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Chat: Clay Davenport

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday March 25, 2004 7:00 PM ET chat session with Clay Davenport.


Clay Davenport is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Clay Davenport: Hello, everybody. Clay here, still trying to recover from some health things that have sidelined me for a while, but I'm hoping I can fill in some blanks for you. Let's go!

Jon (Allentown): Hey Clay, Thanks for stopping by and chatting! Two quick questions on upcoming features to the DT cards. One, when do you think team pages will be available? And two, when do you think the offensive level for translations will be able to be customized by the user? I remember you mentioning these two features when the 2003 DT cards came out. Thanks!

Clay Davenport: Team pages already are available, although they aren't as easy to reach as they should be. On the player search bar, if you type in a year, it will return all the teams that played that season, and you can click on them to see the team page.

As to the customizable translations, I don't know. While these are near and dear to my heart, they weren't regarded by our staff as one of our highest priority tasks. I still want them, but I have to be more careful about promising goods I can't deliver entirely on my own. That or learn to program PHP for myself.

BJ (Green Bay): I drafted Carl Crawford and Alex Sanchez late in my draft for some speed. I only have room in my lineup to play one of them at a time (unless one of my regular hitters gets injured) and I can make changes daily. My question involves trying to match these two up against the most favorable pitcher/catcher batteries. Can you recommend a strategy to increase my chances of getting a full-season of decent stats out of these relatively light-hitting speedsters? I'm not sure that I understand the defensive info on the PECOTA cards and I can't find a lot of defensive information on catchers and pitchers. Thanks for your help.

Clay Davenport: Much as I dislike handling fantasy questions (don't want to give away too much for my own drafts, you know), I would worry mostly about the opposing catchers – there's only a few pitchers, like Andy Pettitte, who have a really large impact on the running game. The defensive rating for catchers is mostly the result of their base-stealing stopping power, so it's a reasonable guide. That means staying away from, Mauer, I-Rod, Molina. And mostly staying with Crawford.

Zachary (Los Angeles): Last year Chad Bradford got 7 wins in 77 IP(compare that to Halladay that got 22 w's in 266 IP). Maybe part of it is that Oakland is in close games and wait for big innings, but which middle relievers are in the best position to get wins due to their team's style and success of play?

Clay Davenport: I'd prefer to research that to give a proper answer, which I haven't had a chance to do, so my off-the-cuff response is: any set up man should be in line for those wins, especially teams with moderately poor offenses. A really bad offense won't score enough runs to win at all; a really good offense will score so many runs that it is decided before the set-up man enters. So Oakland would seem good, Anaheim, Cubs (except that Dusty likes to stick with the starter), Astros. But the biggest determination is whether the manager will settle on one go-to guy when the game is tied in the late innings. If he always makes the same call in those situations, that man will get it.

Adam J. Morris (Houston, Texas): Why are Fielding Runs Above Average on the player cards, but not Batting Runs Above Average?

Clay Davenport: Space. There were only so many columns I could squeeze in and keep it legible when I displayed it on my own screen, and for whatever reason I decided to use a position-adjusted RAR instead of an RAA. I can certainly add it without any trouble.

Suraj (New York): Who's the best announcer/commentator in baseball?

Clay Davenport: It is very much a matter of taste. I think most people like the announcers they heard most when they were young and impressionable, who was pulling for the same team. For me, that description fits Jon Miller, when he was with the Orioles.

I'll also add that it is kind of like umpires, in that if I really notice an announcer, it is probably because he did something to make me upset, like talking about how noble it is for a player to deliberately ground out just so another players can move into scoring position from another scoring position.

David (Canada): Who do you think will end up with more career wins - Tom Glavine or Randy Johnson?

Clay Davenport: Glavine's at 251, and I'm guessing that he doesn't have more than about 20 wins left in him; lets pencil in 270. Randy Johnson is only at 230, AND he's two year's older. He's also a freak of nature, which gives him a better chance than most 40-yos of catching up, but I have to favor Glavine right now – that looks like a three-run lead in the ninth to me

G-Unit (New York): pick one, derek jeter in 1996/22 yrs old or jose reyes now?

Clay Davenport: Reyes, barely. From what they had done through 1996/2003, they come up equal in terms of a hitting projection (Jeter peak .307 EQA, Reyes .308), but Reyes shows as a pretty good fielder. Jeter, with a 50-error season to his credit, was not so well regarded coming out of the minors.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): So, are you working on those college, juco and high school translations yet? When can we expect good enough strength of schedule and league translation numbers to begin the Next Revolution(TM)?

Clay Davenport: I think it is coming very soon. The knowledge is there, the data collection ability is there. Boyd Nation has been doing that for some time, and there was another article recently at Batters Box. I'm behind the curve on this one, worrying about the impact of aluminum bats, while these young whipper-snappers have sprinted around ignoring me, dagummit. So yes, I'm embarassed and playing catch-up here.

AttorneySteve (LA): Gotta luv tha BP. I'm an A's fan, but unlike most fans I am more nervous than naive in pre-season. Given their Dodgeresque offense, aren't the A's 2 pitcher-injuries away from sub-500?

Clay Davenport: Hmm, lets see. My own personal projection has Oakland at 90 wins, and the Big 3 have averaged over 8 WARP apiece for the last three years. Nobody has the kind of AAA pitching talent stocked away to make up for that, so your estimate looks dead on to me

Chris (North Carolina): Clay, every year EQA shifts around, making it impossible to determine its accuracy, predictive power, and overall value. When are you going to come up with a measurement that doesn't shift every year? And is BP abandoning EQA in favor of other, newer, better measurement tools?

Clay Davenport: I think you are confusing EQA with DTs. The formula for EQA hasn't changed in five years at least, and the formula is published and readily available. The translation procedure, however, does change, as I test different procedures, discover old biases, and generally learn things I didn't already know to try to incorporate it. In addition, some of the inputs to the program change from one year to the next. The park factor I used for San Francisco in 2003 is currently based on an average from 2001-2003; in next year's book, the 2003 park factor will be an average of 2001-2004, and it won't be until after 2005 that it will become a stable value. Likewise, the difficulty rating for leagues is reassessed each year, as I can now see how players who left that league did, not just players who came into that league.

Mike (PA): Why don't BP Player Cards include WARP values for pitchers? How would you make a direct comparison between say Jim Rice and Ron Guidry in 1978 without some kind of common "win" statistic?

Clay Davenport: They do, although it is mixed into the ‘Advanced Hitting' stats for them. That section pulls in the pitching runs above replacement from the advanced pitching section and calculates total WARP from the pitcher's hitting, fielding, and pitching scores.On the site right now, Guidry has an 11.7 WARP3 for 1978, and Rice has 10.0.

Josh (Providence): Hey Clay, people often point out the teams that are currently most influenced by statistical analysis in their front office (Oakland, Toronto, Boston, and San Diego and Kansas City to some extent - with the Dodgers soon to follow). Which teams are on the opposite end of the spectrum, which teams seem to be the most resistant to change and rely on "old school" types of player evaluation? And how successful are these teams in comparison?

Clay Davenport: I would say that Tampa Bay is probably the most "Old School" team out there. As bad as they have been with major league decision making, I actually like the minor league talent they have been able to assemble recently. Is just isn't possible for all of their Uptons, Youngs, and Bankstons to go Hamilton on them – is it? I don't do a lot of front office backslapping, though, so some of the other authors might present a better take.

Rob (Wisconsin): Clay, Is Prior's achille's heel going to be his, well, achille's heel, or is this possibly the best thing to happen to him this spring?

Clay Davenport: I hardly think any injury can be described as a good thing, but in the sense that it isn't an arm injury, and could lead to limiting the number of innings he throws, yes, it might prove long-run beneficial. That's no guarantee; I'm from the camp that believes it only takes one game to screw yourself up, and it can just as easily come from as anything else.

Anthony (NY): Would it be possible to translate stats from the old minor leagues, ie - DiMaggio's PCL days?

Clay Davenport: Absolutely. The hardest part is getting enough data in to ensure that the relationships between the minor league and the majors is consistently measured. Somewhere on my hard drive I have some old translations – Jackie Robinson in Montreal, Yogi Berra in Newport News. And I did a SABR presentation a couple of years ago where I translated the entire Baltimore Orioles teams circa 1920 – they were in the International League then, with players like Lefty Grove and Max Bishop – into the AL. (They should finished in the middle to low side of the pack, depending on the year, unquestionably a major league caliber team).

Devin (Green Brook, NJ): Clay, I know only me and 5 other people care about this, but when are you going to fix that problem with Pete Browning's player card where he's getting -37 runs for pitching 1 inning?

Clay Davenport: I have it fixed on my machine right now – something I should have done long before, with a reprojection into his own game status (Since he only played one game, he cannot have a win rating worse than negative point 5 above average, right? And if you follow a 10 run/win pattern strictly, it means a player who only had one game cannot range more than +/- 5 runs. Since I tweaked some other things – I found some biases in my defensive ratings that correlated with park effects – I'm still looking them over for problems before releasing them.

Scot (Upstate NY): Hi Clay. I was wondering if you could comment on the Montreal park factors for 2003 and 2004. It looks like a 3 year PF was used to scale the Expos 2003 performances, but the 2004 PF looks to be much more hitter friendly (case in point: Wilkerson's .268/.382/.464 in 2003 scales to .258/.370/.452 Eqstats; his raw .269/.379/.489 PECOTA 50th percentile EQs to .253/.360/.451). Given that 2003 was a switch from Big O only to BigO/Hiram Bithorn, couldn't you justify using a 1 year park factor for 2003 due to a material change? BP is predicting the expos to lead the league in runs scored in 2004, but I think that's largely due to mis-aligned park factors. Evaluate 2003 using a 1 year park factor and use that to project 2004, and I think you'd get much more reasonable numbers. While adding Nick Johnson, Carl Everett, Tony Batista, Terrmel Sledge and Juan Rivera is nice, it's hard to believe that they're collectively ~170 runs better than Guerrero, Cordero, Tatis/Zeile, Calloway and Chavez. Scot.

Clay Davenport: I agree with you, Scot, and there was quite a bit of internal discussion about the park factor being applied to the Expo roster. In the end, we deferred to Nate, who somehow convinced us that the increase in Expo run scoring was as much about removing the incredible load of dead weight they carried around last year as it was about the park factor.

And actually, I did deviate from using a three year park factor when it came to the Expos in 2003. I tried to break the 2003 season into a Montreal portion and a Bithorn portion, let the Montreal portion be adjusted by a three-year average (even though it was also unbelievably high in 2003), and added the Bithorn part as a full average. It is a weird situation.

Rob (Wisconsin): Clay Prince Fielder, JJ Hardy, Rickie Weeks.... what reasons do the Brewers have for NOT bringing at least 2 of these guys north?

Clay Davenport: Much as I hate bringing money into baseball discussions: the Brewwers aren't going to win this year, with or without them, and you'd be using up a year of their pre-arbitration time. Wait a year, you'll get more of their prime, less of their development, and maybe be in a better position to win aside from them.

50 Cent (New York): Saw Kaz Matsui take some spring training swings...at first he seemed to be a patient hitter but recently he's being very aggressive and lookin foolish on breakin balls...give me your prediction as of right now..

Clay Davenport: I envy you for being able to get down there to see him. As of right now, I would stick with the projection in the 2004 BP, except for one thing – I think the home runs are still too high, and so I would trade a half dozen home runs for triples. Instead of the 4 TP 17 HR, that would make 10 TP 11 HR. Batting average around .280, EQA around .270.

Geddy Lee (Behind Home Plate, Toronto): What happened to Eric Hinske last year, and what's he going to do this year?

Clay Davenport: He hurt his wrist before the season. I'm looking for a big comeback this year,as is PECOTA - of course, I have him signed for $10 in my AL roto league, so I'm pulling for it despite the effect on the Orioles.

Andreas MacCrackpipe (Bonnyurrrrrgh, SCOTLAND): Ock! When will ye be having yer bleedin' archive search working properly? Are ye concerned about the effects of travel making Montreal's park factor look all-a-googly this season?

Clay Davenport: Montreal's park factor has been a googly mess for years - off the top of my head, they are the most inconsistent park in the majors. Switching between a few acres of snow, in Voltaire's phrase, and a rich Caribbean port isn't going to make it easier, so I'm going to officially abstain from that forecast.

Archives - we know, and we are trying, but I can't answer when.

Jordan Lyall (OC, LA): Did last night's Laker vs. Kings game forecast the Western Conference Finals? Oh BASEBALL Prospectus . . . my bad. Did the ARod injury forecast things to come for the Yankees?

Clay Davenport: I think it is likely that the Yankees will see a boatload of injuries, but A-Rod's isn't the harbinger of that - look at Leiber's groin (OK, don't), or Bernie's appendix...they've got a lot of age on this team, and they will get hurt. I don't think they'll be hurt enough to lose a playoff spot.

tj (wisconsin): Should Ozzie Guillen bat Frank Thomas cleanup?

Clay Davenport: I'd prefer him in third, but lineup order just isn't that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. How they handle their pitchign staff is going to have a much better impact than whether Frank bats third or fourth.

Rob (Wisconsin): Clay if you could see one change in the sport over the next 3 years, what would you like to see? Somethign big, maybe something obscure?

Clay Davenport: I would like to see the rules governing how teams relate to each other off the field changed so that all teams have an incentive to win as many games as they can. The only way to get better baseball in every town is to have 30 owners truly dedicated to winning, and there are too many rules now that reward teams for taking a dive. My personal pipe dream.

Clay Davenport: Sorry for the questions I didn't get to. Some of them I just had no idea what to answer, some I think would be better off in the hands of other BPers. Enjoy the season to come, and thanks for reading BP. Keep your bats warm :-)

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