Nate Silver, whose PECOTA projections will be released next month, stops by to chat about the upcoming season.
Nate Silver: Hi, folks. Getting started in 3... 2... 1...
lou (Cape Cod): Nate, love your work. When can we expect to see the new weighted mean Pecota spreadsheets?
Nate Silver: ...and here's our most commonly-asked question of the week. The PECOTAs are very, very close to being ready. I just wrapped up the work on the new version of the MORP formula last night, and everything else isn't far behind. PECOTAs should be online within a week from today, fersure. And I hope they'll be worth your wait.
JD (CT): Nate - what does Nick Swisher's change in scenery do for his PECOTA?
Nate Silver: Quite a bit, actually. Our general rule of thumb is that a ballpark is most valuable to a player when it matches his strengths -- and The Cell, which boost power significantly but not so much the other aspects of offense -- is a perfect match for Nick Swisher. With that said, I'm not sure I loved that trade for them, but the White Sox' offense is at lesat likely to be formidable.
twayda (Chicago): One of my favorite things you have said regarding team building is that teams NEED to have an honest, realistic assessment of what their strengths and weaknesses are and realize when and when not to go for a broke. In that regards, what the hell has Ken Williams been drinking? Every time he opens his mouth he makes me laugh hysterically. I quote, "We have some stiff competition, but if you look player-by-player, position-by-position, we stack up against anyone." What?
Nate Silver: I think Kenny has started to heed this lesson -- gravitating, obviously, toward the "win now!" side -- but it might prove to be too little, too late. The miscalculation may simply be that in the American League Central, everybody but the Tigers and Indians has a very tough road to toe. Hell, the White Sox might very well be the favorites to win the NL Central. It's going to be an entertaining team to watch, though. A little bit of 1991 Tigers in that bunch.
raygu1 (nj): Nate-thanks for the chat. Will Andruw Jones power return in LA this year? I remember reading a quote from Colletti stating that alot of his long outs in ATL would have been out of Dodger Stadium.
Nate Silver: Colletti is right that Dodger Stadium has in fact turned into a pretty decenet home run park, and we're forecasting a bit of a bounceback season for Andruw, but nothing too out of line with expectations. We're probably looking at 25-27 home runs, but the batting average to remain subpar.
nickojohnson (Los Angeles): Care to give us a quick preview of Matt Kemp's PECOTA? I'm curious as to how it views his BABIP-assisted numbers from last year
Nate Silver: PECOTA: Matt Kemp :: ObamaGirl : Barack Obama. We have him at .297/.349/.505 next year, so the batting average does indeed look like a bit of a fluke, but the isolated power should be right where it ended up last year.
LindInMoskva (DC): When evaluating players for future growth, the first thing I look at is "upside" in your Pecota worksheets. Is there a better way to use your data when all you care about is building for the future?
Nate Silver: Upside is still going to be the best single metric to look at, and I hope that it's going to be more useful than ever with some of the improvements we've made to the minor league projections this year. Particularly, Clay has completely redone his translations, and as I teased a couple of years ago, we're now considering a player's draft slot in making a projection. PECOTA still has a few house favorites -- Greg Reynolds, apparently, is the sleeper prospect of the year if he can stay healthy -- but for the most part the degree of agreement between the Upside rankings and Kevin's Top 100 is going to be pretty eerie.
Tweezer (Naperville): Are Contreras, Danks and Floyd going to get hammered? Oh, and I don't mean at Jimbo's.
Nate Silver: Let's look at their EqERAs, which assume a neutral park and defense (league average = 4.50):
These aren't players that you'll want for your fantasy squad, but they aren't terrible by any means; basically you've got three #4 starters. With that said, there's a lot of risk on either side of those numbers, so it would behoove the White Sox to do something like follow through with their plans to sign Bartolo Colon. With the offseason activity, there's next to zero pitching depth in that organization, so the scary thing is what happens if one of those guys gets hurt.
Tony (Brooklyn, NY): Robinson Cano's PECOTA? Does he project to be a high-variability player? Thanks!
Nate Silver: He's not particuarly high-variability. He's either going to be a pretty good ballplayer like Carlos Baerga or a really freakin' good ballplayer like ... someone better than Carlos Baerga. The scenarios where he crashes and burns are pretty much off the table at this point.
Tim (DC): "so it would behoove the White Sox to do something like follow through with their plans to sign Bartolo Colon." Given his struggles with velocity in Winter Leagues, should it be heavy in incentives? 2yrs at most?
Nate Silver: Sure thing. One thing that's changed a lot this winter is that the market has become considerably more rational on the lower end of the pay scale. There are something like 35 multi-year deals signed so far this season as compared to around 60 last season. Teams are starting to get it.
raygu1 (nj): Nate-25-27 homeruns for Andruw is not a bounceback as he hit 26 hrs last year. Did you mean 35-37?
Nate Silver: Well, that teaches me to try and do this stuff from memory. We have him at 29 home runs next year, but PECOTAs also expecting that he misses some time due to injury. His slugging percentage is supposed to rebound from .413 to .486 -- so says PECOTA -- so if he played 160 games, he should be closer to that 35 number.
Sterling Hitchcock (San Diego): Does Pecota have any profound thoughts on Jim Edmonds in Petco? Do you?
Nate Silver: This is what the phrase 'last throes' was invented for.
userlock (NC): Does Pecota have any insight into Reid Brignac? He seems to have stumped everyone else on what he is and what he'll be.
Nate Silver: Tampa was really happy with how his defense progressed last year -- he now looks like a real shortstop -- and the bat didn't show the improvement you'd like but a lot of that can be explained by his having to transition from the Cali League to the Southern. The PECOTA comp I'm find of for him at this point is Kelly Johnson.
dtimmeny (NYC): What says Pecota on Alex Gordon? More or less an extension of his 2nd half?
Nate Silver: More or less: we have him at .270/.346/.465. What's a little discouraging is that it doesn't see him getting a whole heck of a lot better hereafter: his peak is projected to come in 2010 at .271/.357/.475. He could be an always-a-bridesmaid type of player. With that said, there are still a couple of very encouraging names like Jim Thome lower down his comp list.
Tweezer (Naperville): Thanks for taking the Sox questions.
How do you think their outfield will shake out? Will Quentin play well enough to keep Owens off the field?
Given the choice, who should play CF, Quentin or Swisher?
Oh... and what happened to Haeger?
Nate Silver: Neither of those guys should really be playing center field, but given the Sox' options -- and Ozzie is pretty good about making the most of his 25-man roster -- it has to be Swisher in center and Quentin in left. However, the guy to keep an eye out for is Alexi Ramirez, who could wind up at either center field or second base (those crazy Cubans!).
poludamas (Cambridge): How much of a chance does Coco Crisp have of getting back to 2005 form at this point?
Nate Silver: This is getting a bit semantic, but I wonder whether Crisp was really a better player in 2005 than he is today or he just had a career year. With that said, we do show him with a mild breakout, at .278/.338/.407. Given his defense in center field, there are at least 20 teams in major league baseball that would be vastly improved by that performance.
Tim (DC): Nate, how tough is it to make projections for totally new parks? Thinking about the Nats new park, and guys like Dukes, Milledge, etc.
Nate Silver: It's not *that* hard if you plug in the field dimensions, geography, and so forth. We have it playing as a very mild pitchers' park -- like a 98 or 99 -- though the word from insiders is that the wind patterns are such that it will play more like a 95.
eliyahu (Elazar, Israel): Two questions: How much of Granderson's breakout last season was a fluke? Should I sell high on Russell Martin?
Nate Silver: I'd be more inclined to sell high on Granderson than Martin, though both are wonderful baseball players and should continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
Grizzly (Georgia): Do you feel PERCOTA is better at projecting at certain positions over others. IE is it easier to project a 2B over a 3B based on body type.
Nate Silver: Second base might actually be the most difficult offensive position to project because it's sort of a bastard-child position that most players end up at toward the end of their careers. Particularly if you have a young second baseman that breaks type, like Rickie Weeks, PECOTA may not find a whole lot of comparables and will have to cheat by looking at third basemen and so forth.
nickojohnson (Los Angeles): What do you think of Ned Colletti's offseason? At least it's been better than I expected. Can the Dodgers compete with Arizona in the west next year?
Nate Silver: The Dodgers can certainly compete. In fact, I don't think they're giving up much to anyone in the National League right now. Of course, they'd probably gain 3-4 wins on that projection if Juan Pierre found his way into the Springfield Mystery Spot tomorrow morning.
jromero (Seattle): What's PECOTA's take on the players Cincy and Texas swapped? (Josh Hamilton is one; can't recall the pitcher's name who came to Cincy.) Thanks!
Nate Silver: Well, PECOTA's quite optimistic on Hamilton, but that's one of those cases where PECOTA can't really tell you much of anything. There's no precedent to go on and barely even a decent sample size's worth of data, and he gets a good projection because what data we do have on him is good. Still, though, I think that was a fairly dubious trade by the Reds.
charlesford (arlington, va): Can you give me any hopeful PECOTAs for a Nationals player (not named Zimmerman)? I'm guessing one of the new, young outfielders might be our only hope.
Nate Silver: Lastings Milledge: .289/.358/.478. Really, if that team didn't have such a godawful middle infield, the offense could be quite all right.
ericturner29 (Chicago): Indians or Tigers? Take a stand, Nate.
Nate Silver: Indians [proverbial gun-to-head].
Will (New Orleans): What can the Phillies expect out of their revamped outfield? Particularly, how productive does Pecota think the Werth/Jenkins two-headed monster will be?
Nate Silver: Y'know, it probably made sense for them to get Shane Victorino out of an outfield corner if they were going to play him every day, so there are some gains on the basis of efficiency there, but I can't think of a less inspired free agent acquisition than Geoff Jenkins. I would rather have just entrusted the job to Werth and perhaps signed a Cliff Floyd type as a plan B.
g-mo (Bumpus, MA): Next year's playoff teams? "Take a stand, Nate."
Nate Silver: Dodgers, Bax, Cubs, Braves, Yankees, Red Sox, Indians and Angels. Nothing too exotic there. If you're headed to Vegas and want some sort of 200-1 shot, I might throw $5 on the Reds.
henry (Chicago): What's Johan's PECOTA? Did his poor second half last year hold it down, or do you think that it matters at all for his projections?
Nate Silver: 1st/2nd half splits tend to be more meaningful for pitchers than for hitters, but in Johan's case it just looks like noise. His strikeout and walk rates were essentially the same in the 2nd half, it's just that his numbers were off a bit because his BABIP jumped from .259 to .289. There's nothing to worry about with Santana, although he's probably 3-5% off his absolute peak at this stage.
Franklin Stubbs (Los Angeles): The other day,ESPN had a chat about who's the best young catcher in the game... the two guys discussed were Martin and Mauer. Are they the two best young catchers? Is anyone close? How good can Saltalamaccia and Weiters be? (I assume they are the two best not-established guys)
Nate Silver: Brian McCann still needs to be in that discussion, though he lost a lot of ground last year.
collins (greenville nc): Nate, how likely do you think it is that Joe Mauer becomes more of a power hitter at some point? As a Twins fan, I hope for more than a souped up Jason Kendall career.
Nate Silver: PECOTA is no longer showing much potential for a power breakout for Mauer, and that definitely constitutes a downgrade of sorts from last year. But the Jason Kendall analogy is lowballing a bit. Think Wade Boggs as a catcher. Where's Margo Adams when you need her?
sjstraub (NJ via WI): Cubs and Reds mentioned about playoffs, yet no Brewers? Does that mean you are not big on the Cameron signing? Or the pitching, or what?
Nate Silver: Actually, looking a few more numbers, if I had to guess PECOTA might well have the Brewers in the playoffs instead of the Cubs. I just sort of have this mental block about any team that has Jason Kendall on its 25-man roster.
One of the projections that surprised me was that PECOTA really buys into Ryan Braun's bat, and if he's moved away from third base, there should be nothing stopping him from being one of the best hitters in the league. And that pitching staff ... Yovani Gallardo ... yep, lot to like there.
twayda (chicago): Nate, When is the current draft structure going to be knocked down to the ground and set-up up properly? Right now any team that is willing to spend money is going to come out ahead. Thats fine for free agency but this is the draft, a tool that is supposed to even out the competition by giving the weak teams a chance at the best players, yet you have arguably the best high school pitcher of the decade going to the Tigers with the 27th pick or so. Is it the teams fault, the MLBs, the unions?
P.S. Please tell me you are doing the Pecota takes on Prospects series again? That was probably my favorite piece ever on BP.
Nate Silver: The draft is one of those things that might have to break down more completely before it gets repaired -- sort of like the economy right now, I suppose. We'll definitely be doing the PECOTA on prospects series again, hopefully starting within a week or two.
Manoog (Odessa): Jay Bruce and Andrew McCutchen, how close are they?
Nate Silver: We probably shouldn't be bundling those two together any more. Bruce is like the $300 hotel you stay at, and McCutchen is like the free USA Today that's waiting outside your doorstep.
Darren (NY): Care to expound on the NL East race? Seems there are three teams one could make a credible case for.
Nate Silver: It should be very competitive. The one group I'm relatively less optimistic about are the Phillies, who are still giving too much away at the back end of their rotation.
D (NY): What do you expect out of Jason Giambi this year?
Nate Silver: I look for him to continue to be underrated as a baseball player.
flyingdutchman (Oakland, CA): I figure the Tigers should again score upwards of 900 runs, so in order to get to about 96 wins their pitching and defense is going to have to allow about 50 fewer than last year. Do you think they have a decent chance of accomplishing this?
Nate Silver: I think the pitching will improve by more than you'd think, but that the offense might decline by more than you'd think, in spite of the new acquisitions. Merely taking a little bit of air out of the numbers of Ordonez and (to a lesser extent) Granderson almost offsets the acquisition of Cabrera. It's still a very good offense, but the baseline number is a little deceptive.
jackbeckett (springfield, ohio): this is the question on every indians' fan's mind: how is 2008 looking for travis hafner?
Nate Silver: We've gotten a couple of requests for Hafner, so let me run a fresh projection and in the meantime take the time to thank all you good folks for chatting this afternoon. We'll do another one of these shortly, once the PECOTAs are actually up, and that's my first priority right now.
Hank (Lincoln Park): The back end of the Cubs rotation... You have two duds (Marquis, Dempster), the aging prodigal son (Lieber) , the youngster in Lou's doghouse (Marshall), and the unproven guys (Gallagher, Kevin Hart, maybe even Neil Cotts or Samardjiza but unlikely). Who should win and who will win out the last two spots?
Nate Silver: First, let's take Jeff Samardjiza out of the discussion. He's more likely to be the Bears' flanker next year than the Cubs' fifth starter. Out of that group, I actually sort of like Ryan Dempster, and I think Jon Lieber should be perfectly adequate.
Nate Silver: Thanks again, folks. We'll try and run a little longer next time we do this. And stay tuned both for the PECOTAs and for BP 2008, which should be our best-looking, best-written book ever.