Russia): Pick a baseball player and an Olympic sport you'd like to see him try

Sam Miller: Dan Vogelbach and Alexi Amarista, pairs ice dancing.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): When is the first gay MLB or MiLB player coming out?

Sam Miller: I've always thought that it would be not an established player coming out but an out player getting drafted. It seemed to me fairly inevitable that it would happen that way, for various reasons, but now that momentum is really rolling I think it'll actually happen faster than that, with a current player coming out. I'd guess by the end of 2015 season.

Justin (Chicago, IL): Which Chicago team makes the playoffs first?

Sam Miller: Cubs

Andrew (TX): Will Crain be healthy to start the year? I don't know if it's Crain, Fields, or Qualls closing games for Houston - but I also don't think the Astros know either

Sam Miller: I'd lean no, and I'd lean Qualls

Jimbo (TX): I've seen Springer rise up some draft boards, with possibly the anticipation he makes the team out of spring training? Thoughts? If so, June arrival at least?

Sam Miller: Certainly June. I'd actually be unsurprised to see him on Opening Day roster. I think after the 15-game losing streak/pennant race disaster of last September the Astros would like to do things to show that they take the game seriously. Like promoting the guy who would be the best/second-best/third-best player on their team. I think Springer would have been in the majors last September for about 28 major-league teams.

So certainly June; I'd say certainly by late April; and at least worth gambling that it'll be out of spring training.

Brian (CT): Is there any prospect who probably won't be on an Opening Day roster, that you would target in a draft for a non-keeper league. I had Trout in 2012 and Puig last year, and I'm looking for someone to stash that could make an impact this year at some point. Thanks

Sam Miller: Jonathan Gray. Springer. Kris Bryant.

Brian (FL): What's the expectation of Jason Kipnis going forward?

Sam Miller: What we've seen seems like a level he can maintain for a long time. Nothing screams further breakout, but he's a star already.

John (Chicago): Why is Pecota so bearish on most of the high profile 2nd year hitters? Gyorko, Profar, Yelich, Rendon, Machado, and Myers are all under 50% to improve.

Sam Miller: How many players are over 50 percent to improve? Honest question. I get the sense that most players, if they're already doing good, aren't great bets to improve. Attrition starts practically immediately, and all those guys are high profile because they're already performing at a high level.

Yolanda (Lakewood): What are you working on?

Sam Miller: Whether post-hype all-stars are a real thing

Broken Arrow (Texas): This might be a better question for the podcast but here goes. If you were going to design a baseball analogue to the Arena Football League, what would it entail? It would be something that looks and feels a bit like baseball, but also has its own personality.

Sam Miller: No innings, first to 15 runs wins, restart the lineup every inning, start the count on 1-1, and I'm toying with something where the team that's trailing gets more runs for a home run, making comebacks/lead changes more common.

cracker73 (Florida): Is Lance Lynn a top 40 starter?

Sam Miller: No and, if I might editorialize, gosh no.

Bobby (Dallas): Will Marin Perez be a productive 4/5 starter? He's especially important with the loss of Holland.

Sam Miller: Yes, more likely 3 than 5.

Tim (Fantasy land): Who are some decent bets - way late, way deep league for starting pitchers? Pineda? Odorizzi? Duffy?

Sam Miller: Duffy's a good one, I like that one.

Aaron (SD): Can J.Johnson give us anything to get excited about in his return? Last years' numbers were so, so brutal

Sam Miller: More for the previous question: I like Ian Kennedy for deep guys. Phil Hughes if it's deep enough. Maybe Josh Johnson, but mostly because at that point it's so easy to let him free. I don't actually expect anything from Johnson. Like Ben wrote last year, at a certain point the Good-Or-Injured guys tend to lose the Good.

cracker73 (Florida): Do you think Jorge Alfaro lives up to the hype and becomes a star MLB catcher. I wonder, especially after the remarks that Paul Sporer made about about Alfaro.

Sam Miller: I don't ever second guess prospect writers. They know more and care more.

Alex (CA): I have the #1 in my dynasty league. Tanaka's available, but so is Sonny Gray, and he really intrigues me. He's shown what he could do against major league players already. Who should I take?

Sam Miller: Oh my gosh it's not close. Tanaka.

Shawn (Princeton, NJ): Hi Sam, Who has more upside--Heath Hembree or Sean Nolin?

Sam Miller: Nolin

Robert (California): About $25M coming off the books for the Angels after the 2014 season in Wells/Blanton. About $3.5M for Burnett. $2.75M for Ibanez. They also have ~$15M or so remaining before the tax as of now. Will the Angels just try to use basically all of this extra cash for a Trout extension? And if they want to go after a pitcher in next year's much better SP FA class, do they still need to free up more cash next offseason with a Kendrick trade for example?

Sam Miller: The thing about extensions is that, when you do them early, they don't *cost* money, they save money. They take on risk in order to save money. So it's the team that can't really afford them that signs them. Hence the Rays/Longoria--even at $100M plus, he's a savings on anything else they could have done w/ that money. At this point, Trout's probably still there: you sign the extension now because it saves you money. Which is just to say that how much money they currently owe Wells etc should be irrelevant. Anyway, my actual answer is I think the time to sign Trout has probably passed. They could announce the extension today and make me look dumb, but Trout's six months away from making $15M in his first arb year. He doesn't need to take a discount anymore. If the Angels sign him to a long extension, it'll be okay but probably not much of a bargain.

Dee Rae (Bay Area): Kevin Kiermaier is projected as a 5 win player by one system. Say what?

Sam Miller: When we have driverless cars, there will be far fewer accidents, less traffic, more efficient use of the streets and the cars themselves, but we'll still have to sit semi-alert in the driver's seat

Eric Hartman (In a small room at NYU): You have listed a handful of baseball writers as being among your favorites before. Understanding that any list you give would be incomplete, could you mention a handful for the benefit of the audience. If you're bold you can even share some of your favorite pieces that they've produced. ...I feel this is the better format for this question than my usual avenues for querying you.

Sam Miller: This would be easy to answer if I had 90 minutes but impossible in 90 seconds, so I'll just note that it's pretty obvious what a huge fan I am of Grant Brisbee, Jeff Sullivan, and Ben Lindbergh, and I think dozens, scores, hundreds of other writers are brilliant and add so much to the discussion. For a starter list, look at the 30 writers Jason and I asked to write essays in the BP Annual this year. We picked them because we love them.

Sam Miller: That'll do. Gs and Ts, to the end.


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