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Chat: Sam Miller

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday May 11, 2016 1:00 PM ET chat session with Sam Miller.

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You know Sam. This feels unnecessary.

Sam Miller: Hello! I'm Sam Miller, the editor of this site and the author of The Disappearing Footnote, a deep look at the rise and fall of the NoPAPH. (http://bit.ly/1NqFmoQ) I'm sure you have tons of questions about NoPAPHs, and maybe after that we'll have a little time for non-NoPAPH topics, but I can't promise.

brentdaily (colorado): Am I missing the Beat Pecota standings? I can't find them anywhere.

Sam Miller: You are not. One thing I failed to foresee when I promised standings was that they relied on DRA, and DRA is (by design) impossible to calculate for the first month or so of the season. We just did publish those, and now standings are near-imminent. We've just got a couple little things to do first. So: Soon!

brentdaily (colorado): Am I missing the Beat Pecota standings? I can't find them anywhere.

Sam Miller: You are not. One thing I failed to foresee when I promised standings was that they relied on DRA, and DRA is (by design) impossible to calculate for the first month or so of the season. We just did publish those, and now standings are near-imminent. We've just got a couple little things to do first. So: Soon!

Jim (Out to Lunch (figuratively)): Does Jimmy Rollins have one more year in the sun in him or is he going into a steep decline the year? Thanks...

Sam Miller: Sometimes old guys get their legs for a season, which happened in 2014 with Rollins and could happen again. But there's otherwise nothing unusual about Rollins' decline, which is to say no reason to think he'll reverse it. He's kind of Ichiroish in one sense--eternally young in personality, young-type of build, and so it's a little too easy to think he's got more vigor than he does.

Frank W. (Boston): What's it like in the Braves front office right now?

Sam Miller: Very sorry for the site problems. In our defense: Even the Cubs are losing right now, so these things happen.

The weird thing about tanking to win is it creates this perverse ambiguity about how to assess things, because *technically* the worse you do the better it is for the plan. But you have to balance that with the fact that it's very, very hard to embrace awful play, even when that awful play might have some tangible benefits down the line; and that, in a lost season, you want to be able to hold on to happy surprises. Like, for instance, I remember in 2013 thinking what a great thing for the Astros front office it was that Marwin Gonzalez and Matt Dominguez (as I recall) were playing well. That was something they could root for, and hold on to. At this point in the Braves season, there's very little to hold onto. In fact, I'm not sure there are more than three positive developments at the MLB level, and when you really dig in I'm not sure there are two.

The simplest thing to do if you're the GM is to fire the manager, who exists mainly to be fired at this point; reap the illusion of improvement when the team "regresses" to something like its true 65-win talent; point to some real successes in the farm so far; and try to always have a funny joke to tell your owner whenever you see him.

Myles (Parts Unknown): The 2015 Sonoma Stompers get 4 outs instead of 3 and play the 2016 Braves 162 games. What is their record?

Sam Miller: 14-148. The difference between the Stompers and an A-Ball team is pretty slim, but the truth is that big leaguers are so, so, so, so good at every aspect of the game, relative to A-Ballers. Every action is better, by a lot. The Stompers are extremely talented but they are, developmentally, still kids!

bryanherr (MSP): I want the Twins to lose every game and blow up the front office. Is there something wrong with me?

Sam Miller: Serious question before I can answer this: Are you a Twins fan? I sort of assume so from your question, but can't tell for sure. Maybe you're just the Joker.

Spirou (Montréal): Ok let's say you have all three starters on your team :Sonny Gray,David Price and Max Scherzer.Which one are you giving up on ?

Sam Miller: Sonny Gray. I think it's fair to say that the others have slightly more troubling collapse possibilities, just because of age/bullets fired/certain performance details, but I expect they'll all be fine and I like Price and Scherzer a lot more when everybody is right.

Paul (DC): Byron Buxton appears to be producing in Rochester. Do the Twins keep him down there most, if not all, of the summer letting him get the reps or do they yank him back up before the All-Star Break to see if he sinks or swims again?

Sam Miller: That's a really good question. There's a feeling that, for a star talent, a demotion to the minors is worse than just being in the minors; that it's sort of like having to sell your houses in monopoly at a discount and then buy them back at full price. Which is why teams don't like to bring their best prospects up until they're ready to stay. But I don't know if that applies for a guy who has already spent two long stints in the majors and might be burning over the demotion every day he's down there.

I haven't looked to see if it's a potential service time situation, but I guess they probably have something other than slash line that he's "working on" or focusing on, and that lets them give him lots of positive reinforcement as he shows progress. And I suspect (barring a service time issue) he'll be up sooner, rather than later.

Mike Trout (OC): C'mon, just make ONE TINY LITTLE fake trade for me ! It'll be fun ! You know you want to !!!

Sam Miller: I don't know if I can do it convincingly. I hate faking prospect-heavy trades. But I am really in love with the idea of the Pirates making a run at him--he's going to get really expensive, obviously, but he's going to be way undervalued and it'd be great to see the Pirates' innovation extend to the way they finance a multi-year budget. Polanco + Glasnow hits the two big parts of a Trout-type trade, the cost-controlled potential All-Star who is already in the bigs, and the top-10 prospect with upside and risk.

Every team could use a Trout, but the Pirates and Nationals seem like the two teams that maybe make the most sense, to me.

bryanherr (msp): I want to be a twins fan but I can't seem to. I've been a cubs fan my whole life.

Sam Miller: Well, if you're not a Twins fan then sure, root for chaos and destruction. If you want to actually see the Twins get good, and this is the way you're rooting... I personally don't think that rooting for losses is something you ever recover for. I think you can hope the team takes a long-term approach, you can even condone some brutal baseball in the name of future success and sustainability, but you have to wake up every day hoping the team wins games and has good players. You just have to. Otherwise, a part of you won't really trust that you deserve the happy times when they come.

Brandon (Chicago): What are you having for lunch today?

Sam Miller: Bean and cheese burrito

Tommy (Boston): Is Anderson Espinoza the #1 pitching prospect next season?

Sam Miller: I don't see any obvious indication that Giolito will lose his prospect status, so no. Beyond that, there are at least a half-dozen guys whom most of us (and especially me!) are unqualified to distinguish with that precision over that time frame.

Brandon (Chicago): What impact does Your Toe have on you day-to-day? Do you frequently experience discomfort? Does it flare up when the weather is bad? Do you not notice it until you stub it/turn on it weird?

Sam Miller: Not much. For the first few years, I would favor it when it would hurt, I would try to avoid things that would aggravate it, because I thought I would make it worse/slow the "healing"/whatever. But now I know that this is just what life is now; life is a painful toe. It's not the sort of pain that affects my mood, so I just accept it, like the weather or the cost of high-speed internet.

Will (Gainesville): A recent episode of EW inspired my Crazy Idea of the Week. The discussion about how teams aren't necessarily incentivized to create juggernaut teams, but rather to win the division and roll the dice in the postseason got me thinking. Should the Cubs, who have the makings of a juggernaut on their hands, switch to a 6 man rotation to preserve the health of their arms until October? Hammel has had consistent struggles in the second half and Arrieta has said that he felt worn down in the playoffs in 2015. If the Cubs manage to continue this pace through the end of May, should they consider adding Adam Warren to their rotation and focus on maximizing their chances in the postseason?

Sam Miller: Well, yes. They probably should. I haven't seen (or don't remember) a great study on how much the fatigue of a long season affects pitching in October, but it seems very intuitive that every inning you've thrown makes you a little bit worse by the 230th or 250th. So I support this idea, with two possible exceptions:

1) If the Cubs have some chance at doing something heroic (like winning 117 games; pretty much just that. Maybe a winning streak, maybe personal achievements), they should. I've been unable to convince any of my Bay Area friends that the Warriors winning 73 was a much bigger deal than them potentially winning this year's title, but I feel that way, and if the Cubs can chase 117 without doing any real damage to their playoff chances I'd say they should; 2) if the Cubs have some reason to believe that costing Jake Arrieta a Cy Young award, or Jon Lester 20 wins, or something along those lines, would lead to great unhappiness, it'd be worth listening to those guys. But I wouldn't just assume either of those things would lead to great unhappiness, even if we're all excessively paranoid about unhappy athletes.

Craig (LA): What kind of potential does Ronald Acuna have? Victor Robles Potential?

Sam Miller: Acuna is probably the most like Robles in terms of bursting on to the scene, but doesn't have the same combination of polish and ceiling.

Dan (Texas): Victor Robles - a top 5 prospect now?

Sam Miller: No. He's not.

Myles (Wherever He Wants): Re Sonoma vs Atlanta - How many outs do you think it take, then, before the Stompers are favored to win 81 or more games? 6? 7?

Sam Miller: Funny thing is, we almost answered a question on the podcast today about how much closer the mound would have to move for one team for that team to be favored in 90 percent of games. This is like that.

I think the Braves would score about 15 runs a game against a Pacific Association team. So to score two runs an inning, with an offense that would have a MLB slash line of, say, .180/.210/.260? There's a simple math way to solve this, but I don't know it, so I'll guess six or seven outs would do it.

mmarsden (Chicago): The Cubs are no longer losing

Sam Miller: And the site is no longer down!

Brad (DC): Glasnow or Giolito long term and short term?

Sam Miller: Luc and Luc

Alex (Atlanta): As a miserable Braves fan, when should I expect this team to be competitive again?

Sam Miller: Hm, I did my projections for 2019 the other day, and let me see what I said...

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=29051

I have them second in the NL East with 85 wins, just behind the Phillies. That's... the piece was clearly a lark, but it was also a somewhat serious attempt to answer a question I had for myself about what factors count as "fundamentals" and which things we see today matter three years down the road. So, added wins and losses in a fairly systematic way based on a bunch of details. The Braves have a great farm system right now, a front office that isn't an obstacle, and median financials. There's no reason to celebrate this pathetic awful season, to be sure, but there's also no reason to think it'll matter at all in two years. The league is about 60 percent etch-a-sketch.

Steven (Indiana): Other than the Cubs, does any team have a brighter future beyond 2016 than the Phillies?

Sam Miller: Hey, on this same topic... I have the Phillies winning the NL East in 2019, one win shy of the Cubs' win total and tied for the sixth-best record in baseball that year. (And, hey, I think these are as absurd as I hope you do!) The Phillies have a lot of the things that the Cubs had (buy-in on full rebuild, great farm system, big budget going unused) and we don't have any reason to be doubtful of this front office, other than that they had to rebuild an infrastructure that was a decade behind a lot of other teams. That said: The Cubs aren't this good because they followed a model for other teams to follow; they're this good because they followed that model and made *every right move along the way*. You can't look at the Cubs and say "let's do that" without answering the question of who the terrible pitcher you're going to turn into Jake Arrieta is.

Marco (San Diego): Which team performance so far this year have most surprised you? for positive and negative?

Sam Miller: Baltimore is setting us up to have to do the whole Royals/PECOTA thing against next spring but with Orioles/PECOTA. The funny thing, though, is that PECOTA adored the Cubs, had them winning the division, I think had them with the best projected record in baseball by the end of spring, but if the Cubs really do win 107, as Nate Silver recently projected, or even more, it'll go down as one of PECOTA's biggest "misses" of the season.

The obvious answers for bad surprises are the Astros, the Dodgers, maybe the Yankees, but for non-obvious I still kind of thought the Brewers were going to be belie their "rebuilding" reputation and chase 82 wins. Still might, but they've looked bad.

Billy (Beantown): Sam, thanks for the chat. Any idea what's causing the early season struggles of Rafael Devers?? Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Sam Miller: Age and level

Cory (Texas): Let's hear your two cents on Joey Gallo

Sam Miller: I'm not a prospect guy, and have no real good argument for this, but I'd rank him higher than we do. The thing about old-player skills is that most of the value a player provides in his career--especially for the purposes of "prospect" rankings--comes early in his career. Gallo has old-player skills, but I'm pretty obsessed with power at that age.

LoyalRoyal (A Bad Place): Should we Royal's fans be worried that the wheels are starting to fall off of the The Big Blue Machine? Lately, it just seems like nothing much is going right, i.e. Medlen, Young, Cain, Mondesi, etc... Cheers

Sam Miller: Ehhh, they just won a World Series. I don't think it should be legal to worry the year after your team wins a World Series.

clintneff (York, Pa): Sam, writing you from Atlantic league territory in York, Pa...Love the book, any plans to run another team in another league?

Sam Miller: No plans. I don't know what we'll do next, or what I'll do next, but there's a lot of other stuff to write about baseball to keep us busy.

Lyin Ted (Texas): Why did a Scott Boras client leave so much money on the table?

Sam Miller: I spent about three and a half hours with Boras for an ESPN piece this winter. It was an odd conversation, because I went there to try to convince him that the sport has grown cynical and teams can't be trusted with players anymore, and he was the idealist arguing that in fact teams do do right by their players, usually. The point he kept repeating was that a team that treats its players right, and that doesn't harm their careers for the sake of the team or the bottom line, will be rewarded by players who want to play for them. He pointed to the Strasburg/2012 playoffs situation, and then to Max Scherzer signing with them, and drew a dotted line between those... suggesting that they're not unrelated. I'm sure he would say the same about the Strasburg extension, only maybe with a solid line, not dotted.

Long answer short: Strasburg still got life-changing money, he knows how much risk he was willing to bear, he envisioned this contract and it made him happy, and oh by the way sometimes "money left on the table" extensions turn into Jered Weaver.

Ken (remote island): Assuming you and Ben are too reluctant to see yourselves portrayed in a film based on the book, have you guys ever kicked around potential ideas for a baseball movie/baseball show? If not, what do you think would make for a good one?

Sam Miller: Really haven't. I was thinking a few days ago about whether our book could conceivably be dramatized in film, and if so what it would look like, and the answer I landed on was Adventureland.

I really like Baumann's piece about 1990s baseball movies. We had no idea what a golden age we were living in.

Sam Miller: I've got to go get a bean burrito now. Thanks for the questions, and we'll do it again soon.


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