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Chat: Sam Miller

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday August 17, 2011 1:00 PM ET chat session with Sam Miller.


Join Sam Miller of BP and the OC Register for baseball talk in the shade of the palms.

Sam Miller:

Sam Miller (Long Beach): Today, two dreams come true for me: I'm hosting my first BP chat, and I'm going to try a peanut butter and avocado sandwich for lunch.

Sam Miller: Guys, I'm here to answer any questions you have. But we, as a group, are here to do

something much more lasting. We're here to answer some very important questions, none

more important than the question I'm going to pose to you imminently. First, though, you

must all look at this very funny picture, which comes to us via OGTedBerg, a burrito

enthusiast (and writer).

Here's the picture: http://www.tedquarters.net/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/francoeur.jpg

Very good, Skymall, you almost got us. We all appreciate the joke, but just to the left

of the Francoeur ball is a mysterious item for sale. It is, likely, a ball signed by a

Major League Baseball player, whose name ends in a Y and who is engaged in something that

ends in --deball.

What could this possibly mean? And who could have signed it?

OK, there may be other very important questions later, but for now, I need you all to

focus on that one. In the meantime, I will take care of all the other questions that we

(as a group) might have. Send 'em in.

Your existential self (???): Who are you?

Sam Miller: First off, Yay for horrible formatting...

I help cover the Angels for the Orange County Register, and I also write the Annotated Box Score for Canada. I am Baseball Prospectus' second-newest writer, and you probably recognize me as the author of three BP pieces that you can't remember. To help you out,
they were: A piece on Mike Scioscia and his catchers; a piece on pitchers who don't
use off-speed pitches and why I love them; and a piece on Error Faces.

I don't have a particular area of baseball expertise, which means I should say I'm a
generalist but that probably oversells it. Mostly, I would describe myself as tangential.
I often write about parts of the game that are tangential to the action itself, and I
often go off on tangents to avoid doing the work that I'm supposed to be doing.

In life, I enjoy ranking my favorite things, reading about bugs, eating avocados, and
having the exact same political views that you have so we should get along just fine. My
musical taste is not quite as good as Goldstein's, but not quite as bad as Normandin's.

OUCody (865): What do you think about Myles Jaye of the Blue Jays?

Sam Miller: a) Myles Jaye is a 17th-round pick who has thrown 42 pretty good innings in the Sally League. This is probably the most Baseball Prospectus question that has ever been asked in a Baseball Prospectus chat.

b) Miles Jaye was, briefly, the lead singer of the Village People. He dressed as the policeman.

c) There are TWO players named Myles on his team.

d) I don't know much about Myles Jaye, besides the fact that he was a much better talent than a 17th-round pick, and the Blue Jays gave him a good-sized bonus to keep him from
going to college, and he seems to be doing well in his first year of pro ball. I will now root for him.

ttt (Work): Does Conger ever get called up or is he paid to little for the Angels to like him? Do they need to sign him to a massive contract and have someone better in the minors to play him?

Sam Miller: At this point, it'll be more or less like last year: He'll be a September call-up, and then when the Angels are out of the AL West race, they'll pull Mathis aside and tell him they want to give the kid some looks. Very unlikely Conger plays meaningful games this year. The defensive reports out of Salt Lake aren't good for Conger, and the defensive reports, as you know, are all that matter.

I will say that the controversy over Conger vs. Mathis riles me up far, far less than Napoli vs. Mathis did. Conger is clearly a better hitter than Mathis, but he's also not a good hitter. His numbers in the majors are poor, and over his last two months (semi-arbitrary endpoints) he batted .157/.263/.277. And that's while being protected almost entirely from left-handed pitching, which he struggles against. Since he was sent down to Salt Lake, he's hitting right around the league average. And he can't throw. I don't agree with playing Mathis over Conger, but I also like to give Mike Scioscia some benefit of the doubt on the whole catcher defense thing. The gap between Mathis and Conger might be narrowly within that margin, at least until Conger plays better.

I used to be disgusted when Mathis played over Napoli. When he plays over Conger, I try to be amused.

Hannah (bay area, ca): Have you ever tried oreos and guacamole? I have, and trust me, it is good. I advise.

Sam Miller: How do you mix them? Is this a blend or a dip or do you just stack? I'm intrigued.

By the way, I checked the SkyMall catalog and there are three baseballs signed by players whose named end in Y: James Loney, Chase Headley, R.A. Dickey. This doesn't solve anything, because of the mysterious -deball. James Loney, Lemonadeball? R.A. Dickey, MikeQuadeball? I dunno.

NoahBraun (SD): ok I just read your last 2 articles... what do you know about actual baseball?

Sam Miller: This is a reasonable question to ask. It's hard to answer. A lot? Not as much as some other people? But a lot.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): How does one best insert a LOL into "Jeff Mathis"?

Sam Miller: Obviously, our options are limited and we can see without even testing that none will work well. This is yet another way that Jeff Mathis is frustrating for fans to watch. Remember that time the baserunner was stealing and Mathis threw the ball to first base? Everybody watching was like, "Jeff LOLthis? Jeff MathLOL?" And ultimately nobody said anything, and because nobody said anything Mathis got to play the next game. Just how it works, folks.

Mathis' surname does provide one therapeutic option, if you're into anagrams. (I'm not going to type it here, but it's pretty simple to figure out, and also too mean to really enjoy.) I've long felt that "Math Is" provided some potential for wit, but it doesn't really go anywhere, because any pun you come up with only works only works in one direction. "Math is the worst," for instance, is a grammatical statement, but "Mathis the worst" isn't. All puns are awful, but the least awful at least work grammatically on both levels.

I asked the writers at Productive Outs, who are LOL-poets when it comes to baseballer names, what they make of Mathis, and I think their answer is correct. "Jeff Mathis serves as his own punchline. It's very zen. Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm." This seems right.

Staufferinthetrunk (San Jose, CA): Statistical analysis of players and their value continue to evolve, with, in my mind, defensive metrics being the latest frontier. If you had to guess, what would be the next step in the evolution of statistical metrics used to value ball players?

Sam Miller: My great hope for baseball analysis is actually this camera that CNN has been using.:


It's a 360-degree camera that the viewer can control. Field/fx will give us billions of data points on every play, which may or may not be helpful. But just imagine if there were 360-degree cameras above the field, or on every base, or somewhere so that you could actually manipulate the view for every replay and watch any detail of any play? I don't know if that would be helpful to statheady analysis or not, but it would be amazing for scouting, and it would be AMAZING for bloggers who like to take screengrabs of baseball players doing interesting things.

I'm not super optimistic about baseball analysis in the public domain. Now that the industry is no longer hostile toward this stuff, I expect most of the best work will be proprietary, like in basketball. And we've generally moved beyond the intuitive stuff you could do with a lot of time and clipped-out box scores and toward pretty heavy data analysis. That's unavoidable -- the next frontier is mountains of data, via the various /fx systems. And this super-technical analysis is awesome (well, a lot of it is. I've seen, like, two heat maps that turned me on) but it's way beyond the skill set of many smart baseball fans.

dianagram (Value Over Replacement Grit): What are you drinking? I think its "Gatoradeball" :-)

Sam Miller: Tea.

Bill Simmons (LA): Thoughts on grantland.com so far?

Sam Miller: Great writers, great cause, but stretched way too thin. They publish as much in a day as they should probably publish in a week if they want to keep the bar somewhere around "special." And I still don't think they've topped Klosterman's story on the second day about the reservation basketball team that won with three guys.

stydings (Dirty Jersey): "R.A. Dickey - Beware of knuckleball" http://bit.ly/mYwXiv

Sam Miller: Boom! We have an answer. I wondered whether there was an optical illusion going on with that -de and the fold of the paper. We accomplished something here, guys.

NoahBraun (SD): fair enough, what kind of ceiling do you think Garrett Richards has?

Sam Miller: I'm a big fan of Richards, and have never really bought the growing consensus that Tyler Chatwood is the better pitcher. He might have the best two fastballs in the system, and he's gone from being unaccountably wild to extremely pitch efficient and capable of getting 15 groundballs in a row.

Jeff (South): Does Jeff Mathis love avocado's?

Sam Miller: I don't know, but I know that Chevy Clarke loves avocados.

OK, we have a second very important question. This was on Yahoo! Answers, and I'm interesting in the chosen answer.


That's obviously not true, right? Obviously? That's the first question. But the second important question is this: Fans get crazy excited when there's a long at bat, and they get louder and louder and the announcers start keeping track and you know that lift in their voice they get when they're like, "he fouls ANOTHER one back." But if there was a 35,000-pitch at bat, at what point would you stop being excited and start getting bored? I think I would stop being excited at 32, then start getting excited at 65, then stop again at 110. Is this something Bud Selig needs to do something about?

Sam Miller (Long Beach): Sorry, the Chevy Clark pic didn't go through... here it is:

Sam Miller: Here you go: http://angels.ocregister.com/?attachment_id=86829

ssimon (Pelham, NY): Best clubhouse story you couldn't tell until today?

Sam Miller: I don't really have any good clubhouse stories, partly because the Angels' clubhouse is quite dull and partly because I'm not around the clubhouse more than a couple times a homestand. So I'm going to reprint the greatest clubhouse story ever, from Matt McCarthy's book "Odd Man Out," about his year with the Angels' short-season team. (The book may or may not be true, for what it's worth.)

"An Angels employee briefly interrupted the revelry to bring us fifth leftover hot dogs from the concession stand's Weenie Wednesday promotion.

"I took my hot dog over to my locker and began to undress. That was when things got interesting. When I turned around, I saw the dark, naked bodies of two young Dominicans hovering around the hot dogs. Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo ... were inseparable and spoke no English -- the most one of them had ever said to me was "Why-ya-ya-ya-ya-yeah!" after I'd pitched a scoreless inning the week before.

"Gradually, more of my teammates turned to watch as Aybar's and Callaspo's naked bodies circled the food. We all knew they were up to something no good. Two naked heterosexual teenagers don't stand that close together for that long next to a box of hot dogs without something happening.

"Suddenly, Callaspo took one of the hot dogs out of its bun and deep-throated it. Then he took the bun and put it around Aybar's flaccid (etc etc) and poured ketchup on it. Jaws dropped -- Aybar was a willing participant. Then Callaspo bent over and pretended to eat the Dominican (etc etc etc) hot dog. When he did that, we all screamed, "Nooooo!"

"Getting the reaction he'd desired, Callaspo turned to a few of us and said, "I no gay. You gay" and burst into a fit of laughter. Callaspo slapped Aybar on the ass and the two laughed all the way to the shower."

Sam Miller (OC): Why am I so slow responding to chat questions?

Sam Miller: I've made it! My first "why are you so slow" complaint.

Scott (Los Angeles): Thoughts on the really cheezy Loek Van Mil height jokes?

Sam Miller: You're talking about the Angels' high-upside prospect har har? The guy with a HIGH CEILING and a BIG FASTBALL? Twitter has really ruined it for people with marginal senses of humor. That high-upside joke would have been pretty funny if you'd said it three years ago, but now we all spend so much time together that we hear all each other's jokes like 9,000 times and hate them. It's like the second-to-last day of camp all the time.

Tommy (Chatsworth): Olivia Wilde or Brooklyn Decker?

Sam Miller: A look behind the curtain: I actually have multiple questions in the queue about Brooklyn Decker.

Hangingsliders (San Francisco): Are the Phillies throwing their series against the Diamondbacks to hurt the Giants? How else do you explain Charlie Manuel leaving Roy Halladay in to pitch the 9th last night?

Sam Miller: That was crazy. I think having Roy Halladay in the game can feel a little bit like having a great hand in poker, where it just gets too hard to get away from it even when you're probably beat. Charlie just thought he had a stronger hand than he did.

stydings (Dirty Jersey): Jeff Mathis has a firm hand in creating 27 outs per game, why isn't he being considered for AL MVP?

Sam Miller: This is in reference to a tweet that the Angels' mlb.com writer, Lyle Spencer, had a couple days ago. He basically said, Mathis has a direct hand in 27 outs in the game, and only causes 3 outs in the game with his bat, so his defense is nine times more valuable than his offense is destructive. Something like that. And you're absolutely right: If Jeff Mathis' defense was really this valuable, why did they take him to arbitration two years ago over a couple hundred thousand dollars? If he's worth a run a game on defense, as they more or less maintain, why aren't they willing to pay him $50 million or $60 million a year?

Staufferinthetrunk (San Jose, CA): Who are your favorite broadcasters to listen to/watch on TV? Let's say top three.

Sam Miller: 1. Jon Miller
2. Mike Krukow
3. Duane Kuiper

and that's not to slight Dave Flemming, the fourth member of the Giants crew. I'm a Giants fan, so that's an easily discounted opinion, but the Giants have had such great broadcasters for the past two decades (Hank Greenwald before them) that I can hardly listen to other broadcasts.

Of course, I do listen to other broadcasts, five or six some days, and my favorites outside of those guys are probably Ron Darling (Mets) as a color guy and Len Casper (Cubs) as a play-by-play guy. Among announcers without jobs, I really liked Josh Lewin before the Rangers fired him, and I thought Dennis Eckersley did an tremendous job filling in for Jerry Remy earlier this year. Dennis Eckersley should have a full-time job.

The Rangers have the best reporter-in-the-stands guy. The Red Sox have the on-field microphone most likely to pick up profanity. Minnesota has the best center-field camera. The Giants don't use a pitch-tracker, ever, which is obnoxious, but they have a particularly good Coors Light Freeze Cam. The Angels' announcers are the best in a blow-out, because they get silly. The Rays have the best announcing crew if you want to pretend that Mark McGrath is describing a baseball game to you. The Phillies have the most fans who wave at the camera from behind home plate. The Marlins have the lowest production values -- I wish I'd recorded the time that they interviewed John Dewan in the middle of an inning to talk about the Marlins' defense, but it was a phone interview so he had no idea what was going on in the game. It was about unfollowable as a pre-taped call-in talk show.
(which is a reference to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrlS9_n8GX4)

Max (San Diego): What do you know about Luis Jimenez of the Angels?

Sam Miller: Pretty big power, never strikes out, also never takes a pitch. He's having a great season in Arkansas, which is not a great place to be a guy with pretty big power who never strikes out but also never takes a pitch. Pretty good bounceback after it looked like he had stalled in a-ball last year.

Keith Law (Arizona): Who wins in a MMA style match between you and me?

Sam Miller: Keith Law bites. Everybody knows this. This is why nobody fights MMA matches with Keith Law.

Erin (Florida): What can baseball do to get more female fans?

Sam Miller: Is there a paucity of female fans? I honestly don't know if this is something that has been identified as a problem. A lot of my favorite baseball writers/twitterers are females, now that I think of it, which I rarely do because I didn't know this was a problem.

Paul (DC): Trout had a cup of tea with the Angels. Anything you saw that justified his prospect status? Anything you saw that made you worried?

Sam Miller: His physical tools are insane, and anytime I get to see him move (I saw him in Rancho last year, too) I think there's no way he won't be a star. He's giant, like 225 pounds, and he was probably one of the three fastest players in the majors when he was up here. That's nuts.

I do think he had trouble getting around on major league fastballs, and he's arguable too passive at the plate. That is to say, he takes a lot of pitches but I don't think he's taking them because he has such phenomenal control of the strike zone. I think he just takes pitches. It can be frustrating.

But overall, it was nice to see him and I don't think there's a single red flag about him. He was 19, and all 19 year olds are terrible, and he should be good at 20 and great at 21.

Brooklyn Decker (New York): Why is my name popping up in a BP Chat?

Sam Miller: And, uh, who are you?

Mike (Chicago): You lost me at putting ketchup on the hot dog....how well do they feed you guys in the press box? Is there a pecking order as to which writer gets to eat first?

Sam Miller: Most people assume the press box food is free, and I think it used to be, but now you pay $10 and get all you can eat from what's essentially a little cafeteria. There are usually hot dogs/sausages, and also a grown-up meal, like a casserole. Fruit platters, pretty good desserts, and the popcorn/peanuts are free.

Brian (Platoon Alpha Division 43) (Iraq): Besides Baseball, what other sports do you follow?

Sam Miller: None, except the big events. I used to follow everything, but then I realized I don't really like sports, I just like baseball.

Bill (New Mexico): Welcome, and stock Canada baseball question: How well do you see the Colby Rasmus acquisition working out for the Jays? Will his dad ever cease being a pain in the, er, anatomy to the point that the Jays' coaching staff can get his potential to actually come out?

Sam Miller: He'll be fine. Throughout baseball history, Tony LaRussa's stink eye has never been a disqualifier for greatness.

Beau (San Francisco): As a Giants fan how much should I be panicking right now? Not that the Giants will lose, but that lightning will strike every player other than Aubrey Huff.

Sam Miller: World Champions. How can you panic after winning a World Series? They could lose every game for the next eleven years and your life would still be better than it was this time a year ago.

That said: Yeah. The best thing you can say about the Giants right now is that they only have to worry about the Diamondbacks. And I think Mark DeRosa is healthy. Is Mark DeRosa healthy? Can we confirm Mark DeRosa's health?

WestCoastMets (Los Angeles, CA): You're the new Angels GM. 2012 is coming, and all signs seem to point that Jered Weaver is going to go to free agency after that season, assuming the Mayans weren't right about the world ending. What's your: A) maximum offer to Weaver in hopes of signing an extension with the Angels. B) maximum offer to Weaver if he goes on the FA market C) If you believe your max offers won't get the job done, do you trade him before July 31, 2012?

Sam Miller: The Angels had the perfect opportunity to lock up Weaver last season, at the industry-approved 5 years, $75 million that Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander re-upped for. Instead, they took him to arbitration over $1 million after giving him what was probably an unreasonably low offer. I don't think there's a great chance they sign him after 2012, and I doubt they'll have a particularly constructive negotiation with him this off-season.

I'm not sure I'd trade him before he hits free agency, though. The Angels have a mini-window in 2012 before pretty much their entire team hits free agency, and if I rebuild I probably do it after that.

Jason Parks (Texas): What are the chances the Angels catch the Rangers?

Sam Miller: I pretty much haven't heard anybody -- not even Angels fans -- suggest that the Angels are actually better than the Rangers at any point this year. That was fine and dandy when they were hanging in the race and needed to just catch a few breaks, but they're six out right now. Ten percent seems generous.

stydings (NJ): Thanks to a previous response, I've been watching Mr. Show clips for the last 25 minutes.

Sam Miller: That'll happen. OK. I just ate my first bite of peanut butter and avocado, and while it's not bad, it's also not great. The avocado is a little discordant ... all in all, I'm going to say pass on this combination. Real quick speed round...

dianagramr (NYC): Was your participation in a panel at SABR41 in Long Beach the highlight of your year?

Sam Miller: Birth of my child probably was, but it was fun!

MJ (Madison, Wis.): Anyone come to mind when you think of non-closers this year that could go for 30+ saves (MLB) next year?

Sam Miller: Bard? Mike Adams? Grant Balfour?

Dennis (LA): One more Angels question if you have time: What should the Angels do to improve next year? Poor roster construction seems to limit their options.

Sam Miller: I think it might actually be best to trade Trumbo, Walden and Chatwood now. All have flaws that limit what they'll be, and should have pretty good value right now. Obviously, trading young players is usually stupid, but if everybody in the market feels that way maybe it gets smart.

ian the vegan (oakland): I took that exact picture when I was traveling last week. http://i.imgur.com/A0oBJ.jpg Also this one. http://i.imgur.com/sR61v.jpg I love Skymall.

Sam Miller: What are the odds that two people would take the exact same picture with the exact same boundaries?

Geopipp (Victoria): I've been reading The Baseball Codes: Beanballs and Bench Clearing Brawls. There is a discussion in one of the chapters about first basemen handing out love taps. This would be the tag after the throw from the pitcher. Apparently getting to first base with Carlo Delgado there was an unpleasant experiance. He would give you a solid thump with the tag. Are there first baseman like that now that you're aware of?

Sam Miller: No, but I'll start asking that question.

jamin67038 (Wichita, KS): Watched a game this summer between two summer teams composed of college players- bases loaded, 2 outs, tie game in the 6th, and the right fielder dropped an easy fly ball that cleared the bases. He managed to look at the ground, take off his glove, carry it in the other hand, walk in circles, then spit, then look to the sky. I had just read your article, and I laughed the whole time I watched him.

Sam Miller: The best.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): How the heck did Delmon Young hit a HR for the Twins after he was traded to the Tigers?!

Sam Miller: Delmon Young has 0.2 WAR in his career, according to B-Ref's model, and half of that came from that one home run with Detroit.

Abraham (Philly): Halladay is in his mid 30's and is showing no signs of slowing down. How many more years can he keep up this kind of performance?

Sam Miller: At least one. Guaranteed, at least one. Probably four.

Steven (New Orleans): I want you to defend the Vernon Wells trade right now. Take your best shot.

Sam Miller: He was pretty good the year before, Mike Napoli wasn't going to play anyway, and he was part of a concerted effort to vastly improve the outfield defense behind a flyball-oriented staff. And, somehow, in some magical accounting way that nobody understands, the money didn't matter. That's the best there is, and it's an awful, awful defense.

dianagramr (NYC): Any truth to the rumor that there are 6.02*10 to the 23rd avocados worldwide (why else call it Avocado's number)

Sam Miller: Ooof. OK. So long, folks.

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