Jonah Keri is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Jonah Keri: Welcome! The joys of moving (I'm headed to Seattle to join Derek Zumsteg, Jeff Bower, Rob Neyer and other members of the Pacific Northwest Baseball Mafia next month) have made spare time a valuable commodity for me lately, so we're starting early so I can get back to work on various projects. Answer questions in Yoda-speak, I will not.
llewdor (Vancouver, BC): In writing the Prospectus Game of the Week, do you ever looks back at the week that was and wish you'd covered a different game? Like maybe the Mets-Yankees game featuring the heroics of Dae-Sung Koo?
Or is the point of the exercise that any randomly chosen game necessarily contains enough of interest to build an entire column?
Jonah Keri: Oh sure, this happens all the time. But I try to make GotW as disciplined an exercise as I can. That means giving a week's notice on which game I'll be covering, making sure all 30 teams get covered during the course of the season, and looking for interesting angles even on the worst teams. As the summer goes on I'm going to cheat a little more toward marquee match-ups, especially after I've made sure to cover the Devil rays and Tigers of the league (as an erstwhile Expos fan, I can relate to my obscure team getting short shrift, so I try hard not to do that when I write).
This also seems like a good time to note that I've been overwhelmed by the support y'all have thrown my way for this column. Both the positive- and negative-feedback e-mails are greatly appreciated, thanks.
Jason - a disappointed "owner" of Kearns, Jiminez (Chicago, IL): What is the deal with the Reds? They cut Jiminez who while not playing well was jerked around both in spring training and the start of the season (costing the Reds $2.8 mil). They played the ineffective Rich Aurilia until he mercifully went down to injury. Austin Kearns has also been jerked around with the teams Ryan Freel SB fetish when Willie Mo Pena wasn't stealing his playing time. Are the Reds beyond hope? Will they trade one of the OFers?
Jonah Keri: It's a mess in Cincy. What drives me batty is the ultimate reason you saw both Jimenez and Graves get canned. With Jimenez it was a case of finding a scapegoat for the club's problems. Would they have dumped Sean Casey if he suddenly went into the tank, salary aside? No chance--because he's chatty and cuddly. But because Jimenez doesn't get along with everyone, and doesn't have that dirty-uniform sheen that a waste-of-space player like Aurilia (.198/.230/.354) does, he gets the boot.
Graves was legitimately awful this year and hasn't been particularly useful for the last three years now, so that one makes more sense.
Austin Kearns is finally getting the regular playing time he deserves with Wily Mo hurt. It's really tough to see all four of those outfielders staying healthy at any given time, so the hope is that Kearns gets the 500 ABs he needs. The onus will be on him to produce at that point, because he's still far from proving the stardom we all forecasted for him back in '02.
macman (Nat's Land): Greetings. I was leafing through my '02 BP the other day and noticed that my Nat'spos had some decent young talent (Jason Bay, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, Guillermo Mota) back then. How'd they manage to lose all that in addition to losing their big-league stars?
Jonah Keri: Omar Minaya, that's how. "Losing" Sizemore, Lee and Phillips was actually a move I supported at the time. The Expos were in contention, they acquired Bartolo Colon in his prime and made a run at it--when you've suffered through that many years of futility, it's great to see the team make a gutsy move, even if Minaya could have held out and possibly offered a little less in return. As is Brandon Phillips may very well be a bust. No one had any idea about Mota, that was a surprise, given his spotty track record.
Jason Bay, on the other hand, was a terrible move. Yes, no one really knew he'd blossom into a top-level player. But Bay was traded to the Mets for--of all people--Lou Collier, who was not only a fungible player at the time, but also one who was about to be discarded by the Mets and available for nothing. It'll be interesting to see what Minaya does in Queens when he has to make some nuanced player moves, maybe swap prospects for vets in a pennant drive, to see if he still acts too fast and loose with his young talent. The hope is that he doesn't flip Yusmeiro Petit and Lastings Milledge the first chance he gets.
Cris E (St Paul, MN): Your "Five Players To Watch" list is at 3-2 (Bell/Morneau/Beckett v Jimenez/Haren), with the Honorable Mentions going 1-2-1 (Choi v Reed/Matsui and Cantu a push). How big a surprise was it to see D'Angelo Jimenez go up in flames like he did (both at the plate and in the clubhouse)?
Jonah Keri: I maintain that Jimenez would have put up, at the least, something like .255/.350/.380 if given the chance to stick in the lineup. He'd be a better option for say, the Padres sans Loretta or the Yankees (with neither Womack or Cano worthy starters on a championship team). The problem is that he's already been through both those organizations, and he does tend to burn bridges with his personality. He can still help a club, though, and hopefully someone smart will pick him up.
I whiffed on Matsui, nothing else to say. Still like Danny Haren--he just needs to ratchet up his control and he'll have a good career.
Hee Seop, not to put too fine a point on it, frickin' rocks. Hopefully they'll start easing him in against lefties too, because he can be a true elite hitter if they let him.
stlcardinals08 (St. Louis): Has any pitcher ever finished a season with a substantial amount of innings pitched and a WHIP higher than his ERA. Jason Isringhausen has a WHIP almost twice as high as his ERA and Scot Shields WHIP and ERA are almost identical.
Jonah Keri: It's happened 9 times since WWII. With big thanks to Tom Gorman, here you go:
IP threshold >= 35 IP. Here are the top 35 in WHIP_minus_ERA
Name Year Team IP ERA WHIP
Hank Aguirre 1968 LAN 39.333 0.69 1.144
Ray Searage 1984 ML4 38.333 0.7 0.939
Bob Veale 1963 PIT 77.667 1.04 1.275
Rob Murphy 1986 CIN 50.333 0.72 0.934
Barry Latman 1958 CHA 47.667 0.76 0.923
Chris Hammond 2002 ATL 76 0.95 1.105
Roger McDowell 1989 PHI 56.667 1.11 1.182
Dennis Eckersley 1990 OAK 73.333 0.61 0.614
Rich Gossage 1981 NYA 46.667 0.77 0.771
Jim Corsi 1992 OAK 44 1.43 1.409
Dale Murray 1974 MON 69.667 1.03 0.99
Bill Henry 1964 CIN 52 0.87 0.827
Darold Knowles 1972 OAK 65.667 1.37 1.31
Junior Thompson 1946 NY1 62.667 1.29 1.213
Jose Mesa 1995 CLE 64 1.12 1.031
Cisco Carlos 1967 CHA 41.667 0.86 0.768
Frank Williams 1986 SFN 52.333 1.2 1.07
Doug Henry 1991 ML4 36 1 0.833
Rollie Fingers 1981 ML4 78 1.04 0.872
Bob Miller 1971 SDN 63.667 1.41 1.241
Joey Eischen 2002 MON 53.667 1.34 1.137
Don McMahon 1957 ML1 46.667 1.54 1.329
Frank Linzy 1965 SFN 81.667 1.43 1.212
John Smoltz 2003 ATL 64.333 1.12 0.87
Bob Gibson 1968 SLN 304.667 1.12 0.853
Jay Howell 1992 LAN 46.667 1.54 1.264
Hoyt Wilhelm 1967 CHA 89 1.31 1.034
Joe Gibbon 1968 SFN 40 1.58 1.3
Jeff Calhoun 1987 PHI 42.667 1.48 1.195
Ugueth Urbina 1998 MON 69.333 1.3 1.01
Jeff Brantley 1990 SFN 86.667 1.56 1.269
Zane Smith 1989 MON 48 1.5 1.208
Ted Abernathy 1967 CIN 106.333 1.27 0.978
Randy Johnson 1998 HOU 84.333 1.28 0.984
Tim Burke 1987 MON 91 1.19 0.89
Steve Hamilton 1965 NYA 58.333 1.39 1.08
Chris Zachary 1972 DET 38.333 1.41 1.096
Ken Tatum 1969 CAL 86.333 1.36 1.042
George Witt 1958 PIT 106 1.61 1.292
geer08 (Birmingham, AL): It's a title with little true meaning, but is it time to start arguing that the Greatest Living Ballplayer is also currently ACTIVE? Roger Clemens passed Greg Maddux as the best righthander a few years ago, and at this point, it could be argued that he's the best pitcher of all time.
Joe Morgan and his ilk can argue over whether the title belongs to Aaron, Mays, or Musial, and whether the term "Ballplayer" applies to hitters AND pitchers, but I'd be willing to argue, STRENUOUSLY, that Rocket is currently the Greatest Living Ballplayer.
Jonah Keri: It's still Barry. Clemens is the best living pitcher though, I agree.
Livy (Charleston, WV): As a Cardinal fan, should I be concerned that they're basically a .500 team outside the NL Central?
Jonah Keri: They're going to have a laughably easy path to the playoffs in that division, at any rate. Whitey Herzog had a great quote the other day, about how the Cards were dominating the division last year, and they still went out and upgraded with Larry Walker. Walt Jocketty is one of the sharpest and gutsiest GMs around, and he'll likely do his usual good job of identifying holes on the roster and fixing them. My only criticism is that because La Russa's so hung up on SuperJoe McEwing UT types, he doesn't bother rostering players who can actually hit off the bench, John Mabry excepted.
I discussed this in this week's GotW column, re: Scott Rolen v. Abraham Nunez.
Dusty Baker (Chicago): Jonah! I can't win! I leave Carlos Zambrano in for 130+ pitches, we win, and then the media rips me when he hurts his forearm playing tennis later that night. I take him out after 108 pitches, turn the game over the bullpen in the eighth, and they blow it. Either way, we lose.
Can I fire the GM who didn't get me a bullpen this winter?
Jonah Keri: I do think you go overboard in your pitcher usage at times, Dusty, but I also think you have a point about the bullpen's performance. More troubling for me is your bizarre love for lousy players like Neifi Perez and your regular verbal assaults (and frequent benchings) of the rare interesting young hitter who comes your way--Jason Dubois this time around.
Ultimately the injuries to Todd Walker and Nomar have hurt a lot, and there's not enough talent there for Dusty or anyone else to get by the Cards this year.
sldeck (Arlington, MA): A couple of years ago a BP theory was floated that wondered if a batter's decline in hitting skills was foretold by a rise in strikeouts (while overall walks and HR #s remain relatively high).
The example at the time was Jeremy Giambi who walked a good bit and hit some dingers, but had seen his strikeout rate climb. The theory was that he just couldn't recognize pitches as well and no longer had the bat speed (or something) that he once did and therefore struckout more.
Could this idea currently apply to Mark Bellhorn who has a .350-ish OBP but strikes out at a extremely high rate?
Jonah Keri: Mark Bellhorn struck out a lot from the first time he put on a big league uniform (nearly once for every 3 ABs his rookie year in '97 for the A's). It's not as if he started striking out recently, and that's been in for him.
Bellhorn has gone through plenty of cold spells over the last few years--he was vilified at Boston at various points last year because of it, then he went out and crushed playoff pitching and everyone loved him again. Three-true-outcome hitters are going to drive people--fans, media and managers--crazy. They're also going to help the club when they're drawing walks and hitting bombs.
With that said, I wouldn't go signing someone with old player skills to a long-term deal--the Sox should be able to replace Bellhorn in the next couple years with cheaper, equally capable options from their farm system.
Ed Wade (Philadelphia, PA): Should I sell high on Wagner and just let this Tejeda fellow close for us? Or stick with the proven veterans Dallas tells me will win us a pennant someday?
Jonah Keri: Ed, this team is still loaded with talent, and Brett Myers' breakout only makes the Phils more dangerous. I still think the Phils can win the NL East (although the $1000 I have on the line if they go all the way may be clouding my judgment a smidge). The Utley-Bell-Polanco trio can be maximized for platoons, Lieberthal has already started turning it around, and a healthy Lofton will get on base.
The key lies with two players: Randy Wolf, who's taken years and still not fulfilled his big-time potential; and Thome, who needs to get his back healthy to start generating power again. Those two were worth 7.5 wins above replacement level last year, about 1/10th of a win this year. You add 7 wins to the Phillies' ledger over the course of the season, and they're right in it.
DavidCrowe (Canada): Like Knuckleballers eh? - What do you think of Winston-Salem Warthog Charlie Haeger 7-0 so far this year
Jonah Keri: He's intriguing. Decent K rate (7.3/9 IP this year), low H rate (2 in 52 IP), and you don't sweat workload as much with a knuckleballer, of course.
Of course it's so tough to stay consistent with the knuckler--one-time BP favorite Charlie Zink has really flamed out the last couple years, for one. I was amazed that Ryan Jensen was able to throw the knuckler effectively against the Cards on Sunday, given he only uses the pitch as one in a varied repertoire. How tough must it be to make that pitch work when you're NOT devoting most of your practice time to perfecting it?
beanpj (Washington, DC): A few over/unders perhaps? Jose Reyes season walks: 25 / Barry Bonds games played: 70 / New York Yankee wins: 90 / Brian Roberts HRs: 25 / Roger Clemens trades to NYY: .5
Jonah Keri: Reyes: under
Yankees: over (they win 91)
Clemens to Bronx: over
References to 1996 All-Star team by BP authors in discussing the Yankees: way over
Joe Torre (Bronx, New York): How long am I going to get away with playing a guy with a .650 OPS and a negative marginal lineup value at a corner outfield position for which he has no apparent defensive aptitude?
Jonah Keri: Steven Goldman does fine work in properly ripping the Yankees and New York media for their Tony Womack fetish in his Pinstriped Bible, as well as the Pinstriped Blog over at the YES Network Web site. Today's PBlog featured a line I may have to use as my new e-mail sig, or the basis for a tattoo ot something:
"Hold me, like you did at the Red Roof Inn in Rapid City." (Read his Star Wars review for an explanation)
Myreon (L.A.): Jonah,
Why'd you take a shot at Kruk in today's column? He's funny. Will you tweedy Ivy Leaguers only be happy when everyone involved with baseball is a professorial husk? I bet when the whole world laughed while Larry Walker batted right handed, you were humorlessly checking RJ's platoon splits. Its OK not to be the smartest guy on the tube (or the handsomist), but it is better to be John Kruk than George Will. Play nice.
Jonah Keri: I went to Concordia University in Montreal, a school that, other than its journalism and fine arts programs, is considered to be at the bottom of the barrel academically for Canadian colleges--miles from the Ivys. I'm also pretty sure I've never worn tweed.
And I like George Will. I interviewed him one time, and he threw me a great line. I asked him about his favorite team (I believe it was the Cubs), then he asked me the same question. When I told him it was the Expos, he said:
"Really?! I've never met one of you before."
Southcoast (Texas): Can you give a scouting report (e.g.,fastball mph, type of pitches each throws) and your opinion on who you like better for NL pitching; both long term and short term.
Jonah Keri: None of the BP staffers, including myself, are trained scouts, except for research assistant/jack-of-all trades Jason Karegeannes, so my scouting opinion on Davies and Stauffer would be, as my 7th-grade science teacher liked to say: Use-LESS.
If you ask me if I think they'll succeed, the answer is yes, because they put up pretty good peripheral numbers in the minors, and they're both in favorable pitching environments, in terms of opportunity, ballparks, etc. I've rostered Davies on two of my three fantasy teams (Team BP currently in 1st place in NL-LABR, so I'm enjoying it while it lasts), if that helps at all.
Kenny Williams (35th & Shields): Mercy. BP has blasted my team throughout the offseason predicting 3rd or 4th place for my club. The Lee trade brought in Scott Podsednik and gave us salary flexibility to bring in Tadihito Iguchi, AJ Pierzynski and Dustin Hermanson. With McCarthy available to spell an injured Cuban I think we have the talent to make some noise come playoff time. Are you willing to revise your fourth place prediction and what are you and other BP staff saying about my team. Thanks
Jonah Keri: Yup, another lousy prediction on my part--I should have stuck with my gut and taken Angels over A's this year too. I like to point to my Braves 1st place prediction last year when others had figured their run had ended, but then I was a year early (and about 40 wins off) on the DBacks last year too.
Anyway, McCarthy's one of my absolute favorite prospects, the Iguchi signing looks inspired, teams' reluctance to sign an ornery player has paid off in the case of Pierzynski, and Scott Podsednik looks like a find now that he's walking so much. On the other hand, Duque just went on the DL, Jon Garland is living on borrowed time, and generally the starting staff isn't nearly this good. McCarthy's going to get a lot closer to 15-18 starts than the 1-2 they're projected for him with Hernandez out, and he could be the key to them winning that division or falling short to the Twins.
I still like Minnesota, by the way.
Larry Bowa (Bristol, CT): Isn't Kansas City doomed to a decade of failure, now that they've decided against hiring me as manager?
Jonah Keri: Schaefer's only interim, Larry. Get your resume in there, start berating some of the Royals players in your interview, kick Allard Baird's dog, and I'm sure you'll get in good with them.
Lightning round...I have a ton of house-packing to do in the next couple weeks.
Stan (Concord, CA): Jonah, when's BBP going to start touting the amatuer draft? What's Cameron Maybin's projected EQA? What's Tulowitzki's 5 year VORP line look like?
Jonah Keri: We've already started, Stan. I highly recommend people take the time to read Rany Jazayerli's excellent series on draft history to get some idea of recent trends (click here to view all 3 parts).
We've got occasional BP correspondent Boyd Nation back for another year of draft coverage too. He'll be filing several articles in the next couple weeks. His Web site's got some cool stuff to look at too.
mhixpgh (Pittsburgh, PA (Baseball Hell...)): Hi Jonah-
Not only is baseball baaaad here in Pittsburgh, but so is the Pirates broadcast team. It really is difficult to enjoy the game on TV or radio when the play-by-play is so obviously horrible. Thank god I have MLB Extra Inning and can enjoy Vin Scully from time to time....
Seeing as play-by-play is such an integral part of enjoying a baseball game (at least on TV and radio), why is this element of our favorite pastime largely ignored and allowed to wallow in a state of neglect?
Jonah Keri: One of my favorite Game of the Week topics--I've learned more about each team's broadcast duo than I thought possible--you don't realize how much goes on in a typical baseball broadcast until you spend every minute of the three-hour affair analyzing and scrutinizing everything that goes on. You're right that the Bucs' tandem is brutal, mhixpgh--Wehner in particular is brutal. There are others who make me wonder why they're employed--Fran Healy of the Mets drives me nuts.
On the other hand, it's been a great surprise to discover solid analysts like Paul Splittorff, McDonough and Remy for the Bosox, and to catch up with old friends like Ken Singleton (who was terrific as Dave Van Horne's broadcast partner with the Expos back in the day). When you're really watching a game--not just leaving it on in the background, watching an inning or two and doing other stuff--you realize how vital a good announcer is to a game's enjoyment.
We can only hope that the good, young announcers coming up like Jon Sciambi of ESPN and Mike Curto in Triple-A Tacoma start getting the plum jobs, while the guys not pulling their weight get phased out. It's started happening in major league front offices, and I think it will eventually happen in the booth too.
Jonah Keri: All right, that'll do it for me. Looking forward to seeing all you Seattlites at the park as I make Safeco my new stomping grounds. Derek and I will be the tall, lunky, drunken lunatics yelling for Ichiro! Hope you enjoy future installments of Prospectus Game of the Week and Prospectus Q&A. Drop me a line anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.