Chat with Jayson Stark
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, ESPN.com senior MLB writer Jayson Stark will drop in to chat some baseball.
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 (1:04 PM)
Greetings! Sorry I'm a couple of minutes late. Let's get started.
MVP stands for Most Valuable "Player" so how could anyone who understands the definition of the word "player" base an award for a "player" on team results. And putting forth the "that's how they've always done it" defense implicitly rubber stamps a myriad of historical atrocities, baseball and non-baseball.
Jayson Stark (1:06 PM)
Bob, everyone who fills out that ballot has their own definition of "valuable." Just because you might define it differently than I do, or I might define it differently than some voter in Kansas City does, doesn't mean any of us are wrong. We're just trying to define what that word and that award mean to us, not rubber-stamping historical atrocities. Trust me!
Can you recall such a boring September in MLB?
Jayson Stark (1:08 PM)
I never think of it as "boring," as long as you have award drama and jockeying for which teams will play each other in October. But I did look this up a week or so ago. And we'd never had a September before this year where there wasn't at least one race, as of Sept. 1, where the two teams were within a game of each other. And we've never had a September where the races for both wild cards were even out of hand. It's too bad for the sport, but it's never boring to me.
Mr. Stark, two questions for you: 1) Can you see Kimbrel and Freeman splitting NL ROY votes with someone else getting the award and 2) any thoughts on developing a book of your trivia questions? That segment of Mike & Mike is one of my favorites of each week. Thanks in advance.
Jayson Stark (1:08 PM)
1) I don't see anybody beating out Kimbrel at this point. And 2) thanks for the suggestion. You don't happen to head a huge publishing house, do you?
Jayson, why can't MVP, Most Valuable Player, mean the best player in the league that season? Wouldn't the best player in the league be the most valuable as well?
Jayson Stark (1:10 PM)
You know, John, I think what makes these MVP debates interesting is that "most valuable" doesn't mean the same thing as "best." There's already an award for the "best" hitter - the Hank Aaron Award. MVP has a different context. If it's about value, it's not just a Who Has the Prettiest Numbers contest.
Jayson - Giants fan here. Give me something to look forward to or be happy about. Any chance they can re-sign Beltran? I'd take a Freddy Sanchez, Beltran, Posey, Panda, Belt for a 2 through 6 in the order next year!
Jayson Stark (1:11 PM)
Any chance? Sure. But Beltran hasn't given any indication he wants to return. And he's a Scott Boras client, so he'll be all about who wins the bidding war. Either way, the Giants seem well aware they have to invest big in offense this winter. If you missed my blog post on this the other day, they're scoring fewer runs per game than any defending World Series champ ever.
Gut feeling: 5 years from now will there be 8 or 10 teams making the playoffs every year?
Jayson Stark (1:13 PM)
Ten. I'm more convinced than ever of that now that it's clear MLB is pressuring Jim Crane to move the Astros to the AL. It's a clear sign they're trying to pave the way for realignment, which will lead to adding a wild card in each league.
Where do you come down on the Oswalt vs. Worley issue if the Phils need a fourth starter this fall? While I presume Charlie will go with Oswalt's experience (despite Worley's consistency), I'd like to think September is a month-long audition for both.
Jayson Stark (1:15 PM)
It's an audition, to a degree. And if Oswalt's back acts up, that will answer the question. But it's obvious to me if it's up to the manager, he'll start the guy who has been there, done this in October. Oswalt has made 10 postseason starts, taken a loss in none of them, and his team has gone 7-3 in those starts. Also, the No. 4 starter only has to start one game in each series, remember. And that should benefit a guy like Oswalt who has some physical issues.
Thoughts on Adam Dunn? Its mind boggling how bad he's been this year.
Jayson Stark (1:18 PM)
The White Sox don't know what to make of it. He doesn't know what to make of it. And I'm not sure what to make of it. I'm sure changing leagues and not playing the field shook Adam out of his comfort zone. On the other hand, I know him well enough to say I've always thought he was one of the most comfortable, adaptable players I've ever met. His numbers were the same every year, even though he played for three different teams in three different divisions, in three very different ballparks. The one thing I've heard is, that they'd like him to go on a more rigorous workout program this winter. So maybe conditioning is what this is all about.
I know Kirk Gibson is going to win NL Manager of the Year, but how about the job that Terry Collins did with the Mets this year? The rotation is a joke, they sold their second best offensive player (Beltran) and their only reliable bullpen arm (K-Rod), their ace hasn't thrown a pitch this year (Johan), Wright missed two months, Ike only played a month.... and yet they were just a game under .500 yesterday.
Jayson Stark (1:18 PM)
With you all the way. He's a top-three finisher for me.
Whay the Astros? Are they okay with the move? Why not move the Brewers back?
Jayson Stark (1:20 PM)
Here's the thing to remember: All existing owners have veto power over any kind of move. So because the Astros are getting sold, they're exerting pressure on the one team where they have some leverage. They can also try to sell them on building a real rivalry with Texas, after 50 seasons with no true rival. But the down side of moving to the AL West is all those road division games that will end around midnight in their time zone.
PhilliesPhan (Philadelphia, PA)
Who is your CY Young: Halladay, Lee, Kershaw, or Kennedy?
Jayson Stark (1:22 PM)
This is literally a three-week pitchoff. The guy who pitches best is going to separate himself. Right now, I'd lean toward Kershaw. But it's amazing that he, Halladay and Lee are 4/100 of a run apart in ERA, so it couldn't be much closer.
So if they go with 15 teams per league, will they have a more balanced schedule? Or will there be a similar amount of interleague games, but just a few going on at all times? Or something like the NFL, where interleague where the AL Central plays the NL East one year and someone else another year?
Jayson Stark (1:23 PM)
If they go to five teams in all six divisions, the motivation is to have every team in the same division play essentially the same schedule. It should go division against division, plus one extra series to allow for rivalry games. That's what I'm hearing, anyway.
Jayson, how about a little love for my Jays? With the emergence of Lawrie as the latest dangerous bat it's looking like a pretty formidable lineup -- are they close to contending in the AL East?
Jayson Stark (1:26 PM)
The more you watch Lawrie, the more obvious it gets he's bound for stardom. And there's no doubt the Blue Jays are putting a bunch of pieces in place, all over the diamond. The one question is pitching. I spoke with an assistant GM of one AL team this week who was comparing them with the Rays of three or four years ago. And the one difference, he said, is that the Jays don't have the same depth of high-end starting pitching the Rays had basically arrive pretty much at the same time. But the Jays also have more money to spend, so that gives them opportunities to find those types of arms in other places.
Dave (Harrisburg, PA)
How would you respond to Tom Verducci's third strike today (besides being upset he stole your column name) suggesting the Brewers are a mirage created by their good fortune of playing the Astros, Pirates and Cubs so much this year? I had never considered this angle, but the number splits against good and bad teams are pretty jarring.
Jayson Stark (1:29 PM)
I think the Brewers are legit. But when I posted a link to our strength-of-schedule rankings on Twitter the other day, showing the Brewers have played the third-easiest schedule in baseball (with Arizona fourth), I got barraged by Brewers fans accusing me of trying to discredit them. That really wasn't the intention. That team is talented enough to beat anybody in October. But there's no doubt their record is in part a product of the division. Did you know they've won two series on the road all year against teams with a winning record - one in Philadelphia in April, the other in St. Louis last month?
Is the fact that the Tigers are running away with the AL Central actually hurting JV's MVP chances?
Jayson Stark (1:30 PM)
No. There are only two things hurting those chances. One is Miguel Cabrera, who chips away at the where-would-they-be-without-their-ace argument. The other is just philosophy. You still have too many voters who won't vote for a pitcher No. 1 if there are position-player candidates as attractive as the field this year. That's why I don't think he'll win, not because they've pulled away from the division.
Mike (San Diego)
It looks like Verlander has the Cy Young wrapped up, but one thing that might get lost in the shuffle is how great of a year CC Sabathia is having. Sabathia actually leads Verlander in FIP, xFIP, and fangraphs WAR right now. I still think Verlander has been better, but the Cy Young race isn't as massive of a gap as it may seem.
Jayson Stark (1:31 PM)
I mentioned that the other day during our big awards chat. On the other hand, Verlander leads in ERA, strikeouts, WHIP and wins. And if a pitcher leads the league in those four categories, he's going to win the Cy Young. You can take that to Vegas.
Jayson - People say the MVP shouldn't goto a pitcher because they have the Cy Young. Hitters have the Hank Aaron though, as you pointed out, and doesn't that mean pitchers should be considerded? Why does value have to be value delivered to a playoff team? Why can't it just be about whatever value you did deliver to your team?
Jayson Stark (1:34 PM)
It's supposed to be about value you deliver to your team. But the question is: Are all numbers really created equal? If two players have comparable seasons and one put up his numbers for a team that NEEDED to win, start to finish, while another guy put up essentially the same numbers for a team that faded out of the race early, are they really equally valuable? Not for me, they're not. I don't get the concept that if I think that way, I'm guilty of antiquated thinking.
Thoughts on Strasmas? I like the thought of him pitching at 96-97 then reaching back for 99-100 once in a while.
Jayson Stark (1:36 PM)
Me, too. That's how most of the great power pitchers of our time have always gone about it. You can't go max-effort every pitch and expect to have any staying power - unless you're Nolan Ryan. This guy needs to get quick outs, keep his pitch count under control and save the A-1 four-seamer for when he needs it. And looks like he got the memo.
Jayson, I understand your comparing two players who are equal in terms of numbers but couldn't it also be argued that the player on the better team has a superior supporting cast?
Jayson Stark (1:38 PM)
Of course. When I vote, I take EVERYTHING into account. I don't believe in magic numbers or magic formulas or anything else. I spend a lot of time considering every factor, tangible and intangible. But take Justin Upton, for instance. Is his supporting cast superior to, say, Joey Votto's cast? I don't think so. So the fact that he's doing what he's doing, with very little around him and a team that needs to win, is a major selling point for me.
Why is Jose Bautista being discriminated against for playing on a non playoff team, meanwhile Matt Kemp seems to not be getting the same criticism. Also the MVP cannot hit 260 when with Bautista, Verlander and Sox players all considerably better.
Jayson Stark (1:43 PM)
These are great points, Donny. Seems to me that if you're on the Matt Kemp bandwagon, you should be riding the Bautista bandwagon, too. The Blue Jays do have more around him than Kemp has, but his numbers are so superior to everybody's, that mitigates that argument, I think. The Granderson situation is also interesting. I recognize he would have one of the lowest batting averages for any MVP ever. But we have other numbers to look at now. He's top-five in OPS and Runs Created. And if he winds up leading the league in homers AND triples AND extra-base hits, and he scores 140-plus runs, he's in historic territory, for a team that's heading for October. So he certainly has a case. And by the way, his average is over .270 now.
Bobby (El Paso, Texas)
Do you believe the rumors/reports that the delay in the Astros sale has narrowed down to wrangling over the AL West move rather than continuing issues regarding Jim Crane's background? From a recent Houston Chronicle article, it almost sounds like Crane might let the deal lapse in November if things don't go his way...
Jayson Stark (1:44 PM)
This deal is GOING to happen. Drayton McLane is very tight with the commish, and he'll make sure it happens. I believe there are other issues. But I also think the single biggest stumbling block is that they need the Astros to move to make the other pieces fall in place.
Charles (San Jose)
Sorry if you said this already, but what are you voting for this year?
Jayson Stark (1:45 PM)
National League MVP. Wish me luck on that one!
Jayson, do you get the sense that Ricketts will have the stomach for a comprehensive rebuild? Their mediocre farm combined with restive fan base tells me that they'll do something short of that.
Jayson Stark (1:47 PM)
I think he wants to try building an organization with a different philosophy than what's been tried there in the past. So that's going to mean more sabermetrics and new-age thinking. And that inevitably could mean some degree of blowing it up and starting over. One little hitch there: Too many untradeable contracts. But I bet you'd already noticed that.
Mike (San Diego)
Any trivia today?
Jayson Stark (1:47 PM)
Ran out of time to get a second trivia question together today. Sorry. There's a good one in Rumblings and Grumblings, though.
Pete (Cupertino, CA)
Who is the best #2 starter among American League playoff contenders?
Jayson Stark (1:48 PM)
Whichever one of Beckett/Lester starts Game 2. Is there even much debate about that?
Why not expand two more teams, make two 16-team leagues (Astros don't have to move, just put the new teams in the AL), 8 teams per division, division winners get byes, then 4 wildcards from each league play a best of 3 where two advance to play the two division winners. Mark (DC) for commissioner 2013!
Jayson Stark (1:49 PM)
Nowhere to expand to. There's no appetite for expanding until the A's and Rays either get new parks or have to move somewhere. So that's years down the road. And even then, where? San Antonio? Vegas? Portland, Oregon? North Jersey? Charlotte? Oklahoma City? Mexico? Nobody's wild about expanding to any of those places, from what I hear.
What if Haren/Weaver start game 2 for th Angels?
Jayson Stark (1:50 PM)
Haren is tremendous. I think I'd still take Beckett/Lester, but it's close. Anybody disagree?
Pete (Cupertino, CA)
I should have clarified that I'm assuming a worst-case where Beckett can't pitch in the playoffs.
Jayson Stark (1:51 PM)
Ohhh. Now you tell me. Moot point. No indication he's hurt seriously enough that he won't be back by then. Might only miss one start.
I'd prefer contraction over expansion at this point. Too many teams that can't win and/or can't draw fans as it is. Why spread out an already thin talent pool?
Jayson Stark (1:52 PM)
That's not happening, either. It's more complicated than it might sound. Taxpayers built most of these ballparks. You want to defend the lawsuits when the teams that play in those parks get contracted?
The way Fister has pitched lately. I'd take him over a bad ankle beckett anyday.
Jayson Stark (1:53 PM)
He's definitely underrated. And if the Beckett the Red Sox send out there is a "bad ankle Beckett," you might be right. But this looks like just a mild sprained ankle. He should easily be healthy in three weeks.
And don't look now, but TB is only 6 losses behind the Red Sox...what about Price/Sheilds/Niemann/Hellickson, whichever is #2?
Jayson Stark (1:54 PM)
So the question is: Suppose the Rays make it and the Red Sox don't? Then I'm voting for Shields. That's easy.
Any chance Jason Heyward finds his swing before the playoffs or is it hard to turn things around this late in the season? He has looked good in a couple games in a row now.
Jayson Stark (1:55 PM)
He's made a lot of adjustments, so absolutely. I also get the impression that once Jose Constanza started stealing his playing time, it definitely got his attention.
Blake (Abilene, TX)
Did the MLB take note of UTSA having over 60,000 in attendance for their first football game. It looks like San Antonio is longing for some major sports teams!
Jayson Stark (1:56 PM)
You know, I've heard that when the Marlins were looking around after their stadium deal got shot down for about the ninth time, San Antonio was the market they liked best. But what are the odds of the Astros and Rangers allowing a team to set up shop there? Not good.
The original question was about playoff contenders...given that TB is only 6 back and the Angels are 2 back, both are contenders, no? So between Beckett, Haren, & Sheilds? I put Beckett 3rd.
Jayson Stark (1:58 PM)
I disagree. He's still first for me, off the way he's pitched this year. He's beaten the Yankees four times. And in five starts against the Rangers, Tigers and Rays, he's given up a total of four runs. He's been a dominator all year. If those are the three choices, I'd go Beckett/Haren/Shields. But there are no wrong answers!
JP (Columbus, OH)
Team results do not affect the amount of value a player provides. Period. End of story.
Jayson Stark (1:59 PM)
Let me end this chat the way I started it. If you define "value" differently than a voter in Kansas City, it doesn't mean either of you are wrong. It just means you have different philosophies of what that word means. This idea that value=WAR doesn't compute for everybody - and doesn't have to!
Jayson Stark (1:59 PM)
OK, let's sneak in one more.
Spurs Fan (San Antonio)
Do you know how far away Houston and Dallas are from San Antonio? Don't forget, EVERYTHING is bigger in Texas!
Jayson Stark (2:01 PM)
I've made that drive, so I do. But this isn't a question of odometer readings. If San Antonio is part of the territory of those two teams, they get a say. See: "A's/Giants and San Jose." This is the way baseball works, even if it doesn't always make sense.
Jayson Stark (2:01 PM)
Thanks for all the great questions. Sorry there was no trivia. I'll do my best to work one in next time. Seeya down the road in Chat Land.