Nate Silver breaks down the game in "Lies, Damned Lies."
Nate Silver: We're going to begin promptly at 1 PM Hawaii-Aleutian time. Seriously, a lot of questions in the queue, so let's get going for an hour or so here.
Will (Los Angeles): What should the Dodgers do at third base?
Nate Silver: Promote LaRoche, bench Kent, and move DeWitt to second base. That's the way you'd do it in Strat-O-Matic, at least.
Jay (Arlington): Over the weekend in Vegas, I got the Braves at 10-1 to win the NL. What do you think?
Nate Silver: That sounds about right to me. But if they reach the playoffs, they're not a terrific Secret Sauce team; I don't really see a true #1 starter there with Smoltz likely to return to the bullpen.
Mark (Milwaukee): Along the lines of the BP home page today, would you consider manager affect be one of the unchartered areas in baseball analysis? Randolph has been in the news of late and around here Ned Yost is taking a thumping but I'm not convinced. Do you have a general philosophy about how much any manager affects the play on the field? I have a hard time blaming Yost for a number of the Brewers problems.
Nate Silver: Sure. My general philosophy about managers is embodied by the Hippocratic Oath: first, never do harm. Don't railroad your young players, don't overuse your young pitchers, don't overmanage. I don't think that either Randolph or Yost have any of those problems particularly. At the same time, I also don't think that there's a whole hell of a lot of difference between an "established" manager and a replacement-level one, and so I don't think you should need too much of an excuse to let go of a Yost or a Randolph if you think you need a change of direction.
petergill (Los Angeles): Are the White Sox still just a 70 something win team? Or will they confound you guys like they did in "05?
Nate Silver: Well, we had them at 77 or 78 wins. I think the Carlos Quentin breakout is largely real, and likewise with John Danks. But Gavin Floyd is walking on water to have maintained a 2.93 ERA in spite of a 25:27 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Give them 3-4 extra wins apiece for Quentin and Danks and you're talking about what's probably an 84-win club. It's not that hard for an 84-win club to make the playoffs with a little luck.
Rob (Bloomington, IL): Rumor has it the Cubs are thinking about moving Fukudome to CF and playing Micah Hoffpaiur in RF against right handers, then shifting Fukudome back over and playing Reed Johnson in CF against southpaws. Don't get me wrong, I like Hoffpaiur, but is this really a better decision than just cutting Jim Edmonds and putting Pie back into the platoon role in CF?
Nate Silver: Of course not, although I'd note that Pie is sucking wind down at Iowa.
mattymatty (Philly, PA): Speaking of secret sauce, how do the Rays stack up should they make the playoffs?
Nate Silver: Their defense has been terrific this year -- already 35 runs above average thus far on the season -- and Kazmir is a legitimate #1. Troy Percival is not a particularly strong closer, but there are no real red flags for this team in the playoffs.
Glenn (NJ): Best chance of making the playoffs of the following teams: Yankees, Mets, Indians, Tigers, Brewers.
Nate Silver: The playoff odds report says: Yankees, Mets, Indians, Tigers, Brewers. I'd say: Indians, Yankees, Tigers, Mets, Brewers.
mikedallas45 (Dallas): Should the Cardinals Go For It and try to get, say, Brian Roberts to plug the gaping hole at 2B? If so, what should they reasonably expect to have to give up?
Nate Silver: I think they have to make the most of this opportunity. It's not a particularly young club, and the marginal upgrade they'd get at a position like second base is quite large -- they've really been trotting out some sub-replacement level guys there. I don't know what you give up since the farm system depth is not terrific -- maybe someone like Bryan Anderson -- so ultimately you're probably looking for more of a purchase from someone who is sick of paying a big contract.
bflaff (Philadelphia, PA): Will Holliday be improperly overvalued b/c of Coors when he leaves Colorado (either via trade or free agency) or can he be a stud anywhere? Career stats away from CO: .274/.336/.444.
Nate Silver: What's interesting is that we haven't really crossed this bridge too many times before. The Rockies have tended to hold onto their hitting talent until it was completely washed up, so we haven't had too many cases where a Rockie tested the free agent market in his prime. But my sense is that baseball has certainly gotten to the point where it understands the park effects associated with Coors Field.
Chris (Harrisonburg, VA): With Lincecum throwing great this year, do you think the Giants might entertain trade offers for a legitimate hitter for him? (Alexis Rios' of the world need not apply)
Nate Silver: I don't particularly see what that accomplishes for them. They're too far away from contending to be worried about balancing the roster.
kgoodson3 (Florida): When can we get a glimpse of the new top 50 MVP list?
Nate Silver: Hopefully within the next couple of weeks.
mattymatty (Philly, PA): You said: It's not that hard for an 84-win club to make the playoffs with a little luck.
I quickly went back through the year 2000 and only one team in the AL made the playoffs with fewer than 90 wins (the '00 Yankees). What you said may hold true for the NL, but unless the balance of power has mysteriously shifted in the off season (a possibility I suppose) I think the White Sox may be out of luck.
Nate Silver: What I meant by that is that it's not hard for a team with 84-win *talent* to make the playoffs.
Jessica (NYC): Is there any solution to the Mets' currently gaping hole at first base?
Nate Silver: I'd imagine that you could get Dmitri Young pretty cheaply. Todd Helton. Maybe even Adrian Gonzalez, although he's going to cost you a fortune. But quite a few of the teams that look like they might be selling have a viable option at first base.
tony (brooklyn): the 8 playoff teams this year will be: Oakland, ChiSox, Boston, Tampa Bay; Arizona, ChiCubs, Atlanta, St. Louis.
You buying or selling?
Nate Silver: My picks right now are Red Sox, Rays, Indians, Angels, Braves, Cubs, D'Backs and Dogers.
Mike (VA): The Jays may have the best rotation in the league - what do you think the chances are that their hitting can wake up and allow them to sneak into the playoffs? I imagine if they were to get in, they'd be a team no one wants to face with their dominant rotation.
Nate Silver: Still relatively low, because of that division. I think you're still looking at about 92 wins to reach the playoffs out of the AL East, and that's tough to accomplish when you have to face the Red Sox, Rays or Yankees every other series. It's not entirely unrealistic to contemplate the possibility that by the end of the season, we'll be saying the four strongest teams in the American League all happen to play in the AL East.
uptick (st. louis): when's the next PFM update?
Nate Silver: We *might* run a mid-season update, but generally speaking, we stop running updates once we get a month or so into the season and most every fantasy league has drafted. One of these year's we'll get real-time PECOTA projections going.
sports nut (California): Is Andruw Jones done? Or will he come back from surgery and be worth the big contract?
Nate Silver: I'd rather own real estate it Bradenton, Florida.
Brian (Philly?): No Phillies? I mean thats not surprising, as most people here except Christina rarely have anything positive to say about the Phillies. But if Myers gets straightened out, how are they not a playoff team? With Smoltz out of ATL's rotation, you could even argue the Phillies have a better rotation even with a struggling Myers. They are in a much better position this year than last, and they got there with Rollins missing 3+ weeks and Howard hitting below .200 for 2 months. Not to mention, one of the best bullpens in the league. Maybe its time for a little respect?
Nate Silver: Because I still think they're giving up way too much in the bottom three slots in their rotation, even if Myers improves. I don't think their team ERA is going to stick near the 4.04 mark all season.
Rob (Bloomington, IL): What's the over/under on how many starts Jay Bruce gets before Dusty starts throwing Corey Patterson and Ryan Freel back out there in CF?
Nate Silver: I think we need to focus less on Dusty Baker and more on their front office. If the front office has some idea what it's doing, they'll tell him "Jay Bruce will start at least 20 times a month. Or we'll be looking for a new manager. Any questions?"
thomas (Cambridge): Ellsbury seems like a pretty sweet player to me. Is he over his head? Can he add power to his game?
Nate Silver: He is a pretty sweet player, but there's no particular reason to expect him to add power.
wdgibson (denver): hey nate- what say you about matt laporta? can corey hart go to CF in 2009, opening up room for laporta in RF?
Nate Silver: I think Hart is a good enough athlete to handle center field competently, but that's starting to put a fair amount of pressure on your pitching staff.
jalonzo (NYC): can the cardinals' defense be as good as the hardball times suggests?
Nate Silver: I know that the Cardinals are very cognizant of the need to put a good defense out there on the field, and very willing to look at all sorts of metrics to facilitate that. At the same time, we're showing people like Troy Glaus has having had very strong defensive seasons, and that is liable to change.
John (SF): Thoughts on the A's? They have the second-best third-order win percentage in the AL and have been hit by a number of injuries already (including a 2-7 stretch without Mark Ellis). Real or mirage?
Nate Silver: I really like that pitching staff, but the thing I'm a little wary of is that they rank 5th in the league in run-scoring even though they're 6th in OBP and 11th in slugging percentage. They're definitely in the right division to sneak into the playoffs, but I don't think they get there without Beane making a summer upgrade or two.
navier xady (cal): do you think front offices typically give specific orders such as the one you suggest Cincinnati give to Baker?
I can imagine someone like Baker specifically asking that he not be forced to do stuff like that as a condition of his hiring.
Nate Silver: I'm sure that they have to take a somewhat more diplomatic tone than the one I suggested. But if Baker tells you in his interview that he's not going to listen to instruction, why do you hire him in the first place?
Nick (NYC): Hey Nate, Do you see any similarity between Jay Bruce and Delmon Young? #1 prospects with good power, avg, arm, but with poor plate discipline. Do you see Bruce turning out any better than Young?
Nate Silver: I think that's shortchanging Bruce a bit. His power has been a standard deviation or two better than Delmon's.
tfierst (MN): In hind-sight was it a good idea to trade Haren and Swisher?
Nate Silver: At the time the deals were made, I liked the package they got for Swisher and didn't particularly like the one they got for Haren. I still feel the same way about Swisher, but I'm beginning to come around on the Haren deal as the A's appear to have some sort of organizational aptitude to come up with league-average pitching talent out of nowhere.
Chris (Harrisonburg, VA): Instant replay in baseball, your take?
Nate Silver: I'm really with the consensus opinion on this one: yes on home run calls, no on everything else.
Robert (Chicago): Do the home/road splits exhibited by teams like the Cubs (and Braves and Red Sox) in the early going seem odd, or is this still a sample size issue? The Cubs, for example, haven't won a road series since sweeping the Pirates in early April, and guys like Fukudome and Lee have been pretty miserable on the road while killing the ball at Wrigley.
Nate Silver: I'd read almost nothing into it. I'm not even sure that a whole year's worth of performance is enough to come to any firm conclusions about home/road splits, much less six or seven weeks.
justin (Michigan): Is volquez going to drop off a cliff, be pretty good, or does he have the stuff to be an ace?
Nate Silver: Totally for real -- look at his strikeout and groundball rates. The walk rate is highish and is going to cause his ERA to come up a little bit, but I have his QERA at 3.06 right now. His statistics should eventually begin to look a lot like Carlos Zambrano's.
bateman19 (boston): what do you make of retreads like vincente padilla and todd wellenmeyer...is either for real?
Nate Silver: They're for real in the sense that they can be league average pitchers. Padilla has usually been league average, give or take, when he's been healthy. Wellemeyer has always had good stuff and has a nice defense behind him.
Sudo Nim (Foothill Ranch): Hey, Nate. What are the arguments for and against in-season PECOTAs? Thanks.
Nate Silver: The main issue with in-season PECOTAs is that they would need to be some sort of PECOTAlite version, since the PECOTAs aren't really designed to work with partial-season data when selecting comparable seasons, etc. But I've still thought about how we could work around those issues and come up with something reasonable, and we may do that going forward.
birkem3 (Dayton): Why don't they just allow managers to challenge plays? Instead of taking time to argue with the umps, time for the umps to talk it over and make a decision, and time for the "losing" manager to come out and yell at the umps, couldn't instant replay actually speed things up?
Nate Silver: I guess I'm just one of those aesthetes who thinks that reminds me too much of the XFL and glowing pucks.
3rd time's (a Charm?): What do you envision for Brandon Morrow if he enters the rotation? PECOTA's got nuthin on him as a starter
Nate Silver: As a general rule of thumb, you can take a guy's projection as a reliever and add 25% to his ERA to account for his transition to the starting rotation. That would put Morrow at a 4.70 ERA, which feels about right to me. I'd also note that guys like Morrow that have command problems seem to have a particularly strong penalty if they move from the bullpen to the rotation.
oira61 (San Francisco): Nate, you still like the Swisher package? The only reason that looks like a good deal to me is that it now seems possible Swisher is the new Ben Grieve. But the two minor-league pitchers they got are struggling, and Ryan Sweeney has no power. Besides, how can an A-ball pitcher with only one good season be the lead player in a package to get a useful, young, cheap major league position player?
Nate Silver: Sweeney's is not a great guy to have on a roto team (trust me, I've learned this by experience) but he nevertheless has a 117 OPS+ and he's 23 years old. That is a reasonably valuable asset any way you slice it. The pitchers have been marginal but not irredeemably so if you look at their peripherals. Yes, I still like that deal for them.
justin (Michigan): Why aren't the Reds a little better? I like their top 4 a lot and even with Bruce and Bailey in the minors the core of Philips/Votto/Dunn/Encarnacion seems like it should put up some runs... Now with Bruce up can they make a push?
Nate Silver: That's the weird thing about the Reds. If I were a Reds fan, I'd actually be pretty excited about several of my performances this year: Volquez, obviously, but also Joey Votto, Keppinger; Johnny Cueto has had longball issues, but his strikeout rate is very good. I think they very well could be a second-half sleeper, particularly as Bruce is a huge upgrade over Patterson. I'd certainly rather have $100 bucks riding on them than, say, the Astros.
Rob (Bloomington, IL): Why isn't Carlos Marmol starting?
Nate Silver: Because I think this is one of those Jonathan Papelbon cases where a guy has so outperformed expectations in the bullpen that you don't tinker with that. I think I'd honestly rather try Kerry Wood in the rotation and make Marmol my closer.
tbwhite (San Diego): I get mad every time I see the Corey Patterson/Felix Pie comparison. There is no comparison am I right ? Pie has performed much better in the high minors than Patterson ever did. Looking back it's hard to see why people thought Patterson would succeed other than scouting reports. Or am I smoking crack ?
Nate Silver: Patterson was Pie's #1 PECOTA comparable last season.
Rick in Boise (Forecasting Heaven??): Could the Mets use Hatteburg at 1B? He's obviously available for basically free... (Or would they rather get Valentin who can play C??)
Nate Silver: If you want to get a C- option to replace a D+ option, sure. But I think the Mets are going to need to look at upgrading that position to at least a B- in order to have a chance to reach the playoffs in a pretty tough division.
Mike (Minnesota): Is Carlos Gomez the next Devon White, or could be something better than that?
Nate Silver: As long as we're going all retro, he has a little bit more of a Marquis Grissom vibe to him.
bam022 (Chicago - South Side): How have you not taken a question on Clayton Kershaw yet?
Did you like what you saw Sunday? Do you think they called him up too early? Is he for real? Can he make a run at RoY, etc.
Nate Silver: I was in a pretty place without cable television over the weekend, so I didn't actually get to *see* his start. But I don't have any problem with promoting your young pitchers aggressively, so long as you handle their workloads carefully.
tiger fan (MI): Did the Tigers make bad deals or are the players just underperforming?
Nate Silver: Whatever winds up happening, the Cabrera deal was still way too attractive to them to pass up. I wasn't a fan of having anything to do with Jacque Jones at the time, but at least they've cut bait on that one pretty quickly. Really, the only transaction where I've strongly disagreed with the Tigers is signing Gary Sheffield to a three-year deal last winter. I'd rather have spent that money on a closer, and gotten a Matt Stairs type to play DH if you need one. But all of this is much easier to say in hindsight, and it's still way too early to be writing the Tigers' obituary for this season.
Dodger Fan (California): Joe Torre has stated in the papers that he wants to give Russell Martin rest from catching but still keep him in the lineup at 3B. How will this affect Dewitt, LaRoche and Garciaparra?
Nate Silver: Well, first thing, I think this is an indication that Torre is *way* more creative than he's generally given credit for. But my inclination is that I'd just rather give Martin the extra time off than find another place to play him. He has a very, very good bat, but not a Mike Piazza type of bat where you're really killing yourself when he's not in your lineup.
dw (michigan): if the XFL had incorporated glowing pucks, they may have had something.
Nate Silver: ...and we'll use this little one-liner as an excuse to end our session today.
Nate Silver: I'm grateful as always for all your questions as well as your continued loyalty to BP.