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Chat: Dan Fox

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday April 13, 2006 2:00 PM ET chat session with Dan Fox.

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Dan Fox is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Dan Fox: Hey there everybody! Glad to be with you. Beautiful day on the front range - too nice to be working, but then again you folks aren't either right?

DerekJetersAura (Houston): It seems as if Dusty Baker will be in Chicago another two years, do you think Hendry has ruined the next two years with the three year signing of Jones. It's one thing to have him as a stopgap, another for 3 years...

Dan Fox: On Jacque Jones – As you probably noticed from my satire on the subject in my Setting the Stage piece I am not a big fan of the signing.

Although the Cubs can afford wasting the money I’m more concerned with Baker falling in love with Jones and continuing to play him if there were a better option (which there isn’t right now).

I just don’t see any way we won’t be sitting here come 2008 and wishing the deal hadn’t been done. I wasn’t following the “race” to sign Jones in the off season but I can’t imagine there was any other team willing to give him that kind of contract.

Jonathan (Sacramento): Dan, I admire that you didn't follow along with every other prognosticator and pick the A's to finish 1st or 2nd in the AL West. Other than potential health issues, what were your reasons for picking the A's to finish in 3rd place?

Dan Fox: Rub it in. But seriously, for me picking Texas was a bit of a gut level reaction. As always it comes down to pitching and I thought perhaps with Millwood, Padilla, and Loe they’d have a solid core of the rotation and I like Otsuka and Codero in the pen. I also liked that they swapped Soriano for Wilkerson and gave a chance to Kinsler. Of course they’re 3-7 and Wilkerson is 8-44 with 18 ks and all of 1 walk. Kinsler got off to a good start at 10-21 before getting hurt.

I still like the A’s as they’re young players improve, picked up some pitching, along with Bradley and Thomas but you mention the injury risk and to me that was significant.

lyricalkiller (the OC): What are the chances the Yanks beat the season run record of 1,067? You'd think a midseason deal is likely to remove Bernie Williams, and replacing Womack's ABs with Damon...

Dan Fox: Well, Cano and Williams are definitely the weak links that would prevent them from scoring that many runs.

Also Damon’s stats may look a bit different in Yankee Stadium by the time the season is over. Remember that the 1998 team which had more balance scored 965 runs (9th best in Yankee history).

I just find it hard to believe that a team with the resources of the Yankees would continue to play Bernie. As a CF he was bad enough but as a DH it’s just unacceptable.

To have any chance at all they’ll have to bench him and pick up someone like a healthy Mike Sweeney, which is unlikely. So as for 1,067 runs – I’d say less than 10%.

Ben (st louis): how do you think the new Busch Stadium will play, and how long until we know for sure.

Dan Fox: I think that's a great question - one that a person living in St. Louis like yourself might be better able to answer.

But IMO park effects that result in changes in run scoring probably take 2 to 3 years to start sorting out.

Having said that, the different orientation of the new park I would think would mean that fly balls would be helped by summer southerly breezes.

To offset that there will also not be the pin ball effect you had in the old stadium which probably led to more hits falling in. The old stadium was basically neutral.

You should check out this article...

http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/sports/stories.nsf/cardinals/story/35F551409FD2C4498625712800115555?OpenDocument

for some discussion on the winds etc. I found it interesting that they do not think the outfield being open will result in the wind blowing in much.

There is also less foul territory which should help it be more of a hitter's park.

Final thought. There are issues with parks they don't change the park factor but do change the homefield advantage. Less quirkiness down the lines may mean the park will play more evenly.

Southcoast (Texas): Percota projected Greg Maddux to have an ERA of 3.88 in 2006 yet he hasn't been below 4.00 since he left Atlanta. How's a 40 year old pitcher going to improve on 2005 and 2004? Do you agree with this projection?

Dan Fox: The PECOTA projection has Maddux with a PERA of 3.88 and an ERA of 4.31, slightly higher than last year.

Certainly Maddux has pitched well thus far and when you look at his numbers over the past four years or so his decline phase has been steady for sure but not anywhere near catastrophic.

So to me 4.31 sounds about right although his homerun rate appears a bit low to me (1.0 HR/9). In 2005 it was 1.2 and 2004 1.4. A few windy days at Wrigley and that could have a large impact.

endries (syracuse): Hi Dan - Might some teams be too dedicated to the game time advantage of platoon splits? Signing an additional player with the notion of playing him only when a lefty or righty pitcher starts seems somewhat intuitively inefficient from a payroll perspective and a roster management perspective. This split stats are further clouded by sample size issues aren't they? I would love to see Wily Mo play everyday.

Dan Fox: Well, I think carrying 12 pitchers is also inefficient from a payroll persepctive (perhaps unless you're the Rockies).

For my money I do want a good hitter or two to come off the bench and not simply a utility infielder in the mold of Jose Macias or Estaban German.

The issue though, as you mention is whether you can really identify true lefty mashers in the first place? The variability in the splits due to small sample size means that a .350 average against lefties one year could easily turn into .260 the next.

Off the bench you should be looking for good hitters period.

As for young players like Wily Mo, I agree 100%. Since you don't really know what his true platoon split is or will be, I'd be inclinded to give him a regular job and see what happens. It would be a shame if he were pigeonholed into a particular role on so little evidence.

dangor (new york): With regard to platoon splits, wouldn't it be cool if there was an ambidextrous pitcher? He could be his own LOOGY and could be a multiple inning pitcher!

Dan Fox: There was a pitcher in the late 80s I believe that threw from both sides. Can't recall the name - could have pitched for the Expos.

I think I wrote a blog post about it but can't find it at the moment.

Josh (West Palm): Johan Santana has been the anti-Shelton - superstar whose early numbers are pedestrian at best. Are either of those guys going to keep this up?

Dan Fox: Sample size, sample size, sample size...

That said, Shelton's PECOTA projections are really pretty good with an upside of 30 homers and a .400 OBP. So my inclination is that, while he's not the hitter he appears to be right now, he could really have a breakout season.

Santana's stuff is too good to get lit up like this (18 baserunners in 11 innings) so he'll certainly come back to the pack. I don't see any reason to suspect overwork at his age is playing a role.

Rex Little (Santa Ana, CA): Greg Harris (one of two pitchers with that name) was the ambidextrous pitcher. He did pitch for the Expos at the end of his career (1995) but also for 8 other major league teams between 1981 and 1995.

Dan Fox: Thanks Rex.

I found it...

http://danagonistes.blogspot.com/2005/08/switch-pitching.html

Greg (Boulder, CO): Given that the "Coors hangover effect" seems to be real, how do we evaluate Rockies hitters given their home/road splits?

Dan Fox: I looked into this question awhile back

http://danagonistes.blogspot.com/2005/04/hangover-effect.html

and didn't see much evidence that there was a hangover effect.

That study may have been flawed however. A better approach would be look at players who were traded to the Rockies (Preston Wilson) and try and determine how playing on the road for the Rockies depressed their performance. You might run into sample size problems and the problem of how to gague what a player might have done had he not been traded to/away from the Rox.

But generally speaking I think you need to assume that they'll perform worse on the road than they would have otherwise and get a boost at home if they're an extreme fly ball hitter.

lou (lake hopatcong, nj): any thoughts on how we tend to overstate the park effects when looking at individual players? we really don't what effect they have on a player to player basis. one of my most frustrating areas of the sabermetric world

Dan Fox: My thought is that for starters you need to break down specific outcomes (fly ball, ground ball) for each park and then move from there. The reason being that specific players will be affected differently. For example, Jacque Jones isn't much of a fly ball hitter but when he hits them they go out frequently. As he moved to Wrigley this year that should effect how we project him. He's not likely to hit more homeruns just because he moved to the Friendly Confines if he doesn't get the ball up in the air to begin with and when he does he hits them out anyway.

Another example: Some parks like Jacobs Field for some reason seem to consistently induce more ground balls or fly balls than average. Taking a player and putting him in Jacob's Field may then mean that he hits more ground balls so his average goes up but his ISO goes down.

http://danagonistes.blogspot.com/2005/10/jacobs-field-and-fabric-of-cosmos.html

SeanDoyle (Toronto): Hi Dan! The pitcher was Greg Harris - his six fingered glove is in the Hall of Fame

Dan Fox: Thanks. Very cool.

IN23 (Baltimore): Dan, what is the biggest difference between working at the hardballtimes and working at BP?

Dan Fox: Hard to say as I haven't been at this for too long yet. But so far probably the visibility.

I get more feedback from readers since BP is a bit more heavily read (with THT closing fast however). And I certainly value that since I'm a big believer in the wisdom of crowds.

Josh (West Palm): Ever play any baseball video games? I ask because, thanks to an exclusive licensing agreement, the market has now been pared down to a single option (released this Tuesday, a full two weeks into the season). This is exactly what's going to happen to fantasy leagues if/when baseball gets Congress to declare stats Sacred And Holy Official Trademarks Not To Be Touched By The Prols. Do you forsee BP having any troubles continuing to exist once Mr. Selig wrests these numbers from our grubby hands and puts them in his hermetically-sealed platinum vault? Do I sound overly bitter?

Dan Fox: Funny you should ask.

Just bought my first XBox (360) a couple weeks back and have been waiting for MLB 2K6. I am a bit disturbed that there is only one outlet. One would think MLB would make more money with multiple ISVs but then again I'm not an economist.

As far as the stats are concerned I'm more concerned with data quality than who is providing it. Having a single *validated* source would be welcome to folks who play around with play by play data like myself. Today the data you get from MLB and that from BIS are different since they use different tracking systems and even different definitions for how things are scored.

And yes, you sound bitter :)

LucaBrasi (Omaha): There is a kid that pitches for Creighton that is ambidextrous. He has a special glove that he can use for both hands.

Dan Fox: Awesome

jgalt73 (Portland, Oregon): Dan, What is your take on the Cubs "arms-in-waiting" for potential starting roles? Are thay all too raw, or should any of them be facing the Death Wish Arroyo's of the NL instead of leaving that to the Rusch's of the world?

Dan Fox: I'm amazed that after having given so many arms away over the past few years (Nolasco and Pinto especially hurt) that the Cubs still have the likes of Rich Hill and Angel Guzman in waiting (to borrow your phrase).

Hill struggled quite a bit in the spring but both would be capable 5th starters now I would think. Hey, they can't pitch much worse than Rusch has thus far although he'll even out of course (as an aside I saw him get hit with a liner in spring training as well so 2006 hasn't been kind to him).

Bottom line is that if you're the Cubs you have to move forward as if Wood and Prior are not going to be a factor. Seems to me they have enough arms to get through. Scoring runs is what will prove to be difficult for this team.

IN23 (Baltimore): Actually there's more then one option when it comes to baseball video games. One of the games is MVP NCAA Baseball. It's a cool game if you don't mind using college players. The other is MLB 06 The Show for PS2. I would highly recommend this game for any hardcore baseball fan out there.

Dan Fox: I almost bought MVP NCAA but didn't know if I could take the "ping" :)

Handol (Tongue in cheek): is this why you get paid the big bucks? "Dan Fox: Awesome"

Dan Fox: Yes

Michael (Georgia): Although I keep repeating the "small sample size" mantra to myself, I have to wonder: What is going on with the Braves' pitching staff? Was Mazzone *that* good?

Dan Fox: That's a great question.

I heard Tim Hudson interviewed the other day on MLB.com and while he wasn't going to throw Leo under the bus, he did intimate that Roger McDowell had a much more hands off approach and of course they no longer have to throw as much between starts.

When you look at the entire staff though, you get the feeling that we're dealing with bad luck for the most part (Devine being the exception who I saw throw - I would say pitch but that doesn't really capture it - the other day against the Dodgers. He really looked like a guy in need of some serious help which conjures up thoughts of Rick Ankiel - but we won't go there).

Smoltz, Hudson, and Thompson should all come around.

Ricky (Boston): Why is your name on your blog Agonistes?

Dan Fox: Agon in Greek means "to struggle" and so Dan Agonistes means something like Dan the Struggler.

I chose it because I wanted to write about questions that interested me that I had struggled with etc.

omalleycat (dante's third ring): who has the better season khalil greene or jj hardy?

Dan Fox: Hardy isn't quite the fielder that Greene is of course but I like Hardy better offensively. His walk rate is higher and his power is close to Greene. In any kind of fantasy league I'd take JJ.

Azteca (Omaha): Dan, just thought I'd say I loved the THT annual this year. Your article, in particular, was terrific. Good to see you here at BP, and look forward to reading more.

Dan Fox: Appreciate the kind words. Look for more on baserunning and Win Expectancy in the coming months.

Ali Nagib (Chicago): 2K Sports technically only had an exclusive third-party license, unlike EA which has the completely exclusive license for football. That's why you can get "MLB 06: The Show" from Sony...it's a first-party game (ie, Sony makes the game system that the game is for). Microsoft could have done the same if they wanted to revive "Inside Pitch." Also, MLB 2K6 came out on Apr 4th for Xbox, as I picked it up that day, and that was delayed from its original release date of March 21.

Dan Fox: No comment from me - just good info for everyone else.

MLB2K6 for XBox360 should be in stores this weekend I'm told.

Jelly (NYC): What do you make of the slow start from Loaiza? I wasn't expecting much this year, but he's usually good for a nice April. He hurt? Old? I don't think he's got a single K in two starts.

Dan Fox: 1 K in 8.7 innings to go with 7 walks.

He is 35 and so PECOTA had him with an ERA around 4.42, just slightly higher than last year.

Haven't heard anything about an injury...

Louie (Toronto): Has anyone ever looked into whethere or not translated OPS or road OPS is a better predictor of the enxt year's numbers? I ask this for Soriano, whats his OPS going to be closer to, his .835 EQOPS or his .600 something road OPS?

Dan Fox: Not that I know of. Of course Bradbury has looked at predicting OPS from batted balls but I've never seen it broken down into home and road.

The problem with doing that is that the value you gain from looking at neutral environment stats is lost by the smaller sample size.

Now for Soriano I mentioned that I though the Rangers did well by the trade since Soriano did seem to take advantage of Texas to a large degree. If I had to guess I would go with something around 750 on the theory that part of his home advantage is also a general advantage that players get from playing at any home park.

Deke (Uptown): How good do you think Ian Stewart, Edwin Encarnacion and Joel Guzman will be? I see superstardom in their futures.

Dan Fox: Well, Encarnacion made 3 errors yesterday and now has 5 for the year. He made 10 errors in 56 games last season.

Be that as it may, I still love the left side of that infield and he seems to be solid defensively.

To me in order to be a superstar he's going to need to show more plate discipline even at this age. But of course he's only 23 this season.

The talk here has been all about Ian Stewart and so I think the opinion of him is pretty much unanimous. Perhaps that's why Garrett Atkins has gotten off to a good start - looking in the rear view mirror.

Jacque Jones (Chicago): I'm sorry, I dint really understand your article completely. Are you saying that its a fluke I can't hit lefties?

Dan Fox: Touche Jacque!

Yes you struggled against lefties last season mightily but your three year split in almost 500 PA is

.238/.295/.363

You'll be regressed to the mean for sure but it still aint good.

Dan Fox: Thanks everybody. I appreciate all the good questions and apologize to those folks I didn't get to. Email me at dfox@baseballprospectus.com anytime. Thanks


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