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Chat: Ian Miller

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday September 26, 2012 1:00 PM ET chat session with Ian Miller.


Ask Ian questions about baseball, or ask Ian questions about the exciting life of a baseball writer/rock star.

Ian Miller: Screw it, I'm bored, so let's get this party started. And yes, I'm aware that it's still Wednesday in most of the United States, but it's really never too early to party, BP style.

Roger (Washington DC): I'm still waiting to do a Bowie BaySox/ Rock and Roll Hotel DH with you Ian! What's taking you so long to get out here? On the serious side, my general impression was that pitching prospects were noticeably absent from the Cal league this year, especially after Ciangrini left. Was that how you saw it as well?

Ian Miller: All attempts to travel East were foiled this year, Roger! We'll make it happen in 2013.

I was pretty disappointed with the overall lack of talent in the Cal League this year -- it wasn't pitching-specific, IMO. The Billy Hamilton show was fantastic while it lasted, of course, but I think I'd been spoiled by a few consecutive years of excellent prospects (esp w/r/t the Giants, whose A+ teams had been loaded). Never got a chance to see Cingrani in person, which was kind of a bummer. Looking forward to the AFL, though.

Alex (Anaheim): Will MLB institute more replay in the future?

Ian Miller: I think it's inevitable, and it can only be a good thing, as long as MLB implements it properly, which I assume they'll do. If calls are appealed to an off-field official, for instance, that shouldn't take more than a few seconds, which is far quicker than the current home-run-review practice.

Will (Rochester): I witnessed Alanis Morissette doing a Carly Simon-esque cover of Green Day's Basketcase on Kimmel last night. Please advise. I am so confused right now. And what is the worst cover song rendition in your opinion?

Ian Miller: Wow, that sounds unbelievably awful. I hope you'll talk to someone before you consider hurting yourself or somebody else.

The worst covers I've ever witnessed are Fugazi songs. That's a band that's essentially uncoverable. Unless you're Fugazi, you shouldn't play Fugazi songs.

Of course, there's also EVERY SINGLE SONG on this record: http://beta.musicradar.com/news/guitars/carlos-santana-covers-acdc-the-beatles-zeppelin-on-upcoming-album-256919

jlarsen (chicago): Outside of Orel and Larkin, most sports analysts on baseball related programs are desk jockeys or mediocre players(who may have all-star nods to careers, but barely much above that) or failures as former GMs. Why should fans believe the likes of hacks like John Kruk or Harold Reynolds, both ramble on without much proof or research to back up their claims/points? That's like listening to Jim Bowden, John Hart and Steve Phillips when it comes to the inner workings of a front office. If I wanted a "How to" on what not to do, I'd listen to them.

Ian Miller: Kruk is as painful to listen to as he is to watch, but I've kinda come around on Reynolds. There's a lot of bluster and bullshit, of course, but he'll occasionally say something interesting.

Ultimately, they don't make these shows for you or for me; they make them for the "average baseball fan"/ESPN viewer. That person probably uses counting stats like AVG and RBI to gauge player value and probably does get something out of what those guys say.

The solution isn't to try and fix Baseball Tonight; it's to find venues for people who discuss the sport in ways that resonate with you, like the various BP podcasts.

Grant (Frisco, baby): If you had to compare a baseball player to Feist, who would it be? And a followup question: Which GM is most like Michael Bay?


The Bay one is easy: Obviously that's Jeff Luhnow, because of the way he blew up the Astros this year. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM.

The baseball version of Feist would have to be someone incredibly annoying, like a Scott Hairston. Alternately it could be a player who's wildly overvalued by stat nerds because he put up some kind of stupid SABR-y numbers in an outlier year. So maybe Feist is Ben Zobrist. Benzo Brist.

Mike (Miami): How do you think that playing later stages of the WBC at more pitching favorable stadiums like AT&T Park and Marlins Park will influence the competition?

Ian Miller: Eggsellent question. I think it will have an impact, and may give fundamentally sound, slap-hitting teams (read: Asian) a distinct advantage, especially in the finals. SF in March isn't exactly pleasant, and there's no roof to close, so i think AT&T will play very large. The American (North and South) teams will have to absolutely crush balls to get 'em out.

/amateur meteorologist/physicist mode off

Kyle (Seattle, WA): When are we getting new material from Kowloon Walled City?

Ian Miller: No firm date yet, but definitely before the end of the year! It's being mixed right now, and we've got a mastering appointment scheduled. We're even posting a recording journal on decibel.com soon, either this week or next. Thanks for being interested!

Mike (Miami): What auteur director do you think would be the best pitcher? I think Michael Haneke would have a helluva cutter.

Ian Miller: As discussed on twitter, obviously Walter Murch would be film' version of Mariano Rivera.

That said, I think Takeshi Kitano would be hard to beat. Power pitcher who would just mow guys down. Antonioni might've been great, maybe a Koufax type.

Dark horse candidate (no pun intended, honestly) would be Charles Burnett. "Killer of Sheep" was just so honest and brutal and immediate -- like vintage Bob Gibson.

And you didn't ask, but Lav Diaz would be the director most likely to be a horrible umpire.

Brian_K (Missouri): I have adopted the Diamondblacks as my rooting interest. What are Team New Zealand's prospects in the WBC?

Ian Miller: I guess they've got a shot, but not a great one. Chinese Taipei has to be the odds-on favorite to come out of that pool. I literally have no idea how the Philippines and Thailand are, but I can't imagine they'll be very good.

Malcolm (Schenectady, NY): What's the album of the year?

Ian Miller: If I had to vote right now, off the top of my head, I'd say "Cancer for Cure" by El-P. It's absolutely incredible, and I can't stop listening to it. The only other recent hip-hop album that even comes close is "R.A.P. Music" by Killer Mike which was, of course, produced by El-P.

Everything else I've been listening to lately is from pre-1975.

Roger (Washington DC): When are you getting out to the AFL? And will you be able to get to Instrux as well, like Prof. Parks?

Ian Miller: No instrux for me, sadly. schedule is just too tight.

We're out there for the last weekend of the regular schedule -- Nov 10th-ish, I think? Probably catch 5-6 games over 3 days.

Gavin (NYC): Do you think it would be possible/probable for a team to acquire both Justin Upton and Chris Young in the same trade? Seems like the Snakes are selling low on both.

Ian Miller: Honestly I haven't been keeping up to date on all the various Dbacks OF trade rumors, so I have no special intel. That said, I don't think they'd necessarily be selling low on either guy. Yes, they're both coming off mediocre years, but everyone knows what Justin Upton is. He's a LEGIT elite-power guy who might benefit greatly from a change of scenery. The tools are there, and he's still very young -- seems like he's been around forever, but he's only 25! Still 2 years away from his mythical age-27 season.

On the other hand, Chris Young just turned 29 and is clearly on the downside of his career. You've got Adam Eaton ready to slot in in CF, so I think you have to move Young before his value drops further.

George C. (New York): When do you think the NFL Ref lockout will end? How different would baseball be if the MLB locked out the umps?

Ian Miller: YES! First handegg question of the day. Thanks, George.

I honestly know nothing about this situation, but I did hear a really interesting thing yesterday on Talk of the Nation, wherein the NPR sports correspondent said he thought Goodell was taking a hard line on negotiations in preparation for upcoming contract negotiations with *players.* Because if they wanted the ref deal done, they'd have done it yesterday. They want something like $30M over 7 years, which is probably a rounding error for NFL owners. This is clearly about something other than the refs.

kevin (pdx): It's not like Joe Morgan is any good at his job.

Ian Miller: That's not a question per se, but yes.

Jake (California): Zack Greinke: Major league pitcher or serial killer?

Ian Miller: Absolutely.

Tom Verducci (Verducci-land): Why am I so good-looking? What is my #want and #wet factor? And I am a better-looking than Jose Mota?

Ian Miller: Tom, first off, thanks for the question. I'm a huge fan!

I think you're so damn handsome because you are the Golden Boy. The Chosen One. The Head Cheese. The Big, Swingin' ... well, you get the point.

You are far, FAR more handsome than Jose Mota, although Mr. Mota is far more #wet. You need look no further than his yoga photos to understand that.

Your #want, on the other hand, is unmatched.

jlarsen (chicago): Is the debate of Mike Trout Vs. Miguel Cabrera for MVP basically an argument between "Old Baseball Stats" Vs. "New Baseball Stats"?

Ian Miller: I'm honestly not sure it is. I mean, people are certainly *using* "old stats" to make their case for Cabrera and "new stats" to make the case for Trout, but I think it's mostly people looking to justify their choice post facto.

i.e., I like Cabrera more than I like Trout, and look, he may win the Triple Crown, hence I'll cite that as my evidence. You even see this with Tigers fans who'll use "old" counting stats to justify the case for Cabrera as MVP and then turn around and use WAR to justify Verlander as their Cy Young choice. It's post facto reasoning in nearly every case.

And since I don't care who wins the MVP, I find it very interesting. Also, it should be Mike Trout.

Roger (Washington, DC): Point of order, jlarsen! John Hart should in no way be lumped in with a group of Jim Bowdens and Steve Phillipses. He won 6 division titles in 7 years with 2 World Series appearances! AND he hired Jon Daniels. Pretty nice resume to my eyes.

Ian Miller: Point taken. Bowden and Phillips both play parodies of GMs on TV, and I'm not sure you can say the same for Hart.

Will ((Rochester)): Is Hunter Pence more old-timey than someone like Ty Cobb?

Ian Miller: My Productive Outs comrade Riley Breckenridge broke down Pence perfectly in a recent episode of our PRODcast. Riley said that Pence was kept locked up in a basement for the first 15 or so years of his life and shown nothing but those 1920s-ish baseball films that are all sped-up and funny-lookin', and Pence's entire familiarity with baseball stems from those films.

Which is as good an explanation as I've heard for his completely bizarre ... well, everything.

Roger (Washington DC): So 2012 has seen the debut of Harper, Machado, Profar, and Bundy. At least two and quite possibly three of them are up for good. Is this the greatest group of teenagers collectively in the majors at the same time? More importantly, what the heck is happening to the standard development curve?

Ian Miller: I can't say for certain that they're the best group of teens ever, but OTOH, I can't think of any other group, so maybe, yeah!

The second part of your question is far more interesting to me, though. Is this just a fluke, or is it something more profound? Are diets or training regimens or something else entirely causing players (kids) to develop faster than ever? I think that's a very real possibility, but it's not a question a liberal arts guy like me can answer.

Intriguing, though.

jlarsen (chicago): I'm going to rehash a question that I asked another BP writer this week. What player currently relegated to a bench role would perform at a star level if given a full time job or was traded and utilized correctly? So far, we've only gotten Brandon Belt and Peter Bourjos between the 2 of us.

Ian Miller: Belt's been starting regularly for months now, so I think we can cross him off the list.

Not really sure about Bourjos either. He's clearly an above-average defender, but I'm not sure he's a "real" .270 hitter. If he is, then yeah, with his speed, he might crack star-level.

It's a good question, but no one else is really springing to mind for me. Let's crowdsource: you guys have any votes for guys who are currently playing in a bench role who deserve a starting spot?

Futurecloser (NYC): En Vogue, Halle Berry, Your Auntie Clarise... Who has better power potential?

Ian Miller: I'd bet my entire $30 Slausen Swap Meet gift certificate on Clarice. That lady can flat-out rake.

Brian_K (Missouri): Does Yadier Molina have a legit shot at NL MVP over Posey/Braun? Who's the NL Cy Young?

Ian Miller: I kinda don't think so, which is a shame, because Yadi has had a ridiculous year. I'm sure he's getting a ton of press in STL, but you don't hear much about him in the national MSM. I think it's Posey's to lose right now. He's got everything going for him: the comeback from injury, a division win, and (obviously) he's been playing like a house a'fire since the ASB.

NL Cy Young? Hell, I don't know. I thought Kershaw would run away with it, but this injury has been terrible for his chances. Totally up in the air now, I reckon.

Tom Verducci (Verducci-land): Thanks for the kind words, Ian. I appreciate your sincerity and insight. Where would you rank on the Verducci scale? Who is the sexiest person in MLB? And at BP?

Ian Miller: I'm probably a 35-40 on the Verducci scale. I don't have much natural ability (below-avg hair, bone structure), but I have solid-average fashion sense and lots of want, so my looks play up a little.

Sexiest person in the MLB? Tough call. I find I'm attracted to people who aren't classically beautiful and have ridiculous raw power, so I'd go with, in no particular order: Paul Goldshmidt, Chris Carter, and Mike Morse.

Sexiest person at BP is obviously Joe Hamrahi.

Will ((Rochester)): Which baseball player do you think would make the best frontman in a music-playing group (otherwise known as a band)? What would be the name of said group and what kind of music would they make?

Ian Miller: To answer this question, we must first define its opposite. Obviously Bronson Arroyo is the absolute WORST frontman for a music-playing group, so who is the most unlike Bronson Arroyo? He's a white pitcher who can hit a little, so let's find a non-white catcher who can't hit at all. Is that Kurt Suzuki? Kurt Suzuki it is.

He would play that weird amalgam of Hawaiian reggae that people over there seem to like, and they would be called The Children of Kamehameha.

jlarsen (chicago): Speaking of explosive GMs, Ben Cherington did quite a number on the Boston Red Sox. Watching them in the 2nd half, it seems to me that they're likely going to dumbly dump a large amount of the salary that they just removed from their payroll into pitching. With the strong perception that Valentine is going to be gone and the FA market always unpredictable, how do they predict to become strong contender with no guarantee that big FA signings for the rotation and bullpen(which is as junk-filled as the rotation) will "click" and perform well in Fenway and against division rivals? Seems to me that the Red Sox are attempting refurbishing a house that needs to be demolished from foundation up.

Ian Miller: I have no issue with the job Cherington did in cleaning house, but yeah, the question is now what to do with the cost savings. I mean, any predictions we make now are pure speculation, but your scenario makes as much sense as any. But Cherington is no dummy, and they've got Bill James in there somewhere still, don't they? These aren't dummies. Maybe they see that they can't really be competitive next year and can rebuild for the slightly longer term. Or maybe they'll be pressured to go all-in no matter what.

OR, maybe they CAN be competitive next year. The Yankees aren't getting any younger, the O's won't be as lucky, and the Rays, well, who know about the Rays. Dunno, man. It's gonna be interesting no matter what!

dianagramr (VORGville): Do you believe in reincarnation? If so, who/what do you believe Kevin, Jason and yourself will come back as?

Ian Miller: I decidedly do NOT believe in reincarnation, but, if it does happen to be real, I hope whatever supreme being there is shows pity on my ignorant ass and lets me come back as something cool. I'm vegan, so hopefully I'm reducing my karmic burden, so maybe a sacred cow? Is that arrogant?

KG has rescued Otto and other animals, and is an all-around good dude, so he'll come back as one of those little Tibetan lama dudes.

Parks, unfortunately, is doomed to return as Juan of Juan Deli for the rest of eternity.

jlarsen (chicago): Will a small-market/midsize-market team score this offseason with a reduced value Melky Cabrera on a 1-3 year due to the fact that he is now going to be attached with the stigma of being a PED user and he's gotta re-establish himself/his credibility he lost when the suspension occurred?

Ian Miller: I would certainly think so. Not sure what the $ figure is gonna be, but clearly his price has come down, and he's going to be a solid pickup even if he doesn't replicate his 2012 numbers (which he almost certainly won't).

Do the Rays need a corner OF? He seems like a perfect Joe Maddon reclamation project.

Will (Rochester): How would you deal with the referee lock-out and the odious replacement refs in the NFL?

Ian Miller: I would give the refs the piddling $30M they're owed, because I am not an asshole.

Brian (MA): We've seen what PEDs and the backlash against them has done to baseball, what do you think about the current state of cycling? and can the sport ever be "clean" to the point that we can trust (or believe?) the riders? And what do you think about Lance Armstrong?

Ian Miller: Oooh, awesome question!

Cycling is an absolutely batshit sport. I don't think non-cycling enthusiasts realize what these guys do. In the big stage races like the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia, these guys ride 100-150 miles EVERY DAY for like 3 weeks, with just 1 or 2 off days. The toll this takes on the body is absurd. So OF COURSE these guys are blood doping and doing everything they can to stay in the race. Hell, a guy will break his collarbone 40 miles into a stage and stay in the race for the next 2 weeks! They're not even human. They're freaky mutants. And obviously I don't care about the integrity of the sport or anything, I just want to watch guys ride 40 MPH, because that's as entertaining as all hell.

I'm not a Lance Armstrong fan per se, but I think the entire USADA thing of stripping him of his wins was completely absurd. They have no jurisdiction over that, and it's a goddamn sham of a mockery.

Ace (Upstate): Nancy Grace just tweeted: "Why would 2 teen boys allegedly kill grandma? Was it #MurderForPizza?" Follow-up, what is a Nancy Grace? And how can it be vanquished?

Ian Miller: Everything I know about Nancy Grace comes from watching The Soup with Joel Mchale. From what I gather, she is a zaftig white women with a blond hair helmet who yells about legal matters on TV.

I'm not really share how -- or if -- she can be killed, so it's best to be safe: shoot her with a silver bullet, drive a stake though her heart, AND cut off her head.

And now I want pizza.


Will (Rochester): Serious baseball question time... I am a Pirates fan, and I have become really disheartened and disenchanted watching Pittsburgh over the last two months. What would you do to solve this? Amidst all the crazy chatter about prospects and training with the Navy SEALs, do you think Huntington and company deserve to keep their jobs? Or is all of this much ado about nada?

Ian Miller: Second-half Pirates has been as bad a story as first-half Pirates was a good one.

Not sure about Huntington. I mean, he put together that team that won all those games in the 1st half and was in 1st place -- but he also put together the team that lost all those games in the 2nd half. Injuries played a role, of course, and you've got to wonder about conditioning and whether or not Hurdle and his staff had these guys ready to play every day. I'm not that close to the team, so I can't answer any of this. I don't really care about that leaked email or whatever. That stuff is a non-factor and, if the Pirates were still winning, wouldn't have gotten any press at all. Or if it did, people would be pointing to it and saying Hey, look! This worked!

Better luck next year, dudes.

rileybreck (Orange County): Kris Medlen's second half has been absolutely ridiculous. In 18 games (11 starts), he's 8-0 with two holds, 1.01 ERA, and opposing hitters have a .492 OPS (.192 BA) against him. Could he get some NL Cy Young votes? Should he? And how in the hell has he turned into (arguably) the most dominant starting pitcher in baseball over the past ~2.5 months?

Ian Miller: I don't think it's even arguable -- he HAS been the most dominant pitcher in the game. Those numbers are absolutely preposterous. He might garner a few votes, sure. With Kershaw hurt and ineffective, there might be some votes up for grabs. I wouldn't bet my house on it, though.

Will (Rochester): Which MLB locker room most closely resembles a frathouse? And why? Also, which clubhouse do you imagine is most like a joy-free high school study hall run by that one teacher's aide who is able to suck the life and fun out of everything?

Ian Miller: Ol' Tracer has to be the least fun skipper in baseball, don't you think? All prayer circles and good works and introspection all the time? That's why the Rockies are so terrible, y'know. You can look it up.

Red Sox clubhouse might be the most out of control right now, since Bobby V is basically a substitute teacher right now. Everyone knows they don't have to do anything he says.

Marlins might be the most fun, though. Look how they closed ranks behind Ozzie around this whole Heath Bell thing.

Ace (Upstate): As a "vegan," how much do you miss bacon? #want

Ian Miller: I miss bacon less than I love piglets.

Will (Rochester): To what baseball player would you compare Paul Thomas Anderson? And what season or story most closely resembles the arc of "The Master"?

Ian Miller: Good question. I'm not sure "The Master" had much narrative arc though, y'know? It was more a character study, or more accurately a study of the struggle between two men who are strong in very different ways.

With that in mind, I'd comp PTA to Paul Konerko. Every plate appearance is an epic struggle of the pitcher trying to inflict his will and Konerko resisting.

Ace (Upstate): I have a younger sister and she listens to terrible music. I am obviously not referring to myself here. She keeps singing about that Adele woman setting fire to the rain?! First, wtf?! How does one set fire to the rain? And follow-up, how do I get her to listen to better music?

Ian Miller: If they can light a river on fire on Cleveland, then Adele might be able to light the rain on fire, right?

With younger siblings all you can do is continue to set a good example. Expose her to good music and don't try and inflict it on her, cuz that'll just turn her off to it for life.

jlarsen (chicago): The Royals stated that their goal for the offseason is making a strong push at improving their rotation. With that being quite obvious, why does Dayton Moore remain employed?

Ian Miller: I guess because his deal runs through the end of 2014? Dunno man.

He did put together this core of good young talent, though, so give him some credit for that. Then again, he traded for Jonathan Sanchez and signed Jeff Francoeur.

I'm as puzzled as you. Being a baseball GM is really, really difficult.

jlarsen (chicago): What is with closers and insane post-save celebrations? Right now, it seems as if the Top 3 are Fernando Rodney's Arrow-launching, Jose Valverde's wiggle-and-stomp and Brian Wilson's "rage"-filled X. Which is your favorite?

Ian Miller: Favorite? Can I pick (D) none of the above? I also wish guys would stop untucking their shirts as soon as the last out is recorded. That's dumb.

Jose Mota (Anaheim): In situations such as with the Angels coming down to right now looking inside themselves from game to game knowing that what lies in front can be always to go pitch-by-pitch, game-by-game, so that when it's time to wind down the season and the last game is played you can talk to the mirror and say whether the A's come back to reality or you're in the wild cards, outloud, "I ... KNOW ... I ... LEFT IT IN THE FIELD." What do you think?

Ian Miller: I think you should speak with manager Mike Scioscia!

Roger (Washington DC): I'm not sure if this qualifies as a cover or not, but avert your eyes, folk music lovers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ng2Ls4OA2k4

Ian Miller: Fantastic.

That seems like a perfect place to end this here chat. Thank you for all the thoughtful questions, and the thoughtless ones as well. You guys always make this so much fun.


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