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 (1:03 PM)
Hi gang. I'm glad to be back on the chat circuit, Missed you all the last two weeks. Soooo . . . let's get started.
How is Miguel Cabrera not the undisputed AL MVP -- look at his stats, first in RBIs, tied for second in HRs and second in batting average. He has a legitimate shot at the Triple Crown which is amazing considering everything he went through at the end of last season.
Jayson Stark (1:07 PM)
If we were looking at offensive numbers and nothing else, Cabrera would be the clear favorite. But the MVP award is NOT the Who Has the Prettiest Offensive Stats contest. First off, it's clearly going to hurt Cabrera that his team has faded out of contention, even though that's not his fault. Second, Josh Hamilton and Robinson Cano have had fabulous years for teams that are heading for October. And both those guys are better, and more important, defensive players than Cabrera. So this isn't as simple as you make it out to be. Was just asking some of my press-box buddies last night what they thought would happen in the MVP race if Cabrera wins the triple crown for a team that finishes 15 games out. None of them thought he was a lock, even if he does it.
I know everyone is talking about Votto or Pujols for MVP, but what about Adrian Gonzalez? He is the only hitter for the Padres, who have the best record and best run differential in the NL. The numbers are pretty equal considering home ballparks.
Jayson Stark (1:08 PM)
I think he certainly belongs in the conversation. But he still ranks below Votto and Pujols for me. I'd love to see what Adrian Gonzalez's stats would look like if he played in a different park, with a different lineup. And unfortunately for the Padres, I'm sure I'm about to find out -- probably next year, certainly in 2012.
Kyle (Fort Lauderdale)
Jason, Is there anybody in MLB who hits the ball harder than Mike Stanton?
Jayson Stark (1:10 PM)
You're an observant man, Kyle. I was talking to a National League coach just this week about that, and he made that very observation -- that it isn't just about the home runs Stanton hits. The singles get through the infield faster than just about anyone else in the sport. I know many, many people in the game who think Stanton is going to have a bigger career than Jason Heyward. I don't disagree.
Jayson, I know there are still people who are hung up on wins and losses. Far and away the best two pitchers in the NL in 2004 went a combined 28-28. I know we are making heading on moving away from judging a pitcher on his record, at what point do you think the majority of people will be on board?
Jayson Stark (1:14 PM)
This has become THE hottest sabermetric topic on earth these days, Steve. I think last year's Cy Young elections prove that voters are now weighing the total picture, not just the wins column. We'll be facing that question again this year. I raised this point in a blog last week: Josh Johnson and Adam Wainwright have comparable numbers in a lot of ways, but Wainwright has six more wins. In a coincidental development, his bullpen has blown more wins for him than any pitcher in the league. So we need to take that into account. But we haven't reached a stage where wins are meaningless, and I don't think we ever should. Wins are overrated, but they're NOT irrelevant.
Julio (Dominican Republic)
Hi Jason, love your chats! ItĀ's a shame that the Braves lost Chipper Jones for the year, specially since this is the last season of the Bobby Cox era. However, because of this injury and the fact that Jones will attempt a comeback, I canĀ't help notice that the Braves will have a difficult time dealing with this situation. What should the Braves do in the off-season? A) Finding a power LF and give the 3B job to Prado until Jones arrives or B) Finding a 3B for 2011.
Jayson Stark (1:16 PM)
I wrote about this in Rumblings and Grumblings this week. They're in an impossible situation here. If Chipper wants to try to play, they have no choice but to accommodate him because he's under contract. But they won't know if he can play until next spring, and maybe not until the season is underway. So I think their best option is to hunt for a multi-position type guy. I suggested Ty Wigginton, or Chone Figgins if they can work out the money. But they're going to need all their creative powers to figure out this one!
Jayson, trivia today?
Jayson Stark (1:16 PM)
Matter of fact, I do have a little trivia for you today. I'll get to it later in the chat. About a half-hour from now.
You could make the argument that Cano and Hamilton have much better supporting casts that certainly help their numbers. I'd argue that Texas and NYY perform better without those guys than Detriot would without Cabrera, making Cabrera the most valuable player to his team.
Jayson Stark (1:18 PM)
You can certainly make that argument. I made it myself at the all-star break -- that if you took all those players off their teams, the Tigers would be the most adversely affected by losing Cabrera. But they were right in the middle of the race in the AL Central then. They're essentially a non-factor now. And traditionally, MVP voters discount great years by players who don't have those years in the context of a pennant race.
As a Cardinal fan I never thought I would say this. But would they be smart to trade Albert Pujols. This team seems to have a lot of holes and won't have the money to fill any of them if they have 60-75%% of their money tied up in Wainright, Pujols, Holiday.
Jayson Stark (1:20 PM)
Andy, I've done many, many, many chats in my time at ESPN. And this is an all-time first. I've never, ever heard any Cardinals fan suggest they should trade Albert. And I bet I never will again. Signing Albert is going to be a major financial challenge for this franchise. Couldn't agree more. But they have no choice. The Cardinals are Albert's team. He IS the franchise. Matt Holliday was signed to complement Albert, not to replace him. Albert is irreplaceable. Period. And I think the Cardinals agree.
Matthew (Columbia, NJ)
Is Dominick Brown gonna be a special player in a couple years? That homerun the other night was a moon shot.
Jayson Stark (1:22 PM)
He's a spectacular talent, no doubt about that. But he's not as polished or advanced as Mike Stanton, Jason Heyward or Buster Posey. And I don't think he'll be quite in their strata. He has a lot to learn about plate discipline, outfield fundamentals, etc. And I'm still not sure he can get away with holding his hands as high as he does at the plate. But he has so much talent and such a good head on his shoulders I expect him to be a winning-type player for a long time in the big leagues when he figures it out. And there's nothing wrong with that.
Todd (Ann Arbor)
Jayson, one more on Cabrera. The Tigers play 13 more games against the White Sox and Twins. If he tears it up against them, shouldn't that be considered the equivalent of doing well in a pennant race? Because those teams are upping the intensity level, giving their best shot, etc, so shouldn't doing well against them stand out just like Mauer or Konerko doing well against the Tigers would?
Jayson Stark (1:23 PM)
Todd, you make an interesting point. Personally, I believe in taking EVERYTHING into account before I cast an MVP vote. And I'd include the schedule. Absolutely.
JP (Columbus, OH)
Jayson, I sorta disagree. If it's gonna cost 8 yrs/200 million for Albert...I think the smart thing to do would be to pass. He's an all-time great at this point in his career...which means he's got a lot of mileage on him. I don't see the final 4 years of that deal going that great. If someone's willing to give him that deal, I say trade him to that club. Empty their farm system.
Jayson Stark (1:25 PM)
This is amazing to me. JP, if you could see the scathing posts being directed at Andy right now, you wouldn't be treading down this path. I actually think you're low on what Albert is going to cost. I think he's going to be a $30M-a-year man. How the Cardinals can afford that or make the rest of their roster work, I have no idea. But they can't let Albert go. Period.
Jayson, if Dawson and A-Rod can win MVPs on a last place team, then Miguel Cabrera's chances of winning the AL MVP award this year are particularly good. Who knows what will happen to Hamilton as he's having a remarkable year, but Cabrera can't go unnoticed with the year he's having and saying that his team hurts his chances is minuscule.
Jayson Stark (1:27 PM)
Eric, that only happens in years where there isn't a single worthy candidate among the teams in contention. That's not going to happen this year. I never say never. And the MVP plot line is yet to be written. The last month and a half of any season feed into it. But in a year like this, it's going to be very difficult for a player to win while playing for a team that's not in a race. I'm at the point where I think Cabrera can only win if he wins the Triple Crown. I don't know that that's right. But it's the way these elections have almost always worked.
Julio (Dominican Republic)
Thank you for answering my question, but I have an urge to keep this topic up. The Braves have had a lots of offensive deficiencies the last couple of years and Wigginton or Figgins are not the answer for them. I agree that Jones has earn to retire in his own terms, but not sacrificing the club. Since the pitching is set from years to come, I think they should look for an considerable improvement in the OF (Crawford or Werth) and give the starting job at 3B to Prado until Jones comes back (Prado would move to 2B when this happens).
Jayson Stark (1:30 PM)
Julio, it's just not realistic to think the Braves can be in play on Crawford or Werth. Those are going to be mega-deals. Not impossible they could be $100-million players. The Braves just don't have that kind of cash to play with. I think they'll look for more outfield thump. But trying to cover themselves in case Chipper can't make it back is going to be a major challenge no matter how they attack it.
ryan (wichita) [via mobile]
Based on what you said just said about King Albert how is he not the MVP every year the cards are in the playoff race, including this year?
Jayson Stark (1:31 PM)
Hey Ryan, I've said this many times. Albert Pujols is the only player I've ever seen who could have been the MVP every season of his career. And he easily could be the MVP this year, too. But the season has to play itself out, too.
Jim (Polkton, NC)
If Bryce Harper wears that ridiculous KISS eyeblack in a professional game, how many ABs before he gets drilled?
Jayson Stark (1:32 PM)
Don't worry about that. The Nationals have already told him that look isn't going to fly. And we can all be grateful for that -- especially him!
Eric, you aren't taking defense into account. Cabrera is not a very good defensive player. Hamilton and Cano are elite in the field. This isn't fantasy baseball, defense does matter.
Jayson Stark (1:34 PM)
I don't know if Hamilton is elite in the field. But he's a slightly above-average defender at least. And Cano has made himself way better than that at second base. Cabrera hurts that team defensively. There's no getting around that. But MVP voters tend to pay very little attention to defense. So that's the least of his issues, I'm betting.
Joshua Humphrey (Chatsworth, GA)
Do the Braves have the bats to hold off the Phillies?
Jayson Stark (1:37 PM)
If the Braves hold off the Phillies -- and I think they will, actually -- it won't be because of their bats. It will be because their pitching is so much deeper than the Phillies. There's no comparison between those two bullpens, which is a big deal. And the Braves have significant edges at fourth and fifth starter. Plus, there's something special going on with that team, and all those last-at-bat wins demonstrate that night after night. I wonder myself if the Braves can score enough to win this thing. But they sure find ways to score when they have to.
Mike (San Diego)
I think the fact that there's no clear defenition of what constitutes value is what makes this debate so fun. I mean, just in this chat we've had around 5 different defenitions that all make a lot of sense. For me, Cano is the clear MVP because Cano's replacement would probably be a much larger dropoff than Miggy's of Hamilton's. Joe Mauer also has huge value because of this.
Jayson Stark (1:39 PM)
I think this is a big part of the discussion, Mike. I know when I'm an MVP voter, I always ask myself what this team would look like if this player got hurt. But I think you're underestimating Hamilton's value. We're talking about a guy with a .353/.405/.618/1.023 line, who could win the Triple Crown himself. And Cano is surrounded by the best lineup in baseball. So which one would be the bigger loss? I don't think that's cut and dried at all.
Ryan (San Diego)
Bud Black a lock for the Manager of the Year? Do you see them holding on to the division?
Jayson Stark (1:42 PM)
I was in the middle of this conversation in the press box last night, too. I think Bud Black is the favorite right now, considering the expectations for his team. But this is a tough one. Charlie Manuel gets major props for the way his team has kept charging despite all those injuries. Tony La Russa has done one of his best managing jobs ever. It's Bobby Cox's final season, and there's sentiment involved there, on top of what a tremendous job he always does. Dusty Baker's team has exceeded most people's expectations. So I guess what I'm saying is Bud Black is no lock.
Jayson, in regards to your column yesterday, you didn't mention teams being allowed to trade draft picks. It seems to me that that would allow teams to better address their needs and would increase fan interest in the draft. Is there any shot it happens & does it have to be tied to a slotting system to avoid benefiting the big money teams? Thanks!
Jayson Stark (1:44 PM)
Thanks for bringing that up, Brian. I wanted to include that, but the draft portion of that column was getting hefty! There's more sentiment for trading picks now than at any time since I've been covering baseball. Whether it's something that would change in the next labor talks is debatable, though. I'm with you on this. I'd love to see it.
Jayson Stark (1:45 PM)
OK, friends. I promised you trivia. I'm giving you trivia. Roger Clemens had 12 seasons in which he won at least 17 games. There are only four active pitchers who have even had four or more seasons with that many wins. I expect you to get this. So prove me right.
Josh Hamilton is worth 1.2 WAR over Cabrera. Just saying.
Jayson Stark (1:46 PM)
Thanks for pointing that out. Have Cano's figure handy?
Ted Lilly 4-0 as a Dodger...what is it about that Chicago Cubs uniform that makes everyone who wears it a loser? Watch DLee hit .350 down the stretch. Do you think the recent lack of attendance will cause a reactionary offseason move from Tom Ricketts? This fanbase is disgusted.
Jayson Stark (1:48 PM)
Look, this isn't just a Cubs phenomenon. Veteran players who are used to winning are always prone to getting swallowed up by the losing on teams like that. Then they get traded to a team in a better situation and it revives them. It's human nature. The Cubs hated the idea of trading Ted Lilly, and I bet they'll try to re-sign him this winter. But they knew they had to trade him -- for both their sakes.
Ryan (New Hampshire)
Oswalt, Carpenter, Sabathia, Hudson
Jayson Stark (1:49 PM)
You're half right. I think, for now, I won't say which half.
Pettitte is another.
Jayson Stark (1:49 PM)
OK, that's one.
Martin (Charleston, Sc)
Halladay, Pettite, Santanam, and of course Oswalt
Jayson Stark (1:50 PM)
Lots of right answers -- but this isn't one of them. Johan isn't on the list.
Cano's WAR is 5.8, Miggy's 5.4 according to FanGraphs.
Jayson Stark (1:51 PM)
We interrupt this trivia for this WAR update. So based on Wins Above Replacement, Hamilton would be the most irreplaceable player among the three candidates we've been talking about. Thanks, Matt!
Martin (Charleston, Sc)
Replace Santana with Sabathia...
Jayson Stark (1:52 PM)
You've got it! Nice going, kids. Pettitte has had five seasons of 17+. Halladay, Oswalt and CC have had four each. CC is one win away from a fifth, as I'm sure you've noticed. Thanks for playing!
Hamilton is 6.6, too Big gap to Ryan Zimmerman, (Dave Cameron's MVP), who is at 6.1
Jayson Stark (1:54 PM)
How shocked would most of North America be to learn that Ryan Zimmerman leads the NL in Wins Above Replacement? Most underrated player in the league right now, by miles. But that won't make him the MVP, either. Not for a team that could finish 30 under .500.
Jayson, love the crazy stats you've provided us with for so many years, just awesome stuff... What a rookie class in the NL this year, huh? So many names so many bright futures, (Heyward, Posey, Stanton, Garcia, etc) but who in your eyes is the leader at this point with just a little over a month to go??? THANKS!
Jayson Stark (1:57 PM)
Full disclosure: I'm a National League ROY voter, and already sweating it! I don't ever remember a rookie class like this. I think Garcia is still leading slightly for me. But he had a head start on Posey, Stanton, Strasburg and a guy who has gotten way too little attention, Starlin Castro. Bet you didn't know he has a shot to become the youngest batting champ in history, and only the third rookie batting champ since MLB defined "rookie." If he wins the batting title, it would be hard for him not to win ROY, wouldn't it? And yet you could argue no rookie has made a bigger offensive impact than Buster Posey has these last two months. In other words . . . help!
Roy Halladay is actually leading the NL in WAR with 6.3!
Jayson Stark (1:58 PM)
We've set an all-time record for WAR updates in this chat. I guess that's good. That would be another shock to most unsuspecting humans. But as a student of MVP history, I can assure you that pitchers only win when there are no position players worth voting for. And that's certainly not the case this year.
Carlos Gonzalez is the most underrated player this season with Zimmerman in 2nd.
Jayson Stark (1:59 PM)
Carlos Gonzalez is extremely underrated. But I'm going to say he's not more underrated than Ryan Zimmerman. And since I wrote a book on Overrated/Underrated ("The Stark Truth" -- still available at Amazon), I'm the czar here!
Jayson Stark (1:59 PM)
OK, it's that time again. I can only take one more.
Thoughts on Showalter's performance so far, have the O's bought into it all? It's hard to say they ever gave up, they were just sloppy, and have played the most one-run games in the majors I think!
Jayson Stark (2:02 PM)
And now for a topic that doesn't involve WAR! It's no accident what's happened there. For the first four months of this season, it didn't matter what the heck those guys did. They weren't going to win anything. The managers were lame ducks. So they were just playing to play. All of a sudden, you have a guy walk in like Buck who's going to be there, doesn't miss ANYTHING and who basically tells them, "If you'd like to keep playing in the big leagues, now would be a good time to prove you deserve that." And presto -- they play their butts off. That team underachieved for way too long. Doesn't shock me one bit they're all playing to their talent level now. Buck inspires that everywhere he goes. He's tremendous.
Jayson Stark (2:03 PM)
Thanks to everybody who checked in. Fun topics! See you down the road in Chat Land.