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Chat: Tommy Bennett

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday July 22, 2010 1:00 PM ET chat session with Tommy Bennett.

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It's time to expand your horizons with Tommy Bennett in today's Q&A, so ask away, and the sky's the limit.

Tommy Bennett: Good afternoon everyone. Thanks for joining me. With some exciting playoff races in full swing, there's plenty to talk about. Of course, feel free to ask odd questions about music and movies as well. Let's get this underway!

Goose (Chicago): What will keep future pitchers who undergo TJ surgery from using HGH if they feel it will help them in recovery? Edinson Volquez essentially went unpunished, right?

Tommy Bennett: Well, to the degree that he did not have to miss any games, he went unpunished (also, the drug that Volquez was suspended for does not appear to have been HGH, but that's a technicality). But is suspension really even the biggest factor in the punishment? Remember, he lost all the income he would have earned during that time (about a third of his yearly salary) and he still has the stigma that attaches to PED violations.

frank (las vegas): Hi Tommy, was there any inkling statistically that might have predicted such a breakout year for Jose Bautista at his age? I suspect next year he will regress back to normal, but yourthougts on his future?

Tommy Bennett: Here's the baseline for comparison: what are the odds that at least one player (but not necessarily Bautista) who projected to hit a home run in 4% of plate appearances would hit one in 6.6% of his plate appearances (or a similar increase in home run rate)? My guess is that it isn't that rare, when we're talking about nearly 500 hitter seasons each year. I'm not sure it's entirely distinguishable from random chance. I'd say he settles back in to hit home runs in about 4-5% of his PAs and maybe paces for 20 or so home runs a year.

Aaron (YYZ): I'm sure everyone gets this all the time, but is Tim Lincecum broken after two years of otherworldly performance? By all reports neither the stuff, nor the command was there in his last start.

Tommy Bennett: Here's my general default: go with the mountain of data rather than the molehill. He still generates plenty of swinging strikes, he gets lots of strikeouts, and he rarely allows runs. All pitchers have bad years, and often it's because of a real decline in stuff. But that doesn't mean the change is permanent. If I were making stock suggestions I'd rate Lincecum a "Strong Buy" right now.

mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Can the Padres hold on?

Tommy Bennett: This question totally reminded me of the Wilson Phillips classic of the same name.

Yeah, I think they are capable of winning that division. They're a really good team. The difficulty is that, at the moment, there are four above average teams in the NL West and at most two of them can make the playoffs. It's really going to be a bit of a crapshoot going forward. Personally, I think it'll be the most interesting playoff race.

Greg. (NY): Hello Mr. Tommy.

Tommy Bennett: Hello Mr. Greg.

Dennis (LA): Hi Tommy, thanks for the chat. How do you like Yunel Escobar going forward for the next few years? Do you think he can put OBPs in the .370 range and SLG % in the low .400s?

Tommy Bennett: Yes, that is exactly what I think.

lnodolf (Fillmore, CA): Is Cleveland's Adam Miller career over or what is the status post surgery?

Tommy Bennett: On Adam Miller's tombstone, they engraved the words "Health is a skill." The guy hasn't pitched since 2008, so even though he's technically on a minor league contract I wouldn't hold out much hope.

Lisa S (Springfield): Tommy, your campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. What makes you so popular?

Tommy Bennett: Here's you're headline, Phil: "Bennett Can't Swallow Own Story"

Drungo (SoMd): Will Buck Showalter be: a) A key to an O's turnaround b) Lou Piniella in Tampa c) Employed by another team after the O's fiddle while Rome burns.

Tommy Bennett: You know, I don't spend a lot of time worrying about manager hirings because it's so hard to predict the impact that a manager will have on a team. I am not saying I don't think managers can have a big influence on a team, I'm just saying it has to be the right combination of factors between the personalities, and that's not something you can really know in advance without very detailed knowledge about the situation. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say the Orioles will slowly continue to improve over at least the next two years.

will0911 (VT): Hi Tommy, thanks for the chat today. Any word on an ETA for Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson in Tampa? Thanks.

Tommy Bennett: They're both blocked pretty well (by Carl Crawford and Wade Davis, basically). On most other teams they'd both already be on the major league roster. I think this is the year when Tampa will actually make a decent-sized deadline move, so let's just wait a little longer and see if there isn't room at the inn in two weeks.

Lane (Austin, TX): The entire Royals farm system is having a breakout season, and yet I still feel absolutely, 100% confidence in management to screw it up and fail to produce a winner. Normally a good farm system is the ultimate source of hope a team can have. Is making an entire organization hope-proof Dayton Moore's crowning achievement? Is this how he one-ups Ed Wade and Ruben Amaro Jr. when they're sitting at a round table discussing how to best destroy an organization (think like in "Thank You for Smoking")?

Tommy Bennett: (The following may or may not be a troll.)

At what point does the Dayton Moore/Mike Arbuckle team deserve credit for putting together the system they have? They have top-flight hitting prospects (Hosmer, Moustakas) and pitching prospects (Montgomery, Lamb) at relatively advanced levels of the minor leagues. No, this FO's talent does not lie in major league signings and acquisitions. But these personalities have always been known for their ability to identify and acquire good amateur talent. I think we might just be seeing those skills finally come to fruition.

southsidepride (Chicago): Which one do you think is better, Domonic Brown or Mike Trout?

Tommy Bennett: It's awfully close at this point, and the tiebreaker would definitely have less to do with the talents themselves and more to do with the time-preferences of the relevant teams in question.

lar (Milwaukee): The Wilson Phillips song? Why not the En Vogue song instead? (It's always the Wilson Phillips song with me too... kind of like The Sign by Ace of Base: once you hear it, it doesn't go away)

Tommy Bennett: It's a great question. I'm a huge En Vogue fan, but that's not my favorite of theirs. If I had to pick a favorite En Vogue song, I'd probably go with "My Lovin' (Never Gonna Get It)"

Ethan (NYC): Yankees fans know what they're getting in Sergio Mitre (the equivalent of a swingman for a non-contending team). Other than experience, is he really a better option than trying out Ivan Nova or even Hector Noesi?

Tommy Bennett: What the Yankees need to do is lock in wins. Mitre, for all of his faults, has a narrower band of projected performance than almost any minor league pitcher would. From that standpoint, I think the decision makes sense. They can wait Pettitte's absence out.

mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Matt Wieters: Not great or not the greatest?

Tommy Bennett: Batting .354/.448/.521 in his last 15 games with more walks than strikeouts. I haven't given up yet. But, hey, projecting minor leaguers is hard, isn't it?

Bryan (Illinois): Who do you see winning the AL Central division this season?

Tommy Bennett: The Twins, I suppose. I like their offense more than the White Sox'. The Tigers are in danger of playing themselves out of this race if they don't start winning games soon.

lar (Milwaukee): The word "regression"/"regressing" is being used everywhere these days. Someone is off to a good start - playing way above their heads, even - and then they have 1 or 2 week stretch where they play absolutely terribly. Like, "you really need to be benched for a day or two" terribly. (Maybe Ubaldo is a good example...) Should we really call that one or two week stretch "regressing", even if we know that they're better than that? It seems to me that even though their stats are being pulled back down closer to their "true" level, it's not the best description because it paints that terrible stretch as more of their true talent when it's not. Am I wrong?

Tommy Bennett: Right on.

If I could declare a moratorium on the word "regression"/"regressing," I would do it in a heartbeat. It's a cover for lazy analysis and I don't care for it. Regression to the mean is definitely a valid statistical concept for describing the behavior of a large dataset (particularly for predicting the future), but more often that not "regression" is equated with "luck," which is misleading at best and factually incorrect in most cases.

Dan Turkenkopf (Albany, NY): What are your thoughts on the recent brouhaha over the validity of fielding metrics (or more specifically the underlying data the measures are based on)?

Tommy Bennett: I think the questions involved are extremely difficult to answer and way above my pay grade. Nevertheless, I think Colin Wyers' single-minded focus on developing specific, answerable questions is very refreshing. If I were running a big league club, I'd want to know exactly how much confidence I could have in my metrics, and that's the knowledge that Colin is seeking. Not only do we not know how much confidence to have, we don't even really have a plausible way to ask the question.

It is absolutely a worthy endeavor.

Jquinton82 (NY): Tommy, how bad is it for baseball that the Rangers are still in bankruptcy court? And how likey is MLB to get involved under the "for the good of the game clause"? I kinda get the feeling Nolan Ryan's getting the shaft here.

Tommy Bennett: Is it bad for baseball? I don't know. As long as most of the players and employees do not take haircuts on their contracts, and most bond holders come out mostly unscathed, I don't think it's so bad. Look at the alternative: Hicks is running the risk of completely ruining the Liverpool EPL franchise into the ground by his refusal to sell below his (very high) reservation price.

Bankruptcy exists for a reason, and that's the orderly resolution of insolvency. That is to say, it beats the heck out of the alternative.

dianagramr (NYC): Good afternoon Tommy! Got any movie recommendations?

Tommy Bennett: Good afternoon! I just saw "Restrepo," which is one of the most devastating war movies I've ever seen (it takes place in the Korengal valley, a particularly dangerous bit of Afghanistan). I'd highly recommend it.

I also saw "Racing Dreams," which is about three 11-13 year-old kart racers with aspirations of becoming professional NASCAR drivers. I thought at first it would be like "Spellbound" or "Wordplay" (a documentary featuring people who are ridiculously devoted to niche pursuits), but it turned out to be a documentary of remarkable depth.

Aaron (YYZ): What unspeakable act did Alex Gordon and Kila Ka'aihue commit against Dayton Moore?

Tommy Bennett: This is without a doubt the biggest mystery of the current Royals team for me. I have a theory about Gordon, but it doesn't really work for Kila, so I'll just say that I'm as puzzled as you are.

Charlie (Bethesda, MD): Should Nats fans be excited about the alleged Yuniesky Maya signing? It may add a legit starter behind Strasburg and Zimmermann, and may also show the team is willing to outbid NY and Boston for international players

Tommy Bennett: I don't believe the reported signing has been confirmed yet, but let's assume for the sake of argument it's true. Sure, yes, be excited--international signings have great average ROIs. I would be more excited about the direction it shows the Rizzo regime taking than I would be about Maya in particular, if only because individual players will so often break your heart.

HalfStreet (Fairfax VA): Should Yunieski Maya enter the Nationals pitching rotation as soon as governmentally possible?

Tommy Bennett: ASAGP. I like that. I think he can get to the majors faster than it will end up taking Aroldis Chapman, certainly. He's older and has more polish.

dianagramr (NYC): When Lou Piniella leaves the managing ranks, how will history treat him? Didn't he kind of "quit" on the Devil Rays?

Tommy Bennett: But he dyed his hair, too! C'mon! That's gotta count for something!

Managers aren't remembered for their mediocre years (Joe Torre in St. Louis, anyone?), so I think Sweet Lou will be remembered fondly.

Mike (Chicago): How much more difficult to hit would Carlos Marmol's slider be if he grew a beard? I think it's all that's keeping him from perfection.

Tommy Bennett: Carlos Marmol is one of my favorite statistical oddities. Here are his pop up rates from 2008 onward: 19.8%, 13.9%, 12.2%. That's crazy!

tommybones (brooklyn): Your theory on Gordon is?

Tommy Bennett: Okay, this one's out there. But it's possible that they want to maximize his confidence in Triple-A before calling him up at the same time as Moustakas and Hosmer. That way they can gel as a team and have maximum collective impact. I don't know, when I type it out it seems ridiculous.

OTSgamer (Dallas, TX): Can you elaborate on what is driving the Jayson Werth trade rumors? Are the Phillies just that disappointed with how he has played this year, or is this in some ways an admission they won't be there in the end this year and that they have no intentions of signing Wurth to a long-term extension?

Tommy Bennett: Part of it is that there are a lot of reports that he has a truly bad attitude. So it's:

Column A Column B
Bad attitude .305 TAv

I think they still hope to contend, but I do think Dom Brown's hot play has forced their hand a little bit. I am not sure they're going to trade Werth unless they can get something close to fair value, or at least something in excess of the value of the draft pick compensation they would get if he walked at year's end.

dianagramr (NYC): Okay, this one's out there. But it's possible that they want to maximize his confidence in Triple-A before calling him up at the same time as Moustakas and Hosmer. ============= And then Gordon, in 2014, can have his own 1-hour TV special to announce that he is joining Moustakas and Hosmer in Miami (or New York)

Tommy Bennett: Ha, the Marlins signing three decent hitters in the same offseason? I'll believe it when I see it.

Andy (Chicago): Which 3B has the best 2nd half: Sandoval/Kouzmanoff/Alvarez/Encarnacion?

Tommy Bennett: Pretty tough day to pick against Alvarez, huh? I'll go with Sandoval, because he seems to be picking it up of late and he has a tremendous track record of major league success.

Jesus Montero (Scranton, PA): Will I be the New York Yankees full-time DH in 2011?

Tommy Bennett: Keep it up, kid, and the job's yours. Did you know you still haven't struck out since the All-Star break?

will0911 (VT): Assuming Werth is traded by the deadline, do you think Dominic Brown will be productive out of the gate? Is this more of a 2011 move for the Phils? Thanks Tommy.

Tommy Bennett: Depends, I suppose, on what you mean by "productive." His adjusted Triple-A line is the equivalent of a .288 major league TAv, which is pretty nifty but worse than Werth's .305. He'll be very good in 2011, I'd think.

Jquinton82 (NY): Wilson Ramos gets traded to ___ and see's playing time by ____?

Tommy Bennett: Ooh, really tough question. I don't have a clear idea where he'll end up. He's undoubtedly blocked, but probably not quite ready for the show yet. I'd say that he'll see the big leagues some time in late 2011 with a shot at a big league job out of camp in 2012.

NYCElf (New York): Can you handicap the NL Wildcard for us?

Tommy Bennett: Just the wildcard? Ok, let's see:

Rockies: 4-1
Reds: 5-1
Giants: 10-1
Cardinals: 10-1
Dodgers: 12-1
Mets/Phillies: 20-1
Braves: 30-1

Lane (Austin): How much money will the Nationals have to play with this offseason to try and keep Dunn/Willingham and potential free agents? If you have to venture a guess, what would you throw out as the ETA for the first competitive Nationals team?

Tommy Bennett: I could imagine a .500 Nats team in 2012. It involves a few things going their way, but I don't think it's a crazy scenario. Dunn reportedly wants a lot of money and quite a few years, but Mike Rizzo apparently loves him so it wouldn't surprise me to see some money thrown his way. My gut feeling is that Willingham walks, but that isn't particularly well-informed.

Dennis (LA): Thank you for answering my earlier question. I know it's hard to assess players who are constantly injured, but what do you think of Conor Jackson? I have him cheap in an OBP league, so I'm willing to be patient, but he sure is one frustrating player...

Tommy Bennett: Conor Jackson is a health-is-a-skill cover boy. He only has 334 PAs since 2008, and that's with a combined .224/.311/.302 line. I'd cut bait on him unless your rosters are like 50-man or something.

Buster Posey (McCovey Cove): In terms of hitting ability among catchers, where do I stand in the MLB pecking order right now?

Tommy Bennett: Man, it's pretty easy to get ahead in this category these days. I don't think it's crazy to say top five, and it's definitely top ten. The adjustment will come when the batting average drops and the patience needs to develop. At that point we'll have to reassess.

Paul the Psychic Octopus (Germany): After my otherworldly performance predicting the World Cup, I'd like to offer my services as an MLB scout. Any takers?

Tommy Bennett: Here's my plan. Let's have an octopus hatchery (is that what they're called) and make 1024 octopi. Then we'll have them do that picking thing. We'll take the the top half and repeat the experiment, until only one octopus is left. Then we'll see how he does at predicting the outcome of sporting events.

My money is on this one.

Lane (Austin): What would you say is the Phillies best course of action with them falling out of the race and the deadline approaching?

Tommy Bennett: I think the most important thing has to be to take care that any potential move they make doesn't mortgage 2011 and beyond. Within those parameters, I don't think making a trade to try to win now is necessarily a bad idea.

SaberTJ (Cleveland, OH): Can the Indians be contenders in 2011? 2012?

Tommy Bennett: The trouble with the Indians is going to be the pitching. Who knows when Jason Knapp will show up in the majors? Alex White looks good at Double-A but I'm not sure he's going to be able to do it alone. Until that problem is solved I think the Indians will struggle a bit. Don't even get me started on Carlos Carrasco.

Buster Posey ((McCovey Cove)): Sort the latest PECOTA spreadsheet by Upside and I have the 16th best Upside for a catcher with comps of Ivan_Cruz, Greg_O'Halloran, Mike_Hart, and Aldo_Pecorilli.

Tommy Bennett: You never hit below .300 in a minor league season. You have fantastic contact skills. High contact guys are a blind spot of PECOTA's.

Buster Posey (McCovey Cove): Hey, you mean I never hit below .325 in a minor league season?

Tommy Bennett: Yeah, my bad dude. You're pretty good.

James Shields (Margaritaville): Really, how good am I? Most people think pretty highly of me, but honestly I have pretty much sucked the past couple of months. And even when I have won it's been outings like yesterday with my four earned runs allowed in six innings with only one strikeout against the Triple-A Orioles.

Tommy Bennett: You're like Cole Hamels but slightly worse and right-handed. That's a pretty good pitcher. Sometimes you allow a decent number of fly balls, and you rely on a change up, so every once in a while you go on a crazy home run streak that drives everyone who likes you totally bananas. Focus on the peripherals and make sure you aren't doing anything weird like tipping your pitches and you'll be okay in the long run.

Maggie (DC): I'm thinking about roasting a pig on a spit. Do you want some?

Tommy Bennett: Ya darn skippy! What kinda rub do you use?

Jquinton82 (NY): Just curious.... you said high contact guys are blind spot PECOTA's, how so?

Tommy Bennett: It regresses hitter BABIPs basically all the way back to the mean. Of course, BABIP is somewhat controllable by hitters. For that reason, guys who are expected to post high BABIPs are sometimes projected too low by PECOTA. For more information, read the always-informative Matt Swartz here.

Tommy Bennett (Secret Volcano Hideout): I thought you said you weren't going to use the word "regress"!

Tommy Bennett: I know, I know. But I had to explain the PECOTA methodology, and that's actually what it does!

OTSgamer (Dallas, TX): Speaking of PECOTA, how do you think it stacks up against some of the other projection systems out there?

Tommy Bennett: I think it's good and will be better than ever in 2011. I have a tremendous amount of faith in the people who are working on it. I use it myself on a daily basis.

OTSgamer (Dallas, TX): Then why not adjust PECOTA for the reality that BABIP is at least somewhat controlled by hitters instead of being random chance? Seems like a simple fix, no?

Tommy Bennett: Well, that may be a possibility, but one of the great things about PECOTA is the comparables come from all eras. Unfortunately, we don't have batted ball data for all eras. So we'd lose some of what makes PECOTA unique if we did that. I prefer to do it myself in post-processing, but YMMV.

Hansford (Fort Worth): For years, people have discredited hitters who hit at Coors field when it comes for MVP races. So, why doesn't Ubaldo Jimenez get extra credit for the Cy Young race for pitching half his games at Coors?

Tommy Bennett: I don't think Ubaldo Jimenez needs any extra help in the Cy Young race this year. His Davenport Translated ERA this season is 2.61, which is mighty good. Of course, his SIERA is a much more pedestrian 3.55, but that doesn't apply park factors to the peripherals.

frank (Vegas): Tommy, what is up with JBay? Seems pretty late in the season to be a question of "small sample size". And would anyone have predicted that of all the ex-Bucs in play, JoseB would be outproducing Bay this year?

Tommy Bennett: Another head scratcher. I'd definitely bet on a bounce-back going forward, but he's really struggled in the power department this year. His hittracker from last year shows how much of a pull hitter he is, and I think the park is really affecting his power. He hasn't hit a home run to left field all year, which is just weird.

Carlos Beltran (Trump Towers): What do you think of my return so far?

Tommy Bennett: The weirdest story line at the moment--weirder than Philadelphia's newfound Werth-hate--is the "Beltran Kills Chemistry" story line. I mean, what? Haters a la izquierda, por favor.

Chad (Oakbrook): Is there any validity at all in saying that the cubs, because of the extra day games, are at a disadvantage because players don't have a routine?

Tommy Bennett: You know, that's an interesting theory. I have no idea. Might be a good research question though.

OTSgamer (Dallas, TX): Do you think Nate McLouth will get things together as the season goes on, or did the Pirates basically just nail his evaluation all along?

Tommy Bennett: Concussions are very difficult to recover from, so I'd be somewhat worried. I would understand if Frank Wren were looking for OF help at the moment.

Ethan (Chicago): At what point should/would the White Sox hand over closer duties to JJ Putz?

Tommy Bennett: Hey, man, I'm on Team Thornton.

llb4fit (CA): Is Lind's hitting streak backed by any changing metrics for the better? Would Alvarez be a better play the rest of the way? I know different positions however just looking for the most value. thx

Tommy Bennett: Yeah, I like Lind okay going forward. He hit about twice as many home runs on fly balls last year as he did this year, but most of his other batted ball data agrees pretty closely.

What concerns me is the higher strikeout rate, because it suggests he needs to make adjustments as pitchers have started to figure out his swing. During his hitting streak, he's struck out 15 times but walked just twice. That's somewhat worrying.

Tommy Bennett: Thanks to everyone who participated. I had a great time as always. I invite you to continue the conversation on Twitter (@tommy_bennett) and I'll see you next time.


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