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Chat: Sam Miller

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday March 23, 2015 1:00 PM ET chat session with Sam Miller.


Sam co-edited the 2015 Baseball Prospectus Annual, which you should be holding in your hands right now. Ask him anything.

Sam Miller: This is supposed to be a chat. If it turns into a Q&A, that's on you guys.

dennissterner (HANOVER PA): How certain are you that Chris Davis hits 30 HRs and bats .250+?

Sam Miller: Certain means "known for sure; established beyond doubt," so I'm not sure it can be graded. I think you're either certain or uncertain. I'm uncertain. My confidence level that he hits 30 HRs and bats .250 is...37 percent, which is actually lower than PECOTA, which puts 30 and .251 as his median forecast.

Earl (Houston): Will George Springer make more contact, or is last season something we'll see more of with his strikeouts?

Sam Miller: So, he struck out in 33 percent of his plate appearances last year. Let's think through the relevant bits of information we have:

1. He struck out just as often--more, actually, in the second half of his plate appearances as his first, so there was no apparent adjustment that he made.
2. He struck out in 26 percent of his plate appearances as a 22YO in High-A, 30 percent as a 23YO in Double-A, and 24 percent as a slightly older 23YO in a shorter stint at Triple-A. Using the information Jeff Moore and Andrew Koo found in their article on plate discipline scouting last week, we can roughly estimate the trajectory of his K-Rate going to the majors, and it would work out to, ohhhh... 28, 29 percent. So 33 percent is higher than expected.
3. PECOTA says 32 percent this year.
4. He's older than he was last year, so we should expect him to be a better hitter this year, kind of.

So that's a murky line. They contradict each other. But I think he'll strike out less often. I'd put it at 29 percent this year.

Al (KC): I'm a big fan of Hosmer (especially) post-season Hosmer - can we expect an uptick in production in 2015?

Sam Miller: We've seen enough of Hosmer to know two things: He's very capable of ripping off long stretches where he's very good. Not just three weeks in October, but three months: He hit .321/.379/.509 from July on last year, not counting the postseason, and has had similarly long and strong stretches in the previous seasons. But we also know that we can't *expect* anything from him. He's got 2,400 plate appearances. I know he's young, but not that young and that's a huge number of plate appearances. Russell Branyan only had 3,400 in his whole career. So I'd say he's got at least two All-Star level seasons in him, but it's not like I'd take him in the same round as Anthony Rizzo or anything, because I have no idea which two years those seasons will come in.

Jough Brasch (Denver): Which players are most likely to use a song from Kendrick Lamar's new album as their walk-up music? Drake's?

Sam Miller: Adam Eaton; Carlos Santana.

Jimbo (New Jersey): I'd like a chat. How are you doing today, Sam?

Sam Miller: I'm pretty good. I want to tell you a story, if I may. When I was in middle school my youth group pastor would always get our attention by saying "eyes up here." That's a very plain fact but it'll be relevant in a minute. So we go on this ski trip, and the dude is having all sorts of gastrointestinal problems and he goes to the doctor and gets diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. He was a little embarrassed to get this diagnosis right in the middle of the trip, but we all acted like adults and kept having fun. So then one day one of the chaperones tells us, "okay, next time Steve goes up there..." and fills us in on the plan. So Steve goes up, we're talking and making noise, and he hollers,

"Eyes up here!"

And, as one, we all immediately stop talking, look at him, point to our guts, and shout

"Wheeze down here!"

When you think about it, it's one of the most complex and brilliant puns ever. And I do think about it. Often.

If anybody else has any stories, we're just here, chatting.

Brandon (Chicago): What's your pick in the Effectively Wild "Wild Four" tournament? Any major snubs?

Sam Miller: This question refers to this: http://www.banishedtothepen.com/2015-wild-four-rd1-1/

I don't want to skew voting, but my pick is in the second half of the tournament and is a non-no. 1 seed. I think Webb-Albers will destroy it and everything else in its path, though.

Snubs? I think ARod gets talked about more than any player, by far, so he could have been on the ballot. Ben's pickles.

Jimbo (Atlanta): Can EY be a decent lead off man in 2015?

Sam Miller: Goodness gracious, no. This is such a strong "no" that I spent 90 seconds running down every team's roster trying to find another EY this might refer to.

JeffBlogwell (Houston): One time my youth group took a 22-hour bus ride from Houston to Tennessee for a week long camp. There was a mix-up on who was supposed to bring the movies for the two charter buses and no one noticed before we left. Because of union rules (?) the bus drivers were not allowed to stop except to get gas -- which was not going to be for at least 8 hours. The only movie that was on the bus was Nacho Libre. As you can guess, we watched Nacho Libre for 8 straight hours before the bus driver stopped. Logically, it would make sense for us to send an adult to Wal-mart to purchase another movie, any other movie, but no. The bus made the decision to simply watch Nacho Libre for the entire bus ride there and the entire bus ride back. That is over 40 hours of Nacho Libre. I have never seen that movie outside of that trip, but I am positive that I can quote the entire movie. Nachooooooooooooo

Sam Miller: "40 Hours of Nacho Libre" is going to be my fantasy team name this year. Once we were in a church youth group van driving somewhere and a kid had to pee. So we all, with the youth pastor's consent, started doing that thing where we talk about fountains and talk about waterfalls and talk about showers and talk about water slides and talk about-- and then the kid peed in his pants. Poor dude. That was high school, as I recall.

GLK (Boston): Which prospects ranked in BP's 2015 top 50-101 have the best chance of vaulting into the top 10 or 20 for 2016?

Sam Miller: I like Sean Manaea most for this category. Nods to Jeff Hoffman, Alex Jackson, Franklin Barreto.

Shawnykid23 (CT): Best guess at which reliever(s) pull(s) a Wade Davis this year?

Sam Miller: Really good question that requires four minutes of rosters meditation to answer, so in the meantime, anybody want to suggest one?

Anaheim Mike (Cali): Expectations for Heaney this year?

Sam Miller: I think he'll be good enough to keep his job when Richards comes back. I don't know why this comp, because it doesn't work at any kind of detailed or literal level, but I sort of like Shelby Miller's career as a rough guide for Heaney's season. A few dominant outings, league average or better, but higher start-to-start volatility than most pitchers, even young pitchers.

Team Theo (Cubdom): Back end rotation arms of Heaney, Aaron Sanchez, TJ House, & Carlos Martinez - can I expect decent production from at least two of the four?

Sam Miller: Yes but not necessarily at the same time. I'll take Heaney and Sanchez of the group this year.

Southcoast57 (Houston Texas): Man you nailed this one last September 2014... Matt (Chicago): Is Brandon Morrow going to attract a lot of interest this offseason, assuming his option is declined? Sam Miller: No. He'll sign very quietly, probably with one of the bad NL West teams. Perhaps one of the projection systems will be unexpectedly bullish on him and there will be a few pieces written calling him a bargain. Maybe he'll be a bargain. But no, not much interest. So, r u still down on Morrow now that he's signed with the Padres? How do you think he will do with the Padres? While on the Padres: why is C. Quentin not listed on the Padres'depth chart in the BP fantasy section? He's still on the team. Where do you think he will wind up - 1st base, traded to another team? Thanks,

Sam Miller: At the risk of undoing a good prediction, I'll say Odrisamer Despaigne will start more games than Morrow for the Padres. Not sure why Quentin isn't listed, and I'd prefer he wind up at first.

randolph3030 (Jersey): How about Zack McAllister or Brandon Maurer? As the Davis doppelgangers... Davisgangers...doppelWaders..

Sam Miller: Definitely two names, though neither makes me want to quit looking.

Bart bennison (Primantis): Some prospects take a while (catchers, prep pitchers) while some elite or college guys advance quickly. Any insight or theory on how to best identify them? What tools may tend best to rapid advancement?

Sam Miller: This is somewhat obvious, but the guy who is putting up good numbers now is the guy I like to put up numbers tomorrow (or in the very near future), even at higher levels. There is obviously a *huge* gap between the majors and every level below, a gap that many players can't or won't bridge, but there is also a fundamental similarity between the skills that work in the majors and the things that work at lower levels, all the way on down to college. If those skills are there, they're there.

matrueblood (MN): Tanner Roark

Sam Miller: It's Tanner Roark.

Brandon (Chicago): I went to a church youth group retreat one year and the youth pastor leading the retreat (not my youth pastor) was really into the song "Hands" by Jewel. He didn't just like the song, but it was like, eyes closed, singing along, hands in the air, etc. We must have watched the video at least 5 times over the course of the retreat (not at arbitrary times, it was worked in with the programming), there were lyrics printed on the overhead, recurring references to Jewel, etc. "Hands" became something of an inside joke / theme song for my youth group for the rest of our time together and I still get a kick out of it every time I hear that song. Did your youth group have a vaguely religious pop-song theme song?

Sam Miller: Our youth group was super super into Presidents of the United States of America, though I don't recall any forced religious connection to the lyrics. There were definitely debates about Cake, whether John McCrea was sincerely religious (Jesus Wrote a Blank Check, Hem of Your Garment, Sheep Go To Heaven) or archly ironic. I chose the former, many thought he was a hostile apostate. Man. Nothing better than being 15, having basically no frontal lobe, and debating the heaviest, most unanswerable questions of human awareness through the lens of Cake.

Pete (Pittsburgh): Better starter for the Pirates - Burnett or Worley. I say Worley, you say???

Sam Miller: Worley, but I'm also surprisingly swayed by Sarah Sprague's argument in the BP Annual essay that Burnett is a guy who needs to be comfortable and that Pittsburgh makes him comfortable. His leading the league in K/9 in 2013 (in 2013!!!) is one of the weirdest blank inks of the era, right up there with Cuddyer's batting title.

Carl (Orlando): Would you keep Michael Brantley or George Springer in a keep forever league? Points league that benefits R and RBI for hitters, and I'm competing this year.

Sam Miller: Springer.

justarobert (Santa Clara): If scouts had a trade convention, what would the titles of their presentations be?

Sam Miller: In my experience, scouts are very talkative when there are two of them, and totally silent when there are three or more. I'm not saying this is the universal truth about scouting congregations, but my experience is thus. So if there were a conference of scouts, I imagine it would be so quiet that the lights would keep going off automatically.

That said, all the panels would be titled the same thing: Sometimes We're Literally Selling Jeans, Here

Rich (Maryland): Will Nick Williams ever figure it out?

Sam Miller: No

Joseph Barrett (Orlando): Last week I saw Joe West go out of his way to give a ball to a kid (kid was in wheelchair) in between innings. Kid was not really near Joe & wasn't trying to get autographs or anything all game. It was a nice move & now I'm forced to be okay w/ Joe West. I think I'm okay with this.

Sam Miller: Assume anybody you see in public is playing a role, sometimes subconsciously, sometimes against his will, but almost always playing some role that isn't his true self. Joe West in private would almost certainly be unrecognizable to most of us, and he's probably pretty cool. Though his thoughts are dark, like the rest of us.

Victor (Dumfries): How would you personally rank these prospects: Barreto, Albies, Chavis, Aristedes Aquino, Mags Sierra?

Sam Miller: By asking somebody who knew. So I did that. Here's Craig Goldstein's ranking: Barreto, Albies, Sierra, Chavis, Aquino

jc316 (Columbia, MO): What makes below average command more acceptable for relievers than for starters? Is one walk in one inning less harmful than four walks in six innings (or whatever numbers), for example?

Sam Miller: Hmmm. Interesting question. I'd guess it's that relievers' stuff plays up enough that those extra walks (or those pitches that miss in the strike zone) are less likely to be cashed in by hits and home runs? Or it might be that below-average command is relative to the role, so for a starter it might manifest as 4 BB/9 but for that same pitcher as a reliever 3.1 BB/9, in which case it's not so much more acceptable as put in a position to succeed?

Rick (Chicago): If Carlos Martinez does not get a spot in the rotation, do you think he goes to the pen or to the minors? Thanks

Sam Miller: I'd send him to the 'pen. That's not an answer to your question, but best I've got. I'm not so high on Martinez.

cgoble (KC): Who is more likely to maintain 2014 production: J.D. Martinez or Steve Pearce?

Sam Miller: Martinez, but obvious caveat is obvious.

Frankie (LA): Ryu is hurt, can the Dodgers count on B.Anderson to fill the void? Or what's plan B?

Sam Miller: Anderson is already being counted on to fill the Anderson void. I have no idea. It's a weird place for them to be so shallow, especially after they took like eight qualified big-league starters into the 2013 season and still ended up needing Edinson Volquez and Ricky Nolasco.

John (ct): Barreto pretty much came from out of the blue last year what prospect for this year would be the new Barreto

Sam Miller: He's too well known to be out of the blue entirely, but it seems like everybody talks about Carson Sands as though he's already a top-100 prospect, so I'll speculate that next year he will be.

Tuffy G (Dillon, TX): Is it me, or does Dave Stewart already seem like a bigger clown than Kevin Towers?

Sam Miller: I don't know, he says obnoxious things but we're not his ultimate audience. We're at best third (behind his players and owner) and more likely fifth (behind his coaching staff and the writers themselves, who you have to remember are in the room with him nodding and smiling and giving him non-verbal feedback). I have to remind myself to react to the moves, not the rhetoric, and Stewart doesn't yet have a bad track record (in my opinion) of moves.

Jack (Mooseville): Will Josh Phelgey end up the starter over a 30 year old never started in majors before Vogt?

Sam Miller: No, not this year. Vogt will be very good this year, very bad next year, and out of the league by 2017. Weirdly specific prediction.

mattstupp (NYC): Anything the Mets could have done differently that MIGHT have prevented Wheeler's torn UCL? It just doesn't make sense that, for a team that seems to pay plenty attention to elbow injury risks, it chose to pitch Wheeler through elbow pain (including three consecutive high-pitch count games) during last year's losing season..

Sam Miller: We know more about the Mets (that they take this stuff seriously, arguably to a fault, and that they are well aware of the risks involved and the value of Wheeler and the lack of value to any win last August) than we know about elbow injuries. So, focus on what we know: If the Mets, who are presumably rational actors, didn't do something differently, there probably wasn't something that could have been done. To me their decision is interesting as data: Why didn't they care about him throwing through elbow pain? Why didn't they care about the pitch counts? What does THAT tell us about arm health and the state of the science?

navarra (Ukraine): Hi, Sam! I'm writing series of articles about sabermetrics on my blog, and I just can't find full formula for new (relatively) version of TAv. Everywhere, where it's cited (for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equivalent_average), there is only old version. Can you help me with this, or new formula is secret/very complicated to casual fan, who may be interested in sabermetrics? Thanks for your work.

Sam Miller: Probably can't help you all the way, but some answers here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=11717

The one thing to know that isn't in that link is that the 0.9 figure is no longer stationary, but a scale based on current season runs. Hope that helps a little.

mbeemsterboer (Chicago, IL): In my 2 c ROTO league. I've got Sal as my 1 and Swihart & Hedges on the farm. Basically need a guy to hold over until Blake is ready, will drop Hedges. Options are: Suzuki, Rene Rivera, Chirinos, Hundley, Bethancourt, Vazquez, Castillo, Cervelli... HALP!

Sam Miller: Chirinos and godspeed

Cal C. (L.A.): There were 11 IBBs in spring training last year, and this year looks like it will equal roughly the same amount. I can think of some reasons why, but I ask you in this tone: Why the hell would a pitcher intentionally walk someone in spring training?

Sam Miller: Practice as you play, I guess. You want to make the games seem at least close enough to the real thing that players aren't getting hurt by lackadaisiality, maybe? What's the distribution of those IBBs by manager?

Josh (The lonesome crowded west): If you hosted a tiki party, and you could pick an MLB player to drink cocktails out of coconuts with you, who would that be? And why?

Sam Miller: Adam Eaton; or Carlos Santana.

Team Theo (Cubdom): Is Alcantara the biggest benefactor if Baez doesn't start in majors as far as playing time?

Sam Miller: Sahadev: "LaStella, IMO. Especially since Olt is playing so well. Alcantara was going to get a lot of playing time regardless because of his versatility which we all know Maddon loves."

Sam Miller: I believe every remaining question involves prospects I haven't heard of or questions about the 2016 draft, which is my cue to leave. Thanks for chatting, and also for asking questions.

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