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Chat: Joe Sheehan

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday September 30, 2010 1:00 PM ET chat session with Joe Sheehan.


The postseason is around the corner, but so is the arrival of Joe Sheehan's book. Dive into today's chat to talk with Joe about either subject.

Joe Sheehan: Like Buckner walking back into Shea...

Shelli (Columbia, MO): Hi Joe! Can you tell us what you enjoyed the most about your book? Will it be available "where ever fine books are sold"? Hope you have a great day! Thanks! p.s.- are there other writers at prospectus with books around the corner? whatever happend to the prospectus book about 80's baseball?

Joe Sheehan: It's hopelessly egotistical, but I very much enjoyed coming across pieces, or even segments of same, that I'd forgotten and reading them again. It was rewarding to see that a lot of the content had held up over time. Some is dated -- and I include some of that in the book -- but the experiences of being a fan hold up well.

I don't believe PEV is getting this into bookstores, but I imagine we'll have more information about that as it gets closer. (I should mention that I'm behind my deadlines.)

John (New York): You've talked in your blog about your struggles with writing this book. As the release date approaches is the process becoming smoother and are you getting more excited about this accomplishment?

Joe Sheehan: Yes and no. I'm excited about it, certainly, but being late excerbates the writing pressure. I forget if I wrote this anywhere, but basically what happened is I underestimated how long it would take to read and evaluate all my work, and select the pieces for inclusion. Writing the original material started later than I might have hoped, and while I'm working through it, the combination of starting late, some blocking problems and the project leaking past 9/1 have all been deleterious.

GBSimons (Boise, ID): Joe, I'm probably the 892th person to ask this, but what did you think of "The Tenth Inning"?

Joe Sheehan: I enjoyed it. It did tend to validate the easy storylines of the last couple of years, which was frustrating, but it wasn't designed to be investigative. The visuals were, as ever, a treat, and I really enjoyed the interviews with Pedro Martinez. I understand there were many objections to it, but IMO, many of those evaluate the film not on what it is, but on what they wished it to be.

belewfripp (Knoxville, TN): Hi Joe! Glad to see that work on your book is coming apace, I look forward to buying (and reading) it. My question concerns Scott Rolen - is he a HOFer? Bill James has been running a series on 3rd basemen recently that got me wondering, and I checked his profile out on BP and he's got 80.2 WARP (I'm assuming WARP3) over his career.

Joe Sheehan: I think he needs a couple more years to make up some of the counting-stats deficit caused by his time missed to injuries. He doesn't have to play at 2010's level, but some above-average seasons allowing him to get to 2500 hits and approach 400 homers would help. There are people who don't think Chipper Jones is a Hall of Famer, and Rolen slides in behind him for sure.

I think he will be deserving in time, and will eventually get in through the front door after 6-7 years on the ballot. From a narrative standpoint, this October could be important.

Jen (Queens, NY): Big fan of your work and your strongly held opinions. Does your book deal with some of the more contentious issues you deal with in articles and the newsletters or is more of an "ode to baseball?"

Joe Sheehan: It's a mix. My favorite material is certainly the stuff that explores being a fan, as opposed to the analytical stuff or the commentary. However, there's a lot of business-of-baseball in there, stuff on steroids and Barry Bonds and tactics. I was actually a little surprised that there didn't end up more of the latter, but I didn't do a lot of dedicated tactical material. It tended to be contextual ("Bob Brenly did this; here's why it's dumb.")

I think it's the right mix. I haven't run a table of contents because I'm still not sure what will make the final book, and the ordering of stuff is up in the air.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): When BP first started, the Internet wasn't half the amazing place it is today. Does today's Internet make it easier or harder to write (a book, your Newsletter, etc.) than it used to be?

Joe Sheehan: Easier in that there's so much better access to facts and information that both provide story ideas and the evidence to support them. Harder in that there are more people writing, creating a tougher competitive environment. It's easier to start writing, and much more difficult to get noticed, than it was when we started.

On the whole, I'll take it.

Samantha (California): Looking into your crystal ball, who do you see in the World Series?

Joe Sheehan: Tampa and Colorado.

Hmmm...this thing is stuck.

Tampa and Philadelphia. Having argued all year that the three best teams in baseball are in the AL East, I'm open to the idea that the Phillies are now #2 overall.

Jason (Sarasota): Does the window of opportunity for the Rays close after the playoffs?

Joe Sheehan: No, because even if you take Pena, Crawford, Soriano and a starting pitcher (Shields or Garza) off the roster, it's a good team. The pressure will really be on that front office to find the low-cost, high-value replacements if Sternberg really does crash the payroll. It's one thing to let the FAs go -- only Crawford might be worth the money -- but if they Huizenga the thing by dumping a starter, Bartlett, et al, then you have a problem.

dianagramr (NYC): Hi Joe ... thanks for the chat. Do you think there will ever be a book about the history of Baseball Prospectus? Its a pretty interesting story, at least in terms of getting a foothold in the "establishment". I'd read that book (heck, I might "write" that book).

Joe Sheehan: I thought there'd be more history in my own book. There is some, but in writing it, I found that even in my own memory there was too much missing. I think Christina would probably be the best person to write that book, to be honest, and I would love to see her take it on. Failing that, it should be done by an outsider with access.

ed3478 (Columbus): So, what do you think about the Wild Card? :-)

Joe Sheehan: I get the joke (if you don't, know that I hate what the wild card has done to the regular season), but there is now something worse looming. The "second wild card" that would be designed to force teams to play harder for the division would be an unmitigated disaster. It wouldn't increase the value of winning the division; it would increase the value of winning a BAD division. The Rangers would be in the same boat today, because their division sucks, but the Rays and Yankees, much better teams, would be brawling to avoid that slot. You could also have a case where if team #5 had a significant lead on #6, and clinched early, they would be setting up their rotation while much better teams had to play to the wire. It is a HORRIBLE, counterproductive, ass-backwards solution to a problem that MLB created the day it let second-place teams into the playoffs.

It will probably happen.

Babe Herman (Brooklyn): What do the Yankees do about their postseason rotation? Do they dare start either Vazquez or Burnett? Do they put their faith in Ivan Nova? Does the strategy change depending upon who they're playing?

Joe Sheehan: At least for the ALDS, Sabathia, Pettitte, Hughes, with Game Four pending 2-1/1-2 situation. Given the off day that follows, I'm OK with starting Burnett on a crazy quick hook. Or really anyone; it's Johnny Wholestaff day.

Bill (Philadelphia, PA): You've made it clear New Yorkers need to calm down about their beloved Yankees' losing streak. Ignoring statistical evidence of its relevance - do you think it plays any role in player morale going into the post season?

Joe Sheehan: No, not at all. The only effect is probably annoyance at the media's persistent questions about it.

I left out part of the answer to that question about the Yankee rotation in the playoffs. Here's the rest:

"The 1996 Yankees got bad starts from their #4 (Rogers, maybe?) in both the ALCS and WS, and won the games anyway. Burnett's not a bad idea.

yancey (n/a): Is it inevitable that Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford end up in NY?

Joe Sheehan: Technically, there's no place to play Crawford. Nick Swisher has trade value, but he's the only RF among the people in play. Gardner makes for an awkward fourth OF when you have two LH starters and he can't really play RF. I long thought he'd end up there; now I'm not sure.

Lee? Yeah, seems right. The rotation issues down the stretch assure that. He also is leverage should CC opt out, which seems somewhat likely right now. It may depend on how much they have to spend to keep Jeter and Rivera.

dianagramr (NYC): Give the Rays a PNC Park-type of facility, in an area easily accessible by multiple modes of transit, and they would have drawn ____ million this year.

Joe Sheehan: 2.8

Christina Kahrl (BP Volcano Hideout): Well, shucks, it would be a fun thing to do, because it's a story about a fascinating group of people and their changing relationships, but also a reflection of the changing technology and the creation of the web in all its social glory.

Joe Sheehan: Exactly. It really is a project you'd be best-suited for.

Jeff (Philly): What's your thoughts on the attendance issues down in Tampa? I'm not really up for placing blame on anybody, but it seems to be a bummer that the team is going to go down to a 50MM payroll next year. Not necessarily the wrong move, but still a bummer that might not happen in a Philadelphia or New York.

Joe Sheehan: Wrote about that yesterday. I think their biggest problem is the location of the ballpark, which is on a peninsula separated from the population center with limited access and effectively no public transportation. The park itself is less a problem than where it is, and I don't think any Rays team can succeed in St. Petersburg. They have to find a way to get to where the people are.

Jeff (Philly): What should baseball fans root for a WS Matchup - rematch of 2009? rematch of 2008? Midwest Fun Cincy v Minnesota, etc.

Joe Sheehan: I think the Reds in the World Series would be neat. Great baseball town, despite no-showing this week, good park, great history. The Giants' pitching is fun to watch. I'd like to see Joe Maddon back on a big stage. The best matchup, though, would be Rays/Phillies.

There are a lot of bad outcomes for Fox in play.

Joe (Princeton): Angels of Anaheim... Buy/Sell/Hold this offseason?

Joe Sheehan: Sell. I have no idea where the runs are supposed to come from. You can't play SciosciaBall or big ball with that roster, and the manager himself has become awfully inscrutable. The Rangers will be better for quite some time.

David L. (BP Northeast): The Reds have 88 wins. If Joe Maddon was managing them instead of Dusty Baker, they would like have...?

Joe Sheehan: Working on this for today, but Dusty Baker has had a tremendous year. He could have buried Stubbs and Bruce, could have damaged Leake, and he did none of that. I wrote that he'd be the negative difference between Reds and Cardinals, and I was completely wrong. He -- not Cox, Manuel, Bochy or Black -- gets my MotY vote if the IBAs happen.

Jack (Newark): Aren't you dismissing a little casually the economic factors with the Rays? Unemployment in the Tampa area is above 12% and everyone's house in Florida has taken a beating the last 3 years. Disposable income may just not be there, and if it is, they may not be inclined to spend it on a team (a) that wasn't any good until just now, and (b) has made waves about breaking up the gang anyway.

Joe Sheehan: Every single business in the world cites "the economy." Every one. It's become the "pitching and defense" of the discussion. So let's say that everyone's affected and see what else is in play.

iorg34 (Minny): Fire up the Joe Sheehan Predictatron, please. Percentage chance of a Twins ALDS win against NYY? against TB? Murmurs of a Mornueau return are surfacing today.

Joe Sheehan: Vs NYY: 43% without, 47% with; vs. TB: 42/46.

Paul (DC): At a Nats-Braves game last Friday and had the rare privilege of having a couple fellow Saber-savvy fans in the rows near by. We all acknowledged Heyward has a great future, but got into a debate that if Zimmerman had been playing that night, who would have been the most talented player on the field. Any thoughts?

Joe Sheehan: Zimmermann is the better player in 2010. Heyward has more talent and the greater likelihood of having the better career. Not being as good as Jason Heyward is something shy of insulting. It's like having the second-best chat at 1 p.m. on a Thursday.

El Angelo (elangelo@gmail.com): Which routinely horrible team will be the first to play in the postseason: Nationals, Pirates, Orioles or Royals?

Joe Sheehan: Royals have the most talent and the easiest division, in all likelihood. Had Strasburg not been injured, I may have gone with the Nats.

Jake (Brooklyn): A little into the future, but how do you think the Dodgers' financial situation will play out? Will Frank McCourt be able to keep the team, or will it be sold? How much money can we expect the team to spend in the offseason?

Joe Sheehan: I'd just be guessing on the first two. The third...I can't see them spending any money. Teams in transition simply don't spend money. Teams looking to be sold don't, either. I have no idea how they fill the many roster holes given this situation.

Bill (NYC): On Aug 23rd, and of course he can changes mind, but CC said: he won't "even consider" becoming a free agent after 2011. "I'm here," Sabathia said. "Hundred percent." "I think you know I've built a house here, right?" he said. "My kids go to school here. We live here year round. So I'm not going anywhere.""

Joe Sheehan: It's completely meaningless on August 23, 2010. Beyond that, you don't have to intend to leave. You can opt out merely to get a better deal. Alex Rodriguez did this nine minutes ago.

Wilson Betemit (Kansas City): Rany wrote that KC should offer me $9-12mil for 3 years. What's the lowest offer I should take to stay in KC for 3 years? P.S. I don't like playing RF.

Joe Sheehan: $22 million per. Don't you like playing meaningful baseball games?

Jay (Philly): Roster construction. I know teams used to go 15 hitters/10 pitchers like it was nothing. In considering it for the Phillies or Yankees playoffs (last year) though, I'm unsure. On the one hand, you have 3 starters who will make most of the starts, so only a 7 man bullpen is necessary, but you're also unlikely to pinch hit for these starters or your hitters, so are the bench players (Bocock, Dobbs) just as useless as the relievers (Baez, Bastardo)

Joe Sheehan: The leverage of the situations in which you would use the last hitters, though, is going to be higher than the leverage of the situations in which you'll use the extra pitchers. It's also easier to get advantages offensively than it is defensively because of the game's rules. I am completely and utterly convinced that postseason roster construction is a massive fail for the industry as a whole.

As an example, the Giants will roster Barry Zito, who has no value in a short series, because he's a veteran with a contract. If the Yankees don't start A.J. Burnett, he should be left off; he won't. There's too much of this, and that's before you get into the decisions made for nominally tactical reasons.

Everyone needs to play Strat. It really does teach you this stuff.

Gilbert (NY, NY): In your eyes, what team that's going to make the postseason (let's say the Padres are out for now) has the LEAST chance of winning it all?

Joe Sheehan: The Rangers. They just don't get enough guys on base.

Happy Feet (Felix, PA): Any thoughts on DuPuy's departure?

Joe Sheehan: I'm surprised, and the way it happened is extremely curious. I think it's a small positive sign for the next round of CBA negotiations.

dianagramr (NYC): You believe CC would opt out of the 4 remaining years at $23M per? Who else is going to give him that kind of dough? Unless you think he really would like to "go back to Cali", and the Angels or Dodgers (assuming the McCourts are done with their proceedings by then ... sigh) would be in the mix.

Joe Sheehan: At the end of next season, Sabathia will have a four-year, $92-million contract. Cliff Lee is going to be sitting better than that, to name just one guy who might be his teammate. Assuming Sabathia pitches to expectations, he'd be the best starter on the market by far. He'd be leaving $40 or $50 million on the table by not opting out. The only player who ever came close to doing that was Halladay.

Matt (Chicago): Does Adam Dunn make any sense for an NL team, namely the Cubs?

Joe Sheehan: Isn't the lesson of the past couple of years that Dunn is an OK first baseman defensively and has more than enough bat for the job?

Brandon Warne (Plymouth, MN): What about Philly's window? Oswalt and Halladay won't be any younger, and that, coupled with the possible departure of Werth, the injuries to Utley and Rollins, and the fact that Polanco and Ibanez are 34 and 38, respectively, could spell a fall-off in Philly's future, no?

Joe Sheehan: They're getting old and there's no way around it. This is why I hated the Lee deal (and a lesser reason why I hated the Howard extension), because their window is now. The 2013-15 Phillies aren't going to be that good, in all likelihood. I really think they can get one more year out of this team, but then you have to start over.

iorg34 (Minny): Will the Padres be future victims of their own success a la Seattle 2007 or can they reasonably expect to challenge in the West again?

Joe Sheehan: I love this question. As great a story as the 2010 Padres were, can you look at the expected roster of the 2011 version and even see .500? Jed Hoyer is in a really interesting spot right now, with much higher expectations and almost no chance of meeting them. If they get to the playoffs this year, anything can happen; if they don't, man, it's a tough spot.

jeffk (NYC): As much as it pains me to say this, Nick Johnson's career is pretty much effectively over now, right?

Joe Sheehan: No. If Chad Fox can keep showing up in camp, Johnson has years left.

Lightning round.

Ace (San Francisco): Is it amazing how little attention this Giants staff is getting? An ERA of 2 in September is ridiculous - and a streak that hadn't been matched (3 runs or less per game allowed) since the deadball era?

Joe Sheehan: I'm trying, man. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/joe_sheehan/09/23/five.cuts/index.html. Tweeted about it as well.

Devil (Your Right Shoulder): Ok, now that he's gone, please tell us your funniest Will Carroll story. C'mon, there has to be one...

Joe Sheehan: They almost all involve NDAs, I'm afraid. But if Eliza Dushku ever chats here...

Aaron (YYZ): Joe, any thoughts on the situation of the Blue Jays? It's a really, really good team (better than their record), but I'm worried that this young group won't be enough to be the absolute best team in baseball and earn a trip to the playoffs.

Joe Sheehan: The Jays have demonstrated the ability to generate league-average and better starting pitchers. The next step tuning down the ability to underdevelop talented young hitters. Too many of their own products have stumbled in the majors. Very curious to see how much of the power spike this year -- not just Bautista's -- is retained, and whether they can leaven it with some OBP. Dunn's a fit.

Matt (Chicago): What are the first feasible steps that Hendry can take this offseason to fix the Cubs, if there are any?

Joe Sheehan: So many untradeable contracts...maybe just avoiding the big mistake. Don't make a bad trade of Zambrano, or sign another no-impact FA. Bank on some bounce-back by Ramirez, development of Castro. They can win 86 next year.

iorg34 (Minny): Ready to see Philly run the table?

Joe Sheehan: It's definitely possible, especially if the Braves upset the Giants in the DS. Phillies/Giants would be a lot of fun, though. Most pitching since...well, probably something involving the 1990s Braves.

Jim (San Francisco): Say someone was interested in reading a newsletter full of your insights, where could one find such a newsletter and how much might it cost?

Joe Sheehan: http://joesheehanbaseball.blogspot.com has the info, $15.

Joe Sheehan: Thanks for stopping by, everyone. I have to get back to writing about baseball, but I'll be back to talk more about the book and the postseason next month. Follow me on Twitter: @joe_sheehan .

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