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Chat: Sam Miller

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday February 22, 2013 1:00 PM ET chat session with Sam Miller.


Sam reports to spring chatting.

Sam Miller: Let's chat! Hang on I'mma tell Twitter and be right back

Shawnykid23 (CT): I've inherited a last place team in a H2H dynasty league. I have 1st pick in supplemental propsect draft(initial 5 rd prospect draft was last year so most of the usual suspects are already gone). Thoughts on Buxton and Addison Russell? Is thier ceiling worth the wait, or should I take someone closer such as Tyler Skaggs?

Sam Miller: I'm super happy to answer all fantasy questions, because they're quick and fun and specific, but a caveat that if I were *actaully* making this decision for your team a) I'd want to look at a thousand variables that I am not currently privy to and b) my decision would ultimately not probably matter cause mostly this is coin flipping between comparable options.

The thing is that you really have to ask yourself how confident you are in the other league owners. If this is a league that is likely to hold on for 10 years, yes, patience is an undervalued commodity. If there's any chance at all that it's going to dissolve in three years, don't put yourself through the potential agony of watching it fold just when you're on the cusp of cashing in. (I'd probably take Russell though)

justarobert (Santa Clara): A holdover from Ben's chat earlier this week: Could you give a brief summary of how your two-person fantasy league rules worked? I am curious about esoteric league structures.

Sam Miller: So the idea was to create a league that was much more about predicting than about managing -- basically reward the person who did a better job predicting instead of the person who spent more time picking up a billion free agents and platooning right fielders and proposing trades. And also doing a league that was just two of us, so there wasn't all that noise that other owners introduce. So we draft 40 players each, 30 of them go in the lineup, and the bench can't be used unless you want to burn the player you're replacing for the rest of the year. To get around the obvious -- 80 players is too shallow -- we eliminate seven players between each round of drafting. So A picks, then B picks, then A eliminates, then B eliminates, A-E, B-E, A-E, B-E, A-E and then B picks again. So we end up going 360 deep. But it gets even deeper than that in a way, because you're very aggressively eliminating all the players at a position that your opponent hasn't drafted. So sometimes we're 50 or 60 deep at a position. We do each outfield position individually and no utility spots so there's a lot of strain on position filling. H2H, 6x6 or 7x7. The draft takes about six or seven hours. We come equipped with binders. This'll be our 11th season. It's my favorite night of the year, and the only fantasy league I've cared about in the past five or so years.

19braves77 (Pensacola, FL): Is 3rd base the weakest position in baseball now ?

Sam Miller: I was just looking at this and I think I might do a somewhat related piece for next week, but the short answer is that, in 2012, MLB teams got more value (by WARP) out of third base than any position besides CF and RF. Here's the breakdown:

C. 47 WARP
1B: 33
2B: 33
3B: 55
SS: 45
LF: 48
CF: 71
RF: 56

First base was arguably suppressed by some down seasons from very good players. Shortstop *seems* the weakest to me, but I think second base is a pretty good answer.

Joe C. Wales (Lewisville): Jon Daniels said in a chat session today that local media members targeted Ian Kinsler for criticism more than they do other players because he's not "media-friendly." How much do you think playing nice with the media impacts the extent that they are portrayed as "leaders," "selfish," having "intangibles," etc.?

Sam Miller: It's certainly hard for a reporter to distinguish between "nice to me" and "good person." I think "target" is a loaded word, though. With maybe a very few exceptions, I don't think reporters target anybody, even players who are aloof or hostile. The default in local sports coverage is to be rah-rah, and the default in any access journalism is to be positive. Guys who are nice to reporters probably get more benefit of the doubt.

Bret (Toronto): We're having an Oscar pool at the office. Nate Silver predicts Argo to win Best Picture. I should check the box beside Argo, right?

Sam Miller: If I'm not mistaken, one of Nate's most famous misses was when he tried to predict Oscars a couple years ago. I might be mistaken. He might have fixed it. I'd bet on Lincoln.

Alex (Anaheim): Do you think Pineda will return to form when he is fully healthy?

Sam Miller: The thing about pitchers is that, on aggregate, they are *all* getting worse right now, as we speak. Even if they're young and healthy, they're bad bets to replicate what they did last year, on aggregate. Throw in a labrum injury and two lost years and maybe some questions about his makeup and some pre-existing questions about his secs and I think it's fair to bet the under, no matter where the line is set.

Kris (Santa Barbara): Who is your favorite baseball player ever?

Sam Miller: William Van Landingham, with nods to J.R. Phillips and Bill Mueller. Favorite active is Peter Bourjos.

nictaclacta (Phoenix): Help, Sam I am in a ten team dynasty league (5x5)using 4 OF. Long term: from Jose Bautista, Upton brothers, Desmond Jennings and Starling Marte----which one can be dropped? Thank you

Sam Miller: Marte

Rich (San Francisco): What round should I take Kazmir in?

Sam Miller: Quote of the year so far was from Terry Francona this morning: Kazmir "has looked so good it's scary." So it's a good question how much weight to put on that statement. Before that quote, Kazmir would be maybe the 600th pitcher you'd take. Now 350th? I mean, a really really deep league. The benefit he has is that he'll get a shot at it. But it was only a few months ago that he was a sub-average indy leaguer, and it was a *long* time ago that he was fantasy viable even in a 20-team Angels-only league.

Dan Rozenson (Washington, DC): What was the reception from "traditional" baseball circles to your ESPN piece on WAR? Is the clash between the traditionalists and sabermetricians overplayed by bored journalists?

Sam Miller: I haven't seen much reception from traditional baseball circles. I've heard nice things from some team guys, and from hard-core bloggers and casual fans who liked it, and some (very, very fair) critical things from some smart bloggers. Not much from stereotypical mainstream guys.

The clash is overplayed if you're talking about where it matters. It's probably not overplayed if you're talking about where it doesn't matter, which is between fans and writers. Basically, as far as I can tell, a lot of fans hate sports journalists, and vice versa. There is a really stark divide, emotionally and intellectually, between the two groups. Really stark, and really unimportant, but it's real.

Rich (San Francisco): Gimme a factoid

Sam Miller: Oooh, I will try to come up with something original if I can this hour, but my favorite factoid that I came up with in the past month was this: Craig Kimbrel had more three-pitch strikeouts in 2012 than Justin Verlander.

bobbyharnish@yahoo.com (Stroudsburg,Pa.): I'm new to fbb and I was wondering in a 12 man h2h keeper league my keepers are 3 batters and 1 pitcher,I have the first 2 picks and don'tpick again for a long while.Is there a basic formula to use so I can make sure I balance myself out?example;5.SP 6.BATTER

Sam Miller: The simplest roster advice is draft hitters first because star pitchers are unpredictable and overvalued. Unless you're in a league where you suspect everybody is following that philosophy, it's a good place to start. I've never regretted waiting as long as possible to take pitchers, or trading pitchers when they're perceived to be good.

Daniel (DC): What is the role of nature vs. nurture in determining a ball player's defensive position? Is it 90% range / arm / size / quickness, or can a kid who logs hundreds of travel games in HS learn to be "a natural" at a different position?

Sam Miller: I think it's 90 percent range/arm/size/quickness. It's a good question, a really good question that the players themselves might have some insight on. But remember, almost all these guys were shortstops logging hundreds of travel games in HS, and only a select few stick at the position on their way up. Prince Fielder probably logged hundreds of travel games in HS as a shortstop.

Chesty (New Bern,NC): Sam,how would you rate for this year in home runs,RBI,ave,sb,xbh,runs from Cano,Kemp,Pujols.Thanks first time using BP.

Sam Miller: Position irrelevant I'd go Pujols then Cano then Kemp. Position relevant then Cano first.

buffum (Austin TX): Reportedly, BP is calling for a double-digit-win improvement for the Astros. Is my giddy anticipation for an historic run to 110+ losses misguided, or did Houston break the model? I mean ... amongst the Division, the rotation, the Replacement Level No-Stars ... this team rivals the Maroth/Bonderman Tigers, doesn't it?

Sam Miller: I like their pitching slightly more than the typical 100-loss team, but I can't for the life of me figure out how PECOTA (even being conservative) sees them avoiding 100 losses this year. The only way they don't lose 100 is if I write something like THERE IS NO WAY POSSIBLE WHATSOEVER THAT THEY WIN EVEN 50 GAMES! that would look hysterically misguided in retrospect.

John (Kansas City): What are your thoughts on Luis Heredia? Am I crazy to think this guy could become an ace someday? Thanks for the chats

Sam Miller: I sure like him, and he is one of the few who *could* become an ace someday. Also, he's the same age I was when Sublime was, without question, my favorite band. A lot can change in just two years at that age, is what I'm saying.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): SO you just bought the A's and are moving to San Jose, and now you need to design a stadium. Is it a hitter's park, a pitcher's park, or neutral? Or maybe big alleys for triples? What other elements need to be included for you to be giddy?

Sam Miller: I would want to design it in the way that gives me the best competitive advantage, which seems like it should be a pitcher's park. A pitcher's park seems to have advantages for collective particular types of defenders and for winning the war of attrition regarding pitchers. And yet, based on the looks I've taken at it over the years, there doesn't really seem to be a correlation. It's weird. So I guess I'd just want there to be vending machines with $1 Coke.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): It seems like every year some poor slob gets hung up on the same rocks Kyle Lohse is on this spring. Until the CBA changes the rules again, what can a player or agent do to avoid this?

Sam Miller: Sign early. My guess is that research would support a hypothesis that players signing in November have been overpaid over the past five years.

TobyL (New York): Rank these players on the basis of rankability: Yu Darvish Jesus Montero Brian Roberts Tom Junod Mark Lemke

Sam Miller: 4. Jesus Montero
3. Brian Roberts
2. Mark Lemke
1. Yu Darvish

Tom Junod is not a player.

Jim (Timbuktoo): 5x5 roto dyanasty league. Recent trade was Fielder/Cashner/Jose Castillo for Cano and Brandon McCarthy. Which side wins?

Sam Miller: Jose Castillo the former Pirate? Last played in the big leagues in 2008, now in the Mexican League? The Cano side wins. If Castillo is actually somebody I'm not thinking of who is valuable, then I'd reconsider. Maybe.

Free_AEC (New Jersey): Baseball writers seem endlessly interested in writing about things like WAR, but there is no salary cap in MLB. It's the team ownership group that determines more than anything else whether a team will succeed and for how long. Have you ever come across an article that deeply analyzed the curious more than four decades long non-competition between the Phillies and Mets? They even completed a major trade with one another in 1989 swapping Lenny Dykstra and Juan Samuel. By some amazing coincidence the Mets and Phillies always pass one another in the standings, one on the way up, the other on the way down. Before the new caps on draft spending, for any ten year period both teams were at the bottom of the game in spending. It sure helps keep salaries in MLB from rising when two of the largest market teams in MLB refuse to compete with one another. Oh I know, the Wilpons claim they have some financial problems that have prevented them from competing with the Phillies. John Gotti claimed he sold plumbing parts for a living. Where are the financial statements to prove the claim? The Mets revenues have to dwarf the Brewers and Reds, but look at the payrolls.

Sam Miller: And now the chat interface wants me to type and submit an answer.

Jim (Timbuktoo): Jose Castillo the international signing of the rays last year... Venezuelan LHP, sits mid 90s...

Sam Miller: Thank you! Still like the Cano side.

Cole (St. Louis): Who's the better prospect: Avisail Garcia or Marcell Ozuna? Which one has a better chance at becoming an all-star in the big leagues? Thanks!

Sam Miller: They're the same. Obviously they're not really, but there is no known data to suggest we know one way or the other. (Those are the worst kind of answers but they're my favorite.) If I had to pick I'd pick Ozuna because I was tweeting jokes at Garcia's expense during the postseason last year and so I'd like those tweets not to look hysterically misguided ever.

R.A. Wagman (Toronto): Sam - who'd you rather have? Anibal Sanchez or Trevor Bauer? For next year? For next three years? For next six years? Thanks.

Sam Miller: Sanchez for all. The weird paradox is that Bauer *should* have the better long-term outlook because he's young and has upside and he might actually win three Cy Youngs. But the further out you go the more makeup matters, and the more disappointing Bauer starts to look.

Fred (LA): % chance Brandon League stays closer all year?

Sam Miller: I wonder what the minimum is for this question. Incumbency is so important, after all; if Clay Hensley were the declared closer going into Opening Day, how often would HE be the closer all year? That's the floor. I'd guess 12 percent is the floor. Maybe 6 percent, maybe 18 percent. Somewhere between 6 and 18 percent.

League: 24 percent. Not a pitcher I like much.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): If we're going all "Hyde Park No Questions Just Answers" I'd like to offer If the NFL had guaranteed contracts they'd be treating head injuries quite a bit differently.

Sam Miller: I think they'd be treating leg/knee/back/etc injuries differently. I'm not totally sure they'd treat head injuries differently.

briangilespopsup (San Jose): Let's say the Giants win the World Series again. Three championships in four years means they will get a paragraph in the book of baseball, probably in the chapter on the post-steroid era. We know what the 30-second elevator story is on other teams who've won multiple championships in a small period of time, but how will that paragraph describe a Giants team that really wasn't dominant at anything?

Sam Miller: They might go down as a Chemistry Narrative, but they're really a story of converting first-round picks into stars and being extremely nimble with small-dollar moves. Lincecum/Posey/Bummer might be the best three-year run of top picks by one team in history.

Alex (Chicago): Does Tony Campana have any upside? He is terrible, right?

Sam Miller: At baseball, yes
(though not useless)

Rajeev (NYC): How would you rank these four guys as SP-depth (and upside value) in an AL Scoresheet league: Ubaldo, Buchholz, Porcello, Masterson?

Sam Miller: Masterson, Buchholz, Porcello, Ubaldo

doog7642 (Blaine, MN): Dynasty points league in its 14th year. I'm regularly competitive. I was likely to lose Greinke in free agency at the end of the year, and moved him for a prospect package of Trevor Rosenthal, Fried, Vogelbach, Quinn, and A. Mondesi. Would you have done it or kept Greinke and gambled that the flag would fly forever?

Sam Miller: You did well

Jon (Arlington): Who is your favorite ball player that you will never own on a fantasy team? I personally love Brendan Ryan because of his humor and how under appreciated he is.

Sam Miller: Ryan Hanigan might actually be my favorite active player after Bourjos, and I'd never own him on a fantasy team, so

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Sam Miller: Good stuff. /favorite

johnpatrickbail (Washington, DC): With the Mariners trading Mike Carp, what are your thoughts on Justin Smoak? Any indication from what you're seeing/reading that he could break out any time soon?

Sam Miller: Smoak seems like a guy who really knows *how* to play baseball well but can't actually do it. If that makes sense. I just don't think he is capable of hitting the ball hard regularly, and this'll be the last ST we'll pay attention to him.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): So who wins a World Series first: the Dodgers or the Yankees? They both have money and big names, but there's work to be done both places.

Sam Miller: I was surprised by how much PECOTA loved the Dodgers. I wasn't totally sure whether all their new stuff was all that great, but PECOTA thinks so. I think the Dodgers are more likely to win the World Series this year, perhaps much more likely to win in the next three years, and much less likely to win in the next 10 or 20 years. So it just depends how good you think any team's chances can be in any three-year window.

Dave (Toronto): What are your expectations for Brett Lawrie this year?

Sam Miller: .770 OPS, lots of swear words

Nathan (Thailand): Do you think FRAA has a good handle on fielding runs, and are is it weighted well in WARP?

Sam Miller: Honestly have no idea, but I think Colin is smarter than I am so I take them seriously.

mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): I'm curious, if you were going to put something on a baseball diamond besides a large pit, what might it be? I was doing some thinking and a goat farm, an all-you-can-eat ice cream bar, or a climbing tree all spring to mind.

Sam Miller: Let's not turn this into a farce. Just a giant deep pit, in the middle of the field, is enough.

Dan (Brooklyn): I started in fantasy sports in a two-man, weekly redraft NFL league in about 1991, with my best friend at the time. The only thing that has approached being that much fun since then was a four-team, AL-Central-only league a few years ago. (No question here.)

Sam Miller: Like those guys who have been playing tag for 25 years or whatever. Tradition becomes very rewarding when you reach a certain age.

John Carter (Dual: U.S.-Canadian): Shouldn't we be looking more at salary as a major insight into comparing how good two players are going to be? There are probably better examples, but lots of fancy peripheral stats show that Joe Blanton is better than Ryan Dempster. Yet Dempter signed for $26.5 mil./2 yrs. while Blanton only signed for $15 mil./2 yrs. Well, that's all the stats I need, right?

Sam Miller: Huh. That's ... actually ... very intriguing. Tango has pointed out a few times how Vegas is the best projection system. Might be some aspect of that with player salaries, if we could isolate the numbers from some of the distorting effects of timing, team need, etc.

Schackmj (Hoboken): Quick estimate. Robinson Cano new contract could be? 7/120?

Sam Miller: Pft, that's nuts. 8/200 at least.

Sam (Yosemite): How about one of those Bugs Bunny holes that are movable, where things disapear and reapear?

Sam Miller: Be reasonable, people. That would be so dangerous!

Hoot Stromboli (Toronto by way of Connecticut): Melky Cabrera - Sam, what are your insights into how much he was helped last year and in 2011 by PEDs? What are the risks he will be suspended again this year?

Sam Miller: My default assumption is that the PEDs didn't help. That's not very satisfying, even for me, but I think the risk is far greater that you'll overweight the PEDs than underweight them.

Joe (Kansas City): Did you read Posnanski's first article at NBC about Alex Rodriguez?

Sam Miller: I liked it (on.msnbc.com/YhJ8SS) a lot. I wrote before last year's playoffs about why you should root for A-Rod as a feel-good story (bit.ly/PHgtCS) and Posnanski fleshed that idea out really, really well.

There is one part at the end, when he suggests that A-Rod didn't age fast so much as -- well, here it is:

"He got old very fast," one scout says, but I don't think that's true. Rodriguez has been in the big regularly since he was 20 years old. He has more than 11,000 plate appearances more plate appearances than Ernie Banks or Babe Ruth or Tony Gwynn. He has played more than 10,000 innings at shortstop, stolen more than 300 bases, scored almost 1,900 runs. The body only has so many games.

That's a fascinating idea that I doubt holds up. Rodriguez has more MLB plate appearances than most people because he started at 18, of course, but every player is playing every day during those four or five years, and often in more physically demanding circumstances. That's not to say Joe's point isn't right, but I'm not sure I accept it. If it were, it would be a cool sports-themed variation on the One Billion Heartbeats phenomenon: bit.ly/TUQttk

Clint (PA): Travis Sniders hits __ home runs in 2013?

Sam Miller: 18

xxxxx (yyyyy): If you were the Texas Rangers, how much would you offer Elvis Andrus right now to extend him for the 2015-22 seasons?

Sam Miller: $80 million.

skelton (Sacramento): Any predictions concerning the mortality rate of A's fans in relation to their playoff odds?

Sam Miller: Some of them will be dead before the A's are in a pennant race again, but a very, very, very small percentage. Maybe 1 or 2 percent.

The Andrus estimate sorta seems low, but that's the point with extensions, right?

boatman44 (Liverpool ): Sam, will Gerrit Cole win a Cy Young award ? check the crystal ball,mate. thanks

Sam Miller: Yes. He will win it in 2018 but he'll really have deserved it more in 2015.

Actually, you know, for the 1990s and 2000s so many CYs were won by Pedro, Clemens, Maddux and Johnson that not that many pitchers ever got to win it. There really isn't that guy right now, unless it's Strasburg coming along or maybe in retrospect we'll say Verlander. But the Cy Young might end up being something that everybody gets to win over the next 15 years.

Sam Miller: Thanks for your questions, sorry to end so abruptly, but I want other things in my life now. See ya.

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