Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Joe Sheehan: I'm early, which isn't something I get to say very often. Lots of questions in the queue, so let's get started.
Will (Fredericton): How do you assess managerial performance?
Joe Sheehan: Unfortunately, teasing out managerial effects on team performance is something we don't have great tools for. I end up evaluating managers piecemeal, based on their decisions and processes, and conceding that it can be an incomplete analysis.
hawkeye (North Dakota): Who is next year's Esteban Loaiza going to be? I looked at his PECOTA and even he didn't look like he would be this year's Esteban Loaiza. Thanks.
Joe Sheehan: Doug Davis, although he's more like next year's Jamie Moyer, and unlikely to be as good as Loaiza. I'll also mention Dan Reichert.
The beautiful thing is that we can throw out a dozen names, but someone not on the list is going to surprise us.
Anthony (College Station, TX): Why do you think the Texas rangers haven't developed any pitchers? This isn't a new situation. They have not developed any good pitchers in a very long time. It cant just be the ballpark. By the way - I listen to Louis Bellina because of you and Gary H. Both of you are great.
Joe Sheehan: Louie Belina rocks...that's my longest-running and favorite radio gig. Too bad his Cubs keep running Shawn Estes out there.
I think the Rangers have tried to break in pitchers the hard way, rushing them into a good hitters' environment with a lousy defense, and not showing much patience. The poor outfield defenses they've had since 1999 have been a big part of the perceived failure of their young pitchers, and it will be interesting to see what happens if they can upgrade that with Nix and Nivar next year.
Bill (Dayton): Joe, looking ahead to the offseason signing period, where will the big free agents end up? Tejada specifically? Is he going to end up in Los Angeles?
Joe Sheehan: This looks like another weird market, because some of the best players are shortstops (Tejada, Aurilia, Kaz Matsui), and the usual suspects for guys like that have pretty good shortstops already. Additionally, the best non-shortstop on the market, Vlad Guerrero, shows little indication that he wants to be in a big market.
I think the Orioles are going to come back with a vengeance, and can see them overpaying for Tejada. If Carlos Guillen can handle third base this month, the Mariners seem like a good fit for Kaz Matsui. Vlad...I honestly have no idea. Let's see who the players are, and whether the Expos get an owner soon.
wmcdonal56 (South Bend IN): The latest odds of the Royals winning the Central are at 6%.
I've been following the updates daily, and understand the rationale of the calculations- but doesn't 6% seem a tad low?
I know the Royals aren't as good (in the pythag sense) as their rivals- but 6 freakin percent?
Joe Sheehan: Well, they're playing for one spot, they're the worst of the three teams in that race, and they play six games against the White Sox, a better team.
The Royals are way, way over their heads. Great story, but unlikely to have a fairy-tale ending.
Rick (Le Castellet, France): Will ANYONE pitch TO Bonds in October NL Playoff competition? And, if not, can the Giants make it back to the Series?
Joe Sheehan: Sure. If teams are still pitching to him now, when he's hit like Babe Ruth's big brother for two months, why stop in October? And if they don't, it's just more baserunners on for the average-plus players the Giants have. They're the favorites.
Ray (Chino CA): Who are the best five minor leaguers who haven't been called up yet, and who are you supporting in the California Governor Race?
Joe Sheehan: Joe Mauer, Jeremy Reed, Chad Tracy, B.J. Upton...can't think of the best pitcher.
I couldn't get Pease on the ballot, so I'm abstaining.
Al (Buffalo NY): What kind of player will Victor Martinez (Catcher for Cleveland) be?
Joe Sheehan: Brian Harper, if Harper had gotten to the majors at a young age. Martinez will hit .290/.355/.465, and peak as Mike Piazza Lite....320/.390/.520.
Might take him a few years, though...I could see him hitting .275/.330/.420 for his next 1,000 at-bats, then taking a big leap forward.
Robert (Indianapolis IN): What do you think of Pete Rose? If no new information comes out, do you, personally and morally, think he should be allowed back in baseball?
Joe Sheehan: No.
Bobby (Worcester MA): What's your opinion on the Red Sox' assorted soap operas, and will they make the postseason?
Joe Sheehan: I don't know how to phrase this, but basically, I ignore 95% of non-baseball baseball stories. I think they're largely media creations designed to distract people from the fact that beat writers have become extremely superfluous in the information age by creating the illusion that journalism is happening.
The game on the field is vibrant, and there's just no need to cover the sport as if it's a sorority.
The Sox will make the playoffs, and they still might win the division.
Darrel (St Cloud MN): What's wrong with Torii Hunter? He's been awful all season with the bat like a Dave Kingman. Do you think he can hit like he did last year, or was that a fluke? If it was a fluke, then the Twins have another bad contract on their hands. When will Joe Mauer get here, so we can lose A.J. and his swinging at sliders in the dirt?
Joe Sheehan: He was never as good as he looked in the first half of last season. He's still a good player, but he illustrates the problems with evaluating a player based on what he does at his best, rather than a more realistic view of his talents.
He's a .270/.320/.490 hitter who plays a solid center field. That won't hurt you, but it's not worth $8MM/year, not when Lew Ford is available for $1MM/three years.
reggio (New York): I received an email from MLB.com to vote for the 2003 Hank Aaron award. The award was won in both 2001 and 2002 by A-Rod in the AL and Bonds in the NL. This year's AL candidates are Delgado, Wells, G. Anderson, Ramirez, Giambi and Ichiro. How can they possibly leave A-Rod, the two time defending award winner, off of the ballot? I wrote him in for my vote, but I just don't understand why his greatness is so often taken for granted.
Joe Sheehan: I assume it's an attempt to make the BBWAA voting seem inspired by comparison.
John (Fresno): Joe, you're a California guy. Any chance we're going to see a Fresno Pizza Feed soon?
Joe Sheehan: No, because you called me a "California guy." That's like calling Mike Piazza a Marlin.
I just live here.
Contact me via e-mail about Fresno. Maybe we can get something together during the postseason.
Rich (Dublin, Ireland): I was in Sheehan's bar in Dublin the other night... not at all bad.
Anyway, what's your take on Mark Bellhorn this year, Joe?
Joe Sheehan: A guy who strikes out a lot is going to look worse in his slumps than someone who grounds to second three times a night. It's why the Branyans, Newsons and Bellhorns have such trouble getting established, while players with less value who make more contact have jobs.
I also see this as a possible failure on Dusty Baker's part. Bellhorn and Choi have similar plate approaches, and Baker really didn't get value from either this season, while sniping at both in March.
Medea's Child (LA): Complete these two sentences:
1) I really should write about __________ more
2) I'm really tired of writing about ___________ but feel compelled to do so.
Joe Sheehan: 1) the minor leagues/prospects
2) I honestly don't know. Sometimes I feel like I write about the same teams a lot, and I wish I had more reason to write about others.
casey (boulder, co): You often state that TINSTAAPP. If you were a GM, how would you incorporate that philosophy into your organization? Obviously you need pitchers, so you can't just ignore them. I would think that even someone labeled a pitching prospect is just that: a prospect, someone who could be good. Obviously there is more risk with young pitchers, but I don't think that by itself would make them non-prospects.
Joe Sheehan: From the outside, it would mostly manifest itself in a lack of hype. I see no gain in talking up teenagers playing in places like Casper, Wyoming, no matter how well they're pitching.
Internally, it would entail slower promotions, with more innings at each level; an emphasis on collegians, especially seniors, in the draft; and an attempt to teach pitchers about just how difficult their craft is on their body, in an attempt to make them more self-aware about injuries and more willing to self-report problems.
John Collins (Greenville NC): Do you think extending the Amateur Draft to Latin America would be good for the Latin amateurs? Many of them seem to think so (since precedent would presumably make lowballing difficult); on the other hand, the draft seems to be an obstacle to receiving fair market value, since the player can't negotiate with every team. What do you think? (Love BP Premium!)
Joe Sheehan: I haven't analyzed this carefully, but I think it would cost the top 1% of players some money, but be a net benefit to Latin players as a whole.
I think what MLB does in countries not covered by the draft probably comes awfully close to exploitation in the name of opportunity.
David (Perth): Love BP! What do you think of the Australian prospects out there like Travis Blackly and Grant Balfour?
Joe Sheehan: I really like Balfour, who seems like a great cheap replacement for one of the old right-handers in the Twins' rotations. Blackley is 20, at Double-A, and didn't strike out a man an inning, so I'll retain my skepticism. I know the Mariner contingent at BP loves him, though.
Paul Mocker (Seattle): Pythagorean record assumes that players play equally hard at any point in the game, whether the score is 10-1 in their favor or against, and at all times in the season. Is this assumption faulty? I believe it is. For example, with a team leading by a substantial margin, batters will swing in late innings just to get the game over. Do I understand Pythagorean standings correctly?
Joe Sheehan: Well, Pythagorean record doesn't make any assumptions. It works because of the relationship between runs and wins.
That said, the effect you describe works on both sides of the ball. If batters are just trying to get the game over, they're likely swinging at a lot of get-me-over fastballs from pitchers doing the same.
I don't think players play 100% in every situation. I do think that any variation from 100% has no effect on the usefulness of Pythagorean analysis.
Ed (Detroit, MI): Is there any chance for the Tigers?
Joe Sheehan: Sure. They've had some positive developments this season, and I think Alan Trammell is going to end up as a very good manager. It's a weak division, so it's not like they need to build a dynasty. Check back in 2005, and you'll be pleased.
Lightning round starting...
Matt (SD): Has Renteria moved into the 3rd best overall SS spot behind ARod and Nomar?
Joe Sheehan: It's pretty close between him and Derek Jeter, although Jeter has bounced back from an off-year in 2002 to hit pretty much the way he always does. Defense probably slides Renteria ahead, but it's close.
Paul Covert (Lynnwood, WA): Infield or outfield defense-- which is more important?
(Prompted by your comment on Nix and Nivar, and also by Seattle's 3-CF experiment this year.)
Joe Sheehan: I divide it differently: up-the-middle and corners. I'll put up with some pretty bad glovework on the corners if I have the right center fielder. Good range in the middle infield can allow for statues at the corners with good hands and good bats.
It also depends on the makeup of a pitching staff and ballpark. The Tigers and Mariners need better OFs than the Cubs do.
Shaun Montana (Boston, MA): Hi Joe, I think you're slowly convincing me that there's no such thing as a pitching prospect. One way to likely end up with at least 1 quality starter is to draft tons of college pitchers with good peripheral stats, and at least 1 should pan out (a la Oakland). But given TNSTAAPP, are there any other ways to develop quality young starters? (Outside of getting lucky with high school pitchers, or luck in general, or finding that rare Mark Prior-like gem?)
Joe Sheehan: I'd add keeping them healthy by monitoring workloads, as well as adopting the "pre-hab" approach that Will Carroll has written about extensively. Hopefully, we can slowly move away from the idea that a pitcher's job is to throw nine innings, which would be a huge help in the process of keeping young pitchers in uniforms and out of doctor's offices.
Mike K (NY, NY): Clearly Alfonso Soriano is not an ideal leadoff hitter. Much off his power is being wasted without anyone on base in front of him and his OBP is quite low. I see him as eventually being a 3-4 hitter, though maybe lower in the order this year. But in the meantime, if you were managing the Yanks, who would you leadoff?
Joe Sheehan: Nick Johnson, Bernie Williams or Derek Jeter. Not Soriano, basically. My optimal Yankee lineup:
Jeter puts too many balls on the ground to bat second behind a non-stealing leadoff guy, and I don't want to bat him third and move Giambi down.
Joe Sheehan: Thanks to everyone who submitted questions...I have a queue full of them that I can't get to this time. We'll do it again in October!