Twins or White Sox? Mets or Phillies? Joe talks last-week races all afternoon.
Joe Sheehan: Hi, everyone. I'm putting the final touches on my latest column, and will start taking questions as soon as it's finished. I should be here by 1:45 or 1:50 p.m. ET.
Reggie C. (Manhattan, KS): Do you think Carlos Gomez can ever become a productive lineup regular on a playoff contending team? Is Gomez a Dave Roberts type weapon at best?
Joe Sheehan: Thanks for waiting, folks. My piece will be up in a little bit, and I promise: last one on the Yankees for a while.
I think Gomez has tremendous raw talent, but needs a complete course in pitch recognition, plate discipline and overall approach. The Twins do not strike me as the organization to teach him these things, I'm afraid, so what you probably end up with is a .290/.330/.440 hitter with excellent speed and defense. That's, what, Carl Crawford in center field? It'll play. He's really nothing like Dave Roberts...
jtrichey (Indianapolis): Hi Joe, thanks for the chat. If you had a vote, would Manny Ramirez crack your top 10 for the NL MVP?
Joe Sheehan: Without looking, I'll say "no." There are so many players having strong seasons in the NL that I can't see Ramirez, with negative defensive value, beating out 10 of them in full-season value. I mean, wouldn't you have to put Andre Ethier--who's matched Ramirez's performance at the plate since the trade, runs circles around him defensively and was there all year--ahead of Ramirez?
Noah (Brooklyn): Why do we see less intentionally tanking for draft position in baseball than in other sports, particularly basketball?
Joe Sheehan: Have you watched a Mariners game lately?
LaMarque (Brooklyn): Will we look back some day and think about Pujols as one of the top 15 hitters ever to play the game?
Joe Sheehan: This probably depends on your timeline adjustment, but if anything, I suspect that might be a conservative projection.
Chris (Toronto): Will David Price be pitching with the Rays in October?
He has put up good numbers since his call up mid September.
Joe Sheehan: Tough call. They could probably justify carrying three lefty relievers against the White Sox, Twins or Red Sox, but not the Angels. I can't see Price instead of Miller or Howell, but in addition to, it makes some sense. I certainly would keep him ahead of whichever of Sonnanstine or Jackson gets left out of the rotation.
Jay (Madison): Who plays first base in New York next year (both teams). Does Giambi stay a yankee? Given all the Yankee holes, do you think they are likely to get back to the playoffs or with many aging vets showing their years are they in for a down stretch.
Joe Sheehan: I think the Yankees should make Mark Teixeira their #1 priority this winter. Yes, I can say that for a lot of teams, but the Yankees have the cash to make it happen. The Mets...Delgado's strong second half makes it possible, even likely, for him to return. I don't know if that's optimal, but I suspect it will happen.
e (lawrenceville): You were pretty negative about the Phillies all year. Anything that can be learned from their (likely) playoff campaign, in terms of what you didn't like about their chances and how they overcame that?
Joe Sheehan: Without looking, I think I had them at 83 or so wins, and they'll finish at 90-92 or so. I suspect most of that difference is the bullpen, which vastly overperformed any kind of realistic expectations. Throw in Shane Victorino, who's more durable than I expected, Pat Burrell having another strong year, and Jamie Moyer being better than expected, and you have the difference. Only Ryan Howard, really, has underperformed. That's a lot of things going right, and not much going wrong. The question is, was there a reason for this, or is it just random? I don't think much of Charlie Manuel's tactics, but he sure seems to be in the dugout for a lot of successful teams.
LaMarque (Brooklyn): Brad Lidge '08: product of an absurd home run rate or something else? Or maybe Pujols stopped calling him in the middle of the night and breathing the words, "Game 5, Game 5."
Joe Sheehan: Yeah, the HR rate thing. Also, he was never as bad as people made him out to be, and I don't think he was affected mentally as much as was presumed. He just lost his command for a while. He'll be well above average, if not this good, for a few years. When he's bad, though, he's tough to watch, because it's all game-winning HRs.
jamin67038 (Wichita, KS): If the Yankees are able to sign Sabathia, would it make more sense to use Joba in a 7th/8th inning role? If they can get 80-90 innings of high-leverage work out of him, doesn't a rotation of CC, Wang, Hughes, Moose, and Pettitte, with Kennedy as well, work out well enough?
Joe Sheehan: It probably would be more like 70-80 innings, and you'd have to leverage them awfully well to make up for the 130 missing innings. I keep coming back to this: if the Yankees don't need bullpen help in July of 2007, we're not having this discussion. Chamberlain isn't a reliever--he's a starter who spent a few months in the bullpen. This whole story is aggravating; just put him back in the rotation and leave him alone. The Yankees could be fantastic in the bullpen next year without him, what with Ramirez and Coke and Aceves and Bruney...
shamah (NYC): I know this is crazy talk, but what are the odds the Indians sweep Boston, setting up a do-or-die Yankees/Sox series to close out the season? The Indians have Cliff Lee going tonight, so that's one game...I don't really have a question, just an unabashed Yankee fan hoping against hope to get another game at the Stadium.
Joe Sheehan: This is amusing to me for this reason: can you imagine the scene as the Yankees have to put 56,000 tickets on sale on short notice for what might be the REAL last game at Yankee Stadium? Has someone put this on the National Guard's radar?
Did they even have a coin flip for this possibility? If they haven't yet, couldn't you rig it so that the Yankees would win it, just for the chaos?
John (Champaign, IL): Sounds like the Cubs' playoff rotation is going to go Dempster-Harden-Z-Lilly.
Joe Sheehan: I'm not sure what the rationale is, other than some concern over Z's shoulder. Then again, Dempster has been effective all season long, and has earned, at least for now, the right to be considered a top-three starter in the postseason. If you combine performance and health issues...yeah, it's not that bad an idea. I can't criticize it.
Rob (Brighton): Hey Joe, ever get caught for any shenanigans at Yankee Stadium when you were younger? Ever get away with anything a little nuts?
Joe Sheehan: Nope. I was quite the goody two-shoes. Still am, mostly.
gabbymatt (New York): If Mets need to win Sunday for playoffs, the good news is they have Santana. The bad news is that he is their 3rd starter in the division series. Is that not similar planning to signing Castillo for 5 years? Meanwhile Sweet Lou is set up and has fail-safe choices. Simply pathetic these Mets, no longer amazing!
Joe Sheehan: Gotta win to get there, and you worry about the next series during the next series. Remember 2006, when the Mets got a good start and a great one from Perez in the NLCS when everyone was hanging their heads. Predicting short-term performance--predicting the next start--is basically impossible.
Brendan (Bainbridge): Thanks for the chat. What do you think of Aubrey Huff going forward? And is Nick Markakis already the best RF in the American League?
Joe Sheehan: I wouldn't want to make a long-term commitment to Huff, and while he has had a great season, the Orioles really should look to leverage that in the trade market. He'll never have more value than this, and he's not a part of their future.
Markakis is a total stud, the best RF in the league. He's underappreciated, kind of the AL East version of Grady Sizemore.
TomH (Lexington Park MD): Mets, Phils, & Brewers all finished tied. What happens?
Joe Sheehan: Improvements to the system come into play. At one time, the Brewers would have been the wild card and the Mets and Phillies would have played for the NL East title, the loser going home. Also, the playoff schedule would have been screwed up. Now, there's a three-team playoff for two spots--no, I'm not sure who plays whom first--and the extra day between season and DS allows for all the action. Credit MLB for fixing both problems.
jmercan (South Jersey): With the Brewers unlikely to re-sign CC Sabathia next year -- and therefore not having any incentive to protect his arm for the future -- could he refuse to pitch on three days rest tomorrow and possibly again on Sunday if they ask him too? Should he?
Joe Sheehan: Yes, he could. No, he shouldn't. No, he wouldn't dream of it. Players want to win championships. One of the things that makes athletes great is that they want to win championships. Maybe Sabathia doesn't want to pay $150 million out of pocket for one, but he will pitch until he feels pain, and then probably past that, with a chance to win a championship.
The pursuit of championships allows for a lot of things, up to and including a certain level of pitcher abuse. It's usage in the pursuit of individual awards, or .500, or some ephemeral "development" that is ridiculous. Not that I'm thinking of anything in particular.
nicopad (new york): Hi joe,
Love the writing as always. I just red-eyed it back from a great weekend in San Fran. Going on no sleep, do I have to go see the Mets & Santana (a buddy has tix) at Shea tonight or can I go home and sit on my couch?
Joe Sheehan: I'd go to the game. Pennant race baseball, last week of a park with some history, if not atmosphere, the greatest pitcher of the post-Maddux/Clemens era pitching...you can sleep on the 7. And when the Mets are up.
GBSimons (Not NY, NY): Joe, the stark contrast between your sendoff of Yankee Stadium and Jay Jaffe's was fascinating. Despite the nearly-180-degree difference in viewpoints, I enjoyed both pieces thoroughly. Thanks, as always, for the great work.
Joe Sheehan: Jay's points were salient. The experience of attending a Yankee game has deteriorated for a number of reasons. A new park is almost certainly necessary, as Yankee Stadium's infrastructure has been strained. The team is, to some extent, gouging or abandoning longtime customers and people who go to baseball games to watch baseball as part of the process. All of these things are true, and all should be part of the discussion, and I'm glad to see BP part of that.
LaMarque (Brooklyn): The Mets should go get Fuentes, right? The money will be looney but not so much as a certain west coast record breaker. Plus, most of the corporate types at the stadium will just think Billy grew like 6 inches.
Joe Sheehan: I've never been a fan of lefty closers, in general, because you give away the platoon advantage so much more. Also, I don't like overpaying for this class of player when you quite often get guys with comparable value off of the scrap heap, and even the best of the class tends to bounce around in value. Fuentes has been fairly consistent and effective; I just don't know how predictive those trends are. Wishy-washy enough?
John (Champaign, IL): How does Milwaukee come back from this season if they really do miss the playoffs? This looks like a pretty devastating collapse, and the fact that they're losing their top two pitchers this offseason makes matters even worse.
Joe Sheehan: I have to agree. The Brewers made a huge bet on 2008, and the losses for 2009 would have been fairly easy to swallow with the memory of a playoff appearance. You can't really tear it down, though; maybe you give up on Weeks and nuke the bullpen, but the core talent is still young and very good, and they'll get Gallardo back next year, plug in Gamel...this isn't the end, even if it feels that way.
Kerri (Las Kewgas): Any reason at all for Met fans to believe? I know we have Wright, Reyes and Beltran for years to come but we've also had the this year and the previous two and to no real positive end. Met fans are crying for Omar to "blow it up" but I don't see any major changes to be made ... and little reason to hope!
Joe Sheehan: Same answer. It's a championship-caliber core, and a better job needs to be done around the edges. The Mets probably need to start over with the bottom 15 spots on the roster, remake the bullpen and outfield corners, among other things, but the core is very, very good.
Adam (DC): Not who you think SHOULD win, but who do you think WILL win the AL MVP?
Joe Sheehan: It all depends on the Twins. If they win, then Morneau has about a 2-in-3 shot. If they don't, it's Pedroia as a huge favorite. KRod is the sleeper in both cases, and will get some votes. None of the others are factors.
bossfan101 (Gresham, OR): Ok, so we all know neither Howard nor Delgado is the "real" MVP, but where would you rank those guys in your NL ballot?
Joe Sheehan: Neither would make my top ten, and possibly not top 20. Just because I have the window open, neither is in the NL top 20 in RARP. Would you like to see if they get there on defense?
Noah (Brooklyn): Obviously the Indians could stand to improve their corners, but what are the practical steps towards that? Who stays and who goes and from where do you find outside help? Thanks, Joe.
Joe Sheehan: They've solved one with Choo, right? A Choo/Gutierrez platoon is pretty tasty. I'd see about Bobby Abreu for the other; he strikes me as undervalued by the industry. At first base, I leave Garko alone for a year, and get Victor Martinez some time on occasion. Third base...no idea. It's probably time to give up on Marte. You could trade for Garret Atkins, I guess, but he's not really that good.
bossfan101 (Gresham, OR): Ryan Howard very possibly could be the only Major Leaguer with 40 or more homers this year. Do you like the return to a bit more of a balanced game, and do you think this could be the start of a trend?
Joe Sheehan: Offense is down, and my only real problem with it is that it makes the story too easy for people who like to write easy stories. In fact, offense ebbs and flows over time, and I don't have any particular preference. I do like a variety of possible outcomes, and we have that now--you might see a 1-0 game, a 6-2 game, a 5-4 game, a 13-12 game. That, to me, is what makes a sport work. It's why soccer doesn't work, and why hockey had all those problems before they changed some rules. You need a range of possible outcomes. I don't care if it's an eight-run league, a nine-run league or a ten-run league, as long as you know the games won't all be the same. The 1960s...I know people love them, but they had to be deathly boring at the time, even though no one will cop to it.
Aaron (YYZ): What, no votes for Mauer if the Twins make it and he takes down a second batting title?!
Joe Sheehan: I think the perception is that Morneau is the Twins' MVP. I can't tell you how many of the AL voters this year might be smarter than that.
oira61 (San Francisco): Joe: Explain to me how a grievance over a guy signing a contract after a deadline is resolved by a guy signing a contract long after that deadline.
Joe Sheehan: I can't. I have to find out more about this, because the way the thing ended doesn't make much sense to me. I don't know why the contract obviates the grievance, when Alvarez wasn't party to the grievance. The violations of the CBA--and the gray area they revealed--still exist. I'm puzzled.
umfan83 (Chicago): Joe, why aren't Dempster and Johan mentioned more in NL Cy Young discussions? Lincecum should be the clear favorite, but Demp and Johan should be in the discussion with Webb right?
Joe Sheehan: Cf. other references to the term "in the discussion." It's code for "talk about my favorite player, or the player on my favorite team." Neither Dempster nor Santana has claim to the title of best pitcher in the league. Discussing them is a waste of time.
Oran Robson (Newcastle, UK): Hi Joe, many thanks for the Q&A opportunity. Being a Brit who only "discovered" baseball 3 years ago, as a result of being invited to join a fantasy baseball league, I have now fallen completely in love with the game. I am keen to try and gain a more in depth understanding of the game and in particular the BP/sabermetric mindset. I would therefore be extremely grateful if you could recommend any books with which to get started? Many thanks!
Joe Sheehan: "Baseball Between the Numbers," by us, is a good read that covers many of the principles. The BP Basics series, which you can find on the site, is also a good introduction. Two classic books: "The Diamond Appraised" and "The Hidden Game of Baseball". Anything by Bill James. "The Book."
Henry F. (Chitown): It hadn't occured to me until that comment on B. Lidge, but isn't Carlos Marmol some kind of dead ringer for Lidge? They give up big homers but otherwise have filthy sliders, keep the hits down but give up some walks...they're even on the same career path. Yes/no?
Joe Sheehan: The arm angles are so different that the comp doesn't work very well, but just on stat lines, yes, I see the similarities.
AJ (Columbus): Will you please spare us another rant about the MVP winners this year? We get it: you don't agree with how the BBWA votes. Believe me, we get it.
Joe Sheehan: Sure. Any other requests?
dianagramr (NYC): Hi Joe .... thanks for the chat ...
With all the injuries to frontrunners in the AL MVP race, is there a shot Grady Sizemore pulls an Andre Dawson and wins it with a sub-.500 team?
Joe Sheehan: Not a one. I don't thihk I've seen his name mentioned in any mainstream article. He's batting .270, he doesn't have huge RBIs and his team never contended. It wouldn't be like Andre Dawson winning; it'd be like Rosario Dawson winning.
eric (vegas): A's have lots of trade ammo, any chance they could get a Fielder or Holliday this offseason?
Joe Sheehan: To what end? The A's seem to have a lot of guys who can play on the corners. They need up-the-middle talent.
By the way, there's never, ever been a baseball team to get less out of plate discipline than the A's. They can walk, and that's all they can do. I've lost track of the number of times they've had the bases loaded, no one out, and get no or one runs while making three straight outs. They just can't *hit*. If any team needs some Garret Anderson clone, it's the A's. I can't believe I'm saying this.
Adam (DC): OK, so I'll bite...how do you think the Twins will fair over the next 3 games?
Joe Sheehan: Man, I was waiting for a question like that...the pitching matchups aren't good for them, even on Tuesday and Thursday, bad matchup Wednesday (Buehrle/Blackburn, who's fading late). They might need all three, and I think the best they can do is get two. In their favor: home-field, and not much else. Of course, it's three games--anything could happen.
Jon (DC): How wildly overpaid will KRod be? Will someone give me 16m?
Joe Sheehan: Rivera got three and $15M per, but wasn't really an open-market free agent. I have to assume Rodriguez tops both of those.
dills (Chicago): Some of those AL MVP voters just voted Jason Bartlett as the Rays MVP... "The Rays improved dramatically on defense this season, and the biggest single reason was shortstop Jason Bartlett.
Consequently, Bartlett has been voted the team's most valuable player by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America."
Joe Sheehan: If this isn't a joke...wow. Bartlett isn't the MVP of the left side of the infield.
Noah (Brooklyn): So do we see Bonds next year or is/was that it?
P.S. Bonds is the only reason Pujols hasn't won MVP in half of his MLB playing years.
Joe Sheehan: No, I think he's done. The arguments for signing him this year were valid, but with a year off and the trial in March, there's no way you can sign him now.
Adam (DC): If Morneau takes the MVP crown for the second time, won't that be....strange?
Joe Sheehan: Very comparable to Juan Gonzalez's two MVPs. Historians are going to laugh at us.
pjtopor23 (Quincy): Nobody agrees with how the BBWA votes, for the record. Bartlett was the Rays MVP this year according to them. Anyway, re: your Yankees post, doesn't your proposal just leave another 3rd place team? The pitching is solid this year, not great. Your 2009 staff is solid, not great. Only if Joba and Hughes stay healthy and improve respectively does it have a chance, and you're still relying on aging bats tied to bad defense all over the diamond. your one upgrade is over one of the few guys who didn't underperform this year. Wouldn't the Yanks be better served by bloodletting as many of the aging vets as possible and trying to upgrade on D a la the Rays this year?
Joe Sheehan: Absolutely. How do you do that given the contract commitments to Posada, Cano and Jeter, as well as the lack of available center field options?
That article ran today instead of last week because I couldn't answer that question effectively. There is simply no way to fix the defense within reason--I tried moving Jeter to center six years ago and it didn't work--so you have to work with what you have.
You're counting on Teixeria improving the defense; Cano, Hughes and Kennedy playing well; and Posada coming back healthy. I suspect you can get four of those, and that makes this a playoff team. After 2009, you can fix the outfield corners.
mrgriffey (Lansing MI): Joe - Where does Dombrowski go from here? Do the Tigers need as much work as their record indicates or should they just make minor moves and hope the pitching bounces back next year?
Joe Sheehan: That suddenly looks like an old team to me. Polanco, Renteria, Sheffield, Ordonez, Inge...I have to say that I'm not sure they'll be much better next season. They certainly have to start over in the bullpen, where I don't think another season of waiting on Joel Zumaya is such a good plan.
Steve (NY): Joe, why are you such a smartass?
Joe Sheehan: Because Keith Law sets the damned bar so high.
Aaron (YYZ): Stepping out of the current races for a sec, do the Blue Jays make the playoffs in the next 3 years? Do we get playoff games in Canada again??
Joe Sheehan: How much better can the team be than it was this year? They have so much playing time and money committed to these average, slightly-above-average guys like Wells and Rolen and Overbay and Rios...where do the runs come from? If Snider and Lind are for real, and they can find players up the middle, and the pitching is almost as good...do you see where I'm going with this? The 2008 Blue Jays ended up as a heck of a baseball team, but that's not good enough this year, and I'm not sure they can get better from here in the short term.
bctowns (Chicago, IL): Re: David Price, if he was called up in mid September, he's not eligible for October, is he? I can't think of anyone on the DL he could replace to get "K-Rodded" in.
Joe Sheehan: I have simply taken to assuming that if a team wants to get a player on to the postseason roster, it can. The Rays, I'm sure, have someone on the 60-day DL. There's your back door.
Dan (Boston): 3:1 Lincecum's arm detaches from his body sometime in the next year. Over or under?
Joe Sheehan: Over. I'll buy into the idea that he's different. I just hope the Giants don't interpret "different" stupidly.
joey (train): Any kind of sneak preview you can talk about for Baseball Prospectus 2009?
Joe Sheehan: The formula is mostly unchanged...essays, player comments and projections on 30 teams and 1500 or more players. We've done it longer and we do it better than anyone, and that won't change.
Dennis (Monterey Park): Thanks for the chat. What do you see the Angels doing this off-season? Do you see them getting Sabathia or Teixeira? Do you think the Yankees actually will get both?
Joe Sheehan: Texieira seems like a guy that fits because he plays defense in addition to being a hitter. They've been a different team with him, which points out just how much they needed a real bat in the middle of the lineup. If he leaves, that need persists; I don't think they need to chase a starter at all.
Mike (LA): Derek Lowe is having an incredible season and he's never even sniffed the DL. What kind of contract does he garner in the off-season?
Joe Sheehan: There's something of a perception that he should stay in the NL. I could see him as the safest pick in the market, someone who might see his ERA climb into the mid-4.00s over the life of a deal, but who will keep cranking out 200 innings a year through it. The better your middle infield, the more valuable Lowe is to your team.
Dan (Long Island): You are such a Mets hater. At least the other BP writers are objective.
Joe Sheehan: I normally let these go, but...I mean, are you serious? I spent all of last year, up to and including three days before the season ended, saying the Mets were the best team in the East and would win the division. This year, I said in the preseason, the first half, and all through this stretch that the Mets are the best team in the East and would win the division. Calling the Mets the best team in the East has chewed threw my credibility like acid through skin. AND I KEEP DOING IT.
What exactly are you looking for here? Pics of me in a threesome with Mr. Met and the ghost of Joan Whitney Payson?
dcoonce (Bloomington Indiana): Great piece on the final game.
Is there any kind of realistic hope for the Padres or should they explore the market for Agon and Peavy? Wouldn't the Yanks be players for both?
Joe Sheehan: Because of Kyle Blanks, I think you can look into trading Gonzalez, who should bring back a fair amount in a deal. Peavy is basically untouchable.
oakwcj (Oakland): What are the best/worst matchups for the Cubs in the NLDS?
Joe Sheehan: Best, probably the Dodgers, who lean righthanded and just aren't that good. Worst, the Phillies, with their lefty pop and enough speed to exploit the Cubs' outfield defense.
nickojohnson (LA): Hey Joe. What are your thoughts on the futures of Milledge and Dukes? Does what they have done in '08 give Nats fans something to be hopeful about?
Joe Sheehan: Absolutely. Both are above-average regulars with some star potential. Dukes might actually be a great hitter; he showed a little bit of everything this season.
Adam (DC): Hi Joe--Which race is more interesting to you...White Sox/Twins, Mets/Brewers, or Dodgers/DBacks? If any of these are going to flip from the current standings, which will it be?
Joe Sheehan: Probably the Mets/Brewers, as those are the two best teams of those six--well, save the White Sox--and there are some fun storylines. Because the Dodgers aren't that good, that's the race most likely to change, I guess.
bossfan101 (Gresham, OR): How much are you concerned with Ricky Nolasco's innings jump?
Joe Sheehan: He's 25, so not that much.
Joe Sheehan: OK, my mouse and keyboard are acting up, so I have to go. Thanks for all the great questions, and we'll do this again next week once the matchups are set!