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Chat: Rob Mains

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday August 30, 2018 1:00 PM ET chat session with Rob Mains.


Rob is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Rob Mains: Happy second-to-last-day-before-the-waiver-trade-deadline! Let's get this started.

Dusty (Colorado): You've talked about Wander Javier in previous chats, any update on his upside and outlook?

Rob Mains: Dude. You can't fool me. Wilson texted me from his hospital bed, where he was rushed after he passed out after hearing in his chat that you've moved on from Javier. You can't just *do* that kind of thing, Dusty. Anyway, I know a *little* about labrum tears (like the one with which Duggar was just diagnosed), and I think the prognosis for guys with *non-throwing* shoulder tears, like Javier, is excellent. And he's just 19. You shouldn't give up hope!

Mark (New Hampshire): Any deep dynasty prospects you can think of that I should be targeting in my league? We roster 700 prospects so I need some really deep names. Thanks!

Rob Mains: This is an appropriate time to mention that in order to avoid this becoming a let's-all-troll-Mains chat, I'm going to defer (read: not answer) questions about fantasy and prospects to the folks here who actually know from fantasy and prospects. I do not. I know a lot about current and historical baseball, I've got a reasonable facility with sabermetrics, and I've got what I consider to be a unique (i.e., investment-related) perspective on baseball economics. So I'm gonna stick to those. (Re your question, DM me; I saw an old neighbor when I was back in Minnesota for the BP Ballpark event, and he has a kid who's a high school junior who's a left-handed hitting catcher, and he'd be a great #532 slot for your team.)

Gerald (Orange County): Do you like TAV? Checking players TAV from 1967 to be clear?

Rob Mains: Yeah, I do. I wrote a couple articles earlier this year comparing TAv to Baseball Reference's OPS+ and FanGraphs' wRC+. I think they are all very good. As the first article illustrates, they are fairly well correlated. In the second article, I go into the differences, I think TAv's integration of situation hitting (e.g., avoiding GIDPs) gives it a bit of an edge. I also like the scaling--TAv is scaled to a batting average-like .260, while OPS+ and wRC+ use 100--but I will freely admit that that's an idiosyncrasy. First article: https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/40565/battle-royale-tav-vs-ops-vs-wrc-part-1/ Second article: https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/40637/battle-royale-tav-vs-ops-vs-wrc-part-2/

Marc (Between two (Douglas) Firs): What’s a widely-loved wine varietal, AVA, or common denomination (Cotes du Rhône, Burgundy, Bandol, etc.) that you think is overrated? I’ll go: Pinot noir. Tastes like wine with some water added in many/most cases.

Rob Mains: This is just me, but I am not a fan of how hot-weather reds (and some whites) have developed. Dense fruit, low acid, a lot of alcohol--like alcoholic fruit compote. Breaks my heart, because I used to love pretty much all Zins. As for Pinot, I agree that some of them don't offer much, but I prefer the earthy Burgundy/Oregon style to the big fruit California/Aussie style. (Those are, of course, generalizations)

Gerald (California): Do you like prospects? Baseball prospects to be clear?

Rob Mains: Sure, but I don't study them or have any expertise at all, and I find that the best strategy when discussing something about which you know next to nothing is to shut up.

Omar (NYC): What is your favorite wine? What is your favorite personal finance? What is your favorite type of cricket at Safeco? Do you even like baseball?

Rob Mains: 1. The list of those that I don't like is shorter, but if I were to name just one, Riesling. Amazing, amazing grape. Last month I had a 1983 German Riesling--A 35-YEAR-OLD WHITE WINE--that was just brilliant. (2) By that I assume best advice? Avoid nondeductible debt, max out your retirement contributions, invest in no-load index funds. (3) I believe the only kind is the chili-lime ones. I thought they were good. (4) I could give you a snarky answer, like saying that I write three articles per week, manage BP en espaol, and do most of the work on our depth charts, so I *better* like baseball, but the honest answer is that the game has been my passion for pretty much as long as I can remember. Not a specific team, not the numbers, just the overall art form. It's captivating and a release. I always feel relaxed at the ballpark. Just to be there and watching the game on the field.

Alec Denton (Willamette Valley): Taking in this chat from Oregon wine country. If I want to bring some vino to the tailgate before a Hillsboro Hops game, is there a local selection you'd recommend?

Rob Mains: Well, you are in, IMO, one of the two greatest Pinot Noir regions in the world. Man, I love me some Willamette Valley Pinots. That being said, I don't know whether Pinot Noir is great tailgate wine, unless your tailgate features, like, grilled salmon. I had some great Chards there, and Pinot Gris is a nice summer sipper, provided it's not too citrus-y or floral-y. (One could argue that you are also near the center of hops country, and beer isn't bad at a tailgate either.)

Adam Frazier (Pittsburgh): What do you make of me? Can I grow into an everyday role even for a good team, or am I doomed to the space between replacement level and average?

Rob Mains: I think it's hard for you to develop when your employer keeps moving you all over the diamond. Ben Zobrist is a great role model but he's not the norm, and it'd be a shame if all you became was Sean Rodriguez II. I don't think there's enough bat to stick in LF (Marte and Polanco are not going anywhere), so the opportunity is likely at 2B assuming (1) the Bucs don't pick up Harrison's option and (2) Newman takes over at SS. (1) is pretty iffy. He's not young (27 next year) so his window won't stay open for long. I could see a 3-win player over a full season if given the chance.

CEO (Wine Prospectus): You're hired.

Rob Mains: Not looking for a full-time job, and I like writing about baseball more. But thanks!

Stone Cold Steve Austin (Victoria, TX): WHAT?

Rob Mains: Not sure exactly what you're referring to. Crickets at Safeco? They're on the menu. Wine? Hey, I like it, but if you don't, that's cool. The fact that the Giants haven't traded McCutchen? (checks MLB Trade Rumors, nope, still haven't) I am with you. I was just thinking this morning: McCutchen to Cleveland, helps them win their first WS since '48, would be the happiest ending imaginable, so it def won't happen.

CEO (Wine Prospectus): To be clear, you're hired to write about baseball for our site.

Rob Mains: Thank goodness I had the foresight not to sign a non-compete here.

Mark (New Hampshire): What is your old neighbor's son's name? My fantasy league doesn't allow searches by handedness and high school class.

Rob Mains: I'd say DM me, but I know his dad's hoping for a college scholarship, and I'm worried it'd get him into hot water with the NCAA.

Marc (The West): What will regional sports networks look like in 10 years? Will teams that have bought their own networks regret that purchase, or will they be doing better than teams trying to negotiate with their local cable network?

Rob Mains: Not my exact area of expertise, so don't take this too seriously. Over the last couple weeks, I've had the "the average baseball fan is 57" thing thrown at my face a couple times. I dunno, man...I've been to games, and their aren't a bunch of old people there. I write for BP, and there are a lot of folks here, and I think there are only a couple over 57. I think that the over-57 figure is derived from television viewers, which is sort of like saying that "baseball appeals only to old people because of people who have only landlines, the average age of baseball fans is 62." Long-winded way of saying that the key for content providers is to move to streaming. And as long as mlb dot tv has blackout provisions, I think the smart RSNs are going to be more nimble than the cable carriers. So I think the vertical integration offered by RSNs will remain an advantage.

Not really a prospect question (Chicago): How many starts do you think we'll see from Touki and Alcantara this September?

Rob Mains: You're right, it's not! Alcantara - the Marlins don't have anything to lose, and he's a key building block--at least five or so? As for Toussaint, it's always more complicated when the team is in a pennant race. Granted, Atlanta has been pretty willing to play rookies, but starting pitchers are different. If Newcomb winds up on the DL or skipping a turn or two, I could see Toussaint getting maybe 2-3 starts. More, if there are more injuries or the NL East race settles early.

Imran Khan (Pakistan): What's this about Cricket at Safeco? Why wasn't I invited?

Rob Mains: Dude, your economy is a mess, there's widespread corruption, and you need to extricate yourself from the military. You don't need to be worrying about ballparks.

Gerald (Sacramento): Doesnt sound like you like prospects. Baseball prospects to be clear.

Rob Mains: I think Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is probably one of the best 25-30 hitters in baseball. Not MiLB, all of baseball.

Bill (Madison): I am kind of baffled about what to ask, but let's try this. What kind of a player do you see Ian Happ developing into and will the cubs trade him before the end of september for more pitching?

Rob Mains: Second question first: There is no point in trading anybody of value after tomorrow because whomever you'd get would not be eligible for the postseason. And the big names who could still move, like McCutchen, are one-month rentals. So Happ isn't going anywhere. As a player, he turned only 24 a couple weeks ago, and he's a league-average hitter with positional versatility. He has value, particularly on a team like the Cubs, who like moving guys around. Upside is probably prime Zobrist. Solid, above-average player, maybe makes an All-Star team or two.

Uri (Israel): Great to know there's more wine dialogue than prospect dialogue on baseball PROSPECTus.

Rob Mains: Why on earth guys who care about prospects show up on my chats is beyond me. Jarrett Seidler is a good friend and great person, but I don't go to his chats and ask him about the 1968 season.

Jordan (SD): Can you ask one of the prospect guys who you'd rather have long term Jesus Sanchez or Taylor Trammell. Thanks.

Rob Mains: Jordan, I don't know if you're trolling me, but the straight answer is that sometimes when I do these I have one or two prospects guys lined up on the bat-phone for questions like these, but I neglected to do so this time. Sorry! They will be chatting soon, promise.

Bill (madison): i've heard that the cubs are going to try to get their own network. what kinds of things would that network play: live cub games of course but archived games, other psorts? what is the benefit, not having to pay a broadcasting fee? is that a major benefit.

Rob Mains: It's the other way around, Bill--the idea is that you can make more money by running your own network than by merely collecting a royalty payment from a local carrier. Sports teams make money from being on the air, either way. They don't pay anybody; they're the content providers. Owning an RSN is like an auto company owning their own parts manufacturer--the idea is that the upfront investment reaps long-term benefits. As for what a Cubs network would play, tbh, I don't watch a lot of RSNs, but yeah, in a city like Chicago, I'd imagine they'd get other sports on the air, as well as re-runs of "classic" Cubs games.

Jordan (SD): I can wait while you call them.

Rob Mains: They don't take my calls unless I arrange it in advance. They have to steel themselves for my ignorance.

Dusty (Colorado): You mentioned Wander Javier earlier in this chat and in previous ones. Can you sum up your thoughts on his upside?

Rob Mains: We can keep this going a long time...

Bill (Madison): are jake junis or anthony desclafini anymore than league average. It seems like the last month or so they have been looking pretty good.

Rob Mains: Absolutely agree, Bill. Junis is, what, three years younger, but I like what DeSclafani has done in a tough, tough ballpark. I suppose you've got to give the nod to Junis for health reasons, and he misses more bats, but I'd take either over the average pitcher, easily.

Rusty (Denver): What kind of upside do you see in Wander... Samuel Franco?

Rob Mains: There you go.

Jessica (Baltimore): Which needs saving the most: baseball, the last dance, or Private Ryan?

Rob Mains: Well, Private Ryan is, by now dead, and saving the last dance is kind of egotistical, isn't it? But I don't buy the baseball-is-dying narrative. So I vote for the last dance.

Bill (Madison): Cub fans all calling for Javier Baez to be MVP. He has been hitting really well and is a defensive wonder, but given your sabermetrics approach, how does baez look?

Rob Mains: NL MVP is pretty wide open this year. Our top 5 by WARP are Arenado, Carpenter, Goldschmidt, Freeman, Baez. B-Ref likes Cain, Carpenter, Baez, Freeman, Goldschmidt. FanGraphs has Carpenter, Goldscmidt, Cain, Arenado, Baez. And we're talking like half a win between first and fifth. So Baez looks really good, which is amazing, given his pretty bad contact skills. (I also think that you can make a pretty good MVP case for Nola, Scherzer, and deGrom, not that they have a chance.)

Stephen (Spokane): On a scale of 1-10, how good is Chic-fil-a?

Rob Mains: My dalliance with crickets notwithstanding, I don't eat meat. Sorry. No basis.

Bill (Madison): I have luis castillo and have had him for 2-3 years. It seems he is ready to break out and then it is 2 bad games in a row. how do you measure a guy like that? a ton of potential, but he is really frustrating too

Rob Mains: I am starting to wonder whether there is something going bad with the Reds and the way they develop pitchers. Like, have you seen what Gausman has done (small sample warning) since leaving Baltimore, and Arrieta before him? There have been a lot of highly-regarded Reds pitchers who've fizzled. I mean, Brandon Finnegan is kind of a forgotten man. Granted, a *lot* of pitchers fizzle, but the Reds have sure had a lot. I wonder whether Castillo is a change-of-scenery candidate (though off the top of my head, I don't recall a lot of Reds pitchers doing better elsewhere).

Jquinton82 (NY): Any news on Tristan McKenzie?

Rob Mains: (1) It looks as if he's doing well in Akron. (2) As of today, I have heard of him.

Bill (Madison): I'm in a fantasy league where I am rebuilding. I own kershaw. so let's just think what if the dodgers were near the bottom of the league. would they or should i try to trade kershaw and what kind of players should they expect back.

Rob Mains: First, the Dodgers. Trade him right this minute--no, he wouldn't clear waivers. Trade him after the season--That'd have to wait until he decides whether or not to opt out. If he does, of course, he's not the Dodgers' guy to trade. If he doesn't, good luck trading him with his recent injury history and his contract status. As for you, the risk in trading him is that he winds up in a less favorable ballpark. As for what you can get for him, that depends on how your fellow owners feel about pitching vs. hitting.

Bill (Madison): Who is the Cubs eighth best prospect?

Rob Mains: The guy immediately after the top 7

Alistair Brownlee (Dewsbury): Give us your favorite fun fact about triathlons.

Rob Mains: Before the race, when you're setting up your bike and running gear and whatnot in the transition area, they'll have announcements over the PA system in which they refer to the participants as "athletes." I have done a lot of triathlons and I to this day do not consider myself to be an athlete. (Bonus fun fact: Most people wear a wetsuit during the swim, and most of them do *not* do it stay warm.)

Rob Mains: OK, all, I think the queue is empty, other than the prospects and fantasy questions that aren't my thing. Until next time, walk and run on the left, ride on the right, and if you don't like Riesling, you probably haven't had a good one. Enjoy the games.

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