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Chat: Marc Normandin

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday August 26, 2010 1:00 PM ET chat session with Marc Normandin.


It's that time when you have to start talking about next year's fantasy action, and about keeping it real. Marc Normandin's here to help.

Marc Normandin: Afternoon, everyone. Given the time of year, I'm guessing we're going to have a lot of 2011 fantasy questions today, but as always pretty much anything is game. Let's have a good time today. Current music: Dead Kennedys, "Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables"

dryice (Houston): I know they're cheaper than a 2 cent blanket, but, heck, will ask it anyway. Jennings won't be freed until June 2011 right?

Marc Normandin: He may get a call in September since it won't affect his service time, but yeah, Jennings won't be officially freed until 2011. It's kind of a transition year for Tampa Bay, as they have to deal with the free agency of Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, and may have to deal Matt Garza because of a massive arbitration raise. It will be interesting to see how things go for them, in terms of who they retain, who they replace, and with what.

BeplerP (New York City): Marc: Thanks for the chat. The Mets. Tyler Kepner in an article in the NYT this morning says, basically, the pitching is fine and up to a pennant race, it's run support that has doomed the Mets. (Defense isn't that great either.) We have certainly seen their inability to hit for Santana, who has lost three in a row recently because the team can't plate runs for him. And injuries don't tell the whole tale. Do you see this in the numbers? Is it mostly (home) park effects? This team was not, I think, built correctly to score runs at Citifield. Does your view of the numbers bear this out?

Marc Normandin: The offense isn't good, as you say. They have a .255 TAv, which is five points below the league average. So it isn't necessarily bad, but it's no better than the Athletics or the Indians, neither of which is known for their lineup. A couple of things: not playing Pagan every day, not having a healthy Beltran from day one, Jason Bay being concussed and not having a chance to redeem his seaso and Jose Reyes deciding walking isn't cool anymore put a dent in an offense that should have been much better. They were capable of being an 85-90 win team if things broke right for them, but they have had more go wrong than right.

That's not to say they are without blame of course--there were a lot of risky players on the roster (Oliver Perez, Jeff Francoeur)--but the lineup was designed to succeed at Citi. The problem was losing a lot of OBP sources that would have helped them in a park designed to help pitchers. Let's not get into how Jerry Manuel handled it though.

yantot (philippines): can i talk to you??

Marc Normandin: That's what the chat is for, isn't it?

Frank (Vegas): The Jose Bautista explosion has seemingly come out of nowhere. Who was the last player to come close to Jose's breakout year at his ageage, and what happened to that guy after BY#1?

Marc Normandin: I should be profiling Bautista soon, actually, so I've started to look into this. Ryan Ludwick comes to mind (he was a year younger when he broke out) but they have some pretty different situations despite some similarities. Both made some late-career adjustments though, and it's worked out well for Ludwick (his production since the breakout has been masked by the Cardinals new Busch Stadium, which is a pitcher's park that severely limits right-handed power hitters).

Mike (Just wondering): How does the waiver system work? Do GMs get a daily e-mail list of players available and the only response necessary is a claim? Just wondering about the nuts and bolts of it.

Marc Normandin: It's pretty much like that, yes. It just goes down the line in reverse order of record until someone decides to put in a claim. I'm not sure what the exact method of communication is though. I would say it's definitely e-mail, except Brian Sabean keeps putting in claims for the Giants.

Wilson (Denver): Will Madison Bumgarner be a useful fantasy pitcher next year? He looks like he's in over his head lately.

Marc Normandin: I think so--he's not going to have an ERA in the low 3's (which is where he was before last night's adventure) but he should be able to post a league average SIERA and then get a boost in his ERA from his home park. I like Bumgarner, but his numbers in the majors early on surprised me given how his minor league season had gone.

Nick (Allston, MA): After an abysmal first half, Josh Reddick has been on fire since the break -- 368/396/647 -- is it time for Boston to give him another look?

Marc Normandin: He'll get a call in September, and given Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury are both out of commission, he'll get some at-bats. Ryan Kalish passed him on the depth charts and prospect lists this year, but as Boston reminded us this year, there's no such thing as too much depth, and they are as curious as we are as to what they have in Reddick.

Dan (Hoboken, NJ): Marc - in a previous chat, you promised some second-half sleepers but you never came through with any suggestions. What gives?

Marc Normandin: Sorry, Dan. I don't have an excuse out of it slipped my mind, probably while dealing with the trade deadline. While we're on the subject though, what kind of stuff do you folks want to see the rest of the season as the fantasy year winds down? In the winter?

Me (Here): So I own Mike Minor in a keeper league. Better keeper than Roy Oswalt?

Marc Normandin: Well, things can happen with developing pitchers as the league adjusts to them, but yes, he is an exciting young pitcher. As long as he can keep those strikeout rates in the eye-popping range, I'll have an eye on him. And given his two years in the minors and start to his major league career, it's definitely a possibility worth exploring.

In Re: Bautista (tampa): how about Ben Zobrist last year?

Marc Normandin: Well, Zobrist broke out in 2008, and he's younger than both players. He's had a very strange 2010, where a lot of the power he showed over two seasons didn't stick like it should have, but he's still remained useful due to his patience.

Ben (NYC): How many feet above sea level are you today?

Marc Normandin: The flooding wasn't that bad! On Twitter, Neil Gaiman said it was his fault that it was raining in Boston. So Neil Gaiman flooded my basement. I'm not sure if that's more or less upsetting to me.

DanDaMan (Sea Cliff): Marc, my team has turned it around and I'm gearing up for the stretch drive. I don't want to trade anymore draft picks so I'm thinking of trading one of my keeper worthy guys to fill any holes and strengthen my roster. I can only keep 4 out of Braun, Car-Gon, Wright, Teixeira, Justin Upton and Mat Latos. I have some other young stud pitchers but am thinking that pitchers aren't worth keeping in this league. So which 4 players would you keep? Thanks Marc

Marc Normandin: Braun, Wright, Latos, and then it's down to Upton or Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez is awesome, but if you're playing head-to-head and not roto, his road stats could be a problem since they won't even out the same way in the standings. Teixeira is great, but he plays first base (the deepest position) and can probably bring you back a lot in a trade if a team is in need of one.

Definitely Not Chase (Definitely Not San Diego): Should I be more proud of the fact that you have been following me on Twitter for more than a year or that I finally convinced Ben to follow me a few days ago?

Marc Normandin: Ben's very fickle about who he follows, but he also likes the Yankees and thinks the original Star Trek is better than The Next Generation. So obviously you should be more proud of my side of things.

Jeff (South Jersey): Going forward in a standard league w/ OBP, SLG and OPS - Jay Bruce, Dexter Fowler, Coco Crisp or JD Drew?

Marc Normandin: I like Fowler the least of all of those guys right now. Drew is the safe pick, Bruce the upside pick, and Crisp is hitting as well as he ever did before he busted his finger open in his first year with Boston (and has 22 steals!) to boot. So it depends on what you prefer/need more of--safety, upside, or if you want to get some steals out of it while you're at it.

Matt (Chicago): What kind of year do you see Zambrano having in '11 ,provided he is reasonably healthy?

Marc Normandin: I don't even want to touch this one. I thought he'd be solid this year, and drafted him on two teams, and 2010 is my thanks for my faith in him. The walks need to come down, but that BABIP isn't helping. How much of the BABIP is on Zambrano for leaving balls in easily smoked places and how much of it is the Cubs defense is something I haven't figured out yet.


Marc Normandin: He's the catcher! The catcher bats eighth!

Will (Mactaquac): Woulde you rather play Miggy Montero or Jay Bruce in an OBP league in a UTIL sloit? Would you drop or bench the other player? (I could take Lyons now). Thanks.

Marc Normandin: Montero will probably have the better OBP, but he's going to have fewer PA than Bruce, so you may lose out in some counting categories. I still have a lot of faith in Bruce going forward, and I'm not sure how I feel about a catcher in a utility slot unless he's a beast at the plate. Is it keeper or single year?

Frank (Vegas): Hi Mark, The Bucs signing what might be the 3 top HS-age pitching prospects of theyear, all within the same week, seems unprecedented. Do you recall if anything like this has happened previously? thanks Frank

Marc Normandin: After talking to people whose draft knowledge goes back further than my own, the answer is: unprecedented! Just the two high school pitchers is crazy, but adding in the third arm, Heredia (an international signing) pushes this way over the top. You don't know what will happen given they are all high school arms, but this is a crazy situation.

makewayhomer (Brookline): Hi Marc, How bout this Josh Hamilton. How do you predict him going forward? Projection systems did not like him this year - is he a 1st round pick next year? What about Arod? Slow descent continues?

Marc Normandin: I wasn't sure how his injuries would affect Hamilton this year so I was a bit cautious with my ranking of him at first, then I moved him into the four-star category with an "Assuming he's healthy" asterisk on him. Well, he's been healthy, and he's been ridiculous. I think don't think we'll see another 2010 out of him--his BABIP has been at or above .400 for much of the year, which is high even given his swing and home park. But you shouldn't worry about a stop in production in the future either.

And yes on Alex Rodriguez. I thought his PECOTA forecast was a little too optimistic this year, and it turns out there may have been something to that thinking.

Colin Wyers (Davenport, IA): Marc, please turn to page 37 of your employee handbook. Now read the third paragraph, where it clearly states that as a matter of company policy, the original series IS the best Star Trek. Your attention in this matter is greatly appreciated.

Marc Normandin: Et tu, Colin? Luckily I have an exemption from having to follow this rule in my latest contract with Baseball Prospectus. It's right there next to the clause that says I can wear Metroid t-shirts while being interviewed by NESN.

That actually happened, by the way. I showed up to a book event in an old-school NES Metroid t-shirt, and NESN wanted to talk to me about advanced defensive statistics for a television interview (which I ended up seeing on TV while at a bar for someone's birthday about a week afterward--kind of an odd occurrence). Also, totally a professional look.

Adam (NYC): How awesome is Mat Latos? How many (and which) pitchers would you put ahead of him next year?

Marc Normandin: SO awesome. The number is in the single digits as to who I would keep ahead of Latos, but as for exactly who, I'm still letting that simmer. We've had some odd changes of the guard this year in terms of who is at the top of the pitcher pile.

Xeifrank (SoCal): The Dodgers are just 5-1/2 games out of the Wild-Card (of course they have multiple teams to pass), but should they reconsider trading Manny and instead try to make the playoffs? Or is the $3-$4M of savings too tempting for McCourt to pass up. vr, Xeifrank

Marc Normandin: It depends on what they can get for Manny I think. Much like Boston, I think Los Angeles looks closer to the race mathematically than in reality. And as everyone knows thanks to it being a hot topic for months, the McCourt clan is kind of strapped.

Matt (Chicago): Any chance of T Colvin ever getting his OBP in the .330-.340 range? It seems that most of your BP colleagues are skeptical of that proposition.

Marc Normandin: Of course, but it will probably involve some BABIP shenanigans, which aren't necessarily something he can reproduce.

Dead Kennedy's ended, Mercyful Fate is on. Every time I listen to Mercyful Fate these days, I think of Bryce Harper and his eye/cheek/chin black.

Travis (San Diego): Time to talk about OUR first place San Diego Padres. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but lets talk playoffs. My thinking is that we want to play the Reds in the first round and avoid the Phils. Does this mean I actually need to root for the Giants to win the Wild Card?

Marc Normandin: I don't want to get ahead of things either, but no, you don't want the Giants to win. The Giants match up with the Padres better than the other NL teams according to Secret Sauce, which incorporates strikeout rate, the closer and team defense. If the Giants miss the playoffs, there's really no one in the NL who can touch them in those regards. The Phillies are dangerous, especially with that 1-2-3 in the rotation they have, but I think the Padres can take them.

drmorris (SF): Who are the 2-3 secret guys most likely to make a fantasy impact the rest of the way? I'm bunched with several other teams in contention, and looking for that final nitro boost.

Marc Normandin: Well who is available for you to acquire? Asking me for 2-3 guys out of hundreds is kind of a tough one to answer.

MickeyRivers (NYC): What do you expect from Hanley Ramirez in the next few years? Will he move off SS? Has he peaked offensively?

Marc Normandin: I think he'll continue to be Hanley. His biggest difference this year from the past few is that his BABIP is quite a bit lower. As for sticking at SS, I believe he will, but maybe the Marlins will eventually pull an Upton and ship him to the outfield.

adfeit (NYC): What type of player will Andrew McCutchen become - is he more Grady Sizemore, Carl Crawford, or something else?

Marc Normandin: Crawford with fewer steals would be my quick comp, though I'm not sure how comfortable I am with that. I like McCutchen a whole lot though.

ChuckR (Addison, IL): Non-keeper league, but only one precious DL slot. Dump Pedroia, or dump Furcal? Or both.

Marc Normandin: Boston's probably going to be pretty cautious with Pedroia, especially if they fall further out of the race. They can afford to do so with Lowrie/Hall on the roster. I'd give it a few days and see how the Sox weekend series with Tampa Bay goes--if they crash and burn, Pedroia's going to get all the time in the world to come back.

garethbluejays2 (Newcastle, UK): Which Blue Jays starter is the best keeper? Are Morrow's strikeouts the key to the matter?

Marc Normandin: I like Marcum the best, but Morrow is right there with him. The walks are a problem but in K/BB terms you won't even notice them.

kapcuse79 (NYC): The Rockies can't for their lives win one-run games or on the road, yet they're only four games back in the WC. Chance of a postseason bid?

Marc Normandin: A lot of it comes down to how well the Phillies do down the stretch. With their players returned from injury and Roy Oswalt in tow, it's a much different team than the one that played itself back into the race in the first place. The Rockies are dangerous still, but their playoff odds are down to 7%, which isn't inspiring much confidence from me.

Andy (Chicago): In my keeper league I'm allowed to keep 2 pitcher and 2 position players (with subsequent "raises" of $2 or $5). Who to keep out of the following, current salaries listed: Pos: Rasmus ($2), Youklis ($4--DL waiver wire steal), Votto ($24), Tulo ($32). Pitcher: Niemann ($8), Hudson ($7), Buchholz ($5), Colby Lewis ($3).

Marc Normandin: Rasmus, Youkilis. Buchholz, Lewis. That's the best combination of talent/contracts you have. Votto's fantastic, but getting Youkilis for $20 less is huge. Tim Hudson has been having a great season, but it's not the kind you should be betting on happening again next year. Lewis will do more for you in terms of whiffs.

ChrisHurst (Brandon Manitoba): How much of a fluke is Trevor Cahill?

Marc Normandin: Think of it this way--as good as Jon Garland has been this year, if he left the confines of Petco, would you still buy him as a guy with a low 3's ERA? Cahill has the benefit of Oakland's D, a home park that kills offense, and plenty of luck. He's much closer to league average than he is to ace, even if there are some factors that muddy that difference and help him produce a shiny ERA.

adfeit (NY): Who are you "buying" for 2011 based on disappointing 2010s? Lincecum, Braun, Prince, Mauer... Obviously, "disappointing" is relative.

Marc Normandin: Lincecum has some oddities going on--high BABIP against, which is a point in his favor, but he's also faced some of the weakest lineups in the league via quality of opponent OPS, and has allowed an OPS a few points above that. So I can see him being the same next year, which is still pretty great, but people shouldn't be drafting him in the first round (not that they should have been this year either, he does pitch).

Braun's big issue is production against lefties--given he's right-handed, I don't see that lasting. I'll take a deeper look at some point, but that's the kind of "anything can happen in 129 at-bats) answer.

Mauer has already redeemed himself. He's hitting .329/.406/.482 now. Expecting him to hit anywhere near 28 homers again was a dream--Mauer reminds me a lot of Wade Boggs, who also had one big homer season, but was mostly a doubles/OBP guy with a high batting average.

Prince Fielder sure is up and down with his ISO, huh? .213, .330, .231, .303, .211 in his last five seasons.

Will (Mactaquac): Monty v Bruce is a redraft. My league mates may or may not be able to see past Monty's season numbers to realize he's very good (McCann's my starter). I couldn't trade him for half price before the deadline.

Marc Normandin: Maybe you'll be able to sneak Montero in the redraft then. Given Bruce's upside I would want to hold onto him and roll the dice with reacquiring Montero.

mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Marc, when A-Rod's contract is up in 2017, how do you think his current contract will look? To refresh your memory, A-Rod will be 41 by then and the Yankees will have paid him $275 million.

Marc Normandin: For any other team, terrible. For New York, who can afford to do things like overpay Alex Rodriguez, it's not a big deal. Rodriguez' decline is going to be very slow, so I don't expect a huge dropoff year after year. He'll still be producing at a high level for a few more years.

Jack (Boston): Could you give your thoughts on the following hitters as keeper prospects, all of whom will be "free" in the sense that they were a late pick, a FA, and a waiver pickup stashed on the DL: Vlad Guerrero, Jose Bautista, and Kendry Morales Also I'm still mad at you for recommending Demon's Souls, Maneater is bad for my blood pressure. Any good RPG's coming down the pipe?

Marc Normandin: Demon's Souls is so great though! Valkyria Chronicles II is coming out on the PSP, which I'm excited for. Dragon Quest IX just released on the DS a little bit ago, as did Persona 3 Portable for the PSP. I don't think we're in line for any huge RPGs during the holiday season. Pick up Resonance of Fate if you haven't yet though--it's very complicated at first, but once you get past the learning curve it's great, according to Kevin Goldstein. I have it but keep getting distracted by other things so I haven't finished.

Guerrero's production hasn't been as great as the noise surrounding it, and he has Arlington helping him out. Jose Bautista I'll have a better feeling for once I profile him, so keep an eye out for that. I liked Morales a lot before he went down, so assuming he can come back next year without any complications he think of him the same way you did prior to 2010.

makewayhomer (Boston): Buchholz ? Yuk. Given his K rate and expected ERA going forward, I think that is a mid round/$10 pitcher. for $5, ok, but I would much rather keep an elite talent (Votto) for $24. You can find all kinds of Buchholz type SP late in the draft, not so for Votto.

Marc Normandin: He can keep two hitters and two pitchers. One of the two hitters he was keeping in this situation was Youkilis, who plays the same position as Votto and costs $20 less. If the 2/2 restrictions weren't there, I would have suggested keeping both of them and dealing with the positional oddities later.

Paul (Boston): So, what's the deal with DS games? Are people not making them anymore because the 3DS is coming out? IGN's upcoming games look bare...

Marc Normandin: Yup, the production has slowed down quite a bit as everyone has moved onto the 3DS. Developers knew about the 3DS well before it was unveiled, so we're seeing the results of that now. The good news is the 3DS is supposed to be backwards compatible, so as the last of those games release you can still play them on the new system.

Geoff Young's Fan Again (San Diego): Does the Secret Sauce account for "additions" to SF's defense? 'Cause they're playing Guillen and Burrell in the corners and Posey's work behind the plate (as opposed to at it) seems worse than Molina's.

Marc Normandin: They have already started to fall in the rankings because of it. They were directly behind San Diego about a month ago, but have slipped back a bit due to their subtraction by addition policy.

Geoff Young's Biggest Fan (San Diego): Phil Nevin's breakout in 1999 was a shocker of Bautistan proportions, although possibly helped along by 4-ringed compounds. The Pads' biggest need over the next 6 weeks is _____________.

Marc Normandin: Resting Latos up before the playoffs. Jed Hoyer and company are intent on doing so, but it's the need. With the lead they have, they can afford to be skipping starts and giving him extra off days. With Chris Young throwing simulated games, there's an outside chance he can take some innings in September, and Corey Luebke might take some too once rosters expand. I'm curious to see how they handle the workload for Latos if they do end up in October.

russadams (St. Paul): I'm finally getting a PS3, and right now the only games I'm sure to get are NHL 11 (when it comes out) and LittleBigPlanet (original - cheap and still new for me). Do you have any suggestions for other older games that will be cheap now and will be great value for someone that hasn't played them before?

Marc Normandin: Valkyria Chronicles is a strategy RPG that is also a third-person shooter--you can get it for $20, and it's worth the $60 it originally cost easily. Uncharted and Uncharted 2 are both excellent. Metal Gear Solid 4 was ridiculous but awesome, if you're into Metal Gear. Dead Space, Mirror's Edge, and Dragon's Age are three other games I've held onto that were excellent. Demon's Souls is possibly my favorite game on the system, but it's also evil, so that's up to you.

Teraxx (Strong Island, NY): Marcum and Morrow are better keepers than Slick Ricky Romero?

Marc Normandin: I think so. Morrow's ERA isn't as good as his adjusted numbers, and the strikeouts are drool worthy. Marcum/Romero is a bit closer, but I'll take the guy who is managing to have excellent control and command despite a recent major arm surgery over the guy with the walk rate much closer to the league average.

Pat (Oak Park): Is Ellsbury a keeper anymore? Assuming he's healthy, he's still probably good for a close to .300 average and a lot of steals.... right?

Marc Normandin: I can't promise he'll be on Boston's roster next year, but he's a keeper assuming you didn't pay a ton for him at auction. If this was a straight draft it's easier to justify holding on.

drmorris (SF): How crazy was Charlie Manuel's decision to play Roy Oswalt in left field toward the end of a 16-inning game? You can imagine the post-game press conference if Oswalt snaps an ankle running around out there. Is there any scenario in which a staff ace should be fielding a position? (Answer: No.)

Marc Normandin: Do people just randomly snap ankles all the time when they take the field? There's probably a better chance he breaks an ankle coming off the mound to field a ball than there is of him hurting himself in the flat lands of the outfield.

Rex Little (Big Bear CA): Good point about Braun vs. LHP. Bobby Grich had one year (1980 or thereabouts) where he hit .162 against lefties. Every other year of his career he had a normal platoon split for a righthanded regular.

Marc Normandin: Exactly! These things happen, and given he's still crushing righties, it's tough to get too upset about his future based on just over 100 PA against pitchers he normally destroys.

Will (Mactaquac): So A-Rod still qualifies as a good to great keeper? It feels like I lost the game of hot potato in my dynasty by having him for this season.

Marc Normandin: "good to great" is probably the best way to describe that. He's been surpassed (and was already surpassed) by a few other third basemen out there, but he's still valuable. Another year removed from the hip problem could give him a bit of a bounce too, though I think his best days are behind him overall.

Teraxx (Strong Island, NY): 6 keeper slots, head to head league. Hits, OBP, SLG, Total Bases / IP, HR allowed, Holds and K/BB ratio are the extra categories we use on top of the standard ones. Who do you keep out of these 8 candidates? Kinsler, Wright, Howard, Justin Upton, Braun, Rasmus, Nelson Cruz, King Felix.

Marc Normandin: Wright, Braun, Rasmus, Felix, Kinsler for sure. Then it's kind of a toss up for me between Cruz and Upton--Cruz is probably better short-term, but Upton long-term, so that last one is up to your preference.

Park (NYC): You know your early answer about the waiver wire is as wrong as wrong can be, right? Have you really never heard of the EBIZ system used by MLB?

Marc Normandin: But then I can't make fun of Brian Sabean.

Matt (Chicago): Do you see a major regression out of Marlon Byrd next season? I think it would behoove Hendry to move him with Brett Jackson waiting in the wings.

Marc Normandin: A major regression from the last four similar years of production he's put up? Shopping him wouldn't be a bad idea though, just to see what you can get back.

ChuckR (Addison, IL): Regardless of the method of making waiver claims, why would a team 'announce' or let leak that they are going to make a claim? Like the Red Sox and Damon or now the White Sox and Manny - or is there a way this becomes public knowledge through official MLB sources.

Marc Normandin: It's supposed to be secret, it's because of leaks. Kenny Williams isn't on the record as saying the White Sox were going to put in a claim on Manny. And I don't think it's a big deal in some cases because it's not like the Royals are going to block the White Sox to keep them from blocking the Twins on a player.

David R. (West Hartford, CT): Hey Marc -- first time, long time, kudos, keep it up, etc. Planning ahead for my 2011 keeper draft (thanks to an awful 2010), I can keep 6 guys from my current roster. I plan on using 2 of these keeper spots for hitters (Votto & Ryan Z), & 1 for King Feilx. Out of the following pitchers, which 3 would you hold onto: Buccholz, Garza, Gallardo, Matusz, Niese? (As you might've guessed, I'm leaning towards the first 3...) Or should I throw caution to the wind and use a slot on Andres Torres?

Marc Normandin: Thanks, David! The first three are probably your best choices, though not in that order. Buchholz is much closer to Matusz than people have been giving him credit for, and even with Boston's defense we'll see regression out of him next year. He could increase his strikeout rate by two per nine and drop a walk per nine for 2011 and he still wouldn't match his current ERA. I like Jon Niese a lot actually, it's a shame you have just the six keepers.

Given your pitching and the lack of hitting, you may want to package some of those hurlers together instead of just losing them and see if you can bring back a better bat. I bet a Buccholz/Niese combo would make someone cough up a hitter very fast.

Johnny (Detroit 4ever): What do you think about Civ V? I sort of feel like there isn't a ton of new stuff that they can add.

Marc Normandin: I'm very excited for Civ V. They changed combat significantly (it's now more like Advance Wars, with units having hit points. Losing a battle doesn't mean you lost the unit) and now you can only have one unit per space, so no more horrible stacks of doom to take out. The addition of city-states is also intriguing, as you can now form relationships with groups of people and powers you aren't competing with in terms of ruling the world. They can push the narrative of a game along.

wangdaddy (SF): Hi Marc- which player would you keep heading into next year- Latos or Liriano (same cost to keep)

Marc Normandin: Latos. He's made some excellent progress this year in terms of learning how to pitch and not just throw. He's a very smart pitcher with great, great stuff, and he's also very efficient. He's been on kind of a short leash this year in terms of pitch counts and they have been skipping some starts, but as he gets older and they let him go deeper in games, everyone will see how special an arm he is.

Chad (Land of Unrealized Potential): Who is the better bet to produce in 2011? - Alex Gordon or Cameron Maybin?

Marc Normandin: What a question! I'll go with Alex Gordon. Cameron Maybin still hasn't shown me much I'm impressed by, even in the minors (though I do expect him to breakout eventually, this isn't me giving up) while Gordon has had some poor luck while back in the majors.

Andrew (Toronto): Will Stephen Drew ever have his post-hype breakout season? Or he destined for a .260 TAv in 2011 and beyond?

Marc Normandin: I'm starting to think this is who he is. The power hasn't really been there outside of 2008, and he should at least have inflated stats because of his home park.

davestasiuk (NYC): Hi MarC, thanks for the chat...Ike Davis = Real First Baseman? As in, worth keeping for the next two years? I have no idea.

Marc Normandin: I don't think so. Davis has tremendous power potential, and he still doesn't have a ton of professional experience under his belt, but I would be more optimistic about him if 1) the Mets had let him develop in the minors further and 2) he was a year or so younger than he is. There's a chance things come together for him and he becomes a serious power-hitting first baseman, but I think there's just as good, if not better, he turns into Adam LaRoche. I don't think any of us would keep Adam LaRoche in fantasy baseball.

Phrustrated Philly Phan (PA): At least our last 3 losses put us in front of waiver hog San Francisco. Shouldn't a team lose its place after winning a claim? You could remake a lot of your roster with great, expensive players in August if you're just barely behind the other contenders.

Marc Normandin: Well...if you're in a good position to claim at the beginning of August, and are still in a good position to claim at the end of August, I would say your additions haven't done you that much good. I get what you're saying though, it's kind of strange how in a fantasy league you would be dropped to the end of the line but in real life you can sit there and claim, claim away.

ChuckR (Addison, IL): OK, so this Brian Duensing thing is just a mirage, right? It wasn't a great outing last night, but a tough enough matchup that I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Marc Normandin: The ERA is definitely a mirage, but he had very low walk rates in the minors that allowed him to get away with the below-average whiff rate. As long as he has his control he's league average or a little better, but his ERA should be two runs higher than it is right now.

DDriesen (Katonah): Hey Frank in Vegas - paging Mr. Anderson, Mr. Brady Anderson. He was 32 at the time of the questionable 50 HR year.

Marc Normandin: So is Bautista more Ludwick or Anderson, folks?

Mountainhawk (Salem, MA): Back in April, someone on BP asked if the Blue Jays would win the NL Central. What's your take on that now that we are nearing September? Personally, I think they'd be 4-5 games up right now.

Marc Normandin: The Blue Jays are much better than I thought they would be--I thought their defense would be their undoing, to the point where I was worried their excellent rotation would be overshadowed by those problems. They definitely have some flaws in terms of their lineup (home runs are not one of these flaws) but even if you put them in the AL Central I think they would be making more noise than they are. Putting them in the NL Central would just be unfair--neither the Cardinals or the Reds are that good, but someone has to win the central.

russadams (St. Paul): Thanks for the suggestions. I've played sports games almost exclusively for years, so there's a whole new world of games out there for me. Which of the ones you suggested are accessible for someone like me?

Marc Normandin: Well what kind of games do you think you want to play? What have you played and enjoyed outside of sports games?

Jquinton82 (NY): Marc, I think i have a solid Corp of relivers D. Roberton (NYY), Mike Adams (SD), Luke Greggorson (SD), Feliz (TEX), Rivera (NYY), Wanger (ATL)... in a dynasty league, keep them, or trade them in the offseason?

Marc Normandin: Isn't Wagner possibly retiring? I like Adams and Gregerson a lot--Adams may be the closer in SD next year as well, depending on how things go down with Heath Bell. Feliz is excellent, Rivera is still the best option out there. Robertson's good, but his walks are a bit high--that can work in relief, but he would be one of the guys I would try to move if you could.

nemo (ny): Any suggestions for some good WiiWare? How's the new Contra? Is Rondo of Blood everything it's cracked up to be?

Marc Normandin: I've been playing through the Phoenix Wright games on WiiWare lately, even though I already played them on the DS. Excellent titles, if you've never played, and you'll get 25 hours out of each of the three easy. If you want quick pick-up-and-play titles from WiiWare, any of the Art Style games will do. The new Contra was a lot of fun! I didn't like it as much as Contra 4 on the DS, but it's still great and worth the cash. I haven't played Rondo of Blood yet, so I can't answer that for you.

m1rch00 (Maryland): What do you see as the future for Brennan Boesch with his extreme splits (home/away, left/right, May-June/July-Aug)?

Marc Normandin: I'm not a big Boesch fan. I think he can be an above-average hitter, but I don't think he's a special hitter like his first few months made him look like he could be.

WilliamWilde (Boston, MA): Chuck Zorilla to the scrap heap at this point right? I'm considering replacing him w/ Ryan Rayburn (at 2b) in a 10 team, mixed league.

Marc Normandin: 10 team league? Absolutely. There are plenty of options in a 10 team mixed league.

Jack (Boston): You forgot Fallout: New Vegas, which I'm not really excited for as much as under the thrall of the original two (I geeked out when my buddy played "A Kiss to Build a Dream On" at his wedding, it's that bad). Also I asked about local multiplayer games last chat and can report that the Scott Pilgrim game is worth the $10 if you like side scrolling beat 'em ups at all. Unfortunately it'll probably be around and relevant longer than the movie Same keeper question, with three free pitchers: Jaime Garcia, Max Scherzer, Clayton Richard

Marc Normandin: I'm not that excited for New Vegas, honestly. I'll pick it up eventually but I'm not in a rush to get it at all. I was planning on picking up the Scott Pilgrim game next time I turn on my 360, as I already have some points in my XBLA account. I saw the movie last night, and it was everything I wanted it to be--it's a shame no one else is going to see it, because it's fantastic.

Scherzer's numbers don't tell the story of how excellent he has been this year. He's at 2.28 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 and 0.6 HR/9 since he returned from the minors. Scherzer is a stud. I like Clayton Richard quite a bit, though Kevin Goldstein and I currently disagree on whether or not his strikeout rate is for real. He got it up to 6.7 last year after never coming close to that outside of a brief 44 inning stint at Triple-A, and is up at 7.1 now. An above-average K rate and the ability to keep the ball on the ground more often than in the air makes me confident he'll continue to succeed. Garcia is a lot like Richard, actually, though he's a groundball pitcher which makes him a better bet.

Jquinton82 (ny): With Lance Berkman carrying a toothpick to the plate, do the Yanks put Montero in at DH when rosters expand?

Marc Normandin: I think his future is at DH, and if the Yankees feel their lead is comfortable enough they may give him some at-bats there to see what he can do for them. He won't be able to get on the playoff roster without some DL loopholes though, so maybe they'll leave things as they are and hope Berkman can work his way out of it.

russadams (St. Paul): I think strategy or adventure games would be good for me. I'm big on value so a game with long-lasting appeal is good. Also, is there any reason to spend for the larger models, rather than the 160gb (or 120)?

Marc Normandin: I have a 40GB and it works fine for me. I could go for a bigger HDD, but the 250GB models aren't necessary. Go with Valkyria Chronicles, Civilization Revolution, and try out the first Uncharted game for now. Infamous is also very cool--open world superhero game of sorts.

Brian Cashman (Sneaky Sneaky): Yeah... I'm not looking for starting pitching (rolls eyes), just like Bubba Crosby was going to be my starting CF. Hey guys, I gotta bridge for sale you might be interested in......

Marc Normandin: Someone please claim Kuroda and don't let him near New York. Thanks.

Lightning round time, everyone.

kprince (Boston): Is Danny Valencia for real? Better keeper than Viciedo?

Marc Normandin: Valencia's BABIP is .377, which is driving his batting average up, but he's also been great in the minors (excepting this year). If he lost 30-40 points of batting average he wouldn't look anywhere near as impressive as he has in his first 202 plate appearances. I think he can be pretty good in the end, but this is a fluky hot streak to start his career.

makewayhomer (Boston): Top pick in 2011: Miggy or Pujols? I can't really see an argument beyond these 2, with the possible exception of Hanley.

Marc Normandin: Still Team Pujols until he proves he doesn't deserve it. He hit like this in 2007 as well, and then rattled off two straight seasons with OPS over 1100, so I'm not concerned.

Wendy (Miami): If Busch severly effects righthanded power that means Pujols is still having the best offensive season, doesn't it? Once you take ballparks into consideration, how Pujols is ahead of Votto & Hamilton. Cabrera is really his only competition, right?

Marc Normandin: Pujols has actually hit better at home than on the road this year (whereas last year he was without a split). Cabrera is really the only other bat in the conversation, and I still like Pujols more than him.

Bob (DC): Wouldn't a change in coaches/team have to factor in a player coming from nowhere? Matt Stairs, Jeff Kent, Ryan Ludwick, Joes Batista all went from one team to another. Not only do they get playing time but a new coach that could correct a defect.

Marc Normandin: It's tough to measure that sort of thing, but it's something to look out for when it does happen. Ludwick had the benefit of being healthy as well. Bautista actually started hitting for more power before he went to Toronto--had a huge September in 2009. Coaches tend to get too much or too little credit it seems. There are times where they definitely make a difference with a player though.

David R. (West Hartford, CT): Console question -- invest in a 250 GB XBox 360 hard drive (to replace my Rock-Band festooned 20 GB original), or just buy the fancy new X-Box 360 Whatever It's Called?

Marc Normandin: If you have a 20GB original, then you're lucky the thing hasn't melted yet. So upgrading the whole console rather than just the hard drive (especially with what they charge for hard drives) is probably in your best interest.

Jquinton82 (NY): Marc quick Football question... what do you think of the whole Revis situation and whose side are you on?

Marc Normandin: Would you believe me if I told you I had no idea what the situation was? I know there's a Revis, and I know there's something going on with them, but I don't know what it is. My interest in football has waned so much the past few years, and it's basically just something I watch with buddies now rather than follow religiously.

mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Marc, thanks for the chat. Assuming, as it seems relatively safe to do, that the Red Sox miss the playoffs, what do you do this winter if you're Theo Epstein?

Marc Normandin: Re-sign Beltre, let Victor walk (picks!), install Saltalamacchia as the starting catcher, pick up Ortiz' option for 2011 rather than signing him to a longer deal with fewer dollars, try to convince Bill Hall to stay for something less than the $7.5M Milwaukee was just paying him, trade Jacoby Ellsbury for a front line relief pitcher + prospect, sign Carl Crawford, shift Kalish to center and hope he doesn't put on any more bulk that will push him to a corner, examine the trade market for Jonathan Papelbon in the off chance someone is willing to give up top prospects for his services. If Papelbon goes, sign Heath Bell.

David (DC): Which rookie pitcher is a better long term keeper, if I can only keep one: Hellickson or Feliz? Does the answer change if Texas decides to keep Feliz in the pen?

Marc Normandin: I like Hellickson a lot--if Feliz stays in the pen then it's definitely Hellickson. I'm thinking 3.75 ERA in the rotation for Feliz though, so he's my pick assuming he starts.

williams51 (New York): Strasburg or Ubaldo = keeper league, draft style, head to head league 5x5

Marc Normandin: Assuming health, Strasburg. There's no one like him in the majors dominance wise if he can stay on the mound.

David (DC): Where does Pagan rate as a keeper, including pitchers ... top-25? top-50?

Marc Normandin: Top 30. Though Jerry Manuel's recent circle logic of, "He's never been a full-time player, so we're making him a part-time player" makes me regret being interested in him at all.

mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Is this who John Lackey is going forward or can the Red Sox hope for some improvement in the next four seasons?

Marc Normandin: Hey, good time for a plug! I wrote about this recently at a new venture Patrick Sullivan and I are working on, Red Sox Beacon. We'll have daily Sox analysis and plenty of articles centered around facepalming after reading Shaughnessy's work.

Jed Hoyer (SD): Hey! Heath Bell is still under Padre control next year!

Marc Normandin: That he is! For some reason I thought Adrian Gonzalez had two years left with them heading into this year and Heath Bell had one. That actually makes me happier that he's sticking with them in 2011, to be honest, even at the expense of Boston (who was only signing him in my faux GM position).

Quentin (Chicago): I'm a burgeoning computer nerd. Only recently have I started taking my computers apart and replacing things like the hard drive and RAM and now the processor in my Mac Mini. My question is, is replacing the hard drive in game consoles as easy as it is in a computer?

Marc Normandin: The hard drive on the Xbox 360 pops out of the top with the press of a button, they're interchangeable. The PS3 is a little more involved, but the system comes with an explanation in the manual that tells you how to do it so you can upgrade your HDD without voiding your warranty.

cbelford (Chicago): Hi Marc, thanks for the chat. I'm trying to pick 5 keepers from this bunch: Hellickson, Heyward, Stanton, Aroldis Chapman, Phil Hughes, Pedro Alvarez, Jesus Montero, Neftali Feliz, Lincecum...Should I try to corner the young pitching market with Hughes, Hellickson, Chapman, Lincecum, Feliz or are the 2 20-year old OFs more valuable?

Marc Normandin: In real life, you can never have too much pitching. But in fantasy, you need to bet on the sure thing more often, because the reason you can never have too much pitching is due to the volatility of the performances and concerns over injuries. I am much more comfortable keeping the two 20 year old outfielders and Pedro Alvarez than by going all pitching. Heyward, Stanton, Alvarez, Feliz, Lincecum would be my five from your group. If you can make a trade by packaging some of the others together, I would explore it.

Cardinals645 (SB): Jumping into this chat late, but just wanted to state that only a fool would think that TOS is better than TNG.

Marc Normandin: Well now, neither Colin or Ben is a fool. But they do have questionable taste in Star Trek series.

Jed Hoyer (SD): Friggin' Astros. Now we get to play the "Swept By Houston! Hulk Smash!" Phillies.

Marc Normandin: Maybe you'll get the "Horribly Dejected" Phillies instead. At least I hope you do.

sharkey (cambridge): Assuming a Manny-less White Sox team, please tell me the Twins have enough starting pitching to hold onto this lead...

Marc Normandin: I think the Twins have got it. Manny could make things interesting though. That park is made for him.

Marty (Milwaukee): I had the chance to trade Halladay for Strasburg at our trade deadline in an 8 team Strat League. I declined. Am I crazy? This was before his latest injury. I came to the conclusion that Halladay is consistently good enough and at 33 can still have a few years ahead that are pretty good... especially being in the easier league, now.

Marc Normandin: Way more upside by acquiring Strasburg, but Halladay is a much safer option. It's hard to fault you there, as much as I love (healthy) Strasburg.

Functionary (Grey Cubicle, DC): Care to gush about how studly the Pads' bullpen is? They remind me of the stacked Angels pen of ought-two.

Marc Normandin: Well, the other night was a great example. They used four relievers--Ernesto Frieri, Joe Thatcher, Edward Mujica and Tim Stauffer--for three scoreless innings of relief. None of those three relievers are the key pieces in the bullpen (Heath Bell, Mike Adams, Luke Gregerson). Their "worst" reliever by ERA is Mujica, who has a K/BB of 11.6 thanks to 58 strikeouts and just five walks.

Tom (NYC): To David in West Hartford - DEFINITELY go to the new system. I had the same situation, upgraded to the 250 GB Slim, moved my stuff over, and the next time I tried to boot up the old system to see if I could still get some use out of it? Red ring of death. Quick! Before it's too late!

Marc Normandin: Tom has spoken! Upgrade! Upgrade!

Something I forgot to mention in the last question: Ryan Webb, who would be a useful reliever in something like 95% of bullpens, is sitting in the minors because the Padres don't have room for him.

Functionary (Grey Cubicle, DC): D'oh! Addendum: Care to expand on your praise of Heath Bell, Mike Adams, and Luke Gregerson, and add lauds and exultates for Joe Thatcher and Edward Mujica?

Marc Normandin: Joe Thatcher missed the beginning of the season, but in the 27 1/3 innings since he's returned, he's held lefties to a line of .149/.212/.255. Mujica is a beast in the K/BB department as I said. He's given up some homers but seems to have that little problem under control lately, and is flat out dominant at times despite being a back-end option.

Bell walks some hitters sometimes, but most of the hits against him are dinky singles, and he can bring it and whiffs plenty of batters. The only closer I trust more than Bell is Mariano Rivera. Luke Gregerson and Mike Adams would be closing for most of the other teams in baseball--even when Gregerson walks batters he's an ace reliever, but this year he's got the walks under control. This is not a Petco bullpen, this is a pen full of really, really good pitchers.

Marc Normandin: Sorry to leave folks, but I've got some things to do after 3.5 hours. Expect to see me again sooner than later though, as the pennant races ramp up. Good luck to your teams, unless they are playing my own!

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