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Chat: Clay Davenport

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday June 12, 2006 1:00 PM ET chat session with Clay Davenport.

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Clay Davenport is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Clay Davenport: Welcome, everybody. In an amazing coincidence, both Christina and I came down with emergencies that made us unable to have our chats at our originally scheduled times- but we were fine with a trade. So, here I am, instead. And in this forum I'd like to announce that the minor league pages are coming back - in fact, they are out there now, although the link isn't up and there are still some bugs to work out. But you chat faithful can get a first peak at baseballprospectus.com/minors. Lets begin.

Azteca (Omaha): Any movement on getting Minor League EqA's on the Statistics page? I loved this feature in year's past, and miss it. By the way, Clay, good work with the customized stats; very useful. Thanks.

Clay Davenport: See my opening statement. I recommend goig through the System links for each team, to see all the teams in a particular system at a glance, as I've gotten more of the bugs out of that than the individual team pages.

mike (DC): Take in many Baysox games, Clay? What's wrong with Jeff Fiorentino?

Clay Davenport: I've been to two games so far, and I've seen them start a 34-year-old and a 31-year-old on the mound. This is a very old team for AA, and not particularly good.

In the two games I saw Fiorentino, I saw swing at the first pitch in (I think) half of his appearances, and he was out each time. I think he's pushing too hard, but I certainly don't know that for certain.

carlosrubi (Mexico): Will Matt Murton ever hit for power?

Clay Davenport: Nothing in his minor league record suggests that he should be a good power hitter. If you look in the Cub system on the minor league page and click on Murton's name, you'll see his translation in threee different ways - with no difficulty (meaning that I'm only adjusting for league offensive levels, not the quality of the league), with a regular translation (what I'd expect him to do right now) and peak (what the stats say he should be able to do in the future). Murton was only a 15-20 HR guy.

'Course, Chad Tracy was that way in the minors, and he's hitting for decent power now.

carlosrubi (Mexico): Why is Yadier Molina ahead of Barrett in the All Star Voting?

Clay Davenport: More people come to Cardinals games, especially with the new stadium. Unfortunately I haven't been one of them - a friend of mine actually had a a box for their first Saturday game, thanks to winning a contest, but as it was Easter weekend I couldn't get out there.

When I checked last week, the lowest rated offensive catcher in the NL was Yadier Molina, and the lowest rated offensive catcher in the AL was Jose Molina. Now there's a sibling rivalry for the ages.

emanski (trenton nj): Ever have a player who, by himself, or as representative of a group of players like him, inspired you to alter your analysis? Are there bellwether players like that, who are so distinctive they move analysis forward?

Clay Davenport: Yes, actually. What I call the Rexrode class of players - walk machines with no power - had a very definite change in the translations, pushing them away from a straight "Eqa at this level drops to EqA at that level" to a system that makes seperate adjustments for power, contact, walks, singles, and speed. Those guys with walks and no other skills - they did very badly as they moved up the ladder, comparatively.

I've had other players inspire similar studies, but they didn't pan out the same way.

Drew (Rockville, MD): With Al Gore's movie in the news, here's a climatology question for you. Has the rise in global temperatures over the past 15 years been significant enough to contribute to baseball's elevated offensive levels?

Clay Davenport: I have to say "no". The urban heat island effect is far more relevant to ballpark microclimatology, and even that level of thermal increase isn't worth more than about a foot in four hundred. At least according to the flyball simulator I wrote several years ago, which does consider temperature as an input.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): Clay, My friend tells me Jose Reyes is one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball despite a .315 OBA because - in his words - "every time Reyes reaches base, he scores, and OBA is only as good as runs scored." Your thoughts?

Clay Davenport: I think he is partially right - a man who is stranded on base is a waste, although how much of the blame/credit goes to him or his teammates is the real question. Reyes certainly has the skills to maximize his R/on base ratio, but I have to think that Wright, Beltran, and Delgado have a little something to do with it. Off the cuff, I'd say that Reyes' ability to score makes him about equal to a .335-.340 OBA with normal baserunning skills, but it ould be a fascinating question to try and quantify.

And .335-.340 would leave him well short of being a premier leadoff man, although those are in short supply at the moment.

iksname (new jersey): It's early but how is the new Busch shaping up park factor wise? Will Pujols' absence have absolutely no effect on park factors?

Clay Davenport: Something of a pitcher's park so far, with a .96 run rating through last night's games. I don't think Pujols has that much of an impact on PFs.

The really wierd PFs so far have been Colorado (which was actually below 1 for a single-seasn mark a couple of weeks ago, but has since rebounded to 1.04) and San francisco, playing at a robust 1.067, continuing a trend from strong pitcher park through neutral over the last few years.

Tim (Camp Springs): But what about Conor Jackson? You see him getting lots of HR for my fantasy team in the 2nd half, right? ;-)

Clay Davenport: Since I'm in the league against you, absolutely no way. The Pigeons will rule!!!

Azteca (Omaha): Were you the one who touted Kouzmanoff this offseason? I remember checking his history, and his pecota, and being entirely unimpressed. What did you see in him that made you a believer? And when does Cleveland consider leapfrogging him over Marte to take Boone's MLB job?

Clay Davenport: I don't think I was touting him hard, but I did like him more than other Bpers on our internal lists. I'm not sure that I can remember why, because the background looks OK, not really special, before this year's breakout. He's got the second-highest EQA (relative to league only) in Organized Baseball - check that, #1. The other guy I was looking at (Nicholas Crosta, Padres) has some lower Cal League stats to go with the .406 eqa he had at Ft Wayne.

Even with this, Kouzmanoff still only projects as a mid-to-good 3B. Better than Boone at this point,and maybe Marte too, who's having a very poor year a Buffalo. The hot hand theory says play him.

Donnie Brasco (New York): Since it looks like Minnesota is not a good fit for Rondell White, where do you think he'll end up?

Clay Davenport: Wal-Mart?

behemoth (Oakland): Much of the cause of "park effects" are clearly more climate and weather related than park-related. Have there been quantitative studies made to isolate the effect of temperature, barometric pressure, and wind on offense, regardless of ballpark?

Clay Davenport: I'm not sure about existing parks, but I know hat several too-be sonstructed parks did a lot of work on trying to measure the local wind fields and tried to design the stadium with that in mind. That's really the only one that's been studied, and for good reason - the effect of wind on the flight of a baseball is an order of magnitude higher than anything you can do to affect temperature or pressure. Pressure has a big effect and all, but there isn't anything you can do about it.

ekanenh (NH): Hitter A stinks but is 7-11 against Pitcher X. Hitter B is considerably better than Hitter A, but is 0-8 against Pitcher X. Are those sample sizes relevant?

Clay Davenport: The 0-8 certanly is not relevant..maybe if it were 7 Ks... but the 7-11 sounds awfully good. I still don't think so, and I can't check it right now.

danbrod11 (NY, NY): How good is Liriano? I am sure the ERA will rise but by how much?

Clay Davenport: Extremely good, a legitimate choice for best pitcher in the minors last year (although others could also be legitimate choices). Based on his recent year, I would expect him to pitch the rest of the year with an ERA maybe a run higher than what he's done so far, which means he'ss come up by .5-.75 over the rest of the year. That would make him a serious RoY pick.

Sherry Magee (Philly): What is your opinion on Mike Napoli? There are lots of big HR / big K guys around who are successful, but I've never seen someone in that mold take so many called third strikes.

Clay Davenport: Than you don't remember Mickey Tettleton. I don't see him making contact enough to be a really good hitter, but he will be better than his batting average implies.

Azteca (Omaha): Is there any hope for Mark Teahen? He had a miserable year & a half playing in KC, but his demotion to Omaha, and subsequent promotion to KC, seem to have injected new life into his bat. Is he a future bench guy, or can he become an MLB regular for the next 3-5 years. (Of course, with Gordon in the pipeline, with some team other than the Royals.)

Clay Davenport: There's always hope, but I don't see that much difference between his "miserable" time in KC and his minor league performances. Yes, he ripped the ball quite nicely at Omaha this year, and at Midland two years ago - but he was also lousy for extended periods at Modesto, Sacramento, and prior trips to Omaha. My fielding numbers have been consistently kind to him (unlike the Fielding Bible, which slagged him), but...I think he needs the fielding to count in his favor in order to be able to have a total performance deserving of a major league job, and he won't have that moving off of third. He'll probably bounce around for years as a fringe major/AAA guy.

ligtreb (Bayside): The Mets are playing great and some credit has to go to Willie. But can someone at BP please write him a memo about the idiocy of bunting with a man on second and nobody out?

Clay Davenport: Joe's been very vocal about all sorts of bunting idiocy thiis year; if Willie isn't reading that, I don't think I can get through.

emanski (trenton nj): Bill James wrote in Politics of Glory that if MLB expanded to 50 teams, within 10 years there would be no difference in the overall quality of play. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Clay Davenport: I disagree. Having more major league jobs available isn't going to have that big an impact on the talent pipeline that supplies them. However, I doubt that the difference in quality would be truly noticeable to the fan, even the atypical ones who are reading this chat.

TGisriel (Baltimore): How uncommon is Daniel Cabrera and his tendency to both give up too many walks and to be otherwise dominant? Are there any comps who suggest which way he will turn (toward dominance or get wilder)? What do you think his likely course is?

Clay Davenport: At any given time, I think there are always a couple of pitchers like Cabrera around. Its tough on a batter when the pitcher has no idea where the ball is going to go. The young Bob Feller is maybe the greatest example, as is a young Koufax for that matter...but those are ones who eventually learned to harnbess their control and become great. A lot of guys like that never learn control and never get out of the minors (Steve Dalkowski, anyone?) While Cabrera has great stuff, though, I've never heard his fastball compared to an all-time great, so I really doubt his upside is as high as the names I've mentioned, but there really is now ay to know if he'll ever figure out what he has. Even with Mazzone's help.

Azteca (Omaha): So, what's up with Alexis Rios? Silver's 90th %ile had him at .316/.370/.516, with these Upside WARPs in the next five years, 8.4, 9.2, 10.0, 5.8, 7.5. But his weighted-mean pecota was much more pedestrian (.277/.328/.434), he had only with a 17% chance to breakout, and his top-comps were guys like Chad Allen, Larry Herndon & Luis Matos with a 61 similarity score. It's hard not to believe that he'll play near his current high level for the next few years, but why did so many lose faith in him? Was it just a case of putting too much emphasis on his poor 2005?

Clay Davenport: It wasn't just a poor 2005 - his 2004 wasn't so hot either. So far, this looks like his 2003 season, when he tore up and then winter ball. Rios had an unusually wide spread in Pecota, in keeping with his own history. I thinkk it was the total absence of power in 2004 that soured.

On his individual page, check the regular translation. His hot hitting this year means that his major and minor league totals for 2003-06 are almost perfectly aligned: .297/.350/.466/.278 eqa in the majors, .297/.338/.477/.278 eqa in the minors.

casey jasnssen (toronto): buy or sell

Clay Davenport: With those K rates, I have to say sell.

carlosrubi (Mexico): How special is Rich Hill? Is he the epitome of how hard MLB translations are?

Clay Davenport: He's a Cabrera-like pitcher, who would get a LOT better if he could throw more strikes. I wonder what it was about Iowa that works for him; translated 2.2 walks/9 innings there, and an average of about 7 everywhere else. His major league numbers aren't so different from his non-Iowa minor league numbers, and I always wonder about guys whose success is limited to certain parks.

Rick (James): What does Future translation mean?

Clay Davenport: A future translation looks at what the player has done, and uses it to make an estimate of how good he can be in the future, assuming more-or-less normal growth and development for his age.

A 20-year old is going to benefit from the future adjustment a lot more than a 26-yo.

Liam (NJ): I jsut scrolled through the minor league pages really, fast and didnt see FRAA, FRAR, or RATE, did I miss them? If not any chance you put them up?

Clay Davenport: I don't have the data to do minor league fielding for 2006 yet. The numbers are there for 2003-05, on the individual player pages.

KidCuba (Los Angeles): Should I be completely discouraged with Joel Guzman, after all the hype he had the last few years? He looks like a stiff to me, but I am no pro.

Clay Davenport: Guzman's 2004 was very, very good, with a future EQA of about .295. Aside from that, he's always right around .260. My best guess would be that 2003 was a fluke season, that his real level of play is and will be about .260.

In the spring I would have written almost exactly the same thing about Alex Rios, so you see what my best guesses can be worth.

Jake Berlin (Providence, RI): On the new minor league pages, are the EqA numbers for minor leaguers adjusted to the major league level? Thanks! -Jake

Clay Davenport: When you go to the team pages, the numbers you see are NOT translated to the major league level; they are only translated to make the every league into a 270/330/420 league, with a .260 eqa. If you are going to a minor league game and want to know how good each player is within this league, those are the numbers to use.

If you look at the page name in the address bar, change the letters NODIF to REGLR, and you will then get a page with everything translated to the major league level. Change them to PEAK, and you will get the futurecast version of the DTs. Those were supposed to be clickable links; one of the bugs that didn't get cleaned up before the moved-up chat struck.

KidCuba (Los Angeles): A Dummies Guide to reading Future EQA?

Clay Davenport: Expected big-time star players have future EQAs over .300. Guys in the .280-.300 range should be very good players, possibly stars if they develop a little better than expected. Guys in the .260-.280 range should make the majors, especially if they have any defensive value at all. Guys under .260 don't usually make it as more than defensive sub or desperation backup.

Don't get carried away with single-season performances that are either alot better or worse than his established level. When you see a guy with a three-year EQA of .250 hitting .320, there's only about a 1 in 8 chance that he keeps hitting .300+.

Be especially leary of future DTs from short-season leagues. See, oh, Lou Palmisano from the Brewers for an example why.

carlosrubi (Mexico): Carlos Marmol's outing yesterday was Carlos Zambrano-ish. Do you think the Cubs will someday have a top of the rotation Carlos duo?

Clay Davenport: Zambrano's minor league numbers were a lot better than Marmol's, although it is interesting to see that Marmol has (so far this year) conquered his HR problems. The permanence of that victory probably answers your question, but without a scouting report as to why his HR are down I can't say. (And even then it could easily be wrong. Still, I like to see a scouting report-ish conforming reason to explain statistical patterns like that.)

Clay Davenport: Folsk, I would like to keep answering the questions I've gotten, but this midday thing has thrown my schedule out, and I've got other responsibilities (like keeping my day job) to worry about. Thanks for eveything, and look forward to further developments on the minor league page!


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