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Chat: Joe Sheehan

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday August 09, 2010 1:00 PM ET chat session with Joe Sheehan.

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Prospectus veteran Joe Sheehan drops by to talk about the season and his book.

Joe Sheehan: Live from the boogie down...

Andy (St. Louis): As a Cards fan, I've always had a love/hate relationship with Tony LaRussa, but that 20 inning game pushed me into the full on hate column. Any insights broad or detailed to share without giving away your entire chapter on the game with the Mets?

Joe Sheehan: TLR's success with the late 1980s A's was an evolutionary point in bullpen management, and you can trace the weirdness we saw later in that game to the matchup plays earlier in it. Relievers IP/app is at an all-time low, and I sincerely hope that we look back in 20 years with that still being true. If so, that game ends up as a milestone.

fielding99 (Manhattan): Joe: You're the greatest. Thanks for the chat. Can you explain your current relationship with BP?

Joe Sheehan: I own a chunk of the company, and they're publishing my book. The blog and these chats are designed to promote the book, which is a collection of my BP work over the years along with some original material providing additional context and insight. Hopefully, anyway.

I'm also a reader and a fan.

jerjapan (Toronto): Hey Joe, what are your thoughts on Gaston letting Morrow throw 137 pitches in his gem of a ballgame yesterday? Personally, I think the Jays have done a great job shielding their young pitchers from overwork and that Cito managed the situation perfectly.

Joe Sheehan: I didn't like leaving him in to face Dan Johnson after the no-hitter was lost. As I saw it, Morrow had lost his fastball command in the ninth inning, while retaining his sick breaking ball. The loss of command on the FB, rather than the pitch count, is why I would have lifted him after the first hit. I don't see any way Morrow, at that moment, gave the Jays the best chance to win the game, and I see no value in "completing the game" when some of the best starters in baseball throw 0-2 CGs a year.

Jay (Philly): What do you think of Ruben Amaro's job performance?

Joe Sheehan: Erratic, with amazing high points (Lee I, Halladay, Oswalt) and lows (Ibanez, Lee II). He did inherit as great a core as any GM since Brian Cashman, and it may be a few years before we can figure out whether Amaro's good outweighs his bad. I do get the sense that he has the non-transactional parts of the job down pretty well. Not bad with media, keeps bosses happy, good with his peers.

scottdsimon (Pelham, NY): Who will be the biggest name dealt during the waiver period? And the biggest failure to *not* trade a player?

Joe Sheehan: I know the answer to one of those is "Adam Dunn." I'll say he fills the first, and I'll go with the Orioles and Luke Scott for the latter. I'm not sure we can get too crazy about the second category; any player good enough to be a "failure" was probably claimed by a team that doesn't care whether it acquires him or not.

Ethan (New York, NY): Is the new book more statistic-y, more baseball history heavy, or something else?

Joe Sheehan: I have just finished the third cut of pieces to include. I would say that the two things there's more of than anything else it's industry/business pieces and pieces about being a fan and being at the games. I was surprised, not in a good way, at how much of my postseason material didn't work in a book like this because it's so reliant on strong memory of the context of the situation.

Ethan, I guess I don't have a category for you. I know I'm excited about it and proud of what it's becoming. The tagline I've often used is that it's Bill Simmons' "Now I Can Die in Peace" without the footnotes gimmick and more new material.

Robert (Springfield): Cards or Reds when it's all said and done?

Joe Sheehan: I keep saying the Cards, and the Reds keep winning. Still think the Cards' core talent is better, and they have the better manager and better bullpen. I'll be glued to tonight's game, I'll tell you that.

john (ct): Who's pubbing the book? e-book available?

Joe Sheehan: Prospectus is publishing it, and it will be available both in hard copy and pdf versions, as the basketball books have been in recent years. (If you're asking me about other e-book formats specific to hardware, I am not sure. I would LOVE for that to be the case, but am unsure of the steps that need to be taken.)

sean (HI): do you see cargo as an elite outfielder as his career progresses or is this season unsustainable for him?

Joe Sheehan: He's still just 24, and I want to believe he won't work just one walk a week for his entire career. The XBH distribution inflates his SLG -- he's a 40/10/20 guy, and he's headed for 30/5/35 -- and likely won't be repeated. He won't have to walk 80 times a year to be great, just 50 or so, and I think he gets there.

White Sox Fan ((35th and Lowe)): I missed your last column on the AL Central. Are you predicting that the Twins will open up a 20 game lead on the White Sox, or are you relatively optimistic and think that the Sox will keep it under 15 games or so?

Joe Sheehan: The White Sox? Are they still in the league?

Matt (Chicago): What do you think the broad outlines of Hendry's plan to fix the Cubs' mess are- things are getting ugly?

Joe Sheehan: There's $50 million a year committed to three players -- Ramirez, Soriano and Zambrano -- who probably can't return that much, aren't getting better and can't be traded. The system isn't bursting with talent, making a straight rebuild problematic. It would be hard to go after a true top-tier FA given the payroll over the next few years.

There might not be a worse situation for a GM. Hendry may not have any moves available to him. The Cubs won't ever be terrible, but they seem headed for a number of years on the 78-84 win treadmill.

Richie (Washington): So any thoughts on how important the nontransactional aspects of the GM job are compared to the transactional ones?

Joe Sheehan: 35/65, I'd say. Maybe 30/70. There are 30 guys and they all talk to one another. Getting a deal done, getting information, not getting killed in the press...these things matter. I think it'd be easier for a straight-up stathead to be a manager or a bench coach than a GM.

john (ct): Brandon Morrow pitched the game of life yesterday. Longoria said he'd never seen a pitcher dominate hitters the way he did. Think Morrow's finally beginning to reach his potential?

Joe Sheehan: It was one start against a team that gets no-hit or nearly no-hit every few weeks, so let's not get crazy. Morrow has looked this good before, and then he goes out, locates nothing and lasts 2 2/3. There's always been tremendous natural talent, and it's fair to say the Mariners did everything wrong with him short of booking him on "Big Brother", so it's possible this is a breakthrough. I want to see more.

Note: I may just be trying to keep myself from getting too hyped. Morrow is someone I've been waiting on forever.

Peter (San Diego): Your thoughts on the Padres' season thus far?

Joe Sheehan: Stunning. Maybe the most surprising season since the 1991 Braves. I still can't figure out why their defense rates so well given the personnel -- David Eckstein and Hairston and Tony Gwynn's Spawn. Still skeptical they can hold off the Giants and Rockies, but impressed that they've done so for as long as they have. Jed Hoyer will have that job for a while.

Will (Mactaquac): Welcome back, Joe. Is it conceivable that the Blue Jays could be aggressive buyers this August? Could they even get greedy and pull a reverse-Rios? (hopefully for a dramatically cheaper retail price, but still adding payroll to win now)

Joe Sheehan: I don't see it at all. Eight back in the WC trailing three teams, one of which is the second-best team in baseball. Great weekend, but not enough.

As of last week, the Jays were the fourth-best team in baseball per third-order record.

Junior Ortiz (NYC): Everyone seems to take it as a given that the Indians are due to turn it around soon, but are they really? I think the Santana injury made a lot of Cleveland fans get a familiar feeling. (That feeling: despair.)

Joe Sheehan: It can be an impressive lineup if everyone stays healthy and on their development track. On the other hand, there's real worry about Grady Sizemore, and whether Choo will have to serve his time in the military, and now about whether Santana comes back. The organization has a huge pitching hole, so even if they push 900 runs, it might not be enough.

Not sure what's wrong over there. Enormous respect for the management team, but this is four years in five with no results.

mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Any thoughts on how Mike Rizzo has done?

Joe Sheehan: Seems he's been appropriately opportunistic on the front end, picking up some low-cost guys that have worked out. But he hasn't been aggressive enough about turning those chips, as well as ones he inherited, into pieces for the 2012-15 years when the Nationals will be good. Mixed bag, better than predecessor.

Robert (Springfield): Follow up question: Did the Ludwick/Westbrook trade alter your thoughts at all re: the race with the Reds?

Joe Sheehan: I thought it closed the gap between the two teams. The Cardinals got worse.

Reds traded Chris Dickerson for Jim Edmonds today. Makes them a bit better, since they'll play Edmonds and they wouldn't have played Dickerson once he got healthy. Don't hate it for Brewers, who get some LH OBP and OF defense for, basically, free. He's a nice match with Gomez in CF.

Scott (DC): At what point in a player's career does it become detrimental to send a guy down to AAA for a refresher course (I'm thinking about Jay Bruce here)?

Joe Sheehan: Well, I strongly advocated it for Beckham this summer, if that gives you an idea.

Bruce, IMO, hasn't played poorly enough to warrant that treatment, not to mention the Reds don't have any better plan. I don't think he's so far along where you couldn't try it, just that these circumstances don't fit.

Didn't the Braves send Francaeiour down last year?

klambie (Calgary): Thoughts on Kemp vs Rasmus long term?

Joe Sheehan: Rasmus, but it's a 55/45 thing. Kemp has better raw tools, Rasmus is a better baseball player. Doubt I'd trade one for the other in either case.

Jay (Philly): Given tools on hand, how would you manage Phillies Bullpen?

Joe Sheehan: I'd probably add the best reliever in the organization, Scott Mathieson, to the roster and see if that helped.

JG (Princeton): What would be your plan for the Angels over the next 6 months? Some young parts,some old parts, Texas ascendancy...

Joe Sheehan: The Haren trade complicates my plan, which would have involved punting '11. It's such an odd roster, with enough talent to be a good, but not great, team now, and probably too good to start over with. On the other hand, how long do you keep running Howie Kendrick and Jeff Mathis out there before realizing it's now working?

You know what I wouldn't mind? Seeing them get back to max defense, which is what made their best teams so good. They won't have a good offense anyway, so see if you can put a +40 defense on the field.

spf (oak park, il): Your thoughts on Stephen Strasburg's performance this year? I understand that you want to be careful with a propsect of this caliber, and that you don't want the guy's arm to fall off. But at what point will you ever feel comfortable letting him loose? The Nats have been EXTREMELY careful with his arm and he still had to spend two weeks on the DL.

Joe Sheehan: Had the Nationals been playing relevant baseball games, though, they probably would have handled him differently. It makes no sense putting a load on a pitcher's arm in a lost season. In 2011, 2012, the equation should be different, the risks and rewards different. In 2010, there's no point.

hotstatrat (Toronto): I just noticed that Babe Ruth did not get ANY MVP support in 1927 when he hit 60 home runs, yet 25 other players did. He played 151 games and had the highest OPS+ in the league. I know they didn't look at that then, but a .356 BA to go with 60 HR would have been monumental in any season. In fact, Ruth was completely snubbed every year from 1924-1930. What was that about?

Joe Sheehan: Back then, you were ineligible for the MVP if you'd previously won the award.

Stephen (New York, NY): The Mets are currently one game below .500. At the beginning of the year, everyone thought this was a .500 team. So what's with all the pitchforks and calls for Manuel's and Omar's heads? Is it simply because they're taking the roller coaster route to mediocrity?

Joe Sheehan: Pretty much. They had that run to the ASB that gave the impression they were better than this, when it was mostly good fortune with RISP. The offense has regressed to expectations.

In fairness, I see no reason to think Jerry Manuel is one of the top 100 available managers, regardless of the Mets' record.

dcoonce (bloomington indiana): Regarding Tony Gwynn, Jr - most/many metrics have him as the very best defensive outfielder in the National League. At what point do you trade that kind of defense for his minimal offense? Some would ascribe the Padres' remarkable season to their defensive efficiency.

Joe Sheehan: This is where I really wonder about defensive metrics over 2/3 of a season. Seriously. I don't even know what to do with that. And maybe it's just that defensive performance bounces around as much as offensive performance, and TGJ is the defensive version of Jose Bautista, in which case...do we know anything?

Jack (Boston): (prompted by you comment on the Jays) I know you're a regular season guy and therefore might not care, but do you see a long-term problem with the uneven distribution of talent in the divisions? If we want to reward success and smarts it's tough to justify a situation like the AL East where one of the best orgs in baseball has essentially zero shot at hitting the postseason. Why not keep the number of playoff spots, ditch the divisions, and go back to the balanced schedule?

Joe Sheehan: I'm open to the idea that we need to watch this. I want to see how it plays out in the 2010s, but if we end up with the top three, four of the top five and five of the top dozen teams in one somewhat arbitrary group...yeah, I think you have to think about structural issues. At the very least, you have to spike the unbalanced schedule. Check the Adjusted Standings to see just how much of the perception of the Jays and Orioles and Red Sox is the schedule.

This may be the game's biggest challenge next decade. It's a huge potential problem.

Gregjitsu (California): Playoff odds report currently has the Giants at 41% (the worst of any second place team, despite a half game lead in the WC race.) Do you think 41% is too high, too low, or about right? Why? Thanks!

Joe Sheehan: Too low. The odds report, IIRC, is evaluating the Rockies pretty generously. (As am I, I should add.)

davestasiuk (NYC): Hi Joe, good to see you...at what point do the Mets move Beltran to RF (realizing he needed some games to see just where he is, in terms of baseball ability), and, if he doesn't show much bat improvement over these last 50 games, is he tradable for anything near 70/80 cents on the dollar?

Joe Sheehan: Just one year left on that deal, right...they'd have to eat some cash, I think, and at that point, why bother? You can't use the money in a better way than taking a shot on Beltran's upside. The Mets aren't going to be rebuilding.

JC (Philly): Any thoughts on the resurgence of Raul Ibanez? .348/.429/.539 since July 1st. Either the Phillies were really smart or really lucky in not benching/releasing him when everyone and their mother was calling for it. With Utley and Howard out, he and Werth are carrying a replacement-level lineup otherwise.

Joe Sheehan: Is that's more or less what he hit during last year's hot streak? We get way too caught up in the order of events. (Myself, I never advocated releasing him, but he *is* the team's fourth-best outfielder, defense included, and I'd advocated benching him.)

El Angelo (elangelo@gmail.com): There is a very easy solution to the Dominant AL East problem: go back to two divisions, and have the two division winners plus two wildcards from each league.

Joe Sheehan: How does that help the Blue Jays, who might be the fourth-best team in baseball, and would miss the playoffs?

It's entirely possible that the answer here is "tough." Where I think it would get interesting is if the Yankees were to end up in the Jays' spot, good but not quite as good as two other teams. It's an easy problem to ignore when the Jays or Rays or even Red Sox are disenfranchised. What happens when the Yankees are the third-best team in baseball and miss the playoffs three years straight? How does Fox, ESPN, MLB react?

Frank (Lumberton): Joe, has Josh Beckett become more of a myth now?

Joe Sheehan: All I know is I and a partner got *killed* for trading him when he was on the DL. We'll end up winning that trade, even with Westbrook traded out of the league.

Me (Here): Am I overly cynical by being depressed a little by JPA's stunningly good debut? It's all downhill from there.

Joe Sheehan: Good player, not a great one. I might be underselling him with Brian Harper comparisons. A.J. Pierzynski with more power?

Lightning round. Something weird going on in chat module.

npieper (Minneapolis): Hi Joe -- two quick questions on division prognostications (thanks): 1. Twins or White Sox? 2. Braves or Phillies? (And chances of the division loser being the NL wild card)

Joe Sheehan: ALC will depend on Justin Morneau and Kenny Williams. I picked a tie at ASB and I'll pick one again now. NLE, Phillies. They could have a huge September once healthy.

Charlie (Bethesda, MD): Any thoughts on Yunesky Maya?

Joe Sheehan: None. I honestly hadn't heard of him until today.

nick (ft.lauderdale): thoughts on ricky nolasco's season? most statheads predicted a big year from him, correct?

Joe Sheehan: HR's remain the bugaboo. He'll eventually have a year where the FBs stay in the park and push for a CYA.

PQ (San Diego): Rays or Yankees?

Joe Sheehan: Won't matter and the teams will play the last two weeks in that mode.

Joe Sheehan: I'm sorry, folks, I think I might be being hacked (I'm in a Starbucks. Have to cut this short. Thanks for your time. Read the blog and Google me for more info.


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