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Chat: Joe Sheehan

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday March 11, 2008 12:00 PM ET chat session with Joe Sheehan.

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Joe Sheehan will be talking baseball and signing books with Steven Goldman and Marc Normandin in Boston on Wednesday, March 12.

Joe's chat will resume at 3 p.m. EDT.

Joe Sheehan: This might be a short one today, so let's get started. College basketball questions welcome as well. Come to the Boston signings tomorrow!

dryice (Houston): Hi Joe, What do you think of BP's projection of 24 hrs and eminently forgettable, blah, blah peripherals for Morneau? Morneau was his old outstanding self last year until getting clobbered at home plate, and he's had an off-seasonto recover, so what's the reason?

Joe Sheehan: I don't think the injury was the cause. The difference between '06 and '07 was a single a week. Everything else was the same. I expect he'll split the difference in '08, hitting .290 with the same walks and power. I can't speak for PECOTA's pessimism, although I'm guessing it's partly batting average, partly old players' skills.

Joe (Washington, DC): Joe: What have been your biggest surprises/disappointments this Spring?

Joe Sheehan: That I can't get people to stop talking about March perfomance as if it's meaningful. Sorry to kick you, Joe, but that's my hobby horse this year. Spring training stats mean nothing. Nothing.

birkem3 (Dayton): Is it possible that 2 of the Reds' top 3 hitters won't even be in the Reds' Opening Day lineup with Votto and Bruce? In addition, will the other one of the top 3 (Dunn) be hitting 5th behind OBP-deficient Brandon Phillips?

Joe Sheehan: One of the challenges the Reds face is that despite a good collection of hitters, they don't have a leadoff hitter. (The Cubs have this problem as well.) Brandon Phillips is a second baseman with speed, but should probably bat fourth for them. Or seventh.

I'd lead off Keppinger, I guess, because he's a bad #2 guy (GIDPs) who could post a .350 OBP. Obviously, playing Votto and Bruce, especially Bruce, is the most important issue. The thing is, Hatteberg is a nice little player.

Trey (SF): Would you say Spring performance is improtant for younger players though?

Joe Sheehan: In that playing well helps them make rosters and win jobs, sure, but that's because teams make the mistake of emphasizing spring performance. They convince themselves that the 30 ABs or 10 IP in front of them--against wildly varying comp in games no one cares about winning--mean more than the years of information we already have.

If Evan Longoria rakes, or Clay Buchholz gets hammered, it all means nothing.

Dan (Denver): In a keeper league that counts holds, who do you like better? Morrow or Meloan?

Joe Sheehan: Brandon Morrow, who should improve his command after being rushed last year. And that park is the Petco of the AL. Take the experience and the marginally better-run team.

Keith (Methuen, MA): Wow that WAS a short chat

Joe Sheehan: Not sure what it looked like on your end, but I had what looked like a site crash on my end. Just what we needed on a deadline.

SnakeDoctor18 (Washington DC): What do you expect out of Ryan Braun this year?

Joe Sheehan: Some regression. Very few guys are as good as he was last year, and at that, he had a MASSIVE platoon split. I expect .270 with decent walks and slightly less power, followed by growth in the years to follow.

ElAngelo (New York, NY): After last night's wins by San Diego and Western Ky, should St. Mary's & South Alabama be nervous?

Joe Sheehan: I put St. Mary's on the board Sunday night, and I won't be taking them off. If teams get bids, not conferences, they should be in.

South Alabama...they have a long week ahead of them. They're going to be last four in/first four out, just a matter of where the line falls.

Grasspike (NC): You say Spring Training performance means very little, and for the most part, I agree. However, isn't there a correlation between breakouts and a big spike in slugging percentage?

Joe Sheehan: Yup. I shorthand it, but the one thing--I think this was John Dewan's work--is that a 200-point jump in slugging over career marks is supposed to be real. It's been proven, although I still the variable comp is a major distorting factor.

jtrichey (Indianapolis): Thanks for the chat Joe. As a Dodger fan I have been getting a sinking feeling about the upcoming season. Is Joe Torre the right man for the job?

Joe Sheehan: For all of Joe's reputation as a guy who doesn't like young players, he did manage that Yankee core to four championships. Yeah, Tony Fernandez was kind enough to get hurt 12 years ago, but I see the Dodgers' core as comparable to what Torre had in NY.

It would help, considerably, if Juan Pierre would retire.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. The Logan White Dodgers and Paul DePodesta Dodgers are miles ahead of the Ned Colletti Dodgers.

Brian H (Toledo): Who's your "home team" in college basketball? SC Toojans all the way? Or do you have other favs?

Joe Sheehan: Grew up with the Mullin/Berry St. John's teams, so there's still some pull there. I retain an vestigial interest in Loyola Marymount from the 1990 team, and like to see teams play extreme styles like that, so Duquesne, Pepperdine under Walberg, Tennessee...

But mostly USC. Thanks, Harold Miner.

ajmorriso (Chicago): Will we see the Hope and Faith series again this year?

Joe Sheehan: Nope. We're working on a different project that will run closer to Opening Day. We're trying to keep it fresh.

stevedevries (Boston, MA): I'm sure you're hearing this from everyone...but what are you seeing with Pujols' value in light of all the surgery talk? I'm in a 10-team 5x5 league that keeps 2 players per team, and I'm sure that Pujols won't be kept in that league. Given that, how far do you let him go before you give it a shot?

Joe Sheehan: Got into a good discussion about this with the Fantasy 411 guys and Will Carroll. I still see Pujols as a late-first, early-second pick. It really comes down to your risk tolerance.

The critical factor is the Cards' performance. They probably can't win anything this year, but you could make a case for 2009. So there's not much reason for Pujols to put that season at risk once we know 2008 is a dead issue.

So Pujols' playing time is as much tied to Chris Carpenter's comeback, and Rick Ankiel's development, and Colby Rasmus' playing time, as his own elbow.

fielding99 (NYC): Joe: Thank you for the chat. Have you had a chance to read the new Bill James book? Any thoughts?

Joe Sheehan: I really, really enjoy reading Bill James' writing, and am inclined to enjoy anything he does. He thinks and writes as well as anyone you'll ever see. From what I've read so far in the book, that hasn't changed much.

There's a focus on runs and RBIs in the data segments, though, that I simply don't understand. It's as if 1988-2007 never happened.

Shane (Saint John, NB): Joe. Remembering back to all the hope and excitement that existed upon JP Ricciardi's hiring from the Beane braintrust, even with '08 yet to play out, a lot of his sheen seems to be long lost. His hubris regarding Russ Adams development in particular seems to have really underminded the club he could have built (ie. the non drafting of Tulowitzki). When his tenure's concluded (when ever that is) what would be your evaluation? Thanks.

Joe Sheehan: I go back to the winter of 2004, when the Jays were coming off that injury-riddled season. Had Ricciardi just said, "injury year, core is good, plan is fine," the Jays would have been in pretty good shape. Instead, they signed Koskie, made the mistake in the draft, and generally got away from what was working.

Misidentifying the problem in '04 was where it went wrong. This team, the '08 one, could be good, but then again, they can't even identify the best shortstop for the team, so...

Reggie the Redbird (Normal, IL): Are the Illinois State Redbirds in the tournament?

Joe Sheehan: I suspect not. 0-5 against the Top 50 is tough to overcome. They, too, needed the line to fall forward of where it will, getting hurt by San Diego. I think USA is ahead of them, but they're ahead of VCU.

Tommy ((OPS,FL)): Do you have a problem with Elliot Johnson's collision with Cervelli? Was it a dirty play or just baseball?

Joe Sheehan: Just baseball. I can say that these games don't mean anything, and they don't, but if you're Elliot Johnson, you're trying to impress someone. And it's hard to turn it on and off.

As with the winter meetings, spring training's ratio of newsgatherers to newsmakers is out of control, so everything with any kind of potential gets blown into a thing.

Roger (Pasadena): Do you think your boy Weeks is going too early in drafts this year? seems you have to grab him in early round 7 to get him.

Joe Sheehan: Assume we're talking 5x5 12-team mixed, that works for me. He's a four-category guy who could go 20/40, and the BA won't hurt you.

RahulN (GA): PECOTA doesn't see the big breakout you had earlier predicted for Jeff Francoeur. Are you sticking to your guns?

Joe Sheehan: Absolutely. The change in his plate discipline last season seals it for me, and the combination of youth and MLB experience is a powerful one. He'll be on the All-Star team.

Steve (PA): Joe, do the Cubs really have a trade package worthy of Brian Roberts without including Pie? The Gallagher/Cedeno/et al package being thrown around seems weak for a top-5 2B with two years under contract remaining.

Joe Sheehan: I saw a comparison somewhere--or maybe we were talking about it at a Feed--that Mark DeRosa and Brian Roberts had similar stats last year. DeRosa had the higher OBP, Roberts was better overall, but the gap wasn't huge.

Roberts is the better player, to be sure, and getting him would align the Cubs' talent better. However, I'm not convinced that Roberts + Fuld are better than Pie + DeRosa. And I say that as someone not at all sold on Pie.

If I'm the Orioles, there's no way I deal Roberts for a package where Gallagher is the best player.

Steve (NJ): Would you ever draft Santana in the first round with M. Cabrera or Utley still on the board?

Joe Sheehan: Absolutely. Johan Santana is something like the third or fourth guy on my board.

Too many great questions, and I have to go...I'm going to leave this open and come back at 3 p.m. ET, if anyone wants to check back then. Sorry for the scheduling snafu, but hopefully you'll join me then.

sorrento (Cleveland): What exactly are old player skills?

Joe Sheehan: I don't imagine anyone is still sending in questions, so I'll just answer a bunch in the queue. Look for a couple of pieces up by me at the basketball site later today (bubble stuff and The List) and more on baseball here at the mothership before tomorrow morning.

To answer the question...old players' skills are power, plate discipline and sure-handedness. Young players' skills are speed, contact and range. Loosely speaking, a young player with the former is more likely to fade out early. Like Paul Sorrento.

Wilson (Cambridge): I can't help but think that the Padres still have half a dozen better options for their outfield then the guys they have slated now. The Red Sox and Angels have extra outfielders to trade. Kenny Lofton or Corey Patterson seem like reasonable fits when you consider the salary they'll be paying out to Jim Edmonds. When did KT get all Pat Gillick-y?

Joe Sheehan: I would have liked to see them snag Patterson so that Edmonds could play left field. The man cannot cover the ground in that park. He'd be an upgrade in left for one year, though. Lofton isn't the answer to play next to him...honestly, it might be worth seeing how much of Gary Matthews' Jr.'s contract the Angels are willing to eat.

If the outfield is Hairston/Headley, Edmonds and Giles, I weep for that flyball pitching staff.

robin3mj (Arlington, VA): Any opinions on MLB's stance against the Cape Cod league using team nicknames? You'd think with all the negative publicity they've had this winter, having teams seen as "pure" as the Cape League would be a generator of goodwill; instead they've gone after them as just another ATM machine. Their annual grant to the league makes up 0.00167% of revenues...

Joe Sheehan: If you don't enforce your trademarks, you run the risk of losing them. It's the way the laws are written.

If that argument sounds familiar, you've been here for a while.

SnakeDoctor18 (Washington DC): What do you expect out of Chien-Min-Wang this year and for the future, it seems like we may have already seen his best pitching.

Joe Sheehan: There's an upper bound on how good a pitcher with his contact rate can be, so I'd agree with the idea. It's always possible that he'll end up in front of some terrific defense, in which case he could post an ERA in the 2.50 range. He never gives up homers and doesn't walk people; take away the hits, and you have Greg Maddux just outside of his peak.

Justin Singer (Miami, FL): After looking at the depth charts, I suspect that most would be taken aback by the Rays 89 wins. Nate mentioned how other systems had Tampa in the high 80's as well. What is your personal opinion on the Rays chances to break .500 this year. Do they have a chance to finish ahead of Toronto in your opinion? Also, does Western Kentucky have any at large hopes with a loss tonight? Is South Alabama in?

Joe Sheehan: I think they'll be at or around .500 by couple of games, 79-83 wins or so. The defense and bullpen corps have to better, and the offense and rotation should be. That's a lot of improvement all at once.

I think Western needs a win. I can't see them going in ahead of USA, and USA is right on the line. Plus, losing to MTSU is a fairly bad loss at this point.

Tie Twist (Toronto): Strat keeper league: I keep 3 out of: Abreu, Youkilis, B. Penny, Glaus, Tejada Which three?

Joe Sheehan: Youkilis, Penny...ick.

Tejada, I guess.

Or (Dallas): Can we expect league-average performance from ANY Rangers starter, or are we in line for more horridness?

Joe Sheehan: I liked the Jennings pickup, and it's reasonable to expect Millwood, Padilla and him to collectively be around league average. Their problem is that they've stopped scoring. The offense has to bounce back, and I'm not sure the personnel is there. Lots of injury cases and position issues.

Joe (Quincy, MA): Who do you take first in a fantasy draft: A-Rod or Wright at 3b, and Utley, Reyes or Hanley at MI?

Joe Sheehan: In order:

Hanley
Rodriguez
Reyes
Wright
Utley

I think Hanley is #1 with a bullet, and I think Johan slots in just before or just after Reyes.

Bogomil (Edge of my seat, ready for the season): I glanced back through the annuals and noticed that ball parks vary. I assume that's becuase the players performance varied. Whats the use of a ball park factor when it depends on whether you have Webb & Haren or not?

Joe Sheehan: They vary because they're all relative to one another. That's why you absolutely want to use multi-year factors when applying park factors to performances. In any given year, the run factor of a park can bounce around.

The personnel of a home team doesn't affect the park factor in a meaningful, systemic way. There may be aberrations at the extremes, but the principles and the math are valid.

Humphrey (Phoenix, AZ): Is it possible that Justin Upton is a little undervalued going into this season? i.e., is Upton *more* ready to mash than he is thought to be? What kind of season do you envision for the kid?

Joe Sheehan: In fairness, there's a little Cameron Maybin here, in that Upton was kind of rushed to the majors to cover a problem for a team in contention. He has more experience and had more success at higher levels than Maybin did, but I'm not convinced he's ready to be an MLB right fielder at 20. Love him, love his upside, think his slipping #5 in the NASA draft was criminal, but just not excited about '08.

mzpejp (San Diego): Joe, Can you discuss how BP projects playing time for players not likely to be regulars? The book has numerous examples of players not likely to play FT but with FT numbers. Thanks

Joe Sheehan: PECOTA projects based on merit, if I understand this correctly. So if a player projects as good enough to play regularly in the majors, their PECOTA shows that. Book projections are done this way.

On the depth charts on site, and in PFM, the projections reflect our internal estimates of playing time based on skill and opportunity, and added to what PECOTA generates.

PECOTA doesn't know about Dusty Baker, in other words.

Guido (Charleston, WV): West Virginia is in, right?

Joe Sheehan: Yeah. I don't see the committee leaving out an 11-7 Big East team with some good wins in conference. This isn't quite Syracuse from last year. WVU is "In" on my board. Which I need to post. So I should stop chatting soon.

Tim (DC): Excited about the book signing? Are you already in Boston? What other plans while in the Hub?

Joe Sheehan: Not much. I love Boston--I'm a U.S. history dork--but I'm swamped with work in two sports. Will try to hit Abe & Louie's tonight, that's probably it.

I'm very psyched for the events. I love the book signings, love just hanging out and talking baseball for a few hours. Tomorrow will be a great day (noon at Northeastern, 6 p.m. at BU, for those who don't know).

Joe (Washington, DC): Joe: I agree with you that spring training stats and the like are meaningless. If we accept that, how would you suggest changing it--if at all--in order to make it a more productive experience for the players (or is just playing a bunch of games the best way to prepare for the season)?

Joe Sheehan: Cut it by half. Pitchers need a month, position players two weeks. This isn't 1937, with guys spending their winters indoors selling suits or out chopping wood. These guys are professional athletes year-round, and they don't need seven weeks of training.

Spring training is as long as it is because the exhibition season is pure profit for ownership, and because owners have sold out to various communities in Florida and Arizona to cut them in on it.

It should be halved. Immediately. That would help things tremendously.

Tony (Brooklyn, NY): Here's a new question - would/could a single category WARP fantasy league be any fun?

Joe Sheehan: No.

Couple of questions like this...here's the thing: fantasy doesn't have to be baseball. It should be close, but I don't mind if it's not perfect, because I'm not playing *baseball*. I'm playing a shadow game. All the flavors are good, just pick the one you like best.

drmorris (SF): Torre compared Kershaw to Koufax. Madness?

Joe Sheehan: Spring training is too damned long.

Kershaw is very good. And lefthanded.

denny187 (WI): Corey Hart was +17 runs in right field last year. He can take over center in 2009 when Cameron is gone and I'm sure Braun can play right field, he'a got the arm and the athleticism for the outfield. That leaves left field open for LaPorta in 2009, where he'll be at least average. I'm not crazy am I?

Joe Sheehan: I don't at all believe that Corey Hart can play center field on an everyday basis. It's important to not think that a player's defensive statistics automatically translate that way. Some will, some won't, and Hart--who I love as a player--seems as if he'd be stretched in center.

And if you want to put him between LaPorta and Braun, I can only assume he did something really mean to you in high school.

Lightning round.

rscully (Fairfax, Va.): I may have missed it, but I don't think you have done a "my guys" column yet this year. Any hints or previews at this point?

Joe Sheehan: I need to differentiate from the breakout piece, find other guys. It's coming. Thanks for remembering that I used to write about baseball.

Swingingbunts (NY): Gun to your head: Lastings Milledge or Matt Kemp?

Joe Sheehan: Matt Kemp, who will have more power.

RollingWave (Taiwan): PECOTA sees the Ms sucking badly... I dont' see them doing as well as the bandwagon hypes but last?

Joe Sheehan: I have no idea where the runs will come from and the bullpen is going to regress quite a bit. Really, you can throw the Mariners, A's and Rangers in a hat. They'll finish within eight games of each other.

Will (Iowa): How SHOULD college hoops choose a champ?

Joe Sheehan: A subset of the top dozen or so teams, including the champions of the top six conferences, should pair off and play single games against one another, after which we'll poll some writers, a very large collection of randoms, and some computer geeks to determine the winner.

sndvl99 (Tarzana, CA): Look at WVU's schedule and "big wins" and then look at Arizona State's. WVU out ASU in.

Joe Sheehan: ASU is living off of that Xavier win, and it might be enough. Their metrics are pretty bad. I think they need one more win.

Tobias Fuenke (ADville): Any opinions on the LV over/unders for team win totals?

Joe Sheehan: Devil Rays over and Mariners under.

Article coming close to US Opening Day, after I do all my predictions.

John Z. (Washington, DC): Joe: What books are you currently reading?

Joe Sheehan: "God Save the Fan"

Brian Roberts (Baltimore, for now): How many wins would I add to the Cubs?

Joe Sheehan: Three.

Adam (DC): Do you think Bonds' presence negatively affects the development of young players?

Joe Sheehan: I think there's no evidence in either direction. One reason I liked him for the D-Rays was some curiosity about how he might affect their young hitters such as Crawford, Upton and Longoria.

RahulN (GA): PECOTA doesn't see the big breakout you had earlier predicted for Jeff Francoeur. Are you sticking to your guns?

Joe Sheehan: I think I answered this one already, but it never left the queue, and there was a followup I can't find.

Someone compared Francoeur's walk rate jump to Corey Patterson's in 2005 and called it small. Francoeur actually doubled his unintentional walk rate. That's a big jump, given that his K rate and XBH rate and G/F didn't change. He just walked more often. I think the overall impact of that change will be a key to this year.

Joe Sheehan: Thanks for your patience with the format today. I have to go write and send the newsletter and do a bunch of stuff. I'll come back just before Opening Day for a long session to get us pumped for the season. Enjoy the conference tournaments and NCAAs!


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