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Chat: Gary Huckabay

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday February 06, 2008 2:00 PM ET chat session with Gary Huckabay.

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Gary Huckabay is a founder of Baseball Prospectus, and author of the "6-4-3" column.

Gary Huckabay: Hi, Everyone... Thanks for taking the time to join us today. I'm less prepared than usual for one of these gatherings, so forgive me if there's sometimes a little lull in my response time. I've also been on this wonderful diet plan where I've lost 14 pounds in 48 hours, all without exercising anything except my abs, so please, don't mention any sorts of stews, meats, or Jose Lima pitching performances, lest this chat be cut short for a quick 26 yard dash that really isn't in anyone's best interest. Let's go....

DavidRusso (TheMerc): Huckabay 08! Do you think the Rays have any chance of resigning Kazmir long term?

Gary Huckabay: Gee, there's no other mentions of that guy with the last name with the same last name pronunciation in the queue. There's the one mention, and those that know me know I'm a die-hard LaRouche man, myself.

I do think the Rays have a change to resign Kazmir, absolutely. Players take a big number of factors into consideration in deciding where to sign. What those factors are, and how heavily they're weighted obviously varies based on the individual. In Kazmir's case, I would think that the financial deal would have to make sense, and he'd also want to have confidence in the front office, manager, and staff, as well as confidence that it's possible to win a World Series in Tampa. I imagine that the last part is somewhat more difficult because of the Red Sox and Yankees' presence in the division, but I don't think it's insurmountable. So I'd say it's possible to resign Kazmir, but a lot of things need to be accomplished before that probability is maximized.

dogtothedog (Toronto): hi Gary, I don't no why but i just started thinking about Rich Harden and I haven't heard anything about the guy in along time. will he ever be healthy? and would Oakland move him. I hear about the A's still looking to move Blanton and Street but Harden's name never seems to come up.

Gary Huckabay: Will he ever be healthy? I don't know, and I don't think anyone really does, until after the fact.

I would think that the A's would move him for the right offer, but do you realistically see the right offer coming in until he's logged say, 15 consecutive starts? Right now, making the market for Harden would be very difficult, no? The buyers are all going to want an enormous discount in order to do a deal, and the A's are going to want a price that's inline with his performance if he were healthy, which I think everyone can agree, is likely to be impressive -- if it ever happens. Right now, there's a lot of differences between those two positions on the bargaining spectrum. It's like trying to consummate a deal in a ritzy SF suburb these days; buyers are happy to make offers that sellers won't even respond to.

dave (rapid city): with the general incorporation of more advanced management and analysis techniques across MLB, it seems that there are more clubs 'on the rise' and fewer that are hopeless then at times past. is that impression accurate, and if so, is it indicative of what will be a general improvement and flattening of the MLB landscape or will there always be teams at the very upper and lower ends of the spectrum?

Gary Huckabay: I disagree with your premise.

I haven't done the research about the variance in performance of teams, year to year, to know whether or not there's more teams "On the rise", much less whether or not that phenomenon would be the result of incorporating innovative or novel management techniques.

But, for the sake of the question, let's assume your impression is the issue at hand.

Ultimately, the leagues are a zero sum game. I can tell you with absolute certainty that the average winning percentage for the league will be .500. So the question is really one of "concentrating" the goodness, badness, and perhaps directional velocity of a team.

To be quite honest, I have no freaking idea what the right answer is. We're in a new era of player salaries, team revenues, integrated media, and an MLB where very few clubs don't have a shiny new ballpark to play in. I don't know how things will pan out, in terms of parity, competitiveness, etc. I do know that I'd love for my favorite team to have an owner like Cuban or Steinbrenner; someone with a lower utility for the additional bucks than the additional wins. Joel Z, if you're out there, speak up!

ajsofer (New York City): An established starting pitcher (CC Sabathia for example) can throw 220 innings before "hitting a wall". An established relief pitcher can throw 90 innings before hitting the same wall. This makes sense because a relief pitcher puts more effort into each pitch. My question is, when a team puts a pitcher into the bullpen to lower the number of innings they pitch in a year (Chad Billingsly), does this approach affect the real limit on the pitchers workload? For example, if the Yankees start out the year with Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen to lower his workload for the year, to keep him under 150 or 160, and he throws 25 innings in two months, should these 25 be considered more then 25 when rationing his workload?

Gary Huckabay: It may make sense to you, but do you have any evidence to suppor that premise? I've got a lot to shoot it down...

Your question isn't really answerable, at least in a form where it would be sufficient to inform a decision. Management and optimization of pitcher workload is a very complicated question, and I've got a two-part column in the can addressing exactly that. Should run towards the end of this month.

Dave (St. Paul): For the love of God is there any real information about Eduard Salcedo? I hate made-up baseball players so much.

Gary Huckabay: I can't comment on Eduard Salcedo because of a non-disclosure agreement with a client. I have heard that Chin Po Cheng is healthy again after Tommy John Surgery, and should be able to start this season healthy. It's not clear yet whether or not it'll be in American Baseball or overseas, but if he makes 8-10 quality starts, he could be in the majors by the All-Star Break.

Angry Anderson (Perth, AU): G'Day! I, the greatest still-living vocalist of Australian Rock, wants to know what to expect out of Francisco Liriano and Chris Carpenter this year. If only that nice boy from INXS were still alive.

Gary Huckabay: Lots of questions about Liriano, so I'll try to address that here...

Carpenter won't be back prior to the All-Star Break. I'd pencil him in for 10-15 starts, with increasing responsibility in each one, and a season that's nothing particularly special.

Liriano? All the health reports I've heard are positive, but still also hear things about his mechanics that worry me. I don't think I'm sufficiently expert to evaluate the risk that his delivery poses. If he's healthy, I expect him to be devastating, perhaps after a few bumpy starts as he gets his sea legs back.

Tony (Brooklyn, NY): Less asymmetry of information should actually hurt the teams with fewer resources, since it makes it harder for them to swindle the big boys and execute the sort of high-risk, high-reward moves that they need to overcome a low payroll. See Oakland post-Moneyball, and Minnesota's trade of Johan.

Gary Huckabay: Theoretically, we're in agreement. Operationally, I don't think it's that simple.

First, I don't know if *operational* information asymmetry is increasing or decreasing. Every organization now has access to very good analytical information, both internally, open source, and on a consulting basis. But not every organization has a mechanism in place for this information to actually inform the decisions a club makes. Persuasion and integration of that type of information is highly variable from org to org.

And, truth be told, a lot of organizations are doing some, well, pretty damn stupid research, too.

Dave (St. Paul): Well, at least the non-disclosure agreement is evidence that he's a real person. Although I guess you could be bound not to reveal he's Boras' Syd Finch. Thanks!

Gary Huckabay: He's certainly no Herschel Krustofsky, that's for certain.

Bittorrentluvr (Music Theft, IA): Please rank and comment on the follow AL Starters. Rich Harden, Shaun Marcum, Phil Hughes, Erik Bedard, John Lackey.

Gary Huckabay: Ok, so you want to roll a whole bunch of information into a single axis, huh? Fair enough. I'll spare you the 4 paragraphs of equivocation...

Lackey
Bedard
Hughes
Marcum
Harden

With the difference between Marcum and Hughes not being particularly large. Of course, move Harden's E(Starts) from eight to thirty, and things change.

dogtothedog (Toronto): Hi Gary where do you see the jays finishing this season please tell me they can atleast contend.

Gary Huckabay: Well, with the definition of "contend" now at "sort of in the running for the wild card slot", um, even then, still no. I don't see them as a great distance from .480 in either direction.

ASerrillo (New Orleans): Do we have to waterboard you to get you to write a column?

Gary Huckabay: Nate Silver's tried that, but without any success. Most people's gills are vestigial, if they still even have them, but I actually spend most of my days at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, keeping my scales moist and playing with the otters.

The real answer is no, it's not necessary. I've been backing some pieces up to release after the Super Bowl, the day when the national attention switches from NFL to Baseball. Furthermore, I've been facing a health concern for the last few weeks, so I've not had the time to dedicate to new columns that I would have liked.

I apologize for the absence, but you can expect 6-4-3s on a regular basis here RSN.

Or (Dallas): If given the opportunity to obtain either of these young shortstops, which would you select; Carlos Triunfel or Elvis Andrus?

Gary Huckabay: Hmmm. It'd be a nice dilemma to have.

I think Triunfel will be the superior offensive player, but also carries more positional risk. I'm not privy to more information on Andrus than you all are, but my impression of Triunfel is that he's eventually going to move positions, perhaps to 3B.

But that's always the tradeoff, right? A good rule of thumb is to always assume the rumors of a prospect down the defensive spectrum are true. You won't hit 100%, but you also won't keep some guy for four years on your keeper team, and have him turn into a mediocre 1B instead of a kick-ass catcher.

Joel Zumaya (Playing Guitar Hero2): You rang?

Gary Huckabay: Looking for a different Joel Z for that role, mon freunde...

Michael (Bloomington, IN): Are you as irritated about Arlen Specter calling Roger Goodell on the carpet as you are about the upcoming (and ongoing) hearings on steroids? Are there any differences between the two situations from your perspective? Do the anti-trust exemptions that the sports enjoy allow for any leniency in your interpretation of these events as mere media spectacle?

Gary Huckabay: I remain of the opinion that having congressional members or staffers spend any time at all on a small segment of the entertainment industry is a criminally vile waste of time. It was equally insipid and offensive when they spent time listening to Tipper Gore recite the lyrics to Judas Priest's "Eat Me Alive". If a committee with an incredibly broad mandate can't find something else to fill their time with, they should simply dissolve the committee.

astein (Boston): I'm listening to a conference call at work, and I think I'm supposed to be paying attention to what's being said, but I just can't get my mind off the Red Sox. Do I have a problem?

Gary Huckabay: Yes.

Disconnect from the conference call immediately to avoid unwanted distraction.

thegoldenbear (Newport Beach): After the recent Santana trade, several commentators (including some on this site) defended the Twins GM, essentially saying, "He's no idiot. He had to make a deal and the fact that he accepted such mediocre prospects means it was the best deal available." This logic makes sense, but doesn't it call into question many of the public/expert analysis and evaluation of trades -- if we acknowledge that we don't have all the information, and we assume that (most) GMs are smart people, how and when can we fairly evaluate the intelligence of various trades?

Gary Huckabay: This is a very interesting question, isn't it?

First off, let's start off with the idea that trades can be evaluated immediately at all. Here's a question that sounds obvious, but I don't know that it really is: What makes a good trade? You do want to improve your team, clearly, but a lot of times, even that definition is cloudy. Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz? Well, a flag flies forever, right? Andersen for Bagwell, OroscoFossasRincon for Giles? There are some clear winners and losers in those two, but how many trades are really like that? If a team makes a trade for three prospects who are really outstanding, but none of them work out because the club has a systemic shortcoming in player development, was it really a bad trade? I don't know.

Second, who's interested in evaluating a trade 'fairly'? I don't think I am. I was always of a mind that the writing, attitude, and (often attempted) humor at BP served the purpose of making analysis enjoyable to read. Fairness was pretty low on the list, if it was there at all. It did make for some awkward introductions on occasion later, but evaluting trades at all is an exercise in debate; I don't know that there's any merit in fairness, except to build future credibility for your point of view.

Of course, front offices need to at least be able to do it....

dogtothedog (Toronto): Hi Gary, Thanks for already answering two of my question during this chat. That is a new record for me. I don't get to travel much but would love to go down to Florida and watch the jays during spring training I'm sure you watched spring training baseball plenty of times before just wondering is it worth it?

Gary Huckabay: YES.

It is absolutely worth the time, expense, and hassle. I've been fortunate enough to attend spring training in Arizona and Florida, and it really is an absolute blast. My experiences have been universally positive, even dressing in a suit and walking two miles in 197 degree heat to get half an inning with Ray Fosse to pimp BP 97.

I think that if you do go down, my advice is to not overschedule yourself. Leave some time to hang out, make the effort to start some conversations with other fans, and just immerse yourself in the vacation. It's pretty awesome.

And of all the games I've ever attended, including a wall-shaking Clemens/Stewart matchup when it mattered, my favorite in-person game was a game in ARZ where I got three foul balls, and didn't have to move more than 2 feet either way to get 'em. (Should've kept one, but gave them to kids.)

It's AWESOME, and I say that as a jaded 42-year old.

ericmilburn (San Francisco): Pizza feed? Bonus question: best pizza in the bay? Zachary's perhaps?

Gary Huckabay: Two coming up. Details next Monday. Zachary's won't be one of the locations. (The pizza is very good, if slightly overrated. Zachary's is no Zelda's.)

Locations will likely be Walnut Creek and Menlo Park.

Getting close to wrapping up here...

REkinnal (Stockholm): Hello, Gary. What do you think the difference between Travis Hafner and David Ortiz will be this year?

Gary Huckabay: About forty pounds.



I don't know. Travis Hafner's 2007 was darn puzzling, at least to me. If I recall correctly, my forecasting system had him as the player with the least expected variance, and he really just cratered.

I expect David Ortiz to have the better season, but it could certainly go the other way, and my intuition (which should be ignored by those smarter than I) is that Ortiz' decline, when it arrives, will be Vaughnesque.

Last question...

Jules (TheStatpack): What did you think of the Rays signing Shields to a long term deal this early in his major league life?

Gary Huckabay: What's not to like? Four years of James Shields for the price of one year of Carlos Silva?

In this market, even if Shields is hit by a bus, run over by a train, becomes a contestant on "I Love New York", and finishes the day in a car accident with Julio Machado, it's still better than going all Russ Ortiz on Silva.

Gary Huckabay: I've got to run, everyone. Thanks for all the questions; sorry I couldn't get to all of them, except the 9,144 Mike Huckabee references. That whole thing's kind of getting old. Take care.... -Gary.


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