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Chat: Marc Normandin

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday August 22, 2008 1:00 PM ET chat session with Marc Normandin.

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Marc Normandin stops by to talk about late-season fantasy strategy.

Marc Normandin: Hello all, glad to be here on this sunny Friday afternoon. The normal slew of baseball questions is appreciated, but we can veer off topic as well, into the realms of video games, books, music, or whatever it is you want to discuss.

nickojohnson (LA): Is attempting to ride hot streaks a good fantasy strategy? Joe said something the other day about riding hot streaks being akin to chasing wins.

Marc Normandin: I don't like to ride hot streaks off of free agency too often, as Joe is right. You just end up hoping for the same production to come, and you don't get anything for their past performance. That said, I often have one rotating roster spot due, one of my weaker ones--for example, this year it's SS for me--where I go with whoever is hot at the moment until they cool off. I've had some of the stronger SS production in my league on the year despite not having a legitimate "name" player there. In small doses, I'd say it's fine.

abernethyj (Chapel Hill, NC): Can you give some sort of explanation as to what the heck happened to Hunter Pence this season?

Marc Normandin: It's pretty simple: last year he had a .378 BABIP when he should have been closer to .314, based on his 19.4% line drive rate. This year, his liner rate is just 14%, and he's much closer to expectations with a .295 BABIP.

Pence hit for a ridiculous average on pitches high and outside last season, and he's doing it again this season, but he's weak in all of the other corners. He chases plenty of pitches in each area of the zone regardless of those shortcomings though, and just hasn't (unsurprisingly) had the same luck on balls in play he did in 2007.

Guancous (Silver Spring): Greetings, I'm in a ten team keeper league where everyone retains 20 players. Should I keep Alex Gordon and/or Chase Headley or overpay for an upgrade? Do you like Headley over Ellsbury? I need power more than speed.

Marc Normandin: 20 players? Wow. I like Gordon still--he's young--and Headley's intriguing, though PETCO makes him less appealing than he could be elsewhere. I like Ellsbury long-term, but you might want to wait and see if he puts on some muscle this offseason before you stick with him. He's not going to draw walks or hit for any power if he doesn't start to muscle pitches and put a little scare in the opposition.

nickojohnson (LA): Keeper question: Milledge or Adam Jones?

Marc Normandin: Jones is hitting .310/.345/.452 since June 1, which is a good sign considering he's never flashed much power while in the majors. Milledge has been a mess this season, and if forced to pick between the two, I'd go with Jones. He's a beast-in-progress.

themcneills (PDX): The Baseball Project Vol One... thoughts? I admire their fandom and believe their hearts are in the right place, but some of it just sounds... hokey? Raffi-ish?

Marc Normandin: I haven't listened to it yet, but is there any way to make a baseball-inspired album without having it come off as hokey and awkward?

RJ (Pittsburgh): What do you think of Nate ranking Hanley at #1? Isn't his defense pretty weak?

Marc Normandin: I'm glad you asked! A few weeks ago I was checking out defensive numbers for the Marlins infield for a piece here at BP, and I noticed that Hanley was the most productive defender in the Marlins infield defensively. Granted, the competition is awful, but still, Hanley is ninth in the majors in Revised Zone Rating, at .838, right smack in the middle numbers wise. If Hanley has become an average defender at short..that's a scary thought, considering how good his bat is.

Before anyone jumps on me, it's one season of data, so I'm still curious as to how his 2009 is going to go defensively. Average doesn't seem like a stretch given his tools and athleticism though, if he's been working on it. Anyone want to confirm from actual visuals on his play there?

RJ (Pittsburgh): Has any player ever improved his HOF candidacy in one season as Mussina has this year? Eyeballing it from my armchair, I think he's gone from something like a 30% chance to at least even money. (True, this does say more about the electorate than it does about Moose, but still.)

Marc Normandin: That's probably a question for Jay Jaffe or Steven Goldman, as I'm sure both of them would have a few memories to share with you of players doing just that. As for my generation, well, we're used to seeing players blow their Hall of Fame candidacy with scandals.

g-mo (bumpus): hey dude. how's Steven Goldman doing? please tell him he's in our prayers.

Marc Normandin: Will do, g-mo. I'm sure Stevie appreciates the sentiment.

Jeff Loria (Florida): Do you think the Rays will follow my lead and dump players in a few years or start locking them up long term.

Marc Normandin: They have already started locking them up long-term. Longoria signed a contract about 13 seconds into his major league career. Also, the Rays are trying to increase attendance, not pull a Fish with it.

Josh (Cleveland): Screw late season fantasy strategy, tell me what you would do(as GM) to help the Jays get past your beloved RedSox next year?

Marc Normandin: Get some bats into that lineup. The defense is excellent, the rotation is also great, but they just don't have the sticks to play with the big boys in the East without some lucky breaks during the season.

Alex Gordon (Kansas City): Why our royals fans so down on me now? Ive had a solid season and Im about to break out next year with an mvp caliber season

Marc Normandin: You're asking me to get inside the mind of that fan base? That's a dangerous situation you're trying to involve me in!

You'd be perpetually down if you were paying to watch instead of getting paid, too. I have faith in your Alex, you're going to be a good one for sure.

JMan (TP): I'm in a keeper league(5x5) and trying to determine if I should keep BJ Upton despite him losing eligibility at 2B. His steals are nice but already having Crawford and his brother I might be a bit short on power next year. Also out of these 3 pitchers which one goes into the Thunderdome and does not come out for next year? Sabathia, Sonnastine, Marcum.

Marc Normandin: Upton needs to work on hitting balls besides the ones that are right down the middle of the plate before he gets any kind of power back, and without 2B eligibility, he doesn't have as much value. I'm not the guy to talk to when it comes to players whose main qualification for production are steals, as I avoid them like the plague in favor of well-rounded hitters. Upton can certainly be one of those well-rounded guys--see 2007--but he needs to get that loft he had back into his swing. Starting fresh with a mended shoulder in 2009 might be a good time for that.

Due to potential, I might keep him over Crawford, though. (Awaits slew of angry e-mails)

kevin (boston): how sad is it that the team with the best record in baseball has to try to increase attendance?

Marc Normandin: Oh, they'll show up more often with time. The Rays fans I know are very devoted...if you had just sat and watched a team lose for as long as the Rays did, without ever knowing what success was, you wouldn't rush out to the park immediately either. But hey, they are doing better with it as the year goes on.

Jack (Chicago): Ummmm, last time I checked (this morning), the team with the best record in baseball is packing 'em in evey game..your Chicago Cubs. Thank you.

Marc Normandin: I was trying to cut him some slack and focus on the question, but you're right. The Cubbies are #1 in the standings.

ted (the cubicle): "Anyone want to confirm from actual visuals on his play there?" Let me get this straight. You want to talk to someone who watches Marlins games? Good luck with that one.

Marc Normandin: It's wrong that I may have seen more of the Marlins this year than anyone else in this room, despite not living anywhere near there.

Mike (Jax, FL): Tell Kevin in Boston that this is a no condescension zone. And I'm not saying that because I'm a Rays fan. We all can't have a bandwagon big enough to invade Georgia.

Marc Normandin: I despise that bandwagon. I can't hide those feelings at all, despite being a Sox fan. I'm pleased with the Rays doing well; having new story lines to listen to has been a good time this year.

Stan (Chicago): After finally, sadly, coming to the conclusion that he was killing my fantasy team's slim chances at post-season glory, I cut Kosuke Fukudome this week. It's an 8 team NL only league with 4 OF spots. Do you think he'll have any value next year? He's fallen off a cliff for two months...

Marc Normandin: He was very reliant on Wrigley when he was good, and he hasn't been good anywhere lately. He's an interesting player with potential to do better than this due to his patience, but he needs to work on hitting major league pitchers more consistently before you run out and grab him right away.

Jack (Chicago): I understand, sorry to be a stickler, but I haven't been able to say the Cubs have the best record in baseball too often in my lifetime...gotta soak it up while I can.

Marc Normandin: Oh, it's fine. I like this Cubs team, I can't even root against them as hard as I normally do. Then again, it's probably easier to let other NL teams have their way when the Padres are in the cellar :-(

Steven Goldman (Secret Location, Central NJ): Hey, Marc. Swell chat as always. Gotta say I enjoyed the Baseball Project a heck of a lot, especially "Ted F----ng Williams." Also, we need to get you playing some more PC games for those of us who don't own consoles. I just wanted to pop in and thank G-Mo for the nice sentiment. I'm okay, G-Mo, just kind of bored and lonely here in my lead-lined isolation cube while I wait for the half-life of radioactive iodine to run its course. I really appreciate the thought.

Marc Normandin: Thanks Steve, glad to hear from you. I think Ted would be pleased to be remembered in song with that kind of title...

As for PC games, I'm patiently waiting for Diablo III to stop my social life. It's not going to stop it because I won't leave my apartment for a month, it's going to stop because all of my friends are going to play it at the same time I am, and we'll have nowhere to go besides deeper into Hell.

Peter (Beyond the Boxscore): Hey Marc, how's it going? I'd like to get your opinion on Freddy Sanchez, for fantasy purposes. Do you think he can sustain the high batting average that he has posted recently?

Marc Normandin: Peter, Peter. You come here, into my chat, asking me for advice in a week when we are facing each other as I fight for a bye week? You got stones, man ;-)

He's a much better hitter than he has been this year, and his numbers in the second half are not too out of whack from things we've seen from him in the past. I don't expect a .330 average to stay up--as a rule, I don't expect that from anyone except for Pujols--but it can't hurt, as it's not so much riding a hot streak as hoping a player has returned to his talent level.

kevin (boston): my bad on the record thing, and just to clarify i wasn't suggesting that they didn't have a contingency of devout fans, its just frustrating when I have to stay in an online waiting room for 6 hours to buy sox tickets and then seeing tropicana field half full despite having a better team (so far).

Marc Normandin: I have not purchased a Red Sox ticket since they instituted that waiting room. I hate it.

Bill Sussman (CT): What should the Red Sox do with Varitek going forward? I am so tired of hearing people talk about how valuable he is to the pitching staff and how he calls a great game. I don't think if they let him go it would be a bad move, he is currently below replacement level.

Marc Normandin: Please don't re-sign him, please don't re-sign him, please don't re-sign him, please don't re-sign him, please don't re-sign him, please don't re-sign him, please don't re-sign him, please don't re-sign him.

They need to find a legitimate replacement first, and Kevin Cash is not a legitimate replacement. You can make the argument that with their other bats, they can afford to have a lousy hitting catcher back there, but that only goes so far before you find yourself making bets with friends about which quadrant of the strike zone Varitek is going to miss a pitch by three miles in every time he comes to the plate. And yes, I do that often, and I'm pretty good at it from having plenty of practice, which is sad at a level I can't explain.

MikeJordan23 (SoCal): Nate Silver's rankings were cool, but it seems like with these list, people try their hardest to find a reason not to list Pujols as the best player, when he clearly is. I never understand it. Pujols is a better hitter, and better defensively then Hanley and Wright. His worst season is better than their best seasons, yet, he's number 3?

Marc Normandin: If I had to guess, it would be positional scarcity that drives that, but I don't want to speak for Nate. You should ask him yourself for confirmation on the inner workings of the list.

casey (ca): what do you think of using stats like WPA in assessing MVP worthiness? Seems like someone who does most of their power hitting with men on base (e.g., Hamilton) is doing better for his team than someone who slugs worse with men on base, holding all else equal. I recognize clutch hitting isn't a skill, but it's still a good thing when it happens, right? So shouldn't power hitters get extra credit for it?

Marc Normandin: As time goes on, I find myself slipping further and further from these debates about who should get the MVP, because the definition is not the same for everyone, and no one can decide about what metrics to use. I think a combination of various elements could work, but then you have to weight them appropriately, which will probably turn into another round of arguments.

As for your question, WPA is neat because of the "clutch" factor involved. Clutch is one of those concepts I like seeing explored, since we don't understand it entirely. For that reason, I wouldn't lean on it too heavily, but it's a neat stat worthy of mention in the discussion.

Steven Goldman (Fortress of Radioactive Solitude, NJ): It's one thing to say the Sox need to replace Varitek, another thing to actually name a potential replacement. Catchers are scarce. I have "Hellgate" around here somewhere, created by the guys who designed Diablo I and II. I was going to install the thing while I recuperated, but I can't find the damn thing. Hence I am here, lurking in your chat, instead of slaying imaginary beasties.

Marc Normandin: Exactly, who is going to take over for him? If they re-signed him for a year, I could probably cope while grinding my teeth, but if they sign him for more than that, I would be upset.

Hellgate got some mixed reviews, which was disappointing. I wanted to play that too. My computer isn't up to par with PC gaming right now, so consoles are where it's at for me. You should take a dive into console land, Stevie!

Steven (Burbank): Video games? Sure. Diamond Mind vs OOTP?

Marc Normandin: I prefer MLB Power Pros myself. I was always partial to Baseball Mogul for a simulator. Simple, but with enough customization to keep me interested.

John (SanJuan): Ryan Ludwick: sustainable or fluke?

Marc Normandin: Funny story, as you'll get a much more detailed explanation on that note in the near future.

Or (Dallas): Deeper into hell... or maybe heaven? Only time will tell, Marc!

Marc Normandin: Speaking of contrasts, is anyone here upset about the brighter environments and use of color in Diablo III? I'm fine with it, though some people are pretty upset.

nickojohnson (LA): Does Manny's season look strange to you? K rate is up, but he has been a different player since coming to LA. What do you expect for '09?

Marc Normandin: That depends. Does he like where he's playing next year?

Nick (NYC): Ricky Nolasco? Has he figured something out? Could we possibly be watching someone become an ace? or small sample size?

Marc Normandin: He's got my attention, that's for sure. I'm thinking his walking one per nine is a tad on the unrealistic side, but even if that jumps back up a bit, he's still posting some impressive peripherals.

I really wanted him in my fantasy league before anyone else noticed, but I was too slow.

Rob (Brighton): Hey Marc, with all the posts Sheehan is doing about the awards I figured I'd drop this thought on you. If Dice-K notches a few more wins he could be 18-2 by the end of the season, which means he'll likely figure in the Cy voting. How upsetting is that? He's like a dentist that learned magic to be better with kids. He pulls teeth with no novacaine, then pulls a quarter out of your ear and acts like it's all better now.

Marc Normandin: If anyone sees Rob in Brighton tonight, please buy him whatever he wants to drink. That was worth it, even without an answer from me.

Mike (Jax, FL): Ramon Hernandez is available. You'll need to purchase defense with him, but still.

Marc Normandin: I'd prefer a catcher who can field; I just don't want them to be mistaken for a Nationals' hitter when they are in their street clothes.

Charles (NJ): Hey, the Orioles have three positional players on Nate's list. Are they going to be serious contenders sooner than we think?

Marc Normandin: The O's aren't half bad, but like the Jays, they are in the wrong division. [Cue calls for divisional realignment]. Both of those teams would be doing pretty well for themselves in the NL.

Rob (Brighton): Whiskey and gingerale please. What they used to call a highball back in them old timey days.

Marc Normandin: You heard the man, get to ordering.

John (San Juan): Ok, that was a tease...how about ryan dempster? nice year for him to go out on the market.

Marc Normandin: I think Dempster, like Nolasco and Lee, has made some excellent improvements to his component stats this year, and as long as he keeps doing what he's doing in the future mechanics wise, he should be a quality arm.

Remember when he was more intriguing prospect than joke, prior to this year? Seems like forever ago.

Or (Dallas): Are you doing any console-based RPGs, Marc? They seem to be sadly scarce.

Marc Normandin: I just finished Odin Sphere for PS2. Gorgeous, gorgeous game with an excellent story and very good game play. Highly recommended if you dig action RPGs. I still have a few last-gen RPGs I need to get through, so I'm not too upset about the lack of the current-gen ones. I'm waiting on Disgaea 3 for Playstation 3, coming out next week, so that's a start and big addition to this generation's RPG library.

David (Yonkers): Yanks fan here. I think 2009 is going to be tough even if the Yanks throw all their money at Sabathia and Teixeira. Am I being too pessimistic? It seems to me that the Yanks should consider 2009 a rebuilding year, a time to re-stock and shop some vets (Matsui, Damon) because the Sox and Rays will be too good to overcome.

Marc Normandin: I think they should rebuild as well, though Sabathia is still young enough that having him around wouldn't be a bad thing, as long as he isn't asking for a Santana/Zito-esque deal. Since that's probably the case, they might want to rebuild. That's one of the stories of the winter for me, as I generally like Cashman's ideas and am interested in seeing what direction he takes with the club.

casey (ca): If Gil Meche keeps this up, ought the Royals look to flip him this offseason?

Marc Normandin: Depends on the market. I'm of the mind that no one should be untouchable, and that everyone should have a price, so there's no harm in quietly looking to see what people would pay for him.

Bryan (Manteno, IL): With Evan Longoria on the DL, do you think White Sox 2B Alexei Ramirez has a chance to win the AL Rookie of the Year?

Marc Normandin: I don't think he has enough in the stats department to be leading, especially when there are some pitchers with more production than he has around. Galarraga has been very good, and Joba is a media darling, so if Longoria doesn't get it I'd look towards one of those guys.

Josh (MA): Division realignment with two expansion teams. Two 8s in each league, or four 4s?

Marc Normandin: Where would you put the two teams? I vote one more NY team and one more Boston team, as awful as that sounds for people already tired of the media attention on that coast. They have the markets to support it, and there's almost nowhere else profitable to place a club.

Josh (MA): The FA list form mlbtraderumors: Catchers Rod Barajas (33) - $2.5MM club option for '09 with a $0.5MM buyout Michael Barrett (32) Henry Blanco (37) - $3MM mutual option for '09 with a $0.3MM buyout Johnny Estrada (33) Toby Hall (33) - $2.25MM club option for '09 with a $0.15MM buyout Jason LaRue (35) Paul Lo Duca (37) Miguel Olivo (30) - $2.7MM club option for '09 with a $0.1MM buyout Mike Redmond (38) - $0.95MM club option for '09 with a $0.1MM buyout Ivan Rodriguez (37) David Ross (32) Jason Varitek (37) Gregg Zaun (38)

Marc Normandin: That's um...ugly. And depressing, if you're a Sox fan, or a fan of anyone else without a quality catcher.

Bobby (TX): Do you think Denard Span, a former 1st rd pick, is living up to his potential?

Marc Normandin: His 26% liner rate is going to be tough to sustain, and that's the source of his .363 BABIP, which is in turn the reason he's hitting as well as he is. I think he's an intriguing player, but with a .141 ISO and a batting average living off an unrealistic BABIP, I'd wait before saying he's fulfilling his first round potential. The sample is just too small.

Rob (Alaska): Adam Lind: buying or selling?

Marc Normandin: If I could buy twice, I would. Lightning round folks, sorry to cut things short early, but I have a list of things to accomplish today.

Harold (Green Bay): Should there be long-term concern about Harang's struggles? Something obviously isn't right.

Marc Normandin: His velocity is down a negligible amount, but that homer rate is ugly. Sorry to pull a Joe Morgan on you here, but I honestly have not seen enough of him to know what's the matter with him. For people who see the Reds...are his mechanics any different this year?

themcneills (PDX): Will instant replay actually make games... slower?

Marc Normandin: More time for me to make Game Time Nachos!

Bud (Dallas): Obviously, the proper answer is neither... but if you absolutely need a frontline pitcher, would you rather do 6 years at 150 for Sabathia or 4 at 70 for Sheets?

Marc Normandin: I'd go with 4/$70M for Sheets. He's more of a risk, but it's also for just four years. I love loaded contracts for short time frames.

marc (chicago): Do you get mad when people spell your 1st name M-A-R-K?

Marc Normandin: I get just like the Incredible Hulk, except with better movies.

kevin (boston): well the free agents are ugly, but there are options via trade, pirates might want to trade paulino with doumit establishing himself, and the rangers could move one of their young catchers

Marc Normandin: This is true. That's going to be the way to improve, and maybe the Rangers will be forced into coughing someone up to improve the rest of their roster.

JMan (TP): Andy sonnastine or Shaun Marcum for keeper?

Marc Normandin: Is your pitching that bad, or is the league that deep?

raygu1 (burlington, nj): Thanks for the chat. Chances of Kemp outperforming Justin Upton long term???

Marc Normandin: Long-term, I like Upton better. Kemp is going to be a great player, but I think Upton has the chance to be one we won't forget about for a long time.

Peter (Beyond the Boxscore): Pretty ironic that Kelly Shoppach is the best player in the Coco Crisp/Andy Marte trade, eh? Keeper question: choose two from the list of Beltran, Berkman, Hart, Guerrero, Sabathia, Billingsley.

Marc Normandin: Shoppach sure would look good in a Red Sox uni, and hell, he can even catch a knuckler.

JMan (TP): Both. After Sabathia and Mussina I have Gavin Floyd and these 2.

Marc Normandin: Yipes. Keeping Moose, really? He's an extra walk per nine away from exploding all over the place. I'd go with Marcum for the strikeouts, since both defenses are pretty much even.

david (dc): Texas seems to be awash with catching prospects, and they always need pitching. Why not send Masterson or a near-ready prospect there in exchange for Salty, Teagarden, or Max?

Marc Normandin: With the way Buchholz has been falling apart lately, I vote "near-ready prospect" over Masterson.

Marc Normandin: Thanks for stopping by today, folks! I wish I could stick around longer, but I have to be off for now. Enjoy the weekend's games, and good luck hunting down a playoff spot!


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