Ask the E-in-C.
Ben Lindbergh: Hi, folks, thanks for chatting. Because I know you're itching to send me your fantasy/prospect questions, I'll insert the standard reminder that I'm not BP's best source for info in those areas. Ben Carsley has a fantasy chat coming up tomorrow, and Nick Faleris has a prospect/draft chat scheduled for Friday. (Nick will be doing chats on draft day and the Monday after draft day, too.) So you're covered this week, no matter what your question is! Just not necessarily by me.
Here we go.
justarobert (Santa Clara): Among the various attempts to solve perceived problems in the game (pitcher injuries, rising strikeouts, etc.), I haven't seen anyone mention changing the ball. How might increasing the mass of the ball affect the game? I would guess a result of lower velocities, fewer strikeouts, fewer home runs, and more balls in play, but have little idea whether stress on arms would change and in what direction.
Ben Lindbergh: I would guess those things, too, but I'd just be guessing. We know little enough about stress on arms with the baseball we're used to. But we can add it to the huge pile of potential fixes for what ails the game offensively.
Steve Harwell (Sunny California): I think you should do an all "awful reader questions" episode. Thoughts?
Ben Lindbergh: Some people probably think this is what we do every week.
Colin (Chicago): With the hot rumor being Shark to the O's, is a Bundy or Gausman, and Harvey/Rodriguez type package at all realistic? I would imagine that the Cubs would be hard pressed to do better than one of Bundy/Gausman and Harvey.
Ben Lindbergh: Sounds like a strong haul to me, even given that Samardzija is under team control for 2015. Of course, pitching prospects might break, but then so might Samardzija. I just hope that whoever acquires him does it soon and spares us months of trade rumors. You'd have to think that the Cubs are pushing to do it earlier rather than later, since their "seller" status is clear and Samardzija's trade value dwindles by the start (both because every start he makes for Chicago is a start he can't make for his future team, and because his ERA is still under 2.00).
Silverback38 (VA): Jacob Turner had a decent outing last time out; what can he potentially develop into, a 3rd pitcher at best?
Ben Lindbergh: I'm not sure his ceiling is even that high. Big guy, but not very big velocity, and he hasn't missed many bats anywhere in the last couple years. I think they'd be happy if he could be a big-ballpark back-of-the-rotation guy who eats future innings that don't go to Fernandez/Eovaldi/Heaney.
Steve Harvey (New York): Just me or is KC's half of the Shields deal looking better and better?
Ben Lindbergh: It is in the sense that Shields is pitching like Shields and Myers, surprisingly, is still scuffling. This time next year, though, Myers could be blossoming and Shields could be pitching somewhere other than Kansas City. There are two ways we can evaluate trades--at the time they're made, independent of results (which is the best way to do it if you want to evaluate the general managers' decision-making), and after the results are in (which is just for fun). I think Tampa Bay won the deal via the first method, and we're a long way away from declaring Kansas City the winner in hindsight.
Matt (Cambridge ): Why has MLB done so little about the recent plague of Tommy John? Shouldn't they being pouring dump-trucks of money into medical research on trying to find the causes,risk factors, and better treatment instead of using a relatively crude surgery from 40 years ago despite our greatly expanded understanding of medicine.
Ben Lindbergh: Listen to our interview with Stan Conte on Effectively Wild last week--it sounds like they are making more of an effort. It's sort of an interesting situation, in that all teams want pitchers to stay healthy, but each of them has considerable incentive to try to gain an edge in injury prevention themselves, rather than sharing all of the information they have. If one team could crack the code before the others, it might be worth many playoff appearances. We talked about that conflict with Conte. At this point, though, it seems to be approaching the point where it's a threat to the sport, so I'd expect MLB to devote more resources to the problem. "We shall double our efforts," as the late Moff Jerjerrod said.
Jake (Kalamazoo): What do you make of Matt Cain at this point in his career? I want to believe he's better than his numbers from the last season and a half.
Ben Lindbergh: I don't think there's any reason to worry much about Cain, as long as he can stay away from sandwiches. His peripherals were fine last year (and even his surface stats were fantastic in the second half), and it's not like he's been that bad or lost stuff this season. The rise in HR/FB rate makes you wonder whether his command has slipped, but it's still a fairly small sample, given how long that takes to stabilize. He's okay. He's Cain.
Luke (Indianapolis): What percentage of team's TV broadcasters do you believe are idiots and are bad teachers of the game?
Ben Lindbergh: Outright idiots? A very, very, very small number. Bad (or at least misinformed, which might amount to the same thing) teachers of the game...maybe 20 percent? Even most of the non-play-by-play broadcasters who aren't sabermetrically savvy generally offer insight in other areas. It's the ones who aren't great with numbers or translating their own experience into teachable moments that you want to watch out for.
Eric Hartman (Brooklyn): Offspring or Green Day?
Ben Lindbergh: Offspring, but not high on either. Limited looks, honestly.
Charles (NYC): Could you see media ownership of teams expand because live sports is the life-support of networks and cable companies(The Blue Jays owned by Rogers are the model)? It cost $5 billion dollars less to buy the Dodgers than their television rights, which seems like a market inefficiency.
Ben Lindbergh: Sounds reasonable, as long as the current market lasts. That might change when un-bundling begins (although I've seen some research that suggests that un-bundling might cost consumers money).
Jesse (Jax): What did you think of the Michael Sam NFL coverage?
Ben Lindbergh: If we're talking about the draft, I didn't see any of it (because it was NFL coverage, which is not something I normally watch). Heard about some of it secondhand on Hang Up and Listen, but don't remember the details clearly enough to comment. In general, I think we're lucky enough to live in a time when the probability of trailblazing athletes "becoming a distraction" is overblown.
Ian (NYC): Will you be at the MLB Winter Meetings? Will you be offering jobs at BP?
Ben Lindbergh: I expect to be. BP doesn't set up a booth at the job fair or anything, so if you think you can help us, don't wait for the Winter Meetings. Even if we're not actively hiring or trying to fill a particular position, we're always happy to take a look at your resume/writing samples. Send 'em to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Logan (Cleveland): So what does Dave Pease actually do besides sit at the beach and collect paychecks?
Ben Lindbergh: As much as anyone, Dave is the secret sauce behind Baseball Prospectus, and the one person who's actually been with BP from the start. These days he does a ton of behind-the-scenes planning and design work, both for the site and for BP's book projects. Round of applause for Dave.
Reed (Boston): Could you write an excused absence slip for my professors while I go to MLB Scout School during the fall?
Ben Lindbergh: Sure! It won't actually excuse you from anything, but I'd be happy to.
Peter (St. Petersburg): If the Royals decide to clean house who do you think they hire? What team do you think they model?
Ben Lindbergh: Teams often ping-pong between polar opposites, as far as team-building philosophy and management style. It can happen in either direction; sometimes Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer replace Jim Hendry, and sometimes Kevin Towers replaces Josh Byrnes. The Royals, though, seem to keep chasing each unsuccessful regime with another regime that thinks about baseball in much the same way (although like most teams, they've built up their analytics department lately). You'd think that if the current competitive push falls short, they'd do something different and see if drawing walks would work, but maybe David Glass isn't disposed toward that type of hire.
Brad (Texas): What BP stadium events are you coming to?
Ben Lindbergh: I'll be at the DC events next month.
David (Detroit): How did you get so enamored in baseball? Were both your parents huge baseball fans?
Ben Lindbergh: Not at all, actually. I'm still sort of puzzled about how it happened. I think it probably had something to do with growing up a short subway ride away from Yankee Stadium during the dynasty years, coupled with an interest in history and the kind of analysis we do at BP (regardless of the field). But I still can't completely account for it.
Peter (Chicago): Hawk Harrelson still calls white sox games because......
Ben Lindbergh: Because a lot of White Sox fans enjoy his work, I assume, and they're the target market. I'm not in the "fire Hawk" camp, actually. Would I rather Hawk were replaced by a Len Kasper clone? Sure. But odds are he wouldn't be replaced by a Len Kasper clone--he'd be replaced by someone who sounds a lot like other announcers and doesn't have a very distinctive style, and I think that would be a net negative. If I had to listen to Hawk every day, it might be enough to put me off baseball, but the great thing is that I always have the option not to. I don't seek out Hawk, but every now and then I'll catch one of his ultra-enthusiastic homer calls or stunned, bitter silences on MLB Network, and either one is always good for a chuckle. Vive la différence.
JohnnyFive (WA): Do you think that Bryce Harper will ever see 600 ABs in a season given his tendency to run into walls and such?
Ben Lindbergh: Yes. Maybe less often than we'd like, but barring catastrophe, he has many seasons ahead of him, and in some of those seasons the walls will cooperate.
bobbygrace (DC): What is the most appropriate way for baseball fans to celebrate Ben Revere's first career home run?
Ben Lindbergh: By listening to Sam be a big wet blanket about it at the beginning of today's episode of Effectively Wild.
Matt (Cambridge ): Other than trying to seem impartial: Have you found yourself losing your fandom the more you got into baseball? I grew up a Red Sox fan, but now I have little emotional attachment to them now now that I am more into baseball as a whole. In watching Darvish's perfect game bid, My friends got upset because I was rooting for Darvish because he is amazing. And I find it a bit sad that I probably won't get that traditional fandom back.
Ben Lindbergh: Yes, I think I've lost it completely. It wasn't intentional, either--it's not like I resolved to free myself of any attachments for journalistic/ethical reasons and conditioned myself not to root for my childhood team. (I don't think it's necessary to do that.) It just happened organically as I took the time to familiarize myself with every team instead of focusing on one. Maybe it got harder to convince myself that there was something exceptional about the team that I happened to be born near that made it more deserving of my affections, or maybe I just didn't have the time to lavish extra attention on one club. For whatever reason, it's gone, and I'm not getting it back. Makes me sort of sad, but not that sad, because there's still so much to be interested in.
Michael (STL): Why hasn't someone hired Jose Oquendo away from the Cardinals yet?
Ben Lindbergh: I don't know. Maybe he likes it so much in St. Louis that his demands are always higher than other quality managerial candidates'. Maybe he hasn't interviewed well. Maybe he just hasn't happened to say what the people who were thinking of hiring him were hoping to hear. Would be nice to see him get a shot, since we've been hearing that he deserves one for quite some time.
Christopher (TN): Do minor leaguers and college players take as much time between pitches as do major leaguers? Could MLB increase the pace of future games by enforcing limits for minor leaguers now?
Ben Lindbergh: I don't have the data to say for sure--those of us who don't work for teams don't have access to minor-league PITCHf/x data, so we can't calculate the same time between pitches that we have for MLB games. Minor league games are considerably shorter, on average, but there are other potential explanations for that (shorter commercial breaks, maybe, no replay, etc.) I'd like to watch a little milb.tv and focus on how often minor-league batters break Rule 6.02 and step out of the box. Theoretically, I think the minors could be a good place to test methods of speeding up MLB games. I know there have been some experiments with various tactics in independent and winter leagues.
mark (North Dakota): What are your thoughts on Tommy La Stella being called up today?
Ben Lindbergh: Initial reaction: offensively, it's hard to be less like Uggla than that. We'll have a full Call-Up article on him tomorrow.
Jeff (Long island): What top college prospects have you seen this year?
Ben Lindbergh: Because the draft isn't really my beat, I have a hard time devoting a ton of time to the available talent in any given year. Of course, I want to know whether it's regarded as a particularly weak or strong class, and whether it skews toward pitchers or hitters. I'm always interested in draft spending strategies, success rates, and the fact that some teams tend to have particular "types." And I want to know the top names. But given the type of content I tend to put out, it's just not worth it for me to invest a lot of hours into knowing every name or making trips to see the best players available. If I'm going to need to know about someone, I usually have years to become acquainted between the draft and the big-league debut. And then I love going back to see what experts on amateur players (like Nick Faleris) thought about them way back when.
Bob ((SJ)): Is Brian Sabean the luckiest GM in the world or is he actually good.
Ben Lindbergh: I think you have to be lucky to win multiple titles and good to last as long as he has. That's less perceptive than it sounds, because you also probably have to be good to win multiple titles and lucky to last as long as he has. In short, he's good and lucky.
Bill (New Mexico): I liked your answer to Luke about the percentage of team's TV broadcasters who are "idiots". Now the same question about managers. Are there any that you suspect to be, if not "idiots" (we grossly overuse that word), at least subpar baseball minds and bad teachers of the game? Higher or lower percentage than team broadcasters?
Ben Lindbergh: Lower percentage, I'd say. The stakes are higher.
JohnnyFive (WA): I just have to say that I hate the Super Two deadline. I get why teams do it, but I feel like it deprives us of a couple of months of potentially stellar baseball from the young guys. You think that there's ever any hope that this gets changed?
Ben Lindbergh: I think there's hope that the specifics will change (R.J. Anderson proposed some solutions earlier this year), but it would be tough to completely eradicate the incentive for teams to play service-time games. The players could try to collectively bargain the system out of existence, but they'd have to give up something significant to make it worth the owners' while.
Evan (Cincinnati): Hey Ben! Will teams shy away from high velocity pitchers at any point due to the arm injury risks involved? Can a Bronson Arroyo/Greg Maddux pitch-type overcome the love of fastball velocity due to those risks?
Ben Lindbergh: Well, we have to add a caveat when we're putting Maddux and Arroyo in the same bucket--old Maddux was a soft-tossing command/control guy, but young Maddux threw hard. That aside, I do wonder whether the success of Mark Buehrle will inspire teams to take a longer look at pitchers who could take the same path. The thing is that it's not easy to distinguish between the guys who throw 80-something and have the command/pitchability to thrive and the guys who throw 80-something and will get eaten up at higher levels. It's always safer to go with the guy who throws hard. If the link between velocity and injury becomes clearer, though, maybe we'll see more teams start to take chances. Buehrle's "no missed starts" streak is amazing, as is Arroyo's ability to avoid the DL. They should donate their arms to science. Not even after they die--right after they retire.
Peter Q (Austin): As more and more starting pitchers succumb to elbow injuries do you think the extremely low offensive levels may start to come back to normal a bit? One of the cited reasons for both pitcher injuries and low offense is the vast number of hard-throwers nowadays. But while they keep getting hurt, offense remains down. Maybe there's just a very deep crop of hard-throwers?
Ben Lindbergh: It's a good question. Doesn't seem to be happening so far, but maybe there is some sort of natural corrective here. Could be that the more unhittable pitchers get, the more likely they are to break and give way to more hittable pitchers, at least for now.
NightmareRec0n (Boston): Could the Colorado Rockies potentially trade for Stanton by putting together a package of Gray,Dahl,Harerra,and McMahon. They have relatively cheap stars in Tulo,Cargo, and Arenado blocking prospects. Plus, doesn't the world have a responsibility to put Stanton in Coors?
Ben Lindbergh: Yes, it absolutely does (I wrote about that for a recent Lineup Card column). Stanton hitting at altitude is something we deserve to see more often. My initial inclination was that that wouldn't be enough, but maybe he's drawn close enough to free agency that it starts to sound reasonable. He's no longer playing for peanuts, and he has only two years of team control left, both of which will pay him pretty well.
Dan Rozenson (Washington, DC): What do you think is the effect, in terms of the distribution of team winning percentages, from having so many high-end players missing time? Does it help parity, hurt it, or have no effect?
Ben Lindbergh: I would think that it would help promote parity, unless the teams that are savvy enough to acquire talented players are also the teams that are savvy enough to avoid/mitigate injury risk.
maxpowers (Chicago): I don't really have a question, but if the Cubs get one of Bundy/Gausmann and one of Harvey/Rodriguez for Shark, they can lose every game for the rest of the season and I'll still be happy.
Ben Lindbergh: How happy are you just from pondering the possibility? When you're a Cubs fan, you have to take pleasure in the little things, like possibility unrealistic trade returns.
Lion Bruney (The Projects): What's your least favorite fad in internet sportswriting?
Ben Lindbergh: I don't know if it's a fad (seems like it's here to stay), and I've been guilty of it myself, but maybe reflexive snark. Or maybe just unoriginal/predictable reflexive snark. If it makes me laugh, feel free.
Mike (MI): Just how hideous does that Verlander contract look now? For the better part of the last season and change, he has not been an ace... and the numbers and velocity point to an even worse future.
Ben Lindbergh: I'm not yet prepared to call it hideous, but it's growing somewhat scary, yes. For it to work out well for Detroit, given the timing and lack fo an appreciable discount, Verlander essentially had to keep pitching at something like an elite level for quite a while, and that's looking unlikely. The Miguel Cabrera contract is the position player version of this.
NightmareRec0n (Boston): With the new MLBAM system hopefully on the way, what is something unusual you think we will learn that we won't expect from it? Do you think there might actually be something to conventional wisdom, such as the hot hand that we could see with this data?
Ben Lindbergh: I'm not sure that "hotness" will ever turn out to be predictive--in other words, I'm not sure whether a player who's hot today is more likely to be hot tomorrow than a player who's cold today. But it seems pretty likely that we'll be able to say something more concrete about why a player was having success over some span. And hopefully we'll be able to tell when a cold streak could be something serious, like a hidden injury.
Ben Lindbergh: Okay, time to wrap up. I had fun, folks. Thanks for largely sparing me your fantasy and amateur draft questions--I hope that means you've directed them to another BP staffer who can give you a more informed answer. As always, thanks for supporting Baseball Prospectus in all the ways that you do.