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Chat: Jay Jaffe

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday October 24, 2008 2:00 PM ET chat session with Jay Jaffe.

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You know him from the Prospectus Hit List and from his Hit and Run column, but Jay Jaffe will be sticking around to take your questions about the World Series.

Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks, and welcome to today's chat, fresh off last night's Series-knotting game. We've got some minor technical difficulties here, but hopefully we'll be able to get through this.

oira61 (San Francisco): It seems like there are no players on either team who are already good Hall of Fame candidates (though guys like Utley, Upton, etc. have time to qualify.) Can you ever remember a Series without such an established veteran star?

Jay Jaffe: Wow, that's a good question, one that pretty much ties into what I was saying a couple of days ago about how rare it is to get two fresh teams facing off in the series for the first time in awhile. Add to that the fact that both teams are dominated by younger guys whose best days may still be ahead of them and you wind up with a situation like this. I'm jogging my memory and looking back over the WS matchups and thinking that we've hit a real stumper. At the time, people wondered aloud if the 1998 Yankees would yield a Hall of Famer, but now it's apparent that Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter will make it if nobody else does, to say nothing of Tony Gwynn from the opposite dugout.

The 1982 matchup maybe - at the time it certainly wasn't apparent that Ozzie Smith, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor or Don Sutton would make it (Sutton would win 60-something more games in the majors), adn Rollie Fingers was sidelined too. Definitely a question to sock away for future pondering.

Alex Belth (Bronx, New York): Jay, what's on your winter Baseball Reading List?

Jay Jaffe: It's my man Alex, Bronx Banterer and baseball bookworm extraordinaire! Let's see, what's in my pile... right now I've got the W.C. Heinz anthology, What a Time It Was, which is a fantastic introduction to one of the all-time great sportswriters. I've also got a bookmark in Eliot Asinof's Man on Spikes, which I started back in September before switching over to some non-baseball fiction (Chabon's Yiddish Policemen's Union); I was coming off having read Eight Men Out for the first time, and that was a thrill ride even given my knowledge of the story, and MoS didn't grab me in the same way, but it deserves another shot.

One I'm waiting to crack is Red Barber's 1947: When All Hell Broke Loose in Baseball, about the Dodgers and Jackie Robinson. Barber's work in the booth is legendary, and his candor about having to overcome his own prejudices upon Robinson's arrival makes for an interesting angle. "It was the hottest microphone any announcer had to face," wrote Barber, and that seems like enough to recommend it.

doughowgate (Boston): Hey Jay, wondering if you think there's any chance Laynce Nix turns into a serviceable 4th of?

Jay Jaffe: Man, this one is out of left field. I'd say the chances are slim to none. Nix has gotten just 91 at-bats over the last three years, his Age 25-27 seasons, and has 12 hits, just three for extra bases. His career line is now .235/.272/.401. he's got a bit of pop and can play defense but his plate disicpline is atrocious (6-to-1 K/BB ratio).

The Brewers view him as organizational fodder, and quite rightly I think. He's a warm body to stick out there for a day or two until a more sufficient reserve can be located.

Mountainhawk (Salem, MA): Two part question: If tomorrow is rained out, what will each team do with their rotation? Part 2: What SHOULD they do?

Jay Jaffe: If Game Three is pushed until Sunday, the Phils can, should and almost certainly will start Hamels in Game Four on Monday. Given that he'll be on four days rest, to not do so constitutes managerial malpractice. That also leaves Hamels available to pitch in relief for Games Six and/or Seven if Manuel nees him to.

Whether the Rays will do the same with Kazmir likely depends on who wins Game Three. If the Rays are down, I think they have to come back with Kazmir, if they're up they probably SHOULD go that direction but may well defer to Sonnanstine to give Kaz an extra day.

collins (greenville nc): Jay, what do you reckon are Juan Gonzalez' HOF chances?

Jay Jaffe: Slightly better than Nix's chances at fourth-outfielderhood. Despite his 434 homers and two MVP awards, he's got a cloud of suspicion around him regarding PED usage; he was named in the Mitchell Report and Cansco's book, and guys whose last productive season comes at Age 32 generally don't get in anyway.

Brian Gallagher (Evanston, IL): If you're the Mariners you've got to be pumped about snagging Zduriencik, right?

Jay Jaffe: Definitely. Jack Z is regarded as one of the top talent evaluators in the game, responsible for remaking the Brewers with picks like Fielder, Braun, Gallardo, et al. He's an older guy, obviously held to be more of a scout-friendly type than a young turk, but given the directionless route of the Mariners in recent years, competence in any direction is bound to be a big plus.

It's a tough loss for the Brewers, particularly with all of the compensation picks they're likely to have given free agent departures.

Nick Stone (New York, NY): According to ESPN, Boras is pushing for a longer contract for Manny. How many years do you think he'll get? Where? And why does Tim McCarver get so worked up about Manny, yet he doesn't seem to be bothered by Brett Myers's penchant for wife-beating?

Jay Jaffe: Hey Nick! Thanks for dropping by. Realistically, I don't see Manny getting four (or more) years anywhere, though I think somebody could flatter him via a three-year deal that approaches A-Rod's average annual value. While I think the Dodgers are players for him, I see the Mets as potential suitors, but my sleeper pick is the Phillies given the Charlie Manuel connection (managed him in the minors in 1993, and again in 1999, serving as the Indians' hitting coach in between), Burrell's free agency, the ballpark, the fact that they're a winning team right now.

As for the McCarver thing, yeah it really is galling to hear him and Buck slobbering over Brett Myers without at least acknowledging his off-the-field woes, even if they are (hopefully) behind him. The guy is no mensch, and there's zero excuse for riding a high horse regarding what Manny is alleged to have done while ignoring something that's considerably more serious.

Dave (Chicago): After multiple major surgeries, what kind of production should we expect from Eric Chavez next season and beyond?

Jay Jaffe: I've always viewed the litanies of injuries of both Chavez and Bobby Crosby as enough for the A's to move strongly towards Plan B options at both positions; that they haven't remains one of Billy Beane's biggest shortcomings. I expect nothing from them, and I think the A's might eventually come around to the idea that Jack Hanahan and Donnie Murphy aren't gonna cut it.

dianagramr (NYC): Hiya Jay ... thanks for the chat. Gaze into your crystal ball and tell me if the current economic downturn will in any way temper the attendance at the new stadiums in NY? How about across the country?

Jay Jaffe: Hi Diana - I think the novelty and the fact that both teams are likely to be competitive (if not favorites) will keep them afloat through year one, but a longer-term economic slump could very well have an effect once the honeymoon wears off, particularly if the Yanks continue aging as rapidily as they seem to be.

Across the country, I think it's a major problem. Corporations might cut back, non-season tickethodlers who may have gone in for those sixpack-type packages might downgrade to a couple games... Baseball's rising attendance wave is a product of relatively prosperous times and enough disposable income for the middle class to keep up with the rising ticket prices. Take that away and you're looking at some lean times.

cwc (cal): Where is this idea that Joe Maddon is some sort of eccentric coming from? I'm just not seeing it. Is it just the fact that he has fashionable eyewear?

Jay Jaffe: Seriously? How many other managers post quotes of Albert Camus and Alan Greenspan on the clubhouse walls?

Tim (Sonoma, CA): Does David Price get the Goose Gossage treatment the rest of the way for the Rays after the 2 1/3 he pitched last night? The more he pitches, the better off the Rays are, in my opinion.

Jay Jaffe: I can't see Maddon relying exclusively on him the rest of the way when Balfour looked good in Game One and Howell is rested too. Maddon seems determined to mix and match in ways that might keep the Phillies unsettled (the infield shift on Utley for example, or the RF "platoon"). Throwing different looks at their lefty hitters is likely on the menu, so I wouldn't be surprised if we see more of Howell and even Trever Miller in Game Three.

TGisriel (Baltimore): How much of a handicap is it for the Orioles to be competing in the AL East? Would they be more likely to contend in another division?

Jay Jaffe: It's a big handicap that's only going to get even more serious as the Rays mature and the resources of the Yanks and Red Sox help them rebuild while remaining competitive. And while I have no idea what to make of the Blue Jays right now, they had a pretty good season too.

Given the abysmal state of their big-league rotation, the Orioles are a long way off from competing anywhere without major steps forward from some of the kids and some fresh bodies from outside the organization.

X (Y): You've been pretty critical of the job Jon Daniels has done as Ranger g.m. Do you think Nolan Ryan, as the new team president, has made a mistake in committing to Daniels and bringing him back?

Jay Jaffe: I thought Daniels did nice work at the 2007 deadline in trading Teixeira, and the Hamilton deal did bring back a superstar level talent whereas Volquez was probably unlikely to flourish under the conditions there. Those two things plus the Bradley signing buy him a bit of time.

The bottom line, though, is that the team needs to find a way to field a competent rotation as opposed to the doormats they've put out there. Yes, injuries have played a part, as have some of Daniels' clinkers. We'll see how Ryan's plan for the pitchers' improved fitness plays out - Arlington's a tough place to pitch and maybe they should explore moving the fences back to give their kids a break.

cwc (cal): Albert Camus -- OK, that's pretty odd, and cool. Greenspan -- probably not someone you want to be namechecking a lot these days.

Jay Jaffe: Tough week, certainly. But at least he's not quoting McCain.

Ryan (NY): As long as we're diving into Orioles optimism, give me your "bottom 5" most hopeless teams for the next three years...

Jay Jaffe: Washington, Pittsburgh, San Diego, KC, Seattle and Baltimore, with a big gap between the Nationals and everyone else. I'd be staggered if any of these teams even contends for a postseason spot in the next three years, not that they don't all have at least a puncher's chance of some improvement.

Bill W (Brooklyn NY): I really did think Baldelli checked his swing (and I hate to cite Joe Morgan, but so did he)... Does the rulebook even define a swing in purely physical terms? Also, odds that someone from Fox tells Joe & Tim that Carlos Ruiz isn't from Venezuela before Game 3?

Jay Jaffe: So far as I know there's no official definition. One hears "breaking the wrists" (not in the hired-goons-send-a-message sense) and bathead crossing the front of the plate as considerations, but it's apparently the discretion of the umpires.

I have zero faith that McCarver and Buck would even care if/when confronted with the truth about Ruiz. Certainly didn't come up last night and he was on base four times.

Swingingbunts (NY): I think the 1997 World Series is a good match for the 1st question. The Indians had Manny and Thome but they were only 25 at the time. The Marlins had Sheffield who was only 28. That's about it.

Jay Jaffe: Fair point, though I guess one might have been forgiven for hoping that Kevin Brown or Orel Hershiser might continue building strong cases, David Justice (31 and coming off a monster year) too.

blaseta (Calgary): Do you see the Jays having any chance at signing Derek Lowe? They seem like a really good fit with their strong infield defense. Personally, I think they'd be much better signing him then they would be if they got AJ Burnett back given their respective histories. Am I making sense are is my dislike of AJ getting in the way?

Jay Jaffe: Lowe has been among the most durable pitchers in the majors; he's second to Maddux in games started over the last four years while Burnett is... not. He's a horse and there aren't too many teams who COULDN'T use a pitcher like that. Which means the Jays would have to outbid the Dodgers, Yankees, Mets and anyone else who throws their hat in the ring.

As for Burnett, he's got a MUCH higher upside, but with the high reward comes a very inflated risk, not to mention his reputation as a jackass, which as you acknowledge can distort the perception of his value. If he opts out, I think the Jays are better off looking in another direction rather than paying him, though I'm sure somebody will.

Ameer (NYC): Hey Jay. You continue to rock the house at BP. Follow-up to the first question of the chat--who do you see as the most likely HOF candidates on each of these WS teams? I know it's a lot harder to make any kind of prognostication with the kids, like Price, but hey, it's fun to take a guess.

Jay Jaffe: Hey Ameer! Thanks for the kind words. Looking at these rosters, I'd say both Utley and Howard have uphill battles given their relatively late starts to their careers, though Utley could be the Jeff Kent of the next decade albeit with better defense AND plate discipline. Rollins may make a run at 3000 hits; despite his flaws, he's got 1461 through his Age 29 season and he's generally been very durable. The sky's the limit for Cole Hamels if he stays healthy...

And you an say that about Longoria, Upton, Price, Shields, Kazmir... all of them or none of them might pan out as HOFers - if I had to pick one I'd put my money on Longoria.

Curll84 (MA): Speaking of Ruiz, his minor league numbers were great in '06. Platooned in '07. Did poorly in '08. Is this the extent of Ruiz? He's almost 30 now, but is there room for improvement?

Jay Jaffe: Based on what I've seen the past two series, I'm certainly willing to consider the possibility that Ruiz is closer to the hitter we saw in 2007 (.259/.340/.396) than the guy who hit .217 this year. Catchers are notorious for playing through injuries that erode their hitting in an effort to hold a pitching staff together - check out Roy Campanella's career sometime; he backed up some MVP years with some Ruiz '08 ones.

Nick (LA): Okay, Dodger fan, Ned's been fired and now you're the GM. What do you do this offseason?

Jay Jaffe: Re-sign Lowe. Try to sign Manny and Furcal to deals no longer than three years; if they want more, move on. Move DeWitt back to third base and let Hu and Abreu battle for second. Consider picking up Penny's relatively affordable option and then flipping him in the spring for some additional coverage in the infield.

Jeff (Denver): I know Glavine is a shoo-in because of his 300 wins, but isn't he really just a product of those dominant Braves teams of the 1990s? I mean, he doesn't even come close to 3000 Ks.

Jay Jaffe: Strikeouts are very nice but they're not everything. Glavine's career ERA was more than 20 percent better than the league average over the course of his first 21 seasons, which is a pretty big indicator of greatness. He didn't dominate but his skill in pitching with men on base was pretty unique, perhaps unparalleled except by Maddux. He's 32nd in Pitching Runs Above Average, and he had six top three Cy Young finishes, with two Cys. Great, great pitcher.

Tony (Brooklyn, NY): Are the Yankees going to become slaves to the idea that they can't open a new stadium without a team that will win at least 90 games?

Jay Jaffe: I think they're pretty hemmed in given the immovable parts of their roster which should likely make them an above-.500 team; hell, they had just about everything go wrong this year and still won 89 games in a brutal division. There's no reason to punt that just yet.

mattymatty (Philly): Have we seen the best of Robinson Cano, or is this someone the Yankees can (and should) still build around?

Jay Jaffe: I think it's a bit early to give up on him, but its also worth remembering that second basemen as a group tend to peak earlier than players at any other position (see Nate Silver's work from a few years back). The Yankees' general dearth of young hitters, absence of options to replace him from within the system, and the danger of selling when his value is very low - all of this gives them little choice but to try and build around him.

Mike (Texas): Looking back over 2008, what players do you think cemented their future HOF inductions? What players dented their chances?

Jay Jaffe: I'm a big believer that his first 20-win season put Mike Mussina over the top. Walking away after doing so may be a statement-maker that plays well with the BBWAA electorate down the road, but I don't know that for sure.

On the other hand, Gary Sheffield looks pretty cooked, and while he'll get past 500 homers next year, he's not gonna go much higher than that, and it likely leaves him on the borderline before considering his rather unique collection of baggage.

Tony (Brooklyn, NY): Is Mussina the reigning great HOF test case?

Jay Jaffe: Well, he's not on the ballot yet. Until he is, I'll put Tim Raines and Bert Blyleven ahead of him on the to-do list.

Yatchisin (Santa Barbara): I'm intrigued about your answer that claimed "Maddon seems determined to mix and match in ways that might keep the Phillies unsettled." Should teams think more about the element of surprise as a tactic? Managers tend to seem so risk-averse.

Jay Jaffe: Too many managers manage by the book because it's a means of covering their butts. "I had my closer in there because it was a three-run lead in the ninth, and this is an important game," etc.

Maddon seems to be freer of that impulse than most, and if he's not somebody who can cop to reading Tango/MGL's Book or Mind Game for a more evolved sense of strategy and tactics, he's certainly got people around him who have - see the Rays' league-low total of sac bunts this year. And I do think the element of surprise is one worth exploring. I've often wondered if a team could get away by not announcing a starting pitcher until game time - it might be considered a bush-league tactic by somebody, somewhere, and it would probably drive the PR offices nuts, but hey, why provide the advantage of letting the opposing manager know beforehand?

Brandon (Charleston): How many games do you think the Reds win in 2009? They're building a nice young nucleus with Bruce, Cueto, Phillips, Votto, and Volquez. Not to mention others like Dickerson, Ramirez, and Encarnacion.

Jay Jaffe: I'm bullish on the upsides of all of those first five you named - they were certainly fun to watch in 2008. I think they've got a shot at .500 if Dusty Baker can stay away from the Corey Pattersons of the world, and if Harang and Arroyo bounce back and remain in the fold. Much of that is predicated on what Walt Jocketty does, and handing him a loaded sub-.300 OBP hitter like Patterson is just asking for another losing season.

Playwright22 (Baltimore): While I agree that Myers' wife-beating is a much more grievous sin than any of Manny's collection, we shouldn't forget that Manny committed assault and battery on a Red Sox administrator. He should really be awaiting trial.

Jay Jaffe: That's the first time I've heard the phrase "assault and battery" to describe the situation, which was reported as Ramirez shoving the guy to the ground. That's not to excuse the matter at all, just to suggest it's been blown out of proportion. It's fair to note it, but then we have to note that the Red Sox did nothing to discipline Ramirez. No suspension, no fine, no criminal charges. Hmmm. [Late post-chat note: reader Michael P sent along a link to a Boston Globe bit regarding Ramirez being fined somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000 - a report I missed when it came out. Apologies for the error.]

Jay Jaffe: Ok, folks, that's all I have time for today. Thanks for stopping by to spend some time here. If your question didn't get answered I'm sure there will be another BP chat soon enough. Enjoy the rest of the World Series!


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