Join jovial Jay Jaffe as he breaks down the remains of the pennant races.
Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon! I've taken a break from writing about the zombie-like persistence of this year's races to chat with a fine collection of readers. Let's get to it, shall we?
Erik (Longwood, FL): Hi Jay,
Looking at the Rays still in the pennant race, if they happen to miss out, how much blame can be placed on Friedman's refusal or reluctance to call up a few players (i.e. Jennings and Moore) who were obviously better than some of the guys they carried earlier (i.e. Sam Fuld)? Some people I know have been highly critical of Friedman, going so far as to accuse him of being incapable of making the right decisions to be able to win in the short-term when they are needed. While I don't agree with that explicitly, I'm wondering how good of a job you think Friedman has done this year, given those criticisms for not calling up better young players sooner in the season?
Jay Jaffe: For as much as we laud their smarts in the grand scheme of things, the Rays' front office has made this year's squad's task harder than it needed to be. As popular and swell a guy as Sam Fuld may be, he should have been riding pine once his early-season hot streak ended, while Desmond Jennings played left field; instead Jennings languished at Durham until late July. The Moore decision is a more complicated one in that the Rays don't have a rotation spot for him and they have to mind the innings total of a 22-year-old, but as several have pointed out, he could have been doing Andy Sonnanstine's job if nothing else. As Kevin Goldstein argued (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15036), the Rays probably should have been more aggressive in dealing to improve this season as well; even taking a flier on Rafael Furcal would have helped.
Trevor (Philly): If you were a GM of a team that needed a closer, would you be willing to give Papelbon a 4 year contract?
Jay Jaffe: There isn't a closer alive I'd give a four-year deal to, and my own personal distaste for Papelbon's mannerisms and public persona - I don't pretend to know him beyond that - would probably prevent me from offering him a contract.
Lily (Oregon): The Blue Jays will make the playoffs at least once during the next 5 seasons, True or False?
Jay Jaffe: I think there's a reasonable probability that happens, not only because I like what Alex Anthopoulos is doing, but because there's also non-zero chance that division realignment allows the Jays to escape the tyranny of the Yankees and Red Sox.
Jquinton82 (NY): Former GM Jim Bowden seems to be very certain that Pedro Alvarez will reach his ceiling... Going strictly by the numbers he's out of his mind - but yet I keep feeling like everytime he gets going, he goes down with an injury. Whats your take?
Jay Jaffe: Once upon a time, my faith in Bowden's certainties was high, but when the bottom fell out of the market for a GM-targeted line of leather pants, that faith was shaken.
I haven't seen him play much this year, but Alvarez's stat line is of a man paddling backwards at a considerable clip. Injuries may be enough to give him a pass on this year, but he'll go into next season as a 24-year-old hacker who still has a whole lot to accomplish to become a league average third baseman.
Trey (Frisco TX): Has Fredi Gonzalez overused Craig Kimbrel? Coming back to bite the Braves down the stretch?
Jay Jaffe: That's one of the topics I'm looking at for tomorrow's column; in fact I was so absorbed in it that the chat got a late start. I think the answer is yes given that he's second in the league in appearances to only teammate Jonny Venters. Note that his last two appearances, and the tripling of his home runs allowed total, came during a stretch of three consecutive appearances, and that the last three games he's allowed runs have come on zero days of rest. I'd include Venters, whose 82 appearances lead the league, in the overuse pile as well based upon his September struggles.
Nick Stone (New York, NY): Considering how Colon has fared in recent starts, wouldn't it make sense to skip him once? I can't help but think he's gassed after pitching only intermittently the past few years. Any ideas about Sweaty Freddy Garcia? He seems to have lost his touch since the knife incident.
Jay Jaffe: It might make sense to skip Colon, though it's worth noting that his two unsettling starts this month have come against the Blue Jays, who have absolutely pasted him this year (26 runs, 21 earned, in 23.2 innings). Take those away and his RA/9 drops from 4.56 to 3.40. Fortunately for him, Toronto won't be making the playoffs. Both of his starts would come against the Rays; the first one is the nightcap of tomorrow's doubleheader, but I'd consider resting him for the second one, or restricting him to a short appearance.
I'd be more concerned about Garcia, who has suddenly gone gopher happy in his last few turns. As I wrote today at Pinstriped Bible (http://www.pinstripedbible.com/2011/09/20/upside-downer), the bottom line is that the Yankees have their hands full figuring out their postseason rotation, determining if Phil Hughes' late mini-surge is enough to justify giving him a start ahead of one of those Scrap Heapers (I think the vote is in on A.J. Burnett).
R.A. Wagman (Toronto): What happened to Travis Snider? He's still fairly young but he hasn't demonstrated the ability to hit major league pitching. Is it almost time to declare him a AAAA player?
Jay Jaffe: You're the Jays fanatic, maybe you should be telling me.
I look at Snider and I see a guy who's hit .248/.307/.423 in nearly 900 plate appearances. His plate discipline and ability to make contact definitely need some work, but I can't discount what his wrist injuries and the Jays' jerking him up and down may have done to him. I want to see what he does over a 500-PA season before I think about slapping the Quad-A label on him.
Phil (New York): What team is going to win the Stanley Cup this season?
Jay Jaffe: The Hartford Whalers, led by Gordie Howe and his sons Mark and Marty.
All I know about hockey is that I can't find the time to watch it. The playoffs certainly look like fun, though.
Trey (Frisco TX): East Coast bias fascinates me. Think it's more a product of the team popularity, town outrage, or media bias that the Red Sox collapse is a huge topic while the Braves collapse is hardly talked about? Both teams up 8.5 in 9/1/2011, same epic collapse.
Jay Jaffe: Since when are the Braves not considered part of the East Coast? They moved out of the NL West years ago.
I think the reason their situation has been overshadowed by that of the Red Sox is that they haven't been as obviously bad; they're 7-12 this month but have won 3 of their last 6, while Boston has gone 5-14 and has lost 10 of their last 13. Adding fuel to that is the fact that Red Sox history features some memorable collapses, and that yes, the mainstream media has been pretty heavily invested in the Sox for the past few years.
James (NY): Who's your vote for this generation's Dick Allen? Skill- and attitude-wise, I guess.
Jay Jaffe: Gary Sheffield was a reasonable analogue for Allen, a guy who found controversy multiple times while bouncing from team to team. Milton Bradley is even more controversial, but he can't stay healthy and has been far more self-destructive than Allen ever was.
Markus (Sweden): Are you going to watch Moneyball?
Jay Jaffe: Yes, I'll probably see it. My expectations aren't high - I'm aware that this is a Hollywoodization of a book that itself took some narrative liberties - but I'm not going into it predetermined to HFS (hate the effing...) out of it.
I can't imagine enjoying it less than I did Behind the Seams, at least. Bob Costas' parts were written in such a ham-fisted manner that a rabbinical counsel declared them unkosher, and while it was great to see some of my friends and peers onscreen, this all had the feel of a bandwagon to grant Mainstream Approval to something that was long overdue and didn't suddenly need that imprimatur. Dudes, the Sox won in 2004 using Moneyball principles, but it's nice of you to notice.
Guillermo (Montevideo, Uruguay): Hi Jay! big, big question for you... what´s up with all those huge necklaces the players wear? where did that fashion come from?
Jay Jaffe: Yo Guillermo! BP contributor Emma Span looked into those necklaces at Bronx Banter last fall: http://www.bronxbanterblog.com/2010/11/05/phiten-mind-over-snake-oil/. I think the title of the article says a lot. There's no proven benefit to them, they look rather silly, and they basically seem to do little more than separate someone from their hard-earned cash.
Detroit Michael (Detroit, MI): Any insight to what the Yankees plan to do with catcher over the foreseeable future? Russell Martin will be a free agent but they don't seem ready (if ever) to let Montero catch regularly.
Jay Jaffe: My hunch is that they re-sign Martin and have Romine backing him up, with Montero as the full-time DH and only the occasional rep behind the plate to keep his skills from rusting entirely. That dings his value for sure, but the effects of age and injuries on A-Rod and Jeter serve to remind that this lineup could use an injection of youth.
Aaron (NYC): How did Curtis Granderson hit lefties so well this year? Fluke, or did he finally "figure it out" given enough PAs against them?
Jay Jaffe: While I don't expect him to keep hitting .275/.353/.615 against lefties, his results aren't a fluke. Granderson dedicated himself to tackling his lefty problem by reworking his swing late last year with the help of Kevin Long, and the results against pitchers of both hands have been convincing.
dianagramr (NYC): Hi Jay ... I understand your perspective criticizing the Rays for the Fuld/Jennings issue, but from a strictly economic perspective, even IF the Rays made the postseason, would the short-term bump in revenue (playoff games, and MAYBE some small increase in '12 attendance) make up for starting Moore's and Jennings' service time clock in '11? If the Rays truly are resigned to never being able to draw fans to the Trop, why should they even spend one PENNY more than they have to now?
Jay Jaffe: In general, studies have shown that the revenue boost from making the postseason has a considerable effect that could last a decade, dwarfing whatever minimal impact produced by "failing" to game the service clocks of a player or two. That said, the Rays have already reached the postseason twice in three years and have probably gained much less than the average team in terms of revenue, so the cumulative impact of an additional berth isn't as big. Still, I'd rather see a team with the Rays' collection of talent and smarts err on the side of aggressiveness instead of squandering a season where they have such a strong ballclub.
Detroit Michael (Detroit, MI): Jay,
If a player's career ended after the 2011 season (compared to if his career had ended a year earlier), who most significantly raised his chances of eventually making it into the Hall of Fame? I'm just asking for conversational purposes -- no need to generate JAWS scores.
Jay Jaffe: Jim Thome reaching the 600-homer plateau, with all of the extra attention it brought him, probably sealed the deal. And of course now Mariano Rivera has the saves record, so he's obviously in ;-)
kcboomer (KC): The Royals brought up a ton of guys this year but only Hosmer looks like the real deal. Any hope that Moustakis blossoms to the power levels predicted for him??
And is Giavotella really going to hit in the bigs??
Jay Jaffe: Based upon the scouting reports and minor league stats, it is ridiculously early to start giving up hope on Moustakas; he's 22 with 333 major league PA, for crying out loud! Go back and look at the careers of Mike Schmidt or George Brett and tell me if you think their teams should have given up hope after their first prolonged exposure to big league pitching. Hell, look at Alex Gordon, who has blossomed into a very good hitter.
I know Royals fans are impatient, but it ain't all gonna happen overnight. You've waited this long, you can wait at least a full season before panicking that some of these guys might not grow up to be the next Brett or whatever.
Sanchez101 (Santa Barbara, CA): Bring James Loney back... really? because he's on a hot streak ... really? I guess he might hit better than the LF options (meaning Sands can play there) ... but he's going to make $5m+ in arbitration ... please help
Jay Jaffe: Horrible Idea, with capitals for emphasis. Loney's .270 TAv is even with where he finished in 2009, but that was below average for a first baseman, and he now costs 10 times as much. I'd fire my GM for even entertaining the notion of re-signing him, and I'd take out a contract with a guy whose middle name is "the" (Johnny the Mangler, Billy the Strangler, Joey the Dangler...) if he actually completed a deal.
Matt (Whippleville, NY): Once Selig is out of the way, what is the biggest thing the new commish can do to improve the sport?
Jay Jaffe: Better vetting of potential owners, more independence from actual owners, and expanding instant replay.
Cubs Next GM (Purgatory): With a roster lacking top end talent(but not lacking top end paychecks),and a farm system lacking top end talent, is the Cubs' GM job really all that desirable? What would your plan B if you got the job?
Jay Jaffe: So many Cubs questions in the queue. Other than the fact that they're a big revenue team, I'm not sure the GM position is incredibly desirable because of the burdensome contracts, the mediocre system, and the pressure to placate a fan base that's gone over 100 years without a title and over 60 without a pennant. If I can't somehow pry Theo Epstein or Andrew Friedman away from their respective clubs (and why would they leave?), I'd shoot for a young talent like Kim Ng or Rick Hahn and go in with the idea that it's going to take years to turn the franchise around, so they won't be forced into q
Matt (Chicago): If you were new Cub GM,would you strip the team down completely, to the extent that you could? Or does their marketplace require a youth infusion combined w targeted FA signings?
Jay Jaffe: whoops, cut off before I could finish typing the phrase "quick fixes." And yes, I'd try to strip the team down as much as possible for payroll flexibility, take whatever discounts I could get on Zambrano and Soriano.
jhardman (Apex, NC): Who will be your vote for the AL Manager of the Year? Also, will Mike Napoli be eligible for the ALDS after his kiss to the Angel dugout in the season's last game incites a brawl? :-)
Jay Jaffe: Good question. A few weeks ago I'd have said Terry Francona, but his stubborn refusal to move Lackey out of the rotation and stretch Aceves out is one of the main factors in the team's slide.
I think Jim Leyland might be a good choice given that you really have to squint to figure out how Detroit has gotten to the top of the AL Central given all of their injuries and roster mismatches. That's also a credit to Dave Dombrowski, whose acquisitions of Wilson Betemit and Doug Fister have really helped.
JDanger (chicago): What are the reasons against starting Matt Moore over Jeff Nieman down the stretch?
Jay Jaffe: Because Niemann hasn't pitched badly - Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson have higher FIPs, by the way - and because Moore is nearing his innings cap.
DanDaMan (SeaCliff): Hey Jay, Sox or Rays?
Jay Jaffe: Given the schedule and the margin, I'd put my money on the Red Sox, but the Rays are the healthier team right now, and it wouldn't surprise me if they manage to pull this off.
stydings (In class): More likely to come back and win the wild card: Cardinals or Rays?
Jay Jaffe: Rays. La Russa pushes so many damn buttons that he's bound to nuke his own chances sooner or later, and I for one shall be rolling on the floor laughing when he does.
BillJ (New Mexico): It would understate it somewhat to say that Colby Rasmus hasn't exactly flourished now that he's out from under La Russian tyranny. I realize it's still too small a sample size to conclude that he's damaged goods, but how long will it be before the sample size is large enough to start worrying? Seems like a lot of the optimism about the Jays must be based on him being a major plus, and I'm starting to wonder about that.
Jay Jaffe: It's a small sample size, and let's not forget how disruptive it is to change teams, particularly with the added scrutiny and pressure that Rasmus' particular situation has created. We've seen what Rasmus can do over the course of a season in which he's been subject to less meddling and manipulation, and I'd like to see what he does with a whole season - spring training included - with the Jays' coaching staff helping him instead of the mixed messages he was dealing with in STL.
jamin67038 (Wichita, KS): My father put this question to me last week: What are the odds that the Yankees currently have an all-HOF infield? Teixeira seems like the longest shot to me- I put the number at 10%, would you say higher or lower?
Jay Jaffe: Let's see... Jeter's a 100-percent lock. A-Rod I'd probably put at 90-95 percent just because we don't know how the electorate is going to handle the upper-end steroid guys, to say nothing of their vocal loathing for him alone. Cano is building a nice case, but second basemen have a tendency to flame out early due to in part to the high injury risk of playing the keystone; let's say he's somewhere between 40-50 percent. Teixeira is piling up home runs but his rate stats are plummeting, and I don't think he'll look all that special when compared to the previous generation of power-hitting first basemen. I'd put him at 25-35 percent. Using the low-end figures of all four, I get 9 percent, while at the high end I get 17 percent. I'd say you're a bit low but not incredibly so.
Scott (Irvine, CA): Regarding James Loney-- did you read Chad Moriyama's blog post about him? Isn't there some evidence there that he might be worth taking a flier on, provided the Dodgers don't sign a big name?
Jay Jaffe: Saw it briefly. At this point we have a huge volume of evidence - more than half a decade's worth - that Loney is a below-average first baseman offensively. He'll never be a long-term asset there based upon his projections, and he's starting to get expensive. Short of him signing his entire paycheck over to me, you'll never find me advocating him as the full-time solution at his current price level, let alone a higher one. He's somebody else's stopgap waiting to happen.
Geopipp (Victoria ): Toronto lead's the league in one of the uglier stats blown saves. Do you think that with the youth movement that AA has been able to create he might begin looking for a closer via the trade route?
Jay Jaffe: Blown saves are a silly stat that fails to distinguish seventh-inning failures from ninth-inning ones. The veterans that AA has signed or traded for (Francisco, Rauch, Dotel) haven't been worth the money they're being paid, so why expend even more resources simply to acquire somebody with the Proven Closer imprimatur? Develop from within.
ScottyB (NY): I've been a subscriber for a long time, but my subscription is up in a few days and, for the first time, I don't know whether I'll re-up (loss of writers I really liked, a shift to fantasy baseball emphasis, etc.). What can you tell me to persuade me to stay?
Jay Jaffe: Scotty, it wouldn't be the same without you. We haven't had as smooth a season as we might have preferred, but there are a lot of changes underway on the stats side that I think are pretty exciting, some of which are talked about in our Big September article. We've finally gotten our minor league stats back to where we wanted them, we're about to reintroduce our historical WARP (with Palmer-based stats), and more. Furthermore, the playoffs are a whole lot of fun around here with this crew. We hope you'll stick around to be a part of our readership, and hey, we're even offering a discount for renewing right now.
Jay Jaffe: Folks, that's all I've got time for today. Thanks for stopping by - it's been a pleasure to yak with such a great group of readers - and look for me to have another chat sometime during the playoffs!