Michael Wolverton is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Michael Wolverton: Hello everyone. Lots to talk about today -- playoffs, postseason awards, etc. -- so let's get started.
Gerry (Houston): Cubs or Astros?
Michael Wolverton: I picked the Astros at the beginning of the season, and I'm not going to back down now.
Regardless of who comes out on top, the Braves have got to be loving the competition. The longer the race goes, the more the two clubs use their aces in the regular season instead of the NLDS. There's a chance that the Monday tie-breaker matchup would be Prior vs. Oswalt, and that prospect has to make the folks in Atlanta very happy.
John Collins (Greenville NC): Love your work. Can you please explain the flakiest/steadiest stat? I expected to find Freddy Garcia on it (his monthly ERAs have fluctuated between 1.9 and 9.5 this year), but he isn't, and I didn't understand how this is calculated.
Michael Wolverton: Each start a pitcher makes gets a win probability calculated for it (SNVA), and the flakiness score measures how much that probability varies from start to start over the season. So a starter who puts up pretty much the same line every time out will be high on the Steadiness list, and an all-or-nothing starter who combines a bunch of great outings with a bunch of terrible ones will rate as flaky.
It's a measure worth looking at because ERA tends to undervalue the flaky starters. (The reasons are explained in this article.)
And you're right about Garcia -- he's just misses the flakiness list at #11.
wmcdonal56 (South Bend IN): Any thoughts on the Royals decision to move back their fences at the K next year?
Michael Wolverton: Probably a good idea. One of the underreported stories of recent years has been Kaufmann's sudden transformation into a "mini-Coors". The stadium has inflated run scoring by around 30% during each of the last three or four years. I haven't heard a good explanation for it, but it's gone on long enough that there's almost no chance it's a fluke.
Given all the hand-wringing the Rockies do about their park, it makes some sense to design your park to avoid extreme run scoring influences, if you have the power to do that.
Omar (San Jose CA): How about another Menlo Park Pizza Feed? Bring Huckabay, let's hang out and watch a playoff game on that big TV.
Michael Wolverton: Those feeds are always a blast, at least until Gary has one too many Diet Cokes and starts up with his rendition of "Volare".
I don't know if we'll be able to put one together for October, but we'll definitely be doing another Menlo Feed in the not-too-distant future.
Andy G. (Hull, MA): Is the Sox record offense enough to overcome the A's pitching and home field advantage?
Michael Wolverton: An answer to a question like this has to be preceded by "Anything can happen in a short series." (ACHIASS)
That said, yeah I picked the Sox over the A's. Don't forget that the Red Sox have a little pitching of their own -- a guy named Ramon Martinez or something like that. I don't think the Boston bullpen will be as bad as they've been in the regular season, and the Red Sox should be able to score some runs, especially with Mulder out.
Josh (Philadelphia): Has any one team underachieved as much this year as the Phillies? Even with all these vaunted free agent additions this year, they are on track to finish only 2 games better then last year.
Michael Wolverton: I don't know, somehow the Phillies' performance this year wasn't that big of a shock to me. I've never been that high on Millwood, and I didn't expect too much out of David Bell (although I don't think anyone expected him to be this bad). And there was always the Jose Mesa factor staring them in the face.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Phillies have played into some bad luck, as you can see on our Adjusted Standings report.
Paul Covert (Lynnwood, WA): Speaking of the Flakiest Starters list: I notice that the Top 10 includes two first-ballot HOFers in Clemens and Maddux. Is this unusual?
Michael Wolverton: Not really. Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson are two other first-balloters who were regulars on the Flakiest list. Pedro was also on it for much of the first half, due mostly to one disastrous start he has against the Orioles.
Alex (Dallas, TX): AL MVP:
There's no clear cut choice. Who's your pick, and why?
Michael Wolverton: I think there is a clear-cut choice -- the same clear-cut choice there's been for most of the past seven or eight years: ARod. He's one of the best hitters (if not the best) in the AL, and he's a slick-fielding shortstop. That's an MVP.
Needless to say, I don't buy the convoluted bizzare definitions of "valuable" some sportswriters are pushing that require you to have good teammates in order to have "value."
Doug (Alameda, CA): I agree with you about the Sox/Oakland series. If Pedro beats Hudson, the A's get another sweeping and Boston and NY face off for the WS berth. Do you think the Yankees and their patient lineup are the kind of team that can totally slam Julio Santana?
Michael Wolverton: I did pick the Yankees to beat the Twins, although I'm not sure I see Santana as being especially vulnerable to them. I just think the Twins have faced weak competition this year, and the Yankees' superiority will win out. (ACHIASS)
I sort of hope the Yankees win at least one series, to give Roger Clemens one last hurrah. Have I just been watching the wrong highlight shows, or was Clemens' farewell tour given virtually no attention? He's the greatest pitcher of our time, one of the handful of greatest ever, and this is our last chance to see him.
Gary (Clayton, CA): "Vo-la-re....Oooh, Oooh, Oooh, Ohhhh..."
Michael Wolverton: See what you started, Omar?
Ernest (San Jose CA): I heard Joe Morgan say that in order to win a postseason series, a team has to have a great pair of starters, and play little ball. Has a study ever been done about this?
Michael Wolverton: I don't think you need to do an involved study, just take a superficial glance at recent history. During their big run of World Series titles, the Yankees virtually never sacrificed in the postseason. As I recall (I don't have the numbers I looked up on this at hand), the Yankees sacrificed more often in the postseason series they lost than the ones they won.
Joe (Trenton): MVP is not equal to "player with the most Win Shares" or the highest VORP. There is a hollowness to voting a last-place team's player the MVP's, and that does not serve MLB. Don't you think the Hank Aaron award should be emphasized in stead?
Michael Wolverton: According to the BBWAA's own MVP voting guidelines, "value" is equal to the "strength of [a player's] offense and defense", plus some character stuff. That's ARod.
I'd be OK with a greater emphasis on the Aaron award -- with some changes to the award criteria -- but it'll always play second fiddle to the MVP.
Boomhauer (Arlen, TX): I tell you what man that old Selig dyed hair politician liar Brewers hot daughter damn Pete Rose Mastercard revenue sharing Steinbrenner, man.
Michael Wolverton: Say hi to Hank for me.
Dale (Arlen, TX): Which hitters take the big step forward in 2004? Bobby Kielty, Adam Dunn, Eric Chavez, Milton Bradley, Xavier Nady, Jason Bay?
Michael Wolverton: Good candidates. Don't forget Mark Teixeira.
Steve K (Pasadena): Do you like Prior, Schmidt, or Gagne for NL Cy Young?
Michael Wolverton: Can I pick "none of the above"? I'm actually going with Brandon Webb. He's at the top of the SNW/L Report, and he hasn't had the advantange of facing the D'Backs own anemic offense.
I realize he'll get virtually no support among the actual voters. He'll probably also lose out on the Rookie of the Year to Willis, and that will be a travesty.
Michael Wolverton: I've gotta run. Thanks for all the great questions, and sorry I couldn't get to more of them!