Klawchat 11/30/17.

My latest boardgame review for Paste covers the mid-weight train game Whistle Stop, which is one of my favorite new games of 2017.

Keith Law: A loaf of bread, a quart of milk, a stick of butter, and Klawchat.

Scherzer’s Blue Eye: Can you do something to at least warm up this Ice Cold Stove season?
Keith Law: One agent speculated to me that teams were waiting till December 1st to try to cool off prices for early signings. I have no idea if that’s true, but I’m at least hoping that tomorrow we’ll see something.

Drew: What would you rather, vote for Curt Schilling into the HOF or eat an entire Fruit Cake
Keith Law: I’d vote for Schilling, although I think at the moment he might not make my top 10 (it’s at least debatable). There are maybe 15 guys on the ballot I’d put in, so I’ve had to leave candidates toward the bottom of the list off – I’ve said, for example, that because Manny Ramirez failed two PED tests, I wouldn’t put him in my top 10 right now. If the logjam is ever cleared, he’d eventually get on the ballot.

Lilith: Taylor Trammell or Jesus Sanchez? Who do you prefer and why?
Keith Law: Trammell’s the better all-around player. Sanchez has more hit tool, which of course is the one that trumps them all, but I think I’d rather gamble on Trammell’s total upside.

Kevin: Learn anything new from your Thanksgiving cooking this year? Loved the periscope chat btw, first time I’ve logged on for that.
Keith Law: I went mostly with dishes I’d made before. Smaller gathering this year, and I just wasn’t up for my usual extravaganza.

Jim: Hi Keith, I’ve seen you talk in the past about Ohtani not being a major league regular level hitter, but I’m wondering what specifically is the issue. Is it the hit tool? Or is the power not what it appears to be?
Keith Law: It’s the very long swing and poor contact rates. Then he’s going to come here and play 40% of the time, or less. People who think he’s going to be a legit two-way player are wishcasting, or just pushing clickbait.

Jerome: What do you think of the Dbacks trade for Boxberger?
Keith Law: Fine reliever. Taylor’s a prospect, though, no-brainer for the Rays for two years of control.

Kevin: Do you expect Michael Baez to appear in your Top 100 next year?
Keith Law: I haven’t done any sort of preliminary rankings yet.

Paul: Does Baez have more upside than Gore at this point?
Keith Law: I don’t think so.

leisurefriar: Where is Ohtani going to end up?
Keith Law: I have no idea. Really, no idea at all. When it happens, we’ll discuss it, but I have only asked people what they think of him as a player, not where they think he’ll land.

Daniel: Do you see Chance Adams or Justus Sheffield making the majors in 2018? Could you provide some detail if yes.
Keith Law: Adams finished in AAA; there is no doubt he’ll see the majors this year if he’s healthy at all. Sheffield is the better prospect by quite a bit, though, and if they need a real starter, he’s the one to recall.

Chris: Your thoughts on collecting baseball cards and other baseball memorabilia? Also, do you have any special pieces of memorabilia from your career working in baseball?
Keith Law: Haven’t collected cards when I was a kid. Not a memorabilia guy at all.

derek: If the Giants trade for Stanton, what’s a realistic return for the Marlins? And as a Giants fan, should I be terrified?
Keith Law: One rumor had the Giants taking the entire contract. That should terrify you. It could hamstring their team for a decade.

CJ: Is there any reason a team shouldn’t do it’s due diligence on Ohtani, filling out the questionnaire, etc.?
Keith Law: No reason, but I know several teams have chosen not to participate.

Alex P: Hey Keith, thanks for the chat. How far do you see the Phillies form being a playoff team? And how would you balance their spending on FA’s vs allowing for development?
Keith Law: Two to three years. They should definitely be targeting FA this winter – and Ohtani, while a longshot since they’re NL, would be a perfect fit. They have nothing like him (as a pitcher) in the system, and he’s the same age as much of their roster anyway.

Dutch: Ketel Marte’s mini-breakout last year legitimate? Had great ABs in the playoffs. Kinda backed up his strong walk and K rates.
Keith Law: I’m in.

Mike Fichera: Is Dom Smith better on defense and with the bat than he’s shown? weight concerns aside.
Keith Law: Yes. Tiny sample. Obviously needs to maintain conditioning.

Sam: Some of the stove being so cold has to be because teams are waiting to see on Otani, right?
Keith Law: MLB sources indicated to me that they don’t believe that is true.

Josh in DC: I read something about Matt Lauer’s last contract renewal — that he cashed in on the fact that viewers of morning shows don’t like change. Is there any reason to believe that *sports* fans are more interested in watching the same guys year after year, that (separate from winning and losing) attendance and TV ratings might be correlated with roster continuity?
Keith Law: It’s been a while since I saw fresh research on this, but my understanding is that attendance, ratings, and revenues correlate with winning, often with a one-year lag, and nothing else.

Mike: Seeing a lot of talk on twitter about Ohtani’s speed. Some people are saying it’s somewhere between 70-80. How insane would that be for a pitcher or even a DH?
Keith Law: I had some idiots – and I mean that in the not-nicest possible way – saying it was wrong, or impossible, on Twitter last night. Multiple scouts have told me they personally clocked him under 4 seconds, one under 3.9 and the rest just above that, and that includes a time in August when he was, in theory, hobbled by the ankle/quad and still got down the line in under 4. He’s an 80 runner. Anyone who tells you otherwise should be dismissed.

Tyler: If you’re Alex Anthopoulos, do you make a splashy trade or signing this offseason to get the focus back on the team instead of the cheating scandal?
Keith Law: That’s a really terrible way to run a team.

Fred: What advice would you give to a mid 30s person looking into changing professions and starting from scratch?
Keith Law: Acquire a critical skill that should directly lead to employment.

Ricky H. : Ronnie Dawson had a big 2nd half in the Astros system. Back on track as a future regular?
Keith Law: Was he ever on track to be a regular? He was too old for low-A and spent the whole year there save 13 games.

Andy: Do you see the White Sox ultimately trading Jose Abreu this offseason? Your opinion on what teams are the best fit/have the pieces to make sense for the White Sox?
Keith Law: They should but the market might be thin, given all the 1b/dh types in free agency & also in the trade market.

Chuck: Would you vote for Edgar if you had a ballot?
Keith Law: I tweeted this on November 20th: “I don’t get one till next winter, but if I had a vote: Mussina, Bonds, Clemens, Vlad, Edgar, Chipper, Thome, Rolen, Schilling, Walker.”

Anthony: I recall you saying you had family (parents perhaps?) that lived in the ashburn va area…having just moved to ashburn, do you know of any good restaurants or food spots in the area? it doesnt seem like a big foodie town.
Keith Law: Voltaggio’s new place at One Loudoun is supposed to be pretty good – i went when it was Family Meal, but he’s since switched the concept. Also some good spots in Leesburg, including King Street Coffee & Doner Bistro.

Dutch: I can’t figure out for the life of me why Daniels would rather let Profar rot on the bench or in the minors than cash him in. They have to trade him right?
Keith Law: They might not be getting reasonable offers.

Jock: As a long time A’s fan, I remain somewhat puzzled by their selection of Austin Beck in that he seems the opposite of the kind of player that they usually target in the 1st round. What do you think of him as a player and do you see his selection as a sign that the A’s are shifting to an emphasis on more athletic/higher upside players. Thanks!
Keith Law: They are never getting a player like Beck – huge tools, athleticism, raw but with star upside – in free agency, and even in trade that’s hard to get. You have to have something huge to deal, and right now I don’t think they have anyone who’d get a return like him, or like a Gleyber or an Eloy or a Sheffield/Frazier package. So shooting for the moon made sense, even with the huge risk; I might not have done it because Beck’s hit tool really concerned me, but that’s strictly a subjective matter.

Zo: How important is having managerial experience. Do you think Boone or Beltran would hurt the yankees in the short run?
Keith Law: MLB managers without any managerial experience at any level have fared very poorly as a group. It’s a bad strategy, and we all know it, and teams keep doing it anyway.

Willie G: Rangers fans are growing impatient with Nomar Mazara, who has been below average the past two years and has seemed to have stagnated. Is he someone you think can be a core piece for a team going forward, or is his long-term role as a platoon or role player?
Keith Law: This is truly an ex post criticism, but I wonder now if promoting him so quickly in 2016 has hurt his development at the plate. Now the situation reminds me of Jose Guillen, who went pretty much from A-ball to the majors, and ended up a fine player, but never developed his approach at all and didn’t reach his ceiling. Again, I didn’t say so at the time, so this is strictly hindsight.

Josh in DC: I’m sure you’ve answered this before, but what you would do with Ohtani (if he actually can hit and pitch at a very level, that is)? How much would you worry about the injury risks from various baseball activities?
Keith Law: I have a long column on him running on Saturday. He’s a starting pitcher who can swing it a little. He is not going to be a starting pitcher and a regular position player on his days “off.”

Patty O’Furniture: Would a Matt Adams for Mike Fiers deal make sense?
Keith Law: I think Atlanta has plenty of guys who can deliver what Fiers would deliver but for the minimum salary.

Dutch: Fair to say Snell has #2 upside? FB and CB look sick. Even saw him get some whiffs on his changeup.
Keith Law: Yes, that’s fair.

Matt: Now that Tillerson and his surprising competence looks to be on the way out, are we in for a very long 11 months until change can actually be voted in?
Keith Law: It’s kind of appalling how mercurial these cabinet decisions have been. Pruitt’s reign of error might be the worst of all, with many Republicans weighing in on how disastrous his decisions have been, but if they won’t vote Democrat or just stay home, it’s not going to change until 2018 or more likely 2020.

Daniel: Will Mike Mussina make the Hall of Fame?
Keith Law: Eventually yes. Not this year.

Stan: Albertos or De la Cruz? (Or neither…)
Keith Law: Albertos. Alzolay is their best pitching prospect. De la Cruz has no track record of health.

Henry: Is this the year Xander Bogaerts hits 30 homers?
Keith Law: Let’s get his hands healthy again and say 20 homers.

Sam: One of the interesting points from Rany Jazayerli’s piece on the Bill James/WAR debacle was about how FIP fails to capture that some pitchers are worse out of the stretch, making hit clustering more a function of skill rather than luck. Is there any truth to that?
Keith Law: Most pitchers are slightly worse out of the stretch. Pitchers who are drastically worse out of the stretch tend to be either relievers or 4A guys. If you can’t pitch with men on base, it’s a tough road. So while FIP-based WAR does have issues, that’s not a significant one.

Scherzer’s Blue Eye: Jim Bowden said Ohtani is going to hit .300 with 30 HRs and win 15 games…
Keith Law: Yeah.

Jim: Kind of amazing that the Braves made out with AA here. What do you think he’ll do as first order of business there? He keeps saying the defense is his biggest concern and that seems to me that Kemp AND Markakis are goners.
Keith Law: I think he’ll focus on using the prospect inventory – still good, just not what it was, not #1 overall any more – to upgrade the major league roster. He’s of the mindset that you keep the absolute best prospects and trade the rest. That’s what they need now anyway. That could mean a top-line starter, a good corner outfielder (or two), or a real third baseman.

Ukulele Sue: Elvis Andrus is due $58M over four years after 2018. Yes, he’s had two good years in a row, but wouldn’t it be a mistake for him to opt out after 2018 and try to get more money, given how loaded the free agent class will be?
Keith Law: FA class will be loaded, but not loaded with shortstops. I think he’d be smart to opt out.

James: How close are Santana and A. Jones to getting your vote? Do you think they’ll at least hang around for a couple of years?
Keith Law: No on Johan. Andruw is probably a no, but near the border for me. Guy was basically finished at 30, and if you consider character at all, he loses a lot of points there too.

Bob: Matt Carpenter is a way better hitter than Eric Hosmer, right?
Keith Law: Yes.

Ben: I sous vide a brisket for Thanksgiving using Kenji Lopez’s recipe. Wow, was it good.
Keith Law: Sous vide is a game-changer. I didn’t use it this holiday, but that was mostly because I didn’t cook meat besides the turkey itself, which I spatchcocked and roasted.

Jim Nantz: Quick thoughts on the Doug Fister signing?
Keith Law: Yawn.

Arnold: Juiced baseballs aside, is MLB concerned about hgh? Versions now get out of your system in 72 hours. Take it after a Thursday night, clean by Monday…
Keith Law: Available research found no benefit to using HGH in men under age 50. It’s not magic.

RSO: Manny Machado for Gleyber Torres who says no?
Keith Law: I’m assuming the Orioles would, but that’s actually not a bad deal for them. Six years of a plus regular at short for one year of Machado? You ask for more, but it’s not a crazy deal.
Keith Law: Assuming Gleyber’s elbow is fine, and it should be.

Chris J: Any new (to you) boardgames you discovered and enjoyed at PAX Unplugged?
Keith Law: Majesty, Istanbul dice game, Ticket to Ride France, Ex Libris (review coming), Evolution app/video game, Seikatsu.

Jshep12: Is it Ohtani or Otani or O’tani?
Keith Law: Ohtani.

Jeff: Do you see the things Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose were accused of happening at ESPN?
Keith Law: We are prohibited from discussing internal company matters. I say this all the time, and people still ask.

Birddog: Highest probability of success: Chance Sisco, Austin Hays or Anthony Satander?
Keith Law: Sisco. Big positional advantage.

PHM: Better bat: Bregman or Devers? Thanks!
Keith Law: Hit only? Bregman.

Rahn: Presented for your comment: Huntington said last night the Pirates are hoping to show Otani that the team is a great option for him.
Keith Law: Good for them. Won’t happen, but still, good for them.

Raphael: Legitimate question: is it really so wrong to disqualify known PED users from the HOF (either by positive tests or other evidence like the Biogenesis case)? The media and generic public may exaggerate the effects of them, but they’re strictly against the rules and have a known profound effect on being able to recover from injuries and work outs quicker. (Though I’m definitely not advocating the amphetamines users be treated any differently, just that I don’t get the outrage over disqualifying known rule breakers)
Keith Law: So take Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, and Babe Ruth out. Also, amphetamines are PEDs. Saying otherwise is a false dichotomy.

Jackie: What went wrong with Mark Appel? Is he still salvageable?
Keith Law: Finished the year hurt. Hasn’t been the same since the half-year in Lancaster and changes Houston made to speed him up to the plate. There’s a causation question – did delivery changes wreck his command? lead to injury? or all separate? – but those are factors.

Brian: Trade: Padres trade Hand, Quantrill, Arias, De Los Santos To NYY for Gleybar. Who says no?
Keith Law: Yankee fan, eh?

Joe: Made no sense to protect Loaisiga, right? Only chance he has to make the majors is as a reliever now since he will run out of options if he continues to develop as a starter.
Keith Law: He would have been taken.

Chris: Am I insane to argue that categorizing pitchers as “closers” is ridiculous? People treat a pitcher that “closes” a game almost as a separate position, and teams not only sign players accordingly, but play them as such. If you’re the best pitcher coming out of the bullpen, you should be pitching in the highest-leveraged situations regardless of inning. It’s what a little-league coach does, so why should MLB be any different? I hear this non-stop in Chicago about replacing Wade Davis as a “closer” and it drives me crazy. [end of rant]
Keith Law: Relievers are just failed starters. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true: If you can throw even 150 major-league average innings, you’re going to start. You can have a hierarchy in your bullpen, but this elevation of the Proven Closer is how we end up with stupidity like Trevor Hoffman’s 28 WAR likely entering the Hall of Fame.

JPro06: When is/are you doing your top prospect lists next? End of the year or just before the season next year?
Keith Law: Late January. Same every year.

Rob: Do you think Robert Stephenson could stick in the Reds rotation this year and be successful? You were one of the first writers to say that he was a bullpen guy.
Keith Law: Don’t think I said that. Has three pitches to start, longtime trouble with command/control.

Giants Fan: How much credence do you give to the theory that stitching on the balls made WS pitching so ineffective?
Keith Law: Don’t believe it. The balls were not manufactured separately for the World Series (or the playoffs).

John: Why are voters and fans so eager to get behind closers for the HOF, but are so reluctant to get behind DHs? Someone like Edgar provides almost 100% of the value of a HOF position player, but Hoffman provides 50% of the value of a fringe HOF starting pitcher.
Keith Law: Because SAVEZ.

Chris: grimes vs. chvrches? who do you draft first?
Keith Law: Grimes has more upside. CHVRCHES higher floor. I’ll take Grimes.

Wally: It feels to me that the players, while paid well on a societal scale, don’t get enough of the total revenue pie in MLB. Do you think that’s right, and if yes and you had the ability to run the MLBPA, what would you do to address it?
Keith Law: Push for higher minimum salary, fight for protections for players from service-time manipulation to delay free agency or arbitration.

Andy: Where do you stand on the Bill James WAR argument about taking actual wins into account? I’m worried that it goes down a GWRBI rabbit hole pretty quickly.
Keith Law: That’s a hard no for me. Win Shares are dead. Leave them in the ground.

EL: Can Jose Miguel Fernandez help a team? I was surprised the Dodgers released him.
Keith Law: It was put him on the 40-man or release him. He should get a solid deal somewhere, probably a major league contract from somebody. Just no room on LAD’s roster, I guess.

Josh L: How hard will it be for the Braves to move Matt Kemp? Similar to the Upton/Kimbrel move a few years back? Does he have any value in the NL any longer?
Keith Law: Kemp has no value, period. I would release him.

Rob: Would you trade Raisel Iglesias if you were running the Reds at this stage of the rebuild? He should be able to net a nice return but they do not have many good bullpen options.
Keith Law: Yes. Unnecessary for rebuilding team to have a good ‘closer.’

Chris: Do I need to spend $1000 on a new, super-automatic espresso machine? i’m ok at the $500 mark, but I don’t want to sacrifice too much in taste or other things (ease of use, cleaning, etc.). It’s just for 2 people too.
Keith Law: I would not, and I love espresso and the machine I own.

Scott: What do you suggest to get away from the depressing crush of the news cycle? I enjoy using Twitter, but it also gives a lot of anxiety.
Keith Law: Get out of the house. Seriously – it’s easier to ignore the world, especially the online world, if you’re out doing stuff.

Drew: As the son of a lifelong foreign service officer, I can tell you that Tillerson has been far from competent. The State Department is in the worst shape I’ve seen it in 35 years, and officers current and retired are despondent with what Tillerson and Trump have done.
Keith Law: Thanks. So State is just like every other department, then. Yay us. Oh, and we’ve alienated most of our strongest allies, including the UK just this week over some retweets of fake news.

Marc: Will Xander’s lack of exit velocity mean he won’t get to 20 HRs?
Keith Law: This is exit velocity obsession. If your hands are injured, your exit velocity will be down.

Eric: Mussina not in the hall is my go to complaint about hall voters? is there another player that deserves or deserved enshrinement that voters didn’t get behind?
Keith Law: He is the best non-Bonds/Clemens player on the ballot. And those two guys have their baggage; he doesn’t.

Jason: Re: Ohteni, what if he insisted on being given 300 PA as a DH or position player? Even though you might not want to use him as a two-way player, he may still choose his team based on that criteria.
Keith Law: Are you willing to lie? Tell him he’ll get 500 AB, then change your mind in March? Such agreements are unenforceable.

Rahn: GM hat time: Should the Pirates deal Cole and/or McCutchen before the season begins to maximize value and recognize they’re in a phase of rebuild?
Keith Law: I would, and included both in my ‘trade market overview’ piece last month.

Andrew: Any thoughts on PAX Unplugged? How was the experience?
Keith Law: Had a blast. Brought my daughter to Kids’ Day on Sunday, and she didn’t want to leave (the show was closing, so we had no choice). Absolutely planning to attend again next year.

Matt: So what are the Yankees doing? It seems like they canned Girardi for the sake of canning him w/o giving nary a thought to whom the new manager will be.
Keith Law: I would agree with that outside assessment.

Mike (Toronto): Were/are you a fan of R.E.M.? With Automatic for the People’s 25th anniversary this month, I just wondered. I think they’re among the most important American bands ever (not that I’m trying to sway you).
Keith Law: Peak REM, yes, up to and including that album. Falloff from there was quick. Their 1980s output, which didn’t sell quite as well, was tremendous and I think remains influential today.

Brett: Are you of the opinion that sports gambling should be legal in all 50 states?
Keith Law: I don’t have a yes/no answer to that. I think such activities should generally be legal – gambling, prostitution, marijuana – but that they create externalities that require regulation. Gambling, especially casinos, leads to rises in bankruptcies, domestic violence, and other crimes. Who pays those costs?

Joe : Can the royals contend next year?
Keith Law: I can’t see how.

Ed: Love all of your work Keith. Is Hudson Potts being overlooked as a prospect ? At 18 he had the best fielding % in the MWL and clearly was able to make adjustments at the plate in the second half. What should we look for in High A this year as the numbers will be inflated in the Cal league? Increased patience at the plate?
Keith Law: Solid prospect but fielding percentage is beyond worthless for minor leaguers.

Todd: Was at the Braves season ticket deal today where McGuirk talked about a “Rogue Employee in the Dominican” today. I asked to be sure I heard it right but that’s what I heard. Thoughts ?
Keith Law: Someone needs to ask McGuirk what he knew and when he knew it.

Ryan: Would you recommend Ex Libris for fans of heavier games?
Keith Law: It’s medium-weight. I like it quite a bit.

Justin R: Wouldn’t the best Red Sox move be to find a low-cost 1B with some power and assume Benitendi/Betts/Boegaarts hit for more power in 2018?
Keith Law: Hosmer is a terrible fit for Boston; they need power and he has never slugged .500.

JR: I know there’s still a month left (which means 20 more books for you to read), but what were the 3-5 most enjoyable books you read this year?
Keith Law: I Contain Multitudes. Evicted. Betaball. The Erstwhile (part 2 of The Vorrh trilogy). The Fifth Season. Mister Monkey. The Underground Railroad. Not a Scientist. The Last Days of Night. The Cooperstown Casebook.

Justin R: What would be your ideal tax plan for the US?
Keith Law: I would prefer to see tax reform that simplifies the tax code, reducing the government’s cost to collect it and society’s cost to calculate and file it, rather than this current bill that is a giant sop to corporate and wealthy donors and that ignores the recent history of such tax cuts. (The GOP is tweeting how the JFK tax cut boosted the economy. They’re full of shit: The top marginal rate was 91% before that tax cut. It’s 39.6% today. That makes all the difference.)

Matt: What about cortisone shots? Players take them all the time yet no one says anything. It’s a steroid.
Keith Law: Of course. It’s a legal steroid. Is LASIK a PED? (PEP?) We draw arbitrary lines to suit our purposes.

Jshep12: Adderall is the most often prescribed amphetamine. 10% of MLB players are using it because it is prescribed for their ADHD. Only 4-6% of the population is prescribed this drug. Is this a problem? Is this a problem MLB can do anything about?
Keith Law: If you can go to Dr. Nick Riviera and get a diagnosis, and MLB grants you a therapeutic use exemption, you’re clear. They could crack down on TUEs, but I doubt they’d do so, or that the union would stand idly by.

Craig: Does Nate Pearson have a chance to make your next top 100 prospects?
Keith Law: No.

Jshep12: So, based on what you said about Hoffman, does Rivera deserve to be in the HOF?
Keith Law: These two are not comparable, and people who ask me this sort of question are guilty of not doing even the most basic homework. Rivera threw 194 more innings and gave up 32 fewer ER, despite pitching in the AL East. Hoffman spent his entire Padres’ career in pitchers’ parks, often with park factors at -10%. They’re not the same. If you think they’re the same or even close, then wake up – the saves fairy is just something your parents made up so you’d feel better about the 9th inning.

Rahn: Do you see the Pirates’ prospect pool thinning? And can you give me someone to keep my eye on this year that you will be monitoring as well?
Keith Law: The system as a whole had a down year; other than Keller, all their major guys stagnated or took steps backward. Still a lot of ability in the system, but they have numerous guys who’ll need a strong 2018 to maintain prospect value or stay on track for the majors.

Gorman: Why do you need three pitches to start, but only 2 to relieve?
Keith Law: Oversimplifying a little, but relievers don’t face batters twice in a game, and can generally survive with platoon splits where starters can’t. If you’re a starter and can’t get opposite-side hitters out consistently, well, you’re not a starter.

Phil: What is Gohara’s ultimate upside? He’s the best Braves pitching prospect I’ve seen during rebuild to-date IMO and by fairly large margin
Keith Law: #2 starter upside. And 350 pound upside too. Gotta worry about the long-term health there.
Keith Law: I love Gohara as a prospect though. That’s just pointing out the obvious downside.

Heather: Cardinals are planning on going with at least two rookies in their rotation (choose from among Flaherty, Reyes, and Weaver). Can you have two rookies pitching that much, and still consider yourself a true playoff contender?
Keith Law: Sure. Why not? Better question might be if those rookies are good enough, but I don’t see rookies as automatically worse than veterans.

Gorman: Not trying to be flippant on Kemp, but doesn’t he at least profile as a slightly above average player on offense?
Keith Law: I have his Fangraphs page open now. 0.0 Batting Runs, which is league average, but doesn’t account for position. For a corner outfielder, that’s below average. It’s below average for a DH too.

Adam Trask: Speaking of pitchers and running, I heard that Aroldis Chapman used to beat Billy Hamilton in spring training sprints. Could that be true?
Keith Law: I’ve heard that too. Also was told way back when that Clay Buchholz beat Jacoby Ellsbury in sprints in instructs.

Chris: Can we expect a year-end list for music this year? I miss your album reviews.
Keith Law: I do them every December after the winter meetings, because there’s still new music coming every Friday.

KEvin Bo: Hey Keith, how in the world does it make sense for the supposed cash strapped Mets to be thinking about allocating their “minimal” resources to a 1B. Why not let Smith play it out as a cheap homegrown option.
Keith Law: I wonder if that was meant to motivate Smith to work on conditioning, or if someone took a quote out of context. You’re right that it’s foolish, and also, the best thing they could do for all their young players is already done: They fired the manager.

Brett: Keith, I’ve always admired your intelligence, but your above comment to Drew has me shaking my head. Some person named “Drew” says the State Department is the worst it has been in 35 years, without citing any evidence to prove this claim, and you buy into it? Dangerous.
Keith Law: I ‘buy into it?’ Overreact much? This is a chat, not a fucking grand jury hearing.

Steve: Should Franken step down?
Keith Law: Yes. Conyers too. I don’t care how you’ll vote; if you assault, harass, or abuse women, you’re out.
Keith Law: And it’s never just one victim. We see this again and again – after the first Franken story, after the first Moore story – oh, it’s just one woman, she’s lying, it happened the one time so many years ago, but then other women feel empowered enough to come forward with their own stories of assaults.

Adam Trask: Do you have your best San Diego restaurant recommendations in one place?
Keith Law: I do indeed: http://klaw.me/29EChkJ I haven’t gotten to Herb & Wood yet but hear it’s wonderful. I’d also put a hard ‘no’ on Marea coffee.

Dallas: Yovani Gallardo threw a very good curveball when he was the Brewers best starter. He got cutter happy in Texas and went away from the curve. In 2017, he brought the curve back a little bit and it rated fairly well via FG pitch values (3.3). His fastball ticked up 1 MPH this year. If he went Rich Hill, curveball/fastball do you think this would work for him?
Keith Law: Maybe if he also moved to the extreme end of the rubber like Hill did? But for Hill it made him deadly vs LHB, who tend to have bigger platoon splits. Not sure it’d have the same benefit for a RHP.

AJ: Just wondering if you read baseball novels and if so, which ones do you recommend. I am a great fan of Roth’s “Great American Novel” (if you can get past the misogyny). Have heard very good things about “The Celebrant.”
Keith Law: Don’t care for baseball in fiction. I read very little sports content for leisure; that is work, and I don’t like work to come into my hobbies.

Justin R: Have you seen “A Handmaid’s Tale”? Any interest?
Keith Law: Loved the book (and cringed through it). Not sure I would enjoy a long series of that.

Rahn: Top Chef is coming up. Still excited, even though recent seasons have played up the cheftestants squabbles and irritating behavior more than the food? And I saw that John Besh is still on the season description. I guess you can’t drop him from an episode of reality contest TV after it’s been shot. Will be interesting to see how they handle that gross guy’s presence.
Keith Law: I didn’t love the last season, and I’m just not going to watch a Besh episode at all.

Keith Law: If only there were some way to change that …

Drew: As a response to Brett: I speak from anecdotal evidence, and know a large number of Foreign Service Officers who have worked under various administrations, serving their country regardless of which party was in office. They are feeling incredibly downtrodden right now, in large part because the President has no understanding of, or interest in learning about global affairs. Add to that the number of positions open and career public servants being pushed out of their positions, and it’s bleak.
Kim Last: My dad works for the State Dept and he said morale is much better than the last 8 years and things are going great.
Keith Law: So, I’m not vetting comments for authenticity. Do with these what you will.

Chris: What’s one band/singer that is no longer together/alive that you never saw live that you wish you could have?
Keith Law: Soul Coughing.

Jerome: No one actually paid a 91% tax rate in the 50s, so well done with the red herring
Keith Law: Politifact disagrees with you: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/nov/15/bernie-… Also, the point is not the specific 91%, but that the benefit of cutting the top marginal rate is intrinsically connected to the actual top marginal rate before the cut.

Andre: What’s your take on the criticism of those who are saying women have taken too long to come out with accusations of sexual assault? I held my tongue at some Thanksgiving gatherings–and got upset at others–but I find it abhorrent that anyone would suggest that any amount of time is too long to be credible.
Keith Law: A woman I went to HS with was defending Matt Lauer (after the first accusation … see above for how that works) by saying she had it in for him by coming forward now. I might have lost my shit. Victims are traumatized. They may fear retaliation. They may feel shame or blame themselves. They may wish to just move on with their lives. IT IS NOT UP TO US TO SAY WHEN A VIC TIM IS ALLOWED TO COME FORWARD. Praise the women who do, but support the ones who don’t.

Ethan: I opened Matt Kemp’s same FanGraphs page because I love actual examples to try and understand these advanced ideas, so can you help explain this–why does Kemp have such large negative values across the line (Batting, Fielding, Base Running, etc.), but “only” a -.5 WAR. It doesn’t add up to me.
Keith Law: I believe those double-count the positional adjustment.
Keith Law: Also, those Runs figures are averages, WAR is vs replacement level.

Chris: So you’re a grad assistant receiving a stipend for tuition, and under the new tax bill the amount of tuition (which can hit $80,000/yr) will now be taxed. Just lovely.
Keith Law: Yep. Because the last thing we would want as a country is a more educated populace.
Keith Law: That seems like the right way to end this chat. Look for the Ohtani column on Saturday and a Lady Bird review here later today. I should be back to chat next week before the winter meetings, likely on Thursday.
Keith Law: Thanks as always for reading and for all of your questions. Have a safe weekend!


  1. What can you tell us about Ohteni’s speed, baserunning and fielding?

  2. Do you drink cold press or any other sort of iced coffee/espresso drink, or are you a purist?

    • I do drink cold press sometimes for the caffeine, but I don’t think it has much flavor.

  3. Saw Soul Coughing live 5 or 6 times in the 90’s in San Francisco. My friend’s cousin was the keyboard player. Their shows were great.

  4. Don’t World Series baseballs have a special logo stamped on them and the normal lettering is in gold? If so, then WS baseballs are specially made, no?

  5. I was surprised to see you say being in the NL would be a detriment to getting Ohtani. I’ve just been observing from afar, but I would have made the uneducated guess that being in the NL, with the ability to hit and weaker lineups would be a plus in a teams favor. Can you share the reason it’s not? Thanks.

  6. Yes, Bob Costas can repeatedly peddle his rationalization that amphetamines enable performance but don’t enhance it, but that will never make it so.

    • However much greenies enhanced major leaguers in the 1950’s or 60’s is irrelevant to the illegal PED discussion since greenies weren’t banned in MLB until April, 1971, when Bowie Kuhn issued MLB’s first formal drug policy, wherein he prohibited greenies, pot, cocaine, steroids without a valid prescription, and any other violations of state or federal drug laws.

      So when Keith or anyone else brings up Mickey Mantle or Babe Ruth, that’s (willfully or otherwise) just a gesture of misdirection. Nothing Mickey Mantle did could possibly have violated any MLB drug rules because there were no MLB drug rules to violate until 1971, well after the Mick had retired and the Babe had passed away to spend eternity with 72 hot dogs and 72 beers.

      So, recapping. Steroids have been banned in MLB continuously since April, 1971, decades before drug testing was introduced to aid enforcement of the policy. And greenies were not banned in MLB until April, 1971.

    • So enhancing your performance via artificial means is perfectly OK if there isn’t an explicit MLB ban on the substance in question? That’s quite an ethical knife-edge on which to sit.

    • Agreed, it is a knife edge. But a great many situations walk an ethical knife edge, with artificial and arbitrary boundaries — such is life. In Indiana a 22-year-old college senior romancing a 17-year-old high school senior is a love story between two individuals of legal age, while just across the border in Illinois it’s aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

      Is the relationship any different ethically from one state to the other? It seems like it shouldn’t be, but of course it actually is, if the 22-year-old Illinoisan is knowingly breaking the age of consent laws. Despite their superficially identical behavior, the guy in Indiana is indeed perfectly OK, but his Illinois cohort is not. (Sorry for the coarse analogy.)

    • In this case, however, I think the knife edge is too arbitrary. Why is a league ban the correct barometer of what constitutes “cheating?” Hank Aaron admits he took amphetamines. They were not banned by MLB at the time, but required a prescription in pill form his whole career, in any form by 1965, and were named a controlled substance in 1971. He circumventing federal drug regulations when he took them, and we know they provide an advantage. Is that not cheating?

      What if I discover a new category of drugs that provides an immediate 15% reduction in reaction time, which would produce immediate performance enhancement for players in all sports. It’s undetectable by current tests because it’s outside of any known drug class or category, and isn’t banned because it didn’t exist before I discovered it. Is using this drug cheating?

      I think it certainly is, and thus there’s a false certainty in saying this player cheated and this one (definitely) did not.

      BTW, the Babe Ruth story – that he went to the infamous quack John Brinkley, the soi-disant “goat gland doctor” (not a doctor at all) – is probably not true. I can’t find a value source to back it up.

  7. Love Chvrches so turned on Grimes while I finished reading the chat. Knew Kill V. Maim and like it, but miss the 80s vibe from Chvrches. All subjective.

  8. On the subject of the State Department, I’ve read a steady trickle of articles over the last few months that report low morale among career FS officers, plus a general belief that the huge numbers of vacancies are seriously damaging the department’s ability to do its job.

    Trump isn’t nominating to fill vacancies, and Tillerson isn’t asking him to. They seem to be on the same page there.

    • A friend of mine works for State, and spent two decades learning Spanish/French/Portuguese and developing a cultural understanding of South America in order to build relationships there. In February, he was transferred to China. Doesn’t speak any Chinese dialect, has no idea what drives the leadership, the upper class, or regular people there.

      Small sample size, but his opinion is that they are doing crazy things to get people to quit, and he’s responding by taking it as an opportunity to expand his skills and experience for a few years and teach his kid about another part of the world. So while his morale level is fine, one could argue that his human capital being wasted at the taxpayers’ expense.

    • Robert, that could be an attempt to get your friend to quit, but it also isn’t out of the line with standard practice as people move up the ranks and/or spend a long time in the Foreign Service. There’s a longstanding practice of discouraging people from “going native,” where they start to identify too closely with a place/people, and thus start advocating as much for their host nation as for the US. There are also a limited number of positions; if a person wants to get promoted, sometimes they move to a larger embassy where there are open spots, or go to a small embassy in an undesirable location where they can have a senior position.

      The real issues at DoS right now all revolve around the most senior ranks, not the rank and file. Failure to nominate high ranking officials, the sidelining of long-term SMEs from the deputy assistant secretary ranks and higher, etc., contributes far more to the problems than anything that happens to non SFS employees

  9. “Joe : Can the royals contend next year?
    Keith Law: I can’t see how.”

    You don’t think adding Meghan Markle helps any?

  10. KLaw, just wanted to let u know y I’m taking the door on my right. I’m tired of the politics and f-bombs on these chats. (Don’t worry though as I’m sure your daughter won’t read them) I am also canceled my insider account a while ago. I dropped an email to ESPN to explain y…ah…yea… I forgot they have had to fire 100s of employees as there ratings are down because of all the politics that they love to ram down our throats. Can’t we keep politics out of sports. Its the one place we go to escape the garbage from both sides of the aisle. Good luck to u, as I have always liked your baseball content.

    • Since ESPN’s ratings aren’t down because of politics but because of cord-cutting, and the “garbage” isn’t “from both sides of the aisle” at the moment, I’m not sure I buy any of this – not least why you’d cancel an ESPN subscription because of chats that aren’t affiliated with ESPN. But you do you.

    • I love the people who complain about you talking politics/books/food/name something they don’t like ON YOUR PERSONAL BLOG! And then to conflate this with what’s going on with ESPN…hilarious. I disagree with a lot of what you say politically, and I come back here for every single post, in large part because that’s how smart people learn: by listening to people who disagree with them

    • Interestingly, FS1 and NBCSN both lost more subscribers in November than ESPN did. As did Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, and pretty much every other channel on cable. So those whoo say ESPN is losing subscribers because of politics are wrong. It is all because of cord cutting.


  11. Mike Doughty still tours and is fantastic live. I saw him with Wheatus opening then providing his backing band. One of the best shows I have seen. He was very engaging with the audience in a small venue.

  12. Don’t know that the 1922 Pittsburgh Pirates took “performance-enhancing” monkey glands in 1922, but the were offered.


  13. I think it’s a fact that ratings are down because of chord cutting but to also say how he program is run now doesn’t have anything to do with it I think is foolish. I know myself and several people I know stopped watching a while ago because it sort of feels like it’s now TMZ-Sports Edition

    • ESPN has changed because it had to change. The time in my life I watched the most ESPN was the 90’s when I was in high school and college. Everything came together perfectly for this time period, both for me as a person and the technology available. I had a lot of free time, I stayed up late, I didn’t have a lot of money, I didn’t have a lot of other interests, and I didn’t have anywhere else to go for sports highlights for all teams and sports. Fast forward 20 years and everything has changed for me, but most important is I can go to many other places to watch the sports highlights I want. Because of this, ESPN couldn’t keep SportsCenter and other highlight shows the same. Now, personalities, sometimes with opinions, is being pushed by the network. I don’t like to watch people bloviating about nonsense, but it gets them better ratings than whatever alternative there could be. Highlights won’t work, measured debate about sports won’t work. So when I watch ESPN now, it’s really only live sports.

    • Exactly. The idea that a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company would decide to change its main product in a way that would reduce revenues is absurd.

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