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February 4, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Keith Law

Buzzmaster
  (1:01 PM)

Keith's running a few minutes late everyone. Hang in there.

Klaw
  (1:10 PM)

I'm here, sorry I'm late. But why are you all here when Ice Cube is chatting on Monday? Someone has to ask him if it was a good day.

Jack Eller (Philly via LA)

Hey KLaw, love the chats. I'm sitting in class arguing with a kid about the validity of catcher ERA. Other than the obvious arguments like sample size, different variables and the like do you have any or know of where i can find some hard data on the subject?

Klaw
  (1:11 PM)

Keith Woolner's studies are (I think) still the gold standard - if there's a superseding study, I haven't seen it. And his work indicated that CERA was worthless. If a catcher affects a pitcher's ERA, the level is so small that we're not able to detect it - and if I'm a GM, that means I'm not willing to pay for it.

Jon (DC)

Can you define "secondary tools" or "skills"? Thanks.

Klaw
  (1:12 PM)

For a hitter it's everything beyond ability to hit (for average, that is) and ability to run. Power, plate discipline, baserunning acumen, etc.

Shane (Knoxville)

because of his short but impressive resume, I would guess that Lincecum gets something pretty close to his 13 mil.

Klaw
  (1:13 PM)

I said on KNBR last night that I thought that was a "file to go" number, rather than a "file to settle" number. I think the Giants are going to have a hard time arguing a two-time Cy winner should get less than a first-time-eligible position player who had one MVP and a RoY (Howard).

Boose (Louisville, KY)

Yonder Alsonso at Catcher? Anything to get his bat in the lineup.

Klaw
  (1:14 PM)

Yeah, that was funny. Not gonna happen.

Tyler (Watertown WI)

Thoughts on Verlanders 5 yrs 80 mil?

Klaw
  (1:16 PM)

Seems reasonable to me. Certainly the type of guy I'd be willing to lock up for that length of time - power stuff, arm works, durable, history of success.

Josh (dc)

As a big Dodger fan, I am worried about their rotation. Billingsley and Kuroda are big question marks and Padilla scares they daylights out of me. Any chance we can get Harang? Or no money to do anything but sign Jeff Weaver to a minor league deal...AGAIN?

Klaw
  (1:16 PM)

You have Ramon Ortiz now. It's all taken care of.

Wayne (Toronto)

When you're creating your top 100 where do you start? at 100 and work to 1 or 1 to 100? Also when two guys are close and are being ranked say 55 and 56 how do you decide who is 55? coin flip?

Klaw
  (1:18 PM)

I start by going through every team and assembling rough lists of anywhere from a half dozen to 20 names. Then I pull names from those lists in clusters for the master list - these guys are the top 12, here's the next group of 14, etc. Then I write the capsules, and I come up with the final ranking after that. When I tried to rank first and write second, I would realize when writing up certain players that my writeup and thus my opinion on the player didn't match the ranking.

rob (new york)

How do they mets justify paying Gary Matthews Jr. 1.5 mil but not take a shot on bedard for the same price?

Klaw
  (1:19 PM)

I'll explain the Mets' offseason strategy right after I prove Riemann's hypothesis. Wait right there.

Chris (Providence)

Keith, when Grandal was drafted by Boston, I remember scouts raving about the glove while questioning the bat. With the 2010 draft looming, now the question is whether he has the catching chops to let his plus bat play behind the plate. How did scouts misread this player so badly?

Klaw
  (1:20 PM)

I don't know what "scouts" those are; I think he's pretty similar today to what he was in high school, good bat for his position but still some questions at the plate.

Daniel (st. louis)

Klaw, are there any prospects, that are not the kind of guys that would make your top 100 list, that you think have a chance of being very useful/productive for a team at the big league level this year. (for example someone like freese or Garcia for the Cardinals)

Klaw
  (1:21 PM)

You know, I'm pretty sure I wrote an article on that very subject on Tuesday: http://bit.ly/c8CeRI

Marc (Big D)

I know you had the White Sox as having the worst farm system in the MLB. Is that due to poor scouting and thus drafting or an unwillingness to spend money and thus taking cheaper players while potentially sacrificing talent?

Klaw
  (1:22 PM)

I think the two biggest factors are unwillingness to spend in the draft and trading away prospects to improve the major league club. Also, taking the GM's non-prospect son in a single-digit round. That doesn't help either.

Harry (FL)

When you scouted Kinsler, did you ever think he was capable of batting .250?

Klaw
  (1:23 PM)

I never saw Kinsler before he reached the big leagues. I think his career path is one of the most unusual I've ever seen. He added skills in his 20s no one thought he'd ever have.

Mike (Manhattan)

I know they don't have the upside of a Carlos Santana, but can guys like Moore, Avila, and Flowers capably handle starting roles this season?

Klaw
  (1:23 PM)

Yes, yes, and I think so.

Jason (St Louis)

So how long did it take you to get through Ulysses?

Klaw
  (1:24 PM)

Three weeks.

Jim (Burlington)

What do you think of Wil Myers? His debut was incredible, but in a small sample. Do you think he'll move quickly and his approach is advanced as some say, and do you think hes likely to stick at C?

Klaw
  (1:26 PM)

I think he has the skills to catch but there are a lot of scouts, including one director I can think of, who strongly question the body back there. I think everyone got a little too excited by the debut - not that he's not a good prospect, but he didn't suddenly become a top 50 guy in 84 pro at bats.

Luke (Saint Paul)

Whats the deal wit hthe 16 year old German kid(Kepler i think) the twins signed? It seems odd that the Twins would sign a 16 year old given their conservative nature. Is he the real deal?

Klaw
  (1:28 PM)

I think it should tell you how highly they think of his makeup and feel for the game. I heard he was extremely impressive in instructs, facing the best pitching he'd (probably) ever seen in his life.

Jeff (NYC)

Keith, just finished reading The Road. Two quick thoughts: most disturbing scene was definitely the basement, most poignant was the man allowing the boy to swim in the creek. Thoughts on the Johnny Damon fiasco? Where does he end up?

Klaw
  (1:29 PM)

I thought the Coca-Cola scene was very touching. I have no idea where Damon ends up or what Plan Q even is at this point. I think Boras rarely screws up on behalf of his clients, but this one looks that way. His market evaporated quickly.

Dan (Tampa)

Rank your last 3 #1 prospects: Longoria, Wieters, Heyward?

Klaw
  (1:30 PM)

At the time of their ranking? Wieters, Longoria, Heyward. Longoria over Heyward on age and thus time value.

Reed (Claremont, Ca)

I noticed Kyle Skipworth didn't crack your Marlins top 10. Were the reports on him that pessimistic?

Klaw
  (1:30 PM)

He has to hit first.

Matt (Long Beach)

Will any other teams be targeted by the PA for not spending revenue sharing funds to improve their teams?

Klaw
  (1:30 PM)

I think that was a warning shot from the union - spend or we'll come after you next.

DJ (NYC)

Thanks for the chat Keith. I'm curious - do you work a set schedule each day, or is it more project-to-project? As an attorney, I find your reading and cooking adventures enviable.

Klaw
  (1:31 PM)

It's day to day. One of the things I like about working in this field - no set schedule unless I'm going to a game, and plenty of autonomy to schedule my work hours.

Tom R (ATL)

I need some help to settle a debate. Do minor league numbers mean anything? I think that there are lots of minor league players that put up great numbers in the minors but do nothing in the majors and there are lots of great major league players that had terrible minor league numbers. My friend says if they have the talent to be major league players they should dominate the minors and put up great numbers. He is wrong right?

Klaw
  (1:32 PM)

I think minor league numbers, properly adjusted for factors like age and park, have value. They're not the be-all and end-all, but they can give us quite a bit of information not just on a player's overall potential but on strengths and weaknesses in his game.

Cody (Sandy)

If Kansas City eliminated scouting completely and just drafted based on Baseball America's rankings, would they do better or worse? Afterall, they would save money on scouts..

Klaw
  (1:32 PM)

They've drafted very well the last few years. The problem is at the major league level. But you don't get that much pitching in your system through crappy drafting.

a D u B (Newps, CA)

Could you see Tulowitzki breaking 40 HRs? Was he ever projected to have this power?

Klaw
  (1:35 PM)

I thought he'd have 25-plus when I saw him in college. The ballpark probably makes that 28-30-plus. Forty would definitely exceed any expectations I had for him - if scouts had foreseen that, he would have gone over Gordon, who was the big power bat in that draft but was a fringy defender at 3b.

Klaw
  (1:36 PM)

I have wondered whether that first round would look the same if defense had been viewed and valued in 2005 the way it is today. Everyone thought Tulowitzki would be a plus defender at the time, but given how much more some teams are valuing and paying for defense, maybe he would have gone 2nd-4th - over Gordon, probably over Braun, maybe on par with Zimmerman, who was seen at the time was one of the best defensive college 3b in recent memory.

Rickey Henderson (Hall of the Greatest)

Be honest with Rickey, Keith. Was Rickey the greatest of all time?

Klaw
  (1:37 PM)

Ima let you finish but Tim Raines had a hell of a career and you're screwing up his Hall chances.

Chris (Virginia)

Hey Keith. If Latos was eligible for your Top 100, about where would be place? Thanks.

Klaw
  (1:37 PM)

Top 20, certainly.

rayg (burlington, nj)

My friend and I have this argument. He says that the prospect experts (you, BA, BP) should do a better job ranking prospects. His example is "why didn't X have Chris Coghlan near the top of their rankings, he won ROY". I asked him what Todd Hollandsworth is up to these days, and added that ranking prospects is as hard as picking stocks. Your thoughts?

Klaw
  (1:40 PM)

I think RoY is a pretty lousy measure of prospect performance, period. Not only have the voters done a poor job historically, there's a significant political element - we saw media campaigning for Coghlan starting in August, and speaking of Hollandsworth, I thought it was pretty clear at the time that some voters were enamored of the idea of the Dodgers having umpteen RoYs in a row. And of course a prospect recalled in June or July may burn his RoY status without playing enough to win. That's why I brought up the point in September that voters might consider future value or potential instead of basing it entirely on platform-season performance.

Ryan (Ashburn, VA)

Keith, what are your thoughts on Craig Kimbrel? (103 K's in 60 innings)

Klaw
  (1:41 PM)

Good arm, strictly a reliever, getting too much play for killing low-A hitters (38 K, 6 BB in 20 IP) and not enough criticism for walking 39 guys in 40 innings at A+, AA, and AAA.

Jay (Boston)

Are Runs an underappreciated stat??

Klaw
  (1:42 PM)

No.

John (Boston)

Keith - the Red Sox are set up to have the contracts for Scutaro (with a club option), Drew and Cameron expire in 2 years. I know things change drastically in 2 years, but if the ideal scenarios played out and Kalish, Westmoreland and Iglesias all proved to be major league ready, do you think the Red Sox would enter a season with the uncertainty of starting three rookies over a season? Do you think they should (at least consider it)?

Klaw
  (1:43 PM)

I think if that looks imminent they'll break one of them in gradually in 2011.

Lee (London, ON)

Keith,I Love reading your scouting reports, however, I am sometimes a little unclear on the technical definitions of the terminology -- "solid", "fringe-average", "above-average", "plus", etc. Could you give a brief description here or point me to an appropriate site? For instance, plus > above-average, or the other way round? Thanks.

Klaw
  (1:44 PM)

Worst to best: Below average, fringe/fringy, fringe-average, average, above-average, plus. When I say something is "solid" I'm giving more of a range - it's around average, but I'm not being as precise as saying "average," either because I'm unsure or because I've used the word "average" 12 times already in that paragraph and need to change it up a little before the whole thing becomes fringy.

Marc (Big D)

How did the chocolate cake turn out?

Klaw
  (1:45 PM)

Good, but I always forget how huge it is - three layers and probably 8 or 9 inches tall with ganache between them.

Mike (San Diego)

What do you make of Liriano's winter performance? Do you see it as a potetnial for big things in 2010 or is it just a good pitcher overpowering inferior competition?

Klaw
  (1:46 PM)

I caught a couple of innings from him on TV late in this season, and his stuff looked fine - it seemed like command and luck were killing him. Maybe he was just a slow returner from TJ.

Scott (Boston)

Back to the ROY conversation, the prior winners over the past five years have included would field a team including: Verlander, Soto, Howard, Pedroia, H. Ramirez, Braun, Longoria, Bay, and Street. Not a bad bunch. Only one dud in that time span (Bobby Crosby)

Klaw
  (1:47 PM)

Sure, but, for example, Tulowitzki gets excluded because he was in Braun's year and Braun had better old-school statistics.

Gordon Ramsey (Kitchen)

This chat is rubbish man. No, it's quite good actually. What are you eating during the Super Bowl?

Klaw
  (1:47 PM)

Haven't decided yet, but there will be homemade guacamole. By the way, I have no idea how you didn't throttle that old woman who owned the restaurant in last week's Kitchen Nightmares. You might have been doing her husband a favor.

kl (philly)

betting on cole hamels 2010: like 2008 or 2009?

Klaw
  (1:48 PM)

In between. Very lucky one year, rather unlucky the next. If you want me to pick one, I think he'll be closer to '08 than '09.

Jerry (Mpls)

Can you think of anything more idiotic than the Twins trying to sign Washburn? They would appear to have at least 7 better options already in the fold.

Klaw
  (1:48 PM)

And he's not that good - four good months in the last four years. There's an acronym for that: NRI.

Sam (Fayetteville, AR)

Do you plan on making it to Fayetteville for a game this season? I know that you're high on Cox. Do you have an opinion on any other Razorbacks?

Klaw
  (1:50 PM)

I'll get them at the SEC tournament. I like Eibner, but he was shut down all fall with a tender elbow, and I'm not wild about Wilkins - he's all bat, and I'm not sold on the bat being good enough for that.

tom (st louis)

not trying to beat a dead horse, just curious. if the cy young voting had been expanded to five last year, who would your other two have been? would wainwright have made your list? thanks.

Klaw
  (1:50 PM)

Wainwright was third. I would have gone Carpenter 4, Haren 5, and been vilified by Rockies fans for omitting Ubaldo and by both Marlins fans for omitting Johnson.

Jason (St Louis)

Did you see the article from the Phillies writer who said be glad the Phils didn't keep Cliff Lee, they may have ended up like the Braves of the 90's. Like that would be a bad thing to win all those division titles. How does nonsense like that get published? No wonder the papers are doing so bad.

Klaw
  (1:52 PM)

I didn't see it, but I did see Ruben's defense of the move, sayingthat while it reduced their chances of winning the WS in 2010, it raised their chances of making more playoff appearances into the 2010s. I though it was a sound argument even if 1) I would rather go all in on 2010 and 2) I don't think they got the guys back in that trade who really boost their playoff chances into the next decade.

John Collins (Greenville NC)

Tried the Rhum Barbancourt. Thanks for the recommendation. It's so good it no longer reminds me of Y. Betancourt.

Klaw
  (1:52 PM)

Which one did you try? I had the 4-year and 8-year in my hands the other day, then remembered I was still taking codeine for my cough and put them back on the shelf.

Matt ((MN))

Have you ever given Thurn & Taxis a try? I don't recall seeing it anywhere in your game write-ups. I think it got the 2007 Spiele des Jahres, and I know I've enjoyed the heck out of it. Not as good as Settlers or Carcassonne, but not far behind.

Klaw
  (1:53 PM)

Love it. Haven't written it up yet because I haven't played it 3-player.

ethan (denver)

Referring to Jason (StL)'s question...was caple's article about the run last week a joke (tongue in cheek)? some friends and i have been debating this.

Klaw
  (1:54 PM)

No, it wasn't. I asked him. He really pushed to write it. Needless to say, I could not disagree more vehemently with his argument.

Dustin (SF)

I saw a Rhum Barbancourt white or light or something to that effect. Is that one in the same ballpark as the 8 year Rhum Barbancourt?

Klaw
  (1:55 PM)

No - I believe the white isn't aged or is barely aged, so it doesn't take on color from the oak cask.

Bill (Ohio)

Pirates loose 100 games this year?

Klaw
  (1:56 PM)

No. Plenty of weak competition in the division will help them win 63 or more.

Jamie (Canada)

How do you view Ramsus long term (in a hitting sense)? Is he a Sizemore/Edmunds type player or more of a Cory Hart type?

Klaw
  (1:57 PM)

Sizemore. Edmonds' power peak was rather unexpected, so I'm not going to hang that on the kid yet. But Corey Hart is just an awful hitter, an inveterate hacker, while Rasmus controls the zone and works the count. Couldn't be more different.

Steve (Boston, MA)

More "valuable" stat, runs or RBI? I'd go with runs myself, the HR's cancel out the RBI and the run. If you score a run, that most likely means you got on base, without recording an out.

Klaw
  (1:58 PM)

Both are useless because they're so dependent on context. Just ignore them.

Chris (Virginia)

Keith, how much of a look would you have to get of somebody to allow yourself to rank him as the #1 prospect in the game? Maybe a high-school hitter after one year in lowA? If Justin Upton would have done better in year 1, would he have been your #1 overall prospect?

Klaw
  (2:00 PM)

If I had seen Upton, I would have had him number 1 or close to it. I didn't see him live for the first time till the middle of '07, and I was sold after maybe 3 swings in BP. His low-A season in '06 is a great indication that minor league stats don't always tell the tale, because that's one of the most talented hitters to come out of the draft this decade, and he didn't dominate in his first full year in the minors.

Alan (St. Pete)

Name a couple of breakout candidates for 2010. I'm personally investing a lot in Jay Bruce.

Klaw
  (2:00 PM)

I'll do another breakouts article this spring. Bruce would be a candidate. Rasmus will be on it, that I promise.

Brian (NJ)

What do you mean "He really pushed to write it." Like his boss made him do it?

Klaw
  (2:01 PM)

Last question on that article - Jim wanted to write that piece. I asked him after I saw it if it was parody, and he said no.

a D u B (Newps, CA)

Quality Starts - where do you stand?

Klaw
  (2:03 PM)

More useful than wins, but still imperfect, largely because of defense.

Dan (Davis)

Better young pitching:Orioles (Tillman, Matusz, Britton) or Rays (Price, Davis, Hellickson)?

Klaw
  (2:03 PM)

Rays.

MAtt (Boston)

So your saying OBP is more important then runs scored? I thought the purpose was to score more runs than the other team. Also you can be on base and not score, but you cant score with out being on base.

Klaw
  (2:04 PM)

Common point of confusion. Yes, the point of the game is for your TEAM to score more runs than the other team. But outside of the HR (or freak events like stealing home), you can't score by yourself. Runs are useful at the team level, but not at the individual level. So yes, OBP or Times On Base is more telling than RS.

al (dc)

Didnt matt answer his own question? you cant score without being on base...therefore getting on base is the most important....with a good OBP you aint scoring many runs

Klaw
  (2:05 PM)

And if your OBP sucks and you score a lot of runs ... you would have scored more if you'd been on base more.

tom (st louis)

wait, you had waino in your top 3? what were people so up in arms about, then? that you didn't have carp? i'm a big carp fan, but the dude missed something like 6 weeks last year. i don't get the hate now.

Klaw
  (2:05 PM)

Hey, talk to your neighbors.

Josh (Tennessee)

How in the world did you get this dream job?

Klaw
  (2:06 PM)

I fell asleep one night, and when I woke up, there it was.

Rory (NYC)

I noticed that Kirk Nieuwenhuis did not make the Mets top 10...What are your thoughts on him going forward?

Klaw
  (2:06 PM)

Fourth outfielder.

Dusty (Oak Park)

Brendan Ryan, Alcides Escobar or Starlin Castro defensively only at SS?

Klaw
  (2:06 PM)

Ryan and Escobar are ahead of Castro. Ryan did have a hell of a year in the majors, but I wouldn't be shocked if Escobar was better over the next 3-5.

Frank (CT)

Good afternoon klaw, thanks for the chat. I was curious to know if you ever scouted a player and knew that he had HOF talent right away?

Klaw
  (2:08 PM)

It wouldn't be fair to say yes - I don't know if I've ever seen an upper-echelon player without already knowing who he was when I walked into the park. Wieters would be the closest - saw him as a freshman when he had less buzz, but everyone still knew who he was. And the first time I saw Strasburg, who was a nobody before that day, it was for 9 hitters and he was mostly just huge velocity; I wouldn't have hung a Hall tag on him that day.

Bernhard Riemann (Gottingen)

Keith, for roughly the price of Gary Matthews Jr., Alex Cora, Fernando Tatis, and Henry Blanco, the Mets could have signed both Garland and Bedard at the base salaries they received from the Padres and Mariners, respectively. Wouldn't this have improved the consistency, durability and potential upside of their rotation immensely at the approximate cost of a bunch of overpaid, replacement level bench players?

Klaw
  (2:08 PM)

Yes.

Nick (Long Island, NY)

Given a year in AAA do you thinkl Josh Thole be a good enough defensive catcher to start in 2011?

Klaw
  (2:09 PM)

Yes.

Aaron (Arlington)

Would like a next game rec...we have Ticket to Ride Europe, San Juan, Carcassonne. Both my wife and I love Ticket to Ride and San Juan - I like Carcassonne, her not so much. It needs to be a decent option for 2 people - bonus if it would easy to take on a cruise later this year.

Klaw
  (2:10 PM)

Here we go again - for Nick: Yes. For Aaron: Thurn und Taxis might be a good fit, actually. I think I like Stone Age better, but T&T has fewer pieces.

Jason (Bmore)

Any thoughts on Colby Lewis, and if he can succeed on his second MLB stint?

Klaw
  (2:11 PM)

Never saw him in Japan, even on video, but the stat lines there were very impressive, and he was a top prospect here before he hurt his shoulder. Very good gamble.

brian (brooklyn)

When you say something like "fourth outfielder" or "back of the rotation" arm are you referring to a player's cieling or his most likely outcome? I ask because I guy can be a career fourth outfielder but still be a good player for his prime seasons (I am looking at you Ludwig), right?

Klaw
  (2:12 PM)

Most likely outcome. I said I think Dan Hudson is a 4th/5th starter. Could he end up more than that? It's not impossible, but I don't think it's likely.

Glen L (nyc)

in your opinion, if MLB institutes an international draft or adds international FAs to the rule 4 draft, will the fate of puerto rican amateur baseball befall the rest of central/south america?

Klaw
  (2:13 PM)

Yes. Just a terrible idea - short-sighted and unfair to the players.

Felix Hernandez (Seattle)

Should I fire my agent after Verlander got a bigger contract than me? I'm better and younger but still got less money.

Klaw
  (2:13 PM)

I did think it was surprising that Verlander got more, but you're often better off being the second guy to sign the extension (in your class of players) than first.

Tim (STL)

Mizzou has had a pretty good run of sending someone into the draft early the past few years. How do they look this year in terms of prospects? Is Tepesch the only one? Thoughts?

Klaw
  (2:15 PM)

Didn't rate Tepesch highly when I saw him last summer. Decent arm, didn't blow anyone away, below average command.

Noonan (Philly)

Please do your beakout column before my fantasy draft (Mar 13). I used last year's column to pick up Adam Lind in the 17th round.

Klaw
  (2:15 PM)

I'll see what I can do.

Klaw
  (2:16 PM)

D Slevin - email me. The chat software is screwing up the formatting of your question but I'd like to answer it.

Adrienne (Littlestown, PA)

Why not just get rid of the draft? Dole out part of the shared revenue weighting in favor of teams with poorer records the previous season? That seems to be the fairest way to do it.

Klaw
  (2:17 PM)

I think MLB fears massive bonus escalation. I disagree - the top, top guys will see bigger bonuses, but after the top dozen or so it'll look a lot like it did in the draft era.

Stephen (ny)

Do you see Alex Gordon breaking out anytime soon?

Klaw
  (2:17 PM)

Has to get healthy first. I'm not sure if his 2009 bust was bad health or just bad performance.

Klaw
  (2:18 PM)

Thanks for all the questions - I should be back next week.