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Chat: Jay Jaffe

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday September 21, 2009 2:00 PM ET chat session with Jay Jaffe.

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He's not just stopping by to Hit and Run, Jay Jaffe's standing in to take your questions about the stretch drives (such as they are) and the playoff picture.

Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, ladies and gents, and apologies for the delay. We'll get right to the questions...

dianagramr (NYC): Good afternoon Jay! Thanks for the chat. How much of Joba Chamberlain's uneven 2009 can be attributed to the way the Yanks have handled him, and how much can be attributed to Joba's maturity (attitude towards looking at video, casual nature in interviews after bad performances)

Jay Jaffe: Lots of Joba/Yankees questions here, so i guess this wins for the hot topic of the day. I think the two things go hand in hand - the Yanks have jerked Chamberlain around, and he's apparently not terribly well suited to such handling. In retrospect, given his innings limitiations they probably should have followed last year's template and started the year with him in the bullpen, then moved him into the rotation mid-season and kept him there (without the injury part that disrupted 2008's plan, of course).

tbrown05 (vt): Hey Jay, I'm pretty concerned about the Yankees rotation entering the postseason. The first round should work to their favor (assuming the enter with the AL's best record) with 2 days of rest and a 3 man rotation. However, if it comes to the ALCS and a 4 man rotation, what do you anticipate?? Will they even bother starting Joba at this point? Thanks.

Jay Jaffe: I think yesterday's start might have sealed the deal on the team's first-round decision, given how awful Joba was, and assuming Pettitte comes back in one piece. Beyond that... well, it's been so long since the Yankees got out of the first round I'm not really sure what to expect. I do think the odds of Chad Gaudin getting an October start just spiked.

paulbellows (Calgary): Can Ichiro get the 964 more pro hits needed to overtake Rose? If Ichiro quit today I think he has to be a 1st ballot guy.

Jay Jaffe: If Ichiro quit today, he'd be ineligible for the Hall of Fame - the one firm requirement is having played 10 seasons in the major leagues, and he's only at nine.

As for whether he can get 964 hits, I've got no reason to bet against him given what he's already accomplished. That would put him 21 hits away from 3,000 hits stateside, which would actually be more impressive given the compressed timeframe.

jtrichey (Indianapolis): I know you aren't Kevin, but Wow! How about that Angel Villalona news?

Jay Jaffe: That was a real shocker. I don't think his prospect status can withstand 20 years in the joint.

kmdarcy (Portland, Oregon): Do the Giants win the WildCard with Adam Dunn (or Bobby Abreu) and Orlando Hudson?

Jay Jaffe: That certainly looks like enough of an upgrade given how wretched the performances they've gotten out of their 2B (.242/.289/.345), LF (.261/.331/.410) and 1B (.274/.323/.419) players. Take Hudson away from the Dodgers and you start to close the gap in the NL West as well. For want of a nail...

Other thought about Villalona - it might be time for somebody to revisit the career of Cesar Cedeno, who was involved in a shooting early in his career and never was the same player.

RodeoJones (Nj): With their bullpen woes are the Phils doomed to going out of the playoffs in the first series?

Jay Jaffe: Doomed is probably a bit extreme, but their Lidge problem puts the pressure on the offense and the rotation - particularly Hamels and Happ - to come up big and keep them from needing to protect a one-run lead.

It also puts the pressure on Charlie Manuel to actually think outside the box by calling upon somebody else - Madson, Myers - instead of brainlessly going for Lidge. Of course, if he could do that, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Sanchez101 (Santa Barbara, CA): Would the Dodgers rather play the Phillies or the Cardinals in the first round? I figure since the Dodgers have Kershaw, Wolf, Sherrill, and Kuo to throw at the Phillies lineup, they would be favored.

Jay Jaffe: The Dodgers' lefty heaviness does probably favor a matchup with the Phillies, but of course that desirability also depends upon the health of those pitchers, which is something less than a sure thing at this writing, particularly with regards to Kershaw.

That said, the Phils actually have an OPS that's six points higher against lefties than righties, so it might not be that big of an advantage.

Jay (NY): Are there any teams that are better/worse suited for the playoffs than others?

Jay Jaffe: Nate Silver and Dayn Perry did some work for Baseball Between the Numbers showing that a power pitching staff, a strong team defense and an excellent closer are the three best indicators of playoff success. They combined that into a metric they called "the Secret Sauce," which Nate wrote about here. Our current rankings are here. Back when the Yankees topped those rankings, I wrote about their sauce components here. Colleague Steven Goldman did a nice job of sizing up the current contenders in those areas here.

Drew Stubbs (Cincy): I've hit 8 home runs in the majors after only hitting 3 in the minors? Should Cincy fans now be glad the Reds passed on Tiny Tim for me?

Jay Jaffe: Uh, no. You're off to an OK start, Drew, but seven of those homers have been hit in at the Great American Ballpark, which is a pretty homer-friendly place. Furthermore, your 4-to-1 K/BB ratio and .315 OBP have to improve dramatically in order for you not to look like exactly the type of player that Dusty Baker will once again use to drive his team out of the playoff picture.

Aaron (Somerset, KY): If you're Omar Minaya, what's the first thing you do after the season is over?

Jay Jaffe: Thank my lucky stars that I still have a job after putting together this roster. Not that any roster could have withstood that slew of injuries, but let's face it, the 2009 Mets' flaws - thin rotation, weak corner outfieders, anemic Triple-A roster - were glaringly apparent even before the Biblical plague of injuries started taking its toll. "Hi, I'm Omar Minaya. You may remember me from such bad ideas as 'Dan Murphy, Everyday Player'..."

Joel (GA): Can you talk my fellow Yankees fans off the ledge because of "only" having a 5-game lead with 12 games left?

Jay Jaffe: Speaking even as a Yankee fan, I tell you you to tell your fellow fans that if they've crawled out on the ledge out of concern for their lead, I can only hope a strong crossbreeze comes along and makes it easier for the rest of us to buy playoff tickets.

The Yankees don't have a five-game lead, they have a 12-game lead. Even if they were to lose the division, they'd make the postseason as the Wild Card. The home field and seeding advantages pale by comparison.

Nick Stone (New York City): Do you think the Twins still have a shot at catching the Tigers? Please tell me this late run will cement Mauer's MVP award. As much as I'd like to see Jeter get it, Mauer really deserves it.

Jay Jaffe: Given that the Twins have four games remaining with the Tigers, yes, I think they still have a shot, though they probably have to do no worse than 3-1 in that series while picking up a game or two elsewhere.

Whether or not they win it, I do think that this late run has been good for his MVP cause. If nothing else, the Twins will have had a shot past the point when Sainted Justin Morneau succumbed to injury (to say nothing of the fact that he'd been hitting .150 or something for the past four weeks). It's good for his narrative, for those voters who seem to depend upon such narratives.

Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): Has Mat LaPorta hoisted his ceiling back up with his recent better play? I can't help but feel that Hafner's not a bad comp for him; does that sound about right?

Jay Jaffe: LaPorta has shown decent power thus far in the majors, but his plate discipline is pretty dismal (165 PA, 8 BB, 32 K), and there's no way you can compare him to Hafner on that grounds. At his peak, Hafner was a guy who could reach 100 walks a year; LaPorta doesn't look as though he'll be able to reach 50 without significant improvement. That's not something that was expected, so I'd say if anything, his value is down slightly, though it's obviously still very early in his career.

Frug (UIUC): What do the Braves do with their rotation in the off season? If the Braves pick up Hudson's $12 million option the Braves have 6 quality starting pitchers and pending free agents at closer #1, closer #1a, first base and possibly 3rd base.

Jay Jaffe: Well, the Braves are a very cost-conscious team during this era of corporate ownership, so I wouldn't put it past them to NOT pick up Hudson's options given their other needs. That said, I think it's quite possible they would pick it up and explore the trade market for Javy Vazquez or Jair Jurrjens, both of whom might be at their all-time peaks in value. It's a nice problem to have.

Rob (Oakland): Do you think the Cubs will release Bradley, or find a trade partner? [As a Giants fan, may I present Aaron Rowand?]

Jay Jaffe: I think they'll try to trade him for somebody else's big contract headache, but that the likelihood isn't terribly high that they'll be able to find a match. Hendry has to know that his move to suspend Bradley opens up at least better-than-even probability that he'll be sinking the cost of some large fraction of the remaining $21 million on his deal.

Maybe they can swap him for Alex Rios, who's none too popular on the South Side.

Matt (Calgary): Do see Adam Lind putting up all star numbers again next season or do you see him regressing next year?

Jay Jaffe: All-Star numbers, I'd suspect. This is the type of hitter many scouts and statheads expected him to be, which is why there was so much screeching about J.P. Ricciardi keeping him on the farm for so long last year.

Christopher (Nashville): What's wrong with Joe Mauer's narrative? Isn't he supposed to be the Derek Jeter of catchers or something?

Jay Jaffe: There's nothing "wrong" with it - I'm just echoing the sentiment that the standards for the award tend to shift from year to year, with voters retrofitting their qualifications for winning to whichever player they feel has the best story line.

That said, catcher winning an unprecedented third batting title while keeping his team in contention (or better) into late September is a pretty good story line to have.

Wendy (Madrid): Is Nate Silver still part of BP? He said he was stepping down as managing partner so he could spend more time writing, yet he's only written two articles since the announcement.

Jay Jaffe: Well, if you read his other site, you know that he's spending more time writing -- just not for us. He's apparently got bigger fish to fry at the moment.

ScotMartin (TX): If the Rangers bring back their current team, with minimal to no free agent additions, do you see them likely performing worse, the same or better next season?

Jay Jaffe: Well, I certainly think Derek Holland will improve given the tantalizing glimpses we've seen of him, and the addition of Neftali Feliz to the rotation will be a big deal, too. I'm less optimistic about the low strikeout rate guys repeating their success - Millwood, Hunter and Feldman - because if anything should go wrong (such as losing a tick of velocity to fatigue) they won't be nearly so effective.

I also think that the limitations of their low-OBP offense are glaringly apparent. They desperately need to find guys who can get on base to take advantage of the power bats they have in that lineup. They've got one regular above .340.

Christopher (Nashville): Jurrjens is young, durable and cheap. Even if he's not a #1 starter, why fix what's not broken? I don't get it. Trading Javier Vazquez, now that makes sense.

Jay Jaffe: Because other teams value the fact that he's young and cheap and durable, too, and might pay a premium for that. Also, given his peripherals, the odds are that he's not going to perform quite to this level again. He's at his peak value.

The bottom line is that when you've got a perceived surplus of pitching, you can afford to explore multiple options to find ways to improve your team. Like I said, that's a nice probelm to have.

Charlie (Bethesda): I don't know if a hard slide knocked his LASIK repaired cornea out of whack, but Cristian Guzman has hit .259/.289/.365 since mid-May. Should the Nats move him to 2B or just move on? It seems with Desmond at SS, they could sign or find something better at 2B than Guzman. What are your thoughts?

Jay Jaffe: I don't think the Nats are in a position where they can afford to sign a frontline free agent middle infielder (say, Orlando Hudson) AND keep Guzman around, so i suspect they'll take the path of least resistance and keep him. Guzman's performed surprisingly well (.306/.336/.425) over the first three years of a deal that was nearly universally ridiculed at the time, and the $8 million he's got coming to him looks sort of reasonable for next year.

As to how he fits into the middle infield with Desmond, I don't know enough about the latter's fielding prowess to tell you which of them should be at short; Guzman's a slightly below-average fielder there according to UZR.

Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): For a younger slugger like LaPorta, will the walk rate inevitably climb if he prooves at the MLB level that pitchers will pay for challenging him? Through his first say 350 ABs, Hafner had about 30 walks and nearly 100 Ks himself.

Jay Jaffe: Yes, so long as he can avoid pitchers taking advantage of his lack of selectivity.

Those 30 walks would be nearly double the number that LaPorta's on pace for, by the way. Big difference.

tonipeluso (Oakland): The A's are playing well down the stretch, if you look into your crystal ball is there hope for next year? Or is this a hot streak a mirage?

Jay Jaffe: I'm pretty wary of late when it comes to teams who tank their way out of contention early in the year but start playing respectably later on - call it the Indians model. They've got a nice load of pitching options, but that team is really having a hard time coming up with useful hitters, and I don't harbor a whole lot of hope they can make headway in their division without that.

TGisriel (Baltimore): Do you know of any way to estimate in advance which players will come up from the minors and produce to their ability right away (Nolan Reimold), and which need a period to get acclimated before producing to their ability (Matt Wieters)?

Jay Jaffe: If I knew, I probably wouldn't be working for BP, I'd be in somebody's front office. I don't think there's any magical way to tell. A lot of it has to do with scouting, and some of it also with expectations. For Wieters, I suspect that a good deal of his problem has been the fact that he's had to learn a whole new set of pitchers (or three, given all of the staff turnover) while adapting to hitting big-league pitching himself.

Charlie (Bethesda): Rizzo and Co. have already asked him to move to 2B in 2010, so I guess my question was move him, or move on? As for Desmond, he seems to have great range, a great arm and makes some serious bad throws at times. Not saying he's that good, but the man to his right on the diamond can be described similarly.

Jay Jaffe: Well, to move on, you've got to find somebody to take on his salary for next year, and how easy is that going to be given his extended slump? And then how much money are you going to have to throw at the next guy to play for Washington given the team's current state? The O-Dog isn't coming to town on a one-year deal like he did for the Dodgers.

Heathcliff (Waterbury, CT): Should the Yankees try to make a trade for Chris Iannetta this offseason? As Jorge gets less playing time at C it would be nice to have a better backup option than Jose Molina (who is a free agent anyway) or Cervelli. And the Rockies apparently don't think much of Iannetta since they have benched him for Yorvit.

Jay Jaffe: I'd love to see that happen, but I'm skeptical Colorado is stupid enough to let him get away. Or that Brian Cashman is smart enough to realize he needs a usable backup catcher; that's been a career-long Achilles heel for him as the Yankees' GM.

Jay Jaffe: OK folks, I've got to run. Apologies for the delay in getting things started today, and thanks for stopping by, and for sticking around.


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