Ben Clemens FanGraphs Chat – 6/8/20

2:00
Ben Clemens: Good afternoon, and welcome to a FanGraphs chat sponsored by FanGraphs.

2:00
Ben Clemens: I’ll be your host, Ben Clemens.

2:01
Ben Clemens: I may be a little bit flighty at the start of the chat — my dog just inadvertently stabbed me in the ankle with the stick she was carrying on our walk.

2:01
Ben Clemens: So I’m gonna be doing some first aid while I chat.

2:01
Ben Clemens: But let’s get started!

2:01
Jake: Do you think today’s proposal from the MLB gives any room to move forward in negotiations or is it a complete step backwards?

2:02
Ben Clemens: I mean, basically yes? I haven’t talked about it with the rest of the staff, but I tihnk it’s a positive sign that the owners are improving money, even if there’s no chance the PA accepts this deal.

2:02
Ben Clemens: A positive sign relative to their prior position of ‘screw you bye’, to be fair.

2:02
Ben Clemens: But still an improvement

2:02
Chris: Are the owners just going to keep offering terrible one sided deals until they are forced to play a short season and players can’t sue

2:02
Ben Clemens: I think we’re going to end up with something like a 65-game season with pay for roughly 65 games.

2:03
Ben Clemens: I don’t have any inside sources on that or anything, but I can see the owners basically stringing out negotiations until we get to the poin where that’s the longest avialalbe season and then just running it.

2:03
aaronsaron: Hi Ben! Will there be an OOTP stream tomorrow? :]

2:03
Ben Clemens: Yes indeed. Sadly it won’t be a draft prep, because whoops, the draft was last week, which I missed because I was preparing for hte real life draft.

2:03
Ben Clemens: But instead it will be a draft review.

2:03
Chris: The owners want 16 teams in the playoffs?

2:04
Ben Clemens: Yeah, more $ that way. The players agreed to that in their prior proposal so it looks pretty likely for this year.

2:04
John: Do you see any hope that the two bullheaded sides find an agreement soon?    I am fed up with the money arguments.    As a baseball fan of over 50 years, I am done if there is no 2020 season.  Neither side cares about the fans.

2:04
Ben Clemens: Maybe

2:04
Ben Clemens: I really strenuously disagree with the both-sides-ism going on here though

2:04
Ben Clemens: There’s an agreement!

2:04
Ben Clemens: They can play

2:04
Ben Clemens: If the owners wanted to abide by the agreement that they signed and play an 82game season

2:04
Ben Clemens: That would happen tomorrow.

2:04
Ben Clemens: This is the owners trying to take extra money.

2:04
Ben Clemens: Now look, they’ll probably get extra money

2:05
Ben Clemens: They’re good at getting extra money!

2:05
Ben Clemens: But this isn’t a case where both sides hate the fans

2:05
Ben Clemens: Like what if the owners offered minimum salaries to every player, and they get to punch Max Scherzer in the chest once a day for leading the union, and 81 games

2:05
Ben Clemens: Should the players take that?

2:05
Ben Clemens: If you think it’s no, then it’s just a matter of what the fair middle is

2:05
2-D: Which parts of this new proposal do you see the MLBPA not agreeing to?

2:06
Ben Clemens: I haven’t talked to anyone about it, but basically the money? I just don’t think it’s the right amount relative to the deal

2:06
Ben Clemens: Getting the players to play 82 games, with the attendant COVID risk, and paying them for like 60?

2:06
Ben Clemens: Just play 60 games at that point, if you’re not willing to pay them for the 80

2:06
Sanford: Any experience with Terraforming Mars?

2:07
Ben Clemens: Sadly not, though I was reallllllly looking forward to playing some literally the week that shelter-in-place was announced here

2:07
Ben Clemens: I have a group of gaming friends, one of whom is a huge fan

2:07
Ben Clemens: We had it all set up, my wife and I planned on making nachos…. and then we stopped being able to go places.

2:08
Ben Clemens: I’m looking forward to re-scheduling to an outdoor porch at some point in the near future, though.

2:08
Ben Clemens: It gets realllly good reviews and I love the theme.

2:08
The Stranger: It seems like there are too many unmet conditions in the March agreement for the players to just accept MLB’s right to decide on a 50-game season. If MLB tries that do you think we see baseball in 2020?

2:09
Ben Clemens: I think they’ll probably play anyway

2:09
Ben Clemens: A 50-game season sucks but I don’t think anyone is interested in having no baseball at all this season without resolving the CBA

2:10
Ben Clemens: That’s just a great way to get both sides to dig in more, and I do think that this is a pivotal point for baseball in general

2:10
David: What would be so bad about just skipping 2020 at this point and coming back for a normal 2021?

2:10
Ben Clemens: Aside from another year of trying to make up baseball topics for me? 🙂

2:11
Ben Clemens: Lost playoff contract revenue would be a HUGE deal for the owners

2:11
Ben Clemens: That’s money that they just ignore when calculating their ‘per-game costs’ that is a windfall for every team

2:11
Ben Clemens: And the national networks have a lot more leverage than RSN’s in just saying ‘haha okay bye not paying’

2:12
Ben Clemens: Then there’s the fact that if baseball doesn’t play when every other sport does, they’ll likely miss the interest bump of ‘oh finally thank god there are sports on tv again’

2:12
Ben Clemens: The league office has been talking about the declining interest in baseball and their desire to remain relevant for quite a while now

2:13
Ben Clemens: Not playing when the country is starved for sports seems like… not the smartest move from that perspective.

2:13
tomerafan: We can never ignore history… and the players have reason to question the prior conduct of the owners in negotiations… but if you look at just the here-and-now in 2020, the MLBPA signed an Agreement in March to consider modifications to that March agreement if there are no fans in the stands.  Now the Union says that salary modifications are, per se, a nonstarter and they are unwilling to negotiate salary on any terms.  The Owners may be “greedy” or <insert your word here> but it takes two parties to negotiate, and one side has spent the last couple weeks refusing to even come to the table.  So how are the Owners the bad guys right now?  How is the one side willing to talk the villain in this current setting?

2:13
Ben Clemens: Uh, to be clear, the players have negotiated.

2:13
Ben Clemens: They’ve already given up more concessions than the owners by far

2:14
Ben Clemens: It’s also very unclear whether the lack of fans is legal cause for a re-negotiation.

2:14
Ben Clemens: If you’re unclear on that, any of Craig Edwards’ articles on the topic would be a good way to get familiar with it, or his podcast where he discussed it

2:14
Ben Clemens: The league is claiming that’s obvious in the agreement, and they produced a smoking gun

2:14
Ben Clemens: Their smoking gun is an email between league officials

2:14
Ben Clemens: With no PA officials on it

2:14
Ben Clemens: That says ‘oh hey I talked to a guy in the PA who asked me if we meant no players means renegotiate’

2:14
Ben Clemens: ‘and I told him yes’

2:14
Ben Clemens: So uh

2:15
Ben Clemens: I dunno

2:15
Ben Clemens: I do think that the whole ‘not willing to negotiate salary on any terms’ will have to change

2:15
Ben Clemens: But they’ve given a lot of other sweetners, while the owners haven’t

2:15
Ben Clemens: So, call it what you will, but I think the current player position is closer to equitable than the owners’ by far

2:16
Ben Clemens: For example, what if the owners offered my above deal — minimum salaries and league-sanctioned Scherzer punches.

2:16
Ben Clemens: Is that an offer?

2:16
Ben Clemens: I’d say no

2:16
Ben Clemens: And that’s close to the league’s first offer

2:16
Ben Clemens: I do think the second offer is promising

2:16
Ben Clemens: And if the players don’t counter wiht something, then I’ll move closer to your view

2:17
Ben Clemens: Because now both sides have given *something*, though the players have still given more

2:17
David: A significantly shortened season with possible Covid rule changes and altering the playoffs all just feels like a gimic.  NBA and NHL playoffs that they are going to do, I see as just exhibition tournaments that don’t actually mean anything.

2:17
Ben Clemens: Oh yeah, to me it’s definitely a gimmick

2:18
Ben Clemens: Sorry, one second

2:18
Ben Clemens: My fire alarm just went off

2:19
Ben Clemens: False alarm, AND Ruby didn’t start barking

2:19
Ben Clemens: We are really winning today

2:19
Jake: How much longer do you think the league will wait before just saying “screw it we’re playing 50 games”? I imagine they still want to try and be the only sport in town for a little bit

2:19
The Stranger: To me, the 50-game season just feels like the ultimate screw you move from the owners. It’s just, “oh, you don’t want to play for $X? Well that what you’re going to do.” Seems like a bitter pill for the players to swallow if that’s what it comes to.

2:19
Ben Clemens: Yeah I think they’d need to do more than 50 to really get that bump

2:19
Ben Clemens: They’d need to start by August 1 probably, right?

2:19
Ben Clemens: Yeah basketball starts July 31

2:19
Ben Clemens: So actually they’d want to start July 15, and that’s more like the 60 game plan

2:20
Ben Clemens: I think I’m mostly okay with that

2:20
JoJo: How do you see an agreement impacting rookies? More or less likely to be called up and play this season?

2:20
Ben Clemens: Sadly, I think less

2:20
Ben Clemens: The existing agreement, which I’m assuming would hold, calls for pro-rated service time.

2:20
Ben Clemens: So if you play for 50% of the season, you get half a year of service time, 90 days or so

2:21
Ben Clemens: I think teams are gonna be really hesitant to give someone 90 days of service time in exchange for 30 games of production

2:21
Ben Clemens: Now, one way where that wouldn’t be the case

2:21
Ben Clemens: Is if a team with a top prospect is unexpectedly in a playoff position

2:22
Ben Clemens: Weird playoff runs are going to be a LOT more likely the shorter the season gets

2:22
Ben Clemens: Like if you’re the Orioles and you’re randomly in first place on September 5

2:22
Ben Clemens: You’re calling Adley up, right?

2:22
Ben Clemens: I would

2:23
Ben Clemens: So my initial view is no. But if there are playoff race surprises I could be extremely wrong.

2:23
David: So I guess I am in the minority when I say wake me in 2021 for sports when they get back to normal season with normal rules.

2:23
Ben Clemens: Yeah, I think so.

2:23
Ben Clemens: I mean, it’s not real baseball in the way that we grew up thinking of baseball

2:23
Ben Clemens: I won’t argue with you there.

2:24
Ben Clemens: But I watch the WBC, which is pretty clearly a different format

2:24
Ben Clemens: And man, I’d love to see Andrelton Simmons fielding a grounder right about now

2:24
Ben Clemens: I will 100% thikn of it as a weird one-off season, but I’d still love to see it

2:24
Nathan: If Correa can stay healthy for an entire season, is he the WAR leader at shortstop?

2:24
Ben Clemens: Hm

2:25
Ben Clemens: I like this question a lot. Shortstop is reallllly deep but the top end is basically Lindor and some dudes

2:25
Ben Clemens: Everyone in the tier below that is up for debate

2:26
Ben Clemens: I think that if Correa stays healthy for the whole season, he’s solidly in that Semien/Story/Baez/Bogaerts tier

2:26
Ben Clemens: I’d put him just behind Bogaerts there, probably

2:26
Ben Clemens: And I dunno, Gleyber is somewhere in there too.

2:26
Ben Clemens: Paul DeJong? Probably not

2:26
Ben Clemens: Seager if he’s healthy, too

2:27
Ben Clemens: But I’d give Correa as good odds as any of those guys

2:28
Curtis: Does a shorter season benefit the streaky hitter?

2:28
Nathan: Are there types of players that will become more or less valuable in a 50 game season? Are multi position guys less valuable? Do starting pitchers become even more valuable or can teams lean on there bullpen for a full season?

2:28
Ben Clemens: I’ve been pondering this streaky hitter question for a bit in the background while I played ‘name that shortstop’

2:28
Ben Clemens: I think it depends on who you are?

2:29
Ben Clemens: Like if your baseline is a 4 WAR player, and you’re streaky btw 6 and 2 in a real true-talent way, then not really

2:29
Ben Clemens: Because you’re going to play either way, and a single player can’t budge their teams’ odds enough. Like there are teams where adding 2 wins is more helpful than subtracting 2 wins is hurtful, for sure

2:29
Ben Clemens: There are plenty of those

2:29
Ben Clemens: But I don’t think it’s reasonable for any of them

2:30
Ben Clemens: I do think that a streaky *team*, or just a high-variance team in general, might be well served

2:30
Ben Clemens: But I’m struggling to articulate why so maybe ignore me

2:30
David: I definitely want to see some baseball, but also want to be able to put this chaos behind us and forget about it.  Speaking of SS, what ceiling do you see for Dansby for near and long term?

2:31
Ben Clemens: I’m a little more down on Dansby than I believe the industry consensus is. That’s the “popular” consensus, by which I mean what you’d hear if you listened to MLB Network or ESPN or whatnot

2:31
Ben Clemens: I think that ZiPS and Steamer are pretty close to my view; league average player

2:31
Ben Clemens: Bat won’t kill you

2:32
Ben Clemens: He definitely has the potential for a big season in there, but I think it would need to come from season-long power

2:32
Ben Clemens: I don’t see him improving his plate discipline enough to get it there

2:32
Ben Clemens: That’s by no means out of the question, but not my base case

2:32
Kiermaier’s Piercing Green Eyes: Assuming there’s a season, do we switch to WAR/600 as the standard productivity benchmark, or does every article have to have an asterisk next to the 2020 numbers to explain why no one was valuable?

2:32
Ben Clemens: Hm

2:32
Ben Clemens: I could see it being that way for a few years

2:32
Ben Clemens: That seems like just good logical thinking.

2:33
Ben Clemens: I do not think it will switch forever, though

2:33
Ben Clemens: No one uses WAR/600 for 1994, or for the careers of players who played in 1994

2:34
Derek: It really doesn’t seem like it should be this hard to figure out how to play some damn baseball…

2:34
Ben Clemens: Completely agree!

2:34
Ben Clemens: I did a radio hit on a Toronto radio station yesterday, where the host had a lot better idea of the hockey details than I did

2:35
Ben Clemens: And remember, hockey has had some really vicious labor battles in recent memory

2:35
Ben Clemens: And he was just baffled at how baseball was somehow negotiating changed salaries and long, sweeping changes ot the game in all of this

2:35
Ben Clemens: instead of just saying let’s play you nerds we want to be popular

2:35
Ben Clemens: I just…. don’t get it

2:35
David: WAR……bleh (watches for arrows to come flying in)

2:36
Derek: At this rate everyone will just have 0.0 WAR 2020s.

2:36
Ben Clemens: Hey, I tend to like WAR as a nice objective analytical tool, but I think anyone who tells you it’s the only stat that matters is being a little ridiculous

2:37
Ben Clemens: I really like the framework of WAR, and I think that a replacement-level based framework, in the ideal sense, is the best way to think of player value

2:38
Ben Clemens: But it’s completely reasonable to disagree with the particulars of WAR, and to think that the way we calculate it today misses exciting and useful plyaers

2:38
Ben Clemens: And might actually keep those players from getting the chances they deserve

2:38
Nathan: Is there a rule change that would lead to more aggressive base running? I appreciate teams not running into stupid outs, but base stealing is fun to watch.

2:38
Ben Clemens: There are things you could do on the margin; get rid of the stupid pop-off-the-base replay reversal, which is the worst rule in baseball in my opinion

2:40
Ben Clemens: You could limit pickoff throws, though how to do that is tough

2:40
Ben Clemens: You could expand the bases, as the Atlantic League tried last year, though without much success in changing baserunning

2:40
Ben Clemens: I’d like to see the league enforce balks incredibly strictly

2:40
Ben Clemens: Like, codify the rule better

2:40
Ben Clemens: And enforce it

2:41
Ben Clemens: I dunno how much it would help but I hate that pickoff moves are either balks or not based on, eh, what the umpire had for breakfast that morning or whatever

2:41
Sam: Who’s your favorite low WAR, but fun to watch player?

2:41
Ben Clemens: Ooh, this is an excellent question

2:41
Ben Clemens: Billy Hamilton is up there

2:41
Ben Clemens: Aledmys Diaz is really high on my list, though I guess he’s just pretty good

2:42
Ben Clemens: Andrelton Simmons is, I think, far more fun to watch than he is valuable, and he’s pretty valuable

2:42
Ben Clemens: Emmanuel Clase fits the bill

2:42
Ben Clemens: Honestly, Mike Trout is very clearly not my favorite player,despite the fact that I enjoy his preposterous skills

2:42
Ben Clemens: I’m more of a fan of players with outlier skills

2:42
aaronsaron: Billy Hamilton is my favorite!

2:42
Ben Clemens: Yeah if baseball were a purely entertainment sport, with no one keeping score, he’d be so great

2:43
David: What about overall philosophy change from swing for the fences to manufacturing runs. How long until we see a swing back in that direction?

2:43
Ben Clemens: Ooh, that’s sometihng a lot of people have written about, and that I should surely do a better job hunting down the articles for

2:43
Ben Clemens: I’m not going to, though, because eh, I’m doing some silly data-mining draft project right now

2:44
Ben Clemens: But I think you’d need to change a lot of things about hte game to get that to happen

2:44
Ben Clemens: Make home runs harder to hit; either with fences or the ball

2:44
Ben Clemens: But then you need to make strikeouts harder to achieve for pitchers too

2:44
Ben Clemens: So that you don’t get a 2014 situation

2:45
Ben Clemens: I don’t think banning the shift is really the answer, but maybe making infields livelier?

2:45
Ben Clemens: At the same time that you shrink the strike zone or allow one non-strikeout foul tip or something weird like that

2:45
Ross: Do you think any of the AA teams on the chopping block will manage to remain in business next year, even in an independent league? As a Cardinals fan, I’ll miss getting to see the Reds prospects playing for the Chattanooga Lookouts.

2:45
Ben Clemens: I really hope so.

2:45
Ben Clemens: I had my seventh birthday party at the Chattanooga Lookouts stadium!

2:45
Ben Clemens: Or maybe 8th; it was a long time ago

2:46
Ben Clemens: (I grew up in Oak Ridge in east TN)

2:46
Ben Clemens: And Chattanooga is awesome these days, a fun city by all accounts

2:46
Ben Clemens: My parents like going there, and they’re kinda bougie

2:46
Ben Clemens: Gonna be a real shame if it closes down

2:46
Ben Clemens: Sadly, I think that they’re probably done for

2:47
Ben Clemens: With no draft picks, what the heck are they going to populate the system with? And then, also sadly, it’s a bad time to start an indy team right now

2:47
Ben Clemens: What with the recession and all

2:47
Chris: Craig Edwards wrote an article about how much worse the new offer by the owners is than the last one. It’s crazy that mlb thinks this is the route they should go

2:47
Ben Clemens: Yeah, to be clear, it is worse than their grim-trigger ‘screw you minimum games’ offer

2:47
Ben Clemens: It’s better than their initial offer in most cases

2:47
Ben Clemens: Which should tell you how bad their initial offer was!

2:48
Ben Clemens: If it’s significantly worse than something they could unilaterally impose without the players’ consent

2:48
Ben Clemens: Craig’s article is excellent, and you should check it out:

2:48
Joe: There’s talk about an expanded Fall League with all 30 teams fielding a team. With NBA/NHL not playing in November like they normally would, wouldn’t this be a good opportunity for revenue and content for fans? MLB could sell ~30 games of inventory with more top prospects than usual to RSNs that are starved for content in Nov. without NBA/NHL, to partially make good on their 162 game contracts. Give some games to ESPN and Turner who are missing NBA/NHL too. Fans get to see top prospects on TV every day. Prospects get paid at a time of year they normally wouldn’t. Win-win-win

2:48
Ben Clemens: Oh for sure. The league isn’t going to offer a dime of that to the PA though, because their members won’t even be playing

2:49
Ben Clemens: So they’ll probably try to do this

2:49
Ben Clemens: But they won’t change their negotiating stance at all as a result

2:49
Ben Clemens: I do think it would be good TV though

2:50
Ben Clemens: Honestly, the league has a lot of avenues to get some extra dough

2:50
Ben Clemens: Expanded playoffs, with like you said less competition from other sports, are nice

2:50
Ben Clemens: And already baked in, the players agreed to it

2:50
Ben Clemens: Extra prospect stuff; selling expanded access packages with mics and backstage interviews and so on

2:50
Ben Clemens: There will be interesting new things that come out of this work stoppage no doubt

2:50
Curtis: If the season is between 60-80 games in length, who hits the most home runs this year?

2:51
Ben Clemens: I’ll take a dark horse, Jorge Soler

2:51
Ben Clemens: No real reason to feel that way

2:51
Ben Clemens: I just love Soler irrationally

2:51
Ben Clemens: But in theory the shorter season shouldn’t impact your prediction for most homers, just make the favorite less likely to win

2:51
David K: Does Fred Wilpon still own the Mets a year from now?

2:51
Ben Clemens: I’m going to say yes, though I hope I’m wrong

2:52
Ben Clemens: From what I can see, the sticking point in the sale to Cohen was that a)the Wilpons want to sell a majority stake, but still get to be the majority owners

2:53
Ben Clemens: and b)they want to kepe their ownership of SNY, which is valuable b/c the Mets gave SNY an absolutely sweetheart tv deal

2:53
Ben Clemens: Given that a) is more or less impossible and b) lowers the franchise value, uh

2:53
Ben Clemens: It’s gonna be tough!

2:53
Sam: Given how contentious these negotiations have been after a prolonged period of relative labor peace, can you imagine what would be happening if someone like Marvin Miller was still running the union? Or do you think having a background in labor law would have increased the productiveness of early talks e.g. a clearer March agreement?

2:53
Ben Clemens: Wonderful question

2:54
Ben Clemens: I honestly don’t know enough to be confident either way here

2:55
Ben Clemens: My sense is that one of the big issues in this negotiation has been the accumulated weight of the last 10-ish years of labor unease

2:55
Ben Clemens: Where the plyaers are unhappy with the owners, but keep not getting great deals

2:55
Ben Clemens: It both increases player dissatisfaction, which was already at a recent peak this offseason

2:55
Ben Clemens: and emboldens the owners to push for insane asks

2:56
Ben Clemens: So if Marvin Miller were teleported into February, yeah, I htink things would be a lot worse right now in terms of the players just being like well okay bye enjoy your empty stadiums and voided tv contracts

2:56
Ben Clemens: But if he’d been running the show for 10 years I’d be far more hopeful

2:56
David: Just gotta give you props, one of the most engaging Chats I’ve been apart of in a long while.  Thank you.

2:56
Ben Clemens: Thanks!

2:56
Ben Clemens: I’d like to thank baseball for having some interesting things to discuss

2:56
Ben Clemens: But also my fire alarm for not continuing to go off

2:56
Derek: Do you think it’s possible that we see an active player-owned major professional sports team (not necessarily just baseball) in the somewhat near future? With rising salaries and the ability of athletes like LeBron to make even more money beyond their salary, it at least seems like it should be economically feasible.

2:56
Ben Clemens: Hm

2:56
Ben Clemens: Does tennis count?

2:57
Ben Clemens: Oh, hm, you said team

2:57
Ben Clemens: I think it’s tough. The fixed costs to starting one up are really high

2:57
Ben Clemens: You’d need to have a situation where the league is just absolutely unwilling to negotiate with the players, because I think the breakeven to make a baseball league, for example, more profitable for the players to run themselves would be quite long

2:58
Ben Clemens: Even in the current environment

2:58
Ben Clemens: They’d have to get TV deals. They’d have to compete with the existing owners, which would dilute the value of each given baseball game on TV

2:58
Ben Clemens: They’d have to find places to play, and hire a league office, and so on

2:58
Ben Clemens: This should really be a symbiotic relationship

2:58
Nathan: this whole reducing the minor leagues seems like a bad marketing idea. Most of the other sports don’t have them, so in a lot of parts of the country, if you want a live professional sporting event, you go watch baseball. With fewer minor league teams it puts more pressure on baseball to compete with other sports on TV (which everyone seems to think it fails at) as well as all the other entertainment options. The league is giving up a competitive advantage.

2:58
Ben Clemens: Yeah I agree SO much with this point

2:58
Ben Clemens: I love minor league baseball

2:58
Ben Clemens: It is my favorite in-person sporting event by so far

2:59
Ben Clemens: And I love that you can get it almost anywhere in the country

2:59
Ben Clemens: Meg and I wrote about this in December:

2:59
Ben Clemens: Using some sweet mapping software

2:59
Ben Clemens: It’s just a tragedy that this is happening, from a kids having fun doing things standpoint

3:00
Curtis: Who is the best catcher in MLB today?   how far away will Adley be when he debuts?

3:00
Ben Clemens: Oh hm

3:00
Ben Clemens: Gotta be Realmuto right now

3:00
Ben Clemens: With Grandal in the mix as well

3:00
Ben Clemens: Catcher is not at a high point right now, I think it’s fair to say

3:01
Ben Clemens: I do not think Adley is better than either of them, but when he debuts, assuming he follows the trajectory I expect, he’ll be in the top 10. How well he adjusts to high-minors pitching will tell us a lot more about where in that group

3:01
Curtis: Extend to who is currently the best player at each position? real life, not fantasy

3:03
Ben Clemens: Let’s do this as a lightning round: Freddie Freeman, Ketel Marte (if he plays second), Bregman, Lindor, Yelich, Trout, Mookie

3:03
Ben Clemens: Going around the diamond 3-9

3:03
Nathan: Are we going to see more offensive oriented catchers in the near future or will good hitters always be moved off the position to limit wear and tear?

3:03
Ben Clemens: Love this question

3:03
Ben Clemens: I think it can be a little bit of both, to be honest, though I know that’s a cop out

3:03
Ben Clemens: Bryce Harper is still not going to be a catcher

3:04
Ben Clemens: But it’s a lot more reasonable to put someone back there without plus framing when framing stops mattering

3:04
Ben Clemens: I think that the offensive bar at catcher will go up significantl

3:04
Ben Clemens: But there are actually two things keeping catcher offense down; one is that we like good-framing catchers, sure

3:05
Ben Clemens: we being the general league consensus these days

3:05
Ben Clemens: but two is that catching is miserably hard on the body, and that will still be the case

3:05
Ben Clemens: Everyone knows Ryan Doumit was the worst framer ever, but he wasn’t even a good hitter.

3:06
Ben Clemens: So catchers in 2019 batted .236/.308/.405

3:06
Ben Clemens: That’s awful, and will go up

3:06
Ben Clemens: But it won’t suddenly be league average or anything

3:06
Nathan: Does the salary tax actually help the super rich teams? It seems like many teams can run their budget up to that point, but only a few can really go over it for multiple seasons.

3:06
Ben Clemens: Interesting. I’d say it benefits all teams, because free agency is a winner’s curse type deal

3:06
Ben Clemens: If you win a free agency negotiation, you’ve offered the most money

3:07
Ben Clemens: Removing the ability for one team to win, say, 10 free agency auctions (they’re basically negotiated auctions) over three years

3:08
Ben Clemens: Because they won’t just not spend up in those 10

3:08
Ben Clemens: Them not being there will lower the winning price in others

3:08
Ben Clemens: I really don’t have enough clarity on how much teams are aware of each others’ offers though

3:08
Ben Clemens: The more that’s the case, the more the salary cap just helps everyone

3:08
Derek: Catching should be significantly less grueling with robot umps though, right? Like, if no one is on base the catcher doesn’t even need to try catch the ball. Not sure if that will actually make a substantial difference in reducing wear and tear long term though…

3:08
Ben Clemens: Yeah that I’m really not sure about

3:08
Ben Clemens: Like how much is the framing

3:08
Ben Clemens: And how much is the crouch

3:09
Ben Clemens: You’ll still have to crouch, or at least sit or something

3:09
Ben Clemens: You can’t just let the ball go to the backstop every time; the league certainly own’t allow that

3:09
aaronsaron: In regards to pace of play, isn’t the main issue simply that pitchers take forever to throw the ball (and to a lesser extent batters stepping out of the box every time)? I feel like this isn’t brought up enough when trying to find the issue/solutions for pace of play. Some pitchers just take forever, and most aren’t quick. I always was quick when I pitched, although I wasn’t in the majors.

3:09
Ben Clemens: Because of pace of play!

3:09
Ben Clemens: Segues on point today

3:10
Ben Clemens: This is definitely some of it

3:10
Ben Clemens: Read this, though:

3:10
Ben Clemens: I always like advertising Grant, because he’s awesome

3:10
Ben Clemens: But this is a particularly good one

3:11
Ben Clemens: There are a few causes, with time between pitches leading

3:11
Ben Clemens: So you probably want to work on all of those

3:11
Ben Clemens: I’d say his overall conclusions match yours, which is why pitch clocks are a thing in the minors

3:11
Ben Clemens: I would say that yes, if you fixed that you’d fix a lot

3:12
Ben Clemens: So the question is how to fix that, and how much do you want to try to fix the other nitpicky things as well

3:12
Nathan: when did you realize that all your favorite players from your childhood were actually only kids as well and about 8 to 10 years older than you?

3:12
Ben Clemens: LeBron is like 8 months older than me

3:12
Ben Clemens: That’s the one that really sticks with me

3:13
Ben Clemens: But I met Ozzie Smith in Cooperstown when I went to a Hall of Fame induction in 2013

3:13
Ben Clemens: Lame induction year, btw

3:13
Ben Clemens: Wouldn’t suggest

3:13
Ben Clemens: But Ozzie was in his 50s then, late 50s

3:13
Ben Clemens: He was my favorite player when I was a kid, and one of my big early baseball memories was going to a game in St. Louis hoping to see Ozzie, and Royce Clayton played instead, my uncle told me Ozzie was getting too old

3:13
Ben Clemens: So I saw him as this colossally old guy

3:14
Ben Clemens: And nah, he’s significantly younger than my dad and uncle

3:14
Ben Clemens: It’s like that tweet, behold the ancient miracle, this 33-year-old man can still play a sport

3:14
Nathan: Do people who don’t like baseball not like it because it is too long and boring or do they think it is too long and boring because they don’t like baseball?

3:14
Ben Clemens: Definitely the second

3:14
Ben Clemens: Baseball does have too much dead space

3:14
Ben Clemens: But all sports have too much dead space

3:15
Ben Clemens: Like, have you watched a football game?

3:15
Ben Clemens: Jesus, it’s all replays and showing Troy Aikman’s impressively manicured hair

3:16
Ben Clemens: I like football, though I struggle with the moral implications of modern-day gladiator fighting given how awful it is for those who play

3:16
Ben Clemens: But it’s notn like it’s a thrill a minute

3:16
aaronsaron: I mean even if games still take long, as long as pitchers are throwing the ball something is still happening, unlike when they take forever and the game is taking long and nothing is happening.

3:16
Ben Clemens: Yeah, this I agree with

3:16
Ben Clemens: Baseball’s problem isn’t game length

3:16
Ben Clemens: It’s percentage of the time where nothing is happening

3:17
Ben Clemens: Like actually nothing, no one at all is moving and no attempt to play is being made

3:17
Ben Clemens: I don’t think it’s disqualifying; I still love going to baseball in person

3:17
Ben Clemens: I do think that time between pitches helps to take you out of the groove of watching, though

3:17
Derek: Is there any chance minor league contraction makes indy leagues more popular or at least raises the quality of play in a significant way?

3:17
Ben Clemens: Ugh, I dunno

3:17
Ben Clemens: I’d like to think so

3:17
Ben Clemens: Indy league salaries are not exactly lucrative, though

3:18
Ben Clemens: A lot of the reason they exist is becaues players are willing to make those wages hoping they hit affiliated ball

3:18
Ben Clemens: If affiliated ball shrinks, there’s less chance of that working. I think you’d need to see increased gate receipts that upped their pay

3:18
Ben Clemens: That then attracted the guys who would otherwise be in affiliated ball

3:18
Ben Clemens: I do not know if that’s likely, though I’m skeptical it would be immediate

3:19
Ben Clemens: Particularly now, with going to a stadium not being high on most people’s lists of fun activities given COVID

3:19
The Stranger: My takeaway from Jay’s article about 50-game windows last year was that the playoff teams looked surprisingly reasonable. Can we actually feel okay about the results from a short season?

3:19
Ben Clemens: Sorry, big leap back to earlier, but I missed throwing this in and liked the point

3:19
Ben Clemens: I’m curious what it would look like if you sliced EVERY 50 game sample

3:19
Ben Clemens: Curious enough to write it myself? We’ll see

3:20
Ben Clemens: I think that feeling okay about the results isn’t a huge deal, though

3:20
Ben Clemens: Who cares how we feel about the results

3:20
Ben Clemens: I don’t watch baseball because I’m going to look back in ten years and say, yep, those 2018 Rockies deserved to tie for the NL west crown, lose in the tiebreaker, win the WC game, then lose in the NLDS

3:21
Ben Clemens: I’m gonna say, jeez, the Rockies almost beat the Dodgers? Baseball is wild!

3:21
Ben Clemens: I think I’ll just say that more this season

3:21
Ben Clemens: That’s why I want a tournament if it’s going to be THAT short. That would be a blast.

3:21
BASEBALL SZN: Do you have any unwavering food takes like Dan and chili?

3:21
Ben Clemens: Well, one is that Dan is wrong about chili

3:21
Ben Clemens: Shots fired, etc.

3:22
Ben Clemens: But beans can absolutely be a part of chili, and I like beans in chili

3:22
Ben Clemens: Aside from that, hm

3:22
Ben Clemens: I like hot sauce on pretty much anything, which I don’t think is a common take

3:22
Ben Clemens: Not particularly uncommon, but not common

3:23
Ben Clemens: I’m really into dried mangos

3:23
Ben Clemens: Doubt that’s controversial

3:23
Ben Clemens: Oh, I think that most chicken and turkey sausage is as good as most actual sausage

3:23
BASEBALL SZN: What’s your go to hot sauce?

3:23
Ben Clemens: Hard to beat Cholula for accessibility and versatility

3:24
Ben Clemens: I’m such a sucker for random hot sauces, though

3:24
Ben Clemens: I think I like trying new ones more than I like any one hot sauce

3:24
Ben Clemens: Our fridge and pantry are always full of random ones

3:24
Ben Clemens: Whatever I see at the store, or at a farmer’s market, or whatnot

3:24
Ben Clemens: Moving to California has been great for that; I tend to like Mexican and Asian spices and yeah, right place for those

3:25
Ben Clemens: Oh, honorable mention to the chili paste that the Sriracha company makes

3:25
Derek: Oh that sausage take is a bad one.

3:25
Ben Clemens: Ha, see, it’s a hot take!

3:25
Ben Clemens: I’m not a huge red meat guy though

3:25
Ben Clemens: I wouldn’t give up bacon

3:25
Ben Clemens: And I wouldn’t give up hamburgers

3:26
Ben Clemens: But aside from those, I don’t really eat very much red meat at all

3:26
Ben Clemens: I know some people swear by sausage, but to me it’s just easy to get close to its taste, and so much of sausage is the grease, which I think chicken and turkey do well

3:26
Ben Clemens: Less sold on some of the vegan/vegetarian options

3:26
Nathan: Are you pro DH? As an Astros fan always hatred but to be honest I haven’t missed the pitchers hitting and didn’t even notice it at first.

3:26
Ben Clemens: I’m pro-DH

3:27
Ben Clemens: I wish I weren’t

3:27
Ben Clemens: Not like I wish I just thought differently, but I wish pitchers could hit well enough that the variation mattered

3:27
Ben Clemens: But eh…. they just don’t hit at all!

3:27
Ben Clemens: If every pitcher hit like Zack Greinke, sure, I’m in

3:27
Ben Clemens: But I don’t like the strategy implications enough for it to be worth just how awful pitchers are at batting

3:28
aaronsaron: The range of pitching pace last year was about 20-29 seconds. If we say everyone shaves off 8 seconds a pitch (which not every pitcher would of course, but humor me), at an average of about 290 pitches a game, that would save 38.66 minutes a game! That’s crazy!

3:28
Ben Clemens: Yeah; I mean, you wouldn’t save that much, but even if you save half of that (not a terrible guess), that’s some value

3:29
Ben Clemens: Just clone Mark Buehrle

3:29
Ben Clemens: One big problem with this, though, is that there’s decent evidence that taking more time between pitches increases your velocity

3:29
Ben Clemens: Which makes perfect sense

3:29
Ben Clemens: And so convincing pitchers to not take whatever the most time they can

3:29
Ben Clemens: happens to be

3:30
Ben Clemens: Is gonna be a hard sell when velo matters so much

3:30
Nathan: It’s hard to find good sausage. Kaspers in Wiemer TX has the best

3:30
Ben Clemens: I grew up near some verrrrry good bacon (Benton’s Bacon)

3:30
Ben Clemens: So I’m willing to believe that I just haven’t tried great sausage

3:30
Ben Clemens: But I find replacement level sausage to be pretty blah

3:30
Ben Clemens: And if you’re going to spice it, the meat stops being the highlight

3:31
Ben Clemens: Chicken chorizo and chorizo are realllllly similar

3:31
Ben Clemens: Because the main taste is the spice

3:31
Ben Clemens: So I’d need a really good, plain sausage

3:31
Ben Clemens: Next time I’m near Wiemer I’ll try to stop by Kaspers

3:32
Ben Clemens: That will be, uh, maybe not soon

3:32
Ben Clemens: Looking at a map

3:32
Ben Clemens: I guess next time I’m in Houston maybe it’s worth a trip?

3:32
Ross: Are there any knuckle-ball pitching prospects on the horizon (meaning in AAA or AA)?

3:32
Ben Clemens: I’m not the guy to ask on this, but certainly no surefire major leaguers, that I’d know about

3:33
Ben Clemens: I’d say ask Eric, but probably next week

3:33
Ben Clemens: He’s busy this week

3:33
Ben Clemens: I called him this weekend to bounce some deep finds off of him

3:33
Ben Clemens: And you know, he’s an awesome guy, very giving of his time

3:33
Ben Clemens: But I could just tell he was buried in draft stuff up to his ears

3:33
Nathan: It’s an interesting cultural experience. Their beef jerky is amazing too

3:34
Ben Clemens: Now jerky, I think beef is better than chicken and turkey by a decent margin

3:34
Ben Clemens: Something about the way those meats dry

3:34
Ben Clemens: Turns out I have a lot of food takes, but I have no idea whether they’re terrible

3:35
Nathan: and a LeBron has always looked like a 35 year old

3:35
Ben Clemens: Yeah I went from saying ‘there’s no way I’m the same age as that guy’ to ‘yeah it makes sense that lebron is my age’ as we both aged

3:37
aaronsaron: I wonder if in the clubhouses, for pitcher’s birthdays, rather than a cake, they give them meatballs. See what I did there? Since we’re talking about meat…? Okay.

3:37
Ben Clemens: Lol

3:37
Ben Clemens: I think we are headed to the end of the chat at this point

3:37
Ben Clemens: My brain is getting a little fried

3:37
Ben Clemens: And I’d like to go put some neosporin on my dog-induced wound

3:38
Ben Clemens: So let’s leave it with htat.

3:38
Ben Clemens: I hope a good time was had by all, and I’ll talk to you guys next week.

3:38
Ben Clemens: Be safe, everyone.





Ben is a writer at FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.

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dubykoff

Ben — How do you know the stabbing was inadvertent? Just sayin’ . . .