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Chat: Ben Lindbergh

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday August 30, 2012 1:30 PM ET chat session with Ben Lindbergh.

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The E-in-C takes your questions about BP and baseball.

Ben Lindbergh: Good afternoon, folks. I'm ready to give your questions the old BP try. The timing of this chat couldn't be better, since it's the perfect way to distract myself from the extremely loud drilling sounds emanating from the apartment upstairs. Not that kind of drilling! Get your heads out of the gutter. Okay, here we go.

nickkappel (Iowa): What's the best stat to measure team defense and why?

Ben Lindbergh: I'm partial to good ol' defensive efficiency. It's a transparent stat, and it's very intuitive. What percentage of balls in play did the team convert into outs? That's what we really want to know, right? It makes more sense to me to start with that than to start with a bunch of individual defensive ratings and add them all up. The only thing I'm concerned about is that harder throwers, and in general, better pitchers, might allow weaker contact that leads to a deceptively high Def. Eff. That's a pet theory of Rob McQuown's, but not something we can easily establish. Not sure if you've heard about this, but: pitching and defense, still not the easiest things to separate.

alanbw (COMO): How many bases has Coco Crisp's arm cost the A's? At least a dozen, I'd say. Is his range worth carrying the arm?

Ben Lindbergh: BP has an app for that! I asked Colin Wyers to look into this for me, and he tells me that Crisp's arm has cost the A's about two runs (roughly three quarters of that from left field). So, maybe more like eight bases. We have Crisp's FRAA, overall, at 2.9. So, our system thinks Coco has been a net positive on defense despite the arm, and that more or less seems to have been the case throughout his career. A weak arm can be frustrating--I spent a lot of time watching Bernie Williams and Johnny Damon during my formative years, so I understand this well--but I think the effects are often overblown.

19braves77 (Pensacola, FL): Have the Diamondbacks quit on Mr Gibson ? They look bored.

Ben Lindbergh: I don't know. In general, I'm skeptical about our ability to gauge a team's collective mood (to the extent that teams even have collective moods) from television. Really couldn't say without being in the clubhouse. And probably not even then, unless I were in the clubhouse and also on the team. I think it's easy to ascribe an emotion to a team based on recent results, but not necessarily accurate. Then again, maybe you're picking up on something I'm not. I haven't watched that much of the Diamondbacks lately.

Alex (Anaheim): Is Bichette going to be at least a solid regular?

Ben Lindbergh: Seeing as the junior Bichette is 19 years old and has yet to be a solid regular in A ball, this is a very difficult question. I'm going to play the odds here and say: no! Answering "no" to that question when asked about any player that young and at that low a level would make me right a very high percentage of the time. This probably isn't what you had in mind, but hey, that's what you get when you ask me prospect questions. Not that I mind prospect questions. But I know my limitations. There's probably a Bichette out there I don't even know about.

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

Ben Lindbergh: I wouldn't. Why fight it? I'd be honored to make up some small part of a Ray King-based smoothie.

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

Ben Lindbergh: Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz Ft. Little John and the Merry Men.

Bill (New Mexico): The splattering of Yadier Molina by Josh Harrison in a home-plate collision is renewing calls for rule changes to reduce the number of injuries from catcher/runner impacts. Got an opinion on that?

Ben Lindbergh: I'm generally anti-splattering, unless insects are involved. Real insects, not just Hunter Pence.

MattG1973 (Colorado Springs, CO): Recent results of the Rockies 4 man rotation experiment have been less catastrophic than it was early on. Is this a viable long term approach to a pitching rotation?

Ben Lindbergh: I think a 4-man rotation is a viable approach, in the abstract, but I'm not sure this 4-man rotation is. I'd love to see a team try it, but in order for it to have a real shot at success, I think the "long term" part is important. It would have to be something planned out, not something thrown together in the middle of the season. Assembling the right staff of guys who could handle the workload, and building them up to the point that they have the stamina to succeed. The altitude at Coors probably doesn't make the recovery any easier.

hillelh (Toronto): As a Giants fan, until recently I mostly benefited from the yawning payroll gap in MLB. The Giants have always been in the top 1/3 of teams in terms of payroll, and after 2010, in the top 1/4. Now, with all the money flowing in LA, I'm newly sensitive to the role of finance/investment in the game. Will the money flowing in Philly, NY, Boston, LA, and Texas damage baseball significantly?

Ben Lindbergh: I imagine this is a sensitive subject for many Giants fans, who must really be missing Frank McCourt. The way I see it, the money is flowing everywhere, not just in certain cities. The proceeds of MLB's national TV contracts are divided among the teams, so everyone is going to get richer. Of course, the teams with the better local TV contracts will get richer faster, but big-market teams having an unfair financial advantage is nothing new. It's hard to say what will and won't damage baseball. I don't think it hurts baseball that the Dodgers are spending like drunken sailors--what really hurt baseball is when the Dodgers weren't spending at all. Things could get to a point where unequal slices of the revenue pie start to have a seriously adverse effect on competitive balance, but I think we're a ways away from that. One thing I am fairly certain about is that it's going to be really, really good to be a free agent over the next few winters.

gerrybraun (sandiego): is Bryce Harper a lock for NL ROY? Will Wilin Rosario get a serious look? His home-road splits show no Coors advantage.

Ben Lindbergh: I don't think Harper is a lock. Until his two-homer game, Harper had been hitting poorly for some time. If he has a month-long hot streak, the award will probably be his to lose, but if he limps to the finish line, it won't be. As of today, the NL's most valuable position player has been Todd Frazier, who I wrote about in an article that went up on the site during this chat. (That's some impressive multi-tasking.) If Frazier keeps hitting, and more importantly, keeps playing after Votto's return, I think he'd have my vote. Rosario will get some consideration, but I don't think he'll win it. The power is impressive (as Jason Wojciechowski--yeah, I spelled that without looking it up--pointed out today, offense is up all over at catcher), but a sub-.300 OBP at Coors might, and probably should, hold him back a bit.

Jennifer (Santo Domingo, DR): Can you please settle a debate at work: Adrian Beltre, future Hall of Famer or not?

Ben Lindbergh: Your work debates sound a lot like my work debates! I think when it's all said and done, Beltre will have the career value but lack a typical Hall of Fame peak. It won't help him that a lot of is value comes from defense, he's played in pitcher's parks for most of his career, and he's a third baseman. (Hall of Fame voters hate third basemen.) For all of those reasons, I think Beltre will have a very tough time getting in, and the perception will be that he was more of a "compiler" than a truly great player. If I don't screw up too much between now and the year when he becomes eligible, I should actually have some small say about whether he gets in. I'm looking forward to making up my own mind about it.

Eric (DC): How do the Baltimore Orioles keep winning? They're 14 games over .500 despite a -46 run differential. What is the best record for a team that was outscored by its opponents?

Ben Lindbergh: I don't know the answer to your second question off the top of my head, though I fondly remember the '07 Diamondbacks, who won 90 games and the NL West despite being outscored by 20 runs. The Orioles are doubling down on flukiness this year. They're winning one-run games at an incredible rate, which has a lot to do with luck. It also has a lot to do with the bullpen, and the Orioles have a successful one, but even that is kind of fluky, both in the sense that building a good bullpen is hard to repeat and in the sense that oh man have you looked at Jim Johnson's and Pedro Strop's BABIPs lately? It shouldn't be working, but it is, and maybe it'll keep up just long enough. Sam Miller wrote an excellent article on this very topic earlier this week, so I don't know why you're still reading this sentence instead of that. I would link to it, but my normally reliable internet connection is refusing to cooperate (maybe related to the drilling upstairs), so I can't. But don't let my lousy connection prevent you from reading it.

19braves77 (Pensacola, FL): What in the world happened to the Pirates ? Seems the Reds got hot at the wrong time.

Ben Lindbergh: Pedro Alvarez happened to the Pirates! I wrote about that today, too, in the article I selfishly linked even though I failed to link to Sam's immediately after that. I think the Reds will be fine. There's no bad time to be hot. That should be a song, if it isn't already.

Jerry (California): What's your opinion on Casey Kelly? What's his ceiling? Looked impressive in his debut.

Ben Lindbergh: Is anyone still with me? Sorry about that, folks--I restarted all my electronic devices, and things are still extremely slow. For now, I'm able to cruise the World Wide Web again, albeit in the way that I did when I exchanged my 28.8k modem for a 33.6k. (That was a wonderful day.)

Kelly did look good, as Geoff Young wrote today. wrote today. Probably not a top-of-the-rotation guy, but in Petco, with that kind of control? Yeah, he's going to be good.

While I have semi-working internet again, here's Sam's article on the Orioles.

Ben Lindbergh: Thanks for bearing with me, everyone. If you were trying to talk to me and didn't get a chance to because of the connection issues, I apologize. Tell Time Warner how upset you are! I'll schedule another of these soon to make up for my brevity. Until then, thanks for reading and chatting.


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