Check in with BP columnist Ben Lindbergh to talk about winter activity, sabermetrics, and more.
Ben Lindbergh: Welcome, all. I'm thrilled to be chatting with you on what should go down as a momentous day for BP. As a newly installed member of our crack editorial team, I'll have the pleasure of reading our new authors' contributions before anyone else, which makes me excited in a selfish way, but I'm also excited for our readers. If you're already a subscriber, the value of your subscription just increased exponentially, and if you're considering subscribing-- well, there's probably never been a better time.
With that brief (and sincere) advertisement out of the way, let's get to your questions, both baseball- and BP-related.
paulbellows (Calgary): First manager canned? Who ya got?
Ben Lindbergh: Given the rash of managers canned in 2010 and the current job security of most skippers around the league, we might just get through this season without any managerial carnage. Every now and then, it happens, though the smart money is probably on at least one head rolling before it's all said and done.
Matt (Chicago): Is Randy Wells truly an underappreciated-particularly for the $- back-end starter ,or what?
Ben Lindbergh: Wells was so overrated for a while there that he may have swung back to the opposite end of the spectrum. As someone (or someones) pointed out at the time, the guy the Cubs traded most of their farm system for over the winter isn't a whole lot better than what they already had in Wells.
dianagramr (NYC): Will the sites that lost writing talent to BP be receiving compensation picks?
Ben Lindbergh: Nope. All our picks are protected.
Peter (Kingston): Are you on twitter at the same time as chatting with us? We're not good enough for you?
Ben Lindbergh: My appearances on Twitter have been few and far between lately, thanks to serving as an assistant editor of Baseball Prospectus 2011 (which is slated to ship in less than two weeks, by the way), but BP is taking over the interwebs at the moment, so I can't bear to tear myself away completely.
lnodolf (Fillmore, CA): Will Cle Adam Miller pitch this season?
Ben Lindbergh: I've lost track of the Adam Miller saga lately (Can you blame me? Last I heard there was no timetable for his return), but I'll go out on a limb and say no, though I hope to be proven wrong.
Peter Gammons just followed me on Twitter (why, I don't know), which makes me all tingly inside.
Cris E (St Paul, MN): Are you going to chat longer than Neyer did the other day?
Ben Lindbergh: How long did Neyer go this time? That crazy cat will chat all day if you give him the slightest excuse. I would, but I do have an article to finish up for tomorrow, so I'll have to cut this short at some point.
BR (NYC): Any news you can offer us on upcoming PECOTA release(s)? Is Colin totally re-doing the whole engine?
Ben Lindbergh: You'll be hearing much more about this no later than Monday, I believe. In short: yes, and "has re-done" would be more accurate than "is re-doing."
Rex Little (Big Bear, CA): What does the future hold for Micah Owings? Another chance to pitch for the Reds? Change of scenery? Conversion to position play? Outpatient procedure to remove the protruding fork?
Ben Lindbergh: I wrote in the annual that his only chance for a future might be an unorthodox position switch, and it looks like that's in the cards. After signing Owings to a minor-league deal a week or so ago, Kevin Towers said this:
"I would imagine he'll see a little bit of time at first base, how much time I can't tell you. I know we definitely want to get him some at-bats. He is kind of a dual-weapon guy. It would be nice to have a guy who on the days he may not be pitching you would still have a very good right-handed bat to win a game for you."
So that's your answer, though that fork removal may still be necessary before long.
CrisE (St Paul, MN): Re: Neyer
The world wide leader had a chat scheduled for after he'd left their employ. It went on without him, and attendance was light.
Ben Lindbergh: Best of luck to Rob in his new digs. What with Rob, King Kaufman, and--of course--our very own Steven Goldman assuming new responsibilities, it's been quite a week for internet baseball editors.
tony (albuquerque): Who has a better season Brett Gardner or Jose Tabata? Is Gardner going to get 500 ABs?
Ben Lindbergh: My capacity for objectivity is strained when it comes to Run BMG; new addition Jeremy Greenhouse and I constitute the BP chapter of the Brett Gardner/David Robertson fan club. If he can avoid the nagging injuries that handicapped him last year, he'll have every chance to reach 500 AB and put together a better season than Tabata.
Ed (Cranford, NJ): Hello Ben
Who gets more saves this year, Brad Lidge or Evan Meek? Thanks
Ben Lindbergh: Lidge. Joel Hanrahan still seems to have the upper hand in Pittsburgh.
Eric (LA): What photographs does Alex Anthopoulos have of Tony Reagins and who or what is Reagins doing in them?
Ben Lindbergh: If I knew, don't you think I'd have unloaded all of my depreciating assets on the Angels already?
Breaking news: brand-new BP author Dan Turkenkopf has requested to join the Gardner/Robertson fan club. I'll have to speak to Jeremy, but I'm sure we can work something out.
Ton (ALbuquerque): What's up with James Loney? Can he add some power numbers or has that boat sailed?
Ben Lindbergh: As Neil Young sang in his late-70s classic, "Powerloney":
Look out, Mama, there's a white boat coming up the river/With a decent glove, and some walks, and a few SB/I think you'd better call John Lindsey/'cause it don't look like he's here to deliver/the power
Loney might not be white, but otherwise Neil knew what he was talking about.
Tony (Albuquerque): Suppose you get to take over the Royals tomorrow; what is your five year strategic plan for the organization?
Ben Lindbergh: I'd lean back in my chair, put my feet up on the desk, and commencing Trusting The Process.
Paul (DC): In synergy with Mr. Parks article today on KC's top 5 prospects, which one of them do you predict has the highest chance of taking the Alex Gordon career path on them?
Ben Lindbergh: It's always safer to bet on a pitching prospect to bust, which narrows it down to Montgomery or Lamb. Thanks to the injury concerns Jason mentioned, I'll go with the former.
Matt (Chicago): How is the Carlos Pena experience going to be for Cub fans? .245/.365/.500?
Ben Lindbergh: I believe the PECOTA projection that went into the book had him at .223/.351/.466 (yes, I have some PECOTAs, no, I'm not allowed to share). Your guess might be an upper-percentile performance, but it's not completely unreasonable
Paul (DC): Does BP have a clubhouse or a decked out Mystery Machine Van where you and the rest of the gang can sit and debate (the more snark the better) the relative Wins Above Replacement Writer (WARW) of say the latest Joe Posnanski column versus ... oh ... lets be mean, a Mike Lupica baseball column?
Ben Lindbergh: No, but we do have a fully furnished mother's basement, though it's getting a bit crowded. We are firm believers in Poz's lofty WARW values, and he was kind enough to provide us with the foreword to Baseball Prospectus 2011.
Bryan (Chicago): Who will be the White Sox' starting third baseman? Teahen, Morel or Vicideo? I personally think Morel could be a hidden gem.
Ben Lindbergh: I'm not sure I'd go so far as "gem," unless we're talking semi-precious, but I'm with you on preferring him to the other two options. The most recent version of PECOTA at my disposal has him projected for the same TAv as Teahen, but the glove should be much better.
Allen (Salt Lake): I kept Matt Wieters in my keeper league on the hope that he busts out this year. With out getting into the numbers does PECOTA think i'm smart or an idiot?
Ben Lindbergh: I haven't seen any long-term forecasts, but for this year, somewhere in between; he's projected to be a slightly-above-average hitter, which is nothing to sneeze at from a catcher. Obviously, there's breakout potential, but this ain't 2009, folks.
Rob (Alaska): Which Aubrey Huff do we get this year?
Ben Lindbergh: The one who falls somewhere in between the 2009 Orioles model and the 2010 World Champion edition.
RK (Kansas): Can you rank these guys in terms of what you think their HR UPSIDE is for 2011: J. Smoak, L. Morrison, B. Butler, and L. Berkman? Thanks.
Ben Lindbergh: Smoak, Butler, Berkman, Morrison, but there's not a ton of spread here.
Matt (Chicago): Any chance that Vitters resurrects his prospect status this yr? He seems to have plenty of doubters of late.
Ben Lindbergh: And with good reason--as we wrote in the annual, his youth excuses only so much. Sure, there's a chance, but as they say, at some point the bat has to start showing up in games.
David (DC): What's your O/U on LAA wins required to put Scoiscia on the hot seat? Or does Reagins take the fall for finishing 3rd in the AL West?
Ben Lindbergh: Given that Scioscia remains under contract with the Angels for eight(!) more years, his seat is fully flame-retardant. Reagins is both more responsible and more likely to take the fall for a disappointing finish.
Henry (Austin): Was Josh Beckett hurt, unlucky or regressing last year? IS he back for this year?
Ben Lindbergh: Possibly all of the above, but being hurt probably had the most to do with it. I'm sure there's a bad pun to be made in answer to your second question, since his back was the problem last year, but I'll let that go by. Wait--no, I won't. Whether he's back will depend on his back. How's that?
tony (albuquerque): Reaction to the White Stripes calling it quits?
Ben Lindbergh: I never got around to listening much while they were together, but I like what I've heard. Given our new lineup of writers, though, I wouldn't blame any competing act for bowing out of the entertainment game.
R.A.Wagman (Toronto): Ben - remind us please - who are you? Who were you and how do you plan to entertain and enlighten us?
Ben Lindbergh: I'm a Manhattan-based writer in my early 20s (wait, is 24 still early? Cue the quarter-life crisis). I came up through the BP ranks as an intern in mid-to-late 2008 and pitched in a bit on the site and in the '09 annual, then left in mid-2009 to float through a front office for a year or so. Since June, I've been back writing regularly, as well as working as a Baseball Analyst for Bloomberg Sports (where I've been joined by Mr. Greenhouse). I just finished helping our new E-in-C assemble Baseball Prospectus 2011 from its component parts (which is why you hadn't seen anything from me online for some time before yesterday), and in addition to writing for the site, I'll continue to help out on the editorial side. This has become a full-time gig for me and I couldn't be more happy about it, so I hope to do plenty of entertaining and enlightening along the way, though you know what they say about best-laid plans.
Tony Reagins (Los Angeles): I'm thinking if I can trick the Giants into trading me Barry Zito, the pennant will be ours next season!
Ben Lindbergh: Correlation doesn't equal causation, Tony, but hey, it never hurts to add another albatross to your aviary.
Tom (Madison): How are the A's going to construct their roster with the dozen relievers or so they've signed to major league deals?
Ben Lindbergh: Pitching staff by committee.
Dave (Chicago): Of Hideki Matsui, Josh Willingham, and David DeJesus, which of the A's new additions do you expect to adapt best to hitting in the Coliseum?
Ben Lindbergh: The Coliseum isn't quite as unfriendly to lefties as it is to righties, so Matsui and DeJesus shouldn't see their value plummet. DeJesus should continue to be good for close to 10 triples.
I see that Larry Granillo already has two posts up, and R.J. Anderson has published three pieces--hasn't anyone told them that it's a marathon, not a sprint? Just kidding, guys.
thresh50 (boston): Do you share Jason Parks concern about Wil Myers swing? And when do you expect Myers to reach the majors?
Ben Lindbergh: To be perfectly honest, I don't know Wil Myers' swing from a hole in the wall. Jason knows what he's talking about, so sure, I'd be inclined to temper my inner expectations for him just a tad based on what I read this morning. Like most big Royals prospects, Myers' ETA is 2012.
RMR (Chicago): There seems to be an assumption that the Cardinals will be ok as long as they retain Pujols. But if they retain him at $30M, aren't the still painted in to a corner? Holliday isn't going to get any better or cheaper. Same with Carpenter and Wainright. They basically need Rasmus and Miller to be studs to stay at or near the top of the division for the next few years right?
Ben Lindbergh: Yes, I think that's fair to say. Retaining Pujols doesn't really make the Cardinals better, it just prevents them from getting significantly worse (not to mention the fact that Pujols' best days may be behind him, though many great ones still lie ahead). The formula didn't work with Pujols in the mix last year, so they certainly shouldn't (and won't) declare their work done if they do succeed in extending him.
Travis Snider (Fantasy Keeper League Hell): Should the fantasy faithful who have remained loyal to me hold on for one more year?
Ben Lindbergh: Yes. After that, they can consider cutting bait, but a year from today, you'll still be just 24. On the dot, in fact--today is your birthday, and you didn't even say anything! Happy birthday, Travis.
RMR (Chicago): If you're Jocketty, how are you handling Chapman this year? 2012 and beyond?
Ben Lindbergh: If I'm Jocketty, I'm leaving him in the pen for at least this year. If I'm Ben Lindbergh, Reds GM, I'm probably not. Then again, if I had Jocketty's job, I'd have access to Jocketty's information, so I might well change my mind.
Tony (Albuquerque): Speaking Pujols, one team that could afford taking on $30 for the next ten years and could certainly benefit from the positive PR is the Royals... and he's a KC guy(kinda). What say you/
Ben Lindbergh: They'll certainly have some money to spend before long, but they have too many promising 1B/DH types both on the roster and in the pipeline to justify that expenditure. Of course, if you're going to block some prospects, you could do worse than blocking them with Pujols.
Charlie (Bethesda): Every time I'm able to make it out to Vegas before the season starts, I try to put $20 or so down on a long shot pennant winner that I think has better odds than they realize. My philosophy is, if they can get in the playoffs, it's a bit of a crapshoot and anyone can win the pennant. So this year I saw 35-1 odds on the Brewers and I jump on it. Can they win the Central or the WC? Got a great top of the rotation and a good lineup, right?
Ben Lindbergh: Right. I'm not a betting man, I like the Reds, and it's not easy to outsmart Vegas, but if you told me the Brewers would win the pennant, I wouldn't have you committed.
lyndon (Columbus, OH): Neil Young should have his own player page for how many times he gets mentioned in these chats. Wonder what his 90 percentile would be...
Ben Lindbergh: I haven't seen any conclusive research into rock star aging curves, but considering that Neil's getting on in years, his 90th-percentile projection would probably be releasing another album of the caliber of Harvest Moon (though I loved Chrome Dreams II). He can't be mentioned enough in chats for my taste, but I'm afraid you'll have to settle for his AllMusic page, since including him in the database might break PECOTA.
gary (st. louis): can bj upton be a .270+ avg hitter?
Ben Lindbergh: That would be asking a lot, since he hasn't made contact at an average rate since 2008. Fortunately, he can still be an asset to a team while hitting .240.
Bob (Seattle): James Loney = Casey Kotchman?
Daric Barton = John Olerud?
Ben Lindbergh: I'll buy it in the broad strokes, though Olerud is a best-case outcome for Barton. Barton needs more batting helmet.
dandycharger (middle of nowhere): As an illustration of how overused the term "5-tool player" is. name all the 5 tool players currently in MLB
Ben Lindbergh: That's a great question, dandy (dandy, where you gonna go now?) Can I reserve judgment for the time being and add the question to my article queue?
mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Are you a fan of any particular team, Ben?
Ben Lindbergh: I grew up rooting for the Yankees, thanks to my proximity to the Stadium (okay, and maybe it had something to do with the team's success at the time). I still like to see them do well (since, you know, that happens so rarely), but I no longer have much of an emotional tie to the team. Except when it comes to Gardner and Robertson, of course. I'd like to pretend that those are purely statistical man-crushes, but maybe it's something about the high socks.
mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): After the Phillies, who has the best starting staff in baseball?
Ben Lindbergh: Giants, most likely.
Silv (NY, NY): Frankly, I think Loney has more of an Olerud shot than Barton; Loney's glove is pretty slick. On the continuing Dodger front, what do we expect out of Matt Kemp this year?
Ben Lindbergh: Barton's no slouch with the leather and has the virtue of being a productive offensive player in a more-than-theoretical sense, so I think he has to have the edge there. If I can be permitted another PECOTA teaser, the system foresees something of a rebound for Kemp, and I'm inclined to agree.
BStephen (milwaukee): can the brewers win with yuniesky at SS?
Ben Lindbergh: It can be done, especially if FRAA's sunny take on his 2010 defensive performance carries over to this season. Of course, I'd like their chances better if J.J. Hardy were still around.
R.A.Wagman (Toronto): Ben - when you watch baseball, what do you watch for? What thrills you most? IN other words, what makes you tick as a baseball fan? Please provide an explanation/example in your response.
Ben Lindbergh: This sounds like a question better posed to Carson Cistulli, but I'll give it a shot. Like anyone else, I watch for the sweet swings, strong throws, diving catches, blazing fastballs, deep fly balls, and David Robertsons, but as time has gone on, I suppose I've focused more on the little things--not sacrifice bunting and advancing the runner, but watching to see whether a pitcher is hitting his spots, testing my ability to recognize pitch types, and trying to glean something about a hitter's approach. I enjoy the probability aspects, whether they happen to work out in my team's favor or not. And last but not least, I watch because I long to learn more about TBS' upcoming programs.
Bob (Seattle): Every player's a five tool player although some tools are better than others.
That said, let's try for established players, CarGo, Shin-Soo, David Wright, and Nelson Cruz. David Wright, Colby Rasmus, and Chase Utley might qualify.
Ben Lindbergh: Yes siree, Bob! I'll keep that in mind, but mostly I just wanted to say that to someone actually named Bob.
chewbalka (Canada): Thanks for the chat Ben.
As a baseball fan I was hoping Teixeira would sign in Baltimore a couple of years ago. I saw the KC speculation earlier so now I'm again wondering if Baltimore or Toronto would be an ideal landing spot for baseball in general if Pujols hits free agency?
Ben Lindbergh: You got it, Chewie (now bring me the hydrospanner!). It depends what you think is best for baseball--having star players in the biggest possible media markets, or promoting parity. I don't know the answer, if there is one. Frankly, baseball will be just fine wherever Pujols goes (or doesn't go).
Charlie (Bethesda): I know Dodgers Stadium is horrible on hitting but Loney's home/road splits are awful. Away he has an .854 OPS for his career, at home he's hitting .711. Don't you think it'd be smart for another team to pursue him?
Ben Lindbergh: I wouldn't have guessed that his home/away split would be so large, since Chavez Ravine isn't the worst place for lefties, but it's pretty tough on doubles and triples, which is more Loney's speed as far as extra-base hits go. Teams have done much, much more ill-advised things than pursuing James Loney, but if someone gave me a GM job today, the first item on my agenda probably wouldn't be trading for him. First base is just too deep.
Guancous (Silver Spring): One of Bob's David Wrights must have been Longoria. Carl Crawford is on the periphery.
Ben Lindbergh: Ultimately, it's probably a pointless exercise, though it might be enjoyable anyway. It's impossible to say whether a guy definitively doesn't possess a tool, since hitting for average, power, speed, etc. are all skills that lie on a spectrum. At some point, you have to start setting arbitrary cut-offs if you're interested in declaring that a guy has a certain number of tools. Crawford has a .148 career ISO--does that mean he can hit for power? Well, I don't know--what's the baseline, and to whom are we comparing him? It's really useful as a kind of shorthand, like saying that a guy is projected to be a "number-three starter." We kind of know what that means, but it breaks down on a micro scale. The natural next question is, "Well, sure, but in whose rotation?"
thresh50 (Boston): What knd of stats do you expect from Borbon this year?
Ben Lindbergh: Underwhelming ones. I don't think we're going to see anything like his small-sample 2009 sustained over a full season, if that's what you're wondering.
Tony (Albuquerque): Can Adam Lind return to his 2009 form?
Ben Lindbergh: It just wouldn't be a BP chat without an Adam Lind question. No, probably not, but stranger things have happened, and 25 is pretty early to peak.
Julio Borbon (gbB, TX): Do I have a chance to stay in center field, or am I going to have to figure out how to steal first base?
Ben Lindbergh: You could stay in center if only there were a way to work that so that you wouldn't also have to stay in the lineup.
Ben Lindbergh: Well, folks, I have a good deal of writing and editing to do this evening, so it's time for me to bow out. I'm happy to have spent this exciting afternoon with you, and I encourage you to get to know all of our fine new authors and features over the coming weeks and months. As always, thank you for spending some time with Baseball Prospectus.