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Chat: Jay Jaffe

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday June 29, 2012 1:00 PM ET chat session with Jay Jaffe.

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Jay drops by to hit your questions and run.

Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, and welcome to today's chat. Here's hoping you're out of the sweltering heat and armed with a cool beverage...

ian the vegan (Oaklandia): Hey, Jay! Did you guys enjoy your visit to the Bay Area? What was your favorite thing about our crazy republik?

Jay Jaffe: Hey Ian, I had a great time in the Bay area. The weather was exceptionally cooperative, we ate well, saw some friends and some baseball and some baseball-related friends. My main regret is that I didn't get to stay longer and round up even more good folks for more baseball talk over beers.

There are a lot of things I like about the Bay Area, and some things that I don't, but one of the great ones is the availability of good, inexpensive, authentic Mexican food. Not that I don't find it in New York, but walking around the Mission in pursuit of tacos and other delights was quite a treat. AT&T Park and the Anchor Brewery were both pretty spectacular as well.

edwardarthur (Illinois): Is Robinson Cano firmly on a HOF track, or does he have to exceed expectations (longer peak, longer career, etc.) to get there?

Jay Jaffe: I wouldn't say he's firmly on a Hall of Fame track, but he's got a reasonable chance. He'll end his age-29 season with over 1,400 hits, 170-180 homers, a healthy batting line (.308/.349/.501 now), 4 All-Star appearances, and so on. If he just stays healthy and productive on a winning team, he'll be in pretty good shape.

That said he doesn't look as strong from a JAWS standpoint; his 29.7 WARP is less than half the average HOF second baseman (64.7), and he's only got four seasons above 4.0 WARP. Even if you project the average of those four seasons across seven years, that's a peak score of 34.0, well short of the Hall average of 43.2; even seven years at his absolute peak WARP of 5.5 would fall short at 38.5. He's going to have to put together a monster year or two to improve his standing in that regard.

wise guy (snarkville): I bet you'd show up on time if this was a SI chat, right?

Jay Jaffe: First answer was at 12:59 ET. Second one took research. Catching up by dealing with the dumbest question in my queue, though.

Jorge Soler (Good Question): Where I am right now? Cuba? Chicago? Any idea when I will start playing in ML games?

Jay Jaffe: Awaiting finalization of his deal, after which point I'd assume he reports to extended spring training, but that's just a guess. I highly doubt he's going straight to Chicago. More here: http://www.csnchicago.com/baseball-chicago-cubs/cubs-talk/With-Soler-on-deck-Cubs-designate-Wells-?blockID=731452&feedID=4901

Aaron (Dallas): If Martin Perez ever puts it together how good can he be?

Jay Jaffe: I'm not a prospect expert; I rely upon the work of and discussions with folks such as Kevin Goldstein, Jason Parks, Keith Law and the Baseball America team to get a sense of what a prospect can do now and what he may become eventually. The consensus appears to be along the lines of a number three starter with a chance to be a number two. That's a bit shy of what people thought a couple of years ago, but it would hardly be a shame, as even third starters don't grow on trees.

Luis (Richmond): Do you think that the Nationals can keep up their winning? Or will they become just another average team?

Jay Jaffe: I do think they can keep up their winning, as their record is essentially in line with their peripheral factors; their actual winning percentage (.581) and Hit List Factor (.580) are both tops in the league, and right in line with each other.

That said, they're likely going to have to do something about Stephen Strasburg late in the year, whether they hew to a hardline stance regarding his innings total or play it by ear. With Chien-Ming Wang turning into a pumpkin, they'll eventually need a reinforcement for that rotation, somebody better than the farmed-out John Lannan.

Hogie (DC): You a Ross Detwiler believer?

Jay Jaffe: Within reason, sure. He's cut the home runs and improved the strikeout rate considerably over the past two years, and while some of his success has to do with low BABIPs (.269 this year), he's improved his groundball rate above 50 percent and should be able to survive some regression in terms of defensive support. He has handled being moved back and forth between rotation and bullpen pretty well, something that could come in handy if the Nats deal for a starter sooner rather than later to help withstand Strasburg's innings limit.

John (MN): Should I be worried that Miguel Sano is turning into Rob Deer?

Jay Jaffe: I'm not a scout, so I can't speak to the specifics of his approach at the plate, but from a raw numbers standpoint, I'd be a bit worried in that Sano is striking out in 29 percent of his plate appearances. The power is there (.251 ISO) and the walks are there (14%, nearly all unintentional, and up from 8% last year), and both indicate progress as he's jumped from rookie ball to full-season A-ball in his age-19 season. The numbers still say he's a beast in the making.

James (Paris): Would you change anything about the All Star Game? And if so, what? Also, someone told me the reason you don't want Vizquel in the HoF is because you're a racist. Is this true?

Jay Jaffe: Yes, I'd uncouple the result from the home field advantage in the World Series, and insist that the starters play at least five innings, with a resulting trim in the roster size.

As for the Vizquel comment, that's downright asinine even if you're trying to be facetious. JAWS is colorblind, and I've advocated for dozens upon dozens of players of all colors.

Nick Stone (New York, NY): Hey Jay, After reading Jason Park's piece on Smoak, I was curious if you thought any of his struggles (and Montero's) were in part due the hitting coach. I realize Smoak has major issues, but the fact that the Mariners have made no progress in helping to resolve them, coupled with Montero's regression, makes me wonder. Is it too late to send Montero down in order to stop running the clock while he's hitting at a replacement level? Should they get him to learn 1B at AAA?

Jay Jaffe: Hey Nick, I wonder about the quality of instruction the young hitters are receiving in Seattle - note that Dustin Ackley is struggling as well (.240/.319/.332). I believe that old friend Chris Chambliss is currently the hitting coach, the third one in four or five seasons (http://blog.seattlepi.com/marinersfanblog/2011/07/06/revolving-door-mariner-hitting-coach/). Maybe his approach just isn't working for the kids.

That said, Safeco Field is a very tough place to hit, and I don't know whether there are weather/climate factors that have made it particularly tough this year beyond what we might have expected. Veterans like Ichiro have seen their performances collapse, Chone Figgins has never been the same since he hit town, and the road is littered with failed Mariners prospects. Maybe they need to think about adjusting the fences slightly to make it an easier place to hit.

I do think the Mariners should send Montero down at some point in order to recover what may be a lost year from an arbitration/free agency standpoint. That said, Safeco is a particularly tough environment for righties.

BD (DC): Hello Jay. As both a baseball prospectus contributor, and Yankee fan- can you settle a dispute I have with a buddy (fellow Yankee fan). I maintain D Jeter's has been below average on defense for some time now, and he merely suggests I can't trust defensive metrics. HELP

Jay Jaffe: It would be one thing if one defensive metric said Jeter was well below average in a given year, because a single year of defensive data isn't a reliable sample size. It's quite another if every major metric says he's well below average almost every year, and in fact rates among the worst shortstops of all time with the leather. That's the case for Jeter, though he's been well above average among shortstops when it comes to offense, and has been quite a valuable player over the course of his career.

jhardman (Apex, NC): In four weeks, Zack Greinke will be in the rotation for ____________.

Jay Jaffe: Kansas City. Wait, just kidding!

If the Brewers do go ahead and trade for Greinke, my best bets are (gets out dartboard) the Diamondbacks, who have a wealth of young pitching prospects, and the Rangers, who have a very rich system in general and a desire to get over the top.

BlueJaysFan (Toronto): Not sure if you got to see Bauer's debut yesterday. What did you think of it? I was not overly impressed.

Jay Jaffe: I did watch Bauer's start. He scuffled, no doubt, and lost the plot in the third inning. The raw stat line was not remarkable, but one had to be impressed that he limited the damage to two runs despite putting nine men on base in four innings. The Diamondbacks came back to win 3-2. For a guy making his major league debut in a road game against a playoff caliber team, that's no shame at all.

Further mitigating his performance is that he was apparently on short rest, having thrown like 50 pitches on Sunday, and the word is that he's been dealing with a minor groin issue that he aggravated, which could have been a factor as well. It would be foolish to dismiss him based upon one start.

Struggling (NYC): Just lost CC, Pettitte and Dempster to injury. This ain't pretty, but who would you pick up out of this group? Milone, Samardzija, Wei-Yin Chen, Floyd, Ervin Santana, Masterson, Hochevar, Bailey and Quintana.

Jay Jaffe: I like Samardzija, who's been strafed for a .331 BABIP but has good strikeout and home run rates. Chen has held his own in a tough park, and Masterson has been pretty decent besides the wins.

Nick (Akron, OH): Should the Indians just blow it up? They need pieces to stay in it, but don't have the assets on the farm to make an impact trade.

Jay Jaffe: Blow it up? Hell no. They're in a race, and they've got some good young players in their lineup even if they're not all playing up to their potential (Santana, espeically). I'm not sure I'd go all out to further deplete the system as they did in getting Ubaldo, but more minor upgrades are possible, especially if they're willing to take on salary. They should be able to pick up a starter and another bat without depleting the system.

RJ (Jersey): What's your general take on the DH and the possibility of adopting it in both leagues? Also, you will be drinking ____ beer on the July 4th.

Jay Jaffe: I wrote about this back in the spring (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16178). After resisting for years, I've come around on the idea that keeping pitchers hitting is ultraidiotic given the number of injuries and how pathetic they are at the task, so bring on the DH, please! With the advent of season-long interleague play next year as the teams switch to a 15/15 split across leagues, the NL is dealing with an inherent roster disadvantage - why carry a decent hitter with little value in the field all season? - that should be remedied.

Paul (DC): Is Chris Sale this insanely good or will this season be the outlier of his career?

Jay Jaffe: Oh, and on the 4th of July beer question, no idea what my plans are yet but a good guess is something from the Six Point line (Sweet Action or Crisp).

As for Chris Sale, I'll go with outlier, as I have a hard time imagining he can maintain a .257 BABIP forever, and I don't think he'll be striking out more than a batter per inning forever as well. Still, he's having a hell of a year and I hope he can remain healthy.

Alex (Anaheim): Shaun Marcum or Matt Harrison for the rest of the season?

Jay Jaffe: I'll take the guy who's not currently on the disabled list and who's playing in front of the above average defense, namely Harrison. Marcum's gotten a .268 BABIP on a team that's 22 points below average in defensive efficiency, while Harrison's at .294 on an above-average team in that regard. He doesn't miss as many bats, but his chances for sustaining his success appear greater from this vantage.

iorg34 (Uffda): Do you think Joe Mauer will make the Hall?

Jay Jaffe: Much longer shot than I thought 2-3 years ago. He's not going to stick at catcher forever, and he can't deliver the kind of power that made his best seasons so special.

Nick Stone (New York, NY): Which is more likely; the Youklis trade plays a large role in a White Sox division title, or the continuing absence of Longoria and regression of Moore keep the Rays out of the playoffs?

Jay Jaffe: I think they both are reasonably likely. Third base was a gaping vortex of suck for the White Sox, and even a league average performance from Youkilis would be a big gain. The Rays have played sub-.500 ball without Longoria and have done a lousy job of replacing him, though doing so is a tough task given his skill on both sides of the ball. If Moore regresses, I think it'll be for the good - his home run rate is a particularly gaudy 1.3 and shouldn't be that high, while his BABIP is right around league average.

lemppi (Iowa): If you are Dombrowski, do you prioritize plugging the hole at 2B, or replacing Boesch in RF? Or do you just pay what it takes to do both? Thank you.

Jay Jaffe: You pay what it takes to fix both of those AND the DH slot, where Delmon Young is again the human embodiment of a gaping vortex of suck. It's probably more important to get strong defense out of second base than it is strong offense, but in order to get away with that you have to fill the other two holes.

Craig (VA): Losing Pettite and CC within hours of each other cut like a knife to quote Bryan Adams. Besides Garcia, who else can help in the rotation?

Jay Jaffe: First Bryan Adams reference on my watch - can't believe I avoided it until now given that the guy's music was an inescapable fungus during my high school years.

I wrote about the Yankees' situation at length at SI: http://mlb.si.com/2012/06/27/losses-of-sabathia-and-pettitte-threaten-to-derail-yankees-2/

Short version is that both Adam Warren, who's starting tonight, and David Phelps, who briefly took over Garcia's spot before Pettitte joined the club, can provide some help. The Yankees have a month to see what they can do before entering the trade market, and the resources to get a deal done if need be. They'll be OK, I think.

oira79 (san francisco): Who are the best pitcher and non-pitcher not currently in the Hall of Fame? And if you could kick out one player, who would it be?

Jay Jaffe: As of the 2013 ballot, which will be released this fall, the answers are America's most wanted couple, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. They'll retain those titles until the voters hold their noses and put them in the Hall, which I don't think will happen this year but will happen within three or four years.

Paul (DC): Is David Wright firmly on a HOF track? Any guess as to which team will be his first non-Met team?

Jay Jaffe: Firmly? No, not with his health issues. He's got the makings of a nice peak, with three seasons above 5.0 and six above 4.4; his peak score right now is 38.8, compared to a Hall average of 45.3. So he's still got his work cut out, and staying healthy is going to be a challenge for him.

I think the Mets will re-sign him, so I'm not sure I have any feel for where else he might end up

Paul (DC): From the Indians in 90s, who on their roster had the most value?

Jay Jaffe: Offhand I'd guess Jim Thome was the most valuable during their run, followed by Albert Belle, who didn't stay for all of it, and Manny Ramirez, who was limited by his defense (not that Thome wasn't). I don't have the means to run a query at the moment to confirm this, but I'll see if I can get to something like that soon.

Snakes (Philly): Should the Phils be sellers (Victorino, Hamels, Thome,etc)or go all in buying and hope Utley and Howard get us back in contention?

Jay Jaffe: I think they have almost a month to see if they can turn it around with Utley back and Howard and Halladay on the way. If they're not above .500 in a few weeks, yes, I'd deal the aforementioned. I'd deal Thome regardless, as interleague play is over.

Jay Jaffe: Ok folks, that's all I can squeeze in today. It's been a gas chatting with you again, thanks for taking the time to stop by!


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