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Chat: Christina Kahrl

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday April 10, 2009 4:30 PM ET chat session with Christina Kahrl.

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Early action on the field, early observations from the diamond, and early roster reshuffling to recount gives Christina Kahrl plenty to talk about.

Christina Kahrl: Howdy gang, the dingo's walked, the articles written, and there's a ballgame to get to tonight, so this might be Christina's shortest chat ever, but let's put in 90 minutes or so to talk baseball and have some fun (as if those two weren't synonymous).

oira61 (San Francisco): Hi Christina, I have a transaction rules question. On Wednesday the A's claimed Dan Niese off waivers from the Evil Empire and immediately optioned him to Sacramento. How are they able to do that? Why couldn't the Empire just send him down to one of its evil outposts if he has an option left? Thanks.

Christina Kahrl: Because they were taking him off of their 40-man roster to make room for Ramiro Pena on it (and on their active roster); he had options, so when the A's snagged him, they could, although they did have to do as the Yankees had with Giese and designate Chris Schroder for assignment, because they too were full up on their 40-man.

omarwhite (cambridge): Lester, Danks, Baker, Nolasco, Maholm and Volquez all took huge steps forward in 2008 after mediocre prior experiences in the majors. Which are likely to consolidate gains versus slip backwards in 2009.

Christina Kahrl: Well, I like all of them, but some more than others. Bottom of that pile is Maholm (non-dominating stuff, bad defense behind him), and my pick for the top of that heap is Lester, although Danks isn't that far behind.

braden23 (madison wi): Christina-How do you see the Sox managing their roster concerning Viciedo and Beckham in 2009? Is Viciedo in the OF a viable option?

Christina Kahrl: I was torn about putting Beckham third on the AL RotY pre-season "ballot," which even there was sort of tough, since I like Getz a lot, but I anticipate Becks being around to helping out down the stretch. As for Viciedo, maybe, but I expect the Sox can take their time a bit, with his timetable getting some influence from how well Fields settles in. Given that Konerko and Thome aren't getting any younger, though, slots at the more hitterly end of the spectrum will open up in a few short seasons.

nstampe (Madison): "someone is going to be ugly in a corner to be named later," made me nearly spit up. Good try. Thanks.

Christina Kahrl: Splattering monitors and wrecking keyboards since 1996, your friends at Baseball Prospectus. Always a pleasure, Nathaniel. ;)

Frank (Vegas): Hi Christina, can I expect a June/July fire sale on contract-ending Pirates? And who would get the best return (Adam LaRoche, Grabow, Sanchez?) And would they even consider McLouth? thanks frank

Christina Kahrl: I think LaRoche gets sold short, but his production at first base would look good in several lineups. Sanchez isn't worth much because the Pirates would either have to send cash to help cover his salary or eat it altogether, plus he's not one of the better defenders at the keystone, plus he's not that tremendous a hitter; bump him over to third base, and you've got a slugless bat at the hot corner, and Enos Cabell wannabes don't have a lot of applications in today's game over there.

Peeig13 (The Second City): Why in the world did Boston spend money on aged starting pitching when they have Clay Buchholz waiting in the wings, seemingly ready. Seems they might have been better off adding an adequate backstop or shortstop....why does a smart organization do that?

Christina Kahrl: Well, let's be fair--they wanted to go after big names this winter, and came up short on Burnett, but I think that's to their advantage. Buchholz flopped last year, but they still obviously have the good sense to value him; if Penny flops, it's only a short-term deal and so what, while Smoltz and Wakefield have both done just fine going to the bullpen when circumstances demand it. If Buchholz puts the Sox in a "must have him up now" situation, that's a nice problem to have.

Dave (Austin): How about a chat without all the esoterica today?

Christina Kahrl: Rats, I was really hoping to break out an extended discussion of how much I've been enjoying the Flashman series during my spring travels. I mean, seriously, how can you not enjoy a book or film about the Crimean War? Well, OK, the one with Errol Flynn was terrible, but beyond that, the others are excellent.

Dennis (LA): Thank you for the chat, Christina. Who do you like better over the next few years: Colby Rasmus or Jordan Schafer? Is it even close?

Christina Kahrl: Schafer by a country mile, with no slight intended for Rasmus.

dwiest12 (NoVA): Austin Kearns over Elijah Dukes or Josh Willingham? What is Manny Acta/Mike Rizzo thinking?

Christina Kahrl: I think Marc hit the nail on the head today in his piece; economic factors and a need to see if there really is a sucker born every minute, and how relentless population pressures might necessarily put one in a GM job somewhere, so that said sucker might go all Bowden on the notion of employing Austin Kearns... it's not the best gig for a busker on the make, but you can't blame the Nats for trying.

JJM (Tucson, AZ): In your opinion, will there ever be a time when the mass media and public dont overreact to a poor start by a team like the Yankees? I mean it has been 2 games! Granted the team has its issues and could finish as worse 85 wins and 3rd place but come on - its two games. BP and statistical analysis is making inroads but will it ever reach the masses? Or does the mass media thrive on non stories and half truths?

Christina Kahrl: No, because the Big Apple's penchant for self-absorbed navel-gazing is, after all, its top hobby, so panic-stricken media freakouts are perhaps a permanent part of the scene there. The question is whether the audience is smarter than those of the media, and my feeling on that is yes. Many of you are smarter than I am, for example, and not just because I get worked up over the last five roster spots on 30 teams; I take the wisdom of others as a given. The question is whether the media catches up to the audience is, to me, one of the great challenges, here at BP, or for the MSM in general.

mkb (Dallas): Christina, Really enjoy your work, and thanks for chatting. Besides closer usage, how do you think game strategy would change if the only statistic that anybody kept was wins and losses?

Christina Kahrl: Thanks mkb, I appreciate the compliment... and I'm thinking about your question, and thinking, and I guess I have a vague sense that there would be more in-game tactical gambits getting used than we see at present, but that's because I'd infer the absence of the math to encourage a certain brand of aggressive managerial activism. On the other hand, in such a math-free environment, I suppose it's possible that a more Taoist approach could arise; Joe McCarthy wasn't a particle physicist, after all.

Brandon (Charleston): Can Joey Votto make the All-Star team this year or is first base in the NL too stacked?

Christina Kahrl: I have to admit a sincerely-held disinterest in the All-Star Game as an event; I haven't watched a full frame of any ASG since Bo Jackson took Rick Reuschel deep. The Reds don't have a lot of easy candidates for this year's manager to choose from, but Votto's one of them.

mattymatty (Philly): Hi Christina, thanks for reading my question. Do you think the Red Sox erred by signing Brad Penny? I'm of the belief that Clay Buchholz is ready now, and with John Smoltz (supposedly) on the way, I'm not seeing a way short of a ton of injuries that Buchholz makes it up to Boston this year. Oh, and great idea for BP Idol.

Christina Kahrl: No problem matty, thanks for taking the time to drop by and ask it. ;)

I think Penny was probably the pitcher too far, but to some extent it's defensible. They didn't make a major commitment, it's not a mistake the way "winning" on Burnett was for the Yankees, they still control Buchholz, and in the AL East arms race, keeping up with the Joneses is a natural enough impulse. I think the Sox are fine; as I noted in TA, that pen's ridiculously stacked.

As for Idol, I had nothing to do with the concept, I just get to tell people they look great up there for coming up with it. As is, it's wonderful to see how much enthusiasm there is for the idea, and my hope is that we do find the next Keith Law or Keith Woolner or Dan Fox, the new James Click or Caleb Peiffer.

strupp (Madison): So, what's a good book on the Crimean War? Need to update the historical aspect of the bookcase. On another note, any chance We can talk Sweet Lou in putting an anchor on Fontenot and Theriot when they reach first base?

Christina Kahrl: Ah, but see, speed's in vogue at present, because the better we can quantify its value or notice things like last year's Angels team ridiculously outperforming its projection, the more people might think a return to the days of Chuck Tanner's go-go brand of baseball might be some super secret formula for victory.

Speaking of Lord Cardigan-level tactical silliness, Trevor Royle's one-volume history is handy and does an excellent job of expanding the scope of the conflict to all of its non-Crimean dimensions; there's also been a couple of especially outstanding books done on the charges by the Light and Heavy Brigades at Balaclava that have come out in recent years, by Mark Adkin and Terry Brighton.

jim fassel (las vegas): hi ck, is skip schumaker the answer shortterm at 2b? is gio gonzalez coming back before the all star game? is j hermida a bust? was last year the best of jason werth?

Christina Kahrl: Well, the answer on Schumaker is yes, but it's probably the question that probably needs re-thinking. I keep pondering this year's mayhem at newly discovered second basemen and remembering Steve Lyons' ugly partial season with the White Sox, where everyone else keeps entertaining visions of Biggios dancing in their heads. Yes on Gio, somewhat on Hermida (I'm off the bandwagon, it's true), and yes, but that doesn't mean that going forward he's going to be Werth-less.

dwiest12 (NoVa): Bobby Crosby saw some time in right field two nights ago. Shouldn't the A's just "Sheffield" him and find a better utility player?

Christina Kahrl: I do wonder about that, but if he hits well enough to have some value, I can see his having a Bill Almon-style second act. A goodly number of utility men were ex-shortstops, after all; they weren't all second basemen who weren't good enough to start at second.

jake29 (Corning): Chris Davis is 1-15 for the week after today's game. Should the Rangers be worried?

Christina Kahrl: No, they shouldn't. Slumps happen; he's not the new Dave Hostetler.

Disasterpiece Theater (PBS - Positively Bad Start): Christina: Love the BP Idol idea. Since you're essentially scouting for talent, is the requirement to submit a headshot really a thinly-veiled attempt to determine which contestants have "the good face"? And what are the five tools you'll be grading on?

Christina Kahrl: Thanks DT, we figure it'll be fun, but we also want to afford the same opportunity to others that many of us here had the opportunity to enjoy at one point or another. I don't think we have m/any Bonifacios out here as much as I suspect we want to attach the pics with the people who make the grade and compete. Hrm, five tools... for me, I know I'll be looking for baseball knowledge (the game, the present and/or its history), a comfort with doing research (which can mean a lot of things), and a facility for making their keyboards sing.

Color me curious: Was there a Joe Cowley special on PBS?

jgalt73 (Portland, OR): Christina, You picked the Cubs over the Cardinals in the NL Central. How close do think this one comes, and is Carpenter the X-factor?

Christina Kahrl: I don't think it'll be very close at all... I don't think the NL Central's going to give us the league's wild card team as is, and I think the only thing that gets teams other than the Cubs over .500 is going to be the unbalanced schedule.

Jason (Devner): Hey Christina, any thoughts on Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales so far this year? They've thrown a combined 13IP 8H 1ER 4BB 1HR 14K. Sample size + control problems. But those K numbers look pretty good.

Christina Kahrl: You don't need me or even Kevin to tell you those guys are talented; it's just a good bit of news for the Rox that in the year Jeff Francis is out, those two might be squared away to join Aaron Cook and give the team a trio they can project playing key roles years into the future.

Charles (Ann Arbor): It seems like there's rigid dogma at BP against stolen bases, claiming they're overrated and largely unnecessary. But if someone steals at a high enough clip (say, 85%+) aren't those extra bases very much worthwhile, akin to hitting a double instead of a single?

Christina Kahrl: You mistake the target; it's more often the problem with who's getting played to generate those steals than the stealing of the bases that is the problem. Stealing bases doesn't make Willy Taveras or Juan Pierre incredibly valuable in the real world; in the real world, stolen bases aren't a category you play people like that to "win," you use tactics as an element of victory. Everybody should keep an active arsenal of tactical options to put pressure on defenses, but going so far as to play Juan Pierre is where the wisdom involved evaporates.

BR (NYC): Christina, how many Idol entries do ya'll have now?

Christina Kahrl: Enough to put a big dent in my weekend plans as far as my going to any further ballgames other than tonight's, because everyone who turned something in deserves a fair shake.

Joe (Tewksbury, MA): What do you think the chances are of the Brewers getting something going on JJ Hardy? It seems that with Escobar hanging around the Crew has a quality ss to deal and a few quality teams (Red Sox, Angels, Cubs) aren't exactly blessed with Honus Wagner out there. If the Brewers play it right they could have a bigger chip than Holliday come late July.

Christina Kahrl: I think the problem is that I don't think Escobar's ever going to be as good as Hardy, even as I think Escobar's going to be entirely playable. The question is whether anyone would give them enough good stuff to land Hardy, and there, we'll have to see, because he's squared away for free agency after 2010, and anyone who'd want to give up good stuff for him should want more than a year and two months' worth of playing time.

strupp (madison): Seems to me, we're going to get inundated this year about how Ricky Henderson was a great base stealer, rather than a great player who stole bases.

Christina Kahrl: Amen... and to be fair, the game is *not* the same as it was when Rickey came in. One of the reasons Billyball worked (sort of) in 1980 and 1981 was that teams had gotten so lazy in terms of keeping up on their defense that having Wayne Gross or Dwayne Murphy steal home was doable. That's not so much the case these days, so what's possible with the running game is similarly limited. Nobody's going to take away the record held by the '76 A's any time soon. Nor should anybody try.

jake29 (Corning): Is Emmanuel Burriss overmatched in the big leagues? Would you take the over or under on 30 stolen bases for Burriss on the year?

Christina Kahrl: I'll take the over, and while I'm sure he'll struggle a bit initially, he is the better choice given the alternatives the Giants had on hand.

twinkies25 (MN): Christina, As a Twins fan, I was wondering if Joe Crede was the right man to acquire to fix the Twins problems at third base, and could we have gotten a better offensive shortstop who played the same good defense as Nick Punto?

Christina Kahrl: I guess I have issues on this one, in that I sort of like the idea of putting Crede within the division to take his chance at putting the hurt on his former ballclub, and because a healthy Crede is an adequate source of right-handed power at the tail end of a lineup, not to mention a plus defender at the hot corner. The problem is that, by being a Twin, he becomes one of their perceived major power sources as a matter of their selection bias for a few too many powerless options.

The Punto quandary is a bit more complicated, in that there's a well thought-out group that says Punto's terrible when he's more than a utilityman, but Punto's pretty good when he's your top infield reserve. It might have been nice to go after Orlando Cabrera, but there really weren't that many options at short available on the market, and I'd rather still have Punto than, say, taking another spin with Adam Everett.

ashitaka (long beach, ca): Hey CK! Just counting down hours until my flight up to Oakland for Opening Night. So far this season, A's hitters seem to really be focusing on going up the middle and to the opposite field. Is this early-season noise, or a product of new hitting coach Jim Skaalen?

Christina Kahrl: Hope you have a great time at the ballpark; I know it's not really the same thing now that the Coliseum's been mauled beyond recognition, but I sort of feel about the A's home park the way some Mets fans feel about Shea--sure, it's a pit, but it's *our* pit.

I don't think we can put this on Skaalen just yet; this isn't quite like Rick Burleson jumping on Mark McGwire to hit singles to right, and getting the single worst season of Mac's career for his troubles. It's important to keep in mind the talent that's on this year's roster, never mind that we don't have Emil Brown to kick around any more. Adding hitters like Orlando Cabrera and Nomar Garciaparra gives you a lineup with people who put the ball in play a lot more often than those of us who still treasure the memories of watching Olmedo Saenz or Matt Stairs or Ben Grieve (at his best) taking their cuts.

Christopher (Nashville): I've been reading you people since rec.sport.baseball, and boy have y'all mellowed, especially on things like "makeup," tools, and the value of scouting vs. performance analysis. Obviously the Revolution has been a success, but is there any part of the early doctrine you now reject?

Christina Kahrl: Well, I like to think that I've come a long way from when I knew everything; everyone outgrows being 18, or at least I hope they do. If there's something I'd reject, it's some of the Jamesians' determined prattling that chemistry is bullsh!t. I can't say if it is or isn't, and I shouldn't try; I will *never* be able to say how much it matters, but that's not the same thing as pretending that it doesn't. That said, it isn't scouting vs. performance, it's about using both to be better than the other guy. Lose one purely for the sake of the other, and you're effectively putting one eye out; I get the sense that the most determined advocates of interpreting the world in such a manner as to say the relationship between the two is "versus" are scouts of a certain vintage on the way out, statheads who gracelessly recognize they will never be on the way in, and journalists practicing a brand of reductionism that destroyed an industry by creating content that reading, thinking people found inherently limited and silly.

tvwilkins (Princeton): CK, Thanks for your time. I'll admit I'm amused by some of your historical diversions. You might be interested to hear that Peter Paret of "Makers of Modern Strategy" has a book coming this Fall on the Franco-Prussian slugfest of 1806. Regarding baseball, do you think we'll ever go back to the days of a balanced schedule? I suspect interleague is here to stay, but all of the in division games might give one of Boston, NYY, and Tampa a deceptively mediocre record, and make Toronto and Baltimore look crappy.

Christina Kahrl: I'm one of the weirdos who likes the unbalanced schedule but who wants to get rid of interleague play; I suspect that if we all ever hold a meeting, both of us will concede the other's genius, and then break for lunch. Which doesn't help the plight of the Jays or O's any, but the Yankees don't look like they'll have the kind of offensive talent to keep themselves in the top three for years and years to come, and dynasties do fall. The Rays have proven you can put yourself in the mix; the O's and Jays should take heart, and it seems as if Bal'mer already has. Shame on Toronto for throwing so many pity parties for themselves and trying to get everyone to attend them.

I've loved Paret going back to the days when I was reading his book on Yorck and the era of tactical reform in Prussia after Jena; it'll be interesting to see if he delivers something we haven't already gotten in wonderfully written fashion for Geoffrey Wawro on the subject of the Franco-Prussian War (or the Austro-Prussian, for that matter). Sadly, a lot of Dennis Showalter's stuff isn't readily available.

Joel (GA): Cano just got his fourth walk of the year today. What?

Christina Kahrl: As an A's fan, this is where I conjure up memories of our own Mr. April, Mike Davis, and tell you to enjoy such things while they last. If it's an indication of a new level of skill, awesome; if not, well, that's why they play the games, right?

john (ct): What's your sense of how the country's economic woes will affect the business of baseball this summer?

Christina Kahrl: I think Shawn Hoffman's bit on this subject from yesterday sort of crystallized my own thinking and suggestions on the subject that I'd been making in TA the last few months; we were already at the point where some teams were paying players to go away and play for somebody else, sort of like the NBA, because they had better uses for the roster spot. Now that pressure is going to be that much more severe.

Christina Kahrl: With that, I said I'd be short today; the dog needs dinner, and I need to get down to the Cell and see how the Sox/Twins tilt turns out, and write about that for tomorrow. To everyone who's already chimed in on Idol, you have my thanks, and Will's, and Kevin's; we're looking forward to reading everything that gets sent in by everyone. To everyone who hung around to ask a few questions late on a Friday afternoon, thanks to you as well. Have a great weekend, and don't forget to catch a ballgame if you can.


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