Friday, March 13, 2009

NL East Saber-Friendly Chat Transcript

Here's the transcript of yesterday's chat with Sky Kalkman and Marc Normandin of Beyond the Boxscore, Eric Simon of Amazin' Avenue, and Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley. There was a little bit of a lagging issue in the chat room, so I rearranged the comments so that the topics are presented in order.
NL East Saber-Friendy Preview (03/12/2009)

Sky Kalkman: Welcome to BtB's saber-friendly preview of the NL East.

Sky Kalkman: Just to introduce everyone, we have Steven from FireJimBowden, Eric from Amazin Avenue, Bill from Crashburn Alley, and Marc from your dad's version of BtB.

FireJimBowden: Thanks for having me.

bill.baer: Hello!

[Comment From Chris Quick (xanthan)]
A question for FJM: The Nats have a billion outfielders. What's the starting three (LF,CF,RF) look like right now?

FireJimBowden: Starting OFs, if everyone including Nick is healthy, is Dunn, Milledge, and Dukes, with Kearns and Willingham getting lots of starts and innings as well.

FireJimBowden: I would be very surprised if no one is traded. But if that's the case, only dunn would get 150 games

[Comment From Lunkwill Fook]
What is the likelihood of the Phillies bullpen repeating their outrageous success from last season?

bill.baer: The chance the Phillies' bullpen is as good as 2008's is slim, especially since J.C. Romero -- one of their two lefties -- is out for the first 50 games. Chad Durbin really broke down during the last two months of the season as well, so he may not be as reliable as he appeared to be. Plus there are one or two bullpen spots that will go to journeymen like Gary Majewski and/or Mike Koplove. And the chances of Brad Lidge repeating a perfect season...

FireJimBowden: Lidge needs to give up about 10 HRs in a row for his HR/FB to regress to the mean.

FireJimBowden: That WILL happen sooner or later.

Eric Simon: Lidge doesn't get to face Pujols enough now that he's pitching in the East.

Marc Normandin: For the season, the Phillies' reliever gave up a line of .251/.333/.371 for the year, but just .237/.322/.344 through June. I'm not you can count on them to be that superhuman during the first part of the year again, just as a unit.

[Comment From Chris Quick (xanthan)]
A Met's question! Upgrading 2B over the offseason, why didn't it happen?

FireJimBowden: They traded Anderson Hernandez to the Nats--doesn't that improve their depth chart a bit? :-)

[Comment From devil_fingers]
I can answer the Mets 2B question: what, and miss out on the Ollie Perez SweepStakes?

Eric Simon: I think Omar Minaya realized early on that he didn't have a ton of money to spend but he did have a number of holes to fill. He must've figured that if Castillo can at least return to his 2007 form that he would be perfectly serviceable. He brings plenty of value in on-base and baserunning skills, and will be worth his salary if he can simply do those two things adequately.

FireJimBowden: That and the available alernatives...

Marc Normandin: Castillo improved defensively during the second half, didn't he Eric? Once his legs started to feel better. If he can keep that up for the year he has a bit more value, and as stated, there weren't many alternatives available.

FireJimBowden: We'll trade you Ronnie Belliard.

Eric Simon: Definitely, Marc. Health (and fitness) are big question marks for Castillo, but he seems to have both of them so far this spring.

[Comment From Kevin Ca$h]
Can the Marlins win the divison?

bill.baer: The Marlins can win the division but it's going to have to take a lot of luck. Injuries to the Phillies, Mets, and Braves would clear an easy path but otherwise they're going to have to rely on great starts by the usual Han-Rams and Ugglas, as well as the Maybins and whoever wins the first base job.

Marc Normandin: The Marlins can win the division, but it's going to be an uphil battle, especially with the Braves improving and (hopefully for their sake) going at it with a healthy team this time around. Having Nolasco, Johnson and Sanchez for the year may help them out, as well as improvement from Volstad.

Sky Kalkman: Teams with unknown names seem always to be underrated. Young guys are getting better, while aging veterans are usually getting worse. That being said, the pitching really needs to step up for the Marlins.

Marc Normandin: Sky, I think Nolasco is a legitimate ace, and Josh Johnson, as long as he can stay healthy, is a great #2. Anibal Sanchez is the only one I'm worried about, as the high risk, high reward guy.

[Comment From devil_fingers]
Any friendly wagers on who the new Nats GM will be? LaCava? DePodesta? Krivsky?

FireJimBowden: I haven't heard the last 2 names at all. I worry that there's still a lot of internal division and that we're going to have an interim for several months.

FireJimBowden: Chuck Lamar gets mentioned since he was in Atl with Kasten.

Marc Normandin: I would be surprised if Krivsky is hired, given how difficult he supposedly was to work with (this coming from the other general managers in the game, not so much the Reds' front office).

Sky Kalkman: If it's Krivsky, does he sign all the Twins' ex-players or the Reds' ex-players?

[Comment From patrickcl]
What are some of the midseason moves to look for out of the division? Any chance the Marlins make a move if they find themselves in striking distance?

FireJimBowden: Everyone knows the Nationals need to trade an OF or 2, but I'm going to throw Adam Dunn out there as a possible trading chip. Jim's gone, and why not?

FireJimBowden: Dunn won't play for a contender in DC, so for a package of prospects? I'd do that. And he's the one of the few guys that might fetch premium prospects.

bill.baer: I think the NL East will be relatively quiet trade-wise this year. None of the teams have a whole lot of trading chips -- at least ones that other teams want.

[Comment From Lunkwill Fook]
If Krivsky became the Nats GM, would he fleece himself?

FireJimBowden: If you add up the win shares of the guys the Nationals gave up in the Kearns deal and what we got back, Wayne was not fleeced. And Daryl Thompson is still out there.

Marc Normandin: Of course, if Kearns ever starts to hit again, things will look a bit different. That's a big if though until we see it happen.

[Comment From Lunkwill Fook]
What is the for real on Hanson's fastball? I've heard everything from 88-89mph to breaking 100 during his first ST start this season.

[Comment From Alex Nelson]
With regards to Hanson, he hit 99 during his spring debut, and it was a pretty big surprise, I think, even for the Braves. I think 92-95 is the most realistic velocity, which is a nice step up from a year ago when reports had him 88-91.

[Comment From Thomas Curtin]
Does Dillon Gee have a shot at starting the year as the Mets fifth starter?

Eric Simon: No, not really. He has looked really good this spring (except for that one inning when his defense left him in the lurch), but even if the Mets didn't have Redding, Garcia and Hernandez, Gee would still be behind Niese on the depth chart.

[Comment From Chris Quick (xanthan)]
For each team specific author: What's your biggest concern with your team?

bill.baer: The Phillies' biggest concern is replacing J.C. Romero in the bullpen. Having two lefties in the bullpen gave manager Charlie Manuel a lot of leverage in utilizing his relievers effectively, and now they'll just have Scott Eyre for the first 50 games. Here's hoping Gary Majewski can be a good second LOOGY.

Sky Kalkman: Bill, how about the right side of the infield? How's Utley's health look to affect his play? And how much of a rebound should we expected out of Howard?

bill.baer: I'm one of the few who's optimistic about Howard. A lot of lefties left the NL East, so he probably won't be facing lefties in 38% of his at-bats again. And it looks like his BABIP was a bit suppressed last season. If we expect mean-regression, he should bound towards adding 4 wins again.

Utley, by all accounts, appears to be healthy and recovering well ahead of schedule. He wasn't supposed to be ready for opening day but it's highly likely he will be. We still need to see how he does in a live game before we make any judgments.

FireJimBowden: Lots of concerns for the Nationals on the field, but here's one no one's thinking about:
C: Flores
1B: Dunn
2B: Belliard
SS: Guzman
3B: Zimm
LF: Willingham
CF: Milledge
RF: Dukes

FireJimBowden: Lowest UZR evah!

Marc Normandin: The Braves need to hope that the Garrett Anderson/Matt Diaz platoon in left is a productive one (thought it should be) and that Casey Kotchman is at least average at first. Besides that, health, but only because of the shellshock of last year's disastrious hospital bill. Adding Lowe and Vazquez to the rotation is a great way to add insurance, as guys who were leaned on heavily last year (but maybe should not have been) are back in the roles they belong in, backing it up.

Eric Simon: The rotation. Santana is still recovering from offseason surgery, Pelfrey is in a boot (but will start on Saturday), Maine still doesn't have a feel for things and Perez is still Oliver Perez. And the only person who *isn't* a candidate for the fifth starter spot is Geremi Gonzalez (too soon?).

Marc Normandin: So what you're saying Eric, is Jose Lima still has a chance!

Eric Simon: Jose Lima's wife still has a chance.

[Comment From Jim Bowden]
I have a question. Steve, how dare you?

FireJimBowden: Jim, admit it, you loved the attention.

[Comment From Kevin Ca$h]
Best SS in the division?

Marc Normandin: Hanley was a much better defender last year than in 2007, so between his bat and at least an average glove, I would go with Ramirez.

bill.baer: The best SS in the NL East is Hanley Ramirez, of course, but Jose Reyes ain't far behind.

1. Han-Ram
2. Jose Reyes
3. Jimmy Rollins
4. Yunel Escobar
5. Cristian Guzman

Sky Kalkman: HanRam rated as a better fielder than Reyes last year. Was that for realz?

Eric Simon: The best offensive shortstop in the division is Hanley Ramirez. Defensively, probably Rollins. Overall it's Ramirez, but Reyes and Rollins are both very good.

Marc Normandin: I would go so far as to say it was for real-realz. Maybe not being better than Reyes overall, but as for Ramirez' improvement from 2007. They focused on his defense during the season, and it showed in the results. That story is one of the things I'm most interested in for 2009.

FireJimBowden: UZR/150 actually had Reyes and Ramirez almost identical: -0.6 and -0.3.

Sky Kalkman: No arguing with the moderator, FJB. Especially with "data".

Eric Simon: I wish we had defensive splits. Reyes was terrible in the first half but was much better in the second half, anecdotally speaking. Ramirez improved considerably over 2007 but I think Reyes is the better fielder moving forward.

[Comment From Chris Quick (xanthan)]
Any predictions on Carlos Deglado for next season? He alternated between middling and really-freaking-good last year.

bill.baer: Delgado certainly could be productive next season but I wouldn't bet money on it. He'll be 37 in June and he hasn't shown the same power he had just two years ago. I do like his peripherals from 2008 though, especially for a 36-year-old. The mean of projections on FanGraphs seems to put Delgado below an .850 OPS, which isn't terrible but not great for a first baseman.

Eric Simon: Delgado will be somewhere around an average offensive first-baseman in 2009. Nagging injuries led to his apparent decline in 2007 and early 2008, but he'll have a tough time repeating his ridiculous stretch in last year's second half.

Sky Kalkman: Let's hit the Braves for a bit...

[Comment From patrickcl]
How many games to the Braves need to get out of Chipper Jones to compete?

Marc Normandin: Losing Jones for more than 20 games would probably be a big problem, but they still have a few big bats around to keep things interesting offensively. They have a lot of depth in the rotation as well, to keep the games low-scoring. I think that in order to win such a tight division though, you will need at least 140 out of Jones.

bill.baer: Chipper hasn't gone over 140 games since 2003 so expecting that may be wishful thinking, but I would say 140-ish games would be a total the Braves would be happy with.

Eric Simon: 180.

bill.baer: Eric: i c wat u did thar

Marc Normandin: Exactly, they need to have Chipper in one of his good health seasons. It's a shame he can't play for more, because offensively he's as good as anyone.

[Comment From Gina]
What are the chances of the braves making a move before the deadline. They have pieces that could be moved for an impact outfielder, or bat somewhere else, don't they?

bill.baer: Think the Nats would trade Dunn within the division?

FireJimBowden: I hope we would trade Dunn, but only for Hanson.

Marc Normandin: Considering they just traded an impact bat last year, and then didn't try to re-sign him this year, I'm not so sure that they will go for that. It's not impossible though.

[Comment From Lunkwill Fook]
As a follow up, if Chipper is so injury prone and 1st base is a bit of a question mark, why not move Larry to first to take some stress off?

Marc Normandin: Having Lowe and Vazquez around makes the rotation better. Jair Jurrjens and Jorge Campillo are both good pitchers to have around as well, and won't be relied on as the primary starters anymore. They need Jeff Francoeur to become the kind of hitter we expected him to when he first came up, because that would take some stress off of losing Chipper as well.

Sky Kalkman: Would that remove all that much stress? And is the loss of a pretty good defensive first baseman worth an expected, oh 25 games of offense? I don't think so. And I think 25 games is on the high end of expected health gains.

Marc Normandin: Also, Jones isn't a bad defensive third baseman anymore, despite what you read all the time. He's at least average nowadays.

Eric Simon: It's a lot easier to find a leftfielder who can hit than a third-baseman who can hit. Chipper was moved to left to accommodate Vinny Castilla, which seems pretty ridiculous in retrospect if it didn't at the time.

[Comment From devil_fingers]
Sorry, Chipper's bUZR/150s at 3B recently: 2004: +1.2, 2005 +1.3, 2006 -15.3, 2007, -0.4, 2008 6.0. TotalZone (full season): 7, 3, -13, 7, 5. I'd say he's fine.

Sky Kalkman: The Braves played below their Pythag record last year. Might they surprise some people this year? Who will provide an improvement over last year's team?

bill.baer: One of the players I'm buying for 2009 is Kelly Johnson. If he can improve his strike zone judgment and maintain a line drive rate similar to his 2008 rate, I think he'll be plenty productive.

I also expect progression from Yunel Escobar and, really, can Jeff Francoeur really be THAT bad -- as he was in 2008?

Eric Simon: "can Jeff Francoeur really be THAT bad"

When your walk rate is as low as his and your strikeout rate is as high as his, yes, you really can be that bad.

FireJimBowden: Eric's right--Frenchy swing at 36% of pitches out of the zone. If you're Vladdy, you can do that. Everyone else, it means you stink.

Marc Normandin: I think Francoeur's problem is that he doesn't understand plate patience, not so much that he isn't patient enough. He lets good pitches go by and swings at awful ones, once the chore of taking a pitch is over with. If only a hitting coach could get into his head and explain this to him properly.

Sky Kalkman: To paraphrase a question: Vazquez's ERA never matches his FIP. Why? Will that change?

Eric Simon: Signing Lowe and trading for Vazquez gives the Braves two of the 30 best pitchers in baseball (two of the top 15 by WAR). That will certainly help.

Marc Normandin: Vazquez seems to strand fewer runners than he should many years, which may be a product of his homer issues. He doesn't allow many baserunners, and he strikes out a lot of hitters, but his homer rates have been a magnified issue partially thanks to his home parks of choice. Pitching in neutral Atlanta may allow him to come closer to his FIP figures, which would be a huge boost to the Braves.

[Comment From patrickcl]
Following up Lunkwill Fook, whatever happened with the Chipper in left experiment. Was it a question of stubborness, aptitude, or getting the most value out of the player?

[Comment From devil_fingers]
Vazquez's ERA matched his FIP in 2007, for the record...

FireJimBowden: Javy's HR/FB rates have been at or below 11% three years running. That's not it.

Marc Normandin: The HR/FB is low, but he gives up more flyballs than grounders, and he also pitches more poorly from the stretch than he does from the windup.

[Comment From Alex Nelson]
What do you think is a realistic expectation out of Kawakami?

Eric Simon: PECOTA pegs Kawakami at a 4.30 ERA and 14.3 VORP. That seems pretty reasonable.

[Comment From Chris Quick (xanthan)]
In 2008 Jayson Werth blew up, is he really this good?

bill.baer: If Jayson Werth faces more RHP, no, he's not as good as he showed in '08. He absolutely kills lefties, so if he can be effectively used in a platoon, he's valuable. Unfortunately, the Phils don't have any good options in a platoon with the near-finished Geoff Jenkins and the defensively-deficient Greg Dobbs.

FireJimBowden: I'm a believer in Werth. .225 ISO and 12% BB rate... he can continue this.

Marc Normandin: I'm with bill.baer on this one. Werth is good, but only when you hide him from right-handers, which limits his effectiveness. He's a useful piece, not the answer by himself.

Sky Kalkman: If this lagging continues, we may cut things short. Just in case, let's get everyone's projected standings/win totals...

FireJimBowden: My preidcitons:
Nationals: 72
Marlins: 73
Braves: 81
Phillies: 88
Mets: 90

Marc Normandin: Predictions:

Braves: 91
Mets: 89
Phillies: 86
Marlins: 77
Nationals: 70

Sky Kalkman: Marc, the people demand you explain that Braves prediction...

Marc Normandin: They were under their expected record last year, and are fielding a better team this year. If Francouer and Escobar take steps forward, they can easily win the division. The Braves were one of the best team's in the NL, if not the best, before everything blew up in their face health wise.

bill.baer: Gregor Blanco!

[Comment From Chris Quick (xanthan)]
It's clear that Frenchy is going to his first .400 OBP and lead the Braves to the WS!

Marc Normandin: I wouldn't go that far, Chris. :-)

Eric Simon: Me = The People

Eric Simon: Mets: 90 wins
Phillies: 88 wins
Braves: 86 wins
Marlins: 76 wins
Nationals: 74 wins

Sky Kalkman: Let's go to the lightening round with some quick-hit questions...

[Comment From Thomas Curtin]
Can Jose Reyes get his hr/fb% high enough to hit 30 in a season

Sky Kalkman: Can he? Probably not. Is it worth trying? Definitely not, considering what he'd lose.

bill.baer: I think the real question is: do you want Reyes to up his FB rate? I think if he wanted to, he could inch his way towards 30 but I think it'd actually cut down his value a bit.

Eric Simon: Reyes: Yes, but he probably won't. He might get a few ITP homeruns this year at Citi Field, though.

bill.baer: Eric: As will Shane Victorino. :)

[Comment From Lunkwill Fook]
Top newcomer in the division?

FireJimBowden: I'll say Derek Lowe.

Marc Normandin: Lowe is a good one, and we could just as easily say Vazquez.

bill.baer: Derek Lowe -- top NL East newcomer.

bill.baer: Darn, I owe FJB a coke.

FireJimBowden: I'll predict at least 2 shutouts for LOwe against the Nats. At LEAST.

[Comment From devil_fingers]
guesses on the date by which the Nats hire a GM?

FireJimBowden: I'll predict that the Nationals will go the whole season with Rizzo as interim and not have a firm decision until November, 2009.

Sky Kalkman: And, to wrap things up, how about a bold prediction that we won't hold you accountable for, unless it proves to be true. I'll put through reader predictions, too.

[Comment From devil_fingers]
Javy V. He's going to make Frank Thomas's 2006 Revenge on the White Sox seem like nothing.

FireJimBowden: Nick Johnson will have more WS in 2009 than Mark Teixeira.

[Comment From Lunkwill Fook]
Phillies win 83 games.

bill.baer: My bold prediction: Ryan Howard proves all the naysayers wrong and puts up a 150 or higher OPS+.

Eric Simon: Alex Cora.

Marc Normandin: Bold prediction? How about the Marlins finish ahead of the Phillies. Make sure to publish this out of context in a way that makes me look good if it happens.

[Comment From Chris Quick (xanthan)]
Bold Prediction: Nats top 100+ wins while starting 8 outfielders at the same time.

[Comment From Thomas Curtin]
Mets run away with it like 2006

bill.baer: *cough*runawaywithitandthenchokelike2007*cough*

Eric Simon: Nah. The Mets really do need to run away with one to avoid any possibility of a 2007-like collapse (2008 was *not* a collapse), but I don't think they're much better (if any) than the pack.

[Comment From Thomas Curtin]
Josh Johnson wins the comeback player of the year

Sky Kalkman: Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Sorry for the lag issues.


Anonymous said...

I like the Nick Johnson prediction, but will it be for the Nationals?

I'm going to go ahead and disagree on the interim-gm prediction, but that's probably foolish.

phil dunton said...

Good God, not DePodesta at Nats GM. He destroyed the Dodgers in two or three short years. That would be worse than rehiring Jim Bowden