The people have spoken, so Joe's back in rotation no sooner than he finished his previous chat.
Joe Sheehan: To the people of the world I would like to say 'g'day.'
lennyd (Portland OR): Hi Joe,
In your last chat you said the Pads were a bad team, about to enter a pretty ugly couple of seasons, yet Pecota has them making an 11 game improvement over 08. What does Pecota see that you don't?
Joe Sheehan: Well, some of that is bounceback, as most 63-99 team improve Just eyeballing the depth charts, the projections for the middle infield and back of the rotation seem better than I expect them to be. We are talking about a 74-88 team here. PECOTA and I can both be right about this one.
buddaley (Clearwater): Hello Joe,
You have written that you expect the Rays' defense to fall back some in 2009. Given how good it was in 2008 that makes sense as a generalization, but looking at the specific players expected to be the regulars, whose defense do you expect to regress versus those who should remain steady or perhaps improve?
Joe Sheehan: Longoria, statistically, was at the upper end of anyone's range. Iwamura was better than expected at second base, and just turned 30. They could be better in center, as Upton has tremendous raw skills and is still learning the position. Right field could be almost anything, depending on how they distribute the playing time, if Joyce plays well, etc.
akachazz (DC): Basketball question:
I don't follow hoops, but I do fill out a bracket, for which my deadline is tomorrow. Are you guys planning on putting up some kind of prediction / rankings / odds piece very soon to bring me up to speed?
Joe Sheehan: Ken Pomeroy and John Gasaway are working on log5 pieces that will run Tuesday and Wednesday. Since you are in the only pool extant with a Tuesday deadline, that half helps you.
Eddie (Milwaukee): The Brewers in 2010. An outfield of: Braun, Cain, Weeks. An infield of Hardy, Escobar, Lawrie and Gamel. Salome catching. Gallardo, Parra, Jeffress, [whatever they turn Fielder and Hart into]. Your thoughts? Alternatives? Is this a year early?
Joe Sheehan: I have no sense at all that this is the direction in which they will move. Moreover, you're basically projecting that all the prospects are ready to stay healthy, play and play well, by next year. This is an incredibly optimistic view of the '10 Brewers, and there's nothing wrong with that, but I don't think it's realistic.
Michael (Santa Fe, NM): Is Fred Lewis a legitimate middle of the order bat? What kind of numbers do you expect?
Joe Sheehan: Lacks the BA to bat #3, the power to bat #4. He's a #5 on bad team, a #2 or #6 on a good one. I see him as a .270/.360/.440 guy, slightly worse in that park, with decent speed that he doesn't apply well to baseball. Better than Schierholtz or Roberts, pretty comparable to, slightly inferior to, Winn.
mharrop (toronto): Joe,
Temper my expectations. What do you see from Matt Wieters this season?
Joe Sheehan: .290/.355/.455 in 375 PA, with very good defense.
mattymatty (philly, PA): How much trouble exactly are the Phillies in if Cole Hamels' elbow is in bad shape?
Joe Sheehan: The worst kind. With the worst guy. If you removed him from the team, they'd win 81 games. Maybe. Let's see how this plays out...they can live with a few missed starts.
Kent (Portland, Oregon): If Omar Minaya were the GM of a team without NYC money, would he still be employed?
Joe Sheehan: Yes. Minaya is an above-average GM, not Beane or Cashman or Epstein, but a smart guy who listens to the people around him. He's also good in the room, which is a valuable skill in a club of 30 men.
Rob (Brighton): I'm kind of upset that Boston traded Coco Crisp. It seems like we don't have a suitable back-up for center field now. Am I worrying over nothing, or is this a legitimate lack on an otherwise deep team?
Joe Sheehan: You have a suitable backup for center field. However, he's starting. Ellsbury has to hit .310 to be viable, and he won't do that most years. Baldelli is the guy they want to be the fourth outfielder, which is an upside play in that role. If Baldelli can play 3-4 times a week, the Sox are fine.
Mike (Niles, IL): Does Jeremy Hermida's spring represent a sign of things to come, or just a sample size?
Joe Sheehan: Both. I'm bullish on him. The 5/5 K/BB is nice.
Dave (Boston): Pablo Sandoval can hit, but can he stay at 3rd? How long does this experiment go and is there any chance they let him try and catch until Posey is ready?
Joe Sheehan: Given the other options, I'd run him out there until a better choice pushed him to first base. It could be a while, and will almost certainly involve an external choice. (Why do I have this image of Adrian Beltre signing with the Giants?) I also would try and have him catch 10-20 times, just to keep those skills on his resume. Realistically, he's an everyday 1B by 2011.
Robert (Houston): UCLA as a 6 seems way low and they were possibly given Villanova in Philadelphia. Is this committee payback for the years not having to leave CA?
Joe Sheehan: I really think you have to take the seeds with a grain of salt. There are many, many reasons why a team might slide up or down one from its S-curve seed. UCLA as a #6 could mean they were 17 on the S-curve, or 28. Drawing Villanova in Philly is unfortunate, but do they even get there? VCU is a veteran team with one great player, and more than capable of winning this one.
dianagramr (NYC): Hi Joe ... thanks for the chat ...
Even if the Yanks are a 100-win juggernaut this season, do you see them drawing ~4 million into their new "hotel with a ballfield inside it"
Joe Sheehan: "ATM with foul poles."
With 51K seats, that would be 99% capacity or so, and even one rainout would make it almost impossible. So I'll say "no"...even though they seem to have sucked in my friend Jay.
Clint (Chicago): Hi Joe. I may be a biased alumnus, but I think Purdue can make some noise with a healthy Robbie Hummel. What say you?
Joe Sheehan: They're tough to gauge because of the injuries, and because the Big 11 was so unimpressive this year. I don't like their draw--UNI is a good matchup for them, but the winner of UW/MSU presents size and speed issues I'm not sure they can handle.
Jon (SF): Joe, what are some upsets you like in the first round?
Joe Sheehan: Unofficially--I haven't done it for real yet--but on the 15 line I like Morgan State, the 14 North Dakota State, and the 13, Portland State.
benpav1 (Chicago): We all know Hanson, Snider, Wieters and Price should have some immediate 2009 impact, but who else has a chance at winning the ROY awards?
Joe Sheehan: I'll throw out James McDonald in LA, Jason Motte in St. Louis and Taylor Teagarden in Texas. Daniel Murphy had one too many ABs last year.
casey (cal): You said you don't get many Astros questions. Here's one.
Berkman is 33, Oswalt is 31. Isn't the time to trade these guys NOW? Will their value to the team ever be higher?
Joe Sheehan: The problem is that once you start with those two guys, you're a contender in the NL. With no farm system to speak of, and untradable contracts in Lee and Tejada, they kind of have to keep trying to win NOW. The eventual rebuild is going to be Orioles ugly.
jromero (Seattle): What are Clemson's and Dayton's chances to show up in the Sweet 16? Thanks!
Joe Sheehan: Clemson was terribly underseeded, and I have them reaching the Sweet 16. I don't expect Dayton to beat West Virginia.
tlpc78 (NYC): Joe, what are your thoughts on Memphis' chances this year? I just can't get over the fact that, lining up non-conference performance in 07/08 vs. 08/09, this is a clearly inferior team to last year's. Have they drastically improved during conference play, or am I missing something?
Joe Sheehan: Yeah, they were playing Tyreke Evans at the two early in the year, and it wasn't working. Since they moved him to the point they haven't lost a game. That was probably their best argument for being a #1 seed.
I think Cal State-Northridge is a pretty good team, Memphis' defense has become a bit ridiculous. They could hold Northridge to 25 points or something.
Bert (Bellevue): Klaw came out with some glowing reviews of Yu Darvish. Would you sign him to a five year deal right now?
Joe Sheehan: Nope. Too many variables to make the risk worth the reward.
Silv (NY, NY): To Derek Lowe's chagrin, is there any reason the Dodgers wont have the best up the middle infield defense in baseball this year? Martin is more than solid, Hudson, though overrated, is still a top line 2b and Furcal is near gold glove level. How much of a help will they be to the kiddie corps?
Joe Sheehan: Keep in mind that much of Hudson's good defensive stats are generated by his work on balls in the air. Like Derek Jeter, he has very good range going back on balls. He's a good infielder otherwise, but the numbers would lead you to believe he's Frank White. He's not.
With that said, this team had Angel Berroa and Jeff Kent up the middle at times last year. This is much better. A good defense helps you develop pitching by encouraging early-count outs, reducing pitches out of the stretch and getting guys off the field quickly. The Dodgers have helped themselves in more ways than one.
Mike (Niles, IL): Do you see a rebound year for either Bedard or Harang? Both? Neither?
Joe Sheehan: Harang will be back to his usual level, posting a mid-3.00s ERA in a lot of innings. Bedard will likely be effective on a per-inning basis, helped by the park and defense, but it's an open question how much he'll pitch. 180 innings? 140? I honestly don't know.
ericturner29 (Chicago): Dellucci, Crowe, Laporta, or Francisco to start the season in LF for the Indians? Who would you give the job to?
Joe Sheehan: LaPorta, with an eye towards moving him to 1B or DH depending on how Hafner and Garko do. The bat can play right now.
jbuofm (Peoria): Do you agree with Tony La Russa's decision to give the third base job to converted outfielder Joe Mather over David Friese or Allen Craig? Friese was in a car accident and couldn't play for a week, but it doesn't seem like TLR ever gave him a chance.
Joe Sheehan: It's a 4-6 week stopgap play. One issue is that if you give it to a decent prospect and they play well, you're stuck when Glaus returns. By giving it to Mather, you avoid that issue; he's no more than a utility guy, anyway.
murphy654321 (Boston): Could Barry Bonds help the Astros, or does there have to be a DH opportunity at this point?
Joe Sheehan: If I had to guess which player was more likely to play 100 games in the field between Barry Bonds and Milton Bradley, it would be a very easy decision. So, no, I don't think Bonds has to be in a DH situation. I don't know if the Astros are a fit, unless you're going to move Lee to right field, which opens up a whole new set of issues.
big baby (nj): Lastings Milledge was 23 last season. Isn't he the definition of a post-hype prospect? I mean, he is still incredibly young and hasn't suffered any injuries that would diminish his stock. What does he become?
Joe Sheehan: He played fairly well last year. I think he was post-hype a year ago. In any case, I like his future a lot, see him as a .300/.360/.460 guy with good applied speed and better defense.
lpiklor (Chicago): How many Pirates pitchers are going to win 10 games this year? Any?
Joe Sheehan: I'll say "one," but without conviction. It's a bad offense.
Lou Piniella (Arizona): Can you tell me why baseball managers still wear uniforms? I look ridiculous.
Joe Sheehan: Tradition. I wouldn't mind seeing some manager go Connie Mack/Jack Del Rio and stop wearing the uniform in favor of a suit. Problem is all the time spent on the field would be hell on a nice pair of shoes.
murphy654321 (Boston): What is your take on the middle behind D-Lowe in ATL?
Joe Sheehan: Better than what he had last year, more than good enough to support his approach and keep his ERA under 4.00. That remains one of my preferred signings this winter.
ElAngelo (NY, NY): I'm in a pool where you get assigned 4 teams at random, keep teams going forward if they cover (or pick up the winner if they cover and lose), and there are prizes for the teams that have the highest scoring game and the lowest scoring game. Given you already said that CS-Northridge may not break 30, who would be the best team to draw for most scored? Missouri against a hapless Cornell team? Syracuse on the theory they love OT?
Joe Sheehan: Carolina, or whoever you think wins the Oklahoma State/Tennessee or Washington/Mississippi State games.
Andrew (Baltimore, MD): Right now I only see six teams with a realistic chance of making the Final Four -- the four #1s, plus 2-seeds Duke and Memphis. Is there anyone I'm missing?
Joe Sheehan: A bunch. This isn't last year's tournament. Syracuse and Gonzaga immediately come to mind.
birkem3 (Dayton, OH): If the decent prospect is capable of holding down the 3B job, isn't that one of those "good problems" when Glaus returns? What's the real downside here?
Joe Sheehan: From a player-development standpoint, I really don't like the idea of having to demote a guy when he's playing very well. The Cards have no place to play Freese after Glaus returns. It's why the decision to not even consider Wallace made sense.
Rob (Brighton): Do you think the Indians are going to play their infield out of position all season? Who should take the blame for that if they do?
Joe Sheehan: Eric Wedge. This should have been the first decision in spring training. Peralta even played some third base in winter ball. The defensive difference between DeRosa/Peralta/Cabrera and Peralta/Cabrera/DeRosa has to be two wins. All three guys would be better.
Tyler Hansbrough (UNC): You think Gonzaga can beat us? Only if Lawson is out.
Joe Sheehan: You know what bugs me about you guys? You lose a lot of close games because you don't seem to have any idea what to do when you're down two with a minute to play. The BC game, the Maryland game, Florida State...even go back to 10 minutes left against Kansas last year. All featured terrible possessions at the end, with no feel for time and score, no plan. So I think any team capable of playing you close for 35 minutes--Gonzaga clearly fits--can win at the end, because you don't handle endgames well.
mattymatty2000 (philly, PA): [signing Derek Lowe] "remains one of my preferred signings this winter."
Didn't the Braves give Lowe a four year contract? How do you square giving a 36 year old pitcher a four year contract with your stated aversion to giving just about any pitcher a five year contract?
Joe Sheehan: It's 20% better.
Seriously, that it's one of my preferred signings doesn't mean I would have done it. After Drayton McLane calls me up, tells me to put my money where my mouth is and gives me the GM job, you'll find that the Astros don't sign many free-agent pitchers any more.
dianagramr (NYC): Will you take a roto question?
In a standard 5x5, 12-team, non-keeper league with a straight draft, is there any reason to draft a pitcher in the 1st round?
If so, which pitcher(s) would you take as a 1st round pick this year?
Joe Sheehan: With Santana's elbow issues, I doubt I'd take a pitcher in the top...yeah, probably not the first round. Top guy is Lincecum, I'd guess. He might be an 11 or 12.
Jimmy (Crapchester): Lightning Round Question? Long term: Chris Davis (Tex) or Matt LaPorta (Cle)
Joe Sheehan: Matt LaPorta. I remain skeptical, perhaps more than I should, about Davis' contact rate.
Jimmy says we're in the lightning round.
Steve (Detroit): Do you see Michigan State making a run? I think their bracket sets up favorably to at least reach Louisville in the Elite Eight.
Joe Sheehan: That's where I have them losing.
Dave (Boston): Are you now going the Bill Simmons route and campaigning for a GM job on your chat forum?
Joe Sheehan: Control my career so I could never get stranded.
cubfan131 (Iowa): Do you see the Missouri Valley getting multiple NCAA bids in the coming years? Is it just a matter of scheduling tougher non-conference games or is the level of talent down?
Joe Sheehan: They'll be back. They hit a talent peak in '06 and are coming back off of that. Scheduling is a permanent problem, since the conference demands the teams minimize taking road-game-only deals. Correctly so. That the conference kept Altman and Lowery is a good sign, to me.
Steve (Ann Arbor): Tough break for Michigan playing an underseeded Clemson or does the Beilen magic show up?
Joe Sheehan: I think Clemson's pressure gets them an early lead, and while it never becomes a blowout, it never gets close, either.
Gray (Chicago): Brett Cecil up by July 1?
Joe Sheehan: To what end? I think the Jays should leave him in the minors at least until September, and maybe even then. They've made the right decisions with him so far.
Boy, I'm sucking at lightning round.
tonipeluso (Oakland, CA): Who are your final four?
Joe Sheehan: Unofficially: Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Syracuse.
patrick (boston): When its all said in done this year in New York, will Yankees fans be disappointed with the performance of CC Sabathia?
Joe Sheehan: Yes, because he won't win the Cy Young or 20 games. Despite this, he'll be on most CYA ballots.
Jim (Philly): Roto league: This year and long term: Hermida, Francoeur or Headley?
Joe Sheehan: Hermida for both.
I'll answer someone's Headley question here as well. Another Padres' college hitter. The bat won't play in left field, and the move there has slowed his progress. A return to third base would help a lot.
Joe Sheehan: Thanks, everyone, for all the great questions. A special thanks to all of you who have supported the basketball site this year. I'll be back around Opening Day