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Chat: Jay Jaffe

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday October 09, 2008 2:00 PM ET chat session with Jay Jaffe.


Jay Jaffe, who wrote our NLCS Preview, stops by to talk about both MLB semifinals.

Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to this NLCS-flavored chat. We're still about six hours away from first pitch, but as a Dodger fan, I've got butterflies in my stomach already.

lrgreen (NYC): What is the best way to objectively anaylze overall managerial effectiveness - beyond winning pct? Must I go to the grave believing that Joe Torre is a genius simply because he has had the keys to the Cadillac more than say, Buddy Bell? Could John McNamara be in the books as one of the greats had he managed better teams? Was Sparky really that smart?

Jay Jaffe: I don't know that we've got a "best way" to objectively analyze managerial performance at all. Simply going by Pythagorean over/under or by team scoring and prevention levels doesn't tell us a hell of a lot. One has to take into account the resources that were at a manager's disposal, the various key decisions that were made in situations that were hardly static. It's a very subjective area.

That said, my namesake Chris Jaffe (no relation) did some studies regarding managers a couple years ago and made a presentation at the SABR convention that I did find interesting. Unfortunately, the links to the piece that I Googled aren't working and I don't have time to dig deeper right now, so I can't summarize it.

jjaffe (test): test

Jay Jaffe: Folks, we're experiencing some technical difficulties right now, with submitted questions apparently disappearing into the ether. Apologies for any delays while we try to sort this out.

BrownDog (Cape Cod, MA): Hi Jay. In picking the Dodgers in six, which of these five factors do you believe weighs most heavily in LA's favor: Pitching, Offense, Fielding, Matchups or Momentum?

Jay Jaffe: Pitching. The more I look at the matchups, the more I like the fact that the Dodgers have a groundball-heavy staff that doesn't give up a lot of homers, the fact that in Kuo they've got a potentially dominant late-inning lefty in the bullpen along with another pretty good one in Beimel, and the way their rotation aligns with regards to the possiblity that Derek Lowe pitches 1-4-7.

tiptonhr (Knoxville): Are they disappearing into the Andre Ethier?

Jay Jaffe: I knew that one was going to show up.

Tim (Sonoma, CA): What do you think about the starting pitcher decision that Torre will have to make in Game 4? It seems like you're really rolling the dice with either Kershaw or Maddux.

Jay Jaffe: Agreed, and I think it makes MUCH more sense to come back with Lowe on three days rest in Game Four. He's a sinkerballer, and sinkerballers are better suited to pitching on short rest than most other pitchers. Add to that the fact that he's on a career-year roll and to me it's almost a no-brainer unless he gets lit in Game One.

Chris (Chicago): Is there any possible way to quantify defense? I know that there are range factors, etc; but how can we evaluate if guys get a good read on the ball, or instincts of players? Is this the next step in sabermatics?

Jay Jaffe: I haven't looked at a range factor in years - groundball/flyball and lefty/righty hitter distributions render raw RF irrelevant. I prefer looking at Defensive Efficiency, the percentage of times a team turns a batted ball into an out. It doesn't give you an individual read on each player but it does work at the team level, and that's an important concept.

As for the good reads and instincts, that sounds more like something scouting is going to tell you than something the stat sheets will. By no means am I trying to knock that, it's just that I don't think you can quantify those things even if we get to that mythical point that was being touted a few years ago (there was an Alan Schwartz article, I believe) with all of the ballpark cameras able to tell us how many feet to his left Derek Jeter moves on average or whatever.

Rob (Brighton): I know that we've all got better things to talk about, and I don't want this to dominate the chat, but I would like your input on the whole MannyBeingAQuitter debate. Also, can we call it MannyGate from now on? MannyGate 08 has a great ring to it.

Jay Jaffe: I did an article a few weeks back weighing in on Ramirez and the way his exit from Boston was aided by the cozy relationship between the Red Sox brass and the Boston media elite (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=8062). I'm not going to rehash it here except to say that there are a lot of competing agendas out there with regards to the stories that are being circulated. The bottom line is that the Sox did just fine for themselves by acquiring Bay, but they also added yet another name to the rolls of Boston superstars who left town on less than happy terms.

ripfan008 (Baltimore): Hi Jay. Thanks for chatting. The more I read about Joe Gordon, the more he seems to be a truly great player who's career was effected by WWII. Give him those 3 seasons and he stacks up well against HOF 2nd baseman. What are you thoughts?

Jay Jaffe: I've looked at Gordon's case via the lens of JAWS a couple times, and I'm due for a new set of numbers to run through this year's VC and BBWAA ballots soon.

Gordon was impressive in his prime, and while we can adequately extrapolate for the missing military service years (of which there were only two, 1944-1945, followed by a horrendous 1946 performance), the fact that he retired after his Age 35 season ultimately hurts his cause far more.

Wendy (Madrid): Does this mean Ned Colletti knows what he's doing? If I'm a Dodgers fan, do I care? Even if we win the World Series by mistake... we still win the World Series!!!

Jay Jaffe: Blind chickens, kernals of corn, etc. If Colletti knows what he's doing, how come he'll be left with about $25 million/year in bad outfielders to contend with if he wants to keep the current Manny-Kemp-Ethier lineup out there every day?

That the Dodgers are where they are has more to do with their player development resources (the kids in their lineup and the ones traded to acquire Ramirez, Blake, et al) than anything else. Throw in some smart decisions during the Paul DePodesta regime (the Derek Lowe contract, the decision to convert Broxton to a closer) and it's clear that this isn't just Colletti's team to take credit for.

The bottom line, however, is that the Dodgers haven't been in this position in 20 years. However it came about and whatever happens from here on out, enjoy it for all that it's worth.

MJ (Edmonton): Jay, kind of an odd question: Why don't we ever see any left handed catchers?

Jay Jaffe: Hmmm. I guess the conventional wisdom is that a lefty catcher is at a disadvantage in throwing to third base with a righty at bat. That seems to be a pretty small percentage of the time that it would matter, though. Maybe one of these days we'll get a team to think outside the box and show us one.

Mike K (Athens, GA): What's your guilty music pleasure?

Jay Jaffe: Aside from all of that theoretical file-sharing that I'm not actually engaged in, officer?

The one that springs to mind, for some reason, is Nancy Sinatra, and particularly the Country, My Way album. I'm a HUGE Lee Hazlewood fan, and the Nancy and Lee duets are great, but Nancy solo is... very fluffy, and the country stuff rather ersatz. And I've played the hell out of that album since I bought it seven or eight years ago.

Matt (Athens OH): So far this October, Justin Masterson has been the bridge to Papelbon for the Red Sox. And a scary bridge he's been. Is there any chance Delcarmen and his better peripheral numbers get a shot at that role?

Jay Jaffe: Perhaps the Red Sox most glaring weakness all year long has been their relief pitching in front of Papelbon, no question. Okajima didn't have the season he had in 2007, Delcarmen had a shot at the 7-8 inning role earlier in the year and didn't really nail it (he has the most PA of any Red Sox pitcher in the 7th, and 2nd most in the 8th, though in what leverage situations I don't know offhand). I've championed Masterson before and I still think he can be a part of a productive late-inning solution due to his abiltiy to generate groundballs, but I still think the Sox are a pitcher short back there, and it may cost them eventually.

Wendy (Madrid): I agree with you regarding Colleti, but that was my point. If they win, does it matter how they got there? Even if it means getting stuck with him for three more years, a championships this year is worth it, right?

Jay Jaffe: Unless it means mortgaging the future of the franchise, yes. Flags. Fly. Forever.

Scott (DC ): Who do you think will be the better player in two years, Ryan Zimmerman or Elijah Dukes?

Jay Jaffe: Zimmerman. He's a year younger, has a more refined approach at the plate, much greater defensive value, and no known makeup issues.

That's not to say that Dukes didn't make some pretty impressive strides this year. He's got a lot to live down, but so far as I recall he didn't add to his woes this year. I liked Bowden's gamble on him at the time, and I like it even more now.

Bill (CT): If the Twins held onto Santana or took the Red Sox package (Lester/Crisp/Lowrie) they would be in the playoffs. Will the package they got from the Mets ultimately be viewed as a good move or will they regret the way they handled the situation?

Jay Jaffe: Do we really know that a Lester/Crisp/Lowrie package was actually on the table, or was that a bug planted in the public ear by somebody from the Boston FO/Media yenta hotline? I seem to recall more of the talk focusing on Ellsbury at the front end of the package, but I have long since forgotten most of what transpired there.

It will take years to properly evaluate the deal that actually was made. Will Gomez develop into a guy worthy of a leadoff spot? Will Deolis Guerra become a big league pitcher of worth? Will Mulvey and Humber become useful rotation parts? All of these things take time to sort out.

Even with this deal, the Twins would have been in the playoffs had they punted on Livan Hernandez and brought up Francisco Liriano a couple weeks earlier.

Matt (Chicago): I feel I've read several pieces by mainstream media members suggesting that Manny should be NL MVP (Jon Heyman comes to mind -- his top 4 in order were Manny, C.C., Howard and Lidge). I think the sentiment is widespread enough that Manny will certainly get some votes. Putting aside where you think he should end up, where do you think he will end up in the voting?

Jay Jaffe: I've done all of my Internet Baseball Awards ballots except for the two MVP awards because I wanted to think them over some more. There's no way I've got Manny atop the ballot, but i'd give him down-ballot consideration, and I wouldn't be surprised if he finishes somewhere in the middle (4-7 maybe). I'm pulling the lever for Pujols.

I had Sabathia 3rd for the Cy behind Lincecum and Santana but ahead of Lidge and Hamels. I don't think it should be higher than that, but I bent over backwards to make sure I wasn't letting the posseason results influence that.

mattymatty (Philly): Going into this season Phil Hughes and Clay Buchholz were widely considered to be two of the best young pitchers in the game. Both had what might kindly be termed lost seasons. Were we wrong to think they were so good? What do you think about them going forward? Thanks!

Jay Jaffe: As we like to say around these parts: TNSTAAPP. There's no such thing as a pitching prospect, because pitchers don't develop in orderly fashion. Injuries happen, mechanical flaws manifest themselves, crises of confidence occur, hitters adjust, and suddenly guys don't look like the ones in the catalog.

Both Hughes and Buchholz had lost years, but it's way too early to give up on them given the promise they've shown and the health of their arms. Most pitchers who are anointed top prospects have faced little adversity over the course of their careers to get to that point - they've dominated just about every level. Figuring out how to cope with failure, adversity and opponents' adjustments is all part of the learning curve, and some guys take longer to do that than others.

TGisriel (Baltimore): Do you have any feel for how much better a team the Dodgers are now than they were during the seaon in light of the fact that they now have Furcal and they are not playing Andrew Jones?

Jay Jaffe: Hmmm. Those are two different questions since it wasn't a choice between Furcal and Andruw. As a back-of-the-envelope estimate, I'd say they would have been a minimum of 5-6 wins better with Furcal at shortstop over the course of the year instead of Berroa/Hu/Garciaparra. A Manny-Kemp-Ethier outfield that doesn't assume Manny putting up a .398 EqA all year might be worth another five wins. Discount all of that by a little since Country, My Way is now spinning on my CD player and perhaps impairing my judgment and you still get to a Dodgers team that's more of a 92-94 win proposition than an 84-win one.

JL (Portland): Buchholz pitched about 140 innings between MLB and AAA. How is that a "lost" season? He didn't pitch well with the Sox, but isn't the experience of the year worth something?

Jay Jaffe: It's a lost season in that he was a replacement level pitcher who was basically interchangeable with - Miguel Batista? Mark Hendrickson? Josh Fogg? - somebody like that. A more valuable season could have flipped the AL East standings, perhaps even giving the Sox home field advantage throughout the playoffs, for one thing. For another, it's a reasonable assumption that Buchholz will be a better pitcher about 6 years from now when he costs more money and has leverage on the open market.

That said, the Sox are in the playoffs, his arm is still attached at the shoulder, and the experience of dealing with adversity is a lesson not to be taken lightly. Stuff happens, and he and the Red Sox will hope for better just like Hughes and the Yankees will.

lrgreen (NYC): Speaking of TNSTAAPP, does the same ring true for Homer Bailey? Any significant thoughts about his development or is it similar to your comments on Buchholz & Hughes...thanks.

Jay Jaffe: From the people I've talked to who are closer to the situation, Bailey appears to have some serious makeup issues that weren't necessarily foreseen at the time he was considered such hot stuff. Confidence and even cockiness aren't necessarily detriments in a ballplayer, but uncoachability - the word that gets tossed around a lot in conjunction with his name - is.

I have a hunch he gets traded by Opening Day next year. A change of scenery is probably in his best interest.

Jake (Dallas): So which prospect SPs take the place of Price, Kershaw, etc. as the next big thing?

Jay Jaffe: Well, I don't think we're done seeing if those guys get over the hump yet, particularly considering Price has just 14 innings under his belt.

IANKG (I am not Kevin Goldstein) but looking over his Top 100 update from earlier in the summer, Rick Porcello (Detroit), Neftali Feliz (Texas) and Chris Tillman (Baltimore) look like the highly-ranked guys who moved up without losing eligibility. Beyond that, I'm out of my league.

Jared (Manhattan): Re: "MannyGate" Can we please stop using the term "______Gate" for every news story? Watergate was the hotel, not a scandal involving water.

Jay Jaffe: You're still bitter about that whole Applegate thing, aren't you?

mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): Tampa is a great story. Is there any hope for Pirates fans?

Jay Jaffe: Well, they've got a relatively new management team in place and got off to a good start with this summer's prospect haul. That's a start, but you know, what happened in Tampa is something of a perfect storm created by a huge stockpile of draft picks, a very ahead-of-the-curve management team and a moment of weakness for the richest team in the game.

The Pirates may indeed have a good management team in the front office (I don't think they've done enough to be definitively lauded yet) but they are light years away from a Tampa-like stockpile of young talent because they've drafted poorly and been penny-wise and pound-foolish too many times. It almost happened again with Pedro Alvarez but at least he's in the fold now.

kingofstyle (NY): Homer Bailey for JJ Hardy - reasonable deal?

Jay Jaffe: Me, I wouldn't take Bailey for a J.J. Hardy rookie card, let alone Hardy himself, at least right now. Hardy's been worth about 14 WARP3 the past two years, and while the Brewers have a prospect in Alicedes Escobar, if they're going to trade their starting SS for pitching, they've got to get back somebody who's much more developed, a surer bet.

zstine1 (baltimore): How is defensive efficiency adjusted for the types of pitchers (ground ball verus fly ball) and their home park. would a team that played on astro turf have a lower ground ball defensive efficiency but a higher line drive efficiency?

Jay Jaffe: PADE is the park-adjusted form of Defensive Efficiency, but it's basically dealing with a team's home and road defensive performances, not groundball/flyball. Essentially you're asking to look at individual pitcher BABIP rates (DE is more or less 1 - BABIP unless you account for Reached on Error totals), which are easily located but relatively unstable from year to year.

As for turf teams, in PADE they get park factors above 1.0 - easier than average to defend. Minnesota, Tampa and Toronto are three of the top four easiest to defend, with Oakland and its huge foul territory joining their ranks.

Yanick (Brooklyn): Homer Bailey is worthless right now... I'd look at whatever the Indians gave for Anthony Reyes. Maybe Bailey fetches a little more but not much.

Jay Jaffe: Very good point. The Tribe gave up an oldish minor-league reliever named Luis Perdomo - live arm, but only in Double A at age 24. Christina Kahrl hit this well here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=7866#SLN

mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): Yes, I agree. But isn't the NL Central a great place for a team like the Pirates to make some headway and make a run for the playoffs?

Jay Jaffe: It's a better place than the AL East, to be sure, but even so, they're in a deep hole relative to resource-rich club like the Cubs (who have the $) or the Brewers (who have the talent pipeline in fine working order). It's going to take several years of good drafting and astute trades - don't forget that good deals are a big reason why the Rays are where they are. They stole Kazmir, Jackson and Navarro, and got Peņa for free...

Matt (SF, CA): What's your read on Mike Napoli? How does he not have a full time job?

Jay Jaffe: Napoli is a fine hitter but below average behind the dish, -8 FRAA here, and 11/63 (17%) in catching base stealers; I have no idea what pitchers think about throwing to him but maybe they don't love it. Let's remember that ex-catcher Scioscia's certainly got a point of view here too.

Meanwhile, Mathis was +7, while throwing out 26% by comparison. They're both young, they both have their merits (I don't think Mathis is as bad as we saw with the bat this year or Napoli as good), and so long as the Angels have a surplus that they don't need to turn into something else, they can afford to share the job while they sort out who's who.

bjealous (NYC): Jay- On lefty catchers, there is also the issue of them being at a disadvantage throwing to second with a righty batting. That being said, Im not sure how far skewed the league is towards right handed hitters at this point. One other minor thing - it is almost impossible to find a lefty catchers mitt these days.

Jay Jaffe: I seem to recall coming across a lefty softball catchers mitt in a sporting goods store a few years back. It was such a rare thing I almost sprung for it even though I'm a righty.

Steve (Clearwater FL): More annoying than the use of the -gate suffix for scandals and controversies is the Rays being referred to as the "Tampa Rays" or just "Tampa".They are the Tampa BAY Rays, named after the geographical area, not the city. They don't even play in Tampa, they play in St. Petersburg. You never hear anyone refer to the "Green Packers", so why should Tampa Bay be any different?

Jay Jaffe: Because outside of Tampa Bay, nobody cares? Kidding of course. Ask the Rays management why they aren't the St. Petersburg Rays instead. And be glad the team is being talked about so favorably after years of being a joke.

pestevez (Miami): Do you see Dewitt as a semi long term answer at 2B for the Dodgers? I don't recall their having an upcoming 2B in the system.

Jay Jaffe: Gonna double up this question with one my friend Nick keeps trying to submit:

Who is the real Furcal? The .814 OPS from 2006? The .688 in 2007? Should this year's injury issues give the Dodgers pause about resigning him?

Furcal is a fantastic, MVP-caliber player when healthy, which is about two months a year lately. I think his injury should definitely make the Dodgers think twice about signing him. I'm not opposed to it (perhaps overly jazzed about what he's shown in the last three games) but if they do I'd like to see another shorter-term deal (3 years max) with some incentive clauses or vesting options in there.

As for DeWitt, the Dodgers have him, Chin-Lung Hu and hopefully Tony Abreu as up-and-comers, and as I said in last week's roundtable, that leaves them many options to fill their infield in a post-Kent, post-Blake (and post-LaRoche) world. It's too obvious for them to try to let all of those young 'uns have jobs, so they're likely to sign/acquire/retain at least one of the Furcal/Kent/Blake lot and then let the others battle it out for two positions.

I'm not entirely convinced DeWitt's a good enough fielder at 2B. I'm also not convinced his bat can carry 3B yet. I think the chances of one of those two coming through in the next couple years is decent, but I don't know which one, and I'm not sure the Dodgers do either.

HRFastness (MKE): So, if your Doug Melvin, are you trading JJ? Moving him to 2B and Weeks to Center? Essentially, the question is this: If you're Dough Melvin, what trades and positional moves are you making for the Brewers this winter?

Jay Jaffe: I'd think about moving Hardy to 2B or 3B to accommodate Escobar (or maybe he moves, I don't know without talking to somebody more knowledgeable about his defense), I'd think about moving Weeks to CF or another team.

I think Prince Fielder may be a more tradable/replaceable commodity than Hardy. I know one of the big media wags proposed a Fielder/Matt Cain swap, which makes sense given the Brewers' need for pitching in a post-Sheets, post-Sabathia world. The Brewers would hear about it from their fans, though.

Daniel (Paris): Being french and a soccer fan, I can't understand why there is playoffs at the end of the regular season, isn't it enough to play 162 games to determine which team is the best? I understand that win or die formats are fun but in this case you could have another competition with a tournament format.

Jay Jaffe: French AND a soccer fan? My God, man, you've got two strikes against you already... But I'm kidding. Seriously, I'm flattered that someone half a world away is taking an interest in baseball and BP.

We here in America tend to like playoffs, whether you're talking about a one-game winner-take-all like the Super Bowl or a best-of-seven like the World Series, because they create a spectacle that captures a much larger audience than in the regular season. For baseball, the tradition of doing so goes back over a century, and baseball loves none of its traditions as much as the World Series. Of course, that would be more obvious if Fox weren't subjecting us to the factually challenged, obnoxious team of Tim McCarver and Joe Buck to narrate that spectacle every year.

As for "another competition with a tournament format," well, the World Baseball Classic is trying to accomplish that but facing problems of buy-ins because of the timing and the fragility of pitchers' arms. The WBC was a fun exhibition last time around, but it didn't settle anything because many of the top players from the various countries didn't particiapte.

Jay Jaffe: Folks, that's all I've got time for today. Thanks for stopping by, and look for more BP author chats and roundtables as the postseason continues. And go Dodgers!

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