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Chat: Rob Arthur

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday February 05, 2019 5:00 PM ET chat session with Rob Arthur.


Rob Arthur is a senior writer at Baseball Prospectus.

Rob Arthur: Hey everyone, thanks for joining me at the chat today. I offer my standard warning about prospect questions: I know nothing, and will probably give you bad answers.

Ric Flair (Atlanta ICU): Woooooooooo!

Rob Arthur: Woooooooooooooo let's get started!

Salty MFer (Mom's Basement): Who starts the season with the closer job in Milwaukee? Does that same person finish the season with the job?

Rob Arthur: I think it's got to be more or less the same committee that got saves last year, perhaps with Hader getting more. Milwaukee has a smart FO and manager and they can modify playing time depending on the in-season performance of Hader et al.

Yonny or Laurel (TB): Over/under on Charlie Morton pitching 155 innings?

Rob Arthur: Under, just slightly, according to both myself and the unreleased PECOTA projections that will be coming out soon.

marcos (Stuttgart, GE): Rob, when do you think the PECOTA depth charts will be ready? Thanks

Rob Arthur: Look for the projections and depth charts to be released on Thursday. Get excited!

Bo Dingus (KCK): If today's Roger Clemens were to pitch to today's Barry Bonds for 600 PA, what would their head to head stats look like?

Rob Arthur: Now this is a fun question. Bonds and Clemens rarely faced each other in their ML careers--the sample size is too small to be helpful there. Clemens is 2 years older, which probably wouldn't have made a major difference during their careers, but now that they are well into their 50s, might be a bigger factor. I think I'd give Bonds the advantage because Clemens would struggle to consistently hit the strike zone (and Bonds wouldn't bite on out of the zone pitches), but any such matchup would be a real mess. What do you guys think?

labrat (Caged in the Lab): Pecota in the past has been quite conservative in projecting star players. Will the recent changes to the DRC expected distribution (Inverse Gamma prior) cause Pecota to be a bit less conservative?

Rob Arthur: I happen to have the PECOTA projections in front of me and I can tell you that this year's iteration is a bit less conservative than previous years, at least for hitters (pitchers remain a crapshoot). I'm not sure past PECOTA has really been any more conservative than other projection systems--any type of projection algorithm is averaging over all the possible scenarios a player might perform in, and there are generally more bad ones than good ones. As a result, even the guys we think of as sure-fire locks to be All-Stars get downgraded a little bit because hey, they might get injured, other teams might develop a strategy to stop them, the league's home run rate might drop 30%, etc. That's why, for example, even though we know that Mike Trout is capable of producing 10 WAR every year, no projection will reliably assign him that number--there's always the possibility he misses three months of the season and only gets to 6 WAR, and the projection has to average over those two scenarios.

Bob (Dreamland): What do you think Miguel Andujar has to do to secure the 3rd base job w/ the Yankees? Fly? Bend steel bars w/ his bare hands? I've heard criticisms of his defense, but he had far fewer errors than Torres did as a rookie, and I don't hear people suggesting Torres can't hold down 2nd or short. Do you see a move to 1st base or DH in his near future? Sorry, I love this kid and it just seems he isn't getting much respect coming off what should have been a Rookie of the Year first season.

Rob Arthur: I think (hope?) that Andujar has already secured the 3rd base job. They may do some tough talkin' about how he has to shore up his defense, which really isn't very good (-15 FRAA), but regardless of how poorly he fields, he's an excellent player and benching him or moving him to DH would be a bad idea (in my personal opinion). This is the kind of spin/young player-bashing that veterans and coaches do regularly, regardless of how talented the player in question is. But I think the job is his to lose, and the only way he could really lose it is by hitting badly or, like, making an error every other play.

John (Chicago): Assuming they land one of the big two free agents (Lord, hear our prayer), how many additions away from at least making things interesting in the Central are the White Sox?

Rob Arthur: That's a big assumption, but I'll roll with it. Probably about two more? They've got some interesting youngsters who may get better, plus a Harper or Machado, plus nobody else in the Central seems interested in competing, plus another couple of players and I think they could be really in it. The big barrier is Cleveland, but they seem prepared to see how bad they can get without giving up the division.

jg (Chicago): It seems like it's hard to be reasonably confident about any Cubs starting pitcher being good in 2019 (save for maybe Hendricks). Does PECOTA share that sentiment?

Rob Arthur: I regret to inform you that it does. Even Hendricks isn't projected terribly well right now, although he's kind of an odd case for a lot of reasons and I could seem him outperforming projection algorithm expectations because he's done so in the past.

Buddy (Peoria): Any reason to be optimistic about Bradley Zimmer this year?

Rob Arthur: Define optimistic? He's OK. He's not good, or at least I don't think he's going to be good based on his past performance. OK is nothing to be ashamed of in MLB, though.

sportsguy21792 (Madison): What is the best way to improve the pace of play initiative? Games are still coming in at 3:00 despite current efforts.

Rob Arthur: I hate to say it, because I know it's controversial, but I honestly think the only long-term solution is the dreaded pitch clock. Every time the league has tried to 'encourage' the players to speed up, they've complied for about half a season before figuring out how to work the rules such that they can take as much time as they want. And as I've written before, pitchers have a material incentive to take their time--the longer they take, the harder they throw. Given those incentives, the only thing that will counteract it is the imposition of a hard limit on how long guys can take. Even that won't magically return the games to 2:30, probably.

richst (San Jose,CA): Will 2019 Pecota data be released this week?

Rob Arthur: Yes, it will.

Vic (Baltimore): Who should I dream on....Garrett Hampson or Jose Peraza or Odor?

Rob Arthur: Peraza all day

Salty MFer (Mom's Basement): Is Malcom Nunez a legit prospect or an early peaker who destroyed sub-par DSL pitching?

Rob Arthur: somewhere in between. Trust not the vagaries of 199 PAs, no matter how good, and especially in the DSL.

JPinPhilly (Illadelph): What do we feel when they make it impossible for us to cheer for them? If all that we, the fans, are to them, the owners, is a non-entity on a spreadsheet, how do we get excited? I'm not enthused about the Phillies right now. I WAS enthused when there was talk of "stupid money" and chasing after superstars, but now that they clearly don't need our spring training money, our season ticket money, or our jersey money... the team just doesn't seem to care about whether or not the fans are excited about the new season. They ruined it. "There is no offseason" has become "We like our 80 win team just fine thank you". Why should I spend money to go watch a team that doesn't care about improving?

Rob Arthur: It's frustrating, for sure. I feel like some of the teams have broken their compact with the fans (that they should try to compete), and I don't know what the answer is to regaining that trust. If you feel strongly that this is the case, you can always vote with your dollars and not buy tickets, not spend money, etc. That's what will get the owner's attention faster than anything else.

Matt Damon (Film Actor's Guild): MATT. DAMON.

Rob Arthur: hey Matt, good to have you here today

Mr. Fister (Arlington): How long does Shane Greene hold onto the closer job in Detroit?

Rob Arthur: until he blows a few saves in a row, so I'm guessing not that long

Mr. Fister (Arlington): Long term who do you think has more offensive production between Peter Alonso and Nate Lowe?

Rob Arthur: Alonso's got a lot more prospect buzz, and since I lack the scout skills/firsthand knowledge to dispute that buzz, I'll go with Alonso.

Jamie Lee Curtis' Diarrhea (Pro-Biotics): Heyman is like a meteorologist. He just throws stuff out there and nobody cares when he's not even close. Remember when he said Pujols' decision was between St. Louis and Miami? Or when Cliff Lee was definitely going to Texas or New York? How do I get that job?

Rob Arthur: I know it's easy to trash reporters who get stuff wrong, and I am not saying Heyman is actually a savant or anything, but I do want to point out that reporting free agent destinations is really, really hard. It's such a complicated dance, it involves several different interconnected parties (GMs, owners, players, agents, other free agents, etc.), and the best info you might get is a tidbit here or there from one or two of them. The sure destination that you hear about one day might really change to something totally different the next. So, again, not to defend Heyman's record, but trying to predict or report on free agent signings is doomed to failure much of the time.

jg (Chicago): Yeesh. Given that this has been a pretty rough offseason to be a fan of the team, is there anything from PECOTA that you can share to make a Cubs fan somewhat optimistic, outside of possibly getting a pre-injury caliber Kris Bryant back?

Rob Arthur: Well, Anthony Rizzo remains really, really good!

boatman44 (Liverpool): Thanks for the chat Rob:)

Rob Arthur: Thank you for joining me and asking me good questions!

Rob Arthur: Pleasure to speak with you all, thanks for the interesting questions, and I look forward to being back again soon. You can always ping me on Twitter @No_Little_Plans. Cheers.

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