Ask BP editor and WYNTK yeoman Daniel Rathman about the season that was, and the postseason to come.
Daniel Rathman: Grad-school homework stinks. Distract me.
mdotmorris22 (Minnesota): What late season call ups might go from unknown to on the map this post season (like K-Rod in 2002)?
Daniel Rathman: This is a good one with which to kick off.
There are a handful of relievers who I think could jump onto the radar in the same way. If the NL wild-card game is tight, both Hunter Strickland (SFG) and John Holdzkom (PIT) could play a big role, with the fact that the Pirates designated Strickland for assignment to make room for Jonathan Sanchez providing a humorous twist. Holdzkom is certainly the one who's jumped out of nowhere, from Indy ball earlier this year to a high-leverage role in a playoff bullpen.
Alex (Anaheim): The regular season alone was dominated by pitching. Will the playoffs have soccer-like scores?
Daniel Rathman: It certainly looks like there are plenty of 2-1 type games in store. Those are actually my preference, as opposed to 9-7 slugfests. Give me a Wainwright-Kershaw duel over just about anything.
Colin (WI): Where does Seattle go from here? Their September was awful, but they couldn't take advantage of an Athletics team in total free fall. Do you think they invest heavily in the offseason to upgrade their offense? It seems like they're the perfect case to see how much a win this far up on the opportunity curve is worth. Also, their crab rolls (not a sandwich) are delicious.
Daniel Rathman: Yes, I'd expect them to make a move for an outfielder. Maybe Melky Cabrera.
Christopher (Queens): Which team's surprisingly good starter is most/least likely to hold up in October? Yusmeiro Petit, Edison Volquez, Matt Shoemaker, Tanner Roark, Lance Lynn
Daniel Rathman: Injury notwithstanding, I like Matt Shoemaker's chances of giving the Angels a frontline performance in the playoffs. His splitter is an absolute menace. On the flipside, I would be very nervous about banking on either Petit or Volquez, excellent regular seasons notwithstanding. Which means that in two days, Volquez will two-hit the Giants over seven innings and move the Pirates into the NLDS.
Kevin (Kansas City): Given all the postseason myths that fail to hold up to scrutiny, can you give me any reason to think any of the 10 teams are more likely than the others to win this World Series?
Daniel Rathman: Myths aside, some teams are just better than others, and while a best-of-seven series might not bear that out, it's still more likely than not that the better team will advance. The problem with the myths is that they amplify the importance of one specific aspect of a team and, as a result, overlook another that isn't necessarily less important. Pending Matt Shoemaker's health, I would view the Angels as the favorites, because they are the best overall team.
The last point I'd make here is that the six teams who've already secured Division Series spots are obviously more likely than the other four to win the World Series RIGHT NOW, because they can't be eliminated in one game.
brian (chicago): Who are your playoff picks?
Daniel Rathman: NL: Giants over Pirates, Nationals over Giants, Dodgers over Cardinals, Nationals over Dodgers
AL: A's over Royals, Angels over A's, Orioles over Tigers, Angels over Orioles
World Series: Nationals over Angels in 6
Do not take those anywhere near Vegas.
Ron K. (Minneapolis): You are a Giants fan if I recall correctly, how do you believe they will fare in the playoffs?
Daniel Rathman: I am. I think that having Madison Bumgarner toeing the rubber in the one-game playoff gives them a good shot to advance to the Division Series. However, not having Bumgarner early in that series spells an early exit, especially with the lineup struggling sans Pagan. I think they get swept by the Nationals in the Division Series.
Nick (Medford): Greetings from your alma mater. What do you see the Red Sox doing to return into contention in 2015 and do you think they can pull it off?
Daniel Rathman: What's it like being on campus after the Jumbos win a football game? I can barely remember.
There's almost no doubt in my mind it'll be a hectic offseason on Yawkey Way. My pure guess is that Lester returns, a prospect-laden trade package brings back a mid-rotation starter, and the Sox sign one of the free agent third basemen.
And yes, I do see the Red Sox contending in 2015.
Eric JockItch (Down Under): Dynasty league question. Would you trade Jimmy Nelson for Denard Span all things being equal?
Daniel Rathman: With the caveat that this question is better suited for our fantasy folks, yes, I would make that trade. I don't view Nelson as the type of starter who'll excel in the categories that matter in standard fantasy leagues (assuming that's the scoring type yours uses).
John (MD): I'm in a 20 team dynasty league. We're allowed to protect 20 players from our 25 man roster yearly. I can protect only two of the following relievers, Brad Ziegler, Shae Simmons, Kevin Quackenbush, John Holdzkom, Hunter Strickland, Jeremy Affeldt, and RJ Alvarez. Which should I keep for next year?
Daniel Rathman: Again, I'd recommend shooting this one at our fantasy guys in their next chats, but I'd go with Quackenbush and Strickland.
Tweep (Twitter): What's it like editing Craig?
Daniel Rathman: Vastly more enjoyable than eating an egg-salad sandwich, but not up to par with a ballpark hot link. Which is a sandwich, by the way.
Frank W. (Atlanta): Which of the 10 GMs who just led teams to the playoffs will be the first fired, and when?
Daniel Rathman: Not gonna lie, I've been letting this one simmer in the queue while thinking about it. I'll go with Dave Dombrowski in 2017.
reznick (Ivory Tower): What are you studying in grad school?
Daniel Rathman: Urban planning, specializing in economic development, at NYU Wagner.
sitdancer (DC): What are your expectations for Nolan Arenado for the next two or three seasons? Is there room for more growth?
Daniel Rathman: Provided that Arenado can stay healthy, I think he's a perennial five-win player. He was well on his way to that this year, even amid injuries, and while I don't see a lot of further growth, he's already a heck of a regular third baseman. That being said, the strides he made defensively to become one of the elite 3Bs in the league are very impressive and might point to the ability to keep improving well into his 20s.
Twins Fan (DC): Ron Gardenhire has just been dismissed. Thoughts?
Daniel Rathman: Having just turned 24 in August, I can barely remember any Twins games pre-Gardenhire, but I think it was time for a change there, especially with a youth movement coming soon. It is crazy to think that whoever takes over will only be Minnesota's third manager since 1986-following a decade in which they had four different managers.
manny99 (Do you care?): Give me one prediction for every manager opening.
Daniel Rathman: Completely guessing on all of these, with some guesses being more educated than others, but...
Rangers: Tim Bogar keeps the job
Astros: A.J. Hinch
Diamondbacks: Jose Oquendo
Twins: someone internal, like Paul Molitor
BeplerP (New York, NY): Neither New York team (I am not partial to one over the other) has a clear path to return to relevance. The Mets have superb young pitching, but lack any depth of hitting talent- after Duda and Murphy, what is there? As for the Yankees, I can't see them as anything other than Oakland-East, in the absence of any upcoming talent. Where is the Jeter in this system? What do you suggest?
Daniel Rathman: I can't remember who said this, it may have been Ben Lindbergh, but the Yankees have a fairly simple path to returning to relevance: sign all of the good players. I think Hanley Ramirez is Bronx-bound this offseason, as is one of the better starting pitchers on the market. They'll need more from Brian McCann than they got this year, but a turnaround doesn't seem THAT unlikely. Provided Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda stay healthy in 2015, they'll contend.
As for the Mets, it all comes down to how much they want to spend on free agents. David Wright should bounce back, and I like Dilson Herrera a lot. If Matt Harvey comes back healthy, there's a lot to like here, too.
Gibbers (NY): Ever though of adding a W to the beginning of your last name to make yourself sound like superhero whose power is anger?
Daniel Rathman: I have not, probably because I enjoy occasionally being asked if I'm related to Tom Rathman. (Though I was born in San Francisco during his heyday, I am not, for the record.)
Ryan W. (Pittsburgh): Where do you stand on the pitcher as MVP debate?
Daniel Rathman: The rules say that pitchers should be considered, so from that standpoint, I don't think writers can overlook them. That said, and I'm probably in the minority on this one, but I would not vote for a pitcher as MVP until some sort of position player of the year award is established. I'm not a huge fan of the NFL's system, in which there's an MVP and an Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year, because it's weird to have, say, a quarterback as MVP but not OPoY, but I actually think that format would fit baseball better, since most position players have to contribute on both sides of the ball.
Awarding, say, the NL MVP to Kershaw, the NL Cy Young to Kershaw, and the NL PPoY to McCutchen would, in my mind, be the most appropriate recognition of the performance in the league this year.
irnmkeshrp (Pittsburgh, PA): Ben Lindbergh wrote a really interesting article on Grantland about how the Pirates coaching staff has welcomed quantitative analysts Dan Fox and Mike Fitzgerald into the fold, inviting them to become regular fixtures in team meetings and essentially valuing their input as if they're members of the coaching staff. Do you see things like this becoming commonplace in the MLB and will there be any room in the league for any "old school" staff members who still view advanced statistics as a sort of witchcraft?
Daniel Rathman: Yes, I think we'll gradually see this permeate around the league, with teams that don't jump in facing some level of competitive disadvantage. As with most changes like this, it'll take some teams longer than others, and some might be more open about it than others, but there's no doubt that it's coming and that managers who resist might have trouble holding on to jobs down the road.
Colin (WI): Have you ever thought about architecture? It is the highest profession out there.
Daniel Rathman: I have not. I don't think anyone would want to live or work in anything I design.
Sam (Bay Area): Hi Daniel! It's me, Sam. I have a question for you about the ephemerality of excitement. I think it's conceivable that you (or Chris Mosch) wrote about more baseball games this year than literally any other human being alive. Hundreds upon hundreds, and you brought all the meaning and excitement to us each morning, and it brought the season alive. Good job. Now...
Are we going to remember *any* of this in 15 years? I mean, I submit that the average diehard baseball fan doesn't remember one thing about the 1999 regular season. Or, really, postseason. History compresses events, so we remember some achievements but assign them vaguely to an era or an epoch. It takes a truly special event (of which there is, I hypothesize, usually 0 to 2 per year) that we closely identify with a year. Otherwise, just into the pile.
So, my question is: What are the 0 to 2 this year? What specific detail will we always remember and always associate with this year? Like last year was Puig in the pool. And *maybe* Harper running into the wall.
And, since this is a one-way chat, just to get ahead of you: The answer is not Jordan Zimmermann's no-hitter. That's my whole point--it's never Jordan Zimmermann's no-hitter, no matter how sweaty our palms are while we're watching.
Daniel Rathman: Hey Sam! This is another question I've let marinate in the queue so that I could think about my answer.
As a Giants fan, I don't think I'll forget Madison Bumgarner hitting two grand slams any time soon. At the risk of it being too obvious and some recency bias coming into play, Derek Jeter's walkoff single would be my other choice, if I'm limited to two.
RobWillerMLB (Dekalb Illinois): What's your opinion on the progress of the Cubs rebuild?
Daniel Rathman: It's going exceptionally well, and I think you'll begin to see the fruits very soon, definitely by 2016. If there's room in the budget for a couple of frontline starting pitchers, pennant contention is not far off.
Jared (U of Texas): You're an MLB owner and any GM, including those already employed, will come work for your team. Who do you hire?
Daniel Rathman: Had a gut reaction to this one, thought about it for a few minutes, couldn't shake the gut reaction: Theo Epstein.
Gibbers (NY): Wrathman, with the rage f a thousand burning hot suns!
Daniel Rathman: The problem is i don't rage nearly enough for this to happen. Except when Jeremy Affeldt is throwing scuds or the Packers defense is getting shredded. Which, I suppose, is actually quite common. Maybe it fits after all.
Mike (Phoenix): Hey, Diamondbacks fan here. Any idea who might our new manager be?
Daniel Rathman: Said this earlier, can't get past the feeling that the La Russa connection will pave the way for Jose Oquendo.
AlexTheGreat (the moon): Wouldn't astronaut be the highest profession?
Daniel Rathman: Sure-and, to that point, I'm as likely to become an astronaut as I am to go into architecture.
reznick (Ivory Tower): No question and not for your queue of course. Thanks for answering my earlier one. We need good urban planners. I'm a math prof for > 35 yrs at UIUC with lots of grad courses taught and 10+ PhD students completed. Also, sadly, a Cubs fan, though things look good for the future.
Daniel Rathman: Sure, thanks for participating.
Daniel Rathman: That empties the queue. Thanks for all the questions, folks! If your team is still alive, good luck.
Let's do this again soon.