Check in with Jay Jaffe to see where your team ranks on the Hit List, and whether they're bound to move up or down.
Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. I'm spinning a special mix inspired somewhat by the re-release of my all-time favorite album, the Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street, and tonight's airing of the Stones in Exile doc on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. It's got nothing to do with baseball but it makes this motor run. Onto the questions...
JoeR (Upstate): Jay
Who do you see the Dodgers settling on for the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation?
Elbert hasn't exactly been lighting it up for the Isotopes, is he still a consideration? Would Washburn be that much of an improvement over what they already have?
Jay Jaffe: Well, I'd assume that if Vicente Padilla returns he'll get first crack at reclaiming the fourth spot, and it sounds like John Ely has earned himself a longer look in the rotation based upon his past two starts. Scott Elbert hasn't pitched very well down in Albuturkey, but perhaps later this summer he'll round into shape, him or Josh Lindblom. Other than salty veteran goodness of the kind Joe Torre craves, I don't think Washburn would bring that much of an improvement, particularly given that he's been sitting on his derriere. For that kind of trouble, I wonder about the possibility of a Pedro Martinez return to Chavez Ravine.
HalfStreet (Fairfax VA): Sir, request permission to be excited about my Nationals in spite of the fact that your models still rate them as second rate, SIR!
Jay Jaffe: You have every reason to be excited. It's not that I think the Nationals can continue along as bona fide contenders, but it's clear at this point that they've turned the page on the Jim Bowden-assembled joke, and with the arrivals of Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen to look forward to in the near future, they're going to become even more interesting. Enjoy it for what it is, by all means.
workermonkey (ct): i'm convinced montero could play LF better than Thames and hit far better than Winn. he can catch part time to spell Po and cervelli, plus DH for johnson. why aren't the yanks calling him up?
Jay Jaffe: Well, even if Jesus Montero were actually hitting at Triple-A -- and he most decidedly isn't (.233/.295/.359) -- there's still the small matter of actually putting him in the pasture and teaching him how to play it better than Thames, which isn't a small matter given that we're beyond the kind of trial-and-error forgiveness granted by spring training. Unless he starts to rake at Scranton, I don't see him as being a factor for the Yankees this season.
Dan (Brooklyn): It's killing us Mets fans watching Jerry make horrible strategic decisions every day (re: bullpen usage, lineups, bunting, etc.) and directly losing games as a result. Can you think of a manager ever having been fired for incompetence in in-game managing, as opposed to general incompetence (i.e. team is losing too much)?
Jay Jaffe: Ned Yost's summary execution in September 2008 -- over the mess he made out of the improper usage of LOOGY Brian Shouse -- comes to mind, as does the mess Trey Hillman made out of Gil Meche's start over the weekend. I linked both of those in today's Hit List bit on the Royals. Sleep tight, Dayton Moore.
mikeel (Escondido, CA): Which of the following is most likely to turn it around this year
c. Javier Vazquez
Jay Jaffe: I don't think any of those turning it around is an outrageous proposition. The Dodgers have begun taking steps in that direction over the past five days, and Vazquez had a strong start even in defeat. As for the Braves, there's a lot of talent there, but their overreliance on Melky Cabrera as an everyday player is killing them, and I think this may be the year that Chipper Jones' body says no, so I'm less optimistic.
SprungOnSports (Long Island): How long do you think the Reds can stay this hot and could they actually be buyers this season with talent like Yonder Alonso on the way?
Jay Jaffe: There's a lot of good young talent in Cincy, particularly in the rotation, where there's upside galore even if Aroldis Chapman doesn't show up, which he probably will. If Dusty Baker can stop with the self-destructive lineup assembly (.191/.263/.291 from the leadoff spot!) then I think they could be buyers, but I'm not sold on Alonso (.267/.388/.406 in Double-A, and apparently recently promoted to Triple-A) as being tremendously helpful at the moment.
tommybones (brooklyn): The Rays have been great so far, but there are a few red flags which need to be addressed. Their DH is an abomination and most of the lineup has an aversion to getting on base at anything approaching a healthy clip. What do you see them doing to rectify these issues before they bite them on the rump? Bring up Jennings? Release Burrell? Seems they have Blalock raking in AAA, but that hardly seems a realistic solution.
Jay Jaffe: As noted in to day's Hit List, the Rays haven't been hitting much lately, with B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena and Pat Burrell mired in some dreadful slumps. I think the first two will come around just fine in time, but Burrell looks pretty cooked. Bringing up Jennings might help, certainly more than Blalock would -- unless they trade him to the Yankees or Red Sox with a mandate that he be THEIR designated hitter.
tmcghan (Bay Area, CA): We're approaching 40 games into the season, and the shock of the O's dismal start is starting to fade, and now I can't help but feel bitter. Wasn't this the year they were supposed to make it to .500, beginning an upward trend for at least a few years? Can you help me make sense of it all?
Jay Jaffe: Well, losing Brian Roberts for a couple of months is a major blow, but you're right, there's some disconcerting stuff going on there, such as Adam Jones' chilly start, the odd shipment of Nolan Reimold to Triple-A, and the inexplicable continuing presence of Garret Atkins. Still, Matt Wieters is making progress, as is Brian Matusz, and Chris Tillman appears to be coming around at Triple-A. Just remember that a turnaround for an organization with such a back history of losing takes time, and probably a change at the helm -- I'd have bet that Dave Trembley would get the axe before Trey Hillman, and I doubt he'll be around for much longer.
mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Have you been to Citi Field? What are your impressions? In fact, as a feature at BP I'd be interested to read authors impressions of parks they visit for the first time. Thanks for your time.
Jay Jaffe: I went a couple of times early last year and enjoyed it, though I felt that it was definitely overplaying the Brooklyn Dodgers angle at the expense of Mets history. Despite some particularly hideous signage, particularly around their gigantotron video, it has an intimacy that lends it an energy which has been sorely lacking at the new Yankee Stadium, and I was reasonably impressed by the food, if not for the fact that the Shake Shack (which I've always felt was overrated) only offered the abomination of American cheeze for their burgers.
caseyj15 (Medford, Oregon): Elvis Andrus's new patience leads me to believe he has significantly developed this year as a hitter. What do you think of his long range offensive outlook given his swift development?
Jay Jaffe: Well, I don't see him as a .418 OBP guy going forward. His BABIP (currently .389) is going to regress, but if he maintains this kind of patience he suddenly looks like a top-of-the-lineup guy instead of a bottom-of-the-lineup one. Add that to his plus defense, and that's a guy who's gonna go to a few All-Star games.
Buxfan (Altoona): Your thoughts on Tabata's early breakout? Maybe climbing some prospect rankings?
Jay Jaffe: He's hitting .326/.388/.432 at Triple-A right now. There's still very little power to speak of, and he's walking in less than 10 percent of his PA. I'm not sold, especially once the questions about his age enter the equation.
tommybones (brooklyn): Who gets into the HOF on the first ballot with a higher percentage of votes, Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter? I think even those voters with anti-closer bias are going to agree with Mo's inclusion, eh? Tough call.
Jay Jaffe: I don't think I'm going out too far on a limb by saying that either of these guys could challenge Tom Seaver's 98.84% record vote. The closer thing is more likely to work against Mo, but any writer who doesn't think both of those two are Hallworthy should be considered a fraud.
Ed (Cranford, NJ): Hi Jay
Could you rank the following pitchers going forward: Bud Norris, Kenshin Kawakami, John Ely and Chris Narveson. Thanks
Jay Jaffe: Except for Ely, they're all sporting pretty high ERAs at the moment. Narveson has shown he can can miss bats, which is pretty handy for a lefty, Kawakami and Norris showed they belonged at the major league level last year. Ely certainly didn't register as the type of stopper he's been in the past two outings, so I worry that his success may be more short-lived.
Ron (Vancouver): All-Star appearances for Travis Snider, 0.5, Over or Under?
Jay Jaffe: I'll take the over on that, please.
dianagramr (NYC): ETA of Austin Jackson coming back to earth? K'ing in 35% of your ABs, with a .500 BABIP is a recipe for regression. How does he end up the season? .270/.340/.410?
Jay Jaffe: Hey Diana. I think the correction has already begun, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him end up with a batting average maybe 10-20 points higher, with the other two rates about right (remember, he's not walking all that much. Let's say .285/.340/.410.
DanLong (NJ): RE: Jesus Montero; Any indication from scouts or anyone else at BP as to why he's not hitting? I understand his BABIP is pretty low right now, but other than that, is he just looking outmatched or what?
Jay Jaffe: Well, Jayson Stark's recent ESPN column had a scout saying some very unflattering things about Montero. I don't have a whole lot to either confirm or counter what's said there; I'd suggest you ask Kevin Goldstein, as he's much more likely to provide a more representative cross-section of scouting opinions.
The same goes for Tabata. I'm not the prospect guy.
rawagman (Toronto): Jay - what has been most surprising to you this season? Both in terms of sustainability and non? Thanks for chatting!
Jay Jaffe: Hmmm... just off the top of my head, I'm surprised that the Cardinals haven't clinched yet, that the Blue Jays and Nationals are off to strong if unsustainable starts, that it took so little time for the Dodgers' winter scrimping to be exposed, that the Mariners and Diamondbacks are as godawful as they are, and of course, that Dallas Braden threw a perfect game.
Susan (New York): Bigger bust, Alex Gordon or Andy Marte?
Jay Jaffe: Marte by far. Gordon owns a .249/.331/.413 career line, which isn't so impressive, but it's rosterable. Marte's .215/.276/.354 career line is a ticket to indy ball.
xyz3g (Minneapolis, MN): Does Nate McLouth ever escape his funk? And can the Braves make the playoffs if not?
Jay Jaffe: I think he will, but if he doesn't, the Braves have no chance.
Matt (Great White North): Thanks for the chat Jay, who amoungst the Blue Jays starting pitching do you see maintaining their hot starts and who do you see crashing back to earth?
Jay Jaffe: If they can maintain those strikeout rates AND their health, I don't see why Marcum, Romero and Cecil can't keep their ERAs below 4.00, but those are big ifs. I'm not sold on Eveland, but I expect Morrow to improve.
And if recent history is my guide, at least one of these men will do an extendeded stretch on the disabled list. Sorry, Jays fans, that's just the way it is.
tommybones (brooklyn): What's your position on the Arizona Immigration Law and the idea that MLB has come out against moving the All-Star game, in spite of several players and managers already saying they would boycott the game, with many more latino players likely to follow suit? Is Selig sticking his head in the sand on this one?
Jay Jaffe: It's an odious law which is antithetical to what we stand for as Americans. I like the way that the MLBPA and many players have spoken out against the law. I'm 100% in favor of MLB pulling the game from Arizona -- or failing that, a player boycott -- and I'm disappointed that Bud Selig hasn't stepped up to condemn the law forcefully given a pretty decent track record on minority issues.
Paul (Boston): Is Cervelli for real? Do the Yanks regret not resigning Matsui/Damon?
Jay Jaffe: Well, he ain't gonna hit .400, and you'd do well to remember Jazayerli's Law of Backup Catchers: given enough chances, a guy will have a season in which he hits .300 in less than 200 at-bats. I'm skeptical he's got a future as a major league starter, but he's certainly no Wil Nieves, and may well turn out to be the best backup the Yanks have had in a long time.
I'd trade him for Johnny Damon, though.
Robert (New York): Matsui is hitting .226/.307/.371 and hasn't had an extra-base hit in about three weeks. Just a slump, or done?
Jay Jaffe: Probably a slump - the whole Angels team isn't hitting much lately - but I wonder if he isn't also hurting.
keef66 (Spartanburg, SC): Have you ever run JAWS on Berkman? He's been so consistently good for so long, it seems like he's got a shot at HoF.
Jay Jaffe: Berkman's at 55 career, 45.1 peak, 50.1 JAWS coming into the year as a 34-year-old. The JAWS standard at first base is 64.0/43.0/53.5 so he's not in bad shape on that note.
The problem is that he's going to have to stick around into his late 30s and pad his career stats, because much of that showing and that value is based upon his .411 OBP; voters really, really undervalue such guys, particularly if they don't reach 2000 hits (he's got 1592) or 400 homers (he's got 317). Three or four good years as a DH could give him a big boost.
buffum (Austin TX): Grady Sizemore is hitting .106/.192/.106 against lefties. According to the ESPN Crack Squad, he is hitting 2-for-22 against fastballs at 94 MPH or faster. Doesn't this suggest a loss of bat speed due to lingering injury effects that is forcing him to guess and lunge? At what point do you either ask him to take a couple weeks off or drop him in the order?
Jay Jaffe: His performance certainly worries me given that it may be linked to less than perfect health. I'd have moved him down in the order weeks ago; at this point I think they need to find out whether he's hurt and give him some time away, because he sure isn't helping the situation by playing through it.
Jeff (NYC): Do you think there's any chance Joba ever makes it back into the rotation? Given his demeanor on the mound (he seems to always be max-effort and very emotional), does it even make sense any more?
Jay Jaffe: While Brian Cashman would surely deny it if asked point blank, I suspect that this spring's decision to move him to the bullpen is the first step in the direction of making him the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera.
Paul (DC): So what sort of JAWS score do/did the Stones put up? Who might beat them in either peak or career value? Which of their albums has the highest WARP? How much can a really kicking tour improve an album's WARP? Did Altamont ruin their WARP that year? Have they been simply padding their counting stats since the 81 release of Tatoo You (without impacting overall JAWS very much)? Who has the higher VORP - Keith or Mick? What sort of positional adjustment is standard when differentiating between lead singer and lead guitar? Has Ron Woods provided an acceptable VORP since joining the band in 75?
Jay Jaffe: I'd be that the Beatles and Elvis score higher on peak, and as much as I like the Sstones, yes, they've mostly been padding their stats since Tattoo You (though I'll put in a good word for Undercover, the promotional push around which spurred me to buy Hot Rocks back in 1983 or so). And I'd bet that the 1972 tour scores higher than the 1969 one given the late-season collapse of Altamont.
Jay Jaffe: Ok, folks, I have to cut today's chat a little shorter than usual. Rest assured that I'll be back soon for another in the near future!