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Chat: Eric Seidman

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday January 12, 2010 6:30 PM ET chat session with Eric Seidman.

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Stop by to talk about research, big questions, and bigger answers from sabermetrician Eric Seidman on BP.com.

Eric Seidman: Alrighty, the time for chatting is upon us. Let's get to the questions... maybe some of them will make me Check the Numbers.. see what I did there?

JimmyJack (What if they had a war and nobody came?): Mark McGwire: "I took steroids" The rest of known world: "Really?"

Eric Seidman: I figure this will be a popular subject so I'll give my brief take now and maybe answer some more later, but to be perfectly honest, and this is not an attempt to just take a contrarian view, but I simply don't care. I remember being a 13-yr old baseball fanatic in 1998 and watching the McGwire-Sosa race was some of the most fun I've ever had as a fan. What McGwire did and what Sosa may have done doesn't change that for me.

CrisE (St Paul, MN): That's two in a row you guys have missed. There's this thing on my desktop called a calendar, and it sends emails in advance of appointments...

Eric Seidman: There's this thing called research that I like to do and some research-laden questions I'm looking into, so let's keep that SnarkOMeter in check. I've been here since 6:27, thanks.

paulbellows (Calgary): Best baseball movie ever? Field of Dreams, Natural, Major League? Best baseball scene, however, has to be the Naked Gun. Who can forget Enrico Pallazzo.

Eric Seidman: None of the above. 61*, directed by Billy Crystal and starring Thomas Jane and Barry Pepper is hands down the best baseball movie for me, from both technical and entertaining standpoints. Field of Dreams and The Natural were too far-fetched and melodramatic for my liking.

Matt (San Diego, Ca): Where do you stand on the debate over JC's aging study? Thanks.

Eric Seidman: I haven't yet had time to devour everything written but I do firmly believe the criticisms of JC's article(s) are valid, and are comprised some of the very same thoughts that registered in my old noggin upon reading. One other issue, related to aging studies in particular, that I find interesting involves the idea of foreign players lying about their age and how that could muddy the waters.

lemppi (Ankeny, IA): Will the Twins miss the Metrodome or make the adjustment to homefield outdoor baseball just fine?

Eric Seidman: I'm sure that the team will adjust. Park factors and such are very real, but I highly doubt that the Twins were only effective due to the dome. If they struggle out of the chute it likely has more to do with giving ample playing time to guys like Nick Punto as opposed to adjusting to the outdoors.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): Histrionics aside, if McGwire and some other admitted PED users sat down with researchers and made a good faith effort to document usage and injuries and performance and whatnot, could any meaningful measure of the impact of "steroids" be wrought? In other words, given access to users and medical records is there any way to identify the effects of PEDs? How might you approach it?

Eric Seidman: It's very tough because studies like this require a control group and it's impossible to know everyone that took steroids. Even if we got incredibly detailed and honest information from the Mitchell Report players, that still isn't everyone.

lemppi (Ankeny, IA): On the Tigers bullpen....is Jose Valverde significantly enough better than Kevin Gregg to warrant sacrificing a 1st round pick, more money, and more years it would take to nab Valverde? Should they just sign Gregg? Should they just pass on both? Thanks.

Eric Seidman: It's interesting because they both had almost identical K and BB rates last season, and throughout their careers have been equals in terms of allowing home runs. Valverde is also just three months Gregg's senior. If Valverde can be had at a reasonable rate, he is probably the better bet, but nothing is certain with relievers and if I had the choice between Gregg at 1-yr/$3 mil and Valverde at 2-yr/$14 mil I would ink the former 100% of the time. I'm very anti-doling out lucrative deals to pitchers that log 45 innings per season.

DanDaMan (Sea Cliff): Hey Eric, wondering who your top picks for a breakout season in 2010 will be. Thanks, Dan

Eric Seidman: Carlos Gonzalez and Max Scherzer off the top of my head.

paulbellows (Calgary): Is there any reason why righties throw harder than lefties? (or is there any difference)

Eric Seidman: The theory likely lends credence to the belief that finesse lefties can stick around on movement and guile whereas righties need to throw harder to stick around or even make it. Kevin Goldstein showed us last year that you really need to throw hard in the minors to make it to the show, and while certain pitchers may throw with greater perceived velocity per my studies last summer, I would imagine sampling bias looms large here. As in, it isn't that righties throw harder than lefties but just that more softer-throwing lefties are in the league. Looking at everyone from 2008-09 who had 500+ four-seam fastballs, I'm getting 90.58 mph for lefties and 92.31 mph for righties. This doesn't mean righties throw faster than lefties, but more points towards righties needing to throw hard to even qualify for inclusion in this type of study.

John (NJ): Is there any chance that Matt Wieters outproduces Brian McCann this season, or am I a few years away? And how good do you think Adam JOnes can be?

Eric Seidman: Per Lloyd Christmas's experiences with Mary Swanson, there's always a chance. But I would bet against that type of occurrence next season. Wieters should easily outplay his 2009 self next season but McCann is probably second to Chase Utley on the list of most underappreciatedly awesome players in the game. Adam Jones, jury is still out on him for me. Too small of a defensive sample to call him poor, but he could end up being offensively similar to Shane Victorino as easily as he could be a .365/.520 player.

mswain784 (chicago): Do you know of any resources that explain how to build a PitchFX database in SQL?

Eric Seidman: Sure! I built mine a while back based on Mike Fast's tutorial, which can be found here: http://fastballs.wordpress.com/2007/08/23/how-to-build-a-pitch-database/. Additionally, I know The Hardball Times aggregated a few links here:
http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/create-your-own-pitch-f-x-database/. Even further, one of our readers Joe Lefkowitz has a fantastic site of his own that allows advanced querying of his database: http://video-moments.com/joe/pitch.php

ChuckR (Addison, IL): I never understood why the original Bad News Bears isn't part of the best baseball movie ever conversation. The scene where Buttermaker tops off his breakfast beer with whiskey alone is enough to make it a classic, not to mention the skillful distillation of the underdog vs. goliath meme that, frankly, the majority of baseball fans experience for most of their lives.

Eric Seidman: Bad News Bears (original, not with Billy Bob and Greg Kinnear) would be filed in the same category as The Sandlot for me and Major Leagues 2 and 3 in the fun but not necessarily fantastic section. For me, 61* is just a phenomenal film shedding light on what happened in that season, with top-notch performances and very solid direction from Billy Crystal.

Stephanie (DC): Given your previous work on pitch sequencing, have you given any thought to trying to quantify what it means for a catcher to be a good/bad game-caller and whether the good reputations of some are justified?

Eric Seidman: This is a topic Myself, Russell, Matt and Colin have discussed internally perhaps worthy of a roundtable-type article similar to the Line Drives and BABIP roundtable we published last week. One issue with such a study is that managers occasionally call pitches and there are certain pitchers that overpower their catchers by calling their own game. I'm sure some catchers are legitimately aiding their team by calling a great game, but we also have a causation issue -- what he calls and what the pitcher throws won't always equate. If Pudge calls for a down and away fastball and Bergmann throws it right down the middle, Pudge made a good call but he didn't really influence the end result. What do you do there?

tommybones (brooklyn): Besides BP, what is your favorite baseball web site?

Eric Seidman: Every morning (there's a halo hangin, blah blah Sugar Ray) I go to BP to seek comments on my articles or those written by others on which I can shed light or respond. After putting deodorant on I go to MLBTradeRumors to find out where Tagg Bozied signed, and then go to Cot's Contracts to check on Bozied's service time. Then I'll make my standard rounds to Fangraphs, Beyond the Box Score, Baseball Think Factory and Inside the Book to check the pulse of the baseball world.

ashitaka (long beach, ca): The Fan (Snipes/DeNiro) is actually on right now on AMC. This movie--aside from it's over the top subject--has some of the worst baseball cinematography ever.

Eric Seidman: I once strongly considered purchasing a Bobby Rayburn jersey to accompany my Permian Panthers workout shirt.

tommybones (Brooklyn): Jesus Montero... September call up? Or does he get called up earlier, when Nick Johnson inevitably hits the DL? If it's the latter, does he keep the DH job?

Eric Seidman: I would imagine that, if anything, he's a September call-up but I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see him at all in the show next year.

Rob (Alaska): Wondering what you think of Jayson Werth for 2010 and the next few years - yes, this is a thinly veiled keeper question. Can he keep it up or is he a late bloomer/short peak candidate?

Eric Seidman: Werth has the type of skill-set that should still be very effective even when declining. He's led MLB in P/PA the last two years and is the only player over the last two seasons with 60+ home runs to also steal 40+ bases. He's no spring chicken, but factor in his solid defense and ability to fill in should injuries to centerfielders arise, he's the type of outfielder, unlike Bay, who is werth (get it!?) a 4-yr/$65 mil deal.

tcfatone (new york): Speaking of catchers, the ability to frame pitches is seriously undervalued.

Eric Seidman: Is it? This feels like something we intuitively assume is true, in part because it is tougher to test and disprove.

ashitaka (long beach, ca): RIP Juan Primo.

Eric Seidman: Now we can all wear once (eleven).

raygu1 (burlington, nj): Eric-thanks for the chat. Alot of people/experts are making David Wright a first round pick in fantasy drafts, but I just don't believe the power will return. Are you still in the Wright camp and why/why not?

Eric Seidman: I'm torn on Wright. I mean, it's fairly unprecedented for such a power decline. Looking in my database, I queried for all hitters with 500+ PA in 5 straight seasons where in the first four 25+ dingers were socked and in the fifth the hitter jacked 20 or fewer homers. Only 10 rows returned, but all of those players sans-Wright managed 15 or more home runs in that fifth year. Alter the minimum and we see that only 2 players--Wright and Frank Thomas from 1995-99--managed 15 or fewer home runs in the final year of the span in this sample. So, yeah, what happened to him was unprecedented. If for no reason other than this I'd expect his power to return. Maybe not to the 30-35 HR range but he should certainly clear 20.

Richie (Washington): Regarding 'Nick Johnson inevitably hitting the DL', how more likely is he to actually stay healthy only DHing? What do studies suggest?

Eric Seidman: Well, this assumes that the reason for his injuries stems from playing first base. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. Injuries are really tough to gauge because we don't always know when fatigue first shows itself. For instance, maybe a young pitcher suffers fatigue after throwing 230 innings, but does not show any signs of decline in his pitch data. Then he tears a muscle running to first. It seems unrelated, but maybe it was... maybe his calf was a bit more tender due to overall fatigue. It makes sense from an intuitive standpoint that less movement should lead to a lower probability of an injury occurring but Johnson could just as easily hurt himself running to first base or something along those lines. This is more in Will's wheelhouse.

phil (pa): Mr.Baseball>61* How do you think Polanco transitions to 3rd base?

Eric Seidman: He won't be as good as Feliz was, but then again Feliz is one of the best 3B of this generation of players. Oddly enough, I expect Polanco's offense to mask what he might lack defensively at the hot corner. Feliz was known for his D here in Philly in part because it was so solid but also because his offense left much to be desired. If Polanco can be his league average self with the bat and supply decent defense, which I expect, he'll be worth the contract. Giving him three years may have been much, especially if it's backloaded rather than frontloaded, but he should be just fine at 3B.

mafrth77 (Boston): Do you think Jack Morris will make it into the HOF? He seems to be making a Jim rice like push with his vote totals

Eric Seidman: Given his recent push I can certainly foresee him getting in, but he will run out of years eventually and there are some very solid classes coming up with players that may take away from his vote totals. If I had to bet, though, yeah, he'll get in.

Eric Seidman: Well, seems the questions have stopped coming. That's a wrap for tonight. We shall chat again soon. As always, you can e-mail me with any questions or get at me on twitter @ericseidman.


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