Pitcher and catchers might be baseball therapy enough, but you might want some more in the form of a chat with BP's Russell A. Carleton.
Russell A. Carleton: It's snowing in Cleveland. But fear not. Pitchers and catchers report... tomorrow. I love saying that.
But for now, let's chat. I'll be around until about 5:00 Eastern. Send in those questions.
John (NH): Is Cano better than Pedroia?
Russell A. Carleton: Trap question alert: Should I offend the Yankees fans or Red Sox fans? Let's give Cano a mulligan on his 2008 season (his BABIP took a dip... poor fella got unlucky). What emerges is a battle between the more OBP heavy Pedroia vs. the more SLG heavy Cano. I lean toward OBP, plus Pedroia is the better defender. Decision: Pedroia. Want a more interesting question. Throw away their ages... Jeter or Pedroia?
nils707 (MN): What do you think about Colby Lewis?
Russell A. Carleton: Not much of a fan of the whole Lewis craze. There are plenty of guys who get it done in the minors, but not at the big league level. (NPB is a fine league, but not quite MLB caliber.) Why on earth would you give one of them a two-year deal? It's a great story line, and I may end up wrong with this one, but he's a risk that I wouldn't want to take on.
Steve N (Delaware): My Strat league was recently debating post season rosters and thought that following Major league rules would be a good idea. No can do. Do you know where you can find the major league post season roster rules?
Russell A. Carleton: I don't have a link to the exact rules, but the general idea is you have to be on the 40-man roster by Aug 31, unless you're on the 60 day DL. A team can replace a player between rounds position-for-position, and within a round, can drop an injured player (but he can't come back). I'm sure there are other little loopholes.
NLBB15 (Bleeker St.): What are your thoughts on batted ball pitching metrics? Do you think something like tRA can work best? What about a version of tRA that starts by throwing out LD% like what David Gassko does with Luck Independent Pitching Statistic (LIPS)?
Russell A. Carleton: I'll be a good company man and plug SIERA, but this genre of statistic happifies me. I have a few gentle critiques of tRA (LD% being one of them, I also think it double-counts singles.) I've brought them up with Graham MacAree, and he respectfully disagrees. But in general, we now have pretty good idea of which stats are consistent over time (skill-based?) and which are not. I really do like SIERA from a conceptual framework in that now we're getting into some of those interaction terms. I think in general, Sabermetrics needs more interaction terms.
Jake (St. Louis, MO): Is Tom Brunansky the most underrated RF of the 1980s?
Russell A. Carleton: There's a good idea for a mini-series. The all-under-rated team of the 1980s, which is when I came of age in baseball fandom. Tom Brunansky vs. Jesse Barfield. Bert Blyleven vs. Dave Steib. The Astros rainbow warrior jerseys vs. the Brown and Gold Padres things from the early 80s. Bruno probably gets the start in right.
Matt (Chicago): Do you see the Cubs as an aging team in decline or do they have another run left in them with this group? Fortunately, they seem to have some decent farm talent coming up the pike soon.
Russell A. Carleton: From a former North Sider, it pains me to say this, but the Cubs are now chasing the past. They do have some good kids coming up, but for some reason, they seem stuck in the mode of needing to have that "proven" guy on the field at all times. Where/when will Sam Fuld play? Will they let Guzman just pitch? Why did they bother with Marlon Byrd?
Tim (Tampa): Russell, talking about the last article you did, while you were looking for the seasons where players usually peaked, are you looking for a single average age that players peak or an extended amount of time?
Russell A. Carleton: Neither really. This idea of "the magic number" for aging is silly. Human development is messy and not nearly so linear and logical. I wanted to show that there are different trajectories for peaking. Human development is messy and complicated. Reducing peaks to one number sidesteps the mess and the mess is always where the important findings are hiding.
ScotMartin (TX): How many plate appearances (approximately) does a hitter need vs left handed pitchers for his past performance to become predictive of his future performance? In other words, how many PAs does it take to really know that a batter needs to be platooned vs lefties?
Russell A. Carleton: It depends on the stat and how good a predictor you want it to be. I look for a split-half correlation of at least .70. For something like strikeout and walk rate, you need 50-100 PA. For some of the bigger slash line stats, you need several hundred.
Bill (New Mexico): Who's the first manager fired this year? Over/under on the date?
Russell A. Carleton: How about a sleeper pick: Ron Washington. How about an even deeper sleeper pick: Joe Girardi.
dandaman (Sea Cliff): Russell, do you play fantasy baseball? If so, who are a couple of guys you hope to draft mid to late rounds? Thanks.
Russell A. Carleton: I don't play fantasy baseball, actually. I've played a little bit before in a few leagues with buddies from high school/college, but they always fizzled out by about June because somebody or other started colluding/cheating. I never got too deep into it. It was more just a good excuse for a bunch of guys to talk to each other over a summer. Now, I don't have time.
Robot Android (Techville): Excitement / Disappointment: Often two sides of the same coin. Which side do you call when you flip the 2010 version of BJ Upton?
Russell A. Carleton: As a therapist, I spent a lot of time trying to keep people thinking positive thoughts. I encourage all fans of Tampa Bay and those who just want to see the Yankees or Red Sox not win the AL East to think happy thoughts. The talent is clearly there.
Mike (Balmer): I have a hard time separating you from this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zS1cLOIxsQ8
Russell A. Carleton: It's not unusual.
BallparkFan (Colorado): In a recent chat, you said third base coaches being too conservative in sending runners was an example of making decisions to avoid criticism at the expense of maximizing results. What other examples come to mind for you?
Russell A. Carleton: Managers refuse to bring their closers in unless it's a save situation. Teams keep horridly bad lefties in the pen just to say that they have one. Managers put low OBP guys in the leadoff spot and say "but he's fast!" and everyone expects that a leadoff hitter should be fast and either a CF, 2B, or SS. Why not try the third baseman who can't run but still sprays the ball all over the field? Dave Magadan? Anyone?
geer08 (Birmingham, AL): For Steve N: the boys at Purple Row did an excellent, exhaustive series on MLB transactions and rules a year ago. Here's the link to Part 9, and you can work your way back.
Russell A. Carleton: I should probably read this myself.
Mark (Pittsburgh): What do you expect to see in terms of production from Andy LaRoche, Lastings Milledge and Jeff Clement this year? Do you think any of them will have a breakout-type season that will give Pirates' management enough of a feeling that they are part of the long term solution in the rebuild?
Russell A. Carleton: Milledge is at least young and has shown raw talent. LaRoche is a ground ball hitting corner infielder with average speed. (Literally, he was dead on average last year.) Jeff Clement had a .295 OBP last year. Not the sort of guy I'd put my faith in. Maybe Milledge sticks. LaRoche can be had elsewhere.
Dennis (LA): Thank you for the chat, Russell. Who do you think will be the more effective pitcher over the next few years: Ben Sheets or Daisuke Matsuzaka?
Russell A. Carleton: You can never go wrong betting against the guy who had the big ouchie. This wouldn't be a question if Sheets hadn't been injured. (Study idea: what happens to pitchers after they miss a year?) But Sheets was really really good before the injury, and Dice-K was above average. I'm going to cross my fingers that Sheets comes back.
collins (greenville nc): I was fascinated in your article from a couple weeks ago that Tom Kelly and Gardy were 1-2 in worst at teaching walks and homers. Do you conjecture that this is explained by Gardy being TK's student, both of them being in the same organization, something about the ballpark, or just coincidence? Thanks
Russell A. Carleton: If I were being a good research methods prof, I would say that it's coincidence until proven otherwise. But it sure does look suspicious that one was the disciple of the other. It may be something over-arching organizational. After all, players don't get promoted to the bigs in a vacuum and the Twins may have had that mold for a number of years.
goldenyeti (SF CA): Are the Red Sox going to be able to unload Mike Lowell on someone? If they can't, do they cut him anyhow?
Russell A. Carleton: It doesn't seem that teams are lining up for Mike Lowell. I still don't know what the Rangers were thinking. It's not a secret that he's got one bad wheel. And yes, if the Red Sox can't find a trading partner and he's surplus to parts, then he's a sunk cost. It takes a good amount of swallowing of pride to do it, but the Red Sox should cut him loose. It's the logical thing to do.
sytry14 (ex-Cleve. Hts.): Thanks for chatting. Do you see Rapael Perez bouncing back this season?
Russell A. Carleton: As an Indians fan, I hope so. A lot of Indians fans want him to bounce back to 2007 form, but his luck indicators were way up. In 2009, he got about as unlucky as he got lucky in 2007. I think the better inidicator will be 2008. Which, all told, isn't a bad reliever to have.
Dennis (LA): Thank you for answering my earlier question. If you were going to build a staff, would you build it around Yovani Gallardo or Max Scherzer? Your thoughts on these two young pitchers?
Russell A. Carleton: On Gallardo: a high strikeout, high GB pitcher will always be welcome in my bullpen. Scherzer isn't as GB happy as Gallardo, but is no slouch himself. I would pick Gallardo over Scherzer on those grounds, but to be honest, you wouldn't do so bad with either one.
A Royals Fan (the ledge): You're a therapist, is there any way to talk me off w/o using the words "Zack" or "Greinke"? Should I just move to Europe and pretend to care about the world cup all summer?
Russell A. Carleton: Sure. "Joakim Soria." And you should care about the World Cup.
Dennis (LA): What are your favorite baseball books? Is there one in particular that you feel made you look at the game differently or that provided exceptional insight?
Russell A. Carleton: I'll be a company man and say "Baseball Between the Numbers." It's actually true, after I read that, I said "Hey, I can do that too!" 4 years later, I'm still wasting time by looking at baseball spreadsheets. Dan Okrent's "Nine Innings" is fun. I think everyone should read that. Also really good is Spalding's World Tour.
Chris (Los Angeles): You don't play fantasy, but you can help us out anyway. Who is one young player you expect to have a huge breakout this season?
Russell A. Carleton: To be honest, anything I give you would be a guess. If I knew the answer to that question, I would be a very very rich man.
Russell A. Carleton: Tomorrow when you wake up, it will be Spring. Training. Then again it's also Mardi Gras today so I suppose I should say if you wake up tomorrow morning.
Thanks for the questions, folks. We'll do it again sometime.