Rany Jazayerli writes "Doctoring the Numbers" for Baseball Prospectus.
Rany Jazayerli: Hey everybody! I'm as surprised that I'm writing columns again as you are. Let's chat while the iron is hot!
Amos (New York): I like pretty much any of the rumored Bedard-to-Seattle deals for Baltimore, but why would they want George Sherrill? He's 30 and pitches 40 innings a year. Unless they flip him, isn't that almost counterproductive to a team that should be auditioning young pitchers?
Rany Jazayerli: Gee, you make it sound like a team that are dumping salary need a left-handed specialist less than the team that's trying to win this year. The Orioles and Mariners might be the two worst-run teams in the American League, so I think it's perfect that they would make a trade (at least this component of it) that hurts both sides.
Honestly, I'm not sure any trade these two teams could make would surprise me. Adrian Beltre for Billy Rowell? Sure, why not?
kcshankd (Lawrence, KS): Which Teahen shows up in 2008?
Rany Jazayerli: I wish I knew. The Royals are in an awkward position with a lot of their young players - ideally they'd be signing some of them to long-term deals, but how do you properly value a guy like Teahen, who has ranged from awful to excellent to average the last three years? How do you properly valuate Zack Greinke? Alex Gordon would be ideally suited for the Tulowitzki treatment, but his performance last year raised just enough doubts that the Royals probably want to see a little more from him first. But the service time clock is ticking.
As for Teahen, I think his offense level will settle between 2006 and 2007. The problem is that he keeps moving down the defensive spectrum, from 3B to RF to (probably) LF. .280/.350/.450 is pretty good at third base; it's pretty mediocre in left field.
tommybones (brooklyn): I'm trying to get a read on Justin Upton for the 2008 fantasy season. What is your prediction for his numbers for 2008? Griffey Jr. circa 1989? Or 1990? Neither?
Rany Jazayerli: I hope to write a little about Upton in one of my upcoming columns. The short answer is this: it's very rare for a hitter to reach the majors on merit before the age of 20 and NOT turn put together a Hall of Fame, or at least a multiple-All-Star, career. I don't think Upton's ready to duplicate Griffey's sophomore season yet - Griffey might have been the most precocious hitter of my lifetime, him or A-Rod. But I think Upton could push a .500 slugging average this year, albeit with poor plate discipline.
DokLivy (Austin, TX): Rany, is there ANY hope for the national league? I've been a Cardinal fan for 30 years and it kills me how much talent leaves the league to play for the larger payroll teams in the American. It's not like the National League is a small market league. New York. Chicago. LA. Phoenix. Houston. Atlanta.
Rany Jazayerli: The imbalance between the leagues today reminds me of an essay Bill James wrote in one of his Abstracts in the mid-80s, back when the AL West was (in his words) the "Third World" of baseball. His point was that teams have an incentive to build to their competition. If you think 85 wins is all it will take to make the playoffs (hello, NL Central), you're best served by making decisions that maximize your chances to reach 85 wins, even if they reduce your chance at 95 wins.
In other words, NL teams know they don't have to compete with the Red Sox or the Yankees (at least until they get steamrolled in the World Series), so they don't feel the need to expand their payroll to nine figures or go way over slot to sign draft picks. Which means we're not likely to see a change in the AL's dominance for some time to come.
Mike (St.Louis): What's your take on Colby Rasmus and when do you expect him in the majors.
Rany Jazayerli: In our celebrity Scoresheet League we ran last season, I drafted Rasmus late in the draft, and then when I needed to trade for a thumper late in the year, I traded Andrew McCutchen for Jim Thome rather than give up Rasmus. So I think he's a stud. If Jay Bruce is Larry Walker, Rasmus is Larry Walker Lite. Just temper your expectations for 2008.
Mike (Utica,NY): Would you pay Johan Santana 22-25 million a year and what do you think of the package the twins might get back with Gomez, Guerra, Mulvey, and Humber?
Rany Jazayerli: I've just been informed in the last few minutes that this trade is 99.9% official, and as listed. I'm stunned by this trade, and as a Royals fan, I'm thrilled. You trade the best pitcher in baseball and don't get a single can't-miss guy in return? Way to play your cards, Bill Smith. This is great for the Mets, and great for the National League.
Roger (Pasadena): Among the following young pitchers still trying to establish themselves (Lincecum, Gallardo, Felix, McGowan) who do you think is most ready to take a step to the next level?
Rany Jazayerli: McGowan doesn't deserve to be included in the same parenthetical brackets as the other three. King Felix has an upside that no one in baseball can match, and he has more experience than Lincecum or Gallardo. He might be an injury waiting to happen, but for 2008, he's your boy.
havens (St. Charles, IL): A fellow St. Charlesian here! First, is this package being bandied about (A. Jones, Tillman, possibly Triunfel) for Bedard going to look as silly as the Sizmore/Lee/Phillips package the Indians acquired for Colon? As a side note, do you think this package was/is available to Minnesota for Santana? If that's the case, this seems more appealing than the Mets quantity or the Yanks/Mets limited quality. Right? Thanks.
Rany Jazayerli: The Colon trade was strange on a number of levels, most obviously the fact that Omar Minaya was trying to win a pennant for the Expos when it was clear that major league baseball was doing everything in its power to prevent that, and so he *had* to make a ridiculous deal to get the talent he wanted. The Mariners would get Bedard for two years, while the Expos only had him for three months before they had to send him packing. It's a bad deal for Seattle, but not *that* bad.
Personally, I think I'd rather have Adam Jones alone than the Mets package.
Will Brown (Dolores, Colo.): How would you rank these young outfielders (real baseball) for 2008: Lastings Milledge, Justin Upton, Chris Young, Jermida Hermida. Also, what's your brief, chat-level take on Eric Walker's latest work?
Rany Jazayerli: Wow, I love all four of those guys. Hermida is one of My Guys (copyright Joe Sheehan), a guy who has already proven he can pound major league pitching and is just 23 (okay, he turns 24 tomorrow). And I think Young's walk rate will jump this year and he'll be an elite-level centerfielder.
I'll rank them Hermida/Young/Upton/Milledge, but there's not much gap between the first three. And Milledge is not chopped liver either.
I think Walker has a point. We just don't have strong evidence that steroid use leads to performance improvement. Unfortunately, we may never have that evidence one way or another, because we'll never know with complete accuracy which players were juicing and which ones weren't.
Randall (Boston): how good can Jed Lowrie be offensively? any comparisons?
Rany Jazayerli: This probably doesn't work on a scouting level, but on a pure statistical basis he reminds me a lot of Dustin Pedroia - great college career, lots of walks and extra-base hits in the minors despite not a lot of home runs. Pedroia hit .293/.385/.452 between AA and AAA in 2005; Lowrie hit .298/.393/.503 between AA and AAA last year, but was about 18 months older.
Like Pedroia, I think Lowrie's going to be stretched to play shortstop, but could be an above-average second baseman for a long time.
Shipoopi (Quohog, RI): What kind of production can we expect out of Pedro this year? Should I succumb to my man crush on Pedro or should I go with a safer guy like a Jeff Francis?
Rany Jazayerli: Pedro is the new Luis Tiant - who hurt his arm, looked washed up, then resurrected his career with the Red Sox in the early 1970s. Pedro is older than Tiant, but like Tiant, while he may have lost his best stuff, he still knows how to pitch.
Like Tiant, he still has the ability to reach back and put something extra on the ball when he needs to, and he still has the urge to shove the bat up the hitters' ass - he's not giving in to nobody. The Amazing Pedro Experience is over, but Twilight Pedro is still going to be fun to watch. It's just going to be at 170 innings a year, not 210. Three hundred wins is not out of the question.
Inning for inning, Pedro will be better than Francis in 2008. Francis may have more overall value because he'll pitch more.
David (Bloomington Indiana): This is not terribly relevant to today's baseball, but I know you are a Royals fan. I was too young to ever see Quisenberry pitch. How good was he? I've read that he threw fairly soft and, as a submariner, had platoon difficulties. Was he just a unique talent, or was there something else that made him successful? And could a pitcher like him be successful now?
Rany Jazayerli: Quisenberry was the most unique talent in major league history. Seriously. I need to write that column someday. He's probably my favorite player ever, and I have only hazy memories of him on the mound in his prime.
ericturner29 (chicago): Thoughts on Asdrubal Cabrera? Is he the real deal?
Rany Jazayerli: Shhhh. Quiet down. Some of my stratomatic league competitors are reading this. I am NOT saying that I'm extremely high on Cabrera. I am NOT saying that I see a lot of Edgardo Alfonzo (the dominant, pre-back problems Alfonzo) in him. I do NOT want him on my fantasy team. Capeche?
uptick (St. Louis, MO): Joe Sheehan recently picked Jeff Francoeur as his top breakout candidate for 2008...what do you think?
Rany Jazayerli: Joe and I have been arguing about baseball for 15 years now, and for all the stereotypes that exist about sabermetric "groupthink", we rarely see eye-to-eye on a lot of topics. (Don't get Joe started on my theories for winning at altitude, for instance.)
But when it comes to Frenchy, I agree. A year ago Francoeur looked like the new Joe Carter, with the 100+ RBIs and the sub-.300 OBP. But he made a lot of progress last year, and he's just 24, the same age Carter was as a rookie. Francoeur's .338 OBP last year is nothing to write home about, but do you know how many times Carter had an OBP that high? Try zero. None. Nil. Nada.
oira61 (San Francisco): If the Santana deal goes through, are the Mets a prohibitive favorite in the NL East, or are the Phillies still right there?
Rany Jazayerli: I haven't broken down the rosters in any kind of detail, but when you add the best pitcher in baseball to a team that finished a game out last year, without trading away anyone who helped the team last year, and I think that makes you the favorite. But it's still January.
bo9anderson (Amsterdam, the Netherlands): From an Orioles point of view, what's not to like about the rumored trade with Seattle? Baltimore will not compete in 2008 nor 2009 and the team probably can't sign Erik Bedard to an extension anyway. Kevin Goldstein is very high on Adam Jones and Chris Tillman. Tony Butler and Kam Mickolio could become very helpful major leaguers. I do not get the George Sherrill-part of the trade, but maybe the O's are going to trade him right away (to the Braves for Brent Lillibridge?). All in all, it looks like a very good deal for the Orioles.
Rany Jazayerli: Don't misunderstand me - it's a good deal for Baltimore, absolutely. I just don't know what you do with Sherrill. If you're going to rebuild, rebuild. The problem for Baltimore is that rebuilding requires a full commitment, and this team can't commit to *anything* in full so long as Peter Angelos is running the show.
twayda (Chicago): Speaking of Santana, assuming he stays completely healthy this year, he is going to throw up some insane stats because of the NL, that park, and the general skill of the Mets team both offensively and defensively.
Rany Jazayerli: One thing that's not generally known is that Shea Stadium, possibly because of a poor hitter's background, increases strikeouts more than any park in the majors (or at least I did the last time I checked, which was a few years ago.) Santana's perfect for that park - you're going to see hitters swing at his changeup before it leaves his hand. Could we see 300 strikeouts? Probably not. The first Mets no-hitter? We can hope.
Not Bill Smith (I swear): Would I...I mean would the twins have been better off just letting Johan walk and picking up draft picks?
Rany Jazayerli: Someone should take the draft data that I published a few years ago and use it to come up with an expected value for a Type A free agent, i.e. the expected value of the draft picks that come from a Type A free agent leaving. We'd have to figure out where those picks usually come in the draft - you're guaranteed a supplemental first rounder (about pick #35), but the other pick could be as high as #16, and as low as the middle of the second round.
My guess is that the PECOTA expected future values of Gomez/Guerra/Mulvey/Humber would exceed the value of two draft picks. But add in a season's worth of Santana, and you might very well come out ahead by keeping Johan around. You can always change your mind in July.
Lighting round begins now...
Phil (St Pete): I am not optimistic enough to think the Rays have a shot at competing this season but there are several reasons to be thrilled about them this year. What do you expect out of the 2008 Rays and is there anyone you're keeping a close eye on on their team?
Rany Jazayerli: If ever there was a team ready to replicate the 1991 Braves, it's this one. We've seen teams with this much young talent in the majors, and we've seen teams with this much talent in the minors. I'm not sure we've seen teams with both.
Snake (St. Louis): Rany-
My friend, Cloudson, is a huge Royals fan. Also, my friends, Glass and Orgie, are devoted readers of R&R on the Royals. What words can you share with them to help them get fired up about the 2008 season?
Rany Jazayerli: Well, there's about a 95% chance I'm going to start my own Royals blog in the next few weeks. So there's that.
ajblobaum (Lawrence, KS): Rany, is Luke Hochevar going to be a bust in relative terms to the #1 overall pick?
Rany Jazayerli: "Bust" is too strong a term. He's going to be less valuable than your typical #1 pick, simply because your average #1 pick includes the Griffeys and A-Rods of the world. I think he's going to be a #3 starter, maybe #2 in a good year. Would he go #1 if the Royals drafted today? No. But the only clearly better player the Royals passed on at the time was Andrew Miller, and even today it's not clear that Miller's the better player. Joba Chamberlain or Tim Lincecum, sure, but few people were arguing that at the time. (Although our own Kevin Goldstein thought the Royals should have taken Lincecum.)
Mike (Minn): What is your gut feeling about Gomez and his upside, can he develope into another Hanley Ramirez.
Rany Jazayerli: The main reason I think the Santana trade is so bad for Minnesota is that I just don't get the Carlos Gomez hype. He's young, but he's never hit .300 in the minors, he's never hit for power, and he doesn't walk much. He runs like the wind and there's certainly upside here, but I think the upside is more like Jose Reyes. Which is great if you can play shortstop. When you're an outfielder, it means you're a good player, no more.
Wilson (DC): Chipper Jones--Still awesome?
Rany Jazayerli: He's still just 36 - he could be an elite hitter for another 4 or 5 years, even if he has to slide over to first base (which will probably happen after Teixeira inevitably leaves the Braves next winter.) A pretty clear first-ballot Hall of Famer in my book - 3000 hits and 500 homers gets you in through the VIP entrance unless you lie to congress.
A few more questions...
Jonah (New York, NY): Billy Beane's fire sale: yet another stroke of small-market, moneyball-esque genius? Or has he finally overplayed his hand?
Rany Jazayerli: Neither. The A's couldn't compete with the Angels on the field, and the farm system had dried up, so he had only one option left, which was to take it on the chin for a few years and reload. I wouldn't call that "genius", I'd call that "realism". Not a lot of GMs would make that call, but that's because not a lot of GMs have the job security that Beane has to make a decision in his organization's best long-term interests, knowing he'll still be there to reap the rewards.
doog7642 (Blaine, MN): Knowing what you know today, go back a couple years and put yourself in KC's War Room at the time of the MLB draft. Do you recommend Zimmerman over Gordon? Braun over either of them?
Rany Jazayerli: Or Tulowitzki. Man, that was a hell of a draft. Even today, you'll find a significant number of scouts - maybe even a majority - who would prefer Gordon over Zimmerman or Braun. Add in that Gordon's from Nebraska and a Royals fan, and therefore (very slightly) more likely to agree to a long-term deal, and I have no regrets. But I'd sure like to see some improvement this year.
Hank Spandex (Chatham, Illinois): Will either of the Uptons be 40-40?
Rany Jazayerli: No, but I could see one of them go 50-30, which would be more valuable.
ericmilburn (San Francisco): What are you expecting from Josh Hamilton this year?
Rany Jazayerli: Nothing. I don't think it would be fair to expect anything from a guy who, not three years ago, was snorting cocaine while living in a roach-infested hellhole. I am in awe of how Hamilton has turned his life around, but the cocaine demons never, ever leave once you've invited them to the party. Just look at Darrell Porter, or at least look at his tombstone. Cocaine is a hell of a drug.
And on that depressing note, I must leave you all. Take care, and prepare to fear the powder blues!
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