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Chat: Jim Baker

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday January 23, 2006 8:00 PM ET chat session with Jim Baker.

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Jim Baker is an author of baseball Prospectus.

Jim Baker: Good evening from Austin, Texas, home of the collegiate gridiron champions. Knowing how thrilled every one is with all things Longhorn, I have arranged to have head coach Mack Brown’s third cousin come in later and read a few questions to me. I hope he’s worth the appearance fee. Speaking of football, I was amazed to see that two teams made it to the Super Bowl without the help of Terrell Owens. Is it just possible that he’s not bigger than the sport itself? Now, let’s get to the baseball:

lyricalkiller (the OC): Risk/Reward scenario: Better to have a farm system with can't miss positional prospects, like the Snakes, or deep in pitching prospects, like perhaps the Marlins?

Jim Baker: Without knowing if this actually true or not, I am going to venture a guess that pitching prospects are better as trade bait. Having said that, think of the good teams in the past that were blessed with a host of good pitching prospects: how many of them made it up the funnel? I'd rather be Arizona.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): If you had to be a fan of either the ROyals or the Pirates which would you choose and why? (Follow up: if you had to be a type of tree....)

Jim Baker: I lived in Kansas City for a long time and never quite took to the Royals so I guess I'd have to say Pittsburgh since I field-tested the other team. If you're a Pirates fan, you get to see Jason Bay every day. If you're a Royals fan, you get to go out to the garage and wonder how long it would take to fill with exhaust fumes or if the elm tree in your backyard could hold your body weight long enough to…

singy111 (Miami, FL): From your article this week which included some odds on entry into the Hall of Fame, I wanted to present you one that a site I saw had. Who will get more votes: Gwynn +240 Ripken -300 You have to figure Ripkin will get more votes, right?

Jim Baker: I saw that proposition too and almost wrote about it! I think Ripken might be unanimous or very, very close to it, so I would put my money on him, even though the line doesn't pay very well.

BT (MD): Can someone give Pat Gillick the number of Russ Branyan's agent? They need to talk. David Bell had a .547 OPS vs RHP in 2005, while Branyan logged .943 in 220 PA (for context, Morgan Ensberg led NL third sackers in total OPS with .945). I gather Branyan is below average with the glove but still suitable for family viewing. If he promises never to bunt again after that broken finger, what's to lose with a spring invite? Precious Abraham Nunez at bats?

Jim Baker: Back when the Phils signed Bell, I ripped 'em on it and you can't imagine the pushback I got from Phillies fans! You'd have thought they had signed Ron Santo. I don't know that Branyan is the answer, but there's got to be someone better than Bell out there they can shake loose. If Kevin Youklis is never going to get a shot in Boston, how about him?

rclemens (Houston, TX): So, when are those PECOTA numbers coming out? I'm curious to see how I'll do - it might influence my decision making process.

Jim Baker: Roger: sometime in February from what I'm told. Your projected VORP is 39.0 Roger, but I know you can do better than that.

Mike (NYC): Mets just traded Benson for Jorge Julio and John Maine. Why do you think Mets did this trade and after tradig Seo where does it leave their rotation?

Jim Baker: The talk is that Aaron Heilman will now get a shot at the rotation and that's pretty good news. Heilman had some very interesting stats last year and has a better upside than Benson who has shown himself to be remarkably predictable and pedestrian.

Nathaniel (Champaign): Assuming the Red Sox do acquire Alex Gonzalez, how much playing time will he actually get? Is he (hopefully!) just a late-inning defensive replacement?

Jim Baker: Of all the Red Sox doings of late, this is, to me, the most puzzling. Pokey Reese I could see - but this guy? Why? There's your canary in the Red Sox coal mine: the more playing time he gets, the worser (sic) their season will be going.

dangor (New York): I do believe that the voters for the Hall of Fame should be required to pass a stringent written test of some sort to demonstrate their knowledge. It took incredible outcry to get Blyleven to his most recent vote total. Before that, it appears that most voters weren't even aware of their accomplishments. On the flip side, those writers that voted for Gregg Jeffries and Rick Aguilera should be outed for incompetence!

Jim Baker: I should probably care a lot less about the Hall of Fame than I do. It's just a room with some guys' faces on the wall - like something you'd see in a bad science fiction movie except in the movie they'd still be alive in stasis, suffering for crimes against an evil alien overlord. The plaques do kind of look like Han Solo in carbon freeze mode now that I think on it. Anyway, in my world, Dangor, your scenario would play out - there would be a test. Since there isn't, we should probably take a collective chill pill about it.

jboysen0 (NY, NY): Andy Marte: super stud or surgeon's dream?

Jim Baker: I've been avoiding the host of Andy Marte/Coco Crisp questions because the trade is not a done deal and lord knows we spend enough or our time talking about things that will never happen. One must wonder about a super prospect getting offloaded twice in the same season. Of course, if he had failed some kind of physical, the Red Sox trade with Atlanta never would have flown. So, we must conclude from that that Mr. Marte is a super stud, right?

Steve (Philadelphia): When will 2006 Pecota spreadsheets be released? Thanks.

Jim Baker: Is this all I am to you? A vessel for PECOTA? See above.

Josef (Cambridge): Jim, I'm dying to know....what's the PETCOTA projection for Coco Crisp. Are the Sox trading Marte for, an 80% Johnny Damon or is this the Larry Anderson trade of the 2000's?

Jim Baker: Coco Crisp is not Larry Anderson, so don't worry about it on that end. Crisp and Marte are not far enough apart in 2006 (27.5 to 20.5 advantage Coco). The Red Sox are thinking short-term which, as a rich-ass team, is there prerogative, I guess.

brdirck (Noblesville, IN): Wondering what you think of the Royals offseason free agent signings. Yes, they are mediocre space-fillers, and a lot of critics suggest that they are wasted at bats that should be given to younger players. But really, were Teahen, Buck, Grienke, etc. really all that well served by spending last season flailing in the majors? Aren't the Royals beter off signing Grade B talent while letting future star players like Butler and Gordon do their growing in the minors?

Jim Baker: I wrote about this last month and it's kind of interesting if you're a keen observer of the chaff of the standings which, God forgive me, I am. What is the Royals purpose in 2006? My feeling is that it is to avoid the humiliation of three-consecutive 100-loss season and a further melting away of their fan base. I think these signings were made to that end. The question is: will the be effective even with that low goal? I think they might be. 97 losses sound reasonable?

SlayerKid (The D): Does the rest of baseball know what we do in Detroit, namely, that the best defensive catcher in the game (Brandon Inge) is being wasted at a position (3B) where his stick is below adequate?

Jim Baker: Yes, but you have a Hall of Fame catcher on hand, albeit an aging one who, once and for all, seems committed to never taking a base on balls again. You can't have it all!

Josh (West Palm): You teased us with some PECOTA projections in some of your recent columns - any news on when the rest of us can get our grubby little hands on those numbers?

Jim Baker: Here is some more teasing: 47.4; 19.3; 24.2; -6.1

dangor (new york): vegas has set the odds for the over/under for team wins in 2006. could you please give me your opinions on Atlanta at 90, boston at 92, white sox at 92, dodgers at 85, yankees at 101, mets at 91, phillies at 82, nationals at 81?

Jim Baker: Do yourself a favor: note what I say and then BET THE OPPOSITE. Atlanta over. Yanks under (Yankees always have a high over/under number). Boston: over. Mets: under. Phillies: over. Nationals: under. White Sox: push. Dodgers: under.

Mike (Boston): Chuck Tiffany and Edwin Jackson. Do you see either player becoming an effective sp in the Majors?

Jim Baker: Not seeing a lot of hope for either of them in the near future. Remember back to those halcyon days of 2003 when Jackson was 19 and throwing 20 or so innings of really good baseball? He's still pretty young, though, so don't write him off long-term just yet.

jfadams (Napa, CA): The Giants' roster of position players is likely the oldest in MLB history (Bonds 42, Finley 41, Alou 39, Vizquel 39, Vizciano 38, Sweeney 35, Matheny 35, Durham 34, Winn 32). Two questions: 1) How do you see SF doing in 2006?; 2) Does the age issue, coupled with the lack of position player prospects in the farm system, doom them for 2007-2010?

Jim Baker: Let's not forget the 1943 Philadlephia A's with "Aging Dave" Daverson, "Rheumy" Jones, "Codger" Stitkvicz, "No-Prostrate" Semmons, "Stroker" Means, "Pension Pete" Zerkle, "Cataract" Catarski, "Hairless" Harkness, "Old Days" Gomez, "Death's Door" Bonafacco.

I've learned that teams can dig themselves out of no-prospect holes in a hurry if they put their minds to it. So, don't write 'em off for the next few years necessarily. Besides, in that division, you're never that far from glory.

Joe (Charlottesville, VA): Does the upside in the tribe's positional players (a full year of Hafner, improvement from Peralta & Sizemore) balance out replacing Millwood and Elarton with Byrd and Johnson?

Jim Baker: Wow, an Indians question not about Marte/Crisp! If Peralta gets any better, they might as well cast his HOF plaque right now. Talk about a great season that came in pretty much under the radar! The Indians were technically the best team in baseball last year. I don't think they're going to do that again but they should win enough to win the division if the White Sox fall off by seven or eight games.

Buckcheeks (Buffalo): Just wondering what your thoughts are on the Roger Clemens saga. Astros? Rangers? Somewhere else? Retirement?

Jim Baker: The only player who walked away from the game while at Clemens' level of performance was, of course, Sandy Koufax and he had some very compelling reasons to get out, like the fact that his arm had developed a mind of its own and felt like it was trying to kill him. Clemens has no such maladies so it would be very hard for a competitor like him to just say no. I think we'll see him again but I'll be jiggered if I know where and you know why? Because he himself doesn't know where.

GForce (Long Island): Is there a legitimate plus side for the Mets to the Benson-for-Julio trade short of getting Kris' trashy wife out of town?

Jim Baker: It was a mid-level salary dump in my estimation. More importantly, though, I'm not quite sure Mrs. Benson took full advantage of her time in the media center of the world. Yes, she said some naughty things, but what did she really do for her career? That's the question we should all be asking.

ChuckR (Chicagoland): I know the Sox and the Indians are the obvious teams to like in the AL Central, but am I the only one finding the Tigers intriguing? Some interesting young players (Granderson, Shelton, Bonderman, Verlander) coupled with IRod, Maggs, Guillen, Rogers and Polanco. Maybe not this year but at least this decade?

Jim Baker: I would like nothing better than to see a World Series game played at Comerica in the near future. However, it won't be on account of most of the names you're tossing out there. Rogers, Polanco, Ordonez - not going to drive a team to a pennant. .500 would be cool, though and they might have enough to get there this year.

Bruce Chen (DC): How bad does PECOTA hate me for next year?

Jim Baker: It doesn't hate you so much Bruce as it loves others more. How does a 24.5 VORP sound? You could live with that, right?

dantroy (davis, ca): Do you think the Mets will consider signing Weaver?

Jim Baker: There a lot of Mets questions tonight, so don't think I'm being biased. I'm going to say no on this one. They just got rid of Benson and Weaver is like a better Benson who will cost a whole lot more. I'm also thinking Weaver isn't in any hurry to hustle back to New York City, even if it is to play for the other team.

jboysen0 (NY, NY): With their farm system backing up, and both McPherson and Kotchman waiting, how do you see the Angels infield situation shaping up?

Jim Baker: McPherson is looking better than Kotchman at the moment. Being a younger player on the Angels isn't the best thing in the world right now because have such a great shot at winning I'm guessing they're not going to be predisposed to be giving lots of playing time to the young hopefuls.

doclove (Chicago): 2 questions.. 1.) what do you think the Braves need to change most to build a team capable of taking the next obvious step? 2.) OBP,slug,sb-cs,runs produced (rbi+runs-HRs) and strikeouts... which young National league players would you look to invest in given this criteria?

Jim Baker: I honestly don't think you can plan for the next step. We've watched the Yankees fail to win it all for five straight years now and they are certainly a team that enters every season with the division essentially in the bag meaning all they have to do is plan for the postseason. I don't think it can be done. A team should build to make the playoffs and then hope for the best once they start.

gerry (san diego): Chris Snyder's projected 2006 VORP of 7.9 (after a posting a -5.5 last season) seems too good to be true. Does that assume he's a full-time catcher, and, if so, can he sustain that level as a part-timer?

Jim Baker: I had Mr. Snyder on my fantasy team last year and let me tell you something - it wasn't pretty. I must confess that I swore a few oaths and once, in anger, tossed a pencil. Yes, he sure got my dander up. My personal strife notwithstanding, yes, he can do that and more. I think he just had a bad year. Oh, and it only assumes about 335 plate appearances.

joe (ct): Alot of the rangers hitters do very worse on the road than at home? e.g. Teixeira regarded as one of the games great hitters, hits only 253/.334/.454 away from Ameriquest the last 3 seasons? For a team looking to acquire Teixeira via trade (purely hypothetical) or when he becomes a FA, how much weight should they put into those awful away splits? Same for Soriano.

Jim Baker: Any time a team is looking to trade with a club that plays in a hitters' park, they need to take a look at the splits. I'm thinking that, by this day and age, fully 90% of all teams are savvy enough to understand that.

dantroy (davis, ca): How is it that Sabean overlooked Julio Franco? And John Franco? And Francisco Franco?

Jim Baker: And Matt Franco, who is 36 himself. You know, if he plays six more years, Julio could get to 3,000 hits. What then, Mr. Hall of Fame voter?

GForce (Long Island): Would you expect Bret Boone, recently signed by the Mets, to outperform Kaz Matsui this season. Salary or not, I can't believe the Mets are going to go through another season with Matsui if Boone has anything left in the tank. I thought this was a great low-risk signing.

Jim Baker: It's probably a wash. You know who'd probably be better than both of them? Poor Jeff Keppinger. But is he going to get a shot?

Foster (Brooklyn): Ben Sheets -- ready for the year we thought he'd have in 2005?

Jim Baker: Yes, and then some. Wouldn't it be nice if it could all come together for the Brewers and they snag themselves a wild card?

dafonze (1950's): Worst myths about sabermetricians? 1. Dont watch games 2. If james said 2+2=3, we'd believe it 3. Other

Jim Baker: First of all, 2+2=pi, so that's right out. As for other myths, one infamous one is that we are not attractive to women. That's a myth. SABR conventions are groupie hotbeds. Go to a groupie online bulletin board and you'll see they're all going to be in Seattle this summer for the SABR con to get themselves some.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): The Mets came out millions ahead on the Benson and Cameron deals. It looks like they're financially positioning themselves to trade for Manny. I'm not saying it would be a *good* move, but do you think it will happen?

Jim Baker: It's always amazed me that Ramirez has not played part of his career in New York. When he first came up with Cleveland, they visited Yankee Stadium and he had this huge contingent of local fans there cheering him on. I thought George Steinbrenner would take note and begin plotting his extradition to the Bronx. Never happened. Having said that, I don't see him going to the Mets this year. I'd hate to see the team block Lastings Milledge's route to the majors in any way, shape or form.

Bob Rittner (Spring Valley, NY 10977): Given the going rates and where the Devil Rays are in their building cycle, do you think it would have made sense for them to have signed any of the higher profile free agents this year?

Jim Baker: No, probably not because I think they need to stay loose and see what becomes of their youthful youngsters. They might really have something on their hands two or three years down the line and it would be a shame to have a lot of dough tied up in older players.

lyricalkiller (the OC): You're right, January is a tragedy. (I've taken to watching my Giants bobblehead doll bobble for a ever-so-tiny jolt of baseball "action.") So why isn't anybody broadcasting Dominican League action? I'd watch.

Jim Baker: Lyricalkiller is referring to something I mentioned in my column last week. Yeah, January is tough for the baseball fanatic, but things are better than they used to be. Time was when the sport would just about shut down for the entire offseason. Of course, they didn't have computers then, so it would take the front office that long to count the gate receipts from the previous season. Anyway, we have it easier than our forefathers.

Sam (Seattle): Who's the best prospect in all of baseball right now?

Jim Baker: Brandon Phillips - no, wait, that was two years ago. Speaking of the Devil Rays, how about Delmon Young? Young, Upton, a rejuvenated Baldelli, Carl Crawford in his prime: are you getting psyched to retire to Florida's West Coast yet so you can watch them full time?

carlosrubi (Mexico): With the recent signing of Jacque Jones, how would the Cubs have fared in comparison if they would have traded instead for Emil Brown, the now positionless ex Royal RF.

Jim Baker: About the same, although they'd probably have some money left over for the front office sock hop. Neither would have/are going to help the team put the big flag at Wrigley for the first time ever.

ChuckR (Chicagoland): First of the Angels' uber-prospects to make an All Star Game?

Jim Baker: Awesome question. A gambling site should put that up as a proposal. Of course, it would take a few years to pan out and gamblers need their action NOW! Brandon Wood: 2007.

Dxgarnett (Buffalo): Do you see the Astros making a deal or signing another arm? Drayton McClane has given several hints that they're in negotiations on a deal or two, but we've yet to hear about anything. What do you know?

Jim Baker: This is what I know: the Astros need to score some runs. They had some gaping holes in their lineup last year. I feel bad for them in that they're in the lurch with Clemens, but they need to get some runs. I love the Preston Wilson deal, though. Not because it involves Preston Wilson but because of the put up or get out nature of its structure. I can't believe the union went for it.

tylernu (Chicago): I take Castellini's quick firing of O'Brien in Cincy as a sign that Griffey Jr. could be on his way out on July 31 if he posts a strong 1st half again. Would any team be remotely interested in him?

Jim Baker: Lord yes! If he's healthy and the asking price wasn't crazy, they'll be lining up like monkeys at the Chiquita Banana Pavilion at the 1931 Bolivian World's Fair.

kevin (CT): What is your evaluation of what the Red Sox did this offseason?

Jim Baker: I think it's too early to tell in that they seem to be ready to move a lot of what they've acquired. Letting Millar go was fine. Getting rid of Renteria was a good move. Getting Beckett: nice. Having to take Lowell as well - not so nice. Probably not time to assess some of the smaller moves. Right now, I think they're about what they were last year: a team good enough to win the division should the Yankees fall and an excellent bet for the wildcard.

jacksonreams (washington, dc): Who will have a better year, Johnny Gomes or Wily Mo Pena?

Jim Baker: Last one...An excellent proposition bet. I should have mentioned Gomes in my parade of young Raystars (TM pending) in the previous question. I'll go with Gomes only because I have a feeling he'll get a lot more playing time.

Jim Baker: I think I've run my course. Thank you for typing in and for all the great questions. Be brave, baseball is coming soon. A special thanks to Paul Swydan for relaying the questions to me tonight. -- Jim


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