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Chat: Zachary Levine

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday May 19, 2014 1:00 PM ET chat session with Zachary Levine.

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Direct your questions about baseball to Mr. Levine.

Zachary Levine: Live from the 617, where some grown men are still hanging around in Zubaz pants, let's get weird. A reminder that you'll do better bringing your fantasy questions to our fantasy-specific chats and your prospect questions to our prospect-specific chats. Anything else goes. Let's get started.

Shawnykid23 (CT): These Super 2 rules have to change. Do you have a good solution?

Zachary Levine: Not a great one. The problem with a good solution is that it's probably going to favor one side or the other in relation to the current system. So you'd need something else to change in collective bargaining in exchange.

I know it's been talked about a lot to tie it in with performance. That's one of the things R.J. Anderson looked at in his examination of the Super Two. http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=23338

Where I might go is to eliminate partial seasons of service time. If you come up, it's 1. If you don't come up, it's 0. Obviously that would have to be just a starting point and you'd have to maybe allow for September call-ups or something. That could end up making it worse, but there's something to the idea that a team might be fine sacrificing April and May to save money but wouldn't want to sacrifice a whole year of having a good young player.

Silverback38 (VA): What players on the D-backs will have the most improvement thanks to the front office changes?

Zachary Levine: Martin Prado will have the most improvement because there's the biggest difference in his actual talent and what he's played up to so far this year. It will probably be a huge mistake to attribute that to anything done in the front office, but his pre-TLR and post-TLR numbers will look a lot different.

For anyone to get a bump from a new front office, I think it would have to be in several steps. New FO hires a new manager, new manager brings in a new coaching staff, new pitching or hitting coach helps out a player. But that would be so long from now and such a small change that I don't really buy the premise.

nerd alert (colorado): Would baseball be better off if every team were owned by a publicly traded company (e.g Atlanta) or eccentric, dying billionaires (e.g. Tigers)? You can't say the answer falls in the middle.

Zachary Levine: The answer doesn't fall in the middle. It's the latter. Large diversified companies would add very little if they view the team as just a part of the portfolio. The eccentric billionaire (I won't say dying even though I think I did during the podcast once) probably drives up player salaries (which is neutral to fans) but also cuts down on the time it might take from a team to go from nothing to a contender. Or at least make the offseasons more interesting.

Jedd Gyorko (SD): What is wrong with me? Where did my power go?

Zachary Levine: I'm not as worried about the power, way more about the on-base. Unless the lack of power is tied into the awful BABIP, then we can agree.

Brian (New York, NY): What do you make of Montero and DeGrom's debuts this week? DeGrom looked better than Montero and also put up a better ERA in the PCL, although Montero maintained better strikeout numbers. Who do you think will translate best to the show? How would you deploy them given the Mets personnel?

Zachary Levine: I would lean toward Montero for the reason you mentioned. I'd keep them in the rotation, and if there's another injury, I'd make one of them pitch twice every five days if it means we don't have to get any Matsuzaka starts.

LukeH (AZ): The D-backs have been playing much better of late than they were to begin the season. In fact, according to their record, they have been one of the best teams in baseball over the last 10-15 games. Do you see them actually getting maybe the 2nd WC? And does this take the heat off of Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson?

Zachary Levine: That's really ambitious. Not to rule anything out in May, but even if they play at a rate that would make you a playoff team, they've already spotted the field so many games that they'd have to play at a very-good-to-great team level to get there.

For instance, to get to 90 wins, they'd have to go 72-44, which is actually a 101-win pace. That's not their true talent, and I don't see it being all that close.

Jon (Cincinnati): Has any team consistently shown it can beat the other 29 in injury prevention?

Zachary Levine: It's been said from time to time about the White Sox, but no, not really. It's hard to filter for noise anyway even if you think you see something here.

Tommy (Chicago): Do you see the Cubs trading for a guy like Carlos Gonzalez, Jason Heyward or Giancarlo Stanton in the off-season??

Zachary Levine: I could definitely see this being the year of loading up. They've been playing better lately and there's more coming from the farm. That said, I still think they'll be going for pitching given their hitting-heavy farm system.

fahlstrome (San Diego): What kind of trade market do you see for Chase Headley, Seth Smith, Quentin and/or Huston Street? Once the Padres realize Cashner need TJ they will probably be in build for the future mode.

Zachary Levine: Not future-changing on any of those guys. I understand why they held onto Headley when he was at the peak of his value, but I'm guessing they'll look back on it with - if not regret then at least wishes that they could undo it with hindsight.

Wandy (Wandyland): Wins, I know, but who gets more of them from this point until the end of time: CC Sabathia, Zack Wheeler, Archie Bradley, Ryan Vogelsong?

Zachary Levine: Bradley, Wheeler, Sabathia, Vogelsong.

146, 139, 34, 19

mattymatty2000 (Portland (left one)): Hi Zachary! What's your HOT TAKE on the left side of the Red Sox infield? Should they bring back Drew or should Bogaerts stay at short? Do they need to make a trade now that WMB is alternating between hurt and not hitting? Singe me!

Zachary Levine: Bogaerts should stay at short. I'm not against a trade, but I don't think there's a reason to panic.

gerrybraun (San Diego): I enjoyed seeing Anthony Rizzo make a mockery of The Shift last week by easily bunting down the third-base line for hits, not once but twice. As I recall, Matheny stopped using The Shift after that; it seemed Rizzo took the option off the table. If Ted Williams had done the same 75 years ago, would The Shift have ended there? Why don't teams insist their batters bunt against it, like say Ryan Howard?

Zachary Levine: Teams are weird and don't like insisting on anything with their established players.

I don't think the shift would have ended there because there have been times when letting a slugger try to bunt is a more optimal result for the defensive team than letting him hit. (Late 90s and early 2000s come to mind.) In this offensive era, it becomes a much, much better strategy.

BaseballGirl (Boston): If you were a betting man, would you put money on the RedSox winning again or how would you hedge a bet like that?

Zachary Levine: First of all, thank you for framing that as a hypothetical.

Red Sox are 14-1 now. I think they're better than their record shows, but I'm not sure there's an AL East team right now that I like at those odds. Your chances of winning are your chances of making it times the chances of winning once you get there, and 14-1 doesn't really add up for me.

https://www.sportsbook.ag/livesports/mlb

loyalroyal (KS): Industry was really down on the Shields trade when it went down. Now that Shields has performed well (and Davis has had his moments, other prospects essentially irrelevant), how do you see it? And, more importantly, how critical is it the Royals resign Shields and what chance do you give them?

Zachary Levine: Still don't like it. It has less to do with how the players have performed after the fact and more with the years. They Royals were saying they expected to contend in the two years and to do so, they would give up a player with 6 (actually 7) years of club control left. They could have gotten Shields in free agency, so even if they re-sign him this offseason, I don't consider that much of the calculation here.

Shawnykid23 (CT): Will Chris Davis turn back into Crush Davis?

Zachary Levine: No, I think we've seen by far the best we'll ever see from him. I wrote about this a little bit in the AL East preview, but so much of his value is in his power. And not just his power but specifically his home run power. There isn't much else there. Even if he hits 30, which is a great home run season in 2014 and far better than what he's shown this year so far, I'm still not convinced that's an MVP also-receiving-votes level player.

Chez Serge (mtl): With Carey Price's injury, what are the Habs' chances at beating the rangers?

Zachary Levine: 25% but that's mostly just considering the score of the series right now. I don't think it went down all that much. Hockey's weird like that in the postseason.

Carlos Santana (OH): What is wrong with me? Where did my hitting go?

Zachary Levine: Just like with Gyorko, the thing that's missing is the doubles. He had 39 last year and 5 this year. There's definitely a power element there, but the home runs are still at the same level. He's still walking a ton. He's not striking out an overwhelming amount. I'm not all that concerned.

jkeywood (Toronto): I have been struggling to find a way to properly analyze a bullpen on a team basis. I looked at the bullpen mismanagement tool but am I looking for a couple good stats to use for a whole team instead. I understand it's not the easiest thing to analyze but any advice here would be helpful. Thank you

Zachary Levine: I'm generally inclined to look at a sum of the individuals in stats you like - whether it be FIP or FRA or ERA or whatever moves you. I guess if I had to look at one thing that ties it together, I'd look at the innings and appearances counts of your top 2 or 3 most used guys as we get into June.

Relievers can go from great to Tommy John on one pitch, but look at whether there's reason to believe they won't hold up. Has the manager been good with getting them rest when it wasn't necessary? That's how I'd look at a bigger picture.

nerd alert (Colorado): How is it that the first two teams with national tv deals are now so far behind the 8-ball? Atlanta just re-upped but at a fraction of what the Phil got. Is it possible the Cubs and Braves would benefit more with a national contact rather than a RSN deal given the national following they built in the 80s/early 90s?

Zachary Levine: Your financial state has everything to do with when you got in with your current local TV deal. Even the national deals of the 80s and 90s mean nothing if they weren't able to get their local deals expiring in the sweet spot in the timeline, which may be closing now.

I'm not sure a national cable deal is feasible right now and if a network would take a chance on that following outside of the home market.

DF (Wilmington, NC): What grade would you give Billy Hamilton to date, and what if anything do we know about him now that we didn't in March? Related: how much trouble are the Reds in, and if you are GM, what would you do for this year? Seems like they have to go for it.

Zachary Levine: C.

It's a lot more confirmation than new information. But I'm disappointed in the stolen base rate and thought that his speed would be enough to make up for the fact that everybody in the house knows he's going.

Scott (London): True or False: Lindor will have more real life value than fantasy value.

Zachary Levine: Not sure what categories you're using, but for a shortstop worth anything defensively that's generally the case. If he can carry over his base-stealing to the majors, the fantasy value could make up ground on real value, but I would still say TRUE.

oldbopper (New Britain, CT): Does Mookie Betts ever play a game in Fenway Park in a Red Sox uniform?

Zachary Levine: Yes. And as a little guy named Mookie, I would think he'd get said uniform quite dirty.

Kyle (Florida): Is Brett Lawrie and the newfound power stroke for real and what happened to the steals? He is hitting over .300 since April 12th, could be a fantasy monster if it all comes together. Is now the time?

Zachary Levine: I think the first question answers the second in part. The power isn't going to be sustained at that level, but he was definitely a good candidate for a rise after last year. As for the steals, he's just not on first base that often. His OBP dropped 27 points since last year, and a lot more of that now is being taken up by doubles and home runs, so his number of times on first could be way down. I don't know him to be considerably slower.

The Blue Jays have also been fairly conservative as a team, so there could be something institutional in the 0 attempts.

joe (asheville): Dahl or mcmahon? Which tourist becomes a permanent resident ?

Zachary Levine: Have not seen either of them in person, but have heard very good things about Dahl if his head is really on straight.

Brian (New York (NY)): Any idea what's wrong with Jason Heyward? And for that matter ... what's been wrong with him now for two years?

Zachary Levine: No clue. He's been the hardest player for me to figure out in the majors really the last four years. (Colby Rasmus being the runner-up). I always assume he could be hurt, but if not, I have no idea where the power went.

Zachary Levine: Thanks for the questions, everybody. If you had questions, especially fantasy and prospect questions, that went unanswered, I'm encouraging you to ask them in our specialized chats. Thanks for coming. Hope to do it again soon.


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