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Chat: Jay Jaffe

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday May 23, 2006 1:00 PM ET chat session with Jay Jaffe.


Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Jay Jaffe: Hey follks, thanks for turning up today. Not a ton of questions in the queue yet, so don't be shy if you've got more than one. Powered by Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches at 150 East Second St. in NYC, and murderous rage at the thought of ever having to watch Terrence Long play outfield for any team I'm rooting for...

mscully221394 (San Diego): With the Red Sox having some apparent bullpen depth and with Wells' uncertain status, could you envision them considering a four-man pitching rotation?

Jay Jaffe: While I think any team that goes to a four-man rotation with the right pitchers could reap an advantage over other teams, I don't see this version of the Red Sox as that team. Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield is an ideal pitcher for a four-man, but Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett both seem likely to wind up with some health issue or another, and Matt Clement isn't good enough these days to warrant a 25% increase in workload. Furthermore, I think the Boston media has shown itself to be relentless in its scrutiny of the team even when Theo & Co's gambits work, and I doubt even they have the fortitude to deal with the flak they'd take by doing something different.

Sam (Seattle): Why hasn't Bavasi gotten fired yet?He signed Beltre on a short track record, signed Sexon to an apalling deal, and multiple other bad things.

Jay Jaffe: I was reading various columns while putting together the Hit List yesterday, and the chorus calling for Bavasi's ouster appears to be growing. I've got no doubt that unless the M's turn things around -- particularly Beltre, Sexson, and Felix Hernandez (not that he's a BB signing) -- than Bavasi's head winds up on a plate.

And as a Dodger fan, let me just say I'm elated that Paul DePodesta let Beltre walk rather than sign him to the kind of deal the M's did. For all the abuse DePodesta took as Dodger GM, even haters like Plaschke and Simers should acknowledge he made the right call on that one.

Sticking with the Dodger theme for another question or two...

sanchez (santa barbara): When will Grady Little figure out that Jonathan Broxton is his best reliever? The big kid with the upper-80's slider shouldnt be pitching to the bottom of the order.

Jay Jaffe: I watched Broxton pitch last night against the Rockies and wow, that guy's slider IS nasty, plus he can flat-out Bring It.

It's very clear to me that Little likes Broxton, but it's important to remember that the kid has just 24.2 innings of big-league work under his amply-sized belt. What's impressive, even given the small sample sizes of this year's stint in LA and last year's is that he's not having the control problems he did in '05: 14/3 K/BB compared to 22/12 last year.

It's also important to remember that the last time the Dodgers got excited about a young reliever, they pitched his arm off. Yhency Brazoban is out with Tommy John surgery after less than two years in the bigs. I don't think the team wants to repeat that mistake.

The bottom line is that Broxton is on his way to being one of the Dodgers' go-to guys, and likely Eric Gagne's heir apparent. I think he'll be a part of whatever setup crew the team has going forward this year.

schuylerd (Syracuse): Jay- What are your thoughts on Willy Aybar? It seems to me that he's been underrated for a few years now. He has hit for a bit of power before in the minors, he's only 23, and his plate discipline seems rather advanced for a young hitter. How many guys walk twice as much as they strike out in their first 100+ AB's in the majors? Thanks for the chat time.

Jay Jaffe: I've really enjoyed watching Aybar, and was very surprised he didn't make the club out of spring training, while the likes of Ramon Martinez and Oscar Robles got first dibs at a utility slot. I assumed that might be Ned Colletti's prejudice against the DePodesta regime's experiments, but now that doesn't appear to be the case.

Aybar was on our Top 50 Prospect List last year, but he didn't make it this year (his brother Erick did, though). He didn't put up very good stats in Triple-A Las Vegas, a hitter's haven (.297/.356/.419 with 5 HR doesn't buy much in the PCL), but he ripped it up when he came to LA, and he's picked up where he left off and is carrying a lifetime .342/.464/.491 line through 114 at bats. He won't keep that up -- and he doesn't really have the track record for that kind of plate discipline, but he may be learning on the job -- but I'd just as soon see him stick on the big league roster. Nice work by the Dodgers here.

Moving onto other teams...

Goldfinger (nocal): Jay: Can you make a plausible argument for the Giants winning it all? Try at least.

Jay Jaffe: Well, I'd absolutely hate to see it happen, being a Dodgers fan and a Bonds hater. But here's what would have to happen:

Schmidt, Lowry and Cain would have to emerge as the Hudson, Mulder, and Zito (or Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz) of this team, and quickly. Matt Morris would have to regain his form. Armando Benitez would have to go back to being the dominant closer he was a few years ago, and Brian Sabean would have to make a couple trades to prop up the staff.

Bonds would have to return to playing nearly every day without reservations. Alou would have to come back at full strength. Ray Durham would have to remain healthy, and the first base situation would need to be solved.

That's a lot of ifs, and in a division where so far everybody is over .500, I think the Giants have more than most.

Bob (North Hampton, NH): How do you see the NL west ending up this season? It may not be the best division in baseball but it looks like it could be a very interesting 5 team race.

Jay Jaffe: Speaking of the NL West, it's a very intriguing division, with the best combined record of any right now, and it might yield the best race this year. I'm especially intrigued by the fact that the Rockies have actually shown that they can pitch, that the Dodgers have stayed afloat through injuries by relying on rookies like the aforementioned Broxton and Aybar, plus Russell Martin and Andre Ethier, and that the Padres are still afloat given how much has gone wrong on that team.

As last year showed, injuries can have a huge impact on each of these teams. I'm starting to believe the Dodgers have the best depth of any of them, not only to cover for injuries but to make in-season upgrades via trade. I look forward to seeing how this shakes out.

Evan (Vancouver, BC): Did we know Toronto had this much pitching depth?

Jay Jaffe: Well, I'm not sure they have a ton of depth, but what's there certainly has some upside. Roy Halladay is a legitimate ace who could have won the Cy Young award last year had he been able to come back from that broken leg. Ted Lilly has been teasing us with his ability for years, looking like a guy who COULD be a mid-rotation starter if he could stay healthy and keep his mechanics in shape. A.J. Burnett has some strong positives, but has yet to show he can stay healthy for very long. Josh Towers was fantastic last year thanks to pinpoint control, but has been a disaster this year. Gustavo Chacin had a nice rookie year, but has had some ominous elbow troubles this year, and he doesn't miss enough bats to rate as more than an inning muncher. Casey Janssen has been impressive, but he's taken advantage of an Angels club that is absolutely DOA.

If everybody's healthy, I think you can paste together a contender out of that rotation, but right now you've got two of those guys on the DL and no guarantee you'll have a full complement the rest of the way.

Zach Tavlin (Essex, Vermont): When is the Randolph/Minaya tag-team, in their infinite wisdom, going to wake up and move Heilman to the rotation? I guess it's sometimes hard to wrap your mind around the idea that having your good pitchers pitch more innings at the expense of bad ones leads to an increase in the number of wins attained. Heilman's peripherals indicate that he's the third-best starter on the Mets. Do you see this as a potential Ishii situation that will go on for far too long, or is this just another bout of easily corrected "Mets logic"?

Jay Jaffe: Multiple Heilman questions here. In fact, I think "Why isn't Aaron Heilman in the Mets rotation?" might be the most popular question in Big Apple baseball right now given the team's depleted starting corps.

The answer, as best I can tell based more on the opinions of others and less on having seen him pitch (I've only seen him for a few innings here and there), is three-fold:

1. The Mets have consciously built their bullpen into a strength by keeping Heilman in place.

2. Heilman's results as a starter (4.71 ERA, 7.3 K/9 last year) were inferior to those as a reliever (2.18 ERA, 9.2 K/9).

3. Heilman's repertoire isn't deep enough to withstand facing a hitter multiple times. He's got a decent, above-average fastball and changeup, but his split-finger has been described as "iffy," and his slider isn't loved by many. Given that a reliever can gain a few MPH because he doesn't have to pace himself as much, the fastball/changeup combo works well for Heilman as a reliever, but if he had to take a few MPH off he'd have less contrast in changing speeds, and diddn't have other effective pitches to fall back upon, that performance wouldn't carry over.

The bottom line, I think, is that Heilman has to show Randolph and Minaya that he's got an above average third pitch before they consider him for a rotation slot.

Nick Stone (Florence, Italy): Has Chien Ming Wong just been lucky in his recent starts, or is he actually a better than a LAIM? His K/BB ratio in recent starts has been good, even though his K rate has been pretty low. I would imagine that the GB rate helps.

Jay Jaffe: Hey Nick! Greetings out to Italy!

I think Wang is better than a League Average Inning Muncher, despite the low K rate (3.1). He's got a good fastball and good control, plus he generally keeps the ball on the ground quite well (last night's pitch to Manny Ramirez excepted) -- just 3 HR in 63 IP, which is outstanding. Plus he fields his position well.

The problem is that the Yanks don't have a particularly good defense to put behind him, even though they're currently fourth in the AL in DER (716). Giambi's not a great 1B, Cano not a great 2B, Jeter's SS play has been beaten to death, and A-Rod's defense at third has been shaky at times. Plus the outfield, especially in its post-injury state, won't help matters any.

unmoderated (oneonta, ny): Hi Jay - I am excited at the suggestion that the Yankees are checking out Dontrelle Willis. I believe he is a dynamic baseball personality that deserves to play in a large market. Do you think the Yankees have enough prospects to make or deal without giving up Wang or Cano?

Jay Jaffe: Switching over to the laptop due to some technical diffficulties...

I love Dontrelle Willis as a personality, but he's had some real mechanical problems thus far this year, and the results haven't been there (though his last two starts have been respectable).

I'm afraid that the Yanks have shown me beyond the shadow of a doubt that they're the wrong team to deal with a pitcher going through mechanical woes (add Randy Johnson to the pile), so I don't see him to be a worthwile gambit, particularly one worth shipping out Phillip Hughes and another good prospect or something like that.

Stephen Colbert (SF): Curt Schilling. Great or the greatest? Ok, seriously, I hate that guy. My Yanks are struck with the injury bug. Should Cashman be more aggressive in his pursuit of help? Do you like the Hidalgo, Romano and Durazo signings? Forget about the Long signing. That's obviously a new level of Womackian terrible. Do you think the Yanks need more help in the outfield and bench than in the pitching department?

Jay Jaffe: Stephen, your White House Correspondants speech rates as one of the the ballsiest moves I've ever seen, and the high point in bashing the incompetence of the administration. Thank you for your courage.

Now that I've probably drawn all kinds of slings and arrows for injecting politics into this chat, we'll move back to the question at hand. I like the fact that the Yanks are trying their hand at solving the problem with free talent rather than shipping off prospects, but you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find Aaron Small II, and I think the Yanks will simply have to hope to get lucky as they cycle through some off these guys. I do like Hidalgo and Durazo, but injuries and other issues have prevented them from living up to their capabilities the last couple of years.

HAL (FRANCE): Now that Reyes is walking, what does he have to do next? Any concern over Halladay's & Contreras's K rates?

Jay Jaffe: Another one from Europe! I"m huge in Belgium, I hear.

Jose Reyes appears to have taken a nice little step forward by upping his walk rate; he's already at 18 compared to 27 in all of last year, about 3.5x as many plate appearances. That said, his OBP is only .316, which still isn't getting it done, because he's batting only .250. For a speed-based guy, that's awful. I think the biggest thing he needs to do is move down in the order, but that's up to Willie Randolph, and he hasn't shown the willingness to do so.

I noticed Halladay's low K rate in putting together the Hit List last week, and yes, it does concern me a little bit; he's at 4.95 compared to 6.86 last year. He's also walking more guys, though not a ridiculous amount. He's throwing slightly fewer pitches per batter (3.41 down from 3.46), so maybe he's pitching to contact a bit more. I don't know, having not seen him for more than a couple innings this year.

ChuckR (Addison, IL): Over/Under on the Barrett suspension?

Jay Jaffe: Ooops. First to finish answering the question before this: as for Contreras (4.33, down from 6.77), that might be related to his stint on the DL, but he's also down slightly in the P/PA department (3.70 to 3.67). I'd classify myself as mildly concerned given that he's been getting good results thus far, but it's definitely something to keep an eye on.

As for Barrett, I'd say two games, max. I'm sure even Bob Watson enjoyed watching AJ take one in the kisser.

redsoxfan (Pensacola, FL): Never thought I'd say this...but I am beginning to have a lot of respect for Manny Ramirez. Many players either have had major injuries or have 'mailed it in' after signing long term contracts. Manny, for the most part, has shown up every day and has put up the numbers expected of him when he was signed. Sure $20 million a year is crazy...but you can not blame that on Manny. Your thoughts?

Jay Jaffe: Much as I dislike the Red Sox and am irked by some of Manny's nuances, he is clearly, without qualification, one of the greatest hitters of this generation, and when it's all said and done, may be considered one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. It's just that simple.

Jurgen (Montreal): At what point do Stoneman and the Angels brass get seriously worried that their top position prospects can't seem to cut it in the majors? I thought Mathis and Kotchman would be regulars by now, and while I was bearish on McPherson, I didn't think he'd actually be worse than Rob Deer.

Jay Jaffe: I think it's far too early for Stoneman & Co. to get too worried, at least in the grand scheme of things.

Kotchman was playing through mononucleosis and was considerably hampered by how weak it made him. He had a good little stint last year that suggested his power was developing nicely, and I don't think you can take this year's results without keeping in mind his illness.

Mathis' minor-league numbers didn't suggest the second coming of Piazza; they just needed an alternative to Jose Molina and he was the first cowboy out of the chute. Within BP, folks are higher on Mike Napoli, and the early returns on him (.306/.359/.556) are promising. He won't hit for average but has a nice set of secondary hitting skills and has been cast as a Mickey Tettleton/Gene Tenace type.

McPherson clearly needs to do a better job of making contact. I know that his long swing has some scouts saying "I told you so," and he may be the bust of the bunch. With Brandon Wood, Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, and others in the pipeline (not that they'll all wind up third basemen; bet on Wood), his future probably isn't in the Angels' organization anyway.

braves872 (New York): Do you guys happen to know the correlation coefficients for hitters' BABIP from year to year? I know the stat is much less useful for hitters than pitchers, but I'd still like to know.

Jay Jaffe: Dan Fox, who's now on the BP team, did some research in this area at his blog (http://danagonistes.blogspot.com/2005/03/dips-for-hitters.html). He looked at 244 hitters who had 200 ABs in 2003 and 2004, and came up with a .253 correlation coefficient. Not sure if he's done more work in the area, but you might want to ask him.

chaneyhey (jefferson city, missouri): Who's the best first base prospect these days in the NL?

Jay Jaffe: With the graduation of Prince Fielder, Conor Jackson and Ryan Howard into the ranks of regulars, the NL doesn't have an obvious top 1B prospect who's near ready. Maybe Joel Guzman if the Dodgers decide the leftfield thing isn't working out. One thing I know for sure is that it ain't James Loney.

dianagramr (Brooklyn): Given the need to employ the likes of Cabrera and Long, if Jeter doesn't get moved to CF now, it will never happen. Opinion?

Jay Jaffe: Hey Diana! It's a nice idea that makes sense on paper, but I don't see the Yanks as likely to move Jeter to centerfield ever, barring some catastrophic injury to his throwing arm. And I certainly don't see them even floating the option in the middle of the season. Position changes are hard enough even with a full spring training to work them out. Midseason ones usually spell disaster.

Joel (Washington, DC): Apart from the fact that the Pirates are in a small media market and have been irrelevant for 13 years and counting, why isn't there more discussion of how horrible they are this year and why aren't there more public calls for Dave Littlefield's head? Littlefield is in his 5th year as Bucs' GM and the Bucs are well on their way to 100+ losses, fueled by some terrible gaffes (losing Shelton, trading Aramis Ramirez for nothing, drafting Bullington over Upton, etc). Talk of his departure should be every bit as common as that for Allan Baird and Bavasi.

Jay Jaffe: I've been hammering Littlefield pretty hard in the Hit List, and I think he's made some atrocious decisions over the course of his career as Pirates GM. This year's trade for Sean Casey, signing of Jeromy Burnitz and Joe Randa, and marginalization of Craig Wilson are only the latest gaffes. I think he survives because of low expectations in Pittsburgh and generally high marks in terms of people skills in his dealings within the organization and with the media.

My BP colleague Steve Goldman has the perfect answer for this, though he applies it to the Royals. When will they make a change? When the ownership decides it cares about winning rather than about making a meager profit.

stinkypete (eighth place): What is going on with the pitching in Minnesota? A bunch of guys have decent K/BB and GB/FB ratios but stratospheric BABIPs - Sott Baker at .357, Brad Radke at .373, even wunderkind Francisco Liriano is at .424! Is the Twins' defense that bad or are these guys looking at some serious regression to the mean over the next four months?

Jay Jaffe: As Abe Simpson would say, a little from Column A, a little from Column B. Obviously, there's some room for regression when it comes to the Twins, who are dead stinking last in DER at .646, 26 points behind the next worst team (Pittsburgh). But I do think some of the dubious personnel decisions they've made are manifesting themselves in the field. Luis Castillo's had leg problems for year and is now playing on turf; his fielding rate stands at 83 (-17 runs per 100 games) -- gee, nobody saw that coming. Tony Batista has come back after a year in Japan; 84 rate. Juan Castro is playing instead of Jason Bartlett; 101 rate, so maybe his glove is OK, but I'll take my chances with door #2 given that we know Castro's limitations.

That's hardly an ideal infield, and while I expect some improvement relative to the mean, I think the deck chairs have to be shuffled to get a dramatic one.

Arathorn (Chicago area): Who's the best second baseman not in the HoF? Where's Frank White fit on that list?

Jay Jaffe: A chance to fire up the JAWSmobile!

Bobby Grich is the top second baseman not in the Hall, and indeed, on the short list of top players on the outside looking in; my slightly outdated spreadsheet has him at #7 all time (Roberto Alomar #6). Among eligibles (as in, "haven't come up for a vote," not "haven't dropped off the ballot," as Grich has), and Lou Whitaker is at #9 and still around the Hall average.

From there, we get to guys who are good but below average compared to Hall 2Bs: Willie Randolph, Joe Gordon, Julio Franco, Chuck Knoblauch... and on down to Frank White. I have him as #32 among 2Bs all-time, and nowhere near close enough for Hall consideration. Great fielder, though, and a key part of those wonderful Royals teams of the '70s and '80s.

Juan Castro (Minneapolis): Am I the worst regular in the major leagues?

Jay Jaffe: You're definitely in the picture, dude. Rondell White (talk about the Twins' bad personnel decisions!) has the lowest VORP of any palyer thus far (-17.7) and while there are about two dozen guys between him and Castro, many of them are decent (if flawed) players off to slow starts, and with that I include Beltre, Sexson, Huff, and Encarnacion. There are also the usual number of crappy catchers (multiple Molinas included).

The guys who might get my vote as the worst regular in the big leagues are Travis Lee or Doug Mientkiewiz. Glove men at 1B who can't hit enough to carry the position are a quick ticket to the second division.

Nick (Currently Berlin, but back home to the EV soon): How likely is Pujols to snag the triple crown this year? What about breaking 73*?

Jay Jaffe: Berlin! I'm telling you, I'm HUGE in Europe.

I think Pujols has a better shot at 73* than he does at the Triple Crown; he's got substantial leads in homers and RBIs but his average is already outside the top 10, and that's tough ground to make up, particularly if you're less than 100% healthy and aren't likely to leg out too many infield hits.

I'd love to see him top 73*, of course, but that too requries staying healthy, and he's already had some back problems. That simply doesn't bode well no matter what kind of pace he's on.

Fargo (Novi, MI): Tigers. Best winning % in MLB. Best pitching in almost every category except K/9. First or second best defense. A formula for winning playoffs if they get there. Do they win their division, wildcard, or fade to also-ran?

Jay Jaffe: The Tigers are probably the biggest surprise so far (to answer somebody else's question). The real question about them is their hitting. I just am not so optimistic they've got the offense to pull it off. I like som of thier hitters individually, but I think we've already seen Shelton cool off, and we're not likely to see Magglio or Carlos Guillen stay this healthy the full year. I don't see Craig Monroe as particuarly helpful, and I think they need to do better at DH and replace Dmitri Young.

Beyond that, the real question is can their defense hold together long enough to keep propping up these low-K rate pitchers like Maroth and Rogers. Again, health will be important, and banking on a full season of Guillen makes me nervous.

Bottom line: I think they'll remain in the hunt for the Wild Card but lose ground to the Sox in the division race sooner or later. But I'm pretty impressed at the steps they've taken so far.

metsRok (nyc): traditional 5*5 league with ten teams, should i trade Bonderman, whho is on my team for f. hernandez? btw,im leading the league in whips,wins,k,whips and punting saves....

Jay Jaffe: Hell no. Hernandez is a walking disaster right now, and it's been awhile since the Seattle organization showed any aptitude with young arms. Detroit's track record is a bit more promising in that they don't have so many high-profile disasters. It also helps that there's less hype around Bonderman than Hernandez, and that he's got more experience.

Colter Bean (Purgatory, OH): Since more than 50% of MLB batters bat righty,wouldn't it make just as much sense to carry a ROOGY as a LOOGY?

Jay Jaffe: Pitching staffs are already hamstrung by having too many specialists, and too often, such specialization is easily defeated by breaking up the same-handed hitters in the lineup or sending up a pinch-hitter. It might make AS MUCH sense as carrying a guy who can only get lefties out, but that doesn't mean it's a particularly good idea.

metsRok (nyc): anything in the works to include a "strength of schedule" analysis in statkeeping (ie. combined ops for the lineups a pitcher faces throughout the year, vice versa with batters)or is there something like that already?

Jay Jaffe: I'm not sure where they went, but we here at BP used to have a stat report showing quality of batter faced, which was essentially the triple slash stats (AVG/OBP/SLG) of the average hitter each pitcher faced. I suspect they're part of the custom stat reports; if you're a member and can't find them, ping Keith Woolner.

Nick from WH (SF): What do you make of Jhonny Peralta's slow start? Is he still the real deal?

Jay Jaffe: I'm a huge Peralta fan; in fact I think I picked him as my AL MVP in the staff preseason picks. Which is probably the problem right there.

Looking at Peralta's stat lines, he's hitting .250/.342/.369. He's walking more than he did last year and taking more pitches, but not hitting for average and certainly not for power. I wonder if he's dealing with a hand injury, as that can really sap a power stroke and might lead him to be more selective. But I haven't heard anything to that effect, so I'm mystified.

The bottom line is that Peralta's only about to turn 24. He's got plenty of time to turn things around this season, and plenty of room to grow from a career standpoint even if he can't match last year's awesome showing.

Andy Marte (Buffalo): How much dimmer is my future now?

Jay Jaffe: Certainly, a bit of the luster has come off of your prospecthood, Andy, but it's dangerous to get too wound up about six weeks worth of play. I suspect you're pressing a bit, and that if you relax and be the hitter you've always been, the results will improve and you'll find yourself in the Show by August.

lorenbr (Madrid, Spain): Not sure how fantasy-oriented you are, but if you were going to pick the states for a 5x5 league that more accurately judged a players real value as a part of a team, which would you pick? Start with doing away with pitchers wins and work from there...

Jay Jaffe: Spain! I am marching through Europe with my sabermetric army! Look out, Liechtenstein.

I actually did get a chance to tinker with a fantasy league this year, and I came up with a 7x7 that included OBP and SLG as the two additional offensive stats, and K/9 and K/BB for pitching. If I had to do it over again, I'd change the latter to HR/9 because BB are covered in WHIP, and we've already got two K-related stats.

But if I'm going to start from the ground up and go 5x5, i'd maybe do this:

SNLVAR or WXRL (depending on starter or reliever)

Speed Score - Used in PECOTA: "Stolen base percentage, stolen base attempts as a percentage of opportunities, triples, double plays grounded into as a percentage of opportunities, and runs scored as a percentage of times on base."

Nick from WH (SF): In your view, who are the 5 best general managers in baseball?

Jay Jaffe: I'm not sure one can isolate the GM from the support staff around him, but with that in mind, my picks (not in order) would be Billy Beane, Theo Epstein, Doug Melvin, Mark Shapiro, and maybe Brian Cashman.

I like the starts that Josh Byrnes and (never thought I'd say this) Ned Colletti are off to. I like some of the things that Kevin Towers does and cringe at others. I certainly think Walt Jocketty belongs in the discussion, and Kenny Williams has a big fat ring on his finger saying he does, too.

rudd48 (lexington, ky): Where will Odalis Perez find himself in a month: back in the rotation, still in the pen, or a different uniform?

Jay Jaffe: My guess is that the Yanks' pitching woes and their ability to take on salary make this a good fit, and I wouldn't be surprised if it happens before the end of June, possibly with a Jose Cruz Jr. sidebar.

John Schuerholz (Atlanta): What more do I have to do to get in the discussion for best GM in the game?

Jay Jaffe: Wow. Total brainfart there. Schuerholz belongs on that list. We'll take Shapiro off until his team wins at least a division title.

Joe (35th and Lowe): White Sox: Legitimate 100-105 win team, or have they just gotten pretty lucky over the past 14 months?

Jay Jaffe: Once again, the WHite Sox are playing above their heads; they're +4.7 in the third-order Wins department according to our Adjusted standings. They've been more than a bit lucky over the course of that span, sure, but I do see them as about a 90-95 win team, particularly so long as Contreras and Thome remains healthy.

Beltre (Hitless in Seattle): Will people ever stop associating my 2004 season with "juicing"?

Jay Jaffe: So far as I've seen, the J word hasn't been used publicly in conjunction with Beltre's 2004, and I'm not really one for speculation along these lines.

But if you were drawing up a list of recent fluke seasons, Beltre's 2004 would be very high on that list, and these days, that's the kind of thing that creates those allegations, unfounded or not.

OK, just a few more...

shamah (DC): Considering their recent history, are you surprised that people aren't more impressed with teh A's start? THey're usually 10 games out in May; if they go on their typical .800 run after the ASB, they may run away with the AL West.

Jay Jaffe: Interesting point - they haven't dug themselves a hole thus far. But I think there's a danger in assuming they're all of a sudden going to start playing .800 ball. They've allowed four more runs than they've scored, and their Adjusted Standings data shows them to be within about a game of their projections. They'll certainly be helped if they get healthy both pitching- and hitting-wise, and if Dan Johnson, Bobby Crosby, and Frank Thomas start improving to where they should be, but those are ifs, not certainties.

Adam J. Morris (Houston, Texas): Is the A.L. West now a two team race? And how do you handicap that division the rest of the way?

Jay Jaffe: Keeping with the AL West theme, it's most definitely a two-team race, and I still think it's the A's race to lose. But injuries will keep things tight.

pieman1121 (China, Maine): Jay - why are the Royals waiting to pull the trigger on Baird? How long before Bell gets canned, too?

Jay Jaffe: Nobody, particularly not an ego like David Glass, likes to feel as if their actions are being dicated by mob rule. Glass will fire Baird when he feels like it's his idea, and that will happen only when he cares more about winning than anything else, including money.

Don't hold your breath.

MilwaukeeMan (Milwaukee): Rickie v. Prince--who'll be better?

Jay Jaffe: Prince, but I don't think you can go too wrong with Weeks.

misterjohnny (cyberspace): The problem with your 5x5 is that they are mostly rate stats. How would you address that?

Jay Jaffe: Simple: use a minimum number of at bats or innings pitched based on the number of games played.

OK, gonna take two more.

Arathorn (Chicago area): By divine fiat, you are given complete control of the Royals -- a combination super-GM and semi-owner, but still with some limitations on funds. You blow up nearly everything. Who/what do you keep (besides the beautiful Kauffman Stadium)?

Jay Jaffe: Alex Gordon, Zack Greinke, Andy Sisco, David DeJesus, Justin Huber, the desk furniture in Baird's office (I'm told he's got only the best in Herman Miller chairs) and the number of a good lawyer to bail me out once I'm found carrying a gasoline cannister as the place burns to the ground.

Nick (still Berlin): Do you think Randy Johnson is done? He's performing below his PECOTA 10th percentile. If he is done, where does he rank on the all-time list of lefthanded pitchers? P.S. Wanna get a beer at Zum Schneider's in June?

Jay Jaffe: Johnson is starting to remind me of the pinstriped Kevin Brown, and unless he and the Yanks can start thinking outside the box a bit, I suspect he's on that long, slow walk to Finished.

He's certainly in the discussion among all-time lefty greats. Spahn and Grove have the edge on him according to JAWS, but that's a pretty short list.

And yes, I could use some Optimatization come June, so give me a shout when you're back in the city.

Jay Jaffe: OK folks, that's all I've got time for today - I went an hour longer than I had planned to because I genuinely enjoy these questions. Thanks for showing up, and look for another chat soon!

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