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Chat: Zachary Levine

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday September 23, 2013 1:00 PM ET chat session with Zachary Levine.


"Skewed Left" author Zachary Levine answers your end-of-season inquiries.

Zachary Levine: Live from Cambridge, Massachusetts - the birthplace of former All-Star Wilbur Wood - let's chat. A reminder that you'll get better answers to your fantasy questions in our fantasy chats and your prospect questions in your prospect chats. But let's get started.

Alex (Anaheim): Do you see Billy Hamilton as an everyday player at some point?

Zachary Levine: Yes. There are plenty of bad players who are everyday players, and I'm still not convinced Billy Hamilton is a bad player. If you ask me if it's going to be regular playing time for five years over the course of a long-term deal or under Reds control, I wouldn't be as quick to say yes, but at some point in his career, he'll be written into the lineup consistently.

How long that will last depends in large part on how his defense translates to run prevention, in my opinion. But he's my favorite thing to happen in baseball this year other than the Ichiro tribute to Ken Griffey Jr.

FutureCloser (NYC): What do you miss most about not covering one specific team anymore?

Zachary Levine: Great question. There is a lot I miss about covering one team (for those who don't know, I was the Astros beat writer for the Houston Chronicle from 2010-12). Mostly it's the people you see on the road. You get close with the broadcasters and the other writers and the characters of the game - some players, trainers, clubhouse guys and get used to seeing them around in strange places when all you really have is each other.

I also miss being able to follow trends of individual players. I'd love to say I can follow all 750+ these days but I could barely handle 25.

Chad (OKC): Thoughts on Enny Romero's MLB debut?

Zachary Levine: Obviously there was some good fortune involved when you're not throwing strikes like that, but that's what you're going to get with him. I'm mostly scouting the stat line, admittedly, since I've never seen him live and hadn't seen him at all in the minors, but he's going to walk a lot of guys. Was impressed with the arm and the velocity. Not sure there's a future at that walk rate.

Jr (Dark side ): I was wondering what's up with trevor cahill he is so up and down... I know he is still young but it's frustrating do u think he ever turns it around to a solid #2 starter

Zachary Levine: I do not. Let's set aside the performance for a minute and just consider that here at age 25, his median start this year has been less than six innings. That's not the sign of a No. 2 starter in the way it tends to be defined. Maybe he can be the second-best starter on a team - he probably would be on some teams right now - but I'm having trouble seeing it in the definition of No. 2 as one step below an ace. There are a couple of steps to make up there.

baseballjunkie (sf): Better dynasty league keeper, A. Bradley or Gausman?

Zachary Levine: From a baseball standpoint of future value, I'll say Bradley without a ton of hesitation. I'm not sure what the rules of your league are since I'm not a fantasy guy, like how long you can stow guys in the minors, so you'll probably want to ask in a fantasy chat. But if we're talking about performance over a full career or the next period of time over about 3 years, I'll take Bradley.

Dave from Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh): Should I be worried about Alen Hanson struggling in AA? Does the bat still play?

Zachary Levine: No, not really. Very short sample when you're talking only 35 games. And at a premium defensive position and at age 20, I wouldn't worry about it at all. It's not like he's striking out a lot. If we're having this conversation a year from now, maybe, but if he gets a full year at this level, I'd expect performance to rise and he'll still be 21.

Joe (Twitter): Astros bullpen priority for 2014..high. med,low,,candidates?

Zachary Levine: I pulled this question from Twitter because I found it fascinating when general manager Jeff Luhnow told the press that bullpen would be a priority in the offseason. It's so contrary to how I feel they've run that I don't know if he's just talking or if they're really going to spend here. Normally, guys just become relievers and I think that FO believes that it's not the place to go spend money.

I get that there's something demoralizing about losing winnable games late, so I guess this might just be a play to the public.

As for candidates, look for this year's version of Jose Veras - a middle reliever you can bring in, tag with the closer's label watch him magically become a Proven Closer and flip him for something worthwhile. There are plenty of those guys.

Sagar (my cubicle): When do you think we see Alen Hanson in the bigs? Does he stick at SS?

Zachary Levine: 2015. Yes.

Kinanik (Atlanta, GA): The Cubs as a team are 30th in BABIP, and last year were 29th. What's the deal there?

Zachary Levine: Oh man. That's a good question. My guess is nothing much to it. I would imagine that some of it is home ballpark related. Like the Rockies would have a consistently good BABIP because their outfield is so big and if you aren't adjusting for park, it would be consistently one direction. The Cubs' ballpark isn't the smallest, I don't think, but it plays pretty easy to defend. No weirdness with walls. And they aren't a great hitting team, so those combined could do it, but I'd wait to see it more than a couple years.

Tony DiMurro (Harlem): Why does Brian Cashman still have a job?

Zachary Levine: Championships 1998, 1999, 2000, 2009

Playoffs 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

There are plenty of high payroll teams that aren't getting anywhere near this.

Billy (CA): How do you feel the #stopthebunt & #killthewin movement lead by Bryan Kenny of MLB.TV damages the interests of sabermetrics or baseball research?

Zachary Levine: They're two different questions for me. I'm all for #killthewin. The win for a pitcher is a terrible statistic and should not be used to evaluate pitchers at all. It adds no value to other statistics already out there and if it were introduced today as is, it would be laughed off as idiotic.

The bunt is different. The bunt is a sound play sometimes. It is overused but there are times to bunt and so I think mockery of the bunt has gone a little over the top. I used to do it all the time and have slowed down as I've thought about it more.

As for their damage to the movement, I really don't think there's much. Sure it's over the top and a little silly. I don't know Mr. Kenny, but I think both he and Harold Reynolds are playing characters a little bit like the two talking heads on your shoulders shouting opposite views. I don't think there's anybody who would have taken to sabermetrics who doesn't because of his loud approach. The bunt just has to be put in a little better context.

Harold M. (Englewood, NJ): Do you think it really is possible to predict baseball?

Zachary Levine: As I sit here with a pile of torn up tickets for the Blue Jays' and Angels' division titles, no Suzyn, you can't predict baseball.

Chad (OKC): Are Wong's struggles since his call-up worrisome or do you think he still has the ability to hit for average in the bigs?

Zachary Levine: NL Central coming strong with questions today. I saw two Wong questions, so I'll just say take a deep breath. It's 56 plate appearances. He's going to hit for a ton of average given the rest of his skill set, but 56 PAs and especially the first 56 PAs of his career in the big leagues don't dissuade me from thinking he has a future.

(LOL at his OPS+ of 3 though)

Ned Flanders (Springfield): Who is playing SS for the Cubs in 2015? Castro or Baez?

Zachary Levine: NL Central coming really, really strong. I'll answer this and another Cubs question together...

Matt (Chicago): Which of CHC's 3B candidates(Baez, Bryant,Olt, Villanueva) snares the job long-term? I think Olt is the sleeper.

Zachary Levine: I really like Baez's chances and I think the Cubs front office is good enough not to keep Castro at the position just because of a contract. So give me Baez at shortstop, and I'm thinking Bryant long-term at third. Sure he could go to left field or something under the Ryan Braun plan but it's not like they're short in the outfield either.

Larry (Boston): If you were on the Astros AAA team this year and wasn't called up, does that make you one of the worst minor leaguers?

Zachary Levine: George Springer: One of the worst minor leaguers if not the worst of all possible minor leaguers.

Matt (Chicago): Are the Cubs at the point on their developmental curve where it makes sense to leverage some of their farm talent for one of the young vets who may be hitting the trade market this offseason(Price, Stanton, CarGo)? They'd seem to have sufficient depth, no?

Zachary Levine: One more year, but I like this line of thinking. I'd go for the pitching side if we're given the appropriate discount over a similar hitter for the fact that pitchers are riskier.

I'm well aware that runs are runs are runs and a run scored is a run saved. But I think with the Cubs at pretty much every position, the net effect of adding an All-Star at that position over the 2015 option is less than adding an All-Star to the front of the rotation and pushing everybody down a spot.

Doing it now wouldn't be a terrible idea. I know Ben and Sam on the podcast discussed the Cubs as a possible playoff team for next year and I agree that it's possible, but I think they're going to be one of the best teams in baseball for the end of this decade and should load up for then.

Bill (New Mexico): One more NL Central question. With Matt Adams coming into his own, and Oscar Taveras still lurking in the minors, does St. Louis try to re-up Carlos Beltran? Or do they risk letting the oft-injured Allen Craig move to right as a regular? I know, what a tough problem to have ...

Zachary Levine: Terrible, right? I would guess Beltran. I don't really like the idea of putting Craig out there, though I guess it's an opportunity to get Craig and Adams in the lineup at the same time if both stay healthy. I still lean Beltran and I think at this age and with his history and decline in offensive production, a one-year deal at maybe a Berkman-like number might do it.

The big question is what cap Beltran wears in the Hall of Fame if he goes.

BobcatBaseball (Athens, oh): Why does it seem like everyone is throwing a cutter now

Zachary Levine: Evolution rather than revolution.

Bill (New Mexico): Incidentally, "Cubs" ... "one of the best teams in baseball" ... I see the words, but together they make no sense.

Zachary Levine: The Cubs just finished losing two out of three at home to the Braves, who are one of the best teams in baseball.

More comfortable now?

Tim (Walla walla): Will the real Astros 1b of the future please stand up? Looking at you Chris Carter Brett Wallace and Jonathan singleton

Zachary Levine: Singleton will be the first baseman.

Wallace is on borrowed time. As much as I like the approach, he still has too many deficiencies. Carter is the DH now that they're allowed to have one. He should not be a fielder and absolutely should not be an outfielder.

Alex (Tampa): 3 Years from now will people think Austin Wilson is a stud prospect? Also, can you talk about the Stanford swing in more detail?

Zachary Levine: No. There are a couple of three-year alternatives for Wilson, but neither is stud prospect. Either he struggles in the minors which is perfectly reasonable or he's already a big leaguer in three years. Players from advanced colleges (or anybody) isn't a stud prospect at age 24 1/2.

And some indiscretion in executing the Stanford Swing was responsible for my last breakup, so I'd rather not.

Ian (Texas): Explain this to me, David Ortiz has played every game at DH this year. But B-Ref has him as at a negative dWAR. I'm confused by this

Zachary Levine: He played four games at first base.

FD (Manhattan): Z, long time first time. Which team would you least prefer to root for right now: the Astros or the Jacksonville Jaguars?

Zachary Levine: Probably the Astros. But then again, I don't speak British.

Rick ankiel (Florida): I will be remembered as what?

Zachary Levine: You will be remembered as an amazing story by people of my generation but probably not one worth passing on to the next. I doubt a lot of people born in the 2020s or 2030s will have heard of you. But bring you up in a crowd of 40-somethings in those decades and we'll remember that meltdown in the postseason and subsequent rebirth as a hitter. Your name will be brought up by people who are smiling and mostly for good reasons.

Unless, as Norm Macdonald said, you kill your wife and a waiter.

Zachary Levine: It's 2 p.m. here in the East, so like in the Emerald City, I'm going to call it a day. Please read (or I command you to read) Russell Carleton on what to make of that $5 million per win value in the real world. http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=21865 And even the non-subscribers can read a really fun one on four different ways to watch a pitcher. http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=21864 An early happy playoffs to you and yours.

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