Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

April 20, 12:22 PM ET
Chat with Buster Olney

Buster Olney
  (3:01 PM)

Hi, folks, hope all is well today. Lots of stuff happening, as always -- the Marlins can't lose, the Nationals can't win, Erik Bedard has found himself, and the Yankees are trying to find the answer as to why their new Stadium plays like a Little League park. Let's get it started...

Eric (Los Angeles)

Should the NL be shaking in their cleats, at the Dodgers new offense?...and our pitching ain't so bad either.

Buster Olney
  (3:02 PM)

Eric -- It's a great offense, and so long as the Dodgers' existing rotation stays intact, I can't see another team hanging with them in the NL West all summer. But here's the thing: L.A. doesn't have a lot of pitching depth. We'll see if it holds together. Their lineup is fantastic, for sure.

Bobby, NY

Buster, What would you do if you were Cashman or Girardi regarding Wang?

Buster Olney
  (3:04 PM)

Bobby: In the immediate future, I'd bypass his spot in the rotation in the upcoming week and then work with him on the side on whatever mechanical issues I thought he had. If he struggles in his next start, I'd call up Phil Hughes to pitch in his spot, and use Wang out of the bullpen in an effort to get him squared away. He'd have to pitch 46 consecutive scoreless innings to get his ERA down to 4...

Shane (Knoxville)

Buser, I think the Marlins' 11-1 start is a bit misleading? Do you think they'd have the same record if their first 6 games were against the Mets instead of the Nats? I would doubt it.

Buster Olney
  (3:05 PM)

Shane -- You have posed the question a lot of talent evaluators are asking -- how big do the Nationals factor into the Marlins' start? It's a fair point, but I do think the Marlins will be in the race all year, because of the strength of their rotation.

Chris (Chicago)

The Padres are off to a great start, do you think they'll be able to keep it up and compete for the entire season?

Buster Olney
  (3:07 PM)

Chris: What the Padres have done is nothing short of remarkable, considering who they've been playing -- Dodgers for four games, the Giants, the Mets, the Phillies. But it's hard to imagine that their lack of rotation depth won't catch up to them soon... They're a fun team, playing loose, and are such incredible underdogs -- hopefully, they'll keep winning and make the NL West more interesting.

Rytor (CT)

Buster, I know the Rays bullpen would have a regression, but should I be getting concerned? Dan Wheeler's velocity is way down and Balfour's fastball looks fairly hittable.

Buster Olney
  (3:08 PM)

Rytor: You should be concerned; the Rays were all winter about the possible regression, which is why they went out and added Joe Nelson, Brian Shouse and Izzy. The recent history of bullpens zooming up or down in performance from year to year is staggering, and I'm sure the Rays are scared to death that Howell and Balfour and Wheeler won't bounce back.

Coop (Orlando)

Outside of Brandon Webb, what is wrong in Arizona? I thought this team would be battling Los Angeles for the top spot instead of San Francisco to avoid the bottom.

Buster Olney
  (3:11 PM)

Coop -- I can't tell you why it is that the Diamondbacks core of young position players haven't progressed as much as we thought, but the bottom line is that Chris Young hasn't been as good as we expected, nor most of the others, such as Justin Upton. Three years ago, you never would've looked at the D-Backs -- with Drew on the rise, and Upton, and Reynolds and Tracy, etc. -- and thought that offense would become such a problem, but it has been.

Ryan, Santa Ana

Hi Mr. Olney, huge fan. Should the Angels go after Pedro Martinez, or should they rely on their minor league depth?

Buster Olney
  (3:16 PM)

Ryan -- thanks for the kind words - I am not going to pretend to have seen all their prospects, but what you hear from folks within other organizations is that the Angels don't have the same caliber of prospects on the rise as they did a few years ago, with their pitching, in particular. I wonder if at some point they might be the team to be aggressive in going after a veteran pitcher who becomes available (and what follows is purely a speculative list) -- a Peavy, an Oswalt, a Harang. Pedro is still asking for a $5 million base, and to be honest, I don't think anyone will come close to offering him that, no matter their level of desperation. He had a 5.77 ERA pitching in the NL East, in a pitcher's park, in 2008, and while he was clocked in the low 90s in the WBC, scouts recall that he had a good fastball in the spring of 2008, as well. There are more questions about his control now than ever before, and whether his past shoulder issues have affected this part of what he does -- which was once the best part of what he does. If he wants to pitch, there are teams that want him -- but for something around a $1.5 million base, rather than $5 million. If he continues to make $5 million his bottom-line number, I don't think he'll ever appear in a major league game again -- too many teams view him as a tremendous risk at that number.

Andy (Dallas)

Buster, Is there any more word on Brian McCann's vision trouble? How will it affect the Braves if their second best bat is ineffective or out for a significant amount of time?

Buster Olney
  (3:17 PM)

Andy -- I am waiting for some calls to be returned on that this afternoon. Hopefully, it's OK; a Braves team without McCann is a different team -- that is the kind of injury that could be the difference between making the playoffs, or not.

Clay (Charlotte)

As a Braves fan, this just hurts to say...but maybe, just maybe with the rebuilding seasons and building the rotation from nothing, is it time for a fresh face in the dugout? Everybody loves Bobby, but with Leo gone should they be looking for someone to teach the younger players?

Buster Olney
  (3:18 PM)

Clay -- keep the faith. I think they're better than they showed the last five days. Just cross your fingers on McCann's condition, and we'll see what happens. I presume that Tommy Hanson will be summoned within the next two months, and he looks like he could be immediate help.

Jeff (Philly)

Buster- Could Ibanez hit 35-40 homers for the Phils this year?

Buster Olney
  (3:19 PM)

Jeff -- Absolutely, in that park, and in that lineup ... he's going to be in position to bat in a lot of situations when the opposing pitcher is backed into a corner, with the count, with the number of runners on base, etc. He'll have a huge year, as long as he stays healthy.

Ben (Chi Sox Land)

What's the word from the Orioles on the long awaited arrival of Matt Wieters? Early June, or will we see him earlier?

Buster Olney
  (3:20 PM)

Ben -- I have been led to believe June-July... He's a Boras client, and I'm sure the Orioles will want to get past the arbitration date which would ensure that he won't be part of the Super 2 group of players.

nick (Toronto)

hey Buster, do you think the blue jays young pitchers can hold up?

Buster Olney
  (3:22 PM)

Nick -- my instinct is to say no -- and probably yours is, too -- but heck, they're scoring a ton of runs and their lineup is legit. But wow, consider all the players they've lost in the last eight months -- McGowan, Marcum, Litsch. It's interesting to play a game of 'what-if' with their pitching injuries -- what if the Jays had McGowan and Marcum, to go along with Halladay and Romero?

Thomas (Toronto)

Hi Buster. I don't see any way the Jays can maintain (or even come close to maintaining) their amazing start, but can you see any way that they can stay in the race come September, assuming the key parts stay healthy, of course.

Buster Olney
  (3:23 PM)

Thomas -- I just can't see it lasting, with the youngsters they're having to rely on. We'll see. Great to see Aaron Hill bounce back from his concussion.

Mike (Chicago)

How long before Lee is dropped in the Cubs line-up? He was a double-play machine last year, can't catch up to a fastball, and is no longer a 3 hitter.

Buster Olney
  (3:27 PM)

Mike: heard from a lot of scouts about Derrek Lee's lack of pop. The one thing you know about Lou Piniella is this -- when it comes to winning and losing, he will not play favorites. And if, at some point, he decides that Lee's regression is long-term, he'll drop him in the lineup. I wonder, too, if he'll start to lose at-bats to Hoffpauir. I'm telling you something you already know, but his slugging has dropped from .662 in 2005 to .513 in 2007 to .462 last year to .348 in the first 11 games of this season...

Josh (Columbus)

Did Yankee stadium make the Indians bullpen look a lot worse than it actually is? If not we are in trouble.

Buster Olney
  (3:29 PM)

Josh -- there was a lot to not like about a lot of the pitching in the first series in Yankee Stadium, for both the Indians and the Yankees. That said: 20 homers in four games. The place is playing, as one player said, like a sandbox. The Yankees don't know what to make of it; nobody seems to. So, in short, no, I wouldn't use any of what happened in Yankee Stadium as a barometer for the Indians' relief.

matt (staten island NY)

buster do u think the power will continue to show in the new Yankee stadium and how many home runs can Mark Teixiera hit in the new stadium with right field looking like i can hit one out of there

Buster Olney
  (3:30 PM)

Matt -- yes, I do. And I agree with what Mark DeRosa said to Teixeira on Saturday -- he might hit 50 homers this year, if these conditions hold (and it doesn't see like there's any reason why the ball won't continue to jump in new Yankee Stadium).

Matt (Arlington, VA)

Thanks for the informative discussion, Buster. The Tigers have unexpectedly gotten very good pitching from everyone in their rotation except the one guy who was not going to be a problem in Justin Verlander. If today's reports are true that Willis and Bonderman are making good progress, how do they build those two guys back into the team without compromising the starts made by Jackson, Porcello, and Galarraga?

Buster Olney
  (3:34 PM)

Matt -- yeah, weird about Verlander, yes? But the funny thing is that you know it's there, and that there will be a bunch of starts when he's unhittable; there is a lot of Oliver Perez in Verlander. To be honest, I take the Willis and Bonderman updates with a heavy dose of skepticism -- we'll see what happens when it happens -- but Jackson is a guy who just keeps getting better and better, and you can't argue with the results for Galarraga, or about the pure stuff of Porcello. I don't think Jim Leyland is at all concerned with making everybody fit -- he'll figure it out, if he winds up with excess pitching, and he'd love to have that problem. Hopefully for the Tigers, Willis and Bonderman make it all the way back (with Zumaya).

Ryan, Santa Ana

I know it's early and the baseball season is a marathon but, with the death of Nick Adenhart, pitching being hurt and Guerrero being out for at least a month. Is this not the year for the angels to at least win the west?

Buster Olney
  (3:35 PM)

Ryan -- The injuries and horrible tragedy with Adenhart have undoubtedly closed the gap between the Angels and the rest of the division. We'll see if Lackey and Santana and Escobar make it back without hiccups, and if Vlad can recover and be the same kind of player he was in the second half last year. Short of that, though, I think the AL West is nothing less than wide open.

John (Columbus, OH)

For what its worth, I think the Nationals are a huge factor in the Marlins start - do you really think JJ and Frankie blow 3 late leads in a row? Also, they should have lost the Mets series - if not Daniel Murphy's brain freeze in left.

Buster Olney
  (3:37 PM)

John: Agree with you. I don't discount the Marlins' start, because all you can do is beat the teams you are playing, but as one scout said to me over the phone last night, "Now everybody in the NL East will have their shot at the Nationals."

Eric New York

Do you think that the yankees will be world series champions

Buster Olney
  (3:37 PM)

Eric: For the record, I picked the Rays to beat the Phillies in the World Series.

Brian (Tulsa, Ok)

Hi Buster. How much credit to you give to the idea that Matsuzaka pitched himself into a dead arm in the WBC? It seems like a guy with his history of throwing a lot of pitches in any given game would have been better suited to throw meaningful games this spring.

Buster Olney
  (3:40 PM)

Brian -- A lot. The Red Sox are furious about how Matsuzaka was handled during the WBC, and are furious that they weren't allowed a greater hand in monitoring (much less communicating about) his day to day work. The bottom line is that the WBC is going to disappear some day unless Major League Baseball can ensure that the MLB teams can have a greater role in the work and preparation of their assets -- the players, like Matsuzaka. (And the Red Sox are far from alone in complaining about this aspect of the WBC).

Tim in MN

Hey Buster - do you think JJ's slump against the Nats on Saturday was a fluke? 6 earned runs against the Nationals is not a good stat...

Buster Olney
  (3:40 PM)

Tim: A lot of talent evaluators and scouts think he's one of the best pitchers in the league. Unless there's something we don't know about, like an arm issue, it figures that he will bounce back.

Justin, Pa

What are your thoughts on Stephen Strasburg? And do you think that the Nationals will draft/sign him?

Buster Olney
  (3:44 PM)

Justin: I think the Nationals will draft and sign Strasburg, and come close to doubling the record for the signing bonus for a drafted player -- the Strasburg deal, in the end, will be for about $20 million, I'd guess. If the Nationals pass on him, there will be 29 other teams thirsting for a chance to get him -- but they won't pass on him. Whether you think it's fair or not, the failure to draft Strasburg would lead to a veritable revolt among Washington fans; the Lerners would forever be branded as crazy or cheap for passing on a pitcher who is viewed as perhaps the best prospect ever. The franchise cannot afford to let that happen.

Aaron Milwaukee

Who do you think is going to take the East? The marlins will for sure slow down, but the Phillies Mets and even Braves are playing decent this year. Is it the best division so far?

Buster Olney
  (3:46 PM)

Aaron -- I picked the Phillies before the season, but I'm not sure if that can happen unless Cole Hamels gets better. I like sticking with one pick, rather than switching back and forth, but the Marlins, Mets and Braves could all be good enough to win the division, if some things fall right for them. The Mets need either Pelfrey or Perez to be consistently effective, the Marlins need to improve their bullpen (either by internal or external means) during the course of the summer, and the Braves need McCann to stay healthy and they need Derek Lowe to be an anchor all year and hope that some consistent middle relief emerges.

Nicholas (Chicago)

Buster- Any thoughts on the replay call from the Yankees game yesterday. Seems to me the fan reached into the playing field to me....

Buster Olney
  (3:48 PM)

Nicholas -- I saw 500 replays and didn't think there was a definitive look from any of them. The umpires' original call was a home run, so it was very tough to reverse that; if the original call had been a double, it would have been tough to reverse that, too, based on the replay -- don't you think?

Chris (Cleveland, OH)

Buster, love your work and you give Cleveland a ton of love. That said, I'm a huge baseball fan in C-Town and I had high hopes for the Tribe this year. Theyre only 3.5 back but is this team a lot worse than we thought? Is all h ope lost? The pitching is terrible so far.

Buster Olney
  (3:50 PM)

Chris -- Cliff Lee was better the last time out and so was Carmona, and Pavano threw well Sunday. The offense is loaded... if Lee and Carmona can throw the rest of the year the way that they did in the last turn through, the Indians could win the division for sure. (For the record, I picked the Twins ... who will get Joe Mauer back on May 1, it appears...)

Adam (Chicago)

Buster, love the blog. If Colon can keep it up (obviously a question), is there a better 1-4 than Buehrle/Danks/Floyd/Colon? Even if he can't, is there a better 1-3 in the league?

Buster Olney
  (3:52 PM)

Adam ... Hmmmm, interesting question. Tampa Bay hasn't looked good so far, but I do like Garza/Shields/Kazmir -- maybe as much as Danks/Floyd/Buehrle... Sabathia/Burnett/Wang is... well, never mind. With Matsuzaka down, the Red Sox rotation looks different. I do think Meche/Greinke/Davies is very underrated right now. But you could make your case, reasonably.

jeff mcpherson

do you think the royals will do the nose dive to the seller this year?

Buster Olney
  (3:54 PM)

Jeff: Absolutely not. I think they're going to hang in there and contend -- maybe not win the division, but stay in the race. Keep in mind that at a time when a lot of teams are not taking on money because of the economy, the Royals' ownership is still doing fine, because of Wal-Mart, so if other teams start dumping players at mid-season, the Royals might be a team that adds a player or two (by the way -- that is pure speculation on my part...)

Mike (Honolulu, HI)

Buster, how long before the Mets talk to Pedro about coming back? or is a trade for a starter a possibility? Johan can"t pitch everyday can he?

Buster Olney
  (3:54 PM)

Mike: What I was told was is that "there is absolutely no chance" the Mets will sign Pedro.

TJ (Austin)

Rangers still a year away? I feel like with their lineup, any kind of mediocre pitching could get it done in the West THIS YEAR.

Buster Olney
  (3:56 PM)

TJ -- With everything that has happened with the Angels re: injuries and the death of Nick Adenhart, the Rangers have a shot to win the division, and so do the Athletics and the Mariners. They're all in play, I think.

Darryl, Bronx

Buster, I know Pavano was hurt some of the time with the Yankees, but could he also be one of those players who do not thrive in the Yankee cauldron?

Buster Olney
  (3:58 PM)

Darryl -- Personally, I think Pavano got an unfair rap in New York. Every time he said he was injured, he was -- a stress fracture in his shoulder in his first year, serious back trouble, Tommy John surgery. He was never healthy for the Yankees. Now he's relatively healthy, so it wouldn't be surprising if he pitched better.

Brianadamsville, Virginia

When will the nats be good, I am actually from fairfax (the city i put is just my name with the suffix ville on the end) and the last time i had a good home town team to root for was the 1995 Baltimore squad...so how bout you say 2010?

Buster Olney
  (4:00 PM)

Brian -- the good thing is that I think the team is cleaning up the mess in the front office and in the roster structure (there is, after all, no need for 500 corner outfielders and first basemen), and with Zimmermann on the rise and Strasburg (in all likelihood) destined to be part of the rotation sometime in 2009 or 2010, they'll start to get better. As far as contending... they're a long way off, for sure. With that, folks, my time is up. Thanks for all the great questions -- about 1,200 in all. Talk to you next week -- I think next Monday, although I'll be travelling and might have to bump that slot. Have a great week...