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Chat: Jay Jaffe

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday December 17, 2009 1:00 PM ET chat session with Jay Jaffe.


With winter action worth talking about, you'll want to ask Jay Jaffe about what's on his particular hit list.

Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to today's chat. I'm taking a welcome break from the high-stress period we call "book season" around these parts to warm my self by the hot stove. Powered by selections from a 15-hour Fela Kuti playlist and the impending arrival of my banh mi from Nicky's...

Nick Stone (New York, NY): Considering the Angels were able to sign Matsui for only 6.5 million, Were the Yankees penny-wise, pound-foolish in letting him walk? The difference between making and not making the playoffs is worth a lot more than that. Do you think they'll definitely retain Damon? If not, it would seem like Nick Johnson would be a good DH fit. Or maybe both? If they stay put, they'll essentially have substituted Granderson for Damon, and full-time Cabrera/Gardner for Matsui

Jay Jaffe: The Helen Thomas honors go to my good friend today... I think that you're onto something here, particularly given what a reasonable contract Matsui signed. Johnson would be a decent fit, albeit limiting in a similar way to Matsui in that he wouldn't likely see any time on the field, and by the time it's all said and done, the price difference seems to be pretty small.

I do think they wind up retaining Damon; it sounds like 2/$26 million could get it done.

Eli (Brooklyn): Thoughts on Posada's hall worthiness? If he and Damon are marginal, the '09 Yanks seem to have a lot of sure, possible, and potential HOFers on one team--which team had the most?

Jay Jaffe: I've written about Posada's Hall case more often than just about any active player in recent years; he needs to continue his strong hitting through the life of his contract in order to put himself in range, though winning another ring helped.

I believe that various Yankees of the late '20s and early '30s had as many as nine Hall of Famers plus manager at one point. It's tough to see these Yanks matching that. Jeter and Rivera are locks. A-Rod will need the steroid-related heat to cool off. Posada and Damon have to keep hitting, and Pettitte pitching his way into Don Sutton territory. Teixeira and Sabathia, both much further away, have to make good on their contracts and then some... and you're still a couple players and a manager way from topping that mark, which depeneded on the love from a much different Veterans Committee than we've got now.

Nick (San Francisco): I really hate the idea of a rotating DH spot for the Yanks because it means the Yanks will have to rely on positional depth which has not been strong point in recent years. Also, the market for a primary DH is flooded and can be had for cheap. My question is, does the rotating DH spot make any sort of sense? And more generally, what should the Yanks do the rest of the offseason?

Jay Jaffe: I don't have a problem conceptually with the idea of a rotating DH spot, particularly with a bunch of guys who need rest built into their regimens -- A-Rod, Posada, even Jeter and Damon, if he returns -- but you're absolutely right, they need some depth in order to make that worth their while. Mark DeRosa would seem to be a very good choice for such a task, and he's still out there if the Yankees want to go that route.

Beyond that, the Yankees' need to solve left field one way or another, and find a capable back-rotation type who would be comfortable working out of the bullpen so Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes can both get a shot at the rotation.

JimmyJack (Issaquah, WA): Hi Jay (or as I call you, "Hall of Fame Man" - yes, pretty cool!) Anyway, if I'm a bettin' man I'd wager that Cooperstown waits a year on Larkin and Alomar but lets in Blyleven ('bout time!) and Dawson (love him, but,...no). What are your thoughts on this and TIM RAINES? If Dawson IS going in, it would be cool if he went with Raines. Thanks for the chat!

Jay Jaffe: I suspect Larkin's got an uphill battle ahead of him. Alomar will probably take a couple of years due to the spitting thing and the grisly end to his career, both bogus reasons to keep him out. Dawson seems to be an inevitability, though I'm firmly against it. I'd love to believe it's Blyleven's year, but my heart has been broken too many times. As for Raines, well, I suspect he could be there by the time my stathead brethren get the right to vote, though he absolutely deserves to be in.

Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): Did the Jays get enough back for Roy Halladay?

Jay Jaffe: I'm not a prospect guy, but I think Alex Anthopoulos played his hand about as well as could be expected given his minimal leverage - the consensus among the talent experts is that the Jays got more back than the Twins did for Johan Santana (it would be hard to do worse, I think).

strupp (Madison): No rooting interest with any team involved, but isn't 4 yrs of Doc, plus the prospects a much better deal than the prospects lost, 1 yr of Lee, and the potential to lose out on Lee to higher 2011 bidder & the chance that they get outbid for Doc OR the chance Doc never makes it to 2011 FA? Thanks for the chat as always, Jay.

Jay Jaffe: My attention span isn't long enough to reach the end of that whopper of a sentence, but yes, this is a win for the Phillies, albeit one tempered by the mis-play of trading Lee when they didn't really have to. While I think his dollar estimates as to what Halladay surrendered are a bit high, I'm basically on board with Joe Sheehan's take on that end of the deal.

Jonathan (Baton Rouge): Jay, can any baseball players challenge Tiger Woods as athlete of the decade? ARod? Pujols? Santana? Riviera?

Jay Jaffe: It's a difficult comparison to make between a team sport and an individual one, but the players you mention have been about as good at what they do as Tiger has at what he does (the golfing, not the skirt-chasing), and with the exception of Santana, "greatest ever at _____" tags are within their grasp as well.

Tiger and A-Rod should have lunch sometime soon...

Zebs335 (Boston): When does your "Franchise of the Decade" article come out? Also, franchise of the '90's -- Braves or Yankees?

Jay Jaffe: I don't know that we're doing a Franchise of the Decade piece, but IIRC Rob Neyer hit the topic right after the World Series and it basically came down to Yankees and Red Sox. The Yankees' success is a bit more diffuse given their gap between titles and the fact that they didn't need to overcome nearly a century of mishaps to do so. I'm ok with the idea that the Red Sox success may have had more of an impact on the sport given the legacy they overcame and the trend towards a new generation of front office smarties that they brought about.

As for the 90s, I'd probably go Braves, but either team has its merits depending upon how you define the question.

Justin (Normal, IL): Jay, in your estimation, where would the 2005 White Sox fall under "Teams of the decade." I think they are vastly underrated, albeit I am biased.

Jay Jaffe: Those SOx finished 54th with a .561 Hit List Factor. They only outscored their opponents by 93 runs over the course of the year, but high leverage success (bullpen) pushed them to overachieve by about 12 games according to their Pythag projections.

Drew W (NoVA): Only a handful of teams have a realistic shot at signing Aroldis Chapman, but fifteen teams sent people to his workout. Why? What does it benefit the Nationals, Pirates or A's to attend, when their chances of signing him are so remote?

Jay Jaffe: Like Woody Allen said, 90 percent of life is just showing up.

Who wouldn't want to see him pitch, given the hype? There's a PR benefit to sending somebody, obviously ("Hey look, we're trying!"), and it doesn't hurt to have scouts getting a look at the guy firsthand so they'll have a frame of reference as to his progress or to comparables down the road.

SC (Minneapolis): Alan Trammel or Barry Larkin? Who gets in first?

Jay Jaffe: Given the dead end support Trammell seems to have run into, I'd guess Larkin gets in first, but that's hardly a lock, and it really wouldn't surprise me to see him suffer a similarly unwarranted fate.

mattymatty2000 (philly, pa): "Jays got more back than the Twins did for Johan Santana (it would be hard to do worse, I think)." As you note, that's setting the bar pretty low. Is that the worst trade of the last ten years? I can't think of any that are worse off the top of my head...

Jay Jaffe: Only time will tell, but I think you can make strong cases for the Expos' acquisition of Bartolo Colon (Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips to Cleveland) and the Braves' acquisition of Mark Teixeira (Neftali Felix, Elvis Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia - yeah, I can spell it without looking - et al). Still, it's in the picture for the clinkers of note.

David (NYC): I just re-upped my subscription with BP for the 3rd or 4th straight year and I was sort of bummed that there wasn't any sort of loyalty rate offer. Any thoughts about doing something like that for long-time readers?

Jay Jaffe: From the bottom of my hard little heart, I thank you for your loyalty. I'd love to see us offer just such a discount, but I don't have a say in the matter. Tilt your suggestion towards Kevin Goldstein and you can at least plant the bug in his ear.

Devin (Green Brook, NJ): I'm not a subscriber, so I can only assume that the '03 Tigers are the worst single-season team of the decade. My question is, since they were operating in an era with a lot more player mobility, is it fair to say that they were a worse team than the '62 Mets, despite having a slightly better record?

Jay Jaffe: What is it with New Jersey? A BP sub is good enough for New Yorkers but not youse guys?

The Tigers do indeed have grounds for a reasonable claim of being worse than the 1962 Mets, but you're going to have to find a way to RTFA to know why. Sorry, sport.

HalfStreet (Fairfax VA): The Nationals say they are looking for two veteran starters, and are mentioned in conversation about Jason Marquis and John Garland. Heck, Mike Rizzo even went to see Aroldis Chapman. This is a pivotal year for the Nats to show us fans that their direction is changing. What do you believe the end result of this activity will be?

Jay Jaffe: Marquis and Garland are both reliable inning-eaters who can help take the pressure off a young pitching staff where several pitchers will be on short leashes. Both of those guys need good defenses to survive, and both are probably flippable to contenders at the deadline if you can find a way to absorb the innings late in the year.

It'll still make for another losing season, but if they can help Strasburg, Detwiler and others mature, it will be worth it.

Alex (SF, CA): "but the players you mention have been about as good at what they do as Tiger has at what he does" Really? Tiger is probably the greatest golfer who has ever played. His ten year stretch of dominance is basically unprecedented. I don't see how any of the players mentioned (or for that matter anyone in any sport) have had a 00s that comes even close to that. There have been other great hitters/relievers/pitchers in other decades ya know.

Jay Jaffe: Like I said, it's difficult if not impossible to compare team vs. individual sports, but both Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols have shots at breaking Barry Bonds' all-time home run record and winding up as arguably the best player ever at their position. Mariano Rivera already is, without argument, the best at his, and has been so for a stunningly long time and in particular, when the heat was at its hottest (the postseason) -- though it's admittedly a lesser accomplishment than being an everyday player or even a starter.

Ron (Vancouver): When is the BP 2010 annual coming out? Any new features we should look forward to?

Jay Jaffe: According to Amazon, the street date is February 22nd. I don't know a whole lot about new features, but one that is definitely in there is a new component-based ERA estimator that goes far beyond what FIP, xFIP and QERA do. I believe it will be introduced on-site prior to publication, but I don't know.

Beyond that, this will be the first edition in which I've delivered three teams' worth of player comments - I've done two plus occasionally the extra essay or three in years past. So you've got that going for you.

norcal (slopes): What will become of Phil Hughes? Help me Obi Wan!!

Jay Jaffe: Hughes will go back to the rotation armed with the cut fastball he learned from Mariano Rivera - the reason he become so dominant in relief in 2009 - and will establish himself as an above-average major league starter.

MarkH (Watertown, MA): Jay, as always thanks for the chat! The HoF talk here today got be thinking: on average, how many future HoF players are there during any given year? 5? 10? Has this average remained steady, or does it fluctuate with the times (the golden age, the speedy sixties, etc.)?

Jay Jaffe: The average hasn't so much fluctuated as it has become distorted by the Veterans Committee. The historical peak is just above three HOFers per team per year in the period from 1925-1933. That falls off to just below two per team by the late 1940s. It's well below 1.5 per team from 1969 onward, and below 1.0 per team from 1987 onward. Which is all the more reason why Blyleven, Raines and Trammell should be inducted - it's not like their eras have been overrepresented.

Hokieball (Washington, DC): The Bedard trade might be the worst trade in the history of modern baseball. The M's got almost nothing, and the Orioles ended up with an allstar CF, a future ace SP, a reasonable bullpen arm (Mickolio), and ... via another trade ... their future 3B

Jay Jaffe: Yup, that one is a candidate for the front row of the group photo. My bad for not including it.

SC (Minneapolis): For all the maligning of the Santana deal, the Twins did turn him into an above average MLB SS (Hardy). That's got to be better than the Colon deal, or for that matter the Nathan/Bonser/Liriano for A. J. Pierzynski (I could not spell it without looking it up).

Jay Jaffe: How sure are we Hardy's an above-average SS? I'm a big booster but the guy's had such a hard time pairing consistency and health that I hesitate to call him above average. He's been that guy twice in five years.

Cash (Yankee Stdm): Isn't the real issue that the Yanks ought to be trying to maximizing probable playoff wins and quit worrying about getting Jeter/ARod/etc the odd day off. In other words, signing a legit DH (such as NJohnson/Vlad/etc) is the route that offers the best chance of winning a playoff series.

Jay Jaffe: No. No. No.

Given how competitive the division is, it's imperative that the Yankees keep their expensive over-30 players healthy. Check A-Rod's numbers before and after that moment of reckoning in June where Joe Girardi got the Come to Jesus talk from Rodriguez's doctors and the team brass. Check what happened in 2008 when the Yankees lost Posada for the season due to a shoulder injury - no, that particular injury wouldn't have been prevented by rest, but it's a reminder that a lineup minus a superstar and lacking in depth can look like a lonely October full of golf and hunting.

Nick (San Francisco): I think the question about how many HoF players there are during any given year was not so much about how many are inducted each year, but how many future hall of famers on average are playing each year. Right now there are maybe (just guessing) 30 future hall-of-famers (maybe more). Do you know if there is an average number for that?

Jay Jaffe: That's exactly what i just answered: Hall of Famers per team per year. If we take a broad sample from 1961 to 1992 - the expansion from 16 to just before 28 teams, allowing for the fact that the book isn't closed on the latter, the average is 1.3 per player per team, which suggests closer to 40 today than 30.

russadams (Baffin Bay): The voters have trouble evaluating players with positions, so how are they going to deal with Edgar the DH?

Jay Jaffe: Not well.

I'm not sure they're wrong, either, and I say that as somebody who would put watching Edgar Martinez hit on the short list of Best Things About Baseball in the Nineties. Even conceding the fact that I don't yet have the JAWS data properly cooked yet (it's next on my list), there is a peripheral cost to employing an above-average full-time DH in that you can't easily rest one of your other good hitters without costing your lineup (maybe Ken Griffey could have stayed healthier in his youth, I don't know).

SaberTJ (Cleveland, OH): Jay, I know this this team doesn't fit into the discussed decade, but where would the 100-44 Indians of the strike shortened season fit on that list?

Jay Jaffe: Man, the Indians of the second half of that decade who won five straight AL Central titles were something else; they belong with Edgar on that aforementioned list. Their Hit List Factor was .658, which ranks 28th since 1901 and second in the Nineties (98 Yanks first) assuming we can include them despite the shortened schedule.

bctowns (Tradesville, USA): What about the Twins trading garbage for Joe Nathan, Liriano and AJ Pierzynski? That was a pretty bad trade if memory serves.

Jay Jaffe: I think you mean trading Pierzynski for Nathan, Liriano and Boof Bonser. Also in the picture, but tempered by Liriano's crash and burn and Bonser's injuries and subsequent suckitude. Nathan is statistically the equal of Mariano over the past six years, minus the postseason success.

Dennis (Monterey Park, CA): Thanks for the chat, Jay. Can you rank the following starting pitchers in order of likely effectiveness in 2010: Sheets, Pedro Martinez, Duchscherer, and Bedard?

Jay Jaffe: No. Can you? Because if you can, there's an assistant GM job out there for ya.

If I had to guess I'd say Sheets provides the most value over the course of the year, followed by the Duke (possibly as a reliever), Pedro and Bedard, but that's all gut.

Mountainhawk (Salem, MA): On December 17, 2013, the Phillies will have ___ World Series flags and will look back on the Halladay/Lee mega trade with ________.

Jay Jaffe: I'm going to guess they add one more during Halladay's first four years, and will look back on the deal with a mixture of satisfaction at getting the Doc and regret that they didn't get more for Lee.

mattymatty2000 (philly, pa): Your (way too) early pick for most improved team in 2010 is ____. Thanks for the chat, Jay.

Jay Jaffe: Mariners. The addition of Lee to a staff whose #2 starter was... Ryan Rowland-Smith? is huge, and nabbing Figgins while subtracting him from their chief rivals was big as well. They've still got work to do in a few other places, but that's a good start.

Boston adding Lackey and Cameron is also prety nifty.

Tex Premium Lager (NJ): Hello and happy holidays, Jay. In football, offensive line continuity (in other words, keeping the same 5 guys together for several seasons) can be a reliable predictor of the success of an offense. Have there been any studies in baseball as far as team continuity elevating a squad above the sum of its parts?

Jay Jaffe: No studies that I know of, but there's certainly something to be said about maintaining above-average players at the scarce positions for a long time (the Braves' big three of Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz, the Yankees' up-the-middle core of Posada/Jeter/Williams). The existence of the Reserve Clause probably distorts what you could learn about such things prior to the free agency era.

sunpar (New York): What is the market for Derek Lowe REALLY like? The Braves would love to unload him, but it seems like with every pitcher that leaves the market (Halladay, Lackey) another takes his place in the pecking order AHEAD of Lowe (Joel Pinero and any of Boston's brood seem to be the topic of conversation now).

Jay Jaffe: It's shrinking, hamstrung by his huge contract and surprisingly lousy 2009. He'd make sense for the Angels or even the Dodgers (the latter only at a reduced price), but it seems to me that getting out of California was atop his to-do list a year ago, so I have a hard time imagining him agreeing to such a move. Though I don't think he actually has a no-trade, so tough turkey.

Jake H (Kansas City): Adrian Gonzalez has given the Padres $69.3 million in production according to fan graph for only 5.1 million in salary. Is there a reason that they should trade him?

Jay Jaffe: I'm not of the mind that they HAVE to do the deal, because I do think there's a tangible virtue in keeping him around as the team continues its rebuilding effort, and that it can be felt at the box office. Just the same, I do think there's value they're leaving on the table by not taking advantage of his well-below-market contract at a time when they're not really expecting to be competitive in the NL West.

Stevealicious (Planet Lovetron): What do you make of the middle of the Jays lineup with the addition of Brett Wallace? Lind/Snider/Wallace (in some order) Do you see as many RBIs as I anticipate?

Jay Jaffe: RBI? Is this Omar Minaya asking me advice about his fantasy team?

Between the current presence of Lyle Overbay and the fact that Wallace could still use a bit of minor league seasoning, I'm skeptical that they'll start the year with such a lineup. I also think that if they put those three in a row, the number of GIDP will add up. We are talking about a guy whose nickname is the Walrus, after all.

OK, lightning round...

Dan (Bklyn): Does Omar Minaya have a plan? A clue? A radio? Internet access? Sign Ben Sheets already. Forget about the entire Molina clan. Sign Bay, but not if it means losing focus on signing pitcher (see, e.g., John Lackey). p.s. Fela!

Jay Jaffe: No, no, no, yes, and I have confirmed that was him asking for fantasy advice (true story was that back at one winter meetings he did tell a BP colleague that RBI were a key facet of his player evaluation strategy. Sheets: not at his current asking price. Bay: I wouldn't go 4x$15m, let alone 5 x anything. Fela: YES. New reissue series coming in 2010, but those two-fer discs are endlessly listenable.

BartPachino (Northridge, CA): Thoughts about Mike Gonzalez to the O's? Garrett Atkins' chances of rebounding? Next move(s) for the O's that would make sense? Personally, I like both moves (and the Millwood one last week) given their relatively low cost (short commitments to all three players) and fit with the Orioles' long range plans. How about you? Do you see them "really" playing for M. Holliday or AGon?

Jay Jaffe: Not wild about either move, though Gonzo is flippable if need be, and the length, as you say, isn't bad. I like the Millwood move more.

I don't see them in on Holliday, but the depth of their young pitching makes going after Adrian Gonzalez a viable possibility.

Ron (Vancouver): By the end of his career, Roy Halladay will be considered a Hall Of Famer. True or False?

Jay Jaffe: True. I am intrigued by his groundball/strikeout religion and wish to subscribe to his newsletter.

Jack B (NJ): Is Jeff Kent a first-ballot HoF-er?

Jay Jaffe: No. But I do believe he'll get in, probably within a few years of being eligble. I'm not sure it's actually warranted (see last year's article; low defensive value, middling OBPs).

pjfsks (new jersey): Should the Mets pay whatever it takes to sign Chapman? Would make up for no 1st round pick this year and lack of high level prospects. Seems a better risk/reward than blowing $12 million on Bengie Molina and $65 million to watch Jason Bay grow old.

Jay Jaffe: Dunno about whatever it takes, but yes if the cost is reasonable as it would help cover for the system's weaknesses, not to mention the shagginess of those potential free agent dogs.

paulbellows (Calgary): Twins 2b and 3b will be ____? (Please don't say Casilla and Punto)

Jay Jaffe: Carew and Killebrew. Sorry, drawing a blank...

Jason Wojciechowski (South Texas): Is Michael Taylor starting in a corner for the A's in April? Does that mean Ryan Sweeney's the CF and Rajai Davis is back to fourth OF? Or is that all too much to hope for?

Jay Jaffe: Hey Jason! If nothing else I'd expect the A's to game Taylor's service time by starting him in the minors, but I don't see why you couldn't play all three if they're your best outfielders.

Jay Jaffe: OK folks, that's all I've got time for. It's been a pleasure chatting with you today -- I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. Look for a JAWS article soon, and best wishes for happy holidays!

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