Rany Jazayerli is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Rany Jazayerli: Hey everyone! I'm coming to you live from my office, where after seeing 47 patients today (we had a few no-shows), I'm ready to do something truly important: chat about baseball!
nuckleball (virginia): what do you think about the Oriole's Daniel Cabrera and does he show signs of staying around or is he just a lucky pitcher who will be found out?
Rany Jazayerli: The most important piece of information to keep in mind about Cabrera: his strikeout-to-walk ratio is 58 to 57. You can survive with that kind of ratio if you're an extreme groundball pitcher; Cabrera is not.
My impression is that the bloom will be off his rose shortly; he will go through an extended period of struggles; and he will re-emerge as a quality middle reliever in 2007 or so.
Charlie Zink (Sarasota): What happenned? - Did all the hype just go to my head or was I never really as good as advertised?
Rany Jazayerli: I might as well get this one out of the way, since I was the one pushing for Zink on our Top 50 list, against the advice of my colleagues...
The knuckleball is unpredictable, and with a few exceptions, knuckleball pitchers are as well. Tim Wakefield was a phenom in 1992, a great pitcher in 1995...and sucked rocks in 1993 and 1994. It wouldn't surprise me if Zink rebounded from his problems this year much like Wakefield has.
That said, I didn't realize when making out the Top 50 list that Zink suffers from Raynaud's Phenomenon, a rare circulatory problem in the hands (which is much more common in women) that can lead to complete numbness in cold weather. For any pitcher, that's a problem. For a knuckleball pitcher, that could be his death knell.
Quinn (Nunavut): What steps can Greinke take to reduce his HR problem? Brad Radke has had a fine career, but is that all there is for Greinke?
Rany Jazayerli: Develop a sinker.
You laugh, but the kid has mastered something like 14 different pitchers by age 20, so I don't see any reason why he can't learn a 15th.
Pitchers with great control will always have problems with the gopher. Brad Radke would be the low-end of the projection curve for Greinke; Radke was 22 as a rookie, and his strikeout rate was much lower than Greinke's has been.
Matt (Portland, OR): How good is the Cardinal offense, in a historical context?
Rany Jazayerli: Chaim Bloom and Keith Woolner have already covered this, but the *heart* of the Cardinals' lineup - the murderer's row of Walker-Rolen-Pujols-Edmonds - is among the best ever.
But the team as a whole is sixth in the majors in runs scored. The Giants, playing in a great pitcher's park, have scored just four fewer runs. There's nothing historic about that.
Greg Tamer (West Lafayette, IN): Playing softball this past weekend, I neglected to apply sun screen and was burned around my neck and on my forearms. Upon returning home, my wife scolded me and said I just increased my chances of skin cancer. How significant of an increase are we talking about? Also, do most major league ballclubs address this issue with their players? How serious of an issue is this for them?
Rany Jazayerli: Alright, one derm question...a single mild sunburn isn't going to measurably increase your risk of skin cancer. But a single *major* sunburn - as in, one that blisters - can increase your lifetime risk of melanoma by 50%. So lather up.
And this is a bigger problem for ballplayers than people realize; after golf, baseball is the sport most commonly associated with skin cancer. The Academy of Dermatology does an annual skin cancer screening of every major-league team, and I can tell you that a year doesn't go by where someone - usually a trainer - is found to have a couple. Derek Lowe had a basal cell cancer while still in his 20s.
Adam J. Morris (Houston, Texas): Do you see any similarities between the 2004 Rangers and the 2003 Royals? And do you think the Rangers are better or worse off with John Hart and Buck Showalter winning the power struggle with the deposed Grady Fuson?
Rany Jazayerli: Short answer: no.
Long answer: hell, no. The 2003 Royals were playing over their heads all season; they were a 73-win team that won 83 games because they hit well with runners in scoring position and won more than their share of close games. The Rangers have outscored their opponents by 61 runs, their entire infield has an OPS over 800, and they have three of the best young hitters under age 25 in baseball in Blalock, Teixeira, and Nix.
Long-term, though, I can't see the loss of Grady Fuson as anything but a negative. The fact is that despite their offense, the Rangers are still not in first place, because the organization hasn't developed a pitcher in, roughly, forever. And Fuson had a better chance of fixing that than Hart or Showalter did.
thegman1000 (San Francisco): Hey Rany - new BP reader (lovin' it!) Question for you: Do you think the A's really missed the boat by not trading Barry Zito this offseason? His value was probably at an all time high (one year removed from cy young, good ERA in 2003, still regarded as a top flight ace) yet his peripherals revealed a downward spiral . . . which this year has lead to his poor ERA and record.
I have to believe that last summer the A's could have gotten a massive booty for Zito (Teixeira and Cordero for Zito, or Dunn for Zito each may have seemed reasonable last summer). His value has to be lower now.
Did Billy miss the boat on this one?
Rany Jazayerli: You could argue in retrospect that Beane should have traded Zito while his stock was still high. Hell, you could - as we did in this year's book -have argued it in advance.
But I think we have to respect that there are limits to how forcefully you can shove the Moneyball philosophy down people's throats. I'm sure Beane *wanted* to trade Zito, but at the same time, enough people are gunning after Beane that, if he traded Zito and Barry *didn't* collapse, the wolves would be at the door. Given the line of people waiting to pounce on him if he fails, I think we should give Beane credit for not taking on a more risk-averse philosophy. He kept Zito, sure; but he also didn't listen to the people who thought the A's should solve Rich Harden's struggles by moving him to the bullpen.
I think Zito has bottomed out, and he's likely to pitch better - not back to his 2000-02 levels, but better - over the next few years.
xian (champaign, il): How deserving, and how likely are Frank Thomas, Tim Raines and Gary Sheffield to get voted in to the Hall of Fame?
Should I start raising funds to erect my own museum?
Rany Jazayerli: Thomas will get there; it's easy in the moment to look at his struggles the last five or six years and forget that, from 1990 through 1997, he was the most devastating hitter baseball had seen since Ted Williams.
Put it this way: 500 homers may not punch your ticket to Cooperstown anymore, but 500 homers AND a .400 career OBP AND a fearsome offensive reputation almost certainly will. And Thomas, with 436 homers, will probably get there. The same goes for Sheffield, who has 407 homers, is a year younger than Thomas, won a World Championship with the Marlins, and had some defensive value (okay, positional value) in his early years.
As for Raines...if he somehow stays on the BBWAA ballot long enough for people like Eric Neel and Rob Neyer and Joe Sheehan to get votes, he's got a shot. Otherwise, forget it.
bsablan (Los Angeles): Allard Baird was ridiculed constantly in your Rob and Rany columns (and elsewhere I'm sure). I can't say that I disagreed either, but it seems like he has improved greatly over the years. Do you feel like he could be the right man for the job now and do you know of any other GM's who have evolved in a similar manner?
Rany Jazayerli: He has, and he is. Granted that I don't follow the GM machinations of other teams the way I do the Royals, but Baird's on-the-job improvement is pretty unique, at least among the current job holders in baseball. When they started, Baird and Dave Littlefield were very comparable, and the difference today is striking.
Rob and I just covered this in our most recent banter, but even this season, when everything that could go wrong for the Royals has, Baird has picked up a phenomenal amount of talent, some as NRIs, some for the waiver price, and some in trades so lopsided that you wonder what Jim Duquette was smoking.
I would be disappointed if he were fired, let's put it that way.
Sean (Colorado Springs): Is the secret to winning at altitude much more nuanced than "get some genuinely good players"? It seems to me that getting some changeup artists might make sense.
Rany Jazayerli: That's a great idea. Maybe the Rockies should sign a pitcher that relies primarily on changing speeds.
Oh wait, they already did that with Denny Neagle.
That's the problem with Coors Field: there are tons of good ideas about how to win - I was a big proponent of the changeup idea myself - and none of them seem to work. Not that Dan O'Dowd gives most of them a sufficient chance.
The other thing is that the Rockies' problem doesn't appear to be Coors Field at all; they historically have one of the biggest home-field advantages in baseball. This year, they're 24-34 on the road, and I don't see how their road record is going to improve by outfitting their team to better suit their home park.
Conundrum (Denver): I see that David DeJesus of the Royals is performing as if he isn't lost lately, unlike his first callup. How is his fielding and baserunning?
Another question. Stats Inc. has what they call a range factor where their observers chart balls hit into an area of the outfield where the fielder is supposed to patrol. In a giant park like Coors field, is the outfield divided up into 3 pie wedges, with the outfielder unable to retrieve as many balls as in perhaps Kansas City's park which is 3 smaller pies? The ultimate question is whether a larger park outfielder doomed to have a lesser range factor because the "range" is larger.
Rany Jazayerli: DeJesus is playing like we thought he would, which is to say he's a Grade B+ leadoff hitter, a slightly above-average centerfielder, and a fine baserunner but a shaky basestealer.
The second question is more interesting. There is absolutely no question that park effects play a huge part in influencing defensive metrics, whether we're talking about the various zone ratings out there or plain ol' defensive efficiency. Coors Field is only one part of it; the foul area in some parks (Oakland, LA) can make the defense in those parks look much better as well.
The bottom line is that defensive metrics need to be park-adjusted as much as offensive metrics are. And frankly, we're not doing as much of that as we should.
Mark (MD (as in Maryland)): Rany, you're an MD (as in Medical Doctor). What was the "labrum" called in baseball transactions speak before it became the fashionable thing to tear? I don't ever recall seeing the term until about 2000, yet now they seem to be popping (up) all over the place. Is the tearing of this tissue the kiss of death that Will Carroll says it is? More specifically, now that he's back in the bigs, does the Astros' Carlos Hernandez still have a chance to be "Pedro, Redux"? He's throwing about 89 now, but he only hit 91 or so when he was the hot prospect.
Rany Jazayerli: I may have the degree, but when it comes to sports medicine, Will Carroll has forgotten more than I know. (And he hasn't forgotten much.)
The term "labrum" has been used as far back as I remember, but if memory serves, until recently it was lumped in with other injuries to the rotator cuff. Five years ago, I thought that the worst thing that could happen to a pitcher was that he tore his rotator cuff; we know now that we need more specific information about the injury to know just how bad the prognosis is.
There's always going to be the exception that proves the rule - I believe Curt Schilling had a slight tear in his labrum once - but almost every pitcher that comes back from an injury will never have the same stuff again. That's not to say that Carlos Hernandez can't learn to pitch better at 89 than he did at 91.
wmcdonal56 (Iowa City IA): True or False:
The Royals will win 80 or more games in 2005.
Rany Jazayerli: False. They'll win about 74 games, but do so while breaking in an awful lot of young talent. Like the Brewers this year, they'll have moments where you can see that they're going to be an exciting team to watch over the next several years. And in 2006 they'll claw their way over .500.
And yes, my optimism knows no bounds.
AndyWright (boston): Hi Rany,
Here is my standard question: You are charged with building a bullpen from scratch. What approach do you take?
1) Target some guys who have done well before,
2) Cast a wide net and see what comes up, or
3) Hire a particular manager/coach?
Rany Jazayerli: 1) Never acquire a top closer. I can't think of the last time a team traded for a closer and it put them over the top. I guess you can give the Marlins partial credit for Ugueth Urbina last year, and they still overpaid. Billy Wagner. Billy Koch. Roberto Hernandez.
2) Find three or four starting pitchers with good arms, but have fallen into disrepute from command problems or just not being able to get over the hump. Put them in relief, and tell them to give everything they've got for 25 pitches. At least one of them is bound to turn into a decent closer, and if you're really lucky you might find an Eric Gagne or Joe Nathan.
3) Fill out the pen with guys who a) throw strikes and b) keep the ball down. You can't go wrong with a Paul Quantrill or a Julian Tavarez in middle relief.
Richard (San Diego): Would the Angels be in first place with Erstad in center, Anderson in left, and Guillen DH'ing?
Rany Jazayerli: Maybe. If Erstad can still play centerfield as well as he used to, I think the defensive difference from this alignment would be worth 10-15 runs so far, which might well make up the difference.
They would definitely be in first place with Erstad on another team, and his salary spent on another player. But you knew that already.
nuckleball (Virginia): Who do you think is going to be AL and NL Rookie of the year and why?
Rany Jazayerli: In the AL, Bobby Crosby, because he's the starting shortstop on a first-place team, and that's half the award right there. (Just ask Walt Weiss.)
In the NL, Jason Bay, because the Padres won't finish in first, and that represents Khalil Greene's best shot.
Rany Jazayerli: Alright everyone, I have to head home now so I can spend some time with my 20-month-old daughter and work with her on saying something more coherent than "Mosswa" when I ask her "who's the captain of the Royals?" Take care and good night.