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Chat: Jay Jaffe

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday August 19, 2009 2:00 PM ET chat session with Jay Jaffe.

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Whether it's compiling the Hit List or having to Hit and Run, Jay Jaffe keeps rapping out safeties on Hall-worthiness, team performance, and more.

Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. Sorry for the brief delay in getting things going, but I had to snarf my lunch down at an unhealthy-enough pace as it is - shards of tostada are not to be trifled with. Anyway, onto the questions...

Matt (Chicago): As the two biggest disappointments in the NL this year, the Cubs & Mets are both looking at some changes. Given the Met's need for another front-line starter and the Cub's need for a change in chemistry, how does a Big Z to Mets trade sound? What could the Cubs want and possibly get in that type of deal?

Jay Jaffe: Zmabrano's still a very good pitcher, but given his health risks, I can't imagine the Mets or any other team taking on his salary in this economic environment. I don't think the Mets have much to trade that isn't damaged goods at the moment anyway.

David (Evanston, IL): The belief that the era of the 300-game winner ended with Randy Johnson seems to be pretty widespread. What kind of career numbers will the 21st-century starting pitcher have to post to be perceived as a "lock" Hall of Famer? Will 200 become the new 300?

Jay Jaffe: The BBWAA hasn't elected a non-300 win starting pitcher since Ferguson Jenkins in 1990, so it's unclear exactly how good one will have to be. I examined this question last year and concluded that John Smoltz, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina and Pedro Martinez -- all with 200+ wins, high strikeout totals and a solid handful of other accomplishments -- are all qualified to go in, and that Pedro's probably got the best shot from a traditional standpoint due to his high peak.

dianagramr (Cubehenge): Good afternoon Jay ... thanks for the chat. Has the cloud of PEDs tarnished or thrown into the question the relevance of election to the HOF? (and yes, I know the exclusion of African-Americans prior to 1947 tarnished the HOF already) Jeter is a HOFer, yes? A-Rod, in the wake of his "confession"? Damon?

Jay Jaffe: Hi Diana. I think the question of PEDs and the Hall of Fame is an open one that will take at least a decade to tell us anything even remotely conclusive. As hard as it may be to envision the players outed as steroid users via one means or another actually getting in, I have a much harder time envisioning the Hall's relevance without guys like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez.

As for Jeter, he's a lock; this year puts him over the line as far as JAWS is concerned, and he's got the kind of resume writers will love. Damon's going to have to get somewhere on his push for 3,000 hits to have much traction; he's got just two All-Star appearances and scores well below average on the Hall of Fame Monitor and HOF Standards metrics. A-Rod will get there eventually, I think, particularly if he keeps to this new STFU PR strategy.

jromero (seattle): Hi, Jay. I am not sure what you may have written in the past regarding Pete Rose's HOF eligibility, but can you briefly share your take on a.) his worthiness as a player; and b.) your opinion as to whether he should be allowed in (assuming his stats stack up). Thanks!

Jay Jaffe: Absolutely worthy as a player even if he did overstay his welcome by a few years. His JAWS (106.7/56.2/81.5) is above average at any position in all three categories.

As to whether he should be allowed, he knowingly broke the cardinal rule that's posted in every clubhouse: DO NOT GAMBLE ON BASEBALL. He denied it for years, and when he finally fessed up, it was in the service of making a buck. I haven't seen anything out of him to suggest real remorse or reparations to the game, so really, I see absolutely no compelling reason to reinstate him.

stately (bhm): You really think Vlad has an easier trip to the HOF than Ichiro? I get the impression that, in popular mythology, Ichiro is a guaranteed first-ballot entry, regardless of what he does with the rest of his career. I'd say Pujols and Jeter are the only two with better chances than he has.

Jay Jaffe: Vlad's path is easier than Ichiro's given the unprecedented question of how to address his Japanese career, but I can see your point. Ichiro's certainly done the things the voting body loves.

collins (greenville nc): Hi Jay, how do you think Bobby Abreu will, and should, fare in HOF balloting? Thanks

Jay Jaffe: See today's piece.

Nick Stone (New York City): Jay, assuming you think that the AL East crown is probably settled, how do you see the wild card battle playing out? Will it be just between Boston and Texas? What are the keys to watch for, outside of Wakefield's return?

Jay Jaffe: Hello, Nick! At this point in the season I'm having a hard time taking the Rays seriously as Wild Card contenders given their inconsistency on both sides of the ball, so I do think it will come down to the Rangers and Red Sox. Earlier this year I'd have said it would be difficult to imagine the Sox struggling this much for this long given their roster, and that it would be even tougher to envision the Rangers maintaining their hot start given their pitch-to-contact ways. The Sox have had a lot of injuries, not only among the players they knew were health risks to begin but also to the players representing the first line of defense against them, and while I like the deadline moves they've made, particularly Victor Martinez, right now they're a mess. The Rangers have had injury problems as well, and done a very nice job augmenting their team in-season by calling up Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz, and as minor as it is, I like their acquisition of Pudge for the stretch.

I can envision this race coming down to whose young pitching holds up best under pressure -- Buccholz or Holland/Feliz. It's bigger than that, of course, but that's what I'll be watching most closely.

David (DC): How about Matt Weiters' chances? He's a lock already right?

Jay Jaffe: I guess you missed his induction back in July. His speech wasn't as good as Rickey Henderson's, but it still killed.

MikeJordan23 (brooklyn): Is it crazy to think the Cards have the best team in the NL, especially in a playoff setting?

Jay Jaffe: Their run differential is less than half that of the Dodgers, and while they're currently putting some distance between themselves and the NL Central pack, I think it's a stretch to anoint them the best team in the NL; the Phillies have been looking pretty strong lately, in case you haven't noticed.

As for the playoffs, Carpenter and Wainwright are a very nice 1-2 punch to have, and Pineiro and Lohse decent 3-4 options, but the lineup is too stars and scrubby for my tastes, even with the additions of Holliday and DeRosa, and I don't like their defense much, particularly on a staff that's below league average in strikeouts.

Liam (San Mateo): Is there any possible way the Giants get smart and take Renteria off of shortstop before he ruins there season? Yeah, I know, he already has, but still... Are there any options at all on that front?

Jay Jaffe: Renteria's really headed for Replacement Level Killer status with his performance, isn't he? I think it's worth canning him and playing Juan Uribe there, particularly given what a high-strikeout staff they have. It's an easy solution that won't cost them anything, and it's might be worth as much as a win the rest of the way.

jarjets89 (New Jersey): Do you like Smoltz for a Ricky Nolasco-like come back at the end of the season?

Jay Jaffe: I don't think it would be comparable to Nolasco, but Smoltz's performance in Boston certainly offered clues that he could be effective in a relief role - he had short stints where he was very good, and he handled righties well enough. A matchup-minded manager like Tony LaRussa would be an ideal fit, so I think there's reason for optimism that we haven't seen the last of him.

Juan (The City): Who out of the position players on Oakland right now is part of their next play-off team? Just Suzuki? Nobody? If you say Ryan Sweeney I'm going to drop this match on the gasoline I'm standing in...

Jay Jaffe: It's pretty bleak when you look at it that way, isn't it? I don't see anyone else I'd hang my hat on, unless it's Scott Hairston as the lefty-mashing part of a platoon.

Wendy (Madrid): Before this year, Mauer's numbers looked like Mark Grace's, but if he keeps up those numbers with his defense, he should make the HOF. Now that he's hitting for power, is he a good enough hitter to make the HOF as a firstbaseman?

Jay Jaffe: Wendy, you're going two different directions here and it's confusing. Mauer's hitting, which has always been good, has evolved into a superfantastic performance which is probably unsustainable (.371 EqA? Get out). His defense behind the dish has always been above average according to our numbers, but there are very real concerns with his prolonged presence at catcher and what it will mean to his physical condition. He's certainly on his way to building a reasonable Hall of Fame case, but he's got just five full seasons under his belt and isn't even 27 yet! We'll need to see a lot more before we understand where he'll fit in among the greats.

rawagman (Toronto): Jay, it seems that the only things we in Toronto have to look forward to these days from a sports perspective are Roy Halladay starts. What career path does he need going forward to get serious HOF consideration? Thanks.

Jay Jaffe: Don't you mean Halladay's starts and Riccardi's ultimatums (how's yer ultimata)?

From a JAWS perspective, Halladay's got the peak of a Hall of Famer thanks to this year's performance. He probably needs another three great or four solid seasons to start solidifying his career case on that front. From a more traditional standpoint, he'll have his work cut out for a run at 300 games (144 and counting during his age 32 season). I think a lot depends on how the aforementioned quartet of non-300 winners fares given the dearth of starting pitchers voted in over the past two decades.

Geoffrey (Boston ): Is there another sport where the writers follow the gospel of the owners any more tightly than the owners? The outrage over Stratsburg is silly at best and vindictive at worst. They complain about the amount of money the Sox and Yanks spend in the draft but many other small market teams spend a tremendous amount of money as well. If a team like the Royals does not waste money on Jose Guillen they could spend more than any other team in baseball. And how are Markets like Dallas and Miami (both bigger than Boston) small market teams?

Jay Jaffe: "Is there another sport where the writers follow the gospel of the owners any more tightly..." How about the NFL, where steroids are a much bigger issue that rarely gets reported on? How about the NBA, where the star system has completely destroyed any semblance of a rulebook? To say nothing of the fact that both leagues have pussywhipped labor unions which may as well be run by the commissioner for all the good it does the players. All of that stuff is way underreported relative to baseball.

I agree largely with the rest of what you're saying - the outrage over Strasburg's money is silly, the teams' spending is undone by their easily avoidable mistakes, and market size is a state of mind for some teams.

bctowns (Chicago, IL): Jay, thanks for chatting. Why wouldn't Smoltz fit in with the Cubs bullpen? They need the help, and I'm guessing Smoltz can probably be effective in the late innings. What do you think?

Jay Jaffe: Probably not as well as he'd fit in St. Louis, because I don't see Piniella's ability to manage a bullpen comparing to that of TLR, and Smoltz's current limitations will take some work to handle. Chicago would be asking him to be their bullpen savior, whereas he'd be just a specialist in St. Louis.

kradec (Da Bronx): Jay, given his excellent 2009 season as the great oxymoron (that would be "38-year-old catcher"), what are Jorge Posada's HoF prospects looking like?

Jay Jaffe: Most asked JAWS question of the year. I took a look here a couple months back. As solid as his current season has been, it only projects out to 4.0 WARP -- he'll need another two seasons of similar caliber to reach the standard. Even then, from a traditional standpoint, if he winds up short of 2,000 hits and 300 homers he's got an uphill battle ahead of him.

Jon (St. Louis): Don't like the cardinals defense?! Don't they have average or better defenders at every spot except second base, with Pujols, Molina and Rasmus as high as "all-world" in some metrics?

Jay Jaffe: They're +13 FRAA, but -13 UZR (even Pujols comes in at -0.6 this year, while Rasmus and Ryan do score well). While they've made some decent in-season upgrades, particularly improving at short and third, I don't see them as an above-average unit by any stretch given how bad Schumaker is at second base.

SaberTJ (Cleveland, OH): How good was Albert Belle's peak as compared to someone like Pujols now?

Jay Jaffe: It's unfair to compare anyone to Pujols, who after this year will score out as one of the top 10 peaks of all time at any position. Belle's peak score of 53.2 is above the JAWS standards for a left fielder, though.

Matt (Whippleville, NY): What one player from outside the organization would make the biggest difference to the 2010 Mets?

Jay Jaffe: Albert Pujols.

In all honesty, that's a tough question, because the answer has much to do with how well Reyes and Beltran rebound from their injuries. If they don't, you'd have to think offense is a priority, but we know that the rotation needs serious help as well. I don't know that they have the talent to acquire a Roy Halladay in trade, and the free agent class just isn't terribly appealing either. The bottom line is that it could be a grim winter for Mets fans.

Christopher (Nashville): In 1991 Fay Vincent issued a memo stating that steroids were banned and that permanent expulsion was a possible penalty. If this memo had been posted in all clubhouses would your opinion on the matter change?

Jay Jaffe: As I understand it, Vincent's memo never had the weight of the owners' support, as they weren't interested in peeking behind the curtain and potentially damaging their assets by instigating serious penalties for steroid usage. So I think it's a moot point.

GregLowder (DC): Jay, I think it's impossible to use a specific number to measure HOF worthiness...3000 hits, 500 homers, 300 wins. You can pull a "Curtis Martin" and be effective for several years just due to good health and luck. I think you have to be great for a short period of time, in baseball I put that at 6-8 years, or very good for a long period of time, 12+ years. Do you agree?

Jay Jaffe: Among actual voters, by which I mean the BBWAA ones, not the VC ones, career length is a much bigger factor than you give it credit for being. With a few exceptions (Rice, Sutter, Brock, Tony Perez) guys who get elected by the writers generally have had good to great peaks AND very good long careers.

Tim (DC): I agree that the backend of the Sox-Rangers rotation might be where the fun is. But if the Sox don't make it with their front-end advantage of Beckett-Lester over Millwood-Feldman, I will be forced to drive up to Boston and drink from the Charles.

Jay Jaffe: As the Standells sang, " I love that dirty water..."

TGisriel (Baltimore): What would the O's have to gie up to get Gonzales from the Padres? Is it a move you would make?

Jay Jaffe: They'd have to part with at least one of their elite young pitching prospects and probably another couple of strong prospects. It's hardly the worst idea in the world, but the great thing about having a few pitching prospects is that it multiplies your chances that at least one of them will pan out. Paring that back opens the risk that you could wash out on that front, of course. If you trade Tillman and Matusz gets hurt, you look foolish. It's a tough position to be in.

Brendan Gawlowski (Bainbridge): How long can Russell Branyan put up numbers like this? Seattle basically got a thirty homer guy for nothing, and granted, he's got some major flaws, but he's been one of the club's best hitters and he's real fun to watch.

Jay Jaffe: As I understand it, Branyan did a lot of offseason work to improve his vision and his ability to track the ball, which suggests to me that his performance is at least somewhat sustainable. I don't see why he couldn't put up another couple of years similar to this - we've always known he had monster power, and it's nice to see him catch a break.

oy (yo): in your jaws evaluation, peak value is treated like a quantitative thing that doesn’t seem all too different from cumulative career stats. but extraordinary talent, the concept that peak value was designed to convey, isn’t such a linear standard. past a certain point, there is a qualitative transformation of the player’s legacy. we see guys like gale sayers in the nfl hof based on the legacy of extraordinary talent, and I think rightly so. if some guy clearly performed at a historic and amazing level, shouldn’t that talent be recognized? baseball performance may arguably suffer more variance season to season, and a reputation of preternatural talent is narrative driven. but this kind of subjective dissonance is no more intolerable than a legacy as “the most feared hitter over a decade” or “hardworking, loyal guy.” it seems that the bias for long career accomplishments over brilliant talent is an institutional/systematic bias in baseball. a theory might be that for more modern sports, the marketing of individual talent is more prolific, while baseball tends to celebrate more established icons. or, maybe not.

Jay Jaffe: Whew. There's a lot of philosophy in there to debate in a format beyond this chat, but for the moment I'll call your attention to something I insert into the JAWS introduction every year regarding peak score: "Effectively, a player's best seasons get double-counted, an appropriate strategy given what we know about pennants added and the premium value of star talent: individual greatness can have a non-linear effect on a team's results both in the standings and on the bottom line."

Beyond that, sure, there are certainly things JAWS or any other measure can't quantify, and I've acknowledged that from the moment I started writing about the topic here. I don't expect anyone to go on the numbers alone when it comes to evaluating a Hall of Fame case.

TGisriel (Baltimore): All Wieters joking aside, do you view his debut as disappointing?

Jay Jaffe: Disappointing is too strong a word. His overall performance hasn't lived up to expectations, but he's had a couple stretches were he was very good. Why it hasn't lived up to those expectations, I don't know - the scouts love him just as much as the statheads do, but it's taken him some time to adjust, and maybe he's struggling with the weight of expectations. Particularly with catchers, you never know when a guy's toughing it out through some injury that's affecting his hitting.

I want to see a full season of his at the major league level before I start using the word "disappointing" in this context.

Patton1941 (NYC): The term 4th outfielder gets thrown around a lot to describe various players, including Nyjer Morgan. Based purely on descriptive terms, it seems that there are so many 4th outfielders playing that the term loses meaning. a)Is there a statistical measure regarding the threshold for a 4th outfielder? b) Is the term being applied too frequently or is there simply a dearth at the moment of quality starting outfielders?

Jay Jaffe: There's not really any one statistical measure, but guys who get tagged fourth outfielders are generally the ones who don't field well enough to play center field regularly and don't hit well enough to play a corner regularly, and you can get a sense of those by looking at our stats, particularly by comparing a guy's EqA to the MLB averages at those positions. They're ideal roleplayers in the hands of the right managers.

As for b) I haven't noticed the term applied with any exceptional frequency, nor do I think we're in some kind of rut as far as available outfield talent.

2White (DC): Just a comment regarding the Fay Vincent memo: The issue is moot because the MLBPA never agreed to the rules outlined in the memo (or the subesequent memo that Selig issued later in the decade reasserting the "rules" Vincent proclaimed). Bud Selig was asked about the memo in the Congressional hearing in March 2005 and said that it wasn't in effect. Only when the MLBPA agreed to rules regarding PEDs in between the 2002-2003 seasons did PEDs become against the rules of the sport for members of the MLBPA.

Jay Jaffe: Good point.

Gonna take one more because I've got a radio hit upcoming, and a BP Kings pick to make as well...

lemppi (Ankeny, IA): Is your money on the White Sox or Tigers in the AL Central this year? Also what is your crystal ball saying for Detroit in '10? Thank you.

Jay Jaffe: I like the Peavy and Rios pickups from the standpoint of the Sox in that they've confronted their flaws and made some potential improvements, while I think the Tigers waited too on the Ordonez situation to the detriment of their organization (they don't need to be paying him $18 million next year, as they're apparently destined to). If I had to bet on this, I'd put it on the Sox, but not more than $1.

Jay Jaffe: Ladies and gents, thanks for spending part of your afternoon chatting with me! As always, it's a blast, and I'm already looking forward to the next one.


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