Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Joe Sheehan: Good afternoon...with less than two weeks to pitchers and catchers, I'm getting pretty excited about the upcoming season. Let's get to the questions.
Pearse McDade (Washington, DC): Joe,
I've got a bet on a Ruth's Chris steak dinner with my non-BP believing brother that the Orioles will finish higher than the Yankees this season...My AL East order of finish...Sox, Jays, Yanks, O's and Rays...should I start saving for overpriced sirloin or plan to live fat on filet???
Joe Sheehan: As much as I think the Orioles improved over the winter, I have a hard time looking at them as competition for the division's top three teams. The pitching just isn't there, and I think they're going to be disappointed by Javy Lopez.
It's the wrong division for a team with 83-win talent. Pearse, I think you'll be eating well come October.
Ray Durham (Huge Pitchers Park): How come Im not adequately respected? Do people not know how great I've been?
Joe Sheehan: Ray, you've never actually been "great," which is part of the problem. Your main assets were a balanced offensive game and durability.
At 32 now, and with more than 1200 games at second base behind you, I don't think you're going to be a 150-game guy any longer, and your poor second half makes me worry that we'll start to see a performance decline as well. I don't think the Giants are going to be real happy about having you for '05 and '06 for seven million bucks a year.
bobskinner (firstname.lastname@example.org): where can you find each player's accumulated mlb service time??such as used for arbitration and free-agent eligability...
Joe Sheehan: It used to be published in the league Red and Green books, and I think it may be available in some media guides. There's no central source for it, though. It'd be nice to have.
Chat tip: shorter questions have a much better chance of being answered. There are a couple in the queue that are longer than Huckabay's grocery list.
Anders (Sweden): hi Joe!
Barry Bonds won't win the world series with the Giants, will he?
Joe Sheehan: I think that window may be closed, and if it hasn't, it's certainly on its way. The team around Bonds seems to look a bit less impressive each year, and with Giants' ownership once again pulling out the sackcloth and ashes, that's not likely to change.
I have a lot of respect for what Brian Sabean has done. He doesn't do it the way I might do it, but he's been successful, and you can see a thought process running through his decisions. I just think he may be out of bullets.
Pete (New Mexico): Yo Joe! Who do you think won in the Cards/Braves outfielders-for-pitchers trade? Did STL give up too much? Or maybe they know something about Drew that we don't?
Joe Sheehan: I think it could work out for both teams. I like Jason Marquis, who could be another Braves' #5 starter who doesn't establish himself in Atlanta but goes on to have success elsewhere. King is just a guy, and Wainwright is nothing special, although I like his usage pattern so far.
Drew could--could--replace 90% of Sheffield's production. There's concern that Drew's knee problem is going to be exacerbated by playing in a corner, as decelerating causes him considerable pain.
All in all, I think it's a good gamble for both teams.
Dave (Fresno, CA): The recent signings (or imminent signing in Simon's case) of Karros and Simon has me wondering about the value of signing a player to be a "platoon player." It makes logical sense, but the problem always seems to be in practice. Simon was signed by the Pirates last year, assumedly based on his ability to hit right handers and be half of a platoon with Kevin Young and/or Cragi Wilson. In actuality, he ended up getting far too many at bats against left handers and ended up being a far below average first baseman. Now the Pirates are doing it again, despite the evidence that McClendon is not smart enough to understand that Simon is only valuable under very limited circumstances. The A's have normally been more adept, but it appears Karros signing is fraught with danger, particularly since it threatens the playing time of Durazo and eliminates Graham Koonce from a possible roster spot. What are you thoughts on the two signings, and when does a platoon work best?
Joe Sheehan: Moby Durazo's playing time isn't going to be threatened by Karros. Scott Hatteberg's may be, however, and that's good, as he doesn't really hit lefties.
The price of part-time veteran players has been driven down to the point where the cost of one, versus a guy like Koonce, isn't really a factor. With that the case, I think you can argue for paying an extra half-million bucks for some certainty. Karros does what he does: hits lefties.
As far as the larger point goes, I think it depends on the situation. The Cubs trading for Karros a year ago was a huge threat to Hee Seop Choi because of Dusty Baker's preference for veterans. Given an opportunity to turn the job over to Karros, he did.
I don't necessarily think that applies here; Ken Macha should be more able to keep a guy like Karros in a role most appropriate to him.
But you're right: sometimes a spare part in the wrong hands is a bad idea.
Ben Oglivie Fan (JAX, FL): Finish this analogy:
Ben Oglivie:Milwaukee Brewers::
___________:Kansas City Royals
Joe Sheehan: Amos Otis.
Scott (Seattle, WA): Mr. Sheehan,
Please help me sleep better at night. Regardless of the "money in the couch cushions" the Mariners picked up when Sasaki packed his suitcase (without tripping this time) and went back to Japan, there's no way the M's were going to get Vlad was there? I mean, with not much of a Latin community to speak of, he'd never come here, right?
Joe Sheehan: Without getting into Guerrero's motivations, no, I don't think any amount of found money was going to put him in the Northwest. That's as much on the Mariners, who seem intent on making life easy on the Angels and A's, as on Guerrero.
petedecour (harrisburg): what would you expect from carlos pena and hee seop choi this year?
how much do you believe in benson's theory of breakout seasons from guys entering the 26 to 28 age groups with experience?
Joe Sheehan: Pena's been a huge disappointment to me. He'll get better, maybe have a few Paul Sorrento seasons. That park doesn't help him at all.
Choi was actually doing just fine last season until the collision with Prior. When he came back, Baker jerked him in and out of the lineup for three weeks, and it was over. I think he'll basically be Derrek Lee for the Marlins.
I didn't realize the idea that you want players coming into their primes was John Benson's theory, but yeah, if you're going to collect guys in an age range, that's where you want to be.
Steve D (Seattle, WA): I liked your column on the new AL East. Do you think the AL West is similarly a race between severely flawed teams?
Joe Sheehan: Steve, I'm terribly flattered, but I think that was Peter Gammons' piece.
The 19-year-old in me, the one who lived for "Diamond Notes" on "Baseball Tonight," is forever grateful for the confusion.
As far as the AL West goes...that sounds like a reasonable viewpoint. I think the Mariners have excused themselves, leaving the A's and their offensive problems, and the Angels and their rotation issues. I think the Angels have more talent on hand, but the greater capacity to hamstring themselves by misusing it. Check back in six weeks, when we know what the deal is with Erstad and Glaus.
James Sullivan (Boston, MA): Why should the Red Sox bother to draft players who'll get big bonuses in the first round when they can find guys like that in free agency now for the same money?
Joe Sheehan: Because spending that money on a free agent gets you that player, past his prime, for one or two years. Spend it on a draft pick, and you get the right to the player's best years at below-market prices.
This fundamental misunderstanding of the value of a draft pick is why the whole Michael Tucker thing, where the Giants' *wanted* to lose the #1, was so dumb.
Joe Conrad (Portland, OR): After watching the spectacle of the Super Bowl, I have to ask -- why isn't the World Series as big of a deal? Can it be?
Joe Sheehan: Attention span, for one: the Super Bowl is one Sunday. The World Series is at least four days.
Gambling is another, but that's a bigger NFL vs. MLB thing.
I think, in the last couple of years, that the NFL has lost some ground to MLB. Parity becomes parody at some point, I guess.
Phil Sklansky (Eureka, CA): Is baseball ever going to expand again? Does Mexico, Japan, or Europe see the first MLB franchise?
Joe Sheehan: To expand you need an even number of viable markets willing to cough up nine figures' worth of tax dollars to build a ballpark. I don't see that in the U.S. right now.
Forget Japan and Europe, as logistics would be a nightmare. Mexico? I don't see where you'd put a team that wouldn't have a terrible time keeping its players or attracting new ones.
I'd be shocked if we had a 31st team anytime before 2013 or 2014.
Cris E (St Paul, MN): Why are the Yankees collecting all these lame 3B band-aids (Houston, Lamb, *Homer Bush*) for their problem? I understand filling the hole that Henson (finally) created in Columbus, but if they are going to let things shake out in Spring Training why are they bothering with all this stuff now?
Joe Sheehan: Well, for one because you need bodies to play spring training games, and for two, because the Yankees really don't have a Plan A for this, and need to see as many options as possible.
It's kind of fun to watch, actually. I pulled out my glove today and oiled it up, just in case Brian Cashman gets far enough down the list.
Cris E (St Paul, MN): If you could step in and make one trade between two teams that would improve them both (on the field, on the farm, on the ledger, whatever), what would it be?
Joe Sheehan: I like the question, so I'm going to answer it even though I don't have specifics:
I'd like to trade some of the Twins' outfield/DH depth (Restovich, Cuddyer, Ford, Morneau) for starting pitching and a middle infielder who can bat second and post a .370 OBP. I think that team is one trade away from 100 wins, and it's starting to annoy me.
Numbers Diva (Tampa FL): When do we get Woolner for a chat?
Joe Sheehan: February 24, I believe.
tracinganswers (New York): How bout a New York pizza feed over the summer? How can you guys continously pass over the greatest city in the world?
Joe Sheehan: Hey, I had 13 hours' worth of Pizza Feeds on back-to-back nights on the Upper East Side in July '02, maybe my favorite ones ever.
I think I'm doing something in New York in late March. Keep checking the Web site for details.
Jason (Atlanta, GA): What percentage of the BP staff participates in some form of fantasy baseball? How do they usually fare?
Joe Sheehan: Just about everyone plays *something*, be it Strat, Scoresheet or roto. Speaking only for myself, I have good years and bad ones. Last year was a mixed bag; second in a roto league, but an awful Scoresheet season.
Keith Woolner checks in...he's chatting on Thursday, March 11.
Kevin Agee (Springfield, MO): Should Royals fans be more concerned or confident of Darrell May's future as a starting pitcher? On one hand, his below-average strikeout rate says he won't maintain his 2003 success, but on the other hand, Kauffman Stadium's fences are moving out ten feet and May's 2003 is in line with his performance in Japan's Central League.
Joe Sheehan: He's an interesting pitcher for '04. I know when the Royals signed him after '01, Rany was pretty excited, and as you point out, May's lousy '02 is the outlier here.
That said, he's heavily dependent on good outfield defense, which means he has the most to lose if Juan Gonzalez and Matt Stairs are flanking Carlos Beltran, rather than a spot opening up for David DeJesus. I think last year was the top of his range, and would look for an ERA in the mid-4.00s in '04.
That makes him the Royals' ace, by the way.
strong silence (seattle): Your take on whether I-rod can provide veteran leadership when his mates know he really wants to be in Florida?
Joe Sheehan: I don't think it matters, largely because "veteran leadership" is one of those chemistry codes that gets applied willy-nilly, usually to justify playing time for crappy players.
Frankly, the Tigers are a pretty old team, and need "veteran leadership" like they need a hole in the head. As long as Rodriguez hits and stays in the lineup, he'll be their best player.
Jason (Atlanta, GA): Assuming Jimy Williams doesn't try to revive a platoon with Craig Reynolds or Denny Walling, what can we expect from Morgan Ensberg in a full season?
Joe Sheehan: PECOTA says .276/.368/.480 in 346 AB. I think the performance is a tad low, and the playing time way low.
Not saying they should platoon Ensberg, but the Astros have to find some way to get a second left-handed batter in the lineup. Right now, it's Berkman and seven RHBs, including non-hitters at SS and C. I love the pitching staff, but the Cubs might give up six runs to this team all year long.
Anthony (Long Island): Do the PECOTA projections for Kansas City reflect the straight park factor for Kauffman, or is there an adjustment for the fences moving back?
Joe Sheehan: Just the straight park factor. We can't assume what the effect on run-scoring will be.
Paco (Coral Gables): Isn't the Yankee loss of Aaron Boone a perfect example of why Baseball Prospectus' definition of Replacement Level is dead wrong? Not every organization has a lot of talent readily available at every position. The Yankees are going to end up with some sort of a bad situation at 3B, and their replacement's going to be a real sink hole. That means that you at Baseball Prospectus systematically underrate the value of players who are durable, no matter what their skill level. You give short shrift to the Shea Hillenbrands of the world, and give too much credit to unproven or part time players who haven't demonstrated the ability to play every day, and produce without regard to discomfort or pain. Shouldn't BP revisit how replacement level is calculated, and do it on an organization by organization basis?
Joe Sheehan: Actually, the Yankees' available replacements are all right around replacement level. From Keith Woolner, and it's my fault if this ends up reading poorly:
Major league 3B in 2003: .257/.324/.419
VORP's 3B replacement level: .225/.292/.387 (80% of positional average)
Drew Henson 2004 PECOTA: .235/.293/.409
Erick Almonte 2004 PECOTA: .237/.306/.381
Enrique Wilson 2004 PECOTA: .238/.287/.351
Brian Myrow 2004 PECOTA: .241/.340/.409
Miguel Cairo 2003 STL: .245/.289/.375 (no PECOTA prediction avail)
Tyler Houston 2004 PECOTA: .255/.308/.385
As far as the larger point goes...Shea Hillenbrand is a lousy example, but yes, I do think that durability has value that we don't necessarily account for in evaluating players who are at least average. Staying healthy is a skill, and it's why a guy like, oh, Carlos Lee is probably worth more than Cliff Floyd, despite inferior numbers.
Alex (Brooklyn, NY): Maddux: Cubs, Dodgers, or elsewhere? Who would benefit the most from his addition?
Joe Sheehan: Well, I can't think of two teams who *less* need a good right-handed starter. Maddux would most help a contender who needs innings and has a good defense. The Twins, perhaps; the Mariners, the Brav...oops...the Cardinals would get the most bounce, or maybe the Giants.
Believe it or not, the Mets. As long as Larry Bowa is employed, I think the NL East is wide open.
Michael Knight (KITT): Which team(s) look to be the most improved this year? Which team(s) look to be worse off this season?
Joe Sheehan: The Mets have upgraded a lot, especially on defense. The Orioles and Angels will be better. The Tigers did all right.
The Mariners had a terrible winter. The Braves lost a lot of talent.
Mike W (Chicago): Joe- with the Yanks all-RHP rotation, does Jeter have a shot at the lowest Range Factor ever?
Joe Sheehan: I guess, although I have no idea what that number is.
Pete Spragins (claremont, CA): Who is a good comparison from the last 10 years for edwin jackson? Rick Ankiel?
Joe Sheehan: What a terrible thing to suggest... Jackson has much better command than Ankiel did, even before he lost it.
I can't think of good comps, but I've only seem Jackson three times. I'd be more concerned about injury than performance, though, just because of his age. As long as he can pitch, he'll be very good.
Anthony (Long Island): Does Nick Johnson play 150 games this year?
Joe Sheehan: No. He's just not built that way.
Mike (Tucson): Joe--
Who do you think will win the AL wild card this season? I really like what the Jays have done and I think the Yankees could be in some trouble considering their lack of depth and terrible defense. What are the chances of the Jays winning the Wild Card?
Joe Sheehan: 15-20%, which is, not coincidentally, about the same chance I give for a catastrophic injury to Pedro Martinez. If nothing really bad happens to the Yankees or Red Sox, the Jays are screwed.
Mike W (Chicago): Joe, what's your feeling on the Yanks with all RH SPs, featuring a couple groundballers? I think it's a problem.
Joe Sheehan: They're all strikeout/groundball pitchers, though, which is what you want.
I think Brown and Quantrill are going to be in for a reality check, especially Quantrill. Everyone else is basically in the same boat as they were last year.
Jason (Atlanta, GA): Jason Giambi and Randy Johnson: Bouncebacks or further declines?
Joe Sheehan: Giambi will never hit .330 again, but he'll be a 900-950 OPS guy. I'm more concerned about Johnson, although I think he'll be better without reaching 200 innings.
Jason (Atlanta, GA): Will Barry Bonds hang around long enough to hit 756?
Joe Sheehan: Yes. He's three years away, which is the length of his current contract.
Steve (CT): Hey Joe--which Tribe players do you think are good candidates for break-out seasons? I hope at least one...
Joe Sheehan: I keep hoping Travis Hafner, but he was really bad last season. I think he's a better bet than Broussard.
Joe Sheehan: Thanks, everyone...I'll be back before Opening Day to do this again!