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Chat: Colin Wyers

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday October 11, 2012 1:00 PM ET chat session with Colin Wyers.


The sabermetrician is in.

Colin Wyers: Let's get this road on the show.

Alex (Anaheim): Do you know anyone who provides sabermetric data or advice to the makers of baseball video games? I always wondered how much thought went into player ratings.

Colin Wyers: That depends on the type of video games you mean. The more popular console games, I don't know as much about, but the hobbyist-type sim games almost certainly pay attention to that stuff; I've talked with the people behind some of them and they're rather sharp and attentive.

Lisa (Middletown, Ohio): Do you think the Reds can win and go to tthe Championship Series and win? I think they can.

Colin Wyers: This is a correlary to Voros' Law (Any major league hitter can hit just about anything in 60 at bats.): Any team can do just about anything in a seven game series.

seligula (nowhere near the integrity comittee): How long can I continue to ignore the Yankee Effect(tm) on post-season scheduling, particularly making west-coast teams play 10AM games per their body clocks? 10 bleeping AM for a decisive game 5. Hell, maybe I'll bring back Eric Gregg to complete the farce.

Colin Wyers: Major League Baseball lacks the power to alter the time zones or contract the states which lack baseball teams, so their hands are pretty much tied on this one.

pathard (London): Does WARP pay any attention to left/right splits with respect to value. Jose Altuve has a 3.3 Warp despite being ordinary against righties, whom he sees the majority of times. Likewise,righty Colby Lewis is ordinary against lefties, but has the same WARP as Tommy Milone who pitched about twice as many starts and whose split is fairly ordinary for a lefty. Given platooning, isn't Milone a better pitcher than Lewis? And even with positional adjustments, shouldn't we prefer Pablo Sandoval with fewer ABs and a more even split vs Altuve even though according to WARP they are of similar value?

Colin Wyers: There's no platoon adjustment in WARP. The lack of use a platoon player gets in terms of the WARP they accumulate is very real, though, and playing time is one of the big reasons we use replacement-level baselines. Now, there is an argument to be made that there's an additional roster spot opportunity cost WARP isn't factoring in, but I don't know how to quantify that.

pathard (London): Given that lineup arrangement isn't a huge difference maker, wouldn't it be better to bat your slow catchers in front of sluggers. It seems they usually bat near the bottom of the order and we expect lead-off and situational guys to drive then in.

Colin Wyers: It's an interesting question; I think typically speed at the top of the lineup is possibly less useful than speed at the bottom. That said you can't just ignore what the catcher brings to the plate (literally) in terms of what he can do with his bat. If you have a catcher that can take walks and hit for average, using him up at the top of the order makes a certain kind of sense. If you have a guy who can't hit, though, it doesn't really matter who's batting behind him, does it?

captnamerca (Dunedin, FL): This year Chris Davis hit .270 and Ike Davis hit .227. How do you think these will look in 2013?

Colin Wyers: Different, probably.

RyanW (Texas): Do you think Hamilton gets 5+ years guaranteed? If no other team offers more than 5, shouldn't the Rangers be considered the favorite to land him, as their lineup would be completely without a left handed power option without him?

Colin Wyers: I don't know what the Rangers are going to do this offseason, but they won't tender him an offer until he shops it around, and I don't know if they have a huge incentive to match since clearly whatever offer he's going to take back to the Rangers to beat is going to be the most attractive offer he can find. He's aging, brittle, has all sorts of other question marks -- he's an impressive hitter, but you can't just ignore the other factors around him. And I don't know how much stock I put in this (money talks, after all) but there is the concern that Hamilton may just want out of Texas, and the Rangers may just want to be shed of him.

jlarsen (chicago): Is this the offseason that the Yankees finally cut ties with Joba Chamberlain? With all the injuries and the developmental mishandling, it seems that he's more of a headache and distraction than a player with significant upside.

Colin Wyers: I think fans get much more easily distracted than MLB front offices do. A player on the disabled list may be a frustration to fans who are expecting more of him, but usually front offices tend to be a lot more cold-bloodedly rational about such things. The Yankees will cut ties with Joba if they think they can apply that money or roster spot better somewhere else and not one second sooner, I suspect.

Charlie (Bethesda, MD): Lots of talk today about how Strasburg actually pitched towards the end of the season. Basically, Detwiler has gotten better results in their last 10-15 starts than Stras did. Is there any reason to believe they would rather have Detwiler than Strasburg right now, for this series?

Colin Wyers: I don't even think that's true, at least for 10 starts, although I'm sure that some of that comes down to what endpoints you use exactly (which is tricky) and how you define results. But I think Strasburg is an insanely talented pitcher and there's nobody else the Nats would rather have starting a game when it comes down to ability. I think the concern is that injury risk increases with fatigue, not that he hasn't been getting the job done.

jlarsen (chicago): While players like Pujols and Trout will keep Angels in the hunt, moves like keeping a logjam of 1Bs and OFers and re-upping Chris Ianetta is puzzling. What do the Angels do with the glut of 1B and OFers this offseason to maximize their values?

Colin Wyers: Depth takes care of itself. If the Angels find a deal they like, I'm sure they'll move somebody. But players do get injured, and it's a very thin line between "having a surplus" and "having enough players to make it through a 162 game season without being crippled by injuries."

jlarsen (chicago): With the Reds taking so long to figure out that Ryan Hanigan is a starting C at the MLB level, do they deal Hanigan this offseason and improve their rotation?

Colin Wyers: It takes two to tango, as it were. You have to find a team willing to part with a pitcher you like in exchange for Hanigan. Also, again, depth is important. Most MLB GMs would rather hang onto a player they don't "need" for depth purposes than make a trade where they're not happy about the return. The Reds won't deal Hanigan just to make some kind of move or to satisfy some sort of #freeryanhanigan movement, they'll make a deal if and only if they feel like it leaves them with a better ballclub than when they started.

Darwin Barney (Chicago): Do you still think I'm a terrible baseball player? Unrelated, do you think I'll win the Gold Glove award?

Colin Wyers: I don't think Barney terrible, but I do think he's not much of a starter most years. As for the Gold Glove votes, I really have no idea what those voters are looking for. I think the idea that Barney saved 20-plus runs this year, like some defensive metrics are suggesting, is a bit hard to swallow.

loungelizard (loungeland): Makerbot Replicator 2 or 2X - thoughts?

Colin Wyers: I've never heard of this thing before, and now I'm sad because I really want one.

dianagram (VORGville): Adam Jones ... enigma in CF when it comes to defense? I've seen him make wondrous plays, and then baffle me with plays like last night's saunter back on Jeter's triple.

Colin Wyers: Judging the landing spot of a batted ball right off the bat is extraordinarily hard, and frankly I'm in awe of how good major league fielders (even the "bad" ones) are at it, especially given how things like spin can influence it and are really hard to detect over the first few feet of a ball's travel. FRAA think's he's pretty good but not outstanding.

mcquown (Chicago): If you were hired by the Cubs and could "play God" for just one day, what changes would you make?

Colin Wyers: I would ship Tony Campana off somewhere where I'd never have to see him again. Let's be honest, there's little I could do in one day to improve the Cubs and they seem mostly to be in good hands, so why not get a little no-cost personal gratification in getting a player who annoys me off the roster.

myshkin (Santa Clara): I'll ask you the question I asked Bradley: given an infinite army of moderately trainable volunteers, what publically unavailable data about baseball would you most want to have them collect, and how?

Colin Wyers: Service time.

Gabriel (New Jersey): What in your opinion is the best pitching metric out there right now, predictively? I'm guessing FRA is your descriptive pitching statistic of choice, but what would you say is the most predictive, FIP or something else?

Colin Wyers: I mean, it depends on what you're trying to predict. In my mind, what matters to me most in prediction is large samples, and the way most people use predictive pitching statistics is to try and apply them to smaller sample sizes than they really need to. To be blunt, if you really need to predict what a pitcher's going to do, use a projection system.

myshkin (Santa Clara): Is there any reasonable shape for a no-starter pitching staff? You have to cover about 1450 IP without any 200 IP guys.

Colin Wyers: The Rockies have shown us that it's possible. They've also given us a good reason to think that it's not really all that desirable.

myshkin (Santa Clara): Is there any reasonable shape for a no-starter pitching staff? You have to cover about 1450 IP without any 200 IP guys.

Colin Wyers: The Rockies have shown us that it's possible. They've also given us a good reason to think that it's not really all that desirable.

Rita (Reading, PA): who you like in the four games today?

Colin Wyers: I am going to read "like" as "show affection for," and if you want something to do with probabilities instead I guess you can ask another question. I'm rooting for the A's, Nationals, Orioles, and Giants, in pretty much the order of how strongly I feel about such things.

Colin Wyers (Davenport, IA): Speaking of the games -- what about last night, huh?

Colin Wyers: For everyone who stayed up late last night to watch the Yankees and A's win those games -- that was pretty thrilling. I still don't really agree with the idea of pinch-hitting Ibanez for A-Rod (nobody can tell me that THAT is what Girardi expected Ibanez to do, so the idea that we should admit that Girardi "was right" doesn't carry a lot of water with me), but Ibanez came through in an utterly thrilling performance. That said, as a team what the A's did was a lot more exciting. I couldn't believe it when I saw the fielder pretty much just run past Crisp's single and the A's scored the winning run.

Ike Davis (Citi Field): What do you think of me, oh holy one?

Colin Wyers: I think Ike Davis is a better hitter than what he's shown this year, which doesn't make him an eleite first baseman but makes him a good ballplayer for the Mets to have. He didn't deliver on his potential this year, but players don't always deliver, and I hate writing off a guy who's had a little MLB success based on one off year, especially if his minor league numbers are promising as well. And he's at the age where you should still expect some more development as a hitter going forward.

stephenoa (Seabrook, TX): Are a catchers pitch framing abilities something that can be tangibly improved at the big league level with the help of a front office and coaching staff putting priority on such things? Is it an easier skill to teach to a player with major league service time and substantial amounts of video data, or to a prospect with theoretically less ingrained habits?

Colin Wyers: I think it's definitely something that's coachable. I think that the sort of things that really help a guy frame pitches are ones you don't need video review for, you need to coach them as fundamentals. And I think it's probably easier to do so with guys who haven't gotten into habits yet, but I'm not very confident about this.

jlarsen (chicago): Will the White Sox finally entering the dreaded period that Kenny Williams has managed to avoid the last few years in "rebuilding"? Any ideas on what kind of a GM that Rick Hahn will be?

Colin Wyers: At the end of the day, the White Sox were an above-.500 team that was in the playoff hunt in a weak division, and at the very least the division doesn't look to be getting much stronger next year. I think they could very well go out and get one modest bat and some back-end rotation help and be a solid contender again, which isn't really how I would describe a rebuilding team. I mean, you could tear this roster down now if you wanted to, but I don't think you have to and I don't think Williams will.

jlarsen (chicago): Apparently Terry Francona has an "out" clause in his contract if the current Cleveland Indians front office is removed while he's manager. Is that unlikely, outside of an ownership change, with Mark Shapiro being Team President?

Colin Wyers: I think if at some point the Indians don't actually win something the front office will get cleaned out. I don't know how much longer they have to do that, though.

Colin Wyers (Davenport, IA): Well at least one game is going the way you want, huh?

Colin Wyers: For those of you who are following here at the expense of the game (and bless you, everyone) the Giants are up 2-0 on the reds in the top of the 5th, with two on and one out. That's not encouraging for the Reds.

jlarsen (chicago): As a Rays fan, it seemed disgusting at times to see Jose Molina behind home-plate with all the wild pitches and passed balls. Yet, turns out that he had saved 50 runs defensively. How can he be so bad at a few things, yet so good at others? Statistical anamolies or a matter of just taking good with the bad?

Colin Wyers: Where's that number coming from?

myshkin (Santa Clara): Service time? Hmm. How does Cot's gather that information? It looks to be there for many players, if not updated particularly frequently.

Colin Wyers: Team programs and press stuff, mostly. And that's good for career stuff, less good for other things. What I really want is daily team rosters, not just who played in a game but who was on the bench but didn't get into a game. How many pitchers was a team carrying at the time, what was the size of their bench. I think roster composition is a woefully understudied area, due to the data. And historic service time data has its uses too.

Colin Wyers (Davenport, IA): You were saying?

Colin Wyers: Goodness gracious, it seems like the Giants are really about to break this game open -- bases loaded, still only one out.

Colin Wyers (Davenport, IA): Consider it broken open.

Colin Wyers: Good golly Miss Molly, Buster Posey grand slam. Latos is not having a good day, is he.

Steve N (Delaware): A previous questioner asked about catcher framing. I remember studies a few years ago showing that catchers have no effect on pitcher ERA. I've never seen them refuted. So, what value can be given to pitch framing?

Colin Wyers: I believe Sean Smith had a finding that there was some influence on pitcher ERA in the Hardball Times Annual. Catcher's ERA is like using a backhoe to dig up a single rose, though.

DEF (not in Montreal): My favorite example of how misleading catcher's ERA can be is the season Michael Barrett alternated between C and 3B. He had the lowest catcher's ERA on the team (by a wide margin) mostly because when he was catching he wasn't inepty trying to play 3B.

Colin Wyers: I think it's a blunt tool, but I don't think even Lead Mike was so bad at third that he could show up in a pitcher's ERA that obviously.

Colin Wyers: Alright, thanks everyone for hanging out here. I'll be around on Twitter (@cwyers) if you have any other questions, and I'm sure we'll do some more group roundtables soon. Thanks!

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