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Chat: Nate Silver

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday June 25, 2008 2:00 PM ET chat session with Nate Silver.


Nate Silver invented the PECOTA projection system, and writes "Lies, Damned Lies" each week

Nate Silver: In line with my tradition, we're going to be starting *just* 20 minutes late.... Actually, I'm going to grab some caffeine, and we'll get started in just a few minutes.

Mike (Chicago): Ryan Ludwick Ryan Theriot Which one is more likely to keep up their 90%+ pecota performance?

Nate Silver: Ludwick. I'd place a little bit more weight on a mid-career power breakout than on some kind of second coming of Scott Podsednik's 2005.

Ryan (Milwaukee): Do you see Matt LaPorta getting any kind of significant playing time this season? Or next season?

Nate Silver: Next year, I think he has to be in their equation, but the fact that the Brewers are starting to play better ball lately makes it less likely that he'll get significant playing time *this* year.

lemppi (Ankeny, IA): What were your feelings at the time of the Renteria trade to DET? Since it was a foregone conclusion that ATL wanted to move him should Dombrowski have had to invest two of his top 5 prospects? Thank you.

Nate Silver: At the time, I liked it for both parties, but I also didn't think that Jair Jurrjens was going to be much better than a 6th starter. There's still probably a rule that the other 29 clubs shouldn't trade with Atlanta.

538 fan (mpls): Is Sheehan insane? I'm an Indians fan, and I don't see any way they can be competitive this year. They're only half a game ahead of the Royals, for heavens sake.

Nate Silver: Sure, but they're only 1.5 games behind the Tigers.... Seriously, one of the things that makes the Indians' prospects a little better than they might look on the surface is that a couple of the teams that are out in front of them are a little dubious -- I'm starting to buy into the White Sox some but not really the Twins. The Indians remain a team that could bust out with a stretch where they win 21 games in 24 tries or something if everyone on that pitching staff gets hot at once.

Tim (DC): Easier to predict statistically, baseball or politics?

Nate Silver: You can explain a higher percentage of baseball with statistics than you can of politics. But I'm not sure if that makes it *easier* to predict, since the greater abundance of data allows one to get much more fancy.

Steven (Mid-town): Is Huston Street for Matt LaPorta a fair trade? Does it make sense for the A's with Cust already around?

Nate Silver: It's reasonably fair. I actually think I'd rather have Street's next six years: LaPorta's nice, but: he's 23, and is restricted to a corner outfield spot which he doesn't play very well. But since Street is already into his fourth year of service time, what you'd be doing is trading three years of Street for six years of LaPorta. And that would definitely be worth it.

Corkedbat (Dallas): I missed where you may have run stats on the election this year. If so, can you point me to the article please? Otherwise I'm oblivious to the references I've seen in these chats.

Nate Silver: Sorry about that: the website is here.

Chris (Chicago): John Danks is having a really nice year for the White Sox, what is his ceiling? Number 2 starter,maybe a 1-2?

Nate Silver: Well, he's pitched like a #2 this year so by definition I don't think his ceiling could be any *lower* than that. PECOTA thinks his ceiling is basically Frank Viola, whom I would classify as a #1.

Twins Fan (MN): Is Alexi Casilla for real? Is he back to prospect status or will he fall back to the level he showed last year?

Nate Silver: The thing that encourages me about Casilla is that his walk rate has been a little better this season, more in line with what it had been in the minors. The upside is still fairly limited for a guy who will never hit for power, but ... hey, there are worse things than having a 40% chance at being Luis Castillo.

airjakub2 (Brooklyn): Who should the Bulls take tomorrow?

Nate Silver: Beasley.

Trieu (Cambridge, MA): Are there enough interleague (I even hate the word) games in one season to determine the relative quality of play between the AL and NL?

Nate Silver: There are, what, something like 225 interleague games played each season? That ought to be enough to tell you a little something, although I don't think it's as good a way to differentiate quality between the two leagues as something like what Clay does.

ChuckR (Addison, IL): White Sox fans have reason to be encouraged this year, but the 'conventional wisdom' was that they'd have one last run with the current roster and that'd be it before a massive retooling. Do you think the emergence of Danks/Floyd/Quentin/ARamirez bodes well for a continued run of competitiveness?

Nate Silver: I think, absolutely, there are different kinds of good years. There's the kind of good year where Paul Konerko is hitting .370 or something, and then there's the kind of good year where you have three or four guys emerge who all of the sudden look like they're going to be a big part of your long-term future. This has been that latter kind of year for the White Sox, and while they still have some pieces they're going to have to exchange, they would also seem to have found the core players that will prevent them from having to suffer through a rebuilding year while doing so.

Then again, 2007 was Kenny Williams' rebuilding year. He just didn't want to tell anybody about it.

rustydude (Seattle): John Henry, owner of the Red Sox, has been reported to have used new statistical methods and analysis in the Financial Industry. Now we see you, and others, using advanced analysis in Politics. Are there other fields you see trending toward more sophisticated statistic analysis?

Nate Silver: I think, in all three fields, you probably have more monkeys like me typing on keyboards, because processing power is faster and access to information easier, and the more monkeys you have, the more likely you are to have someone who comes up with something smart to say. But I don't know that there's been some sort of global, Ray Kurzweilesque paradigm shift.

Lucas Picador (Merrymay, Pa): For a second, I read that as Ray Karczweskiesque, which would just be kooky.

Nate Silver: Sorry about that, guys. My internet connection is less than terrific today. But just a reminder that Baseball SCRABBLE would be way less fun than HOCKEY Scrabble.

Rick (Chicago): I often hear that one player is more valuable because he's consistent, yet I've seen no evidence supporting that consistency varies significantly from player to player... Let alone that said variation has a significant impact on the value of the aggregate performance. Is "consistency" worth measuring on either the team or player level? If so, how should one approach it?

Nate Silver: In theory, I think you'd actually want the *less* consistent player, because you can do things to lessen his negative impact when he's slumping (put him down in the batting order, bench him) and accentuate it when he's surging.

Josh (Casper): Should I be concerned that Kemp has only hit seven home runs so far this season? Or should I just go back to worrying that Ned will deal him for a bag of stale chips.

Nate Silver: I wouldn't worry about the home run total. If there's a concern about Kemp, it's that the plate discipline hasn't improved at all this year.

Aaron (YYZ): Does the Blue Jays offense have it in them to turn it around and save JP's job? (making Cito the hero of millions once again in the process) Or should they start looking at things like AJ Burnett to the Brewers for a shiny prospect? (Gamel?)

Nate Silver: It shouldn't be a good offense based on its rather limited talent, and it isn't. And that division makes their situation very difficult. I absolutely think that the Blue Jays need to start thinking about whether they could get someone like Matt LaPorta for someone like A.J. Burnett.

Steven (Mid-town): How much control do pitchers have over home runs allowed beyond their home park and their fly ball rate?

Nate Silver: They certainly have some control over their home run rates, but they don't have a lot, and it's also one of those cases where if you focus too much on home run rate, you might be introducing more noise to the data than you're getting in signal.

alf (bar review): Nate- What are the chances of Justin Duchsherer continuing to be a top starter? Also, the LA Times reported a 12% lead for Obama this morning. Does that sound right to you?

Nate Silver: The thing with Duchscherer is that a 1.99 ERA isn't anywhere near being supported by his peripherals. But the basic template we've seen this year -- a #2 starter who has an above-average number of injury problems -- is perfectly sustainable.

Rich Hill's Control (Bermuda Triangle): Where'd I go? Do you think I'll ever be found again?

Nate Silver: Is it too late for him to take up hitting?

Brent (Raleigh): If Chris B. Young keeps this up, can we assume that Pecota will not be quite as bullish on him next season?

Nate Silver: Maybe, but it could also be one of those quixotic things like with Jeremy Bonderman where PECOTA keeps predicting a breakout that will never come.

tfierst (MN): Any possibility of getting sortable WARP stats?

Nate Silver: We are working on this -- and I know we've been telling you guys this for the last two years -- but we are working on it, and it's almost done.

Stephanie (DC): Completely off the wall question that you may not be able to answer at all. But what would you think would be the best way to make inroads towards a job in baseball's front office as someone who is prevented by the rules from ever playing the sport?

Nate Silver: Intern for Baseball Prospectus! Seriously -- these things require a lot of luck, but do everything in your power to get your name out there, and any kind of jobs/experience that are industry related are going to help, no matter how minor they might seem.

Mike (NJ): Is Derek Jeter just having the worst year of his career or is he declining?

Nate Silver: Derek Jeter is 34 years old and is still trying to play a skill position ... it's surprising that he's lasted this long *without* having a year like this. I'd put the over/under at the number of All-Star tams he makes over the rest of his career at 2.0.

Pat (Tufts): Final Mets record is...

Nate Silver: 86-76.

ewagner25 (Madison): Does this make any sense?: "Beginning this week at Class A Brevard County, relievers will start games before turning it over to the "starters" in the third or the fourth. By starting the starter later in games, the Brewers hope their young players develop a "nine-inning mindset" by the time they reach the Majors. " (brewers.com)

Nate Silver: There are some tactical reasons to do this, such as messing up your opponents' batting order by starting out the game with a reliever who throws from the opposite hand of the "starter" you're eventually going to put in. Are there developmental reasons? I don't know. It seems strange to me, but it's not the sort of thing that Milwaukee has done without thought.

G-MOTA (Bumpus, MA): Final Yankees record is...

Nate Silver: 86-76.

Jeter Hater (ATL): I'm taking the over on Jeter mid-season classics. Yankee fans will be voting him in long after he's retired.

Nate Silver: Yes, but I was accounting for that in my setting the line. If I had to place the over/under for the number of *deserving* All-Star appearances he'll have, it would be 0.5.

Chris (Chicago): No one seems to be talking about Ryan Braun's complete loss of plate discipline, what gives?

Nate Silver: To lose something implies that one had it in the first place. Braun's one of those exceptional guys that can succeed with terrible plate discipline ... but his plate discipline is pretty poor.

Vince Naimoli ((Far, Far Away..Thank Goodness)): Rays-Angels in October: Fait accompli?

Nate Silver: Rumor is that if the World Series winds up being Rays-Diamondbacks, FOX will preempt it for some new Family Guy episodes.

Nate Silver: That's all for today, folks. Thanks for spending your time over this way, and I look forward to doing this again soon.

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