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Chat: Sam Miller

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday August 17, 2012 1:00 PM ET chat session with Sam Miller.

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Ask unto Sam, and answers shall be given you.

Sam Miller: Good morning and afternoon, everybody. I'm thrilled to be here, as it will be a nice distraction from the eight-day war I've been waging against the millions of Argentine ants that I suspect are living in my walls, pipes, floor boards, counters. Argentine ants are just about the coolest animal in the world. They have colonies that stretch the entire length of California. Seriously! There are, I believe, four colonies in the state that are constantly fighting for a few feet of territory, and the largest, the "California Large Colony" is more than 500 miles long. When Argentine ants take over a neighborhood, they push out all the other ants and become almost invincible. They've been drinking ant poison around my house for a week and not slowing down a bit, probably because there are so many queens that you can't just poison them and expect them to go away. So that's what I'm up to. Ants.

Ashitaka1110 (Houston, TX): ETA to the Majors for Delino DeShields jr?

Sam Miller: Around his 22nd birthday, summer 2014. His recent promotion to high-A is timed well if they want to be really agressive and start him in Double-A next year, but it's still going to take him succeeding in three levels, as one of the youngest players at each, to get him up by 2014.

Alex (My birthday): Do you have an explanation for 3 perfect games already this season, or is this just randomness?

Sam Miller: There's some randomness to it, of course, but every year the league sets new strikeout records and the best way to throw a perfect game (or, at least, a no-hitter) is to not let stupid stuff like bad hops and bloopers and Michael Saunders get involved.

I may be the minority, but it's been a long time since I cared about no-hitters. They so often look like just good, not superlative starts. So I'm hoping the run of perfect games makes everybody just ignore plain old no-hitters.

ryanholloway (Colorado Springs): Bigger impact play: Delino DeShields Jr. or George Springer?

Sam Miller: Springer for sure. There are soooo many Astros questions in the queue, folks. Strap in.

WestCoastMets (The Devil's Waiting Room): 1. Dan Haren WTF happen? 2. Will the Angels pick up his $15.5 million option for 2013 and take the risk that he's just having a really really bad year and will revert back to prior form in 2013... or do they pay out $3 mil, move on, and let some other team figure out whether he's even a viable back-end rotation guy in the future?

Sam Miller: Yeah, so Dan Haren. He's still got an edge on Joe Saunders since the trade in 2010, but it's close; two-tenths of a run of ERA or so. He had four starts in the previous three years in which he walked as many batters as he struck out. He has five of those this year. This isn't really like 2010, when he was getting BABIP'd to death. Very hittable.

Haren had been losing velocity steadily for a few years, and this might just be the year it got to be too much. It's a chat, so anything I say here has been researched for about 14 seconds, so give me a break if this is wrong, but it looks to me like he allowed one home run last year on a four-seamer up in the zone. And this year he has allowed 11. He throws a lot of four-seamers up in the zone, and when the velocity on them drops from 90 mph to 88.5 mph, it's hard to survive. He did OK in the past with less velocity because he developed the cutter on the fly, but I'm not sure what he can develop next. And even the cutter has gotten a little more slidery than he'd like at times this year.

I think the Angels pick up the option. What other choice do they have? Sign a pitcher for four years as a free agent? Almost impossible that that wouldn't be even riskier. As it is, they'll presumably let Ervin walk, may not have a chance to re-sign Greinke, and be looking at two starters plus Garrett Richards, Jerome Williams and ___________. So, yeah, option picked up, and hope it's just his back. Since he acknowledged the back soreness, his ERA is 5.5, but on the other hand who knows.

Hard Knox (Cali): Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz or Little John and the Merry Men?

Sam Miller: I'm probably leaving some out, by my Lil rankings would go:
Wayne
Mama
Kim
Flip
Romeo
Bow Wow
Scrappy
Jon

With Lil Brotha, Big Boi's kid brother, probably near the top on projection alone.

Peter (NYC): Is Garret Cole going to end up a #1 starter ace?

Sam Miller: Yes! Unless something goes wrong. Easiest question, thank you Peter. Peter can ask all the questions from now on.

Ian (Bump City): Hey Sam, first time, long time! Thanks for taking my question. So, the Astros, huh? j/k lololol Any insight into why the Giants' bullpen has been so awful this year? Apart from the obvious lack of Brian Wilson, I mean. Is it simply regression? I'll take my answer off the air.

Sam Miller: Bullpens are so weird. I wrote a Game of the Week piece in, oh, i don't know mid-May about the Giants' bullpen and how good they were. I also noted in the piece that the Rangers' bullpen was something like historically good, like Mariano Rivera's entire career boiled down and replicated by an entire bullpen. Since then, the Giants and Rangers have both had lousy bullpens and now I wonder what they're going to get in October (if they make October).

For the Giants, I'm not too worried. The top five, the guys I mentioned in the GOTW, have held it together, although Clay Hensley is not to be trusted for what seem to me to be pretty obvious reasons. The overall bullpen numbers have been crushed by the fact that the Giants haven't had a decent longman, and the Pennys and Louxes have been crushed when they've gotten innings. This is probably a bit more worrying for the Giants as it relates to the rotation; if something happens to somebody in their rotation, they basically have nobody who can step in, as the Pennys and Louxes have shown. The Giants bullpen isn't great. It makes me a little nervous. But it's good. Good bullpens just make me (and everybody) nervous, because that's their nature.

It's mostly the same issue with Texas, with some extra injuries thrown in. Scheppers, Tateyama, Grimm have been lousy, but they won't be lousy in October because they won't sniff action in October.

George (East Lansing): Who is the baseball player with the personality you like the least? Josh Beckett is in a class by himself.

Sam Miller: I still can't believe that LoMo took a picture. It's one thing to have a sort of outdated and insensitive opinion. But to take a picture of a stranger, and to post it on the internet, borders on violence.

Beau (San Francisco): You realize the ants are a symbolic punishment for being a Giants fan right now.

Sam Miller: But then what are all the millions of ants that I have chopped to pieces being punished for?

bradleyankrom (nyc): Who would win in a foot race, Billy Hamilton or Usain Bolt running backward?

Sam Miller: The funny thing is there are probably hundreds, thousands (?) of people in between Hamilton and Bolt who nobody cares about. "Look at Billy Hamilton run! It's amazing. What an aesthetic marvel. Proof of God!" What about that guy over there, in the world championships, representing Senegal in the 200? "Meh."

LoyalRoyal (Kansas): If you were the Royals, would you be willing to part with one of your young core hitters for a front end starting pitcher? And if so, who would give up and who would you desire back? Thanks...

Sam Miller: Yes! I would. I refuse to give you names, because whoa boy would I probably suggest something stupid. But if I were the Royals, I think I'd be talking myself into consolidating for a real run in 2013, and that would mean adding somebody I wouldn't be totally embarrassed to start in a Wild Card play-in game.

dipotonotdipoto (brooklyn): How would you get out if you were placed into a giant blender alongside Ray King?

Sam Miller: I don't have a great answer for this, which makes me unqualified to work for Goldman Sachs (hooray!). But I will note that it took me Ray King's entire career, plus four years of inactivity, before I finally realized today that his name is Raking. Not quite Grant Balfour or Dave Heaverlo, but an underrated pitcher aptonym.

dianagram (VORGville): Likelihood of each happening, in %: a) Pirates finish above .500 b) Pirates get a WC slot c) Pirates win division d) McCutchen gets MVP e) Burnett gets Cy Young

Sam Miller: 80, 40, 1, 80, 2.

redguy12588 (Pittsburgh): I asked 3 different questions about Taillon, and you ignored them all!!!!

Sam Miller: I was overwhelmed with choices!

Related:
http://www.gladwell.com/2004/2004_09_06_a_ketchup.html

Dexter (Miami): What pitching prospect yet to pitch in the Big Show do you think has the highest ceiling? My 2 cents goes to Taijuan Walker.

Sam Miller: Gosh, I don't know that any answer that isn't Dylan Bundy is fair. I can see arguments for rather having Walker than Bundy, but if it's just ceiling?

michaelmcduffe (canada): Hi Sam. Two AL starters that have impressed lately are McAllister and Iwakuma. What do you think of them going forward?

Sam Miller: I wrote about McAllister's unearned runs and how they have skewed his overall stats, but generally he's been a real revelation. More velocity, great peripherals, consistent with some improvement he had already shown in Triple-A. And his strand rate is hysterically low, so there's some room for superficial improvement. I don't think he's getting better than this, but he should be a good member of the Indians' rotation for the three or four years until he gets expensive.

Iwakuma, eh. Maybe unfair, but haven't seen anything statistically or watching him that made me excited.

R.A. Wagman (Toronto): This question to you is both about our society (in general and in baseball) and about BP and is not meant to be a criticism per-se: Why did the Melky suspension garner two blog posts and a daily podcast, while an amazing occurrence like the King Felix perfecto only get half of What You Need to Know post?

Sam Miller: Because every PED suspension is unique, with all sort of fascinating factors at play: The player, his past, his performance, his team's standings, his contract, the media, the denial or lack of denial, the personalities, the overreactions, the thinking of the children, etc.

Whereas perfect games are awesome and we get swept up in them while they're happening and all that, but they're not *that* different from other great starts, from other perfect games, from dominant non-perfect games. And their impact ends with the 27th out.

Boris (Ukraine): Better chance to go 30/30 next season: Cespedes or J-Upton?

Sam Miller: Upton. I still like Upton for any question you have pitting those two.

Omar Little (Baltimore): Is Chris Sale having the year Matt Moore was supposed to have?

Sam Miller: Chris Sale is having a year that nobody is *supposed* to have. You just put enough good players in a room together and wait for one to do something incredible. Sale might be the sexiest expected starter in the AL right now.

Ervin (LA): I have a solution that will allow Ervin Santana to sign a huge free agent contract in 2014. Sign an incentive laden deal with the Padres and then let the Yankees overpay based on his Petco numbers.

Sam Miller: Is there an example of a Petco pitcher getting rich off his Petco stats? Probably ones I'm forgetting, but baseball doesn't seem to be falling for this like they fell for mid-90s Rockies hitters.

Ashitaka1110 (Houston, TX): If the Astros were to deal Bud Norris in the off-season, what kind of return might they realistically get? Less than for Gio Gonzalez and Mat Latos, but he's also young, controllable, affordable and has good stuff.

Sam Miller: I don't know. In the past three years, he has thrown 465 innings, 2.3 Ks/BB, 1.2 HR/9, 9 Ks/9. In the three seasons before Garza was traded, he had thrown 595 innings, 2.3 Ks/BB, 1.1 HRs/9. And Norris is the same age Garza was. So will teams look at Norris and see that comparison? Or will they see lack of durability, an ERA+ that would make Barry Zito shake his head, and stagnation? I'd guess a little more of the latter, unfortunately for Houston.

Vulgar Vin Scully (South Pasadena): In reference to BP at Dodger stadium. Are the seats infield loge? Or better, do you have a section number?

Sam Miller: I just asked, will let you know if I find out. I can tell you that in the previous two events I did, the face value of the seats was greater than the cost of the event ticket. So it's a darned good deal.

Neal (DC): Do you think given a clean slate and full time job in 2013 Travis Snider will become a potential 30 HR everyday player?

Sam Miller: "Will" and "potential" are completely contrary questions. He has the potential. He probably won't, at least for the 30 HRs. Everyday player, yes, and Pittsburgh isn't a bad park for him at all.

sitdancer (DC): Why do the Nats not just place Strasburg on the DL with some slight discomfort for the next 3 weeks and the slowly bring him back up for the last few starts of the season and the playoffs? That way they could use him as far as the team can go without greatly exceeding his innings limit. Is staying in rhythm really that important for a pitcher (pardon my ignorance)? Or are their chances of reaching the post season and succeeding there really better having him in full swing for three more starts now and then shutting him down?

Sam Miller: He should even have options, so if they want to send him down and let him watch Breaking Bad for three weeks they could. I think everything about the Nats decision is a little hard to parse, because it's not clear what science they're basing it on and it's not clear how much this is an organization-wide decision or not. I still think he figures out a way to pitch in October, going over his innings limit or something. Ben and I talked briefly on the podcast about moving him to the bullpen for September and October. Not nearly ideal, but it would be something and it would be valuable and it would keep him in a (presumably) safer innings range.

I'm told the Dodgers tickets are "the section right behind the loge terrace where the event will be."

Sam Miller: I'm sorry to leave so many questions unanswered, and so many Jameson Taillon questions unanswered. But there are ants. Goodbye.


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