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Chat: Ben Lindbergh

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday April 12, 2011 1:00 PM ET chat session with Ben Lindbergh.


Our own Colonel of Transactions, Ben Lindbergh, comes bearing good tidings and baseball wisdom for all in his latest chat.

Ben Lindbergh: Good afternoon, folks. I just wrapped up the latest installment of Transaction Analysis this morning (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=13542#commentMessage), but I'm back to take questions for a few hours. Let's get started.

paulbellows (Calgary): Have you seen anything to make you worry about Nishioka as of yet? How badly do the Twins need some IF depth. Watching Matt Tolbert play makes me yearn for Steve Lombardozzi.

Ben Lindbergh: I wrote about Nishioka and all things Twins infielder in today's TA (linked above). Suffice it to say that I'm not a believer. Even if you mean "other than a fractured fibula" and would be inclined to disregard his slow start at the plate, I just don't think Nishioka's cut out to be a productive major leaguer, based on his skill set and track record in Japan.

The Twins need IF depth badly, but I don't know if they'd agree. History suggests that Ron Gardenhire has no problem living and dying with the Tolberts of the world.

Jeff (Boston): Daisuke Matsuzaka hasn't been an effective starter since 2008. Should the Red Sox cut bait?

Ben Lindbergh: Saying he was effective even in 2008 is a stretch: he had the lowest BABIP of any starter with at least his innings pitched total, and his 4.35 SIERA looked a lot worse than his sub-3.00 ERA.

Marc Normandin wrote about Dice-K extensively today, so I'll refer you to his enlightened takes:

You can probably tell what Marc's opinion is from that second URL. I don't disagree.

Vampire (Queens ): When do you sleep?

Ben Lindbergh: Whenever I get the chance. At this point, the day-night cycle means about as much to me as it would to an astronaut on the ISS.

Creeper (Austin, TX ): Why does Steven Goldman call you colonel? Are you two... you know?

Ben Lindbergh: Good pals? Why, yes, we are! Steve calls me "Colonel" because Charles Lindbergh attained that rank in the Army Air Corps. No relation, but the nickname stuck. At least in the sense that Steve (and no one else) is still calling me that.

Jquinton82 (NY): I realize the velocity isn't much to worry about with Hughes after two starts and him having a bit of a history of it before, but doesnt one have to be concerned with the numbers themselves... 12 hits in 8 innings, 1:4 K/BB, 11 ER? Does any of this lead you to believe there could be an injury or even a bit of a hangover from last year's innings increase?

Ben Lindbergh: Actually, I'd be more concerned about the velo drop than the numbers, or at least more concerned by the two in conjunction than either in isolation. Mike Fast discovered a couple weeks ago (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=13380) that velo drops in the early going do tend to persist, so we shouldn't dismiss Hughes' struggles in that department as an early-season fluke. I wrote in today's TA that the Carlos Silva signing and Hughes' struggles could be related.

It seems like almost since the day Hughes and Chamberlain came up, we've been hearing that either or both was or were throwing softer than expected, doesn't it? Hughes really did use to throw in the mid-90s. In his case, the drop is probably mostly TINSTAAP and partially the Yankees' handling. In Joba's case, the converse could be true. Either way, it's a shame; young pitchers can be a real buzzkill sometimes.

Hot Stover (Mom's Basement): Challenge trade: Kei Igawa for Dice-K ... who says no.

Ben Lindbergh: Everyone.

Jason Parks (NYC): When you participate in public appearances with Kevin Goldstein, do you think to yourself, "Man, I dig the hat. I totally understand where he's going with this," or, "Man, I don't dig the hat. I don't understand where he's going with this?"

Ben Lindbergh: The former, without question. And I'm not just saying that because he's my boss.

Tavis Bregel (Covington, KY): Considering Matt Harrison's fast start, what numbers should we expect from him to finish out this season?

Ben Lindbergh: Not very good ones. PECOTA and I aren't believers, despite the fast start. Let's wait until that BABIP noses up over .162 to get excited. Marc warned us not to believe the hype over a week ago (I'm a link machine today: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=13441), and the same holds true after a second successful start.

Marissa (Las Vegas): Which team are you picking to win the Stanley Cup this season?

Ben Lindbergh: Where's Timo Seppa when you need him? Um...the Red Wings? Wait, Steve Yzerman retired? Okay, never mind, then. The, uh...yeah, I don't know.

Bobby (LA): Besides Baseball, what other sports do you follow?

Ben Lindbergh: If my answer to the last question didn't tip you off, none. I'd actually like to follow hockey (the others, not so much), but I seem to have my hands full keeping up with baseball.

Shusiki (Pittsburgh): The Pirates will make the playoffs at least once in the next 10 seasons, true or false?

Ben Lindbergh: True.

User (BattersBox.ca): Travis Snider will still develop into a scary middle of the order bat, True or False?

Ben Lindbergh: I'll say true--he's still just 23. He hasn't made it easy to remain a believer, though.

Tavis Bregel (Covington, KY): Thanks Ben. Same question, another pitcher, what's the outlook for Zach Britton?

Ben Lindbergh: Much better than Harrison's. Britton is the real deal. There will be some struggles--he's walked too many batters not to get burned at some point--but he should be fun to watch, and it's hard to imagine that he'll be sent back to Norfolk. If only I could stop calling him "Chris." Old habits die hard.

Marc (Inside Your Internets): Who is serenading you while you chat with us? Also, what early season surprise do you think will last the year?

Ben Lindbergh: Right now I'm listening to the Posies' "Solar Sister." After that, I'll either leave the musical selections up to the whims of my media player, or put on the second "Under the Covers" album from Matthew Sweet and Susannah Hoffs.

Marc is probably hoping that I'll say "Nick Hundley," but I'll stick with Britton as a surprise with staying power. I'm also on the Kyle McClellan bandwagon, and I think this could be the year that Nelson Cruz stays healthy and leads the world in homers.

WilliamWilde (Boston, MA): Any truth to the rumor that Longoria's oblique strain was brought on by overly vigorous use of his favorite assault weapons at the shooting range?

Ben Lindbergh: The recoil on those things must be pretty jarring, but no.

Jack (Vancouver): Do you think Vancouver will ever get a MLB team?

Ben Lindbergh: I'd love for that to happen--Vancouver is one of my favorite cities. I'd doubt it, though. The immigrant population is so large that I wonder whether the city could support it. How do the Vancouver Canadians draw?

Ben (Boston): I have a dilemma and I need your advice. I have box seats for the Red Sox game this Saturday (free food/booze) but it’s also my 5th year anniversary with my Wife. She’s not a baseball fan so I know she wouldn’t be interested in going. How do I break the news to her that I’m going to pick a baseball game over spending time with her on our anniversary?

Ben Lindbergh: With lots and lots of jewelry, unless your wedding vows included the caveat, "Till box seats do us part." Otherwise, I don't know if you'll make it to your sixth anniversary. Then again, box seats. Tough call. Is this a happy marriage?

Jack (Vancouver): Despite being in only a short season league, the Canadians draw a couple thousand per game. We use to have a AAA team but the ballpark eventually became too small.

Ben Lindbergh: I remember that. Well, consider me a supporter of the "Bring MLB baseball to Vancouver" campaign, if only for sentimental reasons. Although the city is so nice already that adding an MLB franchise might make things unfair to residents of other cities.

Bored Cube Slave (Office): Why is water wet?

Ben Lindbergh: I think the answer to that question might be in Jason Parks' column today.

mef (Brooklyn): Does Carlos Beltran miss any significant amount of time this year or will he spend the whole year at 85% playing 5-6 games/week?

Ben Lindbergh: CHIPPER and I foresee at least one extended absence.

Dennis (LA): Thank you for the chat, Ben. If you were creating a team from scratch, what three starting pitchers and three position players would you choose to build around?

Ben Lindbergh: Off the top of my head, I'll say Heyward, Tulo, Longoria, and Hernandez, Kershaw, and, oh...Lester.

batch1nyy (Ft. Worth): Appreciate your work Ben. What do you make of the OF situation in Texas? Julio Borbon surely isn't an everyday player in this league. Are they crazy for not getting David Murphy 500+ at bats?

Ben Lindbergh: I wouldn't get too excited about David Murphy in an outfield corner, and I'm not sure how realistic an option Murphy in center would be. He's probably a better fit as a fourth outfielder. Of course, Borbon is probably a better fit as a Triple-A outfielder, so you have a point.

Tavis Bregel (Covington, KY): Considering Chipper Jones' injury history and his yearly struggle later in his career to play 140 games, is the name of this forecast intended or a lucky occurance?

Ben Lindbergh: Totally intended. Marc Normandin did the backronym honors.

SnakeDoctor18 (New York, NY): Hey Ben, What do you think of Alexi Ogando? Can he maintain being a dominant starter as he's shown in his first two starts?

Ben Lindbergh: I like Ogando--he was effective out of the pen last season, even if he couldn't convince Ron Washington to use him in any high-leverage spots. I don't think he'll continue to be this dominant, though, since I'm not sure his control or luck are this good. You wonder if he'll run out of gas at some point, too.

TGisriel (Baltimore): How much of a problem is it for the Orioles to lose Matusz and Hardy to the disabled list?

Ben Lindbergh: Given that Matusz's injury gave the Orioles an excuse to call up Zach Britton, not a huge one. Hardy's was a tough loss, plunging the O's back into the dark days of "Cesar Izturis, starting shortstop," but he'll be back in six weeks or so.

tommybones (brooklyn): The Rays aren't bringing up Jennings until late May at the earliest... right?

Ben Lindbergh: Right, not likely. Maybe June.

Julio Borbon (Arlington): Ha! I showed you! Josh just got another owie and now I have a job, so nyah! I'll bet I keep the job over my stiffest competion, Endy Chavez. But wait...what about this Cuban guy Martin? Uh oh....

Ben Lindbergh: A new challenger! Martin will start in the minors, but it might not be long before he's pushing Borbon.

SnakeDoctor18 (New York, NY): What's going on with Jay Bruce? When is he going to bounce into the MVP form that all the BP'ers have expected from him?

Ben Lindbergh: I wasn't one of the BPers who predicted an MVP season, but things will get much better for Bruce, and soon.

David (New Orleans): What letter grade would you give Bud Selig for his role as the Commish?

Ben Lindbergh: I might give him a solid B, but considering the rampant grade inflation these days, I'm not sure how much we can take from that. He probably wouldn't have to run home and hide his report card, let's put it that way.

GrinnellSteve (Grinnell): My anniversary is Saturday. 29 years. My wife picked the baseball game to watch our son's team. I'm left with the Special Olympics to cheer on our daughter. Any wife worth her salt understands the draw of box seats. Just sayin'.

Ben Lindbergh: Yeah, but a fifth anniversary is different from a 29th, right? For the fifth, you still have to look like you're trying. Ideally, your wife would be just as excited about the box seats as you are, but nobody's perfect.

When did I turn into a marriage counselor? Believe me, I'm underqualified.

Ed (Cranford, NJ): Hi Ben What are the chances that Zach Braddock will be closing this year or next? Thanks

Ben Lindbergh: I guess that depends on the chances that John Axford won't be closing this year or next. Here's what we said on that subject in this year's annual:

"Relievers with walk rates that high tend to lose their grip on the closer reins as managers grow frustrated with their self-inflicted jams. While it's possible that Axford has developed a newfound ability to find the strike zone and will spend the next half-decade closing games at Miller Park, it's just as likely that Brewers fans will wake up one morning to discover that yesterday's Rollie Fingers has morphed into today's Derrick Turnbow."

I don't think Axford is about to enter Turnbow territory, but there are certainly unlikelier closer candidates than Braddock. His talents would be wasted in the bullpen, though: with a name like that, he really should've been a cowboy or a spaceship captain.

paulbellows (Calgary): How do you think the World Baseball Classic will progress (or not) over the next 10-20 years and into the future?

Ben Lindbergh: I think it will live long and prosper, though it might continue to be more popular outside the States.

SaberTJ (Cleveland, OH): Can the Indians pitching staff finish above average this year?

Ben Lindbergh: Survey says no.

Bill (New Mexico): Any thoughts on the Pujols slow (to put it mildly) start? Surely we're still in small-sample-size territory, aren't we? Please tell me we are? Please....

Ben Lindbergh: Absolutely. As long as Pujols isn't among the league leaders, it's safe to assume we're still in small-sample territory. Albert hit .158/.256/.289 through his first 10 games in 2007, and he wasn't done. Step off the ledge.

Rick (Chicago): Jonny Gomes is hitting .231/.432/.615 despite a .176 BABIP and second only to Youkilis in walks in MLB. He's only swinging at 29% of the pitches he sees (compared to a career 47%). Sure, the sample size is tiny and his results are not predictive. But at what point can you use the stats as reasonable jumping off point for a more qualitative assessment? It's tough to completely ignore something seemingly so drastic!

Ben Lindbergh: Gomes is weird. Last year he suddenly started racking up infield hits, and this year he's turned into the [insert ethnicity here] God of Walks. I wouldn't expect his newfound patience to prove any more enduring than his Ichiro act from 2010. That said, swing rate stabilizes early, around 50 PA. Walk rate takes a little longer (200 PA). There's a large body of evidence to suggest that Gomes isn't this kind of hitter, and free swingers don't generally become big walkers all at once (or at all, really).

jhardman (Boredland): If Chin-lung Hu married Powerball's Tracy Wu, would she then be Tracy Wu-Hu?

Ben Lindbergh: No, unfortunately--it's Tracy Wiu, so she'd be Tracy Wiu-Hu, which isn't quite as fun. It's close, though. Can we find a way to set these two up?

Sally (Denver): Give me one good reason why MLB doesn't allow their videos on youtube.

Ben Lindbergh: Probably because they're not convinced that they can monetize videos distributed that way. It might not be easy to give away great content for free, but Shawn Hoffman has made a convincing case that MLB would be much better-served in the long run by making their videos embeddable. It certainly would improve the online fan experience.

Jermiah (Chicago): Brooklyn Decker or Kate Upton?

Ben Lindbergh: Decker.

jhardman (Apex, NC): Is it possible for BP to install alarms around your Transaction Analysis columns? So, for instance, if you type in words I'm dying to hear like "Texas Rangers: Optioned OF Julio Borbon to AAA Round Rock; Recalled OF Vic Harris", I could get them on my Blackberry?

Ben Lindbergh: I don't know about alarms, but we do have RSS feeds.

Dennis (LA): How would you rank the following players in terms of their future value as hitters: Carlos Santana, Mike Stanton, and Andrew McCutchen?

Ben Lindbergh: For pure offensive value, I'll say Stanton, Santana, McCutchen. If positional adjustments come into play, Santana jumps to the front of the line.

Jermiah (Chicago): MLB will one day reclaim its spot as the number 1 sports league in America, True or False?

Ben Lindbergh: Talk to me after the lockout(s).

GrinnellSteve (Grinnell): I generally approve of Ozzie's staff management, but.... Buehrle's at 99 pitches and in complete control in a 1-0 game. Why would anyone pull him, particularly for a pitcher (Thornton) who keeps finding too much of the plate? The leadoff double came on a grooved pitch with an 0-2 count. The fact that Thornton could have gotten out of it had he had a left fielder worthy of the name is immaterial. It was the wrong call to pull a pitcher who was still dealing. Your thoughts?

Ben Lindbergh: It seems questionable, but managers and coaches can pick up warning signs coming from pitchers who might appear to be cruising to you or me, so maybe we shouldn't be too quick to condemn Ozzie. What's more, pitchers are at such a disadvantage after a few times through the order that bringing in a fresh, effective reliever is almost always the right call. I'd have to look at the numbers to confirm that that was the case in this instance.

mef (Brooklyn): At what point do you think the Mets will throw in the towel and deal Beltran, Reyes, and Rodriguez?

Ben Lindbergh: Steven Goldman covered this question in depth in today's Broadside. To summarize: the earlier the better with Beltran and Rodriguez, but the Mets would be wise to retain Reyes' services.

TGisriel (Baltimore): Buck Showalter has commented recently on the number of third strike foul tips Matt Wieters has caught for a strikeout. He uses it as evidence that Wieters is a superior defensive catcher. Are you aware of any analysis of catchers and third strike foul tips? Does anyone even keep track of them? Are such plays included in ratings of catchers' defense?

Ben Lindbergh: Hasn't been analyzed or included in any catcher defense ratings, to my knowledge, but it's an interesting question, and one well worth looking into.

jhardman (Fiery Cuyahoga Canoe): The national media seems surprised by this Asdrubal Cabrera guy. What are your thoughts on his ability to be a long term league top 10 shortstop?

Ben Lindbergh: I think that depends on how long the current league-wide shortstop drought persists. As long as the list of offensive standouts at the position begins and ends with Tulo and Hanley, sure. He's a guy whose value will always fluctuate with his batting average, so while the hits are falling now, he could go through extended periods of substantially less production.

tommybones (brooklyn): Does Chris Davis ever end up as a regular major league 1B, and where would he fit best? If only Helton would end the pain and hang it up, I'd love to see him in Colorado.

Ben Lindbergh: I think he gets another shot without embarrassing himself after floating through Quad-A hell a little longer. Colorado could be a good fit. Davis at altitude would be fun.

JT (Michigan): I've totally re-injured rib injuries via recoil, cust kayin'.

Ben Lindbergh: There you have it, folks. But did Longoria ever recover his stolen weaponry? Maybe he had another assault rifle tucked away somewhere.

tcogle (vegas): Will Ivan Dejesus jr. be a useful player for the Dodgers while Furcal is out?

Ben Lindbergh: Useful for the Dodgers in that he might post a positive Value Over Replacement Futilityman. Useful for your fantasy team? No.

JT (Michigan): Not to sound like a know it all (or a know it a little), but I used to go to tonnes of Canadians games in Vancouver when it was AAA (Todd Greene looked like a god), and the attendance was fine. The winter there is so rainy that any non-domed outdoor activity in the summer would work. The CFL team suffers (yes, there's a Canadian football team) because it's inside after months of rain are done.

Ben Lindbergh: And we know he's telling the truth because he spelled it "tonnes."

JT (Michigan): Are you buying the Hafner resurgence, or is this just a nice month/half?

Ben Lindbergh: Hafner had a nice second half last year, so this isn't a classic small-sample fluke. it's real in the sense that he can actually be almost this good. However, his shoulder could break down at any time, so he may prove to be a mirage for health reasons. Whatever happens, it's nice to see Hafner hitting and the Indians salvaging some value from what was starting to look like an extremely regrettable contract.

JT (Michigan): Stick a fork in Ian Stewart as an interesting player?

Ben Lindbergh: I'm tempted to say "Bon appetit," but let's hold off a little longer.

timber (KC ): Re catchers and foul tips: Every catcher I've ever heard discuss the subject says that catching them is pure luck. Showalter is using manager-speak, thinking that most people don't know any better.

Ben Lindbergh: I doubt catching foul tips could have a large enough effect on its own to make a catcher a good defender, and you're right, it could be completely random. Still, I wouldn't be totally shocked if there were something to it.

JT (Michigan): Drew Stubbs went 20/30 last year. He plays CF. His manager loves toolsy, aggressive ball players. Why do I always think he's a bad week from Tacoma or wherever the Reds have their AAAs?

Ben Lindbergh: I've already played marriage counselor twice during this chat, so why not take a turn as an armchair psychologist? You have abandonment issues.

Drungo (SoMd): Chris Tillman: 88 mph buzzkill like Hughes, or kid working on his mechanics and will see his velocity return?

Ben Lindbergh: To paraphrase Joe Morgan, I haven't seen him pitch this season, so I'll reserve judgement. I read that the velo drop was at least partially an intentional measure to increase control and movement, but I'm skeptical. Progressive velo decline is the norm for pitchers, unfortunately, but big velo drops are usually a cause for concern.

Dennis (LA): Thanks for answering my earlier questions. From a fantasy baseball perspective (in a league that counts OBP and SLG), would you rather have Nelson Cruz or Josh Hamilton over the next three years? Over the last couple years, Cruz had 515 plate appearances in 2009 and 445 in 2010, Hamilton had 365 in 2009 and 571 in 2010. Cruz would be cheaper to purchase in the auction, but would only qualify at LF and RF while Hamilton qualifies in CF. Thanks again!

Ben Lindbergh: I really like Cruz's bat, and while neither player has been the picture of health, I think Hamilton is less likely to stay in the lineup. What's more, Hamilton's days of qualifying in center might be numbered. Put your next draft on Cruz control.

Paul (Boston): The Louisville Bats are AAA for the Reds. Speaking of the Reds farm system, I saw the Mudcats (AA) play on Sunday. They are awful.

Ben Lindbergh: Maybe it's because they know they'll be an Indians High-A affiliate next season.

kcroyalsguy (KCMO): To borrow from Joe Morgan.. Kyle Davies has been consistently inconsistent throughout his career. When will the Royals decide to cut bait with him and could you see him latching on with another team?

Ben Lindbergh: Where have you gone, Joe Morgan? A blogosphere turns its lonely eyes to you. The Royals will bid Davies goodbye as soon as they have enough young pitching in the majors to avoid doing things like signing Jeff Suppan. That day could come as soon as next season, and I don't foresee a bright future for him after that.

Rob (Alaska): What about Esmil Rogers this year? I know it's just one game but he looked filthy. I've heard his stuff is not that far from Ubaldo, or is that crazy talk?

Ben Lindbergh: Rogers may look good, but that's probably crazy talk. He's more of a back-end option.

Innocent Bystander (Over There): Some people have suggested you resemble Kiley McDaniel. Aren't they making you stoop to his level? Or is it the other way around?

Ben Lindbergh: I'm honored by the comparison.

John (Brooklyn): WHat do you think of Garland this year? Will he be effective once off the DL? Any pitchers that may still be out there that are sleepers?

Ben Lindbergh: Garland had every advantage last season, as he benefited from a big park and a solid infield defense. In the annual, we wrote, "...removed from his 2010 setting, his 4.45 SIERA is closer to the truth than his 3.47 ERA." I'll stand by that for now.

Ben Lindbergh: Folks, thanks for the questions, and for spending your afternoon at BP. Be sure to tune in for more BP chat action during the rest of the week, with Jason Parks lined up for tomorrow and Ken Funck for Thursday, both beginning at 1 PM.

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