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Monday's Mailbag

A few selections from the new (and improved!) mailbag ...
Jason, in Atlanta:

    Rob, you said in your chat Tuesday that Kotsay's not a good everyday 1B (with which I agree). However, why would Lowrie being around help? Would his offense be that much better than Kotsay's, or would a defensive arrangement of Youkilis at 1B and Lowrie at 3B be that much more preferable to Youkilis at 3B and Kotsay at 1B?

Why, yes I do. I believe that Lowrie -- a shortstop by trade -- might well play Gold Glove-quality defense at third base, and we know that Youkilis does play Gold Glove defense at first base. Throw in Pedroia at second, and the Red Sox might have the best defensive infield in the majors (even with Julio Lugo missing all kinds of stuff at shortstop). And even leaving all that aside, I believe that Lowrie, when (if?) healthy, is at least as good a hitter as Kotsay.
From Dom, in Chicago:

    Rob -- where is the Scott Podsednik love? When my White Sox signed him, I have to admit I was less than enthused and thought "haven't we had enough of this experiment?". Given your opinion of him over the past several years, isn't it time to give him some props on what has been a great first half?

Well, we're talking about 57 games, at the conclusion of which Podsednik's exceeded his career on-base percentage and his career slugging percentage by 27 points apiece. Is that really something worth big props? Particularly considering that he's still a corner outfielder with league-average hitting stats? Yes, Podsednik's been surprisingly useful to the White Sox, and he does deserve credit for that. But before we start trying to make an All-Star out of him, let's give him another month or two to find his level.
And speaking of All-Stars (or not) and finding levels ... From Greg, in New York City:

    Hey Rob. In regards to your postulating in your chat today that Cain has been pretty lucky this year, is it just as likely (or even 1/3 as likely) that he was just rather unlucky his first few years? Maybe I'm just a disgruntled fantasy league ex-Cain owner, but it seems to me that the Ks were always there, but ERA and wins (the most luck-influenced pitching stat?) always fell short. Maybe three years is too long to be considered "unlucky" but from my (unscientific) observations, it seems like maybe this year it's just finally all coming together for him (skill AND some luck).

What Greg's suggesting, I think, is that Cain's ERA's over his first three full seasons were inflated by bad luck, while his ERA this season is the product of skill and perhaps a bit of bad luck. I hope the fundamental problem with this line of analysis is fairly obvious. If not, here's something else:
Cain's fielding-independent ERA's, 2006-2009: 3.96, 3.78, 3.91, 3.95
Cain's ERA's, 2006-2009: 4.15, 3.65, 3.76, 2.48

Another reader -- who I won't mention, because he seems like a reasonable enough sort and I don't want to embarrass him -- has argued (in the mailbag) that Cain has consistently outperformed his FIP. Really? Prior to this season, Cain's career ERA and his career FIP were highly consistent with one another, both season to season and career-wise. Aside from the seven starts in Cain's rookie season (2005), there was nothing at all odd about his performance until this season. And in case I haven't mentioned it already, this season is actually just half a season.

Give the numbers a bit more time. Usually they'll prove out.