He hates to hit and run, so instead settle in for a big inning with BP's Jay Jaffe.
Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon and sorry for the delay, as it took me slightly longer than usual to navigate our chat setup. But I've got the Alex Chilton cranked up and I'm ready to go!
slim (Fairfield Cty): Jay, who are your pet players this year? Guys you expect to put themselves on the map or take an underrated step forward?
Jay Jaffe: You know, for some reason the team I always come back to for questions like this is the Reds. Not that I EXPECT their young guys to take a step forward so much as that I'm interested to see if they can. To see if pitchers like Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake or Aroldis Chapman can succeed in that ballpark, under Dusty. To see if Jay Bruce finally lives up to the hype, if Chris Dickerson can hold down a regular corner spot. I don't actually root for the Reds, but I've been intrigued by their collection of talent for years.
Jake (Chicago): Are you at all surprised that Texas decided on CJ Wilson in the rotation considering the other possibilities and leaving late inning duties to the oft-injured Frank Francisco, Netali Feliz who has never thrown in back-to-back games, and Darren Oliver coming off a career year at age 39?
Jay Jaffe: The Rangers have a ton of candidates for their rotation, many of which I wouldn't touch with a 10-foot clown pole (Brandon McCarthy and Matt Harrison come to mind). Because he's a lefty who can miss bats, Wilson is already much more interesting than those two, and worth taking a chance on. A for Feliz, his time will come, but he hasn't shown much in spring training (11.57 ERA), and he's not even 22 yet. I'm a bit more concerned about the Rangers' bullpen, but I do like Oliver, and think that perhaps some of those surplus arms can be useful down there.
Mike W (Chicago): How many starts do the Brewers give Suppan? Not that their alternatives are very attractive, but we know how this movie ends, right?
Jay Jaffe: It sounds as though the Brewers are closing in on the decision to make David Bush their #4 behind Gallardo, Wolf and Davis, which leaves Manny Parra, Chris Narveson and Suppan battling for one spot. Narveson made a good impression last year, and has further helped his cause this spring, while Parra seems to have really clicked with Rick Peterson and seems eager to mend his wayward ways. I don't think it's out of the question that the Brewers concede Suppan is a sunk cost and cut him by the end of the spring.
And a good riddance it will be.
Nick Stone (New York, NY): Assuming Hughes is healthy and effective as a starter, do you think the Yankees re-think the Joba rules idea when dealing with Hughes's innings count?
Jay Jaffe: Hey, Nick!
I can't possibly imagine the Yankees taking the same approach with Hughes that they took with Chamberlain, because that turned into an epic failure.
For one thing, it sounds as though Hughes will be on a longer leash, good for about 170 innings as opposed to 150, which would require less manipulation. For another, Hughes has always come off a more cerebral, better able to understand the organization's plans for him than Joba, who increasingly seems like the guy with the 10¢ head.
On the other hand, Hughes' reputation for fragility may make that upper bound a moot point, and it could be that he takes a midsummer vacation on the DL for even the slightest aches and pains.
Art Critic (Taking Advil):
Jay: Please tell me that there is a redisgn of the BP homepage coming soon. The design with the Blogs all tucked on the right side hurts my eyes.
Jay Jaffe: Yes. It's on the agenda. PECOTA has been priority one, but we'll soon be shifting resources in other directions to address various areas of need, including design.
Jake (Chicago): Follow up, Wilson - "he's a lefty who can miss bats." Sounds a lot like Derek Holland, another rotation candidate they passed on...
Jay Jaffe: Yes, but Wilson's 29 and has had success at the major league level. Holland is 23 and was beaten like a rented mule last year (6.12 ERA). The Rangers are contenders, and it may make more sense for Holland to hone his skills at Triple-A (where he has just four innings of experience) or in the bullpen.
SprungOnSports (Long Island): The Braves certainly have a superstar in the making in Jason Heyward, but what can Atlanta do at the major league level not to rush him? We saw Jordan Schaefer rushed, but Heyward is clearly further along at this point.
Jay Jaffe: I don't think the Braves have much to worry about, Heyward is clearly ready, and he's much more advanced at 20 years old than Schafer was at 22 last year. He controls the strike zone better and has much more power.
I think the one thing the Braves should and will do is keep him a bit lower in the batting order, sixth or seventh, until he gets going, so as not to put too much pressure on him. Probably should also give him the occasional break against lefties, though his minor league splits there have been plenty acceptable.
dangor (New York): Do you see any free agents with solid fantasy value out there? Jermaine Dye, Elijah Dukes, Pedro, am I forgetting somebody?
Jay Jaffe: John Smoltz, at least as a reliever, is somebody who can help if he's so inclined, though I guess he's content to go the broadcast route for the moment. A healthy Jarrod Washburn can certainly sponge up a useful number of innings. David Weathers is a handy reliever to have around even at his age. Carlos Delgado might still have something left once he recovers from hip surgery. Gary Sheffield is still a badass who can be a useful bench bat if so inclined, and Joe Crede can pick it at the hot corner if his back is right.
matt (hartford, ct): sign or the times or successful testing program? this is the first year i can remember that people are talking about who came into camp looking thinner rather than larger. is steroid testing working or are players spending more time watching their nutrition and health?
Jay Jaffe: I think the program has been largely successful, moreso as judged by the declining number of positives at the major league level than the anecdotal evidence. Sure, there may be another clear-type BALCO scandal lurking out there, but if the samples are being kept for future testing, the odds are in favor of the testers figuring the substances out sooner or later and bringing a good deal of pain and humiliation down on cheaters. And while some people lie awake at night worrying about the scourge of HGH, the evidence strongly suggest it doesn't have nearly the potential to help as the harder-core PEDs.
Mike W (Chicago): Padilla - big year for him? Easier league, great park, manager who is a calming influence (and if he acts up there, who will want to deal with him, which he knows).
Jay Jaffe: I think he'll be better than he was in Texas, but not as good as he was in LA at the end of last season, but yes, he's got a lot working in his favor that he didn't necessarily have in Texas. On the other hand, let's not forget that he had three weeks off between stints, which allowed him to restore a couple MPH to his fastball.
Timo (An hour north of Yankee Stadium): Crystal ball--i.e. wild guess--time. 10-15 years from now, what will we be saying about the careers of Joba and Hughes?
Jay Jaffe: Hey, Timo! Thanks for dropping by.
A decade from now, I think folks will be talking about how well Hughes adapted to the rotation thanks to that cutter he learned from Mariano Rivera, and how for awhile there, Chamberlain gave the Royals a decent 1-2 punch with Greinke before he got hurt and went south.
LJ (Bridgewater, NJ): Do you think teams will make more straight payout contracts like Joe Mauer's? i.e. fewer backloaded deals?
Jay Jaffe: Well, as I tried to show in today's piece on Mauer, it does make a certain sense to do exactly that, because the value of a win on the open market will reliably continue to rise, such that a player in the decline phase of his career will have to do less to justify his deal X years down the road than today.
That said, there are plenty of times where a backloaded deal makes sense. Teams don't sign players in a vacuum, and for budgetary reasons they need to stagger their big-dollar expenses. They may also be able to take advantage of the fact that they can fill needs from within down the road and jump out of the way of big balloon payments.
rawagman (Toronto): Jay - what would you think of tracking slugging percentage with PAs as the denominator instead of ABs?
Jay Jaffe: I never thought of it... except perhaps when I screwed up a spreadsheet. Not sure I really see the point, particularly since SLG as it's constructed does a decent job. Essentially you're penalizing a guy for drawing more walks, no?
Dan (Brooklyn): I like the line about Joba in K.C., but what's the series of events that you think lands him there? It's a little hard to imagine what K.C. has that Cashman would want/need. David DeJesus?
Jay Jaffe: Oh, I don't know. Maybe Cashman has a mancrush on Aaron Crow and is convinced that Mike Moustakas is the heir apparent to Derek Jeter after he tears up Double-A pitching this year while moving back to short. Plus he thinks that the George Brett statue would look great in his office.
mjk415 (elmhurst,ill): wher do you see sean rodriguez fitting in tampa?
Jay Jaffe: The Rays seem to be bursting at the seams with talent right now. Joe Maddon has some interesting options when it comes to where Ben Zobrist plays, and who that leaves in the mix. If Zobrist is a second baseman, Rodriguez and Reid Brignac probably compete for the final utility spot and the Matt Joyce/Gabe Kapler platoon goes off as planned. If Zobrist is a right fielder, Rodriguez has a shot at winning the second base job.
The fact that he can play the outfield as well as the other infield positions certainly works in his favor if he goes the utility route.
Oh, and an aside to a reader whom I'll leave unidentified: the surest way for me to ignore any question you ever ask in a chat until the end of time is to complain about the pace of things in my chat. I'm not Keith Law firing off two-syllable answers, though I'll gladly give you one: GET BENT.
tommybones (brooklyn): Having now had the chance to see Strasburg pitch to major league hitters, what is your impression of him?
Jay Jaffe: He's all that and a bag of chips. I was particularly impressed with how well he's handled the spotlight given the pressure and attention. And while we shouldn't put too much stock into the strikeout to walk ratio (12/1) and groundball to flyball ratio (14/1 on outs) bode very well for the future. He's going to be a monster.
Jasper the cat (Twin Cities): Your thoughts on how Target Field will play this season are...
Jay Jaffe: My guess is that it will play as a pitcher's park given the likelihood of cooler weather, and looking at the dimensions (339-377-411-403-365-328) makes me think it could be the AL's answer to Petco.
AlexBelth (Bronx): Jay, have you read the new Willie Mays biography? I'm eager to read that side-by-side with Howard Bryant's forthcoming Hank Aarron bio. Will you be checking either or both out? Any other baseball books you eager to read this spring?
Jay Jaffe: Hey Alex! I haven't read the Mays book yet, but I'm dying to; it's been sitting in my reading pile for weeks now. I'm torn about the Aaron book, though. On the one hand I think he's the more interesting and complicated character of the two, but on the other hand I think I already know that. And while I really liked Bryant's book on steroids, his subsequent columns on that subject have been so insufferable I'm not sure I'm willing to dive into that in the context of the longtime record holder. Hell, Aaron himself seems to have better perspective on that subject these days.
Lipmanpike (VT): No question, just a thanks for chating. I read all the BP chats but have never written in, just wanted to say thanks, they are always great
Jay Jaffe: Thanks, man, that's appreciated.
And a perfect opening to finish answering Alex's question above - I really want to read the Dirk Hayhurst book, and Emma Span's 90% of the Game is Half Mental because both look to be good for laughs. I like what I've seen from Hayhurst, and Emma's stuff at Bronx Banter and her own blog (Eephus Pitch) has consistently been entertaining. Plus she's a friend, and I root for my friends to do well in this racket (and any other one).
tommybones (brooklyn): Wouldn't it make sense for the Twins to deal blocked prospects like Wilson Ramos or Revere/Hicks for Heath Bell? Since Bell would be under control for 2011, they could then flip him for OTHER prospects which fill a need? A win/win, no? Bell covers for Nathan for a year, then turns into prospects who can fill an immediate need (i.e third base). Thoughts?
Jay Jaffe: It sounds as though the Padres are asking for an arm, two legs and a lung for Bell right now, and I think it's unconscionable to think of trading away five-star prospect like Revere - and more - for a closer. The Twins would be better off dealing for one of the guys who draws the short straw in Toronto if they feel like they need to go outside the organization ASAP.
Keith Law (oh, I don't know): Heyyy! GET BENT yourself!
[didn't know you didn't like me; :-((( ]
Jay Jaffe: Hey, I love reading Keith Law like I love Fresca. But after nine years in this racket it's painfully apparent to me that I don't have the same skill set as Keith. So rather than try to compete on that level of punchiness, I tend to approach these chats a bit more methodically.
Cory (LA): Is Russell Martin just done? Are speedy catchers just always prey to Sick Boy's theory of acting from Trainspotting?
Jay Jaffe: I'm reasonably optimistic, particularly given that he's back to playing ball and won't miss Opening Day due to the groin problem.
You know, for all of the flaws he showed last year, Martin was still the most valuable catcher in the NL this side of Brian McCann and Yadier Molina according to WARP.
All that said, I don't get Trainspotting reference. How does Sean Connery's career fit into all of this?
tommybones (brooklyn): Fresca sucks, dude.
Jay Jaffe: Simpsons reference fail. $5.
bigrick0016 (Cleveland): Some forecasting systems, and some forecasters, see a potential for averageness out of the Tribe. What am I missing?
Jay Jaffe: Well, maybe Carmona's actually back - he's looked great this spring, and every inning he throws is one less that the poundable lefties who don't miss bats like Sowers, Laffey and Huff don't throw. Sizemore will be healthy, LaPorta will be around all year, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin Soo Choo are for real, and Carlos Santana could be along this summer. That's a whole bag of interesting stuff there, and while there are no guarantees everything pans out, I'd at least buy a ticket to watch.
mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): Watcha listening to this afternoon while chatting?
Jay Jaffe: I had Alex Chilton's Bach's Bottom playing earlier, but then the phone rang and I went without tunes for about half an hour. Now I'm onto Gene Clark's No Other. I guess it's dead cult artists day at Jaffe Central.
Ragnhild (Snake Pit): Am I wrong to be a little bit excited about what Conor Jackson's 2010 might be?
Jay Jaffe: No, I don't think so. His bat is a bit light for a corner position, but apparently the Snakes are giving consideration to using him as a leadoff hitter, which is an excellent use of his skills (.370ish OBP, good baserunner, 18/22 lifetime in steals). The D-Backs have been OBP challenged atop their lineup for a long time and they could use such a change.
Mike W (Chicago): Is ANYONE going to give up much for Bell? It seems like most (ok, many) front offices are now smart enough to (a) not overvalue closers and (b) know they can often 'find' them in-house. Also (c), lots of people look good pitching in Petco.
Jay Jaffe: i think right now the Pads are trying to take advantage of the fact that no other closers are on the market, so they feel like they can keep the price high. But yes, I do suspect that as with several other areas, the tide is turning and many teams realize they don't have to pay $8-10 million a year for a closer. They're made, not born.
You'd think the Indians would be one of those teams, but Kerry Wood and his bum wing say hi.
JG Ballard (Vermillion Sands): Do you enjoy day games?
Jay Jaffe: Sure do. One reason why I've had the Hit List on Fridays of late is that Thursday is a getaway day and there are a lot of day games, which I could at least listen to or watch on my iPhone while plugging away. Now I've got the full-bore MLB.tv (sweet $20 promotion fell into my lap last week via friends in the twitsphere), it's going to get even better.
Plus, you know, going to day games is pretty cool, too. Baseball under the sun, so long as it's not 100 degrees, is a good thing.
matthartman11 (Rockville): Hey Jay, how would you rank the following young pitchers in terms of 2010 production: Hanson, Kershaw, Brett Anderson, Gallardo?
Jay Jaffe: Kershaw, Hanson, Gallardo, Anderson, I think, though you could reverse the four of them and I wouldn't crack a sweat arguing. People sweat Kershaw's walk rate but his numbers after introducing the slider in June of last year were insane (I wrote about them recently - shouldn't be too hard to find).
Trey (San Diego): Where is Chris Coghlan going to play most of his games in the Majors? Think he moves to the infield when the Marlins inevitably fall out of the race and deal Dan Uggla?
Jay Jaffe: While an Uggla deal which restores him to second base is an intriguing and legitimate possibility, nobody loved Coghlan's D at the keystone before, and it's only going to get tougher for him to move back the more time passes. I suspect his long-term future is in the outfield, and hope for his sake he can maintain last year's breakout level.
SC (Minneapolis): I'm wondering if anyone has looked at the results when HOF pitchers faced HOF batters. Obviously there are some sample size concerns, but it does seem that there should be enough matchups with data to produce at least significant data, if not meaningful. Are you aware of anything like this. More broadly, do you think this would tell us anything about the eternal "good pitching vs. good hitting" debate?
Jay Jaffe: Russell Carleton says he did something on what happens when All-Stars face each other when he was writing for the StatSpeak blog, which has vanished: "The result was something like league average OBP, with a big spike in HR and K.... go figure," he says.
Eric Seidman did something for BP last summer on a similar note (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=9079) which said that elite pitchers tended to reduce the OPSes of elite hitters by about 100 points in such matchups.
Having not read Russell's piece and having mostly forgotten Eric's - I'm not going to slow this chat to a crawl by reading it now - I'm unsure how much we can extrapolate into that time-honored debate.
JG Ballard (Vermillion Sands): Which baseball annoucers are your favorites?
I enjoy the rapport between Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone quite a bit and the Red Sox guys (Orsillo and Remy) are fun too.
Jay Jaffe: Vin Scully is my favorite, hands down. Great bit from the Sons of Steve Garvey site yesterday (http://www.sonsofstevegarvey.com/2010/03/vin-scully-on-bill-veeck-and-colored.html) about Scully telling a story about racism, Bill Veeck, and the flight of major league spring training facilities to Arizona.
I'm no Michael Kay fan, but I really like Ken Singleton on the Yankees games, and enjoyed David Cone while he was around. Al Leiter is decent too. I don't mind Krukow and Kuiper for the Giants, even though they're "the enemy" to a Dodger fan. For national games, I'm really eager to hear more of Jon Sciambi on ESPN, because he's a friend of BP and because I like what I've heard.
Hokieball (dc): Sick Boy: Well, at one time, you've got it, and then you lose it, and it's gone forever. All walks of life.
e.g. Once a catcher gets "old", there's no turning back.
Jay Jaffe: Thanks to the multiple readers who offered similar answers. Guess it's time to watch that one again.
mj (e-town): what kind of season do you see mat latos having? What's his ultimate upside? #1 starter?
Jay Jaffe: Kevin Goldstein was positively dreamy when asked about Latos on our book tour and sees him as a true #1. He'll be on a short leash this year, probably 150 innings, but I suspect he'll take solid steps forward and show signs of being the best pitcher in the Padres' rotation, if not in every outing.
Bill (LA): Who do you think has the better chance of making the leap from "very good" to "elite" level first baseman this year: Joey Votto or Billy Butler?
Jay Jaffe: Votto's pretty much already there except for the durability. He's got a career .314 True Average in about 1200 PA. Butler's at .274 through 1500 PA and he's a disasterpiece with the glove. That said, he's also two and a half years youngers, so there's still hope, but if I had to pick one, the choice is easy.
Matt (Whippleville, NY): Wow! No mention of Gary, Keith and Ron on SNY?! They are the best in the biz by a mile.
Jay Jaffe: Yes, but they cover the Mets, who are no fun to watch these days.
I like Darling and Cohen. Don't like Hernandez except in an ironic way. I will note that it was right after the short film on him appeared last summer that I started growing a mustache of my own.
Aaron (YYZ): Any thoughts on the Orioles' Chris Tillman? For such a highly regarded prospect last year with a guaranteed job in the bigs, I find there to be surprisingly little buzz about him.
Jay Jaffe: He's a bit overshadowed by Brian Matusz, who seems more big-league ready at the moment and who as a lefty has skills that are a bit more rare. Tillman's 2.1 HR/9 last year suggests he's got some growing pains still ahead of him, but as a long-term play, there's a lot to like.
dianagramr (NYC): Will the Yanks regret dealing Austin Jackson? If not this year, then ever?
Jay Jaffe: Hey, Diana! A lot of it depends upon how well Curtis Granderson takes to New York. Do the contact lenses help? Can he restore his ability against lefties? Can the Yankees keep one of the two playoff spots that will inevitably come out of the AL East? If the answers to those are yes, not just this year but over the next few ones, I suspect they'll sleep OK no matter how Jackson does in Detroit.
tommybones (brooklyn): Speaking of overpaying closers, how do you see the Papelbon situation playing itself out?
Jay Jaffe: In tears of rage, just like the vasts majority of Red Sox player/team divorces.
Bob (Long Island): Hey - Drew Stubbs or Jamie Garcia - which will be better?
Jay Jaffe: One's a fifth starter who might grow up to be a 4. The other is a slick-fielding everyday center fielder who needs to cut the Ks. I'd bet on Stubbs to be the more valuable of the two.
Either there's an alligator gnawing at my elbow or I think I've reached my pitch count...
mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): How do you spend Opening Day?
Jay Jaffe: I'll break out the laptop and sit in front of the TV, reveling in the start of another great year!
Jay Jaffe: Okay folks, thanks for spending a bit of your Friday afternoon chatting with me. We're only nine days away from Opening Day, so I'll chat with you on the other side!