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Chat: Jay Jaffe

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday January 22, 2009 1:00 PM ET chat session with Jay Jaffe.

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Whether you want to talk Hall-worthiness, which team's a hit, or just hit and run, drop in on Jay during his chat to talk about baseball past and present.

Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. With pitchers and catchers still a few weeks away, hopefully we've got something to chase away the winter blues.

frampton (Oakland, CA): Thanks for the chat! You alluded in today's article to the difference between lamenting the inclusion of players like Jim Rice to the Hall on the one hand, and pressing for the inclusion of guys like Blyleven and Raines. Is there a pragmatic reason to focus on the latter rather than the former in the sense that the guys with the votes might be more receptive to arguments for inclusion if we don't tell them they're idiots for putting in borderline players? It also sort of seems that the history of the Hall has pretty much rendered moot the argument that only the truly elite should be enshrined . . .

Jay Jaffe: There are a few things in play here. Arguing against Rice is particularly futile because his admission is a done deal. Not that it didn't stop me from mentioning some of his candidacy's shortcomings today, but my intent was more to focus on the process and its underlying patterns than on the player. Oh the other hand, arguing for Blyleven and Raines is still a worthy cause even if the battle appears to be an uphill one. Second, as contrarian as I may seem relative to the BBWAA electorate, I much prefer the positive angle of arguing for a worthy candidate than against an unworthy one.

Furthermore, in this particular case, I've had enough of bagging on Rice because as I mention, I genuinely did enjoy watching him play and I do feel like he got a raw deal in some quarters. If his admission promotes a bit of healing, so much the better.

Ryan (NY): I have a business venture for you. We can start the Hall of Very Good players. We can place it in nearby Utica, NY and players like Jeff Kent, Sammy Sosa, Curt Schilling can headline our class in 5 years or so! What do you think?

Jay Jaffe: Pass. While none of the players yo mention are slam dunks, all three have reasonable HOF cases and I would expect one or two of them to get in.

Besides, I'd favor Schenectady over Utica out of personal allegiance to a friend.

leitch71 (Baltimore): Jeff Kent - Hall of famer?

Jay Jaffe: I'm considering taking up this question -- and that of other recent retirees like Greg Maddux and Mike Mussina -- for my next piece, so I'll withhold comment until then.

Apologies for the technical difficulties thus far. The epically slow load times I'm experiencing on this end have me needing to reset the chat. Back momentarily...

Fred (Houston): How do you think Jeff Bagwell will be viewed by the HOF voters when he comes up? I know he scores well on the BP metrics due to his great batting eye and superior golvework, but he lacks the big counting stats to assure his induction. I would think Rice getting in helps in that regard, because Baggie was certainly a "feared hitter" in his day.

Jay Jaffe: He's a strong candidate from a JAWS perspective, but I think he'll have a tough go because of his early retirement, relatively low counting stats and the perception that his numbers were inflated by park and league in the so-called "Steroid era." It should be an interesting case, though.

BruceG (sgilbert@sti.net): Are you aware of any research that indicates how many victories Blyleven missed out on compared to the average starter of his era based on his below-average career bullpen support? Thanks, Bruce Gilbert

Jay Jaffe: I'm not, but our Support Neutral pitching stats (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/statistics/sortable/index.php?cid=204023) provide the tools to undertake just such an evaluation. I'll put it on my to-do list.

BL (Bozeman): Are there any pre-WWII players you're cheering for in the Veterans Committee process?

Jay Jaffe: When the VC ballot came around in December I took a look via JAWS (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=8353) and among the pre-WWII players I came up with Bill Dahlen, Wes Ferrell and Bucky Walters as Hallworthy. I'd particularly like to see the first two get in sooner or later.

Matt A (Raleigh): I've been very interested to hear the thoughts of someone from BP on the Braves' signing of Lowe. Got any?

Jay Jaffe: Moving away from the Hall questions for the time being, I like this signing, though the price is a lot steeper than it should have been based on the reports of what the Mets were offering. Lowe is an ultra-durable groundballer who's solidified into a much better pitcher since leaving Boston, even beyond the obvious advantages of his move from Fenway to Dodger Stadium, park- and leaguewise. Over the last four years, he ranked 11th in the majors in SNLVAR, 10th in innings, and 12th in ERA+. While he's entering his age 36 season, there's nothing about him that suggests he's a particular health risk or that he's at risk of a sudden collapse.

The bigger issue for the Braves, however, is that while Lowe and recently acquired Javier Vazquez are both solid #2-type starters, neither is anywhere near the caliber of Johan Santana or Cole Hamels, the NL East's big guns.

murber74 (Gaithersburg, MD): What do you think of the Orioles chances this year, with the addition of Uehara and Pie?

Jay Jaffe: I like both acquisitions. The Orioles need starting pitchers, because the cattle call behind Jeremy Guthrie doesn't engender very much confidence that this team can finish ahead of Norfolk, and because Uehara seems to be the cream of this year's Japanese import crop. As for Pie, I applaud the team's decision to acquire a player with legitimate upside instead of going the Jay Payton route -- the functional equivalent of taking the Barney-guarding job (http://www.snpp.com/episodes/3F14.html) -- and think that he'll benefit with the change of scenery, though putting his bat in left may present problems as it raises the offensive bar a bit.

Memo to the dude who's now submitted the Omar Vizquel question for the fourth time -- I've got it, and you're not improving your chances by clogging the chat queue, you're hurting them.

Hawkeye (Grafton, ND): Who's better Felix Pie or Elijah Dukes this year??

Jay Jaffe: Sticking with the Pie-man theme... amid his injuries, Dukes certainly showed he could hit major league pitching last year, and in a tough offensive environment. He gets the nod for the moment.

AlexBelth (Bronx, NY): Jay, do you ever recall an off-season when so many veteran players were unsigned by this point? It's one thing when you are talking about Junior Griffey who has little value left, and a guy like Manny or to a lesser degree Abreu, who while in decline, can still provide...something.

Jay Jaffe: My man Alex! I think you'd have to go back to the collusion era (1985-1987 offseasons) to find so many big names out there who remain unsigned. While I'm not suggesting anything so nefarious is afoot, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if a decade from now somebody unearths evidence to the contrary there.

Doubling this up with another good question you've asked ("Has your analytical work been more difficult this year with all these free agents still out there in limbo?") I think the offseason climate created by the economy and the slow pace of player movement has provided one of the more daunting challenges I've ever faced in this industry. Teams like the Brewers and Dodgers (both of whom I cover in BP09) still haven't come close to completing their offseason work with regards to replacing big guns like CC Sabathia and Manny Ramirez, making any legitimate assessment of their 2009 chances very difficult.

Nick Stone (New York, NY): With the news that Posada might not be as healthy as hoped, the Yankees' need for a viable back-up catcher has become more urgent. What are their options, considering that they are reportedly willing to part with Nady?

Jay Jaffe: Hey Nick! Good question, as there's no doubt that the Yanks need to do a better job of protecting against Posada's absence than they've done in the past. Now that Brad Ausmus is off the market (my hand should be healed by the end of spring training, thanks), the best available option on the free agent market is the one that Joe Girardi spent two months kicking in the head last year -- Pudge Rodriguez. He was enjoying a bit of a rebound before he started rotting on the Yankee bench in favor of Jose Frakkin' Molina.

On the trade market, I'm not sure if anyone's gonna give up much of a catcher for Nady, but I wonder if a youngster with upside like Jeff Clement, Bryan Anderson or even J.R. Towles could be pried loose with a package involving, say, Ian Kennedy. I'm a horrible matchmaker when it comes to prospect-based trades -- it's why Brian Cashman doesn't take my calls.

Snakedoctor18 (New York): Who should be the Yankees opening day CF in 2009?

Jay Jaffe: Has the ship sailed on Zombie Mickey Mantle yet?

I'm certainly not wowed by the Yankees' in-house options, a pool that nominally includes Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Johnny Damon and Nick Swisher. I don't think the latter two can carry the position defensively anymore, and I'm less than wowed by the offense offered by either of the former two, unless Cabrera has spent the entire winter being beaten over the head with a fungo bat in an effort to impart the slightest modicum of common sense into his thick skull.

Which means that a better solution must lie outside the organization. I'd be willing to see if Jim Edmonds has anything left given his rebound with the Cubs.

Turtle (Slowville): Hey, wanna answer questions a little faster? Why going so slow? You getting frakked or something?

Jay Jaffe: Our tech department has acknowledged that we're experiencing some site slowness at the moment, and I've been assured they're working on the problem, which affects me at this end as well as you, since I have to see to it that every answer submitted actually grinds through to the page. Apologies if this isn't quite as action-packed as you digging your finger deep into your left nostril -- feel free to come back later to read the completed transcript.

Aaron (YYZ): Where does a player like Adam Dunn land in this mess of a marketplace? I can't think of any good fits off the top of my head (maybe Anaheim?) where his skillset meshes well with the team's needs and likely tolerances...

Jay Jaffe: It's difficult to believe that a 29-year-old who's reached 40 homers in each of hte last five seasons won't find a home eventually. Slotted at first base, he'd be a decent play for the Nationals, who could undoubtedly use his thump. I've argued before (http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/web/COM1148908/index.htm) that he would make good sense for the Dodgers in the event they don't re-sign Manny Ramirez, since they haven't had a player top 20 homers since Jeff Kent in 2005. Though he lacks Manny's charisma, even moving into the least hitter-friendly park of his career he'd be an imposing middle-of-the-order presence, and he's hardly a major step down from Manny defensively.

GB (New York): If you were King of the World, how do you handle Phil Hughes and Clay Buchholz this season? Split year of minor leagues and spot starts in the majors?

Jay Jaffe: Assuming they're physically and mechanically sound, I'd find room for both on their respective major league rosters, use them in middle and long relief and make them pitch their way into the rotation based on the quality of their performances.

If it was good enough for Earl Weaver, it's good enough for me.

ericturner29 (Chicago): It seems that in a few years, Omar Vizquel will join Rusty Staub and Harold Baines as the only guys with 11,000 PAs who are not in the HOF. My loose understanding of the argument against Omar is that while his counting and rate stats compare favorably with the Wiz, after adjusting for eras he comes out a little short offensively (84 OPS+ to 87), but the big difference is defense. Apparently the gulf between their defensive abilities was so great that Ozzie was a 90%+ slam dunk inner-circle type of election, and Omar isn't even a bubble guy. Two questions: Was Ozzie overvalued when he went in, and if not can you shine some light on the defensive differences? Thanks

Jay Jaffe: Ozzie Smith's defensive excellence is well-supported by the numbers, as systems such as WARP and Win Shares both love him. Vizquel is more of a mixed bag. The current iteration of WARP most definitely does NOT love him, but I suspect that the forthcoming play-by-play based system will correct that somewhat; his pbp-based UZR numbers eyeball as pretty decent.
Beyond that it's worth noting that Ozzie does have an advantage over Omar with the stick, via a .261 EQA to .254. IN terms of Batting Runs Above Average, the difference is about 100 runs.

Ken Sr (Florida): With the addition of Smoltz and Penny, where would you rank Boston's pitching? Do you think Schill will play any part in Boston's rotation this season, especially considering both Smoltz and Penny's injury track record?

Jay Jaffe: It's a strong rotation that features some very high upsides (Beckett, Lester, perhaps Buchholz if he's not traded), some enigmas (Matsuzaka, Wakefield) and the decent flyers taken on the aforementioned, neither of whom should be counted on for more than 100 innings in 2009, at least according to my educated guesstimates. I'm not sure I'd put it ahead of Sabathia-Burnett-Chamberlain-Wang-Hughes, but I do like the potential depth there.

Daniel (Michigan): Why are the arbitration salary numbers so inflated while free agent salaries are declining? Are GMs afraid that the arbitrators won't take the declining market into consideration? Ryan Howard's 2008 WARP was just below Pat Burrell's, yet Howard stands to make as much in one year as Burrell will make in two. Would the Phillies have been better off non-tendering Howard and then re-signing him on the open market?

Jay Jaffe: Buster Olney addressed this today, noting that the specific guidelines with the way arb cases are prepared mean that this current economic climate isn't something that's taken into consideration; rather, it has to do with how much money comparable players earned in prior years. Where you're more likely to see change is when this current set of salaries comes to bear on cases down the road.

As for non-tendering Howard, he would have then become a free agent, eligible to sign with any team, and there's no guarantee he would have wanted to go back to the Phillies after just such a stunt.

dianagramr (NYC): Hi Jay .... thanks for the chat! This may be more of a Will question but, how is Ben Sheets doing this off-season? Will be he ready for Spring Training? Also, would Sheets be a wise investment for either NY club, and if so, how would your structure the contract?

Jay Jaffe: Hello, Diana! I know that there's some concern with regards to the MRIs of Sheets' shoulder which may be affecting his signability. At the outset of the winter I thought a 2-year, $30 million deal with a vesting option would be appropriate given the assumption that he'd be healthy at the start of 2009, but the current economic climate and these new reports (which I haven't seen in any detail, to say nothing of his medical files) would lead me to cut the value of that deal in half and proceed from there even assuming a relatively clean bill of health. Furthermore, I think he makes more sense for the Mets and in an NL context than for the Yanks at this point in time.

Tim (Dunedin, FL): With Manny to the Giants rumors floating around, what are the chances he'd actually land there, taking into account the numerous variable a signing like that would have?

Jay Jaffe: Very few people seem to be taking the Manny-to-SF rumors at face value, but I think the move would make a LOT of sense in what again appears to be a wide-open division, given a deal of three years or less.

I'd give the Giants about a 30-40 percent chance of actually pulling this off, with the chances rising the closer we get to spring training and the more Team Boras and Team Stupid Flanders get fed up with each other.

russadams (White Bear Lake, MN): What's going to happen with Juan Cruz and Jason Varitek? Would anybody in their right mind give up a first round pick for either one of these guys? Or a second round pick, for those teams in the first half of the round?

Jay Jaffe: I think that Varitek and the Sox will find a way to kiss and make up because the player has absolutely zero leverage at the moment and the Sox appear to be postponing finding a viable alternative behind the plate until he signs elsewhere, which doesn't appear likely to happen.

As for Cruz, I think it's more likely that a team who wouldn't lose a first-rounder, as you say, would be one who'd be willing to make the move. Wouldn't surprise me if that winds up being the Nationals, who have some work to do on their bullpen after losing both Cordero and Rauch last year.

Tim (DC): The Marlins GM nixed any possible deal with Ivan Rodriguez. Going back to the Yanks is not likely...what are his options? Would the Red Sox take him in a 1-year deal over Varitek??

Jay Jaffe: If I were Theo Epstein, I'd go for a one-year with Pudge, but I'm not sure the Sox feel the same way with regards to the baggage Pudge might bring to that particular clubhouse culture; he certainly wasn't a big hit in the Bronx on that front.

Mike (Chicago): Has any division shed more talent than the NL central? Added less? brewers lost sabathia and sheets. cubs lose derosa, wood. astros gave up wolf, wigginton. cards lose isringhausen, looper. reds are without dunn. Pirates shed bay. And other than milton bradley, has there been an impct player signed/added? Still a lot of guys left I guess. Just 6 pretty bad off-seasons in one division

Jay Jaffe: You're right, it's a pretty unimpressive offseason for all of those teams thus far. The Cubs' situation likely has something to do with their impending sale, but even so, I don't like the directions they've moved in. As for the rest, I suspect that there's a perception that the economic realities are hitting harder in the midwest than on the coasts, and that that perception is driving some of the decision-making. The Brewers, Pirates and Reds ranked among the bottom third of MLB in revenue in Forbes' survey last year, but the Astros and Cardinals were among the top 12, though neither has ever been known for lavish spending.

Fred (Houston): Is Roy Oswalt on a HOF career path? A 139 era+ certainly speaks to his dominance up to this point.

Jay Jaffe: While there's so much that can go wrong with any given pitcher, Oswalt definitely appears to be on the path to Cooperstown. He'll have to stay healthy, of course, and it wouldn't hurt his cause if he were to bring home a Cy Young instead of merely finishing in the top five in voting year after year.

blaseta (Calgary): You mentioned fits for Dunn, personally I think he would fit into a lot of lineups. Seattle, Baltimore, Texas, Toronto (if JP hadn't stuck his foot in his mouth), Minnesota, maybe even Detroit seem like they could fit him into their DH slot. I can't understand how he is getting so little interest especially considering that signing him would not cost a team a draft pick. Seems to me a lot of teams are going to regret letting him slip by at such bargain prices.

Jay Jaffe: Agreed on at least the general thrust of your argument - there aren't a lot of teams that couldn't use a 40-homer slugger even with some defensive shortcomings.

Foregoing the lightning round because of our server's current un-lightning-like speed, I'll take two more questions...

Taylor (Toronto): Does Alomar get in on his first ballot? More importantly, does he go in as the first Blue Jay?

Jay Jaffe: I don't think Alomar will get on on the first ballot simply because he lacks the 3000 hit or 500 homer markers, but that he'll be in within the first three years on the ballot; he's a very worthy ccandidate. And I would think that winning two World Series with the Jays and spending the largest portion of his career in Toronto would mean he'd go in as a Blue Jay.

Drungo (SoMd): If we use the worst BBWAA selections as a floor, how many players should be in the Hall? 500? 1000? How many are in now? About 200, right?

Jay Jaffe: Interesting question worthy of further study. One more...

braden23 (madison wi): With the Brewers offering 6 million for Fielder and him asking for 8--who is the favorite in the clubhouse?

Jay Jaffe: That's actually a strikingly reasonable figure from both sides, particularly given the acrimony that's developed between the Boras-Fielder team and the Brewers themselves and that Ryan Howard and the Phillies went $10 million vs. $7 million in his case at the same stage of his career. However, I think this is going to become a moot point because it sounds as though the two sides are working towards a two-year deal worth around $20 million. [Done deal before I even finished the chat, two years, $18 million: http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports/38154214.html]

Tim (DC): Server speed was nearly Molina-like!

Jay Jaffe: Amen. Like watching Bengie run while dragging Jose and Yadier behind him. Thanks for bearing with it.

Jay Jaffe: Folks, that's about as much as I can take given the server speed. Thanks for your continued patience, and all the best as you hang in there until pitchers and catchers report.


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