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Chat: Jay Jaffe

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday October 07, 2009 2:30 PM ET chat session with Jay Jaffe.

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Who needs to hit and run, when you can count on Jay Jaffe to drive the point home as we buckle in to enjoy first-day playoff action.

Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, and welcome to today's chat as well as the start of the 2009 postseason. Powered by the orgy of excess that is a playoff tripleheader, away we go...

The Flying Bernard (Acton, MA): World Series prediction? I'm saying Dodgers over Yankees. Can you believe there hasn't been a Dodgers-Yankees World series in 28 years?

Jay Jaffe: If you know me, you know that I'm a Dodger fan by birth (my grandfather was Brooklyn born) and a Yankees fan by geography. My introduction to baseball came in the 1977-1978 seasons, and I remember details from latter World Series vividly. So I've been rooting for such a matchup for ages. Why can't MLB even get it together to bring the Dodgers to the Bronx for an interleague series? It's so freakin' obvious , but it's never happened.

I see the Yankees getting through the AL slate, but I'm less sure about the NL, and any pick I make involving those two teams is going to have as much to do with my biases as it is with anything analytical. So I'll duck that and say Yankees over Phillies.

dianagramr (NYC): Hi Jay .... thanks for the chat! Do you think the Tigers have their own version of the "Joba Rules" for Verlander and Porcello, and that's why we didn't see Verlander for an inning late in last night's "all hands on deck" game?

Jay Jaffe: I don't think so, but I do think that Jim Leyland did a lousy job of managing his pitching staff last night. Then again, when all you've got is one errant pitch from Brandon Lyon or Fernando Rodney standing between you and the offseason, then some of the blame also falls on the GM for not getting you the right parts.

Having said that, I think the Tigers have done a fantastic job of handling Verlander and Porcello, getting a greater number of useful innings out of both at young ages without injury than, say, the Yankees have out of their blue chip youngsters. On the other hand, Jeremy Bonderman is something of a cautionary tale from the same organization. Sometimes they just get hurt.

Verlander's beyond the "Injury Nexus" window, so the "rules" don't apply to him in the same way they apply to an under-23 pitcher. Bringing him into last night's game is something Leyland might have considered, but remember, the kid's thrown over 500 pitches over his last four starts, and may not have a lot of gas in the tank coming back under such circumstances.

David (Evanston, IL): Do this year's Twins have one of the least intimidating starting rotations in postseason history?

Jay Jaffe: It's fairly unimpressive, for sure, and certainly belongs in the discussion. What I'd like to know is why Scott Baker wasn't tabbed for Game Three instead of Carl Pavano, given that after throwing last night, he'd have four days of rest. You've *got* to guarantee your best pitcher a start in that series.

ssteadman (St. Louis, MO): Obviously it's hard to predict because he is just 26, but are we potentially seeing the greatest catcher of all time (maybe excluding Josh Gibson) in Joe Mauer?

Jay Jaffe: Mauer is great, but best catcher of all time is a tall order even for a three-time batting champion, because Johnny Bench was so incredible on both sides of the ball -- his defense made Jose Molina look like Mike Piazza.

Eli (Brooklyn): As a Yankee fan, please talk me off the ledge Joe Girardi has me on. The Molina start is exactly the kind of over-managing that I'm terrified off all postseason--Jeter bunting in the fifth, Coke facing Mauer in the 8th, etc...

Jay Jaffe: The Molina start is a pretty stupid thing that has me gritting my teeth, but the fact of the matter is that it's a pretty small thing, too, and it's not like it's deviating from something Girardi has done all year by putting him into the mix. Last I checked, they won 103 games, so it worked out OK.

I'm far more worried about the team's lefty relief situation going into the playoffs than I am about the catching. Neither Coke nor Damaso Marte give me much confidence, and there are a fair number of key lefties they'll need to get through to win another World Championship. Despite that complaint, Girardi has shown that he deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to handling that bullpen - it might be his strongest area as a manager.

Colin Jaffe (Boston, MA): I just wanted to give a shout-out to Jaffes everywhere. Now we have someone famous to go along with Al and Sam. Or at least Internet Famous.

Jay Jaffe: Wow, damn straight! Don't forget Rona Jaffe and Stanley R. Jaffe as well.

Teraxx (Phoenix): How much does it hurt the Rockies to not have De la Rosa available in the NLDS? The Phils had trouble this season with lefties...

Jay Jaffe: It's a blow for sure, because he's been on a roll, he misses tons of bats, and he manhandles lefties. The dropoff from him to Jason Hammel may be enough to turn the series, not that I've had much chance to analyze that series at all. The last three days are a blur for me.

dcoonce (bloomington, indiana): Bench, Berra, Lombardi - and then Mauer? Is that reasonable? (I'm discounting Piazza a bit because of his defense)

Jay Jaffe: JAWS has it Bench (87.6), Ivan Rodriguez (85.7), Gary Carter (81.6) and then Berra (72.1), though I think the postseason stuff elevates Berra into the discussion. Lombardi was a good hitter at his peak but he's got nowhere near the overall numbers on either offense or defense enter into a discussion for greatest of all time. Mauer has a ways to go before he deserves to be considered alongside those guys.

mattymatty2000 (Phillly, PA): And there is our first blow call of the post-season. Jason Werth throws out Torrealba at third, except, no, he didn't. Will we ever get instant replay in baseball? This kind of thing should not be tolerated in October

Jay Jaffe: Indeed. horse**** call.

brian (brooklyn): I am sure you have been to 67 Burger...what kind of burger do you order?

Jay Jaffe: It's been awhile since I've been, but yeah. I got the Southwestern, if memory serves, with chipotle mayo and roasted peppers and Jack cheese. it wasn't as good as the El Paso burger at Paul's Burgers in the East Village, with fresh jalepenos, grilled onions and cheddar.

Damn. I need some of that right now.

sprechs (Brooklyn): On the scale of dumb yankee playoff management decision: starting molina in game 2 of the ALDS vs. batting A-Rod 8th in 2006 vs. starting Kevin Brown in Game 7 in 2004?

Jay Jaffe: Well, we don't know the outcome of starting Molina yet, but given that the other two happened in elimination games in which the Yanks were actually eliminated, there's no way it even belongs in that discussion. I'll go with the Brown decision as the worst of the three, because it's a lot easier for the choice of a lousy starting pitcher to prove decisive than for a lousy batting order.

And as quickly as I started salivating over a cheeseburger, I'm trying not to throw up while thinking of Brown. ***** * ***** I hate the ******* **** out of that guy.

dtwhite (Toronto): How early in a player's career is it realistic to begin discussing historical greatness?

Jay Jaffe: I'd like to see seven very good to great years. That's what I use in JAWS to determine a player's peak score. Until you've got a comparable peak score (in terms of WARP) to other Hall of Famers, it's very tough to be realistic about where a player fits historically.

Nick Stone (New York, NY): In your recent Bronx Banter Breakdown appearance, you said that the Red Sox poor defense would be ripe for exploitation by an Angels team that traditionally has put the ball in play a lot. How much does the Angels' new-found plate discipline change this? Or should we be paying more attention to the fact that this is still a team that hits for a very high average?

Jay Jaffe: Hey Nick! I think it's a bit of a wash, in that with their plate discipline, the Angels may not put it in play quite as often, but they get even more baserunners -- and on that club, they're generally fast baserunners, the type that the Red Sox catchers really aren't well-equipped to handle. That, plus Boston's difficulty in converting batted balls into outs (28th in Defensive Efficiency, 18th in PADE) really makes this a dangerous equation for the Red Sox.

Christopher (Nashville): I think a "dual Wild-Card/one-game playoff" would rescue the regular season *and* keep more teams/players interested later in the season. How soon could such a thing happen and would it have to be negotiated with the Union?

Jay Jaffe: I rather like the idea myself, but I don't see things changing anytime soon. I have no idea whether this is something that would have to be negotiated with the union or not. So long as it means more revenue for the players, I have a hard time seeing why they'd be against it, though.

Ken_P (NY): Dumbest Yankee playoff management decision: Jeff Weaver in extra innings of game 4 of the '03 World Series, with the greatest relief pitcher of all time sitting the bench.

Jay Jaffe: Certainly belongs in that discussion. The fact that it wasn't an elimination game might soften the blow a little, but damn, that was stupid.

William (Orange Beach, AL): What typr of player with Delmon Young be 5 years from now ? If not for the 50 something games he sat out this year, its not crazy to think that he could have hit .290-18-80.

Jay Jaffe: Yes, Young might have approached those triple crown numbers, but given his plate discipline (92/12 K/BB this year), all that would tell you is that triple crown numbers do a poor job of telling you what a disappointment he is. .284/.308/.425 isn't remotely acceptable for a 23-year-old corner outfielder with his caliber of tools, and I don't know if he's ever going to fulfill the promise that the scouts saw in him a few years back. Five year's from now we'll be watching him hang on for dear life to a major league career.

Bernie (LA): Are there any players who reached that 7 year itch (that you've described in answer to dtwhite) this year?

Jay Jaffe: Good question, one better suited to a well-considered answer in article form because I'd have to go through my spreadsheets, and between this chat and my attempt at following the game, we don't have time for that today. But this one's going in the article ideas file.

Aaron W. (Somerset, KY): How much difference is there between the Yankees and Red Sox? A lot of the talk I've been hearing is about the Yankees' dominance. They have been dominant, but they've got some weaknesses, and the Sox aren't bad, either. Since they're pretty evenly matched, could that be a potential blockbuster matchup in the ALCS? (In terms of compelling baseball, not media coverage).

Jay Jaffe: I see the Sox with major questions about their defense, and more questions about their rotation (Beckett, Matsuzaka) than the Yanks (Burnett, and whether Joba will get to start). I'm not counting them out until I see the wooden stake sticking in their hearts, but I simply don't think they're as strong as in years past.

Of course, if they face the Yankees, it's going to be a blockbuster no matter what, simply because the rivalry is so storied.

dapper man (usa): that's a hell of a moustache, Jay

Jay Jaffe: Why, thank you. After experimenting briefly with it last winter, I've been growing it for about four months now, and it's gotten an extremely positive reception (starting with my lovely wife, Andra), so it's stuck around. Gives me something new to talk about, to say the least.

Matt (Chicago): Why doesn't BP make better use of Unfiltered? I know you all have pieces to write, radio gigs, other writing gigs, etc., but 1-2 posts a week is pretty weak. Seems like a fairly underutilized piece of the site, and one that should be relatively easy to use better and more frequently. No need for quasi-articles (which is what it trends towards) -- just quick hit thoughts, note-book dumps, tell us what you read elsewhere that is interesting, etc.

Jay Jaffe: Sadly, it *is* fairly underutilized. Speaking personally, as somebody who blogged his way into a significant role at BP via my own FutilityInfielder.com site, I have to say that I absolutely HATE the WordPress interface, particularly when it comes to trying to present data tables, and I've lost my patience trying to get things to look right more times than I can count. I know I'm not the only one either - several colleagues have complained about losing entire posts to the ether.

That said, I think you'll see it used more often during the postseason, when turning things around for publication quickly after late night games can get kind of difficult. Maybe I'll give it another shot when I've got something worth presenting in that format.

Ron (Vancouver): Having the Yankees in the playoffs virtually every season is good for baseball right?

Jay Jaffe: It's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, if I'm not mistaken they draw the best TV rankings, thanks to the size of their media market, their track record of success, and the fact that love 'em or hate 'em, most baseball fans have some kind of emotional investment in them and will tune in to watch.

On the other hand, their continued presence reinforces the notions that the game's competitive balance is horribly screwed, and that money buys championships. Both of those statements have a kernal of truth, and though they ignore the intelligence chasm (wider than a gap) between various front offices on both ends of the spectrum, I'm not sure that's a message that MLB really wants to advertise.

jlarsen (Chicago): Ben Zobrist, baseball's leader in WAR, MVP-candidate?

Jay Jaffe: With the Twins making the playoffs, the AL MVP debate is over, for all intents and purposes. The only question now is whether or not Mauer will be a unanimous choice. I don't think he will, but I do think the public opinion of the race has swung strongly in his favor.

dtwhite (Toronto): Which playoff team has the largest single weakness, and do you see it being the reason it gets eliminated?

Jay Jaffe: Phillies bullpen if Charlie Manuel insists on calling Brad Lidge's number.

As I write this the Phils are putting together a rally with a Werth walk, an Ibanez double, a Ruiz single and a horrible Hawpe misplay. They now lead 2-0, so we may get a chance to see my theory tested today.

kcboomer (kc): What are the odds that I have a better idea of what the Royals should do this off-season than Dayton Moore??

Jay Jaffe: I don't know your track record, but I'm 123% certain that if Moore were fired and replaced by Rany Jazayerli the Royals would become a better team over the next few years.

Matt (Chicago): Jay -- on the blogging front, try the "Lazarus" plug-in for Firefox (if you use Firefox); it does a great job resurrecting lost text.

Jay Jaffe: Good to know. Personally, I use Blogger for my site, and it auto-saves every couple of minutes, so I'm never too far in the hole if there's a crash. Of course, I'm also in the habit of writing in a text editor and then pasting the entire chunk into the browser interface. That's something that doesn't seem to work well with WordPress - you have to do your HTML markup inside the program, and it's a chore and a half.

Roy Halladay (Florida): What are the chances that I make the HoF?

Jay Jaffe: I'd say they're approaching 50 percent, but I want to see the Hall elect a single starting pitcher who doesn't have 300 wins - there hasn't been one since Ferguson Jenkins in 1991 - before I go higher than that.

tfierst (MN): What are these tools that everyone keeps saying Delmon had? He is slow, an absolute butcher in the field, absolutely no plate discipline, absolutely no power outside the last month. Certainly doesn't look the part. When I see him, I don't see an exceptional athlete.

Jay Jaffe: Go back and look at the Baseball America Prospect Handbook 2005 - they loved his power and his arm, thought his plate discipline had room for improvement, and that he had just average speed and a less-than-stunning physique, but that the whole package still added up to enough for him to be on the book's cover.

In retrospect, I'm not sure I see it either.

David (Evanston, IL): Another Twins question: shouldn't Gardenhire be starting Carlos Gomez every time out against the Yankees? He seems to be too exceptional a defensive player not to be patrolling center against a Yankees lineup that's going to be putting an awful lot of balls in play. Sure, he's a weak bat, but so is everyone else in the bottom half of the Twins' order . . .

Jay Jaffe: So long as those at-bats are coming at the expense of Young and not Denard Span - who's rapidly becoming a favorite - that's not a bad idea, particularly given that left field in Yankee Stadium is a job better suited to being covered by a guy who's got enough speed to play center. Even so, Gomez is such a total zero with the bat that you're going to have to pinch-hit for him sooner rather than later.

Paul Bearer (Connecticut): Thoughts on Padilla over Billz for Game 3 and Belliard over Hudson for Game 1?

Jay Jaffe: Re: the rotation, I'm not crazy about it, but the two pitchers' performances over the past two months have really put them in this position. Padilla's benefited greatly by the move to the easier league and the easier ballpark, and his strikeout rate has been spiking while Billingsley has been raising questions about his health and conditioning.

As for Belliard/Hudson, I'm not too worked up so long as Torre remains open to the idea that both hitters might have matchups that suit them well in this series, and that Hudson is probably the guy you want defensively late in the game with a lead, no matter what the numbers say.

Greg (DC): What do you use to define a good and bad defensive player? UZR? I think UZR is a good stat for the most part but I think it's misleading. Take a guy like Mike Lowell or Jeter in years past....neither has the best range, but if they can get their glove on a ball, they're pretty darn good at making the play. Is it accurate to call them a "bad" fielder then? Is there another adjective we could use?

Jay Jaffe: Generally I try to look at UZR, Plus/Minus *and* FRAA to get as full a picture as possible when it comes to a player's defense, and I'm OK with the idea that those metrics may not produce a consensus every time. Defense is tough to get a handle on statistically, and there are a lot more nuances to appreciate to divide the world in to good and bad fielders. Some guys have better range, some have better hands, and some have better arms, though they may not all add up to great packages.

Jeter has done a lot regarding conditioning over the past two years to improve his mobility to his left and thus his overall defense. Rob Neyer blogged about a fascinating piece today by Ian O'Connor. See: http://myespn.go.com/blogs/sweetspot/0-6-21/Derek-Jeter-s-amazing-transformation.html

Scotty (KC): Zack Greinke should win the AL Cy Young, right? And Felix Hernandez should be his only real competition, right? Please tell me that Verlander and Sabathia won't snipe this award.

Jay Jaffe: Zack should win; he's had one of the great seasons of the decade this year, and with the Little Sisters of the Poor playing behind him to bood. I think he's going to, because the public opinion on him has come around over the last few weeks in a similar manner to that regarding Mauer.

And the Phillies score again because Carlos Gonzalez runs into the wall and fails to make the catch on a Ryan Howard fly ball, 3-0. I know it's windy there, but whatever happened to quality outfield play?

SC (Minneapolis): Do we really want instant replay? Sure, bad calls are a tough pill to swallow, but the NFL's replay experience should stay far, far away from baseball. There have been NFL games where they have used replay to determine if the coach through the replay flag in time to get a replay, which was followed by a 10 minute evaluation of both replays, official huddles, etc. I'll take a bad call, even one that hoses my team (Casilla was safe last night) over watching games be dragged out by challenges and replays and more non-game action.

Jay Jaffe: I think there's a happy medium to be had between the boundary calls (which I like) and the ability to argue every damn thing under the sun. Perhaps it's because replay technology seems to have improved (or maybe it's seeing things in HD) but we're seeing far too many bad calls in key situations these days for me to be comfortable with things the way they are. I'm not sure where the line to balance this out lies, but I think it can be moved from where it is now.

Aaron W. (Somerset, KY): Of the eight teams in the postseason, which do you think is least likely to be back next year? I was thinking the Twins, but in that division they may still be favorites. I guess it'd be the Rockies then, up against the Dodgers and Giants. Would you agree, or do you see a big regression on another team?

Jay Jaffe: I actually like the Rockies from a talent perspective - they've got a nice young nucleus going, and they've finally figured out how to put together a pitching staff that can win at altitude. So I'd say it's probably the Twins, because they're the least talented here, but I also worry about the Angels, who could lose Lackey and Abreu to free agency, find Santana continuing to struggle, and get a bit less luck on balls in play. Particularly with the Rangers looking as though they're really building something interesting...

drmagoo (Decatur, IL): Pedro's gotta be the next guy to get in the HoF with less than 300 wins, doesn't he? There's no way he'll get to 300, but he's got to be a lock, right?

Jay Jaffe: I have to think he's going in, though it remains to be seen whether Smoltz gets to the finish line first. Schilling and Mussina will also have shots before Pedro, and so long as Blyleven remains on the ballot and with a cadre of supporters, that fight isn't lost either.

Eli (Brooklyn): Overall, do you think Girardi will prove to be more of an asset than a liability in his first postseason?

Jay Jaffe: More of an asset, because handling a staff and particularly a bullpen is the manager's most important job in October.

The Flying Bernard (Acton, MA): Is it a coincidence that there is a character named Ryan Howard on "The Office", which is set in Scranton, home of the Phillies AAA team?

Jay Jaffe: If you know that producer/writer Michael Schur is also Ken Tremendous of Fire Joe Morgan fame, then it's impossible to read it as a coincidence, particularly given that Howard did play there in 2005. It's now home of the Yankees' Triple-A club, however.

There's also a character on "The Office" named Kevin Malone. I'm not sure what the connection is there to Scranton, but that it's a baseball name probably isn't a coincidence either.

Rob in CT (Andover, CT): I thought UZR specifically included both range and sure-handedness. You can see that a guy like Jeter, for instance, has so-so (though improved) range but is very good at not making errors. The total package is a slightly above-average defender this season. I'm not a true believer when it comes to any defensive metric, but that just jumped out at me.

Jay Jaffe: Yes, it does, and we should appreciate that we can get a read on the various facets rather than simply relying upon good/bad distinctions in the same way that we should appreciate the fact that we have triple-slash stats to go along with OPS or EqA. The more dimensions, the better - at least up to a point.

Christopher (Nashville): How is it possible that Jason Werth's first full season is at age 30? I know he lost a couple of years to a wrist injury, but it's still a crime.

Jay Jaffe: Werth made it through last year more or less unscathed, too, but he was platooning with Geoff Jenkins for part of the year until the latter got hurt. The guy's a bit fragile, but he's really developed into a top-notch player. I wish the Dodgers hadn't given up on him, though I don't know where he'd fit in that outfield.

Joel (GA): Jimenez sure lost it pretty quickly.

Jay Jaffe: To the extent that I was able to pay attention while fielding questions, I'm not sure he ever really had it today. A drag, because when he's on he's as fun as any pitcher in the game to watch.

Christopher (Nashville): The problem with reviewing bang-bang plays is that the review is usually not conclusive. What you need are sensors in the bag and the glove to make them light up different colors when activated. Shoot out fireworks, maybe.

Jay Jaffe: Well, obviously, if they're not conclusive you can't overturn the call on the field, but there are times it's abundantly clear there's a blown call, and that's what this would be for.

I can't see MLB embracing an entirely technologically based solution anytime soon.

Jay Jaffe: OK folks, it's been a pleasure chatting with you, but it's time to turn things over to the bullpen. Look for more BP chats during the postseason from all the usual suspects, starting with Joe Sheehan tomorrow, and hopefully a roundtable between several of us at once sometime soon.


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