Kevin Goldstein FanGraphs Chat – 2/1/2021 by Kevin Goldstein February 1, 2021 12:01 dbfirstman: Welcome back Kevin …… 12:02 Kevin Goldstein: Thanks! And thanks to everyone who has reached out with kind words, and even the few with not so kind ones. First chat in eight years, so let’s start with a former podcast guest in the Scrabble lady! Looking forward to your questions. 12:02 Slippin’Jimmy: Hey Kevin, longtime Astros fan here who is super excited to have you here at Fangraphs! Over the past few years, even before the scandal, there were rumors about cultural issues within the FO that you briefly mentioned in your introduction. What was your experience there and where did they stem from? 12:04 Kevin Goldstein: To be clear, most of my experience with the Astros goes in the positive column. I had a really good time. Seven good years, one . . . . well, not so good. Not that there weren’t problems. There were cultural issues within the Astros front office, but I honestly believe that many of them were not specific to the Astros, but more as to the industry itself. 12:04 Rodney: It’s taken a few years. But it looks like Teoscar Hernandez might be a bit of a guy, after all. How did the org value him before the trade? 12:06 Kevin Goldstein: I feel like at times I’m going to fall into “KG story time” mode, so let me know if it gets annoying. My first trip for the Astros was to instructs in the fall of 2012. First guy to catch my eye was the GCL outfielder with the crazy bat speed. It was Teoscar. Liked him from there, and always was a big fan of him as a person. GREAT guy with a great work ethic. I got him wrong. I thought he was going to be a really nice fourth outfielder, but it’s important to note that when you think about players that exceed expectations, makeup is often a big factor in that. The reverse is true as well. 12:07 Seamus Cohen: If your name is Kevin Goldstein, does that mean that you drink Guinness and eat bagels? 12:07 Kevin Goldstein: I don’t like beer and I do keto so . . . no? 12:07 Tristan: Lifelong Jays fan here. What should we know about George Springer that might not be obvious? 12:09 Kevin Goldstein: The impact George has on a clubhouse, in terms of bringing players together, energizing people and keeping the dance party going is significant and not something that shows up on a stat line, but it’s extremely valuable. 12:09 Scotty: Hey Kevin! Any lesser known prospects you love that we should be keeping an eye on? 12:09 Kevin Goldstein: Plenty, and I’ll be working with Eric on those. 12:09 Kiermaier’s Piercing Green Eyes: Welcome! What non-baseball topics should we expect from your chats? And you mentioned JRPGs in your introductory post, what are your top ones of all time? 12:11 Kevin Goldstein: Really loved the Trails Of Cold Steel series that I played while not working. Shin Megemi Tensei and Xeno-whatever also big faves. Dissonant music, interesting films also big things for me, and we’ll talk about all that stuff on the podcast (but certainly welcome in chats!) 12:11 xavier: Is there any reason we should sympathize with the owners crying poverty that most fans don’t realize? 12:11 Kevin Goldstein: Before I worked in baseball, I used to say that owning a baseball team was a license to print money. Nothing in my eight years inside the game changed that notion. 12:12 Mariner’s Fan: Letting Bygones be bygones.. welcome to the Fangraphs. Reading your introduction it seems like you will be a mix of prospect writing as well as gleaming insights from the front office, is that fair? 12:13 Kevin Goldstein: That’s fair. Here to help Eric and here to also cover bigger picture stuff. Also here to be open to suggestions! Let me know what you want to hear about. 12:13 Chris: What kind of fielding metrics do teams use? Do they have things like mph players throw at max and average? Or like first step reaction time towards the play? Or is it just what we have but better? 12:14 Kevin Goldstein: There are private metrics, some of which are fantastic, but to be perfectly honest, I’ve never been super happy with defensive metrics both private and public. Still lots to be done there. 12:14 Guest: Welcome back, Kevin. In your experience working for the Astros, was it common for other front-office employees to never really have a “day off”? Sounds like a challenging work-life balance. 12:15 Kevin Goldstein: I’m fairly certain that for eight years I didn’t have a day where I didn’t do SOME work, even if it was just for an hour or something. It is a challenge to people and their families and the stress there is high, as is the divorce rate. 12:16 Rob: Alex cobb and Jose quintata. Are the angels allergic to number one/two pitchers? 12:16 Kevin Goldstein: Most teams are. How many of those are out there? Most teams don’t have a one, and plenty don’t have a two. 12:16 Bryce: Tell us everything you can about your upcoming Podcast, please! 12:18 Kevin Goldstein: There will be one. That’s it. I’ll be totally transparent: I can’t wait to get the podcast going and I love doing a show. That said, I need a co-host and I need to get over Jason not being that person. He was perfect in every way and I need to make something new and different without him and I’m figure that out. It won’t take long, and I can’t wait to get it out there. 12:18 George: I was hoping you could provide industry perspective on the upcoming CBA? How do teams plan for changes to the financial structure/draft system/rules etc? 12:19 Kevin Goldstein: Duly noted. Not necessarily a subject for a chippy chat reply, but it’s a good topic and one that interests me as well. 12:19 Josh: How should one evaluate Astros players moving forward? 12:19 Kevin Goldstein: The same as you did before. Maybe an unsatisfying answer, but true. 12:19 Theyardgoat: welcome! What are the biggest differences between public data sets and club ones? 12:20 Kevin Goldstein: The biggest one is certainly easy availability of TrackMan data in the minors. 12:20 Yankees: Luis Medina (P-Yankees). He had a nice winter ball. Does the industry think he has enough control to stick as a starter, or the back end of the bullpen? Trust the Yankees development team? 12:21 Kevin Goldstein: I watched him pitch yesterday and it’s crazy good stuff, but like you say, the command still has a ways to go. So young, and plenty of time, but I’d be excited about the upside. Yankees are VERY good at developing, among other things, so be optimistic. 12:21 furtive stan javier: Better Jesus Lizard record: Goat or Liar? 12:21 Kevin Goldstein: Goat [ducks.] 12:22 Shed: What info can’t you share from your time in the FO? 12:22 Kevin Goldstein: Certainly anything proprietary about how the Astros use data and their various tools to do so. 12:22 Jesus T: Knowing that you’re a gamer, too, what are you playing now and what’s your favorite baseball video game? 12:23 Kevin Goldstein: Started Yakuza: Like A Dragon over the weekend and really enjoying it. Huge fan of that series. I don’t play any sports games, but I’m kinda fascinated by Paul Sporer’s Twitch streams, so maybe I’ll join him one night to see what it’s all about. 12:24 Frank: Thanks for doing this chat! Given how you wrote in your opening piece about the email you sent to the scouting staff “proposed… using cameras to be able to better see signals coming from coaches on the bases and in the dugout,” how do you expect people to believe that you didn’t have some knowledge of a similar scheme being used later or that you were surprised by the revelations? Your explanation matches the pattern of Astros front office staff completely denying responsibility, and your hiring has me contemplating canceling my FanGraphs subscription. 12:25 Kevin Goldstein: Frank, I hope you don’t cancel your subscription. What I wrote is truthful and from the heart. You can certainly choose not to believe me, and that is your choice. 12:25 Josh: I am fascinated by the way the Rockies operate right now. Do you have any stories dealing with them? 12:25 Kevin Goldstein: Fascinated is a good word . . . 12:26 fake baseball fan: Welcome to Fangraphs! What was your favorite and least favorite transactions that the team made in your tenure? 12:28 Kevin Goldstein: I pushed hard for the deal in which we acquired Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers. I think when you work in baseball, you are more obsessed with the mistakes than what you are right about, and I think about that one a lot. I was right in telling the group not to worry about Brett Phillips, who I saw as a fourth outfielder, and I was right in saying Josh Hader was ‘only’ going to be a reliever, but I certainly didn’t say we are trading away one of the most dominant relievers in the game. Ooooof. 12:28 George: We often talk about teams that have great development programs (LA, Houston, TB) and teams that are starting to be better known for their development (Reds Pitching) What do you think is the biggest difference between teams that have good player dev programs and bad ones (Pitt for example)? 12:28 Kevin Goldstein: The use of data, and more importantly, developing a strategy to properly communicate with players based on what that data shows us. 12:28 BJ: How would you compare the Gurriel of 2017-19 to the Gurriel of 2010-14 in Cuba? 12:29 Kevin Goldstein: I think if Yuli was able to come over to MLB when he was in his early 20s, Jay Jaffe would be doing JAWS articles about how he’s an absolute lock for the HOF. 12:30 Josh Illes: What are you drinking? 12:30 Kevin Goldstein: Iced coffee. Despite the fact that there is a foot of snow on the ground. 12:31 Pedantic Reader: I think you meant to describe your japanese RPGs as ‘obscure’ in your intro because I’m not entirely sure what an ‘obtuse’ RPG would be. 12:31 Kevin Goldstein: Have you PLAYED the Trails in Cold Steel series. Great battle system, but certainly obtuse. 12:32 Sung Min Kim: Hey Kevin. I’m curious on the organization’s decision to let RHP Brock Dykxhoorn go to Korea coming off a 2018 season where he performed well and posted nice surface-level peripherals in the PCL. I know the hindsight is 20/20, but, at the time, he did post numbers that may have led him to a chance to pitch in ML sooner than later. 12:32 Kevin Goldstein: Hey Sung! I negotiated his buyout and will likely discuss in a future article about how players end up in NPB/KBO. 12:33 Tim: So excited to have you back on Twitter. Pretty boring without you around. I’ll throw you a BP fastball (as A Soldiers Requiem blares) Luis Garcia, long term Starter or better suited for the pen? 12:33 Kevin Goldstein: The term we threw around a lot in Houston was “reliever risk”. Garcia isn’t a slam dunk pen arm, but there is definitely a considerable amount of reliever risk. 12:35 Bob: Hi. I read your “I’m back” message. The bit about how you objected to Osuna, and that your objection felt like enough felt a bit off. Especially without mention of Taubman. To say I don’t want to hear your chats and stories is false, but I can’t say I’m happy with how you handled yourself. I hope you can see how a more active role is necessary for violence against women. 12:35 Kevin Goldstein: That makes two of us. I’m not especially happy with how I handled myself either, and wish I found a way to impact that decision more. 12:35 Guy: Give us your take on Alejandro Kirk we’re dying to know 12:35 Kevin Goldstein: Dude can RAKE. 12:36 Karnak the magnifico: If you were to look into your crystal ball, what do you predict the most significant changes in the next CBA will be? And do you predict a labor stoppage? From the outside, it appears that the players union/ownership relationship has deteriorated. 12:37 Kevin Goldstein: I think the next CBA will be unlike one we’ve every seen. I expect significant changes in free agency, the draft, as well as the creation of an international draft. I also would say that there is a 86.823% chance that on December 1, we do NOT have a deal in place between MLB and the union. 12:39 GvK: KG, you mentioned talking about how the sausage is made. In terms of trades, how explicit are GMs or AGMs when they call about a player? Do they literally say, “What will it take to get Kyle Tucker (or Whitley, etc)? Or is it more abstract? 12:39 Kevin Goldstein: Both. Will write about in detail for sure. 12:39 Guille: Looks like this will be a “remembering some Astros guys” so… JD Martinez? Why did you guys miss so badly on him? 12:40 Kevin Goldstein: He made a swing change over the winter and we just didn’t give it time to congeal. I watched him go 0-for-7 in a backfield game less than 48 hours before we let him go. Nobody argued for keeping him. Another oooof. 12:41 Wade Blassinggame: Fill in the blank. The next market inefficiency in baseball is ____. 12:41 Kevin Goldstein: I still think it’s somewhere in the health/injury realm as far as keeping players on the field, but that’s been the case for years, and great strides have NOT been made. 12:42 Guest: Kevin – so great to have you back, we missed you! Which types of minor leaguers do you think got hurt the most from missing a year of playing time in 2020 – pitchers or hitters? Latin players or those coming straight to the minors from high school, etc? 12:42 Kevin Goldstein: It’s a fantastic question, and one that I’m sure Eric and I will explore. I think there’s an argument to be made for various types of players, so I don’t have a great conclusion unfortunately. 12:42 George: How often while working in the front office did someone read something in the public sphere that sparked internal discussions? Like was there ever a time you’d read a Jeff Sullivan piece about a player and then look internally to see what you knew about them? 12:43 Kevin Goldstein: Absolutely. We had a daily email that sent all of the interesting pieces from the public sphere. Fangraphs was a frequent part of that email. 12:43 AC: I would be interested to hear where you feel scouting is headed in the next few years. With all the layoffs due to COVID and older scouts retiring, will in person scouting become obsolete with all the video being captured? 12:44 Kevin Goldstein: Definitely something for a larger piece. 12:44 NatsFan: Can you give us your recollection of the 2019 World Series and losing to the Nationals. 12:45 Kevin Goldstein: I have a piece in mind, specifically about watching Game 7 in the stands with my wife, and I think you’ll enjoy it. 12:45 JP: Which player did the Astros NOT draft that still bothers you the most? 12:46 Kevin Goldstein: Kris Bryant. 12:46 David (formerly Sonoma State): Did you really think I’d miss your first chat back? Welcome back KG. 12:46 Kevin Goldstein: Oh, HELL yes. 12:48 Alistair: Did your time inside the industry change your view on whether hawks can be jerks? 12:48 Kevin Goldstein: I was thinking about the Hawk Trap Guy last week. What are the chances he’s even still with us? 70%? 12:48 Hello!: How often did you watch the Major League Astros play live while working for them? Every single game? 12:49 Kevin Goldstein: I did not live in Houston, so only when I was in town, plus I was traveling a TON on the scouting side. Maybe 15-20 games a year in person, plus all the post-season action. 12:49 Daron: What’s the shortest amount of time it took for a trade agreement (i.e. duration from initial inquiry/negotiation to final agreement on the players involved)? 12:50 Kevin Goldstein: Five minutes. Jason Maxwell to the Royals in 2013. 12:50 Johnny: In an ideal world, how would you set up the service time and free agency structure? 12:51 Kevin Goldstein: Lots to take care of from this base idea, but starting some kind of clock from the moment a player is drafted/signed would eliminate the service time manipulation that keeps worthy players in the minors. 12:52 Adam: At what point does Preller look at the roster he’s built and think to himself, “this roster has way too much talent to still be playing Hosmer against Lefties?” 12:53 Kevin Goldstein: I can understand this thinking, but there are all sorts of other factors that say you should play him. These are human beings and it’s not Strat-o-Matic and making Hosmer a platoon player would have other, at times immeasurable implications. 12:56 Bob: Kevin, I’ll say this. I appreciate your transparency in your first piece back. And while I’m glad you didn’t go to DC and denounced Osuna, it feels like sort of the bare minimum given your standing. Could you speak even a little to maybe initiatives within the Astros for diversifying the front office? Especially post-Taubman. More inclusion of Women, POC, anyone without financial privilege to move on their own dime every nine months? Again – I know a lot of that isn’t your decision, but as someone who personally rode that horse for as long as I could (which evidently was part of me having no money, no security and an eviction because COVID)…I’d just like some sort of grasp on why teams don’t support interns, seasonal analysts, etc – and what efforts there may be to diversify (which feels like a major competitive advantage teams don’t think of). Sorry this is a bit all over…just curious for general thoughts. 12:57 Kevin Goldstein: I think you are discussing one of the biggest issues in the industry, and it’s a downright embarrassing one. Some teams are doing more than others to address this, and some are doing nothing at all. It’s a massive problem. 12:57 David A.: If you’re able to say, what other media outlets contacted you (or did you consider) besides FG? What made FG the best choice for you? 12:58 Kevin Goldstein: Probably not my place to discuss the others. What made FanGraphs the best choice for me was A. It’s FanGraphs, and they’re awesome; B. The freedom to help define the content I create; C. Talking to David and Meg really made me feel like I could fit in here. 1:00 GvK: KG, are certain front-office members “assigned” teams to work with? In other words, would you be assigned to monitor the AL East in transaction talks, or scouting their players specifically? 1:01 Kevin Goldstein: We definitely split things up, mostly based on who had good relationship. I had a set group of teams I was the point person on because I knew the GM or AGM well. Sometimes initial conversations got kicked up the ladder, sometimes I’d see them all the way through. 1:01 MikeD: You viewed Tanaka’s entire MLB career from an Astros’ FO perspective. Care to take a guess as to why he’s pitching in Japan this year when teams are scrambling for starters? 1:02 Kevin Goldstein: I think there’s definitely a chance that he just didn’t wan’t to pitch here anymore for a variety of potential reasons. 1:03 Still Casey: Do you intend to answer follow up questions about the sign stealing scandal while writing for fangraphs? 1:03 Kevin Goldstein: Like I said in the article, I’m not running from it, but I also had nothing to do with it. Happy to try, but can’t tell you you’ll be satisfied with the answers necessarily. 1:04 Justin: One thing I cant stand about today’s reporting is how many rumors we see about how “x team is talking to y team a trade for player z” almost vaguely. Teams listen to offers on every player all the time right? Even when they’re not actively looking to move them? 1:04 Kevin Goldstein: Definitely want to write about rumors and reality at some point. 1:05 Hecubot: As an A’s fan I’m curious how the Astros saw the A’s prospect coming up. Did they see Chapman or Olson as impact players? Were there regrets about the Laureano trade? 1:05 Kevin Goldstein: Man, all of my mistakes coming to light today. I was having a good day earlier. 1:07 Franco: Are you just working with Eric on prospects or are you taking on a more general role? 1:07 Kevin Goldstein: Both. 1:07 Ed: Will you ever contribute to Rotographs, or strictly Fangraphs? 1:07 Kevin Goldstein: I don’t play fantasy baseball, but I’m happy to help the group there in any way they ask. 1:08 George: What is one skill do you think teams continue to overvalue in prospects? Defense? Arm Strength? 1:08 Kevin Goldstein: Metrics without performance. 1:09 George: It was rumored there was a Harper to the Astros trade in the works in his walk year. How close to being done was that trade and do you remember who was involved? 1:10 Kevin Goldstein: It would be in bad taste to talk about the players involved, but I went to bed that night believing Bryce Harper was an Astro. 1:10 ANDY: Is baseball broken, and can it be fixed? The Cubs, Red Sox, etc. are acting like small market teams and seemingly only teams like the Padres and Dodgers are actually trying to win. 1:10 Kevin Goldstein: Many parts are broken. It can be fixed. But it’s going to need a coming together moment from the league and the players. 1:11 Andy: The best film you saw released in 2020/2021 is _____________ 1:11 Kevin Goldstein: In And Of Itself. 1:11 Dan: Thoughts on Luis Arraez? 1:11 Kevin Goldstein: I don’t think there are a lot of players you can stare at and say “that dude is a .300 hitter, period.” Luis, for all of his other faults, is one of those players. 1:12 Ryan: KG- what separates a good scout from a great scout? 1:12 Kevin Goldstein: A good scout accurately tells you want a player is doing. A great scout tells you HOW he is doing it. 1:13 Bronson: My wife will occasionally ask me about the Mattress People. I feel like that was mostly resolved in the pod, but it’s been a while and I don’t remember. Any updates there? 1:13 Kevin Goldstein: Just shocked by how often the mattress people still come up. Shortly after joining the Astros, they moved out. 1:16 Jen: Will the remaining free agents get more or less than predicted at the start of the post season? It seems people so far have done better than expected. There also seems to be a lot of teams that have already spent their budget. 1:17 Kevin Goldstein: I think mostly what we are seeing is a continuing eradication of the middle class. Stars are going to get paid. From here on out, we are going to see a lot of players who probably went into the offseason expecting multi-year deals not getting those, and plenty of players who expected 40-man deals, not getting those. 1:19 Daron: Do you think the new structure of minor league baseball is overall a step in the right direction? 1:19 Kevin Goldstein: In cold calculated terms of player development, yes. But it’s also extremely short-sighted in terms of baseball overall and when you add it all up, it’s not a good thing. 1:21 Sam: How awesome is Dusty Baker? 1:21 Kevin Goldstein: The first thing he said to me was, “I like that hoop in your ear, you’re a cool M-Fer.” So he’s pretty awesome. 1:21 Matt: What were you most wrong about before joining the Astros? Which of your beliefs about baseball have changed the most over the last eight years? 1:22 Kevin Goldstein: I don’t really thinks it’s specific to me, or even the Astros, as the changes have been industry wide, but the way I look at and think about pitchers has been completely overhauled. 1:24 Cindy Crawford: Thrilled that you are part of Fangraphs! Will you be working from my hometown of DeKalb, IL? Between your residence and Dr. Rany Jazayerli’s office, DeKalb is the new epicenter of baseball analysis. 1:24 Kevin Goldstein: Absolutely still in DeKalb. 1:25 adambulldog: Did you get a WS ring? If so, is it the same kind of ring the players got? 1:26 Kevin Goldstein: Yes and yes. It’s in a safe deposit box with my 2019 AL Champs ring. I cleared my office of Astros stuff, with the only survivor being my box of minor league championship rings (I got eight of those). They still bring me joy. 1:26 Jason: you guys turned me on to some great indie bands with the old podcast. Any interest in keeping that feature? 1:27 Kevin Goldstein: Incredible interest. 1:28 GSon: Not that your response to this is expected.. but.. Was/is Michael Brantley the most professional player and downright good person you’ve met in the baseball world?.. 1:28 Kevin Goldstein: He’s certainly way high on the list. His father is a gem as well. 1:29 Cardsfan: Why is there a hold up w/ announcing the other end of the arenado deal? I don’t see the connect b/t the Union and MLB approving the deal w/ announcing the players going to Denver 1:30 Kevin Goldstein: Any deal that involves something (namely cold hard cash) other than players has to be approved by MLB. In terms of these additional considerations, I’ve never seen anything this complicated, so it’s going to take a bit, but eventually go through. 1:30 Norm Yost: favorite obscure mlb pitcher 1:30 Kevin Goldstein: Nino Espinoza. 1:30 Ragin Cajun: Any insight into Enoli P? From social media and the tv broadcasts, he just seems like a kid who is grateful for his chance and enjoys baseball. Man he is quickly becoming one of my favorite Astros. 1:31 Kevin Goldstein: He should be. He’s an absolute force of positivity. 1:32 Kevin Goldstein: Let’s end this thing with “Force of Positivity.” Thanks so much for all of the great and overwhelming number of questions, and thanks so much for all of the non-questions that were just welcoming me to the FanGraphs family. We’ll do this every week.