Jay Jaffe Inaugural FanGraphs Chat – 2/15/18 by Carson Cistulli February 15, 2018 12:01 Jay Jaffe: Hello and welcome to my FanGraphs chat debut, part of what we might call my soft launch at FG (Im going on a previously scheduled vacation next week) ! I’m an old hand at chats from my Baseball Prospectus days, and we did a few at SI around trade deadlines, but I’m looking forward to getting back to doing these regularly. Anyhoo, on with the show… 12:02 Clay Achin’: What can you tell us about yourself, for the uninitiated 12:05 Jay Jaffe: I laid out an outline of my career in my introductory post (https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/stepping-into-the-box/) but for those who haven’t gotten there yet, I’ve been writing about baseball since 2001, when I started up Futility Infielder. Debuted at BP in early 2004, writing about Hall of Fame stuff, and later creating the Prospectus Hit List and writing a column called Prospectus Hit and Run. in 2012, Sport Illustrated hired me to start up a new daily baseball blog, and gradually that morphed into a less bloggy/more column-oriented role. I’m best known for my HOF work, which culminated in the publication of my book, the Cooperstown Casebook, this past July. I live in Brooklyn, amm married to a baseball writer/editor, Emma Span (late of SI, now at the Athletic) and have an adorable 18-month old daughter. 12:06 Brad: Replacing Eno’s chat is tough act to follow. I wish you the best. Chase Utley a hall of famer in your opinion? 12:09 Jay Jaffe: Eno has left some very big shoes to fill, both in terms of baseball and craft beer. I do think Chase Utley is Hallworthy; he’s 10th among second basemen in my JAWS system, which averages a player’s career and 7-year peak WAR. Alas, I think the late start to his career will make him a tough sell among voters, because so much of his value is tied to defense and because he’ll likely fall short of 2,000 hits — a proxy for career length that has unfortunately become a bright-line test for voters (Bobby Grich, Dick Allen, Minnie Minoso, Jim Edmonds are among those on the wrong side of that line). 12:09 CamdenWarehouse: Welcome, Jay! This timeslot is known for accepting beer questions, is that ok with you? 12:10 Jay Jaffe: Beer questions are fine, but I’ve probably got less range than Eno on that one. I enjoy IPAs and dark stuff, not into sours. 12:10 Stan : Welcome to FanGraphs, Jay! Do you answer fantasy baseball questions? 12:11 Jay Jaffe: I stopped playing fantasy baseball around 2011, because it felt too much like a chore, though I did write about it for several years before and after that. I’m just not going to be of great help in that department. 12:11 Kiermaier’s Piercing Green Eyes: How long do you expect the Angel’s six-man rotation experiment to last? Feel free to assume that Ohtani hits at 100 wRC+ when he DHs. 12:14 Jay Jaffe: Color me skeptical about the six-man plan. We’ve seen teams dabble with it for stretches, with the 2011 White Sox giving it the strongest go, for about half a season in 2011, but inevitably they abandon it. I’d love to see how the Angels work it, almost as much as I’d love to see what Ohtani can show us in both hitting and pitching contexts. 12:14 Wayne: How do you see the Braves handling McCarthy and Kazmir? Do you think they are able to trade one before opening day, they really need spots for young arms. 12:18 Jay Jaffe: Both of those pitchers are such wild cards when it comes to health, combining for 16 starts last year and 35 the year before. Most of their youngsters aren’t ready to throw a full complement of 30 starts/180+ innings. I think they’ll get what they can out of the two ex-Dodgers as soon as they can, in part to showcase them for further travels throughout the league and to give the youngsters a bit more time. 12:18 Daniel: How do you feel about Nick Markakis? Is he going to make it to 3000 hits? 12:20 Jay Jaffe: I don’t think so. He’s heading into his age-34 season, has 948 hits to go, and has spent most of the past five seasons as a sub-average player at an offense-first position. Part-time duty awaits him at some point. 12:20 Big Joe Mufferaw: Over/Under of WS for yankees in the next 10 years: 1.5? WS appearances: 2.5? 12:23 Jay Jaffe: 2.5 seems reasonable. Cashman has assembled a great core of prospects to augment those twin tower sluggers and some pretty good pitching, and after they reset their luxury tax this year, they’ll be more free to spend on one of the big-ticket players next winter, Machado or Harper. I’d put them just behind the Astros right now as far as AL supremacy, with the Indians and Red Sox either needing additional moves or multiple breaks to move into that territory (though our projected standings say otherwise). 12:25 Andy: Humidor: A boon to the value of Godley/Miller/Greinke? Does it boost Arizona’s pitching staff enough to give them a boost in projections this year? 12:29 Jay Jaffe: It’ll help the flyball-oriented pitchers (Miller, if healthy, and then Greinke) more than the groundballers (Godley), but the D-backs as a whole had the 2nd-highest GB% in the NL. I’d be wary of assuming they’ll get a ton of help but yeah, you can give the best of them a nudge forward in the projections 12:30 Chuck-it: Since you’re THE guy to ask – Roy Halladay getting in on the first ballot? 12:31 Jay Jaffe: Last year, in my annual end-of-cycle 5-year outlook I suggested that Halladay might take 3-4 years, but now I think his tragic death strongly increases the likelihood of him making it on the first ballot. Either way, he’s worthy of induction and his career should be celebrated and honored. 12:32 Ray McConnell: Why is the most difficult position, catcher, underrepresented in the Hall of Fame? 12:35 Jay Jaffe: Hey Ray! Catchers generally don’t reach the offense-oriented milestones that we associate with easy routes to Cooperstown, and until recently, we’ve had a dearth of data about their defense, with SB% both the most readily available stat and one of decreasing importance in recent years. That said, we did just have catchers elected back-to-back (Piazza and Pudge in 2016-17) for the first time since 1954-55 (Bill Dickey and Gabby Hartnett). I’d love to see Ted Simmons get in via the Modern Baseball ballot; he came close this past year but now has to wait 2 more years. 12:35 Jason: Any idea why Arizona would want to use a humidor? Good hitters park but didn’t seem like a crazy outlier like Colorado. 12:38 Jay Jaffe: Arizona has the 2nd-highest elevation of any MLB park, over 1,000 feet above sea level. I’m not sure wha the splits are with the roof closed vs. open but I imagine it further contributes to the high HR rate there. It’s going to be an interesting experiment. 12:38 Ed: What is it like having a wife in the baseball business? 12:42 Jay Jaffe: It’s generally pretty great except that in October, we live in near-squalor due to the intensity of playoff coverage. Emma knows her stuff, she knows a good story, she’s got a great eye for the absurd and she’s an excellent sounding board for my ideas (and hopefully vice-versa). We both understand the cyclical nature of the season, why there are times that we have to bury ourselves in work — from past experience, that’s been a difficult thing to navigate in relationships. 12:42 E: Is there room in the Hall for a player like Omar Vizquel? 12:45 Jay Jaffe: His glove and cleats, yes — as the all-time leader in games played by a shortstop. His plaque, I’m not sold. because the defensive metrics don’t make a strong enough case to offset his genuinely dreadful offense. He made a pretty solid debut on this year’s ballot (37%), and he may gain support simply due to traffic thinning out over the next few years, but as the electorate becomes a bit more stat-oriented, I think he’s going to hit a ceiling short of 75%. 12:45 Estevao: Top 10 by position SP thoughts 1, Clayton Kershaw.2, Corey Kluber.3, Max Scherzer.4, Chris Sale.5, Stephen Strasburg6, Noah Syndergaard7, Madison Bumgarner8, Jacob DeGrom9, Luis Severino10, Zack Greinke/Justin Verlander/Carlos CarrascoOn that last spot i just could not make a decision, very close 12:48 Jay Jaffe: I’d put Scherzer above Kershaw right now due to his durability. vs CK’s two years of back woes and the Dodgers throwing the brakes on his workload. I’m also not very high on Bumgarner and would definitely have him below the trio you have at 10. Fulmer’s a guy I’d squeeze in there somewhere as well, even though he’s not a big K guy. 12:48 Jealous Dude: Can I just say, I’m pretty dang jealous that you and your wife are both baseball writers. I want that life. 12:49 Jay Jaffe: I’m thankful every day that I get to write about baseball for a living, and I think Emma feels the same way about her work. Even at the less fun times, there are a lot of less interesting things we could be doing. 12:49 Estevao: Career wRC+ and wOBA: Andruw Jones: 111, .352 Alan Trammel: 111 .343 Cal Ripken: 112 .346 thoughts on that 12:50 Jay Jaffe: I think Jones got a raw deal from HOF voters but at least he made it to a 2nd ballot, unlike Lofton and Edmonds. Career length is obviously a factor— he’s another guy on the wrong side of 2,000 hits, and both Trammell and Ripken played forever. My HOF would have all three in. 12:51 John Oleruds Helmet: Could a two way player that’s a bat first and middle reliever become the new market inefficiency? Would essentially be a 26th man on the roster 12:52 Jay Jaffe: I’d love to see somebody try it, the next step from the Brooks Kieschnick role of ~15 years ago (he was mainly mop-up_. A guy who could PH in the 5th/6th and then serve as a bridge to the late-inning guys, maybe. 12:52 HugoZ: Do you think a salary floor, with penalties for going below it, would be of any help in the tanking issue? 12:54 Jay Jaffe: I’m not sure a salary floor is the answer, but i do think that the CBA needs to more strongly encourage competing/penalize tanking. I liked the plan put forth by JJ Cooper of Baseball America (https://www.baseballamerica.com/columnists/tank-tax-push-teams-try-har…), a “Tank Tax” in which teams that don’t win a given number of games in back-to-back years (70 was his suggestion, but subject to change) get pushed down 10 slots in the draft. 12:54 NF: What does scherzer need to do to get into the Hall? Does he need 200 wins? He’ll be close… 12:57 Jay Jaffe: I think with the 3 Cys, he’s going in so long as he bulks up his career numbers. It’s generally impossible to get in with less than 200 wins; I see him getting there with 3,000 strikeouts, and with the dearth of strong candidates coming down the pike — something which the electorate needs to recalibrate for, as I’ve argued elsewhere — that will probably be enough. 12:57 Well-Beered Englishman: So living with another baseball writer, how much baseball do you guys watch on TV each year? over/under 200 games? 12:58 Jay Jaffe: Baseball is on every night during the season in our household, especially once the kiddo is in bed. Its not always the focus of what we’re doing but it’s the backdrop, and unless we’re watching during dinner, we don’t flip around much. I’d say it’s closer to 250 since we usually watch one 7/8 pm slot and one west coast one (generally the Dodgers unless they’re in a blowout or traveling east). 12:58 The Miracle of Altuve: 1) How short is Altuve, really? 5’3″?2) I assume he is rock solidly on a HOF track career. Am I correct?3) If inducted, what percentile height will he be among fellow Hall of Famers? 1st %ile? 2nd? I’m sure there were some shorties among the Old Timers. Just not sure how many and how short. 1:03 Jay Jaffe: Altuve’s got a ways to go. He’s only heading into his age-28 season and has 3 Hall-caliber seasons under his belt. Which isn’t to say he won’t make it — I sure hope he does — but the career paths of 2B, with earlier starts and younger peaks, are something to beware of. I think he’s legitimately about 5’5″ but he lists at 5’6″; going by that, there are six players as tall or shorter in the Hall, out of 221 who were elected for their MLB playing careers. Wee Willie Keeler is the only one listed at 5’4″ 1:03 Bertie: What do the Dodgers do with Kemp? 1:04 Jay Jaffe: Eventually, they’ll swallow hard and give up a valuable prospect just to get that money off the books. It’s not a tenable situation. 1:04 Bryan: Is it pronounced Japh? Or Jaffee? 1:05 Jay Jaffe: Jaffe rhymes with taffy. No relation to Al of Mad Magazine fame. 1:05 IPA You Say?: IPAs: you a New England or West Coast style guy? 1:06 Jay Jaffe: I like them both! Certainly seeing a lot more NEIPAs these days, many of the best NY-area craft brewers are doing them, but they tend to be expensive and/or require going out of my way to buy instead of picking up at the corner deli or even the grocery store. 1:06 jkim: Which Alex Wood is the real Alex Wood? The 1st Half 2017 sub-2.00 ERA Wood? or the 2nd Half, mediocre but still serviceable starter Alex Wood? 1:08 Jay Jaffe: I think the 2nd half guy is a function of his being overworked. The upside of All-Star caliber hurler is clearly there, but he apparently needs to be handled with some care. For the Dodgers’ purposes, particularly without having landed Darvish, It would be great to see him get up to the 175-180 inning mark, something he hasn’t done since 2015 1:08 Another Spring.: If Judge and Stanton are both having a run at Maris’s single-season (Yankee) HR record – Do you think it will be the most hyped thing to watch (after August)? Who do you think has more power between the two (not necessarily the one who hits more HRs)? 1:10 Jay Jaffe: If both are making a run at 61, the hype will be incredible. As for who has more power, it’s a coin toss, but I guess I’d say Judge based on last year’s average exit velocity (95 MPH for him, 92.6 for Stanton). 1:10 Billy Beane: How is your prospect knowledge, Jay J.? 1:11 Jay Jaffe: I know enough to read the people who know about this stuff, because I really don’t. Really looking forward to working with Kiley and Eric because it’s been a long time since I was on the same staff as prospect-oriented writers. 1:11 Mister Puppy: Better Jay: Jon or Gibbons? 1:12 Jay Jaffe: Jay Buhner 1:12 Mat: Can Chris Taylor repeat his .288/.354/.496 line from last year? Seems he’s due a regression but how much? 1:14 Jay Jaffe: I’d bet on a bit of regression but he’s clearly somebody who can legitimately produce thanks to the changes he made to his swing. I think he’ll remain a solid asset in the Dodgers lineup. He had a 126 wC+ last year, Steamer projects him for 96 — i’d bet he’s closer to the former. Call it 116. 1:14 Justin: Is JAWS going to move to fangraphs and if so will there be any other tweeks like a return to five consecutive years for the peak? 1:16 Jay Jaffe: I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: JAWS will remain as is, driven by Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR. Sean Forman and Hans Van Slooten at B-Ref have been exemplary partners in helping my metric reach the far corners of the baseball world over the past five years, and I have no desire to (further) confuse anybody wading into the waters of advanced stat-based Hall of Fame analysis. And for now I’m sticking with 7 year at-large peak, I don’t see the value in suddenly switching things up and having people confused by the body of work I have that’s in circulation. And I really don’t think the FIP-driven pitching WAR that FanGraphs uses is suitable for handling pitchers from eras where strikeouts and homers were relatively rare. 1:18 Morbo: Related to Ray’s question, Yadier Molina future hall of famer? Is his defensive reputation enough to get him in? 1:20 Jay Jaffe: Wrote about this at https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/04/06/yadier-molina-cardinals-contract-hal… last April and to my mind, not much has changed. I think his will be a polarizing candidacy because of the gap between perception and stats, which isn’t to say that I think what we have captures the totality of his contributions to a staff. It will be interesting (and perhaps exhausting) to see how voters react. 1:20 NF: Any hope the nats get a catcher? 1:22 Jay Jaffe: I’m sure there’s somebody out there hoping the Nationals get a catcher. but they still have Wieters under contract and I’d expect him to get the bulk of the playing time. 1:22 Anon: Can you comment on what prompted you to choose FG? With experience at BP, SI, and others you’ve obviously seen a good cross-section of platforms. What made this one more compelling than, say, your wife’s employer? Welcome aboard! 1:23 Lou Sassole: What is your take on Todd Helton’s candidacy? Great offensive numbers, decent defender with athletic pedigree, generally seen as a good teammate/ambassador, no PED ties. Only strikes against him seem to be an inflated offensive era (not his fault) and Coors Field (not his fault). 1:25 Jay Jaffe: If the more well-rounded Larry Walker — who’s 10th in JAWS among RF — can’t get in via the writers, I don’t see how Helton (14th among 1B, lacking major offensive milestones beyond 2,500 hits and 350 HR, which obviously don’t carry huge cachet) will, though at least the ballot traffic will be considerably lighter. 1:25 tacopocket: re vizquel. How much better was Ozzie Smith? Or did his personality/charisma give him the final push? I just can’t see how mazeroski and smith are in yet guys like vizquel and keith hernandez are left out. 1:29 Jay Jaffe: based on the WAR components that go into JAWS, Smith was 111 runs better on the defensive side and 221 runs better on the offensive side (including baserunning/DP avoidance, where Ozzie is a huge plus and Omar a dud). Obviously, both had flash but the basic range stats on defense are strongly tilted in Smith’s favor. It doesn’t hurt that STL won a World Series and that he had a big postseason moment with his HR off Niedenfeuer. I’d be far more inclined to vote for Hernandez than i would Vizquel. 1:29 Joe: JA Happ made it to SI top 100 players of 2018, but no Aaron Nola? Track record? of based off of last season? 1:31 Jay Jaffe: We used 3 years of data where possible, with 2017 the strongest weight, but adjusting when we had less. I argued in general for Happ based on his consistency. I think Nola made the just-missed group. 1:31 andrew: can you elaborate on what makes Fulmer equally or more attractive than Bumgarner to you? There doesn’t seem like an obvious thing he’s better at. 1:34 Jay Jaffe: Fulmer’s better at riding motor bikes, but TBH I probably overstated his case relative to Bum. I think the extremity of AT&T Park is something that people don’t take into enough account, but OTOH, Bumgarner’s hitting is an asset that can’t be dismissed in an either/or comp. 1:34 Sonny Grayjoy: Do you think the concerns about the Yankees rotation are being overblown? The way I look at it, Sonny Gray is slated to be their #3 guy, would be a #1/2 on most staffs. With CC and Montgomery having very solid years last year, rounding out the rotation. They have some high quality arms in the minors ready to go as well (Adams, Sheffield). Of course another piece like Lynn/Cobb would be nice for any team, but I don’t think it’s necessary. 1:36 Jay Jaffe: They’ve got a lot of depth but also a lot of ifs. Can Gray get back to being the stalwart he was in Oakland? Can CC stay healthy? Can Tanaka dominate like he did in the postseason? The powerful offense will paper over some of their issues but I think they need a fair bit to go right. 1:36 Matt: What does your wife do in the baseball industry? 1:37 Jay Jaffe: she was previously the senior baseball editor at SI on the magazine side (I was rarely writing directly for her). She’s now the managing editor of The Athletic’s national vertical, where she’s overseeing Eno, among others. 1:37 Santos: I don’t understand why Vlad was considered a no doubt 1st ballot hall of famer. I’m not saying I don’t think he’s hall worthy, I’m saying his case seems borderline, and compares well to others who completely dropped off. Why do you think the writers jumped so aggressively in favor of him despite only 54 WAR? 1:39 Jay Jaffe: Because most writers aren’t looking at WAR or JAWS (he’s low by my system, so I left him off my virtual ballots) and TBF, he earned a lot of style points with his play. Just an incredibly entertaining player, especially in his Expos days. 1:39 Yellow box: So who is your favorite hall of famer? 1:39 SullivanSawchikGraphs: I bet Jeff and Travis are noticeably relieved to have great writers like you, Meg Rowley, and Matt Rian come aboard (and the return of former Lead Prospect Analyst Kiley McDaniel!). How have you been greeted by your new colleagues? With swirlies and by getting pantsed? With odes to JAWS sent via email? 1:40 Jay Jaffe: I’ve gotten a wonderful reception from the staff — several reached out via email, DM or text when it was clear I was coming aboard. It seems like a great group to be part of. 1:40 Eduardo Rodriguez : You think this surgery will actually stabilize my knee and make me more confident and therefore allow me to come closer to my potential in terms of both performance and durability? 1:41 Jay Jaffe: I hope so, because I want to see what a full healthy season by him looks like, but knees are always tricky for pitchers and alas, I’m not a doctor. 1:41 Scott: Have you been following Bill James’ series about the best players at their position by year? It provides a different perspective, explaining why some “mistakes” from a JAWS perspective are in. 1:44 Jay Jaffe: I haven’t kept up with James’ writing in recent years, in part because it’s been behind a paywall (iv’e intermittently had access). I know he’s not a fan of WAR (of any flavor) and I think he was rather off base in that Altuve/Judge discussion from a couple months back (which isn’t to say that I have an issue with the outcome of the voting). But it’s probably worth seeing what he’s doing these days, so I’ll ad him to the list. 1:44 Pumpsie Green: Post-playing days, how is Jeter any less icky than Pete Rose? 1:45 Jay Jaffe: Uh, Jeter hasn’t broken any laws or MLB rules. It’s not even close to a fair comparison. 1:45 zcrates: How much will Zack Cozart regress from his 141 wRC+ last season? 1:47 Jay Jaffe: A fair bit, I think. Anaheim is a tougher place to hit than Great American Ballpark and I’d guess (and here it’s a guess because I’m not pulling up spray charts or statcast) that he’s going to lose some of those homers. 1:48 Shawn: Favorite IPAs? If I remember correctly you are in NY? Best breweries in the city? 1:49 Jay Jaffe: Other Half, Singlecut, Barrier and Threes are my local favorites. They’re not always easy to come by though. Fortunately, I live near Threes and they will deliver to my one- (or now two-) person office. 1:49 Morbo: I don’t expect an answer but re: my earlier Yadier Molina question, I read, somewhere, recently but I cant seem to find the source, that the Cardinals pitching staff has had an ERA split of roughly 1 full point. I.e. when Molina is catching, lets call it 3.38, vs not catching, call it 4.38, do you think that bolsters his case at all? 1:50 Jay Jaffe: There are a lot of issues with using catcher ERA due to the way that teams tend to pair a given backup with only one or two starters, not necessarily the best ones. 1:50 Effectively Wildest: Have you appeared on Effectively Wild: A Fangraphs Podcast brought to you by Patreon supporters? Now that you’re a member of the FG team, planning on appearing (more)? 1:51 Jay Jaffe: I’ve never been on EW in its current form. I’m open to podcast invites because I sure as hell don’t have time to create one (and I almost never listen because I can’t have somebody talking to me while I write). 1:51 Matt: Vlad got in on the second ballot. 1:51 Jay Jaffe: Thanks, I wasn’t paying attention. 1:51 Big Joe Mufferaw: How amazing is it that Larry Walker never played competitive basbeall “about 15-20 games a year of softball” until he was 18. He learned in the minors, and that should be made public more! Help his HOF clause as a “freak athlete” 1:52 Jay Jaffe: His is a remarkable story, one that I outlined in the Casebook and at SI.com. He was incredibly raw when he began playing pro ball, and he’s got some entertaining stories about that. 1:52 Dave Kingman: Any insight into how the Brewers OF/1B logjam will shake out if they don’t make a trade prior to the start of the season? 1:53 Jay Jaffe: They do have a bit of a logjam, don’t they? I think we’ll see Braun playing a good chunk of time at 1B unless they get a very good offer for Santana 1:53 CanRodBond: PEDS. PEDS were legal. Hard to penalize on assumption. Your three cents 1:54 Jay Jaffe: in my HOF evaluations I draw a distinction between the pre-testing era, when there was no consequence for use and no mechanism for enforcing a paper ban, and the testing era, where the consequences became clear. 1:55 Pad Squad: What would it take to get Michael Conforto to the Padres after the 2018 season? Do you like him for San Diego? 1:56 Jay Jaffe: Given his shoulder injury I’m not sure how much I even like Conforto for the Mets right now. Capsule tears are no joke. I hope he can get back to being the hitter he showed he was in 2017 pre-injury 1:57 Jay Jaffe: OK folks, it feels like I haven’t put a dent in the number of good questions in the queue but it’s been two hours and i need some lunch. I’ll take note of the best questions remaining and see if any of them fit for future article ideas. Thanks for chatting and we’ll plan on doing this again in two weeks! 1:59 Billy Beane: Question: As THE Hall of Fame expert, how do you actually feel about its importance? I know a lot of analytical baseball writers basically think that the more you think and know about it, the sillier it seems, even though the players themselves think of it very highly? Has spending so much time thinking about it shaped your thinking on the issue in some particular way? 2:02 Jay Jaffe: OK, this was too good a question not to take a stab at: I think it’s good that baseball has a means of honoring its greats, and that our view of greatness changes with the times and the means we have of measuring. We’ve gone from very much basing it on fame (pre-TV, the World Series conferred a whole lot of it, paritucarly thanks to the volume of coverage it had in newspapers) to pushing harder to tie ti to performance, and increasingly sophisticated measures of performance at that. I think about this stuff all the time, and I love the topic because it’s one that just about every serious baseball fan has thoughts about — and it’s a renewable resource for coverage. OK, thanks again for stopping by today!