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Chat: David Laurila

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday April 28, 2010 1:00 PM ET chat session with David Laurila.


It's time to turn the tables on BP's Q&A master, and ask what you will of the incomparable David Laurila.

David Laurila: Greetings all, from my living room in beautiful Cambridge, Mass. I had planned to do this chat from the press box at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket -- noon game there today -- but a change of plans kept me home. In a nutshell, Iím scrambling to get ready for a trip to Cleveland, where Iíll be among the presenters at SABRís annual Seymour Medal Conference this weekend. I also plan to catch some Indians-Twins action while Iím there, and hopefully snag some good Q&A material and perhaps a game story. In the meantime, shoot some questions my way and Iíll do my best to answer them.

mo (las vegas): Who would say no 1st? Cubs gets Ellsbury, Sox get Hawpe and Ianetta, Rockies get Lilly and $$$ from Cubs? I believe this will help all 3 teams, having De la Rosa and Hammel on DL, adds a lot of speed in Chicago and help the catching situation and lhb weakness that the sox are currently suffering. Rockies can get draft picks for lilly, Cubs will have OF depth (soriano and fukudome get hurt often) and Red Sox will have control on Ianetta and insurance if Martinez gets too expensive or old, btw Varitek looks good as a back up catcher. Thanks

David Laurila: I think the Red Sox say no, for a couple of reasons. First, I think they value Ellsbury pretty highly, in part because he'll ultimately end up back in center field and also because there is a decent chance he'll begin popping more home runs as he matures as a hitter. Yes, there are issues defensive issues behind the plate, but is Iannetta enough of a defensive upgrade, and would Martinez be amenable to spending much of his time at DH? There is also the question of how much value Hawpe would add -- is he really all that much of an upgrade over Hermida? One thing Hawpe doesn't provide is quality defense, which is a mark against him given Theo's push to upgrade in that area. As far the other teams are concerned, I'd have to believe the Cubs would be the most likely to say yes. The Rockies may be inclined to say no, as Lily would be a gamble in Coors given that he is [I believe] more of a fly-ball pitcher.

justin kolpak (CT): Please release David Ortiz? Please release David Ortiz? Please release David Ortiz? How many chances does he get? Either take whatever it was that you used to take, and start producing or get off the pot.

David Laurila: I understand the sentiment and more than just a few Red Sox fans share it with you. Ortiz obviously had a similar slow start last year, and rebounded reasonably well, but there seem to be more red flags this time around. From what I've seen, he is swinging through, and fouling off, an awful lot of pitches that he used to absolutely punish. Not just a few, most of them, so the bat speed appears to be waning, waning, waning. Of course, you're then left with: Who takes his place in the lineup? Mike Lowell might be a better DH option and not just against lefties, but he isn't exactly in his prime either, and due to age and injury he runs like he has a piano on his back. Orlando Cepeda did a solid, piano-legs-with-a-decent-bat job as the club's first-ever DH back in the day, and maybe that's Lowell, without the good nickname?

jammingecono (VA): Who is that team in DC that is playing better than .500 ball and what have they done with my Nationals?

David Laurila: Do you mean the team that is a couple of games better than the Braves in the standings? The Jim Riggleman All-Stars? The Ian Desmond Dynamos? The Adam Dunn Dominators? The [soon to be] Strasburg Superlatives? Those guys?

It would be fun to see it last, but the Nationals depth is probably still too analagous to national debt for that to happen.

dgrabz (nj): how much time do you spend transcribing each interview? it must take a long time! the world thanks you though ;-)

David Laurila: Given that I type about as fast Mike Lowell goes from first to third...

Unless you're one of the BP interns that helps out in this area from time to time, then my answer is the same. And thanks.

mcquown (Chicago): I know he started slowly in 2009 also, but how long before Jon Lester turns things around this year?

David Laurila: That's a hard question to answer in some ways, but presumably not very long. Nothing appears to be wrong physically and his stuff seems fine. I was at Fenway for a game recentyly where he struck out the side in the first inning but then quickly devolved into suckitude. Good pitchers usually get over these bumps sooner rather than later, and if doesn't, well....the Red Sox are in deep doo doo.

dianagramr (NYC): Hi David! The Phils will regret the extension for Howard by the year: a) 2012, b) 2013, c) 2014, d) sometime after that, e) never, cause flags fly forever

David Laurila: I had an email exchange with Will Carroll about Howard yesterday and something I threw out there was a Frank Howard "what if" comp. Ryan Howard is 30, which is the same age Hondo began turning from being a free-swinging slugger into a more disciplined slugger. As a result, his walk totals went up and his OPS skyrocketed for three or four years. He was obviously a very large man -- bigger than his Phillies namesake -- and perhaps Ryan Howard is about to morph from an all-star into a mega-star. Is that more likely than him becoming the next Mo Vaughn? It is really up to him, I suppose.

mallen (Denver): How do you pick your big-league Q&A subjects? Is it whoever seems most accessible, or do you arrange it ahead of time? Have you ever had an unruly subject?

David Laurila: Accessible plays a role in that they are preferable to players who are notorious inaccessible, i.e. are likely to stick to cliched answers and short ones at that. I've encountered a few such animals and have simply bagged the interview entirely so as not to waste everyone's time. Interestingly, the most recent Bull-Durham case I encountered was a Yankees Double-A player [not Romine] who I assumed would like to talk about his game. Instead, he was either dumb as a rock or simply has no use for reporters.

And,of course, players are not always readily available when you pursue them. Ben Zobrist was a recent target at Fenway, but I simply couldn't catch up to him that day. So, if you're reading this Ben, be forewarned that you're on THE LIST.

bking (Kansas City): So frustrated with the Royals--more than ever. The bullpen has blown 7 saves already and the team has one of the best closers in baseball. What, if anything, can be done to fix the middle relief?

David Laurila: Middle relief may well be a problem in KC, but I think Trey Hillman and company have bigger wories than that. Heck, Bostons middle relief has been shaky and they theoretically came into the season with that being a strength. And pity poor Dave Trembley. Every time he goes to the bullpen it's a nightmare waiting to happen. I don't know if Trembley smokes or drinks, but if he doesn't, he'll likely start soon.

Paco (NY): It seems you get to travel to loads of minor league parks for your job -- do you have a favorite? Thanks.

David Laurila: Job? I have a job? Clearly, this question isn't coming from my wife or from my banker.

There are many more MiL parks I haven't been to, certainly, but of the ones I have, probably McCoy in Pawtucket. Their ownership is one of the reasons, as they treat the players, fans and media very well. I really mean that.

Mo Vaughn-Ortiz-Fielder (Philadelphia, PA): Why does *any* club ever sign a 30 year with a waist size greater than 36 to a long term contract?

David Laurila: Well, Babe Ruth was in his 30s when he hit 60. Lolich was winning 20-plus in his 30s. The long term comes in primarily because agents hold guns to the heads of owners and GMs. Well, they do, don't they?

parkerd (SC): Loved your Red Sox interview book. Ever look back at some of the minor league guys from that book who never made it to MLB and think "man, I wish [player X] had gotten further"?

David Laurila: Thanks, and yes, several of them. Conversley, Craig Breslow has clearly outperformed expectations, while Daniel Bard looked like a washout when the book came out. Aaron Bates made it to the show, which surprised many people.

RMR (Chicago): Thoughts on the Reds choice to bring Mike Leake directly to the majors after just a stint in the AFL? How do you think the move was perceived throughout baseball?

David Laurila: I was surprised, but he made more sense than Chapman, even if the latter has a higher ceiling. Leake earned high marks for poise and maturity coming out of college and those are important factors. What happens north of the shoulders is especially important for a young pitcher and Leake hasn't yet sprung one mentally (as far as I know) so the aggressive assignment seems reasonable.

keentower (MA): may be a better question for fantasy guys/ i was just offered Ryan Howard for Prince Fielder. Shoul.d I do it?

David Laurila: I wouldn't, but then again, I predicted Jay Bruce to win this year's NL MVP, so I might not be the right person to ask.

parkerd (SC): I may have missed this elsewhere, but what are you presenting at the SABR conference?

David Laurila: I'm one of several presenters leading up to the keynote and plan to talk to talk about Q&As as oral history, with my focus being on former Detroit Tigers. I've interviewed over 50 in the past couple of years, from Kaline and Horton to Trammell and Morris and so forth. If anyone is in the area, it will be worth coming by. Info is at SABR.org

Mark Smith (Lexington, KY): Somewhat off of the Lester question, is Derek Lowe finished?

David Laurila: I haven't seen him pitch this year, not even on TV, so I don't know how he looks beyond the numbers. I do know that it's still April and that he's gone through some bumpy stretches over the course of his career, only to come back around, so that may be the case here. Kind of a lame answer, but that's all I can offer.

SprungOnSports (Long Island): How odd was it to interview Chris Davis after he had just been sent down? What do you think of his big league future?

David Laurila: I actually talked to Davis right before he was sent down, either the day or the day before. If he saw it coming, he didn't let on. He was calm, cool and collected.

Prior to formally starting the interview, we chatted about strikeouts and how statheads view them different than most casual fans. He seems quite aware that his value is that of a TTO hitter [who also plays good defense]. His future is likely tied to Smoak more than looking into a mirror and seeing Jack Cust with a glove.

dianagramr (NYC): Do you subscribe to the "Red Sox pitchers pitch worse with V-Mart than with Tek" theory?

David Laurila: I do believe that catchers can impact pitchers' performance, but I'm a bit on the fence on this one. Regardless, I don't know that moving Varitek back into the starter's role is optimal. He is clearly hitting the ball far, far better in a limited role, and that may not be a coincidence.

David Laurila: Thanks for the chat!

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