Sunday November 27, 2011
Jonathan Hacohen: Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, message us on Twitter and post on our Facebook Wall!
Let’s get to your top questions of the week:
Q: I know this is off topic but with the Houston Astros moving to the AL West and constant interleague play, what exactly is the point of an American League and a National League, besides of course the DH?
MLB reports: The existence of the designated hitter is the key to separate the American League and National League. Without the DH, there is no difference between the leagues. Otherwise, having separate leagues would simply be a way to divide up the divisions and teams. With daily interleague games coming, the mystique of having separate leagues is starting to fall by the wayside. An idea that was thrown around was to have the DH in play in National League parks and no DH in American League parks during interleague play. That would create strong interest in the different styles of play in the different parks and peak strong interest in interleague play. But unfortunately, it appears that idea has been scrapped for now. Long term, baseball needs to decide if it will have a designated hitter or not. There are arguments on both sides. Traditionalists like myself would like to scrap the DH all together and introduce National League style baseball throughout baseball. With the in-game moves and decisions that must be included with the pitcher hitting, I prefer the NL game. But others see pitchers hitting as hurting the game with “automatic outs” and risking the health and safety of pitchers by having them hit in the NL. This argument will continue likely for decades until a resolution is agreed upon one way or the other. Until then, we will continue to have two different leagues in place. One has a designated hitter and one does not. With the increase in interleague play, the line separating the leagues has become even blurrier. Great question!
MLB reports: The newest member of the Toronto Blue Jays will be turning 26 this week (November 30th birthday)- so be sure to wish him a Happy Birthday! Born in Venezuela, Valbuena is a utility infielder at this point in his career, playing second, short and third. Coming up originally with the Mariners originally in 2008, Valbuena was traded in December 2008 as part of the Franklin Gutierrez swap. Since then, Valbuena has played parts of three seasons with the Indians. In 229 career games, Valbuena has 13 home runs, 57 rbis, 84 runs, .226 avg, .286 obp and .344 slg. Considering that he was designated for assignment, the Jays picked him up for cash considerations makes sense. He has shown little at the major league level thus far, but is young and known for a strong glove. Valbuena has shown steady improvement in the last three years in the minors, with a breakout season in AAA Columbus in 2011. Valbuena popped a strong 17 home runs in 113 games, with 75 rbis, 64 runs, hitting .302 with a .307 OBP and .476 SLG. If those numbers can be replicated to any degree at the major league level, the Jays may have a hidden gem uncovered. At worst, we could be seeing another Ramon Santiago type player or the Venezuelan John McDonald. The Jays need a backup infielder on the roster and Valbuena could be the answer. Or possibly their next starting second baseman for the next five seasons. Doubtful…but it could happen!
Q: Would Yonder Alonso
look good on our team? Would Xavier Nady
be a good fit with the Indians or does the Tribe want something more? Martin
MLB reports: Wow, that is a mountain of questions!!! Firstly, Yonder Alonso would look great on the Indians. In fact, he would look great in 29 other lineups. The kid is a future superstar, no doubt in my mind. It is just a question of finding him a permanent home. The Reds have tried him in left field, but do not see him as a long-term solution there. The team will either have to move him, or open up first by trading franchise star Joey Votto. At this point, it looks like Alonso will be the one to go. I am a big Matt LaPorta supporter, but long-term he does not appear to be the solution for the Indians. He can always move to the outfield or DH, but a change of scenery is likely the best option for him. LaPorta never lived up to the expectations of being traded for C.C. Sabathia and both the team and player need to move on. The Indians have prospects to move, although not as many after all their 2011 swaps including the Ubaldo Jimenez trade. I can’t see the team wanting to trade more parts, as they cannot deplete their farm. Given what other teams can offer for Alonso, mainly the Rays, I don’t see an Alonso move in the future of the Indians. It would be a nice acquisition, but not likely to happen. Nady on the other hand would be a nice low risk pickup. If healthy, he could bring the leadership and experience the team needs. Championship teams need strong extra parts and Xavier Nady would be a strong fit in that regard. As long as comes cheap and doesn’t expect to start, I would say that is a done deal. The team may look for one or two more strong bats for its lineups, but that would not stop a potential Nady signing.
Q: Can’t help but think of Scott Kazmir
(compared to Gio Gonzalez
being looked at but several teams in a trade). Brandon
MLB reports: Poor Gio Gonzalez. Why the harsh words? In all seriousness, I see where you are going with the comparison. High walk, high strikeout pitcher. After a 3.23 ERA in 2010, Gio lowered it more to 3.12 in 2011. He has enjoyed near identical 1.31 WHIPs the last two seasons. He does not give up a ton of hits, but the walks are very high. He led the league with 91 walks after allowing 92 the year before. The home/road splits tell a big part of the story. This season, Gio went 10-5 at home, with a 2.70 ERA and 1.227 WHIP. On the road, Gio went 6-7 with a 3.62 ERA and 1.424 WHIP. Pitching in the Oakland ballpark clearly has a strong effect on his numbers. Similar splits are found in his 2010 numbers as well. Thus the conclusion is likely that taking Gio Gonzalez out of Oakland and putting him in a hitter’s ballpark (say Wrigley, Fenway or the Rogers Centre) and his numbers will likely balloon. Pitching in Oakland likely masks much of his warts. He just turned 26 in September so he still has time to develop. The next two seasons will tell the tale. He could become a superstar or the next Scott Kazmir. Until those walk totals start to drop, you could be on to something. The kid has a ton of talent, don’t get me wrong. But he is far from a sure thing. Until then, your comparison could be close. Thank you for the comment!
Q: (Final question:) Will Kurt Suzuki
ever become a superstar? Bill
MLB reports: Thanks for the question Bill. I chose this question because I have pondered that question for many seasons. Suzuki, a 2nd round pick of the A’s in 2004 is now 28-years of age. They say catchers take longer to develop than other hitters. Suzuki has been steady behind in the plate, seen as strong defensively and a good game-caller. The question has been the offense. The perception has been that Suzuki has pop in his bat and able to take walks in the “moneyball” mold. Looking at the numbers, that has not transpired in reality. Suzuki had a career high 15 home runs in 2009 and walked a career high 44 times in 2008. Suzuki has essentially regressed to a hitter that walks 30+ times, hits a dozen or so home runs in a year, has a .300 or so OBP with a SLG under .400. He will play in the majority of his team’s games though. Welcome to Jason Kendall territory. That is where Suzuki is headed. My heart says that he will still become a Jason Varitek type hitter as a catcher. But my brain sees Kendall. There are a lot worse things in life than becoming the next Jason Kendall. But for a catcher that had high expectations, more was expected of Suzuki. I can’t see him ever becoming a superstar at this point. But I can see a 15-year major league career in his future, built mostly on his catching abilities.
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Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports: You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)