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Chat: Sam Miller

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday November 12, 2014 1:00 PM ET chat session with Sam Miller.

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Ask Sam about anything in the baseball world. Warning: Snowpiercer spoilers and Wallflowers lyrics to follow.

Sam Miller: Hi! It's me, Sam Miller, co-editor of the 2015 BP Annual, co-host of a podcast about baseball, and co-participant in some other things. Just hanging around here chatting with you for a bit.

Eric Hartman (Somewhere): Are we still getting the chat with Gabe?

Sam Miller: Sadly, sighingly, no. Guess I learned something about scheduling chats four months in the future. We *almost* made it, but Gabe passes on his apologies. There might not be any job in baseball that is more demanding, schedule wise, than farm director, especially now, and especially when he's about to run headlong into an offseason.

The nice news is that I saw the questions that had already been submitted to him, so I can just answer them myself, right here today! That'll be just as satisfying, right?

Chaim (Synagogue): Who would you put on your All-Time Jewish Baseball team?

Sam Miller: This one was for... Gabe, I think. My All-Time Jewish Baseball team:

LF: Gabe Kapler
All the other positions: This guy: http://bit.ly/1xhLWEo

sreczek (Winfield): If you were to join a baseball organization again, would it be in the front office or as a coach? Are you even interested in joining a baseball organization?

Sam Miller: This one was for... Gabe. I'll answer it: Front office AND coach. He would take the one job in the organization that is explicitly both. To the second part of your question, yes. He even is interested.

KDynan (Arlington, VA): Are you a Webb-head or Albers ally? And does that mean you are rooting for them to get a save (like they probably want) or for them to keep the streak (because streak)?

Sam Miller: This one is for... me, but I'll answer it for Gabe, too.

I am a Webb-head. A friend of the show who has some access to Webb in a professional capacity recently told us that he mentioned the "record" to Webb not long ago. Webb said he had heard something about it, and sounded sad. This was heartbreaking to me. This is why it's the most important record in sports; it is one of the few records that is not about performance as much as it's about whether people in power like you, and how much they like you. None of us can relate to having our careers defined by 98 mph fastballs and two-inch margins, but we can all relate to having our careers defined by bosses who don't give us enough responsibility, or who give us too much responsibility.

Gabe is probably an Albers ally. I like Albers too, actually. Wait; I'm not even sure what being an Albers Ally means; does it mean rooting for him to get a save, or not get a save? This record is confusing to everybody, including sad Webb.

ssimon (Pelham, N.Y.): Are the Dodgers and Cubs implicitly following Lewie Pollis' advice to spend indiscriminately on management?

Sam Miller: Implicitly? I guess. Explicitly? I... guess. I'm not totally sure I believe it's the right way to do it, to be honest. I think there are so many smart people out there right now that front office guys might be more like relievers than anything. Fairly unpredictable (even the seemingly great ones), fairly replaceable, fairly short window of genius. The Dodgers have signed a ton of big front office guys this year. It seems like a great idea. But so did spending $30 million on a bullpen last offseason. Turned out the right answer was "Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera," and nobody knew it.

RetroKryptonite (Oklahoma): Hey, Gabe. Every once in a while a broadcaster will say something along the lines of, "Joe Nathan has just two career pickoffs, one of them against Dyson, and you can bet Dyson will want to swipe a bag here to pay him back". Are past events such as this anywhere close to present in a player's mind during an actual game?

Sam Miller: That last one was for me. This one is for me, too.

I think the players are very aware of these past events, just like I'm aware of whether I've ever had coffee with Bob from accounting and whether he sort of spittles when he talks. I don't think an example like that one matters to their strategy or approach, though. Not an example like that one.

It's Sam, by the way. Gabe is a different guy. I'm Sam.

fabiopao (Italy): Ugly as it seems, I could be forced to choose one of these fine gentlemen for my dynasty league team 2B: Taylor Lindsey, Derek Dietrich, Tommy La Stella. What's the least damage I can have? thanks

Sam Miller: La Stella. That's a pretty fun league you're in.

MetsFaithful5 (Syracuse): Is Jacob deGrom the next Chris Coghlan? Meaning he wins the ROY, but then fades away? We have to remember that he didn't become a pitcher until later in his career and also had TJS.

Sam Miller: Pitchers' growth curves aren't linear, so I'm much more likely to believe he took a real leap forward than I am with a hitter who simply happened to line his "rookie" year up with his physical peak years.

Cody (Dallas, TX): What advice would you give a college kid who aspires to work in a MLB front office?

Sam Miller: This was for Gabe. I definitely know what he'd say:

Forget the blender, reach for a toothbrush instead. Sardines are better than protein shakes after workouts.

Today, as part of my 5x5 workout, I performed squats, deadlifts and overhead shoulder presses. I traveled to and from the gym on a red skateboard along Pacific Coast Highway. Ostensibly, I'm a grownup. Just like the teenager I'm behaving like, I needed to replenish my body when I returned home. Most folks in the weight training world opt for some chocolate flavored powder. "It's easy and quick, and packed with protein," I hear them cry. Possibly, but our bodies are tuned to run on food, not dehydrated, extracted, and processed "nutrients." I peeled open a can of sardines, shook some organic jalapeno hot sauce on them and went to town.

It's pretty widely understood that our bodies need amino acids to build muscle. Proteins form the foundation of muscles and connective tissues, antibodies that keep our immune system powerful and deliver oxygen and nutrients throughout our systems.They have other critical functions as well. From completenutrition.com:

"Amino acids aren't just useful for muscle development and immune strength--they may also be key players in the development of your central nervous system. According to Dr. John W. McDonald of the Johns Hopkins University Department of Neurology, amino acids may 'exert trophic influences affecting neuronal survival, growth and differentiation during restricted developmental periods.'"

Conveniently, sardines are an exceptional source of protein, which our bodies break down into amino acids. A 1 ounce serving of sardines (around 2-3 small pieces) provides roughly 7 grams of protein. This is comparable to a similar sized serving of steak. A can of sardines is shelf stable, easily transportable and can be eaten quickly.

(Also, find a place where you can showcase your thought process, work ethic, and creativity. That might be an internship to be sure, but it might also be anything: A blog, a mimeographed scouting guide that you sell to eight people, a... well, you're creative, you can think of a third example.)

NathanAderhold (Jury Duty :(): For the uninitiated, what is the Webb/Albers record?

Sam Miller: Ryan Webb has finished more games without a save than any player in history. Matt Albers had the record until he went down with an injury this year. So it is a race between two players to rack of games finished, but with the looming threat that one single save ends it for them.

Aean Dana (Wtfville): A major league deal in November. Thats like hopping down the street with banana boots and a pineapple headband in the middle of revolution day.

Sam Miller: Couldn't have said it weirder myself

Yard Byrd (Philadelphia): True or false -- if the Mariners traded Taijuan Walker and Brad Miller for David Price they would have reached the World Series?

Sam Miller: Well, the Mariners were better than the Royals. Price might have been worth a win over those two, though it's actually close. More importantly, though, the Mariners got screwed by the Pythag Machine this year; if they'd have toast instead of English muffin some random day in February, they might have made the World Series, given their true talent level.

cooldude (Mpls): Many fans felt that the Twins needed to hire someone outside the organization to "shake things up," and mostly I agree, but it's hard to find fault with the Molitor pick, whom everyone seems to love. But now they're looking at former Twin Everyday Eddie for bullpen coach, and they already hired Glynn from within the org. What's your take? Is the need to shake things up real or more fans wanting to see something radical after four lousy years?

Sam Miller: I think there's value to continuity in an organization, so I'm not opposed to a bit of organizational nepotism when it comes to these jobs. But you do get the feeling that the Twins are like one of those Darwinian islands where all life is cut off from the rest of the world and everything is getting slightly warped through generational replication.

I think I'd like to have seen 'em really reset, but if I was in charge I might value My People enough to give them one last shot w/ this prospect class. Problem being, of course, that if that misses it's potentially six or seven more years.

Chase Headless Horseman (4 corners): what animal would make the best general manager? A falcon, right?

Sam Miller: I'm determined to make a joke out of this. Could go with Jeff "Loon"ow. Or Frank Wren. Or something else awful.

drmorris75 (SF): Ben Zobrist for Kyle Crick?

Sam Miller: That needs a few more digits on the right-hand side.

Chris (Baltimore): Rougned's peak season looks like?

Sam Miller: .282/.339/.441, with plus defense. 4.7 WARP, 19th place MVP finish.

Cal Guy (Cal): Hi Sam, What is your best guess as to where Panda, Robertson, Lester and Scherzer end up signing?

Sam Miller: Boston, New York, New York, Boston.

I didn't actually intend it to be like that. That's not some cynical reply. Just my actual sincere guesses.

Nick (Virginia): I've heard some great things about Rafael Devers. Does he have superstar potential? Will he be the best player in the Carolina League next year? I look forward to seeing him in Salem.

Sam Miller: It's a long way to go still, but he was one of the top international signees and, among that class, had one of the best debuts. The best debut? Maybe? I'm not sure. He won't be the best player in the Carolina League--so, so young if he's there--but he'll be one of the half-dozen to go out of your way to see.

k3o3r9n0 (Boston): Maybe a foolish/boring question, but what is a 'get me over' pitch? I've heard the term but can't quite figure it out. Thanks!

Sam Miller: It refers to a secondary pitch that you throw over the plate on the assumption that the batter isn't going to swing at a secondary pitch that early in the count. In most cases, pitchers aren't trying to throw their secondary pitches in the strike zone. So this is the exception.

ssimon (Pelham, N.Y.): You narrowly missed becoming Twitter President on November 9. What would have been your first administrative order?

Sam Miller: Appoint a vice-president; fake my own death.

Chris (Baltimore): When is the earliest to dream on Urias and 162 MLB innings?

Sam Miller: To *dream*? I guess 2016, but it would probably involve a few things (like him pitching even better than we're expecting, the Dodgers making the playoffs/being in a pennant race, etc.) But it's definitely dreamable.

froglegs_jackson (the internet): In 15 years, do you think stats such as Wins, RBI's, batting average, etc will still be the way the casual fan views baseball? If your answer is yes, what about 30 years? 50? Will we ever reach a point when more advanced statistics become the mainstream way to evaluate players?

Sam Miller: Wins yes. Wins are, for all the total worthlessness of them, just a sexy stat. It's so nice to look at a pitcher and see a won/lost record and fill in all the rest of the details of his season from there. Misleading and horrible, but nice.

Fifteen years is just long enough and just short enough to make this tough, but I'd bet that OPS has replaced batting average in most player displays and that RBIs will be... still there, but with some version of WAR appended. HR, RBI, SB, OPS, WAR will be the on-screen displays, I'd guess.

Bill Anderson (Middletown, CT): Went to Fenway for Papelbon's first start. Timlin relieved and gave up a scorching line drive to deep right that you made a circus catch on preserving the W for Paps. Remember that one?

Sam Miller: I'm not sure if this one was for me or for Gabe. The answer, either way, is probably no.

drmorris75 (SF): To what extent (if any) is a modern manager's job to help translate advanced front-office concepts to the players? I imagine Joe Maddon as a translator (and salesman) of sorts..

Sam Miller: This was for Gabe. I think this is a relatively small part of a manager's job, even today, but a relatively huge part of the skill set to look for in hiring a manager. At the end of the day, though, motivation is going to be more important in running a 25-man circus than getting a guy to understand what the front office is doing. If the player is properly motivated, he won't even care what the front office is doing. He'll just do it.

Leo (Can be anywhere at any time): If you need a 19 year old who loves scouting and player development to help in Los Angeles, here I am! Hit me up!

Sam Miller: Thanks! I don't, but I'll see if my friend Gabe Kapler does.

Jake (DC): Will Souza or Taylor get enough playing time in Washington to be fantasy relevant in 2015 or should owners be hoping for a trade?

Sam Miller: I think Taylor will play when he's up, but I don't think he's up immediately. I don't think Souza gets enough playing time unless at least one injury comes into play. Wouldn't draft either, but would be on the mark for Taylor.

Rob (Alaska): I have 5 really valuable keepers for only 3 slots. Go!

Sam Miller: 1. Invest in a good coffee set up. French press, a moderately expensive burr grinder, and some fresh beans from a top-tier roaster. This last one won't be cheap--you're looking at around $17 for a 12 oz bag usually, and if you're not in a major metro area you might have to pay to have it shipped. But it's worth it. You're really only increasing the price of a cup from around 40 cents to maybe 80 cents. That's right: For the price of a cup of coffee, you can upgrade a cup of coffee.

2. Just pick the guy with the most home runs. Home runs, I'm convinced, drive everything else in fantasy baseball. Just take the home runs. Screw positional scarcity, screw speed, screw walk rates and park effects. Just decide who is going to hit the most home runs. Keep that guy.

3. The book Nothing to Envy is roughly 75 times better than the book Orphan Master's Son, so if you're really interested in North Korea, do yourself a favor and read Nothing to Envy.

Kevin (In a hole): Anthony Desclafani has been pretty impressive so far in the AFL. What are you hearing about him?

Sam Miller: "The Year Ahead: DeSclafani is one of those arms that consistently pitches with a high level of confidence in his stuff. He isn't afraid to come right after and challenge hitters, avoiding spells of nibbling and trying to be too fine. When the stuff is more solid average than well above average, however, there needs to be some element of finesse to avoid working in spots that usually result in ringing contact around the yard. The right-hander ran into this during his call-up in 2014, especially when working as a starter. DeSclafani's mentality and fastball-slider combo likely slot him into a relief role over the long run, where his heater can play up a tick in short bursts and his aggressive approach fits with getting two or three concentrated outs before handing the ball over to someone else. There is a chance that the 24-year-old can tone things down a bit and get enough out of the changeup to hang as a starter on a second-division team for the early portion of his career. The righty should be in line to log major-league time in 2015, in all likelihood consistently coming out of Miami's bullpen at some point in the season." --Chris Mellen, from here: http://bit.ly/1zkgzqQ

Matt (Cambridge): Chris Davis for Dustin Ackley or Brad Miller, who says no? The Mariners could use a 1st basemen and the O's don't seem to want Davis.

Sam Miller: If Miller, the Mariners. If Ackley, the Orioles.

fats (fridge ): what would brett lawries peak season look like?

Sam Miller: .293/.373/.580 but in only 43 or so games.

Dylan (RI): Is there a concern with teams like the Dodger's finally executing the "Moneyball with Money idea"? Friedman seems to be there to avoid the pitfalls of albatross contracts and making sure they develop cheaper talent. But they can still spend a lot. Same with the Cubs finally looking like they are going to spend. The Red Sox seemed to be on this model as well. With the information gap narrowing,especially with Statcast, is there fear that teams like the A's will just become a poor team with no real advantage over an equally smart Dodgers team?

Sam Miller: It hasn't happened yet, and "money ball with money" is roughly a year older than the actual book Moneyball. No.

The Dodgers *should* be signing some albatross contracts. It's in their best interests to, frankly. Here's an analogy: Say you're chasing an open-ended straight. There's $15,000 in the pot and the bet comes to you and it's low, like $500. The guy who is betting is all-in, say. Now, you're not likely to hit that straight, so the guy who is betting is making money on your call. But you are *way* pot-committed, so it is also rational for you to call.

So in this way, both actors are acting rationally; both expect to make money in the long run off this exchange. That's kind of what MLB roster making is like for big- and low-budget teams. The big markets are constantly pot-committed. I tried to explain this analogy more fully in words I just deleted because it was unwieldy, so I'll just leave it at that, and conclude by saying: Rich teams are acting rationally by signing expensive overpriced free agents; poor teams will always benefit from this to some degree, too; and baseball's equilibrium is not yet in peril.

Eric (NY): The idea that right-handed power hitting should cost more now because it's so rare is mostly nonsense, right?

Sam Miller: Yes. The idea that we need to recalibrate what "power hitting" is makes sense, but the idea that it's more valuable for the scarcity is nonsense.

Just Blase (Georgia): Why do you have so many shirtless pics of yourself? (This is for Sam, not Gabe.)

Sam Miller: Everybody's got a hobby. Mine is collecting, categorizing, and filing away shirtless pics of myself.

NightmareRec0n (Boston): Why would anyone sign Sandoval with Headley on the market? Steamer projections see Headley as better next year and he will be cheaper. I mean I would rather spend a similar amount on HanRam. I think Panda's approach is more concerning as he ages than this size. He swings at everything.

Sam Miller: Because you might not sign Headley, even if you want to. I think we somewhat underestimate how much value there is to "just lock this guy in before Cherington swoops in and screws us" thinking during the offseason. It's a fog, you know? Of WAR? A fog of WAR?

Damn did I ever just nail that one.

andygamer (Boston): What is your take on the Cuddyer deal: A true puzzler, or the harbinger of a new take on market efficiency?

Sam Miller: Not that puzzling. I think Cuddyer at 2/$22 or 2/$24 is just about right. Giving up the pick is interesting, but maybe a) the Mets intend to sign at least one more guy, so it's really a second-rounder, in which case [wanking motion]; or maybe they see the draft class as thin, and that the math we were all using last year to value these picks is outdated.

Sam Miller: A thing just happened to me. I have to go undo it. So that's it. Goodbye.


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