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Chat: Sam Miller

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday May 04, 2012 1:00 PM ET chat session with Sam Miller.

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April showers bring May Miller, as Sam stops by for some afternoon baseball discussion.

Sam Miller: Before we begin, I insist you watch this video (h/t SB Nation), which I was 100 percent invested in hating until I watched it. We should all have a job where we like the people we work with as much as these guys like the people they work with. http://www.buzzfeed.com/jpmoore/epic-rain-delay-dance-off OK, nothing special planned for today. I'll answer questions for a bit. Preference goes to questions that can be answered with one of two responses: 1. Yeah, I predicted that 2. Small Sample Size Bring it.

ian (Oakland): Is "May Miller" your drag name or something?

Sam Miller: Oh goodness. I just saw this. Lindbeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeergh!

hchomeau6 (Newport Beach, CA): How disturbed should I be that Vernon Wells has batted second in Mike Scioscia's lineup? I figured that I'd still be pulling hairs at the fact that the man still plays at this point in the season, but this is going to drive me off the reservation.

Sam Miller: I don't think Scioscia cares a great deal about the run potential of batting orders, first off. Which is, depending on your viewpoint, either wasteful or fairly advanced, given how much arguing we do over decisions that are worth just a few runs a year. I think he'd rather use the lineup for psychological purposes, if you want to call them that, and right now he's throwing a bunch of lineups out there to see where people are comfortable. Vernon Wells talked about batting second in spring, and so it's just a little gamble to see if it pays off. This is probably a lot of action for nothing, and he/we will certainly never know if it worked. But there's only so much for a manager to do from 9 to 5 every day, and I don't begrudge him these whims.

Independent of the batting order: Holy goodness Vernon Wells is so bad, and shouldn't be in the lineup at all, probably. His OBP last year was .248, I believe. That's so low that even his 10th percentile PECOTA projection didn't see him repeating it, forecasting a .267 OBP. Tenth-percentile! He's at, I believe, .241 or so right now.

paulbellows (Calgary): The Twins are always resistant to change but surely something must be brewing. They are looking like a lock at losing 100 this year. I'm starting to miss the days of Ron Coomer and Denny Hocking.

Sam Miller: Uh oh. I broke the chat format... Really sorry guys. Is it all elongated and messed up for you all?

Glenn (Pennsylvania): Was there every going to be a place as a utility infielder for Amarista with the Angels? Any opinions on Frieri as well?

Sam Miller: Fixed it!

No, no place for Amarista. If everything broke right, he would have ended up being Maicer Izturis, which is actually really useful but things all had to break right for that. Amarista is no loss. I like Roach just fine. The Padres got a good return. The Angels did what they needed to do. Assuming Scioscia likes Frieri, which is always a question. Miss you, Rich Thompson.

Bill (New Mexico): Yes, it's incredibly elongated and all messed up. Very funny idea, but could you edit about three quarters of it away? ObBaseballQ: What's your over/under on (1) when Pujols gets his first HR, (2) how many he ends the season with?

Sam Miller: Hm. If he were 100 percent normal, he would homer around every 15 PA. I'll say we can't *totally* ignore his April and dock him 15 percent from here out. Say he hits his first HR within five games, and ends up with 28.

HalfStreet (Fairfax VA): The Nationals find themselves in a position that would be a little uncomfortable if it didn't contrast so favorably with any decision they have had the past 7 years. Chien-Ming Wang is going to come back from the DL, and find Ross Detwiler in his spot with a 3-1 record and 1.59 ERA. Strasburg, Gonzalez and Zimmermann aren't going anywhere, and Edwin Jackson is only having a lesser year by comparison. We are told Wang can't pitch out of the bullpen. What can Mike Rizzo do?

Sam Miller: Not pitch Chien-Ming Wang? I'm not sure Chien-Ming Wang's health is any more relevant to the Nationals right now than, like, Dick Cheney's health.

Mike W (Chicago): Should I pick up Dylan Axelrod in my AL-only league?

Sam Miller: You should pick up Dylan Axelrod in your White Sox-only league. Otherwise, no.

Not a Stalker (Oakland): Big fan of Pebble Hunting series and like what you do at BP....Give me a good reason why you can't be at BP Oakland event...was that to do with your comment on Kevin Goldstein's podcast Up and In with 20% A's fans are going to be dead before A's contend again?

Sam Miller: Thank you. Really appreciate that.

I think what I actually said was that 20 percent of A's fans are going to be dead in the next five years. It's probably more like 40 percent by the time they contend again. But, no, I actually showed my face at a book event in Emeryville (where the Ikea is!), a few miles from Oakland, quite recently. I'm going to be at the Anaheim and San Diego events, so everybody come to those and get all up in my face.

Steve N (Delaware): Is Adam Dunn back?

Sam Miller: I like May, because around May people (probably me, even) start acting like the sample size is big enough that we are learning significant information. But, as Dunn shows, an entire season doesn't really tell you anything close to definitive about a player. I think I remember reading Nate Silver once say that a player's preseason projections are more predictive than their actual stats *even at the end of the season*, which is sort of awesome if I remember it correctly. Entire seasons are too small of a sample. We know nothing, ever.

So Dunn. PECOTA had him going .251/.372/.506 before the 2011 season, and I wouldn't bet all that much against him hitting it this year. Though he's at an age when some steady decline makes sense. He's only a month older than Albert Pujols. Did you know that? That's a reliable mind-blower.

Ed (Cranford, NJ): Hi Sam Who will be more productive this year, Wade Miley or Patrick Corbin? Also - who takes over as Houston's closer if Myers is traded? Thanks

Sam Miller: I like Corbin a little bit more, but Miley has a stronger grip on a rotation spot, I think. I'm not a huge fan of either, though I'd gladly start either one in San Diego, LA or San Francisco.

Carpenter.

riley b (a tour bus headed for San Diego): What do you think the Angels should do with Peter Bourjos? With Mike Trout up, he's slated to play once (maybe twice) a week, and is apparently not someone the Angels are interested in trading right now. Do you think being a 4th OF in Anaheim is any better for him (or the team) than sending him to SLC?

Sam Miller: I want to say that Vernon Wells will eventually be pushed aside, or platooned at DH with Morales, and Bourjos and Trout can play CF/LF together. But I also don't think Trumbo is super likely to stay at third, and so he'll start getting OF starts. It's not that I'm against trading Bourjos, it's just that I don't ever get the sense (from the rumors and stuff) that they would get anything close to full value for him. I mean, the Bourjos for John Lannan rumors in the offseason were nothing, they weren't tied to reality (I don't think), but the fact that people in the industry, writers, etc, though that it was even remotely realistic tells me that, yikes, it might be remotely realistic. And trading Peter Bourjos for anything close to John Lannan would be absolutely insane.

I guess I'd keep him up as a fourth outfielder for now. Playing time has a way of working itself out, especially on a team with as many struggling hitters/fielders as the Angels.

Takahashi (Salt Lake): Best bullpen in baseball?

Sam Miller: A year ago, remember how bad the Rangers' bullpen was? It was their big weakness and it was going to bring them down and it would never survive a hot summer in Arlington. And now they have converted their closer to a starter and they still have a) Koji Uehara working mop-up innings! This is incredible to me. Isn't Koji Uehara one of the, oh, 20 best relievers in baseball? Maybe 15? And he is their sixth- or seventh man. He came in to the ninth inning down by six the other day. That's just his role! 2) They have Mark Lowe, who would be the easy answer to the Astros' closer question above if he were on the Astros, who hasn't pitched a game in even average leverage all year. The highest ALi he has this year is 0.49, which is ahead by five runs in the seventh inning. 3) They have the best bullpen in baseball. It's probably close, but I really want to be definitive, so I'm going to add "and it's not even close."

pat (kc): is Duffy turning into a left handed strike out flamethrowing solid #2 pitcher like it looks like he is?

Sam Miller: Ben had a good look at Duffy the other day:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16680
If you don't want to click, it goes like this: "Duffy struck out well over a batter per inning in Triple-A last season, but he surrendered roughly three strikeouts per nine innings following his mid-May promotion. In his first three starts of 2012, he’s struck out batters at a higher rate than he did in Omaha, and some of those additional swings and misses can be traced to the cutter that has replaced the slider he occasionally threw last season. [Awesome GIF]."

Duffy is a buy right now, but we'll have to wait and see whether hitters start laying off a few of those sliders. He's already in walk trouble, and not that this means anything but swinging strikes per start:

14 -> 12 -> 11 -> 9

Funkasaurus Rex (Houstlantavegas): What breed would each of the Angels starting pitchers be if a witch morphed them into puppy dogs?

Sam Miller: Weaver: Griffen Bruxelloise http://bit.ly/IrR3W1
Haren: Belgian Shephard dog http://bit.ly/IPeAhY
Wilson: Airedale Terrier http://bit.ly/K73mJG
Santana: Blue Lacy http://bit.ly/JxlQyI
Williams: Boykin Spaniel http://bit.ly/K73EA3

LoyalRoyal (Kansas): As an owner of Jordan Walden, should I be looking to pick up Ernesto Frieri? How do you see the LAA closer situation shaking out moving forward?

Sam Miller: I wouldn't. For one thing, Downs has a hold on the job at the moment. For another, I really think Walden is just getting a few days to collect himself, or something. If I had to bet, with I swear no useful information that could possibly help you, I would bet that Walden is saving games by May 15.

Jake (Charleston): So the Marlins closer "situation" is about to lead to some major drama-based hilarity, right?

Sam Miller: People complain about closer usage, but if it weren't for closer controversies, the managers meetings with the press would be a lot of awkward staring. That's one of the only places for reliable drama during a season. Silly, silly drama.

The New Yorker wrote about the Marlins a few weeks ago, and it was just amazing. Going to see if I can cut and past a section or two here...One sec. OK, here's my favorite part:

Guillen ignored the remark, slapped his boss’s hand, and patted him on the shoulder several times. “If I get this man to where he should be, it gonna be a raise,” he said.
Loria lifted his eyebrows. “The World Series?” he asked.
“Oh, no, that’s up to them,” Guillen said, and turned to look back at the players on the field.
“Oh, so they should get the raise,” Loria said.
“I get paid to win World Series,” Guillen continued.
“O.K.,” Loria said, verging on impatient. “So just do it.”
Guillen shook his head. “They gonna do it,” he said, and gestured at the field again. “My job? Hey, listen, if I get involved in the game more often, that means we’re horseshit. See, I stay away from them? That means we winning.”
“Good.”
“Be smart,” Guillen said, before disappearing into the clubhouse. “Make sure Ozzie’s not involved during the game. As soon as I start making moves, I might f*** it up.”

***

The other best part: Ozzie has three sons. Oney, you know. Ozzie Jr, you know. And if all you had was that information, you could literally guess the name of the third. It's Ozney.

Full piece here: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/04/09/120409fa_fact_mcgrath?currentPage=all

LoyalRoyal (Kansas): Any chance Will Middlebrooks carves out a role this year? With their OF woes, would they consider moving him, Youk or Adrian to OF just to get another stick in the line-up?

Sam Miller: Well, you can't just move Youk or Adrian to the OF, can you? Adrian is as slow as a Molina. Youkilis would get injured if you adjust the seat in his car. I don't know if they would move Middlebrooks, like I actually have no insight one way or the other, but note that Youkilis + back injury = totally unpredictable, so that's a maybe on Middlebrooks.

Sam Miller: Folks, I have to skedaddle a few minutes ahead of schedule. Thanks for chatting.


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