Bill James, noted sabermetrican, and current advisor to the Boston Red Sox chatted on-line with fans yesterday. These kind of forums are usually glib and unsatisfying, but this one is still worth checking out. James is gruff and dismissive as usual, but that's part of what makes him fun.
Here are some bits that caught my attention:
Odenton MD: How do your models project that Matsui might do in his first season in the majors?
Bill James: My best guess is that he will hit over .300 with 40-45 homers. Everybody tells me I'm wrong. Let's hope.
...Greensboro, NC: Can you explain the reasoning or statistical superiority of Boston's closer -by-committee, and who is the best reliever this spring for the Sox?
Bill James: Having two good relievers is better than having one. Having three good relievers is better than having two. I'm not advocating a "closer by committee"; I don't know where that term comes from, and I don't think anybody in our office has ever advocated such a thing. But here's a simple way to think about the issue: suppose that you were managing a strat-o-matic team, or an APBA team, or a Diamond Legends team, over the course of a 162-game season. Would YOU use your bullpen the way that most major league managers use theirs? I don't know anybody who would. When the egos and the "psychology" and the BS are taken out of it and the issue is reduced to simply doing what is in the best interests of the ballclub, it becomes obvious that this isn't it. The way that most teams use their bullpen simply does not make sense.
...Newport Beach, CA: Mr. James given the better nutrition, sports medicine, and fitness regimens what is considered "prime" years for a major leaguer? It seems that many players are still producing well into the mid thirties when those years were considered the tail end of a players career.
Bill James: Untrue. Aging patterns have not changed significantly. Barry Bonds, born 1964, is still performing well (how's that for understatement?), and so people focus on Bonds and use him to represent the modern 39-year-old player. But if you focus on ALL the players born in 1964, you'll find that 90% of them are long gone, and that even the stars (with one or two exceptions) have faded to dim shadows of what they once were. Put another way, if Barry Bonds shows that players are aging more slowly, why doesn't Ken Griffey prove that players are aging more rapidly?
...Phoenix, AZ: Bill, I would like to get a prediction from you in regards to the most important stat of all. How many games do you think the Sox can win this year?
Bill James: One more than the Yankees, two more than Toronto. I really don't have any idea. We have a good team.