Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Jay Jaffe: Welcome, everybody, to my very first BP Chat. I'm sitting here with a huge smile on my face from having seen a team even better than the World Champion White Sox last night, Brighton, England's rocktronic supestars, the Go! Team. Imagine an inner city pep squad fronting Sonic Youth playing cartoon superhero theme music and you're about there. I don't think Ozzie's squad matches up very well against that.
Speaking of the White Sox, we've got lots of questions about them in the queue, so I'll defer to the World Champs. Powered by Mudd Truck coffee and nature's cheapest hangover cure, Top Ramen...
Julian de Lavalle (Pembroke Pines, FL): I would have never imagined Bobby Jenks closing out the last game of a World Series.
Jay Jaffe: You know, like most people I first heard about Jenks via that ESPN Magazine article a year or so ago. When I read about an emotionally troubled young man with a triple-digit heater and a lot of other obstacles in his way, the possibility of him being a reliever did cross my mind. I think it was only a matter of time before somebody took a flyer on him and made the move. But I'm as surprised as anyone that he found himself in the middle of the ultimate dogpile. You have to tip your cap to the White Sox and especially Don Cooper, their pitching coach.
By the way, I have to say that from what I read, the Angels -- who waived Jenks -- handled the questions about him rather gracefully during the World Series, with words to the effect that whatever his troubles in their organization, he had clearly gotten himself together. It's always nice to see a bit of class.
bctowns (Chicago, IL): Jay,
Thanks for chatting. This may have been covered in your series on Hall of Famers, but I don't remember. Anyway, how does the JAWS system rate Frank Thomas' case for the HOF?
Jay Jaffe: I need to recalibrate my positional averages very soon in preparation for this year's Hall of Fame ballot. But the Big Hurt's JAWS score of 83.6 would rank about fourth or fifth among Hall 1Bs. It's a slam dunk. That kind of power and plate discipline really rings up the WARP numbers.
dafonze (aaay): Are the whitesox the luckies WS champions ever? From over performing their pythag to all the career years from pitchers.....
Jay Jaffe: Another White Sox question. I don't have a definitive ranking at my fingertips but I would imagine the Sox's D3 -- the difference between their actual wins and their Adjusted Standings Third-Order Wins -- is one of the highest ever for a World Champ. An email to our Clay Davenport might confirm that.
Time will tell how lucky their pitchers were. Having an excellent defense behind them made them look good, and again, I think Don Cooper was onto something -- how else to explain the great leaps forward from Contreras, Jenks, Pollitte, Cotts, etc?
Nick Stone (New York City): Are you planning on tweaking the formula for the Hit List in light of the final list's top team (Cleveland) not making the playoffs? Or do you think that this result was a fluke? Take away the difference in one run game records, and the Tribe win the division, right?
Jay Jaffe: My man Nick! Why, just last night we were rocking out to the Go Team...
I haven't decided yet whether to tweak the formula, as I think basing it on Run Differentials is clearly the way to go. I might add something which takes into account their most recent performance -- Bill James did a little junk thing called "batting temperature" which weighted the most recent 50 or 100 ABs and added it to their overall stats to get an idea of who was the hottest -- but I'm not sure yet.
I do think the best team according to RD not making the playoffs is a big fluke, and I'll place my money on teams of that demonstrated quality every time. And yes, without the 1-run records (35-19 for the Sox, 22-36 for the Indians), Cleveland wins the division.
Evan (Vancouver, BC): Why don't you publish the Hit List Factor as part of the Hit List? It would let us know which teams are close to each other, and where there are clear performance gaps. Then we'd know if the Royals have any chance to move out of last place (among other things).
Jay Jaffe: That's one change to the Hit List that will definitely be coming your way next year. Not only will we publish the Hit List Factor, but we'll do the trend arrows (the most misleading and controversial part of the List this year) according to the week-to-week change rather than according to the shift in rankings.
Sean (Colorado Springs): So do the Orioles have a fetish for coaching staff with double-Z's in their last name (Mazzili, Perlozzo, Mazzone)? I can't imagine there are that many of them out there to begin with.
Jay Jaffe: Hmmm, given that Peter Angelos is a very high profile Greek-American (he sponsored Greece's entry in the 2004 Olympic baseball tournament) I'd guess it's something of a coincidence rather than a preference for Italian-sounding names with Zs.
If they pursue Mike Piazza in the offseason, I might put more stock in your theory, though.
scareduck (somewhere west of Hell, MI): Any comments on the firing of Paul DePodesta?
Jay Jaffe: Is that RMc of 6-4-2? Glad you could join us.
The firing of DePodesta is a travesty wrapped inside a debacle inside a catastrophe. For firing their GM three weeks after he ditched the manager, the McCourt family should be forced to wear matching t-shirts that say, "I'm With Stupid".
Seriously, bowing to the public pressure created by no-brain hacks like Plaschke and Simers and scrapping a five-year plan after year two is one of the dumbest, most thin-skinned things I've seen since the George Steinbrenner '80s. Why any GM would want to take the Dodger job -- even with that great looking farm system and the chance to build on the groundwork left by Dan Evans and DePo -- is beyond me. McCourt and the backstage machinations of Tommy Lasorda would appear to have poisoned the well.
AlexBelth (The Bronx): I have a bookish friend in his twenties who has recently become a baseball fan. What are the five or so baseball books that you would recommend as essential reading for a new fan of the game? And if you could provide a brief explanation behind each choice it would be much obliged. Thanks.
Jay Jaffe: Mr. Belth, the Bronx Banterer himself! Glad you could stop by.
Narrowing the list to five is a tough task, but I'll take a shot...
Game Time, the Roger Angell anthology -- because it's too tough to pick just one of his books as the starting point. A great view of what it's like to be a fan.
Ball Four, by Jim Bouton -- the greatest inside look at what it's like to be a player ever published.
(As an aside, it was exactly five years ago today that I met Jim Bouton in person as he was hawking the 30th anniversary edition of this book. The aforementioned Nick Stone and I talked to him for 45 mintues, then went to a bar where I coincidentally ran into a woman who I had met at a Halloween party the weekend before. That woman is now my wife.)
The Lords of the Realm, by John Helyar -- fantastic history of the game and its relationship between players and owners from the 1860s to the '94 strike.
Juicing the Game, by Howard Bryant -- not because it's necessarily a great book (it's a very good one) but because it represents the best account of the past decade, updating Helyar's book in a very similar style and depth.
The New Bill James Historical Basebal Abstract -- again, it's got its issues, such as the huge number of typos and errors, but it's a fantastic historical breakdown and a nice introduction to the sabermetric angle.
Amol (Poughkeepsie, NY): Derek Jeter finally manged to be an above average shortstop, at least according to the statistics, and it even seems to be confusing Clay Davenport. Previously, I had thought that it might be an A-Rod effect, but considering his performance this year, it seems unlikely. Do you have any theories?
Jay Jaffe: It's a real puzzle that we were discussing on our internal mailing list the other day.
Judging by our numbers, I do think it's an A-Rod effect. Jeter's strength is his arm, so going in the hole toward third base and making the strong throw is his bread and butter, while his footwork and moving to his left towards second is his biggest defensive weakness.
Scott Brosius and Robin Ventura were excellent 3Bs but nowhere near as athletic as Rodriguez. With him to his right, Jeter can shade towards second and get to more ground balls than he did before.
Another question about the Yankee D coming up...
jsp377 (Williamsburg): How did the Yankees turn their defense around mid-season and go from one of the worst defenses in the history of baseball into an above-average one by the end (to end up in the middle of the pack overall according to PADE)? Was it Cano replacing Womack at second? Taking Matsui out of center? It just doesn't seem to me that those things would add up to such a huge transformation.
Jay Jaffe: That's a real puzzle best suited to an answer from James Click, the creator of PADE. Womack's numbers at 2B were actually very good, much better than Cano's (118 Rate2 to 97). Matsui in CF compared to Williams didn't show much effect.
My best guess is that A-Rod got off to a slow start with the glove at third this year, and that there was a whole lot of reversion to the mean on the part of the team.
Vince McMahon (Hell): Dan Shaughnessy and Bill Plaschke vs. Christina Kahrl and Joe Sheehan in a cage match. Pay-per-view spectacular! What do you think?
Jay Jaffe: In the words of Homer Simpson, "I have two questions: 'How much?' and 'Give it to me!'" My money is on the BP tag-team.
Speaking of Shaughnessy, I learned that his nickname, Curly Haired Boyfriend, was given to him by Carl Everett. If so, I think that almost justifies Everett's entire existence on this planet (which was, contrary to his opinion, once covered with dinosaurs).
Brett (Elderon, WI): Do I have to worry about Doug Melvin leaving for Boston? I'm getting a little scared.
Jay Jaffe: Melvin has done an outstanding job in Milwaukee, and has to rate as one of the top GMs in the game, so I can understand why Boston would be interested.
I know that Milwaukee was in the process of giving him a well-earned extension but I don't know if that's been wrapped up. If it is, and I'm owner Mark Attanasio, I gently deny him permission to interview for the Boston job if John Henry comes a-calling. And if it isn't, I sweeten the deal with more money and/or power to make sure he stays.
Another Brew Crew question on the way...
Brett (Elderon, WI): Jay, where do you think Lyle Overbay ends up? What kind of players will be coming the Brewers way in the deal? What else do you expect the Brewers to do this offseason? Does signing Washburn make sense (to me it doesn't). Thanks.
Jay Jaffe: Overbay's potential new address is one of the offseason's burning questions, and one of Doug Melvin's biggest challenges. He's still relatively inexpensive and I'm not so sold on Prince Fielder's progress that I think the move has to happen this winter unless Melvin is blown away by a great deal.
I would think a team like the White Sox, who stand to lose Paul Konerko and have some good prospects (Brandon McCarthy, Brian Anderson), would be interested, but that price may be too steep. The Yankees, who could really use a defensively adept 1B, don't have the prospects. The Mets, who have a gaping hole at 1B and more pitchers than they knew what to do with, might be a player in this.
Washburn isn't a great fit for the Brewers, who are very solid in the rotation and already feature a pair of lefties in Davis and Capuano.
I would foresee Melvin moving Geoff Jenkins or Carlos Lee as legitimate possiblities.
Jessica (Springfield, MO): Anything new books or features coming from Baseball Prospectus in the upcoming months? I've finished Mind Game and it was great!
Jay Jaffe: So glad you liked Mind Game, Jessica, and that -- judging by the names of people in the question queue -- there are at least a few ladies in this chat.
Our crack team of experts is putting the finishing touches on a book with Basic Publishing (sp?) that has even our staff abuzz. Jonah Keri is the editor in chief on the project. Guys like Nate Silver and James Click have been sharing some of their work for the book on our internal mailing list, and even I can't wait to read it. not speaking officially or anything, I believe the book should be out in February or March.
Jason (Chicago, IL): Mr. Jaffe, Who gets your vote for the Ford Frick award? Thanks for the great work!
Jay Jaffe: Anybody but Joe Buck, Skip Caray, Chip Caray, Fran Healy, Hawk Harrelson, Joe Morgan, Tim McCarver, or Tom Seaver.
I think Jon Miller is the strongest candidate on the ballot. As somebody who listens to a lot of Yankee games, I'm quite fond of Jim Kaat so long as he steers clear of Moneyball (I like his partner, Ken Singleton, as well, but he's not vote-worthy against this field). Having enjoyed my Extra Innings package this year, I can see what Giants fans see in Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper.
dianagramr (Brooklyn): Speaking of "Mind Game" ...
Now that Theo has walked away, will BP be revising (adding an epilogue) to any further editions/printings of the book?
I'd also be interested in your take on what went down in Beantown.
Jay Jaffe: Another one from the ladies. I'm not sure whether we'll get a chance to revise Mind Game unless its sales are justified, but it's clear that there's another chapter or two to be written with Epstein's departure.
My take is that the Red Sox really didn't learn enough from the mistakes of their failed trade for A-Rod. Larry Lucchino's penchant for airing his laundry in the media is a huge handicap to getting any kind of deal done. The man simply can't keep his mouth shut. From what I read, Epstein used that against him by going to the Boston Herald with the news that he was leaving, while the Globe (which through its parent company, the NY Times, owns 1/6 of the Sox) got totally hung out to dry.
bryanjaf (Seattle): Of all the obvious factors that may have contributed to the fall of Paul DePodesta, among the following which do you believe was the most significant and why:
1) 2005 team performance;
2) Failure of 2005 signings to have significant performance impact
3) Public fallout over the 2004 mega-deal;
4) Dysfunctional ownership; or
5) All of the above
Jay Jaffe: It's the B-Dog himself, my brother Bryan, keeping it real on the Dodger front.
I think all of the above played a part in DePodesta's downfall. Certainly the injuries, particularly to J.D. Drew, were a huge part of that, but coupled with that was DePo's failure to find anything better than replacement level fodder like Jason Repko and Mike Edwards to take a full-season conrer outfielder's complement of ABs.
I also think that DePodesa should have broken out the hammer and tongs with Jim Tracy over the Hee Seop Choi situation early on rather than letting it fester.
The other knock on DePo from people who dealt with him, and this may be very real, is that he didn't communicate well with those around him, either within the organization or with the media. I think we can see where that got him: without anybody in the organization covering his back.
Nick (New York): Best CF option for the Yanks in 2006 (considering the cost of acquiring the following):
c. Milton Bradley
d. Bubba Crosby/other minor leaguer tandem
e. Hideki in CF, Giles in LF
f. none of the above, there's a better option, Nick, a better one I tell you! There are more things in heaven and earth, Nick, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
g. all of the above. as the saying goes: there is never enough centerfielding.
Jay Jaffe: All things considered, Damon will be too old, too expensive, and too much of a liability defensively. Matsui in CF is a no-go. Bradley, talented though he may be, is coming off a knee injury and has demonstrated in 60-foot-high letters why he wouldn't make it in a big market with a rabid media pursuing him.
Ankle injury and all, I think if they can pry Hunter loose from the Twins wihtout mortgaging the farm, it's a risk worth taking. If I'm the Yanks, I don't really care what the CF can deliver offensively so much as I want to see the defense upgraded enough to make CF a positive rather than a negative.
Ameer (New York): Hey Jay, glad to see you chatting on BP! You're the man. You've got a good discussion of Garner's WS missteps on Futility Infielder, and Joe has covered them in detail on this site. Given how well the team played in getting to the postseason, do you think it's less important for a manager to make all the right moves over the course of a season than it is during the postseason? If so, why? It seems like a fair number of questionable managers get that far only to be exposed in postseason play.
Jay Jaffe: Yo, Ameer! Another NYCer checking in.
True story ladies and gentlemen: when I was sending my Baseball Prospectus contributor agreement to Gary Huckabay upon the publication of my first BP piece in December 2003, someone in my building saw the envelope sitting on my doorman's counter with the other outgoing mail and recognized both my name and Gary's on the envelope -- a BP subscriber and FI reader living in the same apartment complex. That was Ameer. Proof that it's a small world even in a city of 8 million.
I think that managing the team over the 162 game haul and managing them in a short series are two different skill sets. Patience, communication, and a willingness to work with your coaching staff and your GM to manage your organizational depth are at a premium in the case of the former, while you need to be itchier on the trigger in the latter.
So the answer is yes, it's less important to make all the right moves in the regular season than in the post, because luck tends to even out. There's a lot of randomness that influences the outcomes in postseason, but there's also a lot of trying to do the same thing you did in the regular season particuarly with letting your middle relievers eat up key innings as your closer rests. If I'm a manager I want to see my best reliever in there with the game on the line whether it's the seventh or ninth inning.
steppoman (Rhode Island): Jay,
With the Red Sox in need of of first baseman and the probability of Manny getting traded, do you think the Red Sox should try and get Calvin Pickering to somewhat fill both voids?
Jay Jaffe: As much as it's a good idea to take a chance on an unappreciated guy with great minor league numbers, Pickering would be redundant with David Ortiz still on the roster. Which of them plays the field? I'm not sure Red Sox Nation wants to find that out.
But they could hire the two of them out for a WWE tag team match and I'd pay to watch it.
Ed Wade (Philadelphia, PA): Jay,
Do you have Larry Lucchino's phone number? I'd happily be a yes-man for him in Boston if he'd give me the GM job.
Jay Jaffe: Tough luck in Philly, Ed. Try 1-800-LEAKY LOUSE. The secretary will connect you to Mr. Lucchino.
Maria (Caldwell): Is there anyone in this chat who you DON'T know? have we met?
Jay Jaffe: I don't believe we have. But if the presence of people I know here is because I told my pals to submit some questions because I wasn't sure if anybody else would show up!
We'll move to some people I don't know ;)
Stacey (Norman, OK): What are your expectations for the White Sox next year? Thank you so much!
Jay Jaffe: Back to the White Sox.... I think they've got a fight with the Indians on their hands for the AL Centra1, and I would expect some regression to the mean with regards to that luck, particuarly in 1-run games. On the other hand, they can't help but do better in the DH department than Carl Everett and his .300 OBP. Aaron Rowand ought to have a better season.
But I'm not sure all of those gains in the pitching department to which I alluded before will take hold. Injuries may knock out some of that depth.
Short answer: I they'll wind up on the short end of a good race with Cleveland.
Handol (Fort Lee): With the chaos in Boston going down, can one conclude that sometimes, the stories about "the boss" and the yankees are overated? As much as Cashman gets battered, he's still in the fold.
Jay Jaffe: I don't think the stories about the Boss are overrated at all, and I've heard lots of chilling ones from a person who actually worked inside there through my friend and fellow BP colleague Steve Goldman.
At the end of the day, Brian Cashman had the experience (what, like 19 years with the organization?), the clout and the negative outcomes of recent Yankee teams to make his case to Steinbrenner that it wasn't just about his dollars, that the dysfunction within the Yankee hierarchy needed to be fixed. And that he was the man best suited to do that. It's a great power move on his part, and I have to respect somebody in his position asking for more accountability rather than less. The Buck Should Stop Here, is what he's telling the Boss.
Steve (Montreal): Is there any way to measure the financial value of a general manager compared to players? I imagine GM's are the most underpaid positions in all of baseball.
Jay Jaffe: Someone within BP mentioned an article yesterday on that topic by Andrew Zimbalist, a leading economist when it comes to the business of baseball and other sports, in one of the Boston papers, I think. I haven't read it but it should be easy to find via Google.
I'd say that somebody making $1-2 million a year in the command of players making 10x that amount and a team collectively making anywhere between 50x and 200x that amount would seem to be underpaid. Nate Silver's previewed some of his work for the aforementioned Basics book showing that there's a huge revenue advantage to getting to the postseason or at least into contention for same, so I'd think there ought to be more incentive to pay GMs capable of doing that in accordance.
Matt (NYC): Does the fact that you're drinking Mudd mean you live in the East Village, or does their empire expand farther than I realized?
Jay Jaffe: I've lived in the East Village for over a decade, and I'm currently near Tompkins Square Park.
PJ (Parsippany): Can football ever be understood through statistics? I feel like the game has too much "noise" to ever be evaluated like baseball. In baseball, you can basically isolate each event....events that get repeated 500 times a year. Football seems too complicated for that.
Jay Jaffe: I'm not much of a football fan, but from what I understand, Pro Football Prospectus (as seen on our home page) and Aaron Schatz and his Football Outsiders team, who are responsible for the book, do a good job of trying to bring a sabermetric approach to football. You could probably do worse than check out their website and drop $15 on the book.
Velez (Miami): What's your take on the low ratings that the WS generated. Obviously, with the # of channels on cable always expanding, it makes sense that the ratings should drop. However, do you think fox's coverage turned off the hardcore baseball fans?
Jay Jaffe: As somebody pointed out, even with low ratings the WS still does better than most high-rated prime time shows. But as somebody who's much less than thrilled with the clutter and annoyances Fox has inflicted on its broadcasts of baseball, I do look at it as something of a referendum. With teams from the 3rd and 4th-largest cities in the World Series, and the narrative arcs of their long-suffering fan bases, I would have expected more viewers.
That said, even with a series in which all four games were close (1 and 2 run margins of victory and nearly half of all innings taking place with a tie score), sweeps tend to turn viewers off. Give them a tight sixth or seventh game and I think you'd see ratings in line with what we'd expect.
Reo (On the Run): You did not recommend MONEYBALL.....Come on, one of the best baseball books, and is a good read in general
Jay Jaffe: As much as I like Moneyball, and that's a whole lot, it's an incredibly polarizing book and I'm not sure I'd start a novice there.
Our Will Carroll did a great piece on the Moneyball backlash and the recent coup d'etat in LA at his blog, The Juice Blog, the other day (go to baseballtoaster.com) and see what he had to say.
Bill Johnson (New Mexico): I was musing on what Albert Pujols' career numbers to date would look like if he'd played at Planet Coors instead of the late Busch Stadium (a frightening thought indeed), and that got me wondering: why don't more free-agent power guys check out the Rockies as an employer? Wouldn't a lot of them swap a year or two of team mediocrity for a chance to put up Cooperstownesque power totals for a while? Apparently not, since they don't do it, but does it surprise you that they don't?
Jay Jaffe: Pujols might hit 70 a year there. Scary!
Contrary to our cynicism about money- and stat-conscious ballplayers, I think most of them want to win a World Series more than anything else, and the organization in Colorado hasn't shown an ability to even put a .500 team on the field in most years. You could ask Mike Hampton whether the school system lived up to his expectations too ;-)
I think what surprises me the most about Colorado is what I'll call the Cirillo Effect (named after Jeff Cirillo's 2000 splits, which you can see at http://sports.yahoo.com/mlbpa/players/5231/splits?year=2000&type=Batting). As much as hitting in Coors seems to help guys' numbers, many of them get into bad habits that don't translate well to the road.
DrLivy (Charleston, WV): Jay: Did aliens suck Theo's brains out this year, after he was so smart last year? I mean, that payroll and that pitching. Wow. Forrest Gump could have put together a better staff.
Jay Jaffe: Theo made some good moves and some not-so-good ones last winter, and many of the breaks that fell the Sox way in 2004 did not in 2005. For bad moves, I'd start with the Edgar Renteria contract (4/$40 MM) and suggest that the Varitek contract was a Faustian bargain he had to make to stay in the good graces of the locker room and the fan base.
I think the Wells deal worked out OK, that Clement's season was affected by his getting drilled, that Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke left bigger pieces of themselves on the field last October than anyone realized at the time (and that the team should have spent more time insuring they were fully healthy before pitching in 2005), that Wade Miller was a worthy gamble, and that no matter how much they missed Pedro Martinez, resigning him at those prices was a huge risk not worth taking.
I'm somewhat surprised Theo couldn't pull off a midseason deal for an extra starter by dangling a prospect, but I think that goes to show that he had reasonable expectations for this year and was looking out for the organization's longer-term interests. If you're a Sox fan whose 86-year wait has just been ended, I think you have to respect that.
meat (some pine (grabbed)): Now that we have two good GMs on the market, any chance that Brian "having Neifi, Brower, Mohr, and Tucker beats signing Vlad" Sabean can be kicked upstairs, or maybe pushed into the bay by corporate behemoth park?
Jay Jaffe: I don't see DePodesta getting another job really soon (what's the incentive with three years still left on his Dodger contract?) or the Giants as being particuarly inclined towards his sabermetrically-driven viewpoint. I'd say the same for Epstein with regards to the latter and guess that the Giants are too much of a mess for most GMs to want to tackle at the moment.
My fingers are getting tired from all of this rapid-speed typing. Bear with me if the pace slows down a bit, but I'm going to keep going into chat overtime because there are still some good questions to be answered.
Steven (Manalapan): What's your favorite venue to see a show? I've always enjoyed irving plaza the best.
Jay Jaffe: A NYC-centric non-baseball question to take a breather.
My two favorite venues are the Lower East Side's Bowery Ballroom (nice room, good size, great booking, and I love the fact that it has a bar downstairs where you can hear what's going on without having to stand through an annoying opening act) and Brooklyn's Southpaw (great design, fantastic sight lines, excellent beer selection, and again, great booking).
Ross (England): The Colbert Report....greatest show of our time, or greatest show of ALL time?
Jay Jaffe: I'd rank the Simpsons and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart well ahead of those. The Colbert report is a rookie who's got a good batting average in a small sample.
Joyce (Paterson): Two wrestling references in one chat...Leads me to think you've strutted around and called yourself "double J" before. Am i right, or am i right?
Jay Jaffe: My brother Bryan and I used to watch All-Star Wrestling back when Bobby the Brain Heenan, Ken Patera, Hulk Hogan, Jerry "the Sheik" Blackwell and Baron Von Raschke ("the Claw!") ruled the roost.
I'm currently moonlighting as a wrestler under the nom de guerre "Screamin' J!"
Dennis (Newark): Will we see massive realignment in our lifetimes? The only negative is the perceived disrespect to history. But, I think there are a lot of benefits, including increased revenue...which is the only thing owners really care about anyway.
Jay Jaffe: I think there's too much history behind the current configurations for there to be large-scale realignment. Particularly the big-market owners, who have the financial stakes in this of course, have a lot invested in their current rivalries (NYY-BOS, SFG-LAD, NYM-ATL, etc.).
Handol (Fort Lee): At the time, how did MLB justify creating divisions that don't have the same number of teams? isn't that a hugely unfair advantage for certain teams?
Jay Jaffe: Another alignment question. I think it's an artifact of their being a strange numbner of teams, that there are some inherent disadvantages built into it, and that the end result of it is probably 32 teams in four 8-team divisions with two winners and two Wild Cards advancing to the playoffs.
Chris Hartjes (Toronto): Hey Jay, what baesball blogs do you read on a regular basis?
Jay Jaffe: My go-to guys are at Bronx Banter, Dodger Thoughts, the Pinstriped Blog, and Baseball Analysts. There are a lot of other good ones out there, though. I like Batter's Box, Beyond the Box Score (whose Marc Normandin is patiently awaiting me to answer one of his burning questions), Baseball Musings, 6-4-2, Cursed and First, The House That Dewey Built, Field of Schemes, U.S.S. Mariner, Replacement Level Yankee Weblog... I'd hate to leave somebody out but I'll stop there.
nicopad (Brooklyn): Where can I find a good book or article on the business of baseball? Free agent rules, arbitration, super 2 players, etc.
Jay Jaffe: If it's roster-related info you seek, Tom Gorman did a great article or two on arbitration for BP, within our archives. Rob Neyer did an excellent transaction primer over at ESPN a few years ago that's worth Googling.
On a more general note about the business of baseball, the late great Doug Pappas did a seven- or eight-part series called The Numbers for BP back in 2001-2002 that deserved to be a book. Neil DeMause keeps on top of the stadium beat at BP and at the aforementioned Field of Schemes.
The Helyar and Bryant books have some great general baseball biz history, and while I haven't read Zimbalist's book, I do like a lot of what he's done in shorter pieces.
Steve (Montreal): Is there ANY chance that MLB is somehow benefiting from the fact that the majority of positive steroids tests are coming from less famous players? And with Raffy, he was nearing retirement anyway, so it's no big loss. And if MLB is benefiting...is that far of a stretch to think that it's intentional?
Jay Jaffe: To those who actually rely on facts and reason, yes, I think MLB is benefitting by that because the message appears to be that the top players aren't necessarily steroid-fueled and that they don't make a mediocre player a great one.
To those who like to grandstand, like John McCain and those other clowns in Washington, not to mention the reform-minded heads of third-party organizations of influence like Gary Wadler and Dick Pound, the increased number of positives just gives them more ammo to further their agenda and point an accusatory finger that says MLB isn't doing enough.
I have a hard time believing that MLB is intentionally benefitting from this. Bud and company are far too incompentent and lily-livered to organize a conspiracy.
mcconkey01 (Raleigh, NC): With Leo Mazzone's departure and his own meltdown in Game 4 of the NLDS, if re-signed do you think Kyle Farnsworth can be a successful closer for the Braves?
Jay Jaffe: I think Farnsworth can be a successful closer but that he was definitely benefitting from working with Mazzone. If I'm him, I angle to wind up in Baltimore as B.J. Ryan's replacement rather than remain in Atlanta.
If, that is, I don't find myself setting up Mariano Rivera or being thrown boatloads of cash by the Mets, the Red Sox, or another team capable of making the postseason.
Joyce (Paterson): Will Bill James role in the redsox organization be affected by theo leaving?
Jay Jaffe: James was brought in by owner John Henry, who has a healthy respect for performance analysis and for James' ability to do studies that may find an edge for the Sox. Further, he doesn't work in Boston on a day-to-day basis and have to deal with a guy like Lucchino on a daily basis. I would presume he's probably going to remain in the braintrust if he's not turned off by the Machiavellian intrigue that's taken place there recently.
conspiracy theorist (that mel gibson movie): They gave the GG to Jeter again! Clearly all the voters want the Yankees to lose so if they keep giving him GG's, the Yanks will nver move A-rod to SS and Jeter to CF
Jay Jaffe: OK, that's not a question, but if you're conspiracy minded you might hope that the Yanks trade Robinson Cano and sign Rafael Furcal to play second, thereby putting the shortstop job in the hands of the organizaiton's third-best shortstop, Mr. Jeter himself.
Adam B. (New York, NY): Which prospect intrigues you the most in the New York Yankees system? Which player's 2006 season are you most interested in watching?
Jay Jaffe: I'd really like to see what some of the team's minor-league relievers like Colter Bean and Matt DeSalvo bring to the table. The bullpen was a disaster for the Yanks last year beyond Rivera and Gordon, and I don't think paying a middle reliever Steve Karsay-type dollars will solve the problem.
As for which player's 2006, man, that's nearly an impossible question to answer. I could reel off 200 names on players beyond my favorite teams and find compelling reasons to tune in.
But for some reason the team that comes to mind is the Brewres. There are a lot of guys in Milwaukee -- Weeks, Sheets, Fielder, Turnbow, Hardy -- that I'm curious to see how they develop or maintain where they are.
Terry (New York, NY): Who would you say is the most overrated manager in the game today? Thanks!
Jay Jaffe: Wow, several names...
Tony La Russa comes to mind. If he's such a genius, why can't he win a World Series in St. Louis?
Dusty Baker: what the heck was he thinking batting Patterson and Perez at the top of that lineup for most of the year?
Willie Randolph: why does he get a pass for doing essentially the same thing with Jose Reyes atop his lineup? To say nothing of the way he squandered Seo and Heilman's innings at the expense of Victor Zambrano, Kaz Ishii, and others.
Andrea (TCNJ): What will the outfield of the Reds look like on opening day. What about by next year's trading deadline?
Jay Jaffe: I think we have to wait and see how the new ownership situation plays out. My best guess is that time is running out on Austin Kearns, but that the Reds have squandered the advantage of a perceived surplus by waiting so long to make a move. I doubt Griffey winds up being the one traded, and I can't see why they'd move Dunn.
Sam (Philadelphia): Pat Gillick: the winning dollop of Whiz on the cheesesteak or just more artery-clogging comfort food for a front office that won't change its diet?
(Don't think this went through the first time.)
Jay Jaffe: Lots of Philly/Gillick questions. I'm no expert on their organization (somebody else asked me to list Gillick's first five moves and I couldn't get very far) but I'll take a stab at an off-the-cuff answer.
I don't know if it's a winning dollop, but I think Ed Wade's time had run its course, and that Gillick inherits a team that is at the very least capable of Wild Card contention.
Solving the Ryan Howard/Jim Thome crush is priority #1 and as much as I like going with youth, it'll take a lot of cost-sinking to trade Thome and I'm not sure ownership is willing to do that. At the same time Howard will be 26 in a few weeks, and I'm not sure his value can be pushed much higher than it is right now, so I think you sell high on the theory that whatever he nets in trade will help you somehow.
Peter (Long Valley): Do the standards for Hall of Fame qualifications change over time? should they?
Jay Jaffe: Undoubtedly, they change, and they should change. Back in the day we saw a lot of players make the Hall on the strength of a few great years and little more. Now careers are longer and players are more routinely achieving levels of accomplishment (such as 400 or 500 homers) that were previously very rare.
Which, I think, is all the more reason to take a good look at player's credentials in the light of performance analysis tools such as WARP and VORP, as I do with the JAWS system. I don't think that there's one definive answer or that my way is the only way, but if I'm a fan, I want to see fewer mistakes made when it comes to Hall inductions, and the best way to do that is by gauging the relative values of run creation and prevention through the fluctuations of history. I think BP's got some tools well-suited to that, and that Bill James' Win Shares, properly used to account for replacement level, could do so as well.
Jessica (East Brunswick): wow, closing in on three hours! Your wife is one lucky woman. That's some serious stamina.
Jay Jaffe: They call me the 180-minute man!
Seriously, I'm the lucky one in this equation. I've got a fantastic, supportive, beautiful and intelligent wife who has encouraged me to follow through on this baseball stuff. I would never in a million years have wound up three hours deep in a BP chat if it weren't for that chance meeting five years ago.
tommy b (hawthorne): What takes MLB so long to announce its award winners?
Jay Jaffe: In general, I think MLB times it to maintain interest during a lull in the news cycle. Right now there's a lot of focus on GM and managerial hirings, filing for free agency and the preparations for the winter meetings. Once the exclusive negotiation period for pending free agents passes, the movement is often slower, and it's a good time to show off those awards.
Lemme (Haledon): If the yankees get BJ Ryan, should they also try to resign Gordon? or is he expendable at that point?
Jay Jaffe: Gordon's done a great job, but he's getting up there in age, and the past two postseasons he's had almost nothing left in the tank. If he's looking for closer money and desires to be the 9th inning go-to guy, I'd wish him well and turn my attentions elsewhere. Ryan looks like a great place to start especially given the complete failure of the Yanks to find a competent lefty since the original version of Mike Stanton left town.
Lenny (Villanova, PA): What do you think of Mets prospects Milledge, Diaz, and Jacobs? I've not seen Milledge but everything I read says he's a real deal. Jacobs did very well in a 100AB sampling last year, but is now struggling in winter ball. Diaz has won two minor league batting titles but over parts of two seasons has not looked very good at all. What is your opinion of their chances to be impact players?
Jay Jaffe: I haven't seen Milledge but there are certainly a lot of people who like him, both from a scouting and a stats standpoint (not that the two need to be separated). I think we'll find out how good he is as he moves into the upper minors, but I see no reason to doubt that he's a top prospect worth waiting for.
Jacobs and Diaz both belong in the majors but are more likely role players rather than superstars in the making. Diaz had an odd reverse platoon split and I'm not sure if that's been a historical trend or not. I like his power and the fact that he put up about an 800 OPS in a tough hitter's park at his age. Jacobs can certainly be an offense-first backup catcher if nothing else.
Peter (Staten Island): What kind of rotation could we expect to see from the Yankees next season? I assume there won't be an Aaron Small, Al Leiter, or even Shawn Chacon in it.
Jay Jaffe: The Yanks have contractual rights to seven pitchers who started for them this year: Johnson, Mussina, Wright, Pavano, Chacon, Small, and Wang, while Leiter is likely (hopefully?) headed for retirement.
It's no bet that seven will be healthy at once; Pavano, Wright, and Moose all have big question marks beside their names. My guess is that as soon as Pavano demonstrates he's healthy, he'll be out the door in a trade, as he wasn't very happy in the Bronx last year and that the feeling, as I understand it, was mutual. Small might wind up as the next Tanyon Sturtze-type experiement; I know Joe Torre thought highly of him and would like to find out, and certainly that kind of leap forward after years of crappitude probalby has some fundamental change in his pitching ability (say, a new pitch) as its root.
My guess is that they start the year with Johnson, Mussina, Wright, Chacon (who is arb-eligible), and Wang in the rotation, Small in the pen, and Pavano taking the Tampa cure.
Marc Normandin (Dracut, MA): Hello Jay, thanks for doing the chat!
What do you see happening in the Boston front office now that Theo Epstein has resigned? Do you feel like the theories on roster building presented in Mind Game will continue unabated with a new GM, or that the organizational philosophy will shift with the introduction of a new GM?
What would you do about the Manny and Johnny Damon situations? Is Hanley Ramirez a trade chip or a must keep prospect?
Sorry for the multiple questions...feeling inquisitive today.
Jay Jaffe: Hey Marc! Thanks for your patience in waiting for me to answer.
I think Kevin Towers is a strong possiblity to wind up in Boston given that he's shown an aptitude for incorporating performance analysis yet is concerned about his relationship with Sandy Alderson. I also think that despite Epstein's departure, the Sox know that they're onto something by using the approach which found him at the center, integrating input from a wide variety of sources within the front office, from Bill James to Bill Lajoie, a former Tigers GM with a scouting background, to AGM Craig Shipley, a former player, to the whiz kids gunning to be the next Theo Epstein such as Josh Byrnes (now Arizona's GM) and Jed Hoyer. Even with Byrnes' departure, the Sox have a lot of resources at their disposal.
I would expect Manny to finally get traded and that Damon will wind up elsewhere as well. I'm not so keen on Hanley Ramirez -- I think the Renteria deal, bad as it was, speaks volumes as to what they think -- and expect him to be moved while his perceived value is high. I like Dustin Pedroia more than Hanley and think that the Boston front office does too.
OK, two more questions and then I'm out...
Nick (San Luis Obispo): How will the A's do next year? What can A's fans expect from Joe Blanton next year? His peripherals worry me. Would you keep or trade Zito? Thanks.
Jay Jaffe: Lots of Oakland questions, so I'll take a crack at one, very briefly.
I'm not incredibly wowed by Blanton either, but he is certainly a functional mid-rotation starter. My inclination is to trade Zito after he showed a nice bounceback. Rich Harden and Danny Haren look more than capable of manning the front of the rotation, and Zito might get them the kind of big hitter the lineup desperately needs.
I think Oakland finds a way to get back to the playoffs, but they've got their work cut out for them as they chase a very resourceful Angels organization.
dorkus14 ((SF)): Does Barry get to 756 in 06?
Jay Jaffe: He needs 48, and that's not going to happen next year.
In an internal poll taken at BP, I put Bonds down for 30 homers in 400 plate appearance in 2006. That would put him at 738, and I don't think it's a sure bet that he comes back to finish the job given his physical and mental situations and his tremendous respect for Hank Aaron and the significance of 755.
But maybe I'm just wishcasting. I'm not a Barry fan at all. The man spent 2000-2004 defying just about every law of physics (cough, cough), and maybe he's got it in him to finish the job by claiming the all-time record. At which point I get out my pom-poms and cheer for A-Rod and Albert Pujols to top it sooner rather than later.
Jay Jaffe: Okay folks, i've just about worked my fingers to the bone. It's been a genuine pleasure to chat with you this afternoon, and I wish I could have gotten to more of these questions. Thank you all for dropping by, and look for my next chat in the not too distant future!