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Chat: Joe Sheehan

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday October 07, 2005 2:00 PM ET chat session with Joe Sheehan.

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Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Joe Sheehan: Good afternoon...you know, if the Red Sox win today, we'll have a 12-hour Division Series marathon tomorrow! Something to look forward to...

DrLivy (Charleston, WV): This is the only site on the internet that I pay to read. It's that good. That said, why do you guys consistently diss the Cardinals. Your Padres in four prediction nearly made me spit coffee on my computer screen. It's going to be a sweep. And St. Louis will score at least six runs in every game.

Joe Sheehan: I don't know that I've ever "dissed" the Cardinals, but I certainly haven't written enough about what they've been doing the last two years.

However, my call on the Division Series had more to do with Jake Peavy and a sense that the Padres were underrated. Clearly, it hasn't worked out for them, and honestly, Peavy's injury is a small part of that. The Cardinals have been very good, and have to be considered the favorite to not only get back to the World Series, but to win it.

BridgeportJoe (Chicago): So the White Sox won 99 games, in the process turning aside the charge of one of the hottest young teams in recent memory, and are currently in the process of manhandling the reigning World Series champs. Precisely what do they have to do before people will recognize that this is a very, very good team?

Joe Sheehan: Probably win it all.

Look, this is where both sides are a bit off. Because their run prevention is so good--pitching and defense both--they've been able to be a winning team, better than projected. But their offense is lousy, because they don't get on base. Overall, it's a good, not great team. The 99 wins has a lot to do with a great record in one-run games, and as has been pointed out repeatedly, performance in one-run games isn't a skill.

I don't know why a team's fans don't just enjoy winning, why it has to be about getting credit from everyone else. I suppose it's related to the trend towards any team that wins talking about how no one believed in them.

mackey2004 (Knoxville, Tenn.): Mr. Sheehan, I'm a subscriber and enjoy BP very much. I'm a fan of the game, but I have some serious concerns about the on-the-field product, particularly the length of games and the inaction throughout (multiple pitching changes, batters stepping out of the box, long breaks between innings, and so forth). Does the pace of the game concern you? Many BP writers extol this as a glorious era for the game on the field, but I don't hear much about ways it could be improved.

Joe Sheehan: Monday night, the Packers and Panthers took 15 minutes to play the first 22 seconds of the fourth quarter, 15 minutes that bridged midnight on the east coast.

I must have missed the outcry over that.

Baseball gets judged more harshly than other sports. Until the media's playing field is leveled, and we accept things like, "the media has a vested interest in shorter games that end earlier" and "it's a four-time-zone nation," the discussion won't go anywhere.

jcurtisy (Pittsburgh): I saw a stat that the team up 2-0 in a 5 game series won 18 of 22, sweeping 14. Does that say something about momentum, seeing as 4 out of the 8 that weren't sweeps were won by the team down 0-2?

Joe Sheehan: I think it says more about the nature of baseball.

Every team good enough to make the playoffs can have a three-game winning streak. Every team, not good enough to make the playoffs can have a three-game winning streak. Welcome to the problem with best-of series.

DrLivy (Charleston, WV): Joe! How about those Eckstein, Renteria, Cabrera signings now? Eck's VORP is more than Renteria's and Cabrera's combined.

Joe Sheehan: Well, it's not (Eckstein: 39.4, R+C: 45.6), but that's not really the point.
Eckstein's BA spiked up this year, and that accounts for most of the difference between him and Renteria. He was the most valuable player of the three, no doubt, and when you factor in the money...

I'll be interested to see whether Eckstein holds that value next year, but even if he doesn't, the Cardinals have already made out well on the deal.

chrismusillo (the internet): Is Clay doing a playoff odds report?

Joe Sheehan: It's up now:

shamah (DC): OK, let's get to substantive stuff--after the first two games, and beating Colon and not having pitched Randy Johnson yet, the Yankees have to be the favorite, right?

Joe Sheehan: Probably. It's a best two-of-three now, and the Yankees get the first two at home. Tonight's matchup isn't as good for the Yankees as you might think; Byrd is a very good pitcher who pounds the strike zone, and this isn't the Diamondbacks' Randy Johnson.

I think they're going back to Anaheim.

billyballs (Northern Virginia): Hey Joe: Why does good pitching so often stop good hitting in the playoffs and World Series? Batters have faced most of these pitchers dozens of times before, yet they frequently put up 1 for 10, 2 for 20 types batting peformances in the playoffs or World Series. Is there more pressure on a hitter in a short series that is the key factor? Or are we seeing just "normal" mini-slumps that happen all the time but are just magnified by the time of year? Thanks.

Joe Sheehan: The latter. What was it, 2002 when the postseason seemed like a parade of 8-5 games? We had a couple of years of low-scoring postseasons prior to that, and scoring is generally slightly lower (top pitchers get a much higher percentage of the innings), but the differences are exaggerated.

1-for-10 in October is pretty much as likely as 1-for-10 in May. Just because more people are watching--and overreacting--doesn't change the nature of baseball.

coneway (tx): who is the best postseason manager in terms of in-game decision-making over the last 10 years? similarly, if you were a GM, who would you want running the game for your team in the postseason?

Joe Sheehan: Joe Torre, who started the trend of getting more work from your closer in the postseason.

Joe Torre (Brooklyn): Joe, you Yankee bashing, Red Sox loving twit. Well, no thanks to you, we made it. And we were fiscally responsible on top of that - replacing $30MM with $1MM - not bad, huh?. I think you owe me and the Big Stein a BIG apology.

Joe Sheehan: Joe, if you saw Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon coming, well, you earned your money.

The Yankees got to replace two huge winter mistakes with two of the more random good performances in recent memory, and if Small and Chacon are
even a little bit worse, the Yankees miss the playoffs.

Rob (Tara, LA): Let's just cut to the chase. Is Jon Daniels one of "our guys"?

Joe Sheehan:
Daniels is smart and understands the value of performance analysis. I'd like to think that makes him anyone's guy.

I think what's interesting is that all GMs, young and old, new and experienced, are having to make these bland, token statements about how they appreciate both stats and scouting. It's like the buy-in for the job. It's even become de rigeur for analysts to talk about the value of observational evidence, as if to say, "No, really, I'm not just a stat geek, and I'm not arrogant."

I'm not saying there's no underlying truth there--read the intro to BP 2000 for my take on it--but the words are losing their meaning, and they often come off as pandering.

By the way, it was hard enough when the players started being younger than me. Now that the GMs are...yeesh.

Ryan Howard (Philadelphia, PA): Where am I playing next year, Joe? Do I have the chops to play LF? Will Burrell move to RF? Will Abreu stop grousing and move to CF? How's this going to play out?

Joe Sheehan: I want everyone to stop for a second and get a mental picture of a Howard/Abreu/Burrell outfield.

(Somewhere, Jon Lieber just got a chill.)

Howard can't play the outfield, and I don't mean the way Bernie Williams can't. Thome's contract can't be moved. This is a brutal situation for Wade, but all he can really do is get the best deal possible for Howard, and do it now, while his value is at its highest.

Fishbone (St. Louis, MO): Will all of Mulder's baserunners catch up to him, sooner than later. I mean I realize he's a groundball pitcher, and any time you have a 17-1 GB ratio as he did yesterday, you're going to turn quite a few DPs, but he doesn't seem to be fooling anyone with his stuff. Would a better hitting and more patient team like the Yankees just wait for his ineveitable high fastballs and tee off on him?

Joe Sheehan: Well, it's not like Mulder didn't have some success against the Yankees in the past...

I think you have to make a guy like Mulder get the ball up, even if it means hitting behind in the count sometimes. It's easier said than done, of course, but the Padres did have some success in the seventh inning with that approach before the Olivo double play.

I'll say this; yesterday highlighted what Eckstein and Grudzielanek do well. They don't have a ton of lateral range, but they don't make mistakes, either. Give them a chance to turn two, and they will.

steve (montreal): Albert Pujols, 15 sbs and 2 cs this year, 88% success. Interesting, no?

Joe Sheehan: He's a very good baserunner as well. There was a shot of him scoring from first on Sanders' double yesterday, and from the high-third-base angle, you got to see how good his cuts were coming around the bases. Some guys are almost in the dugout coming around third, and he was awfully close to the baseline.

He's just a terrific player.

PJ (Parsippany): Are postseason rosters overloaded with pitchers who will never see the light of day? Let's assume you have 4 starters. Then, you can use your 5th as the "long reliever". Then, throw in a loogy, another reliever, and your setup man and closer. There are a lot of guys on the yankees roster that i just can't imagine ever seeing an important inning. Meanwhile, Lawton could have had value.

Joe Sheehan: I can rarely fathom a scenario where you'd need 11 pitchers to play five games. This year's Braves, with six short relievers and no idea who their #4 starter is, may be an exception.

Joe Torre is terrible about this, keeping pitchers on the roster who will never get into a game.

Postseason roster construction is a fascinating topic. I was discussing a couple of teams the other day with someone in the game, and it was a great conversation as we hashed out the possibilities and the rationales. But then I wondered...how many teams actually do this? Earl Weaver never put a player on his roster without knowing exactly why he was there; do you think the eight postseason rosters were assembled with that kind of care?

You can win a series by making the right choices. You can certainly lose one with the wrong ones.

Andy (Oak Park, IL): Is it possible some teams are better constructed to win one run games than others? Or is it more correct to say that some teams are better constructed to hold a one run lead, which is a different thing entirely?

Joe Sheehan: Rany Jazayerli looked at this years ago and concluded that a good bullpen was a contributing factor, although not a determining one.

Handol (Fort Lee): Is there some cosmic force other than "bad luck" to explain the Braves' poor postseason record? My theory is that too much of their talent is located in backend of their rotation, which isn't as valuable come playoff time.

Joe Sheehan: That's definitely been a factor over the years, although not as much of one in the past few, as the back end of their rotation hasn't been as good. But yes, depth means much less in the postseason than it does in the regular season, so some of the Braves' edge over the league in the 1990s--and some of the Cardinals' edge over the league in 2004-05--disappears in the playoffs.

Really, though, the expanded playoffs are the biggest factor. The Braves are 1-for-10 in the three-tier era. If all postseason teams were evenly matched, they'd be expected to win a title once every eight trips. Grant that they've been an above-average playoff team, and that drops to maybe 1-for-6 or 1-for-7.
They're not underachievers except in the eyes of people who don't understand short series.

steve (montreal): In 4 years, Pujols had 13 sbs and 13 cs, so I'm not quite sure if he's always been a great baserunner. Is this type of speed improvement precedented, or was it possibly a fluke?

Joe Sheehan: I wouldn't conflate speed with baserunning, because the two don't always correlate well. Pujols seems to have average speed, but he's a smart baserunner who knows what he's doing. That's valuable.

The stolen-base rate this year could just be one of those things, or he may have learned how to pick his spots. Those numbers may fluctuate, but I think Pujols' baserunning is both a truer indicator of his abilities and a more reliable one from year to year.

alappin (Outside Fenway): So Chuck Lamar is finally out. What would you do if you were the GM in Tampa? You've got an emerging starter (Kazmir), a relief ace (Baez) and a bevy of young, talented and cheap players on the offensive side. Do you pay money for a 1B who can hit and get the team out of its 90-loss state? Or do you avoid spending big bucks and bide your time to make a run at the AL East title in a couple years when the Yankees/Sox become more vulnerable?

Joe Sheehan: Forget about 2006, for starters. You won't prevent enough runs to contend, and you want to finish in the lower half of MLB so you can sign FAs next winter without giving up your 2007 #1 pick.

Sign two Estaban Loaiza-type starters on the cheap to provide bulk innings.

Trade everyone who won't be there in 2007. Huff, Lugo, Toby Hall...focus on getting medium-upside arms--David Bush types--who will be cheap and good from 2007-09.

Sort through the outfielders. By midsummer, you'll have Crawford, Baldelli, Young and Gathright, and only three can play. Crawford and Young have to stay, and Baldelli won't likely be tradable until he shows he can play. Offer Gathright or him to the Phillies for Ryan Howard.

I still like the idea of signing Rickey Henderson, just so Carl Crawford can spend a year with him. So Damon Hollins doesn't have a job, so what?

Forget 2006. Seriously.

david (penn): In 2005, The correlation between team payrolls and winning percentage had a r-squared value of .24. Payroll will always be a factor, however, do you think this is too high of a correlation or is it in the acceptable range?

Joe Sheehan: There should be correlation: successful teams have good players, and good players should make money.

Keep in mind that some of that correlation is driven by the lower end, the teams like the Royals and Pirates who aren't trying.

I think a more intelligent revenue-sharing system can and should be designed, one that addresses true differences in potential revenue across markets rather than penalizing success. We'll see more discussion of this stuff as the end of the current CBA comes near.

Lightning round...


kasgard (St Louis): Next Oakland manager--Dierker? Backman? Any thoughts on other potential candidates?

Joe Sheehan: Bob Geren, I think.

Albert (Iowa City, Iowa): What's been the dumbest things you've heard from the broadcast booth so far (steve lyons singing?)...

Joe Sheehan: Some idiot on ESPNews said the Padres would beat the Cardinals in four. Hard to top that one.

Mike (NJ): Is Torre's job in jeopardy if he doesn't win the WS now that Sweet Lou is on the loose. (not that I think it SHOULD be)

Joe Sheehan: I'm trying to picture the conversation in which the guy who's won eight consecutive division titles gets fired. Not saying it wouldn't happen, but how do you do that with a straight face.

It's hard being a Yankee fan. I know Rany Jazayerli and Will Carroll feel bad for me.

Dennis (Newark): Your prediction: will tonight's yankee game get rained out?

Joe Sheehan: Storm Field won't return my calls...they'll try like heck to get this one in, because the potential downstream effects on these teams' travel schedules are nasty.

Ben (NYC): If the Phils pay 1/2 of Thome's contract, should the Mets take him, or should they never ever do anything like that ever again after The Mo Vaughn Fiasco.

Joe Sheehan: So you'd get Jim Thome for four and, what, $30MM? That's something worth thinking about if you don't have to give up much talent.

I can't imagine the Phillies eating that much money, though. And if you were going to do that, would it make more sense to give them $30MM for Ryan Howard?

Jay (New York): Next year's World Series teams are...?

Joe Sheehan: Tigers and Brewers.

mhawkins (Oxford): The run scoring in the Astros-Braves series, do you see it continuing?

Joe Sheehan: They're moving to a better hitters' park, and leaving the Hall of Fame starters behind for now.

So I'll say, "no." Look for pitchers' duels in Houston.

ryan (miami): joe, your world series picks? ill take a surpriser, white sox-angels. with the angels winning primarily b/c of their 'pen(donelley,shields,k-rod primarily)

Joe Sheehan: Angels/Astros, which actually is what I would have said on Tuesday as well.

If the WS actually is White Sox/Angels, we're in for an interesting month.

coneway (tx): Should Phil Garner be doing a lot more pinch-hitting, simply to reduce the AB's wasted by Everett, Ausmus, and Taveras? I'm thinking specifically about situations where they need to put some crooked numbers up, like last night. Everett's pathetic flailing at Smoltz's pitches was unwatchable for us Astros fans.

Joe Sheehan: Nobody pinch-hits any more. It's one of the stranger developments in baseball, a byproduct of seven-man bullpens and five-man rotations. Managers just go down with their Aaron Boones and Adam Everetts no matter the matchup.

First team to reverse this trend will have a real competitive advantage. It starts with changing relief usage.

Andy (Oak Park, IL): OK, the season is in the books. Did Billy Beane keep the right pitcher, considering the performance of each and the players received in the trades?

Joe Sheehan: I think so. Zito won't be having 2002 again any time soon, but he's the best combination of price, effectiveness and health.

The A's won the Mulder trade. The Hudson deal is harder to evaluate, but looks like a loss unless Dan Meyer bounces back.

Ross (England): Will we ever see a roster comprised of guys with good platoon splits who might even be able to throw a knuckleball and eat up some innings as a pitcher?

Joe Sheehan: Brooks Kieschnick didn't start a trend, so it looks like the use of a two-way player may have to wait a while. It's a terrific idea that should be implemented.

Last two...

Dave (St. Louis, MO): Are we seeing a shaky enough bullpen from the Cardinals that could keep them out of the World Series? Thanks for the great work!

Joe Sheehan: Losing Al Reyes--one of my long-time favorites--hurts, and affects La Russa's ability to play matchups late in the game. I doubt the Braves or the Astros can take advantage. If they have to face the Yankees or Red Sox, it would be an issue.

Dave (NYC): When discussing Allard Baird's future yesterday, David Glass said that a less than 25 game improvement by the Royals would be unacceptable, meaning Baird is out if they don't reach .500 in 2006. I think we can all agree that David Glass will sprout a tail before the Royals will win 81 games next year, so why bother waiting to give Baird the hatchet? No better time than right now.

Joe Sheehan: I just liked the "sprout a tail" line...the Royals look to be a 60-win team next season, and that's if guys like Greinke develop.

Until Glass sells, this franchise is doomed.

Joe Sheehan: Folks, I have to close up shop...thanks for all the great questions, answered and unanswered, and enjoy what should be a great weekend of baseball!


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