Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Joe Sheehan: Good morning, and welcome to my attempt at shattering Christina's records for chatting. Mind you, I didn't get to Starbucks this morning, so I'm already at a disadvantage... let's give it a run, though.
Mr. Sams (Boston, Ma): What should Boston's lineup look like when CoCo Crisp returns? Should Youkilis remain at the top of the lineup?
Joe Sheehan: I spend way too much time worrying about lineup construction. With all due respect to James Click (who covered it in BBTN) and the many other researchers who've concluded it doesn't matter much, I think there are things the simulators don't catch. Platoon issues, for one.
In the case of the Sox, I expect they'll go Crisp/#2, with #2 being Loretta if he's hitting well at that point, and Youkilis if he's not. Loretta "seems" more like a #2 hitter than GGoW, and that will matter.
Me, I'd think about Youkilis/Crisp. I prefer my #2 guy to have speed and bat left-handed, as a means of taking advantage of held runners and minimizing DPs on groundballs. But Crisp looks like a leadoff guy, so I doubt they'll go there.
Regardless, getting Crisp back will make a big difference to the Sox, who haven't adequately filled CF in his absence.
Djigit (Pelham Parkway): Heath Bell of Mets averages almost 2 Ks per inning with an ERA of 1.50. Is it even "legal" to keep a player like that in AAA?
Joe Sheehan: I expected Bell to be a major-league reliever last year, an I still think he has the skills to be a two-win guy in the pen.
The problem is, who would he replace? Heilman and Bradford aren't going anywhere, Sanchez is pitching well, and while I'm not a big Jorge Julio fan, the guy has 27 Ks and six walks in 14 1/3 innings. There's no space for another right-handed short man.
It's a nice problem to have.
MikeJordan23 (Brooklyn): How good is Adam Wainwright? And do you think he should be in the Cardinals rotation this year, if they trade one of their current starters for a hitter later this year?
Joe Sheehan: Very good. Hard to remember that he was a Braves' #1 pick a while back, and missed a fair amount of time to injuries. He's through the nexus now (he'll be 25 in August) and pitching well. If he had to take a rotation spot, I doubt he'd be a falloff from anyone but Carpenter.
Construction next door...this does not bode well for the record attempt...
Terry Ryan (The Twin Cities): How many games will my team win this year? Hindsight may be 20/20, but what could I have done differently this offseason to ensure a better start?
Joe Sheehan: There's no question that the Twins could have made a couple of personnel decisions that would have helped: sticking with Kubel longer, choosing Bartlett over Castro, maybe Liriano over Lohse.
However, they're allowing the highest BABIP in baseball, and I don't think you would argue that Radke and Silva--who had both been awful before this week--shouldn't have been in the rotation. Their problems are the biggest reason for the lousy start, and you can't pin that on Ryan.
mjw024 (Burke, Va): Joe,
Love to hear your thoughts on the new Nats ownership.
Joe Sheehan: I'm not very wired in on this--I think Will, Neil and Christina have better angles--but I think Lerner's avoidance of the City Council and the presence of Stan Kasten in the group made him far and away the most comfortable fit for MLB.
I wonder about Kasten coming back into baseball in advance of the upcoming CBA negotiations. IIRC, he was a hawk who helped push the 1994 season into oblivion.
Any actual owner this side of Jeffrey Loria is going to be better for the Nationals than being owned by MLB.
Ozzie (Chicago): The White Sox and Astros proved once again that small ball beats money ball. they ranked 23 and 24 in OBP at .322. Bunts beat out watching overrted chokers (A-Rod) striking out in the playoffs.
Joe Sheehan: Awesome. A chat question from December got stuck in the queue.
Seriously, though, we have to stop thinking of styles of play as being morally superior to one another. There are lots of ways to win, and they all come back to scoring runs and keeping the other team off the board.
tschiera (Brooklyn): what do you expect from brandon phillips the rest of this season?
Joe Sheehan: .280/.340/.450 or so, maybe a bit more slugging in that park. Average to slightly-below-average defense. He's a good complementary player. I'd like him more with better gloves on either side, but infield defense is a Reds weakness that they're living with.
Scott (seattle): what's up with felix?
Joe Sheehan: I watched every pitch of his last two starts, because I was wondering about that myself. (Caveat: I Am Not A Scout) As best as I can tell, he's having major location issues both in and out of the zone. So he's falling behind in counts and then catching more of the plate than he wants to. His HR and walk rates are way up; so is his BABIP.
I don't think there's anything permanently wrong with him. His velocity looks fine to me, as does his movement. He's just going through what 20-year-old pitchers--hell, 30-year-old pitchers--sometimes go through.
tschiera (Brooklyn): Once BJ Upton gets called up (assuming that happens sometime this year) who is a better fantasy option at SS -- Upton or Crosby?
Joe Sheehan: Crosby, at least in 2006. There's a pretty big age and developmental difference between the two, and I say that noting Crosby's ongoing contact issues.
Beyond '06, I'd take Upton for as long as he's shortstop-eligible. He has upside that Crosby doesn't have.
It may turn out that Crosby isn't a star, just a turbo-charged...I was going to say "Kurt Stillwell," but that's not right. Dickie Thon? Kevin Elster?
metsRok (nyc): Hey Joe, wouldn't the Marlins be better served by catching Willingham a couple of games to keep him fresh behind the plate? I mean in a couple of years if their younsters develop wouldn't it be nice to have a catcher who can hit like Willingham? Is his D that bad?
Joe Sheehan: I've made this argument countless times, and will continue to do so. Even if your LeCroy/Wilson/Willingham isn't someone you want out there every day, you have to get him some reps so that he can be a legitimate backup. Even bad defensive catchers have a ton of value just from being able to play the position.
Joe Girardi, who made a career out of having a rep for catcher defense, may not be the guy most receptive to that argument.
Bill Johnson (New Mexico): So far, it's looking like the fiercest division in baseball is the NL Central -- which, I think it's fair to say, isn't what the BP team was predicting. Yes, it's still early, but the data are getting more and more compelling. But my question is: how far into the season will the trend have to continue for you (and the other BP folks) to concede that you've underrated this division? In other words, when does the "it's a fluke" explanation lose credibility?
Joe Sheehan: Good question. I keep referencing last season, when the Indians, A's and Astros were among the game's worst teams into May before turning their seasons around. The Orioles were good for even longer than that. So it may be June before you can reach conclusions.
No one likes this argument, but the way the schedules are arranged, you have to consider strength of schedule when you look at teams in the early part of the season. There's some huge imbalances in the slates various teams have faced, and that has to be factored in.
As to the specific case of the Central, just eyeballing it seems to me that the Marlins, Nationals and Pirates have been all over the schedules. That's not the only reason for the good records, but it's enough of one that I would reserve judgment for a while.
metsRok (nyc): the sky is falling...the sky is falling.. Jose Reyes has 12 walks. does that provide hope for Francouer fans? What do you make of reyes' new found patience.....and should the Mets send a thank you card to Rickey?
Joe Sheehan: I'm not quite sure. I like the improved walk rate, although it's come with a higher K rate and average, all admittedly in 28 games.
Reyes has to put it all together; walking 65 times would be nice, but if he hits .250, he's still an inadequate leadoff man.
He's still just 23. The improvement early on this season leave me inclined to believe that he'll find a balance. He might always be overrated, and he might never be optimally used as a leadoff man, but he'll be a very productive player. A shortstop who hits .285/.340/.465 with 60/15 on the bases will become very wealthy.
kmdarcy (San Juan, PR): Pretend that you're the GM for the SF Giants. How would you allocate resources in 2007 and beyond?
Joe Sheehan: I'd spend most of my time interviewing headhunters and real estate agents.
The Giants without Barry Bonds are an incredibly old 74-win team. They have a middle-of-the-pack system, and that's an upgrade over recent years. Once Bonds leaves, you're looking at 2-3 years, minimum, of non-contenders.
We've seen what kind of manager Dusty Baker has been without Bonds. I'd be interested in knowing what kind of GM Brian Sabean is without him as well. I think he's tailored his decisionmaking to the Giants' short horizon with some success. It'd be interesting to see him in a different situation.
Jake (S.F.): If Delmon Young is suspended for a significant amount of time (half a season to a season, which seems unlikely but not entirely impossible), is he banned from all baseball activities in general, or just MLB-related ones? For example, could he play in an independent league so as not to lose development time, or are there rules against violating the spirit of the suspension in that manner?
Joe Sheehan: His contract with an affiliated team prevents that.
I was talking about this with Kevin Lee of WIBC the other day. As much as I agree that Young needs to be suspended for a long time--60 days is what I've thrown out there--there's the practical concern about what that might do to his development. We've seen what wasted years have done to Rule 5 guys. What kind of damage would it do to take 250 ABs from Young at this age?
I'm not saying that issue should be weighted heavily or be a mitigating factor in determining his punishment. I am saying that it wouldn't surprise me if that's come up in discussing the matter.
Goose (Chicago): Do you think trying Howie Kendrick at 1B and having him take grounders at 3B is a sign that he may stick with the club? The Angels offense is terrible.
Joe Sheehan: I do, actually. It seems like an attempt to find ways to use him, so that he plays 5x/week instead of 2x, justifying keeping him on the roster. He's probably a better player than Alfonzo at this point.
Kendrick isn't exactly what the Angels need right now, though. They could really use some pop, and that's McPherson's area. He's hit better since an awful start, and the team should probably call him up and figure out whether he's part of the solution. Somehow, they're going to have to find runs.
bobbailey (Montreal): Joe, do you think Grady Sizemore's horrible splits against LHP so far in his young career are a fluke or something that can now be considered as a real weakness in his game that if not rectified will hold him back from moving to the next level of stardom?
Joe Sheehan: I don't have a ton of great evidence for this, but I think left-handed hitters who are given the opportunity to play every day--like Sizemore--have a much better chance of improving against lefties than those who start out platooned.
Given the samples involved--remember, innings pitched by lefties are at historical lows--it could take a few years before we know whether Sizemore really can't hit lefties. If so, it does affect his value, the same way it has Eric Chavez's, random seasons excepted.
Deke (Deadville): How good is Edwin Encarnacion? He hasn't seemed to have a hot streak yet, just very consistent with a good BB/K rate. Is it to early to get excited, or is he the real deal? Can he be one of the best?
Joe Sheehan: I've been hyping Encarnacion since 2003 or so, so it's nice to see him playing well. His MLB performance last year was out of line with his minor-league numbers, especially the 60/20 K/BB. In the minors, he had average-to-good plate discipline, and he's reverted to that this year.
I think he's going to be one of the NL's better third baseman--keep in mind the depth of that pool--for a while. He doesn't have Wright's upside.
dave (vegas): the tiger's pitching success has been __% skill/ __ % schedule/ __% luck
Joe Sheehan: Not enough Tigers' questions...I'll have a column up on them either late today or early tomorrow. Just noodle on this: 2006:Tigers::2005 White Sox.
To answer the question... 65% skill, 28% schedule, 12% luck.
DerekJetersAura (Houston): Jeff Francis is on pace to become the first Rockie pitcher in history with an ERA under 5.00 with at least 200 IP. Does he do it or will he succomb to Coors Fever.
Joe Sheehan: I'm pretty sure I can find a lot of examples of Rockies' pitchers having a 3.60 ERA over six starts, so let's hold on. Francis has walked 19 men in 35 innings and has a .237 BABIP. I'm not sold.
While I'm here, does anyone else think they overshot the mark with the humidor?
phil44 (Boston): That's 105%.
Joe Sheehan: Leyland's influence.
dianagramr (Brooklyn): Hi Joe!
Correct me if I'm wrong but ...
There are currently NO mechanisms in place to insure that teams receiving revenue sharing actually put those funds back INTO the club (via FA signings, player development, re-signing current players)?
Is there any hope of a Salary Cap (and/or Minimum) in the foreseeable future?
Joe Sheehan: No. There's language that encourages teams to do so, but nothing that enforces the idea. It's virtually impossible to mandate short of a salary floor, which is a bad idea in and of itself.
Look for the recent payrolls of the Devil Rays and Marlins to be an issue in the upcoming CBA discussions. It's going to be hard to ask for more revenue redistribution in a universe with those examples.
rafeal soriano (seattle): why don't they stick me in the rotation?
Joe Sheehan: Because you've been healthy for about 15 minutes. Even if that weren't a concern, I think it's probable that your future is as a late-inning reliever.
Relax, you're going to get paid.
Joe (35th & Lowe): It's early, but if the White Sox keep this up, how long before people start talking about them as one of the really good teams of the past 20 or so years? I mean, 99-63 last year, 11-1 through the WS, and if they win another 100ish games this year and advance deep into the postseason, they have to go down as second to the '98-'00 Yankees in that timespan, right?
Joe Sheehan: Slow down, Joe. That would give them two good seasons, comparable to the 2004-05 Cardinals in that regard, with a couple extra postseason series wins. The peak Yankees and Braves teams, and probably the 1992-93 Blue Jays, are ahead of that. Maybe the 2003-04 Red Sox as well, and I'm sure I'm forgetting someone.
What is worth nothing is that this White Sox team is pretty good. I'm a broken record on this point, but Kenny Williams deserves a lot of credit for refusing to stand pat with a championship team. He made them better last winter.
Lumpy (The Lone Star State): The first place Texas Rangers -- legit playoff contenders, or this year's version of the 2005 Orioles?
Joe Sheehan: It doesn't seem like they can sustain their run prevention. Their defense has been pretty good so far (middle of the pack in DER), and I'm not sure the personnel supports that. The bullpen has been a suprise with guys like Bauer pitching well.
On the other hand, they've gotten to this point with very little or nothing out of Wilkerson or Eaton.
With the A's apparently not as good as I thought, there's a window for team that can win 87-89 games. The Rangers might be that good.
J.T. (san francisco): Can you help shed any light on MLB.Tv's blackout rules? Being a Bay Area resident unable to watch any Giants or A's games -- even when they're on the road! -- is frustrating to say the least. If the idea is to coerce me into watching the local games on TV, then why not just continue to broadcast the feed during commercial breaks to help keep the advertisers happy, rather than just going to a silent blue screen between innings? I'm very confused....
Joe Sheehan: It's not just to make you watch the ads, it's to make you watch the ads on their network on the television. I guess it shouldn't matter unless you're a Neilsen family, but it does.
Across sports, blackout restrictions have decreased over the past few years (remember when ESPN had exclusivity on Wednesdays?). I think that trend will continue as we stop thinking of the various mediums individually and start thinking of them all as content vessels.
Bill (Toronto): How many more Josh Towers starts do we have to put up with? Assuming he is replaced, who takes his his spot? McGowan, Banks, Rosario, Purcey or Janseen once Burnett gets back?
Joe Sheehan: He's signed through the end of next season for a total of $5 million, so I think he'll hang around for a while.
The deal that was a good example of not knowing when to stop pressing your luck. (Known in some areas as "The Troy O'Leary Axiom.")
Finding free talent is good. Knowing when to make it someone else's expensive talent is just as good.
jimspivey8 (Cincinnati, OH): I've been very impressed with Todd Coffey so far this year, but I'm still kind of skeptical. He gets a lot of ugly swings on his sinker thrown almost in the dirt (a pitch he learned mid-season last year). Good for him for having the confidence to throw it on any count, but I can't imagine hitters not learning to lay off. Any thoughts?
Joe Sheehan: Guys like that have to stay ahead in the count. I think this is what happened to Jose Contreras; he used to have success against impatient teams and get roped by patient ones. Once he started throwing strike one, his splitter became a much more effective pitch.
Coffey may have to use his fastball, which isn't bad, to set up that sinker more as the year goes on. I expect he'll make the adjustment.
Kevin (Hartford, CT): Pecota adjusted playoff odds report has Tigers at a 75% chance of making the playoffs. What odds would you give them?
Joe Sheehan: Less than that. I believe that figure is a function of the other AL second-place teams being well behind their 19-10 record.
A lot of the Tigers' early success stems from a very good defense. If that's real, then that number might well be real.
ssimon (Pelham, NY): Joe, you've recently penned Reds and Twins columns. So: is 28/162 = 17.3% of the season enough to start drawing meaningful conclusions?
Joe Sheehan: It's enough to start talking about who's doing well/poorly and why, and having a bit more confidence in the results to date. With that said, I think recent history shows that 30 games is frequently--though not always--misleading.
Wow, that's wishy-washy.
RP (Chicago): How worried should the Cardinals be about their lineup? Molina is a black hole, Aaron Miles is starting against RHP, Encarnacion is not exactly earning his contract, and Edmonds is under .300 OBP.
Joe Sheehan: Quite concerned. This is the worst supporting cast for Edmonds, Rolen and Pujols in some time, and it's showing on the scoreboard. You can get by with a five-man offense if the run prevention is good. Lower than that, and it's too hard to score.
Molina is going to play, as is Encarnacion. I think Luna can be the everyday 2B, but he wouldn't be great. Left field is a hole. Edmonds will bounce back, and getting Rolen back will help.
Walt Jocketty is very good at making in-season adjustments, and I would be surprised if he didn't address second base or left field in the trade market by the first of August.
Steve (Guelph, Ont): What are your thoughts on Shane Costa (injury issue aside), and his ability to consistently perform at the big league level?
Joe Sheehan: He's a 24th/25th man, not somone capable of holding an everyday job. His inability to play center-- he looked bad filling in for DeJesus--limits his value.
jay2436 (Bethlehem): How is Mike Maroth keeping runs off the board with his below average stuff and inability to strike hitters out? Is kenny rogers and comerica making that much of a difference?
Joe Sheehan: Maroth is almost a Tommy John class pitcher: he compensates for his low K rate by not walking guys, by getting groundballs and by eliminating the running game (turning groundballs into GIDPs).
His problem has been his home-run rate, which has always run well above the norms for the group. I doubt it'll stay at one every 15 IP, but any reduction from his 2002-2005 levels will show up very quickly in his ERA.
I think Maroth hasn't missed a start since coming to the majors. That has value.
Raz (France): Hi Joe, Kerry Wood has a $13.5 Million team option for 2007, i highly doubt that Cubs will pay a guy so much who is yet to throw a pitch in 2006. Do you see Cubs trading him later this year, and do you think Kerry can be a successful pitcher on another team in another city?
Joe Sheehan: There's very little chance that option will be picked up. I guess if Wood pitched at some kind of peak level from June 1 on, it might happen, but seriously, it's been nearly three years since Kerry Wood pitched like a star. He'll be 29 years old next month, and he has 1100 career innings with an ERA of 3.67. Maybe, just maybe, the attention he gets is disproportionate?
Charlie (San Diego): What do you think about the Pirates thinking about trying Ryan Doumit at first base? Do you think Ronny Paulino will be a good big-league starter behind the plate?
Joe Sheehan: I think we know the Pirates have the ability to take a good-hitting catching prospect and screw him up royally. It might be their signature skill.
Well, that or signing old players to block young ones.
Paulino's a catch-and-throw guy, a backup. Doumit's a starter, a six-win guys down the road if he plays. Good luck with that.
mattoves (DC): Kendall gets a four game suspension, Lackey gets a fine. Fair?
Joe Sheehan: Seems about right. I get a little tired of the usual equivalence in these situations, because the pitcher is often not at fault. Lackey wasn't throwing at Kendall, Kendall just overreacted--badly. Good on the league for not equating the two.
JCase28 (Land of Oaks): Hey Joe- how do you see the rest of Nick Swisher's year panning out? Seems like his plate discipline has matured immensely from last year...
Joe Sheehan: I'm pretty sure this is more like the player we all thought we would see last year. The BA isn't going to last, but Swisher at .270 is a pretty good player, walking 80-90 times and hitting 35 doubles and 30 homers. That'll play.
Kurt (Connecticut): There's been a lot of talk about whether at some point Foulke could go back to closer with Papelbon going to the rotation. Have you any thoughts on Foulke going into the rotation instead? I believe he's expressed an interest in it in the past.
Joe Sheehan: After John Smoltz, we can never say never. However, as far as I can tell, Foulke's tertiary pitches have fallen into disuse, and he can't go back to starting with just his FB/CU combination. I don't think this is a viable option any longer.
Jim Bowden (Washington): Can you apologize for thinking the overrated strikeout machine Brad Wilkerson is better than Alfonso Soriano. Soriano's 318/374/586 beats WIlkerson's 210/281/346. They both have 7 walks but WIlkerson is leading with an alarming 35 SO's.
Joe Sheehan: I'll stand by the initial evaluations, while pointing to the calendar (and noting that you're looking at some very old numbers; Wilkerson is at .255/.321/.422 now).
Wilkerson's strikeout rate is, as you say, alarming. He's shown signs of coming around, but you can't strike out 37% of the time and be productive.
Hmmm...to further update the comparison, Soriano is now at .298/.346/.537. So in a week's time, the OPS gap between them closed by 180 points. Trend or fluke? Check back in June.
tydye (socal): Why do the Dodgers stink so bad? Will they turn it around and win the division?
Joe Sheehan: They've outscored their opponents are are in the middle of the pack in the NL West in both RS and RA.
The Dodgers' roster continues to be in flux, but I think the promotion of Broxton will stabilize the bullpen. That will help, as will a return to form by the middle infield, which has been horrible so far. They're still the favorite in a weak division, although the apparent ability of Barry Bonds to play a lot changes the Giants' chances.
Deck Chair (Titanic): Is Billy Butler's defense really going to be bad enough to surpass Emil Brown's current penchant for catastrophe?
Joe Sheehan: Oh, yeah. Butler's going to be stretched defensively at DH. He really is that bad, by all accounts. If he manages to be an inadequate first baseman, it'd be a surprise.
OK, I can't catch Christina today (although I have lapped Bill Simmons)...lightning round!
Robert R (Milwaukee): What's the over/under on runs scored by the Cubs this weekend?
Joe Sheehan: 12 1/2. The Padres' rotation isn't very good.
lyricalkiller (the OC): The player you least enjoy watching is _____. (Mine is Pedro Feliz.)
Joe Sheehan: You know, Feliz might be mine as well. I hate his approach at the plate.
Slow pitchers are annoying: Steve Trachsel is their king.
Azteca (Omaha): Why didn't some team claim Choi on waivers? He's been pounding the ball for the PawSox.
Joe Sheehan: This may be a situation where an informed outsider has to throw up his hands. Choi can play, but he seems to have no supporters in the industry.
A Choi/Lowell platoon, with Youkilis sliding between first and third, would be nice.
Greg (Boulder, CO): Over/under on the Royals winning 40?
Joe Sheehan: I'd say it's 50-50. There are enough things that can go right--DeJesus coming back healthy, Greinke returning, Gordon coming up--to push them over that number.
They'll have the #1 pick in a pretty good draft next year, that's certain.
beanpj (Wash DC): Which slow out of the gates player, and team, are you expecting to see big improvement from?
Joe Sheehan: Team: Dodgers, maybe the Braves.
jay2436 (Bethlehem): Best GM canidate out there right now?
Joe Sheehan: Tony LaCava.
randy johnson (nyc): is this the beginning of the end?
Joe Sheehan: For you, yes. Tremendous run, but this is what happens at 41.
For the chat...also yes. Last two.
Alex (SF): So what do the A's do now that Kendall's gone for four days? Bring up Brown? Suzuki? Someone has to back up Melheuse and I don't think it can be Scutaro this go round.
Joe Sheehan: I could see them rolling the dice with Melhuse. More likely is that Kendall will appeal, the suspension will be knocked down a game, and the A's might hope they can juggle the roster around the time Loaiza comes off of the DL.
I answered the question for this reason: Jeremy Brown is hitting .323/.395/.492 at Sacramento. I think that's kind of cool.
Matt (Chicago): Ove/under for Pujols homers -- 60
Joe Sheehan: On the number exactly.
Joe Sheehan: I fell short of the goal, but I had fun trying. Thanks for all the great questions--even the ones I didn't get to--and enjoy the weekend!