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Chat: Sam Miller

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday October 25, 2012 1:00 PM ET chat session with Sam Miller.


The World Series is underway, and BP editor/author/podcast co-host Sam Miller is here to help you make sense of it (and other things).

Sam Miller: I'm beginning my chat. So I'll start my session by typing a brief greeting for the readers to know I am ready to begin answering questions.

aschauer (Los Angeles): What in the heck is the deal with Jeff Manship? Forever AAAA?

Sam Miller: Good morning everybody, or rather good morning some of you, and good afternoon to many others of you. We're starting with a Jeff Manship question because nothing says "BP Chat!" like a Jeff Manship question. Wherever I go in my life, people who find out I write about baseball ask me baseball questions. At Starbucks, at church, at family gatherings, etc, constantly asked about baseball. But never, in any of those contexts, does anybody ever ask me about Jeff Manship. Only at BP does anybody ask about Jeff Manship. That's why I love BP, and that's why I love you, ashauer.

To answer your question -- well, this won't answer your question, but IN RESPONSE to your question, I just did an Unfiltered Post, which is here, and which is why I was 25 seconds late:


When a question about Jeff Manship comes up in a chat, there's always a moment of panic that there must be some Jeff Manship news that I missed. I checked and didn't see any, so I'll assume you really just want to know about Manship's future prospects. Well, they're not great. The best thing you can hope for from a failed Twins prospect is that, when he turns 27 or so, they'll move him into the bullpen and he'll find a bunch of velocity. Manship's forays into the bullpen haven't done that, and that's really the last hope. I know it's nice to see that low ERA in Triple-A again, but he's 27, and that low ERA isn't really that low; the Twins aren't in the PCL, after all. Manship's ERA was the 10th best on the team, and the third or fourth best in his rotation, and the peripherals aren't there to support it. No upside there.

jlarsen (chicago): How exactly can the Giants legitimately say that Melky Cabrera isn't worthy of a spot on the team when they keep corpses like Aubrey Huff and Guillermo Mota on the roster? Don't you want to put the best roster possible on a World Series roster? While Melky hasn't hit MLB-level pitching in months, Huff hasn't hit it in years.

Sam Miller: I thought the Melky decision was staggeringly wrong when it was originally made. Then I saw Mike Ferrin's piece on players coming back from long layoffs.


I was shocked by the results, to be honest. Add in the inability to play high-level rehab games and you could argue Melky would be even worse off (though perhaps the lack of an injury would lead you to argue he'd be better off). Regardless, I think it's fair for the Giants to conclude that he's probably not better than Blanco. As for being better than Huff: Yeah, definitely. No doubt better than Huff. But if those are the stakes we're talking about (25th man, last guy on the bench) then it's harder to get too excised about it and it's easier to appreciate that they wouldn't want all the disruption just for a 25th man. Basically: Cabrera would have made them a bit better and that's what I'd have done; but probably barely, and I'm willing to defer to the guys in the room on this one.

marinersstill (henderson, nv): is there any truth to the rumour that Verlander punched Jeff Jones in the mouth after the game?

Sam Miller: I'm not sure Justin Verlander actually knows who Jeff Jones is. That look of amusement on his face when Jones came out? It looked like what outfielders look like when a streaker runs onto the field. The inquisitive question that everybody interpreted as "why are you out here?" I think it was "lol who are you?"

As for the "rumour," I know you are just spreading lies and subterfuge because you hate America. "Nevada." Yeah sure okay, Canadian.

Robert (Orange, Ca): If the Angels do re-sign Hunter, do you think it would be beneficial to trade either Trumbo or Morales, have the other DH full time, and move Bourjos to CF? Just have him bat 9th and save you 15+ runs above league average in CF

Sam Miller: Bourjos is the tough part. Bourjos last year hit .220/.291/.315 and STILL had 1.2 WARP to Wells' 0.8. And yet Scioscia played Wells, not Bourjos in August and September, so it's very clear he thinks Bourjos' glove isn't enough to make him valuable. I think that's the absolute bottom of what Bourjos will ever do offensively, but if the Angels don't think he's a legit major league hitter I don't know that they (at least the on-field managers and coaches) want to commit to him.

I think they probably should have traded Trumbo or Morales before LAST season, but they didn't, and good for them. Now both players have more trade value.

Friendly Fred (California): What is the worst part of your job?

Sam Miller: Probably having to predict things. Ben and I did a podcast before the World Series trying to preview the World Series, and it was sort of embarrassing to realize how little I want to say about the future. I do get kind of bored of myself saying "who can say?" and "it's unknowable" and "anything can happen" all the time. People expect predictions.

Lil' Sebastian (The Barn): Okay letís say youíre on a desert island with the rest of the original members of the Scorpions and they offer to have their private jet pick up one member of the 2012 San Francisco Giants to enjoy a nice evening of rocking and rolling. Who do you pick?

Sam Miller: I bet Brian Wilson is amazing in private. He's craaaaazy annoying in public, but I think we're only at the tip of the iceberg in decoding what is real and what is not. Based on what some of the reporters and teammates say about him, it seems like he's smart and sensitive in real life, and I do appreciate his willingness to be different.

I'd really like to get to know Dave Righetti, too. And Dave Flemming, the announcer, who is just so so undernoticed because of the company he's in.

joepeta (San Francisco): Thanks to the exposure you've given my ability to fluently speak the pun-filled language of "MLB headlines" I've been offered a job at MLB Gameday. Here's the press release - Lettuce do the Introduction: MLB Welcomes PETA

Sam Miller: The thing I love about MLB.com headlines is that they are absolutely not lazy. MLB.com headlines are the worst headlines in the world, really tortured puns and references, and at some point I'll do my 10 greatest ever or something. But they're not lazy! It's hard to really capture that MLB.com headline voice, which combines grit and effort with terrible results, like Ryan Theriot.

Steve (Seattle): How good really is the Giant's offense?

Sam Miller: You know, I wrote some of the previews for this year's series and I couldn't stress enough how good the Giants offense really is, and how that is a narrative that will probably go undermentioned by the broadcast but is a signficant part of this postseason's story. Sure enough, the Giants have scored six runs or more in six of their 13 games now, against postseason pitching staffs. BUT...

Well, I also don't totally believe they're as good as the numbers. I'm not the guy who knows what goes into these things, so I'm just talking off the top of my head here, but I wonder if the Giants' TAv and OPS+ are benefiting from somewhat askew park factors. The Giants were tremendous on the road this year and lousy at home, which would contribute to a big park factor, but even team-wide split stats over the course of an entire season show some noise. I bet the Giants aren't as good as their road stats, and they are better than their home stats, and if those two splits had held closer to the Giants' true talent their park factor would have been different and their park-adjusted stats would probably look a little worse. Just off the top of my head. Apologies to the people who know what they're talking about who are cringing right now.

The Giants do have a very good lineup for making contact, they do hit a ton of doubles and triples, they do have a fairly deep lineup and they have one of the maybe half-dozen best hitters in baseball, at a premium position. That's where they're good. I'm not sure more than two of them could crack the Yankees lineup, though. It's sort of an unsquarable circle, this question.

Steve (Oakland): Any chance you can come up the coast to cover the A's? There's not a single writer around here that can match your combination of knowledge of the game and biting Twitter wit. Our team was way more interesting than the Angels this year!

Sam Miller: Thanks, but it's hard to cover a team without traveling and I don't want to travel.

Lil' Sebastian (The Barn): Okay letís say youíre on a desert island with the rest of the original members of the De La Soul and they offer to have their private jet pick up one member of the 2012 Detroit Tigers to enjoy a nice evening of hipping and hopping. Who do you pick?

Sam Miller: Adam Wilk

SaxonB (Brooklyn, NY): Love the daily podcast but I am curious about a brief mention that Ben doesn't actually watch baseball games. Was that sarcasm or...? And if he doesn't, isn't that kind of peculiar?

Sam Miller: What happens to both of us is that we get an article topic and spend a lot, a lot of time watching footage specifically about that topic. So I might watch 15 hours of archived Padres footage, which takes up a lot of time, but not actually watch the Padres game that is on that day.

Gavin (County Ct.): "If the Giants win the World Series this year, it will be because of Barry Zito, and you know what? Maybe itíll have all been worth it (as long as "it" doesn't literally mean "all the money he was paid)." Does the second good start make this idea more serious?

Sam Miller: This is an amazing article topic. I don't know where to begin, and I haven't even sketched out the math yet, so I can't really give you an answer but if we can put a dollar value on a win (as regards WARP and free agency and salaries and such) and the Win, as a concept, is only valuable in as much as it translates to likelihood of winning a world series (and also the auxiliary stuff that comes along with that, revenue and so forth) then surely we could figure out how much extra weight to give to a start in a pennant race, in a division series, in a World Series, in an elimination game.

But to answer your question, it makes it more serious from the standpoint of how Giants fans will remember him, and perhaps how much the Giants front office will kick themselves, than from the sense that it likely gets Zito anywhere close to being worth his contract. Zito has made two good starts and one terrible one this postseason. Even if we just totally ignore the bad one, we're left with 12 innings, one run. So Zito has been worth about, oh, three or four runs. Postseason runs, to be sure. Very valuable, very gutsy runs. But three or four runs. I might guess that these two starts are worth maybe $6 million or so, total, over a typical no. 5 starter.

dipotonotdipoto (brooklyn): Who is your favorite non-player, non-GM, non-announcer team employee?

Sam Miller: Like on any team anywhere? Is that the question?

I will say that I am still extremely self-conscious and nervous when I go into major-league stadiums to do reporting. I am totally aware of what an invasive species reporters are, particularly in the Band Of Brothers kind of atmosphere of a locker room. And a good PR team can go a long way to making writers feel less horrible, just by making everybody feel comfortable. The Angels' PR team makes writers feel very comfortable.

Madison (24 Willie Mays Plaza): Predict

Sam Miller: The problem with predictions isn't that they turn out wrong so often. It's that there's no value added. Consider the question of last night's game. MAKE A PREDICTION WHO WILL WIN MONKEY!

OK, well, everybody knows that Verlander is better than Zito. This should not be a shameful thing to say, and if it turns out wrong for a night (as it did) nobody should be ashamed to have made a wrong prediction. Just baseball. Fine. But back up to the prediction itself. What did it accomplish? It confirmed a fact that was basically already known. Most predictions come down to two things: 1. Confirming the conventional wisdom or 2. Making something up for no real good reason.

The predictions that are useful, the ones that show a player who maybe is due to break out of regress, aren't really predictions as much as analysis of the past. I like analysis of the past. The predicting game, though, is hard to squeeze value out of.

jlarsen (chicago): The Yankees are in for some major changes in the next few years. How do they keep their top players(numbers-wise, in Cano & Granderson), get younger to avoid the damages that father time has already done to the team AND maintain sub-Luxury Tax status? Seems like they will have to do alot of manuevering, while continuing to put out a contending team.

Sam Miller: The thing is that they're maybe NOT in for some major changes in the next few years. There's only so much you can do with so much money already spent and with so much of that money unmovable, and with Jeter and Rivera getting to basically write their own checks for as long as they want. Soriano opting out will make things easier, and as nice as it is to have Soriano in the bullpen, the return of Rivera (assuming no disasters) will give the Yankees the cover to build a bullpen on the cheap, as every other team should be trying to do. Swisher being terrible in October made it easier to let that money walk away, and the Yankees will still return the bulk of a lineup (plus Gardner) that was the best or second-best offense in the AL.

I guess the panic that the Yankees have come near the end of this particular winning cycle is justified, but only to the extent that conditions won't be perfect for them for the next couple years. And even in imperfect times, the Yankees have enough advantages, and enough front-office smarts, to be either the clear favorite or a close favorite in any given season. You'll barely notice the blip, if there is one.

jlarsen (chicago): Nick Swisher, will he be a Yankee next year or will he be high-fiving people in the crowd and buying twitter followers elsewhere?

Sam Miller: Elsewhere. Could see him on the Giants, maybe.

Wait he bought some of his Twitter followers? Is that confirmed or just a conspiracy theory?

Jake (Baraboo): With a season in the books for the Angels, what's the general fan attitude towards Pujols?

Sam Miller: Pretty lackluster. I don't think it has quite tipped to "oh no they have this terrible contract for nine more years" but casual was pretty disappointed and the more advanced fan is capable of doing math. There's a real chance that he stays really good yet ends up being disliked more than his numbers warrant, and soon.

jlarsen (chicago): The Cubs have apparently become interested in acquiring Josh Johnson and/or Mark Buerhle this offseason. With the team still being years away from contention, isn't it foolish to be making a dumb acquisition like this? Shouldn't they have learned something from the Garza trade?

Sam Miller: Based on the A's experience this year, and with the second wild card, I've come to believe that only a very, very few teams should not be trying to improve every offseason. The Astros and ... maybe just the Astros. I think that, instead of waiting for the perfect window, teams should probably be trying to get *near* as many windows as possible. Cubs and Swisher could make sense too, actually.

Billy (Ocean): Will the podcast continue during the offseason?

Sam Miller: It will. Ben and I are negotiating the frequency of it, but it will continue. I'm virtually certain we'll do at least three a week, and Ben is virtually certain we'll continue to do five a week.

Sam Miller: Okey doke, guys, that's what I've got to say. Enjoy the rest of the World Series and don't forget how we're going to pronounce Jeff Manship from now on. Cheers,

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