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Chat: Eric Seidman

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday October 23, 2009 4:00 PM ET chat session with Eric Seidman.

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With the LCS winding down and the World Series getting wound up, you'll want to check the numbers with BP's Eric Seidman.

Eric Seidman: Hello, all. It's apparently not always sunny here in Philly as today is a rather dreary day, but the perfect day to chat nonetheless. Bring on 'dem questions.

aaronbailey52 (Alaska): How does Torre not pinch hit Thome for Martin? Defend this decision in 10,000 words or less.

Eric Seidman: I can't, and that's without even adding in my disgust for Russell Martin over the last two seasons, but that's a story for another day. You get Jim Thome for that specific situation. Do you think the Phillies traded for Matt Stairs to let Pedro Feliz hit in a spot like that? Even if the Phillies counter with Eyre, I'll trust Thome against Eyre more than Martin vs Madson any day of the week. It was just a very poor decision and an example of planning ahead at the expense of the present moment.

lopkhan00 (Mountain View, CA): Any chance we will see righty/lefty splits added to BP's stats? For those of us who play simulation leagues, they would be very helpful.

Eric Seidman: I'm doing what I can and so is the tech team. I'm hoping to get that up in the next couple of weeks.

Tynan (Livermore, ME): Have there been any statistical breakdowns of the age-old axiom that left-handed batters are better low-ball hitters than righties? I never understood the logic behind it...

Eric Seidman: I have not seen anything in that regard, but this is exactly the type of question that PITCHf/x data is great to answer with. When the dataset continues to grow and the samples get larger we can answer, more definitively, queries like this. But I am definitely interested in using the data to answer batter-pitcher matchup questions and game theory questions like this.

Mo (Las Vegas): Unless Phils are up 3-0, Should Cliff Lee go 1-4-7, Hamels 2-5 and Happ/Pedro 3-6? How would you do it?

Eric Seidman: Lee in Game 1, Pedro in Game 2. Let Hamels start at home in Game 3, and work from there. Part of that is me wanting to see Pedro pitch in Yankee Stadium again and part of that is me wanting the Phillies to throw one righty and one lefty at the Yankees in the first two games. Happ is valuable out of the bullpen, and don't forget Kentucky Innings Eater. Now that's what I would do. What Charlie Manuel will do, most likely, is Lee, Hamels, Martinez, Blanton, Lee, unless offdays permit Lee to go on normal rest, or if the series is in jeopardy and the Phils need Lee to go on short rest.

Wendy (Madrid): How would you compare these three middle infielders, Maicer Izturis, Erick Aybar and Yunel Escobar? They all had similar years offensively, but I don't know much about their defense or the chance of stardom.

Eric Seidman: Yunel has the potential to hit 27-32 home runs in a season whereas the other two seem more likely to fall in that .355/.435 range, which is nothing to scoff at, but Yunel certainly has a better chance at becoming an all-star and big bopper than the other two. Defensively, Aybar does a lot right with the glove but makes some mental mistakes that one would hope will gradually cease to occur. I'd order them Escobar, Aybar, Izturis.

spiveyt2 (DC): After watching Lackey get squeezed on the 3-2 pitch to Posada last night, it got me thinking, has there been any work done to prove or disprove the old canard that umpires enlarge their strike zone for elite pitchers and shrink the zone for elite hitters? If not, would you be interested? Just curious.

Eric Seidman: I don't know about that as much. One interesting study I have in my queue is to look at umpires based on movement. That Lackey pitch appeared to be a two-seamer that moved like Maddux's patented pitch. I've seen that pitch fool umps countless times. I'm curious to see if that gets a greater percentage of "misses" than other pitches or if it's just the magnitude of situations in which those pitches are missed that makes it seem that way. Additionally, I plan on looking at some point at how umpires call hitters with patient reputations. Doesn't it seem like Nick Johnson, Abreu and Giambi get more calls? And could part of that be because they are very patient hitters and tend not to swing at bad pitches? All interesting stuff to evaluate.

dianagramr (NYC): Hi Eric ... thanks for the chat. As much as Fox thinks they are educating the fans by showing the difference in pitch speed from the pitcher's hand to the plate (and, how about McCarver expressing surprise at that difference?), isn't that "strike zone" graphic a bit misleading. I mean, what does the dot represent ... where the ball crosses the front of the plate ... where it hits the mitt? In other words, a TRULY informative strike zone representation requires the 3rd dimension .... namely depth ... tracing the path of the ball as it crosses the plate. Thoughts?

Eric Seidman: I'll be honest, last night was the first Angels-Yanks game I've really watched this series, and my TV in my room is too small to even see that box on the right. From what I've heard, though, FOX is using PITCHf/x data, which covers where the ball crosses the plate. According to Alan Nathan, FOX is using PITCHf/x to generate the box, and then TrackMan to generate the start speed, end speed and flight time. I personally think teams/broadcasts should invest the extra money to get a true centerfield camera so that the parallax issues would subside and we wouldn't need the distracting strike zone boxes.

Matt (Chicago): Which of the following FA 2ndbasemen best fits the Cubs' offensive needs(Lopez,Polanco, Hudson, Iwamura)?

Eric Seidman: The Cubs got an aggregate .247/.302/.353 line from their second baseman this year, none of whom played more than 70 games at the position. Felipe Lopez is interesting, as he went from .308/.356 in 2007 to .343/.387 in 2008 and .383/.427 this season, but assuming a slight decline in this year's numbers, do you really want to pay a relatively hefty salary to a guy in the .345/.400 range? Hudson would be a solid investment but his injury situation fogs the issue. If he's healthy he would be the way to go, but I would put money on them signing Lopez and hoping the .383/.427 is a sign of things to come.

Christopher (Nashville): It seems to me the Posada Pickle Play was strong evidence that umpires see what they expect to see. I.e., if an umpire expects a pitcher to throw strikes, he will.

Eric Seidman: I have been watching that over and over, and while McClelland was clearly, undoubtedly incorrect, it does seem that Posada at least partially skewed the view. But the real issue to me is that nobody else corrected it and just stood pat. Umpires need to work together and not be afraid to correct one another. Why is it that we rarely see "help" calls aside from check swings? The home plate umpire or left field umpire should have had direct views of the play to see that both were out. I can't stand when people say "well, it didn't cost them any runs," because that's like saying it's okay for a pitcher to have a 6.0 BB/9 as long as strands 90% of runners.

Justin (DC): "It was just a very poor decision and an example of planning ahead at the expense of the present moment." Isn't the criticism of Girardi pinch running for ARod the counter example? and isn't this just another case of the outcome coloring the analysis after the fact?

Eric Seidman: It seems along the lines of the counter, but if you have learned nothing else about me in my time as an analyst it should at least be evident that I am a very process-based person. I thought it was odd to pitch Saunders in Game Two, regardless of his solid outing. I thought it was the wrong decision to not use Thome for Martin, and then for Blake. Even if Martin had hit a grand slam I would have felt the same way, as I like to play percentages. Bringing in Guzman for A-Rod and then not trying to maximize Guzman's utility is an example of not properly leveraging an asset. If you are going to remove A-Rod from a game and then risk losing him for the entirety of extra innings--a very real possibility--you need to make sure the asset used in his place is properly used. With Martin/Blake it isn't as big of a deal, as the dropoff from A-Rod to anyone on the Yanks taking his place is much more vast than Martin-Ausmus or Blake-Loretta.

jlarsen (Chicago, IL): From a baseball standpoint, who would you most likely want to build a team around from "Major League 3: Back to the Minors"? Hoss(the pitcher that punked out Liston), "Downtown", The Juans(combo pair) or the ballet-trained utility guy?

Eric Seidman: Clearly Downtown... he was a pure hitter, as he told that waitress in the diner, meaning he has quick hands. Plus, once he learned how to take pitches the opposite way, watch out. I think he would have gone on to have a Johnny Damon career while Hoss would have become Matt Belisle.

Matt (Chicago): Is there any hope for Samardizja as a starter or are the Cubs best served by using him as a two-pitch short reliever? I know his peripherals have been poor despite a powerful arm( upper 90's).

Eric Seidman: Things looked much better last season, when he threw mid-90s heat, induced 45% grounders and had a high strikeout rate. This year, the grounders and flyballs were virtually equivalent and the strikeout rate dropped precipitously. You have to give him a chance to fail, though. The Cubs should not simply make him a reliever if he has the chops to potentially start. Just like with Homer Bailey, a few outings are not enough to base a decision on someone's future. Let Samardzija feel like he's a starter, in the rotation at the outset of the season, and if he cannot cut the muster, reevaluate the decision (not automatically change it), but when you draft guys like him it's in the hope that he becomes the next big SP, not the next 7th inning righty.

Bill (New Mexico): What do you think of the MLB move to install "veteran" umpires in the World Series after all the umpiring screwups of the post season so far? Will it actually help? Color me skeptical.

Eric Seidman: A lot of these blown calls have been from veteran umpires. In my mind there is no solution other than a correction-based system. Either the umps need to correct each other or someone needs to be watching the game capable of making corrections. If official scorers are simply watching the game and making decisions why not something for umpires?

David (Sonoma State University, CA): "Even if Martin had hit a grand slam I would have felt the same way, as I like to play percentages.".....Can data tell us what difference Hudson would've made if he had started?

Eric Seidman: Sure, you could run simulations of a 7-game series like Clay does here for the Odds Report, and find what the Dodgers projected RS/RA is with Hudson in the lineup instead of Belliard, but it's hard to take everything that happened specifically in Game 5 and substitute Hudson in, since his being in the game would change things, and I'm a big butterfly effect advocate that one change can result in several changes.

Christopher (Nashville): I hear a lot about the smart decisions that the Yankees make with their money, but not a lot about all the poor decisions (Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano, Kei Igawa, etc.). Does it make a whole lot of sense to congratulate them for big contracts when the opportunity costs are essentially nil?

Eric Seidman: I don't think anyone congratulates them for big contracts or lauds smart decisions. In fact, more people discuss their poor decisions than praise them for having a lot of money.

BBBill (Hamilton, Ohio): What is the current thinking on the magnitude of a manager's impact on regular season victories? For example, the Reds won 78 games in 2009. What realistically could have been expected of the team with Dusty Baker replaced?

Eric Seidman: It's a very slippery slope here because one's evaluation of managers would need to use something other than personal opinions on which pitchers are brought into games. I tend to think that managers will impact 1-3 games in a season. I don't think Dusty was the difference between the Reds winning 78 or 88 games this season. Then again, if you attribute his handling of Volquez, Harang and Cueto to injuries or reduced effectiveness, the impact could be greater. Suffice to say, there are a lot of factors that go into something like this and too many people tend to focus primarily on the pitching change or lineup construction aspect. Unless you are bringing in Adam Eaton to replace Mariano Rivera, or completely avoiding platoon splits and things of that nature, a lot of it is common sense. And if you don't have a lot of weapons, that is more on the GM/Owner than the manager.

Justin (DC): I wish they would just do away with the check swing help calls all together. A coin flip has a better chance of consistently getting that call right.

Eric Seidman: I wish there was simply a more defined rule on the subject. And that players would stop bringing the bat back to their chest afterwards as if to say "I only swung here." Are we all idiots?

Fred (Pequannock, NJ): What are the chances the Angels win the ALCS?

Eric Seidman: They have to be very slim, but who knows? I could certainly see them winning these next two games.

JOESAV (ny): Did Porcello start in Minny impress u-I know u think he is chopped liver compared to Brett.

Eric Seidman: Let me try and put an end to this. I don't dislike Rick Porcello. At all. There is a definitive middle ground between thinking someone will be a star and thinking someone will be a bust. I personally think Porcello is and will be a very good major league pitcher but I just did not get the same feeling watching him that I did watching Kershaw last year or Anderson this year. That doesn't mean I dislike him. I'm just not as high on him as others and not convinced that he is going to turn into a perennial all star or Cy Young Award candidate. That's it. End of story. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, but I don't have anything against the guy.

andy (san diego): adrian gonzalez or ryan howard? why?

Eric Seidman: If you guaranteed me that A-Gonz would put up his 2009 numbers or something close for the next few seasons, I'd take him in a heartbeat, but Howard has had a very impressive peak. I also think Gonzalez will be better for longer than Howard. Then again, Howard's weight loss makes things interesting as his career path will be different than projected, say, a year ago.

bobbailey (Canada): Should the Phillies be considered a dynasty? If so what does that make the Blue Jays of 1989-1993? How do you measure a dynasty?

Eric Seidman: To me, a dynasty is the type of team "in rule" for a relatively extended period of time. The Patriots this decade, the Chicago Bulls, the LA Lakers, the Yankees 1996-2001. Those are dynasties. Doesn't take anything away from the Phillies at all, but for the sake of simplicity I'll call a dynasty any team that won 3+ championships in a 7 year span.

Rob (Alaska): Today is the perfect day for Russell Martin Disgust. Cue rant....

Eric Seidman: I shall gladly oblige. Two years ago he was a superstar, 19 HR/21 SB for a catcher with seemingly solid defense and great OBP/SLG numbers. The last two years he looks like he is playing without interest. All throughout the 2008 post-season he whined about call after call and made easy plays look difficult. His offense deteriorated even further this season and he simply cannot block balls in the dirt, opting to try and back-hand or glove the ball without moving his body. And he STILL whines about every call. I am at a loss for what has happened but if I'm Ned Colletti I have a very short leash. Sure, good catchers are scarce, but right now he is not a good catcher.

strupp (Madison): Eric, by that definition, what would you call the Braves of the 90's early part of this decade?

Eric Seidman: Accomplishers of one of the most incredible feats in sports.

David (Sonoma State University, CA): If Manny's option was a team option, would you pick it up?

Eric Seidman: Yep. With the provision that he showers AFTER games.

bobbailey (Canada): Except 1994 where we know the Expos were dominate and pulling away from the Braves when the season was shut down. That's a second place finish for the Braves, no?

Eric Seidman: This seems like picking nits for no real reason. It's not like winning 14 division titles in 15 years is that much less impressive or anything. I do wish the Expos did get to finish that season though.

mglick0718 (Oakland): Re the earlier question I sent: is the Martin-Thome decision really that different than the Hughes-Rivera one, other than the state of desperation between the teams?

Eric Seidman: To me the big difference is that Thome is a far superior hitter to Russell Martin, and while Rivera is certainly better than Hughes, Girardi likely believed that Hughes' true talent was on display this year, thinking that he could handle such a situation. Then again, if he felt comfy enough with Hughes to hold a situation as crucial as that, wouldn't he feel comfy with Hughes closing out the ninth inning after Rivera protected that lead? Another difference is that, like you said, the Dodgers season was on the line while the Yankees were, at worst, coming home for 2 games with a 3-2 lead. I don't give either managers a pass, but I can understand Girardi's situation a bit more.

bobbailey (Canada): Sorry, just the consecutive division titles thing still really grates up North. Is it just luck that the Braves didn't win more WS? With their incredible 1-3 SP you'd think they were the ideal playoff team.

Eric Seidman: I don't think it's luck but rather how tough it is to beat an evenly matched team 4 out of 7 times.

mattymatty2000 (Philly): Yeah, beautiful day here in Philly, huh? Anyway, one of the stranger decisions of last night's game for me was the sacrifice bunt by Figgins in the 7th. Marte isn't exactly a great pitcher, in fact bringing him in instead of Hughes (or god forbid, Rivera!) seemed like a gift from Girardi to the Angels. Yet, like so many other moves last night, one bad move was countered by the other side's worse move. Presumably Figgins is batting first because he can hit and get on base. Two men on, no outs, why bunt?

Eric Seidman: To quote Ken Tremendous of FireJoeMorgan.com fame, from twitter last night: "The best thing to do, I think, when you're down by 2 runs in the 7th, and there's no one out and 2 on, is to intentionally make an out."

askeys (Los Angeles): If the ALCS game 6 is rained out on saturday, do you use CC in game 6 or hold on for a possible game 7/ Game 1 (WS) start

Eric Seidman: You have to win the ALCS to get to the World Series, and if CC gives you a greater chance of winning Game 6, you pitch him in Game 6. Being able to plan ahead is great, but you need to take care of present business first. If Burnett or Pettitte were as talented as CC it might not matter, but they aren't.

Eric Seidman: Alright everyone, great chatting as always. Feel free to e-mail me or get at me on twitter at @EricSeidman.


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