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Chat: Derek Zumsteg

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday June 22, 2004 3:00 PM ET chat session with Derek Zumsteg.

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Derek Zumsteg is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Derek Zumsteg: test

Neil (Chicago, IL): In your opinion, who are the top 3 GMs and bottom 3 GMs in the league?

Derek Zumsteg: Top 3 -- Shapiro, Beane... lot of guys come to mind for #3. I love what Shapiro's done with what he has, I think he's vastly underrated, and his front office crew is top-to-bottom good. Bottom 3 -- Bavasi Bavasi Bavasi Seriously, is there anyone as flat cluess as Bill Bavasi?

MPK (Woodbury, CT): If the Braves happen to fall out of the race, is Smoltz to Oakland a possibility (assuming the Braves pay his salary)? What could Atlanta recieve for him? It seems that 1/2 a season of Smoltz isn't worth any of the A's top 4 chips (harden, blanton, swisher, and teahen)...

Derek Zumsteg: I don't think the A's are going to spend any of those guys on a bullpen commodity.

Casey (Baltimore): One thing I hear repeated by radio and TV commentators is that Ichiro has great power 'when he chooses to show it' or something along those lines, as evidenced by his homer-happy batting practice sessions. They claim he could hit 30 homers easy, but would rather get 220 hits and make things happen on the bases. To what extent is there any truth that theory?

Derek Zumsteg: I think Ichiro could probably swing for the fences all the time and pop some more home runs, but at the cost of his average. He's made a choice to chase a .400 batting average, and I think he's a more productive player for it. He can still turn on a pitch when the opportunity presents itself, but as a whole player he's just never going to have the power of a Sheffield, say, because he's just not as huge and strong.

And that's good, I'm in favor of variety in approach.

Sorry about the clunkiness today, for whatever reason chat's acting up on us. Skilled monkeys are banging on keyboards even as I work through it.

A.J. (Houston, Texas): Given that you are a Mariner fan, who are you rooting for in the Ranger front office power struggle -- Grady Fuson or the Buck Showalter/John Hart tandem?

Derek Zumsteg: Shoewalter/Hart. Fuson's taken some grief I think is mostly unjustified, but it's difficult to argue with his results when he was with the A's, even if picking up Ramos didn't work out for them. Fuson would actually be a good choice to run the M's when Bavasi gets fired, now that I think about it: there's a farm system in bad need of revamping.

R.J. (Washington, DC): Seriously, Dave Littlefield has to be in the "worst GM" conversation. He's as idiotic as Bavasi, if not more.

Derek Zumsteg: I disagree. Littlefield's struggled, sure, but look at what he's got to work with. And it's not as if almost every move he's made has been a total disaster -- and he can't face up to it.

Seriously, though... worst 3 GMs? It's a tough question to answer because then they pull a Sabean on you and run off some great teams.

Dave83 ((Upland, CA)): The Indians are in a really interesting spot. As the trade deadline approaches, do you think they will juice up, pare down, or stand still? Maybe trade Lawton and Vizquel now that they have some value, and save the money for someone else? Possibly subtract AND add, much like Billy Beane and the A's in 1999?

Derek Zumsteg: We've seen that Shapiro's interested in building a long-term competitive team, and that he doesn't see Vizquel as part of that. I don't know who would trade for Vizquel -- he failed a physical or he'd have been traded for Carlos Guillen pre-season -- but if he can move these guys, you have to believe he'll do it.

tomcoffman (Indianapolis): As of this weekend, the Dodgers lead the NL in batting average. Unfortunately, runs aren't rebounding from worst to first like their batting average. What's the problem, and solution?

Derek Zumsteg: They're hitting pretty well -- EqA team totals have them what, top ten? I think they're making the right moves, and will continue to upgrade the offense as they can. The runs scored thing isn't a good indicator because of their home park: it's like looking at the Rockies offensive numbers and seeing a top-tier run-scoring machine, which clearly they're not.

RC Cook (Dallas TX): Why is it that (at least as far as the national media is concerned) the AL West race is still considered a two-dog heat between the A's and Angels? Texas has had injury problems nearly as bad as those of Anaheim, yet here it is June 22nd, and they're in a tie for first place. Isn't it about time everyone starts taking the Rangers just a bit more seriously?

Derek Zumsteg: That's a great question. I think almost everyone on the West Coast would agree with me that too often we see analysis of the western divisions reveals more about the shallow attention spans of the analysts and writers than it does about the races or teams. It's as if they read the 10-word executive summary of the team and then ride that all year.

To answer the question of whether the Rangers should be taken seriously: I don't think they'll be in the race all year. Their offense is just not that strong, and their best pitching so far's been out of Kenny Rogers and Ryan Drese? That's not something you look at and can reasonable expect to continue.

The A's and Angels though have similar problems -- both are good but flawed teams, and I think Texas can stick around, especially if they're willing to bring in some short-term help for the rotation.

Seriously, Kenny Rogers? I've seen him this year and I don't get it.

Aaron (Albany NY): Can the Mets take the division with their current roster (maybe +David Wright), or are they due for a meltdown?

Derek Zumsteg: Heck yeah. It'll be interesting to see if the Mets deal Ty Wigginton for something shiny that can help them out.

The resurgence of Matsui's crazy, too -- when I saw him early this season his swing looked aaaaaawful, and now post-vision check he's been hot. If you buy into the improvement there, you've got to think they can compete.

One of the things I've learned in the last year or so is that you should never count out anyone's capacity for self-destruction, and Larry Bowa's got some great explosive potential.

Sonic (Tacoma, WA): I heard from a good source (I know, I know you hear it all the time but this is true) that Chuck Armstrong is very displeased with Howard Lincoln. Is there any way that Lincoln actually gets replaced? Its the only way I see that any of the M's problems (Bavasi, Melvin, player evaluation, budgeting) gets fixed anytime soon. Thanks.

Derek Zumsteg: Even if this were true, Chuck Armstrong's a club employee, and Howard Lincoln represents ownership. Soooo until the proletariat rises up and seizes the means of production (in which case I think Chuck Armstrong, as member of the oppressive ruling class, is in trouble anyway), his opinion of Lincoln's not going to make any difference.

It is interesting to note the total disarray of the franchise, though: the order to dismantle's come down, but Bavasi's done nothing. Different factions are at each other's throats, Bob Melvin's making player development decisions (like bring up Clint Nageotte because I need a good set-up guy who throws strikes, even though he's totally unsuited for that role), and no one knows what's going on.

It's like the bad side of the Yankees: without the talent, money, and drive to win, they could be reduced to warring Ethniconia by season's end.

southcoast (Texas): Colorado - who gets traded 1st and when - Burnitz, Wilson or Walker? Why can't the Dodgers score any runs for Odalis Perez; Do the Dodgers not put forth the effort when he pitches?

Derek Zumsteg: Burnitz, I think. Walker's going to have to play his way into a trade after his injury, plus he's old and expensive with a deteriorating skillset. Wilson looks attractive but at $9m, that's a lot. Burnitz is cheap enough that you can spend not much money and get a marginal upgrade.

Casey (Baltimore): did you say Kaz Matsui's been 'hot'? april - .256 may - .273 june - .225 Or did you mean he's just really attractive?

Derek Zumsteg: Jeez, I did write that. Can I get a mulligan on that one? Uh, his power's up.

(cough)

Soooo on to the next question.

Greg (Boston): Why wouldn't Bavasi trade Garcia now, when his value has peaked? If the Yankees or Dodgers are willing to send a boatload of prospects in return, how could the FA draft picks possibly be worth more? This is not a rhetorical question.

Derek Zumsteg: Peter Gammons has reported twice now that Bavasi's holding off because (paraphrasing) "he wants to build wins and momentum" and "because of the fans"

I think he's hoping that by retaining Garcia as long as possible, the team finishes close enough to .500 that he can point to that as respectability and retain his job.

If Garcia collapses again, though, he'll have gotten nothing and missed a chance to improve the team for the future.

But I'm not sure it matters: the guys they're talking about getting from the Yankees are goofs and don't look like they'll amount to anything.

Mike (Burlington VT): Do you think the proposed 3 way deal between the A's, Red Sox and Royals reported by Gammons today is for real? Giving up Youkilis, Shoppach and Williamson for 3 months of Beltran is ridiculous. Seems like a play to get a reaction from Steinbrenner.

Derek Zumsteg: I agree. This seems like it's just plausible enough to float and see if they can get a rise out of the Boss, but on closer examination it doesn't seem to make enough sense for the Red Sox. Or the A's, really.

Dan (LA): Second question: Do you think that ex-Dodger GM Dan Evans deserves more credit that he received for cleaning up Kevin Malone's mess? Paul DePodesta will be a great GM, but I still feel like Evans should get another shot at being a GM.

Derek Zumsteg: Certainly. I don't think Evans is the best GM candidate out there, though. I might not interview him if I had a team and a GM spot open. But given some of the guys who get considered, yeah.

Note that Evans employed and later was given a job by Bill Bavasi, which says something.

Tim (Milwaukee, WI): Is there any chance at all my Brewers will be adding players to stay in the race? What is going on with the NL Central?

Derek Zumsteg: They're not going to add anyone if it means giving up young talent. Or spending more money.

Mario (Fresno): Exactly how screwed are the Giants in the long term? They've got a barren farm system, no one in the front office that knows how to build from the ground up, and a major league roster that consists of a 40 year old Best Player Ever and the Devil Rays, pre-streak. What's going to happen to them?

Derek Zumsteg: They're at 82.3 on the screwed-o-meter, by my reading.

Their failure to support Bonds during his resurgence is so disappointing to me. I think about what he might have accomplished given even an adequate supporting cast and...

The worst part is the Giants have been doing the prep work for a bargain-basement team for a while, with the constant "crippling mortgage payment" refrain. If attendence dips at all, they may slash payroll way down and blame the stadium.

Which would make the other owners happy, probably.

Adam Yauch (Brooklyn, NY): Isn't it possible that Rhodes' (28 IP) and Bradfords (30 IP) struggles are overhyped and just a matter of small sample size (today's PTP notwithstanding)? Their periphs are down but 30 IP is approximately 100 AB's on a hitter (using a rule of thumb of 600 PA's=200 IP's).

Derek Zumsteg: Dude! I have your album on right now.

I think Bradford's record of success points to fluke. The thing that worries me is that his insane G/F ratio is less insane this year, which either means he's been unlucky or he's leaving the ball up more.. and the latter would mean he's got to make some adjustments.

Rip2632 (Birmingham, AL): Aren't the Braves just a Marcus Giles recovery away from taking another NL East flag? Shouldn't the Fish and Phils be BURYING them about now (or better yet, last month)?

Derek Zumsteg: Ah, Marcus Giles. I love watching Giles rake the ball.

I don't think they'll be good enough to scream past everyone else even with him back. It takes a lot to dominate a division with unbalanced play, and the Mets-Marlins-Phillies are all teams that make it even harder.

bctowns (Chicago): Derek, Breaking Balls is scathingly funny, but do you ever get frustrated that your ire seems to bounce off MLB and certain Northwest ballclubs like a rubber ball off the metal plate in Allan H.'s head? The Tribune Co. is particularly frustrating for a lot of Cubs fans due to keeping their eye on the bottom line, rather than running a successful ballclub.

Derek Zumsteg: Yes. I think I've moved a little away from howling at the moon as a result: really, how many columns can I write about how shameful MLB's treatment of Montreal's been? Will one more detailed explanation of how revenue sharing's being subverted change anything?

That said, if anyone's got column topics for me, I do requests.

Also, bar (and bat) mitzvahs, birthdays, and weddings.

scottzumsteg (san francisco): derek, hows the knuckler going, are you going to manage and win a city adult championship this year to catch up to your older cousin (1 under my belt). Why has Rafael Soriano turned into an albatross this year? I told everyone in fantasy league at beggining of the year I have a couple lively arms in Soriano and Santana, now they think I am an idiot. This is not helping my GM aspiration

Derek Zumsteg: Easy way to get your question answered, folks: nepotism.

My knuckler is a work in progress.

Rafael Soriano's always been a great talent with a caveat about his health. He's experienced bouts of soreness through his career and that's what's cost him this season. That and the team's weird decisions to play him before he was at full strength, etc.

On Santana -- he's putting up a crazy-good K:BB ratio, so even if the wins and ERA haven't come yet, I'm still high on him. Santana's one of the pitchers I'll stop on when I'm flipping through games on Extra Innings and shake my head when he throws something really cheesy.

Dean (NY, NY): Hi, Derek. What do you make of Derek Jeter's improved zone rating and range factor this year? He is in the top 10 for MLB shortstops, when he usually is at the bottom of those rankings. Could it be the acquisitions of groundball pitchers Brown, Lieber, and Quantrill? Could this signal that these statistics are more correlated to rotation make up than previsous thought? Thanks.

Derek Zumsteg: My initial reaction was "up is down, right is wrong, black is white".

But specifically -- range factor's extremely staff-dependent, so having a ton of groundballers could boost that significantly. RF's really only useful comparing same-team guys with their backups.

For Zone Rating, that's curious, but I'd be much more interested in what our stats end up looking like (I saw a prelim number and it showed a great improvement), and what UZR tells us.

The interesting theory I've read is that having Alex (who's also having a good defensive year) is allowing Jeter to play much further towards second, which has helped him. I haven't seen enough Yankee games to speak to that myself, but it's something you can watch for.

Death Cab for Cutie (on the road): Whatever happened to Rick Ankiel?

Derek Zumsteg: Heey, "Transatlanticism" was a great album.

Why do baseball chats so frequently involve music? I'm feeling like I should do a Gammons and start throwing out and taking recommendations.

At this point even the Cards have to be considering just releasing Ankiel and moving on.

Derek Zumsteg: Thanks for all the good questions, but I have to run with too many unanswered. Sorry for the difficulties starting off. As always, if you have questions I didn't get to, you can email me at dzumsteg@baseballprospectus.com and I'll try to get back to you.


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