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Chat: Derek Zumsteg

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday September 28, 2004 3:00 PM ET chat session with Derek Zumsteg.

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Derek Zumsteg is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Derek Zumsteg: Ola amigos. I know it's been a long time since I rapped with you, but... anyway, let's get to the chatting.

nalewi (Seattle, WA): Why isn't Jim Edmonds considered the best Cardinal this year? He has a higher OBP and Slg% than Rolen and Pujols, and plays a more difficult position. I don't understand why there is even an argument.

Derek Zumsteg: All true. I think part of it comes from Pujols having a higher batting average. While statheads tend to be totally pro-walk, we should still recognize that in advancing runners on base, a hit's better than a walk, and there's value in in hitting .330 with a .415 OBP even as Edmonds .309/.427.

But honestly -- it's the slight RBI and batting average lead for Pujols. Your larger point, though, that it seems like Edmonds' monster season's escaping notice, is entirely correct.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): So it's finally come down to buying off Angelos and raking the infield at RFK. Will they be ready to play in DC April 2, 2005? Is MLB still going to be operating the team in the new digs or is there another Selig Certified owner candidate lurking out there? I smell a bad start if the dead hand of MLB stays at the tiller too long.

Derek Zumsteg: Money can accomplish all things in sufficent quantities. Playing in RFK may be ugly, but you can get a lot done if you start paying the construction workers OT and double on weekends.

And I'm sure there's an owner out there for a team getting a new stadium deal. Heck, I'd buy it if I had the money.

JasonC23 (Palatine, IL): As a passionate (and currently disheartened) White Sox fan, I'm curious to know how Olivo, Reed, and Morse (the swag from the Garcia deal) are doing. Just how bad was the trade from the Sox standpoint?

Derek Zumsteg: Reed's been blistering the ball since his call-up, Olivo's had a rough time of it but looks well enough, and Morse got himself suspended, which White Sox fans will note is not the first time this has happened.

Dan Rather (New York, NY): Hey, great job on the whole Pete Rose thing.

Derek Zumsteg: July 19th, Rose gave an interview on WKNR 850 Cleveland where he said that his negotiations with baseball had gotten to the point where they had drawn up "an unsigned agreement" and it blew up later over the book thing. I think at this point even the most skeptical people out there have to admit that our original story that they'd reached an agreement was correct.

Or at the very least, that we did indeed have good sources, and didn't make it up.

Thanks for the question, though.

Paul Covert (Lynnwood, WA): Top 5 on your AL MVP ballot?

Derek Zumsteg: Santana
Guerrero
Ichiro!
Tejeda
uh.... one of the Boston guys, Ortiz or Ramirez

Santana's crazy-good. We should remember Santana's example when we talk about talented young relievers who excel in the bullpen.

If you love them, set them free. If they're meant to be in the rotation, they'll do so. If they're not, you can always put them back in the set-up slot.

goiter6 (MN): Strat-o-matic ethics question - I play in league with no restriction on reliever usage in the playoffs and no fatigue from game to game. How much do I pitch Eric Gagne and still sleep at night?

Derek Zumsteg: You're having ethics problems over how often you should pitch... whaaaaaaaaat??

Think of this Platonically -- Gagne in Strat is only a representation of the ideal form of Gagne (the real one). Your actions don't hurt Gagne at all. Go for it.

Fence Sitter (Vancouver, CA): Who do you think is a better bet to be a contender first - the all brains/no money Blue Jays - or the wealthy but brainless Mariners?

Derek Zumsteg: Mariners. This took me a second, but it only takes the Mariners a season or two to continue failing before they hopefully realize they've gone terribly wrong, organizationally, and turn the ship around. Then they're a wealthy, well-to-do franchise in a money-generating park, they'll have some great prospects maturing, and hiring the right staff and some free agents -- boom!

The Blue Jays are going to have to face the Red Sox and the Yankees for a long, long time, waiting for a break where they can step up. That may be five, ten years from now.

Now that I've said that, they'll immediately contend next year through improved clubhouse chemistry.

TGisriel (Baltimore): I'm surprised you listed Ichiro as your #3 MVP. Sure, he hits a lot of singles and plays good defense. But doesn't the lack of power and wlaks make that a relatively empty .370 (if .370 can be considered empty)

Derek Zumsteg: Nope. I think the skepticism is a little too heavy towards Ichiro! as a reaction to ... well, his over-hyped batting average.

But Ichiro's OBP is .415, after all. If he hit .270/.415/.456, I feel like people would say "he's a decent contact hitter with an outstanding batting eye and a little pop who overall manages to scrape together a terrific offensive package..."

He's what, 2nd in AL VORP for position players? And he plays good defense? I'll take two, please.

Plus he's Ichiro! What are you going to do?

Silv (NY, NY): 1. No Michael Young for MVP? For shame. 2. Is it me or is Roy Oswalt's season (especially pitching through injury) going overlooked next to the graying Rocket?

Derek Zumsteg: Not in my top 5. If I was doing up a full ballot of ten, I'd put him on there, if that's any consolation.

And Oswalt... yeah, his resurgence has been something. I worry about that strain, though, pitching through that kind of thing often has weird, unexpected side effects.

Wallace McAlexander (Memphis, TN): Joel Guzman obviously had a breakout season offensively, but I also noticed that he made remarkably few errors in the field. Can you tell me if his range factor was significantly above or below league average for shortstops in the Florida State League and Southern League respectively.

Derek Zumsteg: Joel Guzman! Incidentally, David Cameron pointed Guzman out to me when I didn't have any idea who he was. Smart kid, that David Cameron. Check him out when his stuff runs here, he's near-prophetic.

Anyway -- defensive stats at the minor league levels are essentially useless. The fields are often in terrible condition, the stat-keeping is bad, and generally speaking even the translated stats like Clay's Davenport Translations will only get you in the neighborhood of an answer for minor leaguers.

Which is to say -- no, I can't tell you that. I think he's a fine prospect though.

DavidCrowe (Canada): If Ichiro were born in America would he be considered a HOF calibre player right now? - As it stands will he need to put in 6 more years (10 yr min) to even get considered?

Derek Zumsteg: Yes. Absolutely. His years in Orix were outstanding, and his defense stellar. He'd have awesome career hits and rate numbers, and still be only 30.

And yes, unfortunately.

It's an interesting case for cross-over elections: if Ichiro! proves he can hit like this for a couple more years and then declines as you'd expect, should he get any credit for being a great baseball player in Japanese ball?

Ken Griffey Jr. (Cincinnati): Hey do you think I will ever make it to 600? - and if I do, who else (if anyone) will already be there?

Derek Zumsteg: I would have said absolutely at the start of this season. And even now, I look at Griffey and think "one healthy season, he could hit 50 HRs, and then he can limp the rest of the way"

And yet... ugh. I'm sad just thinking about this.

nick (portland): If MLB asked you to rename the Expos for their move to DC, what would you name them?

Derek Zumsteg: The Federals, because Chris Kahrl really likes that name and you wouldn't like her when she's mad.

Zzyzx (Seattle, WA): Why have all of these Ichiro! has to break the record in 154 games for it to really count people come out of the woodwork? Many records have been broken in 162 games seasons since Maris and it's been accepted until this. Is it just to be contrary? Is it because Ichiro! is Japanese? Is it a backlash against an overrated player? Is there a secret cabal of George Sisler fans who are excited to finally have something to talk about? What's up with this?

Derek Zumsteg: Lots of Ichiro! today.

I don't know. I've never understood why people want to make nit-picky arguments like this all the time. If we're going to ding Ichiro! for a 162-game schedule, shouldn't we ding Sisler for playing in an era where defense was worse, and otherwise adjust his stats? And then -- we should give Ichiro! a bunch of hits because he plays in Safeco.

A record is what it is. Hits in a season? It's the number of hits in a baseball season. Chill out, enjoy the chase.

R.C. Cook (Dallas TX): Is Michael Young really the Rangers' MVP, as many in the DFW-area media would suggest, or would Mark Teixeira or Francisco Cordero be a better choice?

Derek Zumsteg: Teixeira's not that far behind Young, but in my mind, Young plays shortstop, so he's a lot more valuable.

Dave83 (Upland): Speaking of overlooked, Ben Sheets has gotten no mention of Cy Young, thanks to his 11-14 record. C'mon, 253-31 K-BB in 228 innings?! And a 2.80 ERA and less than a baserunner per inning.

Derek Zumsteg: Yeah, winning record is huge for the discussion (and by extension, voters). It's sad that the thing Sheets has the least control over is the thing that's keeping him from being in contention for the Cy Young. I mean, he only bats a couple times a game at most, and unless he sends Barry Bonds up in his place there's not much he can do.

And I think people would notice if he tried that.

thegman1000 (SF): Do you think small market teams like the A's factor in "fan/market appeal" in their player value calculations? For example, Zito has been in decline for the last year or so but remains one of the most marketable players in the league (e.g. guitar playing, crazy hair, dating Alyssa Milano, etc.) He certainly brings dollars into the A's and I wonder if they have formulas that take this into account?

Derek Zumsteg: Not really. Fans find favorites on their own, and it would take a local institution to make a difference in offers.

That said, there's something to be said for being a good personality and likeable. If a GM's hedging on whether or not to re-sign a guy because their demands are a little above what the GM thinks they're worth, he might go one way for a stand-up community figure and another for a guy who's difficult to manage and (say) picks fights with teammates a couple times a year.

Aaaaaaaaaand there are some clubs where being cute and a good community guy means you get to write your own contract. I don't think the A's are one of those clubs -- they can't afford to be.

Dave83 (Upland): To your knowledge, are there any players who are familiar with sabermetrics and take an active interest in them?

Derek Zumsteg: Absolutely. Heck, Doug Glanville (who, by the way, should be hired as a writer and/or commentator the instant he hangs up his spikes) is into Strat-o-matic baseball, and you know what a bunch of crazy statheads those guys are.

Generally... I don't think sabermetrics has provided a lot for players to gain from following it, especially compared with what else they can be doing with their time. The greatest benefits have been at the team level: how to build a roster, how to evaluate players. That doesn't help the players, especially when we can't answer questions like "does power follow walks, or do walks follow patience?"

Seriously. Doug Glanville cracks me up, and not like when you laugh at John Kruk.

JasonC23 (Palatine, IL): Thanks for answering my question, Derek (even though it made me sad). Do you have any idea what Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen are planning on doing this off-season? (Does anyone?)

Derek Zumsteg: Do Kenny and Ozzie?

No, I'm serious. Who knows what'll happen with these two? I think that would be a good sitcom, actually. 3rd roommate?

Mo Vaughn. Oh yes.

Bill Johnson (New Mexico): Jack MacDowell's latest Yahoo column says, quote: "Monday night's ejection of Tampa Bay Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella and pitcher Scott Kazmir once again shows how the suits of Major League Baseball have dropped the ball when it comes to the enforcement of supposed 'headhunting.'" I know, consider the source, but I'd agree with him that HBPs and bizarrely uneven enforcement seem to have been a problem this year. What's your take on this? Is there a problem, and if so, who's to blame and how to fix it?

Derek Zumsteg: It's always been a tough issue, and enforcement's a huge problem. Does the warning to benches encourage teams to bean, knowing that retaliation will result in ejection? Is attempting to determine intent something we should even attempt to do?

I don't know. I don't want brawls or injuries, so I support anything that reduces that. But in another, entirely honest way, I'm annoyed when batters bring out the trowels and dig themselves holes, or hang out over the plate to get hit... what are you going to do?

Pawson (Pittsburgh): Hey, where's Carlos Guillen on your MVP list? He's been one of the best hitters in the league, at a tough defensive position...

Derek Zumsteg: About 7th, maybe 8th, with Michael Young. Guillen's injury, unfortunately, means he's going to be dropped even further than just being on the Tigers would put him.

Great trade by the M's, though. Ramon Santiago's been a key contributor.

Todd (Cleveland, Ohio): What do you think the Tribe is going to do with Aaron Boone and Casy Blake next yr? I see them trading one of them because Broussard has solidified himself at first base, and Peralta and Phillips cant sit on the bench all year.

Derek Zumsteg: Lot of Boone v Blake questions.

I think Shapiro's going to look at doing whatever he can this off-season. Neither of those guys are dudes you want to make commitments to if you can find someone younger and better that can contribute, but whether or not he can bring one of those guys in remains to be seen.

Probably not going to get Beltre.

thegman1000 (SF): Oakland has a mess of young, cheap pitching coming up the pipes or aleady arrived (Harden, Blanton, Duchscherer, Saarloos, Jairo Garcia). That combined with the decline of Mulder and Zito leads me to wonder if it is time to deal M&Z while their value is still high, and before their price tags dramatically increase. Is this crazy talk?

Derek Zumsteg: Many people have argued the time to trade Zito was when he won the Cy Young or, when that opportunity passed, the next year.

There's a huge talent gap in the group you list, and I think it's important to note that not all of those guys offer the potential return that having Mulder does.

Tough call for Beane. I think we'll see pitchers moved this off-season, but for what and how... no idea.

TeamShaft420 (New York): In considering whom to award the mvp, starting pitchers are often discounted because they play in only 30-35 games. However, when you look at the number of at-bats, starting pitchers have the clear edge. Santana - 862 ABs, Schilling - 884 Ichiro(who knew his VORP was so high?) - 724, Sheffield - 665, Manny - 641 Do you think the everyday defense is enough to justify simply shutting out the SP's, or is there some other factor I am not considering?

Derek Zumsteg: What if they play bad defense, though?

I think when you look at overall value, if a pitcher (like Santana) is clearly that valuable, you have to consider them as MVP. I've argued this before with the Rookie of the Year, but if people want to vote for their own wacky awards ("I think MVP = best everyday hitter for a contender") they should go invent their wacky awards, and see if people accept them or not.

And I knew Ichiro! was that valuable. Big fan. You might have noticed. Hitting machine, Ichiro. Hitting machine.

PaulKonerko (Illinois): Couldn't they call them the Washington Generals?

Derek Zumsteg: Given their record, that'd be kind of fitting.

I wanted them to be the Las Vegas Swingers, but that didn't happen. Someday.

Rick Jones (Toronto): Oh, our aching Blue Jays. Given who will or won't be available or affordable, what's the maximum amount of money the Blue Jays should be willing to hand Carlos Delgado to stick around? At what point is it better to sign two white chips instead of one blue chip?

Derek Zumsteg: That's an interesting question and one that's been hotly debated for a long time. Especially given the market for second-tier guys, you would think a team like the Blue Jays would look at Delgado and think "Hey, we could plug a whole lot of our holes with $2m short-term players and not shed a tear when our prospects play their way into jobs."

It depends on the team and how many holes they have to plug, among other things.

Delgado's going to be an interesting test of the market. He's a monster hitter, but he's old. Over the next couple of years, he's worth a chunk of change, but between health and decline concerns, the suitors for him are likely to be pretty cautions.

Derek Zumsteg: Gotta run. Thanks for all the fine questions. And apparantly Jim Hightower's mad I tipped the cap to him to start the chat, so -- it's all out of love, man.


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