Monday, July 23, 2007

One, two, three, chat-chat-chat

Yes, it's time once again to usurp Joe Morgan's place as lead baseball analyst for the Worldwide Leader, courtesy of FJM. As always, this is straight cut-and-paste, without reading the answers until I'm finished. I'm going to click over and read what KT had to say about the real thing while you scroll on:

Bernard (Princeton, NJ): Hi Joe! At one point do the Red Sox start to worry about that team in the Bronx?

I don’t think “worry” is the correct word, Bernard. The Yankees have a great lineup and score a lot of runs, which helps to cover up their rotation and overused bullpen. As a result, they will go on stretches where they look like the best team in baseball, and then a couple of bats will run cold and their lack of reliable pitching shows. Right now they’re streaking against some poor teams, but they still have to make up eight games in less than half a year, so if anyone should worry, it’s the Yankees and not the Red Sox.

Kwame (New York, NY): Joe can you pinpoint anything that would explain Beltran's struggles? He's killing the Mets in the middle of the order right now. Is it because Delgado is having a bad year? With his tools he should be hitting .290 during an "off" year.

But Beltran isn't really a .290 hitter anyway; he's a .275 hitter with good pop, walks a lot, and he plays a fine centerfield. This season, despite some soft stretches, Beltran still leads the team in HR, is second in slugging among regulars, third in total bases, third in walks… he’s also 14 for 16 in steals.

Last season was something of a high-water mark for Beltran, and even though he’s not up to that level this season, he’s still hitting better than he did two years ago. Delgado's been coming on over the past few weeks, and David Wright has hit behind him as well, so it's not lack of protection, just the normal variations from year to year. He’s only thirty, it’s not time to run up a white flag on Carlos Beltran.

Randy(Knoxville,TN): Hi Joe...I dont get the move by the Cubs to get Jason Kendall. He isn’t hitting or playing particularly well it seems. The buzz words being bandied about are 'leadership' and 'caretaker', but Koyie Hill seems to have handled our pitchers well. What is your take on Kendall and what he means for the Cubs? Thanks for the time, Joe.

A sideways move at best. Kendall has been one of the worst-hitting regulars in all of baseball this season. Obviously the Cubs hope that he’ll rebound somewhat to his Pittsburgh form, but there are two big warning signs: first, he’s got a lot of mileage on him for a catcher (1600 games and counting), and second, he’s been declining for some time, in all offensive areas: his power’s down (and with a career high of 14 HR, it was never that “up”) and he’s not on base as often.

In the NL he can hit seventh or eighth, hopefully draw a walk in front of the pitcher, get moved over on a sacrifice, and then be driven in by the top of the order. He can also teach some of the finer points of catching to the young guys, which isn’t going to help if he’s playing in front of them all the time. Game experience counts as much as the instruction he could offer. Really, there’s not much else he can do except not get punched in the head by Carlos Zambrano.

Scotty (Warren, Mi): If Zumaya and Rodney come back healthy for the Tigers pen are they the team to beat in the American League?

It would mean avoiding Todd Jones to close games, and that couldn’t hurt. Not that Rodney’s numbers are that good, but when healthy I’m sure he’ll pitch better than he was. The offense just has to keep pace, and Ordonez, Sheffield, Guillen, and Granderson aren’t slowing up.

Boston is the most serious challenge they have, and that’s while carrying some dead wood in the batting order. Detroit leads the majors in runs scored, but are 13th in ERA; Boston is fifth in runs and third in ERA. Also remember that Detroit plays in a tougher division and has to worry about Minnesota and Cleveland – only 11-11 combined, with 14 games left against them. Boston’s got six against the Yanks, but are already 7-5 on them.

Joe (DC): Besides firing the owner, what are three things the Orioles need to do to become contenders again in the next 3-5 years?

It looks like they can build a great rotation around Bedard, Guthrie, and Loewen (as long as he gets his control under control). I’d start there. Next, I’d see if anyone would like to take a flyer on Miguel Tejada or Melvin Mora at the deadline. I may even be persuaded to part with Brian Roberts, who is still getting on base very well and is only 30, after all. But I’d have to be really impressed with the offer, since he’s a solid contributor at second base. After that, it depends on how aggressively Baltimore wants to pursue free agents. They could use upgrades at catcher, first, and third, so it's not an overnight fix.

Sean (Washington DC): Joe, great to see you getting an early start on the chats, thanks! I was wondering with the way Willis is pitching right now, what would a team really want to give up for him? Also, have you ever thought about writing a book?

To start from the end, I write all the time, but I don’t always finish the darned things. Regarding Willis – he’s the most intriguing pitcher in the trade market right now. But it’s just like you observe: his walks are up for the past two years, he looks like he’s not the same guy, and that is holding down his value. I’m convinced he hasn’t moved yet because Florida is holding out hope that some teams will start to drive the price up. There are a dozen teams that could use another starter, and the Willis from 2003-2005 represents a solid upgrade on a lot of guys; but would you give up a lot for the Willis from this year? The Brewers may roll the dice sometime in the next week, if they feel like they can’t stay ahead of Chicago. (Surprisingly, the Cubs have had a fine rotation, it's not just Zambrano and Lilly.)

Raymond (Wichita, KS): Hey Joe, What is your take on the Royals success since the middle of May? Do you see good signs in the way they have been playing?

It’s very encouraging. The young players are getting some valuable playing time right now. They also have that kid Billy Butler hitting well in the outfield in AAA. If they get a typical progression from Gordon, Teahen, Buck, etc., the Royals could threaten .500 next season.

Adam (Dayton): Hey Joe! If you were GM of the Reds (there's a thought), would you deal Griffey Jr and/or Adam Dunn?

I would probably deal Griffey for the right package in return, and with his consent; Dunn I would keep. You’ve got to be able to build around something next season. The Twins would love Junior; I’ve been saying that often enough, but I don’t think Griffey would agree to a deal there. The Braves do have young players to offer Cincy, and Griffey would be more amenable to a move there.

John, Akron: Hopefully you will answer a Indians Question...What are your thoughts on Grady Sizemore as a centerfielder and also what do you expect out of Travis Hafner in the second half? Thanks for answering...

I really like Sizemore’s game. He gives you more than most centerfielders in baseball. Right now he’s not in the same defensive class as Ichiro or Torii Hunter, but who is? He’s young and can learn. He’s certainly got the wheels to get to a lot of balls. At the plate, he’s a force – speed, power, (on base) average.

Hafner’s been hitting the ball on the ground a bit more often this season, so I suspect that for him it’s just a matter of a small adjustment in his swing. He is still drawing walks and helping the team. I hope that he can get into a groove in the last eight weeks, maybe hitting another 12-15 homers over the last 60 games as the Indians try to catch Detroit.

Maureen (Boston): Joe, I was just wondering, what's your first baseball memory? I'm also thinking of taking my daughter to her first game this summer and besides Fenway, if cost was no object where would you recommend I take her?

It would be hard to do better than Fenway Park for a first-ever baseball experience. You’ve got a very good team in one of the great historic ball yards on Earth. I’d also try to get her out to a few minor league games, to follow some of the younger players and get a much closer look at the action on the field. It will help her appreciate the game even more.

My first baseball memory was rooting for the New York Mets in ’82 and ’83, when our best player was George Foster, and being flabbergasted that the Mets got Keith Hernandez from St. Louis. It was like we were trying to be a real team all of a sudden. Then Strawberry and Gooden arrived, they got Gary Carter from the Expos (he hit homers in his first two games in Shea, as I recall), and it was off to the races.

john (denver): Do you think the rockies can contend, and how good do you think Matt Holliday is?

I think the Rockies need another piece or two to really contend, since their pitching has to scare you a little if you’re a fan. Aaron Cook allows a lot of runners and doesn’t strike out people, which means that if the ground balls find holes he’ll tend to lose. But it’s not a bad team overall. As for Holliday, his splits are like so many others Coors hitters – much better at home – in fact, over .200 higher slugging at home. Worse, he also gets on base much better at home, .422 to .322. All told he’s a 1.064 monster at Coors, and a .758 mouse around the rest of the circuit. It’s not a comforting statistic. One could do worse, though.

Nick (Chicago): Do you make much of a team's record away from home? The Brewers lead their division with a sub-500 road record and the Tigers also lead their division with an outstanding road record.

This is a strange little statistic. The Brewers are a young team, by and large, and they don’t have a lot of shut-down starters. It’s easier to have problems on the road with those conditions. They’ve also led their (inferior) division for most of the way, so teams gun for them when they come into town. This is more of a postseason concern, when one bad road series pretty much ends your season unless you’re perfect in your own park. But since that’s at most 19 games, it’s hard to predict. Anyone can get hot for four weeks and look unbeatable.

Washtionton DC: I am from St Louis Mo and a long time St Louis Cardinals fan. I was wondering what next year has in store for the Cardinals as of moving or acquiring players this year or during the off season?

Speaking of hot for four weeks... [I swear that's how the questions came up.]

Well, they want pitching; their best starter has been converted reliever Adam Wainwright. I would look for near-ready prospects with every move I made. I’d hope beyond hope that someone would take Edmonds and Rolen off of my hands for the stretch run in reply for some younger talent. I’d build around Pujols and Duncan in the order, try to rebuild the rotation, and then make a couple of signings here and there to get the team back into contention in a couple of seasons. This year is a lost cause, and the core of the Cardinals will only be older next season. They won a title with them so there’s no cause to complain; time to rebuild.

No comments: