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Chat: Joe Sheehan

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday September 09, 2008 1:30 PM ET chat session with Joe Sheehan.


Joe Sheehan writes "Prospectus Today" for Baseball Prospectus, and occasionally writes and talks about baseball elsewhere.

Joe Sheehan: Bonus baseball at 2 p.m., thanks to the rain last night. We'll chat for the first few innings, until I have to sign off to do radio.

james (nyc): Seems probable that the NL West winner this season will have the 7th or 8th best W-L record in the league. There is also a chance, albeit slim, that the Jays or Yankees could get hot and finish with a better record than the AL Central winner. Is it time to dump the geographic divisional alignment and put the top 4 teams in each league make the playoffs?

Joe Sheehan: Nah, MLB likes it better this way, because the more divisions, the more spots that theoretically be up for grabs late in the season. There's very little concern for making sure the best teams all make the postseason. If there were, we'd have seven AL teams and the Cubs.

BL (Bozeman, MT): Hi Joe, thanks for the chat. Given the level of variance and randomness you detailed in your Prospectus Today look at the Dodgers, how useful is a comparison like yours in Unfiltered Halladay and Lee?

Joe Sheehan: I assume the thought is that teams vary in their performance enough that evaluating opposition by overall performance isn't valuable. It's possible that Cliff Lee faced teams when they were playing well or something. It's not an unreasonable position, but I think you have to take the position that seasonal stats are the best information we have for judging teams, and therefore, adding granularity increases complexity without necessarily adding information.

I did get asked a few times about the Opponents' Batting stat report, which shows about 35 points of OPS edge for Halladay's opponents. This is additional information, and useful, but I shy away from using that report a bit as the range of figures there is fairly small. And as I say, I don't know how much weight you should give this information in evaluating the two pitchers' seasons.

Wendy (Madrid): So basically what you were saying yesterday is that Halladay is better, right? Who do you think the best starter in the game is right now? Top 5?

Joe Sheehan: No, I most definitely was NOT saying that. I was saying, "here's some information." I can say that were I voting in the IBAs today, I would still vote Lee for Cy and MVP. He's been that good.

As to the next question, and taking into account more than just one season, I'd say it's Santana, Peavy, Halladay, Sabathia, Lincecum and there's not much spread among those or even the next few names on the list (Webb, Lackey, Oswalt, Zambrano...). There's a lot of closely bunched talent at the top of the SP list right now.

Frank (Vegas): How would you change the set-up of the amateur draft, and would your proposal be acceptable to both the MLBPA and MLB?

Joe Sheehan: I'd eliminate it, noting that you can't just do that in a vacuum. You'd have to eliminate the concept of farm systems, and probably territorial rights as well.

A less radical system would be to dramatically shorten the draft, perhaps to as few as five rounds, while liberalizing the player-movement rules for drafted players (so that they're not tied to an organization without a choice for a decade or more) and the eligibility restrictions for the draft (none of this not-until-junior-year nonsense). This still screws the top talent, but allows 1300 other players greater freedom.

david (sonoma): which is more doable: hughes, montero for ryan howard or hughes, montero, horne for hanley?

Joe Sheehan: Well, if I'm Pat Gillick, I do the first deal in a heartbeat. Ryan Howard just isn't that good, and we've already seen his peak. The gap between his perceived value and actual value may be as high as any player in the game.

lefko (NJ): as a follow up to my last question.. does BP do any analyzing of pitch by pitch data (e.g. a pitcher's swing and miss vs called strike rates, or hitting stats by location in the strike zone, etc.)? If not, how fruitful do you think such research would be for us aspiring BPer-wannabe's out there? Thanks, Joe.

Joe Sheehan: Nothing of that nature rings a bell specifically. Might be a good project for Eric to take a look at. I know that swing-and-miss rates have always seemed to me like an important piece of information, and I think we're now at a point where we can start looking at pitch outcomes and maybe finding information in the data.

mharrop (toronto): hi joe, You are (Toronto Blue Jays owner) Ted Rogers, and you are faced with the following indisputable facts: since 2002 there are 9 general manager's who have kept their jobs with the same team. 6 have World Series rings, 2 have made the post season and battled for the LCS, 1 is JP Ricciardi. Is it time for you to make a change?

Joe Sheehan: Yes. Then again, my GM is signed for another couple of years, and he's arguably put the fifth-best team in baseball on the field this year. I'm not saying Ricciardi has done a notably good job; I am saying this would be a strange time to fire him.

cjenks (SF): Joe, I've heard that back in 2002, after Frankie Rodriguez joined the Angels post-Sept 1, the team only gave him a token WS share, something like $5K - despite his being one of their most valuable players in that run. I'm wondering if you've heard this, and, if true, how it might impact the likelihood of him resigning this offseason

Joe Sheehan: I have no idea if it is true, and I hesitate to even put it out there. I will say this: everyone involved in covering the decisions players make on where they'll choose to play vastly underestimates the amount of information they don't have, and weights too heavily the information we do. It's an intensely personal decision in most cases, and we cannot realistically anticipate what factors among the many in play will mean the most to any individual. We can assign probabilities, but our accuracy in this area will always be lousy.

Gray (Chicago): Joe, what is your take on Derek Holland? How does a lefty who throws 97 mph come out of nowhere? What is his ETA and ceiling?

Joe Sheehan: Most of what I know about Holland comes from Jamey Newberg, who has seen him a few times and is absolutely smitten. There are issues with everything but the fastball, but clearly, he's earned the right to be mentioned just after Neftali Feliz in the Rangers' pantheon of prospects. I'd slow him down a bit...maybe target a cup of coffee next year and a long relief/rotation path in 2010.

newsense (NYC): Even with this season, you put nine pitchers ahead of Cliff Lee?

Joe Sheehan: Oh, absolutely. If we're drafting right this moment for 2009, I probably go...hmmm...Lincecum, Santana, Peavy, Sabathia, Halladay (close call there), Webb, Lackey. Do you take Lee over Zambrano? Beckett? Felix Hernandez? Harden, even? It's one very, very good year.

Steve (St. Louis): Albert's best season? The dude is hitting like Ted Williams.

Joe Sheehan: With a messed-up UCL. What an incredible story. Nothing against Rocco Baldelli, who is fighting a terrible illness, but I'm more impressed by Pujols, who's playing at a high level despite a very, very bad injury. I feel like Pujols isn't getting enough credit for that, relative to Baldelli.

Brewerfan (Wisconsin): Give me reason to come down off this ledge, please!

Joe Sheehan: How was September from 1993-2007? This is better.

Joe Lefko (Hoboken, NJ): How does the yankee offense bounce back next season? Do they automatically get better due to their awful line with RISP regressing (or is it progressing..)? Hank seems to be confident for '09 due to the gains that will be made in the rotation, but hasn't the torrid offenses of 06-07 been taken for granted and long since passed?

Joe Sheehan: I'm really not understanding the focus on upgrading the rotation. It's the offense that has been the greater problem, especially over the last month. Certainly there's some improvement due to regression in high-leverage situations due, but really, I think this team needs a good leadoff-hitting OF more than a #1 starter. The offense will be better next year as a matter of course, but to be excellent, external help is needed.

john (new york): will huston street be a nice alternative for a NY or cleveland. closer need but not spend a ton for krod? what's street's value?

Joe Sheehan: Is anyone actually looking at him as a closer? His problems with LHBs seem to put him on a setup path, although I suspect Beane and the A's will try and get him back into the save-specialist spot to pump up his trade value. Well, assuming they don't nontender him, but he doesn't seem like a candidate for a big arb award. I say he's back in Oakland.

RickieFan (Milwaukee): How are "Your Guys" doing?

Joe Sheehan: I didn't write that piece this season. I did do a whole big piece on Jeff Francaeiour, which turned out to be about the dumbest thing I wrote all year. The followup to that, however, a breakout players thing (check the archives for January and February), was probably the smartest. E. Santana, Navarro, McLouth and...someone else...were all in there.

Charlie (Bethesda, MD): So after starting out 1 for 32 this year, Elijah Dukes is hitting .300/.400/.540. Do you think he can be a legitimate star, assuming he keeps behaving himself?

Joe Sheehan: Yes, I do. He has tremendous raw talent and a very good idea of what he's doing at the plate and in the field. Setting aside all non-baseball issues, I'm not sure who I'd take between Dukes and Lastings Milledge.

cubfan (chicago): Brewerfan, there's no room out there on the ledge, we got here first. squatter's rights!

Joe Sheehan: Get off the ledge. You're setting up your playoff rotation. My god...there are more panicking-for-no-reason fans this year than in any year I can recall.

KerryFam4 (ATL): How ridiculous and disappointing is the talk of Dustin Pedroia as AL MVP?

Joe Sheehan: There's just so few candidates--they keep getting hurt--that it's almost natural to focus on the guys who's still playing and playing well for a good team. I can understand the discussion, and frankly, I expect the AL MVP to be a random these days, anyway. Pedroia will end up top six or so in most metrics, and probably the best player on his team (him or Youkilis) so he's not Justin Morneau, 2006.

Joe (Tewksbury, MA): Joe, Am I nuts for thinking the Blue Jays are well situated for a Rockies-like surge. They pitch brilliantly, they're hot already and they have seven head to head with the team directly in front of them in the standings (the Red Sox).

Joe Sheehan: I'm just wondering if they've already had their surge. Eight straight, 28-15 since late July. To catch an AL East team, they'll need to close 14-6 or better. Not saying they can't, just that they'd need t play even better than they have, and I don't know if anyone can do that.

You just wonder what this team could have been with Lind in left all year, McDonald at shortstop--his glove really does carry his bat--and an import like Dunn at DH.

tribefan (Cleveland): What do the Indians need to do for 2009?

Joe Sheehan: Pick up some offense on the corners. That could mean LaPorta out there, or it could mean an import. They need some OBP at about three spots. But then again, they needed that last year and did nothing.

Chris Hartjes (Just Outside Toronto): Okay Joe, where's that article admitting that the Yankees are done and not making the playoffs?

Joe Sheehan: Well, it took some effort to even include them in the AL standings I ran in today's piece. They are done, but the better article--which will run after they're eliminated--is on what happens now.

shamah (NYC): So who should the Yanks start as CF next season? Does Melky get another chance? Just stick Damon out there to keep it warm for Austin Jackson for antoher season? What's Plan C: Brett Gardner?

Joe Sheehan: It can't be Damon. It just can't. I'd run Cabrera, who's still just 24 next year, out there one more time, and if it failed, go outside the organization in-season. That said, I have no credibility when it comes to Cabrera. I don't see an obvious external answer on the FA market. There are some contracts you might be able to buy--Wells, perhaps. Rowand? Matthews is terrible.

bill (NJ): Jesus Montero looks like he can be a elite bat in the majors, something the yankees need, but it takes some time for catchers to learn the position. instead of having him split time at catcher and DH, why not have him split time at catcher and LF?

Joe Sheehan: I'd have him play catcher until he absolutely proved he couldn't. Having seen him up close at the Futures Game, there's no shot in hell in can play left field. He's just too big and too slow. I suppose I might try third base before first base, just in the hopes of sustaining some positional value, but I doubt it'd go well, and besides if playing him at third means moving Rodriguez to first at some point, it's kind of a meaningless exercise.

I think teams would be well-served to start looking at catcher the way NFL teams look at running back, where there are more platoon situations than full-time guys. If you can get 80-100 games behind the plate from Montero, that's got a ton of value.

equatorx (Somerville): Should we be worried about Rich Harden? He hasn't pitched since August 29, and admitted to some arm discomfort a little while back. Any way of telling whether he'll be good to go for the playoffs?

Joe Sheehan: You should always be worried about Rich Harden, especially when he's pitched more this year than in all but one season as a pro. The mechanical changes he made have squeezed a lot of innings from his arm, but there's nothing in his track record that says he can make another seven or eight starts this year. He'll be in new territory. You have to be wary of that.

Trenchtown2 (OB Class): What do you expect from Francisco Liriano going into 2009 and beyond?

Joe Sheehan: Him to be a #2 starter with excellent rates and some need to be managed carefully.

ken (locust grove): Who is the real Fausto Carmona? Last years stats? This year? Somewhere in between?

Joe Sheehan: Darn, erased an answer. He's a Carlos Zambrano knockoff--less fastball, less command, more trouble with lefties. A #3 starter with lots of variance.

Razz (New York, NY): Rank the Ryans: Braun, Ludwick, Howard, B.J.

Joe Sheehan: Braun, GAP, Howard, Ludwick, B.J. I have no confidence at all in the ranking of the last three.

Matt (Wi): Any chance that Carlos Gomez could up his walk totals like Reyes did and send his value through the roof? Does it help that he is with a good organization that stresses fundamentals?

Joe Sheehan: Um...the missing "fundamental" is pitch recognition and selection, and the Twins teach that as well as I teach dunking. If he ups his walk totals like Reyes did, it will fly in the face of what the Twins teach, which is contact hitting.

warclub (Strongsville, OH ): Do you see Shin-Soo Choo as an everyday OF in '09? Should the Tribe make a play for Adrian Beltre if Seattle wants to cut payroll?

Joe Sheehan: I think he's a strong platoon player, has been for something like three years. He should be part of the solution next year. And if you can get Beltre for the last year of his deal, it's a no-brainer. He's a bit above average at the plate and above average in the field.

Jerod (Gresham, OR): A hypothetical...if you were Jim Riggelman and Morrow had finished the 8th with a no hitter on Friday, would you have left him in to pitch the 9th?

Joe Sheehan: At 106 pitches, probably yes. Although I wouldn't have been too upset to see him give up a hit. Tough spot for a manager.

mymrbig (New Orleans): Any thoughts on Ryan Doumit's defense behind the plate? The bat has looked nice and his health has largely held up. Being arbitration eligible, is he trade fodder or a piece of the future?

Joe Sheehan: Good enough to stay there. Not every catcher has to be Brad Ausmus, and Doumit hits enough to be a -5, -10 glove and still be an asset. I doubt he'll be in Pittsburgh when the team is good enough to contend.

Jack (Chicago): Joe, in your opinion, would Mark Cuban buying the Cubs be a good thing for baseball?

Joe Sheehan: Good thing. Owners motivated by winning are the best thing for the game. Cuban wants to win. Get 30 of them, and you have a great, great league. It's David Glass, Jeffrey Loria and their ilk, who are more concerned with where to get money in other ways, that damage a league.

mymrbig (New Orleans): As an Astros fan, I started the year thinking Ed Wade had made a bunch of bold moves that improved the team, but not really to the point of contention. And I still hated him as a GM (Kaz Matsui?!?). Should I be giving him another chance?

Joe Sheehan: Few GMs are better at finishing between .505 and .540. If that's the goal--and it seems to be Drayton McLane's--he's your guy.

MikeJordan23 (Brooklyn): I know you guys don't care about awards, but I keep hearing in the media that "nobody in the NL is having a standout season, so it's wide open". Am I crazy, or is Pujols clearly the MVP, and having his best season?

Joe Sheehan: He's pretty clearly the most valuable player in the league, until you start parsing the word "valuable" 17 different ways. Whether he gets the MVP...I would say he's not the favorite at the moment. Hey, it's not my credibility.

Tom (Miami): If you were the Marlins, would you field offers for Dan Uggla this offseason and give the 2B job to Chris Coghlan?

Joe Sheehan: I would do half of that. Uggla has peaked, and trading him now would be a good idea. That said, the Marlins are in position to trade offense for defense a bit, and maybe instead of Coghlan, they could look for someone with more glove than bat.

LindInMoskva (DC): In a strat league where a player is limited to the number of plate appearances he had in real life, is it a reasonable strategy to bat guys with tons of usage up at the top, regardless of whether they have the attributes for the lineup slot? For example does lineup order matter enough to avoid batting Adrian Gonzalez leadoff? Theriot 5th? Longoria 8th? I am somewhat inclined to just fill out the card in reverse order of available usage thinking that it is better to have my best players out there as many games as possible regardless of where they bat.

Joe Sheehan: I don't worry about usage in a league like that until midway through the season, because you can always bench guys when you're out of it, and if you're contending, you can acquire PT in the trade market or micromanage over the last half of the year. I would never structure my lineup--and because the cards have known values, lineups are more important in Strat than in real life--worrying about usage.

Rob (Houston): Is there a 'good leadoff-hitting OF' to be had?

Joe Sheehan: I don't see it, but then again, I'm chatting.

Sometimes, I can't tell if it's good pitching or lousy hitting. A game like this White Sox/Jays one...I just can't tell. There are some really bad approaches in this game.

Tim (DC): Can you ever see MLB commissioner and owners allowing a patch on players uniforms if it was Donald Fehr who passed away, and not Gene Upshaw from the NFL? I find that whole thing filled with irony.

Joe Sheehan: The difference between one having been a player and the other not renders the comparison somewhat meaningless. I do think--and I sincerely hope we don't have to address this for a long, long time--that MLB's response when Marvin Miller passes will be interesting to watch.

Frank (Vegas): follow-up question; so what, realistically, will change wrt the draft after the Alvarez fallout, or later, if anything?

Joe Sheehan: The only path to radical change might be if Alvarez is declared a free agent (unlikely), is subsequently signed to a deal that so clearly lays out how much money the draft is transferring from draftees to management, and thus emboldens a player to challenge it in court.

TheBunk (Toronto): Why is it that a minor leaguer who has a 1.93 era between three levels in the minors(including a great stint in double a) who has an arsenal of an outstanding change and great control, can only seem to garner the ceiling of a 5th starter. Doesn't this sound like Shaun Marcum part deux?

Joe Sheehan: Because most guys like that have exactly that ceiling. Some break through with excellent command, or an ability to keep the ball down, but most pitchers who lack a good fastball don't make it in MLB. We tend to focus on the exceptions, but the rule exists for a reason.

Mike (Behind the RF Wall): What should Abreu's next deal look like? Who should give it to him?

Joe Sheehan: I'd give him three years with an option, and if he takes a pay cut, it won't be for that much. He's a pretty good hitter.

I'd also then put a foot of cotton padding on the right field wall, and hope that helped Abreu get past his shyness.

Pat (Ill.): In the playoffs, what do you think the Cubs chances are to make the World Series without Big Z? How about without Big Z and without Harden?

Joe Sheehan: I just don't believe that any team is ever more than maybe a 17% favorite or less than a 9-10% dog once you get to the playoffs. If the Cubs are at the top end of that range with both, they're in the middle with one, and the bottom with neither.

Omar Minaya (New York, New York): What's a better way for me to spend $16 million this offseason: blow it all on KRod, or get 3 relievers for ~$5 million each, and hope one of them can close?

Joe Sheehan: Invite a bunch of guys to spring training to fight for relief spots, and spend the $16 million on a high-OBP player, or a starting pitcher likely to throw 200 innings.

I will say this, which came up on the radio this morning. The track record of FA reliever signings is a hell of a lot better than the track record of FA starter signings. Not saying I want Rodriguez for five years and $90 million, just the the category seems to be less dangerous.

TGisriel (Baltimore): As the season draws to a close and Adam Jones returns from the DL, I see his first season with the O's to be a significant success. He has been excellent defensively in CF. Moreover, I have seen significant progress in his batting, with greater strike zone judgment and power. Are your observations similar?

Joe Sheehan: Yes. I actually pegged him for a big second half, and he's played well, just had the injury take a chunk out of his playing time. Jones is going to be a championship-caliber center fielder, comparable to Vernon Wells' peak seasons at his best, and he'll retain his speed and defense better than Wells has. Jones, Nick Marakis and Matt Weiters can be the core of a very good team.

dianagramr (Queens): Would allowing the trading of amateur draft picks help alleviate some of the problems lower revenue clubs have in signing 1st round picks? After the playoffs are over, but before the draft begins, draft picks may be swapped (only that current year's draft) ... lower revenue teams might be able to pick up some reasonable ML talent from higher revenue teams that way. Workable?

Joe Sheehan: Yeah, we hear a lot about this--"the problems lower revenue clubs have in signing first-round picks"--but is there any real evidence it's happening? And if there is, are we confusing willingness and opportunity again? Maybe if MLB would stop trying to backdoor a slotting system, and teams could just sign the players without that centralized approach, teams would spend more time drafting players to help them win ballgames and less time whining about money or keeping industry labor costs down.

Trieu (Cambridge, MA): The flip side to the irrational panic in Tampa is the irrational exuberance in Boston. It's a fun series because these are two excellent teams, but the current Sox-Rays tilt means very little given that they're both virtual locks to make the playoffs. The local announcers here are calling this the most important series of the season. It's silly!

Joe Sheehan: Nothing to add, just wanted to run this comment.

J.P. (Hartford): Would Delgado be the least valuable MVP winner ever? I know there probably has to be somebody from the 50s or 60s like Hank Sauer that had worse seasons, but no one recently is jumping to mind. And this is comign from a Mets fan who would slot him behind Wright, Reyes, Beltran, Santana and Pelfrey.

Joe Sheehan: He'd be in the mix. I don't think he's a realistic candidate, but then again, I didn't think Shannon Stewart could finish fourth a few years ago. Delgado is the third-best player in his own team's infield. That would be one hell of a bad MVP.

Ira (North Texas): If Ben Sheets signs with the Rangers this off-season, and the Rangers can re-up milton bradley for another one year contract, is it outside the realm of believability that the Rangers can contend next year? or is their pitching and defense still too much to overcome?

Joe Sheehan: It's just so hard to know what you'll get from so many players, and you're talking about bringing in, or bringing back, two guys who add greatly to that uncertainty. I can see a scenario where the Rangers contend next year, but I suspect the better thing for the franchise in the long term is to worry less about 2009, and be ready to go Rays on the league in 2010.

glenihan (nyc): Is Cody Ross a potential target for the Yankees? I think he's heading to arbitration, can't imagine the Marlins want to pay him

Joe Sheehan: Platoon player, marginal center fielder. Not a solution.

Drew (Seattle): Any concrete numbers that can prove who is the most rooted for MLB team? I have an argument with one of my buddies all the time on this...

Joe Sheehan: Attendance, merchandise and ratings generally put the Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs ahead of the pack.

Aaron (YYZ): How screwed are the Jays in the AL East in the coming years if MacPhail can keep Angelos from screwing things up in Baltimore?

Joe Sheehan: I can't feel sympathy for a team owned by a massive telecommunications firm, with an entire nation to market to, that has assembled the best run-prevention team since, what, the mid-'90s Braves?

I mean, they hit like Carson Kressley, but still...

Tie Twist (Brampton): How would you rank these three offensively, relative to adding value to your team (considering position), if you had to pick: Pedroia Kinsler Tulowitzki Swisher

Joe Sheehan: Kinsler, Pedroia, Swisher, Tulo. I'll give you a pass on your counting skills.

denny187 (WI): Back to the first question because I came in late, but you don't think the Brewers, Mets or Phillies are better than the AL's 7th best team?

Joe Sheehan: Third-order wins: Red Sox, Rays, Cubs, Jays, Yankees, White Sox, Brewers, Mets. So yes, I probably exaggerated.

Jed (San Francisco): Joe!! Why the HELL is anybody in here chatting with you when they could be watching the removal of the Berkeley tree sitters LIVE! http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/feature?section=news&id=6372996 Didn't you used to be an east bay guy?

Joe Sheehan: No, L.A. Gary's a Bay Area guy. Interesting that this is finally happening, though.

Brad (Chicago): Ryan Zimmerman in '09. Buy or Sell his bat?

Joe Sheehan: Buy.

J.P. (Hartford): Was looking at Beltran's DT card the other day, is he a future answer to 'best player not in the hall of fame?'

Joe Sheehan: If he passes Santo and Blyleven in value, he'll get in. The heroics with the Astros will carry some weight, and I strongly suspect he's going to age very well.

Trieu (Cambridge, MA): Dunking a basketball or dunking donuts?

Joe Sheehan: Either. I don't like dunked donuts. Cookies, yes. Donuts get too mushy.

big baby (nj): Blue jays sign pat burrell in off-season for a legitimate DH that probably won't cost that much?

Joe Sheehan: If you say so. Burrell strikes me as four years and $72 million, at least. He has pretty strong basic numbers.

blaseta (Calgary): How would you compare Hanley's contribution to defense versus Pujols'? If they contributed equally offensively (and for the record I'm not saying they do, but I could see it being close in the future), who would you rather have?

Joe Sheehan: Ramirez. There's no amount of actual defense at their positions, within a realistic range, that could make up for the value of having Ramirez/1B instead of Pujols/SS.

Joe Sheehan: Thanks, everyone. Those of you in Indianapolis, St. Louis and Boston can get the audio version of this entertainment this afternoon. The rest of you...I'll be back before the year ends. Go watch A.J. Burnett now.

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