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Chat: Joe Sheehan

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday June 08, 2009 2:00 PM ET chat session with Joe Sheehan.

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Whether it's action on the field or issues away from it, Joe Sheehan always has something to say about the state of the national pastime.

Joe Sheehan: I'm just a no-name reporter/ I wish I had nothin' to say...

Mike (Utica,NY): Should the Braves do to Francouer what the Indians did to Carmona by sending him to rookieball and start all over. I think Brandon Jones could come up and outproduce him right now.

Joe Sheehan: A demotion didn't have much effect last time, and if I remember correctly, wasn't received well by the player. I'm on record, a little more than a year ago, as being bullish on Francouer. At this point, though, he's a failed player. The Braves have to get him out of the lineup and replace him with someone who advances the cause. They're not developing a prospect any longer.

James (Washington): Through 55 games: 2009 Nats: 15-40, 1962 Mets: 16-39. Do you think that the Nationals will finish worse than the 62 Mets?

Joe Sheehan: No. That 15-40 mark overstates how bad they are due to the early-season bullpen meltdowns. With a strong offense, some turnover in the rotation (I like Shairon Martis a lot) and regression by the pen, they'll be close to a .400 team the rest of the way.

Ben (Chicago): There are a number of players who, for various reasons, have reverse platoon splits. Occasionally, managers have been wising up to hitters, and throwing whatever they don't hit well at them. Why, however, is this not more pervasive, and why do switch hitters never turn around to a pitchers weaker side rather than the one he thinks should be the weaker side?

Joe Sheehan: I'm not sure who you're specifically referring to. The only study I've read was in the 1988 Baseball Abstract, and concluded that all hitters eventually gravitate to normal splits over time, although in a season or two or three they can appear "backwards." Hitters will occasionally hit wrong-sided against knuckleballers and changeup artists (mostly Johan Santana in the latter case), pitchers for whom lateral motion isn't a big deal and whose arm slot makes tracking simple.

blaseta (Calgary): Is Roy Halladay baseball's best pitcher? It's not like he hasn't been doing it for a long period of time, and I figure he's got to be given some extra credit for the division he pitches in as well as his ability to pitch more innings than any one else.

Joe Sheehan: I still have Johan Santana atop my list, and I think you can argue that Halladay is the best of the next group down, which would include Brandon Webb, CC Sabathia and Tim Lincecum. Santana is a bit like Albert Pujols now, where he's so good people look for other guys to talk about.

Joe (San Diego): How many pitchers future would you take over Stephen Strasburg?

Joe Sheehan: ...aaaaaand we're back. I got booted, not sure why.

"Future" is ill-defined. If it's just performance, I would take something along the lines of 35-50 guys, I'd imagine. If I'm wrong, I'm guessing low. The jump from college to MLB is steep enough, especially for a guy out of the Mountain West, that I think you have to give a lot of weight to pitchers who have succeeded in MLB.

Joe V. (Washington, DC): Hi Joe. True or false? The Yankees would be better off with Alfredo Aceves and Phil Hughes in the rotation (in place of Pettitte and Wang).

Joe Sheehan: I'm as big an Aceves fan as you'll find, and I'm not sure I'd start him over Wang. I was there last Thursday, and Wang wasn't that bad, caught some bad breaks in the third that set everything else up. Pettitte is clearly the team's #6, and signing him to block Hughes, even at the cost, was not a great idea. Aceves or Kennedy could have taken some starts if you really wanted to bring Hughes along slowly.

Taco (Philly): Joe, did you underrate the Phillies (not surprising), or are they playing over their heads? Even with a month and a half's worth of awful starting pitching, they have the 2nd best run differential in the NL (4th in all of baseball), and are a couple bad Brad Lidge appearances from sweeping both the Yankees and Dodgers on the road. Are they going to come down to Earth and meet your prediction or are they serious WS contenders again?

Joe Sheehan: The Phillies will be tomorrow's PT, as they start a big series with the Mets. I'll be out at Shea tomorrow night, because I was too dumb to realize it was draft day. (I draw Johan, though, so it's OK.) There's a lot of guys over their heads--Ruiz, Utley, Feliz, Ibanez, Condrey, Happ--so my sense is that they won't keep up this pace, because the offense is coming back to earth and I don't see the pitching, Hamels aside, covering that return. They clearly could win the East or the wild card, which makes them serious WS contenders. I'd still take the Mets, although with the Braves' inability to surround their core with major leaguers, I'm questioning my preference for them.

Drungo (SoMd): What do you make of the Orioles' outfield defense? On paper Markakis, Jones, and (mostly) Pie seems like a great group. But by all the advanced metrics Jones and Markakis have flat-out stunk, while Pie has been good but has looked very inconsistent.

Joe Sheehan: I can't figure this at all, because outfield defense was a key strength a year ago, and having added Pie, the Orioles looked to be even better. I'm speculating here, but I do wonder if your pitching staff can be so bad that no defense can help. Do the Orioles pitchers give up too many hard-hit, deeply-hit balls to be defended? If there's a staff so bad it could queer a talented defense's numbers, it's probably the one the O's broke camp with.

Tim (Minneapolis): I'm not trying to expose bias here, I'm just curious: what's your favorite team?

Joe Sheehan: New here, I take it. I'm a Yankee fan, grew up in and returned to a neighborhood about 10-15 minutes from the Stadium.

Michael (NYC): Can the Texas Rangers go wire to wire in the AL West?

Joe Sheehan: Yes. However, the Rangers have had their share of hot starts, so we've seen this before. The pitching is just not good enough, and the offense is surviving on an unsustainable performance on contact. The core returns in 2010 to win the West.

macman (abroad): Joe, This may have been explained earlier, but I don't see anything on the site re: a during the draft chat with KG. Any chance we can lobby for one?

Joe Sheehan: Tomorrow, Kevin will have a mock draft up around midday. Starting at 4:30 p.m. ET, we'll have a draft roundtable led by Kevin, with a parallel chat set up for you to get your questions answered within the roundtable. Wednesday will have a recap and another roundtable through the 10th round, and Kevin will write up his insights on the entire draft in advance of the weekend.

mgibson (DC): What's your take on the Carlos Gonzalez recall? The stories I've seen just cite his untranslated AAA stats. Given that it's Colorado Springs, I'm left unsure whether he has really turned a corner.

Joe Sheehan: There was a pretty significant drop in Gonzalez's strikeout rate, and he's at the age where learning can come quickly. The BA and power are likely a bit inflated; even if they slip and he's a .270/.330/.440 guy in the majors, his glove may let that play. The Rockies' problem is two CF bats and CF gloves, one of which has to play a corner.

Phil S. (NJ): There's a nice crop of rookie outfielders right now, including Fowler, C. Gonzalez, Reimold, Rasmus, and Snider/Schafer(before their demotions). Do you like any of this group much more than the rest?

Joe Sheehan: Rasmus, then Snider, then Fowler, stand out from the group. They're all different types of players, but among them, you've got 16, 17 ASG appearances coming.

Scott (Detroit): Walt Jocketty is supposedly looking for a third baseman. Umm, who in the world could he be looking into? 3B doesn't seem like a position with a lot of people available. Atkins, maybe?

Joe Sheehan: This keeps coming up on Bernie Miklasz' show, where I've spent more time dissecting Garret Atkins than is healthy. Adrian Beltre is in the last year of his deal, and I'd rather go get him, especially with that contact/groundball staff in St. Louis.

Clay Buchholz (Los Angeles, CA): Am I going to make an impact on a big league team this season?

Joe Sheehan: I honestly don't know. The Red Sox are a tough team to improve, so while the argument is they shouldn't waste an asset, what do you trade for that is worth dealing Buchholz away? There doesn't seem to be a rotation slot available--Smoltz is next up.

Unless some impact shortstop or catcher becomes available, maybe Victor Martinez--I can't even think of a shortstop--there's no value to be had for Buchholz.

Tex Premium Lager (NJ): It seems like Milton Bradley *must* DH if a team wants to see anything productive from him at the plate. A trade to an AL contender would make a whole lot of sense to all parties involved. What say you?

Joe Sheehan: Hitting, playing the field, staying healthy. Milton Bradley can do any two of these at once. The Cubs' decision to sign him was silly at the time, and remains so now. If they can get a relief arm for him from an AL team willing to pay the contract, they should do it once they can legally trade him. I like Bradley a lot--he's just not physically capable of playing the field and being a good player at the same time.

Aaron (YYZ): What is the point Kevin Millar and Jose Bautista on the Blue Jays (ostensibly as lefty mashers) when the team only has 2 hitters on the active roster that bat from the left side to begin with?

Joe Sheehan: It's called "playing the percentages." It's what good managers do.

Having some righty bats to play for Overbay, Snider and Lind wasn't a terrible idea, and Bautista brings some flexibility. The Jays' bench isn't their problem, although rostering John McDonald and never using him leaves them with 24 players.

PeterSchwech (Boston): Is Big Papi done? Can you think of another player or two that has absolutely fallen off a cliff like he has? Steve Blass?

Joe Sheehan: Tim Wallach after 1989, IIRC, although he had a bounceback. I know there are others, but I'm blanking. This chat may end abruptly, as I think there's a rugby match going on in the apartment above me.

Kubali Khan (Mongolia): Regarding this Strausberg kid, we get it. He's the best ever. But when I think of highly touted pre-draft 'best ever pitchers', guys like Dwight Gooden, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood spring to mind more often then not (not to mention the Ben McDonalds of the world). Am I thinking too much glass-half-empty? Why is Strausberg going to be different?

Joe Sheehan: Followup: the Big Papi question is just begging for a Goldman treatment.

He hasn't failed yet. I'm not the guy to argue with about this. As much as I think the draft is incredibly unfair to players, there are no guarantees, and we know that even the successes in the category of "college stud starter," like Jered Weaver, often are less than superstars. You can look just in very recent years and see a Prior and question the hype. It's a fair point.

iorg34 (PTP): How's Joe Mauer ownership treating you in Tout? You're Bill Smith: How many years & dollars do you offer the Chairman?

Joe Sheehan: I'm in second, but starting to be bled a little by injuries and performance issues. My management of my fantasy teams has been weak this year.

jamin67038 (Wichita, KS): The Yankees have _____ future HOFers on their roster. Friend says 3, I say 4+. What say you?

Joe Sheehan: Jeter and Rivera are mortal locks, and Jeter, who never went on strike, probably is the next test case for unanimity. There's a steroids issue with Rodriguez now; to me, he gets in, though maybe not without controversy. So I need one of Posada, Sabathia, Teixeira, Chamberlain or Damon. I'd take your side of the bet; Posada is a HoF in my eyes, marginal in others. Damon sounds weird, but he's declining very gently, so he has to get a look.

mike (chicago): Of course, with Jocketty now in cincy, does that change your answer?

Joe Sheehan: Whoops. Sorry about that. I still call it "Shea," too, and often talk about Yankee prospects at Columbus.

I wouldn't trade for a 3B. The guy you get might be a win better than Encarnacion over three months, and he could just as easily be two wins' worse. Maybe that's being optimistic about a disappointing player. The Reds would be better served looking for an OBP source in the outfield, where Willy Taveras and Laynce Nix are killing them. (Is Taveras still trying to steal 100 bases? He has some ground to make up.)

strupp (Madison): Doesn't Pettite get in on the Yankee Halo?

Joe Sheehan: Yes, with a stronger case than Posada because of the postseason work. Missed him. The only way "three" is the limit is if every guy with even a whiff of steroids gets kept out.

Jon (DC): He went on strike, but isn't Greg Maddux the next test case?

Joe Sheehan: No, because he went on strike. I don't remember which guy(s), but at least one voter is on record as saying he'll never vote for a player who went on strike. Jeter doesn't have that. He doesn't have PEDs. He is fully qualified even noting the defense. He's visible and popular and nice. If he's not unanimous, the guy who leaves him off is showboating, plain and simple.

huckyoda (Rockville MD): Did you just mention Chamberlain when discussing HOFers? Ha! Yankee fans!

Joe Sheehan: I was trying to be inclusive and catch everyone with some kind of shot, in a Favorite Toy manner. At that, I missed Pettitte. You could have included Cano, for the possibility of high hit totals and BAs, as well.

James (Philly): Utley is playing over his head? I mean he's no Luis Castillo or Robinson Cano, but he's a pretty good player I think

Joe Sheehan: The 60 points of OBP above his baseline is a lot of runs. No one needs to sell me on him, just noting that he's part of the guys a bit over their heads.

Jay (Philly): Do the Phillies ride a potent offense and the smoke and mirrors of Happ and Bastardo? Or should they trade prospects for a big name starter?

Joe Sheehan: That trade isn't out there, I don't think. With the complications of Peavy and Oswalt, you'd have to dip into the next tier down. At that point, you're not getting an impact, #2 guy, you're adding bulk innings. Maybe you do that, anyway, but it'd be more like getting Moyer a few years back.

bam022 (Chicago): I just traded Nelson Cruz and Scott Kazmir for Matt Wieters and Ryan Franklin in a keeper league. Bad move?

Joe Sheehan: It's Cruz for Wieters and a shot at some saves. I'd have done it, and I think Cruz is for real.

jalee121 (St. Charles, Illinois): Since we're on the topic of HOFers and I am currently watching the White Sox, is Jim Thome a hall of famer?

Joe Sheehan: Hell, yes. He's not done yet, either.

J.P. (Hartford): If Pettite gets in, doesn't that mean Mussina and Schilling should be just about locks?

Joe Sheehan: There's a perceptions gap when it comes to Mussina and the other two, because the other two played for championship teams and Mussina didn't. Also, Mussina is the "almost" guy, with the near-no-hitters and the 19-win seasons and the great no-decisions in the playoffs. On merit, all three go in--the BBWAA has become positively insane about standards for SPs--but I can't predict how postseason value is going to be weighted for guys in the three-division era.

scottziegler (Beaver Dam, WI): Should Delmon Young be thought of the same as Francouer?

Joe Sheehan: He hasn't failed for quite as long, nor quite as badly. He's younger, too. We do need to see something in the next 800 AB or so.

Scott (Detroit): Sorry, I was only 13 during the strike, so I may be missing something. Why would a player lose someone's vote because of striking? Labor strife seems irrelevant to performance. Are they just union busters with a Hall vote?

Joe Sheehan: There is a segment of the voting community, generally older, that has never quite wrapped its head around the idea that baseball is a business worked by professionals, and that those professionals, starting in 1965 or so, decided to be treated as such. This group believes that players who went on strike, rather than exercising a negotiating tool--one popular among the working press, or was back when the working press had any leverage over their industry--were violating some kind of ethical code. Hence, the declaration of no-vote for those guys.

Adam (Chicago): I thought I remember someone leaving Rickey Henderson off his ballot because he would get voted in from the other voters without question. Thus, he voted for someone else that was more on the bubble. Is there a limit on how many you can vote for in one year?

Joe Sheehan: I got kicked off again. Weird.

You can vote for 10. There haven't been 10 viable Hall of Famers on a BBWAA ballot in...well, a long time.

Dylan (Toronto): If you could make one change to the draft, what would it be?

Joe Sheehan: End it. The unfairness to the players outweighs the industry's concerns about labor costs. (It's not a competitive balance mechanism. Competitive balance sucked for decades and nobody cared until amateurs started signing for a lot of money. The draft ended that.)

If I have to keep it, I'd cut it to maybe 15 rounds.

shamah (NYC): Mussina won 20 last year. I think that gets him over the hump. I think people tend to lump him in with the Greg Maddux's of the world. Maybe not a first balloter, but I think he's a certainty.

Joe Sheehan: I'm aware of that. He's still the "almost" guy.

I like Mike Mussina as much as anyone, and I'll tell you right now that no one on this planet lumps him in with "the Greg Maddux's of the world." Nor should they.

ubrnoodle (nyc): Any thoughts on Hanson's first start? Seems like he's pretty close to a finished product and the final line was a lot worse than he actually pitched. How do you like him this season and beyond?

Joe Sheehan: Watching it on mlb.tv is on my to-do list today. I think he's the Braves' third-best starter right now, with a shot to win NL Rookie of the Year.

J.P. (Hartford): If you end the draft would that mean freshman and sophomores in college would be draft eligible as well? Could American sixteen year olds sign as in Latin America?

Joe Sheehan: Works for me. I think it's vaguely insulting that we pretend to prize education so much to prevent U.S. 16-year-olds from starting their careers, but sign thousands of foreign kids at the same age with nary a concern for their future grades. It's nonsense.

Restrictions on labor markets exist to prevent labor for maximizing its value. Just because we all played baseball as kids doesn't make it right for MLB to do this, or for the MLBPA to sell out kids for their own purposes. The draft, in all sports, is a sham.

Scott (Detroit): Logic (not an economics background) tells me that if amateurs could be signed as free agents, small market teams could actually field better teams because the wealthier teams couldn't sign everyone, but would pay more for the younger players. Then veterans would begin to cost less for other teams. Your thoughts? And would the union go for no draft, since the contractual balance may shift out of current players' favor?

Joe Sheehan: I honestly don't know what a world designed by me would look like in terms of effects. I think the more paths to acquiring talent that exist, the more options there are for teams to leverage their strengths. There's an idea that the lack of a draft will cause a massive shift in competitive balance, and I don't think that's the case. Players want money, but they also want to play, and they're not going to sign with the Yankees to be the team's sixth-best first-base prospect.

buffum (Austin TX): Where is Mark DeRosa playing the first week of August? I have seen his name attached to the Cubs, Cards, Mets, and Giants, and have tried to coax more clubs to be interested as well. He fits any number of places, but who is likely to offer Cleveland something of real value?

Joe Sheehan: For a utility guy past his prime with three months left on his contract who was traded for not much in the offseason? I'm not seeing it. If they trade him, they'll be taking back a C prospect; it's just up to them to identify the right one.

Adam (Italy): A's: buy or sell? The AL West is so weak that it seems tempting to go for it, but does it make more sense to sell off all the tradeable assets (Holliday, Cabrera, maybe Giambi and Crosby) and concentrate on loading up for 2010 and beyond?

Joe Sheehan: They sold a year ago from an infinitely better position. I can't imagine they wouldn't do so again this year.

jjkirsch (NY): If the Nats could trade their pick, what kind of a haul could they receive in return?

Joe Sheehan: A #1 next season and a top-50 prospect, with perhaps a stocking stuffer or three in the deal as well.

Chip (SF): Brian Sabean continues to keep his job because_________?

Joe Sheehan: He's been there a long time, made some good decisions along the way, and if nothing else, had a plan for the post-Barry Bonds era. It's not what I would have done, and god knows Sabean isn't someone I praise, but giving him these two years to take a shot made sense. I suspect that barring a miracle, he may have an issue coming back in 2010.

Clay (Sarasota, FL): You wrote months ago about the need to trade Scott Kazmir. Now he's on the DL. Garza, Shields, Niemann, Price, and Sonnanstine (in recent starts) have looked good. To make room when Kazmir is "healthy", the Rays would have to sell low on Kaz or move Sonny. Thoughts?

Joe Sheehan: He'll take Niemann's spot in the rotation. My god, though...there was a window in which he would have brought back a lot. That's over.

Rich (Evanston): Joe- With Rivera 39 years old, who might the Yanks transition into his successor -- spend a lot on a "proven" closer or let someone like Aceves take over?

Joe Sheehan: I think Mark Melancon will be the heir apparent in 2011, although it's not entirely clear that Rivera is going to be done by then. 29/1 K/UIBB this year; is the HR rate a blip or the Hoffmanesque sign of decline?

buffum (Austin TX): Well, last season we identified Jon Meloan and Carlos Santana. The difference between Mark DeRosa and Casey Blake is within an epsilon band, no? (If it would help, my guess is that the Indians would again pay DeRosa's salary for a better prospect as they did in that deal.)

Joe Sheehan: Ah, Ned Colletti.

TuftsBat (Medford): Joe, you need to understand that ending the draft is not what the MLBPA wants either because they represent current players who will have their salaries driven down by the flooding of the market with young, amateur talent.

Joe Sheehan: I understand that. It's wrong and immoral.

jalee121 (St. Charles, Illinois): Wondering where you stand on the Bryce Harper GED argument. Personally, if he truly is ready, why even act like he is going to care about his education. His life, his choice. Thoughts?

Joe Sheehan: Exactly that. This is what you want, if you're good enough to do it, who am I to stand in your way? Who is Bud Selig? Don Fehr? 1200 baseball players who got theirs?

Matt LaPorta (Columbus): Why am I in central Ohio and not northern Ohio? I hate Columbus.

Joe Sheehan: Because 49 ABs are fantastic information. And Ben Francisco looks athletic.

TuftsBat (Medford): But is it not much to say that it is "wrong and immoral"? The draft also gives opportunities to players who never would get them without it (i.e. low rounder guys), and at the end of the day the ones that make the show have a min. salary of $400,000.

Joe Sheehan: No, the draft restricts opportunities for players taken in lower rounds to negotiate with multiple employers to get the best deals for themselves. This is Macro 101, people. It's not an "opportunity," being drafted. It's the opposite of opportunity.

Tim (Tampa): Re: TuftsBat comment, isn't that the logic behind the idea of a salary cap in baseball? I've always said that the NBA got it right with their salary restrictions and that similar restrictions on amateur/rookie contracts would at least help the smaller teams believe they could get a player they wanted in the draft. Now that I think about it, maybe not a wholesale salary cap, but a cap on amateur/rookie players?

Joe Sheehan: It's all part and parcel: an agreement among the members of a cartel to not compete for labor. Try that in law. Medicine. Journalism. Let the top 50 papers in the country--are there 50 papers left?--draft J-school graduates and give them a choice between negotiating with one team or doing something else with their life. Let's see how a draft plays then.

Aaron (Boston): Joe, what do you think are the chances Strasburg makes an appearance in the Natinals starting rotation this year? Is there a precedent for pushing a player into the rotation so soon after the draft?

Joe Sheehan: David Clyde with the Rangers in...197x. Publicity stunt, disaster. Ben McDonald might have been a rotation guy in 1989, but instead signed late and made some relief appearances. I can think of relievers, but not starters in anything other than token appearances.

Pat (Long Island): I like the thought of aboloshing the draft. Any other unconventional ideas that you think baseball should try out?

Joe Sheehan: Not acting as if it's ashamed of itself. Not pretending it's the NFL. Not lying.

tommybones (brooklyn): Any thoughts on Chris B. Young's complete demise? Atkins I understand, but Young? What gives? Is his ceiling at this point Mike Cameron?

Joe Sheehan: I was clinging to the hope that the managerial change would help. He's been worse under Hinch. I truly don't know. We may have--no, I may have--just not seen something. Then again, he has an 1100 OPS since Friday, so maybe there's hope.

Paco (New York): Feeding off your answer about unconventional changes to MLB, how do you think the league tries to act like the NFL? A secondary, but important question: why do you think that football has surpassed baseball as the most popular sport in the country? I've long wondered if it's the ease of following football (only sixteen games a year, etc).

Joe Sheehan: Once a week, on a day everyone has off; gambling; fantasy; relentlessly positive messages, including a complete and total co-opting of the media.

Here's all you need to know about the NFL's popularity; when the owners went to replacement players in 1987, it broke the union within three weeks, because people watched and made it clear they were going to keep watching. That's the NFL: the uniforms and the event and the point spreads, and if it's being played by truck drivers, hey, we'll just redraft our fantasy team.

Don't believe me? Check the attendance for the fourth exhibition game each year, which is a small step up from semi-pro ball. People don't care what they're watching.

dcoonce (bloomington, indiana): How much longer does Capt'n Jetes stay at SS? Forever? IS there a "next Yankees shortstop" at this point in time?

Joe Sheehan: This is a tremendous question that I promise to write about soon. Had a great discussion over lunch about it recently...this sets up as a huge story, huge problem, if it leaks into 2010 without a deal in place.

Joe Sheehan: Thanks for all the great questions. Come back all week for draft analysis!


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