Rob Neyer (10:56 AM)
Good morning, Baseball Fans of the Solar System! I will now answer questions with no more prejudice than is usual...
Scott (New Lenox, IL)
Rob: Why is everyone mentioning the Astros and the Cubs and completely overlooking the Cardinals as contenders for the N.L. Central title? I expect to hear the typical answer of "pitching wins championships" but hasn't that changed over the recent years to "balance wins championships"?
Rob Neyer (10:59 AM)
Well, because the Astros and the Cubs are better than the Cardinals. However -- and this might be a column next week -- the Cardinals are one of a number of "third-place teams" that actually have a real shot at being a first-place team. If the Cardinals figure out left field and get lucky with one of their starters, they could win 90 games and contend for the division title.
Morning Rob! I saw you on ESPNews the other day, and seeing Mt. Hood in the background made me homesick! Of course, living next to Fenway ain't bad. Recently, there seems to be an increase in the belief that if a batter is surrounded by good hitters in a line-up (protection), it makes that batter more effective, and a better hitter. Have you or anyone else ever investigated whether this statement is statistically true? Keep up the great writing (columns AND books).
Rob Neyer (11:02 AM)
Well, I live within sight of Mt. Hood and I once lived four blocks from Fenway Park, and I can definitely report that Fenway's better. About "protection," the studies have been done and the effects are greatly exaggerated. It can help, but generally by just a little. What's important is who's in the lineup, not where they are in it.
Seth, Tallahassee, Fl
Any chance the Red Sox get Milton Bradley to replace Trot Nixon?
Rob Neyer (11:03 AM)
I don't see him as a good fit in that tiny clubhouse, full of no-nonsense veterans. My guess is Bradley goes to a team that's got a more obvious, long-term need for an outfielder.
Julian (Pembroke Pines, FL)
Hey Rob, When is your pitching book with Bill James coming out, and what features are going to be in there? Also, are you still planning to go to Oakland for the Sabermetrics day with the A's?
Rob Neyer (11:05 AM)
The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers should be arriving in bookstores in the middle of May. Features? Various articles about pitching, and a long "register" of pitchers' repertoires and styles. I am planning to attend the Athletics' Sabermetrics Day on June 6. And thanks for asking.
Mika - Helsinki, Finland
Who do you think has the AL's best starting rotation, bullpen, and overall best staff?
Rob Neyer (11:07 AM)
Bullpen: Mariners or Angels
Staff: Red Sox (?)
Matthew (Los Angeles)
He's only 20, sure, but in the next 5 years, do you see Miguel Cabrera living up to the hype? Can ANYONE be the "next Pujols?"
Rob Neyer (11:09 AM)
Anything's possible, I suppose, but the odds of two "Pujolses" hitting the majors within a few years are awfully long. Cabrera eventually will be a great major-league hitter, but he's not quite there yet.
Do the Phils still have too many strikeouts in the middle of the order to really compete for the World Series?
Rob Neyer (11:09 AM)
Nah, that's silly. A lot of great teams have included hitters that strike out. You draw enough walks and hit enough home runs, you'll score enough runs to beat anybody.
Billy Bob The 3-Legged Cowpoke
Will a team attempt a 4-man rotation at some point this season? If so, which team will it be?
Rob Neyer (11:11 AM)
Not likely. When somebody finally does it, it'll likely come after some period of training and preparation. I had high hopes for the Blue Jays after they talked about it last season, but no hints lately.
Ned ( NY)
Do you think that Beckett has been overly hyped? I mean come one, besides his K/inning pitched, he's never really performed over a full season.
Rob Neyer (11:13 AM)
Well, I'm not exactly sure what "overly hyped" means. It's too early to measure him for a Hall of Fame plaque and he has to stay healthy, but I expect Beckett to win some of the Cy Young Awards that Mark Prior doesn't.
What do you think the Red Sox need to do over the first month while Trot, Nomar, and Kim are out? Can they have a .500 month and still hope to compete in the end?
What gives in LA? Nomo's throwing 83mph, Weaver has a WHIP near 3.00, Ishii is throwing twice as many balls as strikes, Mota got rocked last night, and Edwin Jackson has reverted to look like an inexperienced 20 yr old. Will this team finally let last year's best starter, W Alvarez into the rotation?
Rob Neyer (11:16 AM)
I don't put a lot of stock in spring-training stats, but the news from Vero Beach is a little scary. This is a 78-win team that has the potential for complete collapse. And there's not a lot Wilson Alvarez can do about it, whether he's starting or relieving.
am i going to miss rick peterson?
Rob Neyer (11:17 AM)
I don't know why you would, as you fared quite well for five seasons before you ever met him.
Larry Bowa, Philadelphia PA
Do my antics help, hurt, or have little impact on my players? Did my insistence on an aggressive approach at the plate help keep young Pat in that ditch last year?
Rob Neyer (11:19 AM)
Depends on the player, depends on the team. But there's part of me that thinks maybe the best thing that couuld happen to the Phillies would be for them to get off to a slow start, fire your fiery butt, and hire somebody a bit more laid-back.
Kirk (Roseville, CA)
I see a lot of baseball analysts picking the Rockies, Padres, and Dodgers to compete with the Giants and Diamondbacks for the NL West. Do you agree? Also, can you give your brief synopsis of this division/race. Thanks have a good day and weekend.
Rob Neyer (11:20 AM)
I can't see the Rockies or Dodgers doing much, but the numbers actually suggest the Padres are as good as anybody in that division. If Randy Johnson's healthy enough to start 32 games -- and yes, that's a big if -- it should be a great three-team race.
Once again everyone is overlooking the Montreal Expos. Despite losing Vlad and Vazquez, the offense is as balanced as it's been in years. If they can stay healthy, don't you think they can make a playoff run?
Rob Neyer (11:24 AM)
Well, let's see, you've got a .500 team that lost its best hitter and its best pitcher . . . their only hope is that Juan Rivera and Nick Johnson break out, but Johnson's hurt (again) and Rivera doesn't really have star potential. I would argue that .500 is about the best the Expos can do.
i know the orioles arent going to overtake the red sox/yankees, but can at least be respectable, and win, say 85 games?
Rob Neyer (11:26 AM)
Young pitchers can surprise us, but the Orioles' young pitchers would really have to surprise us. I think I read somewhere that once you get past Sidney Ponson, the Orioles' projected starters have combined for 10 MLB wins.
Rick (Chicago, IL)
Milton to the White Sox? Long-term need at CF? What do you think?
Rob Neyer (11:27 AM)
The White Sox seem to think Willie Harris is still going to develop (and he might), and Joe Borchard lurks in the weeds, too. So I don't think these Sox are the right fit, either.
Zach (Jasper, IN)
Scott Rolen is considered one of the premiere 3rd basemen in the game. What kind of production do you see from him this upcoming season? Thanks
Rob Neyer (11:29 AM)
Alex Rodriguez notwithstanding, I believe there are currently two great, Hall of Fame-quality third basemen in the majors: Scott Rolen and Eric Chavez. And Rolen, his back problems apparently behind him (no pun intended), is a great bet for a great year, 35-plus homers and all the other good stuff.
Matthew (Los Angeles)
Is Chavez really a "Hall-of-Fame" quality 3B? With the way he "hits" lefties?
Rob Neyer (11:32 AM)
I haven't known a Hall of Fame voter yet who looked at a player's L/R splits. All that matters are the overall numbers, and Chavez's are excellent and likely to get better.
Jonny ( Appleton,WI )
Do you see Robbie Alomar surpassing 3000 hits during his career?
Rob Neyer (11:35 AM)
Well, he's 321 short. So yeah, I suppose he's got a good shot if he can play regularly for only two more seasons, and as a spare part for two more. But he has to play at least reasonably well to get those four seasons, and his recent performance doesn't bode well.
Who is the best 2nd baseman in the AL EAST?
Rob Neyer (11:37 AM)
It's not Enrique Wilson? I suppose the answer is Orlando Hudson, especially if we consider potential.
Peter (Lorton, VA)
Who do you think the Red Sox have to sign (Pedro, Nomar, Varitek, Lowe, Ortiz) to remain competitive in the future? I think Varitek and Ortiz are critical, with Nomar a close third.
Rob Neyer (11:39 AM)
Of course it depends on the dollars involved, but I would rate them like this: Nomar, Ortiz, Pedro, Varitek, Lowe. I have Garciaparra at the top because where else are you going to find a shortstop who can hit like he does? And I have Martinez third because how much longer will his shoulder last?
Eric (Sewickley, PA)
Say something nice about the Pirates. Please!
Rob Neyer (11:44 AM)
They have a pretty ballpark. And Craig Wilson would make a great DH for some lucky team.
Todd (Akron, OH)
Rob, can the Tigers in any way contend for the AL Central crown if Minnesota and Kansas City stumble a bit?
Rob Neyer (11:45 AM)
If the Tigers win 70 games it'll be a miracle. The lineup is much improved, but the pitching staff is still just above Triple-A quality.
Orlando Hudson??? Does the AL really lack great 2nd baseman??
Rob Neyer (11:47 AM)
We're just generally in a down period for second basemen. Once you get past Alfonso Soriano and Marcus Giles, there just aren't any young second basemen to get excited about.
Alan Urbana, IL
The Cardinals have Ray Lankford slated as their starting LF. He's played well this spring, but do you think there's any chance he'll be productive over the course of the season?
Rob Neyer (11:49 AM)
I don't think it's all that likely, but you sure do have to pull for him, don't you? After the way he left St. Louis, then didn't even play for an entire season?
Aaron (Chicago, IL)
I'm a transplanted Royals fan trying to deal with White Sox fans who think the Royals don't have a chance. But the Royals do have a chance...don't they?
Rob Neyer (11:52 AM)
Sure, they have a chance. I happen to think they're the third-best team in that division, but the difference between third-best and first-best is small enough that you have to consider the Royals contenders. The lineup looks good if Gonzalez and Sweeney are healthy, but the pitching remains a real question.
Eric (Boulder City)
Rob, Best place for Ryan Wagner this year, starter or closer? Thanks. Eric
Rob Neyer (11:54 AM)
Closer. And in that role, I predict he's the Rookie of the Year. Thanks for all the questions, and I'll be doing this again Monday at 2pm Eastern.