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Chat: Ben Lindbergh

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday March 12, 2014 2:00 PM ET chat session with Ben Lindbergh.

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Ask the E-in-C.

Ben Lindbergh: Hi, everyone. You've already sent me so many questions! But please send me some more. Here we go.

Ken M (Honolulu HI ): What's the green room like at MLB Network, and do you ever get distracted by all those background monitors while shooting Clubhouse Confidential?

Ben Lindbergh: For me, the "green room" has always been Kevin Millar's empty office. I don't get distracted by the background monitors, but I always have a hard time telling which camera I'm supposed to be staring and smiling engagingly at.

nriguardi (Queens NY): Why does BP hate David Wright

Ben Lindbergh: We're envious of his looks.

Ryan (Arlington): When is Matt Holliday's breakdown going to start? Projection for this year?

Ben Lindbergh: Well, you could make the case that his performance breakdown has already begun--as Sam pointed out today in his article about Brandon Phillips, declines aren't always a straight slope, but Holliday's TAv has gone down for four straight seasons. That said, I'm not aware of any reason why he'd suddenly fall apart or be unable to stay healthy. PECOTA projects the same WARP as last season (3.4), with a slight bounceback on offense.

Spirou (Montreal): Jesus Montero.How many AB does he get in 2014.

Ben Lindbergh: In the majors? Barring a big injury stack, maybe 100-200? Fewer if Seattle re-signs Morales.

Ken M (Honolulu HI ): What is your personal ranking of the Star Wars films, and do you keep up on what little Episode VII news comes out?

Ben Lindbergh: V-IV-VI-III-II-I. And yes, though not as obsessively as I did before the prequels came out. I've been burned before.

Corwin (Atlanta): What do you think about Matt Cain as a bounce back pitcher this year?

Ben Lindbergh: Sure, I can climb aboard the Cain Train. His peripherals last season were essentially the same as before. The only difference was that for once, he didn't outperform them. I expect he'll go back to defying FIP to some extent.

Erix (Walking along Delancey ): As a long suffering Jays fan, talk me off the ledge or find someone else to bombard your podcast with emails.

Ben Lindbergh: Think Stroman thoughts.

Zach (Virginia): Seems like there could be two center fielder types who haven't been good/playing since 2011 or so -- Chris Young and Grady Sizemore -- earning significant playing time. Curious which you find more likely: An injury-prone player or a long-slumping player as the better bet to return to productivity in a close-to-full-time role.

Ben Lindbergh: In the abstract, I'd assign a higher probability of a productive full season to the slumping guy who's stayed healthy.

Scott7015 (Houston): Do Yu Darvish has hit his ceiling or am I being greedy hoping a few more innings per start?

Ben Lindbergh: Greedy, but I don't blame you. Wouldn't shock me if he has at least one season better than last year's.

mzpejp (San Diego): Can you explain why Pecota projects Ryan Braun for about a half season of playing time in the book but FT online? I noticed the enormous disparity in the stats.

Ben Lindbergh: Playing time projections for the book are automatically generated by PECOTA--when we're putting the book together, we don't even know what team a lot of guys will be playing for, so it's too early to try to project PT. PECOTA didn't know about Braun's PED suspension, so it assumed the missed time was an injury and adjusted him downward. The Depth Charts on the site have playing time assigned manually by the BP staff (particularly Tim Collins), so they can account for the circumstances surrounding Braun's 2013.

Christopher (TN): Des the BR sponsorship mean that Sam now gets paid? Or would that ruin his "I work for neither love nor money" schtick?

Ben Lindbergh: The money from the BR sponsorship goes to cover BP's podcast hosting costs. Turns out that doing a (week)daily podcast that some people like to listen to uses a lot of bandwidth. Sam would tell you that he's mostly motivated by fear. Not of me, just in general.

Spirou (Montreal): Too much being made out of Grady Sizemore's training camp.I just don't buy the idea of Sizemore being a full-time player.Are the Red Sox really dumb enough to send back Jackie Bradley at AAA ?

Ben Lindbergh: Well, I'm with you on being conservative about Sizemore, but it's not like Bradley disappears if he does go to Triple-A (and I don't know that he will). Pawtucket is only a 48-minute drive away. (Thanks, Google Maps!)

Alex (Anaheim): What's your over-under on the number of games Kemp will start?

Ben Lindbergh: 100

hdub (the bleachers): Hey Ben, thanks for the chat. supposedly flores got in shape to the point where the mets may use him at short. i guess he played ss on tues. what do you think the odds are he could become the starter by years end?

Ben Lindbergh: Someone asked about Flores at short in Jason Parks' most recent chat, and Jason said:

"He won't be a good shortstop. He doesn't have the range to excel there at the highest level. I guess the kind way of putting it is that Flores isn't an ideal shortstop, physically speaking. He has really nice hands and a strong arm, but the range is just what you want at the position. I think he could be a very good 3B, but obviously that's not going to happen with the Mets. Underrated player, though. He doesn't get enough credit for being able to hit. He's a natural hitter that keeps getting stronger."

Of course, Flores' competition in the short term is Ruben Tejada, so sure, it could happen.

Alex (Milwaukee): Have a favorite pick you've made in the reliever draft thus far? Didn't make it into your league so can't see your roster.

Ben Lindbergh: My league is in the middle of the 13th round. My 12 picks so far:

Craig Kimbrel
Grant Balfour
Junichi Tazawa
Kevin Siegrist
Craig Stammen
Will Smith
Carlos Martinez
Adam Ottavino
Wade Davis
Manny Parra
Heath Hembree
Santiago Casilla

(For anyone who doesn't know what we're talking about, Sam is running a reliever-only fantasy league with Effectively Wild listeners. Only categories are runs allowed and strikeouts, and only relief innings count.)

justarobert (Santa Clara): What's the path a typical BP article takes from idea to publication?

Ben Lindbergh: Depends on the author and the article. In some cases, the first time I see an article is when it's sent to editing. Other times I'll request/suggest that someone write about a certain topic, or the author will run an idea or a rough draft by me or another editor before beginning.

Lou (washington): Am I alright with a fantasy pitching staff anchored by Scherzer, Cain, Shelby Miller, Andrew Cashner, RA Dickey, Drew Smyly and Tyson Ross?

Ben Lindbergh: I have no idea. How big is your league? I like a lot of those pitchers. If you're in a 20-team NL-only league, well done! (Except for the three AL guys.)

rookie319s (Saint Louis): I love following minor league players. I understand that one of my favorite players would hit .228 this year in the major leagues. The thing is though, he will be playing the in Florida State League this year. His 50% line is batting .227. How do I know if he beat that or not if he is playing in the minors? Thanks so much! Love your site... Scott

Ben Lindbergh: The projected PECOTA lines are major-league stats, so if the system is projecting him to hit .227 in the majors, it's safe to say he'll exceed that in the FSL.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): With you, Rany and Jonah writing for Grantland, Christina blogging at SweetSpot, Sam writing magazine features, and Nate starting 538 -- all under the ESPN umbrella -- is it safe to say that Baseball Prospectus's view of the game is now the mainstream perspective? Or is BP simply "internet mainstream?"

Ben Lindbergh: BP has had some sort of relationship with ESPN for quite a while now, but yes, it's safe to say that there's more of a mainstream appetite for BP-style content today. I'd like to think that the work BP has published over the years had something to do with expanding the audience.

Lou (washington): The Scherzer, Cain, Miller, Cashner, Dickey, Smyly and Ross staff is in a 12-team mixed league.

Ben Lindbergh: It's been so long since I've played fantasy that I forget what a good pitching staff in a 12-team mixed league looks like. But most of those names make me think warm thoughts.

jlarsen (Chicagoland): Stroman thoughts? His lack of height seems to have him prone to leaving fastballs flat and hittable. Has given up big HRs versus 2 guys with "ok" power in past two ST stints. Set-up guy in making?

Ben Lindbergh: From Jason's Blue Jays Top 10 (which you may have already read, but which I don't disagree with):

"Stroman might be even shorter than his listed height (5’9’’), and normally I would be the first person to put him into the reliever box—especially given the fact that he could be an elite closer in that role. But I think Stroman is a starter all the way, with more than enough strength and athleticism for the workload and a deep arsenal that he can command. He’s atypical and unorthodox, but Stroman is going to be an impact starter at the major-league level. The stuff is well above average, the delivery and arm work very well and should be able to handle a starter’s workload, and the aggressiveness and poise fit the mold of a frontline starter just as much as it does a late-innings arm. If you focus too much on the height you are going to miss the realities of the overall profile. This is a starting pitcher."

johnd311 (Tucson): Why is PECOTA so bullish about Will Middlebrooks? He struggled mightily last year.

Ben Lindbergh: I'm actually sorta bullish about Middlebrooks myself. Thus far he's been up and down, both literally (between Boston and Pawtucket) and in terms of performance. Even so, he's hit 32 homers in essentially one full season's worth of plate appearances, so he's not far away from being a productive player. Pitchers took advantage of his aggressiveness early last season, which took away his opposite-field power. But he worked on his stance when he went to Triple-A, which made him more even and less prone to opening up and gives him a better chance of hitting line drives up the middle. He hit much better after he returned to the majors in August, and PECOTA projects that success to continue. The Red Sox still haven't brought back Drew, which suggests that they're pretty bullish about Middlebrooks too.

Andy (Chicago): Pretty certain my best reliever pick (16 rounds in) thus far is Arquimedes Caminero. Agree or disagree. Pretty sure I don't even need to show the rest of my roster, because come on: look at that name!

Ben Lindbergh: He's a cross between a muscle car and the guy who explained buoyancy. Your best pick by far.

Alex (CT): In Scout School what did they say the proper dress was when scouting games?

Ben Lindbergh: Business casual, basically. Khakis and a collared shirt. The Scouting Bureau is not a big fan of jeans.

Seth (Arizona): How long would the last remaining QO free agents have to remain unsigned until MLB does something?

Ben Lindbergh: 2016, when the current CBA expires.

Tom (Eugene, OR.): What's with the Anthony Recker love on the podcast?!

Ben Lindbergh: Home-Recker is the best-looking player in baseball. Not great at hitting, fielding, or any of the other yardsticks by which we traditionally evaluate players, but he deserves to be recognized for what he does do well.

The Honorable Arthur Fonzarelli (The Secretary of Cool): How much money should I spend on my first 5 picks in a 14-team auction draft with a $260 spending limit? It's my first auction and I gotta look cool.

Ben Lindbergh: I haven't played fantasy for years, and when I did, I didn't play in auction leagues, so I'm really the wrong guy to ask. If you sign up for a Super Premium subscription, you can ask our fantasy staff as many questions like this as you like. And they'll have to answer all of them!

P (Austin): With a depleted rotation possibly dragging the Braves down, do the Mets have a slightly more realistic chance at that 90 wins mark? Or, at the very least, a battle for second (instead of third) place in the NL East?

Ben Lindbergh: Eh, I don't see it. Don't know if you heard, but Atlanta signed Ervin Santana today, so that rotation is looking a little less depleted.

Tim (NYC): So scouts that wear jeans are what?

Ben Lindbergh: The Bureau believes in dressing for success, if only to impress players who might consider signing with your team. I'm sure there's no correlation between choice of pants and the ability to evaluate players.

Ian (NYC): Are the new MLBAM cameras optional or required for MLB ballparks?

Ben Lindbergh: As far as I know (which isn't all that far, in this case), they aren't optional. They'll be everywhere in 2015. Don't know what would happen if a team tried to opt out, but I doubt that would happen.

Teddy (Orlando): What kind of year can I expect from Shelby Miller? Does he take the next step forward and what's an innings projection?

Ben Lindbergh: I'm not really optimistic about Miller taking another step forward unless he really refines a third pitch that can get lefties out. He outperformed his peripherals somewhat last season, and from what I've heard, he was one of the hardest-hit pitchers in baseball according to HITf/x. I think he was probably lucky to have as much success as he did, and I wouldn't expect a non-fluky 3 ERA (again, unless he improves his arsenal, which is certainly possible).

BillWW (Brooklyn): Any sort of book tour for the annual... or even just NYC?

Ben Lindbergh: Not that I've heard. It's the publisher's call. We have had some non-book-specific meetups recently--one at Foley's in New York and one last weekend in Chicago.

Bill (White Plains): Will the Rays' competitive window start to close soon because of its weak farm system?

Ben Lindbergh: I have too much respect for the Rays' front office to say it will close, but it's going to get harder to keep propping it open.

Wesley (Utah): How much more fun would baseball be if the game was played inverse? Such as instead of running to the players rights they run left (towards 3B instead of 1B).

Ben Lindbergh: I'm almost positive that we answered this question on a podcast listener email show, but I can't remember what we said. It would be more fun for a while because it would be new and different, but probably not more fun in the long run.

tomryan (NYNY): Ben, don't you think the Yankees would be better served with Gardner hitting leadoff with Ellsbury in at number 3? This would seem maximize Gardner's speed. Also, Ellsbury could be looked at as possibly their best "pure" hitter, and doesn't that generally go to the 3rd spot in the line-up? This would lengthen the batting order and put more people on baseball for the RBI guys.

Ben Lindbergh: This question comes from my eighth-grade homeroom/English teacher, who's as responsible as anyone for making me believe that baseball was something worth devoting a ton of time to. Anyone who loves or hates my work now knows whom to credit/blame. (Or it could come from a completely different Tom Ryan in New York, in which case never mind.)

I think the Yankees would probably be better off with Jeter toward the bottom of the lineup and both Gardner and Ellsbury up top, but we know that's not going to happen barring a prolonged slump. Without running any numbers, I think I'd agree that Gardner at leadoff and Ellsbury a little lower in the lineup would be better, though.

johnston22587 (Cincinnati): The deeper you get into scouting, research, writing, analyzing, etc. does the game become any more or less fun? Does the fact that it's a job to you take any of the enjoyment out of it?

Ben Lindbergh: It hasn't so far! The more I learn, the more questions occur to me. The job aspect did kill my fandom, which I sort of miss sometimes, but it hasn't reduced my overall enjoyment of the game.

Tony (Tampa): What songs would you be embarrassed for us to find on your Ipod?

Ben Lindbergh: Nothing comes to mind. I listen to ABBA sometimes, and I'm not sheepish about it. I'd be more embarrassed about the fact that I had an iPod.

Wyatt (Atlanta): How good would a LH throwing catcher have to be to even make it onto a Rookie ball team?

Ben Lindbergh: Max Marchi argued last year that a lefty catcher might make sense in the majors. Max works for the Indians now, so stay tuned.

Pete (El PAso): Do you think MLB will ever go back towards Rickey Branch's idea of "quality out of quantity" by having a bunch more farm teams?

Ben Lindbergh: Rickey's Cardinals had so many farm teams because the other teams didn't have any. Now that every team has embraced his idea to some extent, I'm not sure it would make sense for any one team to add a ton of affiliates.

flashtheleather ((In the glove)): Is Addison Russell going to get enough PA's to qualify for Rookie of the Year?

Ben Lindbergh: Unlikely, but I suppose he's just a Jed Lowrie injury away from something more serious than a September call-up.

doog7642 (Blaine, MN): Are there any examples in Major League history of a left-handed thrower playing even an inning at 2nd, 3rd, or SS?

Ben Lindbergh: Yes. Don Mattingly, for one, played second and third.

Mark (Boston): When evaluating hitters what do you look for first?

Ben Lindbergh: Mike Trout, but I'm usually disappointed. It almost always turns out to be someone else.

Ponderous (of Deeper Things): A possibly overlooked part of the Moneyball story is Billy Beane turning down the Boston job to stay with the small-market A's because ostensibly he relished the challenge. While PLAYERS will inevitably (for the most part) go to the highest bidder, is it a sort of subplot to the Moneyball story that many sharp front office minds will be more prone to work for underdog teams to try and topple the Evil Empire(s)? Or will the brightest baseball minds eventually be gobbled up by the richest teams?

Ben Lindbergh: Check out Lewie Pollis' BP piece from last week, which was largely about this.

Koo Koo (Kachoo): Who's up first giolito or gray? Who's better ST/LT?

Ben Lindbergh: Gray up first, Giolito has the higher ceiling. Don't know who's better long term, but I'm sort of a sucker for certainty.

Gary (New Jersey): Any thoughts about Oakland's Billy Burns?

Ben Lindbergh: I'd pay to see him take on Mike O'Neill in an on-base-off/home run derby/fight to the death.

LetsGOakland (mount shasta ca): Manea or Fried? Who u takin in a dynasty lge?

Ben Lindbergh: Why waste time asking which one I'd take when you could find out which one Bret Sayre would take?

Hank (St. Paul): What title is above Editor in Chief?

Ben Lindbergh: President & CEO.

Tom (Eugene, OR.): Other than Brandon McCarthy, who seems to be the stock answer, do you have a favorite player (or parody account) to follow on Twitter?

Ben Lindbergh: I don't spend a ton of time on Twitter (I just sort of make surgical strikes when I want to tweet something or respond to something someone tweeted at me), so I miss a lot. Glen Perkins (@glen_perkins) seems like a pretty good follow.

Pedro (NY): Does the pitch-framing prowess of a player like Brian McCann make it more likely his team will outperform PECOTA projections?

Ben Lindbergh: Yes, I suppose so. Hopefully that will change by the time we put out projections for 2015.

Pete (Boston): Why do people still ask you questions about fantasy when you say that you don't play?

Ben Lindbergh: It's a chat tradition. I do write about baseball, so presumably I have some information that might be of use in fantasy. But there are better options at BP, so I usually suggest that people make use of them.

hdub (the bleachers): with arroyo no longer having a timetable for return and cahills knee, what do you feel the odds are bradley makes this team out of spring? or will az simply go w collmenter and delgado to begin the season?

Ben Lindbergh: Lots of questions about Bradley. Last month, Kevin Towers said, "If we think he's ready coming out of the spring and that we're a better ballclub with Archie being on it, he's going to be there." And that was after Arizona signed Arroyo. So I wouldn't expect Bradley to be held back because of service time. If he finishes the spring strong and the team's veteran options aren't available, Towers/Gibson won't hesitate to use him.

P (Austin): As things like pitch-framing and variable strikezone studies grow more mainstream, is it likely that umpiring will catch on and try to implement better training to sharpen their judgment precision?

Ben Lindbergh: Yes, that's already happening.

Chesty (New Bern NC): Ben,Bogaretz is he a top 8 player for upcoming draft.(6x6)(hr,r,RBI,sb,xbh,ave.Thanks

Ben Lindbergh: For 2014? No.

Langster (Ireland): Surely it should be mandatory for all staff members at BP to play fantasy baseball.....

Ben Lindbergh: Pretty sure my performance would suffer in other areas.

P (Austin): Please have Brian Kenny on the podcast again soon! He really went at you guys (especially Sam), made for one of the best episodes ever.

Ben Lindbergh: Yeah, had a good time talking to Brian. Hope to have him on again at some point, but he's a busy man.

Christopher (TN): What's the highest batting average you want to see? Is there a point where it's "too high"?

Ben Lindbergh: There's a point where I wouldn't expect a batting average to stay so high, but I wouldn't say there's an average that's actually too high. Except in the way that ESPN anchors will sometimes say that a home run was "too high," which doesn't actually mean that they wish it had been lower.

Nate (Santa Fe): What will happen now with the Phillies this upcoming draft given what happened with Ben Wetzler?

Ben Lindbergh: I don't think it will help them, but I wouldn't expect any extremely serious consequences. Nick Faleris wrote a good article about this here.

Ben Lindbergh: Have to end this here. As always, thanks for the great questions and for spending your afternoon with BP. I'll be out in Arizona for the SABR Analytics Conference tomorrow through Saturday, so if you see me, please say hello.


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