Chat with Rob Neyer, Bill James
Rob Neyer (12:52 PM)
Happy Bloomsday Eve, everybody! The questions are rolling in, so I'll get started a few minutes early. And at 1pm Eastern, the Gods of Technology willing, Bill James will be taking over...
Brandon of North East,Pa
Who is the greatest pitcher of all time? My vote goes to Nolan Ryan.
Rob Neyer (12:54 PM)
Ryan was a pretty good pitcher. My vote goes to Walter Johnson. Or, if you prefer somebody a bit more modern, Roger Clemens.
James, Virginia Beach
What's your take on the Expos relocation and especially this Norfolk bid? They've done over 75 luxury suite deposits in 3 weeks, does this matter?
Rob Neyer (12:57 PM)
I doubt it. The Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News metropolitan area is just the 30th largest, population-wise, in the United States. What's more, that population is spread over a fairly wide area. My guess is that the Expos are temporarily sent to RFK Stadium, and D.C. and northern Virginia are left to fight for permanent home ownership.
Can we expect a Neyer/James Guide to Hitting anytime soon? And would there be a calculator for MVP's and other statistical information for hitting?
Rob Neyer (12:59 PM)
I've certainly thought about it, but I just don't think the material would be nearly as interesting, even if we could find enough of it for a book. As for an MVP calculator, it wouldn't be all that hard to devise. Rob Wood's already done a lot of the work.
Any update on Joe Blanton? When is he expected to move up to the A's and who would you compare him to in the majors?
Rob Neyer (1:01 PM)
He pitched well (again) in his last start, and I think he's ready now. Blanton's strikeout rate is down a bit this year, but it looks to me like it's consistent with an organizational philosophy, as the A's do stress economy with pitches, which of course allows the starters to last longer in games. I'm no big fan of "pitching to contact," but it certainly can work if done in moderation (as opposed to, say, half the Kansas City pitchers).
Why is it that the mound has to be exactly 60 Feet, 6 inches away from the mound, but the height of the mound varies? Shouldn't the height be mandated as well?
Rob Neyer (1:05 PM)
The height most certainly is mandated . . . I've got the rules around here somewhere . . . yeah, it's supposed to be exactly 10 inches above home plate . . . but over the years teams have supposedly played around with that height. It's often been said that the Dodger Stadium mound was particularly high in the 1960s, which would help explain why it was so tough to hit there.
I saw the fastball rankings and was wondering, how Mariano Rivera was left off the list?
Rob Neyer (1:08 PM)
I'll assume you're referring to Bill's list of the best fastballs from 2000-present. . . I don't know why Rivera didn't make that list, but you can ask Bill in a few minutes. Same book, different chapter, I rate Rivera's fastball as No. 2 all-time among MLB relievers, behind only Goose Gossage.
mick (oakland, ca)
Are you and/or bill going to be doing any book signings? Anything in California?
Rob Neyer (1:10 PM)
I'll be doing some things in the Pacific Northwest and I'm sure Bill will be doing some things where he lives, but to this point we don't yet have any joint appearances scheduled. I'd love to hook up with Bill in Boston this summer, though, and I'll keep you posted at robneyer.com.
Sammy (Cherry Hill, NJ)
Rob, Excited to get the new book. Is there anything in it on the infamous "spitter" and on the various pitching cheats that have been employed over the years?
Rob Neyer (1:12 PM)
You bet. There's a short chapter called "The Unsanitary Spitball" that covers the spitter and various other (now) illegal pitches, plus there are many other notes about such pitches scattered throughout the book. I mean, this sort of thing is really the essence of the whole project.
Rob (Canton, OH)
More of a lock for the Hall of Fame? Jim Thome or Ken Griffey Jr.
Rob Neyer (1:14 PM)
Griffey, for sure. He could retire tomorrow and get a great deal of support. Thome has more work to do, though. He's obviously been a great hitter for a long time, but there are a lot of Hall of Fame-quality first baseman out there, and 400 homers isn't enough to separate Thome from the pack.
Hi Rob. i think you need to adjust your Cy Young Predictor formula. Or is it not designed to work until the season is over? Because Rivera and Benitez aren't going to win the Cy, probably not even come close.
Rob Neyer (1:17 PM)
First, it's not my formula; it's Bill's (I'm not smart enough to come up with something like this). And second, no it's not likely that Rivera and Benitez will win, because it's not likely that they'll continue to save so many games with such low ERA's. But if they do, they could win the awards. They're favorites until they pitch themselves out of the running.
Where would you rank Wakefield's knuckler all-time?
Rob Neyer (1:19 PM)
This isn't a theoretical question . . . I already have ranked Wakefield's knuckler, in the new book. I've got him at No. 8, between Dutch Leonard and Joe Niekro.
Any chance that Todd Helton gets moved sometime while he's still in his prime? Or is that not likely to happen ever? I mean he's one of the best hitters in the game today, it's such a shame he's being wasted. Why does Colorado have a team? They will never be in position to win in that atmosphere.
Rob Neyer (1:23 PM)
Uh, can you say "dumb contract"? Helton's an excellent hitter, but other teams would likely be frightened off by Helton's 1) road statistics, and 2) his kooky contract, which pays him somewhere in the neighborhood of $125 million through 2011 (when he'll be 38). Just one of the many millstones around the Rockies' collective neck (granted, they volunteered to wear it).
Along the line of pitching, why is Mariano Rivera so hard to hit if everyone knows his fastball is coming? We all know it's not just a straight fastball.. but most big league fastballs aren't straight, anyway...
Rob Neyer (1:26 PM)
Hey, everybody knew what Goose Gossage was going to throw, and (for much of his career) what Steve Carlton was going to throw. Very occasionally, you'll find a pitch so devastating that it doesn't make any difference if the batter knows it's coming. Rivera's cutter is like that, which is why I say it's the No. 2 fastball among relievers, ever.
Rob, I love your columns and insight. I just read the section of your book that was posted on ESPN.com and I was wondering how much research you had to do to write the book.
Rob Neyer (1:30 PM)
We did as much as we could, and still get the book published this summer. Specifically, we went through hundreds of books, 45 years worth of the old Baseball Magazine, and who knows how many issues of The Sporting News. And when I got really desperate, I'd actually get on the phone and ask the pitchers themselves what they threw.
Eric : LA
Hey Rob, which player(s) are the Mets going after right now? Do you think that they can land Beltran without giving up David Wright?
Rob Neyer (1:31 PM)
No, I don't think they can. Though I suppose they might be able to substitute Ty Wigginton if they were willing to also throw in one of their top pitching prospects. Which I don't think they would be. Willing. To do.
I heard recently that the true test of Moneyball will be to see how the A's "bad body" catcher, Jeremy Brown, does. His minor-league numbers are awful so far. Any hope for this guy?
Rob Neyer (1:35 PM)
I wouldn't say his numbers are "awful." They were so-so until this season, when they've been superficially awful, I guess. I'm told that he's hit in bad luck, but it's true that he's not looking like much of a prospect at this moment. More generally, I don't think it's fair to judge an entire draft class on the success of one player (who wasn't all that expensive anyway). Joe Blanton, Nick Swisher, and Mark Teahen were all part of that same draft, and all three look like they'll be in the majors this season or next.
After having read all the books by each of you, it's a privilege to chat with you. Have just bought the book this weekend, and am already 1/2way finished. In writing the book, what did the two of you find in your research that most surprised you, either about an individual pitcher or a certain pitch? (other than C. Brown's unfortunate tendency to throw straight balls all the time!)
Rob Neyer (1:38 PM)
Oh gosh, so many things I learned . . . Here's something that pops into my head right now . . . It's my belief that Warren Spahn's famous "screwball" might actually have been the pitch we now call the circle change-up, or something very much like it. One of the struggles we had, when writing the book, was sorting through all the confusing terminology.
Buck Mulligan (Dublin)
I was talking with Leo Bloom and Stephen Daedalus the other day, and we wondered if this would finally be the Red Sox' year - your thoughts, especially now with both team's Starters imploding?
Rob Neyer (1:40 PM)
My opinion is that the winner of the East will be the team that's both luckier and more willing to denude its farm system for the sake of a mid-season deal or two.
Hey guys. The resergence of Ken Griffey Jr as of late has also brought back the ridiculous claim that he was the player of the 90's. Am I crazy, or was Barry Bonds so good in the 90's that this topic shouldn't even be worthy of a debate? Bonds won three MVPs and played in Three Rivers Stadium and Candlestick park, while Griffey played in a loaded lineup in the hitters paradise that was the kingdome.
Rob Neyer (1:42 PM)
Of course Bonds was the best player in the 1990s, just as Rickey Henderson was the best player of the 1980s and Alex Rodriguez will likely be the best player of the 2000s. But Griffey won all those Gold Gloves, and a lot of people are fascinated by shiny things.
Sean (Chicago, IL)
Rob, how did you write *before* italics were available? I know you *had* to write, but do we "know" if you wrote 'well'?
Rob Neyer (1:43 PM)
I'm not sure I completely understand your question, yet somehow I feel it's a good one.
Do you think the Marlins can really get Beltran and sign him next year? If not, who do you think they will trade for? Thanks!
Rob Neyer (1:46 PM)
Get Beltran? Sure, why not? They'd have to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million for the balance of Beltran's contract, but a year ago the Marlins weren't shy about getting better. But sign him to a long-term deal? No way. Beltran's got pinstripes written all over him.
Since pitching is the topic of the day, here's a pitching question: Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, or Rich Harden - which one has the best career? And why?
Rob Neyer (1:49 PM)
Oh, that's a tough one. I think it's between Hudson and Mulder. Hudson's got a slightly better track record, Mulder's arguably got better stuff. I think I'll go with Mulder because of his size, but really that's little more than an ignorant guess.
Jason (Columbia, MD)
How much worse would Baltimore's pitching be if they just slow pitched to the other team? Seriously, they couldn't be much worse than they are now. Only the Rockies are pitching worse, and while Camden is a hitter's ballpark, it's no Coors Field. Any hope for improvement this season?
Rob Neyer (1:53 PM)
But this is what we expected, isn't it? I mean, Sidney Ponson should be better, but you can't just shove a bunch of inexperienced Grade B prospects into the rotation and expect the magic to happen. The only surprise is that April went as well as it did.
Michael (Oakland, CA)
Out of curiosity, in the modern era.. who has clocked in the fastest pitch? I know the Guiness Book, for years, had Nolan Ryan's pitch named as the top velocity fastball, but is there anyone whose pitch has officially eclipsed that mark?
Rob Neyer (1:58 PM)
Good question, Michael. I'm not sure what "officially" means, as it's been a long time since a pitcher was scientifically clocked. If you believe the radar guns in the ballparks, the top speed in recent years is 101, which I believe has been registered by at least three pitchers: Billy Wagner, Billy Koch, and Matt Anderson. But who knows, really? And how hard could Randy Johnson throw if he didn't have to pace himself? Anyway, what's really important is how fast the fastball looks to the hitter. "Apparent velocity," as it's been described to me.
As far as good pitchers, what do you think of the reds pitching staff this year? Are they legit or lucky?
Rob Neyer (2:01 PM)
Is there a choice for C) None of the Above? Reds pitchers have allowed more runs than all but two teams in the National League. That seems like a lot to me.
Rob, what makes Carlos Beltran worth 140 million but Gurrero worth less than 100. They seem like pretty even skilled players to me
Rob Neyer (2:02 PM)
Assuming he's healthy, Guerrero's easily the more valuable player. Beltran just might be the most overrated player in the majors today. Let's just hope Allard Baird is able to take advantage.
Floyd (Los Angeles)
Who is the most overrated pitcher in baseball today, in your opinion? And who is the most underrated?
Rob Neyer (2:06 PM)
Just off the top of my head I'll say . . . Overrated: Barry Zito (even though he's obviously very good), and Underrated: Carl Pavano (who's now pitching quite well for a second straight season). But given time I would come up with different answers.
Rob Neyer (2:07 PM)
Okay, I see that Bill's joined in. I'll let him take over, but I will lurk for a few minutes just in case you guys give him any trouble...
Daniel (Aurora, IL)
Bill James (2:09 PM)
Hello. Now there's a question I can answer. . .
Murray (Brooklyn, NY)
Bill, in an interview you gave about a year ago, you said you don't read much of the baseball work that's available on the web. Have you started reading more since then, and if so, what do you read?
Bill James (2:10 PM)
Oh, I keep trying. I keep trying to get more interested in other people's work, but so far I wouldn't say I've succeeded. I'm 97% out of the loop. .
Daniel (Aurora, IL)
the communist thing was pretty darn funny. Who is the next pitcher you could see sneaking onto your list in the near future?
Bill James (2:12 PM)
Thanks, but. . .which list? The fastball list? If you listen carefully to the scouts, every third kid in college has an A+ fastball. Probably one of them really does. . .
Your thoughts on last night's Prior v. Clemens game. Won't Clemens find it more difficult to face teams a second time since not everyone in the NL has seen him before?
Bill James (2:14 PM)
Is there evidence that that's a real advantage, or is that just a way of explaining something a little unexpected? It seems to me it's more likely the latter. . .Of course he'll have more trouble the second time around, because nobody is going to go 18-0, no matter who he is. . .
With players like Jim Edmonds and Pokey Reese robbing players of base hits on practically a daily basis, how can you possibly put so little emphasis on the defensive aspect of the game? Isn't taking a run away from the other team just as valuable as putting up a run for your own?
Bill James (2:15 PM)
I'd be very interested to see the data that shows that Jim or Pokey or Ozzie or anybody makes an extra play every day.
Rich Harden has incredible velocity and pretty good movement on his fastball. Do you think his fastball will be one of the better ones in the game if he can ever improve his control of it?
Bill James (2:17 PM)
That's Rob's way of looking at a good fastball. To me, his fastball isn't going to get any better. His ability to use it may get better, but that doesn't make his fastball any better. As I see it.
Eddie (Jersey City, NJ)
Bill About how high would a mound need to be raised beyond regulation to seriously give a pitcher a statistical advantage?...and if this has happened before, shouldn't it be noticed by an umpire before a game?
Bill James (2:18 PM)
If you raised the mounds one inch, that certainly would be detectable in the statistics. Until the late 1960s there wasn't any organized system to check the mounds and make sure they were regulation, so some teams probably built them up. But since the 1960s the umpires check them regularly, so they SHOULD know if a mound was doctored. Unless somebody failed to do his job. . .
If you were starting a team, would you select a pitcher or a position player first? And who would it be?
Bill James (2:19 PM)
Position player. Albert.
David (Los Angeles, Cal.)
Guys, is there any reason to believe that (a) pitchers' throws over to first base tend to dissuade runners from stealing second or (b) that throwing inside (brush back pitches) increase the chance that the pitcher will retire the batter?
Bill James (2:20 PM)
On question (a), yes. STATS did a study of this six or eight years ago, and concluded that throwing over to first, even repeatedly, did reduce the likelihood of a successful stolen base. On the second point. . .I don't think there HAS been enough well-organized data to study it. There probably will be in a few years.
Dave (La Canada, Calif)
Are there any circumstances in which it is adviseable to sacrifice bunt? For example, how about in a tie game, bottom of the ninth, runner on second and nobody out?
Bill James (2:22 PM)
There are some circumstances in which the sacrifice bunt is a good play. There are MANY circumstances in which the BUNT is a good play--for example, any time Alex Sanchez is at the plate.
Elwood (New York, NY)
Over the past few years, broadcasters and writers seem to have replaced the term "control" with the word "command." I wondered whether you noticed while conducting your research for the book how far back the use of "command" goes to describe a pitcher's stuff.
Bill James (2:23 PM)
The word "command" entered the baseball dictionary in the 1965 World Series, when Jim Kaat talked about imitating Don Drysdale's command on the mound. Command and control are similar, but different things. "Command" means "can the pitcher make the pitch do what he wants it to do?" Can the pitcher make the breaking ball break down and away, rather than flattening out over the heart of the plate? Can the pitcher make the slider break late, like it is supposed to, rather than breaking early and winding up outside? They're not really the same thing. . .
Johnathan (New York, NY)
Speaking of hard throwers, ever heard of Steve Dalkowski? I believe he was a minor leaguer in the Orioles farm system in the 60's or 70's. Any information on him?
Bill James (2:26 PM)
Oh, sure. Dalkowski is in the book, with a picture of him and everything. . .
Adam (Athens, GA)
I almost killed my roommate in an argument in March about Mike Hampton vs. Kevin Millwood. He bet his life that, given Hampton's second half stats last year, that the glory years of Hampton had returned whereas I'd prefer to have good old Millwood. Who would you have taken if you were the Braves, Millwood or Hampton?
Bill James (2:29 PM)
Well, based on his consistency and his K rate, I would think you would have to choose Millwood. But saying that now is not the same as saying so at the start of the year. Please don't kill your roommate.
James Cincinnati, Ohio
Who would you say is the best pitcher with the slowest fastball?
Bill James (2:31 PM)
You see pitchers sometimes who can get by with 88 MPH fastballs right over the plate, I guess because of deception or timing or something. The Red Sox have two of them, Foulke and Martinez. But who is the best in the majors at doing this. . not sure. KC Reliever Jeff Montgomery was like that. . .that guy would get by with more slow fastballs than anybody I ever saw.
R.A. Dickey recently added a new pitch which he calls "The Thing" or, "The Thang." It is supposedly like a mix between a splitter and a curve and who knows what. What are some of the better made-from-scratch like pitches and who are the pitchers that threw them?
Bill James (2:33 PM)
Well, there was Harry Dorish's "Cosmic Pitch". . that was a good one. Tommy Byrne threw a "Kimono Ball"--a pitch thrown from behind his back--a few times in spring training, although I don't think he ever threw it in legal competition. Dave LaRoche's LaLob would be a good one.
Rob Neyer (2:33 PM)
For what it's worth, Brent Strom recently told me that Dickey's "Thing" is exactly the same pitch as Burt Hooton's knuckle-curve.
Why was Mo. Rivera not good enough to make any of your five year fastball lists, but Jose Contreras was?
Bill James (2:35 PM)
I wasn't rating Rivera; I was rating HIS FASTBALL. Which was clear to everybody until Rob confused the subject by mixing up "fastball" with "pitching skill". . ..
I've noticed the Red Sox swinging a fair bit on 3-0 counts this year and having great success. Did anybody in the organization do research on when it's good to give hitters the green light?
Bill James (2:36 PM)
If they did, I didn't see it. Your observation is certainly correct. If this was research-driven I wasn't aware of the research, but somebody may have done something I don't know about. . .
Bill, who was the steal of the years baseball draft?
Bill James (2:37 PM)
Leaving aside the Red Sox. . .Cameron Blair of Texas Tech went about the 14th round or something. That was amazing to me. . .
J-Sand (The Big D)
Where does Kenny Rogers rank among pitchers today? I mean, he is so underrated. Plus, he does it in Texas, which is almost as incredible as any Colorado Rocky coming up short of hitting .400 because his home batting average pulled him down!
Bill James (2:38 PM)
He is an amazingly underrated pitcher. But I can't stand his fried chicken or most of his music. . . .
This might seem like a stupid question... do you think there's too much homogeneity in baseball? It seems like there's so little experimentation in terms of strategy and how the game is played. Pitchers throw the a lot of the same pitches with the same motions, and batting stances and swings have become more standardized, too. Is there any reason to think these things (sometimes called "good mechanics") are actually good, i.e. will help a team win and/or prevent injury? Would Stan Musial, with his weird stance, get a chance today, or would they teach it right out of him?
Bill James (2:40 PM)
Stan Musial, or, perhaps a better example, Bob Gibson. If Gibson was a young pitcher today they wouldn't let him on the mound until he got rid of all the "noise in his delivery". Which, if anybody wants my opinion, is just conventional wisdom exalted to the status of deep insight. . .
Scott (Fairfax, VA)
When did the 5 man rotation replace the 4 man as the rule of the day? Why do you think more teams don't try to go back to a 4 man?
Bill James (2:42 PM)
Mid-1970s. It happened fairly rapidly, between 1974 and 1984. . . Nobody wants to be perceived as taking chances with his pitcher's arms. Everybody wants to be "safer than average" in how they handle their pitchers.
Is Babe Ruth mentioned in your book at all? Where does he rank? I have heard so much as he was the most dominant pitcher of all time!
Bill James (2:43 PM)
He certainly was not the most dominant pitcher of all time, or even of his own time. He was a good pitcher, but his career is more comparable to Gary Nolan than to Randy Johnson. He is in the book, yes.
I've always said that most outfielders consistantly play too deep, and they would be able to make more plays if they took a step or 2 in towards the infield (obviously, they'd also give up an occasional double too). Has there been much research done on outfield positioning?
Bill James (2:45 PM)
I have zero expertise to answer this question, but. ..as a fan, I think it is more likely you are right than that you are wrong. Outfielders find it embarrassing to have the ball driven over their head, and people are relluctant to risk embarrassment. Also, on a practical level, the ball hit in front of you is a single; the one hit over your head is extra bases. But still. . .I think it is likely that you are on to something.
Eric B. (Evanston, IL)
Maybe my last initial will help me get a question answered. Should I get exicterd about Corey Patterson's improved play (re:selectivity) in the last two weeks or does a fortnight not a player make?
Bill James (2:47 PM)
There are relatively few examples in history of a player eliminating this weakness from his game. But there are some. . .
Why is there so much emphasis put on pitch counts these days? We know that managers don't want their pitchers to get hurt, but why put a less-effective pitcher in a game that an ace has dominated just because he's thrown over 100 pitches? From the physical health point of view it makes sense, but in trying to win a game it makes none.
Bill James (2:48 PM)
Same answer I gave a minute ago. . .nobody wants to be seen as risking the health of his starting pitcher to win a game. But there is precious little evidence that bringing a pitcher out at 100 pitches, rather than 130, does anything to reduce his risk of injury.
Adam (Evanston, IL)
I'm not trying to humiliate you, really, I'm just very curious about what you think about Rose's having admitted he gambled.
Bill James (2:49 PM)
I'm glad the discussion has moved on. It was stuck in a rut for too long.
Bill, do you think you would mnodify the Win Shares formulae in any significant way if you were to approach that subject today? Anything in particular?
Bill James (2:50 PM)
Well, I made four significant mistakes in the design of Win Shares; four that I know of. I am making notes about a next-generation of Win Shares, addressing those issues, but . . . I have 200 things to work on, and that's just one of them.
Can't a case be made that Carlos Beltran is a Bernie Williams clone, w/ more speed and a better arm?
Bill James (2:51 PM)
And ten years younger. Yes. . .they're extremely similar players.
Do you have any favorite baseball authors--Angell, Kahn, etc.?
Bill James (2:51 PM)
Ed Linn. Veeck as in Wreck, Nice Guys Finish Last. . .great books.
How long before another reliever wins the cy young on either league?
Bill James (2:52 PM)
Months, probably. There are a bunch of candidates this year. . .Benitez, Graves, etc.
The Rangers acquired Alex Rodriguez 4 years ago at seasons end. He was one of the better base stealers in the majors. They acquired Soriano this past offseason, who basically tried too hard to hit that 40th homer two years ago to become a 40-40 guy. Why do the Rangers not run him more? I can understand not running A--Rod but the now the Ranger's lineup isn't power packed as it was before, and they could easily take more advantage of scoring runs more through singles by stealing with a Soriano or Michael Young or Eric Young more. Why don't they?
Bill James (2:55 PM)
Many young players steal bases, and then drop that as a part of their game about ages 25-28. I don't know that the Rangers are more notable in this regard than anybody else.
Do you have anything like, 'The Ten Best Moments When a Pitcher Was Caught Cheating' in your book?
Bill James (2:56 PM)
I don't think we organized a list about it, no. There are references to the subject all over the place, but. . .I don't think we did a summary of it.
I think you are a very ignorant person because you dodge all the good questions and answer the ones about stupid baseball authors. It goes to show that you shouldnt be chatting on a baseball board, you should be in the D&D room.
Bill James (2:57 PM)
Thanks, but. . .I don't answer the questions that I don't know the answers to. Whether they are good questions or not, what good would it do me to answer them if I just don't know?
If the Red Sox tried something experimental on the field and it failed -- say, using five infielders during a Derick Lowe start at Fenway -- how close to metaphysical certainty is it that you'd be blamed for it by the Boston press?
Bill James (2:59 PM)
An odd thing about my career is that I always get more than my share of the credit--good and bad. And I honestly don't know why. . .it just IS that way.
is gagne's repertoire of pitches mentioned in the book, notably his change? any contemporary pitchers you could compare his change to?
Bill James (3:01 PM)
There's a fairly long discussion of his pitches in the book. Foulke has an outstanding change, and uses it more than Gagne does. But Gagne's is different, of course, because he throws it so hard. . .if Foulke threw his change that hard it would almost be his fastball.
Rob Neyer (3:09 PM)
Just to elaborate, there are three wonderful quotes in the book about Gagne's great change-up. And he throws what some pitchers call the "Vulcan change"; there's a photo of Gagne throwing that pitch in the general article about change-ups, early in the book.
Is Greg Maddux's lack of velocity the reason that if his usually present pin-point accurcy does not show up, he gets rocked? I guess you can say that about any pitcher but he is at two extremes. And where does he rank in your book?
Rob Neyer (3:12 PM)
I think it's safe to say that generally if you don't throw hard, you must have good control to survive, and excellent control to thrive. At his very best, Maddux threw an MLB-average fastball, velocity-wise, and had maybe the best control in the game. Now his velocity's lower and his control isn't what it was, which is why his ERA isn't so good.
Dan from NJ
I was just wondering if you could somehow explain how the Tommy Glavine has gone from a declining pitcher, to a competitor for the Cy Young!
Dan (New York, NY)
Will Tom Glavine be in the Hall of Fame when all is said and done? Is his changeup mentioned in the book?
Bill James (3:15 PM)
If I could explain that, 30 pitching coaches would be out of a job. And Ramiro Mendoza would have pitched 37 times with a 1.52 ERA. . .
Rob Neyer (3:17 PM)
Yes, Glavine will be in the Hall of Fame. About his change-up, yes of course it's mentioned in the book. This will sound cranky, but it's not meant to be . . . We're getting a LOT of questions asking if stuff's in the book, and I'd just like to say, for the record, that it's ALL in the book. (You understand, of course, that I don't mean that literally. But most everything that you're wondering about is in there. Trust me.)
Isn't Clemens overrated? In all likelihood, Clemens will not lead his era in Wins (Maddux) or K's (Johnson) or ERA (Martinez). The greatest pitcher of all time and probably the greatest baseball player of all time is Cy Young. 511 Wins, 7354.2 IP, 749 CG - all-time highs along with a 2.63 ERA (66th all-time).
Bill James (3:17 PM)
Clemens is not overrated, and almost certainly WILL lead his generation in wins.
This has been driving me batty, and I can't find the answer anywhere else. I saw Art Howe complaining about Akinori Otsuka's odd delivery. I know I've seen someone throw a "hesitation pitch" before. I know Satch threw one, but I've seen it sometime in the last 15 years. I think he was on the Mets and Tigers. Any idea who I'm thinking of?
Bill James (3:19 PM)
I'm fairly sure Tiant threw a hesitation pitch, but that's more than 15 years ago. I don't know who you are thinking of. . .
If you could change one of the game's rules, which one would you change and why?
Bill James (3:20 PM)
There are several, but. . one could profitably get rid of the balk rule.
does darren dreifort have a chance of ever being a successful starter "again"?
Bill James (3:21 PM)
10-15 % chance, maybe?
Which pitcher is more likely to have a better career, Kerry Wood or Mark Buehrle?
Bill James (3:21 PM)
Dan from NJ
Why would you want to get rid of the balk rule? Then you will never see a regular SB.
Bill James (3:22 PM)
Nonsense. The balk rule doesn't work. You just need to replace it with a rule that works.
I love Foulke but he only has two main pitches, his fastball which is maybe 89-91 and a changeup, why does he not get rocked?
Bill James (3:23 PM)
Hell of a good question. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I don't know the answer.
Michael Erler (Redwood City, C
Hey Bill, how much more would it take for Jeff Kent to be a HOF?
Bill James (3:24 PM)
Another MVP season. Without that, he doesn't make it.
Can you elaborate on how/why the balk rule doesn't work? Thanks
Bill James (3:27 PM)
The rule manifestly fails to achieve its goals. It's one of those rules that, when it didn't work, they tried to fix it. When that didn't work, they fixed it again, and they fixed it again, and they fixed it again. At some point they should have stopped and tried something else, but they didn't, so they stuck history with a rule which (a) is almost totally unintelligible, and (b) is arbitrary in its enforcement. In principle, trying to prevent one player from decoying another is a dumb idea. The balk rule is like a rule in basketball that says (a rule that would say. . .theoretical example) that if you fake a shot, you have to take the shot; otherwise it is travelling. That would be a dumb rule. The balk rule is basically the same thing, only applied to baseball.
Russ (San Diego)
When will they start tracking offensive errors ie... base running
Bill James (3:28 PM)
I don't know. I track them, for and against the Red Sox. It's not hard. . .
Rey, San francisco
where would you rank Jason Schmidt amongst the elite pitchers in the league?
Bill James (3:29 PM)
He's a good pitcher, but there are a half-dozen guys I would rather have. He has benefitted from pitching for a very good team in a terrible hitter's park. Take those away from him, and there are better pitchers around.
Shad (Williamsburg, VA)
Why, in a sport as rich with statistics as baseball, is it so difficult to predict the outcome of individual contests?
Bill James (3:31 PM)
I'm missing your point. How does an abundance of statistics make the game predictable? You can measure a coin 207 different ways, and still not predict which side it will land on.
Bill James (3:31 PM)
Hey, guys, thanks for all your questions. I'd better sign out, but I appreciate your all taking the time to join us.
Rob Neyer (3:33 PM)
Ditto what Bill said. And I want to thank Bill for hanging around for 30 minutes longer than his appointed time.