"That's Debatable" with Jayson Stark
Jayson Stark: NOBODY is in trouble yet. Not real trouble, anyway. Too early. I don't think there is a single team out there that has made a definitive statement in the first week about what it is or isn't. Not one.
So let's remember that. What we're debating here is which team is in MORE trouble? The Tigers or Rockies? Let's examine the evidence:
So while I think the Tigers have a legitimate reason to worry about their pitching in general and their bullpen in particular, I've concluded the Rockies are the team in more trouble.
Every week, we'll give you the topic and then we'll have one of our writers stopping by to debate the issue with you. To suggest a topic for "That's Debatable," go here. Or check out the full archive.
Jayson Stark (1:12 PM)
Hey, sorry I'm late. Computer issues. But let's get started.
Jayson Stark (1:13 PM)
Oh, and one more thing. If somebody out there wants to nominate some other team that's in even more trouble than either of these two, we'll consider all nominations.
Gabriel (Chicago Illinois)
I agree with your comment that the Rockies are in more trouble. I always felt that their streak last year was somewhat of a fluke, and if Trevor Hoffman hadn't blown that save, the Rockies would have been history. The Red Soxs showed the rest of the National League in the World Series how to pitch to them. Also, it showed that the Rockies could use some more superior pitching, especially in the National League West. The National League West could be the deepest pitching division in all of baseball, with Peavy, Webb (The last 2 Cy Young Winners), Haren, Chris Young, Greg Maddux, Brad Penny... I just don't think their pitching can hold up, especially with their losses in the bullpen.
Jayson Stark (1:15 PM)
Let me start by saying what I've said all along about that streak: When ANY team goes 21-1, that's a fluke. But the team on the field wasn't a fluke. Very talented group with terrific pitching. Just because that team got swept doesn't mean it didn't deserve to be there. Nevertheless, the Rockies are in a very difficult division to dig their way out of. And the pitching they'll face, as you point out, is the biggest reason.
Detroit has zero bullpen and I'm not sure Joel Zumaya is going to be anyhelp when he returns. 83 wins is the pick from me.
Jayson Stark (1:17 PM)
I'll take the over on that prediction, man. But I agree with you on one thing: They should not be counting on Zumaya to rescue them from anything, no matter when he gets back. What are the odds that someone can come back from that major a surgery and throw a baseball 102 mph again? Just about nil, I'd bet.
Jim, Detroit MI
With the Tigers offense, I feel they are one monster inning away from breaking loose. They are all feeling the pressure right now and seem to be pressing. Your thoughts?
Jayson Stark (1:18 PM)
That's exactly right. I'm pretty sure Clete Thomas won't lead that team in hitting this year. And that someone besides Ramon Santiago will eventually get a hit with runners in scoring position and less than two outs. That was my point about track records. Too many good hitters in that lineup who have done it for too many years for this to keep up.
When a team is sub .500 for 90% of the year and .950 for 10% of the year, I tend to believe in the larger sample size.
Jayson Stark (1:20 PM)
Well put. In their defense, and in the interest of presenting accurate facts, they were four games over .500 for 90 percent of the year (through Sept. 15) before that 21-1 magic kicked in.
Obviously Detriot has alot of talent and a 0-6 start is the worst case senerio. Bad starts are not the kiss of death for any team as talented as they are. An 0-6 start is no different than losing 6 in arow in June. Everything is magnified this early in the year.
Jayson Stark (1:21 PM)
Everything IS magnified this time of year. I looked into that. Of the last seven teams that won the World Series, five of them had losing streaks of six games or more at some point that season -- several of them had multiple losing streaks of six games or more. I look at the lineup and the upside of this team, and I'm pretty sure that didn't vanish in a week.
Beau, Helena, OH
Jayson, do you think the Tigers would be sitting at 0-6 if not for Curtis Granderson being out of the lineup? Is he that much of an asset to the team?
Jayson Stark (1:23 PM)
That's another great point. Granderson is the one guy in that lineup who generates runs with his legs, not just his bat. I think it's a stretch to say his absence is solely responsible for that team forgetting how to score. But it's a factor.
Bob (Kalamazoo MI)
Let's not forget all of the injuries the tigers are battling to key players. Rodney and Zumaya in the 'pen and Sheffield and Cabrera are already banged up. Vance Wilson the backup catcher is hurt, putting more pressure on an aging Pudge Rodriguez. The Tigers will be fine its just a matter of time and getting that first win. 156-6?
Jayson Stark (1:25 PM)
I know you're trying to be upbeat with this comment, but I think you've actually hit on one of the Tigers' biggest worries. They have so many key players with injury histories, this could be the year they have trouble weathering a bunch of injuries. And so far, I think it's safe to say they haven't. Ya think?
George (las Vegas Nevada)
I think the Rockies were some what lucky last year with the late collapse of the Dodgers and Padres. I do think that they have the potential to compete, but I think the D'backs and Dodgers are going to be the real battle. I know it is very early in the season but if Trevor Hoffman keeps pitching the way he has been I think the Padres will have problems competing in the NL West.
Jayson Stark (1:29 PM)
We've had so many Tigers comments, figured I'd better mix in a Rockies observation. I agree with you on the Diamondbacks and Dodgers. That's why I nominated the Rockies as the team in the most trouble. Both of those two teams are capable of running off a lot of wins, with the pitching they throw out there. And that puts tremendous pressure on the Rockies and Padres to get rolling. I refuse to believe, by the way, that Trevor Hoffman will have this many issues all year. People can't wait to write that guy off, for some reason. And he's one of the five greatest closers of all time.
You want a team in bigger trouble? How about the Orioles? I'd take 0-6 and the Tigers lineup any day over first place in April with what the O's have.
Jayson Stark (1:30 PM)
You know, I'm glad you made that point. I'd take either the Tigers or Rockies over the Orioles and Cardinals. And they're both 5-1. So when you think about it in those terms, why are we getting so worked up about one week?
Do you think the Red Sox are in worse shape? They are struggling to beat anyone now, and Josh Beckett did not look good.
Jayson Stark (1:32 PM)
I'm going to open this up now to discuss some of these other teams. But the Red Sox are probably at the bottom of my list of teams in trouble. They lead the league in frequent-flier miles, time zones crossed, countries played in and opening days participated in. So they've had no chance to get into any kind of rhythm. And baseball is a rhythm sport. Of course, coming home to play the Tigers and Yankees isn't much of a welcome-home gift, either.
Im a long time Giants fan. We going to be in trouble for a long time. At least these teams are being talked about. Neither of these teams are in trouble. I think there is more pressure on Detroit because of all the money the spent.
Jayson Stark (1:33 PM)
The Giants are No. 1 on that Teams In Trouble list. An executive of one club I talked to the other day described them this way: "Embarrassing." They'll be mathematically eliminated by Tuesday, I'm pretty sure.
Justin (Metamora, IL)
People are overlooking one key issue: Putz is on the DL. I vote Mariners.
Jayson Stark (1:36 PM)
You might be right on that. JJ Putz might be as indispensable as any player on any team. I know he's not out for the year or anything. But his absence has really thrown that bullpen into disarray, and they can't afford that. That's a team built to win low-scoring games. And that means when they get a lead, they HAVE to win. That's how it worked last year. But they've already lost two more games they led after eight innings this year than they did all last year. And a week into the season, that's hard to do!
I think the Rockies will be alright. They are hitting something like 5 for 46 with runners in scoring position so far this season. With the quality of their lineup I have to believe that isn't going to last. And while their starting pitchers are yet to have a win, they got six shutout innings from Morales yesterday and as the season goes on I think he and Jimenez will improve. They just need to get their bats going!
Jayson Stark (1:37 PM)
They're actually 5 for 50! So I think you're right on that. They WILL score runs. The Pirates scored more runs on opening day than the Rockies have scored ALL SEASON so far. Pretty good chance that won't keep up.
Bob Gladwin, Michigan
Jayson, I don't think Dombrowski is done yet putting this Tiger team together. Looks like they are showing off Inge a lot this spring, he can do any position but pitch. Another point is Cabrera doesn't like the cold weather, he's no used to it.
Jayson Stark (1:39 PM)
I'm glad somebody mentioned that. We have this tendency to think teams have to fix all their problems in the offseason or by opening day. But this is always a work in progress. The owner didn't spend $138 million to have this continue, and I have no doubt that if any of these issues drag on at all, Dave Dombrowski will find a way to address them. This group is extremely committed to winning.
Cheng (Boulder, CO0
These teams are in trouble this season, no matter how well they started this year: NL East: Marlins and Nationals NL Central: Cardinals, Astros and Pirates NL West: Giants AL East: Orioles AL Central: Royals and Twins AL West: Rangers and Athletics Care to disagree Jayson?
Jayson Stark (1:41 PM)
Depends how you define "trouble," I guess. I don't think any of them are going to make the playoffs, if that's what you mean. But the Nationals and Royals are better than people think. So I'm not sure if "trouble" is the right word for them.
Angel (Brooklyn NY)
Do you think the Mets are in trouble? They just lost Pedro and Maine and Oliver Perez are inconsistant. Is it a stretch to rely on Orlando Hernandez for atleast 20 starts?
Jayson Stark (1:43 PM)
The Mets aren't necessarily "in trouble." But you've identified exactly what they have to worry about. Their lack of starting-pitching depth is a major worry. I think Maine will take a big step forward this year, and I bet Oliver Perez is just fine (by No. 3 starter standards, anyway) in his walk year. But they're really scrambling beyond those two and Santana, and I expect they'll have to keep scrambling all year. I'm not certain Pedro and El Duque will make 35 starts combined.
I think the Tigers are analogous to last years' yanks- unbelievable hitting, dubious veteran pitching (both the starting rotation and bullpen), and a hungry front office. Both teams got off to poor starts (although in the yankees case it lasted much longer), however, in the end that offense is just too powerful to keep losing, at least until the postseason...
Jayson Stark (1:45 PM)
I agree with that analogy wholeheartedly. You can't convince me that offense won't erupt at some point, if healthy. When a team has an area of its team that shapes up as that dominant, it WILL win a bunch of games. The only question is how many, and whether Cleveland is going to win more.
Team in trouble? The Astros... We have so many marquee names now, with Tejada and Berkman and Oswalt etc. but i just have a bad feeling about this year...
Jayson Stark (1:46 PM)
Good nomination. I just can't see how that team contends with that pitching staff, no matter how much better its lineup looks.
Bob Murray, Akron
How about the Phillies Jayson, will they catch up fire at the end and run away again with the NL East, i am betting on Braves to win the NL East. What do you say?
Jayson Stark (1:49 PM)
They're another team that I don't think fits the "in trouble" mold, but has plenty to worry about. Their bullpen has a 6.16 ERA. The league is hitting .295 against their starters. And I just don't see a lot of options if their current group scuffles or gets hurt. The average team used 23 pitchers last season. I have a tough time counting to 23 with that team.
Jake, New York, New York
Speaking of anemic offenses, ladies and gentleman, the 2008 New York Yankees! Does anyone ever think Johnny Damon will get a base hit when he comes to the plate at this point?
Jayson Stark (1:52 PM)
You know, the Elias Sports Bureau had a note over the weekend, that this is only the second time in the last 40 years that the Yankees have gone this many games into a season without scoring five runs in a game. But again, look at the names in that lineup. Does anyone really believe this team won't hit? Not me.
Andrew (Halifax, NS)
How about the Blue Jays? They're always in trouble; they play in the AL East.
Jayson Stark (1:54 PM)
Funniest comment of the day. But the Yankees and Red Sox may not be laughing so hard before long. I don't think there's any team in the AL that rolls out the quality, No. 1-4 starters, that the Blue Jays do. If they stay healthy, they can steal that division. Depth is their worry. Period.
Jeff: (Boston, MA)
Let's not forget, Manny Corpas has blown 2 saves or the Rockies would be 3-3 and not in too much trouble. Corpas has great stuff and will be much better.
Jayson Stark (1:57 PM)
Great point. Nothing can warp our perspective on teams like bad bullpens. I think Manny Corpas will be all right. And I think that bullpen has enough good arms to stabilize. But the golden rule of evaluating all bullpens is: You never know!
Chase (Washington, DC)
I'm not sure how the Tigers are going to do much to address their needs. Their farm system is depleted, and as versatile as Brandon Inge is, he's not going to bring back a bullpen messiah. The Tigers will be in it till the end, but the injuries will keep them out of the playoffs.
Jayson Stark (1:58 PM)
That's their No. 1 fear -- that they don't have the farm system or depth to address their problems. But this is one of the best front offices in the sport. I just have a feeling they'll find a way to upgrade where they need to upgrade.
Jayson Stark (1:58 PM)
OK, let's take one more. Fun debate!
You said earlier that you didn't think the Red Sox are in trouble, but their starting rotation looks quite weak behind beckett with the loss of schilling: dice-k has potential but is very inconsistent, buchholz had a spring E.R.A. over 9, lester is overrated and wakefield old. How can they compete with the Jays who have probably the best 1-2-3 in baseball with halladay, burnett, and mcgowan (the last two being extremely underrated) and the yanks with the same offense that scored 968 runs last year and the young pitchers who have shown a lot of promise so far?
Jayson Stark (2:01 PM)
I don't think "weak" is the right word for the Red Sox rotation. But "weaker" might be. I bet Dice-K has a big year. And I don't think Lester is overrated. But I'm not sure where they turn if Buchholz struggles or someone gets hurt. I know Bartolo Colon has looked better than they expected so far. But it's tough to believe he can plug any serious leaks. So you're right. They have issues. But let me remind you: That's why they play the games. Looks like a fascinating season, all over the map.
Jayson Stark (2:02 PM)
Thanks to the many, many people who participated in this chat. We're going to do these Great Debates every Monday, so stay tuned!