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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday April 08, 2005 2:00 PM ET chat session with James Click.

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James Click is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

James Click: Hey gang, it's a rainy, gloomy day here in San Francisco... Perfect chatting weather, I think. Let's get things rolling.

Alex (Houston): Did the Stros lock up berkman for too long?

James Click: While any long term contract is a risk, Berkman has proven for four years that heís among the elite hitters in the game. While heíll likely decline over the length of the contract, the Astros are willing to pay a premium for the next 3-4 years before he gets into his mid-30s. He should still be a serviceable hitter in the last year or two and considering the escalation of baseball salaries, he may be right around market value by the end of things. His ACL injury shouldnít be a problem; Berkmanís game has never been about speed. With the rest of the roster hitting the nursing home soon, the Astros needed to lock up Berkman to build around for the future.

Southcoast57 (Tx): Who's going to have the better season, Langenhans (Braves) or Dubois (Cubs). Can you give me your opinion on what type season you expect from each? Thanks,

James Click: I know PECOTA is pretty high on Langerhans, but I want to see him maintain that performance from last year before I buy the stock. I saw Dubois this spring in Arizona and he certainly looked very good and heís been putting up the numbers for several seasons so far. Itís really a question of whether or not the Cubs can figure out that Dubois is one of their best three options in the outfield before Jordan and Mondesi go down with injuries. Itís the race to watch.

lonely planet (near the restaurant at the end of the universe): Who will be the first Mariner to be traded this season? I say Boone since his contract expires after this year. Moyer will end his career with Wilson. Ibanez perhaps - but he has to show he can catch flyballs in LF - a risky proposition. I would trade Boone if he has a line of 260/350/525 come Anteater graduation day.

James Click: The Seattle crowd does seem to have soured on Boone quite a bit and most of the trade talk does revolve around him. It certainly seems like theyíre wasting Scott Spiezio Ė as much as he can be wasted Ė since the acquisitions of Beltre and Sexson, so once Bucky comes back, they might ship him out for something small.

If I had to pick right now, Iíd say itís the Mariner Moose.

nomadfromcincy (Waltham, MA): How long until we see B.J. Upton making an impact? P.S. Are you a Tiger fan or Phil fan....

James Click: If the Rays are smart, they'll keep him in Durham for most of the season both to keep his clock frozen and to figure out what position they're going to play him at. He's only 21 and it's hard to see him making the same kind of impact Miguel Cabrera had with the Marlins, so I'll go with 2006, maybe 2007. When he does, it'll be fun to watch.

Matt (Belmont, CA): After your recent article on the batting order, I'm sure you're excited that the Astros have taken your advice and put Adam Everett at the leadoff spot for optimal run production. Seriously though, in the AL, isn't it also wise to put someone who has a high OBP at the nine spot? Although the nine hitter doesn't get as many AB's, wouldn't it be good to have another high-OBP threat in front of the high-slg % hitters? Thanks for the time, and keep up the great work.

James Click: I ran quite a few more lineups through the program after the articles came out, and one of the more interesting findings was that with the current construction of teams and the distribution of their talent in the lineup, one of the better options was using the traditional lineup, but moving everyone up 1-2 spots. This way, the big sluggers in the 3-4-5 holes get the most PAs Ė hitting 1-2-3 Ė but they donít come up to the plate with the bases empty except in the first inning. The key is not putting someone with both high OBP and SLG in the nine hole. You want to save that for someone with high OBP and low SLG.

Again, the difference between that lineup and the traditional construction is only on the order of a few runs a year, but given the price of players, squeezing a few runs ďfor freeĒ can save teams some real money.

office411 (Philadelphia, PA): I need pitching...and the team I'm trading with wants Jim Edmonds. He has Prior, Schilling and Mulder. Which one is worth the value of Edmonds?

James Click: With all of our new fantasy baseball content, this question would probably best be directed at our new rotowire pals. If itís a keeper league, Iíd take Prior. If itís a one-year, probably Mulder over Schilling, but itís pretty close. I was as down as anyone on Mulder last fall and while thereís some indication that second half performance is more predictive for the next season, heís now pitching in the NL and with a juggernaut of a lineup behind him. He wonít have Schillingís strikeouts, but heíll wrack up some wins. At least Mulderís injuries are only still rumors instead of exhibits in the Hall of Fame.

AAG455 (NYC): James - thanks for taking the time. This is almost certainly too narrow a question to be of widespread interest, and may serve only to further the impression of Yankee fans as spoiled narcissists, but: with Rivera getting pulled in yesterday's debacle, it ocurred to that I couldn't remember the last time that happened. Is there data available on how often relievers are pulled intra-inning, and would you deem this at all indicative of pitcher success? Or just manager fiat? Or too trivial to matter?

James Click: We do have the data on how often relievers are pulling intra-inning, but because they're such a huge decision component involved, we would be hard-pressed to map it conclusively to performance. With bullpens as specialized as they are in the modern game, guys get pulled for the wrong reason as often as they're pulled for the right ones.

I actually tinkered with this on the side with regards to starters, seeing how team winning percentage mapped to the starter's innings pitched. It maps very, very well, but that's simply because a starter who's pitching well is going to stay in longer. I think we'd see a similar effect here.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): I know your column is testing its way through conventional wisdom, but have you gone back and reexamined stathead conventional wisdom? Is the new play-by-play data better enough to make it worth verifying "settled" issues like protection or clutch hitters?

James Click: Cris, We've currently collected play-by-play data reaching as far back as 1972 and it helps out when we're testing both conventional wisdom and performance analysis conventional wisdom. I'm not sure the new play-by-play data is better than anything Palmer and Thorn were working with in the early 80s, but we'd be foolish not to revisit some of our "settled" issues from time to time. We owe it to ourselves and you the readers to continue with constant scrutiny of our ideas and our process.

jwb0581 (Dunbar, WV): James- Hats off to BP. You guys do a terrific job. How can sabermetrics and statistical performance analysis be applied to high school or college programs, where the game is a little different and the sample sizes are so small? How could a coach of such a team apply some of the BP tools in order to objectively assess the performance of his program?

James Click: Keep in mind that my baseball playing career ended in ninth grade after several years as an ďall-field, no-hitĒ second baseman.

There are a couple problems applying hard statistical analysis to high school and college. The first, as you mentioned, is sample size. The second is that the variance is talent is so much wider than in the major leagues which is why the Cuban leagues are so difficult to analyze. Itís tough to tell a high school superstar to take a few more pitches when heís hitting .500 and leading the team in home runs, so the idea of mining undervalued talent at a high school level is nearly impossible.

With pitchers, the applicability of pitcher abuse points cannot be overstated. High school coaches having players throw 150+ pitches every 2-3 days is the kind of thing thatís likely to make Will Carrollís head explode and I know heís on the warpath against that kind of abuse. Letís keep everybody healthy and let the stats worry about themselves.

rdiersin (South Bend): I enjoyed your lineup column, and in particular where do you put Bonds. So a follow-up question. Where do you put Dunn if your choices are no. 2, or no. 5?

James Click: #2, especially if you're going to slide some high-OBP, low-SLG guys to the ninth spot. Dunn's a spectacular hitter and you want to get him as many PAs as possible.

Alf (dark corner at work): When do we start worrying about Hee Seop Choi?

James Click: When he's traded back to Chicago.

Choi should be fine, but he's quickly approached that hallowed ground of stat-head knee-jerk "play him!" reaction. He's not quite into that "unfulfilled potential" camp that so many other players find, but it would certainly be nice to see him justify some of the hype soon.

nsacpi (Chatham, NJ): Miguel Cabrera...is there much chance his defense in the outfield is going to improve? More generally, do players show the same tendency to improve defensively until around 27-28 as they do offensively?

James Click: This is an excellent question to which I can conclusively answer: We Don't Know. Defense is performance analysis's undiscovered country, from accurately measuring defensive performance to how it interacts with pitching and the ballpark to aging trends to multi-positionality. It's so dark that I get the feeling one day someone is going to come along and blow the hinges off our thinking about defense, a la Voros McCracken with DIPS.

pcm (seattle): Do you have to stay up late to watch West Coast Baseball? If you haven't seen us, we're a good show! East Coasters: put on a cup of coffee, snuggle with your honey, and watch MVP Vlad, MVP Ichiro. ROY Bing Crosby will show you that he has about 7% more range than any SS in the AL East. You gotta beat the Street if you want to win the West.

James Click: No way, man. Iím in San Francisco; baseballís on at 10am. It's great: alarm clock, shower, breakfast, baseball...

The AL West certainly looks to be one of the best division races for the upcoming season. Itís not as dominant as it was 2-3 years ago, but all four teams have a reasonable chance to compete and there arenít going to be any easy games coming down the stretch. MLB got rid of the AL West round robins at the beginning and end of the season this year which is too bad because if the scheduleís going to be unbalanced, they could at least schedule it so itís exciting.

sjd0378 (Milford, CT): What's greater, sliced bread or the MLB Extra Innings package? Me I'm not one for the carbs.

James Click: MLB Extra Innings is great, but I wish they would show all the games instead of just 90% of them. I missed Scott Kazmir the other day because they didn't carry the Rays game and there have been plenty of times the A's game is not on TV here in the Bay Area, but they've blacked out the feed on Extra Innings.

Those are nit-picks, though. It's a great service, especially considering the number of transplanted baseball fans throughout the country.

Southcoast57 (Texas): Washington Nationals, Do you have any thoughts on Ryan Church's playing time and what type of stats he will have. What happened to Endy Chavez? Thanks,

James Click: Chavezís problem is that nothing happened to him. His 2002 in Ottawa was entirely batting average-based, artificially inflating his OBP and SLG numbers. With over 1,000 ABs in the majors so far, thereís little reason to expect Endy is suddenly going to ďget itĒ and start hitting for more power or keep his OBP respectably above .300.

The real question is what happened to Church. His .287/.385/.507 line in AAA in 2001 made him look like a star. He struggled when down in AA in 2002 and didnít look good again until last year. Chavez has proven he canít hit in the majors -- something Church hasnít done yet. Hopefully, the Nats will see him fit for a starting job sooner rather than later, though it won't make a difference where the finish in the standings.

Troy (Grinnell, IA): All of my Cardinals friends disagree with me but I think the Redbirds gave up too much to get Mulder from Oakland. What do you think?

James Click: At the time, coming on the heels of the Hudson trade and as an A's fan, I thought they did just find. Looking back now, they might have given up a little too much. Daric Barton has that great NBA word "upside" and Dan Haren has already proven that he's a capable major league starter at a young age. If Barton pans out, Cards fans will look back at this deal and shake their heads. But remember that these are two teams with different goals for the immediate future. It could work out very well for the Cards in 2005, which is what they needed.

jambo (paterson): Choi and Nick Johnson? Either one break out this year, or just another disappointing year for both?

James Click: More Choi questions... They're both going to disappoint somebody who hasn't taken their head out of the ground in several seasons. Nick Johnson isn't going to be a superstar, but if he's an average major league first baseman this year, I don't think that can be considered a disappointment. The same thing applies to Choi. Just keep your expectations out of the clouds and both of them will be just fine. That way when they do finally break out, it'll be that much more fun.

Max Harris (Montreal, Canada): I love Crooked Numbers. My question is: do the home fans play a roll in a team winning?. i.e the noise at the Big O in Montreal. How could taunting or chatter by the fans affect a player's concentration or overall performance if affected by rowdy fans?

James Click: Iím glad youíre enjoying the column, Max. Home teams enjoy an inherent advantage over their guests, usually coming in at around a .540 winning percentage, give or take. Thereís been a bit of research both here and elsewhere looking for the advantage. I checked to see if it had to do with baserunning (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=3347) and didnít find anything; others have checked to see if itís something to do with balls and strikes. Itís certainly possible that itís the crowd, but checking to see if the fans in a particular park are create an advantage creates problems determining whether itís the fans or the particular home team. But given that weíve been hard pressed to find the source of the home field advantage, a rowdy crowd is as good a guess as any.

jonlewallen (Washington, DC): Given your comments on putting batter with high OBP low SLG, why wouldn't more NL teams experiment with batting the pitcher in the 8th spot and a better hitter in the 9th? This happens occasionally during games when a double-switch occurs, but are there any benefits to doing it full-time?

James Click: As I mentioned above in an answer to Matt from Belmont, sliding the traditional lineup up 1-2 slots seems to generate a few more runs, so having the pitcher bat eighth would fit with that rationale. The reason no one does it is because of the backlash both from the media and the player who has to bat ninth. It's pretty tough telling someone who's been leading off for years that they're going to bat behind the pitcher.

There's a lot of room for improvement in roster construction in general, planning for double-switches, two-way players, starting the game with a reliever and pinch hitter before the starter comes in... But we have to keep in mind that we're dealing with real players with real emotions who may not perform as well is you suddenly switch their role. It's something that needs to be both considered and examined before implementing any radical changes. Of course, batting the pitcher eighth shouldn't be a radical change.

prinaldi (newark): Is there any breakdown of specific teams home advantage? I'm just curious, and I would guess that Colorado has the biggest home field advantage and Tampa Bay the worst.

James Click: There's some indication that teams in the most extreme parks see the biggest home field advantage. I believe Colorado's has been the largest for some time now, but extreme pitcher's parks also fall into that category to some extent. Tampa's park has played very close to neutral for several seasons, so they may very well have one of the worst if that kind of pattern holds up.

Josh (Boulder): Multiple choice question: you're in a fantasy league, and at some point, Kelvim Escobar will come off your DL. To make room for him, do you drop a) B.J. Ryan b) Yhency Brazoban c) Chad Cordero d) Danys Baez? For a bonus, which three do you continue to play until that point? Thanks for answering, and I love the site!

James Click: Glad youíre enjoying BP, Josh. Thatís a solid group of undervalued relief talent. Iíd lose Brazoban as heís the only one who wonít be notching a lot of saves once Gagne gets healthy enough to stop getting ejected from the dugout. But if youíre related to Yhency, drop Baez for no other reason than because he doesnít strike out at least a batter an inning. I swapped out Ryan last year and Iím still regretting it.

girl (ipanema): Huston Street IS NOT ubiquitous! How about that strikeout of Sosa in his first !! K-rod struck out Bonds in Game 6 of the WS!! Tell me why I shouldn't be excited about Streeter. To get the win you're gonna have to pass the Street, babeeeee!!

James Click: This is pretty much how I felt when watching Street pitch in Arizona this year. So far he's been as advertised and with the success of players like Street, Chad Cordero, and Ryan Wagner, we may see a lot more top college relievers drafted in the early rounds and rushed to the majors. Teams have been more than willing to mine the independent leagues for bullpen talent for several seasons now and the college ranks are a logical extension of that.

lentzner (Fremont, CA): More narcism - A's this time. I realise only three games have been played, but Marco Scutaro, who walked only 16 times last year, has suddenly become an on-base machine (.545 OBP). Of course this is an absurdly small sample size, but just watching his at bats he really seems to be working the counts. Is there any precedent for players to vastly improve their OBP from one season to another? People look at fluke seasons for hitting HRs and BA, but does anyone have fluke BB seasons? Regards, Matt

James Click: Players have certainly vastly improved their OBP from season to season, but it's usually a result of something other than walk rate -- a spike in batting average is pretty common. Scooter has talked a lot this spring about trying to improve his patience at the plate to better his chances to make the club, but players -- especially older players like Scutaro -- very rarely see marked jumps in plate discipline.

lentzner (Fremont, CA): I really liked your last article on the effect of runners on base. I was just wishing someone would write that very article and voila. Thanks. Building on that information would it be worthwhile to adjust a hitter's evaluation based on the situations they batted with. I would expect a cleanup hitter to get a boost since he will be batting with runners on more often than people batting at other positions in the lineup (Assuming a certain level of managing sanity with the 1 and 2 positions). Possibly this makes him seem like a better hitter than he actually is. We are already adjusting for ballpark effects. Isn't this a similar situation?

James Click: Thanks for the compliments on the article... It certainly generated quite a bit of mail from readers. You make an excellent point: while the numbers for the baserunners were adjusted for the quality of the batters behind them, the numbers for the batters were not adjusted for the fact that there were runners on base ahead of them. Several readers pointed out that players may do better with runners on base because the type of pitcher who allows runners is more likely to allow hits. While that doesn't affect the analysis of fast runners on first versus slow runners on first, the improved performance of batters with runners on base may be a result of the pitcher than anything else.

mjga (Berkeley, CA): Have any of the BP staff entered the contest to become an analyst for the Giants? Instead of choosing someone with skills and credentials, like a Law or Huckaby, you have to hand it to the Giants to have a contest winner in a fantasy baseball game get a job. Ive entered the contest, and wrote probably the best 150-word essay in the contest. I turn 20 in two weeks, and have held jobs at Rasputin Records and 7-Eleven, and I'm ready to provide my counsel to the club right after I win the contest. This is why my team, that I listen to on the radio every day, makes decisions like Michael Tucker, Niefi Perez, Marquis Grissom, and J.T. Snow, while other teams make decisions like Mark Bellhorn, Bill Mueller, and David Ortiz. Do my Giants have any long term hope?

James Click: I'm not aware of any of the BP authors entering the contest, but BP authors do a lot of weird stuff on the side. The Giants' fortunes rest almost entirely on Barry's knee, but they certainly haven't done themselves any favors with regards to contingency plans. Fortunately for them, the Padres can't seem to get over the hump, the Dodgers are still building their team, and the Diamondbacks and Rockies make for easy fodder at the bottom of the division. It's a three-horse race and the Giants have as much of a chance to win as anybody, but it Brian Sabean had planned ahead a little, they could have locked up the division in December.

jwb0581 (Dunbar, WV): A simple question, but it rarely gets asked: Who does the best job of personnel decision making, right now, in MLB? Top 5?

James Click: Heading into the lightning round....

Mark Shapiro, Billy Beane, Walt Jocketty, George Steinbrenner, and whoever does the A's commercials.

casey (baltimore): which guy has the best chance to rack up a bunch of saves this year -- Urbina of DET, Tsao of COL, or Borowski of CHI? Taking into account their chances to get opportunities, their health, other pitchers' health, etc.

James Click: Can I say none of the above? It sure sounds like Urbina isn't going to finish the year in Detroit, so I'd go with him, but the over under and total saves for those three guys might be 20.

Marc Normandin (Dracut, MA): What do you think the Red Sox should do about the centerfield situation in 2006? How about Hanley Ramirez in CF? He is athletic enough, but will his defense be good enough, and how about the bat?

James Click: It's my understanding that Hanley's move to third now that Renteria is in place, but this question goes back to the question of defense and multi-positionality. We all assume that good shortstops can play a good centerfield, but we're not certain. As for the Sox, they should trade for Beltran.

jwb0581 (Dunbar, WV): Where do you see MLB personnel decision making and performance analysis on a practical level in 10-20 years?

James Click: There will be some minor changes to personnel, evaluation of coaches, trainers, and managers, but change is going to be slow in coming. I'd hesitantly say we're going to right where we are today.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): You guys refer to component park factors sometimes (ie factors for 2b, hr, K etc). Any chance you could make that sort of thing public for all stadiums?

James Click: We're always taking suggestions for this kind of thing, so if anyone has any others, feel free to email cs@... There are several new stat reports I'd like to get on the site, so I'll add that to the list.

AY (Brooklyn, NY): Which BP authors have the highest breakout %'s?

James Click: If we'd rename the Ugueto Factor "The Click Factor", then me.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): Ia Oakland moving now that the new owners are in place?

James Click: Last one...

I don't think so. I covered this in the most recent Oakland PTP, but the A's have made all the right public statements about staying in Oakland. Given how long it took to get the Nationals to Washington, I think the A's would be happy to stay put. The fan base in Oakland is strong and supportive and they make money hand over fist, so why risk it?

James Click: Thanks for all the questions, everyone. Sorry I didn't get to all of them, but feel free to email me at jclick@... for answers. Clay Davenport will be here next week.


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