Join BP E-i-C Steven Goldman for baseball talk and crumpets.
Steven Goldman: The first step is in admitting you have a problem. Let's get underway.
James Doull (Long Beach): Who will be leading off for the Mariners Opening day?
Steven Goldman: We were debating this on the radio show last Friday. If you move Ichiro down, you have to move someone else up, and there really isn't an obvious candidate, at least not in terms of the traditionally imagined leadoff man.
R.A. Wagman (Toronto): Is there any chance we ever see a Skills Competition for baseball before the All Star Game like they have in Hockey and Basketball?
Steven Goldman: I would think injury concerns are too great. Even the home run contest is controversial in that it supposedly induces post-competition slumps and injuries (also, it's deadly boring). How would you feel if your team's best outfielder missed six weeks with a strained rotator cuff or torn labrum after a throwing contest?
SDILincoln (Colorado): What are your expectations for Yu Darvish this season?
Steven Goldman: Unscientifically, I think he'll be quite good based on scouting reports and the stats. You have to discount for the shallower quality of Japanese lineups and other differences between the games, but his performances have been SO good that I think a lot of that will wash out. I do wonder about our more intense schedule and the Texas heat, though.
Phil (Texas): Best team in the AL as of today is?
Steven Goldman: Probably the Yankees, but I feel nervous saying that.
tim (reno): Can I just say I am constantly impressed by the moves at Baseball Prospectus
Steven Goldman: Thanks! We try to field the best baseball lineup on the web.
BStephen (Out There): Any Chance The BP Player Forecast Manager gets tweaked this year so you don't need to be online to use it?
Steven Goldman: I know the guys are always tinkering with PFM. I'll pass along your suggestion.
William (Pensacola. FL): Surprised by the Braves off season? What do we do if Tyler Pastornicky can't hit ?
Steven Goldman: On one hand, a little bit, as I felt like there were some real moves they could make, including getting an ill-fitting Martin Prado off the team or perhaps trading out of their surplus of starting pitching. On the other, the Braves have been run very conservatively in recent years, so I wasn't expecting much. And I suspect, as has been true in recent years, that if Pastornicky doesn't hit they won't do much--or they'll default to Jack Wilson, who can't hit either.
Brett Lawrie (Vancouver): 2.5 Career All-Star Appearances, Over or Under?
Steven Goldman: More likely if he can stay at third.
Sasha (Texas): Have we reached the point where we can question if Neil Huntington is the right GM for the Pirates? The major league club is still terrible and while they spend money on the draft, this doesn't mean much if you continue to select the wrong players and/or can't develop them in the minor league system. He also has very little to show for the Jason Bay (his best trade asset)trade.
Steven Goldman: It's very hard to judge a GM when he's trading a star, because almost inevitably he is not going to get good value back--you're moving something that has been established as good for things that are speculative, and by their nature speculative things often don't work out... Huntington's efforts would also look a whole lot better if Pedro Alvarez hadn't been such a bust to date, and few were second-guessing that signing at the time.
Dexter ((Miami)): As of today, which team would you pick as the NL Central favorite?
Steven Goldman: Can I take "none of the above?" ...I'd like to know what's going to happen with Ryan Braun before answering this one.
Jamie (Cleveland): With the arbitration salaries that Asdrubal Cabrera (5.2 MM) and the Indians (3.75MM) exchanged, do you think it may be in Cabrera's best financial interest to go to arbitration considering his service time, Silver Slugger award, and home run totals?
Steven Goldman: The arbitration process is never a positive given that it involves advocates for one side saying that a player is really good and the other trying to make the case that no, he really sucks (while still paying him a lot of money). It's never fun to hear yourself denigrated by your boss, even if you don't get fired in the end. That said, the gap here is wide enough that a midpoint settlement seems a reach and Cabrera may have to go.
Zooe (LA): Who wins in a UFC match between Keith Law and Kevin Goldstein?
Steven Goldman: Fighting? Far more interesting to hear them debate almost any topic.
...I am freezing, by the way. I just thought I would mention that.
dianagram (NYC): Greetings Steven!
Best contract in baseball right now (from team perspective): Price, Longoria, other?
Worst contract: Wells, Howard, Dunn, Zito, A-Rod, other?
Steven Goldman: The worst may very well be Prince Fielder, at least in the long term, but he and Cabrera will be fun to watch together in the short term. Wells' is an evergreen for bad, and A-Rod's already looks problematic given his recent injury history... Longoria's contract is very favorable to the Rays, but he knew he was trading upside for security.
I hope you guys enjoyed today's article on team "strings" and the music of 1987, and also checked out the announcement of Extra Innings, the Baseball Between the Numbers sequel (sorry you didn't like the cover, D--I wanted to do the phrenologist idea for awhile).
Colin Wyers (Somewhere Over The Rainbow): Steve, please pass along to your readers that as currently written the PFM is incapable of running without a connection to our database server, and much of the logic that generates the rankings would have to be rewritten as well to make it runable on the client as opposed to our server. It's something we're constantly looking at, but it's a nontrivial change to make.
Steven Goldman: Consider it done, comrade.
Hoot Sromboli (American in Canada): Why didn't the hockey skills contest have a punching in the face competition?
Steven Goldman: What is this thing you call "Hockey?"
mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Hi Steven, great to have you chatting. I feel like if the Fielder contract were signed six or seven years ago, the baseball stats community would have been more critical of it. While acknowledging that the stats community isn't necessarily of one voice on any single topic, am I wrong in saying that we have grown and are now more accepting of other factors behind deals?
Steven Goldman: I think so. As our ideas have found more mainstream acceptance, there is less of a kneejerk urge to be doctrinaire about things. Still, not everyone gets it. Related rant: I hate the idea of evaluating deals by saying, John Smith is worth 5.0 wins, but if the team had signed two 2.5-win players they would have been just as well off at less of a price. It's a vast oversimplification.
Sorry about the slight delay there--either my mother or my father inevitably calls while I'm chatting. This time it was dad.
Charlie (Bethesda, MD): I was in Politics and Prose this weekend (ok I was in the pizza joint down the block) and was wondering if you guys would be making it down there again soon. Also, do you see the Nats rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez being one of the top in the league in the next few years?
Steven Goldman: We will definitely be there in March, and I know many of us are looking forward to it. As for the Nats' top three, it's an impressive bunch and I'd like to think they will be (or are) among the top in the league right now, but with pitchers it's always good to hedge your bets a little.
Newt (Orlando): re: NL Central. I take it you don't feel the Reds have done enough to take over the division? Seems like they are primed for 90+ wins, especially considering how "unlucky" they were in 2011
Steven Goldman: The Reds will be pretty good, but they still have some problems. There is still no OBP threat at the top of that order. The shortstop is unproven and coming off of a major injury. Ryan Ludwick doesn't seem to have much left. The rotation should be solid, but I'm not sure it will be solid enough. And I'm a long-time Dusty Baker skeptic. They probably have as good a chance as any team in the division, though.
Dave Pease points out to me that Extra Innings is already #37 in the Amazon baseball books top 100, which is very nice to see given that it's not out for two months. Thank you.
cooldude (Mpls): You know when the juke box hero, when he was in a town without a name, thought he passed his own shadow by the back stage door? What did that mean?
Steven Goldman: I don't interpret Foreigner lyrics. Try again with maybe Warren Zevon?
Riley (Toronto): Is there any chance of a BP related event in Toronto this year?
Steven Goldman: I feel like I say this every year: I would love to come if we can arrange it.
I put on Nick Drake's "Fly" as an antidote to the Foreigner.
PJ (Bronx): What do you think the Yankees should do with Phil Hughes and AJ Burnett, assuming Ivan Nova gets a spot in the rotation?
Steven Goldman: You'd think Nova would have earned the spot, though I'm skeptical of his ability to repeat given his low strikeout rate (unless the new ground ball effects persist). Hughes seems likely for the bullpen, and at this point maybe you have to stop thinking about what he was or might have been and accept what he is. I think they really have to look at Burnett as a sunk cost and make him someone else's problem.
tommybones (NYC): Is this Mariano's last season? Or does he decide to go one more?
Steven Goldman: As I've written elsewhere (and probably here, as well), I just hope we never have to see him struggle.
mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Steven, do you get to travel much during the baseball season? I don't anymore (kids) but I love seeing games in new (to me) ball parks.
Steven Goldman: Kids keep me near base, I'm just not a very good traveler in a lot of ways, and I find it hard to keep up my schedule when I'm away. I love going to different ballparks as well.
Condit (Las Vegas): What's Joba's role with the Yankees this season?
Steven Goldman: None at all until midseason, then they'll see how his rehab has looked and where there's a weak spot in the bullpen. If all goes according to plan, there won't be a high-leverage role open--but nothing ever goes according to plan with bullpens.
SDILincoln (Colorado): Do you lend any credence to the thought Neftali Feliz is forever ruined because of game 6 of the 2011 WS?
Steven Goldman: No, I don't think I do. These reactions are so individualistic. Mark Wohlers was never the same after Jim Leyritz, but Mariano Rivera bounced back just fine from Sandy Alomar. There is nothing inevitable about Feliz's aftermath.
hotstatrat (Daydreamland): Now that Detroit has blown a gigantic wad on Prince Fielder, are they going to rely on Jacob Turner as their 5th starter? I don't see anyone else decent who is around to back him up. . . And, if Cabrera is really going to play 3B and Raburn 2B, who will DH? Is Andy Dirks a leading LF option with Delmon Young DHing?
Steven Goldman: They'll fall back on Adam Wilk or Duane Below if Turner isn't ready right off... Dirks should get a lot of time in left field, assuming Leyland doesn't develop an unhealthy Clete Thomas fixation.
Marissa (Florida): How many AB's or Innings in the Minors or Majors do you need to see before you are ready to declare a player a bust?
Steven Goldman: There is no fixed amount--it's a combination of results and time. Age is a more important limit on development than any amount of playing time.
Kenny Williams (Chicago): I used to be a good GM. What happened to me?
Steven Goldman: The White Sox seem to be suffering from something like what happened with US planning in Vietnam--every day you wake up and it's a different war.
Paul (DC): Pleast rate these rookie to near rookie first basemen from best to worst: Rizzo, Belt, Goldschmidt, and Alonso.
What are the chances one or more become better than Hosmer or Freeman?
Steven Goldman: Belt, Goldschmidt, Rizzo, Alonso. I don't think any of them are necessarily better than Hosmer or Freeman.
SaberTJ (Cleveland, OH): Does anyone have a chance at catching the Tigers this year in the AL Central?
Steven Goldman: Seems unlikely.
kimi (brooklyn): Would it not make sense to have Arod at DH twice a week and play Nunez at 3B, and also have Jeter play DH once a week and have Nunez play SS? Instead of signing another bat to DH? Have Andruw Jones pick up the slack?
Steven Goldman: A-Rod the DH yes, Jeter the DH yes if he hits as he did late in the season, in order to keep both healthy and fresh. The problem is that Nunez is neither the fielder nor hitter to get so much playing time. Neither is Bill Hall, the rumor du jour for the bench.
R.A.Wagman (The Real One): History repeating itself. Can you apply that feeling to any of this winter's big baseball happenings? Thanks
Steven Goldman: Maybe Montero for Pineda--I actually like the deal, but if Montero hits as expected and Pineda isn't ace-worthy, they'll say it's the 21st century Buhner for Phelps.
Bob (Iraq): Can you explain why MLB doesn't allow videos on youtube? I thought gaining new fans was a good thing.
Steven Goldman: As with everything MLB, they're waiting to get paid for it. When youtube makes a content deal with them as they have with other media companies, baseball will be there. Until then, they won't just give it away.
Jonah Keri (Denver): It's also really cold here. TEBOW!!!!!!
Steven Goldman: Yeah, but this is New Jersey. GIANTS!!!!!
CharlieWerner (York, PA): What are your thoughts on BJ Upton? Will he ever lower the strikeout rate and raise the batting average? He's been a fantasy tease for years now
Steven Goldman: One of the mysteries of the ages, his career path. How many players peak at 22? Valuable in fantasy or not, he still has real-world value, which is why he's still a Ray despite some obvious temptations to make him someone else's puzzle to solve.
JP (NY): What do you think of Mike Pelfrey? Any (decent) chance he straightens himself out again this year? He seems like too much of a head case, and his K numbers for a guy with his "stuff" are terrible.
Steven Goldman: He's a ground ball guy, and they are affected by the players around them more than other pitchers. The Mets being the Mets probably gets him disproportionately. That said, there was something off about his game last year, as his HR rate literally doubled and his percentage of quality starts was just 45. Just 28, I like him as a change of scenery guy, someone who could be useful on the back end of a good team instead of pretending to be a 1-2 for a bad one.
Charlie (Bethesda, MD): Do you think the Nats should try and give Ryan Zimmerman an extension now, or are injuries too serious a concern? Also, when do the PECOTA projections come out this year?
Steven Goldman: This was another topic that came up on our SiriusXM show on Friday. The injuries are less of a concern than seeing how Anthony Rendon develops and figuring out if Zimmerman is eventually up for a move across the diamond.
...We will have an announcement about the PECOTA release schedule later this week, sayeth Colin Wyers.
Peter (Indy): Besides baseball, what other sports do you follow?
Steven Goldman: Football, but due to almost ten years of spending my winters during BP books, I haven't been able to pay close attention. Basketball and I have never connected. I like hockey in a disinterested, casual way, and have enjoyed watching it in person, not so much on TV.
Lou G (A long, long way from home): RE: Juke Box Hero- He passed his younger self, who was in the form of a shadow. It was like a trip through the past.
Steven Goldman: Little darling, it's been a long, cold, lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
It's all right
Stephen Strasburg (Washington): I know how god-like I am when healthy. If I stay healthy for an entire season, can I win the CY?
Steven Goldman: Steve Bedrosian won a Cy Young award, for goshsakes. Anything can happen.
tommybones (NYC): Speaking of Mariano's eventual retirement... who dares to step into those shoes, I wonder?
Steven Goldman: Hard to say given that we don't know the timetable. You would like to think whoever he is, he would get some fan support given that it's no one's "fault" that they have to follow an inimitable act.
kimi (brooklyn): Is there a Mets/Yanks match where David Wright ends up on Yanks and Mets get some prospects? Mets HAVE to deal Wright this season, no?
Steven Goldman: You would think they might try, given their freefalling payroll, but I don't see them dealing Wright to the Yankees--the backlash would be too much even for a team in dire straits. Then you have the Yankees not wanting to add payroll. Wright could go somewhere this year, but not there.
Andrew (Chicago): Was a long time ago, but just FYI on Asdrubal and the Indians: Cleveland hasn't gone to arbitration since 1991 and there's a strong organizational push to avoid it. I doubt they'll go to a hearing this year, either.
Steven Goldman: No team or player really wants to go. As I said, it's just a nasty, unpleasant process and the stakes are too high. Better to have a settlement than win or lose--and like I said, unless you find your bosses saying nasty things to you motivational (I know I sure don't) even if you win, you lose.
Re: Strasburg (Washington): I meant could I win it this season?
Steven Goldman: I meant, "Why not?" But I do think an innings limit could play into the chances.
Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): What are your thoughts for A-Rod's coming year? How far removed from his peak is he?
Steven Goldman: His slugging percentage has declined in four consecutive seasons, so it seems like he left his peak back in 2007. What he has left is still quite good, and even when hurt last year his defense was surprisingly strong (he's not a great third baseman, but somehow he was having a good year). The contract gives that long-suffering albatross a bad name, but if he's in the lineup he'll provide some value. That last, though, is the question as he hasn't played 150 games since the aforementioned '07.
Donald (LA): Since we are in the dead period of the off-season, which TV show should I watch next, Breaking Bad or Homeland?
Steven Goldman: For various reasons I haven't had a chance to watch either of those, or much TV in general--one of the great mysteries of my life are the tweets from various colleagues that say, "I just watched Season 5 of 'Lost,' completed 'The Elder Scrolls' video game, saw 'Moneyball' on cable, visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art, saw Bruce Springsteen in concert, caught 'The Grey' at the theater, killed and cooked a goose for dinner. PS, my new column is up and the podcast is recording." How the HELL do you guys keep up with all that? I wish I could. I want to, I just can't. Some of them even have kids, so that's no excuse.
...Pant pant pant. The only TV I've gotten to watch lately is the second second of "Downton Abbey" on PBS. I really enjoyed last night's episode.
Josh Byrnes (San Diego): Am I a mad scientist brewing a potentially potent potion or am I suffering from the shortage of Adderall?
Steven Goldman: They went 71-91 last year--I think he's doing the right thing trying to change the mix.
mattstupp (NYC): Will there be a worse defensive starting outfielder in 2012 than Lucas Duda? His range seems terrible and his arm might be worse. Could the Mets consider switching him with Bay so that he'd play left field and limit the exposure of his weak arm?
Steven Goldman: Now that Pat Burrell has retired? Duda is about as far from Tris Speaker as you can get, but I feel like this is not something the Mets really need to worry about right now.
bumphadley (NJ): Loved your 1987 music commentary. I have thought that the late 80's, your "prime" music era and mine, in terms of top 40 music, is the worst since the advent of rock and roll. The contender is the post-Elvis, pre-Beatle era, but I disagree with that. I think that Phil Collins' cover of "Groovy Kind of Love," from 1988 is the nadir. What do you think?
Steven Goldman: I don't know if I'm qualified to evaluate this claim given that I turned off the top 40 right around the time in question and never went back. I agree that those brief post-Elvis years, after he went to RCA and the army, Little Richard retired, Jerry Lee Lewis fell from grace, and Chuck Berry went to jail, is the contender and probably the winner--the 80s were better than the corporatized "Take good care of my bay-ay-ay-bee" stuff that was coming out them. And the Collins cover wasn't as bad as the unwatchable movie it came out of.
Alfonso Soriano (Left Field): That Duda dude can run circles around me running circles. If you had a player most likely to Canseco a ball over the wall, I'm your guy.
Steven Goldman: Posted without comment. I was asked about bad contracts earlier. Here is another.
williams51 (New York): Will there be a kindle version of this year's prospectus?
Steven Goldman: Yes sir!
Stay Gold, Man (Outsiders): With Pujols and Fielder now in the AL, how many NL players are the type of guy that casual fans will know and want to buy a ticket to see? Lincecum? Strasburg? I'm struggling to find a few.
Steven Goldman: You mean besides Will Venable? It does seem like the NL is in a bit of a down cycle when it comes to minting sluggers. There is still Joey Votto and Matt Kemp, maybe Ryan Braun doesn't get suspended, and someone like Justin Upton steps into a greater light, or Mike Stanton captures the world's attention... I would buy a ticket to watch Troy Tulowitzki play.
David (Cubicle Dystopia): What was it that first gave you the passion to write about baseball; and when did you realize that it had taken over your life?
Steven Goldman: Part of it was Bill James, part of it was simply my love of telling a good story, and baseball was the place where I had the opportunity to tell them. I began thinking about writing a Casey Stengel book as early as my senior year of college. It took over my life after I had the experience of Cubicle Dystopia that you mentioned and realized that that life was not ever going to be for me. The people around me believed in me and urged me to make a life with my pen, and somehow, amazingly, I have. Ever since I have tried to encourage others in the same direction, albeit with a great many warnings about the risks.
Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): I came via your link on Twitter: Where's the 1987 music talk? If that was the year of Kokomo, then, sure, that's a nadir of sorts, but that talk would assume that top 40 music hasn't just been in freefall since (not withstanding a brief flannel interlude in the early 90s). And the late 80s? Rap and metal and emergent house. End of story. Good night. See you later. Late 80s pop? Blech.
Steven Goldman: The 1987 stuff is the second item here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15936
The miserable "Kokomo," otherwise known as "Euthanize the Beach Boys Song" came out on the soundtrack to the poor Tom Cruise film "Cocktail," which I actually saw on a date. I seem to recall you had a 3/4 side-view of Elisabeth Shue's breast while the song was playing, about as close as the movie came to catching my interest. Anyway, that was 1988.
Chris (KC): I haven't seen much of Duda, but he can't be worse than Ibanez.
Steven Goldman: Possibly not, but he's a better hitter at this point.
Pete (Westtown): Mark Teixeira's batting average has fallen off a cliff in the last 2 seasons. Some of that is bad luck, but some of it also appears to be him being very pull happy in the new Yankee Stadium. Do you think some tweaking in his approach with Kevin Long can restore him to the hitter he was prior to 2010?
Steven Goldman: He has a weird swing. I commented on this a couple of annual's ago--he hits everything off his back foot, employing no weight shift. He's just strong enough to get away with it. I wonder if, as he ages, he might try a more conventional transfer. The shift also takes something out of him when he bats from the left side. He had an unholy-low BABIP last year, and I do think he will get the average back up some.
Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): Reading now. Wow, pop music then was bad. Lady Gaga and BEP and LMFAO might actually be an improvement. My mind = blown. (Not that anyone should be listening to top 40 anyways, of course)
Steven Goldman: I haven't listened enough to say. I am wide open to new things, but I haven't heard much that grabs me. I feel sad about this, seriously.
Charlie (Bethesda, MD): On the lack of stars in the NL - if Ryan Zimmerman does indeed stay healthy, and that team starts making playoff runs, he's a legit star. People around here know how good he is, but much of the rest of the country hasn't caught on. Plus there's a up and coming kid on that team that may be in the OF soon.
Steven Goldman: No doubt Harper will get crazy attention once he comes up, not to mention in spring training.
Jason (Brooklyn): What are the final standings in the NL East this year? Which teams win 81+? Phillies are a year older and not much better, Braves are basically the same, but should see some bounce backs, the Florida Marlins of Miami are a volatile bunch, the Nats are interesting but might be a few years away, and the Mets are DOA. It is going to be an interesting division to watch.
Steven Goldman: I think the Nationals have a realistic chance given the shape of the division. That's if all the pitching clicks. All it would take is about 1.5 injuries to the aging Phillies. You could say the same of the Braves and Marlins.
CharlieWerner (York, PA): Looking into your crystal ball, what free agents at the end of the year will the Dodgers go hard for since they will have new owners who will want to make a statement? Other than the obvious Cole Hamels
Steven Goldman: Really tough to say--there's some pitching in the class, but not a ton of position player excitement to be had. Josh Hamilton? Howie Kendrick?
John Moz (St. Louis): Did I do the right thing by not offering Pujols a contract that beats the Angels'?
Steven Goldman: Absofreakinlutely.
kimi (brooklyn): Do you buy into Andrew McCutchen's power surge? Or is he more a 15-20 HR player moving forward?
Steven Goldman: I didn't see enough of him over the previous seasons to really mark the improvement from a physical/mechanical standpoint, but he's certainly at an age where he's still rising up to his peak and could make substantial, non-illusory improvements.
Steven Goldman: Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for me to be about other work, but as always I have greatly enjoyed our time together. As always, I thank you for spending part of your day with BP and myself. I'll be back soon... and check out Extra Innings! (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15937). Take care, everyone.