Chat with Jayson Stark
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, 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 Tuesday at noon ET!
Jayson Stark (12:02 PM)
Time for my first chat of what looks like an awesome September. So let's get started.
Jayson, I'm in disbelief that the O's are in the mix for a playoff berth and even an AL East title, what chances do you give them to play in the playoffs?
Jayson Stark (12:04 PM)
I'd love to see it. But I'm still not all in. Face it. The Orioles are impossible to figure. 18th in runs scored. 17th in ERA. Most errors in the league. Minus-31 run differential. You'd never pick a team like that to make the playoffs in a vacuum. But when you actually watch them play -- the bullpen, the rebuilt rotation, the attention to detail, the little things they do, the one-run games they find a way to win -- you believe anything is possible. But would I bet the mortgage on this? Not ready to do that -- yet.
Corey (Louisville,ky) [via mobile]
Hey Jayson thanks for all the great coverage. do you see the Yankees winning the east this year? how much of an impact will pettite make when he returns from the DL?
Jayson Stark (12:07 PM)
Thanks for asking, Corey. Gives us a chance to turn our attention to the other side of the AL East race. I still think the Yankees will hold on if they regain any semblance of health in their lineup. But I'm concerned about their rotation heading into October. As Buster wrote today, CC isn't the same. I really like Kuroda in Game 2. But they now need Pettitte to get back in time to build up his pitch count enough to be effective in October. And that's starting to get iffy. So I still think they'll finish first. But it's getting harder and harder to like their chances in October.
Alan (St. Louis)
Did Torres touch the bag?
Jayson Stark (12:08 PM)
I've watched that replay six times. I think he did, but it's almost impossible to tell. I know the umpire was in great position, and the replay clearly shows he was on top of the play and watching it closely. But I also know this: To make that call, you have to be 100 percent sure you're right. Otherwise you can't call Torres out. I hope he's 100 percent sure, because I sure wasn't.
Ryan (State College)
Which september call up are you most looking forward to watching?
Jayson Stark (12:10 PM)
Jurickson Profar. No doubt about it. And I hope the Royals call up Wil Myers, because I was really impressed with him in the Futures Game. The other guy who intrigues me is Darin Ruf, who leads the minor league in homers and just hit 20 in August. I'd love to see how his raw power translates and whether he can play the outfield.
Jon (Bozeman, MT)
Jayson, now that the Padres have new ownership, are they players in the FA market? I would love to see them sign Hamilton.
Jayson Stark (12:12 PM)
No chance they get into the Hamilton market. Josh Byrnes is already on record as saying they won't be big players in free agency, that they'd rather invest in keeping the centerpiece players they have in the organization. So I think their big offseason decision will be whether to keep Chase Headley or deal him. And it sounds like they're increasingly leaning toward keeping him.
Do you see the A's youth being an impediment to success in their September meat-grinder of a schedule?
Jayson Stark (12:14 PM)
Their youth hasn't been an impediment yet. In fact, if anything, in this day and age, youth helps teams in September more than it hurts, because the schedule really grinds down the older teams. But do I think they can hang in there with the toughest September schedule in baseball? I'm not so sure they can. It's about talent level more than age and, aside from their pitching staff (which is incredibly underrated), they're not going to be the most talented team on the field in more than a half-dozen games in September.
Both the Giants and Dodgers have some great momentum going right now but with a 4.5 game lead and 6 head to head games left anything can happen. However nobody is talking about the schedule differences. The Dodgers have a much harder schedule left while the only team with a winning record the Giants play is the Dodgers. It would seem the Dodgers are going to have a real hard time catching the Giants. Do you agree?
Jayson Stark (12:16 PM)
I do agree. In fact, I actually wrote about this in Rumblings two weeks ago. The only team the Giants play the rest of the season that's over .500 is the Dodgers. So I have a feeling the Dodgers are now playing more for the wild card than the West, unless they can sweep the Giants, or at least go 5-1.
KEVIN (The Philly Shipyard)
Jay, what is your read on frandsen? will he be starting third base opening day 2013 for the phillies?
Jayson Stark (12:18 PM)
He's been a breath of fresh air on that team, but I wouldn't say he's Option 1 at third base next season. They love his energy, his positivity and his quality at-bats. But I think they'd prefer more reliable defense and more power at third base if they can find anybody who provides it. Their problem is, they can't seem to find a player who figures to be available and fits what they're looking for, unless Kevin Youkilis wants to take a one-year deal. And I'm dubious of that.
Justin (Philadelphia )
Jayson, who are your two teams coming out of the NL Wild Card? Seems like nobody wants to take control of either spot.
Jayson Stark (12:20 PM)
I still like the Braves and Cardinals. The Pirates and Diamondbacks are fading. The Dodgers have a killer schedule, as we just mentioned. And at this point, there might not be another serious contender. Want to make a case for someone else? Be my guest. But I think picking any team other than the Braves, Cardinals and Dodgers is a serious stretch.
Jason, based on what you see right now, which team in the AL and NL do you think is one that teams least wants to face in the playoffs?
Jayson Stark (12:22 PM)
I would never want to face the Rangers in October, but that's a question that usually revolves around who has the scariest starting pitching. So at this point, in the AL, I'd say the Rays (barely) over the Tigers and White Sox. And in the NL, how can the answer not be the Giants, unless the Nationals find a way to clone their soon-to-be invisible man, Strasburg?
Im sure you our anyone else at ESPN noticed but there is a player who is .001 BA pts from leading Mike Trout in every offensive category except Sb & R, is very, very much in contention for the Triple Crown, has been playing the last month on one ankle, teams is a contender, and just batted .600 in a series sweep against the team they're chasing.....but you'd never know it by following ESPN.
Jayson Stark (12:25 PM)
I don't understand these constant complaints from Tigers fans that we never talk about or write about Miguel Cabrera. Every time we show a Cabrera highlight, somebody says he's the best pure hitter in baseball. And I agree wholeheartedly. But what Mike Trout is doing is historic and electrifying. So I don't see any reason to apologize for mentioning that!
Jason, Melky Cabera's suspension will be over 5 games into the playoffs. If the Giants can get to the NLCS, do you see anyway they bring him back?
Jayson Stark (12:27 PM)
I'm going to bet against that. For one thing, he's not allowed to play games in either the Instructional League or Arizona Fall League before his suspension ends, so he'd have to go two months without playing in any kind of game. But for another, I get the sense they're unhappy with how he handled all of this -- before, during and after. So I'm guessing he gets the Jose Guillen treatment. They obviously haven't said that. But just an educated hunch.
People keep obsessing over the Orioles negative run differential, but it would actually be a positive 32 if you look at all of their opponents except Texas and LA. Those two teams, because they are the most talented in the AL, destroyed the Orioles. But against everybody else, the Orioles have played very well and are actually 24 games over .500.
Jayson Stark (12:30 PM)
That's an interesting take, Josh. But I'm actually trying not to obsess over that run differential. The hard thing to buy into is their record in one-run games (at least as a predictor of how they'll play down the stretch), and the fact that they're in the middle of the pack in every major statistical category, in offense and pitching, other than home runs and bullpen. But as I've said a lot lately, at a certain point, you are what your record says you are. And 134 games in is awfully close to that point!
Justin (Redlands, CA)
Do the Cabrera supporters realize that defense is important, too?
Jayson Stark (12:32 PM)
He's actually been better at third than most people figured, but now that I've got that out of the way, you're absolutely correct, Justin. Trout's impact on defense and on the bases is so much bigger than Cabrera's, no one should ignore it, no matter how much they admire Cabrera's hit tool.
Eight games back. Stranger things have happened, right? C'mon Phils!
Jayson Stark (12:34 PM)
Drew, Drew, Drew. Here's the reality of that: Coolstandings projects it will take 89 wins to win the second wild card in the NL. To win 89, the Phillies need to go 24-3. If you want to believe that's possible, I don't want to get in the way of your dreams. But I sure don't think it is.
Gary (Paducah KY)
Jayson Stark (12:35 PM)
Wouldn't want to get through a chat without that name. Thanks, Gary. Early line on when he makes his first start with the Astros might be 10 days!
So just because Trout is a rookie that makes him more 'valuable'??? pretty sure there is no age stipulations on the ballot.
Jayson Stark (12:36 PM)
Who said the fact he's a rookie makes him more valuable? We've been through this, Al. He's having a historic season. Period. He impacts the game in more ways than Cabrera. Period. The season isn't over, so this race isn't over. But that's what this is about. The rookie part is just an amazing subplot.
Why didn't the Nat's do more to save Strasburgs innings by skipping a few starts throughout the season so that he could pitch in the post season?
Jayson Stark (12:39 PM)
Wow. I was getting worried we'd get through this chat without anyone asking this question. The simple answer is, they had a plan going into the season and they've decided to stick to it, no matter what. But as much as I admire that, I know many, many thoughtful people in all aspects of baseball who think they should have done exactly that, Jack: Arranged the rotation so he could have skipped enough starts to stay fresh, pitch in October and not endanger his future. I really wish they had -- for everyone's sake. But it's their team. And their decision. And no one else's.
Orioles do have lots of errors, but they have 3 gold glove outfielders starting every day now, plus arguably the best defensive catcher and shortstop.
Jayson Stark (12:40 PM)
They've done an excellent job of restructuring their team defensively. So I agree with you, Jay, that they're better, especially up the middle, than the error numbers imply.
Of the teams vying for Wild Card spots, which one has the potential to make the deepest October run? My money is on the Cardinals, they of +97 run differential, not to mention some scary improbable-playoff-wins mojo.
Jayson Stark (12:41 PM)
I second that motion if you're talking about NL teams, especially if Chris Carpenter makes it back -- which is no longer out of the question (amazingly).
Why is Clemens coming back and with the worst team in baseball no less, the Astros. Is this a publicity stunt, does he need the money, fame. Do you see him coming back again next season?
Jayson Stark (12:43 PM)
Who else would sign him, Jerry? The Astros would try almost anything to inspire some actual customers to go through the turnstiles right now. And as I've written, Roger and the owner have an excellent relationship, play golf together, went to the All Star Game together, etc. So the stars have lined up for him to pitch for this team. But I haven't heard talk of any interest from any other team.
For all the people writing the Phillies off, your old pal Bob Brookover had an encouraging write up of the farm system on Sunday and they are 9 games over .500 against a hard schedule since the All Star Break. If healthy, aren't they one of the 2-3 top teams in the NL next year?
Jayson Stark (12:45 PM)
Not as currently constituted, they're not. Who's their third baseman next year, Brian? Who's their centerfielder? Who's their left fielder? Who's in their bullpen? How healthy will Halladay, Utley and Howard be? Too many questions to put them in the top two or three. Way too many.
Shutting down Strasburg definitely stings a little. However, every Nats fan here in DC has all the confidence in Jackson and Detwiler. Both of them have ERA's in the 3's have been pitching great recently. Why can't they win with a pitching staff of Gio, JZim, Edwin, and Det?
Jayson Stark (12:47 PM)
There will be worse rotations going out there in October, Mike. But I always try to frame that discussion this way: If you were going to design a pitcher to start Game 7 of the World Series, would you design Stephen Strasburg or Edwin Jackson? How often are postseason series decided by starting pitchers so dominating they can shut down any team's lineup, no matter how good it is? That's the Strasburg X Factor. And for anyone to suggest they'll be even remotely as dangerous in October without him is just blind optimism, not logic, talking.
I believe if Roger Clemens comes back it resets his clock for when Hall of Fame voting starts to make it four years after he retires again. Does that have any legs? I know nobody is saying that.
Jayson Stark (12:49 PM)
You're correct, that it does reset his clock (for five years, actually). But I'm not buying into that part of the comeback theory. I think Roger misses pitching and competing. I also think he likes changing the subject, so that he's answering questions about pitching instead of perjury. But I find it very hard to believe he's plotted to do this to increase his chances to get into the Hall of Fame. The voters have 15 years to make some sense of this. Why would five more years make any difference?
Steve Waterman (Lowell, MA)
Thoughts on the Uggla benching? Average was bad, but the OBP was okay. He was still taking his walks.
Jayson Stark (12:51 PM)
I'm surprised he was "benched." I would have expected them to pick spots for him to match up against pitchers he can succeed against, in the hope it would get him going. But face it, Steve. He's been awful, even if he has been leading the league in walks. They gave him three months to fix this as an every-day player, and it was getting worse, not better.
Joe (Idaho Falls, ID)
Jayson, should Ortiz try to come back this year? What are the upsides/downsides of playing vs. sitting?
Jayson Stark (12:53 PM)
If he gets healthy enough to play, what's the down side? At this point, the Red Sox wouldn't mind running any player out there whom their fans actually like, right? The question is whether he can get healthy in time. And that's still too hard to answer.
Good point. I know he is a big competitor. Five more years doesn't make a ton of difference, but it does throw Clemens into a voting period where almost every player will at least the specter of steroids revolving around their candidacy.
Jayson Stark (12:55 PM)
We'll be in that period in two months anyway, Chris, in some way, shape or form. I'm a voter, so I'm already way too conscious of playing that did-he-or-didn't-he guessing game with just about every name on the ballot. And trust me. It's impossible, no matter which name you throw out there, even guys everyone believes were clean. So all I'm saying is that I don't see this being any easier to figure out in 20 years than it will be over the next 15.
will bobby valentine be playing golf before the end of the 2012 MLB season?
Jayson Stark (12:56 PM)
He might play golf, but he won't be fired before Oct. 3. They've made that pretty clear. But the odds of him being fired or "resigning" after Oct. 3 are about as close to 100 percent as you can get.
What in the world is wrong with Romero?? Claims he's not injured. I think he is mentally screwed up at this point.
Jayson Stark (12:58 PM)
Just talked with a scout today who's seen him a lot lately. And his vote was: He HAS to be hurt. His track record was well enough established that it makes no sense for him to be pitching this way. And I mean that both in terms of results and pitch selection/command.
Jayson Stark (12:58 PM)
Hard to believe, but I've only got time for one more.
Jayson, what's your stance in terms of voting suspected/known steroid users into the HoF?
Jayson Stark (1:01 PM)
I've written about this many times, so feel free to Google it if you want to hear this argument in more depth. But I'm at the point where I have no idea how I'm supposed to look at the ballot and know who did what, or how it affected their careers. So I'm all for the Hall of Fame acting like the history museum it is, and doing what all museums do: Tell the story of what happened in a certain period of history. In most cases, I'm about ready to vote on playing credentials alone. And then I'd encourage the Hall to put everything else in historical context however it sees fit -- with an informational sign or exhibit about the Steroid Era, or even with specific info on the plaques of players like Bonds and McGwire that says they broke hallowed records BUT. Again, though, there's not time to go through all of this in a chat. Stay tuned. We'll be talking about this again way too soon!
Jayson Stark (1:02 PM)
Thanks to everyone who checked in. Great topics today. See you down the road in Chat Land!