The Casey Kasem of Baseball Prospectus stops by to talk about counting 'em down in the Hit List each week.
Jay Jaffe: Welcome to Tuesday afternoon's BP chat. It's been quite a busy 24 hours for baseball pundits with the Randolph and Bavasi firings, and I'm sure we'll touch on those as well as the usual topics.
Powered by the memory of the funniest thing ever associated with Casey Kasem (NSFW: http://www.negativland.com/audio/editradio.mp3), let's get rolling...
Dan (windowless office): Should we ignore the Hit List while interleague play is going on? It's making a hash of the standings...will it make a hash of the List as well?
Jay Jaffe: Good question. The past few years have seen a considerable advantage for the AL when it comes to interleague play, and those results have shown up in the AL's dominance of the Hit List. This year the NL looked much stronger early on, but the AL now holds a 48-40 record in interleague play, and they've actually got four of the top six spots on the most recent Hit List. Just as I've been skeptical about the early season scoring dip, I've retained a good deal of skepticism when it comes to those who say the balance of power has shifted to the NL. I see the interleague results as more of a correction than anything else.
johnpark99 (Boston): Jay, for a while now, your Hit Lists have had the A's ranked significantly higher than the Angels, even though the Angels have the division lead. What is the right interpretation of your rankings? Do you mean to say that you expect the A's will take the division by season's end, or do you simply mean to say that you think the A's are a better team than the Angels despite their records?
Jay Jaffe: Ah, the eternal A's-Angels battle on the Hit List has provided me with plenty of material for columns. Right now what you're seeing on the Hit List and the adjusted standings is all based on the fact that the A's have outscored their opponents by 55 runs -- nearly one per game -- while the Angels have been outscored by two runs. The latter owns the largest discrepancy between their predicted record and their actual one at 7.7 games.
In other words, the Angels have been more lucky than good, and that's not necessarily the kind of thing you can bank on over time. That doesn't mean that I necessarily think the A's will take the division, because I don't expect the Angels' offense to keep underachieving to the extent that it has, but I do think the gap between the two teams is closer than the standings make it appear.
Jim (Philly): How much does it pain you to have to rank the Phillies ahead of the Braves and Mets, two darlings of BP? Even when the Phillies play well, its "yeah but", while the shortcomings of other teams are glossed over. In fact, Joe Sheehan produced a wonderful piece today about the fluky Phillies bullpen, and how the house of cards will come tumbling down soon. I know that everyone is rooting hard for the Mets to come good on those predictions of 100 wins, but come on, be fair at least in the coverage of the Phillies.
Jay Jaffe: Jim, I feel no pain when the rankings come out, I simply try to evaluate what I'm seeing on the field and on the stat sheet and translate it for my readers. If the Mets stink, they stink, and if PECOTA is wrong about their preseason prediction, the sun will still come out tomorrow. I lose no sleep over that; on the contrary, figuring out the WHY is the fun of it.
I've noted the Phillies' bullpen success recently, and while I'm skeptical it can be maintained at the level of excellence it's currently shown, I also expect Ryan Howard to hit better and help the offense out. They're thin in the pitching department, but so are the Braves and Mets, especially given the latter two teams' injuries.
jlarsen (DRays Bay): What is a Rays fan to do, considering the report regarding Griffey Jr.? We didn't go along with the signing of Barry Bonds, so why would we trade prospects for a player that we'd be on the hook for 16 MIL and is more injury-prone than Rocco Baldelli? Isn't Gabe Gross decent enough platooned with Gomes to basically match his stats?
Jay Jaffe: I wouldn't lose too much sleep over the Griffey rumors. The new Rays regime is a smart one, and they're likely to judge Griffey by his relatively minimal current value rather than his impressive accomplishments, and thus unlikely to give up much in the way of value, particularly given the hefty price tag of his contract. Gabe Gross is a thoroughly capable roleplayer, and so long as the team is doing well, they can bide their time and hope Rocco Baldelli gets healthy enough to contribute as well.
David (NJ): We know the way it was handled was wrong but were the Mets right in firing Willie Randolph?
Jay Jaffe: Well, as botched a job as it was, I don't entirely disagree with the decision to dismiss Randolph. As Rob Neyer pointed out at ESPN, there's a good argument to make that he's not the right manager at the right time for this club, even given its flimsy construction.
Managers aren't solely tacticians. They're leaders of men (some very boyish men at times). Different managers have different styles, but some seem to be better at protecting their teams by placing themselves in the line of fire and drawing the attention away from the struggles of their clubs. Ozzie Guillen is a good example of this now, as batsh*t crazy as he may seem, there's a method to his madness. Joe Torre does the same thing while exuding an aura of pure calm. Bobby Valentine, Casey Stengel, Leo Durocher, Tommy Lasorda - the styles can vary but that function is an important one.
Randolph didn't handle that aspect of the job very well. The Mets have carried a very negative aura around them since last year's collapse, and not even the acquisition of Johan Santana could erase that. At some point Randolph should have just said strong words to the effect of "Don't connect this club to last year's mess, it's a new day and we've moved on so you should too." Instead he played the race card and in doing so started the countdown on his own sell-by date.
Bill (New Mexico): As regards "figuring out the WHY," what's your take on why/how St. Louis is overperforming so much?
Jay Jaffe: The Cards have done a great job with a rotation that's largely retreads, converted relievers, and booger-eating spazzes, guys like Braden Looper and Todd Wellemeyer into solid contributors. Credit Dave Duncan, who was able to get enough out of Jeff Weaver to bring home an unlikely World Championship while every other team that's had him since Detroit has been bitterly disappointed. The bottom line is that the Cards aren't beating themselves - they're second in the NL in fewest walks allowed even while running second-to-last in strikeouts.
The other thing that's noteworthy is the way Tony LaRussa has pieced together his outfield. I'm not the biggest TLR fan in the world, and I'm still a little skeptical that guys like Ryan Ludwick and Skip Schumaker can keep it up for a full year, but this is hardly the 70-something win team I foresaw.
oira61 (San Francisco): You hate my team! You hate all teams! Admit it, you scoundrel!
Jay Jaffe: As a third-generation Dodger fan, I've never made a secret of my hatred for the Giants. However, you're clearly onto me when it comes to my scoundrel-like hatred of the other 29 teams. Curses, foiled again!
colintj (a2): What do you think of the Indians and Tigers playoff chances going forward? The Sox are anywhere from 55-70 percent favorites from the 3 BP odds reports. That sounds accurate to you?
Jay Jaffe: Given where those three teams are right now and the underlying causes for how they got there, I think that sounds about right. Cleveland has lost Jake Westbrook for the season, they've lost Victor Martinez for awhile, Travis Hafner has joined the ranks of the undead, and Rafael Betancourt is looking pretty clammy and monosyllabic as well. Detroit is out Bonderman already, the rest of their rotation is a mess, we don't know how well their bullpen can hold up, and they have to dig their way out of a sizeable hole. Meanwhile in Chicago we've seen guys like Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez, Gavin Floyd, and John Danks start to deliver on their promise even as the offense in general has underachieved. The Sox lead isn't insurmountable but given the run differentials and the injury situations I'd place my nickel on them.
Nick Stone (NY NY): I would have thought that with Kennedy coming back in 2 weeks, Hughes a few weeks later, and Cashman's MO, the Yankees won't rush into any deals. Do you think they'll make a deal for a pitcher before the deadline? Also, please vent about what a callow fool Fred Wilpon is.
Jay Jaffe: Hey Nick! I don't see the Yankees jumping into any deals quickly either. They wouldn't pay a king's ransom for Santana and I don't expect them to for Sabathia. If they make a trade now, I suspect it will be a smaller-time move that will cost them far less in blood and treasure. The closer they get to the trading deadline and the more they see of Kennedy may alter that, but Cashman is paying his cards right by trying to solve this from within first.
As for the Wilpons, the father-son combo of Fred and Jeff might be a good bet to supplant the Steinbrenners in the callow department if Hank would ever shut the hell up.
SC (Philadelphia): Jay Bruce: First ballot hall of famer or should they open a new "Hall of Bruce" just for him?
Jay Jaffe: ROFL, as they say. Hell of a start for the kid, to be sure. I look forward of seeing how well he handles the adjustments and the high expectations.
sodbuster (Wagner): Jay: It seems to me that the statistical 'cliff' that potential HOFers can fall off of is much higher than for normal players. Maybe the evidence is more anecdotal than actual, but I seem to remember many of those players (guys like Knoblauch and Rice leap to mind instantly) when I think of players of my era that were 'destined' for the HOF. Does the wide gulf between normal and HOF-levels of performance play any part in calculating future HOF worthiness of active players?
Jay Jaffe: Well, it's certainly a longer way down from being very good to so craptastic that you have to hang up your spikes in your mid-30s as both Rice and Chuckie Knobs did, and it tends to generate more coverage as to "what went wrong" though in fact these players were at least exceptional for some period of their careers.
But you're onto something with your question. Predicting Hallworthiness among active players is a tricky business. Even a great and useful predictive tool like PECOTA isn't all that helpful, because HOF caliber players tend to continue outstripping their projections late into their careers. Guys in their mid-30s who might have a shot may still need to hit their 75 percentile projections or above year after year in order to make a great case for themselves. Here I'm thinking of perennial All-Stars like Chipper Jones (who I think will make it) and Jorge Posada (I hope but don't think he will) as well as the fall-off-the-table cases like Carlos Delgado and Jim Edmonds.
jtrichey (Indianapolis): Can you say anything to make me feel better about the Dodgers? Angel Berroa? Are you kidding me?! Any chance Colletti is fired during the season?
Jay Jaffe: While I personally feel that trading for Berroa is the type of catastrophically dangerous action that calls for an instant show of violent aggression to force a regime change, I doubt Colletti gets fired during the season, Bavasi-style. But I do think it's coming. The Dodgers lead the majors with the highest $ and % of payroll lost to the DL, and the guys who are filling up that DL -- Furcal, Andruw, Nomar, Schmidt -- are Stupid Flanders' marquee free agent signings. It's tough to think he's going to dodge the bullet if the Dodgers finish at .500 or below because of all that.
Jeff (NYC): Hey Jay, thanks for all the great work you do at BP and FI. Do you have any insight into why the Dodgers are only using LaRoche as a spot player? Or when he may become a regular? I'm of the opinion that a prospect should be playing every day, in the majors if he's ready and there's room, or the minors otherwise. Anything less and you're stunting his development.
Jay Jaffe: Sticking with the Dodgers for a couple more here... I tend to agree with you, particularly given the way in which LaRoche has struggled to stay healthy over the last couple years.With Blake DeWitt slumping (.196/.260/.217 in June) and the Dodger offense wheezing, now's the time to make the move. Let LaRoche play now that he's healthy, send DeWitt back to Triple-A and let him rediscover his stroke and review how to play second base, because it may make sense to put him there given Jeff Kent's struggles.
David (Sonoma State University, CA): Now that Penny is down, do you see the Dodgers letting Kershaw pitch more?
Jay Jaffe: No. The Dodgers have a plan with Kershaw given his age and experience level, and they will stick to that even if it threatens their short-term chances. The kid has the opportunity to be crazy good, but he's walked 15 in 24 innings and averaging 4.2 pitches per PA. He's averaging 89 pitches per start and it's not even getting him through five innings. He may get loosened up to 100 pitches as he acclimates but that kind of inefficiency is an obstacle to him being terribly helpful to the team this year.
wilk75 (Houston): Wang's down, and the bullpen needs help. The Astros are now under .500. How about Valverde and Oswalt for Phil Hughes and Austin Jackson?
Jay Jaffe: No freakin' way. Oswalt hasn't pitched well this year while dealing with hip and/or groin problems, and while he's a very, very good pitcher at his best, and Valverde is pretty decent, it's tough to justify trading two guys who are nowhere near their arbitration eligibility for that combo.
RedSoxWoo77 (Plymouth, MA): Have you seen the traveling exhibit, "Baseball As America". I assume you don't know EVERYthing about the Hall of Fame, but I was wondering if you had any opinions on it as it is in Boston for the next couple of months.
Jay Jaffe: In fact, I've seen it twice -- New York in 2002 and DC in 2004 -- and I can't recommend it enough. To me, it was actually a better history of baseball than was laid out at Cooperstown last time I went through the exhibits (pre-renovation, in 2000).
I wrote a lengthy review of "Baseball as America" at my site: http://futilityinfielder.com/blog/2002/03/exhibition-season-among-dinosaurslast.shtml
Ira (North Texas): Hey, has any team sustained a .300 EQA for a whole season? I ask because the Rangers are sitting at .285, which seems outstanding to me...
Jay Jaffe: That's a good question, but it's one that Clay Davenport has the answer to, not me.
Jon Daniels (Arlington, Texas): Are you coming around at all on the job I've been doing as Rangers g.m.?
Jay Jaffe: Lots of Rangers questions today... Jon, like most GMs you've got your high and low points. I gave you high praise for the haul you got at the deadline last year (http://www.nysun.com/sports/texas-holds-a-fire-sale-to-salvage-future/59557/), and both Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley can hit. But that pitching staff is a fright -- both the rotation and bullpen -- even without the Bad Knight of Aruba, and I certainly wonder if Edinson Volquez could have helped your team more than Hamilton.
Jay (Hartford): Does Manny make it to 600?
Jay Jaffe: Yes. Perhaps even by the end of the season, the way he's been hitting :-)
Joe Lefko (Boonton, NJ): Following up on my own question...
With the A's so high on the Hit List do you expect them to be buying for this year or selling for next year, and if so who goes where?
Also, might they be able to do both..with chad gaudin ready to get back his spot in the rotation, they could improve their offense, and team overall, by trading (harden?) for a major league ready bat to a team starved for pitching (yankees?)
Jay Jaffe: Over the winter and at the outset of the year everybody thought Beane was waving the white flag on 2008 even as he restocked his team. Right now I don't think it's inconceivable that the A's could move Rich Harden or Joe Blanton and still expect to hang around the AL West and Wild Card races. They do have some pitching depth, and I'd expect that they'd get a decent return on either of those guys.
Dan (World Financial Center, NY): Who is the best internal option to replace Wang in the Yankee rotation (at least until hughes or kennedy is ready)? are Alfredo Aceves or Dan McCutchen in the running if you are Cashman?
Jay Jaffe: In the short term, Dan Giese is probably going to get the ball. He's a journeyman with good control but little upside; his best-case scenario is probably akin to that of the job Darrell Rasner is doing, keeping them in ballgames and waiting for the cavalry to kick some ass but putting some strain on the bullpen as well.
If Giese wears out his welcome and/or Ian Kennedy is throwing the ball well, he's probably the second option after he finishes rehabbing over the next couple of weeks.
I don't know a lot about McCutchen yet. he put up decent numbers last year between High A and Double-A, but he doesn't miss many bats; he's got 5.9 K/9 at Triple-A as we speak, and his EqSO rate last year was about 4.5. He's going to be in that same class as Rasner as well, a guy who if he hits his spots and maintans control could be moderately useful, but he's nowhere near as experienced as Rasner, so I'd expect the going to be rockier. But yeah, I think he might get a shot, even if it's simply as a Brandon Claussen-like audition for a deadline deal.
Aceves I know nothing about beyond his current numbers. Yeah, he's lit up A and Double-A, but he's also 25, so that's not surprising given that he's facing competition that's a few years younger.
jphan44 (CT): would the yankees and a's be willing to swap matsui or giambi for harden?
Jay Jaffe: I'm sure the Yanks would be willing, and I'm 100% skeptical that Billy Beane would bite.
B. Bavasi (Seattle): Any jobs for me at BP?
Jay Jaffe: Sure, Bill! Given your height you should be an ace at cleaning the leaves out of our office's rain gutter. We haven't been able to convince anyone else to go up there ever since Steven Goldman fell off the roof.
nsmith3 (Dallas): Seems like the Rockies should be sellers as the trading period starts to heat up. How much do you think they can get for Fuentes? If/when they trade him, do you see the Rockies going with Bucholz as the closer? They are wasting him in his current role.
Jay Jaffe: If I'm the Rockies I'm selling, but not in an everything-must-go firesale way given their young talent base. Fuentes will probably bring back a couple of pitchers, maybe a solid reliever and a low-level pitching prospect of no fixed hairstyle. Or two of the latter.
If they do that, I wouldn't be surprised to see Buchholz in the closer role unless Corpas turns it around. I'm not sure that's actually a better use for his talents, though. It's tough for a team's top relievers to see enough work when they don't have leads to protect, for one thing. And remember, a closer is probably likely to throw fewer innings than his setup guys, who may be in higher-leverage situations coming into games in the 7th and 8th with men on base rather than the proscribed start-of-the-9th plan for most closers.
Rich (Columbus, OH): Jay,
I really only care about this for fantasy baseball purposes, but why won't the Twins call up Liriano? Even if he's not great, he'll be better than all the chumps they're throwing out there right now. Blackburn and Baker are the only ones with an ERA+ over 100 (103 and 108 respectively) and both Livan and Bonser have been just terrible. What gives?
Jay Jaffe: I made that point in last week's Hit List. Bonser's already been shifted to the bullpen. Livan's been a piņata lately, allowing 30 earned runs and 56 hits in 24.1 innings over five starts. Something's gotta give.
It's important to remember that part of the reason the Twins farmed Liriano out was related to the way he got hert. What they had there was the proverbial failure to communicate. He wasn't being forthcoming about the condition of his arm, and that distorted the team's perception of his progress. But as the results have improved and the rest of the rotation struggles, I can't imagine it will be very long before the obvious move is made.
Jessica (NYC): Will the repercussions of the way the Randolph situation was handled reach beyond this year (i.e. scaring managerial talent and free agents away from the Mets), or does money still talk a little bit louder than dysfunction?
Jay Jaffe: Well, some of that depends on whether Omar Minaya survives to see another season or not. He botched the job via his roster construction, and he failed to show Randolph much support in his hour of need. In the case of the latter, I do think he was only reflecting the lack of leadership shown by the Wilpons.
But for all of that, this isn't the Angelos Orioles. This is New York, and money talks decibels -- orders of magnitude -- louder than dysfunction. So expect things to stay the same even as they change.
Ryan (Milwaukee via Maryland): I'm a displaced O's fan who will finally get to see his team play this weekend in Milwaukee.....the Booers fans are throwing out the Rickie Weeks for Brian Roberts trade idea and love it. I think it's insanely awful....but do you think that's the market Roberts will command at the deadline?
Jay Jaffe: I think I may carve my eye out with a carrot peeler if I have to read one more Brian Roberts trade rumor. The one I'm clinging to is that he's going remain with the Orioles and be buried in Peter Angelos' tomb. Until the owner gives the green light to trade Roberts, it's a waste of energy to think that he'll actually be dealt.
graffblood (Saint Paul): Who puts up better numbers here on out - Justin Upton or Delmon Young?
Jay Jaffe: Upton. Upton, Upton, Upton, Upton, Upton. Upton.
DrDave (Alexandria VA): JAWS questions!
Rafael Palmeiro? (objectively)
Gary Sheffield? (ditto)
My man Jorge Posada? (You knew it was coming...)
Jay Jaffe: Dr. Dave, glad you could stop by.
Very quickly, Palmeiro does have the numbers (138.4 career, 68.9 peak, 103.7 JAWS) versus a standard of 138.4/68.9/103.7 for HOF 1Bs.
Sheffield is in trouble in that given his injuries, he's not likely to add much to his numbers (117.2/63.5/90.4) which are a bit short of the Hall standard for RFs (125.0/68.7/96.8).
Vizquel I get asked about rather frequently. I covered this last year (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/unfiltered/?p=332), and since then the distance between him (79.3 overall) and the SS standard (96.6) has actually increased.
Posada has the peak (80.4/62.6/71.5 versus a standard of 98.9/60.8/79.9) and if he can stay healthy I think he's got a shot. But as this year has already shown, staying healthy will present a major challenge as he approaches 40.
A little dog named snuggles (Ohio): Does Ichiro playing in RF for the forseeable future affect his HoF chances according to JAWS? If he gets ten years (with the next three at or about this level) is he a shoe-in regardless of where he plays?
Jay Jaffe: The Hall standard in CF (113.4/66.9/90.1) is lower than in RF (125.0/68.7/96.8), but Ichiro already has a vast majority of his games in right, and as he loses speed, he's even les likely to see time in center field, so his classification is unlikely to change. He's not going to have a full-blown JAWS case to fall back on, but came into the year at 66.6/66.6/66.6 -- he's played seven years in the majors, all of which count for a pretty impressive peak. I think if he gets 10 years he'll find his way in as an exception along the lines of a Puckett or a Koufax.
Playwright22 (Baltimore): Do you have any evidence that Angelos is standing in the way of a Roberts' trade, other than past experiences. He seems to be leaving Andy MacPhail alone.
Jay Jaffe: Evidence? Well, I lack the smoking gun or a Smokinggun.com entry but just about every report about Roberts this spring made reference to Angelos' resistance to dealing him. Short of having the opportunity to ask him about it myself, I'll stick with that.
Beyond Roberts, you're right in that he's let MacPhail operate in the best interests of the club. But there is a market for Roberts, and yet MacPhail has been unable to tap it. Hence.
macman (dc): Enough chatter about those teams hogging the top 10. What about my beloved Nationals? Is this the worst hitting lineup in recent times? Also, on the Dave Duncan theme, I think Randy St. Clair is underappreciated for getting decent pitching out of a staff of 89 mph retreads and kids.
Jay Jaffe: Whew, 2:30 into this I think I've blown past my pitch count and am into a Category V start. This question and one more....
Good point about St. Clair and the Nats, particularly their rotation. If Shawn Hill could remain healthy it would be even more impressive.
As bad as the lineup's hitting has been, it's fundamentally not as awful as, say, the Mariners'. Injuries have taken their toll, limiting Nick Johnson and Ryan Zimmerman or knocking them out of action for extended periods. The important thing is that there's a lot more upside here than a place like Seattle. Lastings Milledge, Elijah Dukes and Wily Mo Pena may not live up to they hype, but I'd rather see what they can do than watching the death throes of Richie Sexson's career and the half-dozen battles to get OBPs over .300 in that lineup.
jlarsen (DRays Bay): Why do dunderhead rumormongers believe that the Rays' biggest need coming into the trading deadline is strictly pitching? Don't they understand that Hammel or Glover are the main problems in our pitching staff, who will both see their walking papers when Salas returns and Reyes is completely healthy. I'm more worried about our line-up, with CC and Pena ailing.
Jay Jaffe: It's not as dunderheaded as you think, actually. Being competitive over the course of a full season requires a great deal of pitching depth to withstand injuries and fatigue, and with the number of young pitchers on the Rays' staff and as their first line of replacement, that has to rate as a concern. I don't think anything drastic needs to be done, but Ican see wanting to obtain a bit of insurance.
But yeah, I'd be concerned about Crawford and Pena too.
Jay Jaffe: So many questions remain unanswered, yet that was my longest chat in recent memory, and a lot of fun. I'm sure we'll do this again soon. In the meantime, thanks for stopping by to talk some baseball!