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Chat: Jay Jaffe

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday March 31, 2006 1:00 PM ET chat session with Jay Jaffe.

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Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon and welcome to today's BP chat. It's a gorgeous day here in NYC, sunny and above 70 degrees. Perfect baseball weather, a great day for two. Onto the questions...

mcscolo (Laughing on the floor): Did an article actually appear this week on BP's site that states, and I quote, "[Neifi] Perez does all the little things, bunts well, moves runners over, doesn't strike out a ton and is solid defensively." Neifi shouldn't be starting for anyone's local softball club, much less a major league team. Seriously, in case this whole baseball analysis thing doesn't work out for you guys, think about going on the road. Mind you, the comment isn't "master of my domain" funny, but you've got potential.

Jay Jaffe: I think you're referring to the NL Spring Job Battles article which is part of our fantasy focus and was compiled by Peter Schoenke from Rotowire beat reports. The best I can offer -- beyond the fact that it might be an early April Fools piece -- is that the line of thinking was trying to figure out playing time by getting inside of Dusty Baker's head, which, to judge by his lineup choices of recent years, is an arid, empty spot something like the Sahara desert.

Which brings me to my real point and strength as an analyst of futility infielders: Dusty should get Jim Hendry to flip Perez for Jose Vizcaino, as there actually is a desert named after the latter in the Baja peninsula: "This is the most desolate region in Baja, thousands of square miles where rain is so scarce that vegetation has learned to get its moisture from the fogs that blow in from the Pacific," says the website at http://www.cabobob.com/04Vzcno/00Vzcno.htm.

dangor (New York): Jay, I'm a fantasy fanatic. I'm sick of seeing these sleeper lists. Give me five players that will significantly UNDERperform their projected stats.

Jay Jaffe: My favorite whipping boy from 2005, Eric Milton, won't crack a 5.00 ERA as PECOTA thinks, because he's still in Cincinnati, and he still sucks. By the same token, his new teammate, Bronson Arroyo, is going to find Great American an inhospitable place to pitch given his flyball tendencies. Staying with this meme, I think Ryan Franklin, another flyball pitcher in a homer-friendly park, will be hard-pressed to break the 5.00 barrier given that last year he put up a 5.14 in a pitcher's park, Safeco Field. It looks like he's been beaten out by Gavin Floyd for a rotation spot, though, so maybe the Phils have come to their senses.

Among hitters, Brad Wilkerson's continued woes make his PECOTA projection look too sanguine. I think that as great a hitter as Gary Sheffield is, the distractions he's creating for himself won't help, particularly when taken in conjunction with mounting injury problems. And finally, to offer a bonus, I'm not going to drink any Vernon Wells-flavored Kool Aid. The guys just isn't the hitter we (or the Jays) hoped he'd be.

denny187 (WI): When does the first Hit List come out?

Jay Jaffe: The first Hit List will appear on Monday, Opening Day. After that, they'll run every Tuesday throughout the season as they did last year. I'm looking forward to cranking that out this weekend.

Nick Stone (London, England): I was surprised to see how high Kevin Brown scored on JAWS. Who will take fewer years of eligibility to be elected, Brown, Blyleven, or do you think that Brown will never make it? For that matter, will Blyleven ever make it?

Jay Jaffe: London calling, and it's my good friend from here in the NYC. Thanks for stopping by, Nick.

I'll admit I was somewhat surprised by JAWS' take on Kevin Brown myself. I don't see him as a strong HOF candidate given his relatively low win total, lack of hardware, the voting tendencies of the BBWAA, and his superficial similarity to a handful of contemporaries with very good winning percentages who won't make it either (David Cone, David Wells, Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser).

As for Blyleven, I think the worm has turned on his candidacy. He crossed the 50 percent threshold (53.3 percent) and people are starting to take note of the depth of his accomplishments and the relative lack of importance of his raw W-L record. My guess is that with seven years still on the ballot, he'll beat the clock and gain election before he loses eligibility.

Bob R. (Clearwater): Two people about whom I have HOF questions. 1. Is there any chance that Marvin Miller gets in? Is there any legitimate reason for him not to be enshrined? 2. Did you agree with the decision not to enshrine Buck O'Neill? Why or why not?

Jay Jaffe: I can't give you a JAWS analysis on either of these guys, obviously, but I do have strong opinions on both candidacies.

First off, I think any player whose career overlapped with Miller's tenure is an idiot for not supporting his candidacy given the dollars he's put in their pockets -- even if we're only talking pension money -- but that still means something far less than a majority on the reconstituted Veterans Committee ballot. He'll get in, but it may be posthumous, which sucks eggs.

As for Buck O'Neill, people who've studied Negro League stats closely are of the consensus that Buck's don't measure up, but he's got non-playing considerations that I think are undervalued, namely his managerial career and his autumnal ambassadorship for the game.

Given that the committee tapped 17 Negro Leaguers, pre-Negro Leaguers and executives for induction recently, I have a hard time seeing why O'Neill and Minnie Minoso were slighted while players whose careers are less known were waved in. Let both in and be done with it.

jweb14 (IL): What does Eric Davis' Jaws score look like? Any chance he gets to stay on the ballot?

Jay Jaffe: Eric Davis comes in at 67.9 Career WARP, 51.5 peak, and 60.7 total. The average HOF centerfielder is at 108.6/63.8/86.2. As great as he was before injuries took their toll, that's not even close enough to merit continued consideration, in my book.

Patton1941 (NYC): What would Ted Williams JAWS scores have looked like if he was given credit for the 5 years he missed during WWII and the Korean War?

Jay Jaffe: Sticking with the JAWS theme for a bit longer...

The Splendid Splinter rank 12th all-time on the JAWS charts at 170.3/90.6/130.5. Eyeballing his surrounding seasons (1942: 14.9, 1946: 14.7, 1951: 11.1, 1954: 9.4) and I think we could pencil in a minimum of 40 WARP for WWII and 18 for the second (Williams did accumulate 2.7 in 1952-53). That would add at least 30 points to his JAWS given that we're likely talking about peak seasons in the first case, and put Williams second only to the Bambino (163.7), ahead of Mr. Potato Head (153.8).

Wow.

Paul (Charlotte): Several commentators have referred to "the end of the steroid era." The latest Sports Illustrated cover says "the game is good clean fun again." Who are we kidding? I recall that when the drug testing policy was instituted, it was widely ridculed as toothless and easily beatable by savvy users. Track and field, with much tougher testing and penalties, still is beset by steroid issues. Do we really think that baseball's problems with performance-enhancing drugs are over?

Jay Jaffe: And speaking of Barry Bonds, let's shift to the steroid question for a moment, but only a moment. So long as there's no urine test for Human Growth Hormone, a huge loophole exists in the current policy, and that's without admitting that other BALCO-like conglomerates are out there creating next-generation undetectable designer drugs. I think the increased penalties and pariah-like treatment of Rafael Palmeiro may curb some players' enthusiasm for bending the rules, but we're fooling ourselves if we think the problem is totally behind us.

Mark (Belmont, MA): Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, A's. Blah, blah. Your own favorite team aside, who do you *want* to win? I have to admit, if my Red Sox are to be condemned to stretching their World Series draught to a horrific 1000+ days (!), nothing would make me happier than to see the Brewers and the Indians in the World Series. Really, how much money would you give to see Selig hand the trophy to the new owner of his former team?

Jay Jaffe: Interesting question. I was a huge fan of the 1995-1997 Indians myself during a period that coincided with my own move to New York City and gradual conversion to Yankee fandom, and I'm a big believer in what Mark Shapiro and company are doing today. I even picked Jhonny Peralta as my AL MVP in the staff prediction article. My Hit List ended up with the Indians ranked #1 last year without them making the playoffs. So yeah, I'd love to see them in there.

As for the Brewers, my wife comes from Milwaukee, her family lives there still, and I'm a veteran of the Sausage Race (see Rich Lederer and Bryan Smith's Baseball Analysts site for details). I'm on record as touting the Brew Crew as my pick for the NL Wild Card. That said, I'd rather Bud Selig be long-gone from the commissioner's office before the team wins the World Series. He was a serious impediment to the franchise's improvement for so long, and I'm not sure he deserves even the reflected joy of their future triumph.

mike (St Louis): No HACKING MASS or predictatron this year? What gives?

Jay Jaffe: I'm not totally in the know, but I believe both are under construction and will be rolled out soon. Our techies like Dave Pease and Ben Murphy are better equipped to answer that question.

Worry Wart (Anytown, USA): I just drafted Miguel Tejada but I'm not getting that warm, fuzzy 30/100 feeling. What's up with him?

Jay Jaffe: I just read an article this week about Tejada's sluggish spring performance. It could just be a month-long case of the Mondays, but I think there's more to it than that. Tejada lobbied hard for a trade, then withdrew it because of the unlikelihood of a good fit given his salary. I don't think he wants to be in Baltimore any more, and I can't say I blame him given Peter Angelos' reign of error.

We may also be seeing something more here. Tejada has played in virtually every game in a seven-year span and he was dragging serious ass in the second half last year, vapidly loafing to first base on infield grounders while refusing to sit and break his consecutive game streak. I think he needs to cut back a bit.

Finally, not to indulge in too much speculation, but I wonder if there's even more going on with Rafael Palmeiro and the loaded B-12 vitamins than anyone has come clean about.

the only marlin fan left? (miami): hey jay, been thinking about this up coming baseball season and being a marlin fan theres not much to look forward to, but 1 thing i wanted to ask you is why cant the 2006 marlins be the 2005 a's? both have a stud lefty pitcher (willis,zito) both have a stud 3rd basemen (chavez,cabrera) both good young minor league talent (petit,ramirez,willingham,barton,haren etc) obviously the a's have mark ellis and bobby crosby compared to say dan uggla and hanley ramirez, but please tell me this is a possibility for marlins fans??

Jay Jaffe: The Marlins don't have nearly the broad base of proven talent on hand that the '05 A's had, nor the depth. Additionally, their prosepcts as nowhere near as close to being ready as the young A's were, and some of the guys they're intent on playing don't have a lot of upside.

I'm not a huge believer in Hanley Ramirez as major-league ready. A 22-year-old putting up .271/.335/.385 in a hitter-friendly Double-A environment looks like a guy who should keep one suitcase packed in any other organization. Reggie Abercrombie, their projected starting CF, is a joke, as it's taken him three years to even prove that he can hit Double-A pitching. Dan Uggla qualified for his AARP card before he could hit Double-A pitching. Eric Reed, Chris Aguila... sorry, I see about 60 wins here, tops.

metsRok (paris, france): can you breifly explain why PECOTA is so conservative in its projections?

Jay Jaffe: I'm not the expert, but I can tell you that PECOTA takes a broad range of outcomes from best- to worst-case scenarios, and is heavily influenced by the player's age as compared to general aging patterns. The result is something that tries to fit reasonably well across an incredibly broad swatch of ballplayers. If you want to think more extreme, bank on a player's 75th and 25th percentile projections as the good and bad extremes you might see.

Performance forecasting is a very inexact science because there's a lot that even the best of systems -- and I do think Nate Silver's is the cream of the crop -- can't capture, with usage patterns, work ethic, and injury specificity being just some of those.

tschiera ((Brooklyn)): Jay, I am a new subscriber, and I find pretty much everything BP is about to be interesting, insightful, and often well-founded. That said, there is a lot of content on this site that I just do NOT understand (because of my own limitations in statistical analysis, and because I do feel I am "joining the conversation" a bit late). Is there anything you would suggest that I read that might help me get up to speed with some of what BP is about? (I have already read the "About" section on BP's website). Thanks.

Jay Jaffe: Brooklyn in the house! This seems like a perfect opportunity to plug Baseball Between the Numbers, a new book from BP and edited by Jonah Keri that features an in-depth look at the way we do things around here. The authors (of which I was not one unless you count some late-inning work on the glossary) address such basics as park adjustment, replacement level, aging patterns, marginal value, roster management and more. I haven't had a chance to read very deeply into the book myself, but I've browsed through it and I think it's going to be one that really has some staying power.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): Jay, have you ever considered a study analyzing minor league stats as a predictor of JAWS? We have Davenport Translations, so why not JT's?

Jay Jaffe: Mainly because the scope of a Hall of Fame player's career (10-15 years, at least) is well beyond what we ask PECOTA to foresee, and I'm not a guy who's likely to add anything to a forecast system that's already light years beyond what I could build given my lack of expertise.

I'll say this, though: if you can find a player who projects as having stardom by age 23 (Miguel Cabrera and David Wright, I'm looking in your directions), that's the guy to place a bet on being a Hall of Famer.

(Not) Rico Kent (Portland, OR): Jay: I see the Mets as having mediocre starting pitchers with performance and injury concerns...and very little depth beyond the MLB-roster if someone does go down. I've read very little about these issues. What's your view of the Mets' off-season? Irrespective of their financial resources, are the exiling of team Benson, the haste of trading Cameron, and the gutting of the farm system going to hurt them this season and beyond? Thanks.

Jay Jaffe: I think the Mets went the wrong way this past offseason. They got a crap return on Cameron in Xavier Nady. They wasted a ton of resources on Paul Lo Duca when they had the very capable Ramon Castro in the fold. They thinned their starting pitching to acquire mediocre relievers, including Jorge Julio, my pick to make the Shea faithful pine for late-period Mel Rojas. They decided to keep potentially their second-best starter in Aaron Heilman in the bullpen. They didn't sink the cost of Kaz Matsui. They didn't slap Willie Randolph silly until he was disabused of the notion that Jose Reyes is a leadoff hitter. Need I continue?

Bottom line: this is an organization that's in a lot more peril than some people think.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): After Joey Belle's latest domestic gaffe, and on the heels of the Puckett saga being freshly reopened, have you ever given any thought to a Character component for JAWS? Nothing that would affect most candidates, merely tagging the far ends of the curves with a few flags. On the one hand flag criminal activity and/or outrageous stupidity off the field (chasing children in trucks or making the cover of SI for the wrong reasons, for example) or, on the other hand, awarding Kirby points for fame above and beyond the call of actual long-term performance. Other candidates from the present and past might have included Nolan Ryan for his no hitters, pre-steroids scandal HR champ Mark McGwire or the very-recently deceased such as Darryl Kile.

Jay Jaffe: I make no bones about the fact that JAWS is a tool which is designed to measure a player's objective contributions on the field during the regular season rather than the more tangential and intangible considerations such as no-hitter, postseason success, and off-the-field positive(test)s or negatives. I'll certainly mention those things in weighing in whether I think a player can make it given the weight of his JAWS case, but I'm no more capable of quantifying the unquantifiable than the next guy.

russadams (St. Cloud, MN): Will Francisco Liriano get into the rotation by June? Also, will Gardenhire use him correctly in the bullpen?

Jay Jaffe: For as frustrated as the Twins can make me (I caught onto them when I was doing Prospectus Triple Plays), I think they made the right call by keeping Liriano and demoting Dennys Reyes rather than keeping him around as a LOOGY. The Twins went with their best 11 pitchers, regardless of handedness, and I applaud that.

I do think that Liriano gets into the rotation if not by June then by the All-Star break or the trading deadline, and that this is all part of Terry Ryan's blueprint. Kyle Lohse is the obivous trade candidate, though an injury could take one of the other four down as well.

Will (Watertown, MA): Mike Lowell, yeigh or neigh?

Jay Jaffe: Usually it's spelled yeah or nay, but in this case, I think neigh is appropriate. Mike Lowell is an old nag who's 75th percentile PECOTA performance is a trip to the Alpo factory, or maybe the Elmer's Glue factory.

dianagramr (Brooklyn): Back to the Mets for a moment ... I could see dealing Benson (from a cost perspective only). However, the trading of Jae Seo is gonna haunt the Mets for a while. Seo could easily outpitch all the Mets starters save for Pedro. Opinion?

Jay Jaffe: Hi Diana! As a Dodger fan, I loved the Seo trade, because I think the team is getting a useful starter -- a League Average Inning Muncher, or LAIM (to use Travis Nelson's term) -- for about 1/10th the cost of the departed Jeff Weaver. I think you're right on the money in that Seo can outpitch every starter but Pedro; PECOTA has him basically even with Glavine.

That said, i do think Duaner Sanchez, who they got in the deal, made some excellent strides towards becoming a useful reliever last year. His normalized K rate rose about 60 percent from 4.5 to 7.2, and that's a nice step forward. He'll help the bullpen considerably.

Anders (Stockholm (Sweden)): what will happen first? Cubs wins the World series or Christina Karl writes anything positive about the Giants?

Jay Jaffe: I think Brian Sabean's days as Giants GM are numbered in small integers only slightly beyond the time horizon of Barry Bonds' remaining career, so I'll put my money on positive words about the Giants rather than champagne for the Cubs, espeically given the spate of injuries to their staff and the continued menace of Dusty Baker.

jedmonds15 (St. Louis): LaRussa has been getting a lot of credit lately (at least in St. Louis) for being such a great manager. Personally, I think he overvalues the "proven closer" and never keeps guys who can hit on his bench. Anyway, my question is about mangers; who has been some of the best and worst managers in baseball from a sabermetric view.

Jay Jaffe: This is a question that's likely worthy of an article or a chapter in a book, but I'll take a quick stab.

Though his career was largely done before Bill James even started, I'd say that
Earl Weaver is probably the patron saint of sabermetrically inclined managers, with his protege, Davy Johnson, also deserving mention as well.

On the opposite side of the coin, Dusty Baker stands out as the anti-sabermetric guy with his poor batting orders and overuse of pitchers. Willie Randolph appears to be angling for a spot in that discussion, too.

drizzle (deep in the heart of (TEXAS)): How close in terms of JAWS is Juan Gonzalez? How far will the MVP awards get him?

Jay Jaffe: Juan Gone: 77.5/52.4/65.0, where the HOF average for rightfielders is 112.4/61.5/86.9. By JAWS standards, that's not even close. Given that we're talking about a guy whose last 100+ game season came at Age 31, that's not a surprise.

Had he remained healthy, the MVP awards and his eventual crossing of the 500-homer threshold might have helped his cause among BBWAA voters, but then we'd have to weight that with the taint of being mentioned by Jose Canseco in Juiced.

Bill Johnson (New Mexico): What's your guess as to how the preparation players have been getting in the WBC compares to the usual spring-training routine? Are they going to rejoin their teams ahead of, behind, or about even with the preparation they'd get if they stayed in the camps? (I'd guess "about even with," but it's a pure guess.) And how much will it matter?

Jay Jaffe: We don't really know, do we? I'd guess that some of the pitchers are a couple weeks behind schedule - I know that Gustavo Chacin and Miguel Batista and/or their respective teams have made a stink about that. I also know that the Twins weren't too pysched about Johan Santana's early workload. On the other hand, guys like Bartolo Colon and Chan Ho Park looked very good.

As for the hitters, I doubt we'll see much difference in performance, as most of those guys only need a couple weeks of swinging the bat to be ready. I know that the O's and Javy Lopez are having some difficulty with his move to first base and the ramifications of it on his hitting, and I think Alfonso Soriano could have used some more time in LF and an earlier resolution with the Nats.

The bottom line is that there's so much randomness in even a single season worth of stats that divining the impact will be tough. But I'm sure a guy like Nate Silver will have a good article to bang out over the winter addressing the topic and properly correcting for aging and all that.

Sam (Seattle): Your pick to win the 2006 series?

Jay Jaffe: I've got the A's over the Cardinals in my staff predictions, which means plenty of time to ruminate on Tony LaRussa's so-called genius, not to mention his culpability in the career of Mark McGwire, cough, cough.

zephyrboy64 (Fayetteville NC): UMMM who is Mr. Potato Head with the JAWS score of 153.8?

Jay Jaffe: The angry guy who gained the incredible ability to hit home runs at a Ruthian pace after the age of 35 and suddenly found himself in the running for the title of Best Hitter Ever at a time when even the greatest of players tend to show decline. The guy whose cap size is a continual topic for discussion on talk shows, the guy whose ego apparently can't fit in a size 8 1/2 New Era cap.

SouthCharlotte (North Charlotte): Anti-sabermetric due to poor batting orders? One of the first take-aways I got from James' work in the early '80s was batting orders didn't make that much difference in terms of runs or wins assuming no interaction among variables. However, there is interaction among variables meaning what makes a batting order good or bad is not putting high OBP guys first but putting players who could help each other near each other. Meaning put the fastball hitter in a spot where he would get more fastballs such as after 2 or 3 fast runners.

Jay Jaffe: You're right in that batting orders alone don't make much difference, 1-2 wins a year, maybe -- but then 1-2 wins often means the difference between the Wild Card and golf in October.

Sometimes when we kvetch about batting order, it's really a proxy for complaining that certain mangers neglect the importance of OBP while overvaluing small-ball maneuvers such as the stolen base and sac bunt. That kind of stuff gets me riled up, at the very least.

Peter (Staten Island): Four ex-managers on the Yankees new coaching staff: good or bad and why?

Jay Jaffe: If Larry Bowa is one of them, and if I have to read what he thinks even five times this summer, I'm gonna vote bad.

Rob (CT): Do you think Hideki Matsui's "real" hitting ability is in line with his 2004, or his 2005?

Jay Jaffe: Given that he's another year older (if not deeper in debt given his new contract), I'll wageer that the 2005 model, which splits the difference between his first two years, is much closer to his true level of ability.

Marc Normandin (Dracut, MA): Hey Jay, thanks for the chat. Brian Giles looks like he is on pace to be worthy of Hall of Fame inclusion according to JAWS. Do you think he can close the gap with the rest of his career, value wise? I have a pretty good feeling there isn't a chance in hell he makes Cooperstown for real, regardless of what JAWS says...sigh.

Jay Jaffe: Hiya Marc, thanks for dropping in. Brian Giles is at 76/63/69.5, whereas the average HOF rightfielder scores 112.4/61.5/86.9. That means he'd need to complile 34 WARP to reach the JAWS standard, starting with his Age 35 season (he may gain a little faster if he can chip away at his peak score; last year's 8.7 was his fifth-best season, and the next two, at 8.3 and 6.2, are certainly not impossible to improve upon).

I'd say he's still got his work cut out for himself on the objective side, but that he's nowhere close on the traditional side given his lack of hardware, low career totals, and continued toiling in a pitcher-friendly park.

Brent (Raleigh): I want to ask you a question about the Braves, but I don't have a specific question in mind. So, I figured I'd just give you free reign to write a few sentences about them. Deal?

Jay Jaffe: Given that I covered the Braves for BP06, I think I can manage. I really like the Brian McCann/Todd Pratt tandem behind the plate. I think they erred in trading Andy Marte for Edgar Renteria and should have gone with an infield that featured Marte, Wilson Betemit at shortstop, Marcus Giles at second, and Chipper, who's a brutal fielder by FRAA's reckoning (like -150 runs over the course of his career) at first. I think that regardless of his plate discipline issues, Jeff Francour is going to be a very productive hitter for a long time. I think that Andruw Jones won't hit 50 homers again but will continue to be worth 7-9 wins a year for the next three or four years. I like that Schuerholz didn't feel obliged to shell out three years and $18 million for a proven closer. I like the move to get Kyle Davies into the rotation. And bottom line, no matter what the other predictions say, I won't pick against the Braves in the NL East until they've been knocked off their perch by the Mets, Phils or... well, the Mets and the Phils.

stretch suba (austin, tx): In the wash post baseball preview, both Boswell and Sheinin perpetuate the myth of the white sox as small ball success story. When it was finally pointed out during a chat that they were in fact the opposite--a run prevention and home run hitting Earl Weaver orgy--he claimed, more or less: "well, you know, uh, both ways of scoring are really important... next question." My question is, is Boswell obtuse or do guys like him just not pay attention to anything except what people like Ozzie Guillen tell them?

Jay Jaffe: Ugh. People often tend to project what they want to see onto things, and to bend reality to fit their predetermined narratives, and this goes doubly in the entertainment-minded world of sports "journalism." I'd say the answer to your question is, to quote Abe Simpson, a little from Column A, a little from Column B.

That said, Ozzie Guillen makes for great copy whether he's right or wrong.

Dennis (Newark): What % of a team's payroll should be devoted to their bench (not including bulpen)? In the american league, does a bench generally combine for 1 full starting player's worth of playing time? 2?

Jay Jaffe: Given that we've seen teams with as wide a range in payrolls as the A's, Twins, Yanks and Red Sox enjoy success in recent years, I don't think there's a constant percentage of payroll that we can point to; after all; 5 percent of $200 million and 5 percent of $50 million are two very different numbers. I don't have a quick answer about how much PT an AL bench is worth, either.

But if I'm building a bench, I want the following: flexibility from a platoon standpoint, flexibility from a positional standpoint, speed, the ability to get on base, and a guy who can play catcher in an emergency so that I can PH with my second catcher if appropriate.

jay2436 (Bethlehem): Hey Jay, Looking over Lance Niekro's lefty/righty splits from last year shows he mashes against lefties. It is a small sample size with only 108 AB's, so I was wondering how do we know if this is legitamite if we aren't keep lefty/righty splits in the minors? Don't you feel like more data collection is needed at the minor league level for the public? Thanks

Jay Jaffe: lefty/righty splits are kept in the minors, but unfortunately, they're not available publicly. Here at BP, some of us who have worked for teams have access to those splits, and you'll see in BP 06 that some of our player comments are informed by those numbers.

That said, I think minor league stat availability remains in a dreadful state as far as the public is concerned, and I hope it improves in the very near future.

Getting down to the wire for time and hand cramping, so I'll take three more...

Ross (England): Has the blog revolution affected the way mainstream media covers the game? Or front offices in general....are they more in tune with the concerns and desires of their fanbase b/c of blogs and fans websites?

Jay Jaffe: On the first part of the question, absolutely. As Will Carroll pointed out in his blog at baseballtoaster.com, most mainstream newspapers and ESPN feature some kind of blog-type presentation as part of their coverage, but mainly they're linking to other traditional sources rather than going outside of those to recognize the blogosphere.

As to the second part of the question, I wouldn't bet too much on it. Yes, there's probably a low-level intern in each front office who follows what's said in the blogsphere and may inject the best of ideas into the discussion if he's given the chance. As to whether those above him are listening? I doubt it.

kradec (New York City): Okay, I admit, as a Yankee fan, my hope is for this question to be answered a particular way, but.... Both Boston and New York have themselves some gigunda question marks in the starting rotation. Which of the two do you think is more likely to collapse in a fiery conflagration of Ben Gay?

Jay Jaffe: Wow. I think there could be a great deal of pain and suffering in both rotations. Beckett, Schilling and Wells are particularly vulnerable for the Sox, while on the Yanks, you've got a 43 year old, a 37 year old who's been sidelined for parts of the last two years in Mussina, a guy who we thought needed shoulder surgery in Wang, plus Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright, both of whom were unmitigated injury-riddled disasters last year. From an emotional standpoint, I sure hope it's not the Yanks, but from the rational standpoint, I'm even more afraid than I was before considering this question.

OK, one more...

Lonely Teardrops (Waukeegan, IL): Greetings Jay: What are your thoughts about Brad Penny? Good home park, good closer (if Gagne's health holds) and good peripherals all point to a solid season. Is he just too injury-prone for the normal rules to apply? Thank you.

Jay Jaffe: I'm not exactly bullish about Penny. I see a guy who's only managed about 300 innings over the past two years and whose strikeout rates don't fill me with warm fuzzies (EqSO9 of 5.7 last year, and the same for this one per PECOTA). I want to see him reach 200 innings and pitch deeper into ballgames.

FWIW, I'm not really hearing great things about the condition of Gagne's fastball right now either.

Jay Jaffe: I'd love to stay and answer the other 50 questions that are cued up, but as it's still March, I'm on a strict pitch count. Thanks for stopping by to spend some of your Friday afternoon here and for continuing to read BP in general. With Opening Day just three days away, I know that just like me, all of you are awaiting the two sweetest words in the English language: Play ball!


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