Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Christina Kahrl: Hi gang, thanks to all of you for coming in. I hope we're all geared up on baseball today, and with a tip of the cap to Will Carroll, I'm powered up on Radio Tarifa and a Splenda-spike caffeinated beverage to be named later, and as likely as not to talk all day, so let's get this party started...
rfgilles (new york): Hey Chris,
What mlb player do you think has most overachieved in the majors relative to his minor league stats in the last 5 years? Michael Young?
Christina Kahrl: A good question, but I wouldn't put Young on the top of the list. This year's most obvious veteran choices seem pretty clear: Brian Roberts, Derrek Lee, and perhaps Tony Clark in his own space. Among the younger players, I think Clint Barmes wildly exceeded expectations, but injury and a bandbox will keep making it look that way; Jeffrey Francouer's done vastly better than what any of us might have expected, but we all know he has tremendous up-side. Among the "who" group, I'd nominate Billy Hall or perhaps even Mark Ellis, since both are hitting much better than I think even their mothers expected.
Pitchers are a bit more unpredictable, just by their very nature, but I think we'd have to hand this year's prize to Jorge Sosa, and by extension, Leo Mazzone.
ssimon (Mount Vernon, NY): Chris, do you foresee Zach Duke winning the NL ROY despite missing such a big chunk of the second half? Or does Jeff Franceour's SI cover appearance clinch it for him?
Christina Kahrl: We're in a funky sort of season, a Willie McCovey candidacy sort of year, and even then, I wouldn't necessarily pick either Francouer or Duke. Rickey Weeks and the McCovey in Phillies clothing, Ryan Howard, seem like equally compelling choices. With a field this wide-open, the NL electorate might splinter in all sorts of directions, perhaps even creating opportunity for a Willy Taveras. Taveras is an everyday CF on a contender, after all, which brings me to this next question...
AJ (Houston): Dude, man up to your ASSININE pre-season prediction that the Pirates would finish ahead of the Astros. I realize that accurate predictions in MLB are difficult, but it boggles my mind that anyone who knows ANYTHING about baseball would pick Pittsburgh over Houston, yet your fancy analysis told you that Pittsburgh would be better. That prediction was SO SILLY that you should be disqualified from discussing baseball for a year.
Christina Kahrl: Dudette, thank you, but I'll admit, I took a risk in saying that I thought the Astros were a fragile collection of possibilities, and I saw it blowing up in their collective faces. I gambled (figuratively) that one of their big three starters would break down, and that they'd continue to make a bad choice at third base, and prefer Lamb to Ensberg. Instead, the risks paid off, and they're in the hunt.
I guess my question about whether they have an enduring faith in the freedom of speech down in Texas has been answered, though, so thanks for that. : ) But as this exercise demonstrates, you're wrong: predictions are easy. Correct predictions, on the other hand...
ssimon (Mount Vernon, NY): Chris, Will Carroll gives the annual Dick Martin Award to MLB's best medical staff. How about a "transaction of the year" or "transactor of the year?" Would Brian Cashman win the 2005 version?
Christina Kahrl: A good suggestion, certainly, and much as I may like Cashman's pickups of Matt Lawton or Shawn Chacon, he did also sign up Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano and Tony Womack. If it's a matter of spending gold well, or mining it, there are different criteria in play. Certainly, Omar Minaya deserves credit for how he played his winter, up to a point, but is that really better than how well the Indians have been assembled, or Kenny Williams' surprising us all by digging up one of the best AL RoY candidates in Tadahito Iguchi?
Ross (London): With Katrina opening our eyes to the disasterous future in terms of global warming, should teams have more of a "win now" mentality?
Christina Kahrl: Millenarianism in baseball might make for a great doctoral thesis, it might even give Jim Bowden his latest bad idea, but I think a GM's responsibilities to his organization should be a bit more balanced than that.
Of course, you live in London, it might be easy for you to snigger over this sort of thing. In this country, flat-earthers are making a comeback, and all we can do to try from getting upset about it is celebrate Flying Spaghetti Monsterism. (For a good time, go goggle that, believe me, you won't be disappointed.)
Greg (Boulder, CO): Realignment: keep the three divisions + wildcard? four divisions per league? two divisions per league?
Christina Kahrl: Since the introduction of the wildcard, I've always been biased in favor of two divisions, an unbalanced schedule, two wildcards, and no interleague play. But nobody's nominating me to be the game's Czarina, nor should they, so that's worth a bit less than two cents.
Tommy (North Carolina): Is Torre's job on the line this week against the devil rays? Specifically, will Lou get his job just based on his team's dominance this year over the yankees?
Christina Kahrl: I think we've all been wondering about whether or not we're about to re-enter the shadow of the valley of the madness of King George (Harvey Corman directing), and whether or not this is the season that does it. Certainly, another Red Sox divisional win might do the trick, and I think they'd have to go with a veteran to play out the string with this old, old team. Certainly, if I were the D-Rays, I'd do my best to try and trade Lou to the Yankees, because that would be a win-win for them.
erghammer (DC): Is Craig Hansen at all a possibility for the 2005 Red Sox?
Christina Kahrl: I don't really think so, but given that the Sox seem to be the most uncertain, Hamlet-like, introspective and semi-crazed team from among the probable division winners, I guess we won't know for sure until the bitter end.
Velez (Miami): Is a manager's job to win games, or to not lose game? It seems like I'm always noticing the mistakes managers make, but rarely am i aware of any "brilliant" moves.
Christina Kahrl: It's an unfair balance by which we judge managers, because are usually more absorbed with nit-natting about their tactical indiscretions, and less generous when it comes to identifying how a manager may have created a great usage pattern for his regulars, for his bench, and for his bullpen. Activity, like going to the pen with a LaRussian obsessiveness, is often mistaken for genius.
In that spirit, one of the new features we're hoping to add to next year's annual is a segment on managers, where we'll try to capture some of the things that the other manager stats don't reflect very well. Admittedly, such a thing is long overdue.
hokunpark (Boston): OK, so Rick Short's 32. And he doesn't walk much. And he only kinda plays 2B and 3B. And he doesn't hit for power. Even so, couldn't the Nats have used a guy who hits .383 in AAA? What's the point in wasting a fluke season like this in AAA when he's obviously good enough to help any team in the majors?
Christina Kahrl: Skip helping any team, he should have been up to help the Nationals. But he wouldn't be the first minor league veteran that ended up being burned by Jim Bowden, and unless this is the end of Bowden's career outside of the studio, he won't be the last. I mean, nobody can get enough Carlos Baerga, can they? Ugh.
Maria (Caldwell): You have to explain my o's collapse to me. Are they really this bad? Do we have any hope for the future?
Christina Kahrl: More than anything else, they stopped scoring runs. That isn't any one player's fault, although one of my brothers somewhat pointedly refers to Miguel Tejada as Senor May-o. (He was exposed to Mike Davis' '85 at an impressionable age.) But the struggles have been thoroughgoing, and they're making them worse by "managing" their way out of them, and looking at freak-show alternatives like Walter Young.
As for the future, I think the time has come for Clan Angelos to pick between either Flanagan or Beattie and break up the duumvirate, or can both and bring in someone from the outside. To their credit, the organization's player development program is showing signs of life, so I'd like to see them do more of the same on that score, so don't get too down. This is just the flip side of this spring's sugar high, and they're still fun to watch, especially with guys like Roberts and Bedard and Ryan and other.
Alex Carnevale (New York, NY): Hey Chris, love your work. I have a hypothetical question for you. Say the Red Sox sign Johnny Damon to one of their patented 4 year deals. With the market the way that it is, I have a hard time thinking it won't be in the neighborhood of 4 years, $50 million. Say they bite the bullet and sign him for that. Over the duration of the contract, he puts up the following line:
Age 32: .310/.388/.450
Age 33: .285/.350/.407
Age 34: .281/.356/.410
Age 35: .268/.345/.382
Assuming his defense declines (as it already seeming has) into Bernie Williams territory, and he stays healthy (not a given considering shoulder problems), is he worth the contract the Red Sox will have to give him?
Christina Kahrl: Probably. Even allowing for inflation to take some of the cost out of what would almost certainly be a back-loaded contract, who do you sign, if not Damon? Ever winter market represents a series of contingencies and possibilities; only the more limited thinkers restrict themselves to thinking in terms of shopping for free agents, and I certainly wouldn't expect that the Sox will do that. But the alternatives on that market aren't especially tantalizing: Jacque Jones, Kenny Lofton, Preston Wilson, perhaps even Michael Tucker or Juan Encarnacion. If I were Boston, I'd take full advantage of my solo negotiating window with Damon, and then I'd forego most of that lot to see if I couldn't swing a deal.
Dave (Huntington Beach, CA): The debate rages out here as to whether DePodesta, Tracy or neither will be canned. Any insight?
Christina Kahrl: I wouldn't fire DePodesta, but you'd expect me to say that. Given a choice between a manager and talent, I almost always favor the talent. Managers may not be interchangeable, but they're pretty replaceable. Smart GMs, on the other hand, are not.
Walter (Boston): Hi, Chris, more of a big-picture question... Over the last ten years, for teams in playoff contention (lets say within 5 games with a month to go in the season), has it been more effective for teams to trade for veteran replacements or to start rookie talent to get into the playoffs? I suppose from a WARP standpoint...Thanks, big fan of BP. Keep it up!
Christina Kahrl: I guess it depends on your point of view. This is sort of related to the managers comments I've made earlier: what's the point of a GM doing what Bowden has done with Ryan Zimmerman, when his manager won't use him? Not all rookies are created equal, nor is veteran Terry Pendleton. I'm always a bit of a particularist: there are no universal solutions, just specific problems that a good GM and a good manager can tailor specific solutions for.
Richie Sexson (Seattle): Still a Brewer fan; if Milwaukee starts Weeks and Hardy next season, should Hall play utility, move to 3B or be traded? Is Hall talented enough that the Brewers should be concerned about reducing his trade value by limiting his PAs?
Christina Kahrl: As big a fan of Russell Branyan as I am (it's all about the Three True Outcomes, donchaknow), I'd keep Hall as an alternative to Branyan, and play both at third, while keeping Hall as the de facto utility infielder. Branyan can also be used in the outfield as needed, so you might save yourself from having to carry a particularly useless utility infielder or sixth outfielder, and could instead use the roster space on a tasty Rule 5 pick.
Greg (Boulder, CO): If Dan O'Dowd named you Rockies GM-for-a-day, what would be your first transaction?
Christina Kahrl: I'd get myself a contract extension.
beanpj (Washington, D.C.): Santana, Radke, Silva, Liriano, Baker. Best rotation in the AL next year?
Here's a prediction for you (I'm not a Twins fan, btw): Twins win the AL Central by 8+ games next year.
Christina Kahrl: Not if they don't fix their lineup, and it doesn't look like they even understand that there's a problem. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the Indians are the team with the long view, the talent in the skill positions, and the organizational depth to grind everyone else to dust in the next five years. The Sox are a fun team, but I think they're an anomaly, while the Twins have failed to capitalize. It's a point I've been carping for years, but where the great GMs kept morphing and adapting their teams in the pursuit of improvement, Terry Ryan seems to think getting guys like Juan Castro is pretty keen, and look at all those guys he's already got. It's a sad story, but one the Twins can still do something about.
redsoxfan (pensacola, fl): What kind of prospect is Cuban defector Michel Abreu, recently singed by the Red Sox? Can he make the team next year with Millar probably gone?
Christina Kahrl: Frankly, I have no idea. I've been right and wrong about Cubanos, but more often, I've been appropriately skeptical of all of them. The forbidden fruit metaphor still applies: just because it's hard to get doesn't mean it isn't just mush. The cautions I enumerated last winter in talking about Kendry Morales still generall apply: it's a weird competitive environment, and it's an area where scouting hasn't been as reliable as it might like to claim to be.
alappin (Outside Fenway Park): How unlucky is Roberto Petagine? He finally gets a chance to play, and then both Millar and Olerud catch fire, effectively killing his chances at playing time.
Christina Kahrl: He's about as unlucky as they get, but if he's on their postseason bench, gets a key hit, and wins a ring, I suspect he'll be happy. Then we can codename "Mind Game 2: the Revenge of the Revenge" in his honor ("Roberto") the way we all referred to "Mind Game" as "Rudy" as a quick name until we worked out an actual title.
DrLivy ((Charleston, WV)): Putting you on the spot, Chris: Who will win the American League Wild Card?
Christina Kahrl: Cleveland. It's the ten games to come against Kansas City and Tampa Bay. Only one of Anaheim or Oakland will make it, and I think the Yankees are just SOL, barring a Bucky Dent moment or something. Terry Francona as the new Zim?
ElAngelo (NY, NY): Given that Blue Jay ownership has said they'll increase payroll this offseason, what should Riccardi be looking to do come November? Sign a couple of free agents, and if so, what type/position?
Christina Kahrl: I think it's more about seeing who to shop and for what. They might want a pitcher (who doesn't), but they have a good amount of pitching on the way up, and I guess I don't see them spending that extra dollar to convince a Kevin Millwood to go north. The outfield and infield are both crowded, money's been spent, and payroll's already going to go up with a few arbi cases. Orlando Hudson's always coming up as a potentially traded player, but again, that's more about moving him out of the way and saving money than it is a comment on his ability. I really think the only way the Blue Jays make a big step forward talent-wise is through a trade, otherwise, it's the old-fashioned promote-from-within method. In their case, I'd keep doing the latter.
StickandBallGuy (Minneapolis): As a fan, what is your reaction to seeing Barry Bonds playing again? Do you feel excitement in seeing an all-time great? Or do you wish he'd just retire?
Christina Kahrl: I'm happy to see a great player playing, and I hope he continues to hit for as long as he's able. He's apparently very happy to remain in San Francisco, and I'd hope that's where he remains to the end. I say that even though I have a well-developed dislike of the Giants, but Bonds, the Cove, that park... what's not to like about all that? It's a bit of magic that you find in baseball in a way unlike any other sport. Here's hoping the Pads win, but Bonds helps put the fear of the Flying Spaghetti Monster in them down this last stretch.
Arathorn (Near Chicago): Which team wins 90 games in a season first -- Royals, Pirates, or Devil Rays?
Christina Kahrl: Pirates. It might even put them ahead of the Astros finally. ; )
Mike W (Chicago): I've always wanted to know - how do you know something about every minor leaguer? If I tossed out the name of some low-A scrub, would you have something in your brain on him, or do you have some vast database? How does this madness come to be?
Christina Kahrl: I don't golf, I don't watch other people playing poker, and I don't watch reality TV. You'd be amazed how much spare time that creates.
shamah (DC): Is Aubrey Huff getting traded this off season? The Rays have to do something: with Crawford, Baldelli, Gomes, and YOung, Huff seems the most logical to go. Or will LaMar have to go for this to happen?
Christina Kahrl: As sad as it might be for them that they'll be dealing Huff a year late instead of a year early, and as regrettable that he wasn't dealt this summer, I'd have to think that this is the winter to do it. But getting Chuck LaMar to do something sensible, and focusing on improving instead through asking people to pay to see Travis Lee... the Devil Rays aren't cursed, they're a product of design. Perhaps not intelligent design, but design nonetheless.
Steve (Manalapan): Why aren't AAA teams closer to their major league counterparts? As a yankee fan, I'd be interesting in seeing a Clippers game, but they are too far away. Aren't they losing revenue?
Christina Kahrl: More and more, it seems as if teams are doing a good job of getting their affiliates into their own areas. The Red Sox and Pawtucket, Seattle and Tacoma, Oakland and Sacramento, Arizona and Tucson, Florida and Tampa Bay.... oh dear, silly me. Anyway, it makes all sorts of sense. I think it's pretty cool to have Potomac and Harrisburg near Washington, and it's equally cool for Orioles fans to have Frederick, Delmarva, and Bowie all in the neighborhood. If I were the Yankees, I'd want to see about getting one of their higher affiliates in Newark.
Lou Pinella (Tampa): Chris, in the next 5 to 6 years what shoul we expect from Scott Kazmir, what kind of numbers? Can he reduce his ERA to about 3.50 for the entire season?
Christina Kahrl: It's an interesting problem, because between the wildness, having to pitch in a jungle gym, and having a pretty spotty defensive unit behind him, I'd have my doubts. However, I think that with Young and Baldelli in next year's picture, and hopefully with the infield getting sorted out, I'd expect at least some defensive improvement. Getting a better bullpen would help too, of course. Heck, get him a whole new organization...
Noodelman (Alaska): But hey in NBA total 16 teams make to the playoffs, why not allow few more teams in baseball, it would force even the mediocre teams to update their staff and try to win every year.
Christina Kahrl: They're already doing that with the wild-card. Buyers have outnumbered sellers at the deadline the last two seasons. I see no reason to make the season's long march as irrelevant as basketball's 82 games, not when you have everyone but perhaps the worst half-dozen teams in the game still harboring delusions or thoughtful visions of grandeur at the end of July.
coneway (tx): whatever happened to the cubs having the best farm system? zambrano, prior, juan cruz, patterson... we know how they have turned out up to now, but was that it?
Christina Kahrl: Some people got prematurely excited about Brian Dopirak, but he's not Brad Eldred. But they do still have Matt Murton and Felix Pie, and they still have a huge number of arms that Jim Hendry and his staff have done such an outstanding job of drafting, signing, and cultivating. This sort of leads me into the next question...
Donnie Brasco (New York): Chris:
I saw today that BA named Delmon Young as their Minor League Player of the Year. During the past 20+ years they've done a pretty good job at identifying players who have gone on to become superstars (M. Ramirez, D. Jeter, E. Chavez, F. Thomas, A. Jones, D. Gooden, J. Canseco, P. Konerko) or, in some cases, solid players (T. Salmon, T. Gordon, J. Beckett, S. Alomar). Yes, they've had some misses (J. Rauch, G. Jefferies, R. Ankiel), but considering the sheer number of players available to choose, I think they've been quite good at this. How does BPs top-ranked players compare with BA?
Christina Kahrl: Let me lead off by saying that I think BA does great work, but like us, they have their virtues, and they have their blind spots. Like most media organizations, they have a tendency to get too close to their sources, and discard their objectivity (their apologies for Ben Christensen being one of the ugliest examples). But I think we both have our moments. Most of the people you've named, I would suggest everybody would have touted.
I'd say BA got on the Josh Beckett bandwagon earlier than we did, to their credit. But let's take 2001: as correct as they were about Beckett, they were also way too excited about Josh Hamilton, Drew Henson, and Joe Borchard. We were overly enthusiastic about Carlos Pena, but we were much more excited about Hank Blalock than anybody. In the end, it depends on your methodology, and understanding its weaknesses as well as its strengths. I'd encourage any reader to try to enjoy the benefits of both perspectives, and take advantage of them.
Elaine (San Diego): Do you think a team below .500 making the playoffs would be bad for baseball? I don't, but then again, i'm a padres fan!
Christina Kahrl: I do think it's bad for the game. It's a bit too much like the NBA, or that Canadian game of yore... what was it called? It had ice, and furriners, and it was like wrasslin', but with pads.
ssimon (Mount Vernon, NY): Worse signing: Tony Womack or Cristian Guzman?
Christina Kahrl: Guzman, and it isn't even close.
coneway (tx): I appreciated the TA Breakout on Bonds. But I still wonder what happened to him that caused his 2001-2004 hitting explosion. Even if he was on PED's, they themselves couldn't account for his growth as a hitter, could they? I mean, no other hitters that we know were using experienced that kind of surge in performance.
Christina Kahrl: Thank you coneway, it was perhaps controversial, in that I like to think it puts the "absorbing" issues of the day in their proper context. I have no idea if we can blame PEDs, or expansion, or the number of cozy ballparks, or his mojo. I'm practical, insofar as we only know what he's done, and it's been a marvel to watch. Some will second-guess, but that's the nature of fandom: some people choose heroes and heavies, and they argue in their favor, or against. It's fun, but it isn't always fair, and in some cases, it goes beyond questions of fairness, and really does become a matter of right or wrong.
russadams (St. Cloud, Minnesota): Which of the many end of the bench types that the Twins have (Luis Rodriguez, Terry Tiffee, Mike Ryan, Brent Abernathy, etc) will return and make the team next year?
Christina Kahrl: I'd hope Rodriguez will, because he'd be part of the solution to this season's self-inflicted wounds in the infield, but that means Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire would really have to finally give up on guys like Nick Punto and Juan Castro, and I don't think they have it in them to make that sort of snap judgment, no matter how much evidence has piled up to encourage them. I've a weak spot for Ryan, since a pinch-hitter who knows how to jump on a fastball can come in handy; hell, on this team, with an entire infield to pinch-hit for, you'd think he would have come in handy this year.
TGisriel (Baltimore): Hi Chris:
Sorry I'm late.
Your thoughts on some O's prospects: Markakis, Loewen. You're obviously down on young. What do you think of Castro. Can he play the outfield (2B is blocked in Baltimore)and be an asset on the bench next year.
Christina Kahrl: Hi Tom, no worries, it wouldn't be a CK chat without you. Loewen, Markakis, Majewski, even Fiorentino and Penn despite their premature call-ups, there's a lot to like in the system. Even Rich Stahl has had his moments. Much as I'm happy to see him bounce back, I'm not that excited about Castro, and I guess the question needs asking as to whether or not he might be able to move to center field.
glgbeaver (Minot ND): Do you see the twins making a run at a few free agents (Furcal)in the offseason? They have about 14 million in bad contracts coming off the books (Mays & Jones) The rotation should be better next year. I think that 2006 might be thier year.
Christina Kahrl: I'm more worried that they'll re-sign Jones, because I don't think they've sorted out that he's not that much of an asset. I really don't think they'll be able to buy Furcal, especially when I see the price he may command growing by the week. As much bad money comes off, I wouldn't bet on Ryan applying the money to fix his infield, he may instead just spread it around to keep the guys who've been good enough to finish above .500 this year. Over .500 is pretty good, donchaknow.
Mike W (Chicago): So this is it for Dusty, right? Right?? Please?
Christina Kahrl: You'd have to hope so, but he's put the Cubs in an impossible situation. He's earned the axe, but firing him and hiring the best available candidate might put them in a politically incorrect moment of having fired a famous minority manager, and replacing him someone who might not be a minority. I suppose there's a group of Sox fans praying for Jerry Manuel's return to Chicago, just not for their team...
Amelia (Oakland): A couple of A's questions: 1) Any chance Nick Swisher gets traded, and 2)as a follow up, what are your thoughts on Andre Ethier? If he's legit, he might be a better outfield option than Swish.
Christina Kahrl: Hitting in the Texas League shouldn't encourage you to get too far ahead of yourself. I still like Swisher, as much of an extreme streak hitter he may be. Besides, Danny Putnam's not far behind, although I do like Ethier. I just wouldn't hurry, but as you probably know, just about anybody on the A's not named Chavez is potentially dealable.
Donnie Brasco (New York): Chris: Who is your favorite baseball commentator? I lean towards Tony Gwynn since he tells me things that I don't know and provides the unique perspective of a great hitter.
Christina Kahrl: I've always been a big Steve Stone fan, because he's not afraid to speak a bit of truth in the booth, and because he's always been an excellent color man, particularly on the finer points of pitching. Play-by-play, I'm biased towards Josh Lewin, not just because I published his first two books, but also because he's that rare PBP guy who actually loves the game and does his homework. And yes, Cubs fans, it's what they could have to this day, if they weren't farting around with a basketball announcer the last several seasons.
horn75 (Chicago, IL): When are we going to have some BP events in Chicago?
Christina Kahrl: Good question, since Nate Silver, Dayn Perry, Dr. J (that's Rany to you and me) are all on site. I'll be in town for my best friend's wedding in the middle of October. Who knows, maybe a pizza feed and watching the Sox play is a possibility. ; )
DrLivy ((Charleston, WV)): Do the Padres have any chance of winning a first-round series against the Braves or Cardinals?
Christina Kahrl: Actually, I think they could beat the Cardinals, if their rotation does well; the Cardinals lineup isn't last year's murderer's row, and as good as their rotation is for 162 games, it can be beaten in a short series. That plus a bit of LaRussian overmanagement, versus Bochy's more sensible in-game tactics, and I could see an upset. I wouldn't bet on it, but it's possible. Similarly, the Braves have so many questions about their rotation and their pitching depth that I guess they're pretty vincible. That's what I like about both league's postseasons: nobody's overpowering, although if I had to bet, I'd probably pick the Angels to take it all.
BrettG (Columbus, OH): Noah Lowry has been pretty good since the All-Star Break. Is this a hint of what we can expect in 2006?
Christina Kahrl: I'm not so sure. His April was certainly a month for ages: 5-0, 33 Ks in 38.1 IP, and if the Giants do actually surprise us these last three weeks, that stretch is a major part of the reason why. But he's also gotten knocked around his last two starts, and I'd hold off on crowning him the new ace of aces. He is turning out really well, though, and along with someone like Matt Cain, the Giants may be ready to let Jason Schmidt walk to become the next overcompensated Yankee.
Vincent (Waynesboro, Va.): As a Nationals fan who's found this season alternately exhilarating and irritating, I wanted your thoughts on the most likely GM candidates if the new owner decides to replace Jim Bowden. Of the "usual suspects" -- Gerry Hunzicker, Brian Cashman, Pat Gillick -- who would be the best fit for the Nats' needs (which, first and foremost in my mind, is restocking the farm system and building an organization)?
Also, would you give the new D.C. ballpark RFK-like dimensions to emphasize speed and defense? (Of course, that didn't work for the Tigers when Comerica was built.) Or would you make it more hitter-friendly (not to the extremes of Citizens Bank Park, mind you)? And has any correlation been shown between offense and attendance, obviously taking into account that wins are the primary factor.
Christina Kahrl: I'd love to see Frank Robinson promoted to the GM's chair, hire someone from a player development background as his Assistant GM, and then hire a manager who might be around for a while and who'd be willing to help sort out what's of value from within the system. A guy like Buck Showalter would be ideal, but he's taken.
By virtue of playing in the boggy humidity of DC's bottomlands, it would take one heck of freakily designed ballpark to hurt pitching. I think it makes sense to have a park that favors pitching, and then build a power lineup that can score anywhere. It's one of the most consistent "formulas" for success the game's seen. So like RFK, keep it deep in center and deep in the alleys, but perhaps do something funky, like a steeply angled short corner, right or left.
BrettG (Columbus, OH): Willy Aybar seems to be making the most of his playing time in the Majors. Will he live up to his 2005 Prospect Ranking ahead of Rickie Weeks?
Christina Kahrl: As I remember it, I was one of the noisiest of the noisy when it came to touting Aybar, and I'm still comfortable with that given Weeks' enduring problems with leather. What I wish we could take back was ranking Chris Burke ahead of them, but my memory's probably being overly charitable to myself when I recall that I wasn't a big Burke booster.
albert (kansas city, mo): any hope in the next, oh, ten years or so, for the royals? thanks!
Christina Kahrl: There's always hope over that length of time. But as Joe Sheehan's noted on the subject of Buddy Bell's lineup choices, job one is firing the guy overly hung up on handing out entitlements to godawful veterans.
beanpj (Washington, D.C.): Better shot at catching the divisional leader: Tribe catching the White Sox or Giants catching the Padres?
Christina Kahrl: The latter. As I've said, the Tribe should be able to win the wild card handily, but I don't see the White Sox curling up, whereas the Padres are dubious enough that they just might.
smartishpace (Baltimore): Should Milwaukee wait until next year's trade deadline before moving Overbay and starting Fielder's arb clock, especially since Prince isn't certain to significantly outperform (O) next season? What can Milwaukee expect in return for Overbay? Don't tell the others, but you're my favorite BPer.
Christina Kahrl: You're too kind, but thank you. There's a sensibility to what you say, but I think the key factor will be to see what sort of deal might be offered for Overbay in the hot stove league. If you're Doug Melvin and somebody knocks your socks off this winter, I'd take the deal, and skip worrying about arbitration time. There are a lot of teams that could use upgrades at first base, so he's in a good position to barter now *and* at next summer's deadline.
coreyk626 (Chicago): What is the correct way to spend a ton of money? It seems as though almost any free agent who commands a lot of money is certain to be overpaid and overrated. In other words, is spending lots of money on free agents even advisable at all for teams like the Twins and Indians, even if they had the money to blow and wanted to do so?
Christina Kahrl: There's more than one way to skin a cat. In general, though, I think the trend towards paying top dollar for star players, and sifting through the free talent muck to find a few rough nuggets, is generally the right idea. Yes, it means that the middle class of free agents gets screwed, but that's life.
jason (sioux falls): is there any news or updates on any new books being written by baseball prospectus' writers? thanks for the time!
Christina Kahrl: Yes, actually, I should mention that some of the sharper knives here at BP are working on the Basics book project, which will be sort of like the STATS Scoreboards of old, but featuring crisper writing and some of the tremendous insight we've all come to expect from Keith Woolner, Nate Silver, and James Click, among others. That should be out next spring, I think, but don't quote me on that. Plus, I know that several of us are noodling around with personal projects. We're generally a creative bunch. Who knows, maybe one of us will do a one-man Hamlet. ; )
Steve (Manalapan): How can you say that Rickey Henderson, in his pursuit for the steals record, didn't ruffle any feathers? His reputation was well known by then. I still remember his "i'm the greatest of all time" speech after he stole that base. Ugh!
Christina Kahrl: Lou Brock didn't take offense, so why does anyone else have a dog in that fight? The only people offended by Rickey's speech were the people who listened only to what was selectively quoted by controversy-hungry producers and sports page editors, who saw fit to not quote the entire speech. Congratulations, you were played.
Adam (Redbank): Can you believe that Eric Milton has the worst vorp in all of baseball? Who would have guessed that he wouldn't be a good fit with Cincy. He won so many games last year!
Christina Kahrl: He wouldn't have been my first choice, but there you have it, the shipwreck of so many people's hopes in Hacking Mass.
Raymond Borone (Long Island): Chris, am i correct to assume that after the changes to the draft that MLB is planning to do teams will be able to trade draft picks?
Christina Kahrl: I know that it's constantly being kicked around, and I certainly think it's much more likely than internationalizing the draft, but as with other things, progress on this front in the industry comes slowly, if at all.
Donnie Brasco (New York): Chris:
I am intrigued about two upcoming free agents for the Tribe: Belliard and Millwood. They won't get the best bid from the Indians, but I am sure they see the trajectory that the team has. Do you think either of them will be in Cleveland next year?
Christina Kahrl: A very good question. Belliard might be boxed out by Brandon Phillips, which certainly gives Mark Shapiro the whip hand in the relationship; Belliard will either have to settle for something less than he might like, or go on to be... a Royal? Maybe a Twin. Anyway, Millwood's the more interesting case, and I can't imagine that he'll be that comfortable with another short-term risk, but maybe he just likes to have the choice of being able to move on and avoid press conferences where he touts the local school system. If I were Shapiro, I'd certainly want to hold onto him.
jacob (omaha, nebraska): who would you say is your least favorite play by play guy/analyst out there (josh lewin forver!)
Christina Kahrl: Pretty much all of the legacies are terrible, Buck less than Brennaman and Chip Caray (I think Skip's graduated to a different class). But I think in a class all to himself is Hawk Harrelson, the game's worst homer, the man who would rather talk about his successes on the links than pay attention to the game, because he's lazily comfortable in his ump-baiting and unblinking, Goebbels-like boosterism.
horn75 (Chicago, IL): Do you see Adam Dunn being moved this offseason?
Christina Kahrl: I would hope the Reds wouldn't make that sort of mistake, but it might not be Dan O'Brien's call to make. As much as I think dumping Sean Casey is the obvious move, it's Carl Lindner's team, and the old coot seems to still harbor a mancrush on Casey.
dfiala (Rockville, MD): Speaking of godawful veterans, is there any hope that the Giants will start turning out positional prospects this decade? Ellison has been a nice surpise, but compared to the Braves....
Christina Kahrl: Ellison's sort of petered out at the tail end of the season, but there are other sources of hope. Linden's not chopped liver, not that I'm excited about him either, and Ortmeier might be the new Darren Bragg. No, that's not great, but it is useful. Eddy Martinez-Esteve looks pretty good, assuming he can play a corner in the outfield. Fred Lewis still looks like a man with a future in center field. It isn't hopeless.
Donnie Brasco (New York): Chris:
As an educator, I cringe when people discuss lecturing, since there is a lot of convincing research which shows that active/collaborative approaches in the classroom results in better retention, improved aptitude, etc.
Which stat or approach, baseball-related, makes you cringe when you hear it?
Christina Kahrl: I think you're quite right, and sort of build on what you're talking about, two claims bug me. First, there's the phony war the media perpetuates between stathead/Moneyball/geeks on the one hand, and scouts/prospectmongers/geeks on the other. There is no war between these communities of thought, with either seeking total victory. Both approaches have value, and can do a lot to inform the other, which in symbiosis can lead to better-run baseball organizations. But that takes active dialogue, and through that, teams and individuals can learn from one another.
Second is the readiness of some in the stathead community to claim discovery or claim absolute truth. Not to name names, but when the next propeller head gets hired by a big league ballclub and claims he has all the answers, he's asking to be whacked, and he's making it more difficult for the analysts with the good sense to keep an open mind. It's important to note that many of the "discoveries" of performance analysis are simply acts of documentation of things that men like Casey Stengel or Earl Weaver or John McGraw already understood.
So basically, anyone who lectures needs to get over himself. Or herself, myself included.
ned (st. joseph, mo): does mike sweeney get dealt anywhere this offseason? surely he's not standing in ken harvey's path...
Christina Kahrl: I'm not sure anybody would want to be in Harvey's path, he's a few bricks larger than your average load. He's also close to useless for a first baseman, a beefier sort of Pat Tabler, and not likely to help you score runs the way you need to in the majors. It's a good winter to try to move Sweeney, but because of what you might get, not to make room for Harvey.
scottastewart (Maine): Will Ankiel ever make it back to the majors?
Christina Kahrl: I don't see why not. It's a big game, and he's hitting reasonably well last I looked. Who knows, maybe he'll give a team a blend between Brooks Kieschnick and Brad Pennington.
AadikShekar (Boston): Chris,
for all the craps the Giants get, their Starting rotation at this point is a product of their farm system - Correia (3rd rounder), Cain (1st Rounder), Hennessy (1st rounder), Williams (oh wait- that's just me being bitter) - and Schmidt, who was the product of that farm system. Does the team have a reasonable re-load option for next year, expecting Cain to be a good no 2 ? Given Reuter's 7 mil is of the books, along with Snow - they should have some dough to play with - right ?
Christina Kahrl: Don't count your chickens... Hennessey and Correia aren't pitching that well, Schmidt was a product of the Braves system before spending a long stretch in Pittsburgh, and Williams, well, yes, be bitter. The Giants should probably apply some of that money towards a rotation starter, perhaps something short-term, for a one-year bit of insurance.
bill (st. louis, mo): read any good baseball books lately? it's about time to stock up on them for the offseason.
Christina Kahrl: I'm about to dive into "September Swoon," followed by "One Pitch Away" and "Juicing the Game." I recently re-read "Forging Genius" earlier this summer. I know, I'm behind, but I spared myself reading the Braves book Nate recently reviewed, and Bissinger's book appears to be simple hagiography, and George Will did that. I'm looking forward to seeing what my peers wrote in "Mind Game," since that was edited by my estimable colleague, Mr. Steven Goldman.
michael (little rock, arkansas): do you think we'll ever see some of the best writers on baseball (bill james, roger angell, etc.) make it into the hall of fame?
Christina Kahrl: They ought to be, and perhaps several others, but like extending the Hall of Fame ballot to Rob Neyer or Joe Sheehan, it's not happening soon, however appropriate it might be.
robert (independence, missouri): should we expect to see anything different in next years baseball prospecuts?
Christina Kahrl: The aforementioned managers data and comments will be new for this year, if we get that worked out. We should also be including a few short-comment players, who won't have full stat fields the way we've always presented them in the past. And the back of the book essays promise to be particularly strong, including one by Gary Huckabay on the uses and limits of statistical research, and hopefully one about the business side of the game by an insider to be named later.
Thaskins5 (CT): Russ Adams, Aaron Hill, Orlando Hudson. Who do you keep in Toronto, where do you play the two you keep and why?
Christina Kahrl: I keep all three. Hill bats righty, the other two hit lefty, Koskie hits lefty... I can see a way to keep Hill in the rotation and playing. Three lefties at second, third, and short make it practical to carry a primary reserve like Hill to play close to regularly subbing for the front three, and you probably can afford to have Frankie Menechino around behind him, because Frankie's a paesan', and he's because he has his uses.
stacey (columbia, mo): i have to say i've heard it all now (except for "cubs win the pennant!")- have you heard much of an argument for getting keith hernandez into the hall of fame?
Christina Kahrl: Only the standard issue whiny parochialism that fuels the similar argument for Mattingly. After Scooter and Pee Wee, I'd suggest that we already have one too many New York duos in the Hall already.
ScotMartin (Dallas TX): Will VORP still underrate Mike Young next season or are there planned improvements to the system to better evaluate that type of hitter?
Christina Kahrl: I shouldn't speak for Keith Woolner, since he is, as I've said, one of the sharp knives (which I guess makes me the spork), but my impression is that VORP is fine as is. If you're trying to find a system that makes your favorite player look better, you might be asking the wrong question as opposed to looking for the right answer. But you really should take it up with Keith.
Raymond (Evansville, IN): How long can "Ozzie Ball" get by in Chicago? It reminds me a lot of "Tony Pena Ball" in KC about two years ago..thanks for the time!
Christina Kahrl: As a product, as an element of marketing, as a way to run an organization, I don't see any reason to run out on Ozzie Ball anytime soon. More power to them for testing the limitations of our accepted wisdom, and in the meantime, they're a fun team. If they crash and burn, I'd still stick with Ozzie, because he remains the most popular thing associated with the White Sox since Greg Luzinski. The Sox have been searching for an identity other than 'surly' for years, and now they have one.
wpitcher3 (Boston, MA): Chris, you have had some harsh words for some of the Red Sox more questionable transactions this season (e.g. Jose Cruz Jr.). Do you think there is a method to Theo's madness? Does the place the Sox hold in the collective hearts and psyches of New Englanders require a different kind of management style from the GM (say vs. Oakland or Houston)? Lastly, do the Sox trade Manny in the offseason? Many of the talking heads around here think it's a sure thing.
Christina Kahrl: I'm tough on the Red Sox, but I guess I try to be tough on the teams I respect, if only to be as balanced with them as I try to be when I'm savaging the easily-savaged D-Rays or somesuch. But I really it's a case of overmanagement, not method. Cruz, Remlinger, those were entirely unnecessary moves, and the moment you become a hostage to the mob, you begin to lead a life lived in fear for the future.
I wouldn't trade Manny if I were Boston. They'll have to eat an awful lot of contract to make it happen, and he's still a huge asset in the lineup. Mollycoddle him, as you have had to in the past, and it'll be okay.
Jon (Seattle, WA): Do you think we'll see much happen after this collective bargaining agreement ends?
Christina Kahrl: I think we should all be appropriately terrified of what the end of this CBA might mean. The owners' ranks are packed with a collection of unspoken Selig toadies as opposed to the highest bidders, so I think we can count on continuing owner discipline in a labor fight. Add in the victories over the unions in the other three major sports (football, basketball, and Canadian wrestling), and I think we'll have a fight on our hands, perhaps the most dangerous fight for the union since 1981.
Don (Normal, OK): Why in the world did espn have to move Gammons into the 'inside'?!
Christina Kahrl: Much as we all enjoyed the wild west, go-go atmosphere of the internet in the late '90s, it's all part of making web content a pay-as-you-go proposition. Am I nostalgic for the past? Sure, we all are in some ways, but change isn't always a bad thing, and if the choice was between good content and no content, I'd rather be in a world with good content.
jjankechu (nyc): Arrr...hello matey. I just noticed Matt Kinney resurfaced in SFO. Can you fill me in on what he's been doing the past few years and what his future holds? Thanks.
Christina Kahrl: I don't harbor any tremendous hopes for Kinney, as much as I've always liked him, but he was effective last night. He's always had good velocity on his fastball, the question is whether he's ever going to pick up and learn how to spot his other pitches. If he doesn't, he won't even grow up to be Jeff Juden, and that isn't exactly a bragging right.
Amanda (Texas): What's your take on the regression of Zach Greinke? Remember- even Maddux wasn't lights out as a 23 year old pitcher in the show (but he was shortly after, though...)
Christina Kahrl: Kansas City isn't an easy place to pitch, between the park or the dubious support he gets offensively and defensively. I like the young Maddux comparison, and I think speaking out of more than concern for Rany's sanity when I hope that at least this one thing turns out right for the Royals.
beanpj (Wash DC): This is the best chat ever. Thank you so much for taking so much time to chat with us - we love TA and BP in general. And acronyms.
One more question: Are you concerned about Ichiro's so-so year, or is it just one of those things where some years he'll hit .370 and be really valuable and some years he'll hit .300 and be far less so.
Christina Kahrl: Thank you... it has been a bit of extended fun, to be sure, and I think I speak on behalf of all of the BP crew when I say we're grateful for the sentiment.
I guess I consider Ichiro's 2005 to be a lot like his 2003, not that that's all that remarkable in itself. I would consider the 2004 season to be the thing we won't see again, not that this makes Suzuki bad, he's just not Barry Bonds. He is his own flavor of fun, and one of the few things left to Mariners fans to enjoy up in the Mushroom Kingdom. Him, and King Felix. And Richie Sexson. These two things, er, three things, plus fanatical devotion to the Pope, oh hell, who could really love this team, without also hating it a bit? The good people at USS Mariner know where I'm coming from.
Okay, one more quick question...
Jackson (Conception, MO): The best baseball accomplishment this year has been...
Christina Kahrl: a great collection of comeback stories. Not of individual players, but of teams. Whether it's the fruition of rebuilding programs in Cleveland or Detroit or the freeform restructuring of the A's and Braves, the strange and wonderful seasons of baseball on Chicago's South Side or here in DC, there are an awfully lot of fun ballclubs, and very few outright awful, unwatchable ballclubs. That's fun for all of us, and great for the industry. It's been a very good year already, and the postseason promises to be as entertaining as last season's.
Christina Kahrl: Okay, that was about 3.5 hours of fun gabbing about the game, and although I'm appalled that there are still about sixty questions left for me to answer, this was definitely one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon. Thanks to you all for dropping in, and please feel free to drop me a note through BP.com, because I'm always happy to gab about the game. Hope everyone enjoys the stretch run, Christina