Pitchers and catchers report soon, but how do the rosters look as the Hot Stove league wraps up? Check in with Christina Kahrl for answers to your questions.
Christina Kahrl: Howdy gang, here I is, there you are, and let's see what I can do to undermine national workplace productivity for those of you stealthily avoiding generating a cover sheet for the TPS reports. Let's talk some baseball!
Brecken (Chicago): I was surprised I haven't heard more from you on the Philly roster construction - they seem tailor made to go with a 10 man staff and give Cholly all kind of platoon options to create some value in the line-up. Is it because their "adds" don't point that way, or are you just afraid to put your hopes in writing and see them dashed again?
Christina Kahrl: I think it's a sign of the times that we ought to be able to celebrate the Phillies dialing down to six relievers this season, and making space for a sixth bench player. Of course, there's the bit about being careful what you wish for--if it's for Brian Bocock's benefit, that's sort of sad for everyone but Bocock. John Mayberry Jr., Jeff Larish... Robb Quinlan? A Larish/Quinlan matched set? See, part of the problem is that beyond notionally carring a RF platoon if Domonic Brown splits the job with Ben Francisco is that they'll have their lefty PH in Ross "Three Bricks Shy of a" Gload, and with that rotation, it isn't like they'll have a ton of PH assignments in the first place. They could use the 25th slot on just about anything, and whoever he is, he won't play much.
dianagramr (NYC): Greeting Christina ... Happy Spring Training to you.
May I suggest that in honor of Kevin's brilliant piece today, that you answer all questions in Haiku? :-)
Christina Kahrl: Hi Diana... sadly, no, KG's inspiration was a bunch of fun, but Steph Bee and I had enough haiku fun yesterday editing them all, and I prefer futzing around with iambic pentameter when I'm not simply bloviating in my usual idiom.
BStephen (TITLETOWN, WI USA): Can The brewers Live With Betancourt @ SS ?
Will Gamel ever be a player? or just a guy?
Christina Kahrl: It's an interesting exercise, because it's less about Betancourt's contributions, modest as those will be, but whether the rest of the roster can carry him. It's sort of what we might call the Mark Koenig problem: how bad does an everyday player have to be to undermine the rest of a team? As Koenig's career reflects, you could be pretty awful and still wind up earning playoff shares, and I don't think Betancourt's any worse as far as that goes. It just forces the other six slots to crank, because they also aren't going to get much out of catcher. As a result, I'm very interested in seeing if Roenicke creates some serious playing time for Dickerson at the top of the order.
As for Gamel, I'd number myself among the skeptics. The standards for acceptable offense at first base are high, and unless Gamel's bat really lost that much to his injury-abbreviated campaigns, I'm not seeing it.
lennyd (Portland): Hi Christina,
What team do you think will disappoint the most to its expectations?
Christina Kahrl: This is easier to state now, a week after Adam Wainwright's injury, but if you set the Cardinals aside as a special, changing circumstance, I'd put the Dodgers at the head of the class.
dangor (New York): Do you think the Wilpon flap will have an effect on the Mets' win-loss record this year? Any distraction at all? Will they be .500?
Christina Kahrl: It's sort of funny, because last year, several of us argued (around the book tour in particular) that the Mets were interesting because they could have won anywhere from 72 and 92 games, and they wound up being a boring old 79-win mediocrity. This time around, many of the same maybes are in play, but bandying about 90 wins seems improbable at best; .500 seems about right.
The people who figure to be most distracted by the Wilpon flap are the Wilpons themselves, people in MLB's offices, and the people writing about it. From Alderson on down, I don't expect it to seriously impact performance.
CJ (SF): Christina, I have a question on spring fever: if I am a Yankee fan who believes that Mitre can adequately hold down a rotation spot, am I afflicted?
I need your call on whether I'll be singing his praises or throwing bleacher language at Sergio this season ...
Christina Kahrl: I just don't see it. At his best, before injury in 2007, he was a fifth starter type, posting a SNWP around .450, and striking out just 12 percent of opposing batters despite working in the DH-less league. Now he's in a bandbox, pitching in an unbalanced schedule in the AL East. There's no reason to expect this ends well, so brush up on your colorful metaphors.
Bill (New Mexico): As regards the Wainwright injury, tell true: Did you see this coming last fall, when he got shut down after his 20th-win start and didn't make the last scheduled start of the season?
Christina Kahrl: I did not.
Tom (Madison): Who do you like to round out the A's rotation out of Brandon McCarthy, Josh Outman, Tyson Ross, Bobby Cramer, and the forever-injured Rich Harden?
Christina Kahrl: What, you mean in terms of finding a fifth ma to fight for the honor of being fifth starter? Ian Krol's a way's off yet. Pedro Figueroa's coming back from TJS and will start the season on the DL--that has to make him an honorary competitor, no?
dtothew (Atlanta, GA): Christina - I just wanted to let you know that I am going to get the job as the Cubs PA announcer. See you at Wrigley this summer!
Christina Kahrl: Congratulations, that has to be cause for real excitement and joy for you and yours. Don't be a stranger, and see you on Opening Day, if not next week at Hohokam!
Matt (Chicago): Do you expect OBP or defensive deficiency to be the biggest problem area for the Cubs this yr?
Christina Kahrl: I'm more worried about OBP, because if DeWitt doesn't hold down second base, where are they going to get it from? Fukudome's going to lose at-bats. Full seasons from A-Ram and Soto would go a long way towards helping, and Pena will contribute walks, but if he's knocking around the Mendoza line, his overall OBP won't be that wonderful.
DBrown (Pittsburgh): What are some of the top defensive infields in the National league this year?
Christina Kahrl: I'm partial to the Padres, because Bartlett and Hudson up the middle should be fairly tasty. The Phillies are a safe choice. I'm interested to see what happens in Miami if Dominguez winds up winning the job at third and with Perry Hill coaching them again. And I'm a little curious about what'll happen with the young middle-infield tandem in Washington, because Desmond/Espinosa might be the dark-horse combo that... well, doesn't make a bad staff great, but they'll help stanch the bleeding.
singledigit (San Diego, Ca): I don't wager, and of course would never encourage anyone else to either. But after the usual Vegas favorites like the Phillies, Red Sox and Yankees...what of the second-teir teams would you take a look at? Myself, I kinda like the White Sox and Tigers both going off at 25-1.
Christina Kahrl: I've yet to make any bet more serious or since the buck I won on Sammy Sosa hitting 40 homers in 1996 (with myself and the man I'd bet against in attendance that very night he did it), so take my two cents with the appropriate spoonful of salt, but the White Sox at 25-1 look like a great choice. That said, I'm a believer that their rotation's the unit that might get them there, whether they get 16 starts from Jake Peavy or 26.
SaberTJ (Cleveland, OH): Who do you think should stay on the Indians roster as an extra OF assuming Sizemore will start the year on the DL?
Do you think they should give Buck a real chance?
Christina Kahrl: Ah, yes, Cleveland--the Buck stops there, obviously. I kind of hope they give Nick Weglarz a look in that circumstance, or maybe Jordan Brown from among the NRIs, but that's assuming that they do the right thing and stick Brantley in center and get over their Crowe-fancying.
geebr (san diego): Christina: BP2011 is outstanding, as expected, and, while I'm not much of a design geek, I think it's visually more appealing with the player bio boxes. One question though: You project no National to get more than 3 saves, with Storen getting none. Was this a typo, or am I missing some back story? Thanks!
Christina Kahrl: Speaking out of turn, my thanks to you. But I really can't take any credit for the redesign whatsoever--Steven Goldman and Colin Wyers (with doses of Ben Lindbergh and Steph Bee) were the people most responsible for this year's much more visually slick product. As for the Nats' saves situation, I'm assuming it's an oversight in the rush to publication. I could see Riggleman tag-teaming Storen and Tyler Clippard initially, but I like Henry Rodriguez as a stealth candidate for sneaking in and claiming some save opps during the course of the season.
mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Hi Christina. It strikes me that possibly the most important man on the Yankees is AJ Burnett. If he's the '09 version the Yankees should be alright on the pitching front, but if he's the '10 version the Yankees are going to have more holes than they have patches. What do you think?
Christina Kahrl: Couldn't agree more as far as the sentiment, but I'm a bit doubtful that he'll turn the corner. Small-sample caveats apply, of course, but I was very disappointed to see Girardi leave Burnett out a frame too far in the ALCS, so I'm more than a little skeptical about the possibility this works out well when it very much has to.
Jquinton82 (NY): Heres thing I don't get about the Wilpon's, they've known about the Madoff thing (heck we've been speculating about it for the past 2-3 years) and keep lying through their teeth to the fan base. Do they realize the amount of distrust their sowing? And at what point does that factor into them selling the team (all of it not, just a slice)?
Christina Kahrl: Owners don't have a ton of incentive to be entirely straight with fans in even the best of circumstances, so I don't see why, when there's something to hide, the same people who have given Mets fans a shabby spectacle in their stewardship for decades were suddenly supposed to become solid citizens. It's front and center because of the Madoff name, of course, but the fact that they're still playing out the hangover of the Minaya Era helps keep the actual, mediocre product below the fold, as it were.
Andy (Chicago): Anything I should bring to the book discussion/signing on the 9th? Witty signs? Baked goods? A copy of my master's thesis for you to review before I formally submit it the following week?
Christina Kahrl: Sadly, I won't be there, since I fly to Phoenix to start two weeks of Cactus League action on the 8th. I'd just load up on my Joe Strummer references and gear up for a great time with Kevin and company when you're there.
JT (MKE): I haven't heard much about the BP App for iPhone? Can you buy one for both iPad/iPhone? How has it been received both internally and externally?
Christina Kahrl: I have to admit to relative ignorance about the BP App, because I haven't been a MacPerson since switching away from my Apple 6300CD to be assimilated into wider world almost 12 years ago. I know more app codes are supposed to be coming, and I know folks with access are excited about it, so I'd keep an eye on the BP blog stream to watch for further developments.
Mike (St. Louis): Does the St. Louis defense, assuming its regulars include Schumaker, Theriot, and Berkman (with the possibility off Craig @ 3B if Freese doesn't fully heal) have the opportunity to be one of the worst defensive units in recent memory?
Christina Kahrl: Per PADE, the 2010 Pirates were among the 10 worst defensive teams since the start of Retrosheet-recorded history (1954), while the 2007 Rays remain the all-time worst. (Inspiring their genius move to rediscover the existence of leather, now perhaps the most over-reported sabermetric development in anybody's recorded history.) The Cards were bottom 10 (21st overall) last year, and they're a lock to get worse. I wouldn't be surprised if they gave the franchise's worst-ever defensive teams (the '70-'71 squad) a run for its money, but that doesn't get them into the worst 50 or worst 100 all-time.
CrisE (St Paul, MN): General roster construction question: you get to the playoffs by fixing up the #5 starter role, but you win the playoffs by fixing up the #1 starter. If you're watching your dollars and being conservative the former makes a lot of sense. Is this part of why Twins and As stuff doesn't work in the playoffs?
Christina Kahrl: I think the Gardenhire Twins are the better example, because they don't have that "guy" at the front of their rotation, and haven't since they handed away Johan Santana for a bag of stale Skittles. But I also think that's only part of it, in each instance, albeit for different reasons. The A's were probably too tactically static on offense to do themselves any favors; for better and worse (with too much elective bunting from Barton), that has changed some. The Twins just don't live up to their "good fundamentals" billing; they're a fairly mediocre defensive team, but finding ways to show up in October without Morneau has made matters considerably worse.
Goo Goo the Cat (Laying in the sunshine....): Greinke, Marcum and Gallardo combine for how many wins this season? And who gets the late, high leverage innings Axford or Braddock?
Christina Kahrl: 48 wins total, and Axford and Braddock share those innings. (Admittedly, I'm indifferent to who gets saves, and who has to pitch the eighth; the Brewers should be fine as long as it's them, with Hawkins and Saito generally getting their innings earlier.)
dfloren1 (Livermore, CA): Drafting a staff before Spring training decisions are made is a bit dicey but appeals to one's prognoticatory predispositions. When one looks past CC, AJ, and Phil at the NYY starting 5, one sees Hot Fuzzesque living statues, crusty jugglers, and loiterers (e.g. Bartolo, Freddy and Sergio). Why for the love of the game aren't they following the one Joba rule that should counts in this world (i.e., let the kid start)? I'm pretty sure that long relief, mop up duty could be handled by one of the residents of New York's version of Sandford, Gloucestershire.
Christina Kahrl: I have to admit, I don't see why they're inflicting a relief role on Joba, especially when this ought to be the make-or-break year for him as a starter; by 2012, the B-boys should start showing up in force, at which point you'd think they'd want to know if Chamberlain's going to start or not. What's the point of having Joba pitch the seventh when Burnett, Chief, Mitre, and the Chub might all have long since surrendered a few crooked numbers, time and again?
mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): Clint Hurdle is here, but what can he do, really?
Christina Kahrl: Mark time, and bunt more than the average bear. That isn't all bad, in that he ought to be a confident steward as the organization breaks in a few prospects, but the organization necessarily has to be more about what Huntington and Coonelly do with their Junes than how Hurdle spends his time.
Tim (Harlem): Is David Freese worth keeping at a cheap price? What do you think about CC this year?
Christina Kahrl: If you're in a deep keeper league, sure he is, but if you've got eight teams or fewer in an NL-only league, not so much, because there isn't a tremendous upside involved. As for CC, I figure he's the one thing sure to be sound among the Bronx's rotation options.
PadresOnTop (San Diego): Christina, I always look forward to your chats for weeks, but today I'll be traveling when it goes down and aside from quitting my job, there's not much I can do about it. I hope you'll take this pre-submitted question: How soon could the Rockies have a catcher logjam with Iannetta and Rosario, and how do you think they should/will reseolve it?
Christina Kahrl: Sorry you couldn't make it today, but I figure they'll have this nice problem on their hands by July, which puts the pressure on Iannetta to earn his keep or become a bargaining chip in the meantime. As much as I like Iannetta, Rosario's going to be the guy the Rockies stick with over time.
Silv (NY, NY): Quick point on Saito - it generally goes under the radar, but the guy was a 36 year old "rookie" and has rung up a 2.19 era, 11 k/9vs. 2.8 bb/9 and a 1.022 whip during his US career. Those are pretty remarkable numbers for any age, much less 36-40.
Christina Kahrl: It also generally goes under the radar that he's hard-pressed to pitch on consecutive evenings, which makes counting on him as a key piece of a pen across six months somewhat problematic, even if he avoids the DL.
paulbellows (Calgary): Surely the Twins wouldn't trade Liriano without getting Betances, Banuelos, or at least one of their 3 top catching prospects ? I've heard Joba's name come up which would be a disaster.
Christina Kahrl: Even thought they're only in control of two more Liriano seasons, if they don't get someone from that front pile *and* Joba, it isn't worth their while. There's a division title hanging in the balance, after all.
DanDaMan (SeaCliff): Hi Christina, let me ask what may become an annual question- who do you think will be this year's breakout pitchers (aside from Latos). When I first asked you this question in person years ago you said you really liked a young stud named Danny Haren (worked out nice) and last year you said Anderson and Romero (not bad). For 2011...? Thanks, Dan
Christina Kahrl: I don't have any special Kreskin-like abilities... I guess I see those sorts of expectations as eminently reasonable and predictable. This year, if I had to say "he's turning the corner," I'd peg John Danks, Colby Lewis, and Wandy Rodriguez as people who will surpass expectations.
singledigit (San Diego, Ca.): Can one possibly ever hear A Flock of Seagulls "I Ran(so far away)" enough?
True genius, and worth a first round draft pick.
Christina Kahrl: I'm a big '80s music fan, so I'm easily sold on the subject (hell, Felt's "Primitive Painters" magically showed up on iTunes as I'm typing). That said, nobody should sit still; these days I'm a bit more partial to theSTART, Curve, Rammstein, Brazilian Girls, or Coyote Grace, depending on my mood.
EricJ (SF): Should we give any credit to the Giants for developing and keeping their star pitchers healthy? With all the words written about Moneyball and Billy Beane wasn't this same situation what really what made him look like a genius?
Christina Kahrl: Absolutely, they should get credit, from the training staff to Bruce Bochy; it's the sort of basic logistical challenge every organization and every skipper has to deal with that trumps the value of any in-game machinations.
johnklein (northeast): Who closes if Feliz starts?
Christina Kahrl: I'm convinced they'd make a trade of some sort to add a right-handed veteran, because I guess I'm more than a little doubtful they'd go old (Arthur Rhodes or Darren Oliver) or young (Derek Holland) from what's effectively a list made up of lefties, at least as far as their best internal options.
jimbeau (LeftCoast): Hi Christine. So why is there generally not much love for Cord Phelps? Most og the mil equivalencies and stuff show him to project out to around a .290/.380/4.40 at his peak, he switch-hits, plays a decent 2B (from what I hear), and has had experience at SS (Stanford) and 3B (AZ fall league). Only about 8 out of 32 ML 2B had OPS above .800 last year. Seems like he could be a beter than average 2B for a number of years. What say you? Thanks.
Christina Kahrl: I'm a bit perplexed by it as well... I mean, really, given that the only thing at stake is finishing in fourth or fifth place, I'd really rather see Phelps at second and Jared Goedert at third than Orlando Cabrera and Jayson Nix. Phelps and Goedert may not have all-star ceilings, but when the alternatives are locks to rank among the worst regulars at their positions, why commit to that?
singledigit (San Diego, Ca): Cale Iorg hit a dinger in a ST game the other day. You don't suppose? His glove and range is said to be Everett-like. How much would a guy like him HAVE to hit, to stick?
Christina Kahrl: He'd have to be able to put up an OBP higher than the weight of a Fielder to be named later to be allowed to be a big-league infield regular, and I'd put the odds of that happening only slightly higher than my shot at being elected Pope by the College of Cardinals.
Goo Goo the Cat (Luvin' the sunshine): Will Carlos Gomez hit enough this season to get 500 major league ABs?
Christina Kahrl: No, but the danger is that he might get them just the same if Roenicke decides that Dickerson can't play center.
lyndon (Columbus): Do you agree with the current Playoff Odds Report's standings for the NL Central? I realize it's by a fairly small margin, but I'm having a hard time seeing the Cardinals even finishing second, much less first.
(Yes, I am a Reds fan.)
Christina Kahrl: I'm a little skeptical, especially because I have very little faith that McClellan can deliver his first successful season as a starter since the Midwest League. Getting through a lineup a second or third time isn't something just anybody can do, and doing it well? I wouldn't be surprised in the least if one of the old men who doesn't make the Yankees' rotation winds up in St. Louis. I don't think it'll take a Carpenter breakdown as well to put the Cards behind the Reds and the Cubs, certainly.
Michael (Detroit, MI): OK, this isn't a transaction question exactly, but it's closer to your beat than anyone else's perhaps. What are the ramifications if any of Mark Teixeira ceasing to retain Boras as an agent? Doesn't Boras still get his cut as long as the current contract is in place? If yes, then what does Teixeira gain by changing agents now? Does any new agent that Teixeira hire get essentially $0 compensation until his next contract (and hope that Teixeira doesn't change agents again before then)?
Christina Kahrl: Yes, seeing this come across the transom, I really wonder if Tex isn't being overly sensitive to the "Boras client" spiel he trotted out as an excuse, because he's still a bazillionaire either way. I'm not sure if there's some additional revenue from advertising opportunities he gets to cut Boras out of, but it would seem to me that Boras would still get his cut from the contract. But I really don't know.
Bill Simmons (LA): The Red Sox, 95.5 wins, Over or Under?
Christina Kahrl: Nice break point, but I'd take the over.
Bobby (Las Vegas): Who has been a bigger disappointment, Charlie Sheen or Alex Gordon?
Christina Kahrl: Alex Gordon, by a country mile. I mean, c'mon, a celebrity, or a baseball prospect? How could it be close? As the line goes, "An actress is something more than a woman, an actor something less than a man." How many reminders of that are really necessary?
don (lansing): what do you think the season has in store for dan johnson? PECOTA loves him and joe maddon seems smart enough to let him have 600 PAs.
Christina Kahrl: I'm a little skeptical about his delivering a .297 TAv or a OBP in the .360s, but he ought to be more than capable of delivering something around the position average, making him a huge bargain in real-world terms.
Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): Does the Jays make the playoffs at least once in the next 5 seasons?
Christina Kahrl: Man, talk about a tough question, especially with the Orioles taking themselves seriously... they have a chance, but you want a yes/no answer, so I'll throw myself out on the limb and say yes. It can be done.
Raka (Iraq): Outside of Baseball, what other sports do you follow?
Christina Kahrl: I'm following US football more now that I'm back in Chicago, and the Raiders' recent signs of life might even get me back to caring. I've given up on watching the NBA after the Kings were robbed of their shot at the brass ring by the same sort of officiating that helped cinch the Bulls' three-peats. From the less-regular sports, I watch the World Cup every four years and root for several countries (given my mixed heritage), and I can't get enough of equestrian events in the Olympics on the rare occasions those get broadcast. I avoid college sports in general.
Marissa (Arizona): Will we ever see a female player in MLB?
Christina Kahrl: I'm a believer, although it might be a long while yet coming. If she can pitch, she'll get a shot, though. After she debuts, though, I'm out of my depth to guess at whether or not a female position player will ever make it. I hope so, but I don't know.
CT fan (NE): When does Cain end Melky's reign of terror?
Christina Kahrl: I'd like to think so, for the Royals' sake, but that ex-Brave thing's going to get Melk'd for what little it's worth.
dfloren1 (Livermore): No one ****s with Dejesus. Or so we're led to believe. But what are the chances Beane orders a platoon with Conor Jackson in left?
Christina Kahrl: Not very good, but he'll get at-bats in the outfield corners, at DH, and first base if they wind up deciding to actually keep him instead of just writing off the expense. Unless the expense is part of a plan for placating the MLBPA, retaining Jackson still strikes me as one of the bigger mistakes made in the recent past, but that's in part informed by my skepticism that he'll ever be entirely right after his bout with Valley Fever, let alone his capacity to contribute outside of the Snakes' BOBbox.
Matt (Chicago): I know this is KG's turf but can you see B Jackson pushing himself into CF and the top of the Cub lineup by mid-summer?
Christina Kahrl: I can see him coming into the picture in the second half, yes, but trading Fukudome (or Byrd, which would make sense if Jackson's ready soonest), and/or the timing of the annual Soriano injury would help him considerably.
EricJ (SF): Would the smart play for the Giants be starting Brandon Belt in AAA to manage service time?
Christina Kahrl: That, plus if they can't guarantee him at-bats just yet. Not everybody can instantly adapt to a part-time role, even if, in the absolute sense, he's one of the 10 best bats in camp right now.
Dave (Chicago): Over/under 12.5 home runs for Daric Barton this season?
Christina Kahrl: Call me a glutton for punishment, but I'll pick the over. He has to wind up with more homers than sac bunts this year... doesn't he?
Guillermo (Montevideo, Uruguay): Hi Christina! Give me your opinion, what will do more damage to Derek Jeterīs numbers? His natural decline with age or will all the media pressure finally get to him? I mean, he isnīt used to all this questioning his ability, right?
Christina Kahrl: Put in those terms, I still think "natural decline" is the obvious answer. The man has lived most of his adult life under a microscope, and has been a remarkable shield for so many other people in that organization because of the way he draws the media that I don't think it's going to somehow get to him now, as opposed to ever.
chris in illinois (central illinois): Kukodome ended his 2010 with a second half flourish (.885 OPS). What are the chances that Quade through match-ups and prudent rest can milk that sort of production again?? Small sample size warnings apply, but his FB% really jumped after the break.
Christina Kahrl: Sure, but he was also pinch-hitting more, and whatever else, Fukudome can work a count and paste a fastball once he gets into the right kind of counts from a righty reliever. In some ways, he's sort of a Weaver-style part-timer, in that I'd avoid using him against both lefties and right-handers with good breaking stuff, but as a 350-400 PA contributor, he can still be very valuable.
florien (maine): Will the Yankees regret cutting Aceves loose?
Also, apropos to little. Do you listen to the memory palace podcast? You like your history.
Christina Kahrl: They will, yes, but that's because I'd rather have Aceves than have to count on Mitre, Colon, or Garcia. As for the Memory Palace podcast, I'd have to thank you for alerting me to its existence, because it wasn't something I knew about beforehand.
dianagramr (NYC): 1) Jesus Montero will start ____ games at catcher for the Yanks in 2011.
2) If you had to rank these 6 prospects in terms of most likely to be dealt for a starter .... Brackman, Betances, Banuelos, Romine, Sanchez, Montero ... how would you do it?
Christina Kahrl: 1) 25. 2) Most likely, or the ones I'd be most ready to deal? Let's just assume I'm the buyer, not the Yankees, in which case I go Montero, Betances, Banuelos, Sanchez, Romine, Brackman.
CrisE (St Paul, MN): You've been around this BP block for a while. When did Keith Law become a scouty guy? Did he gain access to the Jays as a stats guy and then learn the scout trade once inside?
Christina Kahrl: I suppose I can afford a dry chuckle over the fact that a lot of things have changed since the early days, but KLaw obviously put his opportunity with the Jays to good use--mastering basic sabermetrics isn't rocket science, but learning about life on the other side of the tracks from the inside once he got there makes him one of the most valuable sabermetric commodities on the face of the planet.
lemppi (Iowa): Donning your GM-cap for a moment....if you had been in Detroit making decisions, would you have made the deal with Victor Martinez? Or would you have found a cheaper DH-bat and kept the 1st round pick in this mucho-hyped upcoming draft? Thank you.
Christina Kahrl: A lot depends on how serious they are about getting him time behind the plate as well as at DH, because if he starts 60 games or more as a catcher, it's hard to turn that down for what it means for an offense, especially when the alternatives for playing-time partners for Alex Avila were one low-OBP right-handed swing-and-miss slugger or another. Considering how much money got thrown at guys like John Buck, I think Dombrowski paid a premium in the right way.
jhardman (Rangerland): Why don't you come to Newberg Report night in Texas?
Christina Kahrl: I'd love to, but I figure folks getting a bigger kick out of Kevin. That said, I should be in Dallas for the Winter Meetings in December at the very least, and that'll be a first--somehow, I've managed to never even fly through Texas, let alone step onto her soil.
Tim (VA): Speaking of catcher logjams, what should the Nats do and what do you think they will do?
Christina Kahrl: I'd really want to let Flores prove that he's healthy. If that strands Ramos in Syracuse in the meantime, so be it, but I was a big Flores fan back in the day, and if he's sound, there's no better way to turn him back into a commodity than show him off first. Tough for Ramos? Sure, but then again, the future belongs to Derek Norris, even if that's coming at the back end of 2012 and beyond.
Dave (Chicago): When do you think MLB will figure out what to do with A's and their stadium issues? If not San Jose, where do they play?
Christina Kahrl: I'm still an optimist about the obvious compromise working out--an eight-figure payoff to the Giants to reward them for being such bad actors, followed by a move to San Jose. Sacramento, Portland, Fremont, Dublin, Redding, they're all just Potemkin alternatives.
Bob (Malibu): Thanks for chattin'; I think you may be overestimating the likelihood of McClellan's shifting to the rotation, CK. Lance Lynn was *very* good in AAA over his final dozen starts (83-20 K-BB in 73 innings), and Duncan likes him.
Christina Kahrl: Believe me, that's my very point from my column last week: Lynn should be the best choice, especially with last year's boosted velocity on top of the better second-half results. But if they hold up McClellan for some media misdirection over the next couple of weeks, until Lynn wins the job without the immediate pressure of "YOU WILL REPLACE ADAM WAINWRIGHT!", I can't say I blame them.
mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): Reading anything good these days?
Christina Kahrl: I recently finished Dirk Hayhurst's "The Bullpen Gospels" (thumbs up, need to review it for BP.com) and Jaffe's "Evaluating Baseball Managers" (thumbs up, need to review it for BP.com), as well as Zamoyski's history of the Congress of Vienna, Otto Friedrich's "Before the Deluge" (Berlin before Hitler), and Charles Stross' latest Laundry Files novel, "The Fuller Memorandum." I'm figuring that, for Phoenix, I'll pack an Alan Furst novel or two, the still-unread new Charlie Finley bio, and either "Paris Babylon" (about the Commune and its suppression) or Isabel Hull's "Absolute Destruction," with its controversial thesis about consistent themes in military subculture.
GBSimons (Boise, ID): " I don't think it'll take a Carpenter breakdown as well to put the Cards behind the Reds and the Cubs, certainly."
This would mean the Cards finish in fourth behind the division-winning Brewers, right? (I say this as a Redbird fan.)
Christina Kahrl: Potentially, yes, but I can envision scenarios where the Cubs or Reds win as well. It's going to be a fun race, even if the Brewers are the favorites.
Cris E (St Paul, MN): Which of the six divisional races are you most looking forward to this year?
Christina Kahrl: Seeing this and the previous question made pairing them up a natural... I'm most interested in the AL West, because it's a three-team race where I honestly have no idea who's going to win, at least not yet. The unknown has its attractions, etc. The two Centrals will also be interesting, but then I usually find the drama in the Easts a bit tedious and self-important.
Bob (Seattle): It's funny how BP started out as the tart tongued flame thrower and has now mellowed to be the elder states-site of online sabermetrics. I used to tell people that I liked a lot of the work but that BP was a bit of a jackass at times, but now, that label applies to quite a few other sites.
Christina Kahrl: Most of us grew up a bit, of course, but I like to think that we've also managed to keep our basic fandom for the game itself intact. Not everyone who calls this a full-time gig has that good fortune. At its most fundamental, BP's made up of a bunch of people who are fun to sit next to at a ballpark, not merely on the level of some shared sabermetric worldview, but because it's made up of a great group of people. The caricature of the SDCN in the basement couldn't be less true, but reality's reliably better, in this as with so many other things.
jhardman (Apex, NC): Do you think Michael Young will assimilate into a utility role in Texas or be traded before the trade deadline?
Christina Kahrl: He's going to have to, because I'm a bit skeptical that a deal gets done, given his price tag. Nobody else has him hoisted on high in terms of their love of his past body of work, so he should treasure the commitment he does have.
mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Do you think the Red Sox Great Experiment with Jarrod Saltalamacchia will work? Phrased differently, looking into your crystal ball, who do you see catching for the Red Sox on August 1st? Thanks again for the chat, Christina.
Christina Kahrl: I'm still a bit of a Salty skeptic in terms of his delivering on the same upside we might have expected of him a few years back, but the nice thing about Epstein finally harpooning (t)his white whale is that he's just another guy in Boston, easily receding into the background in a clubhouse chock-a-block with famous people and big expectations. Come August 1, the Sox will have cause to feel good about indulging themselves this quest to at long last get him.
Silv (NY, NY): Christina, any particular reason you'd be down on the Dodgers? The pitching staff seems pretty darned deep and the lineup, while not worldbeating, is certainly acceptable. None of their regular starting offensive players had a better than reasonable expectations year last year - assuming Kemp merely comes back to what we think he should be, wouldn't the Dodgers be more likely to exceed, rather than disappoint?
Christina Kahrl: I just don't see a lot of OBPs that get out of the .320s, or a lot of SLGs that will top .450. It's a weird lineup, and if Furcal gets hurt (again), scoring will be a problem. I'm in wait-and-see mode as far as seeing whether Mattingly can manage a bullpen to good effect, but until I see it, I wouldn't bet on it. Against all that, they've got a deep rotation, and they should contend. But if they wind up in third place behind the Giants and Rockies, I'm not going to be surprised.
GBSimons (Boise, ID): Christina, who do you see winning the 2B job in Colorado? Will Lopez pull a carpe diem, or will EY Jr. and his speed(literally) run away with the job?
Christina Kahrl: I figure Lopez's broad case (adequate defense plus a bat that bounces back at altitude) will trump EY2's slap-and-sprint antics and sloppy defense at the keystone.
CrisE (St Paul, MN): As long as Morneau remains not cleared for game play, do the Twins have the worst OF defense in baseball with Young, Span and Kubel? If he starts the season on the bench will they play that lineup?
Christina Kahrl: It'll be one of the worst, but if Brandon Belt were to push his way into the Giants' lineup, and outfield with Huff and Burrell in the corners every day would be pretty awful. And yes, you can bet on seeing that outfield alignment in Minnesota for some portion of the season.
Jquinton82 (NY): Speaking of Mattingly and bullpens... who closes? Broxton, Kuo, Jansen... and do they hold onto it all year?
Christina Kahrl: I figure it's Broxton's job to lose, but as I've written in the past, we'll see how well Mattingly stomachs his first two-BS week from his closer. That's the thing with a new skipper: there's going to be an element of surprise, until we learn what they're willing to do in response to the cards they've been dealt.
EricJ (SF): Any Bay Area book signings on tap? Don't think you guys have been out here since '09
Christina Kahrl: Sadly, I don't think so. I know I'll be back out in LA for the SABR convention in July, and Phoenix for the All-Star Game as well as for two weeks of Cactus League action, but I'm not sure how many of my compadres will also be making West Coast swings this spring and summer.
Dan (NYC): Christina, are you still a Wieters believer or are you, like Steven Goldman, ready to declare him a bust? It seems premature and I want to stay on the bandwagon but the stats are just ugly.
Christina Kahrl: I figure he comes through somewhat (just not all-worldly), at which point he contributes to another truism we occasionally combat, that catchers "mature later." I'll find that sort of tradeoff amusing, at the very least.
GBSimons (Boise, ID): Christina, I saw in Ben Lindbergh's article that you've outwitted, outplayed and outlasted all the other writers to become the sole BP Survivor. Congrats on your long tenure and best of luck in the coming years. Thanks for all you do for BP and its readers.
Christina Kahrl: Aw, shucks. I don't know if I've outwitted or outplayed anyone. I like to think I am simply what I've always been, a team player who writes with a certain brio. BP remains the one really wonderful thing I've helped to create, but this spring's changes make it clear to me that there's a ton of great stuff on tap, thanks to new people (or old people in new roles), new ambitions, and a new sense of the kind of quality in quantity we can deliver. It's the most exciting time in the company's history since the early Aughties, when Nate Silver came on board, and that's thanks to Kevin and Dave, Steven and Colin, and more besides.
EricJ (SF): Do you buy a weight related Pablo Sandoval resurgence? Or will he be my generations Mark Fidrych? Stealing what Bill James wrote about The Bird, Pandamonium was more fun than a barrel of monkeys
Christina Kahrl: Well, we heard the same stories last year, and it didn't help, but I'm enough of an optimist to think maybe this time around he got the message. He'll be better than last year, if short of 2009's magic.
Goo Goo the Cat (Prowlin' Around, PA): Who are your favorite players to watch this season? Who ya rootin' for?
Christina Kahrl: Rooting for? Well, I suppose I'm no supposed to root for players, but c'mon, how can you help it? I'm hoping to see John Danks bust out and get the sort of attention he deserves, and for Gordon Beckham to put everything together and be the star we thought he'd be. I want to see Wandy Rodriguez deliver that back half over a full season. I'm looking forward to seeing Carlos Zambrano get back to being in the news for his pitching. I'm wondering if Andy LaRoche puts up more WARP than any other NRI in anybody's camp if he can win the A's job at third base. I want to see Jim Thome's 600th career home run in person. I want to enjoy a full season of Starlin Castro at shortstop, having had to spend too much time away from Chicago last summer. I want to see what Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison do for the Fish, since that's about as entertaining a tandem of hitting prospects of similar vintage on any team anywhere. That's a few, but there are more.
mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Impressive chat, Christina! I submitted the above Saltalamacchia question (primarily because I'm proud of myself for being able to spell Saltalamacchaia) took my boys to the park (in the rain, it is Portland after all), came back, made them lunch, and then put them down for a nap and you're still chatting. So I guess I owe you another query here. I feel like BP has been planning a site overhaul for years now, but it's yet to happen. Any news on that front? I'd love for the blogs section to be organized more clearly. Thanks for all your time today!
Christina Kahrl: No worries, although I do have to get the dog out of the house shortly, or at least before the sun sets here in Chicago. As far as the redesign, we're apparently weeks away, and I think we're all fairly psyched about it, since it'll make for much more accessibility for you as the reader.
Titus Welliver (The Island): Thoughts on the SmoakMonster?
Christina Kahrl: I keep going back to standards for first base when it comes to hitting, especially since expectations for Smoak were so high. If he winds up being somewhere between John Olerud and Lyle Overbay in the big picture, that isn't a bad regular, but it'll nevertheless disappoint some folks.
singledigit (San Diego, Ca): In your honor, I've been listening to the "80's music channel" all day doing work and checking in with your chat.
Wang Chung is on now, and I gotta ask: Did "Everbody Have Fun tonight"?
At the very least, did "Everybody wang chung tonight?"
Christina Kahrl: Probably not, but with the Art of Noise's "Peter Gunn Theme" twanging away in the background, I'm not lamenting my Wang Chung-lessness on the evening's itinerary.
Ravecc (Hackensack, NJ): Ollie to start tomorrow. For the last time?
If they release him, do they have to pay him the $12 million they owe him now in a lump sum, or do they pay him throughout the season like they would if he was still on the team? Anybody know? Because while we always talk about how the Mets should recognize Ollie as a sunk cost, the liquidity issue complicates matters if they would owe him a lump sum.
Christina Kahrl: I believe they just have to keep sending him checks, as if he were on the payroll, unless he was amenable to some sort of deferred payment structure to lower his tax hit or something. That's possible, but they'd be eating everything beyond the minimum someone else would pay him once he makes it through waivers.
Now, all that said, I'm glad they're trying him out as a starter, because frankly, other than money, what have they got to lose? They have a few question marks in the rotation, so why not see if he can hold it together? They're already stuck with the expense, so they may as well look.
Steve N (Delaware): You mentioned Logan Morrison. I haven't heard much about his defense. Does he have any pluses at any position?
Christina Kahrl: He casts a smaller shadow than Albert Belle, so he's sure to kill less grass standing out there.
TGisriel (Baltimore): Will we ever have a BP writer who comments on the jazz he/she is listening to while he/she chats?
Christina Kahrl: Do Paolo Conte or Paris Combo or Ute Lemper count? I keep those in regular rotation, but they're not everyone's flavor of jazz. Once in a while I like to have some Jelly Roll Morton going in the background.
Tom (Madison): Over/under 85.5 wins for the A's this season?
Christina Kahrl: Under, but only just.
Bob (DC): Isn't the real issue for the Dodgers their awful Defense? Jay Gibbons and Marcus Thames in LF, Kemp in CF, Eithier in RF are all strat 3's, 4's or 5's. Blake is a liability at 3b. Furcal has lost much at ss. I guess Uribe is OK but he will be needed at ss. Loney is their only plus defender.
Christina Kahrl: Nothing wrong with a Strat reference or two in my book, but you're right to point it out. A Gibbons/Thames platoon would be survivable in some circumstances, but in this collection, it's more like the rancid cherry on top of an overripe banana sundae.
Cordwainer Bird ((LA)): Thanks for the chat, CK! Given that Milwaukee's pitching coach has yet to get anything more than an "okay" season out of Gallardo, is there really any reason to expect more than good/very good from Greinke in Sudstown?
Christina Kahrl: Well, to be fair, Gallardo did only just turn 25, and I like what SIERA suggests (3.40 SIERA last year), because let's face it, people who strike out close to 25 percent of opponents just don't grow on trees. I don't think we need to ratchet expectations down on Greinke. It's worth remembering that Rick Kranitz came to town with a very good rep as a coach; I don't see any reason to chuck that just yet.
Frank (Vegas): Christina,
any breakout player/pitcher for the Bucs this year (pls give me some hope for this season!)?
Christina Kahrl: What, beyond seeing Pedro Alvarez settle in? Hrm... a breakout, eh? I think this is the year Ross Ohlendorf stops being just a nice guy to take a flyer on, and settles in as a good rotation regular, but that's more of a gut/expectation thing, not a worthwhile projection.
GBSimons (Boise, ID): Wow, you nailed my David Freese situation perfectly. I can keep him for $1 in an eight-team, NL-only league, and I'm flip-flopping over whether to do so.
Christina Kahrl: Yeah, that's a tough buck to spend in that situation... if you had some insight into what else will be in the pool, you'd be better set; the potential tragedy of having to spend more than that buck later, with FAAB, because supply isn't infinite, that's well worth avoiding.
Jquinton82 (NY): Who do you see the Yankees targeting for pitching and what do they give up? ... I mean you don't spend $200 million and then leave you season to hinge on the likes of Colon and Garcia right?
Christina Kahrl: Of course not, but I suspect the Yankees might be strong enough to ride out the early months' lumps and then give up less talent with a willingness to absorb more salary from a non-contender simply looking to ditch an expensive veteran towards the end of June.
Nate (Denver): Of course, the Burrell/Torres/Huff OF does come up with the self-anointed "Wild Kingdom" nickname. (A gazelle and two water buffalo) That's got to count for some points. :)
Christina Kahrl: It's a fine choice, kudos to you... and it reminds me of those days when guys like Chet Lemon or Gary Pettis had to cover everything from foul pole to foul pole, because of their relatively stationary teammates in both corners.
CrisE (St Paul, MN): How many teams change ownership in the next year or two? Off the top of my head I've read about the Mets, Dodgers and Astros within the past month or so. After steering the Dodgers onto McCourts' Shoal will Bud be steering as hard toward compliant FOBs (Friends of Bud) or take a gentler line that considers finances more seriously?
Christina Kahrl: Because of the downturn, I can't help but wonder if we at long last have the opportunity for a non-FOB to buy into the industry. It may not be Mr. Dolan or Mr. Cuban, but perhaps any never-before-spurned suitor now haas a shot, where three years ago their bids might be DOA.
jhardman (Apex, NC): I've been a quiet reader/subscriber since rec.sport.baseball, and have been with you all since you started. I'd like to say thanks, and commend you for the direction BP is going. I've started commentingnow after years of being quiet, and the reson is because your quality has improved. Kudos!
Christina Kahrl: Well, first off, thank you for feeling comfortable commenting these days, because we want to hear from our readers. I think additions like Colin, Mike Fast, Sky, Corey Dawkins, Emma, Larry, R.J. ... I mean, really, the quality of the team rates with whatever point in time we might call the good old days. We all have our flavors of nostalgia, but the present is pretty awesome, even without getting into the old-timers still around, let around the returns to the fold from Ben and Neil. I've used the comparison to SNL in the past, but it works now as well as ever: the cast changes, the commitment remains.
Christina Kahrl: On that note, I think I'll pull up short of 4.5 hours, since the dog's starting to cross both sets of legs, and I've got the additions of Nick Johnson and Chad Durbin to the Indians to write up for tomorrow. Thanks to everyone for checking in with your questions today. If you're in Phoenix in the weeks to come, keep your eyes open for news on some BP events with Perfesser Parks and yours truly while we're catching our share of Cactus action.