The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Doner Than a Pot Roast in a Burning Whorehouse

My latest chat at Baseball Prospectus went two-and-a-half hours, neither my longest nor my most prolific. Frankly, given all of my travels this week (roundtrip to Boston in a day and a cross-country weekend trip looming), I was pretty cooked. It would have been my preference to reschedule. I didn't have quite my usual joie de vivre or my arsenal of Simpsons jokes (I even passed up a Simpsons question, now that I think about it. D'oh!) -- but I took the ball when it was handed to me, got to re-recycle my favorite Scribbly Tate quote ("doner than a pot roast in a burning whorehouse"), and in the end it was pretty damn fun. There are far worse ways to kill a couple hours than talking baseball with BP readers.

The chat featured a ton of JAWS questions; I had 10 JAWS-related answers and still left another 10 questions of similar nature in the queue. A few of my better exchanges of the non-JAWS nature:
thecoolerking (New York, NY): Considering how often one hear's TINSTAAPP around these parts, I was pretty surprised that to hear Felix Hernandez anointed the "King" after half a season. What gives? I only saw him pitch once, but I saw a guy with awful mechanics who had some trouble locating his pitches. A serious talent, sure, but raw enough to make one wait a couple of years before coronation. What gives? I know BP writers aren't all of one mind, but this struck me as borderline fanboy wishcasting, the very thing BP isn't about. Was I missing something? And when do we start singing down with "King Felix, Long live Emperor Francisco (Liriano)" ;-) Barring injury, is Liriano this good? Or will he be more human when the league catches up. Is he the next Santana, or better?

Jay Jaffe: Felix Hernandez was anointed "King" before he even threw a pitch in the majors based on the high opinions of scouts and prospect mavens, and the stats an certainly supported the idea that this was a special talent -- 263 K's in 218 IP, through his Age 18 season (!), without being allowed to throw his slider, which is believed to be his best pitch, due to fears for what it might do to his tender young arm. If you think BP was excited about him, read what the competition had to say; he was 1, 2, or 3 on every Baseball America bigwig's Top 50 list in the 2005 Prospect Handbook for example.

I think it's far too early to cut bait on him, despite his struggles at the major league level. Not every fantastic pitching prospect turns into Dwight Gooden or Francisco Liriano overnight, but so long as the arm is still healthy -- the real goal here, as the Mariners aren't playing for a championship as they're currently configured -- he's got a shot at meeting that potential. If it takes until he's 25, that's still no shame.

As for Liriano, he's been everything anyone could have asked for, and he's certainly a more polished pitcher today than Felix is. He's also 2.5 years older, with 2 more pro seasons under his belt, and coming out of an organization with a much stronger track record of developing young pitchers. Right now he's outpitching Santana, and while I'm not sure if he can keep that up, I certainly think that the possiblity exists that he could surpass his teammate.

• • •

alan (pomona, ca): Jayson Stark is reporting that the Mets and Phillies are talking about a deal invlolving [Bobby] Abreu and [Lastings] Milledge. Assuming Abreu would only waive his no-trade status if the Mets picked up his $16M 2008 option, this would be a pretty short-sighted move, no?

Jay Jaffe: I'm not incredibly sold on Milledge myself; we're talking a guy who drew 33 walks in 477 PA as a 20 year old last year and 1 UIBB in his first 94 big-league PAs this year. That's downright Francoeurian. I'm a bit nervous about Abreu's power outage (.455 SLG in Citizens?), but the guy has 87 BB in 90 games, and has drawn over 100 walks seven years in a row while maintaining a lifetime OBP of .413. Yes, he's 32, and I've always been a little wary of what I see as a bit of a thick body type. But just compare his PECOTA stars and scrubs card with Milledges and notice how much more green there is for Abreu; it's not even close. The Mets have a legitimate shot at a championship, and I think taking on Abreu even at that price is justifiable.

• • •

Nicky (Bronx, NY): Are there any circumstances in which you'd be all right with the Yanks trading Phillip Hughes this year?

Jay Jaffe:: Well, if the Twins offer Francisco Liriano or Johan Santana, or the Rays offer Scott Kazmir, I'd take a flyer on that.

Seriously, I'd rather see the Yanks miss the postseason with what they have than trade Hughes and not get an extremely lopsided deal in their favor. If you're a Yankee fan and think otherwise, you're being greedy and shortsighted, because that team needs to start learning how to develop quality arms from within.

• • •

TH1964 (new york) I disagree with the thoughts that the Yankees shouldnt trade Hughes. If they can get a Soriano or a Willis, someone they can lock up long term, they should take it. Yankee prospects are typically overhyped, and I would take bird in hand.

Jay Jaffe: As likeable and useful as those two players are, I wouldn't want either of them long term, and if you're a Yankee fan, neither should you at that cost. Soriano is a useful player, but he's also 30 right now, and the holes in his game are well documented. Willis has bad mechanics and a lot of mileage at age 24.

It's certainly true that Yankee prospects are overhyped, but the consensus that Hughes is something special goes far beyond what the organization is saying; there's a reason every single team asks about him in a trade demand. 115 K, 26 BB, 74 hits in 107 IP this year, just 5 HR allowed.

It's a nonissue anyway. I'll bet my Yankees cap Hughes is still under NYY control on August 1.
Catch the rest of the chat, including plenty more on Milledge, the Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers, Blue Jays and the Hall of Fame cases for Manny Ramirez, Jeff Bagwell, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Nomar Garciaparra, and Chicken Stanley (wait...) at the link atop the article -- you can't beat the price.

• • •

Score That E-6: in this week's Hit List, I booted my calculation of the average rank of the NL Central, dividing the division's cumulative ranking by five teams instead of six (as one astute reader pointed out, though I could argue that counting the Pirates as major league is debatable). Here is a corrected version of the chart:
            ----2006----    ----2005----
Division Avg RK HLF Avg RK HLF
AL Central 10.6 .531 14.0 .500
AL East 12.8 .524 14.0 .508
AL West 13.0 .511 12.0 .521
NL West 15.2 .503 24.4 .443
NL East 19.0 .482 13.2 .522
NL Central 20.8 .461 14.8 .508
Also, I claimed that the AL Central had four of the eight top-ranked teams, when in fact it was four of the top 11. Apologies for any confusion this has caused.


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