Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Joe Sheehan: Hi, I'm here!
Mike K (Athens, GA (formerly NYC)): How many runs will the Yanks gain this year by leading Jeter off and Lofton 9th (assuming Torre doesn't revert to a bolt of conventionality and reinstall Kenny atop the lineup)? How about by sitting Lofton in favor of Tony "Needs a good nickname" Clark against lefties?
Joe Sheehan: I think Lofton will end up atop the lineup against most right-handers, and it's not too bad an idea, given that Jeter leading off means Matsui in the #2 slot, and Matsui was a double-play machine last year.
A Lofton/Clark platoon, with Bernie Williams swinging between the two at CF and DH, seems like a natural solution. Jason Giambi's knee have to allow him to play first base for that to work, however. Clark absolutely is worth the roster spot.
Cris E (St Paul, MN): Who is coming to Mpls this week for the book signing? And what's this about pizza?
Joe Sheehan: Nate Silver, I believe. Pizza will be provided by Workman Publishing, and a good time will be had by all.
Colin (Boston): I keep hearing people say that Camden Yards is good for hitters yet looking at the PECOTA spreadsheet, it looks like translation factors of 0.968/0.964/0.953 were used for BA/OBP/SLG. I googled up some old stats that showed the park is good for right handed HR. Have any idea what causes the variance in these opinions? Do you think the HR projection for Tejada and Lopez is low?
Joe Sheehan: Sure. Camden Yards looks like it should be a good hitters' park, and when it opened, the Orioles had some very good power teams. The park gained a rep based on the Os hitting a bunch of homers, although the Os weren't being helped by Camden.
Camden has played neutral, or slightly as a pitchers' park, since it opened. Tejada's and Lopez's power projections shouldn't be affected by the park.
Still a beautiful place, though. Hard to believe it's 12 years old.
xian ((champaign, IL)): Any take on ESPN.com rating the Mets and Indians below the Tigers?
Joe Sheehan: I certainluy agree on the Indians, who just don't have a very good team. The Mets are close, and if they're aggressive about trading veterans, will probably finish with a worse record than the Tigers (who have yet to allow a run this year, by the way).
Toby (Stockton, CA): Joe,
Jeremy Affeldt seems to have a ton of upside, but Pecota doesn't seem to buy it. Even at the 90th percentile it only has him pitching 157 innings, with a weighted mean of 124. I think he can be a stud. What's your take?
Also, what's with PECOTA's ultra conservative projections with respect to pitcher strikeouts? It almost never sees someone who will repeat last year's total.
Thanks for all of your time in the chat on the website.
Joe Sheehan: Affeldt hasn't carried much of an innings load the last few years, so my guess is that PECOTA is picking up a lot of swingmen and low-innings guys in its comparisons.
I'm not a huge fan of Affeldt, as much because the Royals have done a terrible job of developing pitchers over the past decade. Until we see one throw, say 300 good innings for the team, skepticism is warranted.
(Cue Kansas Mafia.)
As far as PECOTA and strikeouts go, you'd have to ask Nate. In general, I think it's fair to say that PECOTA is conservative in general, except with Wily Mo Pena.
Sean (Reno): when is it 'smart' to take spring pitching performance into account? Jae Seo is sent down by Mets; seems idiotic. But Edwin Jackson is sent down by DePodesta -- is this equally dumb? Or do we assume DePodesta is somehow smarter, his decision stronger?
Joe Sheehan: Seo is older than Jackson, spent all of last year pitching well in the majors, and lost his job to a guy whose best attribute is a hot wife.
His demotion doesn't seem idiotic. It is.
Jackson was awful in the spring, doesn't have nearly Seo's experience above Double-A, and is so young that protecting his arm is a concern. I think the anomaly was him showing up in the majors last year, not starting '04 in Triple-A.
You can judge these decisions on their merits, without making them referendums on the GMs involved. Keep in mind that these decisions are as much managerial as anything else.
Kevin (Los Altos, CA): Will David Aardsma (the new first alphabetical entry in baseball history, supplanting Aaron) be able to get Major League hitters out with regularity while all the Giants injured relievers mend?
Are the Giants as screwed this year as we all think?
Joe Sheehan: If you're going to go from BUAD 301 to the major leagues in less than a year, the thing to be is a hard-throwing reliever. Aardsma is a notch below Ryan Wagner and Chad Cordero, but should be an effective stopgap in the Giants' pen. I wouldn't be surprised if he stuck around all year long.
Brian (Los Angeles): Joe -- you argue that "6'4" catchers don't become superstars" and that "perhaps 6'3" is the maximum height at which a player can both catch and be a great hitter." Considering the tallest star secondbaseman of all time was 6'2" (Grich), would you say that 6'2" is the cut-off for great secondbasemen?
Joe Sheehan: I haven't looked at it carefully enough to say. I thought Jeff Kent was tall, but a quick look shows that he's not 6'2", anyway.
Boy, Grich really was an outlier, one of just a handful of 6'2" 2Bs with long careers.
Corey (Chicago, IL): Hey, Joe! You wrote: "For the sake of argument, let's say that Bradley is dealt this weekend and C.C. Sabathia has a lousy first two months. Who is the Indians' All-Star?" And yes, Broussard, Riske and Martinez seem like unlikely choices, but what about Jody Gerut? That seems like a no-brainer to me.
Joe Sheehan: Gerut's a good player, but it's hard to make the All-Star team as a corner outfielder in the AL. If he were to go, he'd likely be one of those "All-Stars" who make the team ahead of four more qualified guys.
It's probably time to kill the one-rep-per-team rule, and pull rosters back to a more manageable size. How many guys in MLB are "All-Stars" now...200? 300?
kcshankd (Lawrence, KS): I know I'm a homer and all, but your calling the Royals the 12th best team in the AL, behind Det AND TB, begs further explanation. I'd put the Royals rotation 1-5 against any other in the sorry AL Central (Schoeneweis? Carlos Silva? Appier is looking good after the surgery). I realize they over-achieved last year but this year the look to be a legitimate 83 win club, which could easily be enough in this division. What the hell?
Joe Sheehan: This team will be among the top three teams in the AL in runs allowed. That, or Carlos Beltran will have 500 putouts. It's a soft-tossing, flyball rotation with more guys likely to have 6.xx ERAs than 4.xx ERAs.
The offense might actually be decent, assuming reasonable health from a bunch of guys--Gonzalez, Stairs, Sweeney--who haven't been too reliable. But the pitchers will put a ton of balls in play, and this isn't the defense to handle that.
Hopefully, the Royals will realize early enough that they can't win this season and be able to flip a whole bunch of guys. That's the best-case scenario. They will not win the division.
Will (Fredericton, NB): Which team most blew a chance this winter of going from a decent to good team to being a contender? (I mean blowing the chance mostly by trading away or acquiring the wrong guys as opposed to not signing all of the free agents in the market, of course.)
Joe Sheehan: Great question. I'd say the White Sox, because of the lousy competition, could have helped themselves the most had they found a center fielder and one starting pitcher.
The Expos are hamstrung by MLB, but you wonder what offering Vlad Guerrero arbitration might have done to their chances.
Kevin (Los Altos, CA): Which rookie positional player will have the greatest impact in each league this season? Crosby seems like the odd-on favorite in the AL, what about the NL?
Joe Sheehan: Kazuo Matsui, by far, with Adam LaRoche and Terrmel Sledge having chances.
NL midseason call-ups with a chance to have an impact include Edwin Encarnacion and Freddy Guzman.
Joe (Cleveland): Another Indians question....
How do you rate the Bradley trade for the Indians?
Joe Sheehan: Given how Mark Shapiro painted himself into a corner, he did a pretty good job. Gutierrez is a tools player who has impressed the performance crowd, and when you can get a guy like that, you've done well. Bradley wasn't likely to be around when the Indians got good anyway, and Gutierrez will.
The proverbial good trade for both teams.
Chris (NJ): Just how scary is the Yankee lineup (when healthy)
Posada 7th? wow
Joe Sheehan: It's as good an eight-man lineup as you're likely to see, especially the version that has Bernie Williams in center and Tony Clark DHing.
Having Enrique Wilson in there ain't right. It's like watching the "We Are the World" video and seeing Michael Jackson, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder...and Dan Aykroyd!?!?
Drake Tungsten (Austin): Do you see Derek Jeter ever coming back to the heights of his 1998-2000 seasons, or is he really just a .300/.370/.430 guy from here on out?(not that there's anything wrong with that other than the price)
Joe Sheehan: I think Jeter has a power spike in him, especially if he can move off shortstop to a less demanding defensive position. He has a .300/.370/.520 season or two, with 25-30 homers, in his future.
Caveat: I said the same for years about Bernie Williams, and still believe it to be true.
Randy Brown (Detroit, MI): Joe, I've been out of town. Please tell me that I haven't missed out on HACKING MASS. It's hard to stay involved in Tigers baseball without it.
Joe Sheehan: We're a tiny bit late getting the interface up, but HACKING MASS should go live by tomorrow afternoon. Thanks for your interest!
Tigers look good right now...I'm telling you, they'll be alive in a race later than at least eight or nine other teams.
Lou (Lake Hopatcong): Joe - Sox over Yanks. You trying the good ol' reverse jinx?
Joe Sheehan: I didn't include this in either preview article, but it's worth mentioning here. Predicting the outcome of short series is hard enough just before the series starts. Making that call six months in advance, on teams that could look completely different...
It's fun. Just don't book a flight to Vegas based on anyone's predictions.
tj (WI): Who's the Phillies best pitcher?
Joe Sheehan: Billy Wagner.
Most valuable pitcher? Either Millwood or Myers this year.
Anthony (NY): You wrote in your AL preview, "the second-place team in the AL West, be it the A's or Angels, isn't that far behind the Yankees in projected performance."
On the same day, Nate Silver wrote a column projecting the Yankees at 106-56, Oakland at 91-71, and Anaheim at 82-80. Isn't that a pretty massive gap in projected performance?
Joe Sheehan: I don't agree with PECOTA's projections for those teams, in particular, the Yankees. 106-56? Hey, I love my Bombers as much as anyone, but there's not enough Bailey's in the world...
Seriously, PECOTA completely misses defense and scheduling effects, both of which cut that gap by a lot. Add in the likelihood that the Yankees battle injuries all year long, and there's plenty of room for a race.
I'm not just better looking than Nate, folks. I'm also much, much smarter.
email@example.com (Lawrence, KS): Thanks for answering my question. I'll wager a half pound of Kansas buffalo jerky that the Royals pitching staff does not end up in the top 3 in the AL for RA. They'll beat Tex, Det, and TB. What ya got?
Joe Sheehan: And blow my shot at the Hall of Fame? No, thanks.
Dan (NYC): So the Yanks have the best 8-man lineup, who has the best 9-man lineup? Gotta eliminate the usual suspects (the Sox and the Yanks) due to their 2B, so who takes the cake? Orioles? Padres?
Joe Sheehan: I don't know that you'd eliminate the Sox, especially if Mark Bellhorn plays his way into 60% or more of the at-bats. (Pokey Reese can play behind Lowe, Bellhorn behind everyone else.)
Then again, the Sox aren't all that impressive in a bunch of other spots, so they're not really a candidate.
Best 1-9...the Orioles have a shot, if either Roberts or Hairston puts up a .350 OBP. Maybe the A's if everything breaks right, but there's Scott Hatteberg issues.
You can get into definitional problems here...are we talking about "best ninth-best hitter," which is how I set it up, but is also a stupid way to judge a team?
H.G. Pennypacker (New York): Is Ben Sheets ever going to emerge as a legit #1 pitcher?
Joe Sheehan: I thought he did down the stretch last year, and I expect him to have a very good season this year.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: 99% of the difference between Ben Sheets and Barry Zito is who drafted them.
SK (San Diego, CA): How is this lineup short term for the Sox till May: Gabe Kapler 3B, Pokey SS, Mueller 2B, Ortiz 1B, Millar RF, Burks DH
Joe Sheehan: I can't imagine why you'd want Gabe Kapler in the lineup instead of Mark Bellhorn.
The Sox really need some help from Johnny Damon this month. He's been a disappointment, and this would be a good time for him to hit .350/.420/.480 for a few weeks.
Duderino (LA): I'll have a white russian and ask, who'll be the first manager to get canned?
Joe Sheehan: This usually comes from two places: a bad team starting horribly, or a perceived contender not playing well.
Column A: Lloyd McClendon
Column B: Eh...Larry Bowa, but I think the Phillies will start well. Jim Tracy, except DePodesta has to see how valuable he is. Maybe Jimy Williams is the compromise choice in this category.
I'll go with McClendon.
pjvent (Washington, DC): Joe: Did you happen to see Pedro's performance last night? I realize it's the first start, and he had a similar poor start in his opening game last year, but...this carryover from the playoffs and a poor spring seems like it's different. Any chance that he breaks down completely this year?
Joe Sheehan: Always a chance he breaks down completely this year.
You know what's scary about Pedro Martinez? His performance over the past two years is actually him at much less than 100%. I'm convinced we haven't seen him really let it loose since he missed half of 2001.
Pedro Martinez at 75% is, what, the second-best pitcher in baseball? Yeesh.
Peter Von Nostrand (New York): Is anyone in the Reds staff potentially useful?
Joe Sheehan: I love that bullpen, especially if Graves can convert ten quick saves and pick up trade value, freeing up innings for Wagner and Reidling and Reith.
Jose Acevedo was acually all set to have an impact when he tripped in the Dodger Stadium dugout last summer. He should be good. Brandon Claussen, demoted two weeks ago, will be back.
Cris E (St Paul, MN): Who do you like in the NL West? A lot of holes on a lot of teams make it a hard division to pick. And has LA improved its offense enough to move up?
Joe Sheehan: The Padres, but without a lot of conviction. I can rule out the Rockies, and probably the D'backs. Even with the last week's moves, the Dodgers lost more run prevention this winter than they'd added run scoring.
I have to believe that the Giants, by the end of the year, will put a real team around Barry Bonds. That would make it close between them and the Padres, who have a pretty good rotation and offense, a poor pen, and a mediocre defense.
Adam (San Francisco, CA): What do you think about the A's signing Mark McLemore? I don't really understand the move, with Scutaro already penciled in as the 2B starter, and plenty of depth there with German and Menechino, when he's healthy. Is being a good "clubhouse presence" really worth anything?
Joe Sheehan: I think McLemore is worth a flyer as a bench guy. His two skills are OBP and a willingness to play a number of positions, so he can pinch-hit against righties for Miller and Scutaro, back up six spots, and pinch-run for what is a pretty large number of very slow guys (Hatteberg, Durazo, Dye, Miller) on the roster.
Focus on what a player does, not what he doesn't do.
(If McLemore comes off the DL and becomes the everyday 2B, forget I said any of this.)
(Wow, Jose Valentin in the #2 spot against a lefty...)
Kjel Varson (New York): Would the Dodgers be better off playing Beltre at second instead of sending Ventura to the bench?
Joe Sheehan: No. On-the-job training is almost never a good idea during the season, and certainly not at second base.
I don't get the fascination with Encarnacion, though. I'd think at worst, they could platoon him and Ventura.
xian (champaign, il): So it's opening day (part 3), a quick check on the Bud-o-meter shows that fans in how many MLB cities hold no hope for the postseason?
Joe Sheehan: Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Cleveland, Arlington (Texas), Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Denver (Colorado).
Silv (NY, NY): How much of an effect is Bradley going to have on LA's ability to score runs?
Joe Sheehan: It appears he'll replace Ventura in the lineup, so not as many as you'd think. Maybe 10-15, and that's just a guess given Bradley could play 60 games or 160. It doesn't make them great.
The Dodgers have to do something about that infield.
Jimeo (Long Isand, NY): Lot's of sources, including this year's BP, say that Brad Wilkerson will break out about as big can break out.. What say you?
Joe Sheehan: Love him. I can see .300/.380/.540.
Anthony (NY): When will we see Edwin Jackson back in the majors?
Joe Sheehan: Hopefully not until late this season. He's still just 21, and has to be handled with care.
Anthony (NY): It's only the first inning, so why have I already seen Barry Larkin hit? That was just a mix up with the lineup card...right?
Joe Sheehan: Hey, if he's going to play in that lineup, second is about where I'd hit him, too.
Joe Sheehan: Thanks for the chat, everyone!