Kick off the season with Joe Sheehan as the big-league season swings into action.
Joe Sheehan: The best-laid plans...looks like we won't have much baseball until later today, but I imagine we can fill the time. Rain, snow, cold...I'm still excited.
Trevor (austin TX): How will the giants do this season. thanks
Joe Sheehan: They'll be within a few games of .500 either way. If Barry Zito regains even his 2006-07 form, they could be in the wild-card race into September. They also have a lot of veterans, like Edgar Renteria, Aaron Rowand and Randy Winn, who if they tick upwards would push them into a race.
jake29 (Corning): What makes Bonifacio a better lead-off hitter than Maybin? How long will this horrible idea last?
Joe Sheehan: They care less if he fails. There's a notion that batting leadoff puts too much pressure on a young player. I still think Hermida is a nice solution there, and at that, I don't think Maybin is a leadoff hitter. He's more Vernon Wells or Curtis Granderson.
Andrew (Fayetteville): Do the Angels have a package that could net Peavy? I remember hearing something about one centered around Brandon Wood back when the Peavy rumors were flying, but is he really even good enough to be the centerpiece of that deal?
Joe Sheehan: Short of trading two, maybe three of their top ten guys, I don't see it. I don't think of Adenhart, Conger or Walden as being good enough to anchor that deal. And really, the Angels shouldn't be making that trade, anyway. They're going to need bats.
dresden (buffalo): Hi Joe,
What do you think of the Nationals decision to start Kearns over Dukes?
Joe Sheehan: It surprised me, and since it seems based pretty much entirely on spring-training performance, I'm not a big fan. Dukes outplayed Kearns last year, and that means infinitely more than what happens in March in Florida. The only justification I can find is if this is a path to a quick trade of Kearns, should he continue playing well in April.
krissbeth (watertown, MA): Do you think it's possible for the Orioles to become an AL East threat in the next four years? What has to change in their approach for them to contend?
Joe Sheehan: They've already changed it, or at least it appears they have. Better drafting, fewer silly FA signings, an acceptance of the idea that it's going to take a while. They'll have to continue drafting well, and in about two years, target the one or two FAs or trade targets that will complete their core.
Andy (Bar): While debating the merits of Chris Young at a local drinking establishment, an argument escalated from friendly debate to fierce debate to friendly wager to fierce wager. Before I knew it I had pretty much wagered a paycheck on the fact that C. Young wont hit 30HR/100RBI this season. Should I be worried about my paycheck? If he gets 30/100 but strikes out 170 times in 470AB shouldn't I be able to keep my money in good faith?
Joe Sheehan: I'm trying to figure out where the RBI will come from. No matter where he bats in the lineup, even if he slides down, I don't think he'll have enough guys on base to pull that off.
Jim (Florida): What percentage of the questions in this chat are from angry Phillies fans?
Joe Sheehan: Not many. I haven't looked at the comments on yesterday's piece today, though. That will be fun.
Jon (DC): Joe, will Charlie Manuel learn that hitting three lefties in the middle of the order consecutively isn't the best lineup? Even vs. a right handed pitcher it sets them up for end of game situations exactly like last night.
Joe Sheehan: Yesterday was a pretty good object lesson. Even if a righty comes in to face Werth after Howard (assuming Victorino second, Werth fifth), at least you've made the manager burn a guy. This is going to happen in any close Phillies game until Manuel puts an RHB behind the platoon player.
Connor (Chicago, IL): Joe, I know you were right with me when I started screaming at the TV circa Bobby Cox's decision to prematurely remove Derek Lowe from the game in the 8th inning with a low pitch count and a string of righties coming up. That decision almost cost him the game. Thankfully for this Braves fan, Mssrs Howard and Ibanez bailed him out with their free-swinging ways.
Joe Sheehan: Yeah, I was a little surprised by that. It's not like Lowe appeared to be tiring or had to work hard in the eighth. This is one of those situations where any criticism gets met with, "Well, we were there and you weren't," but I don't really understand the decision, and I don't understand starting the inning with Gonzalez against three righties with a four-run lead. It's one thing to manage workloads; it's another to appear to be actively avoiding letting starters finish games.
We've gone too far in the direction of managing workloads.
delugeofgrandeur (Clinton, NY): Joe, I'm taking my girlfriend to her first baseball game next month. It'll be a minor league game and I'm thinking of getting seats behind home plate. Any thoughts on if you were taking someone to their first game on where you'd want to sit?
Joe Sheehan: Not behind a screen. In fact, I'd probably move around a bit, give them different views, show them the park and the amenities and the people.
Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): Happy New Year, Joe. Here's looking forward to another one with your columns and chats.
With so much flux in the Yankee bullpen last year, do you think Aceves in particular might be back very, very soon? Do you like Ramirez and Bruney to replicate 2008?
Or is this all indicative of the Yankees' new and somewhat surprising understanding of the fluidity of middle relief performance? (If we're allowed to still say "middle relief" in this era of specialization).
Joe Sheehan: I think the Yankees have a bunch of fairly interchangeable parts once you get past Rivera and Marte, and will be moving guys around liberally based on performance, health and roster issues. I like all of these guys to pitch well this year, with Ramirez perhaps improving on his performance. Aceves...I am not sure at this point that I wouldn't prefer to see Aceves starting rather than Kennedy. He's that good.
James (BK): You went against the tide and are bullish on the Rockies. How good can Fowler and Jimenez be THIS year?
Joe Sheehan: Fowler can hit .280/.350/.410 with good defense in center and positive SB numbers. He's that team's best CF option. Jimenez is kind of the NL's Scott Kazmir, where the pitch counts and command issues cap how good he can be. 180 innings, 3.75 ERA, lots 'o walks.
modofacid (Philly): In a bubble would Juan Pierre have any value at 2B? It seems like he’s not far off from Felipe Lopez.
Joe Sheehan: This bubble would have to be one where baseball was played counterclockwise, as Pierre throws left-handed.
Rob (Andover, CT): Am I the only one who HATES the off-day following opening day?
Baseball's back! No it's not! Haha!
Joe Sheehan: Boston and Chicago make a pretty strong case for it today.
Josh (Barrington, RI): North Carolina fairly easily tonight, right?
Joe Sheehan: Michigan State has just beaten two of the top four teams in the country without really being challenged in the process. I see no reason to think they're going to go down easily tonight.
Gavin (County Ct.): How many starts will we have to endure with Brad Penny until the Sox realize Buchholz was the answer all along? I say 3.
Joe Sheehan: More than that, but the next time Buchholz leaves the minors will be the last. He may be the Red Sox' second-best starting pitcher by October.
Alex Lopez (New Mexico): Joey, I'm itching to play Strat, when will you set up an online version of the fabled Inwood Table Baseball League?
"Kiss it good-bye!"
Joe Sheehan: If this is really you, send an e-mail to jsheehan at baseballprospectus dot com.
Folks, a big reason I'm even in position to do this is the stuff I learned playing Strat-O-Matic with this guy and our friends in the late 1980s.
James (BK): Why did the Mets sign Perez instead of Lowe?
Joe Sheehan: Upside, youth, the devil you know. Shorter contract, cheaper.
Derek Lowe was the best FA signing of the winter.
Dan (Brooklyn): Isn't it possible that the Yankees might have some serious trouble scoring runs. Yes they've added Tex, but have lost abreu and giambi who were 2 of their top 4 last year. Damon won't repeat, Arod could be slowed by injury, Jeter is in decline etc...
Joe Sheehan: Yup. As it is, they're not going to get much from CF. The catcher may not be able to catch, and if he can't, that's a replacement-level lineup spot. Matsui, Damon, Jeter, Rodriguez and Nady are all in decline phases. It's not a great offense, and it may just be an average one. Teixeira replacing Giambi is more a defensive upgrade--a big one--than an offensive one.
Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): Hey, Joe: Is it me, or do you rarely stray off topic in your chats? A music nod for tradition's sake?
Joe Sheehan: I don't get as many non-baseball questions as others do, I guess. I think my answer rate is slower, too, so I tend to stick to baseball.
I'm not as well-read as many of my compatriots (I read virtually no fiction, but lots of non-fiction), and my taste in music never really developed after the age of 17.
Matt A (Raleigh): Biggest takeaway from last night (if any)?
Joe Sheehan: Two. One, Manuel needs to break up the three lefties. Two, I remain confused about what it means when a player loses a lot of weight between seasons. I've heard tell, in the past, that it means...well, something other than what I was told it meant about Ryan Howard last night.
wml212 (NYC): Thoughts on Ryan Church and the rest of the Mets crowded outfield?
Joe Sheehan: Church's glove makes him an asset with his average bat, especially if the Mets are playing Murphy in left field. I don't think Tatis or Sheffield has much left, and had it been me, I would have signed Abreu or Dunn when the prices dropped to the bottom. The chance that the Nats and Mets make a trade this season approaches 1.
statham (Toronto): Joe - what did you think of ESPN's new Miller/Morgan/Phillips announce team?
Joe Sheehan: It's a battleship. Or maybe a Huey. Someone get me a Jane's...
Adrian Veidt (Karnak): How concerned should the Braves be that Chipper Jones is on pace to strike out 324 times?
Joe Sheehan: It's balanced by Derek Lowe being on pace to throw 256 innings with a 0.00 ERA.
Jon (SF): Why are the Reds trying to squeeze this game in? The Mets are going to lose a Santana start by having him go two innings only to get delayed again.
Joe Sheehan: Because it's Opening Day, and there are lots and lots of things attached to that. That's why it was nice to see the White Sox call their game off last night. Don't get everyone to the park and then spike it.
In general, baseball gets played in much, much worse conditions now than it did a generation ago. The cost of rainouts is higher, and the fields can take more water.
Stephanie (DC): You seem to have the Rays regressing both offensively and defensively. Are there specific players you see regressing, or is this just a general feeling?
Joe Sheehan: It's a sense that they can't repeat last year's performance on balls in play. The problem, and I struggle with this, is that I have a hard time identifying specific problem areas. I think Iwamura and Longoria were statistically over their heads last year, but that's about it. Upton should improve, Crawford is at his peak, right field...is the same muddle it was a year ago.
The offense and rotation could be down a tick as well. There's also the competition--the Sox and Yanks are better, which should cost the Rays a few wins.
I have said that it's possible that those three teams are the three best teams in baseball. That I have the Rays at 86-76 says more about how strong I think the other two are.
SaberTJ (Cleveland, OH): Reds top of the order....Hairtston Jr. and Darnell McDonald? What gives?
Joe Sheehan: Hairston's going to play against lefties, and Taveras is sick, giving McDonald a start. Me, I would have played Dickerson against the no-split Santana, put Hairston in center and sat McDonald. I'm not Dusty Baker, though.
Ryan (NY): Why do teams feel obligated to pitch their closers in the 9th inning of their Opening game? Is it because they need that "heart" or "spunk" so they can say it on Sunday Night Baseball?
Joe Sheehan: I think it's the off-day following. If you don't pitch him then, they might go four or five days without pitching, and you can use them there and know they won't be needed the next day.
Peeig13 (The Second City): Are Dallas MacPherson and Chad Gaudin going to get major league jobs after being recently waived? If so, where?
Joe Sheehan: Gaudin can relieve for many teams, and will probably have his choice. The Rangers, Pirates, Padres, Nationals...he'll have options. I'm trying to understand how a team can release McPherson, then trade for Ross Gload.
Joe (Tewksbury, MA): There is already some hand-wringing on the interwebs about cold weather cities hosting openers but the weather Sat & Sun in Boston was great and tomorrow looks pretty good too. Not a question there, just a venting I suppose. I hate being at work when I'm supposed to be at Fenway!
Joe Sheehan: April weather is a crapshoot in all of these places. And you can't force all the April dates on the warm-weather/dome teams because they're less desirable dates than June-August ones.
I'll again whine that you can solve this by starting the season a week later and playing some doubleheaders. But I'm pretty much a crackpot on this issue.
JJ (NY): At work and can't see or hear game. Are you noticing anything from Santana that seems off? Three walks already.
Joe Sheehan: He's fine. Good movement, mechanics are solid.
johnpark99 (Boston): Joe, read your top ten column. Are we to assume you're picking the Mets to make the Series this year? Or is there some "secret sauce" consideration that has you leaning to another NL team?
Joe Sheehan: I thought I stuck it in there...Red Sox over Braves. I like the Braves in short series because of their defense and the Gonzalez/Soriano combo.
Robert (SF): Did Kemba Walker have the worst end of game that you can remember in a while? He inexplicably fouled for no reason and then missed every shot.
Joe Sheehan: Not even this season. Who's the Arizona kid who intentionally fouled in a tie game?
brian (Brooklyn NY): If you had to pick one would you watch the National Championship game or your favorite team's opening day? Which one would you choose to record?
Joe Sheehan: I already chose, although not the exact scenario above. I was given tickets to the Rays/Yankees game a year ago on a damp and cool Monday night. I went, and taped the Memphis/Kansas game.
I'm also changing travel plans to go to Indians/Yankees on 4/17, which isn't Opening Day but it's close.
Ed (MN): Don't Mauer, Liriano and Slowey match anything that the Tribe has? What makes the Tribe (even a few games) better than my Twins?
Joe Sheehan: The rest of the roster, as well as the front office.
X (Y): The A's have taken Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson, highly regarded pitching prospects with little experience over A-ball, and put them in the Opening Day rotation. The Rangers have taken Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland, highly regarded pitching prospects with little experience over A-ball, and put them in AAA, with Nolan Ryan saying they will likely initially pitch out of the bullpen when they do get to the majors. Which path do you think is preferable?
Joe Sheehan: I lean towards the latter, although the pitchers in question are so different that the divergent approaches probably work best for each pairing. It's worth noting that breaking in pitchers in Oakland is much different than doing so in Arlington, so you can push the envelope more.
akachazz (DC): As an Upton owner / fan of the game of baseball, should I be worried about Upton the Younger being benched today?
Joe Sheehan: It's an annoying decision, apparently based on little more than Upton's nine career ABs against Cook, if I'm interpreting Melvin's words correctly. This is what happens when you have a $10 million fourth outfielder; you find excuses to play him.
Yanick (New Hampshire): I think I know the answer, but in terms of the A's organizational/strategic philosophy why are Cahill and Anderson starting now when Wieters and Price are down on the farm?
Joe Sheehan: Separate Wieters and Price in this discussion. The latter is a workload-management issue that is unrelated to other stuff.
For pitchers, and Gary Huckabay put this best, you worry less about six years down the road than you do now. I'm pretty sure the Orioles will want a 28-year-old Matt Weiters more than a month of the 22-year-old verion. In the case of Cahill and Anderson, it's entirely possible that they're better now and over the next couple of years than they will be when they approach free agency.
Each decision is player-specific. But for position players, I would lean towards saving the year of service time, while with pitchers, I'd worry more about right now.
Josh Sklar (Sunny Portland Oregon): If this Derek Lowe signing turns out to be a good one does that make him the best free agent ever from a good signing perspective?
Joe Sheehan: No. That's either Bonds '92 or Maddux '92.
Ballpark Fan (Colorado): We often comment on MLB managers using their bullpens or building their lineups/batting orders in ways that don't make sense. And we're read many MLB GMs cut their teeth on simulation games such as Strat-O-Matic. But have you ever heard of an MLB manager using or being asked to use a simulation game in order to gain new insights into roster and lineup usage?
Joe Sheehan: More than 20 years ago Bill James suggested that prospective managers have to play a thousand games of Strat or APBA or whatever before taking over a real team. It's still a good idea. It's not that you learn everything by playing those games; it's that what you DO learn is incredibly important.
But MLB, as an industry, likes to think the game is magic. It really isn't.
Jack (Montevideo): Will the Orioles minor league pitching develop quickly enough to make a positive impact in Baltimore some time in the second half of this season, or will we probably have to wait a full year to see the prospects begin to stanch the flow of runs-allowed?
Joe Sheehan: I could see some impact later in the year, just because there's going to be some pressure to not run truly awful pitchers out there all season. But from a development standpoint, I'd keep them all away until 2010.
Tony (Brooklyn, NY): Who's Kawakami's best comp? What will we see out of him this season? Thanks!
Joe Sheehan: I'm really looking forward to seeing him pitch this week--I never have. I think the comps are command/flyball types who can be homer-prone. John Maine.
Tony (Brooklyn, NY): Should I trade high on Chipper (last season, not last night) and go w/ Kouzmanoff at 3B assumming I get a big bat in return? Thanks!
Joe Sheehan: I'm really not a fan of Kouzmanoff, who looks to me like Jim Presley with a much worse offensive environment. Jones is a four-category stud (assuming 5x5).
makewayhomer (Boston): ETA of Wieters? KG says in a couple weeks, some O's beat writers say June or "whenever he starts to dominate AAA". Sheehan says?
Joe Sheehan: May 12.
Jessica (NYC): What's your take on the Mets signing Sheffield? I still don't see how he fits on an NL team, especially one with a flyball pitching staff and spacious outfield.
Joe Sheehan: My first reaction was positive, but the more I thought about it, the more I wasn't sure if Sheffield is a better player, right now, than Nick Evans is. You're not signing a stat line or career achievements; you're signing the guy, and it's not clear to me that they have the better guy.
glenihan (nyc): Who would you rather have manning the keystone this year? Cano or Kelly Johnson?
Joe Sheehan: Johnson, whose defense is underrated and who gets on base. Cano has a little more upside, but the Yankees could use a certain .350/.450.
Joe (Tewksbury, MA): Yu Darvish or Stephen Strasburg
Joe Sheehan: Strasburg. I'm given to understand that Darvish wants no part of MLB.
DanLong (NY): Opening day catcher for the NYY in 2010 will be ______________
Joe Sheehan: Jorge Posada.
Ben (Philly, PA): Hiya Joe... how long till Fowler's the full-time CF in Colorado?
Joe Sheehan: April 30.
Has Aaron Harang lost a lot of weight?
Justin (Chapel Hill, NC): "He may be the Red Sox' second-best starting pitcher by October." Who's #1? Beckett or Lester?
Joe Sheehan: Beckett. I think we just saw Jon Lester's best season.
DanLong (NY): so you are bullish on Posada's ability to stay (effective) behind the plate?
Joe Sheehan: No, I just think he's going to be given every opportunity to try.
John (NH): Any concern with Oliver Perez, who was throwing his fastball in the mid 80's over the weekend?
Joe Sheehan: None, really. Every pitcher goes through this.
kevin (boston): Could you yell at somebody to bring back predictatron? Please?
Joe Sheehan: I can yell, but it's not happening. Can I interest you in Hacking Mass?
awayish (nyc): hey joe. have you thought about comparing the variance on run-prevention predictions versus the variance on offense predictions.
Joe Sheehan: You left out the words "having someone who knows what they're doing". It's an interesting idea...maybe I'm more off on one end. I'll ask around.
Sawx Fan (Rockville, MD): RE: Girlfriend's first game -- teach her how to score the game. That's what I did for my wife at her first game -- she said it helped her appreciate how much goes on. She's hooked now -- she ordered Extra Innings today.
Joe Sheehan: Nice idea. I actually rarely score games I attend socially now, but there's no question that scoring the game gets you into the game.
Ryan (NY): 19 team league 5by5 waiver pickup: Shawn Hill or Daniel Cabrera?
Joe Sheehan: Hill. I have him myself.
Joe Sheehan: OK, I need to watch some baseball. Back soon to do this again.