Settle in for a comfy conversation about data and its discontents with Ben Lindbergh.
Ben Lindbergh: Good afternoon to readers of both the subscribed and non-subscribed persuasions (but an especially good afternoon to the former). To paraphrase Vin Scully, in a season that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened: Iíve been invited to participate in my second BP chat. I suppose it just goes to show you that theyíll make a sequel out of anything these days. If youíll promise to ask me some questions, Iíll promise not to budge from my seat for the next few hours, though since Iím equipped with a wireless desktop and a swivel chair, Iím free to spin around to my heartís content. Deal? Letís get started.
Kean M (New Jersey): Now that all three are in the same rotation, who do you think will be the best from the bunch? Who will most likely reach their ceiling? Betances, Banuelos or Brackman?
Ben Lindbergh: Thereís at least something to like about each of those guys, but given his recently reported velocity spike, Iím going to go with Banuelos. When it comes to minor leaguers, itís not a bad idea to cast your lot with youth, all else being equal, and the Mexican representative of this trio certainly has that on his side. In light of his performance, his recently reported velocity spike, and the fact that he wonít be able to buy a beer legally for over a year and a half, Iíd think that heís a safer bet to fulfill his potential than the injury-plagued Betances or the 24-year-old Brackman Thatís not to say that they all necessarily have the same ceiling, of course.
John (houston): Higher ceiling: Derrick Norris or Wilson Ramos?
Ben Lindbergh: I figured you mightíve gotten lost on your way to a Kevin Goldstein chat, so I relayed your question to KG. His answer: ďNorris can hit, but not really catch, while Ramos can REALLY catch, but probably not hit much.Ē Iím not sure whether that answers your question, but if you think catching skills can be taught more easily than hitting skills, maybe Norris has the higher ceiling. On the other hand, KG held down the shift key longer while talking about Ramos, so maybe thatís your answer.
Martin (Charleston, SC): There seems to be a ton of discussion around the MLB draft and specifically the effects of hard slotting. The argument is that hard slotting would drive african-american mid-round draftees to college sports such as football as 2nd and 3rd stringers. My point is so what. If they are 2nd and 3rd stringers and play baseball in college they get a free education and can still play professional baseball once their college career is over. It does not drive players away from baseball, it drives them to college first. This is not a bad thing. Am I wrong?
Ben Lindbergh: I donít know. I think the argument against hard-slotting that you mentioned (and thatís just one of many) applies to potential MLB players of all creeds and colors, and I do think itís a valid concern, if not necessarily a disaster scenario. Of course, it depends in part on what sort of bonuses the hypothetical hard slots would call for.
Plus, all kinds of crazy things could happen in college to lead a young baseball prospect astray. He could be seduced by another sport. He could fall in love with his college sweetheart and decide that he canít bear to be away from his beloved throughout the season. He could join a band and hit the road. He could even become engrossed in his coursework and resolve to be a career academic. Do you want the baseball world to be deprived of the next Derek Jeter when he gives up the game as an immature pursuit, applies for grad school, and enters a doctoral program? For shame, Martin. Think of the children. And the endorsement deals.
Roger Clemens (Jail ): So, did he really lie?
Ben Lindbergh: Are you asking me if you really lied, Rocket? You know better than I do. If you did, you probably could've saved yourself a good deal of trouble by deciding not to show up at that Congressional hearing. You know, since you weren't subpoenaed and all.
dianagramr (NYC): To paraphrase KG, "Ben ... what are you drinking/eating/listening to right now?"
Ben Lindbergh: I'm drinking water and eating a chicken panini. Exciting, I know. I'm listening to Pavement at the moment, since I'll be seeing them in Central Park in less than a month, but odds are that Paul McCartney will be making an appearance on my playlist before long. I'm still on a post-concert high from seeing him 10 days or so ago in Philly. Anyone else at one of his shows there?
Marc (I'm In Your Internetz): Have you found a Yankee to replace Brian Bruney yet? Or is your lost love irreplaceable? Don't worry, the Internet access in the minors isn't so great, he won't be able to read this.
Ben Lindbergh: Some of you may know that I harbor an irrational affection for Brian Bruney. I think it originally stemmed from the fact that he was a rare freely available talent pickup made by Brian Cashman and his big bad payroll, and the fact that for a while in late 2008, he was nearly untouchable. I'm not in denial, though--I realize that I need another reliever to love. Fortunately, I didn't have to look far and wide before finding a David Robertson to call my own (Baseball Analyst's Jeremy Greenhouse and I are currently engaged in a custody battle over both Robertson and Brett Gardner).
RBW (Metairie ): Why are 'softballs' hard?
Ben Lindbergh: It's all relative. But you're right, the name wouldn't be much comfort if you got hit in the face with one.
mikebuetow (Boston): Are the leaked financial reports baseball's worst nightmare? And are the threats to sue a whopping dose of poor common sense/PR skills?
Ben Lindbergh: They may not be its worst nightmare--that might be reserved for losing the treasured antitrust exemption. It's certainly not a positive development from MLB's perspective, but it's not disastrous. If the Pirates are actually pouring their profits back into player development, as they claim, they have nothing to be ashamed of. As far as the threats to sue--I guess it depends on who leaked them, and how. You'll be hearing a lot more about this at BP later in the week from Shawn Hoffman and Matt Swartz, both of whom are more qualified to discuss its implications than I am.
Teraxx (Strong Island, NY): Let's say the Yankees make the playoffs. Based on possible matchups, who has the best chance to unseat them? Texas, Tampa, Philly? Another team?
Ben Lindbergh: I'd probably go with "the best team," which would probably be the Rays (or the Red Sox, if Marc Normandin's dreams come true). Tampa Bay does extremely well in the Secret Sauce department, too, placing second to San Diego.
AutomatedTeller (Boston): Andy Pettitte is a marginal HOF'er based just on his numbers. How much does his admitted PED use do to hurt his chances?
Ben Lindbergh: Not much, probably. I don't think he should be (or will be) a HOFer, but Pettitte's PED use seems all but forgotten, based largely on the fact that he admitted it, and perhaps more importantly, the fact that he's a nice, God-fearing family man. The writers have more or less let his PED use slide thus far, and I imagine they'll continue to do so down the road.
Ethan (Bloomington, IN): For all the unrealized hype surrounding the Mariners early this season, they've actually fielded and pitched up to expectations. Is their hitting just that terrible, or is there another factor that's been there downfall?
Ben Lindbergh: I don't think we have to look far beyond that MLB-worst .239 TAv to identify the culprit. Whether they should have expected their offense to be that bad is another (somewhat contentious) matter.
Yogi Berra (Downward Facing Dog ): I hear you're into yoga now. What's your favorite position?
Ben Lindbergh: It's true--I tried yoga (the vinyasa variety, I'm told). Honestly, I felt a little silly in all of the positions, so I guess I'll go with the plank pose, since that one let me pretend that I was just doing push-ups. I couldn't shake the feeling that I could've done more or less the same thing at the gym, minus the deep breaths, sweat-soaked mat, and chiming bells, but I'm willing to sign up for a sequel. Unsubstantiated rumors peg Jay Jaffe is an accomplished yogi in his own right, so I may have to consult him before going back for more.
JG (NY): Jorge Posada is a marginal HOF'er based just on his numbers. How much does his sucking at baseball hurt his chances?
Ben Lindbergh: Jeremy Greenhouse, ladies and gentlemen (Robertson and Gardner are mine!). Posada will be an interesting case. His offensive production might be Hall-worthy, but who knows how much the writers will dock him for being an atrocious defender, as well as one of the worst baserunners of all time. I guess his case might partially hinge on how far defensive evaluations of catchers have advanced by the time he's eligible, but given the bat and the championships, his chances are probably pretty good. On the other hand, he and Ted Simmons have almost identical Rbat numbers at Baseball-Reference, so Posada could still be relegated to that just-missed camp.
C-Lo (Frankfurt): K-Rob clearly lost some of his mojo by scrapping the high socks. That's the reason Bautista was so agitated to begin with.
Ben Lindbergh: I agree--ditching the high socks was uncalled-for. Of course, he still managed to strike out the side, despite surrendering the game-winning HR to Hulk Bautista.
AutomatedTeller (Boston, MA): I never really understood the hype behind the mariners. I mean, maybe they shouldn't be THIS bad at the plate, but even if they were what they were last year, they'd be last in the division, wouldn't they?
Ben Lindbergh: Well, no--they won at a .525 clip last season, so if that's what they were in 2010, they'd be in second place (and still out of the playoffs). I don't think any of the projection systems or enlightened analysts called for a repeat of their 85-win season, though. It's tough to identify exactly where the hype originated, and the extent to which it proliferated. I guess I'd blame a series of favorable media profiles of Mariners front-office members, and a few comments sections run amok, for any prevailing sense of hype that took over before the season.
Jquinton82 (NY): What do you see from Javy Vazquez next year, rebound year or does the bus off a cliff?
Ben Lindbergh: I wouldn't expected his numbers to rebound unless his velocity does. Of course, we can blame the velocity loss on the crushing pressure of pitching in New York--that is how it works, right? So yes, he should be fine! Buy low!
Jersey Mook (Jersey): Now that the owners of the Mets have added a little Mets memorabilia to Citifield to go with their museum -quality Dodgers collection, isn't it time they painted all that exposed steel blue or orange, the Mets' team colors, instead of the current, very depressing black?
Ben Lindbergh: You know, despite living in New York, I've only been to Citi Field once--it's kind of a schlep to the end of the 7 line. That said, I was extremely impressed by the stadium on my one visit. It's cozy, has good sightlines and wide concourses, and I love the brick. I'd definitely take it over its more expensive rival in the Bronx.
StatFreak101 (Wisconsin): As a Twins fan, the thought of the White Sox obtaining Manny Ramirez is a bit worrisome. What kind of impact, if any, would you see him making for the White Sox down the stretch?
Ben Lindbergh: The current White Sox DH crew is a pretty motley lot--Manny's current and projected rates rates would be a major improvement over some combination of Quentin, Kotsay, Teahen, et al. Over the course of a month, that upgrade isn't nearly enough to make up a 4.5 game deficit on its own, though.
DanDaMan (Sea Cliff): Can you give us a little "Waivers 101" please? If a team makes a waiver claim do they move to the bottom of the list of teams for the next waiver claim or does it stay in reverse order of standings? Thanks, Dan
Ben Lindbergh: It stays in reverse order of standings, unlike your fantasy league.
Tim (Tampa): Understanding that his season is becoming a larger outlier with each home run, is Jose Bautista's chances of falling in the 20-25 HR range in 2011 that out of line?
Ben Lindbergh: 20-25 is certainly reasonable. Given that his weighted-mean PECOTA projection called for 18 HR even before this outburst, even the most conservative system would forecast 20-25 next season. Whether he can actually stay at something like a league-leading level going forward is a question that would take much longer to answer (and the answer might not be very confident). Stay tuned for a possible Normandin-penned Player Profile that might clear up some of the confusion.
Jquinton82 (NY): How big of a fight do you see among the owners themselves over this leak showing that teams (Pirates and Marlins - I'm looking at you) pocketed revenue sharing money? End of revenue sharing?
Ben Lindbergh: Is this something the owners didn't already know? I'm sure they knew plenty, and I doubt any of this came as a huge surprise. I can guess where Hal Steinbrenner stands.
Josh Byrnes (Phoenix): Can I have a job?
Ben Lindbergh: Sure. If you're looking to write a guest column, I'll put you in touch with John Perrotto.
Lando (Cloud City): Am I the only one who disagrees with the praise being heaped on Vin Scully for comnig back next year? He's a great announcer I love listening to him too. BUt he'll be 87 next year. There's a very good chance he could just drop dead in the middle of a game. That would be a tragedy baseball has never seen the likes of before. Think of the trauma to the listeners and fans!
Ben Lindbergh: He'll be 83, not 87, and that's just morbid. Plus, think of the trauma to the listeners and fans that would result from hearing anyone but Scully in the Dodgers broadcast booth. I'd take Zombie Scully over almost anyone else working today. Long live Vin.
Your Mother (Upper West Side): How come you never call anymore?
Ben Lindbergh: Mommmmmm, I told you not to bug me during BP chats.
The People Of New York (Where Dreams Are Made Of): We Demand Pizza Feeds Or Other BP Events In New York. You, Jay Jaffe, Steven Goldman, Will Carroll, And Marc Normandin All Live Here. Let's Make It Happen!
Ben Lindbergh: Those last two don't actually live here, though I've made Marc Normandin an honorary New Yorker. However, Tommy Bennett and his beard reside in one of the boroughs. And we'd all be happy to eat pizza alongside you. Email someone more important about it.
yogi bear (sf): I'll say that Ashtanga yoga is my favorite. A little more active. What are the chances that Pagan or Dickey can repeat this year's performances. If that percentage is minimal, shouldn't the Mets try to deal these guys to capitalize on value?
Ben Lindbergh: I'm definitely a Pagan worshiper--he produced at almost exactly the same level last season, and should be a safe bet going forward. Dickey's performance is less sustainable, but I doubt any contender would pay a premium for a knuckleballer with no UCL or previous history of success.
Lou (Tampa): Why weren't you there to talk me out of taking the Cubs' job four years ago? Why would anyone want that gig?
Ben Lindbergh: Hey, he finished 316-293 with the Cubs, won a couple division titles, and added, what, $15 million to his bank account? I can think of worse jobs.
Alexander Emmanuel (Miami): Who is your favorite current or past yankee?
Ben Lindbergh: Past? Bernie Williams. Current? Robertson and Gardner can duke it out for the honor, I suppose.
Matt (Chicago): After mining the relevant data, is there anything that tells you that Tyler Colvin can settle in as a .280/.340/.840 type if player? His K rate can't stay this high, can it?
Ben Lindbergh: I relayed this question to resident Cubs fan and data miner Colin Wyers. I'll let his answer stand on its own: "Colvin exists to punish me for every time I've laughed at Jeff Francoeur."
Frank (Vegas): what would it take for the Bucs to pry Montero away from the Yanks to provide some power at 1B? would Morris+Doumit do it?
Ben Lindbergh: No. Cliff Lee might do it, if the Pirates can get him first. If they really want some power at first, they could always move Alvarez there.
BA (Bronx): Of all MLB players, past and present, who was the illest rapper?
Ben Lindbergh: Rafael Santana, hands down. Here's the proof: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpvufrpAhls.
bchacker (ashram): Do you think that some of the Red Sox injuries were predictable...I mean, c'mon Mike Cameron isn't going to be healthy for a whole year.
Ben Lindbergh: The only time Cameron failed to make over 600 plate appearances in the last four seasons was the result of a suspension. Injury prediction is an inexact science (though I gather that the Red Sox have made it as scientific as anyone else), but I don't see why Cameron should have been expected to fall apart immediately.
Quentin (Chicago): If both of the New York parks were paid by the taxpayers, why did the Yankees' cost twice as much as the Mets'? Please help an outsider understand why one team is that much more important.
Ben Lindbergh: Because the Yankees are the Team of Destiny. Duh.
I don't recall all the details, but they weren't both paid entirely by taxpayers, and there were plenty of fiscal shenanigans going on. A better question is why the Yankees didn't get more for their money--as I mentioned earlier, I prefer Citi Field, despite the lower price tag.
Frank (Vegas): Ben,
Given the current state-of-play with the Bucs, when would you expect the MLB team to be competitive, or just break the .500 barrier?
Ben Lindbergh: Spin the wheel, round and round it goes--hey, it stopped on breaking the .500 barrier in 2013! The wheel might be a little optimistic.
Pizza Cutter (Cleveland): Once I bring Wyers with me over to the dark side, who will fix PECOTA?
Ben Lindbergh: If Wyers could be turned, he would be a powerful ally. But your thoughts betray you--I feel the good in you, the conflict.
Fashion Lover (7th Ave): Will stirrups socks ever be back in style?
Ben Lindbergh: I kind of came in after stirrup socks went out, so I never got too attached. I know it hurts, but I think it might be time to let them go.
Bill (NYC): Admittedly I am a Yankees fan and probably bias, but I actually way prefer Yankee Stadium to Citi and I don't even think it's close (other than food and beer). I thought Citi was sort of cheap looking, nickel-and-dime stuff, with that awful score board and advertising. It reminded me of a minor league ballpark, which is fine, but still.
Ben Lindbergh: Of course it comes down to personal preference. Neither is a bad place to watch a game, if you can afford to get in.
Evan Logoria's mullet (Tampa): Am I officially more horrendous than Tulo's mullet?
Ben Lindbergh: As Joe Morgan might say, "I really haven't seen them play."
A-Rod Hater (East 23rd Street): Would you agree that Alex Rodriguez's innards have been rendered so fragile from PED use that he's more or less done? Please say yes.
Ben Lindbergh: 'Fraid not. Of course, if you read the New York papers, you'd known that his heart, gut, and stomach were fragile to begin with.
Normal society (Outdoors): How many hours a day are you on your computer
Ben Lindbergh: Hey, if I were outdoors right now, I wouldn't be doing this chat! I'm not in a basement, if that helps.
garethbluejays2 (Newcastle, UK): What can you do with Aaorn Hill and Adam Lind between now and the end of the season? Is it better for them to sit or do they just have to keep flailing in the hope that something will suddenly click?
Ben Lindbergh: Given that the Jays are out of contention, continued flailing is probably preferable. Lind has actually hit quite well this month.
Matt (Chicago): I'm assuming the Colin Wyers quote doesnt bode well for Colvin's future as an OBP machine?
Ben Lindbergh: Colin works in mysterious ways--who am I to interpret his words? But, yeah, I think it's pretty safe to say that.
mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): What is your favorite place to take in a ballgame, Ben?
Ben Lindbergh: Honestly? On the couch, in the air conditioning, nerding it up with Gameday. But if it has to be a ballpark, I've enjoyed the atmospheres at PNC, Safeco, and Fenway, among other places.
Jack (Seattle): Who is your pick to win the world series this year?
Ben Lindbergh: Yankees, I suppose. Sorry, not very exciting.
Jersey Mook (Jersey): Who will be the first known juicer to be voted into the Hall of Fame?
Ben Lindbergh: I hope it'll happen sooner, but maybe Manny has the right mix of production and personality to slip past the moral watchdogs guarding the gates of Cooperstown.
Marc (With mob and torches): Watch games, ya nerd.
Ben Lindbergh: Couch doesn't count?
Saul (St. Paul): Top 5 GM's in the game for you?
Ben Lindbergh: Gosh, I don't know, and I wouldn't put all that much stock in the opinion of anyone who's unfamiliar with what goes on behind the scenes. I'd say that Friedman, Epstein, and Cashman all belong, but after that it gets murky. Tim Marchman did a pretty good job with his rankings back in March: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/tim_marchman/03/03/gm.rankings/index.html.
williams51 (New York): You should do a pizza feed at the Central Park Pavement show.
Ben Lindbergh: I think it might be wiser to hold it somewhere where we'd be the headliners.
Shoeless Joe Jackson (Iowa): Is this heaven?
Ben Lindbergh: It's Iowa. Home of Colin Wyers (and Tim Kniker, I believe)! See, it all ties together.
Dennis (LA): Thank you for the chat, Ben. Who do you like better over the next couple of years, Manny or Brad Hawpe?
Ben Lindbergh: In a neutral park, I'd probably take a 40-year-old Manny over a 33-year-old Brad Hawpe on offense, so if you're looking for a DH, I'd go with the guy with the dreadlocks. Otherwise, I'm not sure there's a position yet invented that a 40-year-old Manny will be able to play.
Mark (Chicago): What do you make of Randy Wells' sophomore campaign? Some of his peripherals have improved but he gets really torched about once a month.
Ben Lindbergh: Looks to me like he's pitching better than he did in his rookie season. The ERA's not as pretty, but the strikeout rate bodes better for the future.
Wendy (Chicago): I think Chicago could have built New Yankee Stadium for half the cost... and we all know how corrupt Chicago is. The Yankees overpay for everything.
Ben Lindbergh: Hey now, Brett Gardner works cheap.
Normal society (Outdoors): Not if you had a Droid
Ben Lindbergh: Would using a Droid not count against my hours a day on a computer? Sounds arbitrary and capricious to me.
Olinkapo (SoCal): Joey Votto: Will he be the greatest "Joey" ever? (Joes and Josephs don't count.)
Ben Lindbergh: He doesn't have a whole lot of competition in baseball. Pretty slim pickings in the Joey department: http://www.baseball-reference.com/pl/player_search.cgi?search=joey. I guess it comes down to whether he's greater than Joey Ramone. I'll say yes, when it's all said and done.
Normal society (Outdoors): You're arbitrary and capricious
Ben Lindbergh: It's sad when society resorts to name-calling.
Matt (Chicago): Do you see the Marlins making a committment to playing Maybin regularly now that Ross has been moved? I'm still intrigued by the tools he possesses- might make a nice buy-low guy if FLA thinks about moving him.
Ben Lindbergh: Yeah, I think he'll get another shot, though he certainly hasn't made much of his previous auditions. He turned 23 a week ago today, and the Triple-A performance has been there.
Joey Eischen (Fungiblerelieverville): Hey, screw you all!
Ben Lindbergh: If Joey Devine can stay healthy, you might not even be the best fungible reliever named Joey for long.
Beard (Library): What do you make of Carl Pavano's hirsute upper lip?
Ben Lindbergh: If Tommy's beard is back in the library, another year of law school must be about to begin. As for Pavano's 'stache, I'll just say that you can't argue with success.
Normal society (Outdoors): Poophead
Ben Lindbergh: This must be an example of that "dumbing-down of America" that everyone's always talking about.
Olinkapo (SoCal): Who would be your picks for AL & NL MVP if you had to choose now?
Ben Lindbergh: Hamilton and...hmm. Pujols, I suppose. The top 5 players on our NL WARP leaderboard are actually pitchers. The winner might come down to who wins the NL Central, which could swing the voters toward either Albert or Votto.
Michael (Detroit, MI): Albert Belle was called "Joey" when he made his major league debut and was a greater hitter during his career than Joey Votto is so far.
Ben Lindbergh: True, but if you relinquish the name mid-career, are you still entitled to be the best Joey?
Matt (Chicago): Would your worry about Adam Dunn's "old man" skills if you were looking at him as a FA or do you think he sustains the HRs and OBP for 3-4 more yrs?
Ben Lindbergh: I'd be wary of signing him for more than 3 years, but I think he'll be a pretty safe bet at least through the end of the world, which last I heard was scheduled for shortly after the 2012 season. That's still happening, right?
Jen W (NYC): To branch off of the Pavano question, who are your top 5 baseball mustaches?
Ben Lindbergh: Other people have done more research on this issue than I have, but I think Fingers, Zavada, Giambi, and Hernandez all deserve a spot. The last is a toss-up.
Ben Lindbergh: Well, we're three hours in and the questions are starting to slacken off as people head for home (not that they weren't hard at work earlier), so let's call it a chat. Thanks for spending part of your afternoon with me--let's do it again soon. Until then, a happy stretch drive to you.