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Chat: Joe Sheehan

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday August 25, 2009 1:00 PM ET chat session with Joe Sheehan.

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Today Joe Sheehan takes a break from today\'s Prospectus Today to take your questions on the state of the races, the stretch drives to come, and what\'s moving and shaking around the game.

Joe Sheehan: What make a man wanna rule the world?

paulbellows (Calgary): Who had Luis Castillo as the last Met standing in the BP pool?

Joe Sheehan: "Standing" being the operative word. Didn't he used to be fast? Then again, he's a second baseman with a .400 OBP...hard to criticize that.

Joe (Tewksbury, MA): Not to quibble with the idea that Greinke is the clear best pitcher but I'm curious as to your statement that "Just two pitchers have more than that number (of wins) at all, Josh Beckett, who isnít a candidate, and CC Sabathia, who rates as about the sixth- or seventh-best starter in the league by the value metrics." Beckett and Sabathia are pretty similar across the various Support Neutral metrics and it's not like Sabathia has a massive edge in innings. I'm curious where you see a separation between the two.

Joe Sheehan: Sabathia could lead the league in wins--in fact, be the only 20-game winner--and be perceived as key to the Yankees' season. That will make him a BBWAA candidate in a way that Beckett won't be. I wouldn't vote for either, although either could sneak onto a five-slot IBA ballot.

JC (Hoboken): "Rule 5 pick Everth Cabrera is a pinch-runner, not a baseball player." Care to revise or extend your remarks?

Joe Sheehan: Not really. He's a non-power hitter who strikes out in 20% of his PAs, is living off a .341 BABIP and whose walk rate outside of the #8 slot isn't good. I don't know enough about his defense yet to make a strong statement. He's played well for six weeks. Doesn't change a whole lot.

Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): Jeff Francouer: small sample size or real resurgence with the Mets?

Joe Sheehan: It's pretty much entirely a blip. His plate discpline remains disgusting. You can't be a useful player drawing one unintentional walk every 50 PA.

Grant (Chicago): If you could wipe out a publich spring prediction from the official records, which one gets renounced first? I apologize for asking you to highlight what you'd most want to hide :)

Joe Sheehan: The A's as the sixth-best team in baseball. I overrated both the young pitching and the imported bats.

Beau (San Francisco): After last night's 14 inning debacle is there anything left for the Giants this year? I want to wipe those four plus hours I spent watching last night from my memory forever.

Joe Sheehan: I can understand why, but that really was one heck of a finish. You can have the top of the ninth of Buehrle's perfect game--I'll take the bottom of the 14th for half-inning of the year. Fowler staying in the game when he shouldn't have; Medder trying to quick-pitch him, then walking him after the 3-2 was waved off; Iannetta having to hit for the injured Gonzalez, forcing Eaton to bat for himself; Miller walking Eaton; the Spilborghs slam...just a fun, fun inning.

Hey, why wouldn't you try picking off Fowler at second? He didn't have a big lead, but he couldn't move at all.

To answer the question...the Giants will stay close enough to care because of the starting pitching and Sandoval. The two-game swing last night really hurt, though, and they're no better than the third-best team in the wild-card race.

SaberTJ (Cleveland, OH): Cleveland's starting OF next year of LaPorta, Sizemore, and Choo. Championship caliber? Or a step below? Also, Valbuena has shown a lot of power lately. Is it sustainable or is Donald still a better option next year?

Joe Sheehan: Oh, hell yeah, even granting that LaPorta isn't a left fielder. I think I'd like to see the Tribe sign or trade for a LF who can catch the ball--especially given that ball-in-play rotation--and get LaPorta to first base. I actually like Valbuena, but I don't know that he or Donald hits enough to play third. I'd probably start Donald and make Valbuena the utility infielder. He's got a nice skill set for a bench player.

keithkowalski (Jefferson City, MO): Joe: You're Dayton Moore...you have bad contracts on the books for the 2010 season (i.e. Jose Guillen), a minor league system with your best prospects in High A and a limited payroll. What do you focus on this off-season?

Joe Sheehan: My resume.

The Royals have something like four players who'd be rostered for a playoff team, and that might be overrating DeJesus and Butler. Moore professed to want OBP and then relentlessly acquired players who don't get on base. His drafts have been fruitless. What's the window for the Royals? Seriously, when could you see them contending? 2012, maybe?

Mark my words, we're a year from another round of the Royals and their fans blaming the "system" and proferring that the only solution is for them to get more money from other teams. If there's one franchise to contract right now, it's the Royals. (The second, as always, are the Marlins, which is entirely about actual attendance and a decade of existing entirely to beg for a new mallpark.)

Jeff (Princeton): Say some good things about Ryan Howard's baseball playing ability.

Joe Sheehan: He's probably the best left-handed hitter against right-handed pitchers in MLB. He's disciplined, he has plate coverage, and he can go line-to-line. I'm not sure I wouldn't take him over Pujols with a righty on the mound.

Spilly (Denver, CO): If Ubaldo Jimenez can get to 17 wins would you give him a chance at the Cy Young?

Joe Sheehan: If in doing so he went Hershiser on the league, maybe.

DS (Monterey Park, CA): Hi Joe, thanks for the chat. What's up with BJ Upton? What do you think his upside is and will he ever achieve it? And do you think Carl Crawford will continue to be a valuable player over the next few years?

Joe Sheehan: I want to say it's just a consolidation season, but that was last year. He's just not able to make enough solid contact. The talent is still there, but there's been a degradation in approach and results. My sense is that he's still going to be an MVP candidate, but you have to take that with a grain of salt after the last five months. The power just doesn't seem like it's coming.

I love Crawford, who because of his great range can be very valuable at .290/.330/.440. He's usually better than that--his 2005, '06, '07 and '09 seasons are pretty similar. Stealth 3000-hits candidate.

achaik (ME): Will the Rays get a nice advantage in the Wild Card race based upon the quality of September callups they can make (Wade Davis, Matt Joyce, maybe Jeremy Hellickson)?

Joe Sheehan: Nah. It's nice to have those guys, but no September call-ups play enough to make that big a difference, or at least not predictably so. (And anybody can go .390/.460/.710 for a month.)

Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): Has any team has a worse season than the Blue Jays? The death of the key ownership stakeholder who was a fan. Punting the only credible CF option they had to replace their horrifically overpaid bad defensive CF. Getting nothing for that in-house CF alternative. Getting nothing from Ryan and having to sink the cost. Losing roughly 17,000 SPs to injury. Having Johnny Mac now as the starting 3B. Having prospects step back. Failing to sign top draft picks. The Halladay saga. And having ownership proclaim that the team must boost profits elsewhere in the corporate empire. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. What's this hockey thing again? Does it start soon?

Joe Sheehan: Yeah, I'm thinking the Mets still had it worse. Last year notwithstanding, there were no expectations in Toronto that the team could make the postseason, given the competition. The Mets were a World Series contender; I think SI actually picked them to win it all.

The Jays have peaked. They peaked in 2006-07 with some very good teams that, unfortunately, competed with better ones. It's going to be some time before they're that good again.

Cuddy (St. Paul): Could Delmon Young finally be showing up? Hitting some bombs and getting consistent PT seems to help.

Joe Sheehan: Two walks in 75 August PA. No. He's hitting .233 since he more or less got back in the lineup.

Steve (Ohio): Joe, what do you do to solve Atlanta's excess of starting pitching (Jurrjens, Hanson, Lowe, Vazquez, Kawakami, Hudson) in the offseason?

Joe Sheehan: Jurrjens should be a trade candidate, an incredibly affordable starter whose actual value lags behind his perceived value. The Braves have to get better on the corners, and dealing Jurrjens while integrating Heyward would be huge steps in that direction.

Please submit your questions once. Thanks.

31cornucopia (Skillman): Why are the Brewers still playing the corpse that is Jason Kendall rather than bringing up Angel Salome? Is it Kendall's contract and preventing Salome from starting his ML clock?

Joe Sheehan: Salome hasn't exactly torn up Triple-A. Why promote him to the majors when he hasn't earned it?

Joe (Tewksbury, MA): Joe agree or disagree - For all the media coverage of CC, AJ and Teixeira the difference between the 2008 and 2009 Yankees isn't the new guys, it's the return to form of the incumbents such as Posada, Cano and Jeter.

Joe Sheehan: Disagree. The upgrades in the rotation and at first base have been massive. The upicks you reference have helped, especially Posada's, but the story is the imports.

RayDiPerna (NYC): Will we see a female player in MLB (who is there on merit) any time in the next 50 years?

Joe Sheehan: No. And you could go a lot higher than that in the number slot.

kmdarcy (Portland, Oregon): Has Jim Rice always been such a petulant baby...was he playing nice to escape the Hall of Good for the Hall of Fame?

Joe Sheehan: Media coverage when I was growing up wasn't what it is now, but I always thought, back then, Rice was pretty unpopular. It remains strange that he was the subject of the post facto mythmaking that led him to the Hall. I assume his career in broadcasting was a factor, as was a bit of anti-stats backlash. I stand by the vote totals he picked up in his first few seasons: the people who saw his career and had most reason to believe the "soft factors" most rejected his candidacy.

Daniel (Cerritos, CA): Where would you rank the Teixeira/Mahay for Feliz/Harrison/Salty/Jones trade on a list of the worst trades of all-time? This is from the Braves' perspective, obviously. You wouldn't believe the agony I experienced watching Feliz blow hitters away with his 100 mph fastball in his Rangers debut.

Joe Sheehan: It's not on there. Bad trades are bad trades the moment they happen--Bedard for a bunch of guys. The Braves deal was reasonable in the moment, if perhaps an overpay, and they were getting a great player in his prime for a pennant race and another season.

Steve (DC): Care to make a prediction on the upcoming Rockies/Dodgers series? Are the Dodgers the team that started the year 37-18 or are they really the team that has gone 37-33 since?

Joe Sheehan: Can the Rockies field a team? I'm not sure Gonzalez or Fowler can play tonight. This is their best chance to shift from "wild-card leader" to "division contender," of course, but the way the pitching matchups fall isn't in their favor, and they're getting caught at a bad time.

SaberTJ (Cleveland, OH): Joe, When you mentioned Valbuena or Donald hitting enough to play third. Does that mean you think Peralta isn't good enough to stick there? He's having one heck of a 2nd half.

Joe Sheehan: He's an OK player who I'd rather use as a trade chip than turn into a solution. He seems to have one good half-season every three halves, and he'll never be great as a 3B.

A Different Joe (Denver, CO): Have you ever seen anything on the baseball diamond as unbelievable as what happened with Eaton and Miller? Walking a pitcher in the bottom of extra innings, WITH THE BASES LOADED, and everyone and their brother knew that the pitcher was told not to swing at anything to avoid a double play?

Joe Sheehan: Please, the whole inning was ridiculous. Medders walks Fowler when Fowler can't run and could barely have swung. Miller is forced in because Medders is toast, coming off getting rocked by the Rockies Saturday, and walks Eaton who, as you say, could not possibly have been swinging the bat.

I take the position that playing baseball and analyzing baseball are completely different skills, which is why I don't think ex-players necessarily bring much to the table with their words. It's because of situations like last night. Medders and Miller showed so little understanding of the situations in which they were pitching. It wasn't just a failure of execution. It was a failure of approach.

BTW, credit Fowler, Iannetta, Tulowitzki and Spilborghs for their approaches. I watched the Royals throw away a game by making three outs on four pitches with the game on the line just hours before. The Rockies' hitters did a great job.

Mountainhawk (Salem, MA): Which divisions do you see as pretty much wrapped up? Can Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, or Texas chase any of their division leaders down, or is it pretty much the Centrals and WC races for us as we head into September?

Joe Sheehan: The only divisions not wrapped up are the AL Central and NL West, and I'm not so sure about the latter. The NL Central is way over, and I'll have more on how that happened Thursday.

moonkyu (SF): Mets just traded Wagner for 2 PTBNLs. Any chance these guys exceed the value of what they could have potentially gotten from next years draft after Wagner declined arb?

Joe Sheehan: There's no way the Mets could have offered Wagner arbitration.

Andrew (Chicago): Who is your pick for NL Cy Young? It seems both the Giants (Lincecum/Cain) and Cardinals (Carpenter/Wainwright) have 2 pitchers making strong cases, and then there's Lee & Haren out there too...

Joe Sheehan: Lincecum recently passed Haren in my eyes, but it's really too close to call. Any of about four guys--probably not Carp because of the innings--could win it.

Bill (New Mexico): Speaking of difference makers in the stretch drive, how much difference does John Smoltz make for the Cardinals? Do you take his five scoreless innings in San Diego seriously? How about the contention that he was tipping his pitches in the AL but that that's fixed now?

Joe Sheehan: The "tipping pitches" thing sounds for all the world like happy talk, and seems incongruous given how many swing-and-misses he got. I can't get excited about hammering the Padres in San Diego. That's probably the best possible scenario for any pitcher. Smoltz's problems came on contact, which was very hard during his time in Boston; we'll have to see more to reach conclusions.

Grant (Chicago): Elbow woes? Does Johan's reported troubles scream Tommy John to you and your inner Will Carroll, too?

Joe Sheehan: Actually, yeah. TJ usually isn't a guy jumping off the mound in pain, but rather a burning sensation that gets pitched through for a while. I really hope I'm wrong about this.

Eric (Denver): Ichiro: over/under 3000 hits?

Joe Sheehan: Under. I'm not terribly confident in that prediction, though. I suppose if he keeps getting 700 PA a year he'll get there even at a lower level of performance. He's just so very durable.

Tony (Brooklyn, NY): Is Mauer the most obivous MVP since Bonds?

Joe Sheehan: Well, Pujols last year, right?

philsfan (nyc): With the caveat that the playoffs are more than a month away and the Phillies' opponent (assuming the Phils make it) is TBD, who will be in the Phillies' starting rotation in the first round and in what order?

Joe Sheehan: Lee, then Hamels. What you do after that may depend on the matchup, because while Happ has outpitched Blanton, you may want to show, say, the Dodgers a righty before Game Four.

brian (brooklyn): Should Joe Torre be a hall of fame manager when so many of his star players have been found to use PEDs both with the Yankees and now with the Dodgers? He has always gotten a ton of credit for the way that he handles the clubhouse so shouldn't he have been aware of what was going on? As much as any player Torre has parlayed PEDs into fame, success,MILLIONS of dollars and one day a plaque in Cooperstown.

Joe Sheehan: Yes, he should. This is a ridiculous argument against his candidacy.

Dave Duncan (St. Louis): Read the papers once in a while, Mr. Sheehan. Smoltz is one of many, many veteran righties I've fixed over the past 3 decades, oftentimes by spotting delivery flaws like "pitch-tipping." I. Do. It. All. The. Time.

Joe Sheehan: No, you mostly teach them to throw strikes and keep the ball down using a sinker. You've had a great career, but you've done it with a particular skill set. (Some people think you also teach scuffing. I'm agnostic on the matter.)

Gamer (Cinti OH): Joe, Do you play any simulation games like Baseball Mogul? If so, any comments on which you like/don't like?

Joe Sheehan: I've played Strat for nearly 30 years. Great game engine, good realism, getting better as they do a better job rating defense. Computer version has improved over the years.

Mountainhawk (Salem, MA): If PEDs were replaced by gambling and fixing games, would it still be a 'ridiculous argument against his candidacy'?

Joe Sheehan: No, it would be a death blow for his candidacy.

Theo (4 Yawkey Way): What goodies would have to be packaged to get Mauer this offseason? Would the Twins be interested in Buchholz, Bowden, Ellsbury + 2 upside low-A guys? Obviously the trade would be contingent upon getting him to sign an extension...

Joe Sheehan: The Twins, heading into their new park, would be more likely to draw and quarter Justin Morneau than they would be to trade Joe Mauer.

BL (Bozeman): Thanks for the chat, Joe. I enjoyed (and enthusiastically agreed with) your analysis of the Strassburg situation, and it leads me to wonder about your thoughts regarding Aaron Crow. Is this a case of a player and his representation misunderstanding the market? Is there a point of diminishing return there?

Joe Sheehan: There's a difference between being one of the best players in draft history and just a solid first-round pick. That's the difference between being worth a lot over slot and, well, where Crow is now. I have no problem with him negotiating as hard as he cares to, but it's less likely that this ends profitably for him, as opposed to for Strasburg. Given that he probably wouldn't pitch this year anyway, it really doesn't matter that he's unsigned. His career starts next year.

Jeff (Pton): Who complains more to you, Phils or Red Sox fans?

Joe Sheehan: White Sox and Phillies.

RayDiPerna (NYC): If we learned tomorrow that Pujols used steroids, would it change your opinion of him as a player or a person? If so, how?

Joe Sheehan: As a player, no. As a person, I can't say I have a strong opinion of him--or any of these guys, really; I care about them as players, care about their work product, not who they are--but I'd roll my eyes a bit about the strong denials in the past.

ben (chicago): Are you surprised at the light bulb going off in Joe Torre's head telling him to let broxton pitch to the 3-4-5 hitters in the eighth? Is it only because Sherrill has his closer's certificate?

Joe Sheehan: Rany e-mailed me the quote over the weekend...that was just awesome.

For those of you who didn't see it, Torre decided to do just that, try and "save" the game in the eighth by using his nominal closer, and use his #2 guy against the bottom of the lineup. It's exactly what I've been screaming for for years. I sure hope he tries it again.

Frank (NJ): Pedro doesn't make a PS start?

Joe Sheehan: Hell, no.

Tony (Brooklyn, NY): What's your verdict on Minaya? Any idea why Mets fans are often keen to defend him?

Joe Sheehan: Mixed bag as a GM, and there's no way you can hold the 2009 record against him. When the team was complete, it was good, and it's gotten progressively worse with each lost player. There's value to being good in the room, and that's one of Minaya's key strengths. The Mets haven't drafted well under him--that needs to change, whether it's necessarily his fault or not.

Zack (dc): What do you think the future holds for AJ Burnett in terms of health? Is he a former-injury prone pitcher like Gil Meche or is he a big time injury risk going forward?

Joe Sheehan: You'll always have to sweat his arm, as he's rarely been able to string together 65 starts without a DL trip. I would say that the Yankees will get something like 100-110 starts from him over the course of the contract.

krissbeth (jp, ma): Given that Negro league players who never played in MLB are in the Hall of Fame, why aren't the best female players from the woman-only pro leagues inducted to the Hall of Fame? Is that on the Veteran's committee?

Joe Sheehan: The actual answer is hopelessly political. The merit answer is that had there not been segregation, many African-American and dark-skinned Latin players would have been among the very best players in MLB history. This is not the case for women.

Brendan (Chicago): If a team had a league-average pitching staff and an unlimited supply of Albert Pujolses to play the field (with the defensive liability that comes with having a first baseman playing 2b, ss, etc.), how many games do you see them winning over the course of a full season?

Joe Sheehan: 120.

ddrezner (Newton, MA): So Wagner to the Red Sox for two mid-level prospects -- if the reports are correct, Boston agreed not to exercise the $8 million option but will offer arbitration, Sox pick up the rest of Wagner's salary. IF that's true, don't the draft picks obtained from arbitration outweigh the value of whomever the Sox sent to the Mets?

Joe Sheehan: I just had a thought, actually, and it's related to the earlier question about this. There's no possible way Wagner could be a Type-A FA, I don't think. So we're talking about a sandwich pick here, not a #1-plus. This makes it even less likely a team would offer arb, as the payoff would be pretty small.

BL (Bozeman): Joe, why do you prefer Strat to APBA?

Joe Sheehan: Because I like reading "homerun" rather than "17-11" or whatever the numbers on an APBA card are.

Actually, it's mainly because that's what I learned first. I've also played Statis-Pro, and went back to Strat.

ekanenh (Capitol City): Beckett, Verlander, Lincecum and Halladay have all had rough patches the last couple of weeks. Its a funny game. What's your current favorite "its a funny game" oddity?

Joe Sheehan: Well, the unassisted triple play to end the game against the game's unluckiest team this year is up there. I've also attended two games where 2Bs dropped pop-ups for runs, the Luis Castillo game and Monday's Mets game, where Chase Utley gave Angel Pagan a Little League home run. Then there's Adam Eaton being forced to bat and drawing a walk in the middle of a game-winning rally...OK, too long. I guess it's time for...

...lightning round!

Jim (Chicago): Who's your pick in the AL Central? Sox, Tigers or Twins?

Joe Sheehan: I said Twins at the break, I'll stick with that despite the pitching issues.

Phil S. (NJ): Conversely, if you had a team with a league-average pitching staff and unlimited supply of Emilio Bonifacios to play the field, how many games would they win in a full season?

Joe Sheehan: 55.

Tex Premium Lager (NJ): Isn't it wild that Jeter has wound up the "victor" of the great late '90s shortstop debate?

Joe Sheehan: I guess. He kind of controlled that--on merit, he should have been displaced after the Rodriguez trade.

Fred (PA): Can Wagner make a difference in the WC race?

Joe Sheehan: A half-win upgrade in a month? Maybe not even that. I like it for the postseason. Ramirez/Wagner/Okajima/Papelbon is pretty sweet.

Tony (Brooklyn, NY): Pujols question applied to Ryan Howard.

Joe Sheehan: He's left-handed, it doesn't work. That's before even getting into physicality differences.

jlebeck66 (WI): Is Gordon Beckham now a thirdbaseman, or does he ever become a regular up the middle?

Joe Sheehan: The White Sox absolutely need to get him to SS, preferably, next year. I'd settle for 2B, but simply put, allowing Alexei Ramirez to stand in the way of a clearly superior player is baseball malpractice.

Steve (NJ): Who would make the best "one guy" team of all players in MLB?

Joe Sheehan: Hanley Ramirez.

Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): Which current MLB hitter would get the fewest # of wins in our scenario? John MacDonald? Matt Stairs?

Joe Sheehan: Bengie Molina.

Phil S. (NJ): Did you ever give your take on the Calipari-Memphis scandal?

Joe Sheehan: No. I didn't think anyone would care.

jromero (seattle): How about your Top 5 for NL MVP? I'm interested to see if Matt Kemp is in there. Thanks!

Joe Sheehan: Pujols, Hanley, Lincecum, Utley, Tulowitzki

Lincoln (Dallas): Elvis Andrus, Gordon Beckham, Nolan Reimold, maybe Rickey Romero, or Andrew Bailey...who you got as AL RoY?

Joe Sheehan: Beckham, who just recently passed Andrus. It's very close.

I really like Gordon Beckham. He could win an MVP as a shortstop.

shamah (NYC): Pettitte has been quietly very good the past 6 weeks. Is he in line to start a game 3 in the postseason? Or do you go with Joba?

Joe Sheehan: Yeah, I go with Chamberlain.

tiptonhr (Knoxville, TN): You "don't have a strong opinion of" Pujols as a person? What can you possibly have against Pujols off the field?

Joe Sheehan: You're not reading that correctly. By "strong opinion" I mean just that. I don't like or dislike him, because I really care about his work as a player more than anything else. I don't evaluate these guys as people, because I don't think we know them as people. We know their work, we know what they say to the media (and how the media evaluates them, usually related) and we know what they allow us to see. There's not nearly enough there for me to evaluate a person.

That applies to all public figures, pretty much. I care about their work, their talent, and not about who they are or their lives.

Tim (DC): What kind of case can be made for Hanley over Pujols for MVP?

Joe Sheehan: If you're a big positional-value guy, and I have been in the past, and you can overlook that Pujols is better at his position than Ramirez is at his. It would also help if Ramirez would outplay Pujols over the next five weeks, catch him in the metrics.

Keith (KC): Bengie Molina> Maybe you forgot that Yunicorn Betancourt is actually on a MLB roster?

Joe Sheehan: Picture the outfield defense. Or the infield defense, for that matter. Seven Molinas behind the pitcher would yield, what, a .400 DER? Lower?

Joe Sheehan: Thanks, everyone, for two hours of fun. I have to pack for the Chicago trip now. I'll check back in September!


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