Chat with Jayson Stark
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, ESPN.com senior MLB writer Jayson Stark will drop in to chat about the MLB season.
Jayson Stark has been a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com since 2000. His regular contributions include the newsy Rumblings and Grumblings column and his tilted look inside baseball's numbers and quirks, the Useless Information Department.
Send your questions now and join Stark Friday at 1 p.m. ET!
Jayson Stark (1:02 PM)
Sorry I'm a few minutes late, everyone. I was (what else?) on the phone. So let's get started.
Zach (Charlotte NC)
Hey Jason, can you give your opinion on the chances of the cardinals becoming a world series contender and possibly beating the Phillies in the NLCS?
Jayson Stark (1:05 PM)
I wrote about this this week in Rumblings and Grumblings. Their lineup is so deep now with the addition of Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa that I wouldn't want to face it if I were the Phillies, Dodgers, Rockies, etc. And Ryan Franklin has had an awesome year at the back of that bullpen. But when you look at what it takes to win in October, it's top-of-the-rotation starting pitching. And the Cardinals are 25-3 since July 1 when Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Joel Pineiro start. That sounds like a favorite to me.
Jayson, what is the percentage the Phillies claim Billy Wagner off waivers? I know that him and Burrell weren't the best of friends, but would there be any other distractions for him in the clubhouse?
Jayson Stark (1:07 PM)
I don't see any team claiming Wagner. If you claim him, you owe him more than $3.5 million for the rest of the year. I see him passing through waivers and then getting traded but not to the Phillies. For one thing, the Phillies don't seem that interested. For another, what are the chances the Mets would want to trade him to the Phillies? None and none, I'd say. (By the way, we should know shortly if Wagner cleared. His waivers expired a few minutes ago.)
Is there any chance Pujols doesnt win MVP
Jayson Stark (1:09 PM)
There's always a chance, I guess -- if he hits like .038 in September and the Cardinals fall apart. But that's what it would take. You'd need some kind of historic finish by somebody like a Hanley Ramirez, driving his team into the postseason, and a complete collapse by Albert. It's his year. Of course, we seem to say that every year. Don't we?
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Mr. Stark: How much do you think John Smoltz has left to offer? Will he end up being a good pickup for the Cardinals or a wasted effort?
Jayson Stark (1:11 PM)
I would always take my chances with John Smoltz. I don't know what he's got left as a starter. Check his splits on espn.com, and you'll see how the numbers against him got worse with every 15 pitches he threw as a starter this year. But I think he'd be a definite force in the Cardinals' bullpen in October, with a manager like Tony La Russa who would get him into matchups against righthanded hitters late in the game. I'll repeat this stat from last week's Rumblings: Over his last seven starts with Boston, his ERA in the first two innings was 0.64.
Whos your AL Cy Young, MVP and ROY?
Jayson Stark (1:14 PM)
There's no compelling candidate for rookie of the year right now. Not for me. So this will be a big last month and a half. But same with the Cy and MVP voting. This is going to be a fascinating year. Zack Greinke and Joe Mauer have clearly had the best seasons. But are voters going to vote for them? The Cy Young voters have shown they still rely way too heavily on wins, and the Royals actually have a losing record when Greinke starts. And Mauer's team has a chance to fall out of every race, not that it's his fault. So are voters still going to vote for him, or does that make Teixeira the man. Right now, those would be my two picks. But September plot lines always figure into the voting.
Shane (Casper, WY)
Is there any other Manager than Jim Tracy in the Manager of the Year in the NL?
Jayson Stark (1:17 PM)
The Jim Tracy-Tony La Russa duel for manager of the year is another fascinating debate. (Full disclosure: I'll have a vote.) I think this is actually one of Tony's best managing jobs ever. And Tracy has had a historic first 75 games. (Check today's Elias Says.) But the answer to your question is yes. That guy in St. Louis.
Wouldn't Wagner be a great pickup for the LAA's? They have weakness in the bullpen and an owner who has always shown a willingness to spend when it counts.
Jayson Stark (1:19 PM)
There are so many teams on Billy Wagner, especially after last night, that I think the Mets are going to get a better return on him than I originally thought. And you're exactly right about the Angels. They're third from the bottom of the league in bullpen ERA, and Brian Fuentes has had a rough month. (Check Rumblings.) So they're definitely a team that would be interested, assuming Wagner clears.
So, you're saying Elvis Andrus isn't a "compelling" AL ROY candidate. I'd have to strongly disagree with that. Anyone who watches the Rangers on a regular basis can see he's a huge part of their turnaround this year.
Jayson Stark (1:22 PM)
It all depends on how you define "compelling," I guess. He's been the one rookie in the league who has been an every-day player for the entire season. And he's hit .270, with some stolen bases. So you're probably right, that he's compelling enough to look at seriously. But I don't think he's separated himself from Andrew Bailey, Jeff Nieman, Rick Porcello, Ricky Romero, etc. My point is that nobody's having a season gigantic enough to be a clear ROY favorite.
Julio (Dominican Republic)
Can the Braves win the wild card? I know that their pitching is well above average, but I still have my doubts about their offense, specially against LH pitching (although, the addition of Laroche has helped a lot). Also, once Tim Hudson comes back, what to do with him, rotation or bullpen?
Jayson Stark (1:24 PM)
I think they're dangerous. But they can't slip any further behind, not when they're in a race with this many teams. They need a big finish from Chipper. But he's so banged up, it's tough to know he's capable of. The McLouth injury really hurts them, too. They need all the offense they can get. And things aren't going well for them on the health front.
Zac (Clear Lake, MN)
Jason- Do you think Joe Mauer will actually bat .400?
Jayson Stark (1:26 PM)
I think Joe Mauer will wind up having the greatest offensive season by any catcher in history -- but he won't hit .400. He'd have to hit over .450 the rest of the way. And that's just about impossible. Even for him!
NL Cy Young: Carpenter, Wainwright, or Lincecum
Jayson Stark (1:27 PM)
I'm still going with Lincecum, but it's close. I think you can make a case that Lincecum has had the most "dominating" starts. But Carpenter now leads him in ERA, and Wainwright leads him in wins. So it ought to be a fun September.
Is this series important for the Yankees this weekend? If they get swept by Boston, does that leave the door to slip out of the division lead open?
Jayson Stark (1:29 PM)
The one thing they can't do is get swept. But look at those pitching match-ups. The Yankees have their rotation lined up great, with Pettitte, Burnett and CC. The Red Sox -- eh, not so much, with Penny and Tazawa serving as the warm-up acts to Josh Beckett on Sunday. I don't see the Yankees losing this division. Anybody care to make an argument why I'm wrong?
Brian (Fishers, IN)
So as someone who has a vote for Manager of the Year, how do you analyze the manager's contribution--as opposed to, say, the GM, players, coaches, etc.? After all, pitching coach Dave Duncan ought to get a lot of credit for what LsRussa's Cardinals have accomplished, right?
Jayson Stark (1:31 PM)
I give managers credit for contributions by their coaching staff. That's all part of the formula. The idea, when you vote for manager of the year, is to ask yourself: Which manager got more out of the players he was given than any other manager in his league? Way too often, people vote on those awards by finding the team that "overachieved" the most compared with preseason expectations. I don't think that should be the only criteria, because it penalizes managers who do a great job with a great team. So I try to be less formulaic about it than some folks.
Luke (Saint Paul)
Why is hitting .450 impossible for Mauer? August is almost over and he is at .453 for the month. Nothing is impossible with this young man...
Jayson Stark (1:32 PM)
I agree. But is it realistic to think he's going to keep hitting at this pace for another month and a half? Remember, the season runs into the first week of October this year. There's a long, long way to go.
If you were running the mythical 'Awards Department' of MLB, what awards would you add or eliminate?
Jayson Stark (1:35 PM)
Glad you asked. I've been campaigning for years for a Rollie Fingers Award, or a Jerome Holtzman Award, to honor the best closer in each league. The biggest farce of our time is that Mariano Rivera, possibly the most dominating baseball player of his era, has never won a single major award. The Rolaids award doesn't cut it for me, because it's based on a simple mathematical formula. I'd like to see the BBWAA add a relievers' award because they don't win the other awards unless there's no "classic" candidate, and because I think it would help voters better analyze closers come Hall of Fame time. If you could see that Trevor Hoffman won six Jerome Holtzman Awards, wouldn't that tell you more about his career than his save total?
Can the Rays still contend if they drop the weekend series to the Rangers?
Jayson Stark (1:36 PM)
They can. But they need to get on a 2008-type roll. And the calendar is running out of opportunities for them to do that. This would be an excellent weekend to start if they think they still have a run in them.
Robert (Los Angeles)
Would you say Ron Washington is in contention for AL Manager of the Year? I mean most people did not see his team doing anything until next year. Is Mike Scioscia his biggest competition?
Jayson Stark (1:37 PM)
He's a big-time candidate. He and Don Wakamatsu would rank 1-2 for me right now. But there are lots of good candidates. Joe Girardi and Jim Leyland are definitely in that argument.
Ubaldo Jimenez has gone 6 innings or more in 20 straight starts, and he is only getting better, plus his work ethic is legendary. Most opposing managers say he has the best stuff in the league, what is his ceiling?
Jayson Stark (1:39 PM)
I was talking to a scout about him last night. He has No. 1 starter written all over him. Anybody who throws 98-99 consistently with that kind of movement, keeps the ball in the park and seems to have an increasingly better feel for pitching HAS to turn into an ace. Maybe the most underrated young starter in baseball.
Jen (Allentown PA)
Would you Keep Brad Lidge as the closer? If not who would you replace him with?
Jayson Stark (1:43 PM)
The Phillies' bullpen works best if Lidge can find it sometime between now and October. So I'd do just what Charlie Manuel is doing -- stick with him until the end. But if he hasn't shown signs of fixing his delivery and getting his act together by October, I'd go with the hottest hand I could find in the postseason. That could be Ryan Madson. It could be Pedro. It could be J.A. Happ. I keep pointing to the 2005 White Sox and 2006 Cardinals. Bobby Jenks and Adam Wainwright weren't closing for those teams all year. But in October, the idea isn't to do what you did all year. It's one thing and one thing only: Win tonight.
GM-Carson (Harrisburg, PA)
I did a Wikipedia search, and now understand the Jerome Holtzman reference.
Jayson Stark (1:44 PM)
Thanks. I meant to explain that and never got back to it. The great Jerome Holtzman, my friend and one of my sportswriting idols, is the man who invented the modern save rule. He just passed away last year, and I'd love to see him honored with this award -- if it ever happens.
How is Scioscia not the clear cut MOY with all that has happened to the Angels this year - including the beginning of the season? No disrespect to Washington or Wakamatsu, but Scioscia has managed more and better.
Jayson Stark (1:45 PM)
Sorry. Should have mentioned him, too. Mike is one of those guys I'm tempted to pick for that award every year. He's absolutely in this discussion. But he's not the "clear-cut" MOY. Not yet.
Ease up on that "greatest offensive season by any catcher in history" stuff for Mauer. Yes, he's incredible. But I'm not even a Dodgers fan and even I didn't forget Piazza's 1997 year. 152 games, 40 home runs, 124 rbi, .362 ba, 201 hits. And in a bigger park than the Metrodome.
Jayson Stark (1:47 PM)
That's the standard now. But Mauer has a higher batting average, OBP and SLG than Piazza did that year -- or at least he did going into yesterday. And his counting numbers will suffer because he missed a month. If he hits .380, with 30-plus homers and a .650 SLG and .450 OBP, that would rank No. 1 on my list.
Who has the deepest lineup in the National League? Its a close race between a lot of teams, but I would go with the Phillies because they can beat you in many different ways. What do you think?
Jayson Stark (1:48 PM)
That's how I'd vote, too. I was actually talking with A.J. Hinch about that last night. I'd give the Phillies a slight edge over the Dodgers and Cardinals just because the Phillies have more thunder from top to bottom. Sometimes they rely too much on that thunder. But the consensus of people I talk to is that that's the scariest and deepest lineup in the league.
Does Delmon Young have any trade value left?
Jayson Stark (1:50 PM)
Since last winter, the Twins have practically splattered him on a billboard that said: "Take This Guy, Please." And they've had next to no interest from any team willing to give up anything of value. Maybe his last couple of weeks will change that if he keeps it up. But other clubs could not possibly be more wary of Delmon right now.
If there was a most improved player award, who would win- Reynolds or Zobrist?
Jayson Stark (1:51 PM)
I might go with Michael Bourn, to be honest. Your thoughts?
You mentioned Wagner being traded earlier. Would it just be a move to get his money off the books or could the Mets actually expect player/prospects in return? Any chance at getting, say, Brandon Wood if it's a deal with LAA (the Angels seem to never want to play him but won't move him)? Or am I way off base on Wags' value there?
Jayson Stark (1:53 PM)
I think initially, the Mets were just hoping they could get some of those dollars off the payroll and get a medium-tier prospect back. Now it looks as if, if they'll eat a good chunk of the money, they can get a much better return. Everyone who has seen Wagner since he started his rehab thinks he can make an impact. And there are no other impact relievers available. So this could get very interesting.
How about Russ Branyan as MIP?
Jayson Stark (1:53 PM)
Good one. Put him on the list.
The Phillies don't need a closer if their starters keep going 8 or 9... and they can just use situational guys for every batter in the ninth!
Jayson Stark (1:55 PM)
That's a fine argument -- if it were, say, 1957. But in this day and age, the starters are not going to go eight and nine innings every game through an entire postseason. And I don't see Charlie Manuel wanting to go situation-to-situation late for an entire postseason, either. Somebody is going to have to step forward for that team. Ideally, they'd want it to be Brad Lidge. But if not, they'd better have a Plan B on the drawing board.
Marlon Byrd as MIP? 38 doubles.
Jayson Stark (1:56 PM)
Another excellent name. Good one!
Miguel Cabrera (Detroit, MI)
Why am I left out of the MVP discussion so much? It seems like my production has been equal to, if not better than Teixeira. My RBI are less, but that is a factor of guys getting on base.
Jayson Stark (1:57 PM)
Miguel, you're a name I wouldn't write off yet. I could see you having a monster finish to carry your team into the postseason. And that might do it. In fact, I made that very argument on a radio show just yesterday!
aaron (new york)
The white sox won a world series barely using their awesome bullpen. Four straight complete games! It can be don
Jayson Stark (1:58 PM)
That was an aberration, Aaron. And I don't see it being possible for a team that might have to face the Rockies, and then the Cardinals or Dodgers, and then a great AL lineup in back-to-back-to-back rounds this year. Sorry. Somebody will have to close. Period.
Jayson Stark (1:59 PM)
OK, it's that time again, friends: One more question.
Dave (Thousand Oaks, CA)
Jayson, why should an award for relief pitchers only honor closers? I can think of a few years where the most dominant reliever was actually a setup guy (who usually parlays that season into a job closing somewhere).
Jayson Stark (2:00 PM)
You make a great argument. I think you're right, that non-closers should be considered for the Holtzman Award, as soon as we wise up and invent it. But I think set-up men would have an almost impossible time beating any closer who had a dominating year. Don't you?
Jayson Stark (2:00 PM)
Thanks to everybody who participated in this. Another fun hour. Seeya down the road.