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Chat: Matt Swartz

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday March 23, 2010 4:30 PM ET chat session with Matt Swartz.

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It's important to get ahead in the count, so who better to do it with than BP's Matt Swartz?

Matt Swartz: Hi Everyone! I'm looking forward to chatting today. Less than two weeks from opening day-- I couldn't be more excited for this season! Let's get started.

Akneeland (Arizona): What are your thoughts on Mauer's deal? Should Twins fans be worried about that flat $23M/year sum, or be thankful that there isn't a back-loaded contract to bog down the 2018 team?

Matt Swartz: I think the fact the Twins chose to sign him is a great sign for Twins fans. The ultimate determinant of how good this deal is will be how long Mauer can stay behind the plate. He's worth about $10MM more (about) as a C than a 1B or DH, so the value of this deal is largely tied to how long he'll catch. A few weeks ago, I wrote an article showing how much better players re-signed by their old teams age than players who sign with new teams. As analysts, we don't have up close looks at Mauer's knees and back and everything else, so we don't know what they see every day. The fact that the Twins thought that he was worth more than his market value is a great sign for them. I think it'll work out well.

rinaldi19 (AZ): Who has better production in 2010...Laporta or Snider?

Matt Swartz: Wow, talk about two really comparable players. Their PECOTA projections are pretty darn similar. I would say Snider is younger, so maybe he has the best chance to break out and make me look bad if I say Laporta, so I'll say Snider. But it's really a toss-up from where I sit.

Matt (Chicago ): Do you see Gorzelanny being a solid to above- average starter for the Cubs this year? I found some promise in his peripherals last year, particularly K/9, and he retains pretty good "stuff" for a lefty.

Matt Swartz: Gorzelanny could easily be an above average pitcher this year. His SIERA went from 5.6 to 3.6. Even though the sample size is smaller, he was throwing a couple miles an hour faster after the ugly injured 2008 campaign, missing more bats, and striking more hitters out as a result. If he's healthy, I'd definitely bet on an above average season.

William (Mobile, AL): Should teams question their scouts when they ignore a talent like Stephen Strasburg in high school ? It boogles my mind that he didn'thave any plus pitches in high school.

Matt Swartz: I think teams should always question their scouts just like they should question all information, but some people just break out later. I would guess Strasburg just broke out later than other pitchers. There is no surefire scouting method that always works.

matt (hartford, ct): sign or the times or successful testing program? this is the first year i can remember that people are talking about who came into camp looking thinner rather than larger. is steroid testing working or are players spending more time watching their nutrition and health?

Matt Swartz: Who knows? I'm sure there's a bit of both. Players are realizing nutrition is important, and I'm sure fewer guys are taking steroids too. It could just be the reporting in Spring Training is extra focused on players slimming down too. People take rumors that so-and-so bulked up in the offseason as an accusation nowadays, so maybe reporters just want to report on how lean guys are instead.

Matt (California): I'm in a 10 team, 5x5 mixed league roto, no keepers. I currently have Colby Rasmus, Austin Jackson, and Chris Young on my team as possibles for my 5th outfield spot. Steals are my weakest point offensively (project to finish in the bottom 3), so I'm also looking at Lastings Milledge and Scott Podsednik on the waiver wire. Who should I be starting to begin the season, and should I drop one of my OFs to pick up Milledge or Podsednik?

Matt Swartz: I'm not a fantasy baseball player actually, so it's tough to answer a question like this. I'll comment on the players rather than on their fantasy value. I will point out, though, that the question is not whether you are in bottom three in steals, but where the MARGINAL gains are. Are you particularly close to the 4th and 5th worst? Or are you in better striking distance of the better HR teams? As for Rasmus, I'm pretty bullish on his BABIP. He hits the ball hard and well. I'll have that up later this week. Similarly, I'm down on Chris Young's BABIP. I'm not sure he'll match his PECOTA projection unless he stops popping up so much. Milledge is always a question mark, and may not start. I see Podsednik being more likely to keep getting chances to steal. If Milledge stinks, the Pirates might not play him.

Dan (Bklyn): Maybe this is less applicable to you as a newer member of the BP staff, but does it annoy you when people come to your work, or the site in general, and only care about the import of your research for their fantasy teams?

Matt Swartz: Not really. I mean, I always love to talk real baseball and real statistics. I find a discussion on the value of pitching metrics to real team construction far more interesting than the value of pitching metrics to fantasy team construction, but I put it out there for all to read. Everyone can do with the information what they want. If SIERA or E-BABIP helps someone win their fantasy baseball league, that's awesome to me actually.

Jquinton82 (NY): Ike Davis is way better than Daniel Murphy... why are the Mets burring this guy? I know he needs more time at Triple A... but it can't be any worse than Murphy and .133 avg so far.

Matt Swartz: I really wouldn't read into Spring Training stats much at all. I'd look only at power numbers if anything for hitters, and maybe K/BB for pitchers. There's too much noise there. Here's the thing about calling up Ike Davis-- do you think he'll be better in 2016 or 2010? Because the Mets get him for six years without needing to pay the market price of his talent. They can pick the six years as 2010-2015 or 2011-2016. Are the Mets going to be more competitive in 2016? Maybe that's another reason.

John (NJ): Assuming we are betting gummy bears and soda pops, any preseason lines you particularly like/find interesting?

Matt Swartz: I'm an economist-- don't you know I assume all market prices incorporate all available information??? In all seriousness, I don't see how the Yankees are like 5-10 times as likely as the Rays to win the World Series. PECOTA has the Rays ahead of the Yankees but a small margin. They seem really comparable to me. I also think the Twins and Cards are going to probably have easier times in their division than a lot of models are even saying, so I would say I'm bullish on those teams. Not condoning any kind of gambling, and I don't bet on the games. I'm just saying I have trouble seeing where the lines are coming from at this time. They may have extra info I don't. I think as an economist, I should assume they do :-)

Jquinton82 (NY): Touche salesman.... touche

Matt Swartz: Haha. Thanks. Of course, I'm a Phillies fan, so I'm more than happy to see the Mets burn resources if they had a mind to. Maybe I shouldn't have said that..

Jasper the cat (Birdwatching): Wither Trevor Cahill and Fausto Carmona? Will they be effective pitchers this season?

Matt Swartz: I mean, both have trouble getting Ks, and neither has great control. Carmona has better ground ball skill, and SIERA showed us that extra ground ball skill beyond just being slightly above average has an accelerating effect on preventing runs. So, I guess Carmona might be a better bet. Neither seem particularly good at missing bats, though, and that's the most persistent pitcher skill.

Ed (Cranford, N.J.): Hi Matt What are the chances of Matt Capps and Octavio Dotel remaining as closers all year and how do you think they will do? Thanks

Matt Swartz: I never can guess when people are going to start and stop being closers. Both seem reasonably likely to keep their jobs, I guess? I wonder why Pittsburgh wouldn't want to keep Matt Capps under team control. That could be a bad sign.

Guillermo (Montevideo): Hi Matt, Iīve been thoroughly enjoying your work ever since the Idol Contest. Care to give an opinion as to what do the Yankees do with Mo and Jeter next winter?

Matt Swartz: Thanks! I'm glad you've enjoyed my work. I've had a great time writing here for real :-) This is another example of a question that the teams need to look at the players' medical situations in detail and decide how well they think they'll age. A blanket comment about how shortstops age isn't going to provide anywhere near as much information as Jeter's actual day-to-day bumps and bruises, etc. I would think that the Yankees are in a tough division and need these guys as much as anyone, so certainly they should sign them if they seem healthy to them.

Jquinton82 (NY): Mark, being an economist, what happens to baseball in dollar collapse/ hyper-inflation period?....obiviously if that happens we'll be worrying about other things, but just curious what kind of impact that would have.

Matt Swartz: I'm really skeptical of any kind of hyper-inflation. For all the insults thrown at Bernanke and the Fed, America is just really good at maintaining stable prices. That said, I LOVE hypotheticals, so here goes...A sudden hyper-inflation would mean that prices are skyrocketing. Labor contracts are fixed further in advance than ticket prices. When this happens, the contracts become relatively more valuable to teams holding onto them. Free agent salaries become particularly costly, but teams have the revenue to pay them. At the same time, teams will scurry to trade guys on good contracts on bad teams now to competitive teams, because those teams will not have liquidity issues and will have very high marginal values for wins. I think it would be interesting to see if this actually happened (though probably not worth the economic suffering overall) but my suspicion is that good teams would get very good and bad teams would stockpile tons of talent.

Jquinton82 (NY): Mark, being an economist, what happens to baseball in dollar collapse/ hyper-inflation period?....obiviously if that happens we'll be worrying about other things, but just curious what kind of impact that would have.

Matt Swartz: I'm really skeptical of any kind of hyper-inflation. For all the insults thrown at Bernanke and the Fed, America is just really good at maintaining stable prices. That said, I LOVE hypotheticals, so here goes...A sudden hyper-inflation would mean that prices are skyrocketing. Labor contracts are fixed further in advance than ticket prices. When this happens, the contracts become relatively more valuable to teams holding onto them. Free agent salaries become particularly costly, but teams have the revenue to pay them. At the same time, teams will scurry to trade guys on good contracts on bad teams now to competitive teams, because those teams will not have liquidity issues and will have very high marginal values for wins. I think it would be interesting to see if this actually happened (though probably not worth the economic suffering overall) but my suspicion is that good teams would get very good and bad teams would stockpile tons of talent. (P.S. It's Matt, not Mark :-))

braden23 (madison wi): Matt, What do you feel the Brewers should do we Suppan?

Matt Swartz: Sunk cost, no? You have to pay him, but you don't have to play him. If he looks terrible, just don't waste win opportunities on him.

Guillermo (Montevideo): There is much speculation regarding where will Carl Crawford sign next season, but I donīt see him as a "Great" player that should command a huge contract. Am I missing on something or is he overhyped?

Matt Swartz: I think you might be. His UZR the last couple years has been 19.1 and 17.6-- that's nearly two wins above average. He's also been about 4 runs above average according to EqBRR (baserunning) too. We're talking about the type of player who would have gotten overrated in the 80s and 90s, underrated in the early days of sabermetrics, and is now started to be valued correctly. I'd bet he makes a killing next year, and I'd bet it's worth it.

Akneeland (Over the Rainbow): How concerned are you about the Twins' closer situation? I think a closer-by-committee solution would be fine, but do you foresee a trade for someone like Heath Bell? Is that the best thing the Twins could do?

Matt Swartz: The Twins are probably the best team in a weak, tight AL Central. Any team could make a move there and really step forward. The Twins have a clear opening to get better. If the Padres would part with Heath Bell, I'm sure he's probably worth it to the Twins. They can take the division if they stay on top of their game. It's a great chance before one of the other teams gets better and is harder to stay in front of.

tommybones (brooklyn): Twins hold a one run lead going into the bottom of the 9th, the bullpen gate opens and out trots _________ .

Matt Swartz: Maybe Heath Bell based on how I answered the last question! Otherwise, it could be any of those guys or it could be by committee. Tough for me to speculate.

Guillermo (Montevideo): Stop the presses!! Jeff Francoeur got two BBs!! In the SAME GAME!!!!

Matt Swartz: Meh. Pedro Feliz got four walks in a game last year. I wouldn't bet on either doing it again any time soon.

Guillermo (Montevideo): Matt, for all the hype Jack Zduriencik got this winter, it seems as if things arenīt going so smoothly in Spring Training for the mariners: Milton Bradley getting into trouble, Cliff Lee having some health issues... how do you think all that will work out? How do you see them in that division?

Matt Swartz: Every team has their problems. I think Jack Z is a great GM. Of course, no GM deserves to be treated like he can do no wrong. Otherwise, we end up with people shouting that sabermetrics is stupid because Billy Beane can't win. Every GM has strengths as weaknesses. Overall, that really looks like a great division. Four teams, any of one them could win it. I'd probably bet on the Mariners if I had to guess, but maybe the Rangers are the better bet. I also have no idea why the Angels beat their Pythagorean Record so handily in recent years. Maybe they shouldn't be counted out either. The A's could take it, too, of course. As far as Cliff Lee himself, I'm not sure I'd give up on him with a small injury. I could his low trade value being a symptom of health questions, but I'd still bet he gets 30 starts if I had to guess.

Jquinton82 (NY): So.... sounds like another Marlins would be brewing lol

Matt Swartz: Probably a lot of Marlins. Even richer teams would want to trade players away in your scenario. The Mets would probably see a lot of value in getting rid of talent for later too, just because some of those contracts could be so valuable. Hyperinflation would basically spread the difference between the value of good players to good teams vs. the value of good players to bad teams, so you'd see more trading.

Guillermo (Montevideo): Ok, but if his value depends on baserunning and defense, would it be wise to give him a long multi-year contract? Heīll be turning 30 next year, Iīd assume his speed would start falling anytime now.

Matt Swartz: He's clearly got multiple skills. I've read that players with multiple tools age better than those with one tool. Of course, speed is the first skill to go, but he still seems multi-talented enough to age well. I would also guess that a lot of good defense comes from good reads on fly balls. It's not just good speed to get there.

jschmeagol (hyattsville, md): Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth?

Matt Swartz: I guess you have to go with Crawford. Werth is particularly valuable to the Phillies because he's right-handed in a park that's got a lopsided HR park factor towards easy LF homers, but he's not the defender Crawford is. Werth also apparently got a lot of just-enough HR according to Greg the Hit-Tracker guy, and that's apparently indicative that he'll regress a little HR wise. Both are still great players and all-star talent.

mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): Any idea how Target Field will play?

Matt Swartz: No clue. I just warn people not to jump to conclusions the first few games. Park factors take a while to stabilize.

kcboomer (kc): Are so few guys involved in this chat that one guy gets four questions??

Matt Swartz: I'm trying to answer them as they come in. But now you're here at least :-)

Riley the cat, Jasper's brother (kinda dozing....): Does Drew Sutton get 250 ABs this season?

Matt Swartz: I'll say no. We have him at 74 PA in PECOTA, that seems like a good guess to me.

Guillermo (Montevideo): bah, 4 questions answered... it is just small sample size. I bet it has nothing to do with my QAA (questions answered average) which probably doesnīt crack the low 1s.. Then again, I donīt have the data.

Matt Swartz: Haha, well, your first question started with a compliment, so I'm more than happy to answer whatever random questions. I don't have the QAA numbers, though. :-)

kprince (Boston): Have a prediction/recommendation for #5 starter in the Bronx?

Matt Swartz: I guess Hughes. It would sure be nice for the Yankees if they could get either Chamberlain or Hughes into their rotation at some point. Andy Pettitte's not going to be around to sign one year deals forever, you know? I guess having both in the pen, where they've been so successful, would be good, but Hughes is certainly talented enough to deserve at shot at starting for a little while. They'll probably need someone to pitch in the playoffs if one of those top four goes down unless Sabathia just pitches every game.

mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): Ianetta gets 500 ABs this season, right?

Matt Swartz: I don't think you're supposed to ever assume any catcher gets 500 AB, maybe not even 500 PA.

Mike (Utica,NY): Who do you like out of Rasmus, McCutchen, and Fowler long term and this year. Do you see these three appearing in multiple all star games.

Matt Swartz: Tough to say. E-BABIP is bullish on Rasmus, bearish on Fowler, and slightly bullish on McCutchen. I'm not sure I could say much about long term.

Matt Swartz: Thanks for a great chat, everyone! I'm looking forward to doing it again soon.


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