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Chat: Joe Sheehan

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday March 25, 2010 2:00 PM ET chat session with Joe Sheehan.

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BP founding fiver Joe Sheehan pops in for a chat about what he's working on, the season to come, and more. Joe's chat has been moved to 2 p.m. ET.

Joe Sheehan: Now, on a very special BP chat...

GBSimons (TBD): Joe, it's great to see you around these parts again. How goes the book?

Joe Sheehan: Stalled a bit, as March provides any number of distractions from the project. As I wrote the other day, I'm still trying to figure out what it is. I have a file with links and notes, and I keep adding to it, and I've been spending a lot of time talking out ideas.

At some point I need to start carrying a recorder, because I find myself writing in my head when I'm walking to get coffee, riding the subway, talking with friends. This isn't new--it's my process--but it seems more frustrating to me to lose these snippets for the book.

In any case, I'm excited, and looking forward to the writing once I can nail down a structure. Indecision is the key to flexibility.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): Joe, thanks for chatting. Have you considered telling your story as it relates to BP? The idea, execution, economics of both the site and you, personally? Might not fit with your current project, but would definitely be good reading.

Joe Sheehan: I'd like to have that be part of the book, some element of the history of the company and my role, without necessarily writing all of it. I don't know that I'd get bogged down in the details, but there's probably going to be a little memoir in the book.

Not to put it on him, but I'd love for Gary Huckabay to someday write a BP history. He and Clay are the true founders; he's a fantastic, engaging writer; and he probably has the best combination of baseball chops and business chops of anyone who's ever been in the room.

Fred (Houston): Hey Joe, Care to share some of "your guys" for this season?

Joe Sheehan: I've been including some of these in the pieces I've been writing for Rotowire, but off the top of my head...Trevor Cahill, Drew Stubbs, Alfredo Aceves, Rickie Weeks, Dexter Fowler, Chris Outfielder Young. Ruben Gotay if finds his way to the majors.

Will (Mactaquac): Am I living in the past, but I miss the old days of BP. I like the new guys, I do, and I buy the books (and will buy yours on release day), but I miss arguing about Sprague's defence with Niguma and the like.

Joe Sheehan: Seems more like you miss r.s.b. I do as well. I know there are many fora out there for baseball discussions, and maybe this is just fogeyism, but I'm not sure there's even been anything like r.s.b in the 1990-1995 era. High-caliber baseball discussions with little tolerance for puffery.

My ISP doesn't even provide newsgroups any longer.

goiter6 (MN): Any commentary on the Mets proposed plan to take Jenrry Mejia North as a reliever to start the year.

Joe Sheehan: I'm on the fence. Using a top pitching prospect as a reliever is an excellent idea, and the Mets could benefit from having another bat-missing righty in the late innings. On the other hand, Mejia struggled a bit at Double-A last year, not a sign that he's ready to make the leap. I'd probably send him to Triple-A and make him show something there, but I don't think it's an indefensible decision.

Paul (DC): No AO for Cuse today (and for ... more?). Probably not that big a deal tonight against Butler's smallish lineup. If AO is out the rest of the tournament, how much does this reduce the Orange's chances of winning it all.

Joe Sheehan: Credit Jim Boeheim for his work in making it look like Onuaku would be available for the tournament, which may have saved Syracuse's one-seed. I thought Gonzaga could do some damage against what amounts to a six-man team, but when Rick Jackson went to the bench with three fouls Sunday, the 'Cuse ripped off a game-winning 25-7 (from memory) run.

Butler lives by getting to the line. They haven't shot threes well this year (although they have players who have done so before), so they aren't that great a matchup for the zone. I think they'll keep it close and lose by a couple of possessions.

I'd be much more concerned about beating Kansas State, which just wears you out with pressure and physicality, has guards that can both penetrate and shoot, and abuses the boards. The lack of Onuaku would be felt in that matchup, assuming both win.

kprince (Boston): Yanks make the right choice with Hughes over Chamberlain?

Joe Sheehan: I don't think it's permanent, just the state in which they'll open the year. Hughes isn't going to be allowed to jump to 32 starts and 180 innings, so something will change. I suspect, however, that it will be Aceves, rather than Chamberlain, getting the starts. Someone else asked if this was the "nail in the coffin" for Chamberlain as a starter, and I'm beginning to think so. He will likely succeed as a reliever and seal the perception that it's how he should be used.

Rob (Alaska): Welcome back, Joe! With the obvious caveat that spring training stats are largely meaningless, have any performances jumped out at you as meaningful (for better or worse)?

Joe Sheehan: No. I cannot emphasize enough how useless spring training stats are. Individual statistics are valid measures of performance because they're achieved in the process of trying to win baseball games against major-league teams. In March, no one cares about wins and losses--no, they don't--and players are very often competing against non-major-leaguers.

Please, please, please don't use spring training statistics for anything. Small sample + meaningless games + widely variable competition = useless.

This is my way of saying that I know very little about how any players are performing in spring training, and what I do know is largely because it's been reported, not because I'm looking at the stats.

dianagramr (NYC): Hi Joe ... nice to have you back for a bit. Roundball question: Does Cornell have a chance tonight?

Joe Sheehan: Everybody has a chance. UNI over Kansas happened. This would be around that level of upset. Cornell needs to have another ridiculous shooting night, because they will not stop Kentucky's front line. Temple and Wisconsin combined don't bring the kind of offensive skill that the Wildcats do.

Most upsets happen when possessions and points are minimized. Cornell needs to win 84-82 or something in a 74-possession game. It could definitely happen, and I'd give them maybe a 1-in-4 shot.

Winston (Flin Flon): Fun parlor game (except for us Jays fans): wprst projected opening day starter, non-injury replacement division?

Joe Sheehan: I ran through the Padres, Orioles and Indians, but I have to think whoever gets the ball for the Nats is going to take this.

Frank (Vegas): Joe Although I have bought in to the Pirates rebuild approach, it is not making it any easier with their state of play to-date. Am I better off hitting the snooze button until 2011/12, or are there positives in 2010 that I need to focus on. Pls help!

Joe Sheehan: Andrew McCutchen is an awfully watchable player. There are a lot of guys pretty much at make-or-break points in their careers...Clement, LaRoche, Cedeno, Milledge...those will be interesting to watch.

formersd (San Diego): What's the objective for the Padres this year? My thinking is that it's sorting through the pitching prospects.

Joe Sheehan: Turn Heath Bell and Adrian Gonzalez into 80 WARP from 2012-2016.

Geer (Bimringham, AL): Speaking of the value of spring stats, surely something positive can be read into Heyward walking so much this spring, no?

Joe Sheehan: No. Who is he facing? What are their goals for the day? Only in rare cases are you facing major-league pitchers trying to beat the other team, and once that's gone, the stats disconnect from the game being played.

On any given day in March, some vast majority of pitchers are going to the mound working on something. You only hear about this when they get hammered.

Tim (Tampa): Joe, nice to have you back. Two questions: Are you with me in saying that expanding the tournament to 96 teams would be absolutely ridiculous? Also, should MLB seriously consider realignment as been discussed recently? Thanks.

Joe Sheehan: Yes. Brackets drive the popularity for the casual fan, and casual fans aren't filling out 96-team brackets on one day's notice. It would be a disaster.

No. There might be some good ways to restructure the teams, but the last really good idea came in 1992, and trying to make it happen cost Fay Vincent his job. You can't overcome self-interest in any way that's going to improve the product, and the solutions you can achieve will just make things worse.

Don't believe me? An unbalanced schedule with interleague play combined with a wild card in each league is intellectually bankrupt, yet we've had it for a decade. And many, many people think that was progress.

David (IL): Who wins the NL Cy Young this year: Lincecum, Halladay, or the field?

Joe Sheehan: I'll say the field. I still don't trust the voting pool to not land on a 23-6, 3.18 guy who's the sixth-best pitcher in the league but the only one above 20 wins.

Steve A (Detroit): Hello Joe! My friend and I have a friendly wager each year as to whether or not our selected team will finish above/below .500. We like to pick a team that we feel will be near the .500 line all year to ensure maximum excitement. Do you have any suggestions for our team this year? Thanks!

Joe Sheehan: The Twins jump immediately to mind. The Mariners. The Giants. Hell, maybe a dozen teams will be without three games of .500 with a couple of weeks left.

Joe (Pa): Which Pirates pitcher will have the strongest season?

Joe Sheehan: I'll be curious to see if Ross Ohlendorf's strong finish was real. I think he's the one member of the group with < 3.50 upside.

bigrick0016 (Cleveland): Evan Turner: Great Player? Or Greatest player?

Joe Sheehan: Turnovers keep him from making the leap.

Bill (New Mexico): "On any given day in March, some vast majority of pitchers are going to the mound working on something." Right, got that, but is the same true of hitters? In other words, if some pitcher looks really GOOD in the spring, how much of that is attributable to the hitters "working on something" rather than to the possibility that the guy on the mound has discovered something and turned nasty? (Add me to the "great to have you back" crowd.)

Joe Sheehan: I elected to not type out the converse, but it is also true.

Statistics are only meaningful when generated in the process of trying to win baseball games. That's the most concise way I can put this.

Will Bailey (Washington): With second basemen tending to hit that early cliff, do you think Chase Utley is the player we've come to expect this season?

Joe Sheehan: Yes. Late starter, very adept around the bag. He's more Jeff Kent than anything else, and he'll be good for a long time.

Desert Fox (Phoenix): How do you think Kelly Johnson will do as the 2B for the D-Backs this year?

Joe Sheehan: Not as good as Ruben Gotay would have. Johnson's a capable player, essentially average when healthy. Better him than Augie Ojeda. He has limited upside.

tommybones (brooklyn): Speaking of Strasburg, your thoughts? Now that I assume you've seen him pitch?

Joe Sheehan: Nothing's happened this month to change my opinion. He's a highly-skilled pitcher who did not face the highest level of competition in college, and therefore is making a bigger jump than other collegiate prospects. I suspect he's slightly overrated because of this.

dangor (New York): Fantasy Baseball: Who among the top 30 or so picks will end up being the biggest bust this year (relative to where they are chosen) ??

Joe Sheehan: I just pulled up mockdraftcentral.com's ADP to answer this. I'll go with Mark Reynolds, who can't possibly sustain his performance on contact or fluke SB total.

Man, I am so unprepared for AL Tout tomorrow.

Ron (Jersey City): Everyone's talking about St. Mary's, Cornell and Northern Iowa, but isn't the high seed with the best chance to make the Final Four Washington?

Joe Sheehan: I think it's UNI, which plays the weakest opponent in the regional semis. UW is playing very well, but the WVU matchup doesn't play out well for them. The game will be decided on the glass.

Lightning round.

Wendy (Madrid): So you left BP, but you're still here? Make up your mind already...

Joe Sheehan: Charming.

I no longer write a column about baseball for BP. I do have an agreement with them to write a book, which they will publish later this year. As part of that contract, I will maintain a blog about the book and do a handful of chats to promote the book.

I hope this clears up the matter for you, Wendy. I know you're concerned.

P Bu (St. Louis): What do you mean by "intellectually bankrupt" as it applies to the Wild Card? I agree that interleague play combined with the unbalanced schedule produces a range of strengths of schedules to some teams' benefit and others detriment, but what is wrong with the Wild Card?

Joe Sheehan: Teams playing wildly different schedules within a league competing for one playoff spot.

Joe (Pa): Best guess for Garrett Jones slash line this year? Or Milledge?

Joe Sheehan: Jones: .235/.310/.420. Milledge: .285/.340/.455.

Jeff Clement (Pa): Is my bat impressive enough to live with below average defense at first?

Joe Sheehan: I honestly don't know, but I'd give you the year to convince me.

Joseph (NJ): Autistic kid's perfect bracket: real or fake?

Joe Sheehan: I'll say real. The fact that he's an autistic kid is just a detail. Infinite number of monkeys, etc. (And before I get killed, that's NOT a joke about the kid, just a reference to the sheer number of brackets filled out each year.)

Brendan (Chicago): I was impossibly bored recently and ended up watching a documentary on Hulu about fantasy baseball called "Fantasyland." It focused on some random guy invited to tout. It looked like you were in the same league as him. Was he as creepy in real life as he came off in the documentary?

Joe Sheehan: I haven't seen the movie or the trailer yet, but I can tell you that the guy has became a really good friend of mine, and he's a tremendous husband and father, one of the nicest guys out there.

I'm not in the movie for a number of reasons, but at the moment I can remember just one: you leave yourself at the mercy of editors.

jasemilw4 (Chicago): Should Madison Bumgarner fans be worried?

Joe Sheehan: A little bit. The velocity drop has been sustained over an offseason and as much as I've been a holdout, at this point I'm wondering what's going on.

Phil (LA): Do you think people are sleeping on Duke this year?

Joe Sheehan: They were. The terrific performance against a Cal team that was an offensive machine coming in was a wakeup call. I can't see Purdue beating them in their current state. Either regional final opponent, however, would put that defense to the test.

Aaron (YYZ): Wouldn't Vincente Padilla: Dodgers Opening Day Starter be the winner?

Joe Sheehan: I interpreted the question as "best starter." I'm not responsible for managerial silliness.

Joe Sheehan: Thanks, everyone. Back in a couple of months. Check the blog for book updates and @joe_sheehan on Twitter for more.


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