Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Joe Sheehan: Hi, folks. Welcome to BP Chat, Non-GM Division. I'll be taking questions just about up to Sidney Ponson's first pitch, so let's get started.
Scott (Seattle): Why in the world is EVERBODY picking the Red Sox to beat the A's? Did Hudson and Zito contact some sort of disease? Shouldn't the A's luck balance out in these short series? I could be wrong but to me this is the most even divisional series there is.
Joe Sheehan: The A's missing Mulder is huge; there's such a big difference between him and Ted Lilly.
More than that, though, it's Pedro and the Red Sox offense, which seem like a deadly combination.
On the other hand, the A's have been favorites the past few years and come up empty. Maybe it's their turn for some "f***ing luck."
Jeremy (Chapel Hill, NC): Hi Mr. Sheehan,
It seems a bit odd to me that you guys ran an article on Monday that basically said that the playoffs are a crapshoot, and them ran 4 articles the next day predicting who would win the various series. Why bother with the predictions if everything is so random?
Joe Sheehan: Great question. The playoffs are a crapshoot, and the prediction is the smallest part of a playoff preview.
In writing a playoff preview, all I can do is lay out the issues and make my evaluations as best as I can. My analysis leads to what I think is the most likely outcome as a prediction, but I know that in five games between good teams, any and all outcomes are possible.
The analysis is what matters. The predictions are trivia. (Unless I get all four series right. Then they're a line on my resume.)
Greg Tamer (firstname.lastname@example.org): Billy Beane -> overrated? Thoughts? I think I'll hold my judgment on Beane until after he succeeds without Hudson, Zito, and Mulder. Agree or disagree?
Joe Sheehan: Beane is one of the best GMs in the game because he's very smart and is willing to consider all the available information and question orthodoxy. He makes mistakes, but he learns from them.
I don't know if it's Moneyball, or the A's lack of postseason success, or the general tendency to tear down what has been built up, but there's a backlash against Beane that out there that I do not understand. He's done what was supposed to be impossible: won consistently with a low payroll. I think we forget just how hard his job is on a year-to-year basis.
Spike (Madison, WI): Who do you think Joe Torre should start in right field? Rivera hits lefties to the tune of a 1000+ OPS, and given the lack of other right-handed hitters on his bench, it would seem that he would be better off with Garcia in the lineup and Rivera on the bench to counter any move to Romero or Guardado.
Joe Sheehan: I think Torre is going to treat right field the way...who was it, Dick Williams?..treated second base for one of those A's teams in the 1970s. He has four guys, and he could use any and all of them in any game.
It's not the worst situation in the world; each player does a little something, and none is a waste of a roster spot.
wmcdonal56 (South Bend IN): How do we stop the madness of the "Shannon Stewart for MVP" campaign? Seriously.. this is infuriating. I know you are probably beyond caring about the "big name" awards... but this has gone too far!!!
Joe Sheehan: By ignoring the AL MVP voters until their spaceship gets back.
You can't argue with "Shannon Stewart for MVP." There's just no place to begin, no common ground for a debate with that position.
Mike W (Chicago): Joe, how dare you impugn the good name of a Yankee! Next you'll tell us Jeter isn't a Gold Glove candidate. I'm telling John Sterling on you!
Joe Sheehan: Use small words.
Chris (Toronto): Are there any major changes we can expect to see in BP2004?
Joe Sheehan: Well, I'd imagine we'll change most of the words.
Seriously, the format we've used has been successful for eight years, which I believe is the longest run any book of this kind has had. We went to real stats last season, which was well-received. Any changes to next year's book will be less radical than that.
Chris Kahrl was denied his request to do the Cubs chapter in German, by the way.
Evan (Vancouver, BC): Did you ever tell us who won this year's DiSars?
Joe Sheehan: No. Evan, fire off an e-mail to me so I remember to get that in a column this week.
Chad (Arizona): In your previous chat, you called Chad Tracy one of the four best prospects in the game. Now that you've had time to think about it and realize that it was an absurd statement, care to retract?
Joe Sheehan: I'm not going to look it up, but I think the question was "closest to the majors" or something like that.
Tracy can hit, and the Diamondbacks spent all of August getting replacement-level performance from their infield corners. You'd think someone in the desert would put the two together.
David (Visalia, CA): You and Huckabay both promised a Fresno Pizza Feed! When are you coming? How about for one of the World Series games?
Joe Sheehan: Never believe promises made after...
...no, wait I can't use that one here. Shoot.
I'm booked through October. We'll do a San Joaquin Valley Pizza Feed over the winter, or Gary will give up softball.
Gus Papadopoulos (Clearwater, FL): Joe: which major league organizations have surprised you this season, in a positive way, in the manner at which they've tried to construct a long-term contender? And, which teams do you think took a step back in that regard this season? Thanks ...
Joe Sheehan: The Indians are coming on hard. It started more than a year ago with some great trades, and continues even in the face of what was a frustrating season in the majors.
The Plain Dealer did a series on their approach; I believe it was called "Game Plan." It was a great read.
There are a couple of organizations holding on when they shouldn't be. The Astros and Dodgers both need to start over.
Blake Townsley (Chicago, IL): Joe, watching Randall Simon pinch hit his way into a strikeout last night, while swinging at the first three balls outside the strike zone, begs the question: Don't you think it's time to reconsider the Free Ramon Castro campaign? Free Hee! sure does have a nice ring to it.
The fact that the Wrigley faithful have taken to Randall Simon the way they have is downright embarrassing.
Joe Sheehan: In fairness, what a fan likes and what is best for the team aren't always in sync. Simon is, by all accounts, a good guy and certainly an entertaining ballplayer. As we know, Cub fans have a history of getting attached to first basemen who don't hit enough.
Baker didn't give Choi enouugh playing time in the immediate aftermath of Choi's return from the DL. It's water under the bridge now, but if Choi isn't the first baseman and #5 hitter next April, there's a problem.
Mike W (Chicago): If the Dodgers fire Jim Tracy, how many games do they win next year, per million in payroll?
Joe Sheehan: I don't know, but it will mean that the Dodgers will have gone through Davey Johnson and Jim Tracy without winning anything. That's a nasty indictment of where that franchise has been the last 15 years.
I think Tracy stays to start 2004.
E_Street (Pittsburgh): Joe,
Non playoff question: Which of these teams will reach the postseason before the others?
Joe Sheehan: I'd say the Devil Rays, except they'll need realignment to do it.
Probably the Pirates, who play in what is going to be a pretty ugly division in 2005 and 2006.
Doug Melvin (Cincinnati, OH): Joe:
Richie Sexson is a fine first baseman AND a great example to the younger players (played every inning of every game in 2003). If Prince Fielder rakes at Double A in 2004 what the h*ll do I do? Oh my aching head.......
Joe Sheehan: Even if Fielder doesn't hit, you try and trade Sexson next year. Tying up $40MM over four years for a player likely to decline won't make sense.
I concede that there are non-performance reasons to keep Sexson, but you have to be smart about resources. That money will have more value applied at other positions, and given to younger players.
Nice system, by the way. The Brewers have made up a lot of ground since 2001.
Glenn (Kirkland, Washington): Joe, the Mariners GM job is available today. How about seizing the moment and telling us what you'd do as GM this winter to retool the team for '04? The payroll budget will be the same as this year, about 92 million. Thanks.
Joe Sheehan: Off the top of my head...Winn or Cameron has to go so the Mariners can add a .500 SLG bat in the outfield, one that gets John Olerud out of the #4 and #5 slots. You can't win in the AL with multiple non-hitters, so at least a C, SS or 3B has to be imported.
Will Snelling give the Ms 450 PA? I don't know if I'd roll those dice.
Eschew the Vlad class, and put some time and money into the non-tender and second-tier FA market. That will again be huge for teams that don't get caught up in December's frenzy.
Horace (Portland, OR): When will I be able to sign up for Premium? I want to read the articles, but there's been no signups for a month!
Joe Sheehan: Right now.
Thanks for your support, Horace!
Harvey (Milwaukee, WI): Gee Joe, first a shot at Podsednik as being a flash in the pan in your NL ROY pick and now the Pirates have a better chance than Milwaukee for fortune and glory? Who has better on field talent right now? Who has the better farm system? Or are you just convinced that the aura of Bud will ruin any chance the Brew has to win?
Joe Sheehan: Well, yeah, because the Brewers are always going to be the lab rats for whatever Selig wants the industry to do. I have a hard time seeing a future in which the Brewers push for a title. Selig doesn't want "pushes"; he wants his turn, the way every NFL team gets a turn.
When you guys get close, you'll stay close, and you'll lose out to more motivated organizations.
Pablo (Omaha, NE): Where do Tejada and Vlad end up?
Joe Sheehan: Caveat: I have no inside knowledge of this.
Mike W (Chicago): Joe, you're missing a great comedy show here in Chicago from the media. The personable and always available Kenny Williams continues to get a free ride as he fires Manuel, while the equally media-friendly Dusty Baker is the main recipient of Cub euphoria, getting credit for coaxing all those career years (?) out of the execrable Cub talent. Try and spend some time online with the papers out here.
Joe Sheehan: In fairness to Williams, he has shown a significant improvement in the job. The Sox are still hosed because of the Todd Ritchie deal, and they can't get 2001-02 back, but starting with the Colon pickup, he's really had a nice run.
Baker...at this point, Baker would have to get caught with Boy Scouts, porn, heroin, the complete works of Barry Manilow and a manifesto describing his approach to eliminating Social Security to get any bad press. (All five. Just four and he'd be OK.) He has the baseball equivalent of diplomatic immunity.
R.C. Cook (Dallas TX): Given that the Rangers' payroll is expected to be around $75-80 million next season, giving them very little financial flexibility this winter, what can John Hart do this off-season in order to make the team better in 2004?
Joe Sheehan: Make sure all the people whose contracts have expired have one-way tickets home.
The Rangers are better than people realize. They're stuck in a division with excellent teams, which makes them look worse than they are. If Hart can fill out the rotation with 400 innings of Steve Trachsel and his ilk, they might win 92 games.
STOWN44 (Washington, DC): Who's going to be the X-Factor for the Red Sox pitching staff? Up to this point, it has been a free-for-all. We're talking about a team with the best offense and near worst bullpen in the league. How do teams the like stack up historically in the playoffs?
Joe Sheehan: I like Scott Williamson, who wasn't that effective after the trade and who never established a role. I don't think the A's can handle his stuff, and he could get important outs in the seventh inning.
Pablo (Omaha, NE): How about Colon, Millwood, Escobar?
Joe Sheehan: Mets, Angels, Blue Jays.
rich (dublin): Could Derek Zumsteg run the Mariners effectively?
Joe Sheehan: The Mariners? I'm pretty sure Derek could run the state of Washington effectively.
Marc (Athens, GA): When can I order BP 2004?
Joe Sheehan: Real Soon Now on Amazon.com.
danielj (Davis): Will the Mets give any consideration to hiring Paul DePodesta as their GM?
Joe Sheehan: Yes.
My read is that DePodesta will be a GM when he wants to be, and in the job he chooses.
It'd be fun if he took the D-Rays' job, though. That division needs another young GM who understands performance analysis.
Josh (San Diego): Who is the second most important player in the playoffs?
Joe Sheehan: Jason Giambi. The Yankees' offense doesn't work without him.
Cary (Tampa, FL): Has a player of Brian Giles' caliber ever been traded for such a low fraction of his value more than once?
Joe Sheehan: Curt Schilling.
Joe Sheehan: Thanks for all the great questions! Enjoy the playoffs...