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Chat: Christina Kahrl

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday September 08, 2003 3:00 PM ET chat session with Christina Kahrl.

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Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Christina Kahrl: Howdy everybody, sorry for the late arrival, but let's see where everyone's mind is at on the world of baseball...

Joel Charny (Washington, DC): Chris, the debate among the few passionate Pirate fans around comes down to this: is Dave Littlefield an intelligent guy doing the best he can with messed up ownership undermining him or is he a spinmeister who's out of his depth in the new world of sabermetrically inclined GMs? Your thoughts?

Christina Kahrl: Well Joel, that's the question. I can't say I was really impressed with Littlefield's dumpery this July, but to give him the maximum benefit of the doubt, he was dealing with the proverbial gun to his head. By making Tom Vu-type deals out of desperation, I guess we can credit him with not doing as badly as Randy Smith has done, and falling short of the outstanding job that Dave Dombrowski did when he was ordered to tear down the Marlins. I'm inclined to see Littlefield as one of those ambiguously sabermetric, well-poised, and ambitious young GMs that do well mimicking the real statheads in the game.

C. Montgomery Burns (Springfield, NT): Where's my TA? I need my fix! Smithers! Bring me the head of this Karl fellow at once!

Christina Kahrl: A worthwhile point, and you'll see TA returning to it's normal place tomorrow. I do deserve a bit of flack, Monty. : )

Jeff C (Chicago): Chris, I'd like your assessment of Kenny Williams's trades this year and whether you think The White Sox will hold off the Twins. Thanks and great job.

Christina Kahrl: I think the Sox can do it, but that's in part because the Twins have taken their own sweet time about getting serious about themselves, and because the team the Sox are fielding now is much better than the one they started off with. But generally speaking, you're still talking about a team that didn't need Sandy Alomar, didn't need Billy Koch, and isn't winning on the basis of Kenny Williams's contributions as much as its endured them.

Robby (Detroit MI): Hi, Chris! How does a team like Detroit go about rebuilding? They don't have anything to trade away for prospects, except possibly Dmitri, and the prospects on the farm are either up already in the case of Bonderman and Pena, or injured/far off. I heard that they tried to move Dmitri Young to Kansas City for David DeJesus, but KC wouldn't do the deal. How long until this club is good enough to lose less than 100 games, and is the park an impediment to their winning?

Christina Kahrl: The catty answer is to say they should avoid trying to find out what Bo Schembechler is up to these days, but frankly, I think the organization's better off for having bottomed out. I'd love to see them peddle Dmitri Young, but as you've pointed out, he's a strange match, armed as he is with decent offensive skills and Pedro Guerrero's glove collection.

I wouldn't blame the ballpark. What this team really needs to do is weed out the bad contracts from the Smith era (some of which, admittedly, Dombrowski signed off on), and keep taking risks on free talent like Kevin Witt until they can overhaul the entire player development system. So it's a long haul, but happier now than at any point in the last fifteen years.

littleball (Northampton, MA): The Expos did not call up ANY players in September despite a) being in a Wild Card race b) Terrmel Sledge having a breakout season. Why is this not getting more attention outside the Montreal Gazette? I'm not a fan of the Expos at all, but this is disgraceful. I'm convinced that MLB has done everything it could to assure that the Expos would not advance to the post season.

Christina Kahrl: Welcome to Bud's world. The shammery of how the Expos are being operated really defies description, but again, when you're talking about how 29 co-conspirators and a notional leader who, by all rights, ought to be indicted for lying to Congress, well, that's how today's game is operated. I don't want to say baseball is lawless as much as it has definitely drifted into being operated syndicate-style. The Expos are run dishonestly. The offices of the commissioner don't observe any of the game's rules. Is it enough to upset people? It ought to be.

Milo (Houston TX): Gerry Hunsicker: Would you fire him or not, and if so, who would you replace him with?

Christina Kahrl: I wouldn't fire Gerry Hunsicker, but the rumors are that he might well leave of his own volition. Happily for the organization, they have a great AGM in Tim Purpura, so they wouldn't have to worry about recycling as much as running up against the ocassionally enforced tokenism in the interview process.

Gregory A (New Jersey): Hi Chris, I'm just wondering if you think the Padres are lined up to be in contention next year like a lot of people are projecting? (i.e. Line-up is one thing, but what about pitching?)

Christina Kahrl: I don't see the Padres' pitching as that problematic. So many things went wrong this year that next year, they may well wind up with a great rotation regardless. Lawrence-Peavy-Eaton is a nice front three to build off of, Kevin Jarvis is a functional 4/5 type, and a slot for one of the young talents would be fine. The real problem is investing the time to build a better bullpen, since this year's disaster was unacceptable.

Mike W (Chicago): Chris, why are we getting the bad side of Dusty and not the good? No career years from hitters, lots of goofy strategy and veteran-favoring. Why, why, why?

Christina Kahrl: Dusty's unique brand of genius is, of course, one of my favorite topics. The Cubs should still win the division, courtesy of the schedule and the team Dusty was handed, and because of the great pitching, they'll be nasty in October, but I can see Dusty losing them a key game or two faster than we can remember what the latest billy goat's name is.

Dale (Birmingham): Can anyone really beat the Braves in the playoffs? The only team I think has a chance is the A's because of their pitching, and with Mulder down, even they're longshots.

Christina Kahrl: While I love what the Braves are doing this season, keep in mind that their rotation isn't really that strong, so their strengths (a great lineup, a durable rotation) aren't nearly as likely to play in a short series as it does over 162 games. If anything, I see the Braves as dangerously upsettable, because of the weak pen, the generally nondescript rotation, and the inevitable waste of a roster spot or two on the latest Joe Ayrault. That will lead to the usual unfair characterizations, but the Braves seem comfortable enough in their place in history to win and keep winning, and take their chances every October.

Eric (Bayou Country): How come New Orleans is never seriously considered as a home for the Expos? Where will they end up?

Christina Kahrl: I wasn't under the impression that Zephyrs attendance was wowing people, and from what I understand, New Orleans' demographics (in terms of corporate presence, and moderately wealthy potential season ticket buyers) isn't as strong as some of the alternatives. Keri can curse my name, but I remain hopeful that the Expos will wind up playing in RFK, and play in either of the locations on Capitol being promoted inside the District. But as we've said before, and will say again, Bud Selig and his cronies have no interest in putting the team in the right place. First bidder to offer $300 million or so wins, and if that means a team in Bozeman, Churchill, or even Montreal, then MLB will sign off on it.

Joshua Buergel (Seattle, WA): Chris, Do you know exactly what the postseason eligibility rule is? I think everybody knows about the famous Wolcott loophole by now, but nobody seems to know exactly which players can be run through that particular needle. On the 25 man Aug. 31? On the 25 man at any time before Aug. 31? The 40 man? In the organization?

Christina Kahrl: Working on the example afforded by Felix Rodriguez last year, I think we can safely say that baseball has no rules when it comes to postseason roster eligibility. Rodriguez wasn't added to the 40-man until mid-September, but nobody particularly cared, and when asked directly about it, the Angels and MLB preferred to get evasive.

As I said, nobody in the industry is really sweating this stuff as much as you or I do, so I've sort of given up much hope that the rules will be observed. Teams will build the postseason rosters they want, and whatever fig leaf they come up with, they'll happily home-grow and submit for MLB approval.

Will Young (Washington, DC): How would you suggest the Twins sort out their logjam of 1st basemen / DHs / corner outfielders in the offseason?

Christina Kahrl: Make Doug Mientkiewicz an Oriole.

Ben Oglivie Fan (JAX, FL): Who is the modern day Ben Oglivie?

Christina Kahrl: Garrett Anderson? Well, except for the Panama part, I guess.

beanpj (Washington, DC): Are you one of the BP staff that thinks Pujols is the NL MVP over Bonds? If so, could you explain your justification?

Christina Kahrl: I'm one of the people willing to listen to the argument, because playing time matters. That said, even making an allowance for Pujols' advantage in playing time, or the Giants' lack of an alternative to Bonds and how that might make his absence that much more painful, I'd still favor Bonds. Pujols is having the second-best season of any hitter in baseball, and has the misfortune to play in the same league as the best.

Keith (Cary, NC): Chris, It seems a lot of quantitaive sabermetric analysis (especially concerning player values) assumes independence of certain events. I wonder how different types of players respond with a fast runner on first, a slow runner on first, a stolen base threat on, etc. It seems logical that with a stolen base threat on first the pitcher could be distracted or throw more fastballs, while with a slow runner on first some of Ichiro's infield hits could be force outs at second. Through the history of the modern baseball their should be a large sample size. Do you know if anyone's done any study of the affect of certain types of baserunners on the performance of certain types of hitters? Seems to me their's a high probablity that there is a correlation there.

Christina Kahrl: It's just as logical (and just as demonstrable) that having the hitter worry about covering home plate to protect the baserunner, or by having the hit-and-run on, is a disadvantage for the hitter.

That aside, I believe there is a lot to be said for friction inside the game, and that there is a stronger intedependence of events on the tactical level than many statheads allow. But that's probably just me being idiosyncratic, or too big a fan of Clausewitz for my own good. But for a few good thoughts on the subject, I will always suggest Earl Weaver's "Weaver on Strategy."

hokie94 (Howard Oh): Kaat just gave us a Jack Morris was the last pitcher to pitch to the scoreboard...blah, blah, blah...BP has refuted that notion haven't they?

Christina Kahrl: BP, Greg Spira, Ted Frank... it's about as worthwhile as Kaat's statements that Jim Corsi was great against lefty hitters. It's a nice comment, totally unsupported by fact.

Tom Gisriel (Baltimore): Why are the various articles in the book unattributed? I, for one, would like to know who wrote the various team and player comments. Do each of the authors know now which teams they will be covering in the 2004 Prospectus?

Christina Kahrl: It's a frequently asked question, so let me try to address it. First, a lot of people end up contributing to a lot of the chapters, especially given the hurly burly of pulling the book together in December and January. So would you rather have a mass of scattered citations and by-lines? Ugh. More importantly, it's a statement of belief. We stand by us. If one of us is willing to write it, we as a group stand by our own, and take collective responsibility for what we do. Except in the back of the book, where really cool work by people like Clay or Keith W. or Rany gets due credit, and where future stuff from Will and Nate will be showing up.

Ronaldo (Menlo Park, CA): Hi, Chris. What do you think of Billy Beane as a GM? Its looking more and more like Beane is really just kind of riding the other talent in his front office, and isn't really walking the walk. His teams really don't walk that much or hit for that much power, and they really are riding the frontline starters to the exclusion of everything else. Add in the TLong, Dye, Mecir, and now Hatteberg contracts, and Beane looks no different from 20 other GMs. Is he really that good, and is he that important to the A's? The hiring of Bryn Alderson was the last straw for me. If there's that kind of nepotism in Oakland, can they really compete in the long term?

Christina Kahrl: The good of sabermetrics has a rich sense of irony in terms of how some things have turned out, but seeing how the A's do compete despite year after year of doomsaying, speaking as an A's fan, I'm not really depressed about the future. Except when it comes to the Hatteberg contract.

As a writer, I guess my problem is that I strive to suppress my native sympathy for Beane and play devil's advocate. How well I do that, you're collectively better judges than I.

Plato (Andriochus): Who's going to be on the cover of BP 2004?

Christina Kahrl: Given how well our cover curse is going, I think our top choices at the moment are Bud Selig and Ben Christensen.

hokie94 (Howard OH): So will Berroa be able to beat Matsui for ROY, I think a nice season by a SS deserves a little bit of props...

Christina Kahrl: I'd like to think so, but the voters seem to have a sweet tooth for certain themes, and the track record of the BBWAA's AL contingent is execrable when it comes to getting the awards to the right people.

Adam (College Park, MD): Two questions. Nick Johnson the next Giambi? Is Giambi's fall this year all attributable to injuries or am I looking at a trend? (I know he still walks but 3 for 56?)

Christina Kahrl: No, Nick Johnson is not, much as I might have wished him to be, and I wouldn't fault Giambi's recent slump to any specific injury as much as I'd just expect him to continue a pretty normal decline phase in his career.

Eric Gales (Amarillo, TX): I hope you're as easy to manipulate into answering questions as Huckabay is... Are the Yankees as vulnerable for the postseason and going forward as they seem? Their rotation doesn't match up against anyone except Seattle, they're old, the bullpen's dicey. Should they be the favorites to win the AL Pennant, and next year, won't Toronto or Boston be nearly as good?

Christina Kahrl: This year, Boston is just about as good, but unfortunately, they have the same problem as the Yankees, in terms of their rotation. But to get back to your question, yes, I think the Yankees are vulnerable. I think this could be a really fun postseason, in that I don't see anybody as unbeatable in a short series. Well, except for the Royals, but they'd have to make it first.

El Angelo (New York, NY): What's your position on MLB going to 40 man rosters come 9/1 after playing 5 months at a normal size? There seems to be some sentiment (at least amongst talking heads) that this should be done away with pronto...agree?

Christina Kahrl: One of the best suggestions Jim Riggleman ever came up with was the idea of setting 25-man game rosters in September, so that at least everybody had the same number of players in-game, and economic factors or the PCL playoffs weren't creating competitive imbalances in September baseball. But then we'd have to count on baseball to administer such a system effectively, and MLB's offices have no track record for effectively administering anything.

Tinker Evers (Chicago): Any chance that the Cubs win the World Series with the worst hitting infield since the '88 Dodgers?

Christina Kahrl: Nothing drives me back to hard liquor faster than the memory of the '88 World Series.

Ryu (Osaka, JAPAN): Hello Chris. Where will Kaz Matsui sign? Thank you.

Christina Kahrl: It's interesting to speculate, but frankly, I have no idea. This winter's offseason moves should be fascinating, both because I think we can expect another market where the smart agents will land their clients quickly, and the bad ones will wonder why their clients aren't getting deals that might have worked five years ago, and end up with the usual rash of mid-January signings that represent cave-ins. So I'd expect to see the big deals done by New Year's, and the Homestead Homies panic signings late. Who winds up in which pile, and who lucks into the first one, makes for some fun hot stove fodder.

William (Dayton, OH): Who's going to end up in the Reds' GM chair? I was told by another BP writer that even though the Reds have a lot of good people in the organization already like Jeff Silver and Brad Kullman, that Lindner might well go to the retread bin. Please tell me he's wrong.

Christina Kahrl: I'm worried, because while the Reds have some great people on board, the same 'logic' that dictated that Barry Larkin and Sean Casey had to be signed on their terms might dictate a similarly ill-considered choice to make tepid headlines by hiring some worn-out time-server. The responsibility for that lays entirely with Carl Lindner, apparently one of the few people who could inspire Marge nostalgia.

Jonathan Adelman (Laramie, WY): When will the Mets hire a GM who doesn't feel like the reincarnation of Al Harazin (i.e. misevaluate the team's talent level and invest resources in free agents when the team really isn't "one guy" away from another title)? Does Paul DePodesta have a shot at the position? Conversely, do you think Mets ownership would seriously consider bringing the dreaded Omar "old school" Minaya back?

Christina Kahrl: Yes, I think they're very interested in Minaya. Similarly, I think they're interested in Gerry Hunsicker. I think we can take it for granted that the Mets will not be hiring an up-and-comer, but if you were one of the up-and-comers, would you want to take the Mets job?

Paul Mocker (Seattle): Will the Mariners try to re-sign Mike Cameron? Will the M's pursue Vlad?

Christina Kahrl: I'm inclined to believe they'll let Cameron walk, because they could then move Randy Winn to center. I can't see them winning the bidding for Vladi, unfortunately, so I wouldn't be surprised if we see a return to the implacable dullitude of the Cowens Era in the offing.

Tom Gisriel (Baltimore): Now that you've put in your normal snide comment about the Orioles, any thoughts on the Beattie/Flanagan regime, or the development of some of the O's young players this year?

Christina Kahrl: I'm favorably impressed, and while I think they now have a tough decision to make as far as who next year's second baseman is, and that they managed to unload Jeff Conine to help unscramble the 1B/DH situation, there's more here to like than in years past.

But as for snide comments, what can I say? I'm just the group hug type.

hokie94 (Howard OH): Since you've had A's and ChiSox q's....how 'bout quick analysis on what JP has done up north...what other than a little more luck finding the replacement level reliever needs to be done?

Christina Kahrl: I can't see much else. They're solid on the player development side, have an incredible handle on how they're managing their money, and beyond trying to fill out the pitching staff and trying to talk some sense into Kelvim Escobar, they're in pretty good shape going forward.

Hoss (Ponderosa, NV): Can you explain Adrian Beltre's career progression? He looks like a guy who lied about his age to make himself look younger, but the opposite may be true. What happened? Are the Dodgers that lame at coaching? Is Jack Clark that awful?

Christina Kahrl: I don't think we can blame coaching, and think unfortunately there are so many factors for causation in play that we can't say much beyond Adrian Beltre is probably the most legitimately disappointing player of the last ten years. He demonstrated he can play, and then he stopped. At least Vada Pinson or Claudell Washington did something useful after early peaks. Beltre's fade may not be historic, but it's depressing.

Jorens (Brooklyn, NY): What do you see the Mets doing in the off-season? There's rumours around here that Foulke would be added. I'm hoping for an outfielder (Beltran?) and a starting pitcher (Millwood?).

Christina Kahrl: I'm sure we can expect them to play the market, and Beltran would be a fine target. Given their investments in pitching in the past, I can't see them diving into another four-year commitment that some of the panic-stricken locals might wish for. The Mets problem is that, while they were never as good as Steve Phillips wished, they're not quite bad enough to make the decision to tear down and rebuild a no-brainer. I think now is the time to do that, but there's next to no chance they can move any of their big contracts.

A few quick questions on the way out?

Mike W (Chicago): It seems the Brewers might have found a couple guys this year, after eons of waiver-bait pickups, cheapo free-agent signings, and NRIs. Helms, Ginter, and Hall, along with Hardy (in '05, probably) and Posednik might cover the defensive positions for a few years. Any chance they lock up Sexson and Gimpy Jenkins, and find some pitchers?

Christina Kahrl: Well, freedom of choice has to play a part. If you were Richie Sexson, would you want to play out your useful days as a Brewer? But yes, I'm looking forward to see J.J. Hardy next year, and maybe Dave Krynzel. Pitching is always hit or miss when you play low-stackes, so I wouldn't be surprised if the Brewers wind up with a few more Matt Kinney-style near-success stories, prompting a terrific run on 75 wins.

Mike Cameron (Seattle, WA): Where do I end up next year?

Christina Kahrl: I could see you being the guy the Mets get after they don't get Beltran. My condolences. : )

Tom Gisriel (Baltimore): Should the O's keep or dump Hargrove?

Christina Kahrl: I'd allow for a parting of the ways. The expectations of both parties are in different places. A player development-oriented manager who can work hand in hand with Beattie and Flanagan would be a good match, and Grover could join Art Howe on the celebrity cash-in managerial circuit.

Terry (Minneapolis): Oakland, NY, Boston, Seattle -- which one stays home?

Christina Kahrl: Seattle

Rudy Schoppe (Itasca, IL): Where is Joe Borchard's career going?

Christina Kahrl: My wild guess? Another organization. After the White Sox win the division, they'll do the nostalgic thing, and duck figuring out whether or not he can handle center by making him somebody else's problem.

Paul DiPodestta (Oakland): Do I take a job this offseason?

Christina Kahrl: Only one to your liking. Career arcs need careful management. : )

Roberto Alomar (Chicago): Are my usefull playing days over?

Christina Kahrl: No. You're still useful, just not great. Life after greatness is something you have to decide if you play with or not.

Shaun Montana (Boston): Hi Chris, If Pujols comes in #2 to Bonds in NL MVP voting, how would Albert fare against the best of the AL (clearly A-Rod)?

Christina Kahrl: He'd win the AL MVP. Or if we did away with leagues, and awarded two MVPs, I'd give one to Bonds, and one to Pujols. Not that I'm advocating anything of the sort.

Seth (San Jose, CA): Hi Chris. Love TA, it's the highlight of my week, which says more about my week than about TA. My question is about Baseball Prospectus. How many people work there total, and how can I become one of them?

Christina Kahrl: Seth, I appreciate the compliment more than you know. In terms of how many of us are there... I used to know, but at this point, between interns, full-time staffers, technical support, various logistical niches, the tremendous talent we've brought on board in the past year, frankly, I can't count everyone off the top of my head. Fortunately, BP has outgrown the days when I was more involved in management, and for that, I thank Dave Pease and Gary Huckabay, among others.

The more important question is how you, or anyone, could contribute, and on that score, the answer's easier. BP is a meritocracy, and as long as you can write or research or crunch numbers of having something of value to say about some aspect of the game, we've always got space for talent. It's why our lineup changes, and it's why we're a better outfit today than when it was just five guys with the simple desire to write the book we all wanted to read.

Christina Kahrl: And on that note, I should run. As always, this has been a ton of fun, and I appreciate the compliments, the questions, the wacky unanswerables, and even the ocassional brickbat. Until the next time, hope all's well with all of you, and enjoy the stretch. -- Chris


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