Hi folks, It's a different time for the chat this week, but I was in Baltimore for the last couple of days watching Yankees and O's. We'll get back to the regular time on Wednesday of next week. Let's start the chat.
Why do you think the Braves leadoff position has struggled so much this year? They've tried several people there but no one is hitting there in that spot, why do you think that is? and will it continue?
Cameron, The Braves don't have a natural leadoff man anyway, but the problems have been compounded by the fact that Nate McLouth and Melky Cabrera have been awful no matter where they've hit in the lineup. Other than Martin Prado and Jason Heyward and Brian McCann here and there, that entire team has failed to hit to expectations. It's not just the leadoff spot.
Carlos Gonzalez - flash in the pan or real deal?
Mitch, He's the real deal for me. A true five-tool player. Amazing to think he's already with his third organization.
Do you think Dontrelle Willis can be an asset to the Tigers this year? I was impressed by his performance against the Twins - 4 hits and 0 runs in 6 innings pitched.
Shawn, Dontrelle can definitely be an asset to the Tigers, but right now I think you'd have to color them "cautiously optimistic." Opponents are making contact against him 89 percent of the time, so he's not missing a ton of bats. And he definitely has to improve upon that strikeout to walk ratio. But when you look at where he's come from, an outing like yesterday's has to be encouraging -- even if Mauer and Morneau weren't in the lineup.
Comments on Bochy's decision the other day with Lincecum?
Jason, You mean, Bochy removing Lincecum in the ninth inning after 106 pitches, I take it. Anytime the bullpen blows up, it's going to make the manager look bad. But Lincecum had thrown 120 pitches against St. Louis in his previous outing, and Bochy made it clear that the Giants are going to do their best to take care of him. If Lincecum throws 120-plus pitches in three or four straight starts and says his arm hurts, Bochy will get ripped a lot more, trust me.
Wouldn't it make more sense for Figgins to hit #1 and Ichiro hit #3? Right now Ichiro doesn't drive anyone in and is left stranded on the bases too often.
Jason, A lot of scouts who've watched Ichiro take BP over the years say he could hit 25 homers if he wanted to sacrifice some batting average. It's the old Wade Boggs comparison. But Ichiro feels more comfortable at leadoff, and I think the Mariners feel he's earned the right to stay there. What it means is that they'll be relying an awful lot on Gutierrez, Kotchman and Bradley for production in the middle of the order this summer. I'm not sure they're up to the challenge yet.
Francisco Liriano a legit candidate for Cy Young? He looks ridiculous right now.
Steve, It's awfully early for that right now. But the early results are everything the Twins could have asked for -- and more.
Scott Sizemore is batting just 254 with zero homeruns. Do you think he will get a lot better as the season progresses or is he a below average hitter with a good glove?
Bill, He's been billed as a scrappy, gamer type who's going to be reliable if unspectacular in the field and a .270 to .280 hitter at the plate, without much power. I think he'll be fine. The Tigers are letting him hit at the bottom of the order, so there's not much pressure on him. Think about it: The Tigers are 13-10 while breaking in two kids -- Austin Jackson in center and Sizemore at second. That's not bad.
We all know Robinson Cano cannot keep this up all season, but the kid is really good... can her garner serious MVP votes while playing on the same team as Jeter, Teixeira & Arod regardless of how good his numbers are?
Matt, I just saw Robinson Cano for a couple of days in Baltimore, and it doesn't matter who's on his team: If he can be remotely as good from May through Septemberr as he's been in April, he'll be in the MVP discussion. How many guys put up huge numbers at second base?
Should the White Sox cut Juan Pierre? At his best over the past couple years he has been just a fringe starter and now he seems to have lost his ability to play passable defense too.
Aaron, The White Sox are only paying $8 million of the $18.5 million left on Juan Pierre's contract, so I think they knew what they were getting. He has to hit to get on base, because he's not going to walk, and he never could throw in the outfield. They need to move him out of the leadoff spot and let him hit 8th or 9th so he can relax, and he'll have his moments. But he is what he is, as they say.
Could I see any offensive help from the Braves farm system this season? Thanks alot
Graham, I don't see it. Keep in mind that Atlanta's Triple-A team in Gwinnett just got no-hit by Chris Tillman the other day. Freddie Freeman has power and a lot of potential, but he's only 20 years old, and he's a left-handed hitter. I don't think he's ready to play in the big leagues yet -- and certainly not ready to come in when the team is struggling this badly.
Just read your colleague Tim Kurkjian's column...do you agree that there seem to be far more mental mistakes made in today's game than in the past?
Jeff, I think there's something to it. As Tim pointed out, a lot of kids get promoted quickly without much time to learn the game in the minors. And he also made an interesting point about young kids working with individual hitting instructors at the expense of some other elements of the game. Enough managers, coaches and veteran players complain about the lack of fundamentals that it has to be a valid observation.
Hi Jerry! Considering we're talking about the team that traded Cliff Lee to restock the farm, and the team that just put a $125MM constraining order on their payroll flexibility, do you think the Phils would trade Werth? What kind of haul would you give up for renting Werth plus the likely draft picks?
Tom, Yes, Jayson Werth will be a free agent, but the Phillies plan on contending and going deep into the postseason, and Werth is a big part of that effort. So he's not going anywhere.
Last night Matusz kept the Orioles in the game with far from his best stuff, his fastball never over 90 mph...how bright is his future?
Scott, I picked Brian Matusz for my AL Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, I think he's going to pitch in tough luck a lot this season, because the O's bullpen is a mess and their offense isn't much better. But he's a very poised, mature kid. One thing worth noting: He does throw 91-93, so he's got some giddyup. He also breaks a ton of bats.
The NL west is a close race right now. Who do you see finishing first?
Kirk, I was big on the Rockies coming out of spring training, and I still see them as the class of that division. They've had an awful lot of injuries so far, and Keli McGregor's death was a big emotional blow to that clubhouse. But they have a lot of young talent, and I think they'll get it together as they start to get healthier.
All offseason we heard about how much Seattle had improved. With Cliff Lee's first start tonight, how important is it to the Mariners that he produce?
Luis, The Mariners were regarded as a pitching-and-defense first team coming out of spring training, and that hasn't changed. They've been fortunate to get so much from Doug Fister and Jason Vargas. If Lee pitches to his ability and Ryan Rowland-Smith can turn things around, that's a heck of a rotation. So yes, Cliff Lee is very, very important to that team's fortunes this season.
Smoak is just beginning to look comfortable at the plate, how good is this kid?
Scott, He's very good. He showed a lot of plate discipline in the minors, so I think he's ahead of where you'd expect at such a young age. But these are the big leagues and pitchers are going to find his weaknesses soon enough and try to exploit them. Just ask Jason Heyward.
If the Braves fall out of contention and start selling at the deadline, do you think they would trade Chipper to a contender so he gets one more shot at a ring? I know it's just 20 games and a lot can change, but I just don't see it happening with this team. They have no speed, no one is hitting, and it just seems like there is no fire with this group.
Chris, Chipper is a 10-and-5 service time guy, so he'd have to give his approval to a trade. Just my gut, but I don't see him doing that even if the Braves fall out of it and their season is a lost cause by June. Chances are if the Braves are that bad, Chipper won't be having a very good season, either.
Will Grady Sizemore ever be the player he once was?
Steve, Sizemore had two different surgeries in the span of a week during the offseason. When I was in Arizona for spring training, I got the sense that this might be a challenging year for him. He's well-rounded enough -- and young enough -- that he can come back and still be a good player. Can he be one of the top 10 players in the game, as he was considered a couple of years ago? Not quite sure about that.
Can the Padres keep up this place? Do you think they will go to the slate and win the division for old times sake? Oy Vey!!
McBuckley, I just noticed today that San Diego's bullpen has logged the most innings of any relief contingent in the majors. That would trouble me if I were a Padres fan. I think they'll hang around, because they catch the ball and they play very hard under Bud Black. But if they can go .500 or better, I see that as their ceiling.
Do you think the Mets pitching can hold up and can they make the playoffs?
Peter, I thought this might be a breakout year for Mike Pelfrey, but is anyone in Mets-land totally sold on Oliver Perez or John Maine yet? They're still a little short in that rotation, in my estimation. That said, the last couple of weeks have to be very refreshing for Mets fans. At least we've stopped hearing about the Jerry Manuel death watch for a while.
I'm a Dodger fan. By not signing a 1 Starter in the offseason I knew they wouldn't get to the Series, but I had no idea they would start off this bad irrespective of a shaky staff. Can I pin it all on the MCcourts drama or do the players and Torre have to take some blame as well? They are brutal right now.
AA, All the signs were there. Their starting pitching was thin, and Manny Ramirez's head is never in the right place in the last year of his contract. Now we've got the Matt Kemp-Ned Colletti soap opera. I don't care what Frank McCourt says: All the divorce talk and the spillover from that situation set a bad tone around the team's camp in spring training, and you have to wonder when or if they'll recover.
Are most player interviews coached by the PR dept? Seems like they use the same keywords and phrases over and over. Hit my lunchbag with your thoughts...
Glenn, Some players rely on those canned Nuke LaLoosh quotes, but I spent time in spring training talking to guys like Dallas Braden and Brian Bannister who are incredibly thoughtful and interesting interview subjects. Sometimes the non-stars are the most interesting people to talk to.
The Oriole's offense has to heat up...Markakis, Jones, Weiters,and eventually Roberts. That's a lot of talent.
Justin, The Orioles really do miss Roberts, because he does so much for that club. But by the time he returns, it might not matter a whole lot. They're 4-18, and the schedule is a nightmare for the next couple of weeks. It's wall to wall Red Sox, Yankees and Twins.
Jerry, any chance the Yankees could trade for Grady Sizemore? Maybe Brackman, McCallister, and another prospect not named Montero or Romaine could get it done?
Rich, They've already got a center fielder with power who can't hit left-handed pitching. His name is Curtis Granderson. I don't see Sizemore as a fit there.
Jerry, I don't think Chipper will hang around long enough to get 3000 hits or 500 home runs. Do you think he is a clear cut for the HOF?
Ryan, I think Chipper makes it under the "very good for a very long time" criteria. He's one of the top handful of switch hitters in baseball history. A couple more good seasons would help get him over the top, but he'll have a strong case even if he fails to add much more to his resume. That's just my knee-jerk sentiment.
What do you think about the Mets trading for Mark Buerhle at some point? White Sox are already 5 out in a year where the wild card will not be in play. Would they be willing to move him for fmart and ruebn tejada?
Buster, The Mets need another starter, but we're still at the end of April and the White Sox aren't close to pulling the plug yet, so you're way ahead of the game on that one.
Do you see Eric Young, Jr. as a future all-star, or is he just a speedy fill in kind of player. Seems like we don't hear a lot about him as a big time prospect.
Stefan, He's a dynamic young player with a lot of speed, but I'm not sure if he had a position. Is he a second baseman or an outfielder? Maybe he winds up being a poor man's Bip Roberts. That would be pretty good.
Do you think the fans or players miss Candlestick? It got so cold out there that you could bring otter pops and they wouldn't melt. You can brought a standard, household ice cube tray and made your own ice!!
Roger, I used to love covering games at Candlestick. Then again, it was pretty comfy with the windows closed in the press box. I think if you surveyed a thousand players, the words "miss" and "Candlestick" would rarely appear in the same sentence together.
Will the Royals ever be good again? Right now they are easy to figure out as a one piece puzzle. They have young talent, when it develops, they trade the player. Good Luck.
Bob, They have an ace starter in Greinke, a fine closer in Soria, a lineup building block in Butler and a buck of short-termers filling in around them. And the impact talent they have on the farm is a ways away. On a positive note, they do seem more inclined to throw money at the draft these days. But I guess my best advice to you is "be patient. I'm sure that's not the answer you wanted to hear.
With Howard getting that ridiculous contract, do you see it causing any friction with the other stars in the clubhouse like Rollins, Utley, Werth etc?
Jason, I don't see that as an issue at all. Utley is in the middle of an $85 million deal. Rollins can use Howard's deal as ammo to shoot for his own mega-contract. And Werth will either be gone or re-signed after this season. No way it causes friction. Unlike some bloggers, Howard's teammates feel like he's earned it.
Would you rank the St. Louis Cardinals starting pitching in the top 4 in the majors? Do you think their starters are good enough to have 4 12 game winners and 3 of them winning 15 games?
Chris, Let's put it this way: It's probably good enough to win the NL Central by 10 games. In the end, that's all that really matters.
How important is this weekend's series for the Mets? Right now they feel good about how they've played of late, but it came at home against 3 struggling teams. If they could take 2 of 3 in Philly I think they (and the fans) would start believing they're a legitimate contender.
Tom, I'm usually not big on hyping series in late April and early May, but I agree with you that this series in Philly takes on added importance for the Mets. By playing so well lately, they've taken some heat off Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya, and I'm sure it's helped the players to relax as well. But there's a difference between beating the Braves and Dodgers and going toe-to-toe with the Phillies on the road. You may not be aware of it, but the Mets and Phils really don't like each other a whole lot.
Lincecum or Wainwright?
Coug, For what it's worth, I picked Adam Wainwright as my NL Cy Young this year (over Roy Halladay, believe it or not). The guy is a horse.
Thanks for the emails, everybody. Sorry I couldn't get to more. Have a great weekend.