Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Joe Sheehan: Hello, everybody, and welcome to Nate Silver's opening act! Nate will be taking questions over at ESPN.com starting at 3 p.m. ET. Until then, let's see what kind of trouble we can get into...
tcfatone (NYC): Hi Joe,
How long before Chris Young takes over the CF spot on the D'Backs on a regular basis and where does he hit in the lineup?
Joe Sheehan: I'd like to see him get some Triple-A time just to ensure the hand is 100%. Talentwise, he can play now; from a developmental standpoint, I'd look for him in June, maybe as late as the All-Star break.
Eventually, Young could be a #3 hitter. In the short term, I'd like to see him #7, between Jackson and the catcher.
I23 (Baltimore): So as you may have already heard, Prince Fielder has started the year 0-8 with 7 STRIKEOUTS. I've seen these games and he's missing hittable pitches. Cause for concern this year or just a two game fluke?
Joe Sheehan: There's just no way you can draw conclusions on players off of two games. If someone goes 0-8 with seven strikeouts on June 7 and June 8, no one blinks.
Not overreacting to the first games, first week, first month is a huge challenge for talent evaluators, decision makers, and clowns who write baseball columns on the Internet.
Folks, here's a chat tip: shorter questions have a much better chance of being answered than long ones.
MikeJordan23 (New York): What's your thoughts on the Cardinals chances this season? I think the loss of Walker and Reggie has been EXTREMELY overstated in the analysis of the team. Reggie was injuried for a majority of last season, and Walker was washed up. Now they're getting back their 3rd best player. Plus, they have a pretty deep rotation, and a solid bullpen with Wainwright and Hancock now. I don't see the 86 win projection to be even close to accurate.
Joe Sheehan: The biggest thing the Cardinals have going for them this year is their division, which is weak. They've downgraded a bit in the corners, at second base and in the bullpen, and are even more reliant on the star section of the roster. That's enough to win--Albert Pujols is unreal--but this team isn't as good as the last two versions.
All they have to do is get to October. Their frontline talent matches up with anyone else's.
ScottBehson (Nyack, NY): I am an avid fan of BP, and I know that when smart people have access to good data, they tend to come to similar conclusions. But my one qualm about BP is that it seems as if there are few areas of disagreement among your writers. Can you fill us in on what some of these areas for disagreement may be?
Joe Sheehan: It's very hard getting this group to agree on a dinner location.
If you're "inside" BP, you're likely someone who understands what performance analysis brings to the table. To the extent that there's "groupthink," it's more that we don't have anyone who used RBIs or wins to evaluate players, or who rationalizes the employment of bad players because they give good quote.
Within that framework, though, there's lots of room for disagreement. The relative values of performance vs. age vs. scouting information in evaluation of prospects, for example, or the importance of market size and/or revenues to success. Some of us are more dogmatic on things like TNSTAAPP.
We should do more roundtables on stuff. I think you'd see the disagreements more.
sriramk1027 (san diego): Do you think the Sox are sending Craig Hansen on this multi inning AA assignment to prepare him to start?
Joe Sheehan: I think it's a possibility. Kevin Goldstein--who's just been a ridiculously great add to BP--noted that at least one team was looking at him as a starter prior to the draft last year. I'm not convinced he's a starter by trade, but one benefit is that we know he wasn't overworked going through the injury nexus.
Maintaining flexibility with talent is always a good thing.
kcshankd (Lawrence, KS): Did Ron Gardenhire catch Jason Bartlett eating a puppy?
Joe Sheehan: That actually wasn't such a big deal, but Gardy was upset that Bartlett sauteed the pooch, rather than barbecuing it.*
I'd pick Bartlett, too. With that said, if I squint, I can see some rationale for the decision. The Twins rely heavily on their defense to win games, and Castro is a very good glove man. If any team can justify this kind of tradeoff, it's probably the Twins.
*No animals were harmed in the answering of this question.
Jimmy Rollins (Philadelphia): What are my chances, Joe? And doesn't the debate about whether or not I should have an asterisk next to my name should I get to 57 games smack of the same crap Roger Maris had to go through when pursuing another "hallowed Yankee legend." Gimme a break. If anything, I think hitting in 36 straight games, taking 5 months off, and then hitting in 21 more consecutive games is a harder task.
Joe Sheehan: Awesome to see Jimmy checking in between BP and the 3 p.m. start time in Philly...
Rollins would hold the record for a hitting streak across two seasons, DiMaggio would hold the single-season record. I think it's a fair distinction; it seems to me that there's a fatigue factor that would affect the latter moreso than the former, especially in a case like Rollins, where the split is close to even.
Let's also note that a hitting streak occurs at the intersection of skill and good fortune, and that we probably expend too much energy on the topic.
marc (long island): how good is david wright going to be this year? is willie mentally ill for having him bat 5th?
Joe Sheehan: Lots of Mets' lineup questions. I solve all of them by dropping Lo Duca to #7 and moving everyone else up a slot. Reyes' leadoff isn't the end of the world, but TWO low-OBP guys at the top could well be.
Zaphod B (Betelgeuse): Why do mainstream baseball writers deify Derek Jeter, but despise Alex Rodriguez?
Joe Sheehan: 252.
Justin Krometis (Chapel Hill, NC): Would Ryan Zimmerman be ranked so high if he hadn't hit .500 on balls in play with the Nats last year? I'm getting flashbacks of Jeremy Reed here....
Joe Sheehan: Don't conflate BABIP for pitchers and hitters. Whereas pitchers have somewhere between no and very little control over the number, hitters have considerable control over it. (Which makes sense; someone has to, or baseball would be quite random.)
That's not to say that Zimmerman has the skill to hit .500 when he puts the ball in play, but he does have the skill to hit for a high average on top of his plus-plus defense at third base.
Anthony (Long Island): When do 2006 stats arrive?
Joe Sheehan: Real Soon Now. We're ironing out some tech issues with our raw feed provider, and should have some stat reports live as soon as the weekend, with the full complement--and a host of new funcationalities--coming online over the next couple of weeks.
Miasomo Comomoto (NYC): Will Randy Johnson win 300 games? And if he doesn't will it affect his chances of making it into hall of fame?
Joe Sheehan: I think he'll get there, in no small part because he's pitching for a team that will score a jillion runs. He needs 36 wins in three years (his contract). I say he gets there in May of 2008.
Randy Johnson is already an inner-circle Hall of Famer. He only falls out of that particular class if he goes Carlton down the homestretch.
tcfatone (new york): Which closer is the first to get replaced: Weathers, Borowski, Foulke, Reitsma? What order would you put them as far as job security? Thanks...
Joe Sheehan: Easiest question of the day: Foulke!
I'd rank the other three Reitsma, Borowski, Weathers, I guess. I'm not a big Joey Devine fan.
Nick (New York): Good Afternoon Joe,
Has there been any studies or is there any data out there on the injury history of pitchers who see a dramatic spike in innings pitched from one year to the next?
Joe Sheehan: I want to say that Tom Verducci of S.I. looked into this, and I know it's something that Will Carroll pays close attention to.
I think it's something to consider, but not a magic bullet for divining the chance of injury. One thing we have to note, if we're going to look at stuff like that, is total innings, including postseason. That matters a lot in the age of expanded playoffs.
Greg (Boulder, CO): 59 wins for the Rockies? Brutal! Given that their Pythagenport for last season was 69 wins, PECOTA has them at 74, and they're pretty much a carryover from last year's youngish team, why so down on them? 69 to 74 wins seems pretty reasonable. Don't forget the "hangover effect" when evaluating their home/road splits.
Joe Sheehan: The division is better--the league is better--so they lose ground relatively. I see a brutal, ball-in-play pitching staff in front of a lousy defense and I shudder to count the runs. Mix in a subpar offense, and an affection for guys like Holliday and Barmes, and I don't know how they don't lose 100.
I should note that most sources land them in the low 70s, so I'm an outlier here.
P.S. A number of people are asking what "252" means. Alex Rodriguez's contract with the Rangers was to pay him $252 million over ten years, the biggest contract in sports history. You can trace his problems with the media to that day, and that number.
The Balls of Summer (Reno): Ok, we know that all the BP writers hate the Giants and expect them to tank this year. But really, who's going to step up and take this division? The Dodgers? They're a MASH unit waiting to happen.
Joe Sheehan: This division won't be "took" so much as it will be survived. The Dodgers remain my pick, although '06 sure looks a lot like '05 so far, and they could use a lefty stick at first base.
The Giants can win if Barry Bonds plays 120 games as Barry Bonds. Less than that, and I just can't see the rest of the team being good enough. It is frightfully old.
I don't know that "all BP writers" do anything. Seriously. There's a lot of internal disagreement on any number of issues. If I could change one public perception of BP, it would probably be that.
cppecot (Davis, CA): How do ballparks change from year to year to be better for either pitchers or hitters?
Joe Sheehan: Weather patterns, physical changes and random fluctuation can send one-year park factors all over the place. Use multi-year factors whenever possible.
Tim Salmon (LA of A): Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. Who has more of an effect on the AL West this year, me or Frank Thomas?
Joe Sheehan: In fairness, Tim, you haven't been a productive player since 2003. You're an easy guy to root for, though--career Angel, active in Orange County, absolutely no bad marks on the record, certainly underrated at your peak.
I think you've got a better chance to impact the race because the Angels need your offense more than the A's need Thomas', and because they Angels have fewer viable options if you can't play. It'll be a great story if you can stay healthy.
Emeril Lagasse (NYC): Hi joe, what if Billy Beane decides to trade Zito, what teams out there have the right ammount of prospects, the interest and financial means to get Zito?
Joe Sheehan: The last of those is the least important; Zito isn't terribly expensive this year, and isn't signed past it.
I've long thought the Mets were the best fit, and the one chip they have left to play--Lastings Milledge--would fit well in an A's system a bit shy of high-upside guys. (I'm not big on Milledge, myself, I should note.)
If Billy puts Zito on the market, I don't think any contenders are so deep in the rotation that they wouldn't have some interest. The teams with the most to deal include the Red Sox, Dodgers and Cubs.
Charles (New York City): Which Major League managers are the best at strategizing and using their resorces?
Joe Sheehan: I love the way Jack McKeon uses his roster, and would hire him to manage my team in a heartbeat.
Lightning round...don't want to overlap too much with Nate's chat.
Sam (Wisco): Can the Brewers arrive a little early and grab the WC this year?
Joe Sheehan: It's a fairly wide-open field, but I expect offense and some bullpen regression to hurt them. Next year.
Krakatao (NYC): How long untill Heath Bell replaces Jorge Julio?
Joe Sheehan: Too long. Bell's not impressing the right people, and I'm not entirely sure why. Good pitcher.
HeeSeop (Chicago): Who is a better bet for 25 bombs and 25 steals - Beltran or Granderson?
Joe Sheehan: Beltran. I don't see Granderson popping that many in Comerica.
JRMayne (Modesto): Could the Royals lose 110? 115?
Joe Sheehan: I have them losing 111, and an injury to DeJesus would give them a shot at challenging the 2003 Tigers.
mattoves (DC): For 2006, Casey Kotchman or Dan Johnson?
Joe Sheehan: Kotchman, but I'm a bit irrational about him.
kraftar (London, UK): ballpark figure... how many games before we CAN start to draw some reasonable conclusions about players and teams?
Joe Sheehan: 45...but remember that the Astros started 15-30 last year...
Fla (rida): Why is everyone down on Marlins?Do you see them being a factor in Playoff Race in 2006?
Joe Sheehan: Because they got rid of famous guys and acquired not-as-famous guys. They did a hell of a lot better job this time around, though.
No chance in 2006. Could be a fringe contender in 2007.
Bill (Lakewood, NJ): I had a dream that I saw Darren Oliver warming up in the Mets Bullpen last night. Just thought you would enjoy that "blast from the past" name.
Joe Sheehan: Funny, I had a dream in which Tony Womack was leading off for a major-league team. I need to stop eating so late.
thePTBNL (mn): Biggest name traded this year?
Joe Sheehan: Ryan Klesko.
Chuck (Tampa): Do you think we'll be any big names in the steroid fish net this year?
Joe Sheehan: Nope. Not that a lack of positive tests seems to matter in this discussion.
Joe Sheehan: OK, everyone...I'll go longer next time, but now, go here and talk to Nate about Baseball Between the Numbers, PECOTA and his Detroit Tigers!