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Chat: Joe Sheehan

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday June 16, 2005 2:00 PM ET chat session with Joe Sheehan.

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Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Joe Sheehan: Sorry for the delay...just posted today's column. Let's get to the questions!

Mclaren203 (Chicago): Are strikeouts for pitchers overrated? Not for prospects, but for starters in the Big Leagues?

Joe Sheehan: Not at all. Strikeout rate is the best indicator of a pitcher's longevity, the numbers acting as a proxy for a pitcher's ability to dominate.

We can be fooled by this with minor leaguers sometimes--polished pitchers at low levels can rack up Ks with stuff that gets hit hard higher up--but in the majors, strikeout rate is paramount.

Cody Pancake (C-ville, VA): Hi Joe, Any idea if the Angels have soured on Casey Kotchman? He's hardly getting a fair shake this time around.

Joe Sheehan: I think this is another way in which the Darin Erstad problem manifests itself. With Erstad at first base, Kotchman has to get ABs at DH. The Angels have a lot of candidates for those ABs, and Scioscia likes to use that spot to give half-days off to guys (a good idea with his aging OFs). It's very hard for any young player to get established as a DH.

I expect Kotchman to be traded this summer, and I say that knowing that Bill Stoneman is not an active dealer. I just don't think they have any room for him.

DrLivy (Charleston (WV)): Will Kerry Wood be inducted into the Simulated Game Hall of Fame?

Joe Sheehan: I just wanted to make sure everyone saw that.

Jack (The Beanstalk): Will Barry Bonds play this year?

Joe Sheehan: I'm starting to have my doubts. Certainly, the infection in his knee is serious, and has pushed back his return. The Giants are probably too far gone to be salvaged, which means that if he does come back, he's doing so in a lost cause.

If you're Bonds, do you want to come back to play at 80% in meaningless games among a media circus, or would you rather punt and get a fresh start in 2006, and hope time has not only healed the knee, but provided separation from the various controversies of '05?

Obviously, the Giants may view this differently, but I doubt they have very much sway over Bonds.

DrLivy (Charleston (WV)): Is there any doubt that the Cardinals came out better than the Angels or BoSox in the Renteria-stakes? The Cards could have had, for the money, either Renteria OR Mulder, Grudzielanek and Eckstein.

Joe Sheehan: Through ten weeks, which happen to be the best ten weeks Eckstein has had since 2002. Right now, he has a .266 EqA, while the oh-so-disappointing Renteria is at .253, and Cabrera at .247.

By the end of the year, I expect the three will line up Renteria/Cabrera/Eckstein, with Eck also providing inferior defense to the other two. He's the oldest of the three, and I doubt he's a regular by the end of his contract.

The problem is that the other two were overpaid, not that Eckstein is actually any better than them.

jjapha01 (Washington DC): Taking into account Zach Greinke's 1-7 record this year, and the fact that he plays for the Royals, how does his outlook shape up for the next few seasons?

Joe Sheehan: As the guy who never drank the Kool-Aid on Greinke--you can't have a low strikeout rate AND be an extreme flyball pitcher--let me say that the Royals are part of the problem here. They've rushed him, but they're such a bad organization that they're not going to reverse that decision and let him work on his stuff at Triple-A.

I think Greinke will eventually be a good major-league pitcher, but he has a lot of work to do to get there. He's not the next Greg Maddux, and that he's with the Royals makes it a possibility that he never approaches his potential.

Rick Vogler (St. Louis): How much better is Jeff Bagwell over Harmon Killebrew statistically, by career numbers?

Joe Sheehan: I was pretty shocked by this myself, but Clay Davenport has it as about a 20-win difference over their careers. Killer hit more home runs and played some third base. Bagwell did everything else--average, walks, doubles, defense, speed--better.

satchelp (Los Angeles Area): Are you related to Tom Sheehan? Tom was our trainer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute when I played baseball for RPI in the late 50's. Ed

Joe Sheehan: Not that I know of. Where I grew up, "Sheehan" was a very common surname. I actually had another "Joseph Sheehan" in my class in grammar school.

Mark (CT): This might be a naive question, but why is the infield fly rule necessary? Pop ups could become interesting plays. We could have the elegance of simpler rules, and if the balance tilts slightly towards defense and away from offense, is that so bad? Thanks.

Joe Sheehan: The balance of tactics necessitates the rule, as allowing a routine pop-up to become an easy double play would give the defense an unfair advantage.

Very occasionally, you'll see an infielder let a pop-up fall with a runner on first base, usually to force a faster player at second.

BT (MD): D'Angelo Jimenez, Danny Graves, now Austin Kearns... how many scapegoats does Dan O'Brien get to execute before ownership realizes that he's the real problem? Maybe in his next fit of Ritalin discontinuation, O'Brien will demand the head of whoever the idiot was that signed mediocre flyball artist Eric Milton to untold millions to toil in Great American Home Run Park? One can only hope.

Joe Sheehan: The Reds are a disaster area right now, and the shame of it is that they have a lot of talent on hand. They're just run very poorly, from Lindner through O'Brien and Miley, and when you have that much bad decision-making, you can't overcome it with talent.

They've essentially wasted Austin Kearns, who I hope gets dealt for pennies on the dollar and becomes Bobby Abreu.

Check back in 2007.

ElAngelo (NY, NY): Which of these rebuilding franchises do you think is the closest to actually competing: Toronto, Milwaukee, or Pittsburgh?

Joe Sheehan: I think Blue Jays and Pirates fans might argue that they're competing right now.

As far as which team is closest to contending late in a season, I'd rank them Brewers, Jays, Pirates. The Pirates seem incapable of getting out of the cycle of playing for .500, although they could actually reach the goal this year. The Jays have the most talent right now, but I think the Brewers have a better idea of what they're doing, and talent on the way.

Jon_L (Washington DC): In his June 12 column, Gammons wrote, "Nationals GM Jim Bowden is still hoping that his special assistant Barry Larkin will play in the second half of the season." I think I speak for all Nationals fans when I say: NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! In all seriousness, I am of a mind that Bowden hasn't been terrible for the Nats. Sure Guzman is a disaster, but Castilla has worked out ok and only has a 2-year contract (I hope), the Byrd and Spivey trades have gone well in the short-term, and the draft seemed to go fairly well. This is not to say that I want Bowden back next year, but how would you rate his performance so far?

Joe Sheehan: I'd rather have Larkin than Guzman, and it's not close. I'd rather have him than Castilla, although it's closer.

Bowden's smaller moves have been better than his big ones. Only the Guillen trade, of the latter, looks positive, and I'm not sure Guillen is that much better than Juan Rivera and the money. But as is his wont, he's done a good job filling in on the edges. He'll have to continue doing so, as this is a very flawed team. I'm sticking with the idea that they're not a contender, and for Nats' fans--every one of whim e-mailed me this week--sake, I hope he doesn't get too frisky at the trade deadline.

Kevin (Houston): Is there a more underappreciated pitcher in baseball than Roy Oswalt? The man has never had a year that wasn't substantially above average, but rarely gets much mention among the best pitchers in baseball.

Joe Sheehan: Two of his seasons have been partials due to late call-ups and injuries, and he was Roger Clemens' teammate last year, which cost him some attention even as he reached 20 wins. I think Oswalt gets plenty of attention, but he would be helped by having back-to-back big years sometime.

Let's put it this way: a lot of people probably think Dontrelle Willis is a better pitcher, and there's no way that's the case.

Adam J. Morris (Houston, Texas): Who do you like in the A.L. West -- Angels or Rangers? Does the loser have a realistic shot at the Wild Card?

Joe Sheehan: It's really a toss-up, as both teams have considerable flaws and neither is good enough to run away. I think the Angels have a deeper roster with fewer question marks, especially on the pitching staff, so I give them the edge over the Rangers' better offense.

I think the wild card is much more likely to be the #2 team in the AL Central.

ALap (Needham): What should the Sox do about their 2B/3B situation? Youkilis is outperforming both Bellhorn and Mueller by a wide margin, and neither Bellhorn nor Mueller have come close to their power numbers from a year ago. Mueller's high OBP is encouraging and Bellhorn is prone to slumps, but do you think a trade is in the cards for one of them?

Joe Sheehan: I think the Red Sox would like to replace Bellhorn, who has been pretty bad this season. They can't just slide Mueller over, because Mueller's half-life as an everyday second baseman could be measured with a stopwatch.

There's some organizational loyalty to Kevin Millar that may need to be dealt with. He's not the hitter he was when they signed him; Youkilis is probably better at this point, and if he can't play third base, they should get him some more time at first.

BridgeportJoe (Chicago, IL): It looks like Konerko, Dye, Thomas (insert appropriate small sample size caveat here) and even Uribe and Crede are heating up a bit. If that's the case, even assuming a slight regression to the mean for Contreras and Hernandez (and Garland to a lesser extent--though he is at the age where pitchers frequently see substantial improvement, and he's only about a run better per game), don't the Sox win 95-97 games and either win the division or walk away with the wild card?

Joe Sheehan: I see more than "a slight regression to the mean" for the starting pitchers, although that could be addressed by getting Brandon McCarthy into the rotation.

Let's say this is a .500 team, which is about as far as I'm willing to go at the moment. If I'm right, they'd win 90-91 games, which could well win the wild card in the AL. Those 43 wins are in the bank already, and there's no scenario under which the Sox don't at least contend for the rest of the year. Yes, they've outperformed expectations, but that performance is banked, and it counts, no matter what I thought of the team in March.

If they can upgrade right field or third base or the bullpen--and I think the bullpen has signficant implosion potential--then they're a 92- or 93-win team.

Credit the defense, and credit Ozzie Guillen for the things he's done well, such as handling pitchers.


Greg (Boulder, CO): Does the MLB draft work as intended? If not, what would you recommend?

Joe Sheehan: The draft is designed to reduce labor costs by eliminating competition for amateur talent. Given the bidding we saw back in 1996 (when a handful of top amateurs became free agents on a technicality), I think it's fair to say it accomplishes that goal.

The draft isn't about competitive balance.

I would shorten the draft considerably, maybe by 25-30 rounds. All teams are doing after about the tenth round is throwing darts and stocking short-season teams.

mattymatty2000 (Philadelphia, PA): Hey Joe, Apologies if you've already addressed this issue, but whats your take on the Mike Scioscia/Frank Robinson spat? Was Scioscia that far off base?

Joe Sheehan: Well, Donnelly did get ejected, which serves as prima facie evidence that Robinson had a case.

That Scioscia took offense, then complained about Majewski's glove, seemed a bit petty, but not a big deal.

DavidCrowe (Canada): Does Arod finish out his contract in NY? - (He's hated by the local media) - any chance they trade him? What kind of deal could you see happening?

Joe Sheehan: He has the option to void his deal after 2007. I've assumed he wouldn't, because the economic cost would be huge ($80 million), but it's possible that the market will shift again, or that he'll make the personal decision to trade the money for something else.

My guess, two years out, is that he'll stay.

Need to shorten this today, so we're into the lightning round...

Rosslyn (Virginia): "Yes, they've outperformed expectations, but that performance is banked, and it counts, no matter what I thought of the team in March." How does this differ from what the Nationals have done?

Joe Sheehan: It doesn't, except that while I've adjusted my perception of the White Sox--they're probably a "true" 82-win team or so--I don't think much differently of the Nats. So they're a 70-win team, and now they'll win 76 or 77 instead.

And you know, it's not unheard of for teams to overperform for an entire season, play .700 ball in one-run games, and make the playoffs. Performance analysis isn't a crystal ball; it's just a strong approach to looking at the game.

albert (kansas city, mo): who would you say is the most annoying/obnixous baseball analyst out there? thanks for the great work!

Joe Sheehan: I don't know, but I have a pretty good idea who'd win the D.C. precinct in the voting.

mjw024 (Burke, Va): Joe, What are your thoughts on the proposed new stadium for the Yankees?

Joe Sheehan: Melancholy. Everything changes, but no place in baseball excites me the way "my" Yankee Stadium does. I'd hate to lose it.

Steve (NJ): The final order of finish in the NL East wil be.....

Joe Sheehan: Mets, Phillies, Marlins, Braves, Nationals.

Yes, that's the same one I started with.

pjvent (Washington, DC): Joe: Yanks at trade deadline--buyers or sellers?

Joe Sheehan: Buyers. There's no way they get their heads wrapped around that other option by then.

dennis (dc): Can you ask Nate to post updated PECOTA projections based on YTD stats?

Joe Sheehan: You just did.

ssimon (Mount Vernon, NY): Finish this sentence: In July, 2006, Hee Seop Choi will be...

Joe Sheehan: ...backing up albert Pujols in the All-Star Game.

Dan (NJ): Hey Joe, thanks for doing these chats. Victor Zambrano has been pitching much better lately. Do you think he's turned a corner, or is it just a case of him lowering his BAA to his usual career rate?

Joe Sheehan: His homers are down, but he barely has more strikeouts than walks allowed, so I see no reason to think his apparent effectiveness more than a blip. You can't succeed with a 1:1 K/BB.

Franz (Oakland): In your column you suggest that the Orioles' top trade priority should be a front-of-the-rotation starter, but with those lacking in the trade market should they instead focus on plugging one of the holes in their offense (left field, or a catcher who can outhit Geronimo Gil)?

Joe Sheehan: They'll score enough runs, and getting healthy will patch those lineup holes. They need to work on run prevention.

Last two...

TGisriel (Baltimore): Do you see this year as the beginning of an Orioles run as contenders, or is this a one year fluke with them fading back next year?

Joe Sheehan: I think they'll be successful for a while. Flanagan and Beattie have avoided the big mistake, which is half the battle for GMs.

Manny Ramirez (Boston): Should I be concerned about my batting average? Have I entered the "Frank Thomas Old-man skills" portion of my career?

Joe Sheehan: I think it's a blip, and you'll be above .300 by the end of the year.

OK, one more from a fan, not a player...

noonan (Palo Alto): Which pitcher is more valuable given the same year end statistics? One who is VERY bad for a month and then dominant for 5 months, or one who is consistently mediocre for 6 months?? Shouldn't VORP reflect this difference?

Joe Sheehan: I know that over a career, the higher-peak player has more value. I don't know if that would also apply over a season; I think it would, because the player you describe would likely not stay in the lineup/rotation/bullpen throughout his bad stretch.

Joe Sheehan: Sorry for the shorter session today, moreso given the record number of questions. I'll be back after the All-Star break with another one. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the season!


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