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Chat: Sam Miller

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday June 12, 2012 1:00 PM ET chat session with Sam Miller.

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You've got questions, Sam's got answers. Most of them might even be right!

Sam Miller: I'm chatting!

jpmargo3 (New Jersey): Billy Hamilton's ETA? Is he a modern day Vince Coleman?

Sam Miller: You know, I'd love to see him in September. I don't know if that will ultimately make sense for the Reds, because of service time and all that, but September and October are the months when a team can really go insane with tactical stuff and where a specialized runner can actually make sense. I remember Chone Figgins making a pretty big impact on the 2002 Angels as nothing more than a pinch-runner, for instance. I remember that. I can't actually say it's true, but I remember it. I think I'll spend some time later looking it up.

Hamilton, though. So fast. It would interesting to try to figure out just how much the world's greatest baserunner could conceivably be worth if his legs were highly leveraged.

Paul (DC): What quantity and quality of work as the Nationals Manager would be enough to get Davey Johnson into the HOF?

Sam Miller: I think a good rule of thumb (that I'm just coming up with now) is that a manager needs two World Series champions with two different nuclei to get serious consideration, and three makes him a lock. Johnson has one, so another one puts him in the discussion. He could use some more longevity, I suppose, but of the three managers above him in wins and the three below him, four are in the Hall. Thirteen of the 19 managers with better winning percentages are in the Hall, and another is Girardi who scarcely counts.

So, somewhat arbitrarily, I'll say: Three playoff appearances, one more ring.

RangersFanSince10 (Arlington): That's it! The Rangers are done! They can't hold off the Angels and need to be in sell mode, right? What do you think they could get for Hamilton and Napoli?

Sam Miller: Don't worry, Texas, there's always the bonus Wild Card spot!

The Rangers are still the best team in baseball, and this is a good time (as a month ago was a good time) to remind each other that teams are never as good as they look when they're winning and vice versa. It's good that there's a race, because that rivalry is getting vicious and September is going to be a friggin ball this year. Remember when there was that presidential race in Ukraine and one candidate got poisoned and his skin broke out into some super weird rash for the rest of the campaign? I could see Texas and Anaheim poisoning each other and breaking out into super weird rashes.

Jason (Clarksville): Do you have particular writers who you think have influenced your style? Related, but not exactly the same: what do you like to read when you're not reading about baseball?

Sam Miller: Yeah, Grant Brisbee and Jeff Sullivan are my two favorite non-BP writers and I have to be careful not to rip them off too directly. I think I learned to write without arguing (I hate arguing) by reading Neyer. Besides baseball, I like almost all the non-fiction in the New Yorker, I like the cowboy books by Larry McMurtry, I like what Tom Wolfe wrote when he was a younger man, and I like Dumas.

Yefrem (Saskatchewan): Does Detroit ultimately win the A.L. Central?

Sam Miller: At this point, I think you have to say no. Even if the first two months don't change your opinion of a team, and even if you don't think five games is too much to make up, five games is a LOT to make up on two different teams. I think Detroit does not ultimately win the A.L. Central, and somehow Ryan Raburn gets blamed.

jpmargo3 (NJ): Bundy, Bauer, Skaggs, Hultzen. Who ya got?

Sam Miller: ... wow.

Bundy Hultzen Bauer Skaggs, but I should probably know better than to put a 19-year-old at the top. We will never learn.

Paul (DC): Are the odds now tilted in Giancarlo Stanton's favor that he will have a better career than Jason Heyward?

Sam Miller: Oh, definitely. The odds are that Stanton is a better hitter, now, at 22, than Heyward will ever be.

Alex (Anaheim): Ivan Nova has improved lately. Can he sustain this success?

Sam Miller: R.J. covered this pretty well yesterday:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=17310

I'm a little skeptical that working backward is a longterm panacea. There are so many moving parts to the pitcher/hitter matchup that I think no plan can often be as effective (or at least as uncomfortable to the hitter) as a great plan. Nova's got plenty to hang around as a pretty good pitcher for a long time, but I don't expect any big steps forward.

BlueJaysFan (Toronto): Can you fix "The Freak" or is something secretly wrong with him?

Sam Miller: Best bet is something secretly wrong. Or is it a secret even? Velocity Loss + Command Loss seems like it's virtually always followed by some sort of surgery or time off. It might not be acknowledged or identified yet, but we're all assuming it. I'm assuming it.

Renfei (DC): Are you buying into R.A. Dickey's breakout season?

Sam Miller: I'm buying into the fact that he's really hot, but feel pitches can come and go quickly. R.A. wasn't having a breakout season at all until four starts ago, and if you're asking if I'm buying into four breakout starts, no.

Jquinton82 (NY): "I should probably know better than to put a 19-year-old at the top. We will never learn." ... in reality with numbers he's put up so far is there any real reason not to put him at the top of that list?

Sam Miller: I think so. To be a successful major leaguer requires tremendous talent, but it also involves passing a bunch of other obstacles. Double-A hitting, let alone Triple-A and major-league hitting, is a test that the others have passed and he hasn't. The workload of a full season is a test the others (to varying degrees) have passed and he hasn't. The injury nexus is a test that the others have passed and he hasn't. Silly as it sounds, simply going from 19 to 22 and not turning into a jerkwad is a test. Every test is a place where things can go wrong. I put him first because of the talent, but if you ask me to bet on the one most likely to win fewer than 10 major league games, I'd put him first on that, too.

dannyras (CA): Realistically, Sam, what do the Angels do with Vernon Wells come August? Is he relegated to 4th/5th/6th OF or do we finally sever the tie to the affable albatross?

Sam Miller: If he weren't Vernon Wells, but were some Triple-A veteran, he'd be a little bit of a perfect fourth outfielder. He can play all three spots, he is actually pretty good defensively at a corner, he has power off the bench. I guess you'd rather he switch-hit and run a little bit, but he'd be not the worst fourth outfielder.

The problem is that you don't want a sulking veteran in the clubhouse, and Vernon probably won't respond to being benched like a Triple-A veteran. I guess he sticks around this year until they figure out whether Torii is coming back in some role after 2012, and until Peter Bourjos has either stuck or unstuck.

Titmus (London): Trout's batting average, sustainable?

Sam Miller: Bet the under, but if you're asking whether Mike Trout's .410 BABIP is sustainable, the answer is "no" and "but closer than you think." He had something near a .400 BABIP in the minors, and if you knock off 30 or so points to mirror the change in league averages, he's still something close to historic on balls in play. At least for now. Doubt he'll be quite this fast in three or four years.

The Go (NYC): Altuve or LaHair ROS?

Sam Miller: Altuve, by some length. By at least three or four Altuves.

jpmargo3 (New Jersey): When do we see Jorge Soler in the majors? Any comparisons?

Sam Miller: Summer 2014.

Comparisons: Pitbull, Andy Garcia, Waldo Diaz-Balart, Daisy Fuentes,

KRS (Loop): Apologies in advance for the open-ended question, but what are your long-term impressions of Starlin Castro?

Sam Miller: I hate when I click on a question and then realized I need to give it some thought.

I love Castro as a hitter, and I think he's going to grow into a real, real power threat. I don't mean this comp to be too literal, but I wouldn't put Alfonso Soriano's 20s beyond him. I'd like to see him playing on a good team. With no insight into his mind or personality or anything of the sort, I do wonder whether it's boring for a 22-year-old to be a regular shortstop on a bad team three years in a row.

BlueJaysFan (Toronto): "The odds are that Stanton is a better hitter, now, at 22, than Heyward will ever be." Are you pretty much saying Heyward is more hype and will never be the superstar that some pegged him to be?

Sam Miller: Nah, he's a good player who might still be a great one. I just wouldn't *bet* on him successfully making major adjustments as a hitter at this point, two and a half years into his career. I'm not eager to bet against him, either. Why do I have to bet?

Bmurphy428 (Syracuse NY): Should someone in SF be fired for trading Zack Wheeler and not even re-signing Beltran? How good is Wheeler, really?

Sam Miller: I'm not mad at that trade. It looks terrible because they missed the playoffs, but they didn't miss the playoffs because of Beltran; it was a series of unforeseeable injuries to everybody from Lou Seal on down that hurt them. It was aggressive to trade Wheeler, maybe too aggressive, but they had 90-percent playoff odds when they made the trade and would be pretty smug right now if Beltran had carried them to the World Series, obviously.

Re-signing him would have been great, but you could say that 29 other teams should have signed him and all failed to this winter. It's not really relevant to the Wheeler move.

Paul (DC): The Pirates rank last in the NL in runs scored. Is their offense actually worse than it appears?

Sam Miller: Oh gosh I hope not. I laughed out loud a few days ago when their broadcast crew talked about how the lineup features a string of guys, from 2 to 7, who can hit the ball out. Technically true! They were counting Walker, and McGehee, and Barmes.

Matt (Queens): Do you think Gavin Cecchini can be an All-Star one day?

Sam Miller: Brandon Beachy is going to be an All-Star. I think everybody with two legs and a head that a hat can fit on can be an All-Star one day.

TJ (Jersey): M. Barnes, Jose Fernandez, and T. Guerrieri... Which of these 3 will most likely be a frontline starter?

Sam Miller: Fernandez.

Paul (DC): With Noesi (5.99 ERA) and Beavan (5.92 ERA) taking up 2 of the Mariners' 5 rotation slots, are the chances better than 75% that Hultzen will be in the rotation before September 1st?

Sam Miller: I hope you guys appreciate that when we answer questions like this, unless we're Goldstein, we don't actually *know* the chances. We're just guessing. If you all nod your heads that you know this, I won't feel bad answering these questions as though I do know.

If you take them at their word that they were willing to start Hultzen in the rotation coming out of camp -- and I think I do; it seems to cause more distraction to say that than to not say it, so there's no incentive for them to lie -- then, yes, Hultzen is theoretically on the depth chart, and considerably better than the Mariners' other options.

Aaron (LB): Thoughts on the reported 5 yr/$85 mil deal for 30 year old Andre Ethier?

Sam Miller: They had to lock him up; otherwise, the super-rich new Dodgers new ownership would sign him when he became a free agent. Wait, I guess that explanation only works when other teams sign their pending free agents.

I wouldn't really want Ethier for five years, and I don't think that's just because I have never adjusted to when Billy Beane traded him away at a time that I was very, very convinced that Billy Beane couldn't possibly make a bad move. The generous way of looking at it is this: There aren't going to be any good free agents anymore. There will be some, but very few, since everybody good gets locked up at even earlier ages and for even longer. So if there are no free agents, and you have to spend the money somehow, might as well keep the guy you like.

Not Jerry Dipoto (LAAA): Sam, you are my favorite baseball writer, tell folks on interweb why I signed Eric Aybar while being a huge fan of walks (hint: even all the pitches were call balls, Aybar still won't walk cuz he have seen lower than 4 per AB)

Sam Miller: I'm going to wrap this up, so lightning round.

Because you think, perhaps correctly, that Aybar is a better defender than the metrics say, and that's valuable.

Paul (DC): If Bo Jackson had never returned to football, what sort of career stats do you think he'd have accumulated?

Sam Miller: He would have had Jose Canseco's 30s. He wouldn't have been a Hall of Famer.

BlueJaysFan (Toronto): Do you think the Rangers see Profar as their SS of the future or will they think about another position for him? Hard to believe they would trade Andrus at this point.

Sam Miller: Sounds like the smart folks think he'll play second and Kinsler will move to left. Seems reasonable.

Paul (DC): Who wins the Most Futile Ownership award for the first decade of the 21st Century? A) Orioles B) Pirates C) Royals D) Other

Sam Miller: Orioles, assuming we aren't holding the Rays' ownership for the first half of the decade against them.

Ricky Romero (Canada): Can you fix me or is this kinda who I am?

Sam Miller: I didn't really expect you'd get this far

Paul (DC): Do the Nationals have a chance as the single season best pitching rotation since ____________ ?

Sam Miller: I'd like to know the end of that sentence, too. The Nationals' rotation should get them to the playoffs, but I don't think any besides Strasburg is a good bet to have a sub-3 second half.

BlueJaysFan (Toronto): What kind of production do you see Salvador Perez making? Is he a future all star?

Sam Miller: I don't think All-Star, no.

BlueJaysFan (Toronto): who's the better keeper? Middlebrooks or Moustakas?

Sam Miller: Moustakas

Chris (Bourjos household): Do you see Peter Bourjos stick for long as Angels? Or eventually go to Nationals and play CF for #Nattitude ?

Sam Miller: I don't think there was much to the Nationals connection ever. I think Hunter is going to probably play himself into a pretty good contract somewhere else, Wells won't bounce back at all, and the Angels will keep Bourjos for a Trout/Bourjos/Trumbo outfield.

Oldwell89 (NC): How much stock do you put in production fall off for starting pitchers such as Shelby Miller, Jacob Turner and Manny Banuelos once they reach high level minors? Could it be that it takes a couple of years at higher levels for some guys, or does this affect their previous profiles a 1 or 2 starters?

Sam Miller: A lot of stock, but if the scouting reports stay good then I calm down a bit.

That's all, thanks for the questions.

Sam Miller: .


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