Chat with Jayson Stark
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, ESPN.com senior MLB writer Jayson Stark will drop in to chat about the MLB season.
Jayson Stark has been a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com since 2000. His regular contributions include the newsy Rumblings and Grumblings column and his tilted look inside baseball's numbers and quirks, the Useless Information Department.
Send your questions now and join Stark Friday at 1 p.m. ET!
Jayson Stark (1:01 PM)
Only seven weeks left in a fun season. And the drama is mounting! So let's get started.
Jordan (Deep in the heart of Texas)
Hi Jayson. Great work on letting people know why Padilla isn't gaining traction with other teams. You have to watch the guy to understand he has some issues. My question for you is do you think the Rangers have what it takes to catch up to the Angels in the West. I know they can win the wild card over Boston but that's just a ticket to face the yankees in the divisional round and after getting thumped by the Yankess in 96, 98, and 99 (our only playoff years) I'd like to just take a whack at someone else. Thanks
Jayson Stark (1:04 PM)
Personally, I think the Angels look like a better-rounded and deeper team than the Rangers. But not by a lot. The Rangers have a great aura about them. And as Derek Holland begins to come on strong and Neftali Feliz strikes out everybody he faces, they're becoming a team with more pitching weapons than any Texas team in a long time. We'll find out a lot about the Rangers this weekend. Don't you think?
Jayson Stark (1:04 PM)
Hey, one more thing. It tells us something about the Rangers that this is the first time I can ever remember starting a chat with a Rangers question!
Good afternoon, any news on Smoltz and what the Red Sox plan to do? I have heard that the Dodgers are interested in him. Makes me think that Glavine and possibly Steve Avery might also be on their radar though just to complete the old Braves rotation.
Jayson Stark (1:06 PM)
I know of a half-dozen teams that are interested in Smoltz if he gets released and becomes a free agent. I don't know of any that are interested in trading for him, assuming his contract and paying out that $35,000 a day. So I expect him to get released and sign with a National League team sometime next week. I don't know if the Dodgers are as interested as has been advertised. But the Marlins, Cardinals, Astros and Cubs, among others, are clearly on the trail. And I suspect there are more clubs that are just being quieter about it.
Do you agree that the Phillies should have gone with a 6 man rotation instead of sending Moyer to the pen?
Jayson Stark (1:09 PM)
That wasn't an option at the time because they were in the midst of a stretch with three off days in 15 days. But once they get past these next two weeks, I think that's a definite possibility. It's not as goofy an idea as it sounds. The Red Sox just did it for one turn through the rotation after the break, and people were praising them for their genius at the time if I remember correctly. So I wouldn't be shocked if the Phillies did it, too, for at least a couple of turns, especially if they can maintain a comfortable lead.
Jayson Stark (1:11 PM)
Before I leave this topic, I also want to say a few words in defense of Jamie Moyer. I know he's taken a lot of heat for what he said. But I don't blame him for being upset, to be honest. For one thing, he's leading the team in wins. And I can't remember a first-place team bouncing its leading winner in the rotation. For another, the only lefthanders with more wins than him the last two years are Cliff Lee, Johan Santana and CC Sabathia. And third, if you throw out his ugly start to the season and look at how he pitched from the end of May through the end of July, it looked this way: 11 starts, 7-2 record, 3.82 ERA. So was he really pitching as badly as it's been made out? I don't think so.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Do the Braves have the best starting five that no one is talking about? Do you know that the current rotation has had 67 starts that I consider quality (minimum of five innings with an ERA for the game under 4.50) in 105 chances? That's 63.81 percent! Unreal.
Jayson Stark (1:14 PM)
Great stat! But the reason the Phillies should fear the Braves now is more than just about pitching. Since the all-star break, the Braves are third in the league in runs scored. And they've outscored and OUTHOMERED the Phillies since the break. So if they creep closer this weekend, with two more series left against the Phillies in the last five weeks, this becomes a real race.
Baseball Fans (Everywhere)
Anybody have better stuff than Verlander? Makes we want to be a Tigers fan just to watch him more often.
Jayson Stark (1:16 PM)
That's a fun question to contemplate. You can make a case that Josh Beckett is in this argument, and Tim Lincecum. And Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke deserve to be in the conversation. But nobody maintains his power stuff deep into a game better than Verlander for my money. Anybody else want to toss out some nominations? That's great chat fodder!
I will never understand the Quality Start stat or anyone that thinks that a 4.50 ERA is quality. QS should be renamed to "Not Awful Start".
Jayson Stark (1:19 PM)
You know, I hear remarks like yours all the time. And I'd love to address this. I'm convinced people don't even understand the logic behind the Quality Start. But John Lowe, who invented it, is my friend. And I think he conceived this based on a very sound principle: The intent was to find a way to measure how many times a starting pitcher put his team in position to win a game. ERA doesn't do that. Even wins can be misleading. So John felt as though if the starter went at least six innings, he was saving his bullpen. And if he gave up no more than three earned runs, he gave his offense a chance to score enough to win. You'd be amazed how well quality starts mirror a team's record when its starters pitch. If they don't, it means you have a crummy offense. So stop ripping this stat. It works!
What are wins considered a meaningful statistic? What exactly are they supposed to be indicative of? Moyer is going to be a MAJOR problem for this team as they head in to the playoffs (they'll leave him off the post season roster and he'll whine) and next year (he won't retire and they don't have room for him in the rotation).
Jayson Stark (1:22 PM)
Look, I agree that wins can be misleading. But my point is that obviously, Moyer wasn't getting knocked out in the third inning every start, or he wouldn't have all those wins, right? He's given his team a chance to win every one of those games. And as I pointed out from late May through July, he was exactly the pitcher he was last year. I'm not arguing he should win the Cy Young. I'm just arguing they knew what he was when they signed him, and that's what he's been for two months. Also, THEY'RE the ones who agreed to give him the two-year contract. So THEY committed to him, didn't they? I don't understand the mean-spirited response to all this. Maybe you can explain it to me.
When is the expected return of Tim Hudson, and what will be the fate of the rotation, with it already having four very good starters, is Kawakami destined for the bullpen?
Jayson Stark (1:23 PM)
Yet to be determined. It looks now as though Hudson probably won't return before September. And the Braves are taking the right approach on this, I think. They're not counting on him. And they'll decide how to use him once he's ready and they can assess how he pitched in those rehab outings. He's potentially one of the biggest X factors on anybody's staff in September.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Mr. Stark: The QS stat may work OK but are you open to some fine-tuning? Why can't a pitcher going five innings and allowing two ER or less be given a QS? For that matter, why shouldn't a pitcher going eight or more and allowing four ER get a QS? He's gone deeper into the game than the 6 IP/3 ER guy and has the same ERA? I think this is also a great chat topic if we can all keep an open mind about it.
Jayson Stark (1:26 PM)
I'm open to ideas on this. But I think the essence of a good stat is one that's simple. If you have a different definition of a QS if the pitcher goes five innings, or eight innings, than you have if he goes six, it's not simple anymore. But I do admit I laugh sometimes when a starter throws six shutout innings, then gives up four in the seventh and loses his quality start -- especially when some reliever comes in and lets the third and fourth runs score. But hey, never said this stat was perfect, just that it's useful.
Uh, Pittsburgh and Ariz. are in the top 6 of QS.
Jayson Stark (1:27 PM)
So? That tells you something about those teams. They've had decent starting pitching. They just can't score. So if you point is that QS are misleading just because those teams have a lousy record, I disagree.
What is your opinion on how the Yankees are handling/have handled Joba Chamberlain? More specifically, do you agree with the "revised Joba rules" recently talked about giving Joba extra days off and having him start in the PS or would the Yanks be better served moving Joba back to the pen for September and the PS to keep his inning sdown this year? I ask b/c I believe Pettitte will be the 3 starter in the playoffs so Joba may only have a couple of starts even if the Yanks win the WS while as a RP in the playoffs Joba can be leverages in the late innings of tight games.
Jayson Stark (1:29 PM)
Look, I'm all for being aware of the dangers of overworking young starters. So the principle here is sound. It's just the execution of it that could get tricky. The Yankees are lucky they have such a comfortable lead, so they can pull this off. But if that lead shrinks at all and they HAVE to have a big September to win the East, I wonder how this plan will look then.
Jayson, but the QS logic, shouldn't 8 innings and 4 ER be a quality start? I'd take that consistently over the 6 innings 3 ER "QS".
Jayson Stark (1:30 PM)
Sure. You're absolutely right. But maybe that's a different stat, with a different name. Any ideas?
Joel (Naval Academy)
What do the Brewers do with J.J. Hardy? Are there any teams that might go after him? Escobar now looks like a lock as the SS of the future.
Jayson Stark (1:31 PM)
I think he's tradeable over the winter. But it doesn't exactly pump up his value to see his team sending him to the minor leagues in mid-August.
Any chance the Braves pick-up Smoltzie and use him at the closer position (once again), especially since Soriano hasn't been performing up to par lately?
Jayson Stark (1:32 PM)
No chance he's going to wind up back in Atlanta. But I do think there's a chance he ends up in somebody's bullpen. As I mentioned in Rumblings and Grumblings this week, in his last seven starts, his ERA in the first two innings of his starts was 0.64.
Andrew W (Newps, CA)
Jayson, lot of talk lately about Todd Helton's HoF chances. Your take?
Jayson Stark (1:34 PM)
His career isn't over yet, but I'd be inclined to vote for him. I bet he never gets in, because so many voters will devalue his numbers over the Coors Factor. But in my Stark Truth book, I called him one of the five most underrated first basemen of all time, and I still believe that. At the time, he had better road numbers than, say, Bobby Abreu. So I say, when he shows up on the ballot: Look at the whole picture, not just the altitude of his home park.
How about BSS? Bullpen saving start.
Jayson Stark (1:35 PM)
That's a good idea. Seven innings or more? Or seven innings-plus, leaves with the lead? How would we define that one?
Is it time to give up on the Cubs season? They can't stay healthy or put together a good stretch of baseball
Jayson Stark (1:36 PM)
I don't think there's any reason to give up, with seven weeks left and a chance they could get much healthier. As the manager keeps pointing out, they've had their actual team on the field for two days all season. If they get Zambrano, Lilly and Ramirez back, they're a different team. Aren't they? I'd still pick the Cardinals. But a healthy Cubs team should be a factor in any race -- assuming we ever see a healthy Cubs team.
In terms of just straight nasty stuff, I believe Ubaldo (the chief) Jimenez is right there with Verlander. Your thoughts?
Jayson Stark (1:38 PM)
Excellent nomination. I haven't been able to get back to the posts of pitchers with the nastiest stuff. There's a name nobody ever mentions who definitely qualifies. Keep those names coming.
Is this the winter that the Rays trade Crawford? Both BOS (in place of Bay) or NYY (in place of Damon) would be obvious choices, as would be NYM (in place of no one).
Jayson Stark (1:39 PM)
I think you'll definitely see the Rays listen on him next winter. He'll have a year to go on his deal, and their chances of keeping him don't look good. So they'll have a great market. But just one question: Why would they even think of trading him to the Yankees or Red Sox?
SteveFitz (Cicero, IL)
Control or not, Carlos Marmol has the nastiest stuff in baseball.
Jayson Stark (1:40 PM)
I'm not sure what to do about him. The guy never gives up a hit. But a reliever who's always a threat to walk the bases loaded should get penalized somehow. Shouldn't he? I'll take votes on this if anyone is interested.
Who keeps the list of the most swing and misses? The guy who tops the list will be your nastiest.
Jayson Stark (1:41 PM)
Our stat department keeps it. And Justin Verlander is running away with the lead -- while pitching in the American League. So maybe you're right. Maybe he was the choice all along.
Mike (St. Louis)
Ryan Franklin best closer in NL?
Jayson Stark (1:42 PM)
Huston Street wins that award for me this year. Have you checked his numbers? He allowed two baserunners in the entire month of July. But Ryan Franklin has had an amazing year.
Mark Da Rosa (Yonkers, NY)
How can you forget Doc Halladay in the conversation for best stuff?
Jayson Stark (1:43 PM)
There have been a bunch of Halladay nominations. Of course he belongs. Sorry if he didn't make that first list. I was thinking mostly of strikeout machines with that first group.
Mark Da Rosa (Yonkers, NY)
Same goes for Josh Johnson.
Jayson Stark (1:43 PM)
Great vote. I say all the time that Josh Johnson is the best pitcher in baseball that nobody would recognize if he sat next to them at a diner.
Paul (Albany, OR)
I do not think he is there yet, but I believe Clayton Kershaw will get to the nastiest stuff level in the next couple of years. His growth this year could provide the Dodgers with two #1s in the coming years with he and Billingsley.
Jayson Stark (1:45 PM)
Another great name. I mentioned in my blog this week that Kershaw already has made seven starts this year in which he gave up no more than two hits. There has only been one other pitcher that young in the last 55 years that even had more than four starts like that (Matt Cain in 2006).
T. Martin (Burbank, CA)
I think the Phillies fan persepctive on Moyer after last season was that a one year deal for a pitcher his age was fair. Even a vesting option for a second year would have been fair. The Phils didn't want the fan backlash if they didn't resign him and Jamie leveraged that. If he wasn't signed beyond this year it would be far less of an issue. If you don't believe Moyer should have been the one to go to the bullpen then who? The Phils have two doubleheaders in September so Moyer's bullpen stay is only temporary and it was the right thing to do to give Pedro a chance otherwise why sign him in the first place?
Jayson Stark (1:48 PM)
You know, there was a reason Moyer wanted two years beyond dollars and security. He was looking for commitment. He was well aware of the direction the conversation would take if he scuffled at all this year at age 46. So he wanted that second year as an indication that the Phillies weren't going to yank him the first time they had issues. That may not have been realistic. But again, I understand where he's coming from. What I don't understand is the way people have turned on him since he expressed disappointment with the decision.
AJ Burnett anyone?
Jayson Stark (1:49 PM)
Another great name. If you look at his wild-pitch total, it's clear it's almost impossible to catch him, let alone hit him.
Jayson, are people just tired of buying into the marlins due to their lack of consistency this season? Theyre pitching has come together, and since the addition of johnson are hitting has been abnormal. Last night was the tenth game in a row with ten hits plus!!!
Jayson Stark (1:51 PM)
They've really ridden the roller coaster, so I understand why people are skeptical. But what I wonder about more than that is how these guys would handle being in a race. Brendan Donnelly won a World Series with the Angels. Wes Helms was a bench player on the Phillies two years ago. I don't think there's anyone else on the roster who has ever played for a team that won anything. That's one reason bringing in a guy like John Smoltz would have so much appeal for that team.
Gallardo from the Brewers is pretty nasty too.
Jayson Stark (1:52 PM)
Another great, underrated name. Way to go.
Let's add Edwin Jackson - hey, now we have nominated the pitchers with the 5 fastest fastballs in the league with our first 5 nominations.
Jayson Stark (1:54 PM)
You know, James, you've been posting disparaging comments about a bunch of these names, just because they throw hard. Let me remind you of the original topic: Who has the most dominating stuff? And guys who can throw their fastballs past good hitters go right to the top of the list. Why shouldn't they? What am I missing here?
Who is the better 1-2 starting duo...Lincecum and Cain or Carpenter and Wainwright?
Jayson Stark (1:55 PM)
I'd take either of them. I'm going with Lincecum-Cain, but not by much.
Ben (Lincoln, NE)
Is Kenny Williams a candidate to go after Carl Crawford this winter? I'm not sure how likely it is for Scott Podsednik to repeat the success he's had this season.
Jayson Stark (1:58 PM)
I know he loves Carl Crawford. But that's the problem with the Alex Rios acquisition. It ties up so many dollars long-term, I don't see how the White Sox could make a run at somebody like Crawford who's a year from free agency. The only way to keep him would be to pay him market free-agent dollars. And that's going to be almost impossible for the White Sox after the Rios/Peavy deals.
I wasn't trying to be disparaging at all. I was being completely serious and pointing out the correlation between "best stuff" and fastball velocity.
Jayson Stark (1:58 PM)
OK, that's James' official mea culpa. Just wanted it posted, for the record. Thanks for mea-culpa-ing, James.
Jayson Stark (1:58 PM)
All right, sorry gang. Only time for one more.
Should the Mets trade Wagner once he's healthy? And what could they get for him?
Jayson Stark (2:01 PM)
Well, he isn't going to pitch them into the playoffs this year, and there's no way they'll pick up his option for next year. So they HAVE to trade him if they can. Don't they? But they won't get much, because everybody knows the position they're in. So if they get any kind of half-decent prospect, they should jump on it.
Jayson Stark (2:01 PM)
Thanks to everybody who checked in. That was one fun hour of chatting. See you next week in Chat Land.