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Chat: Clay Davenport

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday August 11, 2005 7:00 PM ET chat session with Clay Davenport.

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Clay Davenport is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Clay Davenport: Welcome, everyone, to BP's Must-Type Thursday. This is Clay Davenport, and I will be hosting tonight's chat. If y'all are ready to start, then I guess I am too. So...

Peter Bean (Washington, D.C.): What, in your opinion, is the most interesting approach to defensive fielding statistics currently being worked on (besides your own)?

Clay Davenport: To be blunt, I'm not sure that I would call mine all that "interesting", as I'm primarily dealing with old data and trying to get useful information from very blunt instruments. I think the future is definitely with the play-by-play stats that incorporate some measure of how hard the ball was hit. The down side of that approach is that it is a huge set of data, expensive, and not readily packaged into a useable encyclopedia format for the next round of young analysts to play with.

Russ Branyan (Bench): What do I have to do? I have a .381/.518 line, and I find myslef on the bench a few times a week for Jeff Cirillo? Please send Ned Yost the baseball pospecuts basics: just another out article for me.

Clay Davenport: Russ, the only reason you're holding on to numbers like that is because Ned is letting you duck all the lefthanders. And by letting Jeff duck all the right-handers, he's actually gotten better EQAs than either of you have had this millenium.

Hunter Stickno (South): You're in the BBWAA. While filling out your ballot you put Giambi where?

Clay Davenport: The way I'm putting together numbers for the Hall project, Giambi stands about 20th among first basemen, with a likelihood of reaching 15th or so by the time he's done. Strictly numerically, that should be enough to get him in, but possibly close enough to the entry line at that point that character would make him a reasonable drop. I said that 500 was a typical score for a Hall of Famer on the mvp career system, but that number appears to be increasing with time, and I don't know that his 550 or so is going to be sufficient. It will depend on who he's specifically matched up against.

Bryan (Maryland): If Jason Giambi had a few more PAs to get his counting stats up (namely RBI), would he be the AL MVP (10th in AL VORP, 1st by a good margin in AL RC/27)? As it stands, dare the writers give him any votes?

Clay Davenport: Isn't that a little like asking if Brian Roberts would be the MVP, if he hit all year like he did in April and May?

He's got a high EQA/MLVr/RC27/whatever rate stat you want, but brings no baserunning or defensive skills to the table, and he's missed a lot of time. I've got him ranked 41st in WARP in the AL, so I don't think he's even on the list to think about putting on the MVP ballot. A-Rod, Sheffield, Jeter, Rivera - all get considered before Giambi.

Velez (Miami): Can you go an entire chat w/o mentioning steroids?

Clay Davenport: I can try. Is there anything to say about them that hasn't already been said by someone else?

DavidCrowe (Canada): What would be Julio Franco's career numbers now if he had stayed in the bigs the whole time?

Clay Davenport: Franco was out of the majors for about 3 1/2 years, 1998-2001, and another year in 1995. By '98 he was already down to about 100 games a year, so I'm eyeballing him at missing about 480 hits...which would put him at 2987 and take a lot of eyes off of Palmeiro. I don't think he's near enough any other milestone numbers to be concerned about them.

Had Franco been in the majors all along and gotten to 3000 hits, he would have been a real test to the Hall numbers, as he really hasn't been Hall-worthy in any category save longevity.

PJ (Parcipany): Has there ever been any interest in starting cold weather teams on the road in early April, and then doing the same for teams like Texas in the dog days of August?

Clay Davenport: Sure, but the teams don't like it. Home is home, even if the weather is bad. I know I've read somehwere about complaints from other teams when the LA Dodgers would start the season with a long home stand, thanks to O'Malley being head of the scheduling committee, and how unfair it was...but I can't recall the specifics.

P. Livengood (Seattle, WA): I wrote you about this by e-mail before I realized there was this chat, but here goes . . . choose either format (or, I suppose, none) you wish to respond. I am really enjoying the series of the Objective Hall of Fame. I am jumping the gun by a large margin (to a player who won't even be eligible for several more years), but it seems to me that this kind of analysis can be enlightening for players, like DHs, for whom debate/controversy has obscured a truly "objective" look at their HoF credentials. By using WARP3, which includes (and even significantly weights) defensive contributions to winning baseball, you've created a system that should circumvent the tiresome debate over DHs, since any lack of defensive contribtion they have is necessarily calculated into their WARP3 score. I am a Mariner fan and I am thinking of Edgar Martinez. I looked up his WARP3 on his DT card, and if I understand your system, his cumulative career total would be 570.9, remarkably close to the 600 barrier you described as "a lock" for the Hall of Fame. I'm wondering if you would care to comment on the place of your Objective Hall of Fame to helping resolve the perhaps unresolveable debate over whether strong DHs like Martinez "belong" or not, and more specifically on the chances for Edgar, sitting at 570.9. Thanks, and thanks also for an interesting series of articles.

Clay Davenport: Well, I haven't even figured out how I'm going to talk about the not yet eligible, although technically the objectively defined classes through 2009 are already set in stone, barring a comeback (Rickey...Rickey...). The only player in the Hall of Fame who gets listed as a primary DH is Paul Molitor, and Martinez ranks a little above him. Being even a bad first baseman gives you positive FRAR, which count towards your warp score - being a dh gives you nothing. I think Martinez hit well enough to overcome that nothing, but now I've spoiled the surprise for chapter fifteen.

Dan okeefe has (hippie hair): For stats like EQA, shouldn't you count a steal of 3rd base (or home) differently than a normal one? After all stealing one of those bases is harder, and I imagine has a bigger effect on runs scored in the inning.

Clay Davenport: Various schemes - and I'm thinking of value added approaches, where the player is credited with the difference in run value associated with a change of state in the runners/outs matrix - would certainly do that. EQA is one of many stats that relies on relatively simple stat lines, not play by play data, and so necessarily evens out the results of different steals.

As an aside, and without doing the study, I would bet that a higher percentage of third-base steals are pulled off by players who are big base-stealers; if big stealers (say 30+) are responsible for (guessing) 65% of steals of second, I'd wager they're at 80% for steals of third. If true, then that implies that stolen bases shouldn't just add incrementally to something like EQA, but that players with lots of them should get an extra bonus. Of course, if my initial assumption is wrong, then forget I even mentioned it.

mcscolo (Colorado): Clay, with King Felix up for good, who are the best minor league pitchers still left behind. Or is there simply no such thing as a pitching prospect?

Clay Davenport: There are always pitching prospects; there's just no assurance that any of them will still be prospects (or players) two years from now. The pitchers whose performance is blowing me away the most (and there is no doubt that I would be blown away if I had to step in against them) are probably Francisco Liriano (Twins) and Joel Zumaya (Tigers). Fernando Cabrera (Indians) if I can name a reliever. Matt Cain (Giants). Jonathan Sanchez (also Giants) and Gio Gonzalez (White Sox) at lower levels.

Handol (Fort Lee): Has Joe Torre gotten worse, or does he just not have the talent anymore to hide his mistakes? He's killing me. The yanks just aren't good enough to come back from these mistakes.

Clay Davenport: I'm not sure anybody could have handled the disaster of the rotation, as we've had a bunch of aging players all get old together, in Bill James' phrase. I don't watch enough Yankee games to know what he's doing or not doing within games. Torre's excellence in the past has been with recognizing the differences between a season and a post-season, and in being willing to do the things that won the short series. I don't think he's had to scratch and claw just to get to the post-season before (although I'm *sure* I'll be reminded by e-mail that he has), so I'll posit that in-season direction (other than the very significant ego management) is something he hasn't been tested on before.

Chris (St. Louis): Who does PECOTA see as the best minor league baseball player this year?

Clay Davenport: I don't have access to PECOTA's inner workings, and I don't think Nate has run those numbers yet, but I'd be very surprised if it was not Delmon Young. Hermida's probably in the running, and Upton might be if defense is ignored. They look to me to be clearly in front of the pack.

Dennis (Newark): If you were building a franchise from scratch, how would you design the park? An extreme pitchers' park to keep the arms fresh? unusual dimensions like the green monster that visiting teams will be less familiar with?

Clay Davenport: What's my goal? If I'm the team owner and I'm trying to turn a healthy profit, then I probably go with something with short porches, 'cause chicks (and cats) dig the long ball. If I'm trying to win pennants, then yes, I go with things that help the pitchers as much as possible. Coincidence or not, teams from strong pitchers parks have won a lot more titles than teams from strong hitters parks. I'm not really sure how far you can go towards making something unfamiliar to visiting teams - make it too complex and your own players won't be able to figure it out either.

Anthony (Long Island): Will the Objective Hall of Fame gain a permanent home on BP.com that can be perused and sorted whenever? It's a fantastic addition to the site, I think.

Clay Davenport: At the mimimum, it would be available through our search functions, but it can probably be set up as an all-in-one stop.

Dennis (Newark, NJ): Expanding on the theories developed in your "playoff odds", is it possible to look at the odds of an individual game. If you break down a team into 4 distinct catagories (hitting, starting pitching, fielding, and relief pitching), it would appear that 3 are highly stable while the fourth (starting pitching) fluctuates greatly. If you can measure the effectiveness of a starting pitcher compared to his rotation peers, then can you get a better picture as to how "talented" the team is on any given night. And, coming full circle, could you use this information to more accurately describe a team's "strength of schedule" for your playoff odds?

Clay Davenport: Qualified yes. By the same token, consideration of a team's entire lineup, with knowledge about players who are injured and out for the season, would conceivably improve the quality of the team's assessment too. That was something I wanted to try this year, and I did try, but the results weren't terribly different from my standard version and it was an administrative nightmare for me. Trying to keep up with everybody's lineup pushed me over the edge as far as time commitments I could give to the "routine" products, so I pulled back.

Aaron Small (Bronx): Have I convinced the Yankees not to ignore the free talent market ever again?

Clay Davenport: No; you'll still only be called when they're desperate.

Steve (Manalapan): When a team has a surplus in one area, is there any logical justification for them to not trade from that surplus at the deadline? Specifically, what the heck were the Reds thinking by not trading one of their outfielders?

Clay Davenport: If you can't get what you think is the proper value for the players, than you should hold. There are other times to pursue deals, and perhaps one of them will be more to your liking. A bad trade is worse than no trade.

Jim Stergiou (White Car): In an ESPN poll of the most overrated stat (RBI's, AVG. OBP, SLG, and HR's) 44% of votes went to SLG and 10% OBP. Can we conclude 54% of America needs to come to this site?

Clay Davenport: A majority of the country voted for old fashioned values; surely you've heard that tune before?

Of course I have, and stop calling me Shirley.

Clay Davenport: Sorry to have to go, but my wife called me to supper fifteen minutes ago, and my stomach's growling. Got some homemade pesto from homegrown basil, and I can't wait any longer. Thanks all, Clay


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