Whether he's on the Hit and Run or making up his Hit List and checking it twice, Jay Jaffe's on the case as far as which clubs are headed in which directions. Check in with Jay in chat to see where your team's headed.
Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon and welcome to today's BP chat. Apologies for the last-minute time-shift -- with the impending Brooklyn arrival of my parents, I had to see a man about some smoked fish on the Lower East Side, then get my annual Reuben at Katz's.
Jake (LA): Can anyone beat the Dodgers in the NL West?
Jay Jaffe: I'll never say never as to whether somebody could beat them out, but they looked like the class of the division at the outset of the year, and even with the major blow of losing Manny Ramirez for a third of the season they've widened the gap. The NL West flag is theirs to lose.
jay (LA): Always enjoyed your column! I think the dodgers have enough to win the division, but is Billingsley, Kershaw, Kuroda and Wolf enough SP for playoff season? Seems to me that may not, but the first two are untouchables, the latter two not appetizing for pretenders. Offensively maybe a right handed bat from the bench (bobby crosby or garret atkins for the right price, chin lun hu or delwyn young). what is your take?
Jay Jaffe: A namesake who's a Dodger fan? This is what it sounds like when doves cry...
I hope and expect they'll add another veteran starter by the deadline, because between Kershaw's limitations and those of Wolf, they need extra arms to patch them through. That said, I've been pleasantly surprised with what they've gotten out of Official Hit List Whipping Boy Eric Milton, because while wandering in the weeds he honed a change-up, and has given the Dodgers a couple of serviceable starts.
The bench needs some work, mainly via Joe Torre ditching the 13th pitcher so they can have an extra live body. I wouldn't touch Crosby with a ten-foot clown pole, but I suspect they'll scare somebody up sooner or later.
dcoonce (bloomington, indiana): Adrian Gonzalez is reaching the point at which Boston could consider trading Clay Bucholtz, if he was offered, right?
Jay Jaffe: By every indication from the new Moorad ownership, Adrian Gonzalez is not leaving San Diego.
Dave (Arlington, VA): Does last night's starter for the Phillies, Antonio Bastardo, have the greatest name ever for a professional athlete in any sport?
Jay Jaffe: There are certainly other contenders, but even in baseball he actually loses out to Dodger farmhand Alberto Bastardo, because Alberto is a funnier name, and "Albert the Bastard" would make for a great LOOGY.
Jay (Bronxville): What would you do if you were Omar Minaya? Are there any moves the Mets can make or do they just have to weather all the injuries?
Jay Jaffe: "Hmmm, does this window open? Nice. I should be able to use this bedsheet ladder to sneak out before the media grills me again on why I didn't sign another starter or a corner outfielder..."
Craig (New Haven): Step back from his hot start and give us the scoop on Adrian Gonzalez. Is this a career year or a step forward? What should we expect for the rest of the season and (especially) the next few years?
Jay Jaffe: Gonzalez is sort of the poor man's Mark Teixiera - a great hitter and a very good defender, though he's not a switch-hitter and instead of landing in a hitter-friendly environment he's stuck in a rather rough one. He's put up three .300 EqAs in a row already, and it looks as though he's amid a perfect storm of his own age 27 season and a juiced ball (or whatever it is producing the homer spike) which could give him career-high numbers.
I don't understand the thinking that the Padres *need* to trade him, and I applaud the aforementioned Moorad statement. He's great, he's affordable, and unless they're absolutely bowled over by an offer, they don't need to move him.
Nick Stone (New York, NY): What do the Yankees need to do to hold onto (I know its early) a playoff spot? Sort through their pile of middle relief arms? Or do they need to make a trade? Anything else they should address? Do you think the improved defense and increased Ks mean they are less likely to crash out of the Division Series, as they did in '02, '05-'07?
Jay Jaffe: Hey Nick! The Yanks certainly need to fortify their bullpen, and in the forthcoming BP/ESPN soup du jour I've advocated they try Phil Hughes in relief once Chien-Ming Wang reclaims his starting job. I'd also like to see them give Mark Melancon another look, but I suspect they probably need to get an experienced arm from outside the organization if Brian Bruney's not going to be back anytime soon.
The improved D and high-K staff are nice, but they're compromised by the homer-iffic tendencies of the staff, particularly the bullpen. Until we see Sabathia, Chamberlain and Burnett all firing on the requisite cylinders, I don't think they've got anything that guarantees them a playoff spot, let alone a ride through to the LCS round.
Krams706 (Boston): Not a team related question, but one regarding individual players. How do you see these players ranking over the next five years: Lance Berkman, Vladimir Guerrero, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee, Manny Ramirez. Thanks.
Jay Jaffe: Wow, you named four 33-year-olds and a 37-year-old, and you want to know what their next five years look like? Sell now, because they're not going to be getting better, and in many cases -- I'm thinking Vlad and Lee, particularly -- I think the decline will be precipitous due to injuries and conditioning. If I had to pick one to own five years from now it would probably be Soriano because of his body type. PECOTA appears to agree, though it also puts in a good word for Berkman.
twinkies25 (MN): The Minnesota Twins have a good team, but they have some production issues up the middle (Nick Punto especially). Will this be enough to sink the Twins this year?
Jay Jaffe: While that's a problem, the facts that that Liriano and Baker are carrying ERAs above 6.00 and that the bullpen in front of Joe Nathan is no longer a plus are much bigger ones. They'll do the sinking.
AlexBelth (Bronx): Jay have you read, or do you have plans to read Curt Smith's new book on Vin Scully. I'd be curious to know what you make of it.
Jay Jaffe: The book just landed in my mailbox yesterday. I haven't had a chance to even read the title page, but I'm intrigued. I know the buzz around the book has been less than 100% favorable, but I'd rather make up my own mind.
jschmeagol (hyattsville, md): So, um, what's up with Raul Ibanez? My Phillie Fan friends can't stop singing his praises and it kinda annoys me.
Jay Jaffe: Another perfect storm. He moved from a pitcher's park in the middle of a craptastic offense to a bandbox in a juggernaut in a year where homers are spiking. His HR/FB rate has shot from 10.7% to 27.5% (Fangraphs data), which is comical but also probably unsustainable.
He's on his way to a career year at 37, but I'm going to wager that the remainder of his backloaded contract ($23 million in 2009-2010) doesn't turn out as well as this year does.
TGisriel (Baltimore): The Orioles replace Pie with Reimold and Zaun with Wieters, and suddenly the team can't hit a lick. Is this simply running into the best pitchers in the league, small sample size or does it mean something?
Jay Jaffe: Oh noes! Matt Wieters has started his career 3-for-18! He's not the Messiah! PECOTA and all of the prospect hounds were wrong!
It's sample size and perhaps some good pitching (I've been traveling and haven't seen his box scores yet). Relax, and lower your expectations until he at least unpacks his underwear. Even if he has a slow start, take note of Adam Jones' year-over-year improvement and have faith that the true talent should shine through sooner or later.
jlebeck66 (WI): Jeff Clement: Are the Mariners going to use him at any point this season?
Jay Jaffe: Perhaps for an organ donation, if he's a match for Griffey or Felix Hernandez.
Seriously, I don't understand this one. They must really hate the living **** out of Clement's defense to let him linger for so long, and they've really dented his trade value. I certainly have more faith in Jack Z's judgment than that of Bill Bavasi, but Clement needs a ticket out of that organization stat.
Rob (Alaska): I feel like this is a dumb question, but has anybody quantified the home run spike for this year? I'm with you that there is one, but I googled it and got a bunch of steroid stories.
Jay Jaffe: I did an article at the end of April, and I intend to revisit the topic very soon.
My working theory still revolves around the ball being juiced. We're seeing crazy numbers, and with two essentially offsetting ballparks being introduced this year, if we don't have rampant steroid abuse to explain it, then what's left?
DrDave (Alexandria VA): If you could build a team around any one of them, do you pick Adam Jones, Evan Longoria, or someone else?
Jay Jaffe: Restricting it to those two, I'd go for Longoria because his plate discipline is a bit more refined, but they're both very nice building blocks. I'd be tempted to put Wieters ahead of them, but I'll hold off on committing to that path until I actually sit down and watch him play a few games.
goiter6 (MN): Do you think HOF voters will treat suspected steriod users that don't get caught differently from people who do get caught and serve their penalty? Or to ask it another way - is a 50 game penalty enough for the HOF voters to say "you served your time" and move beyond the issue, but someone who didn't serve a penalty will have issue hang over them?
Jay Jaffe: I think the HOF voters will continue to moralize about the evils of steroid usage long after the rest of us have packed up and moved to Florida to live out our golden years. They don't seem to be willing to let go of it regarding McGwire, and he doesn't have a positive test to his name, and to read the Olneys and Maddens, A-Rod and Manny are permanently barred from Cooperstown whether they've served their time or not.
It's really ridiculous. To me, if 50 games is the penalty - and I think that's a substantial one - then you serve it and we all move on, sadder but wiser. If steroid usage isn't a banned-for-life offense, then there's no reason that allegations without positive tests should be a disqualifier for Cooperstown. Beyond the need to manufacture outrage in 800-word parcels, I mean.
Clay (Sarasota, FL): The Tampa Bay Rays presently have BJ Upton, Evan Longoria, and Carlos Pena all in the top 20 in strikeouts. Yet they still are at the top of the league in runs scored. It seems that the propensity to strikeout would result in a reduction in scoring runs. How negatively is this propensity affecting the Rays? What is bound to slow first, the scoring of runs or the strikeouts?
Jay Jaffe: As Ryan Wilkins noted here years ago, hitters' strikeout rate actually correlates positively with good stuff like SLG, ISO and BB/PA, and slightly positive towards scoring runs. There are times when it's the worst result in the world for a hitter, such as the failure to plate a runner with less than two outs in a close game, but on the whole, it's just another out, not the mark of shame.
Nate (Philly): What's wrong with the Cubs, and more specifically Geo Soto? Why can't they stay healthy, and what can they do, if anything, to improve?
Jay Jaffe: I don't recall the exact nature of the injury, but Soto missed time early in the year due to a shoulder problem, and it seems pretty clear just by the numbers that he's far from 100%. As for the rest of the team, well, you've got some guys in their 30s who haven't always been the picture of durability (Lee, Ramirez, Bradley), and everything seems to be going wrong at once. Ultimately, they need to get younger by shedding some of those older injury risks for players who are closer to their primes and less risky on that front. Admittedly, it's not an easy thing to do, but that's why GMs get paid the big bucks.
kevin (boston): Will Jamie Moyer even get close to the hall of fame? I wouldn't think so but the idea has gotten some favorable attention since he hit 250 wins.
Jay Jaffe: I don't think so, not if a 250+ winner with additional postseason heroics like Jack Morris can't get above 50% of the vote (and he shouldn't, as you'll see if you read my JAWS articles). Pitcher wins ain't all that they're cracked up to be anyway, and the fact that Moyer has no Cys and just one All-Star appearance pretty much consigns him to the human interest section of the voting.
mattymatty (Philly): Thanks for the chat, Jay. Any idea what the Red Sox will get from John Smoltz?
Jay Jaffe: I'd guess something on the order of 10 mostly decent starts, and then additional positive contributions in the bullpen over the final couple of months as they try to keep his arm attached.
Laura (DC): Last fall you wrote that you'd be staggered if the Orioles contended for a postseason spot within the next three seasons. Do you still feel this way? If so, is there anything they could realistically do to change that for 2011 (or even 2010)?
Jay Jaffe: With the arrival of Wieters, the flowering of Jones, and the continuing advancements of the heralded young pitchers through the system, suddenly 2011 doesn't look unreasonable. The problem is that they're in a division where it will be hell to compete against the resources not only the Yanks and Red Sox but also the Rays, and perhaps even the Jays if they can keep robbing graves and organ donation units to piece together serviceable major league starters. The 2010 and 2011 teams will certainly be their most interesting in at least a decade, but whether they can make it through a race in that pack is another story.
giants fan (SF, CA): What do you think about a Cain for smoak and another low level prospect trade? Helps both teams weaknesses?
Jay Jaffe: The prospect folks reaaaaaly like Smoak, and if I'm the Giants I'd do it, because they've got more pitching on the way, and they need bats in a big way.
Manny Parra (Milwaukee): What in the hell is wrong with me? You guys ranked me a five star prospect and now I have no idea where the ball is going once it leaves my hand. What should the Brewers do with me? Me and Soup are truly "anchoring" our rotation.
Jay Jaffe: What the hell *is* wrong with you, Manny? I thought you were supposed to be good, and I see you lit for double digits last night.
I don't recall if he has a minor league option remaining, or if there's an underlying injury problem he's been keeping quiet out of fear of losing his job - remember, he's had a litany of arm woes - but at this point I'd move Parra out of the rotation one way or another and give Seth McClung another shot there.
bhsportsguy (Los Angeles): Jay - What would it take to come out to LA for an event, a plane ticket, suite tickets, dinner with Vin Scully?
Seriously, would love to try and plan something.
Jay Jaffe: I'd love to get out there for a BP event, and would gladly do so if somebody were to offer to fly me there, as I can take care of lodging and tickets through private connections. Plus I already got Vin Scully's autograph back in 1989, running into him outside of Holman Stadium in Vero Beach during my freshman spring break. Not that I have any idea where the hell that slip of paper is.
Wendy (Madrid): So far so good, but is there any reason to worry about Torre shredding Kershaw's arm? He's kept his pitches down so far, but he's been a bit harsh on Billingsley.
Jay Jaffe: With Torre, there's every reason to worry about the health of a young arm, but he's not the leader of the Dusty Baker Machismo and Masochism Retreat, and I do think that there are plenty of people within the organization who are and will continue to be closely monitoring the long-term health of their young pitchers.
Billingsley's been between 105 and 117 pitches in all but two starts (94 in his opener, 123 in his high), and I don't think that's out of line for a 24-year-old who's pitching effectively.
dianagramr (NYC): Hiya Jay .... thanks for the chat!
So how was the Reuben?
More importantly . . . I am granting you the power to spend 1 day in the shoes of any current ballplayer. Who do you choose and why?
Jay Jaffe: Hey Diana! The Reuben was excellent, thanks, and I'm really looking forward to my 5 PM angioplasty.
One day? Such a tough choice. I'd love to drop a curveball like Kershaw, or to hit one a mile like Pujols, but you know, after 14 years of watching him - defensive shortcomings and all - I'm still fascinated by Derek Jeter. I'm proud of my own level of consistency in my field of expertise, not to mention my facility in the public spotlight, but I'd love to see what it feels like to take it to his exponentially higher level for one day. I mean, the guy just passed 2600 hits, and he's hitting .319/.393/.474, and he makes it look so damn easy. How? Inquiring minds want to know.
Mike (Utica,NY): Who is the best pitcher left in the minors?
Jay Jaffe: Bumgarner, isn't it? A better question for Kevin Goldstein then me, since the odds are that I'll just parrot whatever he says ;-)
Folks, I've got my Toledo radio hit momentarily, which will keep me occupied for the next 20 minutes or so. I'll try to answer a few more when I return, so if you want to drop off a question in the queue and check back later, feel free.
mattymatty (Philly): Is Bumgarner really better than Buchholz?
Jay Jaffe: That's 1-900-KEV-GOLD to talk to our prospect expert for $1.99 a minute.
DanLong (Newark): Hughes to the bullpen....what are your thoughts? Undisclosed sources say it was just announced.
Jay Jaffe: Should be an article up later today where I advocate exactly that. Chamberlain has shown he can get major league hitters out the third and fourth time they face him in a game. Hughes needs to work on getting them out the first time, and there's no better place to do that than the bullpen, with increasingly greater responsibility as results dictate.
Back from my Toledo hit (WLQR 1470 AM), obviously. I love talking to host Norm Wamer every week, and wish they would stream the show so that readers outside of their market could hear, because it's my best media hit on a consistent basis.
Gray (Chicago): Speaking of the Cubs, everything...everything and yet they are still .500 and within 5 games of the NL Central lead. They are still fine right?
Jay Jaffe: No. They're banged up, presumed strengths like the late-game bullpen have turned out to be shaky, and they've got three teams ahead of them in the Central, none of whom are ridiculously over their heads. That's a lot of traffic to navigate.
johnpark99 (Boston): Jacoby Ellsbury: is this it? Is this as good as he's gonna be? He's looking eerily like Michael Bourn, except about 9 months younger.
Jay Jaffe: Oh, I'm sorry. You were expecting him to hit .353 again? That's not going to happen.
While he's got speed galore, right now it seems rather apparent that he lacks the power and plate discipline to live up to the early Johnny Damon comparisons. He's walked in less than six percent of his plate apperances, for crying out loud. He's the Juan Pierre of the AL East!
joe lefko (nj): i don't see the big deal about katz's. i've only been once, and i probably wouldn't go again. $15 for a pastrami sandwhich? Ok, maybe if it was amazing pastrami, but I've had much better in nj for less than 10 bucks.
Jay Jaffe: A line from one of my favorite books -- the Great American Baseball Card Trading, Flipping and Bubble-gum Book, goes, "If Rochester was New York City, then Steve Bilko would be in the Hall of Fame. But it isn't. And he isn't."
Katz's is an NYC institution that's been around for, like, 120 years, and it's a crucial part of the Lower East Side's history. Going there is a completely different experience than your New Jersey deli, no matter how good the latter is. Yes, it's pricey, but the anticipation, the ticket system and the nosh - where the cutter gives you a few scraps of meat to chow on while he makes your sandwich - make it a unique experience.
Plus the portions are huge and the half-sour pickles are awesome. You don't wanna go there? Fine, that's just one fewer bum in line ahead of me.
Rob (Alaska): Is there more scrutiny on Latin America this year or not? If you look at Kiley's piece for BP he reports that there's one of the top 5 guys has had a handshake deal with Texas for 6 months. Combine that with rumors that the Pirates are going cheap in the draft next week to save money for Miguel Angel Sano (which is crazy risky unless you know he's already agreed) it's hard not to conclude that it's business as usual in Latin America. Thoughts?
Jay Jaffe: It's certainly being talked about more, both at BP and elsewhere, and I've loved Kiley's first two BP pieces (haven't read the third yet due to my travels, but I will). This isn't my area of expertise by any stretch but from where I sit, it does seem ever more clear that there's a need for an international draft to weed out some of the non-playing riff-raff that surrounds the current system.
dcoonce (indiana): I heard you on Norm Warner's show several weeks ago, while on a road trip, and you're right - it's a shame we can't hear it online. Good stuff.
Jay Jaffe: Thank you for the kind words, and I'm glad you got to hear the show. Perhaps if the station receives enough emails, they'll move towards streaming. Smaller stations are doing it everywhere, so I'm not sure why they don't. [Post-chat update: a visit to their website reveals that streaming listening is now functional. Awesome!]
Ron (Vancouver): The Jays win more than 85 games this season. True or false?
Jay Jaffe: At this point, I'm willing to believe they can give 85 wins and third place a run for its money because the breaks aren't falling for the Rays these days.
oOoOo (UuUuU): Rangers or Angels to win the West?
Jay Jaffe: As impressed as I am by the effects of the Rangers' defensive upgrade, I still worry that their staff doesn't miss enough bats, and holy hell does Vicente Padilla stink on ice. [post-chat update: Padilla placed on outright waivers and told to get out of Dodge by sundown]
I'll still take the Angels in the long race, thanks.
Daniel (Brooklyn): How do you see Halladay aging? Given that he has 140 wins now, how many do you see him finishing with? Any prediction on his Hall chances?
Jay Jaffe: I've got an upcoming article where I foresee Halladay as one of the few pitchers around with a legitimate shot at 300 wins, and even if he doesn't get there, I think he'll be Hall-bound so long as he stays healthy.
D (Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana Area): How much can/should the Braves expect from Tim Hudson after his return?
Jay Jaffe: While he'll probably be back before then, I wouldn't expect we'll see Hudson-like performances until the last month or so.
Dennis (Monterey Park, CA): Hi Jay, thanks for your great work and the chat. What is your prognosis for my Angels this season? Time to send Kendrick and Aybar down and bring up Sean Rodriguez and Brandon Wood?
Jay Jaffe: I'd say the Howie Kendrick party is over, and while I don't think much of Rodriguez, the time to see what Wood can do is long overdue. Seriously, I think he and Jeff Clement are drinking from the same jug of bad organizational karma.
Three more questions.
Tim (Tampa): How long can Joe Maddon wait before getting B.J. Upton out of the leadoff spot? It seems like that even with Longoria's ridiculous year so far that the production could be even better if they had someone in the leadoff spot who could get on base.
Jay Jaffe: Agreed. As somebody who's had labrum surgery myself, it seems pretty apparent that Upton's not fully back yet. I know there was a lot of emotional incentive to get him back for the home opener with all of the fanfare that entailed, but to me it's quite obvious that they rushed him.
Ed Wade (Houston, TX): Jay, does my team have the bleakest future of any time in the majors leagues? Oldest team in the MLB + Worst farm system + Poor record and run differential
Jay Jaffe: Eddie baby, you've already figured out just how ****ed you re, so I won't pile on.
Christina Kahrl (BP Volcano Hideout): And the Yankees just announced that Wang will start tomorrow, Sabathia will be pushed to Friday, and Hughes is going to the pen.
Jay Jaffe: And I come in just ahead of the curve yet again :)
AJ (Pasadena): Is it time for the Reds to sell low on Bailey and bring in another bat? What might they reasonably expect to get for him?
Jay Jaffe: Like Hughes, I think the Reds should put Bailey in the major league bullpen and let him work his way towards more responsibility as results dictate, rather than punting him for a bat -- particularly because his value ain't exactly at an all-time high right now. If it was good enough for Earl Weaver, damn it, it's good enough for me.
Derek (Ohio): I'll buy your next reuben if you answer my previous Reds question :) (answer in LF - (1) Owings, (2) trade, (3) Votto next year). By the way, when I went to law school in Toledo I used to love listening to you on 1470. Keep up the good work.
Jay Jaffe: Thanks for the kind words and mmmmm... though I don't see a previous question in the chat.
It's fun to ponder, but I don't see them moving Owings to the outfield anytime soon. Votto to the outfield at some point makes sense, particularly with Yonder Alonso on the way, but I'm not sure when that has to happen. Which leaves them needing a trade. Holliday could be a good fit there, perhaps, but I'm not a great matchmaker for deals, particularly with an eye on the clock as I have now.
dianagramr (NYC): OK .... so you love Katz's Deli .... but where is your favorite NYC BBQ?
(Desperately in need of good BBQ)
Speaking of BBQ ... does either David Ortiz or Travis Hafner have a fork in themselves ... cause they appear "done".
Jay Jaffe: Right now I'm partial to the Smoke Joint on South Elliot Street in Fort Greene. RUB is also pretty good, and so is Hill Country, though rather pricey. Virgil's is surprisingly good for a Times Square restaurant, and I love meeting my out-of-town BP colleagues there once in awhile.
Oh, and while Ortiz and Hafner may not be done yet, I think it's a safe bet that you can invite a few guests over for an upcoming feast.
Jay Jaffe: Folks, that was another tremendously fun chat on this end, and I hope you enjoyed it as well. Thanks for stopping by to spend some time talking baseball!