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Chat: Joe Sheehan

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday October 27, 2005 1:00 PM ET chat session with Joe Sheehan.

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Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Joe Sheehan: Hello, and welcome to the first day of the long, dark, cold winter...

ssimon (Pelham, NY): Joe, you've written that baseball games are decided by inches, and therefore we shouldn't attribute certain characteristics to players or teams based on outcomes. Two questions: Do you think that's more true of baseball than other sports? Do you think the media coverage of other sports is, like that of baseball, too focused on the special qualities of the players involved?

Joe Sheehan: Baseball is different from other sports in that the actions are more individual, more distinct, than they are in football, basketball, etc. One player can have a greater impact in those games, or in short series in those sports, because of how oportunities are distributed.

I do think the coverage other sports suffer from the same equating of performance with character, absolutely.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): If you were a 'Stros fan sitting at the railing in Houston last night would you have mugged Uribe a little in the ninth? Nothing serious, just a serving of Bartman with a dash of "Not in my house".

Joe Sheehan: I was flabbergasted that he came up with that ball, given how deep it was in the stands. That's a free play for the people in those seats...people, how about some help?

Great play by Uribe. Maybe the best defensive play of the postseason.

Joel (Washington, DC): Well, it's safe to say you won't be touting your 2005 White Sox write-up on the back of the 2006 Baseball Prospectus annual. Is it too early to draw any important analytical conclusions from their improbable championship? What are your immediate thoughts?

Joe Sheehan: Lots of questions in this vein, both here and in my inbox.

To address the question seriously...the real question the '05 White Sox raise for me is how to measure defensive improvement over an offseason. It's fairly simple to see how a team is going to improve/regress at the plate or on the mound, but when the Sox added a second center fielder and upgraded second base, giving them above-average defense at four spots and no worse than average gloves everywhere, I missed that.

Their pitchers became much better at throwing strikes and keeping the ball in the park, to be sure, but it's that defensive improvement that drove the run prevention.

So the question becomes, how do we evaluate defensive improvements accurately across seasons? How do we see the next White Sox coming?

The other thing of note is lineups. The Sox had a worse offense in 2005, but because they put their limited OBP in front of their power, they were able to convert the components into runs. Compare the OBPs of their top two spots in 2004 and 2005, and you see where they made up some ground. So evaluating gains in that area should be part of the process.

We can always learn more.

Eddie (South Side): Joe, thanks for doing this chat. Do you think the White Sox are in danger of overpaying guys for their playoff performances? Namely guys like Paul Konerko and Joe Crede?

Joe Sheehan: There are a lot of parallels between the 2002 Angels and the 2005 White Sox. That Angels team didn't do a thing in the offseason and suffered in '03 for it.

I strongly suspect we may see the same thing from these White Sox. I think this is going to be a fascinating topic this winter.

Konerko was already going to be the best bat on the market, and he's coming off a huge October. I think he'll end up well overpaid and with a contract far too long for what he has left. The Sox can spend money in other places and get better value.

Vander (Stickno): Do you know where you can find how many times a team has scored 1 run, 2 runs etc. I want to show people that the trade for Podsednikd di not help the White Sox consistency (I already tried the article you had on the site earlier in the year)

Joe Sheehan: Right here:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/statistics/team_game_results2005.php

You really can get lost in all the stat reports on the site. Nods to Keith Woolner, Clay Davenport, Ben Murphy, Dave Pease and James Click.

Jake (Los Angeles): The FRAR for the better third basemen seem to be of a similar magnitude to the FRAR for top center fielders and shortstops. Does it make sense to adjust your preference for "up the middle" defense to include third basemen?

Joe Sheehan: 130 years in, and it's still not clear whether third basemen are fish or fowl.

The best answer I can think of right now is to say that when I evaluated David Wright as a player in preparation for a draft last year, I didn't consider his being a third baseman enough of a detriment relative to B.J. Upton's being a shortstop to knock Wright below Upton.

Third basemen can't make as many plays
as shortstops, but you have to get some defense from the spot, and good 3Bs can rack up lots of defensive runs. I look at Joe Crede and see a player who has value even though he's a league-average hitter.

Steve Ferenchick (Wynnewood, PA): When's the last time a team has moved a pitcher to LF or RF and brought in a different pitcher for a batter or two, then moved the first pitcher back to the mound? It seems to me that if you gave pitchers cursory OF practice, it wouldn't hurt that much to do this on occasion, and you could save a LOOGY to use hime more than once, especially if the lineup you are facing is well-alteranted between RHs and LHs. I recall the Phillies doing this in the late 1970s or early 1980s once but haven't ever seen it before that. What do you think of this as a strategy?

Joe Sheehan: Herzog did it in the 1980s with the Cardinals, I think, and maybe Davey Johnson as well with the Mets of that era. There can't be more than a half-dozen examples.

Why not do it more? Managing is largely about risk-aversion, and the closer you play things to the vest, the easier it is to not get blamed for failure.

I'm going to get in trouble for this, but I'll say it anyway: 75% of baseball people are far more worried about keeping their job than they are about maximizing their performance in it.

TFD (Indy): Seriously, Joe, after all the hysteria dies down (5/$75), what do you think Konerko will sign for? 3/36?

Joe Sheehan: He's getting at least four years, and at least $12MM/per. My guess is that the market can't distinguish between him and Delgado, and Konerko has bonus points for coming off a big year and being associated with success.

Gun at my head, I'd say 5/60 or 4/54.

mcconkey01 (Raleigh, NC): Every year we complain about how postseason baseball games start too late. Yet every year we continue to get first pitches throw at 8:38 pm EST. I understand that the TV powers-that-be run things and the whole west coast thing, but is there ANY chance that these games get pushed up a bit in the future (e.g., 8 pm first pitch) or will we still be complaining about this in 2025? Seriously, it's insane to have World Series games ending after 1 am.

Joe Sheehan: The continental United States spans four time zones. No matter what time you start the game, lots of people are going to be unhappy. There is, quite simply, no way around this problem.

I've almost evenly divided my life between ET and PT, and I can honestly say that games starting at 4:30 p.m. on weekdays would be just as big a pain for a subset of baseball fans as games ending at 12:30 a.m.

I do think earlier times on the weekends should happen. Stop ducking football and start the games at 4 p.m. Eastern.

Boyd (Houston): How do you think the TV deal with Fox affects the overall national view of baseball? I can't help but think the persistent forcing of Red Sox and Yankees, the confusing and limiting TV rules for Saturday games, the terrible playoff producing, and the over the top promotion of Fox shows is killing the enjoyment of baseball for all.

Joe Sheehan: I definitely think Fox is partially to blame for the lowered WS ratings this year. I don't think they did as good a job building storylines up to the World Series as they could have, and so when we ended up with CHW/HOU, casual fans weren't hooked.

The "lowest ratings ever!" stories are silly--everything is "lowest-ever" in TV these days--but some of the decline is attributable to Fox itself.

coneway (austin, tx): Was that the "closest" 4-0 sweep in World Series history, in terms of how close the losing team came to winning each game? (I realize this would be an achievement not unlike being the world's tallest midget)

Joe Sheehan: You edge close to a point that people don't want to hear...just because these Series ended 4-0 White Sox doesn't mean that's the only way it could have gone.

The margins in these games were microscopic--Astros had 1/3, 0 out in the eighth of Game One, down one. They were up 4-2 with two outs in the seventh of Game Two, and were hurt by a bad call; they had a 4-0 lead in Game Three, and 614 baserunners in the last seven innings. They were 0-for-their-last-30 with runners on base.

If you're a Sox fan, you credit their winning all four games to your team's positive traits. It's just not that black and white.

jbscoop (jbscoop@hvc.rr.com): I was very impressed with Joe Crede's playoff and series performances. Coming off two mediocre regular season performances, do you anticipate any carryover for the 2006 season.

Joe Sheehan: I want to believe Crede can take two steps forward, because I like guys who contribute on both sides of the ball. His walk rate is going backwards, though, and may keep him from doing so. His glove makes him worth arbitration money.

Mikey (Canada): How are the Angels going to work Brandon Wood into their lineup when they already have Cabrera and MacPherson on the left side of the infield?

Joe Sheehan: We were just talking about Wood on the internal BP list yesterday. He will probably end up sliding to third base in the next couple of years. McPherson will end up in an outfield corner, although with his star on the decline, he'll need to hit to stay there.

Horatio (New York, NY): Most people in the national media don't seem to want to talk about it, but this was the worst display of offense in the postseason I can ever recall.

Joe Sheehan: I can't really disagree. You can credit some of it to pitching--what the Astros did to the Cardinals, for example--but by and large, we had lousy offensive teams playing in the LCSs and World Series. It's not just about the number of runs scored, but about the quality of the at-bats.

SaberTJ (Chardon, Ohio): What do you think the Indians need to do in the offseason to secure a good run at the WS next year? Also, whom in their farm system do u see making the biggest impact? Is Adam Miller close despite his injuries?

Joe Sheehan: I wonder if we're not going to see some regression next season. The Indians don't seem prepared to improve their holes on the corners, and that's their biggest problem heading into next season. I expect Hafner, Peralta and Crisp to collectively be 50 runs worse next season, and this team doesn't have 50 runs to give up.

2006 could well be a consolidation season for the Tribe, and that wouldn't be an unusual thing for a team that has improved in two straight years.

If they solve the Blake/Boone problem, maybe things will be different, but I don't know that they even identify it as a problem.

Tom Servo (St. Paul): What do you think Toronto should do this offseason? Would Orlando Hudson make an attractive trade option for a team looking to upgrade at 2B?

Joe Sheehan: The Blue Jays are average at so many spots that to improve, they have to add a superstar. There are none on the market, so it has to be done in trade.

I'd package as many arms as it took to get a seven-win, eight-win bat, a Dunn/Abreu/Berkman type of player. They have the pitching depth to make that kind of trade.

Beyond that, solving the infield crunch by trading Corey Koskie for anything to anyone anywhere. Hinske is a much better gamble over the next two seasons given cost and age.

I expect a lesser plan involving Shea Hillenbrand.

landfill (Chicago): It seems the conventional stathead wisdom is that Konerko will be overpaid and, to quote you earlier, "The Sox can spend money in other places and get better value." Ok, how? Konerko may get too much credit for his October heroics but he is the best hitter on an offensively challenged team. The 2006 Sox need to acquire (at least) a real bat to play first and DH. If not Konerko, who? Where can they spend the money you suggest they save on Konerko and get comparable production?

Joe Sheehan: The problem with Konerko isn't 2006. It's 2008, 2009, 2010. He's only been acceptable at first base the last two years, and I think he'll have a short peak and be a huge problem once it's over.

That's the money that makes it a bad
investment. If I could give Paul Konerko a two-year, $30MM deal, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): For being a clubhouse cancer, Frank Thomas has been very well-behaved this year. Does he work something out to stay next season? Where would he play, as Everett already seems comfortable as a full time DH.

Joe Sheehan: Hey, I get to follow up...Thomas should be the full-time DH, which would be worth at least a couple of wins over Everett, maybe more.

To clarify: the *White Sox* should sign Konerko to a 2/30 deal if they can, because they're power-shy without him and there's probably some value in returning the popular, visible cleanup hitter for the championship team.

Steve (Montreal): Apparently, in Game 3, Ozzie was planning on pulling Buhrle and bringing in a position player to pitch if Buhrle had given up the tieing runs. What do you think of that?

Joe Sheehan: I think it made a wonderful quote, and we'll never know if it was true.

Ali (Chicago): How much does team (or individual) defense carry over from season to season? For example, if the White Sox put the same team on the field next season, would we expect them to be a top defensive team again or is this a "WARNING: Regression to Mean Likely" situation?

Joe Sheehan: Great question. Eyeballing the DER charts, there seems to be year-to-year consistency. I'd want to see some of James Click's PADE (park-adjusted DER) numbers to say for sure.

As long as there aren't age and injury issues, I think you can expect teams with stable lineups to have comparable defenses year over year.

I think.

Great question.

Theo (Louisiana): What do you think Tampa Bay will do to fix it's logjam of outfielders? Is it possible that they could make Johnny Gomes available via trade?

Joe Sheehan: You can't trade Young, you shouldn't trade Crawford, and Baldelli is probably staying at least until he shows he's healthy. There's Gathright, too. All five guys can't play at once.

Since Crawford won't play CF, you have to keep one of Baldelli or Gathright. Given where they are in the service-time category and their skill sets, I'd hope Baldelli racks up some quick trade value and deal him, putting Gathright in CF and Gomes at DH. Gomes isn't a star in the making, just good, cheap power for another year or so. If you can get two arms for him, you probably do it.

The D-Rays will, at some point, have to convert bats to arms.

jm010e (NY, NY): HOT STOVE! What are the odds that Frank Thomas makes a semi-triumphant return to Chicago next year? Given his injuries, is he solely a DH or could a NL team take a flyer on him as a first baseman?

Joe Sheehan: DH only, .275/.385/.545 in 450 ABs. Less value than that line because he's in that 5% of players who just kill you on the bases.

I'd love to see him close with an Edgar-link finishing kick. One of my ten favorite players ever.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): Joe, instead of BP's annual "Free X" campaign to get an undervalued player some game time, would you organize a petition to kill Scooter the talking baseball?

Joe Sheehan: Scooter, I'm just sayin', you might want to get an unlisted number. Lots of people don't like you.

Andy (Oak Park, IL): Now that his first season is in the books, was the Renteria signing: a. A mistake all around? b. A mistake, but only in years and dollars? c. Defensible at the time, but looks worse after his bad season? d. Something else?

Joe Sheehan: Probably b. Renteria's 2003 fooled me, and if you take that year out of his career, it's clear that he's not a star. He's an above-average shortstop in the AL, just not eight-figures of above average.

Jim Thome (Limbo): Where am I going to play next year?

Joe Sheehan: First base.

I have no idea how the Phillies get out of this box. I can't see anyone signing on for four years of Jim Thome even if you Hamptonize the contract, and it's hard to get value for Ryan Howard when the market knows you're stuck.

I'd start floating some rumors about Thome moving back to third base and hope that loosened things up.

coneway (austin, tx): Does the Astros' decision on whether to go for it again in 2006 or to rebuild depend mainly on Clemens' decision about whether to return? The NL Central looks winnable by lots of teams next year.

Joe Sheehan: I feel like we've been writing the same story about the Astros for five years now, and they've continued to extend the Biggio/Bagwell era.

Even if Clemens were to return, they'd pretty much need to get another 2005 from him to contend, no? At what positions are the Astros going to be better in 2006 than they were in 2005?

I wrote them off at 15-30, though, so...

Xian (Chicago): Who is AL Executive of the Year?

Joe Sheehan: Williams will obviously win it, but I think there's a case to be made for Mark Shapiro.

Then I remember Aaron Boone...

Brett (Elderon, WI): Joe, do you think it would be worthwhile to change the playoff formatting? Maybe go to a 7/9/9 format? Would this help give a more clear picture of who the best team is? You would think the owners would be for it, with added revenue at the gate and in advertising. Thanks.

Joe Sheehan: Seven strikes me as the right number for a championship series. Any longer, and it's hard to sustain interest, plus you get even deeper into fall weather.

The playoffs aren't designed to determine the best team, they're designed to produce a champion. Some years, one team is both, in others, there's a clear divergence.

Andy (Oak Park, IL): Is Ryan Howard just utterly incapable of sliding to an outfield corner? At what point does bad defense eliminate the possibility of his bat making up for it?

Joe Sheehan: Yes. He's pretty much a danger to himself and others out there. I'd sooner move Thome to the outfield.

You know, it's not like the Phillies even have an outfield spot available. Abreu is their best player and Burrell is pretty good himself.

Stacey (Columbia, MO): David Glass has said he plans to boost the payroll to over 50 million. From what I've read, all that means is we'll be in the bidding for Paul Byrd and Reggie Sanders. Any hopes for real free agents this off season? Thank you for the wonderful reads!

Joe Sheehan: There are no real free agents this offseason. This is a market capped by Damon, Konerko and Burnett; the first two are past their primes, the latter hasn't proven himself better than a #2 starter.

I think we're going to see a lot of questionable deals this winter.

Raising the Royals' payroll in 2006 is a worthless exercise, by the way. They're three years from relevance, if that.

Terry (Minneapolis): Mr. Sheehan, love your work. I'm anxiously awaiting the offseason here in the Twin Cities. What kind of trade value do you think a player like Kyle Lohse will have around the league? Can we get a decent bat in return?

Joe Sheehan: Below-average starter who kind of provides innings and would see his ERA go up by a run in front of almost any other defense. I can only imagine what he'll ask for in arbitration now that he's gotten his ERA into the 4.00s.

Lightning round...

Jerry Hairston Sr. (Not Sure): Better Hairston in 2006, Jerry or Scott?

Joe Sheehan: Jerry, but they don't even combine for 5.0 WARP.

oskithebear (nyu): Any (very) early 2006 WS picks?

Joe Sheehan: White Sox and White Sox. They'll win the NL West, too. Maybe even the World Cup, if they get the right draw.

Dennis (Wichita, KN): I just got Mind Game. Anything else coming from BP? thanks!

Joe Sheehan: The annual, and a new book in the spring as well...details to come.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): Not to second-guess, but wasn't Backe a better right-hand hitter than Bagwell at this point?

Joe Sheehan: I think so. Bagwell probably shouldn't have been playing.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): Arrange in order of success in 06: MIL, PIT, TAM, DET, TOR

Joe Sheehan: MIL, DET, TOR, TAM, PIT

The Blue Jays could win anywhere from 75 to 97 games depending on how their winter goes.

Paul (San Francisco): Hey Joe, let's look to next year. What happens to Milton Bradley? Thanks.

Joe Sheehan: The problem with Bradley isn't the temper stuff so much as it is that he's not good enough or in the lineup enough to make you put up with the temper stuff. He has to be an everyday player and a star to be worth it.

I would be surprised if he was back in L.A. next year. He seems like a good gamble for the Yankees.

Glenn (NJ): Will Jose Reyes ever justify 600 PAs in the leadoff spot?

Joe Sheehan: I doubt it. Drop him to sixth and let him get on with his career before you Patterson him. His steals would have more value from that spot, too.

Hal (NJ): If Tim McCarver said things only once, would he really be that bad an announcer? I think I would actually enjoy him.

Joe Sheehan: I think McCarver makes observations that add to a broadcast. I've also come to appreciate the difficulty of speaking extemporaneously on camera.

Joe Sheehan: Folks, thanks for reading BP throughout the '05 season, for sending in e-mails and chat questions and making us all better at what we do. I have to catch a plane, but I'll be back in December for some hot stove chats!


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