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Chat: Ben Lindbergh

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday October 16, 2012 2:00 PM ET chat session with Ben Lindbergh.


Chat with the editor in chief.

Ben Lindbergh: Hey, folks, thanks for coming. I'm under the weather from pretending to be a beat writer for the last week and from singing along with Sloan (the best of all bands) last night in Brooklyn, but I don't need to be able to talk to chat.

Alex (Anaheim): I noticed that, probably due to realignment, the Yankees will be playing the Dodgers both home and away next season. Are you in favor of this "year-round" interleague play?

Ben Lindbergh: I am. I'm ambivalent about the interleague, but I like the realignment. The symmetry of 15 teams to a league and five teams to a division appeals to me, and should make things marginally more fair (though the schedule is still going to be unbalanced).

HANNAH (BAY AREA, CA): What are the odds of Phil Hughes giving up a homer to Miguel Cabrera?

Ben Lindbergh: Hughes gave up a ton of home runs this year--35 in just over 190 innings. In fact, only one qualified pitcher allowed homers at a higher rate (Ervin Santana). As you'd probably expect when you're talking about a Yankees pitcher, he gave up most of those homers at home, but he's still a pretty safe bet to give one up tonight. I don't know whether Cabrera has a better chance of being the one to hit that homer than Prince Fielder--probably not, given platoon splits--but the odds are good. If you wanted actual odds, and not just "good," which you already knew, I'm sorry. Math and chats don't mix.

Joe (Seattle): Thoughts on Gustavo Cabrera and Franklin Barreto? Just started looking at the international signings for kicks.

Ben Lindbergh: Honest answer? My thoughts are, "So apparently there are baseball players named Gustavo Cabrera and Franklin Barreto." International signings really aren't my specialty, sorry. It's about all I can do to keep track of the players in the majors, let alone all the ones who'll probably never make it there. We have a bunch of prospect people on staff who'd be happy to answer your question via email, on Twitter, or in their own chats.

captnamerca (FL): Where is the best place to get sandwiches?

Ben Lindbergh: In the world? The last sandwich I ate came from Subway, so clearly I'm an unreliable source. You'll want to direct this question to the incomparable Ted Berg on Twitter @OGTedBerg. He's the baseball internet's acknowledged sandwich expert. Or self-proclaimed sandwich expert, I'm not sure which.

Santi Cazorla (Sacramento): Darin Ruff or Mark Trumbo?

Ben Lindbergh: Trumbo.

Guillermo (Montevideo, Uruguay): Hi Ben! Regarding the Yankees at Dodgers series, I am planning to attend my FIRST EVER LIVE MLB GAME there, pretty psyched about that. So, on to the questions, I've had some twitter quarrels with a local newspaper editor about the quality of the content they produce. He says they "can't check everything". How do you manage to handle a steady output of articles yourself?

Ben Lindbergh: Congrats on getting to your first game, Guillermo. Yankees-Dodgers sounds like a good place to start.

I sympathize with with the unnamed local newspaper editor. A lot of papers are understaffed these days--as Sam Miller and I discussed on a recent episode of our podcast, many papers no longer have editors who can work closely with authors before publishing a piece. Fewer people buying papers means smaller budgets and less manpower (personpower?), and editing, unfortunately, is often the first thing to be cut back. I think that leads to lower-quality content, but on the other hand, cutting writers might mean no content at all, so I understand why it happens.

As for BP: we turn around an awful lot of content every day--often upwards of 10 articles. In most cases, those articles are submitted the night before (sometimes late the night before), and we want to put them up early, since that's when the most people are on the site. Without a gigantic staff, there's no way we could check every fact before publishing. So we do the best we can--we have authors who know their stuff and editors who know their stuff, and we try to catch everything. We do make mistakes, and when people point them out, we fix them. I worked for a monthly magazine for a while, and that model works differently--you get articles weeks before they're due to run, and you really do check every fact (and somehow, you still make mistakes). The demands of publishing daily don't allow quite the same rigorousness. We assume you'd rather read a lot of good articles and spot an occasional typo or incorrect stat than read very few articles that have been checked 10 times. So I guess what I'm saying is, be nice to the unnamed local newspaper editor. He's doing the best he can.

Ruhee (Toronto): I know it's all guesswork at this point, but how optimistic are you about Jose Bautista's recovery? It seems like his surgery could be extremely detrimental.

Ben Lindbergh: Here's what Bautista was quote as saying in an mlb.com article yesterday, which you probably saw:

"I want to know who those people are who think I'm not going to get it back because of this particular injury," Bautista said. "The only people that could know that are either the people who had the surgery or that do the surgery.

"I've talked to about 20 people in that position, and they all seem to agree that it was a 99.9 percent chance that I was going to be the same player that I ever was before the injury."

Jose Bautista wants to know who you are! Wrist injuries are scary, and sometimes they do have lingering effects on a player's power. I wouldn't expect him to hit 50 home runs again, but I wouldn't expect that regardless of the wrist. How about this: I'll say that I'd expect him to hit worse than whatever I'd project him to hit if he'd been healthy the whole time, but not so much worse that he couldn't still be a star. I know a lot less about his wrist than his doctors, and if they're telling him he can make a full recovery, I don't have a great reason to disagree. Corey Dawkins might have more insight.

The Iron (Marvin Gardens): Which team do you think surprises everyone by how good they are next year, and which team surprises everyone by how bad they are next year?

Ben Lindbergh: To answer this question correctly, I'd have to be smarter than everyone, right? So I'm probably not going to answer this question correctly--if there were some capacity surprise that I could see, I probably wouldn't be the only one who could see it, and then it wouldn't be that surprising. It's not like I saw the A's or the Orioles coming. But I'll give it a shot anyway: I think the Blue Jays, Padres, and Royals could have significantly better records next year than they did this year. I'll let you be the judge of how surprising their success would be.

Guillermo (Montevideo, Uruguay): Thanks for getting to my question and answering it so thoroughly Ben, I'll keep in mind being more lenient in the future towards editors everywhere. As for the game, it is not a start of sorts, since I've been following MLB since late 2000 (more obsessing over rather than following, but you get the point), but living on the opposite end of America kind of makes it a logistic nightmare for me to attend a game. If I have it my way, I'll try to go to a game in New York as well. No need to answer here.

Ben Lindbergh: I'm answering anyway! Yeah, I know it's not your first introduction to baseball, and that you've been reading BP for some time. I'm always surprised when people become obsessed with Major League Baseball without having been to a game, but I shouldn't be. It can be a compelling product from afar.

And I hope my answer about editing didn't make it sound like mistakes don't bother me or that I don't like people letting us know about them. They bother me a lot, and I want to hunt them all down and destroy them and never make any more.

BWooster (Finland): Hi, For a somewhat uninitiated follower, by looking at Verlander vs Ichiro heat maps, one would think there's a reasonable chance for hits coming up today, is that right? Any thoughts on what one should be looking at from Verlander's stuff during the game against the NYY?

Ben Lindbergh: Bertie, I haven't looked at any heat maps, but I don't think there's ever a reasonable chance for many hits coming against Verlander. Ichiro has hit .309/333/.418 against Verlander in 57 PA. That's not so bad, but it's worse than his overall career line, which is what you'd expect. (By the way, one of the many weird and wonderful things about Ichiro: he has almost no career platoon split.) The Yankees should be looking for, and cowering from, the best stuff in baseball. That's not to say he can't have a bad day, or that they can't scratch out a few runs and beat him when he's having a good day, but I certainly wouldn't expect them to hit much, even aside from the way they've been struggling lately. Maybe Jeeves could figure out Verlander, but major-league hitters can't seem to.

dianagram (VORGville): Hi Ben!!! Thanks for the chat. So, has the E-I-C job been everything you've expected to this point? Any surprises (good or bad)?

Ben Lindbergh: Hey, Diane. I really can't imagine enjoying a job much more than I'm enjoying this one. I never feel like I need a day off. Hopefully Joe Hamrahi isn't reading this, because I might actually want some days off at some point.

Surprises...hmm. Maybe the amount of unsolicited submissions/job inquiries we receive. Those go to me now, and I wasn't aware of how many there would be. I'm glad we get them, but I hate having to say no. Also, the extent to which I've come to value whatever the online baseball website equivalent of clubhouse chemistry. I guess that comes with any managerial position, but I have a better appreciation of the value of bringing good people, as opposed to just good writers/analysts, than I did before.

Charlie (Bethesda, MD): There's alot of loose talk around here about Rizzo re-signing LaRoche and trading Morse. If they do that, should they go after Josh Hamilton? Or is there enough $ tied to aging corner outfielders.

Ben Lindbergh: You know, there's rarely a time when I'd say a team just plain shouldn't go after a particular player. It depends on whether the price is right. My suspicion is that the price (and the years) probably won't be, in Hamilton's case. If it would take a Werth deal to get him, I wouldn't want him. Hamilton's free agency is an interesting case, and I'm sure we'll have much more about it at BP in the weeks ahead.

BWooster (Finland): I say, Ichiro will make the reel, for at least a major double. Who do you fancy? The sleeping guns come alive?

Ben Lindbergh: Much like Jeeves, Ichiro moves in mysterious ways. I fancy the Tigers, though.

rubinr (Seattle): Great season for the A's, but how much regression are they in store for in 2013?

Ben Lindbergh: Some, I'd say, but less than the Orioles are. I don't think they'll win the division again, but not because they'll have a bad season. I expect the Angels to improve and the Rangers to continue to be tough.

Paul (DC): After Profar, rank in hotness the next level of upcoming minor league short stops from a list of Francisco Lindor, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, Hak-Ju Lee, Trevor Story, and Carlos Correa.

Ben Lindbergh: Baez, Lindor, Russell, Story, Correa, Lee, but I'm assuming you're asking me to rank them purely be physical attractiveness.

Guillermo (Montevideo, Uruguay): Actually, I was asking you that because I very rarely if ever find a typo or error in BPs articles. As to my obsession with Baseball, I'd guess the statistical/analytical side was what drew me more into it. I remember playing my first SIM (OOTP 3) and automatically going for the "high AVG" guys, then watch my team flounder and start questioning why were they using AVG in the first place. Still, it is/was better than nothing (i.e.: soccer)

Ben Lindbergh: I can certainly understand being into that side of baseball--I'm into it myself--but for me (and despite what some in the anti-saber crowd might say for most people who like baseball stats), actually going to games was the gateway drug for the statistical side of things. If I hadn't been introduced to baseball up close, I'm not sure the stats would've had the significance for me that they do. Or maybe they would have! Either way, I'm glad they do for you.

BWooster (Finland): I got into BP this year, thanks to UpAndIn, Goldstein and Parks, great stuff guys, very solid line up, throughout. As the author of my moniker would put it, capital...capital.

Ben Lindbergh: Thanks for joining. I like anyone who likes P.G. Wodehouse. Actually, that's not true--there are probably some terrible people who have great taste in English humorists. But I my my girlfriend in part because we both like Wodehouse. Shockingly, we're both editors.

I'm hoping Jason starts up a new podcast next year. I recently became a .9er, and like the rest of you, I'm in Up and In withdrawal.

Ed (Cranford, New Jersey): Why did it take R.A. Dickey so long to become this good and will he come close to repeating next season?

Ben Lindbergh: The knuckleball is really hard to throw, and really, really hard to throw well, and nearly impossible to throw as well as Dickey throws it. Refining it took time. He's not the first guy to perfect a knuckleball at an advanced age. I wouldn't expect him to be quite as good next season, if only because I wouldn't ever expect one of the few best pitchers in baseball to repeat their performance. I think he could come close, though. Nothing about what he did this season screams "fluke," and he was even pitching hurt. As long as he has his feel for the pitch and stays healthy, I don't see why he can't keep having success.

randolph3030 (The N.S.): So? How was it? A softball question to let you promote the greatest of all bands.

Ben Lindbergh: This is a question about Sloan, the band I saw last night. I've seen them something like eight times, and I'll keep going as long as they keep touring. If you don't know them, give them a shot--all of their music is streamable for free right here. They're Canadian, they've been together without a lineup change for over 20 years, and all four members sing and write songs. If you like the Beatles, which probably most of you do, I expect you'll like Sloan.

dianagram (VORGville): Dickey succeeds (in part) because he can vary the speed of the knuckler by 20 mph, and he can still throw a fastball in the mid 80s.

Ben Lindbergh: Right. So as long as he can keep doing those things, he can keep being great. How long can a 37-year-old keep doing those things, even one with a relatively low-effort delivery and no UCL? I don't know. Things fall apart, including pitchers.

Paul (DC): "Baez, Lindor, Russell, Story, Correa, Lee, but I'm assuming you're asking me to rank them purely be physical attractiveness." Of course physically!! Is there some other type of ranking I was unaware of??

Ben Lindbergh: Okay, just making sure.

randolph3030 (Beverly Terrace): To BWooster and yourself, can I suggest some Kyril Bonfiglioli's Don't Point That Thing at Me? His Charlie Mordecai is not unlike old Bertie, but a bit nastier. One of my favorite books, it's aching for a Johnny Depp and Vinny Jones movie adaptation.

Ben Lindbergh: Thanks for the recommendation. Just ordered it from the library.

jlarsen (chicago): 3 fairly valuable SPs got dealt at the trading deadline with Dempster, Greinke and Sanchez. Who got the best return for their former team?

Ben Lindbergh: Obviously, Jeremy Guthrie was the best starter dealt at the deadline, so I'll give the Royals the best return for getting him for Jonathan Sanchez. Among these lesser lights, though--probably Greinke, which is what you'd expect, given that he's, you know, Zack Greinke.

jlarsen (chicago): Here's a good question stemming from an interesting twitter convo between Jason Parks, Joe Hamrahi and Nick Faleris. Blogposts/articles from BP, FG, TPA are getting more notoriety these days. How, as a reader, should we approach the info shared? For instance, the convo on twitter was based on how a writer can post anything regarding a player and a scout for a team can read it, know that the writer is wrong and basically consider the writer or the publication bologna due to the approach of the writer. How, as BP readers, should we approach articles?

Ben Lindbergh: I missed the Twitter exchange, so I'm not completely sure I'm following. It depends what you mean by "wrong." I wouldn't want us to publish anything that's factually wrong, but it's hard to know when an evaluation of a prospect is "wrong," since it's more of an informed opinion than something that can be fact-checked. Our prospect staff includes good talent evaluators who go see players themselves, and maybe just as importantly, our prospect writers talk to each other and talk to people inside the game, so they're not going to make a mistake that someone who's just looking at minor-league statistics without having seen a player or talked to any scouts about him might make. We're still going to be wrong a lot of the time--that's the nature of scouting, but I hope we won't be wrong for the wrong reasons, if you know what I mean.

Charlie (Bethesda, MD): I do get the feeling that thanks to their youth, they have a ton to spend. So would the Nats be smart to offer way above market rate for a shorter term deal for Hamilton, or Bourn, or anyone else they want?

Ben Lindbergh: Yes, maybe, but how often does the short-term, way-above-market deal we're always talking about actually appear? Sometimes I think it's mostly myth. It takes only one team to offer a long-term contract for the short-term deal to look less attractive, and that team is often out there, even if it takes a direct appeal to ownership. It's the winner's curse at work.

Paul (DC): In light of his death, was Alex Karras a better football player or movie/tv star?

Ben Lindbergh: I have no idea how good Alex Karras was at football, because I don't know how good anyone is or was at football. But he'd have to have been pretty good for football to top Mongo on his resume.

BWooster (Finland): Ichiro is like Cato from Pink Panther, he'll mess the Tigers flat at least once...

Ben Lindbergh: He probably will hit a ball into someone's jersey or beat out an infield hit or something at some point, just because he's Ichiro.

dee150586 (Fresno, CA): No question, just a comment. Would love the idea of Jason starting a new podcast!! Please tell him! Keep up all the great work with BP Ben! Love Effectively Wild. Thanks, Brittney

Ben Lindbergh: I'll pass that along. And thanks.

jlarsen (chicago): Much has been made about the Tigers willingness to take chances in trades, even if it appears lopsidedly bad for them at first glance. How long should people wait before grading trades? For entire service time that involved players are with teams? Or should value to team be an important factor(team trades prospects for impending FA because that player "puts them over the top") in deciding the winner/loser of the trade?

Ben Lindbergh: Well, there are two ways to evaluate trades, right? When they happen, based on what the teams know at the time, and in retrospect. The problem with grading them when they happen is that we don't really know what the teams know--we know what we know, which is a lot less. To grade a trade in retrospect, you need to wait until all the dust settles--sometimes that can be quick, but usually it takes years, as you suggest. And yes, value to team is absolutely an important factor, though it can be a tough one to evaluate. You can't just do a straight WARP-to-WARP comparison, since a win might be more valuable to a team on the verge of a playoff spot.

jlarsen (chicago): Best value in upcoming FA class? Who will be big sleeper of FA class?

Ben Lindbergh: Just quickly scanning the list, Angel Pagan looks like he could be a good value for a team that needs an outfielder but wants to spend a little less than it would take to get Hamilton, Swisher, Bourn, or B.J. Upton. We'll be writing about and ranking free agents right after the World Series is over.

Jay Taylor (San Francisco): Andruw Jones signed the short-term/high AAV contract with the Dodgers! That worked out great! Honestly though, I kind of assume that the only time contracts like that happen is when a player has some serious concerns going forward, so I wouldn't be surprised if they don't work out very often.

Ben Lindbergh: It's worth a longer look. I'll add it to the list of possible topics.

Santi Cazorla (Sacramento): Is it better to keep Lincecum as an option out of the bullpen? Overall, how would you grade Bochy's handling of the SF bullpen w/o Wilson?

Ben Lindbergh: I'll let Sam Miller pinch hit here, since he's been covering the Giants since the start of the postseason. Re: Lincecum: " It is an interesting option, but interesting options are often more fun for theorizing than in execution. While the Giants' bullpen can certainly use him, the alternative in the rotation--Barry Zito--is untenable."

And re: Bochy's bullpen work: "Bochy has been aggressive about going to his bullpen early, and his confidence in George Kontos seems to be growing by the game. His biggest error was in relying on the back end of his bullpen in game 1 of the NLDS, when the game was still very much in question (for a while). He's gotten good work from his three lefties by not limiting them to strict LOOGY work."

I like this. I should outsource all my chat answers.

jlarsen (chicago): If they ever did a Die Hard prequel, do you think Delmon Young would be a perfect fit to fill Reginald Val Johnson's role? Never knew Carl Winslow played baseball or was a #1 overall draft pick.

Ben Lindbergh: Delmon Young started Game One of the ALCS with a strikeout and a pop up, and I mentally mocked him for looking old and out of shape and uncoordinated. Then he went 3-for-his-next 4 with a homer and a double (even if the double was mostly Nick Swisher losing the ball in the lights). I'm not going to make fun of him anymore.

Alex Karras (Football Valhalla At Ya): I'm in the college football hall of fame, and woulda made Canton, but I bet on the '62 title game, and got busted. Just say no to gambling, Webster! Q: Would you vote for Manny Ramirez for the HOF, or do his PED violations effectively disqualify him, Ben?

Ben Lindbergh: I won't have a real vote for another nine years, but if he's still on the ballot in 2021 or so, and they haven't kicked me out of the BBWAA yet, I believe I'll vote for him.

Bill (New Mexico): Any reactions to the Holliday/Scutaro takeout slide last night? Just business as usual (compounded by a great big guy running into a small one), or beyond the pale?

Ben Lindbergh: Talked about it with Sam on the podcast today. It wasn't something I would want to see regularly.

jlarsen (chicago): Is Ichiro "done" or do you see him playing for another couple of years? How many hits is he away from 3000?

Ben Lindbergh: I might've said he was done, or just about, before the Yankees traded for him, but now it seems pretty clear that he has a little more left. Wouldn't be shocked if the Yankees brought him back, since he seems to be a good fit for their park. He's 394 (major-league) hits away from 3000. That's three seasons, even if he stays healthy, so it won't be easy. Certainly wouldn't be surprised if it happened, though.

Ben Lindbergh: Really enjoyed this, everyone. Lots of good questions, and more in the queue I wish I could get to. Thanks for participating--I'll schedule another chat soon.

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