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Chat: Jim Baker

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday August 26, 2004 7:30 PM ET chat session with Jim Baker.

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Jim Baker is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Jim Baker: Hey all. It's Jim. Let's get rolling.

Silv (NY, NY): Okay, so how much is Beltre going to cost my Dodgers. 4 years at 40, plus a 5th year option at 12.5 get it done?

Jim Baker: Silv, it's nice of you to worry about Mr. McCourt's pocketbook. I think some of your answer depends on how the Dodgers finish. If they win it all, they might get a little silly with the money. Probably not though, as DePodesta comes from a program that let bigger names than Beltre walk.

Justin Singer (Hollywood, FL): Jim, A few years back, I was on your daily email list, and at one point you asked if anyone wanted to join in on a "Manhattan Project"-type idea to try to win at baseball gambling. Since you apparently have some attitude towards gambling, plus a prospectus minded world view on baseball, I thought about you when wondering whether to make the following bet. On my gambling website, Barry Bonds is currently +250 to win the NL MVP. Thats a nifty $250 return for every $100 wagered. While in our world Bonds is clearly the MVP, in the lesser minded world it is not a sure thing. Any thoughts on this line?

Jim Baker: Hi Justin. Thanks for reading back then! I think that Manhattan Project idea was actually the brainchild of a fellow named Jeff Fogle. Jeff knows A LOT more about gambling than do I. As for the Bonds bet, I think any voter that doesn't give him the nod is trying to outsmart themselves. By that I mean, they want to try to appear more that they are more clever than the process needs to be. He's the best player by any measure. Just vote for him! I do think he'll win.

lentzner (San Jose): How crazy are the Yankees to play A-Rod at third and Jeter at short? Should've been the other way around I think. How many wins has this cost them (I guess they can spare them this year)? (Sorry, if this topic has been flogged already - I'm a new member)

Jim Baker: I wrote about this in the preseason and guessed it would probably cost them about a game. I think I also wrote it wouldn't really matter in the end because they were going to score a ton of runs. I think if defense really mattered to the Yankees, they wouldn't do some of the things they do. Let's give Brian Cashman credit for realizing that offense gets to drive and defense has to sit in the rumble seat.

Greg Pizzo (China, Maine): Jim - the last time you chatted I asked if you knew Scribbly Tate and then the chat died. What's up with that? And do you know Scribbly? He seems very much like you.

Jim Baker: Greg. Is it China or is it Maine? You can't have it both ways! Sorry about that chat dying, by the way. For some reason, my home computer can't handle the BP Chat set-up. Anyway, I only know Scribbly through Rob Neyer on whose site he has been appearing. I know he has an incredible capacity for alcohol for someone his age.

Will, aka RCS (Fredericton, NB): Whom would you consider to be the absolute best managerial candidate for the Blue Jays?

Jim Baker: How about Davey Johnson? More realistically, Larry Dierker would be a nice fit, don't you think?

lonborgs skis (Seattle, WA): As a baseball non-participant who has done enough watching to gauge such things, how would you rank the managers of the four 1969 expansion teams? Also, are you willing to talk on-the-record about your days in an all-girl band playing Beatle covers?

Jim Baker: First of all, Longborg's skis were not at fault. Neither were Sonny Bono's. I once heard a conspiracy theorist postulate (well, it was a little more definite in his mind than a mere postulation) that Sonny Bono was killed by "them." It was, to his mind, a cabal of people who didn't like the interest he took in the POW/MIA thing. Anyway, he described his "murder" as two big thugs skiing up along either side of him and then running him into a tree. And they ask me why I don't ski. As for the '69 managers, you have to like the job Joe Gordon did with the Royals, taking them to fourth, but Joe "Pound Them Budweisers" Schultz is now immortal because he's one of the stars of Ball Four.

Justin (Los Angeles): Pedro, like Nomar, are icons in Boston. I really can not imagine him pitching anywhere else. Here is the question. How much do you think he is worth? What do you think Theo and company will do with his situation? Where is he pitching next year? Thanks!

Jim Baker: I can now imagine just about anyone wearing any uniform. Now that Nomar is a Cub, everybody else should have that ability,too. I think Martinez is worth a lot less than he and his agent do and probably so do 29 other teams in the major leagues. A free copy of my autobiography, "Gee, Baseball sure is Swell," to anyone who can name the team that agrees with his Pedro and his agent.

Adam J. Morris (Houston, Texas): The Rangers' success this year has masked the fact that Alfonso Soriano's 2004 season has been a disappointment -- basically a mirror of his 2001 season, and a significant step down from his 2002-2003 seasons. So is he Juan Samuel or Carlos Baerga, an offensive second baseman who burns brightly then flames out quickly? Or is this an aberration, with Soriano going back to putting up an EQA around .300 again over the next few seasons?

Jim Baker: His drop has been pretty interesting considering he moved to a more friendly hitting environment. Relative to the other players at his position, though, he's still holding his own. He's second among AL 2b-ers in VORP and I would bet he probably ends up moving past Ron Belliard by the time it's all said and done. That would put him behind only one man at second, the unbelievable Mark Loretta. I think he has more 2002-03-type years in him.

GBSimons (Seymour, IN): Jim, interesting postulation recently on Derek Jeter's legacy had he been drafted by the Astros instead of the Yankees. Any other similar situations come to mind that intrigue you? (Drew as a Phillie, perhaps?) Or future situations you will follow in the same manner? (Jered Weaver as a Padre, maybe?)

Jim Baker: Thanks. He is referring to a recent item I wrote in the Prospectus Matchups regarding how close Derek Jeter came to being an Astro and how differently he would be perceived now. What is so intriguing about that situation is that the difference between being a Yankee and being on any other team is so great. While some of the other scenarios you throw out are very interesting from a purely baseball standpoint, I don't think we can safely say that J.D. Drew as a career Phillie would be perceived any differently. Jeter's entire trajectory in the universe was changed when the Astros passed him over for Phil Nevin. The other most famous passover like this is when the Mets took Steve Chillicotte (sp?) instead of Reggie Jackson with the first pick of the 1966 draft. Of course, knowing the Mets in the late '60s, they probably would have traded him for Joel Horlen or somebody like that.

Will, aka RCS (Fredericton, NB): On a scale of one to ten, with one being "I agree with it" and ten being "I peel my own skin off even letting the thought cross my own mind," how would you react to anyone other than Barry Bonds winning the NL MVP this year: a) 9.45 b) 9.96 c) 9.97?

Jim Baker: 10.05

I know it's not very clever and it takes no particular insight, but he's it. If the MVP contest were a horse race, Bonds would be about 25 lengths ahead. If it were a Super Bowl Game, it would be the one where Don Beebe knocked the ball out of Leon Lett's hands while he showboated on the goal line. If it were a -- OK, I'm a little short on analogies right now, but you see my point. I swear, some writers are going to vote for somebody else just to get a column out of it: "Why I am Not Voting For Bonds." They shouldn't get to vote anymore, though, because one simply cannot justify a vote for anybody else on any grounds having to do with an objective take on reality.

8ball (Houston): Ben Sheets -- is just this a career year, or has he finally turned the corner and become the pitcher everyone thought he'd be?

Jim Baker: Man, that 8 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio has got to make you think he has turned a big corner. I wonder if he's going to win just 11 games again. He's done it three years in a row and is currently 9-11. I don't really care about won-loss records and neither should you, but wouldn't it be ironic if makes all these personal improvements in his game and then goes 11-14.

marlette (reno): but if the yankees were in the NL, Jeets would win going away, right?

Jim Baker: Nice Marlette! I like it when a question ties in two previous questions. What is interesting about Jeter is that the year he probably should have won the award, he came in sixth. Bill James has shown that there is no real New York bias at awards time and Jeter is a pretty good example of this. The real Jeter Mystique (patent pending) kicks in the day after the season ends.

aaron (albany): what do you think the mets should do about mike piazza? He's a dh and his fielding and health has taken a Mo Vaughnesque turn these past few years. Are there any american league teams that could use him, or would even be interested in him? (angels? red sox? yankees? orioles?)

Jim Baker: I think the time has come to trade him to an American League team where he can milk a few more years as a designated hitter. There are a lot of roadblocks to a transaction of that order, but an aging Piazza is just the sort of player the DH was invented to serve: an aging slugger who can't spend much time in the field anymore. When you look at the collection of DHs in 2004, there aren't a whole lot of teams getting much out of the position.

Which leads us to a more general Mets question...

jim (jimsville): jim, what are the most obvious things the mets can do to drastically improve next season?

Jim Baker: Stop making stupid-ass trades. I am still reeling from the the Kris Benson/Victor Zambrano deals and I trust the rest of the Mets diaspora is, too. Benson simply isn't that good and is a free-agent-to-be to boot. As for getting rid of Scott Kazmir, I don't care if Rick Peterson found out his arm was made of flesh-colored styrofoam -- the fact is, he had hype going for him and you would have to think that kind of hype would have landed New York something better than Zambrano, Victor. OK, so you don't like his mechanics -- don't announced it to the world, trade him for an A-List guy.

If these trades are the way of the future, then the most obvious thing they can do is fire Jim Duquette.

Mark (Maryland): Do you have Ned Yost's home phone number? He's doing that "conventional wisdom" thing - sitting Russ Branyan against lefties, even though the lefty-swinging slugger has pulverized southpaws for his career (.937 OPS) vs. merely holding his own against his own kind (.752). Admittedly it's a modest sample (144 and 725 ABs), but the waste is hard to sit and watch. I'm in this tight rotisserie race, see, and... anyways, could you just make him stop? Thanks.

Jim Baker: Don't you hate when real managers don't take into account the needs of your fantasy and roto teams? They need to consider their core constituency every time they do something and that core are the fantasy and roto players of the world. Ned, if you ever read this, there's a fellow in Maryland named Mark who needs you to take a look at Russ Branyan's career numbers against lefthanders.

briangrabowski (bay area): Now that its the end of August and the Giants lead the NL in runs, will teams actually question their strategy to walk Bonds? Clearly the strategy is failing in the aggregate!

Jim Baker: Isn't it amazing? The Giants are actually second in runs scored to the Cardinals, but still, playing where they play, it's a heckuva deal. What will be interesting to see is how teams that are light years from contention will handle Bonds in September -- especially if they've put a lot of call-ups on the field. If they're using call-ups they're already conceding something, so not letting Bonds hit against them would be an interesting counterpoint to that, don't you think? If you're already saying, "we don't care enough about this game to play our regulars" how can you also say "we care enough about this game to get into all kinds of complicated strategy like pitching around Bonds." If you're using a game as a tryout camp, then shouldn't you let the best hitter in the game get his hacks in?

I don't think I answered your question. If a team thought it was a good idea to walk Bonds in 2003 and for most of 2004, I don't think they're going to question that strategy now. In other words, if they ignore the chart BP put in Sports Illustrated earlier this summer, they're not going to begin listening to reason now, are they?

bsablan (Los Angeles): OK, DePodesta is smart. He also came from the A's who don't exactly put a lot of dolllars in the closer position. If the best time to trade a player is when his perceived value is much higher than actual value, shouldn't the Dodgers look to trade him this off-season? Or is he so good (and such a huge fan favorite) that you probably still couldn't get enough?

Jim Baker: I think you pretty much answer your own question in the last sentence. There are some deals that make perfect sense intellectually, statistically and all the other allys upon which we rely so much. This is where real world skills come into play though and why most of folks would fail as GMs regardless of how many Roto titles they've snared in the last 12 years. There are some things you just can't do and this is one of them.

Jim Baker: OK. I have to stop now. I have a column due tonight and BP is pretty strict about deadlines. About two hours from now, a couple of BP toughs will come to my door and I had better be done or punishment is sure to follow. This has been fun and I thank you for all the questions. Apologies to those who didn't get to see theirs answered. Good night.


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