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Chat: Shawn Hoffman

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday August 26, 2009 1:00 PM ET chat session with Shawn Hoffman.

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Whether it's covering the Biz Beat or discussing some of the tools of the sabermetrics trade, you'll want to tune in to ask questions of the man who does both, Shawn Hoffman.

Shawn Hoffman: What's up people, let's get it started.

lemppi (Ankeny, IA): Approximately how much revenue is each round of the playoffs worth to each club? Is a first round playoff series worth the cost of letting Magglio Ordonez' contract vest for next season to the tune $15M? They could have cut him for the $3M buyout but it appears he'll make his plate appearances now barring injury. (even though I don't think Magglio is driving force behind a playoff berth) Thank you.

Shawn Hoffman: I would have cut him midseason. Making the playoffs -- and therefore having a chance at the WS -- can bring in a lot more than $15m. But it's not like cutting Magglio eliminates that possibility -- they could have found somewhat similar production from July-September from someone else.

paulbellows (Calgary): As a Twins fan I'm a little worried that Mauer will be DQ'd from the MVP if the team finishes poorly.

Shawn Hoffman: Based on recent history, Justin Morneau probably has a better shot than Mauer. We might end up looking back at Utley and Mauer and thinking 'how the hell did these guys not win multiple MVPs.'

Charlie (Bethesda, MD): Livan to protect the young pitchers? Does this make sense? Was Rizzo worried that some meatball subs were gonna attack the clubhouse?

Shawn Hoffman: Livan to get Bryce Harper, you mean. This is Rizzo's all-in move for the first pick next year.

radio1 (toronto): I am aware there is no such thing as clutch hitting, or no real basis to say player X only hits homers in April and goes missing in September, but is there a possibility that certain hitters or rather certain types of hitters, are very good at hitting league average or below average pitching and of course, not very good at hitting above average pitching. If this were true, would it not be likely that certain hitters have a more random distribution, or rather, more pitcher neutral numbers. The implication being that these types of hitters would be best suited for the playoffs, where above average pitching is the norm. I am a long time Jays fan and have often thought that certain hitters (i.e Lyle Overbey) have feasted on average or below average pitchers yet go missing against quality pitching. Is there any metric by which this reoccuring thought can be put to rest

Shawn Hoffman: One way we could look at this is by taking competition adjusted EQR and seeing if it's a repeatable skill. I don't think you're going to find that there's any particular TYPE of player who hits good pitching better than you'd expect. And also keep in mind, the playoffs are such a small sample size, I don't think this would really be very predictive anyway.

Justin (Normal): Looking back, we will remember there was this guy named Albert Pujolus with regard to Utley. As for Morneau, we have no excuses.

Shawn Hoffman: I think Bill James wrote that in most eras, there's usually one player who is the best player in his league for several years, and that player probably could win MVP every year. I.e. Mickey Mantle in the '50s, or Barry Bonds from 1990-2004. Pujols probably should be working on his fifth MVP by now, but assuming that the voters prefer variety (which they most definitely do), it's amazing that Utley and Mauer have had combined three teammates win MVP, without ever having a better year than either of them.

Dennis (California): Hi Shawn, thanks for the chat and your great work. Your most recent article on assessing GMs was one of the most interesting things I've read (on any topic) in a long time. Are there any books that you would recommend on investing/assessing profitability whose ideas might be carried over into fantasy baseball (that's also not too heavy into numbers)? I heard Paul DePodesta really liked Mauboussin's "More Than You Know" so I picked up a copy. Any others that you would recommend?

Shawn Hoffman: There are tons of Warren Buffett books that you could read -- the Warren Buffett Way, his biography 'The Snowball' -- that are all basically centered around making risky activities less risky, and allocating your resources efficiently. For pure fantasy baseball purposes, I'm honestly not sure you can do better than Moneyball -- might be a lame answer, but the truth's the truth.

Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): Is Eric Young, Jr. up more or less to stay? Would they use him at 2B where his defense is problematic at the cost of Barmes, or would they be more likely to transition him to LF (assuming Dexter's always going to be CF)?

Shawn Hoffman: At the very least, he'll be up for the rest of the season, since Dexter will be out beyond 9/1 when rosters expand, and he'll get a chance to play a little bit with Dexter out and Gonzalez going OJ on his own hand.

Whether he really sticks... reviews are mixed, as are the projections. Despite the nominal power numbers, Barmes isn't exactly lighting the world on fire, so I don't think he'll necessarily be entrenched going into next season. But that's really the only spot EY could probably get a decent shot at next spring, since Gonzalez and Fowler will be locked in LF and CF, and EY doesn't really have the pop for RF even if Hawpe is gone.

Bill (New Mexico): Business question. There's clear evidence that the recession has affected some teams' attendance, but has the recession changed the way the teams spend the money they do bring in? For example, are we seeing any teams favor a spending strategy that emphasizes the "visible" things (trading for high-priced guys, expensive draft choices, etc.) that bring in fans, over long-term investments like Latin American scouting? Not obvious to me, but what am I missing?

Shawn Hoffman: If anything, most teams are cutting back on the "visible" things and plunging more money into the DR and Venezuela. It looks like MLB will get through this recession relatively unscathed, but they were scared as hell this winter, and I think a lot of teams started to re-focus on ROI, instead of just trying to make a splash.

For what it's worth, I think we'll get a more bullish FA market this offseason than last year, but I don't think the Carlos Silvas of the world will get 4/$48M for another couple of years, at least.

EricSamuelsen (Provo UT): Is there a worse coached team in the majors than the Giants? Fred Lewis is the only guy who can draw a walk, Schierholtz can't lay off a breaking ball inside, Sandoval swings at every single pitch when runners are on base, and nobody can lay off a slider.

Shawn Hoffman: I don't think that's really a coaching problem. If the Giants' front office knew how to put together even a semi-presentable offense, they'd be the best team in the National League.

dianagramr (NYC): Hi Shawn ... thanks for the chat ... You are the Commish for a day, and you are across the table from the MLBPA reps. What do you ask for from them (in terms of actually having a chance at getting).

Shawn Hoffman: I'm not sure there's really anything. Mandatory draft slots? Ehh, I guess. But most of the problems with the current system are going to be fought between the teams, not between the owners and the players. And even with those (like revenue sharing), there probably won't be any major changes to the current system.

Two things I would NOT ask for: a salary cap and a worldwide draft.

Grant (Chicago): Let's pretend you're the new GM of the Jays. Your first steps are? Is is possible as well that JP's really learning on the job, and when he leaves, Jays fans will really miss him.

Shawn Hoffman: Umm, can I go back in time?

The easy answer is to blow it up, and hope that Vernon Wells has some kind of redeeming year at some point, so that at least you can get out of some of that deal. It's too bad that the Jays are stuck in the AL East, and they were legitimately a very good team last year, but better to face reality and deal with it than to keep trying to contend with spare parts.

Max (Brooklyn): Are the Mets going to significantly cut payroll? And if so, why?

Shawn Hoffman: If they cut payroll, it'll be in the same way the Yankees cut payroll this year -- in other words, they have enough coming off the books that they can still add a lot in free agency and not necessarily "raise" payroll.

This is going to be a really interesting offseason for them. They'll need a first baseman and at least one outfielder, not to mention someone to replace Livan in the rotation.

dianagramr (NYC): in response to the Giants criticism .. I don't think they should mess with "Kung Fu Panda", because he is the best bad ball hitter in baseball right now. And his stats with runners on base this year? .368/.419/.618 But yeah, they still don't have enough offense.

Shawn Hoffman: You shouldn't "change" hitters, if they're successful. The Reds tried to shorten Adam Dunn's swing early in his career, and it lasted all of one miserable half a season.

That said, you should try to get other guys that can hit, which isn't exactly Sabean's core competency.

cbelford (Chicago): Hi Shawn, thanks for the chat. Does Jason Heyward get a cup of coffee in the majors when rosters expand 9/1? Think he has a shot at RF full time next year?

Shawn Hoffman: I personally wouldn't call him up, for service time reasons. If he keeps hitting .330/.450/.600, he has a shot at the job next year.

Fred (Burnaby, BC): The most disappointing performances this year from non-injured players are...... The best non-Heyward hitting prospect is.......

Shawn Hoffman: Dioner Navarro... Pedro Alvarez (b/c I'm biased)...

Neil (New jersey): How do teams budget for the draft and LA signings? Is it part of the big clubs payroll or is it a seperate number determined every year? Do forfeited draft picks affect a team's planning for the draft spending?

Shawn Hoffman: It's all usually part of one big budget, which is tentatively allocated during the winter depending on the team's competitive position. The Pirates went cheap with their first round pick b/c they wanted to go over slot later in the draft, and spend a ton internationally. Had they randomly been in first place and decided to go for it, they likely would have had to reevaluate those numbers.

Tony (Brooklyn, NY): Mauer's RC/27 is a hair below Pujol's figure last season. He's 2nd in the AL in RC outright while playing catcher. Why isn't the stats community up in arms making his case (and would this actually backfire a la Jim Rice)? Thanks!

Shawn Hoffman: I've been tackling people with Mark Teixeira jerseys on the street, if that helps. The reality is that voters are going to vote how they're going to vote. I think the stats community is sick of losing these battles already.

Mountainhawk (Salem, MA): Why do you hate the idea of a cap so much? League with salary caps have proven successful. Leagues without inevitably result in a structure like the EPL, where a few teams have a shot every year, and the rest just hope they can get a bite of the apple. The NFL is the powerhouse league, the NHL has seen huge revenue growth since putting in the cap, and a city like Pittsburgh winning the cup when they would have had no hope a few years ago of competing financially. Caps are good for sports leagues. The Red Sox and Yankees are competitors only on the field, in business they are partners trying to maximize the take of MLB from the total entertainment pie.

Shawn Hoffman: Let me be totally upfront: I'm a Pirates fan. I was at Super Bowls XL and XLIII. Sidney Crosby holding the Stanley Cup is my desktop wallpaper.

Caps help competitive balance, no doubt, and that's been great for my teams. But they break when team-by-team revenues aren't virtually equal, b/c of payroll floors and guaranteed minimums for the players. That's why the NFL owners (the supposed beneficiaries) voted unanimously to axe their CBA, and there's a bankrupt NHL team about to get the Expos treatment. I'd rather my teams have a lesser shot at being good if it means keeping them in business.

Tony (Brooklyn, NY): How on earth do some people equate letting Magglio vest w/ "doing the right thing"?

Shawn Hoffman: These are the same people who watch Sunday Night Baseball to listen to Steve Phillips.

Grant (Chicago): Reasonable to assume as a follow up to cbelford's question that the announcement that Heyward's off to the AFL means the team will agree with you and not call him up in September?

Shawn Hoffman: ...which is the logical move. Teams have become very aware of this in the past few years. Lots of people that the system, but as a fan of a small market team, I'd much rather have my guy for 6.5 years than have some of that wasted on a Sept. callup.

Tony (Brooklyn, NY): How much of an annual "economic rent" do you think that the owners & players jointly extract from the fans by not letting the teams move to locations with the largest economic base (including concessions for new stadiums since only one or two teams is "bidding" to play in a given city). Thanks!

Shawn Hoffman: A lot. But Subway does the same thing by not allowing two franchises to be next door to each other. A team in Brooklyn would be great, but if it was a complete free market, you'd have every team in one of 5 or 6 cities, like you have in European soccer.

Chip1010 (San Diego): Re: Heyward -- Do September call-ups count as service time?

Shawn Hoffman: Yes.

Rob (Alaska): Not that I disagree with blowing up the Jays, but don't most GMs have real world constraints from ownership to present a team that at least "looks" competitive to the average fan for attendance purposes? I guess the question is: how does a GM balance short-term business mandates with long-term baseball competitiveness? Is there a way of doing that short of blowing up the team?

Shawn Hoffman: It's a tough question and it depends on the market (it would be hard to do this in NY, for example). But with the Jays, their attendance is already pretty weak, and it won't get significantly better unless they can really compete with the Yankees Red Sox and Rays.

mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): Hi Shawn. Are you a Pittsburgh resident? Or perhaps a Pittsburgh native? If so, do you think the Pirates front office feels any pressure to put a winner on the field given the recent success of the Penguins and the Steelers? Current Pirates ownership seems to show no shame in making a slim corporate profit from the franchise.

Shawn Hoffman: I'm a New Yorker, but I had a "Terrible Crib" when I was born. Wasn't really an option.

This Pirates front office has a plan and they're sticking to it. The other teams winning hasn't changed that. As far as the ownership goes, I think their problem was that they trusted Kevin McClatchy, who trusted Cam Bonifay, and then trusted Dave Littlefield. I don't think they're actually "trying to lose," despite what many of my cousins say.

mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): BTW, I hope you guys are getting Primanti's and Straub at the ballpark event on September 5th!

Shawn Hoffman: How about a Pittsburgh-special salad: lettuce, tomatoes, french fries, and melted cheese.

jromero (seattle): A quick take on the Reds' financial picture?

Shawn Hoffman: They're in good shape. If they can get close to contention at some point, there's no reason they can't go out and spend what they need to make a real push.

Akneeland (Minnesota): Chris Parmelee: a future Kubel-esque DH/corner or a fringe bench bat with some pop?

Shawn Hoffman: I'm gonna bet the under on that one.

Mountainhawk (Salem, MA): If the bankruptcy court forces the NHL to allow the move to Hamilton, do you think we could see baseball teams declaring bankruptcy to force their way into NY, LA or Boston?

Shawn Hoffman: That could cause some serious problems, since it would basically invalidate the franchise structure. Don't see it happening though, the NHL will spend whatever it needs to to keep Balsillie out.

Tony (Brooklyn, NY): Would having a team in Brooklyn, another in North Jersey, etc. be so bad? Aren't the minor leagues much less developed than the lower level European soccer clubs? Would you support expansion that swamped the teams with the most valuable monopolies/duopolies?

Shawn Hoffman: I thought Brooklyn was the best place for the Expos (North Jersey and Long Island aren't nearly as fail proof). One more team would be perfectly fine -- hell, there were three teams there for 60 years. But you don't want five or six more teams in NY, Boston, and Chicago...

Mountainhawk (Salem, MA): Agreethat you need significant revenue sharing to make the cap work from everyone, but I'm pretty much fine with that. The Yankees and Red Sox are pretty much worth $0 if the other teams don't exist, so I have no problem transferring 80-90% of team revenue into a pool, and then splitting it 30 ways.

Shawn Hoffman: Problem is, you're then killing any incentive for teams to actually grow local revenues. The NFL didn't have that problem, b/c so much of the intake came from national TV deals. But even now, the NFL won't share local revenue beyond a certain point, b/c they're terrified that teams will just do the bare minimum.

dianagramr (NYC): How to fix the Mets and help the Sox .... Jose Reyes and a PTBNL (probably a Quad-A pitcher) for Clay Buchholz, Casey Kotchman and Chris Carter (am I nuts?)

Shawn Hoffman: Well, you're not nuts if you're the Red Sox. Especially since they just sent Carter to the Mets in the Wagner deal. If you're the Mets.... yeah, then you're nuts.

mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): You are $2 Billion richer as of this afternoon and you go and buy the Pirates. What do you do?

Shawn Hoffman: Buying the Pens also.

Honestly, I think they're doing all the right things, at least on a strategy level. None of their trades have really blown me away, but unlike Littlefield, Huntington realizes there's not much harm in breaking up a team that was winning 70 games every year.

Mountainhawk (Salem, MA): "Problem is, you're then killing any incentive for teams to actually grow local revenues." Not really. With virtual cost certainty for teams at the cap, growing your local revenues essentially earns you a profit of $200K for every $1M you grow.

Shawn Hoffman: Teams will spend until marginal revenue equals marginal cost. If marginal revenue is taxed at 80%, teams will spend 80% less in marginal costs. That doesn't just mean player costs -- that's also staff, stadium investments, etc. Socialism doesn't work.

Shawn Hoffman: I'm out everybody. If you live in Pittsburgh, make sure to get your tickets to our ballpark event, where you can grill Neal Huntington and Dan Fox for yourselves. Thanks guys.


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