Nate Silver writes "Lies, Damned Lies" for Baseball Prospectus.
Nate Silver: Time's a'wasting, so let's get going.
Frank (Las Vegas): Nate,
Can the Pirates (with white flag flying) trade for decent pitching prospects without giving up what may be baseball's most productive outfield? or should they just wait for Nady and Bay to hit free agency and take the supplemental picks?
Nate Silver: To fail to trade Xavier Nady would be the mistake of the century. This is a career year being had by a C+ ballplayer, and to continue to get lumped in with Jason Bay in all these discussions is inflating his brand.
Sky (The Roc, NY): Isn't it worth giving up two decent prospects for Tex or Dunn, considering you'll be getting two back in free agent compensation next summer?
Nate Silver: Free agent compensation picks are enormously important to consider when performing valuations of these sorts of trades -- but the important thing to keep in mind is that the value of a draft pick in the second half of the first round is relatively low compared to the value of a first-tier prospect, or even a prospect toward the upper end of the second tier.
Tom (Virginia): As a Tiger fan and a Virginia Dem what are the better odds, Tigers make the playoffs or Obama wins Virginia?
Nate Silver: Obama is the better bet, and it isn't close. The thing I've had to get accustomed to as a Tiger fan is that I'm not actually certain that the Tigers are a superior team to the White Sox.
boom-boom (Iowa City): Fantasy Q: Should I trade Soto for Adrian Gonzalez? I'd be replacing Soto with Iannetta. Thanks!
Nate Silver: Well, all fantasy trades depend on format, but as a baseball proposition, I love Geovany Soto and would need more than Gonzalez to feel right about dealing him.
Corkedbat (Dallas): For fantasy purposes who will be better for the remainder of the season (in order)? B Roberts, Pedroia, or Kinsler?
Nate Silver: Kinsler, Roberts, Pedroia.
JMan (Chicago): Should I tell all Cub fans to go and ahead and jump or should this turn around?
Nate Silver: This is nothing. A blip. Four losses in five games. Assuming that they stay reasonably healthy, I wouldn't trade the Cubs' 25-man for anybody in baseball's right now.
Sky (The Roc, NY): How worried should the White Sox be about their over-achieving pitching staff? Somewhat worried or the-crap-is-about-to-hit-the-fan worried?
Nate Silver: Well, I think Gavin Floyd is going to turn into a pumpkin at some point. And who knows what you're going to get out of Jose Contreras. But Danks, Buehrle and Vazquez ought to be solid -- and Vazquez has UNDERachieved -- and I like this Clayton Richard kid they're calling up to be a reasonable #4 his first time around the league.
Dylan (Toronto): How do you see Sabathia over the next few years? Can he continue his peak, or is he destined for the typical 300 pounder drop off a cliff?
Nate Silver: Typically, when you have a 300-pounder, he isn't a pitcher, so I don't know what lessons can be drawn from that. Sabathia has actually been remarkably healthy over the balance of his career overall and that's probably the more important leading indicator. And -- while this just is a guess -- I actually think pitchers might hold up better when they've got a little bit of meat on their bones.
chunkstyle (Toronto): Does Bonds play this year?
Nate Silver: I really doubt it. I talked to an official from a team that might seem like a good fit for Bonds and was sort of laughed off -- I just don't know if it's in anybody's probability set.
Jim Hendry (Chicago): Should I make another move before August? Will I?
Nate Silver: Unless you're panicky, you ought to be pretty set. Maybe you could use another middle relief arm and a right-handed bat of the bench. But those are luxuries and ought not require you to trade any premium young talent.
Dylan (Toronto): Is Posada a HOFer? What if he can never really come back from his injury?
Nate Silver: Posada, you'll remember, was a late-bloomer, not really becoming a big league regular until age 26, and that's going to hold his career numbers down to the point where he doesn't really have much chance.
Rob (Andover, CT): Followup to the Bonds question:
Teams have known cheaters on their payrolls. Teams have known wife beaters on their payrolls. And some of them suck. Bonds... doesn't.
Nate Silver: It's a good question, and teams will tell you they're concerned about sponsors and season-ticket holders, but that's a lame excuse. Maybe there's peer pressure and they're worried they'll get ostracized. I guess you just don't really have one of those Oakland Raiders type organizations in baseball that take pride in putting a bunch of misfits together. Well, maybe the Nationals.
Jed (San Francisco): Alright, I need somebody to break this down for me. Why is catcher such a crucial defensive position? I understand why the guy needs a respectable arm so other teams can't run all day, but there are several others on the field that can call a game (Tony Larussa) and there just aren't that many plays for a catcher to make that could go either way. It's fairly rare to have a wild pitch or passed ball, but hardly a game goes by where Jeter doesn't get to a ball that a good SS would get to. I don't have the stats, but a wild pitch/passed ball is like what? every third game? How many of those does pudge stop that Piazza doesn't? Also, it's proven that catching hinders a hitting prospect's development. Why wouldn't somebody like Daric Barton get moved back to catcher when it looks like his bat won't carry at 1st?
Nate Silver: There's an interesting argument to be had here. I think teams still place a lot of emphasis on game-calling skill, no matter how much work Keith Woolner does to try and get them off that trail. But it's also a case where ... we've never really had a team say "screw it, we're going to play Jayson Werth behind the plate for a year and see what happens", so those examples might not exist in the dataset. It's as much fear of the unknown as anything, I think.
tfierst (MN): RE: Trading the Cub's 25. Not even for the Red Sox? Especially considering the league differential?
Nate Silver: Yeah. I'm not a huge fan of the Red Sox' starting pitching.
Dan (NYC): I know that Volquez's success stems from his changeup but are you convinced he's going to be a dominant starter going forward? His stuff is clearly legit but I wonder how reliable he's going to be in the future.
Nate Silver: A pitcher that relies on a changeup is more something I'd worry about when evaluating a minor league pitcher. There is definitely a set of prospects that will post superficially good numbers because a lot of minor leaguers can't hit any sort of changeup, whereas against major leaguers you need a pretty darn good one and also other pitches to establish it. Volquez, however, is accumulating the big strikeout rates in the major leagues. I think he's more of a #2 than a #1, ultimately, since his walk rates remain pretty high, but he should continue to be very good for a long while.
Sky (The Roc, NY): Who will win the most games in each division over the second half of the season?
Nate Silver: That's a fun question. Let's say: Rays, Indians, Rangers, Mets, Cubs, Dodgers.
TomH (Lexington Park MD): re: catchers' defense, Woolner's work notwithstanding, significant research (published thru SABR, http://www.philbirnbaum.com/btn2004-11.pdf) strongly suggests catchers help pitchers' ERAs as they spend more years with a team, implying giving the spot to just anyone for a month or a year would not work well. This matches most opinion too, doesn't it?
Nate Silver: That's interesting stuff. But isn't that a problem with any rookie catcher, then? I'm not saying you should change catchers on an ad-hoc basis, but to take a guy like Daric Barton who could be your catcher for four or five years -- even if he's not liable to be an especially good one -- is a different matter.
Corkedbat (Dallas): I still am not sure I understand why being a catcher actually hurts one's batting. I would think the more MLB pitches you see the better a batter you can be... and a catcher sees a ton of pitches! Not sure why the correlation is backward.
Nate Silver: There is that benefit -- and catchers usually have at least pretty decent batting eyes, A.J. Pierznyski notwithstanding -- but it's a much more fatiguing position to play than anything else out there on the diamond.
Justin (Milwaukee): Politcal question. What are your numbers saying for the Presidential election?
Nate Silver: We have Obama at about 58 percent to win the election, but his numbers will probably tick upward once we incorporate the new polling from today.
Evan (Vancouver, BC): Joe said that Toronto might be one of the best 8 teams in baseball. Do you agree? Their 3rd order record is pretty good.
Nate Silver: You can make the argument. The teams that I think are clearly better than Toronto are Boston, Tampa, the two New York teams, the two Chicago teams, and Milwaukee. That leaves one slot open.
Theo Epstein (Boston): Not a huge fan of the Sox starting pitching? We're 7 above average starters deep, baby! Bullpen, I understand, but we've got 5 starters with ERA+ over 110. We've got Colon, who has been above average, and has some upside, and we've got the best young pitcher in the game who hasn't even hit his stride yet.
Nate Silver: Depth doesn't matter so much in October. I see a lot of #3/#4 starters, and Beckett, of course, but not necessarily the guy you want starting the 2nd game of the World Series.
Andrew (Nueva York): Obama at 58%? Seems like a blowout. Hopefully they will stick around until the World Series and have a championshiop parade the first week of November. Where did you see these numbers?
Nate Silver: I should make clear: that's a 58% chance of winning the election, not 58% chance of the vote. We only having him winning the popular vote by a point or two.
dkdc (NYC): We've seen some pretty big early/mid-July deals this year. Will midnight on the 31st be comparatively quiet?
Nate Silver: I think the Yankees will almost certainly make a move. Hendry might panic and make another one too. Look, right now we've got something like 13 teams within 3.5 games of first place. There are going to be plenty of buyers and some pretty big deals, I'd expect.
Parker (Charlotte): Nate, How would you assess your knowledge of minor leaguers? For the readers and those posing questions, should we reserve those questions for KG?
Nate Silver: My process for evaluating minor leaguers is basically running a PECOTA and talking to Kevin. Since you can see the PECOTA cards, that probably means that Kevin is the best guy for those questions.
Sky (The Roc, NY): JP Ricciardi for most underrated GM? Filling depth in the rotation, grabbing cheap effective relievers, and running out a great fielding team isn't sexy, but it's damn effective. If the Jays' record matched their performance this year, the AL East could be a four-team race down the stretch.
Nate Silver: If he's underrated now, it's only because he was overrated before.
Nate Silver: OK, gotta get going here, guys. Thank you for all the excellent questions and we'll do it again soon. And tell all your baseball-loving friends about Free Week!