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Chat: Sam Miller

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday September 23, 2016 12:30 PM ET chat session with Sam Miller.


You know Sam.

Sam Miller: Hello! Thanks for coming to my 21st chat. Ask me whatever.

BC (Sadtown USA): What is your favorite BP annual comment ever? Or what are your top few if you can't pick.

Sam Miller: I'm slightly nervous, from your Name, that this question was submitted intentionally by Ben Carsley, but my very favorite is probably the 2015 comment for Moises Sierra, written by Ben Carsley:

"Moises Sierra's modest power and fairly high strikeout rates have reduced him to a Quad-A player, causing a whole new generation to associate "Sierra missed" with disappointing pop."

R.J. (Florida): Is it Dipoto or DiPoto?

Sam Miller: It's Dipoto. And, you didn't ask, but it's "toward," not "towards." Other than hyphens, 'towards' might be the single more frequent edit I had to make here.

Emmett (Chicago): What is the article that you came closest to writing but didn't?

Sam Miller: I was cleaning out some folders this week and found a fully written piece looking at the logic of a WPA-based argument for Yoenis Cespedes' MVP candidacy last summer. I had one sentence that I wanted to make better, so I held it for a day or two and by the time it was ready it was outdated.

The oldest unwritten article idea on my tickler file is called, simply, "Baseball players are salmon," which a pastor suggested to me in 2009. I might still do it.

bryanherr (MSP): I got my wish and the Twins were a dumpster fire and are finally (hopefully) making changes. Should I feel guilty?

Sam Miller: It depends how your wish manifested itself. If you were ever watching a game and hoped that the next Twins batter would make an out, or that the Twins pitching would give up a run, you should feel guilty. If you had proper perspective and were able to put the losses in the larger context of the franchise, and therefore felt a certain satisfaction that the darkest days of the organization might still be redeemed, than none at all.

You can enjoy your team's struggles, I think, but you can't root against them in a game. You never get that part of you back.

Lion (Wherever astronauts are): What's the O/U for future Jered Weaver MLB innings? Additionally, who throws more MLB IP the next five years: Jered Weaver, Johan Santana, or Lucas Harrell?

Sam Miller: Oh man, I was just thinking the other day about one of my very first BP pieces, which considered who would get more innings over the next five years, Scott Kazmir (out of baseball entirely at the time), Jamie Moyer (46 or so and recovering from TJ) and Mark Prior (pitching well in Double-A). I thought about redoing it but couldn't decide on the three pitchers to debate. This isn't quite right, but Weaver's a good starting point.

Most likely number is 0, at maybe 20 percent; but the over/under I'd set is probably 145.

Hank (NY): Hey Sam, Its been a pleasure. What is your take on these new Mets pitchers, Lugo and Gsellman?

Sam Miller: I liked the pieces Josh Kusnick and Mike Petriello wrote about Lugo recently, and specifically his breaking-the-machine curveball spin rate. I think (anecdotally) we're moving away from the broad-repertoire era of pitching and toward the "ride your best pitch more than you ever thought you could" era, so I'm interested to keep watching Lugo, even if I'm naturally pessimistic about everybody's future.

ssimon (Pelham, N.Y.): What would be the BP writer/editor equivalent of Rich Hill's comeback?

Sam Miller: Wellllll you can't be Rich Hill comp without seven years of, more or less, embarrassment, and I don't think there's anybody I'd describe that way. But as far as people I think could come back and dominate the league: I long for more Jim Baker and Derek Zumsteg. Jim Baker was on our list of people to beg to write an Annual essay every year, and I was always too shy to ask.

No Mas Sam (Inglewood ): Will you ever finish the seven wonders of the baseball world series?

Sam Miller: Haha. This is embarrassing.

I wrote three, I think. I have the fourth one in mind, with a few pages of research done and everything. I'd like to, but it might be weird, so I might just write them but call them something else.

(I still have to decide one what 5, 6, and 7 should be.)

bryanherr (MSP): If interleague play was done away with would the All Star game and World Series have more interest with fans?

Sam Miller: No, I don't think so. If interleague play AND free agency were done away with, and the average major-league regular only switched teams once or twice per career, then it would. Though even then -- who isn't interested in the World Series? The casual fan, and I don't think the casual fan opts out of the World Series because he or she already saw Kershaw face Cabrera once in interleague play four years ago.

ssimon (Pelham, N.Y.): Of all BP's EICs, I believe you're the only one who's been a full-time reporter. Would you ever consider reporting and writing the oral history of Baseball Prospectus?

Sam Miller: I think for reasons of objectivity I'm burned on that no matter what. I did have this on my list of article ideas before I came to BP, though. Somebody should definitely do it; it's the 20th anniversary this year!

ADprospectus (Atlanta): "Enamored by" or "enamored of"?

Sam Miller: Enamored with. Of is also correct, possibly more correct but it reads to most people like a typo. By is incorrect.

Brendan (WA): If Clayton Kershaw spent a season as a one-inning closer in the Pioneer League, what would his final stats look like?

Sam Miller: So, let's work backward with a few assumptions. That's 30 innings. I think he'd strike out around 20 per nine. So that leaves around 23 outs for him to get, and I do think he'd have to deal with a *relatively* normal BABIP, especially with those defenders behind him; so call it a .215 BABIP. To get his final 23 outs on balls in play, then, he'd have to face 29 batters (plus walks, HBP). So he'd allow six hits. He's walking less than a batter per nine *as is* in the majors as a starter, and I don't know whether he'd walk more (because batters would give up swinging) or fewer (because lol short-season hitters), but let's call it the same walk rate. So two or three walks.

So, over 30 innings, eight or nine baserunners. Is one of the NINE balls he allows in play likely to go out? No, not likely. So rule out the homers. The odds aren't very good than any three of the nine baserunners would bunch up, but it's certainly possible, so I wouldn't rule out a run. In fact, I guess I'd bet on one run. So, final line:

0.30 ERA
0.28 WHIP
.063 batting average against
.063/.086/.083 slash line

Comma (Oxford): Yes or no?

Sam Miller: We actually use it on the site but not in the Annual, so that sums me up. On that matter, I prefer whatever the house style is where I'm working. Most of my career was spent in newspapers, with no serial comma, so I guess slight preference.

I occasionally see the examples where one or the other produces ambiguity that leads to a grammatical malapropism, and I'm supposed to think that closes the argument. But IMO any ambiguity can be easily written around, and I *love* grammatical malapropisms existing in the world and would be sad if nobody made them.

Steve (Chicago): What do you hope to see at Baseball Prospectus when you check back in on it next year? In five years? Ten?

Sam Miller: I'd like to see BP get full access to develop Statcast data. I don't think there's a more talented stats group in the public sphere, and I'd put our guys up against at the very least the median MLB team's stats department. They just need the data, and I hope it gets very easy for them to get it.

I otherwise don't really have an answer for this. I mostly just kept trying to do what Ben had already set in motion, tone-wise. I don't know what Gleeman's tone will be, and I wouldn't want to presume it has to look like Ben's. I have total faith that he's going to bring something special, and probably unexpected.

Cruise (Windows Down): Your least favorite BP piece?

Sam Miller: This one:

There are ideas that you have that you start to develop and realize, without too much investment, that it's not working out. That one took a TON of work to figure out wasn't working out, and by the time I did I had a piece due, so I had to write it anyway. It just didn't click, and reading it now I can sort of see how hard I was trying to convey my embarrassment without being showy about it.

Dandies3 (Pa): What are your thoughts on Julio Urias for next year. Innings, whip, era. Will he begin the year in the starting rotation?

Sam Miller: I think he'll be good, but more than that, I'm sort of struck by how quickly Urias got Not That Young. He's still young! But he's 20, which is an age baseball players sometimes are. I remember somebody (I think Adam Davidson) saying on a podcast that having kids is a way that grownups have of tracking the passage of time; you don't notice yourself going from 40 to 45, but you notice your kid going from 5 to 10, and by noticing you keep perspective on your life and what you're doing with it. Urias is what I think of as the sundial of my career here at BP. When I got here, he wasn't somebody we'd ever heard of. Then he became one of the all-time great "can you believe how young this guy is" fun facts. Now he's 20. Time passed.

slashBunt (Denver): So will you be required to use ESPN stats only now?

Sam Miller: Of course not!

bryanherr (MSP): What was your favorite part of being EIC?

Sam Miller: I really liked retweeting pieces that my writers wrote that I loved. It was a way of saying "I'm proud!" to the world without looking like I was bragging.

JQ (A place where a selfish person is sad on the insid): sorry for the double spaces after periods, it's the only accent I picked up from my mom.

Sam Miller: This tweet
was not about Jeff Quinton, who is, indeed, a double spacer, but it does accurately describe him, and every other double spacer. I meant that tweet with no hyperbole; it is truly, honestly, literally, no exaggeration, EVERY SINGLE SUBMISSION. Except one. I've had one, since that tweet, that didn't have any. Out of maybe 150 two-spaces submissions.

Eric (Not Oak Forest, IL): If you could get any baseball player or ops guy to give you the whole truth on any scenario, what would you want to know more about?

Sam Miller: The answer is "almost any." I'd consider any baseball player or ops guy to be almost unlimitedly interesting if they were giving me the whole truth. But I guess at this point Theo Epstein's a good answer.

Tim (Stompers HQ): Steiners or Town Square?

Sam Miller: Town Square. I like Steiners during the day, when it's empty, but Town Square's got the dice, and Town Square feels right when it's crowded. Steiners feels crowded when it's crowded.

Brenden (Raleigh, NC): I would love to see this discussed further in an article or on the podcast but for once I'm actually sitting down to write this. I know in your book Ben and you lamented about how you provided all this data to your players with the hopes they would use it to their benefit and to your knowledge no one really did. Last month Derrick Goold wrote a column about Brandon Moss prepare to provide Randal Grichuk with some analytic data about his performance before a demotion. Baseball analytics have seemed to infiltrated the front office to analyze players worth but is there any evidence of this data being used to help develop or improve their players? Do you think things like this is what separates a major leaguer from a minor/independent league player?

Sam Miller: I think analytic data is being used well in player development. But the truth is that most of us aren't great at incorporating performance data into our lives. I, for instance, have access to performance data on my writing--traffic, for every article I've ever written. Do I use it to become a better writer? Nope! It's hard to blame players for having a lot on their mind.

Brandon (Chicago): What do you have planned for the next week before starting up at ESPN?

Sam Miller: Well, I got pneumonia and have been sick for a month and a half. I think I'm right on the brink of knocking it out. So I'll do that, hopefully. Otherwise, going to try to spend a lot of time reading, walking and thinking about what I want to write about.

Peter (Champaign): If baseball ceased to exist tomorrow, what would you want to write about instead at your next gig?

Sam Miller: I'm not sure I would write anymore. The world needs more social workers, so I might go back to school and do that.

Steve (Chicago): Your writing has always been a must read for me, and thank you for it! That said, I'd love to get a little dirt on the editing before you fly off, so what were your favorite pieces to edit over the last few years and why? What piece or pieces did you work on with a writer, publish and immediately think "this is incredible" or at least "this is really good"

Sam Miller: My favorite piece to edit was Meg Rowley's piece on post-Moneyball clubability. For one thing, it were her first piece for me--we'd just hired her, and I was *really* excited to see what her raw copy was like, what it was like to talk through articles with her, etc, and in editing it I got to discover how brilliant she is. For another, that piece had been turned down by another publication (sorry if I'm spilling beans here, Meg). As it developed into something really amazing, profound, important--award-winning, even!--I got to feel super good about this great thing BP had been able to bring into the world. And I got to feel really excited about her being on our staff.

GregColgan (London, Ont.): What was a typical day as BP EIC like?

Sam Miller: For me, it was a lot of editing at night, a podcast in the morning, somewhere between 30 and 100 emails to deal with in the afternoon, and hopefully some time to write if the emails could be handled quickly. I have no idea how Ben found so much time to write. Ben was so, so, so good at this job. So good. I can't stress enough how good Ben was at this job.

Eric (Oak Forest, IL): AP Style question: Where do you fall on the more than/over debate?

Sam Miller: More than. That's a debate? It shouldn't be.

Sean (Miami): Is there a better fit for Otani than Boston? They are heavy on left handed pitching, heavy on right handed hitting, and with Ortiz retiring could offer him 3 days a week DH duty and hide Hanley a couple days when Otani preps for his pitching starts, and if the hitting doesn't translate they still have a 22yo dominant righty to top their rotation. Seems like a perfect fit right?

Sam Miller: This is a strong case that I have nothing to add to!

ssimon (Pelham, N.Y.): Do you think MLB would make wholesale changes to the tiebreak system if a perfect #TeamEntropy storm resulted in several additional play-in games?

Sam Miller: No. I think they'd be over the moon with joy, and recognize it as the once-a-century windfall it is. If it happened four years in a row, maybe.

BC (Urbandale): Who is your pick for AL/NL MVP and Cy Young?

Sam Miller: Trout, Bryant, Kershaw and... I don't know. I honestly have no idea. I don't think an hour of research would even help me decide.

I'd be fine with a Mookie Betts or Jose Fernandez vote, too.

Stan (Chicago): What do you enjoy most about baseball? Is there a one thing you put your finger on or too much to say? Thank you for being here and doing so much.

Sam Miller: Somebody emailed us the other day:

Sometimes I get sick of baseball, but I find myself checking scores or listening to baseball podcasts anyway. Sometimes I truly love this game and sometimes it just seems to keep me company or distract me. Do i love cats or am i a cat lady?

I *love* that last question. I can't love it enough.

I think what I love most about baseball is how it starts, every day, right as work is close to ending. I love 4:05 Pacific Time. I love a ton about baseball, but more than anything I love the feeling I get at 4:05 Pacific Time every single day.

Sam Miller: Sorry to leave--and, in a larger sense, sorry to leave :(--but I have to go record a podcast, so that's all. Thanks for everything. I loved this.

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