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Chat: Tommy Bennett

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday October 12, 2010 12:00 PM ET chat session with Tommy Bennett.

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Expand your October horizons by chatting with BP's Tommy Bennett.

Tommy Bennett: Hey everyone. Playoff baseball!

Matt (Chicago): Is Dunn a wise choice for the Cubs to fill their 1b void? I think I'd prefer them to trade for a younger 1b( G Sanchez, B Butler, Alonso).

Tommy Bennett: I actually think it's pretty likely the Nationals hang on to Dunn. The team loves him, he's surprisingly popular in DC, and he apparently enjoys playing there. I think the Cubs should target one of the more down-market free agent 1B options, since that's not going to be the move that puts them over the top.

Christopher (Nashville): Occasionally I will see a team not hold a runner on first, if that runner is particularly slow and not likely to steal. But I've been wondering whether it doesn't make sense to play behind even a fast runner, if there's a left-handed pull hitter up who likes that hole. Nick Swisher, for example, seems to be tailor-made for this strategy. I'd rather give up the stolen base to Jeter if it means that I trade an out for that extra base. Does this make sense? Has anyone ever run the odds for this?

Tommy Bennett: I've actually wondered about this myself, since clearly holding a runner at first comes with a cost (namely, the additional gap between the first and second basemen). The question is whether the cost outweighs the gains, and I think that's a very hitter-specific question and would depend on spray charts. You've got the profile of the player to whom you'd want to do it exactly right, I think.

dianagramr (NYC): Hi Tommy ... thanks for the chat. The Mets should hire ____ as GM. The Mets WILL hire ____ as GM.

Tommy Bennett: I'm one of these people that thinks "fit" is important when you're bringing on somebody to run your organization. At the same time, I think teams will often elevate that criterion above others, particularly if they have a very set culture that is antagonistic to new ways of thinking. That's more or less where I see the Mets right now. In some ways, that means I can't judge whom they should hire--it's a problem of internal dynamics. On the other hand, rampant speculation is fun.

So I'll say John Hart for #1, and Sandy Alderson for #2.

Matt (Chicago): Are the Cubs better served by using Cashner in the pen or the rotation? They could certainly use a guy with front-of-the-rotation stuff .

Tommy Bennett: I think they should stick with the plan to have Cashner start unless and until it doesn't work out. Power reliever is his floor, I'd think, not his ceiling.

Beard (Your Chin): I made you.

Tommy Bennett: I'm sorry everyone. This is ... awkward. [To beard:] Can we talk about this later, in private?

Roger (Chicago): What's the best sports movie you've seen recently?

Tommy Bennett: I really enjoyed Racing Dreams, about a bunch of junior kart racers hoping to become NASCAR drivers. Plus, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was one of the EPs!

rawagman (Toronto): Tommy - please humour me - give me a plausible scenario wherein the Giants somehow win the World Series for the first time since 1954.

Tommy Bennett: Look at it this way. Going by a back of the envelope log5 method, a .400 team playing a .700 team wins about a quarter of the time. If you do some binomdist() on that, you'll see that even the worst possible playoff team, facing the best of opponents, will win some nonzero percentage of the time.

But the good news is that the Giants are actually much better than that. Even a pessimistic estimate would put their true talent level around .550 or so. They have terrific starting pitching and a solid bullpen. Despite a collection of relatively slow guys, they play good defense. I'd probably offer 6-1 odds or so for the Giants to win the World Series, and that's not half bad.

Dan (Philadelphia): D.

Tommy Bennett: 42.

Matt (Chicago): Are the Phillies a team that can get "old" in a hurry? As good as they are now, they don't seem to have a lot of top-flight, young talent coming through, save Brown.

Tommy Bennett: They are definitely on the decline of this cycle. I think that's a big part of why they cashed in on Oswalt and Halladay--their best chances to win are this year and probably the next two. After that it may get challenging again, unless some of their talent at the low minors (Singleton, Cosart) develops faster than expected.

David (New York): Do you think the rookie crop of 2011 will measure up to the high standard of 2010? If not, will there still be game-changing rookies to take note of?

Tommy Bennett: I don't think they will, but that's only because the bar was set so high this year between Heyward, Posey, Stanton and Bumgarner. Santana and Strasburg also burned brightly, if briefly.

But there will still be plenty of great rookies. Jesus Montero will make his debut, Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson will be full-time players, and Kyle Drabek will probably spend considerable time in the majors. And that's just the AL East!

faithdies (DE): You realize that question from Dan broke the chat right?

Tommy Bennett: Yeah, I'm working on it. Those of us from the liberal arts wing aren't so good with the guts of the hive mind.

Data (ST:TNG): Permission to kill Dan for his binary question .. which has screwed up the page formatting

Tommy Bennett: Engage! Make it so!

No, actually, it's cool. I beat the computers! Haha!

Dan (Philadelphia): Sorry for briefly breaking your chat. I meant no harm with my lame binary code joke.

Tommy Bennett: It's okay. I think we're probably infected with stuxnet by now anyway.

faithdies (DE): Also, he technically should have breaks in there, but who's criticizing right?

Tommy Bennett: NERD SLAM!

sportspopery (A Throne of Diet Coke Cans): Poor Toronto. Can they ever get to the playoffs without some serious deus ex machina occurring in front of them? Or will I be forced to relive glory years on my SNES version of Ken Griffey, Jr. Baseball?

Tommy Bennett: They had a great team this year, and Alex Anthopoulos is a terrific GM. But that division...Honestly, they might have to wait for realignment, as depressing as that sounds.

Colin Wyers (Davenport, IA): For those of you who don't speak binary, the question was, "Do you enjoy the human element of the game?"

Tommy Bennett: Colin actually doesn't speak out loud. He emotes machine code, which is then translated into HLL by a series of compilers.

Damsel in Distress (Another Castle): Is there any way that your Beard and Marc Normandin's Faux Hawk can film a television series where they fight crime together?

Tommy Bennett: Who would want to watch the boring old stuff they do on a Tuesday night?

Jed Hoyer (San Diego): So....should I maybe have held off on the Bud Black extension until after he oversaw yet another historic late-season collapse? How many teams, in the span of 4 years, have seen statistical failures as big as the 2007 and 2010 Padres?

Tommy Bennett: Gene Mauch to one side, I don't think managers deserve all the blame for late-season collapses. The Padres skid was definitely terrible, and losing 10 games straight is a good way to blow it. But the players played--and lost--those games. Other than Adrian Gonzalez (who hit .361/.439/.528 in those 10 games), the team just plain stunk. Some of that is on Black, but more of it is just on bad play.

Shane (Miami): I enjoyed your article on Brooks Conrad today. It made me start wondering what they do with their infield next year. What do you think the Braves do next year, assuming Jones comes back? Do they bring back Gonzalez, or go with Prado/Infante up the middle and do they give Freeman an opportunity to play 1st?

Tommy Bennett: Thanks. I think it's pretty unlikely Chipper comes back. If it were me deciding, I'd play Freeman at 1B, Prado at 2B, Infante at SS, and a free agent at third. Although I will say the Yunel Escobar trade still doesn't make sense to me.

Jason Wojciechowski (Phoenix): I tried to start growing a beard this weekend and then chickened out and shaved this morning. Need tips.

Tommy Bennett: It's always best to use a natural break in your work schedule as your jumping-off point, because there will always be that terror-inducing awkward middle period. Candidates include the winter and summer holidays, camping trips, and excursions in the Alaskan wilderness. Also: for the first three or four weeks, don't trim the main beard area--only the neck and cheeks.

Greg27 (Milwaukee): Tommy, I know KG generally covers minor league questions/prospects, but is this an area that you can also cover in the chats or is that beyond your scope?

Tommy Bennett: I won't know if it is or isn't beyond my scope unless you ask, so let's roll the dice.

Stevey (Da Bronx): Did you see the recent The Simpsons?

Tommy Bennett: I haven't watched it yet, but I've got it bookmarked on Hulu to watch soon. I haven't watched the Simpsons much since I obsessively watched an episode or two a day in high school, but of course a guest appearance by Bill James is more than enough to bring me back. Reviews from those who saw it?

faithdies (DE): According to this article Chipper says he's coming back: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20101009&content_id=15544486 The thing is...does it matter? You have to gameplan as if he's going to miss half the season due to injury.

Tommy Bennett: It's true he may come back. But isn't rehabbing exactly what anyone would do, just to see? It's hard to predict, and you're right the Braves should absolutely have backup options at their disposal. That's why I still don't understand the wisdom of letting Kelly Johnson go, despite his cost.

Brett Favre (Minneapolis-STP): Somebody will slip you my number today.

Tommy Bennett: If Twitter is to be believed (Biebered?), I think you spelled your name wrong.

SamHughes (West Philly): Has anyone looked at the effects of long layoffs between, say, the end of the LDS and the start of the LCS? No one's going to feel sorry for teams that win a series early, like the Phils and Yankees, but six days between games could make for some rust....

Tommy Bennett: The evidence I've seen has been sketchy at best that there's any effect. Long layoffs do not hurt pitchers in the aggregate (something discussed in The Book), though perhaps a minority of individual pitchers may suffer. Hitters are so streaky over short time periods that it's very easy to do a post hoc rationalization if they slump. My general assumption is that it's just the breaks.

Greg27 (Milwaukee): I was wanting to know about Brett Lawrie. I read that he turned down the opportunity to play in the AFL. Is this common for players to do, cuz I just thought clubs sent their players and didn't realize a player could elect not to go? Having already read that he has bad body language and apparently not interested in defence, if this is something of a trend. Heard anything on this?

Tommy Bennett: I think there have been knocks on Lawrie's overall attitude, and this might be more evidence of that phenomenon. His defense certainly could use the work. Last I heard from the beat guys (who are definitely the most up to date on this kind of thing), Haudricourt had no information on why Lawrie opted not to play.

Gerard (chicago): Simpsons episode wasn't all that funny, since the Simpsons isn't funny anymore [haven't you heard!], but it stands as a testament to Sabermetrics, the most successful subversive intellectual movement of the last 15 years. Bill James hates pants!

Tommy Bennett: So does Darren Daulton!

Wesley (Phoenix): If your the D-Backs, what do you do with Mark Reynolds? Sure the power is nice, but the whiff rate and average are atrocious!

Tommy Bennett: He's a career .323 BABIP guy who put up a big, fat .257 this year. Spot his triple-slash 60 points of average and baby you got a stew going. I'm bullish on Reynolds, and it would behoove the DBacks to stay the course. That being said, I bet they wish they had gone year to year with him in arbitration.

Matt (Chicago): Is Lance Berkman done as a useful, everyday 1b? I think he might make a cheap option for teams in need of a 1b, provided he is reasonably healthy.

Tommy Bennett: Let's project a slight improvement on his overall season line for next year. Call it .260/.370/.425. That's kind of a Lyle Overbay type thing, and it seemed to work on second division teams okay.

Victor (San Fran): It pains me to watch Kung Fu Panda on the bench. Think he can rebound?

Tommy Bennett: That depends what you mean by "rebound," doesn't it? He won't be this bad again next year, you can take that to the bank. One thing is for sure--he's lost his incredible contact skills and he will have to do some serious work this offseason to get them back. I hope he does, because he was a fun player to watch.

Ben (Colorado Springs): How do you weigh home/road splits when looking at a player's performance? Specifically, Carlos Gonzalez. His road stats are simply ordinary, while when you take the Coors affect his overall year was phenomenal. Do you think this is something voters weigh when voting for an MVP, and should it?

Tommy Bennett: Voters are weird, and I think they can use whatever criteria they deem appropriate. But if I had a vote, I wouldn't focus on home/road splits so much as I would look at park factors. There's no doubt that Coors Field helps hitters, and that should be taken into account when analyzing CarGo's season. But if what we're worried about is that he "exploited" the park, above and beyond what an average hitter would be able to do, then I just think that's part of the "outstanding" that the award recognizes. Watching a player who is in his ideal environment is part of the fun.

Jquinton82 (NY): Aubrey Huff - Will he repeat this years production or be reclaimed by last years abyss?

Tommy Bennett: I love these questions, because the answer is almost always "somewhere in the middle." A weighted average of his 2008-10 performance suggests .280/.350/.480. Take away some points for aging and he's still a useful offensive player.

dianagramr (NYC): The left side of the Yankee infield in going to be tough to watch going forward, isn't it?

Tommy Bennett: Sometimes I wonder about whether it might help to shift Cano to play more straight up and take Tex farther off first, effectively shifting the whole infield to the left. It'd be useful against right-handed hitters and would compensate for the declining range of ARod and Jeter.

Matt (Chicago): Is it hard to envision much improvement in T Colvin's OBP? Outside of plate discipline issues, I like the left-handed pop, defensive versatility, and general makeup.

Tommy Bennett: It is hard, since most of his power comes from swing hard at lots of pitches, rather than waiting for the one good one to hit. That being said, I think he outperformed expectations this year and will continue to get shots unless his OBP falls significantly below .300.

Ben (DC): I trust you on this subject: Thoughts on Brian Wilson's beard?

Tommy Bennett: I've been watching Wilson and Romo's beards intently. They have this weird, slicked quality where the hair is very straight. It just doesn't look natural to me, although it does add to the general insanity that Wilson brings to the table. That being said, as I said on last week's podcast, I'm skeptical of beardly Johnny-come-latelys, so we'll see if he sticks with it in the off-season.

Brian Wilson (On the way to Philly): Have you see my Sharpie? Cause my beard needs a touch-up.

Tommy Bennett: No, dude. That's for your shoes.

Ben (Colorado Springs): I know it's a slippery slope, but doesn't that make the achievements of someone like Pujols in a neutral hitting or even pitching friendly environment, that much more deserving?

Tommy Bennett: In a relative sense, yes. Any methodology that spits back "Albert Pujols is really good" is probably doing at least a few things right. Look, Pujols had his worst season probably ever, and he still hit .312/.414/.596. He has won (and will continue to win) lots of MVP awards. This just wasn't his year. But he definitely gets to gain a little ground on Gonzalez and Votto for the park adjustments.

Beau (SF): Your beard vs Brian Wilson's beard: who wins?

Tommy Bennett: Tommy in four.

Tobias (Minnesota): The Twins OF is looking mighty crowded. With guys like Ben Revere and Joe Benson (to a lesser extent) knocking on the door, who do think they might try and move in the off-season?

Tommy Bennett: They've got the option on Kubel at just under $5MM, which is nowhere near the lock it looked like it would be after 2009. There's also the question of Jim Thome, who is just totally and completely awesome in pretty much every way. One possible solution would be to let Kubel DH and make room in right. But that means no more taters for Jimmers.

Beards 'R Us (USA): Best (worst) baseball beard: Jim Kern, Jayson Werth, Brian Wilson, Al Hrabosky, other

Tommy Bennett: Kern had the barely visible mustache, which is a little weird I think. Werth's is great but I think he makes the goatee a little too prominent. The Mad Hungarian gets big style points, but his style has gone out of fashion. I think Bruce Sutter's beard was best.

Bill (New Mexico): Lots of talk here about rookies, but no love for Jaime Garcia? Wasn't he better than Bumgarner?

Tommy Bennett: Depends what you mean by "better," doesn't it? Garcia had the better SIERA and more innings, but I think people discount the performance because of the mediocre K/BB rates. Granted, his ground ball tendencies mitigate that to some degree (which is why his SIERA wins out), but I think it's harder for people to bet on a ground ball guy going forward. Maybe we should re-evaluate, though.

Jquinton82 (NY): Who's closer to getting to the bigs... Dee Gordon or Grant Green?

Tommy Bennett: Reports are that Green may require a position change to second base, which might slow his timeline a bit. Offensively, he went bonkers at Hi-A Stockton, but Stockton is a pretty friendly place for a hitter. I think Dee Gordon's bat isn't pushing him as fast as Green's, though, and his defense is still feast or famine.

Dan (Philadelphia): Thoughts on shaving a beard for Halloween costumes? I'm digging the beard, but all my good costume ideas are clean-shaven guys! Or should I just go the lazy route and buy a Werth jersey and not shave for a week?

Tommy Bennett: Definitely acceptable. One of the advantages of a beard is that it allows maximum flexibility in facial hair for costumes. Think of all the civil war generals you could be!

Will Carroll's ghost (Stergerville): Which hobbled/rehabbing player are you wishing the most speedy, complete return to health? Sizemore? Beltran? Morneau? Nathan?

Tommy Bennett: Wishing? Ideally they'd all get better--that's what's best for baseball. I always found Sizemore's skill set to be pretty fun to watch, and he's still pretty young, so I guess I'd pick him.

Matt (Chicago): Are the Red Sox at a bit of a crossroads? They don't seem to have the talent that is quite ready for the rigors of the AL East and they're facing some tough calls on some of their current veteran players.

Tommy Bennett: They certainly will have to do some evaluating this offseason. I think Marc made some really good points in this regard. In 2010, it was about planning for contingencies. They've got players who can be expected to rebound, both in terms of skill and health (Ellsbury and Youkilis most notably), and the rest should be part of the fun of team-building that Epstein and co. have historically been very good at.

Time to start winding up, so I'll take one or two more questions before calling it a day.

Shane (Miami): If you are the Blue Jays, what would you do with Jose Bautista?

Tommy Bennett: Ask around, see what I could get, and otherwise just enjoy the ride.

Tommy Bennett: Thanks for the great questions, everyone. See you next time, and enjoy your October baseball.


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