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Chat: Jay Jaffe

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday May 20, 2008 1:00 PM ET chat session with Jay Jaffe.

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Jay Jaffe counts 'em down in "Prospectus Hit List" and goes deeper in "Hit and Run."

Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon everybody, and welcome to today's chat. It's a busy day here; I'm taking time out from a deadline for a New York Sun piece, and I just realized that I've got to put together a brief Futility Infielder blog tribute to my late grandfather, Bernard Jaffe, who would be 100 years old today. So, powered by a fresh Steinski mix and a big bottle of Sriracha sauce, let's roll...

TomH (soggy southern MD): How does the Cubs signing of Edmonds (with Pie and Murton in the minors) change their HitList ranking going forward? Methinks the offense, particularly with some guys playing over their heads, will slump.

Jay Jaffe: I'm starting with a Cubs question because they're the topic of that Sun piece. I'm not a big fan of the Edmonds signing -- to say nothing of the team keeping Pie and Murton in the minors -- but I think its impact on their Hit List position will be negligible. The Cubs have been getting above-average production at every position save for centerfield, so it's not like adding Edmonds' bat can really foul things up. And as bad as the reviews of his defense have been, the numbers say Reed Johnson, who's been getting the bulk of the time out there, has been atrocious (88 Rate2).

The bottom line is that the Cubs will cool down a bit, but they're a team to reckon with. PECOTA had them at 93 wins, the #2 spot in the NL behind the Mets, and the top spot in the NL Central. They've only got a two game cushion in the division but their run differential is by far the best. I don't see anyone else threatening their shot at the postseason.

Scott (Greenville, SC): Please tell me there is good reason why Bruce is still on the opposite side of the Ohio river. Jocketty said it's because of playing time issue, but I can't believe Patterson is blocking him.

Jay Jaffe: Lots of Reds questions in the queue today - they seem to have really captured people's imaginations and/or senses of frustration. Bruce is mashing at Triple-A Louisville (.363/.392/.669) with 10 homers and eight steals in 160 at-bats. But he's also got a 38/11 K/BB ratio, and four of those walks are intentional. That's pretty ugly, and well off last year's ratio (135/44 K/UIBB) and while there are certainly valid arguments to bring him up, I can understand wanting to see improvement in that area before he's promoted.

Nick Stone (New York, NY): Jon Lester: middling pitcher who got lucky last night? Or is he as good as his champions insist?

Jay Jaffe: Hey Nick! It certainly helped that Lester was facing the Royals, a team whose offense I referred to in the Hit List a couple weeks back as the Double-A affiliate of the Little Sisters of the Poor, though they do fare better against lefties than righties.

Lester is a pitcher who's got some upside, but PECOTA doesn't love him. The current weighted mean forecast on his card is for a 5.04 ERA, and it's not hard to see why; his track record is that of a flyball pitcher who tends to walk too many hitters relative to the number he strikes out. He's walking 4.2 per nine even after last night, and striking out 5.7 -- not a very good ratio, but he
s gotten away with it this year thanks in part to a .255 BABIP.

Beating cancer is a great story, and pitching a no-hitter is icing on the cake, but he's still got work to do to become a top-shelf pitcher.

jlarsen (DRays Bay): Now that the Rays train has slowed down a bit and there's some "regressioning to the mean," do you think that the Rays have some staying power in their climb towards .500-dom and beyond?

Jay Jaffe: At 45 games into the year, it's still early. To some extent I think we have to take the Rays seriously, though the players who should be driving the offense really haven't produced much thus far (Pena, Crawford and Longoria are all below .265 EqAs). The pitching is showing some real improvement; high walk rate and all, Edwin Jackson is putting it together and has been very tough to hit, James Shields has been nasty, and both Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza are coming around. They can thank a much improved defense; the team is 2nd int he league in Defensive Efficiency at .716. I'm a bit skeptical it can stay that high, but it's nowhere near the nightmare that it was last year. So I expect them to stick around at .500 or above.

Jeff Clement (Tacoma): Was I given a fair shake and how soon before I'm back in Seattle?

Jay Jaffe: 56 plate appearances? Hardly. The Mariners looked as though they were doing a smart thing by bringing up Clement and Wladimir Balentien two and a half weeks ago and mothballing DH Jose Vidro. But the offense hasn't risen from the dead; they're scoring 3.2 runs per game this month, and rather than wait things out, they've decided to panic by shuffling the deck chairs. The nice thing about that it that it probably won't help very much, so I expect to see Clement back before too long because Bill Bavasi won't be able to leave anything alone.

Paul (Tacoma): Jay, thanks for the chat. What do you think about the rumors that Griffey will be dealt back to the Mariners, or that they'll possibly try and land Adam Dunn? Does Triunfel's recent suspension lead them to dangle his name to get someone like Dunn?

Jay Jaffe: Sticking with the Mariners, the Griffey idea is a silly one. Junior's not hitting (.250/.335/.369) and not worth the prospects, particularly in a system that already traded its best/readiest one for Erik Bedard. Balantien's only hitting .219/.265/.453, but he's got four homers, while the rest of the team has just nine since his recall.

I could maybe see going after Dunn because he's a much better hitter at this stage, but he's a big guy with old player skills, which kind of scares me when it comes to a contract renewal and probably isn't worth the price of just a rental.

The bottom line is that the Mariners are 18-27 and going nowhere fast. I don't think adding one hitter is going to change things, particularly at the price either of those two hitters is likely to command.

scareduck (Still closer to Angel Stadium than Chavez Ravine): Three questions: 1) For my Cubs lovin' wife, are the Northsiders for real? They've done well so far, but what are their big questions down the stretch? 2) Is there any light at the end of the Andruw Jones tunnel, or is that the sound of a diesel locomotive? 3) Joe Torre: great manager, or *greatest* manager? Seriously, look at Friday's Dodgers lineup: how could he expect to win?

Jay Jaffe: Cubs: for real. Their run differential is the best in all of baseball by a wide margin, and I don't see any of the other NL Central teams being able to hang with them. I think the big questions are whether Rich Hill rediscovers his control and returns to the rotation, and whether Kerry Wood can hold up as the team's closer. Barring injuries, I think they'll be OK, and even with those injuries, they have a bit of depth to either cover from within or make a trade to help themselves out.

Andruw: lots of questions about him today. The upside of his injury is that it may explain some of his struggles, it may force him to get back in shape as he rehabs, and it will give Dodger fans a bit of relief when it comes to the daily drama of the outfield lineup.

Torre: Furcal being hurt certainly takes a bite out of that lineup. But really, Torre's going to have to get over this Russell Martin-at-3B fetish, even though it's only been a total of 37 innings he's played there. It's fine to give him a breather now and then, but when you're stealing at-bats from DeWitt or LaRoche to give them to Gary Bennett, something is definitely wrong.

jlebeck66 (WI): Dodgers. DeWitt. LaRoche. How's this gonna end? Did LaRoche anger a deity or something?

Jay Jaffe: Sticking with this topic for a moment, I'm as big a LaRoche booster as you'll find, but DeWitt is knocking the stuffing out of the ball. I don't expect that to continue unabated, but there's no sense in sitting him down right now.

From a long-term standpoint, it's a nice problem to have. I'd hate to see them trade LaRoche, but I don't think they necessarily have to. I wonder whether the Dodgers would consider revisiting the DeWitt-to-second experiment that they tried in 2006, when the kid was at Vero Beach. With Jeff Kent clearly showing his age and Tony Abreu apparently joining the Federal Witness Protection program, that may be a palatable option.

Joe (Tewksbury, MA): Why do I keep reading about how much trouble the Yankees are in? Hasn't this been the story for three years running now? Slow start, fast finish. Do you see anything to make you think this year will be different from 2005-2007?

Jay Jaffe: Yes. Everybody in the lineup, including Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada is a year older, and with the exception of Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano, they're a year further away from their statistical primes, to say nothing about the fact that Cano looks pretty lost right now. The bench is weak even for a team that's done poorly in that area in the recent past. Seriously, I'd take Chili Davis, Darryl Strawberry, Luis Sojo and Ron Coomer circa 2008 over some of the stiffs they have lying around.

There's that, plus a weak pitching staff where the back of the rotation has been a thorough disaster thus far and the bullpen situation is considered so fragile that there's actually a question about whether they'll move Joba Chamberlain to a starting role this year. Add to that the fact that the AL East has gotten tougher and I think there's no longer any guarantee that the Yankees will contend, let alone win the division.

The other thing in play is the new manager. Through the early season debacles of the last few years, Torre was able to absorb the front office's slings and arrows and still give off a sense of calm confidence that things would eventually turn around. Girardi is protected from the barbs of Hank Steinbrenner at the moment -- his focus appears to be on forcing Brian Cashman out -- but Little Joe is the kind of guy who seems more likely to go Billy Martin bonkers as things get worse, and I don't think that's going to help.

Mike (Jax, FL): Can you give me some reasonable trades that will get players like Millar, Huff, Payton, and Ramon Hernandez off the Orioles roster?

Jay Jaffe: I've got half a sandwich, four AA batteries of unknown remaining power, a rookie Bronson Sardinha card, and the March 2007 issue of Cat Fancy. I don't suggest waiting to see what's behind door #2.

Seriously, these are guys who are on the wrong side of 30, are putting up EqAs below .260 (except Huff at .273), and with the exception of Hernandez play positions that are relatively easy to fill. I don't see any of them being in demand come the deadline.

Marco (San Diego): Jay, Somewhat of a sigh of relief about Peavy's elbow. Some reports around here say he'll miss anywhere from 15 days to six weeks. Knowing Peavy's competitive nature, and the fact that Towers' job might be on the line, is there a concern he is rushed back? What do you know about his injury?

Jay Jaffe: I don't know anything beyond what Will Carroll wrote in today's UTK (the team isn't saying anything about Peavy's MRI, but they used the word strained, suggesting a muscular injury). But if Towers' job really is on the line, then the team deserves to crash, burn, and then get swallowed by the ocean, because he's done one hell of a job in San Diego, building contenders on shoestring budgets.

As a Dodger fan, I'll trade you Towers for Colletti even up.

The Padres' season looks pretty close to lost already. I don't see where rushing Peavy back would do any good, particularly now that they've made a serious long-term investment in him. Why would they risk damaging the organization's top asset?

AlexBelth (Bronx, NY): Jay, I was recently talking to a friend about the most "feared" hitters who are not in the Hall of Fame. I know that term was really beaten into the ground this past winter when discussing Jim Rice but still, there are some hitters that strike fear into you--either as a fan or an opposing pitcher. Who was the best and/or "most feared" hitters, in your subjective opinoin (in order): Dave Parker, Dick Allen, Darryl Strawberry, Jim Rice, Gary Sheffield, Edgar Martinez or Albert Belle?

Jay Jaffe: Yo, Alex! All of the hitters you mention certainly had the fear factor going for them in their prime, but as you say, that's a subjective thing, and subjectivity isn't really the way to go when it comes to sorting them out.

Neither Rice nor Parker had the plate discipline to keep them on the level with the rest of this group, so I'd put the two of them towards the back. Martinez is probably the toughest out, but lacking a bit of raw power relative to the rest of them. I'd put him and Strawberry in the middle. That leaves Allen, Shef, and Belle. Having never seen the former, I'm not sure I can fully grasp the visceral experience of watching him hit, I can only go by the numbers, and his numbers, compiled in an era of lower offense, suggest he was the best. But I'd quake in my boots at facing any of those three.

Joe (Rogers Park, Chicago): Jay -- using your crystal ball -- how many HOFers are playing in today's Mets-Braves DH?

Jay Jaffe: Glavine for sure. Chipper most likely. Beltran has a good shot if he ages well; his peak is about 1.0 WARP off the HOF average for centerfielders. Wright certainly looks like he might be on his way, but I'm reluctant to pencil anyone in that early in their career. I think the max is four, on the off chance that we get Beltran and one from among Wright, Reyes, Francoeur and McCann.

Mike (Jax, FL): Half a Sandwich? SOLD!

Jay Jaffe: Sucker! I didn't even tell you what was on the sandwich, or how old it was. And at this point I'm not sure if it's meat or cheese.

Ameer (Bloomington, IN): We're over 25% through the season now, and Carlos Quentin is still mashing. I don't buy the 1.004 ops, but at what point do I have to accept that he's this good?

Jay Jaffe: It's time to accept the fact that he's going to be a good major-league hitter, if not necessarily a superstar as he's been thus far. Quentin was #27 on BP's top prospect list in 2006, the last time he was eligible. He had a good 2006, a lost 2007 due to injury, and now he's healthy and killing the ball. He's hitting in a park that favors offense and home runs, so he should putup some nice numbers.

uptick (St. Louis, MO): Even if Smoltz never throws another pitch, do you think he'll get in the HOF?

Jay Jaffe: Yes. As I wrote a few weeks back, he's in very good company with the 3000 strikeouts, and he's got the Eckersley dual career precedent going for him, to say nothing of the sterling postseason credentials.

dogtothedog (Toronto): Does no one at BP no how to type or does it just take alot of time picking out questions?

Jay Jaffe: Coming up with answers that aren't inane or overly simplistic takes time, at least from my standpoint. Myself, I like to check the numbers to make sure I'm not talking out of my ass. If my pace doesn't suit you, feel free to try one of my colleagues' chats instead.

Stan (Cicero): Why Edmonds? If the cubs were going to sign an outfielder their fanbase loathes, why not sign bonds, put fukudome in CF soriano in RF, to heck with outfield defense and score 8 a game? Long way of saying that I think barry could help anybody...

Jay Jaffe: The logic is that Edmonds is basically free talent at this point (the Cubs only have to pay him the prorated minimum, with the rest being picked up by the Padres and/or Cardinals, I forget the split), whereas Bonds isn't. When you're married to a budget the way the Cubs are, that's an issue.

Still, you get what you pay for, and the marginal gain from adding Bonds is much greater than for adding Edmonds.

jlarsen (DRays Bay): In a perfect storm scenario, if the Rays were to acquire Derek Lowe in a midseason trade...would that throw the Rays into serious for the playoffs?

Jay Jaffe: With or without Lowe, they appear to be there already.

Arnold Layne (Cambridge): Miguel Batista mentioned about a month ago that he had "figured something out" as far as fooling hitters go. He's been pretty bad this year...what did he figure out?

Jay Jaffe: Maybe he figured out he's a better novelist than a pitcher, but a better pitcher than a poet. Which ain't saying much.

Pat (Tufts): How long until us Met fans get Willie's head?

Jay Jaffe: I'd give it until the end of June. If the Mets aren't further above .500 and showing a bit more harmony, there may well be a shakeup.

oira61 (san francisco): Jay, if you could kick 5 players out of the Hall of Fame, who would they be?

Jay Jaffe: Wow, now this is a superpower I would love to have.

Working on merit rather than subjective dislike or the silliness of being the wrong brother on the day the VC members didn't have their hearing aids turned up (as Rick Ferrell or Lloyd Waner apparently were), I'd focus on the guys who are furthest below the JAWS averages at their positions: Tommy McCarthy -65.8 in the OF, Johnny Evers -45.4 at 2B, Chick Hafey -43.6 at CF, George Kelly -42.8 at 1B, and Fred Lindstrom at -40.8. Jess Haines (-44.7) and Rube Marquard (-41.0) would qualify among the pitchers, but I could stick with ousting those hitters and be happy.

Though something tells me I should set aside a waiver to oust Jim Rice when he's elected next year.

dianagramr (NYC): Hi Jay .... thanks for the chat ... What is your opinion on the outright releasing of players? Do you foresee any circumstance under which Delgado and/or Giambi are let go before the end of the season?

Jay Jaffe: Hi Diana, I'm somewhat inclined ot agree with what Joe Sheehan wrote last week about this being overdone now. It doesn't serve a team particularly well to do this unless they have a better option at that position. Giambi, despite the low batting average, has actually been pretty productive, particularly lately; he's got a .301 EqA. As for Delgado, I can't see Omar Minaya making this move because of the way it would embarrass the player, and besides, the Mets are one of those teams that don't have much in the way of an alternative at first base.

OK folks, I'm going to take one more and then get back to my deadline...

jlarsen (DRays Bay): If you had to pick between the Yankees top pitching prospects, Boston's top pitching prospects and Tampa Bay's top pitching prospects, who would you pick to have the most success in the future?

Jay Jaffe: That's the billion dollar question, isn't it? I'm not a prospect expert, so I'm not sure I've got the most informed opinion here, but it's fun to kick the idea around. For all of Hughes' struggles, I think if you pair him and Chamberlain against Buchholz and Masterson, I think they come out ahead in the long run -- I tend to like those big bodies when it comes to durability, though of course with Hughes we have little evidence he's actually durable. As for the Rays, I haven't seen enough of David Price, Wade Davis, Jacob McGee or Jeff Niemann to know which of the two I should be comparing them to (if we're going two deep), but many people are very high on them.

Jay Jaffe: Folks, there are some great questions still in the queue, but I've got a deadline to meet, and it's going to be a nailbiter as it is. Thanks for stopping by to talk some baseball!


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