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Chat: Gary Huckabay

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday October 21, 2004 3:00 PM ET chat session with Gary Huckabay.

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Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Gary Huckabay: Happy Thursday, all. Thanks for dropping by and for all the questions. I'll try to get too as many as possible. Today's musical collection is Sly and the Family Stone, and the beverage of choice is some iced tea, double-caffeinated. Please forgive the typos. Let's go.

Andy (Raleigh): Martinez, Lowe, Varitek, and Cabrera are all free agents. What is the max the Red Sox should pay for each of them?

Gary Huckabay: I've mentioned this on Boston radio and been slagged for it, but I'd let the lot of the Red Sox free agents just walk. Varitek's on the bubble, but he's a 33 year old, 235 pound catcher, and I don't want to pay for what could be a precipitous decline. As for Pedro, I think every perpetual league fantasy owner who has him is trying to move him, and Theo et al. are smarter than those guys. For some reason, I can see him as a Met. On Cabrera, I'd rather pay a bit more for Edgar Renteria if I could arrange that. Then again, I'm irrationally low on Cabrera.

Andy (Raleigh): I've been thinking about it ever since it happened, and I still can't for the life of me figure out why Pedro pitched last night. Do you have any theories?

Gary Huckabay: Two in a row right off the bat...

I think that was a bit of nose-rubbing, and since it was Pedro's normal day to throw, I don't think it was that big of a deal. Still, I wouldn't have done it. I realize there's no data to support this lame-ass theory, but if I've got the other team flat and demoralized, I want to avoid waking them up.

strong silence (seattle): Most of Boston's hitters exceeded their PECOTA projections this season(including almost all of the regulars). It is the 2nd year in a row this has happened. Is this unusual or do Theo and Co. have a better projection system?

Gary Huckabay: The PECOTAs had some holes. The park factors used for the Expos were obviously way off, and perhaps there's something going on there for Boston as well. It's possible Boston has a forecasting system that's got some neat stuff in it, but (a) I don't really know what they're using, and (b) It could just be luck.


Hats off on that Nomar trade, though. That people are writing in about Brian Cashman's job and not Dusty Baker's is a little strange.

Gerstelner (Berlin): What do you think of the new deal MLB signed with XM Radio? What will be the effects on local broadcast revenues? Will this, over time, reduce the disparity between different size markets in terms of local broadcast rights fees, hence improving competition on the field?

Gary Huckabay: In the short term, I think it's a great deal for both sides. XM and Sirius are both in "Whatever the hell the CPA is, we'll pay it" mode, which makes sense given their business models. In the long term, I wonder if this will have a minor revenue-evening effect, since the value of the local broadcast rights will be negatively affected (albeit not much right now) by this national deal. I also don't know how the revenues will be split among clubs. For MLB, it's continued exposure, and some have argued they're already overexposed, but I don't think that's a major concern. For XM, it's a nice little anchor to hang onto. We know that the Extra Innings package was a big magnet for DirecTV for a bit of time there, and I think it's a good gamble for XM to hope the same thing happens here.

pjvent (Tampa, FL): Gary: You're Brian Cashman this off-season. What moves do you make?

Gary Huckabay: Well, I try to convince Jeter to move to CF for the good of the team, put ARod back at short where he belongs (and hope he halts his offensive slide), then I go get Beltre. The starting rotation could use someone who's a legitimate #1, but it's not as if there's a bunch of those guys out there. For $183 Million, this is a pretty old team with some significant weaknesses in the foundation. The time horizon this mgmt team acts on is too short, and there seems to be a desire to use the non-starter as unitaskers, rather than having some level of overall depth.
A little pitching wouldn't hurt either.

That, and I keep my resume sharpened up.

Scott Simon (Mount Vernon, NY): Since we no longer have to wait to Free players like Johan Santana, can we please start a new campaign to End Twenty Minute Seventh Inning Stretches? Please?

Gary Huckabay: Amen, Brother. Long, dramatic renditions of 'America the Beautiful' are nice on occasion, but we've long since reached the point of saturation, where the meaning's been watered out of the ritual.

Evan (Boston): Please rank the following people by the smugbastardness coefficient. Billy Beane, Gary Huckabay, David Brancaccio, Jon Stewart, Theo Epstein, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, Al Franken, John Kerry, Paul DePodesta, Keith Law

Gary Huckabay: There's a few lunkheads like this in every chat. I figured that just once, I'd include one of your questions, so you can live the thrill of showing up in the chat transcript. But I've got a question in response -- if I'm so obnoxious, along with a bunch of other people whom you've probably never met, why are you here reading this? I don't like smoking, but you don't see me taking endless drags and hoarding boxes of Marlboro Reds. What the hell are you doing with your life? Perhaps you should take the major activity leap forward and start spending some quality time with internet porn. Better yet, go outside.

Chris Hartjes (Toronto): Hey Gary, wish I could read your work more often. I was wondering what you thoughts are on the concept of sportmanship and honesty in the baseball playoffs (i.e. the ARod swat last night and the comments that resulted from it from both sides)

Gary Huckabay: Mr. Rodriguez's on-field behavior on Tuesday night was Bush. He was obviously trying to knock the ball out of the pitcher's hands. I don't really have a problem with that. Yes, it's technically cheating, but so are most of the activities around the plate on a play at home. When the umpires got the call right, he should have jogged off the field. Instead, he hung around and whined and lied while Jeter was making moronic "safe" pantomimes in the dugout. To quote Mrs. Crabappel, "Pretty Lame, Milhouse."

We discussed this at some length on the BP Chatter List. Personally, I thought ARod's best bet was to "accidentally" shoulder block Arroyo and attempt to run over him like Bo Jackson over Brian Bosworth, because that might have been enough plausible deniability to actually get the call. As it was, his lame swat of the arm was only out-lamed by his post-UmpireGaggle protestations.

Long Suffering White Sox Fan (Chicago, IL): Gary, BP Nation is wondering - when is the time frame for the 2005 BP Prospectus Book - Are you shooting for release prior to March? I like to be kept abreast of how professionally managed MLB teams are doing. My inept White Sox will not have a chance to compete with Reinsdorf, Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen running the team. Do you see any hope for the South Side Hit Men without the three of them leaving?

Gary Huckabay: We don't have a dropdead date yet, but I expect we'll be out in Bookstores about March 1. We have arranged to drop ship mass quantities of the book to Amazon, which will cut out about a week of slack time in Amazon shipping the book.

We know you want the book early, and we try to find the best balance between the quality of the book and the speed with which we get it into your hands. We got the price lower, and we really are doing our best. For the record, I haven't gotten my copy of the book before the customers for years. I'm as anxious as you are.

KSillini (Kansas City): What's your best guess on how the baseball establishment will spin the Red Sox making it to (winning?) the World Series "despite" a so-called Moneyball approach? Will it just be swept under the rug & ignored because of their large payroll or will Epstein & maybe even Bill James be given some credit?

Gary Huckabay: I don't think it'll be a major topic of discussion. If it is, I think people will rationalize the facts to match their pre-conceived notions of the way things should be, the way most of us do all the time.

In reality, the success of the Red Sox is the result of the hard work of a lot of people, on the field, in the front office, and on the road all over the country. They have my congratulations, but I'm more than a little concerned about the potential behavior of RSN with a World Series under their collective belt. Does it mean a Jerry Remy cult? Will proper pronunciation of the English language take a nationwide hit?

Jeff Barton (Sacramento): Who will win more games in 2005 - 'your' A's or 'my' Giants?

Gary Huckabay: Depends on how the player acquisition phase of the offseason works out, but right now, the A's rotation for next year looks like some combination of Hudson, Mulder, Zito, Harden, Blanton, Redman.

As for them being "my" A's, I can't afford them after the signing of the recent bill changing the taxation structures. $150 Million was my limit, and the A's are probably over that by now in terms of sale price.

Justin (NYU): Doesn't the very real chance that a significant portion of players take steroids hinder projection systems like PECOTA? Such a system would seem to have no idea when players begin to use performance-enhancing products, when they stop, and what effects the drugs have?

Gary Huckabay: I don't think it helps, nor do I think that's worth worrying about in terms of potential deleterious effects of steroids. To a large extent, if the steroid use has been extant in the past, any forecasting system should be able to capture that, at least in part.

And if they didn't have an effect on performance, well, they were CRAPPY performance-enhancing drugs, and players should stick to dextrose and caffeine like the rest of us.

steve S (Davis, CA): With Schmidt, Rueter, Williams, Lowry and Foppert apparently returning to the Giants rotation in 2005, how would you evaluate whether the Giants should exercise their $2.5 million option on Brett Tomko after his strong stretch run in September?

Gary Huckabay: Tomko's September ERA was outstanding, but it should have been. 22 of his 35 innings in the month were against Arizona and Milwaukee, two teams putting offenses on the field that barely qualified as MLB offenses. Tomko's overall stats for the year aren't particularly that impressive, either in terms of performance this year, or promise going forward. He's not a bad pitcher, but I'm not sure he really solves a problem for the Giants.

Then again, there's not a ton of great pitching out there, and $2.5 Million's not a bad deal for a rotation filler.

Doug Pinnick (Santa Ana, CA): Hey, any chance you'll be at the DNA Lounge tonight to catch our show?

Gary Huckabay: Santa Ana?

There is a 100% chance I'll be at the show in SF tonight, instead of watching Game 7, which I'm going to TiVo, and watch tomorrow morning. I'll be working hard to avoid finding out the score. I do not miss a live King's X show, and I'll be dragging along 4 newbies. If anyone's in SF and wants to come out to the DNA Lounge in SF and say hello, please do. But please don't tell me about the game results.

Have I mentioned that I'm suing TiVo and Extra Innings for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress?

"Well, I could go to sleep, or I could watch that Detroit/Tampa Bay Game."

"But Charlie LOVES watching baseball! This is educational, dammit!"

Benjamin (University of MarylandUniversity of Maryland, Balt): How about Foulke for ALCS MVP? He shut the Yankees out in all the elimination games save the The Johnny Damon Show, where he wasn't needed.

Gary Huckabay: I agree with you. Foulke was amazing, but he was also very lucky. How hittable was the cookie he threw Tony Clark 2-0? And how annoyed were Yankee fans that he took the pitch? Or that he was in the batter's box, for that matter?

marlette (reno): Now you're Minaya/Duquette/Wilponx2: What player personnel moves do you make?

Gary Huckabay: Teardown.

The Zambrano/Kazmir deal was indicative that there's a need to institute a real decision making process, and right now, it's an organization that doesn't understand the concept of sunk costs, but it's saddled with lots of them. They need to get serious about looking to the future, and start clearing the deck so they can actually build the foundation of a championship team.

That might mean eating some bad contracts (pick a few of your favorites), making some trades to dump some loadstones, and starting to look at how to build a team that thrives on constant turnover to stay healthy and talented, rather than reflexively clinging to diminishing, aging semi-stars.

TGisriel (Baltimore): Assuming the Ynakees moved Jeter to center (or signed Beltran) what do they do with Williams?

Gary Huckabay: Fourth Outfielder/Pinch Hitter/DH sub, 300-350 PA/year.

Steve (Baltimore): which FA pitcher would you wish to sign first given his likely salary? Matt Clement, Pedro Martinez, Kevin Millwood, Carl Pavano?

Gary Huckabay: Pavano
Clement
---ugh line---
Martinez
Millwood

pimmel (Huntsville, AL): Is there any plan in place to have an on-going award or memorium of Doug Pappas? Perhaps the Pappas BS Detector Award, given to the best journalism that filters the swag out of the pure spin that MLB loves to churn.

Gary Huckabay: We're discussing a number of options on this front, and trying to come up with a fitting tribute to the much-missed Doug. Something along the lines you suggest might be interesting, but please forgive us if we look for a slightly more positive name.

Besides, there'd have to be a winner of the award. Right now, I'm not sure there would be.

Lonely 6-4-3 (NoCal): Gary, when will you write me again? When? When? When???

Gary Huckabay: Lot of people writing in asking me to write more...Thanks for the kind words. I will be doing more writing, and we'll have some pizza feeds; I promise at least three get-togethers in NorCal in the offseason, including one big get-together with a couple of papers being presented. I'm spending a lot of time on materials for speaking and professional services, and my son, who's now six months old, gets all the time I can give him. I'm a little concerned about his size -- he's at the top of the charts in terms of height, and 75th percentile in terms of weight. At his rate of growth, I expect him to have his own gravitational field (or at least his own zip code) by age 3 or 4. And, most importantly, he IS left handed, and is a switch drooler. (If I had more time, I could combine those for a LOOGY joke, but I'd have to pay John Sickels a dime.)

TGisriel (Baltimore): Assuming the Orioles don't exercise their $4.5 million option on Palmeiro next year (and their manipulation of his playing time so it wouldn't vest indicates they won't) should they try to re-sign him at a lower figure? Was the last month of the season (when he was productive) an indication for next year, or should it be based on the rest of the year (when he offered OBP but little power)

Gary Huckabay: I don't think they should. Any signing of a free agent is an investment, and I don't see the return in signing Palmeiro. It reminds me of the Devil Rays' signing of Tino Martinez -- what's the point, exactly? Baltimore, barring the alignment of some pretty funky stars, isn't going to be competing for the postseason, its fan base is less win-elastic than others in terms of attendance, and Palmeiro's not going to (a) be all that fantastic, or (b) demand a lot on the trade market.

Either a player is a contributor to a goal or he's not. The O's could start Palmeiro or Jimmie Foxx in his prime at 1B next year, and they'd still be the Orioles, dependent on the potential explosion of Matt Riley to catapult to the edges of contention. In other words, they need to quit spinning their wheels. That means not signing Palmeiro.

Mark Wolfson (El Dorado Hills, CA): Gary, What did you think of the Fox coverage of the ALCS?

Gary Huckabay: Well, I certainly like the camera funkiness and the sounds, but my visceral reflex that makes me want to vomit when I hear Tim McCarver discuss the obvious for the ninth time (while maintaining his absolutely miserale comic timing and pedantic logorrhea) really kind of ruined it for me.

RIGHT NOW!

Chatting: Gary Huckabay
Reading: A Dwindling Few
Eating Lunch: Most of the West Coast

duncanf (So Cal): Keep or deal Glaus? Is MacPherson ready?

Gary Huckabay: Deal. Give the jobs to Dallas and Casey, let Glaus play enough to boost the trade value up, and put Erstad in CF where he's worth closer to his contract.

Steve (Baltimore): Given the recognition to Abreu, Giles, and so on as underrated, is Jim Edmonds the new most underrated player in the game, given what he has done over the past few seasons? (Although given his age, he may not have the title for too much longer if he has it?)

Gary Huckabay: Edmonds might well have that title, although I think Johan Santana's still ahead of him by a bit. And let's not forget Derek Jeter, who deserves some long-overdue recognition.

Conor Glassey (Redmond, WA): We all know about front offices that use sabermetrics, and Derek Zumsteg mentioned the other day that Doug Glanville is very interested in stats, but what about agents? Are there any agents that use advanced metrics for the benefit of their clients?

Gary Huckabay: Last one.....

Yes, there are agents that use advanced metrics, but the job of an agent is much different than the job of a GM. They're in the advocacy business more than the accuracy business. They need to convince a specific buyer about the value of a particular player, so they need to understand how that buyer (usually a GM) values different performance components, and shape their message to persuade that buyer. Objective reality is nice, but it's not necessarily relevant, like real life.

Elvis (Graceland): Bush or Kerry?

Gary Huckabay: Have to answer it...

I'm a Republican, but I'm voting for Kerry.

Gary Huckabay: Enjoy the postseason, all. Thanks for all the words of congratulations and welcome for Charlie. And yes, I am duct-taping his right hand to make sure he develops that left roto cuff. Take care, all. Probably won't talk to you until after the holidays, so have a great holiday season, and may Carlos Beltran sign with your club.


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