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Chat: Joe Sheehan

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday May 04, 2009 2:00 PM ET chat session with Joe Sheehan.

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Join Joe Sheehan of Prospectus Today to discuss the early-season outcomes and how much--or little--they portend for the next five months of action.

Joe Sheehan: Tearing down hopes and dreams since 2000...

hotstatrat (at home on my computer): Andruw Jones recently had his 32nd birthday. 1) What your odds that he has returned to nearly peak form? 2) Will there be room in the line-up for him when Hamilton returns?

Joe Sheehan: 1) Not great. I like him as a fourth/platoon outfielder who can play center better than anyone else on the roster, though. 2) As long as David Murphy is in the mix, there should be room for Jones, because Jones is no worse a player, and maybe better.

Greg (NJ): Is it possible for a woman to play MLB baseball?

Joe Sheehan: The only role I could possibly see is as either a knuckleballer or a lefty specialist, and at that, the paths to that role at the MLB level are basically closed off. If you're a woman who wants to play baseball, actual baseball, exactly how do you do it after Little League?

Nathan (College Station, TX): Do you think an NL team that tried to improve pitcher hitting, from the minors through to the major league team, could gain an advantage over their competition? Their pitchers may never become good hitters, but the potential for a marginal advantage seems inviting.

Joe Sheehan: I think it's possible, but hard to do. Hitting is difficult when you don't do it enough. It's why the best hitting pitchers tend to be the guys who spent the least amount of time in the minors; they didn't have time to lose the skills.

mgaynor7475 (Cumberland, RI): What are your thoughts on Dexter Fowler for this year and his long term potential?

Joe Sheehan: I'm on record as loving, just absolutely loving, Fowler. I think he's already a major-league center fielder, a better player than, say, Cameron Maybin is. His power is still coming, and he'll have to manage his contact rate, but he'll hit .270/.340/.410 this year and go from there. I could see him peaking like Curtis Granderson, maybe a bit better.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): Joe, would you have sent O.Perez to triple-A instead of the 'pen? What do you think is the Mets' rationale for keeping him up in the majors?

Joe Sheehan: I think I'd rather avoid a demotion when at all possible. You can have your MLB staff work with the pitcher, you don't have to worry about him pitching in front of minor-league defenses with minor-league umpires in minor-league parks, and it's a better treatment of the person.

PSIllini (Champaign, IL): Is David Ortiz done?

Joe Sheehan: I don't know. Bat-only players have a long track record of falling off at his age, and the statistical indicators show a spike in walks, which is often a death knell. On the other hand, I don't know if he's still bothered by the wrist issue, and if he is, whether it will eventually go away.

To take a step back, this does show the problem of investing in bat-only players. If they don't hit, I mean really hit, they're a huge albatross.

Mark (CT): Pitch tipping bothers me much more than steroid use, because it involves undercutting your own teammates. So I was wondering if this is a situation for which the truth is on film? If baseball games are recorded, shouldn't there be enough evidence in the archives to either confirm or disprove the allegations?

Joe Sheehan: OK. Are we going to do this systematically, by looking at every single middle infielder and catcher in every single game, charting their motions and the results after those motions? Or are we just going to decide that becuase one time one guy blew his nose and the batter at the plate hit a homer, he's guilty?

I mean, the latter approach worked pretty well for steroids.

Mike (Arlington): Is Chris Davis' 50% contact rate an anomaly or a representation of his skill set? Do you send him back down or let him work through it?

Joe Sheehan: I never thought he would make contact enough to hit .270. His current performance isn't really representative, though. The problem is that the Rangers have a chance to win and there's a real possibility that Justin Smoak is already the better player, and if he's not, maybe Max Ramirez is. I don't know that you can go into June with him unless there's improvement (noting that "improvement" may not necessarily immediately translate into results).

Mike (Chicago): St Louis, Florida, Toronto, Seattle, Kansas City.Those are division leading teams on 5/4. Odds that more than one of them ends the season there?

Joe Sheehan: 10%.

doughk (DC): Would you rather have Markakis or Jones for the next 6 years?

Joe Sheehan: If I get to consider contracts, Markakis, since he's signed already to a deal I like. If it's just on performance...it's harder to say. Jones' upside is actually higher because he plays CF well and has more growth potential. If he continues his improvement in pitch recognition, the sky is the limit.

This is a really tough question, and I may be overrating Jones by making it one. I'm going to say Markakis for the certainty, but it's awfully close.

jhonny (cleveland): how long before I start hitting? should the indians bench me?

Joe Sheehan: They've sat through entire seasons of you not hitting, so they probably won't mess around now. I still wish they'd move you to third base, though.

David (Winston Salem): Hey Joe. I had a question about one of my Tigers, the hot-hitting Brandon Inge. He's going to revert back to the Inge of old (hitting .250 with a little pop) soon, right? Or can we expect him to keep a decent bat for the rest of the year?

Joe Sheehan: He's fundamentally a different hitter this year, walking more and striking out much, much less. You so rarely see a change like this. I would project that he regresses a lot, but if the gains in plate discipline are somewhat real, he could hit .270/.345/.440 from here on out.

casey (santa cruz): What team have you changed your mind the most about since opening day?

Joe Sheehan: I try to keep four weeks of play in their proper context. If we're defining the question literally, though, I'd say the A's. I may have overrated every aspect of the team but the bullpen, and they lost Devine (and now Casilla) there. We'll see if the offense shows up.

Hombre X (Parts Unknown): Give me some reason to still be optimistic about B.J. Upton this year. Any reason will do.

Joe Sheehan: He's ridiculously talented and still learning the game in many ways.

Nick (New York): With Rasmus holding his own do the Cardinals trade Ankiel? I dont think the Cards resign him nor does he project to be a Type A free agent.

Joe Sheehan: He might end up a Type A, as projecting those in the middle of the season tends to be a slippery thing. Also, you'd be trading low on the guy; I don't know that you'd get much for him, as opposed to Duncan.

Andrew (Ohio): Joe Maddon said yesterday that stealing bases creates a certain "mindset" in the opposing team that stats can't account for. I take it you scoff at such a notion, but isn't there something to that? The Sox pitched out w/ Even Freakin Longoria at the plate to give him a 2-1 count. Have that happen enough times and it has to count for something, right?

Joe Sheehan: That's a rephrasing of the standard argument, which focuses on the nebulous positives and ignores the quantifiable negative effects of stealing on batters' performances. As long as they're holding the runners--and 99% of runners get held--you're getting the benefit, which is primarily in defensive alignment, not the pitcher's mind.

brian (Brooklyn NY): Based on third order wins (courtesy of BP) the Mets, Rays and Indians should all be near the top of their divisions. What odds would you give each to win their division?

Joe Sheehan: 65%, 15%, 65%

ryan (miami): salty or jesus flores, who will have the better year? who will be the better catcher in 5 years?

Joe Sheehan: Salty this year. I'm not sure he'll be a catcher in five years, so I'll say Flores down the road. He's a nice little player.

Brandon (Charleston): Are the Reds legit contenders? Their offense has been awful but the pitching has been very good so far. Do you think they can stay in the race long enough to acquire a bat?

Joe Sheehan: I don't know where the runs will come from. They've flipped their problems, but the net result will be more or less the same. But they'll have more sacrifice flies and stolen bases, which is what's important.

Like a Boss (Like a Boss): Which three basement teams are likely to turn things around and which three are likely to remain in last? (Orioles, Indians, Athletics, Nationals, Astros, Rockies)

Joe Sheehan: Indians, Rockies...and I guess the A's. The other three for the other part.

zamboni (work): Joe, did you ever try a chat using the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software or try the software in general? If not how many words a minute do you think you can type?

Joe Sheehan: A lifetime ago, when I worked for Law Office Computing, I spent a lot of time talking to someone at Dragon who wanted us to review the software. I haven't seen it since.

I have no idea what my typing rate is, since I've never typed for speed. I doubt I could get a job where that was a central skill.

I don't know that chats would be faster using VTT software. I spend a lot of time thinking or looking stuff up.

Jason (Work... ): Hey Joe: I was in Florida last week to see Cody Ross throw an inning in relief. I'm wondering with all the research on bull pen usage and win expectancy, what's the point of a game (inning and number of runs down) where a team should use a position player to pitch? Second, why don't see more of this? Could a team gain an advantage by carrying the "Ultimate Utility Man" who could play a couple of different positions and pitch in blowouts? I know the Cards used Miles as such lat year.

Joe Sheehan: This was tried in recent seasons with Brooks Kieschnick and David McCarty, to minimal effect. It hasn't caught on, as teams really seem to want to have as many actual pitchers at their disposal--the Padres had 14 on their roster for a couple of days this April--as humanly possible. And creativity is often punished by death in MLB.

Nick (New York): Ok - you trade Duncan instead of Ankiel (im not opposed to that). What type of player(s) could the Cards expect to receive in exchange? Duncan's can play left but probably best suited to play in the American League.

Joe Sheehan: If today's column isn't up yet, it will be by the end of the chat. I'm on that today.

Matt (Athens OH): Could you please clarify your Peralta answer? I would think a guy not hitting at short would be less of a liability than a guy not hitting at third.

Joe Sheehan: Two separate issues: he's going to play, and the infield defense would be better if you rotated Cabrera, Peralta and DeRosa one spot counterclockwise.

casey (santa cruz): You think Philip Hughes is going to stick this time?

Joe Sheehan: Yeah, I do. I think he'll pitch well and stick, and either Wang will be used out of the bullpen or the team will do something stupid with Chamberlain. So if you're a Yankee fan, you're now reduced to *hoping* A.J. Burnett gets hurt to keep that from happening. Baseball's weird.

Tyson (His Office): Do you believe Strasburgh is better than some team's fifth starter right now?

Joe Sheehan: If you ranked every active baseball player at all levels, you'd likely find that Strasburg is between 60 and 80 among starting pitchers. So he's a #4 right now.

dcarroll (WI): Jacoby Ellsbury: Is this all there is?

Joe Sheehan: I think so. He'll hit for a higher average some years, but there's no power, and in part because of that, not enough walks. The plus defense in CF makes him a fair starter, but he's no leadoff hitter.

Ozzie (Chicago): What do you think of the Scotty Pods experiment for the White Sox? Is there anything left in he tank speed wise?

Joe Sheehan: He's a marginal fifth outfielder.

The White Sox started Brent Lillibridge in CF and Alexei Ramirez at SS last night. Just flipping them would be a nice start.

Stan (Oakbrook): Which fanbases send the most e-mail after you are even a little critical of their team? Have you ever thought of a column of the funniest ones?

Joe Sheehan: White Sox. It's not close.

denny187 (WI): Wouldn't being ranked 60-80 mean that Strasburg is a #3 right now?

Joe Sheehan: (sigh)...yes. I divided by 20. It's 1966 here.

BL (Bozeman): You bagged on Trey Hillman for bullpen usage on Opening Day, and rightfully so, but last weekend he used Soria for a four-out save, has used Juan Cruz for two-inning holds, and generally seems to be trying to figure it out as he goes. Are you willing to reconsider you position on him?

Joe Sheehan: And there was a loss where he stuck with Meche through a situation when he was pitching well, which I thought was a good call. We'll see how this develops; guys can grow into jobs.

Jed (Boston, MA): Thoughts on Beckett's rough start? He looked really good against the Rays until they got a few bleeders and the ump robbed a few calls according the computer pitch location simulator.

Joe Sheehan: I've only seen him twice, but just looking at the metrics he seems to be having command issues, something that hasn't happened the past two years. I wouldn't be too worried.

Lopecci (Evansville, IN): Do you think Dallas McPherson will get a shot with the Giants? I understand his defense isn't the greatest, but he absolutely killed the ball last year?

Joe Sheehan: I'd rather have him than Ishikawa, for whatever that's worth.

mattymatty (Philly): Joe, help a guy out on a rainy day. What other baseball-related websites do you recommend?

Joe Sheehan: Bronx Banter. Fangraphs. Squawking Baseball. DePodesta's blog.

Glenn (RI): Do you see Justin Upton's recent hot streak continuing? Someone in my fantasy league cut him and I own Pat Burrell.

Joe Sheehan: Yes, I do. Grab him now. He might make the All-Star team.

mj (bk): Cards, playoffs - yes or no? Why or why not. Also next 3 years, pujols or longoria?

Joe Sheehan: Leaning no, because the pitching isn't nearly as good as it's looked and the defense can't support them. Pujols, although that may be as long a window as I'd take.

srausch10 (brooklyn): You said the Indians had a 65 percent chance of winning their division, but were also likely to stay in last place. Typo?

Joe Sheehan: You misinterpreted the second answer. Indians are among the teams likely to emerge.

cclark131313 (Milwaukee): "Trevor Time" is 3-3...what do you expect this year for the Brewers closer?

Joe Sheehan: Pain.

paulbellows (Calgary): Joe Mauer will cease being a regular catcher in 20__

Joe Sheehan: ...10

Rob (Dallas, TX): Is there a decent chance Ryan Franklin stays Cardinals closer the whole year? If not him, is Chris Perez and not Motte the likely top candidate?

Joe Sheehan: I rank the Cards' relievers Perez, McClellan, Motte, Kinney, Franklin. I don't know that any of them will hold the closer's job long enough to be fantasy-viable. Franklin looks like last year's George Sherrill to me.

David (dc): So is this year vindication for Adam Dunn? The Reds offense has abslutely fallen apart without him, and the Nats are average-to-good (with the bat at least) almost overnight!

Joe Sheehan: I don't think he feels vindicated playing for a 6-17 team, although I also don't get the sense he took the criticisms in Cincinnati too seriously.

Tim (Tampa): Do the Giants FINALLY make a move with one of their young pitchers to get a bat? Sabean's stinginess in not dealing Sanchez seems to be costing the Giants a chance to compete in the NL West, in my opinion. Young power lefties don't just grow on trees.

Joe Sheehan: That's the argument for not trading him.

JJ (NY): Joe, should the Mets move Santana up to pitch on regular days rest? I think they should, which would also mean they could push Maine back and skip Livan. Is not skipping a pitcher the caliber of Livan a huge mistake?

Joe Sheehan: Were I running a team, I'd have my top starter, top two, top three...wherever the dropoff in quality fell...on as close to a five-day schedule as is reasonable, to squeeze out extra starts. I'd want them getting 36 starts a year without changing their patterns. So yeah, I'd have Santana on a five-day, and I'd slide everyone else around to make it fit.

Livan Hernandez isn't qualified to pitch in a good team's rotation.

CT Tiger (CT): is Verlander back to being '06-'07 Verlander? can we forget '08 as a bad dream?

Joe Sheehan: Yeah. I think I compared the career path to Kevin Brown's, where there was a bad third year and then an emergence.

JT (Cayman): Is there a worse way to use Laporta than hitting him in the 8-hole and letting him sit behind Dave Dellucci?

Joe Sheehan: You could try to make him a second baseman.

mafrth77 (Boston): Maybin looks like a little leaguer in CF this for the Marlins, not to mention his inept hitting. do the Marlins have any other options for him and the awful Bonafacio before they ruin an otherwise decent team?

Joe Sheehan: They could go back to Amezaga, but I don't think the difference between the two is worth making the change. I'd like to see them bat Maybin eighth and leave him in CF all year. His defense has value, especially compared to the other options.

YD (Philly): Best odds to be closing for the Orioles two weeks from now: Sherill, Ray, Johnson or Baez?

Joe Sheehan: Sherrill. This is another situation where the best decision for fantasy players is to stay away.

Ricky Nolasco (Florida): Am I doing something wrong or am I just this unlucky?

Joe Sheehan: Just unlucky.

Kyle (NJ): I hope Dunn goes into Cinci this year and hits two walk-offs in the series just to hear Brennamen's calls.

Joe Sheehan: Read that back and tell me what's wrong with it.

Steve (NJ): Jerry Manuel is really starting to get on my nerves. Between the Castro/Santos stunt, over-playing Sheffield and batting him 4th, and going to Shawn Green instead of K-Rod in the 10th inning in Philly on Saturday (not that every other manager in the majors wouldn't have) he's made a season's worth of dumb moves in a week. Has a team ever paid THREE managers simultaneously?

Joe Sheehan: I think Manuel has done more to call his ability as a manager into question than Willie Randolph ever did. Not saying I'd fire him, just that he has, to me, seemed objectively worse.

Paul (Pittsburgh, PA): Joe, Pittsburgh's pythagorean record has them playing .600 ball, so their record belies their performance to date. Do you think their pythag performance so far is a fluke and that they are legitimately a .500 team?

Joe Sheehan: I think that their Pythag performance is a fluke and that they are legitimately a .400 team.

Rob (Dallas, TX): Is there a dark horse in the Rays bullpen if Percival is replaced at some point? Neither Balfour or JP Howell seem to be hot out the gate.

Joe Sheehan: Kazmir.

llewdor (Vancouver, BC): YOu really think the M's are going to fall back, and you're so sure of it that you place the odds that ANY of the surprise division leaders will stay there at 10%? The BP playoff odds report puts the M's chances alone higher than that.

Joe Sheehan: Yeah, but that report never takes action. As much as I love their defense, the Mariners can't hit and have a number of pitchers over their heads. However...someone has to win that division, and if they keep winning close games against divisional opponents, it might be them.

Rob (Dallas, TX): One month in, which team has surprised you the most?

Joe Sheehan: The Cardinals.

Joe (Washington, DC): Hi Joe. Peter Abraham has an interesting post up today saying that the Yankees have screwed up with their injury evaluations this year. Any thoughts on this?

Joe Sheehan: I haven't seen it, but I have a lot of respect for Peter, and if he's writing it, I'd take that seriously.

Steve (DC): At what point in a season can we use Defensive Efficiency to measure a team's defense? Much has been made about how much better certain teams are doing this year, but when we're only a month in, isn't it possible that their pitchers have just been collectively lucky?

Joe Sheehan: You could make that same determination at the end of a season, I guess. I use DER after a month, although there's an implied sample-size caveat with just about any number a month in. This is a testable hypothesis--how stable is DER one month in as compared to end-of-year numbers?

Steve (DC): Given his contract and youth, what outfielders in MLB would you take over Markakis for the next six years?

Joe Sheehan: Justin Upton, Grady Sizemore (probably). Um...after that it's tough.

Bill (Toronto): The Jays are 3-0 against the AL East this season, in the words of Frank Costanza, don't bring me down.

Joe Sheehan: I laughed.

Mike W (Chicago): Does Fukudome fall apart again, or keep this up?

Joe Sheehan: I wonder if the pattern we saw with Hideki Matsui holds, where the first season was something of a disappointment, and the second one great. Fukudome's swing doesn't seem geared for power, but the average, OBP and defense will play.

Daniel (Michigan): If all 6 starters are firing on all cylinders, shouldn't Pettitte go to the pen? After all, his contract is structured as an insurance policy, so the Yanks won't have to pay him if they don't need him.

Joe Sheehan: Yeah, but that's complicated. Pettitte hasn't pitched poorly, and he has three relief appearances this century, and he has no tactical value as a reliever. Moving him to the pen would create a massive controversy. He has a 3.82 ERA--do you really think they'd release him rather than just slide Chamberlain aside?

DV (TN): Dan Wheeler was an extremely important player last year for the Rays. Can David Aardsma be that type of guy for the Mariners?

Joe Sheehan: Six walks in 11 innings, a .148 BABIP, and we saw this act a year ago when he had supposedly become a key guy for the Red Sox. I'll say no.

Paul (DC): This year's rookie CFers - Rasmus, Fowler, Schafer, Gardner, Maybin. A) Rank 1 - 5 in projected career value. B) How many total All-Star appearances?

Joe Sheehan: Rasmus, Fowler, Maybin, GAP, Schafer, YAWNING VOID, Gardner. 13.

Jonathan (New York): Long term, Matt Kemp of Justin Upton?

Joe Sheehan: Upton.

That kicks off the lightning round.

Bill (Toronto): Blue Jays closer next season, BJ Ryan, Scott Downs, Dustin McGowan or other?

Joe Sheehan: Ryan.

Selena Roberts (Everywhere): Is it true that you take WEDs (Writing Enhancement Drugs)? Anonymous sources say you do....

Joe Sheehan: Caffeine. Sugar. The occasional Bailey's.

Some people need Ethics Enhancement Drugs.

YD (Ph): Where's Tommy Hanson fall on that list with Strasburg?

Joe Sheehan: Same grouping, a few slots ahead.

ElAngelo (New York, NY): How much did you have on Mine That Bird on Saturday?

Joe Sheehan: I actually forgot the Derby was Saturday until someone mentioned that night that a 50-1 shot had won. I know nothing about horse racing, but will usually watch the Triple Crown races.

corey (boston): If Gamel gets called up by June 1ish, what type of impact do you anticipate him having? Who else left in the minors should we be excited about seeing this year (not named Price, Weiters).

Joe Sheehan: Tommy Hanson, Andrew McCutchen, Neftali Feliz.

Ron (Vancouver): Do the Jays win at least 85 games this season?

Joe Sheehan: Under.

Marshall (KC): Over/Under on Greinke wins: 20

Joe Sheehan: Under. The offense won't allow it.

BL (Bozeman): Coco Crisp's ability to draw walks - sample size mirage, or a true gain that makes him a respectable leadoff hitter?

Joe Sheehan: He's flirted with this on occasion. I'm honestly not sure if it's real this time.

Victor (Astoria): Mets fans should be heartened by ______ so far.

Joe Sheehan: Having four of the 20 best players in baseball on their team.

Dave (NYC): Scherzer or Chamberlain?

Joe Sheehan: Chamberlain.

ssjames (Orange, CA): How would Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier fit into your analysis of outfielders to take over Markakis? Do either of make it, they would at least be in the conversation wouldn't they?

Joe Sheehan: Ethier, no, as he's too old without the upside. I considered Kemp, though. He'd be in the discussion.

birkem3 (Dayton, OH): How many times can readers misinterpret your answers in one chat?

Joe Sheehan: Dunno. How many times can I write incomplete or incoherent responses?

Jon (SF): Worse manager: Baker, J. Manuel or Bochy?

Joe Sheehan: Bochy in-game. Baker at selecting players (although he's improved).

Ryan (Milwaukee): Jason Marquis... did something click, or are we just waiting for the other cleat to drop?

Joe Sheehan: Think of 2006 and 2009 as the edges of a bell curve.

bateman19 (Boston): Most likely batting 3rd for the Sox in 2010: Ortiz, Holliday, Mauer, Youklis, Other?

Joe Sheehan: Ortiz.

Steve (DC): If you're not watching baseball, are you more likely to watch an NBA playoff game or an NHL playoff game?

Joe Sheehan: NBA, but that's skewed by my role on our hoops site.

JP (Toronto): Joe, I am shocked that Brian Burres and Bryan Bullington didn't work out.

Joe Sheehan: Yeah, but you cut bait quickly. That was good. You sure have a lot of pitchers up there.

Rob (Dallas): Do you think Gordon Beckham will be up before September?

Joe Sheehan: Yes.

Rob (Dallas): Bigger ceiling: Clay Buchholz or Homer Bailey?

Joe Sheehan: Buchholz.

Man, I should do all my chats like this.

Nick (NYC): More likely traded - Wright, Reyes, or no chance for either?

Joe Sheehan: Neither. You never win trading a guy like that.

Jonathan (New York): RE: Kazmir in the Rays' bullpen. That's pure speculation, right? Not based on any actual rumored discussions?

Joe Sheehan: Yes. He has the skill set and endurance issues of an eventual short reliever.

joyrider2001 (NYC): Looking ahead to 2010, who are the prospects to watch? (assume strasberg is coming up this year)

Joe Sheehan: Justin Smoak, Desmond Jennings, Adrian Cardenas, Brian Matusz, Buster Posey.

Joe Sheehan: Thanks for taking the time to chat today!


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