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Chat: Christina Kahrl

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday May 18, 2009 2:00 PM ET chat session with Christina Kahrl.

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With transactions worth talking about and on-field action to reflect on, there's plenty to discuss with BP.com managing editor Christina Kahrl.

Christina Kahrl: Howdy gang, the dingo's been walked, the sun's shining, baseball's being played, and we get to talk about it. What could be better?

Max (Chetwynd, BC): Is Ben Zobrist the new Tony Phillips?

Christina Kahrl: I really like that comp, in no small part because like Zobrist, Phillips needed an organization change (or two) to catch a break, he's athletic enough to do several things well, and the mid-career power surge makes for an interesting reminder that not every guy who got something going at the plate was in danger of a self-inflicted pharoanic cranium.

Ryan (NY): Would you think it's reasonable to ask for a signed bat, picture and tickets to a game if you caught the first home run ball by a player?

Christina Kahrl: You know, I really have no idea, but I'm curious what others think. The only *foul* ball I ever caught I handed to the little kid sitting a row back. I'd want the tickets, I guess, but I've never been much for memorabilia, especially when it's this man's memories you're bartering with. It might be different if it was someone who I was really interested in, but say it was an organizational soldier who caught a break, or some journeyman who might not hit another... I'd want to make sure I *gave* him the ball, because he'd spent his life getting to just that one moment.

cjkrawczyk (Milwaukee): Does Andrew Bailey or Scott Downs have the skills to hold down end-game duties, or will their closer jobs ultimately settle with more talented pitchers?

Christina Kahrl: I'm one of those people who thinks either have the talent, because while I'd agree with the comment that some people can *not* close (a nation turns its eyes to Ron Davis), there are many who can, with or without fun facial hair or choice theme music.

Jay (DC): For a team that needs a 3B, how much sense would it make to try to pry Brandon Wood away from the Angels? I mean, it seems like he's never actually going to get to play.

Christina Kahrl: I think a lot would depend on which team in which park... put Wood in Houston, for example, and he might be a star. Put him in Denver and see his strikeout rate take a park-induced dip, and people would get over Garrett Atkins or Ian Stewart in a hurry. The problem is that with the Angels (sensibly) going year to year with Figgins, there isn't much incentive for them to do anything differently than was done to, say, Al Rosen's career. Not that Wood's going to be Al Rosen, but I'd love to see what he might do in Phoenix or Denver.

SaberTJ (Cleveland, OH): Hi Christina, Is there any good reason Laporta isn't starting every single day? Also, it seems the Tribe has gotten around to making Peralta and Cabrera play on the left side of the infield. If that sticks, who should be getting the bulk of playing time on the right side of the diamond?

Christina Kahrl: Yep, it's a mixed bag in Cleveland, to be sure. Giving LaPorta a season-ticket package for a stretch struck me as one of the more odd developments, but at this point, with guys like Garko getting outfield reps and Mark DeRosa playing first, it's pretty clear that they're just throwing everything out there to see who can do what. When Garko's riding pine and/or Dellucci's on waivers, I think we'll know that they've moved out of their farting-around period.

tremont (Truth or Consequences, Nm): If you had to start a team today and your only two 2B options are Ian Kinsler and Robbie Cano, who do you take and why? Bang Bang!!

Christina Kahrl: Kinsler, because the upside is that tasty, and because finding a playable replacement-level second baseman if or when he breaks again is probably the single easiest position fix you could name.

Scott (Detroit): Speaking of theme music, if you were a major league hitter what song would you have them play when you came to the plate?

Christina Kahrl: Hrm, either something by Korn off of "Untouchables," or something amusing by Lilly Allen... decisions, decisions.

BL (Bozeman): Hi Christina - Thanks a lot for the chat. How can KC best marshall its resources at the corners once Alex Gordon returns? Is there a way to ease the logjam of Butler-Jacobs-Gordon-Guillen-Teahen-Kia'ahue, who all seem suited for similar roles. Is there a way to turn some of it into help on the mound or at shortstop, where help is most needed?

Christina Kahrl: It's fun to think that the Royals really are that interesting, isn't it? I still think busting Guillen down to a platoon role with Jacobs makes sense, and I'd shop Teahen and Jacobs around, not that they'll fetch much, but because I'd like to get Ka'aihue up at some point. Teams *have* gone young while sustaining bids for contention, so it wouldn't be that extraordinary a proposition, but it would tell us something about Dayton Moore's capacity to cut his losses or accept that near adequacy is not a quality you want from a corner slugging slot.

Dave (NJ): Starts Jermey Reed at 1b and Daniel Murphy in LF and Gary Sheffield in RF (go get 'em Carlos!) as Ryan Church sits the bench. Starts Gary Sheffield in RF at bats him 4th. Omir Santos starts again! Sacrifice bunts with no one out and a runner on second IN THE FIRST INNING. Pinch hits for Daniel Murphy with Angel F. Pagan with the bases loaded and one out in the 8th inning down by two. These are all things Jerry Manuel did JUST LAST NIGHT. Was he this bad in Chicago? BTW- Mets didn't score in the first (or ever for that matter.) Pagan grounded into a double play. Sheffield went 0 for 4 and left 4 on base.

Christina Kahrl: He was, and he will be. That the Mets were impressed with him was proof they didn't remember that this was what happened last time around: Manuel aced his interview, says all the right things in a conference room, and then handicapped his ballclub with his fascination with ways of insinuating himself into the ballgame. I know it means something to Mets fans if I label the man "Torborgian," but that's what you're working with, with a dash of braggadocio to spice things up a bit.

Joe Lefko (Weehawken, NJ): Everyone in fantasy is always looking for the prospect pickup that puts their team over the edge. But in a 10 team, relatively small roster size league, are really that many prospects worth employing over the deep FA pile? (looking at guys like Hanson, LaPorta, etc.)

Christina Kahrl: If it's a keeper league, absolutely, because I'd think that the long-term payoff for keeping someone like Hanson can be pretty tasty. But that said, in the same way that Joe might say I Am Not A Scout, I have to confess that I Am Not A Fantasist.

Jake (Chicago): What are the odds that DeRosa comes back to Chicago this season via trade?

Christina Kahrl: Pretty good, considering there are two teams, and both have problems with their infields that need better solutions than guys like Nix or Freel to ride in to the rescue.

Scott (Detroit): With the way the NL Central is shaping up, would it make sense for Walt Jocketty to pony up for a genuine left fielder right now, before it's too late for the Reds? Or should they just wait until next year?

Christina Kahrl: There may be no better GM in the industry in finding the team that wants to just get rid of a veteran free agent-to-be on almost any terms, and ditching a non-prospect or two to make it happen. Like you, I'd like to see the Reds move sooner rather than later, because while I think they have long-term best interests to be enthusiastic about, making a point to the locals that they're also quite capable of being a win-now team would be sound on all sorts of levels.

Jeff (Minnesota): Should the Padres sell high on A. Gonzalez and Heath Bell right now? Those guys aren't going to be around by the time the Padres are good again, right?

Christina Kahrl: Gonzalez's under-market contract runs through 2011, which would make him an excellent addition for somebody looking for a multi-year fix at the position; he'd yield worthwhile value at the deadline, certainly. Bell might or might not, but as a guy two years from free agency (after this season) and due for arbitration-inspired pay hikes, some teams might prefer to be a bit more niggardly in the haggle for him. But the question of whether the Pads should seems to me to be answered, "absolutely," because they need to add talent (no matter who is in charge), and if they're dead anyways, at least they have Kyle Blanks to bring up in A-Gonz's place.

Rob (Dallas): Are the Rangers legit this soon? 2010 seemed like a realistic time to contend, but they're looking pretty formidable in the early going this year...

Christina Kahrl: I may be exercising some selective memory here, but if I recall correctly, I pegged the Rangers to finish second this year, and that was definitely motivated by the expectation that they could do it now in a division where 85 wins would be enough, and because they might be a little motivated to make a point with a deadline deal or two to prove that they're not just marking time in Texas.

Fred (Houston): Keep the TA's coming Christina, they are my favorite BP feature.

Christina Kahrl: I appreciate the compliment, but the point to make here is that I've been terrible on this score, in part because I've been dividing my attention across too many interesting things going on here at BP (hey, where is the Idol chatter, anyways?). But I'll admit, another part is because I've been struggling with what to say after 14 years about swapping in third lefties for fifth outfielders, and I do wonder if I haven't run out of jokes about the Treaty of Westphalia or one-upping Goldstein to prove my superior recall of "Repo Man," and because I dislike using something just because I first came up with it 10 years ago. And beyond all of that, I really wonder if I really wouldn't rather write lots of game stories, because at the end of the day, I still get a bang out of simply seeing the games. So, I wonder about what I want to do as a writer, which isn't really an existential crisis, as much as trying to come to terms with picking something and sticking with it, when all of it can be a bit fun, and deserves exploration.

Drew (Ohio): How did Josh Johnson get this good? How do you like his chances of keeping it up?

Christina Kahrl: I absolutely like his chances; he was going to be good *before* he ever got hurt, and the fact that he's managed to recapture that possible future is an outstanding commentary on his gifts as well as those of his surgeon and the organization's trainers.

Gunpuddy (Nashville, TN): At this point I'm beginning to think the moniker "five-tool player" has become a euphemism for "athletic, hasn't learned to hit." Am I wrong.

Christina Kahrl: I do wonder, because there's a point at which some prospect evaluation commentary crosses over from meaningful to frothy; it's one of the things I like about our own prospect and talent types (whether Kevin or Bryan, or with the recent introduction of Kiley McDaniel's series) is that these aren't people repeating organizational spin. Information--whether data or scouting appreciations--is only as good as the person who uses it to say something with it; take critical thought out of the equation, and everyone might be a remarkable talent.

brian (Brooklyn NY): Steve Phillips spent the better part of 3 hours yesterday telling America about every short coming and misplay Carlos Beltran has ever had in his career. Is there a more under appreciated superstar playing in a big market than Beltran?

Christina Kahrl: There are a lot of Steve Phillips questions in the queue, and I think the best response I can come up with is that, as sympathetic as I might be that filling air time is a challenge on any network, this was just silly. Beltran's a superb ballplayer, an incredible ballplayer, and a big part of the reason why the Mets will contend. But saying that doesn't really get ratings, does it now?

mattymatty (Philly): Have we seen the best of Jon Lester, or is this just a temporary bump in the road?

Christina Kahrl: I'll admit to being a Lester believer, but I accept that many of my colleagues disagree and have suggested that we've seen his best work. I think his PECOTA comps are appropriately suggestive, given his age; I see Bob Knepper '79 or Tom Glavine '91, and I figure the upside play's worth dreaming on, even while I'd admit that it's a reach.

Mike (Utica,NY): Am I crazy to say that Nick Markakis could be the next Al Kaline.

Christina Kahrl: It's an interesting comparison, but here's hoping Markakis does better as an outfield coach when he's charged with teaching Kirk Gibson III how to play the field in... what, 2038?

Dave (Chicago): What's holding Gio Gonzalez back? I know Keith Law has never been a big fan, but everyone else seemed to be pretty high on him. What's the deal?

Christina Kahrl: I think the problem with Gonzalez is sort of an issue you might compare to the dilemma with tweener outfielders, where you know he's too good to just be the next situational lefty, but he's also not someone gifted with the kind of put-away pitches in his assortment that makes it easy to say you want to give him a rotation slot and watch him take a few hammerings at the hands of big-league lineups. A lefty with a plus curve and sporadically interesting velocity on his heat is a lefty who needs to get consistent with that fastball before he's going to stick as a starter. If it takes a few years to see if he can, that's OK, but if he can't, I'd expect the breaking stuff and his relatively smooth mechanics to get him a money-making career in relief work deep into his 30s.

dcarroll (WI): Any chance BP will have an event in the Metrodome this season? I understand the stadium sort of sucks compared to many other venues, but I don't live near cool stadiums.

Christina Kahrl: Speaking as someone who used to vacation in Wisconsin during the summers when I first lived in Chicago, the idea of trekking up to the Twin Cities to catch a game and meet people and jaw about baseball sounds like all sorts of fun. As is, I'm looking at driving to SABR this year at the end of July (it's in Baltimore/DC, and I'm one of the featured speakers), and dropping in on Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and/or Detroit as I head there and back.

Reggie (Montgomery): Is it safe to write-off Delmon Young as a bust?

Christina Kahrl: Well, I hate to rush these things; for every David Green, you might find a guy like Milton Bradley or Brandon Phillips. There might be factors in play here that only time and hard experience might iron out, so I wouldn't put this on the Twins.

Travis Buck (The Bench): Is Bob Geren ever going to give me a legitimate shot to be a full-time starter? Am I a starter or just a fourth outfielder?

Christina Kahrl: I'd rather see you playing more, but let's just say that it's very much a pity that you can't really play center.

Tim (Chicago): Did the A's rush Cahill and Anderson? Are they just not as good as everyone thinks?

Christina Kahrl: They've definitely been rushed, with the real question being whether or not the experience becomes a learning set of lumps that they adapt to (say, the Glavine or Maddux early-career experiences), or the defining moment (Pete Smith, anyone?). I still like the upside of both, but anticipating this was exactly why I did not really sign on with the projections-based proposition that the A's were the favorite in the division. Real life on a major league mound is hard, and hiccups were to be expected.

Jay (DC): At what point in the season is it legitimate to stop saying, "But it's early?" I keep finding ways to discount the surprisingly good performances and make excuses for the poor ones. It's tiring.

Christina Kahrl: We had fun arguing over this with the ESPN guys a few weeks ago, which is what gave rise to "Cinco do Samplo," in part because I was fulfilling my role as the nagging shrew who says "but it doesn't mean anything yet," and we finally had fun with asking what means what just yet. I think Rany's old work suggested that we're getting to the point where results matter, so to speak, but I guess I'm the sort of crank who says we can avoid convictions until the calendar flips to June. Rany's much brighter than I am, of course, so don't take my reservations unreservedly.

Disasterpiece Theater (Coming to a ballpark near you): Okay, here's some BP Idol chatter: Will Carroll has posted his comments on each of the finalists' initial submission. Any chance we'll get to see yours or KGs?

Christina Kahrl: I plan to expand on my notes and offer my two cents on the finalists, but in the broad strokes what I really liked was the widely divergent ways in which these contestants took on problems and tackled them. As judges, we were free to consider a large number of factors, which is what made selecting the final slate really interesting. Some very good pieces by some good writers that didn't make it, but that's a reflection on the quality of what we received and then had to sort through.

kjgilber (Hartford, CT): Have you thought about doing quick hit TAs, ala Kevin's daily hits on Prospects? I understand how knocking out those lengthy columns on a regular basis could grow old, but your insights are always appreciated.

Christina Kahrl: It would be fair to say that I've watched the development of that content element with interest for this very reason... divorcing myself from my at-times-crippling completist's instinct because it was what came before, and doing something more like Will and Kevin do so very well, is very tempting.

Joel (GA): Why does it seem like everyone has forgotten that Felix Hernandez exists?

Christina Kahrl: Who?

OK, I'm kidding, of course. It's a fair complaint, but I think much of the problem is the enthusiasm for novelty. In Mariners history, it's novel to see Erik Bedard doing the things that were expected of him, and it's also exciting to see Jarrod Washburn keep on keeping on as far as perpetuating last year's second-half success. And serene above all that is King Felix, ascending as expected--damnably tedious as story lines go. Maybe he needs silly facial hair. Or to hire Turk Wendell to coach him on endearing, contrived nervous tics. Or to be found eating kittens. I don't know, but at this rate, merely growing up to be every bit as excellent as expected is the sort of thing that just isn't seen as "news" in some circles.

BL (Bozeman): What are you reading these days? (Baseball and non-baseball divisions, please.)

Christina Kahrl: I'm slogging through the grim conclusion of Dan Simmons' "Drood" in the evenings, taking Fraser's "Royal Flash" to the beach or park for short snippets for doses of amusement, and belatedly getting to Lowenfish's Branch Rickey bio.

Peeig13 (The Second City): With teams insisting on having 12 or 13 arms on the roster at all times, when are teams going to actively seek out the Micah Owings type who can hit and play a position as well as pitch. Couldn't teams actively look for this type of player in their system to pitch 50 to 60 low leverage innings and be a useful bat off of the bench. It would certainly allow for more flexibility and nobody would have to waste a roster spot on a low leverage middle reliever who should be pitching in a beer league anyway.

Christina Kahrl: I'd suggest that it's easier to suggest than accomplish or try to conjure up; to put it in player development terms, nobody's drafting people in the hope that they grow up to be the next Brooks Kieschnick, indeed, they positively want to avoid seeing anybody become a Kieschnick. They'd rather a guy grew up to be a good left fielder or a good starting pitcher, and in point of fact, those things are a whole hell of a lot more valuable to an organization than a Brookstone-level roster inspiration.

Mike (Niles, IL): Is Peavy too much to give up for Carlos Quentin in a keeper league? I'm in desperate need of power.

Christina Kahrl: I'd think so, but that's in part because Quentin's track record for staying healthy is ghastly, and add in his HBP rates, and it's easy to see more bad things happening at some point down the road.

mattymatty (Philly): I love the idea of BP ballpark events, too. How bout one in Philly while you're at it?

Christina Kahrl: A lot depends on the interest of the clubs themselves. We've always figured that what's good for baseball--like events that might engender additional interest and selling extra tickets--should also be good for us. We're able and willing to do these sorts of events like the one we're doing with the White Sox in a few short weeks anywhere, and I know we're interested.

eamuscatuli (Rochester, NY): What are your thoughts on Michael Wuertz in the A's bullpen? Did the Cubs sour on him too quickly?

Christina Kahrl: Absolutely, but that's a reflection on how badly things went this winter--the organization had pitching talent to shed because they were short of space on the active roster to keep it all. Ditching Marquis or Vizcaino or Wuertz *and* Gaudin *and* Hill... that's not to say that they've run out of good stuff, but to shed that much usable pitching talent for negligible returns, that's just not how you like to see things play out.

Fred (NJ): Is Eric Milton replacing Jeff Weaver on the Dodgers roster one of the funniest transactions in recent memory?

Christina Kahrl: Give it another couple of weeks, and I figure we might see Tom Niedenfuer.

Andy (Chicago): What's your take on Justin Upton--do you see him going crazy for the rest of the year?

Christina Kahrl: I'd definitely sign on for that take... he's that good, he gets to call a bandbox home, and he gets the benefit of facing the NL West? The timing's right, and the talent's there, so I'd buckle up.

Glenn (NJ): Should the Mets just have let John Niese make starts for a while no matter the outcome. I mean he's got to take lumps at the big league level and learn from it at some point and it's not like Tim Redding isn't going to get pounded anyway.

Christina Kahrl: I guess since I'm one of those people who doesn't think Niese might grow up to be much more than a fifth starter who might grow up to be a fourth starter, and Redding's already that guy, and given the stakes the Mets are playing for, sticking with Redding isn't all that unreasonable. The Mets' fifth starter isn't the problem.

WilliamWilde (Boston, MA): One subject that nearly everone has been silent about, sort of like the unspoken rule about not mentioning a no-hitter in progress, is AARON HILL. And yes the capitals are warranted by now no?

Christina Kahrl: Hill's the guy off to a hot start in the Jays' lineup worth getting excited about, not simply because of the back story of coming back from his concussion, but because he looked good before the injury, and we can get excited about what he might grow up to be. (Insert standard observations that Lyle Overbay and Marco Scutaro will go back to being Lyle Overbay and Marco Scutaro here.)

krissbeth (watertown, ma): Have you thought of doing a one-time rotation of people's jobs to keep people fresh and see what their beat is like? Maybe one day this year you write about prospects and someone takes the Transaction Analysis gig for one day. Might be a neat experiment that keeps everyone fresh.

Christina Kahrl: It's an interesting thought, but I couldn't for a minute pretend that I could do what Will does, or Kevin does, or Steven, or for that matter what Bryan Smith does on the college beat. A lot of what specific people do goes directly into the wheelhouse of what they're gifted at doing, and that's invariably a reflection of a ton of hard work to get there. Actually doing something like this would really only be safe as an April Fool's exercise. ;)

RG (Seattle): Seems to me Gaudin should be an adequate back-end guy, especially in Petco, ignoring for the moment the Pads' horrendous D. Do you agree?

Christina Kahrl: Absolutely.

Gray (Chicago): Looks like the Ricketts family has three banks lined up to finance $450M of the $900M needed for the Cubs. They say it could go down in 30-45 days. How would that affect the Cubs immediate financial flexibility?

Christina Kahrl: Swell, they'll be able to afford paying off Kosuke Fukudome in full. ;)

I'm more interested in seeing if the Ricketts take a page from the playbook that's been run on Fenway, and the organization builds onto Wrigley up by Clark and Waveland in a way that gets the players better clubhouses and adds on some improved amenities and maybe even the museum.

ccweinmann (seattle): ... "because finding a playable replacement-level second baseman if or when he breaks again is probably the single easiest position fix you could name." Doesn't that mean you're setting "replacement level" at the wrong place? Replacement level should be equally easy to find across positions, shouldn't it?

Christina Kahrl: I suppose it depends upon how wedded to the concept of an abstract replacement level you are; I guess I look at the proposition as one of whether or not it's easy to find someone in the real world who's playable at the position. It's easier and more worthwhile to find Adam Kennedy than Luis Hernandez, for example.

nstampe (madison): Prioritize for me Allan Barra's Yogi Berra or American Icon by the Newsday reporters, or should I have bought Forever Blue by Michael D'Antonio.

Christina Kahrl: I'm hopelessly biased because Allan's a friend, but we've been overdue for a quality biography of Yogi Berra for a long, long time.

Matt A (Raleigh): Any way to fix the Braves OF situation? The way I see it, they don't have a single outfielder who should be playing every day right now, and at least one who shouldn't be playing at the major league level.

Christina Kahrl: Stick with the commitment to Schafer, because that's been made and should be worthwhile. I'd play Brandon Jones, because I never got as down on him because of his Triple-A funk last season as some people did; there's your left-field platoon, with Diaz. The problem's really still Frenchy, and Garret Anderson's not really a fix there, even in a platoon.

Brandon Wood (Salt Lake): Christina, play devil's advocate and make an argument for me being in AAA right now.

Christina Kahrl: There's less chance of suffering a disabling splinter wound on the field instead of the bench.

Gunpuddy (Nashville): Is Felix Pie a valuable fifth outfielder?

Christina Kahrl: Isn't that by definition an oxymoron?

Chet (Charleston, S.C.): Is James MacDonald's future still as a solid rotation guy for the Dodgers, and if so, when do you think he'll get another crack? I agree that the Eric Milton/Jeff Weaver pas de deux is pretty humorous, but MacDonald was getting shelled.

Christina Kahrl: True, he was, but I think it's interesting that the Dodgers would wind up with Milton or Weaver when better options have bobbed across the wire; I can't help but wonder if this isn't a failure at the top, because a club with LA's resources shouldn't overlook the opportunities to have added someone like Redding or Gaudin. Heck, where's Odalis Perez? Watching daytime television, right?

Gunpuddy (Nashville): Sorry, I was being facetious about Pie. What I meant was "how much does he suck."

Christina Kahrl: Heehee... well, to be fair, I think the gifts that made him an interesting prospect are all still there. If you put him in Seattle and platooned him with Gutierrez in center, or put him in Cincinnati with Taveras... he'll go to waste in a reserve role, and platoon left fielder probably wasn't the best way to get him going.

Richard (Austin): Have there been any significant surprises of teams or players that have really turned your head 1/4 through the year?

Christina Kahrl: I'm sort of pleased by how things are playing out in Toronto, but that's only because I sort of like the idea of Cito Gaston enjoying some success like a latter-day McKeon. The Brewers are exceeding my expectations for them, which I always find interesting.

bowie (cal): Matt Holliday to the Giants -- possible?

Christina Kahrl: Sure, if they climb down and cough up the territorial rights to San Jose plus a worthy prospect or two, I suppose they could talk. Failing that, I'd trade him to the Dodgers for good stuff, just to spite the neighbors.

Christina Kahrl: With that, I should scram (and write), but this has been as fun as ever, and I'll look forward to the next time.


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