You won't need to guess who's checking the numbers if you pop in and chat with BP's Eric Seidman.
Eric Seidman: Hello there everyone. Eric here. Tax season is over so I have my life back, and I would like to celebrate that by hosting a chat!
HalfStreet (Fairfax VA): Is it remotely possible that Jason Marquis can continue to pitch this badly if he is not injured? I know he is no superstar, but he used to at least be above average. The Nationals are at .500 in spite of him, but need him to improve to have a prayer of staying around that level until Strasburg, Wang and Storen join the team.
Eric Seidman: Marquis's career ERA is 4.57 and that's exactly how I think of him. He is an average-ish pitcher who survives due to the ability to induce groundballs. He doesn't have pinpoint control and isn't going to rack up strikeout numbers, but he is not a starter who will surrender 7-8 runs per game. We're still very early in the season, and as Kyle Kendrick showed last night, we are still in that area where a pitcher's ERA can drop by 10-11 runs with one good outing. If Marquis has an ERA above 7.50 in June, MAYBE something is going on, but let's let the guy make 5-6 starts before even asking questions like this. For all we know, two starts from now he could be down to 5.64 or lower.
goodwine10 (New York, NY): I love BP, but you guys have to admit that it's pretty funny that 99% of chats don't start on time.
Eric Seidman: Not sure what you're talking about. I've been here since 1:58, surveying questions and pumping my millions of followers on Twitter up about the chat.
Max (Brooklyn): Hey Eric. Is "throwing first pitch strikes" a sustainable skill, separate from "throwing strikes"?
Eric Seidman: Well, before even getting into the sustainability or separation issues, what do you mean by throwing first pitch strikes? Do you mean that, after the first pitch the count is 0-1? Or do you mean simply getting the ball over the plate on the first pitch? Because they are very different animals that are contingent upon different things. There is a big difference between a perfectly placed pitch on the corner taken for strike one and a curveball in the dirt that fools the batter into swinging. Being ahead of hitters is better for pitchers because the probabilities are in their favor, but you also can't just throw every first pitch right over the plate for game theory reasons; after a while, hitters pick up on tendencies.
JD Sussman (bullpenbanter.com): As an avid Grant Hill fan, did you ever wear his Piston's 33 as a youngster? I had it in 3 colors and wore them all weekly.
Eric Seidman: I still have my teal Pistons jersey with the horse on the front.
Matt (Chicago): When looking at his peripherals, do you find Randy Wells' performance sustainable?
Eric Seidman: Wells belongs to the same group as John Lannan in that guys of this ilk don't do anything that would make you think they should experience success at the big league level, but they do. I don't know if PITCHf/x is a route to take in exploring their attributes or something else, but they get batters out without blistering fastballs, oodles of movement, propensities for grounders, etc. Is Wells a sub-3.00 ERA pitcher? No, not a chance. But can he stick around with his skill-set? Of course. I could see him settling into that upper-3/lower-4 ERA area Lannan lives in and remaining a staple in the middle to back end of any rotation.
John (NH): J. Sanchez has 27 strikeouts in 19.1 innings. Do you think he's turned the corner for good, and if so does he bring the Giants into the NL West conversation?
Eric Seidman: My brother and I were talking about a topic along these lines the other day, in that teams should really be looking for performance volatility with ample upside in their fifth starter spot, as opposed to consistent "meh-ness" from the Wellemeyer's of the world. Last year, after acquiring Penny, the Giants had this with Sanchez as the fifth starter behind LinceZitoCainPenny. Now he is the 4th starter on the team with, ironically, Wellemeyer penciled in behind him. In no way can three starts reveal if someone has turned the corner but that doesn't mean Giants fans or fantasy owners can't be encouraged. But this is what volatile performers do -- they tease you with hints of ace-hood for two weeks and then pitch like Jason Marquis has so far for a week. Sanchez could always miss bats; he just couldn't prevent walks, so we'll need more than his strikeout numbers to eventually determine if he has turned the proverbial corner.
cliffvoliva (Salem, Ore.): What are the chances that Houston finally realizes the position it is in and starts building for the future by moving its aging all-stars? I think the Astros should have done this years ago, but, who am I?
Eric Seidman: 7 percent. I seriously do not think this will ever happen. I'm going to do my best to avoid the generic commentary on Drayton McClane but I think the only chance of the Astros realizing the folly of their ways is if Oswalt, Berkman and Lee all demand trades. Otherwise, the illusion exists that the Astros have the veterans in place to build a winner around. This team basically needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, and I mean completely. There is almost nothing from the farm to be excited about, and the aforementioned triumvirate is only getting older.
mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Give me a reason to think the Red Sox can still make the playoffs other than "its early". Thanks for the chat!
Eric Seidman: Well, there's the fact that they basically make the playoffs every year, and that if Jason Varitek sustains this pace, he will have 150 hits, 134 of which will be either doubles or home runs.
Joe Blanton (Kentucky): Eric, how long do you think it will take to build up my insatiable appetite for innings? I'm starving!
Eric Seidman: I normally don't answer questions from athletes, but I can't deny Kentucky Joe. After last night's outing--in which Blanton struck two batters out in two innings and managed to throw just 13 total pitches--I'd say his appetite was just being whetted. On Friday he should eat a few more innings, and by this time 10 days from now he might be ready to move on from the minor league appetizers and eat some real MLB innings.
mjk415 (elmhurst,il): with overbay, looking rather pitiful, will toronto be bringing wallace up, or are they so hung up on this clubhouse camaraderie they let one of the best hitting prospects waste away in the minors?
Eric Seidman: Overbay is the replacement level for first basemen, so even if he tells the absolute greatest jokes of all time in addition to providing psychological counseling to teammates as well as being the godfather to their children, there is no way Alex Anthopolous will hold back Brett Wallace for a guaranteed .265/.340/.445 with average defense.
Josh Engleman (Wilmington, NC): Barbaro Canizares is 4-37 in my OOTP season. Small sample size or should I send him back down?
Eric Seidman: I'll be honest -- I have no idea what OOTP is, but I also don't know why you would roster Barbaro Canizares in anything that seems like a fantasy-type game.
Max (Brooklyn): I meant getting to 0-1 regardless of how it's accomplished.
Eric Seidman: I did a study on something similar to this in the summer of 2008, based on something Max Scherzer told me he and the pitchers at the University of Missouri were taught, called A3P. A3P is Attack in 3 Pitches, and the goal was for the pitchers to either have the PA over, or at two strikes, after three pitches. When applied to major league pitchers there was no real connection between A3P percentage and the normal success-based metrics, and while your question and that study aren't entirely the same, I think they are close enough to appropriately answer the question. Getting ahead 0-1 is great, but I don't think we would find too strong of a correlation between % of PAs that start 0-1 and ERA, or RARP, or SIERA.
J.P. (Hartford): How often do we ever see a pitcher 'work on a new pitch' in spring training and see it actually pay off long term? I am thinking of Mike Pelfrey, who seems to be missing a lot of bats with his split-change this year. If he can get the K rate to around 7 per 9, he is a completely different pitcher.
Eric Seidman: In Chicago most White Sox pitchers are taught cutters, which helped turn Gavin Floyd and John Danks into legitimate front-mid rotation hurlers. That seems to be more organizational philosophy than, say, Cole Hamels working to learn a cutter this off-season. In St. Louis, Dave Duncan works his magic with sequencing and location moreso than new pitches, but to the same effect. I agree that we don't hear about true success stories with these newer pitches as much as the failures, but Big Pelf wouldn't be alone if his split-change remains effective.
Neil (NJ): What's a Kyle Kendrick and should I be concerned?
Eric Seidman: Kendrick is a starting pitcher on the Phillies, until Joe Blanton returns, who experienced success as a rookie in 2007 but who also serves as the posterchild for why stats like SIERA are much more effective at indicating what is likely to occur in the future than ERA. Since 2007, he was prank-traded to Japan, struggled in the minors, became Roy Halladay's mentee (even growing a beard in spring training), and supposedly added a slider, changeup and cutter to his repertoire of a sinker and, well, nothing else. In his first two starts this year he looked about as effective as if Will Carroll was sent to the mound to throw eephus pitches, but he tossed an absolute gem against the Braves last night. Realistically, unless Happ or Moyer gets hurt, or Blanton suffers a setback, Kendrick is not going to stay in the rotation even if he builds on last night's outing, but even for a sinkerballer (a group that can get away without whiffing many hitters) he doesn't strike many out so the odds aren't in his favor.
mattymatty2000 (Varitek Appreciation Central): Do you get to many games during the year, Eric?
Eric Seidman: In a normal year I usually go to 8-10 games. I really enjoy watching games on television, though, and have my own routines and superstitions and such. Now that I'm finishing up my MBA I should have more time to get to games, but, I don't know, a lot of the time I just prefer watching the game on TV. I can pick up on the intricacies more and get a broader sense of what's happening than if I'm there.
Rob (Alaska): We seem to be at that point in the season where it's tough to know what to believe is real. Is there any development with a player or team that you believe is significant despite the small sample size?
Eric Seidman: Normally in the beginning of the season I'm a big advocate of just having fun -- enjoy the games, don't get too caught up in everything. I know Roy Halladay isn't going to finish the year with a 1.13 ERA but man it's fun to think about. Usually, though, early in years it's important to look at what would be considered secondary numbers, like strikeout and walk rates for hitters, BIP rates for pitchers. These are the numbers that COULD point to a change in approach; I'd be more interested in Greinke's GB rate than his ERA after three starts.
tommybones (brooklyn): Is there any real chance we will see a 2011 Rays outfield featuring Crawford in left, Upton in center and Jennings in right? I know Crawford's gonna cost a ton, but that OF would be SICK.
Eric Seidman: I would highly doubt it. The Rays have mentioned they will be cutting payroll after the year and Crawford will get paid by another team to the point that what the Rays would offer would pale in comparison. I'm a sentimental guy and really like when players are able to stay with the same team for most or all of their career, but I can't see it happening with CC.
Jake (Tampa): When's Zobrist start hitting?
Eric Seidman: Well, he's not walking either, which is what would concern me more at this stage of the season. But, if I had to give you a date, May 4th. May 4th is when he's going to start hitting.
George (NJ): Who would you take for one year/career? Latos or Masterson? Any other young pitchers ready to take a step forward?
Eric Seidman: If I had to choose between the two for this season, I'll take Masterson. For career, Latos, but the gap isn't that wide, really. I'd go with Latos since he's younger and the scouts have been raving about his stuff. Other young guns ready to bust out? I don't know if you can consider it a break out given what he did last year but this is a big year for Tommy Hanson, and the same can be said of Brett Anderson. I'd also like to see Clayton Kershaw improve his control this season. I might be biased but I also think this is the year Max Scherzer emerges as a true front of the rotation stud.
Bryan (Grounding into DP): Even with SSS fun, it's clear the Giants are going to be awfultastic, right? When subtracting Mark DeRosa and Aaron Rowand hobbles an offense, a team's in trouble.
Eric Seidman: Well, this is what happened last year, no? (And by using "no?" at the end of the sentence I mean that yes, this is what happened last year. Maybe I should've just said that.) The Giants have a tremendous rotation and a pretty solid bullpen, and, once again, one of the most anemic offenses in recent memory. But don't discount the pitching; they will be in games all year long. I ultimately see their fate being similar to last year's: 85-89 wins, out of the playoffs.
J.P. (Hartford): Over/Under on date the Royals bullpen/offense actually gets Greinke a win?
Eric Seidman: Same day Zobrist starts hitting: May 4.
dianagramr (NYC): Please tell me Grady Sizemore is/will be OK.
Eric Seidman: Well, the commercial I just saw said he slept on his glove, not a pillow, so if he has dropped that habit by now he could be okay. I know it's tough to look at a .209/.292/.372 and remind yourself it's only 48 PA into a season, but... it's only 48 PA into a season. I don't think he's going to be a .280/.380/.550, but I never thought of him as capable of that, honestly. I can see Sizemore finishing the year at around .270/.355/.485, which is certainly valuable albeit disappointing, but we both know there's nothing to worry about right now.
Steve (NJ): I have Billingsly on my fantasy team but haven't been able to catch any of his starts yet this season. Is there anything noticeably wrong with him (not sure you've seen yourself?) Too early to cut bait? Lilly is available in our league and coming back this weekend...
Eric Seidman: Too early to cut bait, for sure, but he could drive you crazy. I'm still not convinced he will ever be a clear-cut ace. I think it's more likely we spent 10 years talking about his potential before realizing that he is what he is: a valuable #2-#3 pitcher who can miss bats and finish with an ERA between 3.80 and 4.20, but who struggles with control and doesn't seem to know exactly how to use his plus stuff.
mark1623 (Phoenix): Who do you like in the NL West? Division seems weak enough that even the Padres could stick around until late
Eric Seidman: I think the Rockies will ultimately win the division, but I'm not sold on their pitching staff. Then again, the division is so chock-full of question marks in certain areas that they could win the division by 12 games with a suspect staff.
ccweinmann (seattle): Has Heyward surpassed Justin Upton on the road to Cooperstown?
Eric Seidman: I am just as impressed with Heyward as the next guy, but I think we all need to calm down. Right now it's a wonderful story, hometown kid, 20 years old, highly touted, actually delivering to start the season, but let's let him finish the year out before enshrining him. I wish him all the success in the world, but if 50 PA isn't enough evidence for anything else, it certainly isn't enough to anoint him the messiah of baseball.
GrinnellSteve (Grinnell, Iowa): Most 32 year olds of Andruw Jones' former ability don't just fall off a cliff like he did. 2 questions here: Is there any decent chance his early season results indicate a return to something like his old form? If yes, does he still have the chops to take over in the OF and push either Pierre or Quentin to DH? Thanks.
Eric Seidman: From talking to several Braves people (fans, bloggers, etc) a few years ago, the consensus opinion was that Jones never developed solid pitch recognition, but was able to compensate through his super-quick hands and feet. He might not know it's a curveball until the last minute, but had the batting mechanics to get around on it regardless. Then he started to struggle with his health and his weight, and playing 160 games every year probably didn't help. The bat speed and foot speed left, leaving him overweight, with poor pitch recognition, and much less in the reactionary department. A .459 SLG last season was a step in the right direction, but even if he stays at that mark and doesn't improve any more it should be enough to move Pierre or Quentin out of the outfield and into a DH spot.
ccweinmann (Seattle): What do you make of Hunter Pence's early struggles?
Eric Seidman: That he has 49 plate appearances. I'd say he isn't seeing the ball well, but he never closes his eyes so I don't see how that would be possible.
hotstatrat (Toronto): What are some tell-tale signs to look for when figuring if someone is going to be a late bloomer or early plateau-er? Anything we non-scouts can pick up on?
Eric Seidman: This is an area I've wanted to look into for some time. The short answer is, I'm not sure, as there is probably a whole lot of noise in the data and there are a number of ways to improve. Unrelated to baseball, I know from personal experience there are certain things that don't make a whole lot of sense to me when I first read about it, but then a year or two later, something clicks and I could teach a class on it. I'd imagine something similar happens in baseball; certain advice given or improvements that need to be made that aren't truly processed until much later down the road. In terms of what to look for, the numbers that tend to stabilize quickly are always good bets for potentially identifying changes in approach. When Cliff Lee won the Cy Young Award in 2008, what was most impressive in his firsts 4-6 starts, aside from the nutty ERA, was the huge shift in BIP rates. These stabilize quickly. So do walk and strikeout rates. This approach isn't infallible, by any means, but these numbers are more indicative of improvement early in a year than ERA or BA or OPS.
TGisriel (Baltimore): Can you say anything to give Orioles' fans hope, other than it's early?
Eric Seidman: Brian Matusz looks really good and Wieters is showing flashes of what made everyone sabergasm. Mike Gonzalez isn't going to blow every save and it's not like Miguel Tejada will be there forever.
Bill (New Mexico): How long before Brad Penny turns into a pumpkin?
Eric Seidman: I'm very bullish on Penny and have been for the last couple of years. Especially now that he's with Dave Duncan there is no reason to expect him to implode. It's easy to forget how good he was only three years ago, and from 2001-07 for that matter. I'll gladly take my chances on a guy who throws 95 and is now dedicating himself to inducing grounders.
Ameer (Bloomington): Is it going to be fun to watch Liriano pitch this season? Or extremely painful? I'd love to watch that guy from 2006 pitch a full season.
Eric Seidman: Liriano is the M Night Shyamalan of baseball for me. No matter what he does it won't be good enough because fans foresaw the second coming of Johan Santana (Hitchcock; Alfred, not Sterling) in that special rookie year. He has worked hard to get himself back up to full strength, but it's tough to tell what made him so effective in 2006, let alone what he would need to do to repeat some semblance of that level production. PECOTA's calling for a 4.30 ERA and I see no reason to fight that one. So, it might be fun if the expectations were a 5.91 ERA, but it won't be if you're expecting the pre-injury dominance.
Charlie (Bethesda, MD): If Nick Johnson gets his batting average up to .250 or so, is he going to score a million runs this year? Or two million?
Eric Seidman: Well, I have a program I built in Excel called the Nick Johnson OBP Calculator. Basically, you input Johnson's batting average and then add 272 points to determine his on base percentage. So, if you're saying .250, that would be an OBP of .522, which translates to 632,212 runs. So less than a million but you're in the ballpark.
ChuckR (Addison, IL): You know how when there is a great defensive play to end an inning and the guy who made the play leads off the next at bat, the announcer always says "how many times have you seen it where the player who made a great defensive play to end an inning leads off the next at bat".
Wouldn't it be great if somebody on TV said "you know, this happens about 11% of the time"?
Eric Seidman: That would be fantastic. It would also be cool to find out about success rates after big home runs. Like Ryan Howard hits a huge 3-run homer with two outs and then the next at-bat is anti-climactic. How often does the next guy single? How often does the batter/fielder in your situation come through with the bat after making the great play? For that matter, how often do batters step out of the box and nod their head after getting a called strike?
tfierst (MN): Just for accuracy's sake, the 2006 Liriano was way better than a prime Johan. If there's something to look forward to this year, it seems as his fastball may be back to his 2006 velocity, especially if April velocities are truly lower than season velocities.
Eric Seidman: I have a very, VERY hard time saying that 16 GS of Liriano in 2006 was better than Johan in his prime. It's very easy NOW to say that Liriano could have been yadda yadda, but for all we know, even if healthy he could have come nowhere near that level of performance again. Just in 2006 alone, Liriano had a 2.16 ERA and a 4.5 K/BB in 28 G/16 GS; Johan had a 2.77 ERA and a 5.2 K/BB in 34 GS and 233.2 innings.
Al (NYC): Do you think the 'Stros are dumb enough to take Francoeur as the "centerpiece" in a trade for Oswalt? My fear is that the Mets are too dumb to offer him. They have to try and sell high on him if he keeps this up, right?
Eric Seidman: I would phrase it a little differently--as in, not calling them dumb, per se--but that is my fear for Astros fans, that IF they ever decide to unload who they needed to unload two years ago, instead of prospects they'll go for younger veterans who won't do anything to help the team now or in the future. I can definitely see the Mets landing Oswalt, though, without having to give up any of their top prospects.
Dan (Brooklyn): How long before we talk about Adam Jones as a bust? There was talk of his having really progressed from '08 to '09 before he got hurt, but I don't see it in his stats and this year is even worse (insert small sample size caveat here).
Eric Seidman: This is his age 24 season. If by age 26 he is still hitting .265/.330/.450 without breaking the 20-HR or 20-SB plateau, we can start to call him a bust, but certainly not 50 or so PA into his age 24 season after 19 HR, 10 SB, and a decent SLG as a 23-yr old.
J.P. (Hartford): I don't know if the Mets will get Oswalt, but I think BP needs to sponsor a reality series covering the Wade/Minaya negotations, preferably with Jeff Wilpon and Maclane in the room, too.
Eric Seidman: How about if we make our own movie about it? We can get the guy from the Staples commercial to play Ed Wade. The scene would start like this:
Minaya: Okay Ed, we want Oswalt, and will give you Alex Cora.
Wade: WOWWWW, THAT'S A LOW PRICE!
tfierst (MN): And I get that a .04 isn't WAY better, but it "felt" way better!!
Eric Seidman: Oh I can totally understand that; you had the best pitcher in baseball and then another lefty who looked like a carbon copy but who had a lower ERA. I just find it fascinating with Liriano because expectations were based off of just a nutso stretch of 16 starts when in reality those starts should in no way be the basis for comparison.
efeder21 (n.y.): scott olsen?
Eric Seidman: What's the question? Younger pitcher least likely to break out?
Neil (NJ): ChuckR - it's called 'as so often happens' - http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1031589/index.htm
Eric Seidman: Well fancy that!
Ruben (Philly): If Francoeur gets Oswalt I have a JA Happ you might be interested in...
Eric Seidman: I'm confused... is this Ruben Amaro Jr, the Phillies GM, offering Eric Seidman, a BP writer, a counter trade to a hypothetical Mets-Astros deal mentioned in a BP chat?
Eric Seidman: Alright, everyone, thanks a ton for chatting. As always, you can email me at email@example.com or tweet me up @EricSeidman. Talk soon!