Baseball Prospectus authors Steven Goldman, Kevin Goldstein, Jay Jaffe, and Ben Lindbergh showed up in DC to host an event at Politics and Prose last night. Also appearing unbilled was Clay Davenport, who jumped into the group and helped field questions.
If you love online baseball chats (I do) and you aren’t afraid to leave the house (I’m not) than this is the kind of event for you. It was a little cramped in the room, thanks to a ton of people showing up, but it didn’t detract from the great atmosphere. After introductions, and an entertaining dinosaur story by Goldman, they got right into answering questions. People lined up at microphones, asked away, and they answered away as a group. I thoroughly enjoyed it, here are some highlights that I remember:
- A question was posed about relegation a la primer league soccer, to make a team have to work their way back to the majors. Jay Jaffe brought up the point that the capital required to have real major league baseball facilities would make this difficult. And most cities wouldn’t put up the money for a stadium if they thought their team might be relegated to the minors in the next decade. Goldstein chimed in that baseball probably shouldn’t do anything that soccer does.
- The Bryce Harper question was asked – basically wondering why he shouldn’t be on the team this year, because he’s clearly better than the current players (I believe “Have you seen Nyjer Morgan play?” was part of the question). Goldstein was adamant that Harper was really not ready, and wouldn’t hit as well in the majors this year as even Morgan. He needs to see professional curves and offspeed pitches before he succeed with the Nats. Even if he starts this year in high-A Potomac, that would be a very high level for someone the age of a high school senior. Goldstein also said that with all of that, he is definitely the best prospect in baseball.
- Someone asked (specifically to Jaffe and Goldman, who write the Pinstriped Bible) why they hate Jeter. It was probably a standard question, not always specific to Jeter, that these guys get. Goldstein really took the question, saying they don’t hate anyone, and it’s their responsibility to assess these players honestly and fairly. He mentioned that when Cal Ripken was declining, they pointed it out, and got alot of angry reaction, but it happened. At some point Cal wasn’t able to hit or field anymore, and that it shouldn’t take away from his legacy in any way.
- What would baseball be like without midseason trading? That was one question posed, and the historian came out in Goldman. He said this was basically what baseball was like until 1922, when both NY teams and both St Louis teams made midseason trades to try to stay in the pennant race. The result from the rest of the enraged owners, rather than banning midseason trades, was the trade deadline, set at that time to June 15. The consensus from the panel was that banning such transactions would probably hurt the lower revenue teams, they’d be pressured to trade their best players with expiring contracts before they even had a chance to see if they had a shot at winning that season.
- I didn’t have time to ask a question, but at the end I talked to the guys. I asked Ben Lindbergh about PECOTA’s projected power loss for the Nats as a whole. I documented it here, but the highlights are that it predicts OPS and ISO decreases for almost all Nats’ starting position players. Even some of the increases are curious – Desmond gets a miniscule increase, which when you factor in an improvement after his rookie season, it’s so small(.003 OPS/.007 ISO) increase, that it seems to be a decrease. I wonder if PECOTA knows of a move to RFK that the rest of us don’t. Lindbergh suggested to e-mail the PECOTA guru, Colin Wyers, but that it did seem a bit curious. I’m gonna try to get a question in to Wyers today, hopefully we’ll hear something back.
It was fun to meet the guys, but it was most exciting for me to meet Steven Goldman than anyone else. I moved from the DC area to New York City in 2004 to go to grad school, over the winter I learned that my home city was finally getting a baseball team for the first time in my life. For the first two years of the team’s existence I struggled to follow them. It wasn’t just that I was in an area dominated by local baseball coverage, or that ESPN didn’t show the Nats a ton. The Nats blogosphere wasn’t in the great shape it is now. So I decided the best way to follow this team was to write about it. Steven Goldman’s Pinstriped Bible was the website that most inspired my own writing, and I still try to copy it is often as possible, at least when I’m trying to write something good.
It was a fun event all around, and I highly recommend everyone to check it out next year when they come back.