Chat with Jayson Stark
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, ESPN.com senior MLB writer Jayson Stark will drop in to chat some baseball.
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.
His latest book, "Wild Pitches" examines the "why" behind baseball's winners and losers to give fans a rare look inside the game. He tries to answer questions like, how do high-priced contracts impact a team's ability to compete for a title? How do sabermetrics play a role?
Send your questions now and join Stark Friday at 1 p.m. ET!
Jayson Stark (1:01 PM)
Hey there. I'm actually logged in on time this week, thanks to the miracle of no traffic on the drive home from Bristol. I have a big piece on the collision rule on our site today. We talked NL MVP last night on Baseball Tonight. Kevin Towers got fired today. Lots to talk about! So let's get started.
Jayson: How much does a healthy and contributing Wacha change the landscape of the NL Playoff picture?
Jayson Stark (1:04 PM)
As I look at the Cardinals, I see a team that will go as far as its pitching takes it this October. The offense is power-challenged and speed-challenged. So plug in Michael Wacha, get Wainwright back on track and this is a dangerous team. I saw every start Wacha made last October. In those 3 starts against Pittsburgh & LA, he went 21 innings, 8 hits! So he's a guy who can rise to any moment. And that's what October is all about.
Ed (Queens Village)
I am not a fan of 2nd WC. Could you see 1 of 2nd WC winners at 85 wins or lower?
Jayson Stark (1:06 PM)
The second Wild Card in the NL could easily be in that range. I actually like this. But this is one of those years where the second WC in the National League doesn't look as if it's going to be particularly deserving, not with the way all those teams have played down the stretch. But get back to me in three weeks!
Daniel (Miami) [via mobile]
Stanton for MVP? Who will be your vote?
Jayson Stark (1:09 PM)
I honestly don't know yet. I think it's down to Stanton, McCutchen and Kershaw. And I'm willing to let it play out. But on Baseball Tonight, I asked Tim Kurkjian if he could ever remember a guy who led his league in OBP, Slugging, OPS, Adjusted OPS, home runs, RBIs, total bases, times reaching base, walks, intentional walks and home run ratio losing the MVP to a pitcher? I don't. But if there were ever a year where that could happen, this is that year, because Kershaw has been that dominating.
David [via mobile]
Jayson: With the Pirates playing 16 of the final 23 game against below .500 team, and the other 7 against the teams they're chasing for the second wild card, do you think they get in?
Jayson Stark (1:11 PM)
I do, actually. I'm worried about their bullpen. And they have a ton of games on the road. But since mid-May, they have by far the best record of Milwaukee, Atlanta, Miami and their own team. As long as McCutchen is healthy, I think they find a way to get there. But they can't keep losing games late the way they have over the last week. Somehow, they need to get that bullpen settled down.
Nathan (Kansas City)
In your story, you noted two rather egregious examples of home plate collision calls that follow Rule 7.13 but do not encompass the spirit of the game. I agree it is important to get this figured out before the playoffs, and I think MLB will, but to me more importantly is the gray area, the bang-bang plays. That is no easy task for sure, especially with the playoffs fast approaching, but MLB has been non-active on this issue for the entire season up to this point, so they will only have themselves to blame if a playoff game or series is decided on a questionable interpretation of this rule. Do you think they can come up with a solution that will be workable this year?
Jayson Stark (1:14 PM)
I don't think they'll come up with a "solution" because there's too much disagreement over the big picture. I do think they'll come up with a "clarification" that reminds one and all what the rule is and isn't intended to do. It's intended to protect catchers who are defenseless. It's not intended to award runs on a technicality to runners who are out by 15 feet. But the plays in between are going to continue to cause confusion, and they're going to be an issue this October. I've heard players, coaches and executives predict that some catcher is going to receive a throw in the postseason, choose to block the plate and get run over, because runs are so important. I cringe already thinking about everything that could ensue if that happens.
will [via mobile]
Justin Upton has be in conversation. If nt for him we wouldn't even be talking about braves playoffs. And also Heyward. He has the most defensive runs saved. That HAS to be valuable.
Jayson Stark (1:16 PM)
I agree. Upton should be in the argument. I don't think he's in the top three right now. Heyward is trickier. He's obviously a fantastic defender. But I don't see any trend that suggests MVP voters weigh defense heavily enough to give him a lot of votes.
Please tell me that even if Abreu pulls off the triple crown, he won't beat Trout in the MVP voting? I cannot stand a 3rd straight year of injustice.
Jayson Stark (1:18 PM)
I think you're safe. I see Trout in a landslide right now. I don't think Abreu will wind up winning the triple crown. And even if he does, he'll be doing it for a fourth-place team. It won't carry the same weight with voters as Cabrera doing it for a first-place team. There's actually more sophisticated thinking going on in award voting than ever before -- but it isn't unanimous!
Regarding Wainwright, most of his overall numbers are what we've come to expect but since the break, and during his current slump, his strikeouts have nose-dived, roughly 6/9ip. Do you think he's just going through a period of fatigue or is there something bigger going on?
Jayson Stark (1:21 PM)
His stuff hasn't been nearly as good. I think it's that simple. He's clearly worn down by the marathon. But he's so smart and so competitive, he can still find a way to keep his team in almost every start. He just isn't the same guy, with the same weapons, he had early. He could really benefit from the Cardinals running away with the division, so they could lighten his load heading for the postseason.
stephen (forsyth, mt) [via mobile]
Why can't the cy young and mvp be separated? start a revolution mr stark. I think you, peter gammons and tim kurkjian could make this happen right?
Jayson Stark (1:23 PM)
They're already separated, but not to the point where pitchers are banned from winning the MVP, if that's what you mean. In fact, after the Pedro debacle of 1999, when two voters left him off their MVP ballots entirely, the instructions were changed to specifically say pitchers are eligible for this award. It hasn't had much effect, practically, though. In the 14 elections since, the only two pitchers who even got a first-place vote were Verlander and Santana.
I know a lot of folks like to bash the Orioles pitching since they apparently don't really have an "ace" pitcher in the rotation. As I see it, Baltimore has outstanding defense and the pitchers take full advantage of that, rather than relying on strikeouts all the time (and they have an outstanding bullpen, at least other than the last few days). What do you think of the Orioles pitching staff?
Jayson Stark (1:26 PM)
I actually picked the Orioles to win the World Series, so I don't share the fears that many people seem to have about them. I do worry that they don't have a true ace or even a lot of swings and misses in that rotation. But my theory is that to win the World Series, you have to dominate one end of the game. And it doesn't have to be the front end. It can be the back end. And I love this bullpen and the way Buck uses it. Best defense in the field. Best lineup in the field. One of the sharpest managers alive. So why not? Did you know that since the start of August, the Orioles have a plus-55 run differential? That team is clearly being undersold, I think.
What do you think the phillies offseason looks like? Another year of RAJ signing veterans and relievers?
Jayson Stark (1:29 PM)
I don't think anything is certain right now. Too many questions about who's in charge, who's going to be in charge and what it all means. Ruben is still telling his friends he isn't sure if he'll be back, which I find interesting. It's impossible to know how long David Montgomery will remain on leave of absence. It's hard to discern what it means that Pat Gillick will be more heavily involved in the day-to-day operation. So who knows. I don't think they like their team a whole lot. But how much they will or can change it between now and April is impossible to assess until we get a better sense of their leadership situation.
Are the Yankees just stringing Tanaka along since there is no way Tanaka doesn't miss the entire 2015 season or do they really think he can help them later this year?
Jayson Stark (1:31 PM)
He's running out of time to make an impact this year. But I think the people who just assume he's having Tommy John Surgery are making a mistake. There's no indication right now that's the track he wants to pursue. And unless the diagnosis changes, which is possible, or he has a major setback, which is also possible, he appears determined to go the Ervin Santana route -- rehab it, strengthen it and try to avoid Tommy John.
Last night Joe Maddon was upset as John Gibbons requested a replay practically from the dugout, without crossing the foul line. This actually saved time of the Manager waiting to hear from his video guys whether it should be challenged or not. Two weeks ago Maddon protested a game because Gibbons took too long to challenge a play. Do you think the process of replay challenges needs to be worked on?
Jayson Stark (1:33 PM)
Absolutely. And that's GOING to happen. I can't tell you exactly what they'll change to. But I can promise you we won't have another year of managers hemming and hawing until they get a signal on whether to challenge. Everybody hates that. Now they just have to figure out Plan B.
Ivan Garcia (Jerez) [via mobile]
You've heard of Julio Urias right? The Dodgers 18-year-old phenom from Mexico, who has been dominating the minors. Southpaw too. Doesn't it remind you of, dare I say it, Fernandomania?
Jayson Stark (1:34 PM)
Saw him in the Futures Game. Most impressive arm I saw all day, and that's saying something.
Ray [via mobile]
No one from the Nats for MVP?
Jayson Stark (1:35 PM)
I consider everybody and every team when I vote. But which National could you make a case for, as being more impactful than Kershaw or Stanton, or McCutchen or Lucroy? Anthony Rendon has been tremendous. But he doesn't crack the top of this ballot. Sorry.
Since all that foolish talk about demoting him, Bryce Harper is batting .313/.361/.566 with 8 homers. In the second half, .294/.367/.481. What kind of impact can he have down the stretch an into the postseason?
Jayson Stark (1:37 PM)
If I remember this stat right, since Aug. 1, Stanton leads the NL in home runs -- and Bryce Harper is second. With Bryce's talent and energy, he has the capability to be a franchise-changing figure. He's a huge addition to that lineup. Dangerous team.
Chioke Hassan (Baltimore,Md)
Dear JaysonCould you see the A's with a new stadium in Oakland?
Jayson Stark (1:38 PM)
I think that's their only option for a new stadium at this point. But the Raiders mess just adds to that chaos.
So how good do you think Jonathan Schoop will be the next few years? He's starting to put everything together this past month or so.
Jayson Stark (1:39 PM)
Incredibly talented. But still struggles with offspeed stuff. And if he's going to become a centerpiece player, he's going to need to fix that. But he can hit anybody's fastball -- and he has been!
Max (KC) [via mobile]
Where do you think Alex Gordon will finish in the AL MVP race? Where should he finish??
Jayson Stark (1:41 PM)
I can't say I've totally figured out my AL MVP ballot yet! But Alex Gordon looks like a clear top-five finisher to me, and maybe higher if he has a September that looks anything like August, and the Royals win the division. I know people love to dismiss the strong-finish-for-a-contender narrative. But history tells us over and over that voters love to vote that way!
Who do you think will pull ahead in the AL WC race?
Jayson Stark (1:42 PM)
I think we'll be looking at Tigers at Oakland -- Price or Scherzer versus Lester. I think I'd watch that game! How about you?
Jayson Stark (1:42 PM)
I think we'll be looking at Tigers at Oakland -- Price or Scherzer versus Lester. I think I'd watch that game! How about you?
Frank Costanza (Queens)
Will Tulo get traded in the offseason? Any speculation on where he might go?
Jayson Stark (1:43 PM)
Chance of that happening is almost zero. Ownership doesn't want to trade him. And thanks to his continuing health issues, they'd have to sell too low. Can't see it.
Nate (Overland Park)
The Royals have been a very streaky team of late, and they have the most important tools (pitching and defense) to make a long playoff run should they make it. But the offense is poor. Can they score enough runs to keep up with the Angels, Tigers, & Orioles?
Jayson Stark (1:46 PM)
I think that's everyone's question. The one quality they do have going for them is that they don't strike out. And in an age of swinging and missing, that's an asset that can potentially show up in October. But they also have a chance to reach the postseason with fewer home runs than any AL playoff team in nearly 40 years. So I still worry about their ability to score against good pitching in October.
Aaron (Leesburg, VA)
Can the Yankees make a strong enough push to get Mr. Jeter in the postseason his final year?
Jayson Stark (1:47 PM)
I don't see it. As of this morning, Baseball Prospectus gives them a 4 percent chance to sneak in. They've done an amazing job of hanging in there. But without Tanaka, they're just not an upper-echelon team in any facet of the game. And they have almost no margin for error. That's a tough combination.
Can you see the Rocks shipping off CarGo then? Schoenfield said earlier this week that he bets one of them is gone.
Jayson Stark (1:48 PM)
If one of them has to go, CarGo would be the guy. But it would be a similar situation. Couldn't stay on the field again this year. So they'd undoubtedly have to sell low. Depends how motivated they are to move his money or change their mix. But I'd bet on both him and Tulo being back, as things stand now.
Anyway King Felix loses the CY this season?
Jayson Stark (1:49 PM)
Anything is possible, I guess. But he'd have to have about an 80.00 ERA in September for that to happen!
Tim I. (Los Angeles)
Chris Carter, Home Run hitter. As the Astro rebuild continues, do you think they will keep Carter or look to move him for young assets to an AL contender where he could DH? He reminds me of good old Cliff Johnson from back in the day...
Jayson Stark (1:52 PM)
If I were them, I'd look to move him this winter. His value has never been higher than it is right now. Power is so scarce in the game that I could see somone convincing themselves he's this winter's Mark Trumbo. But long-term, there's still way too much swinging and missing in his game for most teams to trust that the guy we've seen in the second half is what he's going to continue to be.
Tom (Chandler, AZ)
Which direction do the D-Backs go now? Will Gibson survive? As long as the new GM is GRITTY!
Jayson Stark (1:55 PM)
Stop it! I've said this every time I've been asked about them over the last few months: You should never try to predict what Tony La Russa might think or do. He thinks things through in his own unique way. So while my hunch is that the manager won't survive this either, a lot depends on which way Tony decides to go on his next GM. I'd expect he'll hire someone with some previous ties to him. But that's much more likely to be someone like Gary Laroque than Walt Jocketty. Can't see Walt leaving to go to work UNDER Tony, after all those years when it was the other way around.
If you had to pick a team to be a top 5 team for the next 10 years, would the Cubs be in that group with all these prospects coming up?
Jayson Stark (1:58 PM)
How could they not be? This is exactly the kind of team-building approach Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer laid out the blueprint for when they took over. Build a team with a chance to make the playoffs seven times in 10 years, as opposed to building a team with a chance to get lucky in one year, or two. And they're positioned to do that now, if they can find the front-line pitching to go with the position players.
One thing I don't understand about the MVP pitcher hitter debate, if a pitcher is absolutely amazing the most games he can win for his team is around 34, if a hitter is also amazing he could win his team 162 games (speaking hypothetically of course), so why do pitchers get mvp votes, was furious when Verlander won the MVP and will feel the same if Kershaw wins it
Jayson Stark (2:01 PM)
We talked about this last night on TV, too. That's the argument you always hear, that a hitter can have an impact on 162 games, and a starting pitcher can only have an impact on 30 or so. But the counter-arguments are that A) MVP-caliber starting pitchers actually participate in more plate appearances every season than any position player, and B) we now have statistical tools that can help us compare the impact of great pitchers with great position players in a way we never used to be able to do. So why not consider overall impact instead of some narrow definition of what MVP used to mean?
Jayson Stark (2:01 PM)
Wow. Just noticed it was after 2. My time here is up. Thanks for all the great questions. See you down the road in Chat Land.