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Chat: Jay Jaffe

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday September 13, 2010 1:00 PM ET chat session with Jay Jaffe.


The stretch run's entering its final lap, so check out who's on Jay Jaffe's personal hit list before it's all over.

Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. We're coming down the home stretch, with teams still jockeying for position. Powered by a couple of favorite Bruce Springsteen bootlegs, let's get to the questions...

winenegress (Maryland): Does the Devils signing Kovalchuk forever make sense to anyone besides Lou Lamoriello?

Jay Jaffe: What are you looking at, you hockey puck? Sorry, this question appears to have slipped into the wrong net, so I'm left to do my Don Rickles impression while also providing a chance to paste in an intro, since the machine swallowed my first one. So... good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. Powered by a couple of favorite Bruce Springsteen bootlegs...

Dick Whitman (Cubicle of Awesome): Any reason to be worried about Yankees starting pitching come playoff time? Pettitte health, A.J. being A.J., Phil's fall off a cliff, etc? Or am I just overreacting because of how piss poor they played this past week?

Jay Jaffe: I think there's plenty of reason for concern. The Yankee rotation's ERA since the All-Star break is 5.11, and CC Sabathia is the only experienced pitcher who's healthy and pitching up to his skill level. Hughes (5.37), Burnett (5.82) and Vazquez (6.20) have all been awful for the most part, and while Ivan Nova's shown promise, he's got just four big-league starts under his belt. To play deep into October, the Yankees need Pettitte to come back strong AND they need at least one of the aforementioned trio to get their [expletive deleted] together.

On the other hand, their bullpen has rounded into shape, as I wrote at Pinstriped Bible on Friday (http://www.pinstripedbible.com/2010/09/10/good-wood/).

Ethan (New York, NY): Given how dominant Albaladejo was in Triple A (yesterday notwithstanding), did the Yankees wait to call him up so long merely because of issues with number of options left, or was there something else?

Jay Jaffe: I'm not sure what to make of Albaladejo's limited usage at the big-league level thus far except to note that Kerry Wood's arrival and subsequent strong performance came right as it looked as though he might get his first real shot of the year. I still think he can help this bullpen more than, say, Chad Gaudin.

Eric (Denver): Has anyone ever studied what impact, if any, a hitter acting like a pitch was Ball Four, and whether that makes an umpire more or less likely to call the pitch a ball or a strike?

Jay Jaffe: Huh? You mean like pulling a Bernie Williams and trotting to first base after ball three? Or simply seeing whether a taken pitch is more likely to be called a ball than a strike?

GBSimons (Boise, ID): Jay, now that Pujols and Ichiro have nearly ten full MLB seasons in the books, can you give a quick update of their JAWS scores? I'd say both are locks for the HOF, but I'm curious how they stack up to the already-enshrined competition. Thanks.

Jay Jaffe: Coming into the year, Pujols ranked second on the all-time first basemen JAWS rankings, as I wrote last week (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=11935), and he's going to add another 7-8 WARP to that career total this year; he's a lock.

Ichiro's case is hardly as clear-cut. He came into the year with 48.7 career WARP, 40.9 peak WARP, and a JAWS of 44.8, compared to a bar of 75.7/46.6/61.2 among HOF right fielders. He's added another 4.0 WARP, so that pushes his career mark up by two points, but it's still short. I wrote about his case last year (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=9416), before the numbers were revised. The short version is that his argument will rest on the idea that his peak approximates that of a Hall of Famer. Given the current metrics, it's tough to make that case, but he's done the things that make traditional voters salivate: 10 All-Star appearances, eight Gold Gloves, a rare MVP/Rookie of the Year combo, two batting titles, the single-season hit record, and 208 on the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor score (though just 36 on the Standards due to his career length). I think he'll get in, and I'd probably vote for him myself.

Bill (New Mexico): What's your take on all the recent chatter on how umpires have developed short fuses? I must say that I've never seen a fan ejected by an ump for heckling a player before, as Bob Davidson did in Milwaukee a couple of weeks ago. Is it more common than I think it is?

Jay Jaffe: Robot umps now. Seriously, how much worse could it get? I'm sick of reading about obstinate asshole umpires like Davidson and Joe West who labor under the mistaken impression that people are paying to see them exert their authority.

Look, umpiring is a difficult job. Long hours on the road for most of the year, pitifully low pay when you're on the way up, and you're the object of scorn and derision, the bad cop - the guy who hates fun no matter how much you love baseball - every time you go to work. Against those odds, most umps manage to do a competent or even good job, getting 99% of the obvious calls right and doing a reasonable job on plays which require multiple reviews in high definition. I support adding instant replay to all boundary calls (not just home runs) and think it can be used on the basepaths in a fairly efficient manner, too. I think it would do more to PROTECT umpires from controversy than it would cause it, and in doing so perhaps knock some of the chips off the shoulders of these men who develop them over so many years.

Derrick (Washington D.C.): in your view, who is better prospects Belt or Hosmer in 1st base and Myers or Mesoraco in C ?

Jay Jaffe: My view on prospects isn't worth a warm bucket of spit. Kevin Goldstein's, on the other hand, is probably worth the price of a BP subscription itself, and he called Hosmer arguably the top first base prospect in the game the other day (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=11966). So yeah, he's better than the other guys who I've never heard of.

Charlie (Bethesda, MD): What do you think of the Ian Desmond - Danny Espinosa middle infield combo? It seems to me the Nats will have quite the infield for years to come, no matter who's on first

Jay Jaffe: Meh, they look stopgappy to me. Desmond seems competent enough but he's going to have to get that OBP above league average for me to be at all impressed; .320 with a 4/1 K/BB ratio doesn't cut it. And as I pointed out in last week's NL Hit List, Espinosa's translations for his minor league work come out to a .208 True Average. I think it's dangerous to get too excited about his hot start at the big league level - call it the Taylor Teagarden effect.

fake working man music snob (Indiana): Vampire Weekend's been doing a cover of "I'm Going Down" lately. What's your favorite Springsteen cover?

Jay Jaffe: I'm actually not all that familiar with too many covers of Springsteen songs relative to those he himself has covered, in part because I'm not so in touch with the current generation of hipsters who've warmed to his music (kids these days).

A small handful of Bruce covers I like: Patti Smith's "Because the Night," the Pointer Sisters "Fire," Townes Van Zandt "Racing in the Street," Johnny Cash "Highway Patrolman" (better than his "Johnny 99," which is marred by schlocky production) and the Hold Steady's "Atlantic City."

Micheal (NY): Christian Colon. I know this year's kind of service time for 1st round pick even that's a entire 4th pick but his perfomance's kind of disapponting. what's your thought? thanks for chat.:)

Jay Jaffe: I don't know much about prospects but I do know that it's way too early to get concerned about a guy who was drafted in June, particularly if nobody who's really in the know is threatening to jump out the window over the guy's performance. First year out of college, transitioning to wood bats, traveling all the time... getting him signed and having him survive the introduction to pro ball without getting hurt or going crazy is a victory enough, from where I sit.

Steve (VA): How filthy is Neftali Feliz? Fastball 96-99 Slider 80-83..When he throws his slider for strikes.. Watch out.

Jay Jaffe: Filthier than a pig doing a Redd Foxx imitation out at the Smut Hut on Highway 61.

dianagramr (NYC): Hey Jay ..... thanks for the chat. Have you recovered from the "5-Napkin Burger" Friday night? Who is the current leading candidate for the "Irrational Exuberance" HOF candidacy? In other words, who might be the next Jim Rice?

Jay Jaffe: Hey Diana! It took me awhile to recover from the 5-Napkin Burger, but maybe that was all the beer I drank trying to get through the Yanks' drawn out loss later that night.

Right now I'd have to say that it's Omar Vizquel's candidacy that leaves me cold. Keith Law wrote about it at length using JAWS numbers I supplied (http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/blog?name=law_keith&id=5410459). The short version is that Vizquel's defensive numbers don't measure up to the average Hall of Fame shortstop let alone those of Ozzie Smith, nor does his bat:

Ozzie Smith: 90.9 car/50.2 Pk/70.6 JAWS/.261 TAv/554 RARP/219 RAP/255 FRAA
Omar Vizquel: 47.8/27.8/37.8/.247/334/-16/84
AVG HOF SS: 70/47.9/59/.274/477/204/105

Bobby (New York): Please fill in the blank. This is the best NL Rookie Class since ________ (blank). Thanks! Bobby

Jay Jaffe: Are we going strictly by league? Because the 2007 class had Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Dustin Pedroia and Josh Hamilton among hitters, Tim Lincecum and Joakim Soria among pitchers. 2006 had Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Zimmerman, Andre Ethier, Prince Fielder, Ian Kinsler, Francisco Liriano, Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, Josh Johnson, Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon (who used to not suck), Jonathan Broxton (ditto)...

There's a lot to be excited about with this year's rookie class (Posey, Heyward, Santana, Stanton) but I'm in no rush to appoint them the best class of the past five years until I see much more.

Pearl (Brooklyn): Who wins in a fight: Machete, Sharktopus, or Kyle Farnsworth?

Jay Jaffe: Ooh, tough call... Unless he retires from baseball to take a job as a bouncer at a sleazy strip club (I hear the Smut Hut may be hiring), Farnsworth's best days as an enforcer are probably behind him. Sharktopus is a hot prospect but he has yet to prove anything at the major league level.

Which leaves Machete, who based upon my recent observation is a serious five-tool player (small knife, big knife, machete, weedwacker, and hand cannon mounted onto motorcycle) and the wrong Mexican to **** with. Seriously fun movie.

mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): So is this who John Lackey is now? A slightly above average innings eater? I can't imagine that's what Theo Epstein thought he was getting for his $82 million.

Jay Jaffe: It's been a rough season for Lackey, but let's not forget that Josh Beckett put up a 5.01 ERA in his first season in Boston, only to rebound with a Cy Young caliber season the following year. Of course, Beckett didn't have nearly the mileage or the history of recent arm troubles that Lackey's had.

The thing I find particularly disconcerting is Lackey's plummeting strikeout rate. He's going to have to miss more bats to be successful in the AL East, and if he doesn't, that contract is going to turn into a real albatross.

SoxRox (NH): Nine keepers in next year draft: I have Utley, King Felix, H.Bell, Soriano, R.Zimm, Kershaw and Morneau as must haves. 2 spots left for Jeter, Heyward, Torii and Adam Dunn....who you recommend? Thanks!!!!!

Jay Jaffe: I wouldn't touch Jeter with a 10-foot clown pole in a fantasy league from here on out, and I'd definitely keep Heyward. So your choice comes down to Dunn or Hunter, right? I'd go with the big guy, who's younger and more likely to put up a big season.

WonTom (East Carolina): According to Cot's Baseball Contracts Jose Bautista's agent is Bean Stringfellow. That's just funny.

Jay Jaffe: Bean isn't his real name, it's Thornton. Which is a perfectly good excuse to go by Bean, now that I think about it. The guy spent five years pitching in the Braves' and Mets' systems, reaching Triple-A: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=string001tho

Christopher (Nashville): Nick Swisher's walk rate has collapsed this year, but his BABIP when pulling the ball as a LHB is .540, which has apparently made up the difference in singles through the hole with men on first. What do you make of this? Good sign, bad sign, six/half dozen?

Jay Jaffe: As I have no basis for comparison or appreciation of sample size with that kind of figure, I make nothing of it. I will say that the work Swisher's done to rework his swing with hitting coach Kevin Long has paid off handsomely, and that despite the walk rate he's a better hitter now than he was last year - the hits are more valuable than the walks - and he's a big reason the Yanks are in first place despite age catching up to Jeter, A-Rod and Posada.

StatFreak101 (Wisconsin): How would you evaluate the current AL Central Division race? Similar to the 2009 race where the Twins made a furious comeback on Detroit. Do you see that happening in 2010?

Jay Jaffe: A year in which two teams go into a Game 163 playoff is a rarity; we've now had three of them in a row, and for that reason alone I'm skeptical we'll have a fourth. Furthermore, six games is a particularly large margin to overcome to get to that point. Last year's margin at the three-week mark was 5.5 games, and in 2007 it was six games, but the latter took a 14-1 finishing kick to happen. Not holding my breath here.

Paul (Boston): Would you rather have A-Rod + Contract or Beckett/Lackey + Contracts?

Jay Jaffe: Beckett and Lackey will receive about $130 million combined over the next four years, A-Rod $180 million over the next seven. The latter is probably easier to swallow based on the time value of money and the fact that it's less of a per-year investment. It's also easier to hide a declining hitter than it is a declining pitcher (or two). Finally, given that the two pitchers are unlikely to be chasing any milestones, whatever minimal milestone value A-Rod has - and it's not going to be that much given his steroid-infused past - is still higher. So I'd take the guy with the stick, particularly if I had the Yankees' revenue stream.

Dennis (LA): If you were the Angels, which free agent outfielder would you target this winter, Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth?

Jay Jaffe: Crawford, because he's three years younger and doesn't wear the pelt of a dead animal on his face.

adamseth7 (philly): Do you think that any other active pitcher has a legitimate shot at 300 wins besides Sabathia?

Jay Jaffe: I wouldn't bet against Roy Halladay (166 and counting through his age 33 season), and I think the resurgence of Roy Oswalt (149 through his age 31) puts him back on the map if he can stay in Philadelphia during his next contract, but the past year has been rough on other candidates such as Johan Santana, Andy Pettitte, Jake Peavy, even Jamie Moyer.

Victor (San Diego): After a hot August, Sandoval's cooled down again. After his explosion last year, and so-so performance this year, it's hard to figure out what to expect next season. What are your thoughts?

Jay Jaffe: The guy should seriously start considering salads; seriously, I'd demand better conditioning coming into next year. Roly-poly bad-body guys are fun and all when they're hitting like All-Stars, but they're not so cuddly when they drop down to league average-ish rates. Worse, the declining offense makes it difficult to justify moving him to first base, since he'd become a below-average hitter for position at his current rates.

Colby (Fort Worth, TX): Better career long-term between Stanton, Heyward or J. Upton?

Jay Jaffe: Heyward. Stanton's strikeout rate and Upton's Upton Family Shoulder Issue make me slightly more nervous about those two, though I think the odds are that they still have good careers.

Greg27 (Atlanta): Who is your NL ROY?

Jay Jaffe: Buster Posey. Heyward's injuries have held him back, and Posey's arrival turned the Giants into a legitimate contender in addition to his stellar play. The Giants are 15 wins above .500 when he's in the lineup, and 18 above .500 overall.

Nick Stone (New York City): Who do you think will pull ahead in the NL west? Seems like The Giants have an edge, considering they end the season at home against SD. Or will that series just determine how far back in 3rd SD will finish? As for covers of Springsteen, you can't go wrong with Bowie's cover of "It's Hard to be a Saint in the City" circa Station to Station.

Jay Jaffe: Hey Nick! Excellent call on the Bowie "Saint" version. As for the NL West, I don't see how any of these teams can possibly win, to borrow a phrase about the 1944 World Series between the Cardinals and the Browns. All three teams are flawed, but I do think the Rockies are suddenly looking like they might squeeze in there; the return of Jorge de la Rosa and the emergence of Jhoulys Chacin have given their rotation a needed boost at a crucial time. That said, the Giants do have the easier schedule the rest of the way including that final series of the year.

Rick (Chicago): Re: your Twins/Tigers comments and game 163: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambler's_fallacy I would've gone with Playoff Odds of 3.7%

Jay Jaffe: The odds are actually slightly higher than that, since those numbers are based upon winning by at least 1 game over a 162-game period, where to get a 163 in the first place you need an exact tie after 162. Not sure how to figure that one, ask Clay Davenport.

squirrelmasterz (Jersey): Who is the smartest GM in this room: Dayton Moore, Omar Minaya, Ned Colletti and Jim Hendry?

Jay Jaffe: What a depressing room; I'd jump out the window to avoid being in their company. Whatever the answer is, I know it's not Moore, whose teams have never won anything.

Rob (Alaska): Were you exaggerating for effect in a previous answer or have you really never heard of Wil Myers, Devin Mesoraco and Brandon Belt? I realize you're not the in-house prospect guru, but you're leaving us with the impression that you don't even read the content. 2 of those 3 were in KG's ten pack today.

Jay Jaffe: Have I heard of them? Yes, in passing, but I don't have particularly strong fixes on them at this point in their careers. Having never seen them play nor collected multiple opinions about them, anything I say is going to be regurgitation, and you're better off getting an opinion straight from the horse's mouth.

Furthermore, it can take me days to catch up to all the content on this site. Particularly when I've got articles AND chats up in the air, I don't get to some of the good stuff until later in the week. And I'd guarantee you every single writer on this site has the same problem - we're all more concerned with where our next ideas are coming from than we are with admiring each other's handiwork, not that we don't think highly of it.

Bill (New Mexico): Ref. Posey: So how many games are the Cardinals above .500 when Jaime Garcia is in the lineup, and when he's not?

Jay Jaffe: They're 15-12 when he starts, three games over .500, and four games over .500 overall. Plus he's got less playing time. An impressive season but not good enough to top Posey's.

frampton (alameda, ca): Great source for a compilation of E Street Band covers: http://www.guitars101.com/forums/f90/bruce-springsteen-dont-try-to-stump-the-e-street-band-98465.html I think it would eb an interesting exercise to compare the HOF candidacies of Thome and Sosa, if only because the perceived reasons to vote no are so different . . .

Jay Jaffe: Duly noted on the Springsteen covers. As for Thome and Sosa, it really comes down to walks vs. fame, doesn't it? Not a bad idea for a piece, I suppose.

Kyle2099 (Cincy): What do you make of Travis Woods' 2010 season? Do you expect a big regression next year?

Jay Jaffe: He's put together a nice half season thus far, and the peripherals are certainly solid. What I worry about is two things: 1) that underlying all of it is a .249 BABIP, certain to regress; and 2) 11 of his 13 starts have come on the road. When he pitches half his games in a good hitter's park there will be more cause for concern.

Jack (Boston): Can you give us your best guesses on the new managers for next year by team?

Jay Jaffe: Just guessing: Bobby Valentine to Seattle, Tim Wallach to Dodgers, Wally Backman to Mets, Ryne Sandberg to Cubs, LaRussa and Dusty Baker staying still, and Sharktopus to manage the Diamondbacks. Anyone else?

Shane (Miami): Your 2010 NL MVP: Votto, Car-Go or Pujols?

Jay Jaffe: Votto. CarGo's splits are too extreme for my taste, and the Cardinals too out of the running.

Speaking of which, I'll have a piece dusting off Jaffe's Ugly MVP Predictor for tomorrow.

biggreentevas (Oakland CA ): Whither my Cardinals? While I'd like to see things turn around, they clearly gambled and lost this year in picking up some plug-ins (e.g. Pedro Feliz) hoping to catch lightning. So what should the offseason hold in store for them?

Jay Jaffe: The Cardinals withered, and it all comes back to the offense's tumble once they essentially traded Ludwick for Westbrook and started playing a regressing Jon Jay over Colby Rasmus. As to their offseason, the first question is whether LaRussa is coming back, because the team should be built in consultation with whoever's managing. But I do think the team's got to do resolve the Rasmus issue one way or the other, and do something to stabilize the middle infield with players better than Skip Schumaker and Brendan Ryan.

Marcus (Toronto): Managers - you forgot us, who replaces Cito?

Jay Jaffe: Is Tim Johnson back from his tour of duty in Vietnam? I have no idea here, except that it won't be John Gibbons.

Bobby (New York): Hi Jay, I may be too late to respond, but YES I was talking only in the NL. It seems they have a ton this season with: Heyward, Posey, Logan Morrison, Stanton, Starlin Castro, Pedro Alvarez, Tabata, Strasburg, Chapman, Mike Minor, Leake, Ike Davis... all in the National League.

Jay Jaffe: Ah, got it. That's a tough question for another day - there's a lot to like there, but we've already got less reason to be excited about Ike Davis, for one. What really matters is how these guys develop beyond year one, anyway.

workermonkey (CT): AH! more than two weeks with out a chat, what gives?

Jay Jaffe: Chalk some of it up to end of summer/Labor Day-related travel and the absence of chatwhip Christina Kahrl on a family matter. But don't worry, we've got plenty of chatterboxes coming your way!

Jay Jaffe: And on that note, it's time for me to go, since I've got an article to bang out for tomorrow. It's been a pleasure chatting with BP's smart readers and I look forward to doing so again very soon!

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