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Chat: Jay Jaffe

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday July 07, 2009 1:00 PM ET chat session with Jay Jaffe.

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Jay Jaffe's reeling off the Hits, whether it's a Hit and Run, or keeping his Hit List and checking it twice. Dive in and ask the man your questions on los Dodgers, team rankings, or his thoughts on the Hall of Fame.

Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks. Apologies for the slight delay - the cashier at the grocery store was about as fast as a Molina playing a day game after a night game. Onwards...

Joe (Tewksbury, MA): Jay - Love your stuff but it seems that you and (especially) Sheehan are rather intolerant of the idea of a "1st half All Star." While I agree with your general sentiment aren't the qualifications for making the ASG vague enough that if someone belives "best players from April 1 - June 30" then that is a reasonable approach as long as it's applied consistently?

Jay Jaffe: I'm not intolerant of it at all, and I differ with Joe in approach. He tends to favor figuring out the best player or two at each position at a given point in time based on track record. I don't mind rewarding first-half performance but I'll take an excellent guy who's having a merely solid year over a flash-in-the-pan who's never done much before every time.

Roopan (toronto): If the jays put a Halladay/Wells combo. on the market - would be any takes.I don't believe a mid-market team like the jays can afford to pay 2 players 20+ mil.

Jay Jaffe: I don't think there's any team out there who could afford the blood and treasure it would take to land both at the same time. And I don't think there's any reason to trade Halladay given that he's got another year on his contract. Pitching is what's keeping the Jays relevant right now, and while I'm not really a believer that they can elbow their way into the postseason this year, there's zero chance it happens without the Doctor.

As for Wells, wow, that's a clinker of a contract, and I wish J.P. all the luck in the world trying to find a bigger sucker than the chump looking back at him in the mirror to take it off his hands.

dangor (New York): Do you think that if the economy gets worse, it could bankrupt small market teams? What would be the net effect? Contraction? Re-structure of the luxury tax? Standoff with the unions? I paid for Yankee tickets where face value $100/seats are only mediocre. I can't imagine that can be sustained now that the novelty of the new Stadium has worn off.

Jay Jaffe: While I'm no economics expert, I don't think the current economy or its near-term progression will bankrupt any team There's a lot more money hidden in those books than the general public would like to believe, and MLB simply won't let it happen via bailouts from the central fund. Furthermore, I don't think the conditions will be as dire when the current CBA expires after the 2011 season and the two sides can re-jigger the luxury tax and other stuff. There's no appetite for confrontation between the union and the owners, so don't get your hopes up.

Sorry about your Yankees tickets. Can't say I think too highly of the new stadium either.

Rick (Chicago): Ignoring for a moment the massive whipping they've taken in the last 18 innings (outscored 32-1), should the Reds be buying or selling? Is there a move out there which helps them now and later?

Jay Jaffe: Well, if Dusty Baker could actually figure out that his Willy Taveras fetish is absolutely KILLING his team, I'd say they should be buying, because they're just 3.5 back and they've got the strongest pitching staff they've had in years.

In other words: SELL SELL SELL.

I imagine they could do reasonably well marketing Harang to a contender, though they'd have to make a choice between eating salary and getting Grade-A prospects. Arroyo won't bring back much, but he'll net something, somewhere. A team desperate for a catcher might be able to squint and see a use for Ramon Hernandez.

strupp (madison): Jay. Thanks as always for the chat. Are we about to see a long "drought" of pitchers being elected to the Hall Of Fame because of the change in usage and other factors that prevent pitchers from reaching milestones? Maddux, Glavine, Unit seem locks, Smoltz & Schilling solid, but then what?

Jay Jaffe: About to see a drought? You mean like the one where we haven't seen a starting pitcher elected to the Hall of Fame since 1999, and haven't seen a non-300 winner since 1990? My God, man, the next few years will feel like a flood by comparison.

The current electorate is stuck in the Seventies mindset of pitchers finishing what they started and wins being the top criterion for election. Beyond the 300 winners, it may take another decade of voter turnover before the Schillings and Smoltzes get in.

Michael (Los Angeles): Biggest snub is clearly Matt Kemp, right?

Jay Jaffe: It's one of the bigger ones, for sure, though at least he's still eligible in the final vote, as is Pablo Sandoval, another worthy who was snubbed. As a matter of fact I think most of the 10 candidates on those two ballots have solid cases with Pena, Lind, Inge, Sandoval, and Figgins giving Kemp a run for his money.

Charlie (Bethesda): Who would you rather trade if you're the Nats, Willingham or Dunn?

Jay Jaffe: If I'm Mike Rizzo (and thank heavens I'm not), I'd rather find a taker for Dunn, who could bring back something that will help the Nats rebuild, but they'll probably have to eat salary to make that happen.

knuckleball (VA): Is Jordan Zimmermann the real deal? I watched him shut down the red sox at a game a few weeks ago and was very impressed with what I saw.

Jay Jaffe: Scouty types, including our own Kevin Goldstein, see Zimmermann as a solid #2 starter down the road, and there's certainly enough in his performance - the strikeout, walk and homer rates - to convince me that he's well on his way there.

Mitch (Austin): What are your thoughts on the Hall of Fame?

Jay Jaffe: What are my thoughts? I've probably put 100,000 words into the BP archives on that topic since I first started writing here in 2003.

The Hall of Fame is an often frustrating institution whose guardians have done a very mixed job of identifying the all-time greats thanks to a complete lack of perspective when it comes to identifying the varying levels of offense over the course of the game's history. The writers are too exclusive and stuck in the past when it comes to identifying worthy candidates, and that's without even touching the current and upcoming steroid debates. The Veterans Committee used to be far too liberal at admitting just about anyone from the 1930s, but as it's currently constructed it's snubbing the best candidates, while preventing some other very good ones from even getting on the ballot, all for another round of referenda on whether the likes of Roger Maris and Thurman Munson deserve enshrinement.

Dave (Chicago): What do you think of this Scott Hairston deal by the A's? Towers said the PTBNL is the key and one source said the pitcher had major league service time, which, to me, points to Sean Gallagher who is currently on the DL in Triple-A. What can Hairston do that Matt Murton couldn't?

Jay Jaffe: Hairston's no center fielder (75 Rate2 according to our stats, though UZR holds him in higher esteem). He's got plenty of pop, but his plate discipline is a little lacking, and contact problems keep his batting average relatively low. Solid fourth outfielder/second-division starter, whereas Murton, who can't even fake center and has taken a vow of powerlessness, is now a fifth outfielder/Triple-A starter. At best.

strupp (madison): Other than Blyleven, which pitchers do you feel are/were snubbed for the Hall? Morris? The various relievers? Someone I'm missing?

Jay Jaffe: Wes Ferrell's got a good case as far as the Vet Committee goes. Lee Smith has a decent case among the relievers. Morris didn't come close to preventing enough runs to merit further consideration.

The real cases that get me going are among the non-300 winners upcoming, the aforementioned Smoltz, Schilling, Mussina, Martinez contingent. I think all of them should be in when the time comes, but I'm not sure the electorate will see it that way.

Raj (Houston, TX): Jay, as a huge Astros fan, I'm almost apopleptic about what this season means for the Astros. The team, in the last two years, either completely outperforms its Pythagorean projection (2008) or stays close in the division due to utter mediocrity. In both cases, Ed Wade gets to continue the "stay the course and never rebuild MLB's worst farm system" path of winning 75-85 games, no more or no less, every year. Too pessimistic on my part or not?

Jay Jaffe: I think that's pretty much on the nose. For a team that plays in the country's fourth-largest media market, the Astros are far too pennywise and pound-foolish. They've got 60 percent of their payroll tied up in four guys who are pretty good but not getting any better or younger, and they refuse to bite the bullet and figure out how to pump prospects into the system at the expense of some semblance of mediocrity.

Patrick (MPLS): Speaking of Matt Kemp, is he still batting in the last third of the Dodgers' lineup? Is there any way doing so can be considered reasonable?

Jay Jaffe: The only reason the Dodgers have gotten away with it is because the team leads the league in OBP, and there always seems to be somebody on base for him when he's at-bat. If his RBI total were lower (it's 44, a not-too-distant fourth on the team), Joe Torre might not be getting away with it.

Eli (Brooklyn): What are your thoughts on Girardi and Cashman's work this year? Overall I like the duo, but watching Jeter bunt in the 5th inning or Cody Ransom remaining on this team is not very encouraging...

Jay Jaffe: While I've been a big supporter in the past, Cashman's roster work at protecting A-Rod borders upon total f-ing incompetence. Anybody who rosters Angel Berroa for more than 48 hours deserves to be the GM of the Nationals, and anyone who can't come up with a better alternative than Cody Ransom in the two months since he went on the DL deserves to be the GM of the Astros.

Girardi's done a decent job with the hand he's been dealt. He's finally got a functional bullpen thanks to the work of Hughes and Aceves, he's gotten productive stretches from both Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera, and his failure to rest Rodriguez adequately can be seen as a response to the craptastic options Cashman's provided him with.

Charlie (Bethesda, MD): Think Jesus Montero is a good enough catcher (and hitter) to play DH and backup catcher for the Yankees next year? If he's their DH they could probably rotate him, Posada and Cervelli as catcher to use both of their bats and reduce wear and tear on Jorge.

Jay Jaffe: You'd have to search far and wide to find anyone who thinks Montero will be a catcher at the major league level, or that it's a good idea to take a raw 20-year-old with his collection of strengths and weaknesses and let him fester on the major league bench. Horrible, horrible idea.

JasonC23 (Huntley, IL): Wow, Jermaine Dye is now a snub-list snub. What does the poor guy have to do??

Jay Jaffe: Oops. Yeah, I'd say Dye belongs in that discussion as well.

Bill (Toronto): While I'm usually a JP supporter I'm growing tired of his inability to fill the LF/DH hole. Shannon Stewart, Brad Wilkerson, Dave Dellucci, Kevin Millar and Russ Adams clearly aren't the answer so what would you do?

Jay Jaffe: I think he absolutely had the right idea with Travis Snider at the outset of the year, but it hasn't worked out yet. He didn't hit in ~100 PA, he had some back problems, he's missed a month. He's only 21, so it's far too early to give up hope that he can be the long-term solution there.

Mike (Niles, IL): Not that either the Cubs or Jays would do this, but who wins in an Alfonso Soriano for Vernon Wells trade?

Jay Jaffe: I'd take Soriano any day. His track record for performance - and for showing up for work - is much stronger than that of Wells.

Charlie (Bethesda, MD): Please don't use the term "Rebuild" with the Nats. While I am excited about the starting pitching staff, and I know the position players are lacking in terms of future prospects, I also know there is no "re" in their building efforts. MLB and Omar destroyed the Expos, this team is starting from scratch.

Jay Jaffe: Fair point entirely.

cjbuet (madison, wi): Chances of Chris Young\AZ fulfilling his promise?

Jay Jaffe: Probably needs a change of scenery, a swing doctor, and a commitment towards improving his contact rate. His low batting averages don't work without a hearty dose of plate discipline.

JFerg (MD): Is Ben Zobrist for real? Can he actually be this type of player from now on?

Jay Jaffe: On paper the performances look rather fluky, but he's always been something of a late bloomer and as I understand it, he's put in a lot of work to rebuild his swing over the past couple of years. I don't expect him to slug .600, but he should have a solid career as a versatile guy with some pop if not quite as much plate discipline as you'd hope.

steveomd (Ohio): Jay, how do the Braves fix their absolute mess of an outfield, now and down the road?

Jay Jaffe: Start by pulling the ol' switcheroo the next time the traveling secretary hands out plane tickets to Jeff Francoeur and Garret Anderson, maybe something along the lines of a flight to Tijuana via Nova Scotia.

I'd start with the assumption that McLouth should be playing a corner position (does he have the arm for right?), platoon Gregor Blanco and Omar Infante in center, at least until you're satisfied Schafer is ready, and try to find a lefty bat that can match with Matt Diaz in left. And look forward to the day when Jason Heyward is ready (two years?).

Charlie (Bethesda): My point with Montero probably wasn't clearly written. I think he should be the starting DH, and was wondering if you thought he could catch enough to have the occasional start back there sprinkled in.

Jay Jaffe: To borrow a phrase from the Simpsons, we discussed this already and I said, "no." He's 19, he needs to learn a defensive position, and it doesn't serve either his interests or the team's to start his clock so early when there are better fits for now out there.

Gunpuddy (Nashville, TN): Is it fair for commentators to take the voters to task over Rodriguez' All-Star snub when the guy is so gimpy? His numbers in the aggregate are very good, but it's going to be very hard for him to get enough at-bats to be on record as the best AL 3rd baseman this season. (Maybe that wasn't their reasoning, but so what?)

Jay Jaffe: Not that they all made the team, but there are plenty of third basemen having strong enough years in the AL - Longoria, Young, Inge, Figgins, Rolen - that leaving A-Rod off is justifiable given his injury and slow start.

Tim (Tampa): What do you think Juan Pierre brings back in a deal and who could use him?

Jay Jaffe: I would love to believe he could bring back a competent fifth starter, but I doubt the Dodgers have the appetite to eat enough of his salary to deal him. Nobody wants to take on $20+ million for his contract in this economy.

dangor (New York): I can't believe that Alan Trammell doesn't get more publicity as a HOF snub. His numbers are almost identical to Ozzie Smith who got 90 percent of the vote? I guess it's because he couldn't do a backflip or have a flashy nickname.

Jay Jaffe: Outstanding candidate who's gotten an extremely raw deal. I think he's about 10 JAWS points above the Hall standard for shortstops, and he's well ahead in terms of both batting and fielding runs. It's a crime, I tellz ya!

JJ (NYC): Why is Bengie Molina still playing and batting 4th?

Jay Jaffe: He's playing because the Giants need somebody to prevent the ball from rolling to the backstop when Lincecum, Cain et al throw. There's no reason for him to fit fourth in a major league lineup, and as soon as he finds himself in one, I expect he'll be moved lower.

chunkstyle (Toronto): Some friends and I recently had a discussion about Mark McGwire's Hall of Fame candidacy. I was of the feeling that - excluding the steroid factor - his body of work was that of shoe-in inductee. Perhaps he was not an inner circle HOF'er, but certainly a strong addition. Would you concur?

Jay Jaffe: His home run totals and other accomplishments suggest he'd be a shoe-in, and his overall JAWS case is strong enough that he'd rate as an above-average HOF first baseman. The problem is that it's impossible for voters to exclude the steroid factor, and I think they'll make an example of him for his entire 15-year run on the ballot. Which is pretty pathetic, given the writers' role in allowing the steroid boom to happen under their noses without doing any real reporting. Just remember the way they shunned the guy who found the Andro in his locker for a lesson in total hypocrisy.

Stephanie (DC): I think you might be a little off on the plate discipline of Ben Zobrist. That was one of the major positives in his scouting reports from the draft onwards. Right now, he's having an adjustment period as pitchers begin to pitch him differently, but I would actually expect plate discipline to be one of his strengths going forward.

Jay Jaffe: You're correct, Stephanie. I had Zorilla fixed around a .310 OBP last year when it was actually closer to .340, and he's up around .400 right now with a much higher walk rate than I remembered. Good catch.

Dan (Brooklyn): Is Jason Schmidt not at least worth a shot as the 5th starter answer in LA? Is he in AAA for performance- or injury-related reasons? I can't recall a team rehabbing a veteran, formerly front-line pitcher and then not calling him up immediately once he was ready, which he seemingly is.

Jay Jaffe: He's there for injury reasons. At least until the past couple of weeks, he was unable to string together three starts in a row without feeling strong enough to continue, so it wasn't even a discussion worth having. I think it's inevitable that he'll get a start or two, and just as inevitable that he'll wind up back on the DL soon afterwards.

Jay Jaffe: Folks, I have to be in Manhattan within the hour, so I've got to cut this short. As always, thanks for dropping by to spend some time here with me this afternoon, and look for another chat soon!


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