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Chat: Jay Jaffe

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday April 07, 2011 1:00 PM ET chat session with Jay Jaffe.

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Jay Jaffe won't hit and run, because he's here to take your questions on the season's first week, the months to come, and more.

Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon! Apologies for the delay - I had jotted down 2 PM Eastern for the chat, but it was scheduled for 1 PM, and while juggling articles for today and tomorrow, I plumb missed the cutoff man, so to speak. There's still time to talk some baseball, though, so let's get to it!

BeplerP (NYC): Jay: Understanding we are still in SSS(small sample size) territory, has anything in the first week of play: (a) produced evidence of a surprising new career development; or (b) confirmed a suspicion of decline? or (c) indicated the possibility of a real change in career path? in any of your most-watched players? In other words, what should I watch for in the April-June period? Thanks for the chat.

Jay Jaffe: I think we have to be incredibly wary of making bold pronunciations about one week of play, particularly one week of play in cold weather, because a lot of players may be struggling with the elements. The danger is that our suspicions of decline can easily become confirmation biases - see, Clay Buchholz is regressing! John Lackey doesn't have it anymore! The Rays can't win the AL East without Carl Crawford! The Orioles are for real! All of those things may turn out to be true, but if we pretend to really know them now, we're just pumping hot air.

What I look for in the first two months is whether rookies get the hang of things, and how managers deal with their bullpens and the moving parts in their lineup - are they platooning? How are they getting around the holes in their roster? Where might they be looking to upgrade this summer in order to make a run?

Editor's Note (Change of Plans, NM): Let me guess - another editing mistake that should have read "CST" and not "EST"? Or should it have been "EDT", which looks a lot different than "EST"? Like a whole hour... :-)

Jay Jaffe: It's all on me - I generally ask for 2 PM chats because I like to eat lunch beforehand, and I apparently forgot to express that preference when the chat was scheduled.

WilliamWilde (Boston, MA): Sure you've been asked this before, but how does someone knowleadgeable in the history of baseball root for both the Yankees and Dodgers? Torre fan boy?

Jay Jaffe: Heh. I grew up a third-generation Dodger fan. My grandfather was born in Brooklyn, and moved to the west coast shortly after World War II, so he was perfectly happy to embrace the Dodgers' move. My dad inherited his love for the team, and passed it along to me. I first started watching in 1977-1978, when the Dodgers and Yankees met in back-to-back World Series, and as I was growing up in Salt Lake City, I had no other major league team in my backyard to pull me away from my allegiance to the Dodgers.

When I moved to New York City in 1995, it was the first time I lived in a city with a major league team. I began going to Yankee Stadium simply because it was Yankee Stadium, and soon got hooked on the Torre-led 1996 team because it was so different from the chaotic teams that had preceded it. By 1998 I was part of a group of friends who bought a partial season ticket package, and we're still doing that 14 seasons later.

JoshC77 (Columbus, OH): Given the potential offensive ineptitude of the Mariners this season, wouldn't some creative thinking be in order? Would it make sense to move Ichiro down a slot or two in the order? Yes, he is a good lead-off guy because of his high BA, but he doesn't walk a ton. Let Figgins lead off (yes, I know his OBP is crappy for a lead-off guy). But, when he IS on-base, having a guy like Ichiro (with his bat control and contact ability) up next could allow the Mariners to do some creative things. His doubles power coupled with Figgins' speed could also allow him to drive in a few runs before the 'heart of the lineup' comes up. I just don't know if Ichiro would be horribly insulted by a drop in the lineup. However, desperate times call for desperate measures. When your next best hitter is Milton Bradley, times are desperate.

Jay Jaffe: #6 Org!

Look, you've got a team which last year had the worst offense in the last 40 years, and they batted Ichiro first and Figgins second 157 times, so there's not a whole lot to lose by trying Plan B. The problem is that the Mariners have offensive sinkholes at so many other positions, and so little power to utilize towards a short-sequence offense. It's like trying to use a napkin as a tablecloth - ain't gonna work.

eephus (Brooklyn): I can't figure out whether the 0-5 starts by the Sox and Rays actually mean anything or not. My common sense says no, it's just five games. But the stats on teams that have started this way ARE remarkably bleak. Thoughts?

Jay Jaffe: Ah, the ol' eephus pitch, my favorite!

The historical precedents are certainly grim, with just two 0-5 teams making the postseason, and none since the 1995 Reds, but you know, the 1998 Yankees started out 1-4 before going on to win 114 games, and the difference between 1-4 and 0-5 isn't much at all.

The fact is that the AL East has produced six of the past seven wild card teams, and that there's a reasonable chance that even the third-best team in the division will have a better record than the winner of another division. Both of these teams have dug themselves holes, but everything we know about them suggests they still have the talent to recover.

Josh (Wyoming): Would Jerry Sands be an improvement over James Loney right now?

Jay Jaffe: Right now Sands is a guy who has half a season of Double-A under his belt. While he might be able to outhit Loney RIGHT NOW, I think the Dodgers are better served by giving him a few months at Triple-A, not only to see if Loney can reverse his multi-year slide but also if putting Sands in left field could help the big club even more.

jhardman (Apex, NC): Any truth to the rumor that the Rays and Durham Bulls may switch franchise locations? This supposedly would be to see if North Carolina is major league viable while the Rays hold Tampa hostage for a stadium?

Jay Jaffe: Wow, that's a new one on me. WHile there's no team to stand in the way as far as territorial rights are concerned (thanks to Neil d who checked this for me), I can't see any truth to that at all given the Rays' stadium lease and broadcasting deals which run years into the future, and the fact that the Charlotte market is about 30-40 percent smaller than the Tampa/St. Pete one.

jessehoffins (Swarthmore): If Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson have half a brain K-Rod will throw in every high leverage 8th and 7th inning this season. Right?

Jay Jaffe: Even with Alderson at the helm, and a ridiculous $17.5 million vesting option based on games finished looming for K-Rod, I don't see these Mets as being the team to challenge the ingrained ritual of the ninth inning closer. And I'm pretty sure there aren't enough K-Rods to cover *every* high-lev 7th or 8th for even a middle-of-the-pack team like the Mets.

Tom (Madison): What is going on with the A's bullpen and defense? Balfour and Fuentes both blow games, and I think the A's have double digit errors after 4 games!

Jay Jaffe: You mean beyond the human tendency to overreact to small sample sizes? They're without Andrew Bailey, who's a better and more consistent pitcher than either Balfour or Fuentes; the latter has lost his closer's job twice in the past four years, if I recall. As for the defense, maybe they've been wearing blindfolds?

bpars3 (Tinley): When I saw your tweet last night about the $12 beer you bought right before the rainout, I had to laugh. I thought of the scene in Pulp Fiction where Travolta and Uma were out to eat and Uma ordered the $5 milkshake. Travolta replied that it had better be a good ... milkshake. So, how was your $12 beer?

Jay Jaffe: The back story is that I was at Yankee Stadium for a game that was postponed around 8:15, more than an hour after it started. My friend and I had arrived before scheduled first pitch and secured beers and pulled pork sandwiches, and after an hour, we were thirsty and wet, so we wandered down into the concourse and found a standing table from which to await further developments. I had just received the beers I had ordered when my friend came rushing up and told me that the game was called, and while I could have just run away from the beers, the fact is that the Beers of the World station where we bought them is right at the base of the stairs near our seats, and the lady is the same one who ran that station last year. So what could I do but pay up and have another?

It was a Heinken. Reliably mediocre, better than Budweiser or any light beer as far as ballpark beers go, but nothing to write home about. But it was big.

Peter Q (Austin): Watching Derek Jeter's defense thus far this season, to the naked eye he looks absolutely pitiful. Is there ANY chance in hell that the Yankees, knowing how much it's hurting the team on D, ask him to move in-season?

Jay Jaffe: Hey Pete! There's more chance of Barack Obama staging an elaborate assassination of Joe Biden in order to carve space for Dick Cheney on the 2012 Democratic presidential ticket than there is of the Yankees asking Jeter to move in-season. They can't even find the cojones to ask him to move in the offseason.

Rick (Chicago): Drew Stubbs: Another Chris Young (not that there's anything wrong with that) or does he have a higher ceiling?

Jay Jaffe: Stubbs and Young are fairly similar players. While Stubbs is generally considered the better fielder, he also strikes out way more often, and he's just a year younger. I don't think there's a whole lot of difference.

GrinnellSteve (Grinnell): Even if it's a small sample size, I'm thoroughly enjoying the level of hyperventilation occurring because of Boston's 0-6 start. Not a question; just throwing it out there.

Jay Jaffe: 0-6? Forget everything I said and get the shovel, it's over for Boston.

Scott (Irvine): Wouldn't Jerry Sands at RF, Trayvon Robinson at LF and Andre Ethier at 1B be a drastic improvement for the Dodgers?

Jay Jaffe: Robinson has more than a year at Double-A under his belt, so he's got that over Sands. The problem is that the projections don't exactly paint either as above-average contributors at key offensive positions, so expecting both to break in at the major league level and succeed right now is a tall, tall order. And that's without considering how little experience at first base Ethier has.

Mike (Cleveland): Tampa Bay -- DOA?

Jay Jaffe: The difference between the Rays and the Red Sox is that the loss of Longoria could be a crippling blow. Not only is he by far their best hitter, but putting Sean Rodriguez into a platoon at third base deprives Joe Maddon of the flexibility which his multi-position arrangement involving Ben Zobrist produces. Plus I was never sold on the idea that Dan Johnson is a real solution at first base. They're not dead yet, but the Rays are in worse shape than the Sox as far as the big picture goes.

R.A. Wagman (Section 203): Jay - thanks for chatting. Somewhere in Billy Beane's much lauded debut novel, Moneyball, there is mention (so I'm told - who has time to read, right?) that teams take the first two months of a season to figure out who they are, the next two months to upgrade and the final two months to bust out. Do you agree with that sentiment? In other words, when's the earliest we will see teams blow things up?

Jay Jaffe: That sounds about right. Teams spend almost five months putting together their squads for the coming season, and a lot of thought goes into that. To blow it up based upon a few weeks is an admission that you've wasted nearly half of your (calendar) year. While two months is hardly a definitive sample size, it's a point where a lot of the pretenders have been weeded out, and teams are willing to embrace the idea that what they left the gate with isn't perfect, and that they're better served by making moves than sitting still.

Tom (Madison): If the A's start off slowly this season, do you think Bob Geren will be on the hot seat?

Jay Jaffe: I suppose it's possible, but I've always thought Geren was well-regarded in Oakland. Furthermore, the A's have never made a midseason managerial move on Billy Beane's watch, and haven't done so since 1986, coincidentally the only year that Beane got more than 82 PA at the major league level.

Peter Q (Austin): Your impression of Donnie Baseball's managerial skills thus far?

Jay Jaffe: He's been dealt a very lopsided team, and he's going to have a hard time figuring out how to make that offense work. At the very least he needs to split up Juan Uribe and Rod Barajas, because batting the two back-to-back is a Death Valley full of outs. Beyond that, i'm not sure I can make any generalizations or judgments.

mef (Brooklyn): Is Bobby Abreu a Hall of Famer? He has nearly a 300/400/500 career line and two 30/30 seasons - or is his lack of a peak too much to overcome being generally very good for almost 15 seasons?

Jay Jaffe: Outstanding hitter, but yes, his peak hasn't been high enough, and his lack of accolades (2 All-Star appearances and a Gold Glove) suggests nobody has really thought of him in terms of the Hall. Unless he gets to 3000 hits, he's probably doomed, and I'm not sure that's a real injustice given the way his bad latter-day defense has cut into his value.

jhardman (Apex, NC): I'd love your thoughts on a couple of players that seemed consistently ready to break out but never have - Chris Iannetta and Travis Snider. Will these guys get the full year to play and establish their worth or will circumstances yet again derail them?

Jay Jaffe: Big fan of Iannetta, who can provide significant offense and adequate defense. He had a nice season in 2008 but has been stuck behind better receivers for the past two years. With no such obstacle in place this year, the job is his. As for Snider, I'm just not sold, but it's possible that his injuries have held him back. With the move of Lind to first base, I do think the Jays want to give him a full shot, though.

Bob (Las Vegas): Who are you picking to win the Stanley Cup this season?

Jay Jaffe: I think you want the next door over, because what I know about the current state of hockey wouldn't fit inside a replica of the Stanley Cup.

I do own a Wayne Gretzky rookie card, though, which is worth a few hundred dollars. Bought a full set of hockey cards in 1980 for some unknown reason, (I think it cost $15) and it happened to be the year he came into the league. The set also had a whole lot of legends who were at the tail ends of their careers - Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Phil Esposito and others. Fun stuff.

Jay Jaffe: OK, folks, that's as much as I have time for today. Thanks for stopping by to talk some baseball!


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