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Chat: Colin Wyers

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday September 19, 2012 1:00 PM ET chat session with Colin Wyers.


Talk baseball and Babylon 5 with BP's Director of Research.

Colin Wyers: It's called a live chat because no Ouija board is necessary or even advised. Let's Radio Shack this thing.

myshkin (Santa Clara, CA): Have you seen the Modelers' Hippocratic Oath? Originally by Derman and Wilmott for financial engineering, but it works for sabermetrics, too. http://mathbabe.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/modelers_hippocratic_oath.png

Colin Wyers: Ooh, I really like that. I should get everyone to start swearing or affirming it on a copy of The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.

jlarsen (chicagoland): Fernando Rodney, newest Rays Relief Rehab success-story, has shot arrows all around MLB. Question is, does his "come out of nowhere" season garner him any 1st place CY votes and should Rays fans expect the same out of him next year or will he show some major regression?

Colin Wyers: There is very little I'm less interested in than trying to read the minds of Cy Young voters, but I would really hope that a reliever doesn't end up winning the Cy. As for regression, the short answer is that if you have to ask about a guy, he's probably going to regress, at least in the way that most people use the word. But to be pedantic about it, players really don't regress the way we commonly talk about -- regression to the mean is a description of POPULATIONS of players. Now population tendencies are a good input to our predictions, but regression isn't destiny.

edwardarthur (Illinois): I've heard speculation on XM that marathon extra inning losses were negative turning points for the Pirates each of the last two years. Since the Orioles just had a big 18-inning win, I was wondering if there's any evidence supporting the idea of longer-term effects of marathon games (win or loss)?

Colin Wyers: I don't know of anyone who's studied this, but that doesn't stop me from talking speculatively. In practice, we should expect to see some impact, primarily from emptying the bullpen. But it shouldn't take a team too long to reset the pen, maybe a few days at most, and so it's likely a very marginal impact in a 162-game season.

ChrisHopcroft (Glasgow, Scotland): What do you make of Trevor Plouffe's power surge earlier this year? Was it a total fluke or is this an extreme example of some nice power potential for 2013?

Colin Wyers: Given his walk rate and low batting average, I'm not sure it really matters. I don't know that it has to be an either-or choice; it could both be flukey AND an indicator of some increased power for next year.

Alex (Anaheim): I got an advance 2013 schedule at Dodger Stadium on Friday and was surprised to see the Yankees will play the Dodgers home and away next year for a total of 4 games. The Yanks have literally never visited Petco, and now they're playing two mini-series against NL West teams?

Colin Wyers: The new 15-team leagues means an expanded interleague slate, as well as no longer having interleague play concentrated to one part of the season. So we're going to see some new matchups we haven't seen previously. Honestly, this doesn't bother me much, although I know that I tend to be something of an outlier here.

LAT (Lost Wages): The season is ending. It is too late for the Mariners to vote.

Colin Wyers: "They are a dying people. Let them pass." "Who, the Brewers or the Cardinals?" "Yes."

Dan W. (Brooklyn): Is there a non-zero chance of there being sufficient public dissatisfaction with the idiotic wild card play-in game that 2012 ends up being the only year we have to suffer it? Or am I living too deeply inside a saber-bubble and missing the fact that 99% of baseball's audience is indifferent?

Colin Wyers: I have no idea how it will go over with the public, although if you look at TV ratings for playoff baseball (which rise steadiy the closer you get to an elimination game) I would imagine they'll like it quite well. I think it does a very good job of doing what MLB wants it to do, to expand the number of teams in contention late in the season and restore some of the emphasis to winning the division. And personally, I love the idea. I think elimination games are a lot of fun when used sparingly, and I don't think there are quite so many of them that we're at a saturation point.

babylon 5 noob (universe): Care to give a short synopsis of the premise of Babylon 5?

Colin Wyers: Babylon 5 is a science fiction television series that in terms of tone and content is a great throw-back to the best of the original Star Trek. The basic premise is very similar to "Deep Space Nine" (I'm sure it's totally coincidental that Paramount passed on Babylon 5 before coming up with DS9, of course.) The special effects have not aged particularly well. What really sets it apart is how over the course of the series you do get one complete story; each episode functions as a chapter in a novel, essentially.

jlarsen (chicagoland): Houston is at 100 losses again, basically locking up the #1 pick and also locking up the highest bonus pools in both the draft and IFA. Do you think that Kevin Goldstein's job just got harder with the fact that Houston has ability to go nuts spending for amateur talent?

Colin Wyers: His job is, in essence, to deliver talent that can help the Houston Astros win baseball games. Having more resources to acquire players makes it easier to do that.

LAT (Lost Wages): Thinking of the implications of the wild card play-in however, and the likely train-wreck possible for, say, a three-way tie for the second wildcard (or worse, a 5 way tie for a wildcard and a division slot requiring some complex, and ad-hoc, tiebreaker system)... the odds are low, but you play enough seasons, and the unlikely will occur.

Colin Wyers: I doubt we would see that. I'm simply not that lucky. Good grief, can you imagine how FANTASTIC that would be? I'm feeling flushed just thinking about it.

iorg34 (MN): Should Joe Mauer get into the Hall?

Colin Wyers: If he retired tomorrow,probably not. I think he certainly COULD do well enough in the rest of his career to justify inclusion, but that's not to say that he will.

iorg34 (MN): Your thoughts on Brett Jackson's career track?

Colin Wyers: He's really young, he has talent and the Cubs have plenty of time to be patient with him. At some point he'll actually have to hit, though.

Charlie (Nationals Review): It seems to me that while the Nats can certainly score (4th in R/G in NL) they seem to do more feast or famine. Do you think this can be attributed to relatively low OBP (8th) compared to their SLG (3rd)? If so, should that encourage Rizzo to look specifically for OBP in the offseason?

Colin Wyers: I don't know that there's much evidence that the composition of a team's offense matters much. There is some evidence that "feast or famine" is better than a more consistent approach. As for what the Nationals should target -- baseball players are not so fungible and really good ones are not so plentiful that I feel like teams have a whole lot of latitude in trying to figure out what KINDS of good players they really want to acquire. If there's a good player at a position of need for the Nationals out there, they'd be foolish to pass on him just because he didn't fit a certain hitting profile.

Charlie (Nationals Review): Also best song from TDaG is Jesus Christ by quite a bit.

Colin Wyers: I'm sorry, this is wholly incorrect, the best song on "The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me" is "Limousine (MS Rebridge)."

jlarsen (chicagoland): All this hoopla has gone on regarding inning limitations to Stephen Strasburg, due to his TJS. Why has noone wondered or shown any concern about the White Sox SP Chris Sale? First full year since college as a SP(big innings leap), thin body-frame and worrisome mechanics? Should we pencil Sale for labrum or TJS surgery in next 2-4 years?

Colin Wyers: Frankly, if there's any team I'd trust when it comes to pitcher injuries, it's the White Sox, as my colleague Ben Lindbergh has noted before: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=12248

Charlie (Nationals Review): I don't disagree with your assessment, but that would suggest they could go after BJ Upton to play CF. And it seems to me they already have about 4 guys that bat just like that. Would that worry you?

Colin Wyers: You can do a lot worse than B.J. Upton in center field. If you have eight hitters like him, you'll probably win a fair amount of ballgames in the National League (assuming you can pitch at all).

Mike Trout (MLB Universe): As of right now, I have the 26th best season(in terms of WAR) of MLB history in my rookie year at 20 yrs old. If Albert Pujols is a machine, what am I? T1000? Have you seen John Connor?

Colin Wyers: As my friend Craig Burley likes to note, "Baseball is hard." I think the coronation of Mike Trout can afford to wait a while. Also, I think that DRS is pretty significantly overrating Trout's fielding, and that's causing people to apply a lot of hyperbole to a season that doesn't really require any.

Dan W. (Brooklyn): Yeah, I disagree strongly re: play-in game. Why should Atlanta have to win a 1-game playoff against a team that it's 8 games better than over a 162-game regular season?

Colin Wyers: Take this logic far enough, and you can ask why there's a need for any playoffs outside of the World Series (and maybe even the World Series itself). The point of the playoffs is not to determine the best team, and it really even shouldn't be. We have baseball playoffs because we really enjoy baseball playoffs. The Braves should have to be in a one-game playoff against a team with a worse record for the same reason that Rachmaninoff has all those notes in it -- because it's fun to see a performance like that.

Negative Run Differential (baseball standings): Baltimore has achieved a winning season, despite me, is there any explanation outside of luck and hitters getting hot at the right time on why this is happening? Bullpen greatness and 5 20+ HR hitters should not mask bad SPs.

Colin Wyers: Maybe? I should say, there's a lot of proferred explanations, it's difficult to know if any of them actually are meaningful or just post-fit to what's really randomness.

jlarsen (chicagoland): When Rays make a trade(Matt Garza, for instance), it's always deemed by the national media as being for "salary reasons". However, Red Sox traded Crawford-Gonzalez-Beckett and people see it as a reboot and a fair trade for both sides. What gives? Isn't that a "salary dump" trade, also, if you cut the semantics?

Colin Wyers: It was certainly a salary dump trade. I think the difference between that kind of a dump and a Garza dump, though, is that Garza is probably much closer to earning his salary than those players and the salary that they Rays were dumping was really not even the salary that he's earned with the Cubs but the salary he'll earn on his NEXT deal.

Dan W. (Brooklyn): Yes - I'm all for the nothing-but-the-WS approach. But we have too many teams. Ergo, divisions. Wild card = just about $$. Your question (I think) should be why the season has all those games in it.

Colin Wyers: Because regular season games are fun, too, they're just a different kind of fun. I would be in favor of putting a dome over the entire country and pumping it full of greenhouse gasses so we can have year-round baseball if I didn't think I'd get accused of being a supervillain or something.

Disgruntled Mets fan (Queens, NY): What is Sandy Alderson doing? This team is worse than last year. I know there's young pitching coming, but the offense is horrible and there aren't many bats on the farm. Does this man have a plan besides cut spending?

Colin Wyers: We go back to that whole "baseball is hard" thing. When you're a bad team, you have two problems. One is that you don't have enough good players. But the other is that most of the good players are already claimed by other teams, and acquiring those good players is difficult and often the good players that are available only WERE good and really aren't likely to be for very long. There is a limit to how much throwing money at the problem can substitute for things like patience and player development.

Mooser (Toronto): Baseball Reference has a page that shows the difference in WAR and WARP. It says that WARP captures OF arm ratings DP ability in something called "BRR Against". Where do we find this, and is it already part of Fielding Runs

Colin Wyers: It's not part of FRAA currently, it's broken out as a separate item right now. We're in the process of putting up complete fielding sortables (the irreplaceable Dan Turkenkopf sent me a sample just as I was beginning this chat), so you're going to see a lot more fielding data available very soon.

TGisriel (Baltimore): Heva you tracked the difference in the Orioles' fielding from before and after McLouth and Machado were placed in the line-up? Is there any history you are aware of that looks at the significance of an in-season improvement in defense?

Colin Wyers: No, and fielding is hard enough to measure that I wouldn't have a lot of confidence that one could analyze that very well at all.

jlarsen (chicagoland): So the Rays are basically being frowned upon due to fact that they sold-high knowing that Garza will be out of their price range(while having pitchers like Moore and Hellickson in back pockets) when he hits FA? Not saying that you said it, just trying to wrap my head around possible logic for calling it a dump. Also, at time of trade, K rate was dropping and HR/Flyball was increasing.

Colin Wyers: The question really is, who's putting out the narrative about the Rays and what does it serve? I bet you the Rays would love to have the sort of money that would allow them to spend more as well as being as creative and talented as they are.

TGisriel (Baltimore): I agree with your assessment that the new Wild Card format balances the twin desires to reward winning the division and expanding the number of contending clubs. My initial thought is that the new format makes a Wild Card team a bit less than one-half as likely to advance as previously. What is your assessment?

Colin Wyers: In terms of getting to the divisional series, you're looking at exactly half as likely. Or do you mean something else?

LAT (Lost Wages): So, in your expert opinion, would an impersonation of Andrew McCutchen count as satisfying the requirements of International Talk like a Pirate day?

Colin Wyers: He is, in fact, a Pirate. I doubt I would recognize a McCutchen impression if I saw one, though.

TGisriel (Baltimore): Should I assume that Taylor Teagarden's cluster of game winning hits in extra innings is just a random event, and not an ability?

Colin Wyers: Probably, yeah.

Dan W. (Bklyn): If the regular season and playoffs are just uncorrelated "different kinds of fun" - which I don't disagree with - then why is the one related with the other? Why don't we have an 80 game regular season, announce a winner, and then have a 30-team head-to-head tournament, best of 3 in each series, and announce a second winner? I think Mexican soccer actually does something like this. (Thanks for engaging in this argument, btw - I'm not looking to be hostile.)

Colin Wyers: I think that the playoff format is designed in part to maximize regular season fun, and vice versa. They're not entirely uncorrelated.

TGisriel (Baltimore): I think it is likely a bit less than half as likely because the Wild Card team would also need to spend their best pitcher in the one game Wild Card playoff.

Colin Wyers: Oh, so you mean advancing FROM the division round, not TO it, necessarily. There's also, if I recall correctly, no longer the benefit that the Wild Card team can avoid facing the best team by record in the first round just by coming from the same division.

dianagram (VORGville): To paraphrase Billy Beane, will the Orioles s*** work in the playoffs? The record in one-run games .... good fortune and great bullpen ... does THAT work in the playoffs?

Colin Wyers: Realistically, what works in the playoffs is scoring more runs than you allow. As far as how you get there -- having a "good bullpen" is probably the most transient advantage you can have. Relievers are much more unreliable than staring pitching or hitting.

Anonie (Cooperstown): Always a critic? What advanced defensive metric is best and why? TIA.

Colin Wyers: As a rule, I dislike the term "advanced" defensive metric, as I don't think that's what they really are. I also dislike the metrics typically characterized in that fashion. Of the various batted ball metrics out there, Pinto's Probabilistic Model of Range is probably my favorite, but that's not saying much. Of all the defensive metrics out there, the FRAA numbers here at BP are my favorites, not least because of which I designed the metric behind them. In terms of metrics I didn't design, I really like what Michael Humphreys has done with his DRA.

Dan (Albuquerque, N.M.): Do post-All Star Break splits have much predictive value? Is it always better to seek out the larger full- or multiple-season sample?

Colin Wyers: It is always better to seek out larger samples. If you remember nothing else from me, remember that.

Randall (Boise): Are you the biggest idiot ever?

Colin Wyers: Quite possibly yes.

TGisriel (Baltimore): Just to have fun with a typo: Is Jonathon Papelbon and example of a "staring pitcher"?

Colin Wyers: Touche.

jlarsen (chicagoland): Yunel Escobar had a bad clubhouse reputation waaaaay before his latest suspension, why does he keep getting chances despite his nonchalant and seemingly "me-first" attitude?

Colin Wyers: Love covers a multitude of sins, but a TAv above .260 as a shortstop will cover for a few as well.

Bernal Diaz (Indiana): Ok, you are driving a bus; At stop 1 5 people get on. Stop 2 4 people get on 3 get off. Stop 3 2 get on 1 gets off. Stop 4 7 get on 4 get off. Stop 5 0 get on 2 get off. Stop 6 3 get on 0 get off. What color are the bus driver's eyes?

Colin Wyers: Green.

jlarsen (chicagoland): Since RA Dickey is no normal pitcher, let alone knuckleballer, why is everyone so astonished at his season? 200 Ks, nearing 20 Ws, etc. on losing team.

Colin Wyers: Short answer: because he hadn't done it before (he's had one season close but a lot very far away, and the innings he's logged this year are extraordinary).

TGisriel (Baltimore): Don't you have to balance larger samples against samples that are closer in time. For example, doesn't PECOTA discount previous seasons as they are more removed from the next season? I recall a study that found a post-All Star break record to be a better predictor of the following season than a full season record. Is my recollection faulty?

Colin Wyers: I don't know of any such study, but I don't know that I have read every study out there, much less remembered them all or agreed with the conclusions of all the ones I've read.

LAT (Lost Wages): Is there a hole in Mike Scoscia's mind?

Colin Wyers: Since Ben has encouraged you all to deluge me with Babylon 5 related questions, I figure I'll share one of my favorite quotes from the show (distilled; there's actually several seasons separating the original part and the explanation): "Understanding is a three edged sword: your side, their side, and the truth."

newsense (NY): Possible theory about disparities between run differentials and W/L records: Some managers are blowout tolerant, i.e., once the game appears lost they don't make any effort to lose by 5 runs rather than eight. Plausible? testable?

Colin Wyers: Testable, almost certainly. I don't know that I've ever looked into this precisely, but I have looked into whether or not a manager's differential between Pythagorean expectation and actual wins is persistent, and it really isn't. There's no good evidence that a team's under- or overperforming Pythag is attributable to anything the manager is doing.

jlarsen (chicagoland): Will Dickey's innings boost, being a knuckleballer, land him on the Verducci Effect "watch list"? While he does have a "hard" knuckleball, he has no ulnar ligament and knuckleballs don't have as much wear-and-tear on the body(right?)

Colin Wyers: Oh, the Verducci Effect. While I'm thrilled to see a national baseball writer noticing the effects of regression to the mean, the conclusions being drawn from it are... how shall I say this... completely meaningless as a future predictor of pitching injury, shall we say.

Colin Wyers (Baseball Prospectus): So let me ask all of YOU a question -- what sort of things would you like to see me writing about this offseason?

Colin Wyers: Most irregular, but I'll allow it. Thoughts, everyone?

TGisriel (Baltimore): Have you ever seen a previous example of three starting pitchers being sent down in the middle of the season, and then being brought back the same season in relief, as the Orioles have done with Hunter, Matusz and Arrieta? Is it surprising to you that all three of them have been rather effective in relief?

Colin Wyers: I haven't seen that, no. In general, converting a starter into relief results in them being more effecting on a rate basis, so I don't know if it's that shocking.

TGisriel (Baltimore): My recollection is that Earl Weaver was rather consistent in having his Orioles outperform their Pythagorean Record. But how many Earl Weavers are there?

Colin Wyers: I don't know as I've seen that, and it's hard to look it up while I'm live-chatting, unfortunately.

TGisriel (Baltimore): I would enjoy an attempt to try to determine which attributes of a team make it more likely to out-perform or under-perform its Pythagorean projection

Colin Wyers: From Baltimore, you say? I never would've guessed. It's something I've actually spent a fair amount of time on, and as soon as I find something, I'll be happy to publish it.

Austin (MA): I have been looking into the stat RE24 lately, what are some of the downsides of analyzing players with this stat?

Colin Wyers: The biggest trouble is that some players have more opportunities with runners on base than others, and this doesn't really even out over time.

ChrisHopcroft (Glasgow): If you were a betting man, which OF prospect would you bet on having the better career; Oscar Taveras or Wil Myers?

Colin Wyers: Myers, but best not to bet on such things at all unless you really have to.

Nostradamus (Crystal Ball): 2012 World Series....who is in it and who wins?

Colin Wyers: Probably the Rangers and the Nationals, I'd favor the Rangers of the Nationals. But a lot of other things could very easily happen.

newsense (NY): Article request: Park adjustments and their limitations: how stable can they really be? how much does one size fits all oversimplifies for different players? Variations due to weather, time of year and day.

Colin Wyers: Interesting. Certainly something to consider.

Austin (Chicago): As a supplement to the question asked by the other Austin - how useful do you consider RE24 for evaluating relievers' performance? What about starters?

Colin Wyers: Anything like that is going to end up attributing BABIP to the pitcher. Also, if you're using the right RE table, RE24 should be equivalent to similar analysis done with actual runs allowed by the pitcher.

jlarsen (chicagoland): Tattoos, do they increase performance in relief pitchers and middle-infielders?

Colin Wyers: I think you have tattoos confused with mustaches.

TGisriel (Baltimore): Do you believe it has been definitively determined that "clutch hitting" is not generally repeatable, and therefore not a "skill"?

Colin Wyers: I think this comes back to the whole "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" thing. What we can say is that we are not very good at identifying clutch hitters are if they do exist, and the difference between hitters in terms of clutchness (even if it does exist) is smaller than the difference in a whole host of other things.

Paul D (Toronto): Should I be disappointed in Brett Lawrie's season? Do you downgrade his upside based on this year?

Colin Wyers: I think if you're disappointed in what Lawrie has done this season, your expectations for him were too high to begin with. He's had a good year and he's young enough that you should expect good things for him in the future.

TGisriel (Baltimore): Has PitchFX technology been applied to batter's swings, or the flight of the ball after being hit? Is there anything to be learned from studying that?

Colin Wyers: Sportvision does use the Pitch F/X cameras to track the outbound flight of the ball for Hit F/X, but we don't get to see that data.

Anonie (Cooperstown): Has anyone to your knowledge studied park effects by pitch type?

Colin Wyers: Not that I know of.

TGisriel (Baltimore): What, if anything, have we learned from Pitch F/X?

Colin Wyers: I would recommend you to pick up "Extra Innings" and read Mike Fast's chapter, conveniently entitled "What Has Pitchf/x taught us?" After you read the chapters I wrote, of course.

Colin Wyers: Alright, I've had a great time chatting with y'all. If you want to continue to dialog with me, you can find me on Twitter under the unassuming name of @cwyers. Have a wonderful afternoon.

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