Taking time from what's going on around the game, Joe Sheehan checks in to take your questions about the early news coming out of the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues.
Joe Sheehan: You know how you get a song stuck in your head? I have, of all the godforsaken things, "Step by Step" by New Kids on the Block running through my brain. Let's hope it gets better from here.
oira61 (San Francisco): Hi Joe. I have always wondered why you guys post most of your articles right after 9 a.m. California time. I assume you have an editor out here, but is there some other reason? Thanks.
Joe Sheehan: It's just the way our workday has evolved. We haven't had a California desk since I moved almost two years ago--Christina runs the show, and she's in Chicago. As a writer, I tend to file between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET, but that's just a range. I like the way CK has moved to an all-day schedule, where the site gets updated with some morning pieces and then some afternoon ones, with later ones sometimes as news warrants, and Unfiltered posts as well.
Willigan (Missoula, MT): Who has the better year between Clayton Kershaw and Joba Chamberlain? Thanks.
Joe Sheehan: Chamberlain will have more value, in perhaps fewer innings. Kershaw may still need a year to work on his command, while still being league-average or a bit better than that.
Connectivity is a bit slow. I'm at a Starbucks on the UWS, but I can't tell if it's my card or the BP site.
jessehoffins (Swarthmore, PA): How bad is the mets linup switch. Luis castillo lead off to me doesnt make as much sense as just moving beltran second.
Joe Sheehan: I don't hate it. Even last year, Castillo had a .355 OBP and was 17/2 on the bases. His complete lack of power and high GB rate hurt less in the leadoff spot than anywhere else. If the choices are Reyes/Castillo/Beltran or Castillo/Beltran/Reyes, I don't think there's a wrong answer.
Dave (Boston): Would the Rays ever think of going to a 6 man rotation? With all of their young arms and quality depth, it could be a good way to maximize trade value if Niemann or Hammel proves to be a decent starter? It could also limit innings of younger guys like Kazmir and Shields who could benefit from 20-30 less innings a year.
Joe Sheehan: I don't know how you manage a roster that way. Committing 25% of it to a rotation seems like a terrible use of spots. Kazmir can't really throw any fewer innings that he does, given his pitch counts, and Shields isn't someone whose arm is in danger.
This is the wrong direction, anyway. Teams need to start getting MORE from their starting pitchers, and all their pitchers, rather than less. I know that pitching is harder than it used to be--I've screamed that from the rooftops--but the trend has to halt at some point.
William Burke (BP Home Office): It is the site being slow, you are very popular and we are getting crushed with traffic. If there is any way we could plead the fans to use the "click to see updates" link with some restraint. Hopefully we can get thru this.
Joe Sheehan: That's one of BP's very smart guys, folks. Let's see if we can help each other out here by managing refreshes (and note--we LOVE refreshes, so this request goes against our nature).
jtrichey (Indianapolis): Joe, I didn't see your name anywhere on the book this year. I feel like you (along with Nate and Clay) ARE Baseball Prospectus. Did you lose all creditability with your Francouer pick last year?
Joe Sheehan: I focused on the Web side this winter, both writing for baseball and helping bring basketball along. It was a complicated winter off the field as well. The book is once again a fantastic product thanks to the work Christina does, and no matter who writes for it, *the* premier baseball annual.
tvwilkins (Princeton): As an Orioles fan, my team is getting more and more interesting, but we're likely to find the Orioles in the cellar at the end of the season. Any idea who the best last place teams are?
I wonder how competitive the Orioles might be in the NL West.
Joe Sheehan: Virtually any "the best" question is answered in the AL East. I'm not convinced the three best teams in baseball aren't in there, and five of the top 16 or so. Whether it's the Orioles or the Blue Jays, that will be the best last-place team in the game.
ssimon (Pelham, NY): Joe, thanks for the chat. I understand "the idea that designation as a Type A is crippling the market for these guys is mistaken," but how did you make it through the entire column without repeating how unfair it is for the rules to be changed in the middle of an offseason?
Joe Sheehan: The point was tangential to the piece, and I didn't really want to confuse the matter.
I think what the MLBPA is missing here is that if they encourage the "sign and trade" deals, they're setting a precedent that could really hammer some FAs in the coming seasons, as well as be unfair in the moment to Varitek, Hudson, Lowe and others.
goiter6 (MN): In the Mitchell report, Eric Gagne's entry still bugs me. It included the results an informal background check done by the Red Sox front office. Given that front offices were fully complying with the investigation - shouldn't we seen a lot more comments from front offices?
Joe Sheehan: Perhaps. I'll use this question as a jumping-off point for what I hope will be my only steroid comment of the day: Alex Rodriguez has been called to the commissioner's office to discuss his steroid use. (I'm trying to get away from the term "performance-enhanching drugs," since I think it's a loaded phrase in which two words are out of place in a baseball context.) MLB has had the 2003 list since 2004. If they want to ask players on it about their steroid use, why have they waited until one has been outed? Why not ask them all, privately? If Alex Rodriguez can be summoned, why can't the other 103? Or at least interviewed out of the public eye? Or is only information from stars valuable?
chuckstein17 (Long Beach, NY): I was discussing the value of the sac bunt with a colleague and was using much of what I learned here to be on the "con" side. An objection I had was that your studies treat all bunters equal. In your studies on the sac bunt, do any of the calculations take the skill of the bunter into account?
Joe Sheehan: No. I know that the possibility of a hit or ROE has caused some analysts to rethink the value of the sacrifice, consider it a bit more useful. Those elements would be more in play with a better bunter/faster baserunner. I don't have anything handy to back that up.
Mike (Chicago): Is the WBC really a viable event if so few of the best pitchers actually participate?
Joe Sheehan: It's a big problem for the event's credibility, especially when you know that Cuba is sending the best of their best. I don't know that there's an easy solution, although I'll stand by my suggestion that the WBC be held in April, when pitchers are fully prepared for the season. There's a logistical issue with the regular season, but far from an insurmounable one.
Charles (Ann Arbor): Alex Gonzalez's knee supposedly may be acting up again. Assuming Keppinger's defense gets back to where it was at the beginning of last season, would it end up actually being better for the Reds to have to go with Keppinger at SS again?
Joe Sheehan: Yes. I think there's something in the book about the huge difference in Keppinger's numbers before and after the injury. If he even splits the difference, he's better than Gonzalez. Good luck convincing Jocketty and Baker of that.
russadams (St. Paul, MN): What are your thoughts on Joe Crede? I figure there's a chance that he'll perform better than Buscher/Harris, and if/when he gets hurt or sucks, Buscher/Harris is still there and all the team lost is a couple million dollars. On the other hand, Gardenhire loves crappy players, especially when they are veterans who can play defense, so there's no guarantee he'll come out of the lineup no matter how bad he is.
Joe Sheehan: I think the Twins can't help themselves sometimes. Year in and year out, they bring in no-upside veterans, usually good with the glove and with lousy OBPs. Then they wonder why they missed the playoffs again. Crede almost works in a Garret Anderson, the-other-guys-might-be-worse sense, but that's the nicest thing I can say about the deal. Was there really no way to trade anything for Hank Blalock?
Ryan (NY): If the WBC was in, say, November, would it be viable?
Joe Sheehan: I think the problem would be even worse. No way any World Series pitchers pitch, maybe not even any playoff pitchers. Can MLB pitchers sit for a month and then play? Would *any* prospective FA play? Throw in competing with the NFL, and I think November is a non-starter.
I'm not saying it just 'cause it's my idea. I think April is the only time you might get full participation, or close to it, without badly disrupting the regular season.
Jed (San Francisco): Since I can only keep one in my (points based) fantasy league, who is more likely to be a truly SPECIAL player this year: Liriano or Jay Bruce? I'm sure they'll both be good, but who am I least likely to regret not keeping around?
Joe Sheehan: Liriano. He's closer to his potential upside, and you can replace offensive stats more easily than pitching ones. Keep him.
mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): Tommy Hanson will pitch ___ iniings this season? Andrew Miller wil strike out over/under 150 this season?
Joe Sheehan: Assuming you mean just in the majors....75 for Hanson, under for Miller.
Manny (LA): Will you give me $100 million over the next 4 years?
Joe Sheehan: Sure. You take personal checks, right?
3/63 or so. I really have no problem going three years on Ramirez, especially if I'm an AL team. He's an impact bat in a league where like five teams are an impact bat from the playoffs. As an industry, baseball is just far, far too risk-averse.
BPKevin (NYC): 3 players on the cusp.
Nate McClouth - without Bay and Nady behind him, do we expect 2008 final numbers or doulbe the second half?
Ervin Santana - Can he repeat last year, or will he be as eratic as in his past?
Alexei Ramirez - Soriano-lite or will the MLB pitchers adjust to him this year?
Joe Sheehan: McLouth is going to be a massive disappointment. His defense was awful, hardware aside, and his season was 30 great days and then generic outfielder thereafter. I like Santana to be a top-15 starter in the AL, right around what he did last year. Ramirez... yeah, Soriano Lite is a decent description. .280/.310/.460 or so. I'm curious as to whether his defense develops at shortstop. If he can't be at least average with the glove somewhere, he can't play.
ElAngelo (New York, NY): Can we expect you to reprise From 341 to 65 this year for your sister site?
Joe Sheehan: I think I have to change it to "From 344..." but yeah, we'll probably start that in the next week or so. The first one is the hardest. (For those of you confused...that's Basketball Prospectus' feature tracking who will make the NCAA Tournament field.)
MarinerDan (SF, CA): Who is the first manager to be fired this year?
Joe Sheehan: I'm going to go with Eric Wedge. Tough call, but expectations are present in Cleveland and he doesn't have a lot to fall back on if they start poorly. Throw Bob Melvin in the mix, too.
Rob (Brighton): Hi Joe, Do you see the A's eventually getting a deal done with O Cabrera? Do you think they challenge the Angels for the division?
Joe Sheehan: I think they were neck-and-neck before the Abreu signing, which helped the Angels open a gap. Signing Cabrera would help close that again. The thing about the A's is that the range for their starting pitching this year is incredibly wide. They could have an above-average rotation, or one of the three worst in the league. I don't think anyone can predict with confidence what it will be.
Ryan (NY): Did you see Jim Calhoun go off on that reporter?
Joe Sheehan: He came off incredibly defensive. That said, as much as I've criticized reporters, a post-game presser isn't the time for that line of questioning. It was a self-aggrandizing move that didn't advance whatever interesting discussion might have been had about compensation for sports coaches at state universities.
Max (Norfolk): Joe- Any chance that Hu or DeJesus Jr. make the big club out of spring training? And if Furcal makes a trip to the DL, which one gets the call and shouldn't they probably trade the other?
Joe Sheehan: Hu is better defensively, so he'd be the choice if they went that way. I suspect that the short-term response would be to use Mark Loretta there. I don't think you can trade DeJesus until you figure out what he is. 2009 will be key in that regard.
Dave in STL, knock it off. Now.
MarinerDan (SF, CA): Who is your #1 overall pick in a 5X5 fantasy league this year? Ramirez? A-Rod? Wright?
Joe Sheehan: Hanley Ramirez, and I don't think it's terribly close. Then, I take Reyes over Rodriguez.
Brandon (Charleston): Jay Bruce over/under 30 homers in 2009?
Joe Sheehan: I would have no confidence in either side of that bet. Gun at my head, I'll say under, as he picks up some BA and doubles.
Bill (New Mexico): Having answered the Kershaw/Joba Q, same thing for outfielders: who has the better year, Jay Bruce or Colby Rasmus? Or is Raz going to continue to be behind the TLR eight-ball and get stuck in the minors again?
Joe Sheehan: Bruce just because he's more certain to play. The Cardinals aren't doing the best job of aligning their talent at the moment, and I still think they should solve that by trading Ryan Ludwick for a middle-infield solution. Maybe that deal isn't available, but I'd try like hell to make it happen.
Greg (NJ): Which BPer does best with their NCAA bracket year in and out? Has Nate figured out a way to predict the outcome of that too?
Joe Sheehan: Not so far as I know, but I'm answering this in the hopes that he will. It seems like a problem you could solve by throwing data at it. Hell, Pete Tiernan did Silveresque work over on the hoops side about two weeks ago.
Dave (STL): I'm day dreaming about two Cardinals ROY winners in a row with Colby Rasmus and Brett Wallace - am I being wildly unrealistic?
Joe Sheehan: Because you apologized...
I don't think Rasmus will play enough in the year he exhausts his eligibility to win. Wallace...I could definitely see him winning in '10. He'll hit the ground running, a hitter from the day he gets the job.
Andrew (Baltimore): OK, Joe: if the Rays shouldn't go to a 6-man rotation, what would you do to clear up the logjam of starting pitching talent? I realize pitching depth is a good thing to have, but both Niemann and Hammel are out of options.
Joe Sheehan: I'm pretty sure the answer is "not give a rip about Jason Hammel." He's just a guy.
Gunpuddy (Nashville): Do you think Smoltz is right that Braves management is too cheap? It seems to me that they've mostly made good decisions on sending folks like Lopez, Drew and Sheffield on their way. (Maybe not signing Glavine was a mistake, but not a stupid one.)
Joe Sheehan: It's hard to think of an organization that had done less to add to a championship-caliber core over a period of years than the Braves did. They did more than usual this winter, out of necessity, but I can see where Smoltz has a point. They're not run like baseball team any longer, but like a division of a company that has to post profits each quarter. You simply can't run a baseball team that way.
tb05 (vt): In a 1 man keeper league, would you give up your first round draft pick for ARod or your 4th round pick for CC?
Joe Sheehan: I'd probably get out of the house more.
jgalt73 (Portland, OR): Joe, Which of this year's division favorites have the highest risk of falling off the cliff a la the '08 Tigers?
Joe Sheehan: The Angels. They're an injury to Abreu, Vlad or Napoli from having a really bad offense.
mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): The Pirates string of losing seasons will end in 20__.
Joe Sheehan: ...11. The Alvarez/McCutchen core works.
jalee121 (Normal, Illinois): Even with Illinois State playing Northern Iowa tonight at home, the Redbirds basically have no chance in the field of 65, right?
Joe Sheehan: A three-game winning streak March 6-8. Other than that, no.
Tony (Chicago): Is Cuba really using their "best of the best" when any Cuban defector such as Alexi Ramirez or Jose Contreras is not allowed to pitch for Team Cuba?
Joe Sheehan: Do we know for sure that those guys would be playing for Team Cuba? I'm asking seriously. They're the toughest team to scout, to know what they have. I think the point that they might not get to use all of their best players is valid, but I don't think the guys they're missing are devastating the way not having the best pitcher alive hurts Venezuela.
Aunt Jemima (Atlanta): R. Porcello or N. Feliz? Do you think Kershaw will end up better than Joba in the long run?
Joe Sheehan: Neftali Feliz, but it is really close. Porcello's almost become a forgotten man among prospects. I like Kershaw over Joba in the long term because I think he'll stay healthier and throw more career innings. He's getting an earlier start to his career, too.
Scott (Detroit): Is there any sense that coaches and/or GMs are worried about their young pitchers participating in the WBC? And is there some sort of gentlemen's agreement that they won't be overworked there?
Joe Sheehan: There are actually rules in place that limit workloads. I'm of the opinion that, while necessary, they hurt the event. The best chance of an upset in baseball is a starting pitcher for, say, South Africa or someone, having the day of his life. Can't happen in the WBC because that guy can't finish the game. It'd be very good for the WBC if some country went all George Mason on the thing.
Clay (Texas): In a bubble, who has the better statistical season, Dukes or J Upton?
Joe Sheehan: I'm going to interpret this question as "performance" rather than "fantasy." Dukes.
Drew (Columbus): Ludwick vs. Quentin ... who's more likely to repeat his '08?
Joe Sheehan: Quentin.
And that starts the lightning round.
shamah (NYC): Which young outfielder do you want in 2009 and beyond: Adam Jones or Justin Upton?
Joe Sheehan: Just based on the defensive difference, I'd take Jones. I'm not sure that opinion will be shared.
farley503 (St. Louis): True or false: The Cardinals will have a better offense than last year
Joe Sheehan: False. A ton of things went right last year.
Jack Bauer (Washington): Chris Carpenter will make ____ starts for the cardinals in 2009.
Joe Sheehan: 27
jlarsen (Chicago, IL): Stu Sternberg said today that the Rays have no payroll flexibility and says all the moves this offseason limits what they can do, in relation to midseason trades and pick-ups. Thoughts on this?
Joe Sheehan: Owner Cries Poverty. Sun Sets in West. Sheehan Orders Dessert. Film at 11.
Tim (DC): Joe, just a shout-out for Hockey Prospectus...I am already "puttin' on the foil"!
Joe Sheehan: Hey, if you don't know...we started a hockey site! http://www.puckprospectus.com.
Damaso Garcia (Burning Polyester): Ankiel: maxed out or room to grow?
Joe Sheehan: Maxed out, but could repeat this level for a couple of years.
MarinerDan (SF, CA): True or false: Felix Hernandez wins a Cy Young award in the next 3 years.
Joe Sheehan: True.
mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): Pitt is/isn't a Final Four team?
Joe Sheehan: Isn't. Blair won't go four straight games without foul trouble.
Tony (Brooklyn, NY): Will FO be chatting on this site in the offseason, or did ESPN completely lock them up? Thanks!
Joe Sheehan: The latter.
MarinerDan (SF, CA): What will be the "big story" of the 2009 baseball season?
Joe Sheehan: Parity, especially in the NL.
Aaron (YYZ): What kind of dessert?
Joe Sheehan: If it's not chocolate, it's not dessert. (Creme brulee being the exception.)
Mike (Chicago): Rich Harden makes ____ starts for the Cubs.
Joe Sheehan: 17
Ben (SF): Joe, do you like the Brian Roberts signing for the O's?
Joe Sheehan: I'm OK with it, given the organizational hole up the middle.
mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): Who are a few teams you like for the Final Four?
Joe Sheehan: It's early, but UNC, Louisville, UCLA and I'll throw a sleeper--Syracuse--in there.
Joe Sheehan: That's it for today. Back in a couple of weeks as the WBC and Championship Week kick off.