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ATR: Ask the Reports Answers Your Baseball Questions: Chapman, Hamilton, WBC, Billy Corgan and Neiko Johnson

Sunday September 16th, 2012



Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to mlbreports@gmail.com, message us on Twitter, post on our Facebook Wall and leave comments on our website! There are many ways to reach us and we will get to your questions from all social media outlets! We love to hear from you- so keep the questions coming every week!

Jonathan Hacohen: I hate being sick. In writing terms, I have been placed on the 5-10 day DL with a chest infection. It actually feels worse than it sounds. I have the cough of George Burns and probably his energy level as well. But the show must go on! ATR appears every weekend and dammit, I’m not letting a little thing like illness get in my way. Write through pain, that’s my philosophy. 

Before I get to your questions, I just want to take a quick look at the MLB standings as of this morning:

  • The Yankees are hanging onto the AL East by the skin of their teeth, with a 1 game lead over the Orioles. But for all the talk of those two teams, don’t forget about the Rays. They are only 4 GB. The Rays have pulled it off before and if I am placing my wager, I give it to Tampa Bay. Just too much pitching in my estimation.
  • As we continue to scan through the standings, I notice that the AL races are far more interesting than the NL ones. I’m not sure if that says much, but perhaps the AL teams will continue to battle each other to a pulp, and become easy pickings for the NL (who enjoys home field advantage in the World Series).  Just a thought.
  • The White Sox hold a 1 game lead over the Tigers in the AL Central. Yes, I bleed Tigers Blue and Orange. But I will admit that my crystal ball sees this season as the year of the White Sox. Sorry Tigers supporters, its nothing personal. Just business. Adam Dunn is back and as long as Chicago can continue their season long magic for a couple of more weeks, they will be playoff-bound.
  • The most interesting division has become the AL West. The Rangers, the 2-time AL champions now hold a slim 2 game lead over the Athletics (after losing to the Mariners and the A’s beating up on the O’s in a key weekend matchup). Chuck Booth and I have called what the A’s are doing as “Moneyball 2”. Let’s consider that when Moneyball the Movie came out last fall, critics were quick to mock Billy Beane and the A’s as being outdated and the movie being a historical piece, with no relevance to the current team. Guess who’s having the last laugh people? That’s right. Billy Beane. The A’s might actually have the guts to pull this thing off and take the division. It would be an incredible shot in the arm for Oakland and a tragedy in Texas. Keep an eye on this race people: if we have learned nothing else this season, the A’s are not going away.
  • The AL Wild Card spots are currently held down by the A’s and Orioles, with the Angels (2.5 gb), Rays (3 GB) and Tigers (3.5 GB) all in shooting distance. If we assume that the Rays, White Sox and Rangers end up taking their respective divisions, we are left with the A’s, Yankees, Orioles, Tigers and Angels as the contenders for the Wild Card spots. I see from there the Yankees and A’s taking the wild cards, with Oakland advancing to the ALDS. It is not an exact science, but playoff predictions are sure fun to create.
  • In the NL, we start with the Nationals, who enjoy a 6.5 game lead on the Braves. Not out of reach, but the Nats are still likely to take the AL East. They have been one of the best stories in baseball this year. Let’s see how far they go sans their ace.
  • In the Central, the Reds have a stranglehold on their division, with a 11.5 game lead over the Cardinals. Dusty Baker and company have a magic number of 6. ‘Nuff said.
  • Over in the NL West, the Giants are pulling away with a 7.5 game lead over the Dodgers. Now Clayton Kershaw may need surgery and be out for the season. It looks like the Dodgers’ big ticket items will not pay off until 2013 at the earliest.
  • The NL wild card race is messier than an algebra exam. The Braves hold a fairly good lead on the 1st spot, almost assuring Chipper Jones of at least one game of playoff action in his final season. The final spot is held in a tie, between the Cardinals and Dodgers. While there are several teams still in contention for that final spot (Pirates 2 GB, Brewers 2.5 GB, Phillies 3 GB, Diamondbacks 4.5 GB and even the Padres 6 GB). Predicting this spot is like taking a shot in the dark. Many are going with the Phillies, given their strong pitching staff (the three aces). I am not counting out any teams at this point, but I will say keep an eye on the Dbacks. It would not surprise me if they somehow face the Braves in the one-game sudden-death playoff series.

Now let’s get to your top questions of the week:

Q:  Ha! Dusty (Baker) overuses another arm (Aroldis Chapman)!!! Susan

JH: Many people are quick to bounce on Dusty Baker. I don’t think that he will ever live down the reputation of “destroying” the arms of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. Not that I am a huge Dusty supporter, but in fairness- he wasn’t doing much differently than other managers at the time. Remember Tommy Lasorda and Ramon Martinez? The older brother of Pedro was actually supposed to be the better pitcher. That is until Tommy Lasorda overused him, but felt the need to trade Pedro since he was too thin and unlikely to hold up as a starter. Talk about a blessing in disguise. Love or hate Dusty Baker, you can’t argue with his results. Did you know his name in real life is Johnnie B. Baker? Neither did I. Just got a whole lot more respect for the man, that is cool.

Let’s review Dusty Baker the manager: 19 seasons (10 with the Giants, 4 Cubs and currently in his 5th season with the Reds). A 3-time Manager of the Year (1993, 1997 and 2000 with the Giants), he will certainly get some votes this season. He won 4 division crowns with teams at the helm and the 2002 NL pennant with the Giants. No ring yet, but it’s not for a lack of effort. He finished his Cubs managerial career with almost a .500 record. In this day and age, that is pretty impressive. Dusty to my understanding is also only signed through this season. If the Reds should choose not to pursue him, there will be a lineup of teams considering him. Red Sox anyone??!!

Now that we’ve established Dusty’s credentials in a nutshell, let’s talk about his use of Chapman. The Wood/Prior saga has long been documented and I won’t go into those waters. Different times, different pitchers and different manager. For all the talk of Chapman the starter, Aroldis Chapman has only relieved thus far in his MLB career. He pitched 13.1 innings in 2010, 50 innings (54 games last year) and 67.2 innings (64 games) thus far this season. There has been no indication of the use of the Joba rules, or Strasburg shutdown, thus far. Although the team was concerned enough about his arm at this point that they shut him down indefinitely. Reports in recent days have indicated that his shoulder feels much better and he should be back in action in the next few days. I will believe that when I see it. You never know when it comes to injuries. Thus the relief of Jonathan Broxton insurance. But did Dusty Baker “strike again” in wearing out another pitcher’s arm? Or is this just a case of the general risk of pitching injuries to happen during a season?

On his current pace, let’s say Chapman pitches in say 3 more MLB games before the playoffs (with that lead, resting him is a good course of action). Then in the playoffs, depending on how far the Reds advance, use him for between 2-9 more games). If we say an inning per game, that gives Chapman another 5-12 more innings this season. At about 68 innings already, Chapman by my count would pitch a total of 73-80 innings this season. With 50 innings pitched last season, his total season would be increased by a maximum of 60%. Not bad if you ask me. Not bad at all. As Dr. Lewis Yocum would be the first to tell you, there is no secret recipe or number to this process. You go by gut and feel in trying to preserve a pitcher’s arm. The Chapman totals at first glance don’t look off to me. As long as he reports his shoulder is fairly healthy (with normal wear and tear given the time of year), the Reds should have their closer ready to go for October.

But…there is a little more. You didn’t think that I would let Dusty off the hook that easy, did you? Let’s look at the game logs and see how Dusty has really managed Aroldis Chapman this season. Firstly, how many times has Chapman pitched more than an inning this season? 8 times in 64 appearances. Never more than 2 innings per appearance mind you. Chapman pitched more than an inning 4 times in April, 3 times in May and once in early August. The misconception out there is that Dusty ran him out there endlessly. So far, that is not the case. How many times did Dusty pitch Chapman on back-to-back days after pitching more than an inning? Once. On August 10th, Chapman pitched 1.1 innings and returned on the 11th to pitch another inning. But then he did come back for another inning on the 12th, which is concerning, but that was a blip on the radar. Maybe not the best move that late in the season, but not likely the deciding factor. When Chapman pitched more than 1 inning in an appearance, he went this many days between his next appearances: 3, 2, 5, 3, 3, 2, 5 and 0. Translation: when Chapman goes more than an inning in limited circumstances, he will usually never pitch the following day. Plus, after April, Dusty lost the temptation to overuse his closer and limited his innings per appearance.

Now we are really getting into the nitty-gritty of the Baker use of Chapman. How many times did Dusty use Chapman on back-to-back days? 19 times on the season. What about on 3 consecutive days? July 13-15, August 10-12, August 17-19 – for a total of 3 times on the season. Interesting that they all have come later in the season. Is Dusty trying to build up Chapman’s arm for the playoffs? Or overusing him? Only 4 times did Chapman go back-to-back days before the All-Star game, and none in April. For a team that looked to be a lock for some time to take their division, why has Chapman’s use changed so drastically in the 2nd half of the season?

So while the numbers overall look to be where Chapman should be at this season in “preserving” his arm, the actual individual numbers show that Baker has used him more aggressively as the season progressed. I’m sorry Dusty. You may be trying to get the kid ready for the playoffs. But he is still young and growing into the role. Using Chapman in August the way he was used in April/May would have been a better way to go. For all the unfair heat that Dusty Baker gets as a manager, I am prepared to add this one as another example of poor managing/use. There is no guarantees in life, but to change the approach in using Chapman in the 2nd half definitely increased his chances of injuries and arm fatigue. Unless this recent shutdown period is more of a (wink wink- nudge nudge) way of resting Chapman’s arm. It wouldn’t be the first time a team has faked an injury just to rest a player. If that is the case, then I say bravo. But my gut says that this is not the case. Preserve the arm Dusty and get your closer fresh and ready for the playoffs. But alas: old habits die hard.

Q:  You would think MLB Network would show the (WBC qualifier) games, but no sign of the games in my channel guide.  David

JH: Hello David. Why Major League Baseball and the International Baseball Federation do not do a better job in promoting this tournament is beyond me. This year, as part of the 3rd edition of the WBC, there will be 4 qualifying tournaments held. Four teams will compete in each qualifier, with the winner of each group advancing to the WBC in March. The first qualifying tournament begins in only 3 days, yet I have heard very little on the coverage of the tournament! The best that I have been told is that the Canadian qualifying games will be shown in Canada (Sportsnet One). For the rest of the world, your WBC qualifying action remains a mystery. In 2009, MLB.com had a package for people to watch/listen to all the WBC games, from the first round right up to the championships. I’m sure a similar package will be available in March. But what about the current qualifying games? That still remains a mystery.

Please check back at our sister site, wbcreports.com for all updates on the 2013 World Baseball Classic, including the qualifying tournament. In the meantime, here is the info on all the countries involved in the qualifying tournaments. Make sure to mark the dates on your calendar!

SEPTEMBER 19-23, 2012

2013 World Baseball Classic Qualifier 1 in Jupiter, Fla. (France, Israel, South Africa, Spain)

Preview of Qualifier Group 1 (Report by Sam Evans): https://mlbreports.com/2012/08/15/wbc-qualify/

SEPTEMBER 20-24, 2012

2013 World Baseball Classic Qualifier 2 in Regensburg, Germany (Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Great Britain)

Preview of Qualifier Group 2 (Report by Sam Evans): https://mlbreports.com/2012/09/05/wbc-group2/

NOVEMBER 14-18, 2012

World Baseball Classic Qualifier 3 in Panama City, Panama (Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua, Panama)

NOVEMBER 15-18, 2012

World Baseball Classic Qualifier 4 in New Taipei City, Taiwan (Chinese Taipei, New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand)

Q:  Um, Billy Corgan is a big Cubs fan. Unfortunately.  Obstructed 

JH: For a little background, “Obstructed” was referring to a tweet that I sent to Billy Corgan (musician- Smashing Pumpkins), asking him if he was planning to attend any White Sox playoffs games this year if they advance. “Obstructed” correctly pointed out that Billy is a lifelong Cubs fan and would likely have nothing to do with the White Sox. Interesting point. From reports, Billy has grown up a giants Cubs fan. Collected baseball cards as a youth and appears often at Wrigley Field. Has thrown out the first pitch several times and sang “take me out to the ballgame”. He apparently has a home in Wrigleyville and was married there once. Or so the legend goes. But apparently not all is right with Billy and the Cubs. When Theo Epstein took over as President, Billy was critical of the team’s decision not to hire Ryne Sandberg as their manager. Billy apparently did not want to alienate one of the greatest Cubs of all time and thought Ryno deserved his shot at the helm. Not a bad point Billy Corgan, but you should know better than anyone else- when running an organization, it is all about the power. Theo Epstein hiring Ryne Sandberg as manager would be like you hiring Mick Jagger to sing back-up and Keith Richards to play guitar. That’s right- not going to happen. So if you view it in those terms, I think you can see where Theo Epstein is coming from. He needs to be “the man” and he can’t have a manager that overshadows him. As unfair as it is to the team and fans, Theo has an ego and Ryne Sandberg is a larger than life Cubs personality that would overshadow him. That ends the discussion right there in my book. Ryno will get a managing gig in the bigs one day, but it will be one day with the Phillies or with another organization. He has paid his dues and is ready to show what he can do.

So the million dollar question is as follows: Does Billy Corgan love the Cubs…or baseball more? Would he rather watch playoff baseball at Cellular Field in October or pop in some old dvds of Cubs games of the past? Given Billy Corgan’s mysterious and dark persona, I would guess staying at home and thinking of what could have been for the Cubs. I am not saying that he should switch sides and become a black/white sox fan. But maybe for one offseason, he can enjoy the feeling of watching a winning ballclub. That is, if the White Sox get into the playoffs. But let’s face facts: the White Sox have a great chance, whereas the Cubs ain’t getting in for a long time. Ponder that one Mr. Corgan as you make your October plans.

Q: Thank you for loving on my little cousin (Neiko Johnson). He is so adorable to us and we love both of his parents. He has big brothers who are just as wonderful. They make our family sooooo proud. It’s always a joy when they get to visit us in Rome, GA.

Neiko, much love and prayer are thrown your way. May God continue to keep a hedge of protection around. You’re such a maturing young man and we still want to baby you!

Continue to love the Lord…………………………..Your family in Rome, GA.

 

JH: Thank you very much for writing in! We are always glad to hear when family members get to enjoy the success of their baseball playing relatives. I interviewed Neiko Johnson back in December of last year. A wonderful, bright and upbeat young man, he was a pleasure to correspond with and talk baseball. He is very active on Twitter (@ThisIsNJJ) and very fan friendly. You would be hard pressed to find a nicer young man in baseball. We wish Neiko all the best on his baseball journey and look forward to having him back on MLB reports soon!!! And you are correct- as long as you hold faith and play hard, good things will happen. Keep on grinding Neiko!

Q:  Detroit tigers could use Josh Hamilton. Jeff

JH: Is there a MLB team that can’t use Josh Hamilton? It comes down to dollars and how much risk a team is willing to take on. Given his injury history and substance abuse issues, there are too many red flags for several teams to make a major commitment. To benefit from Josh, you need to keep a “buddy” on him almost all the time and hope that he doesn’t give into his demons. There have been slip-ups in the past, and one false move and he could get a lifetime MLB ban. All it will take is one more failed drug test. So without an airtight contract, MLB teams face considerable risk in signing the slugger. I will immediately knock the Tigers out of contention for Hamilton though. With the big contracts of Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Justin Verlander on the books, this team cannot afford to blow its brains out on payroll. Consider also that Hamilton needs to land in a place where he can DH once in a while to rest is achy body. When VMart returns, he will likely take over the role and rotate with Cabrera, Avila and Fielder. For those factors alone, I say no to Detroit. 

Josh Hamilton will be 32 next May, but for the wear and abuse on his body, I would consider him closer to 34-years old. If I’m a MLB GM, the most I go is 3 years on the young man. Truthfully, I would prefer a 2-year deal with a vesting option. But I can see Hamilton looking for a 5-year deal. On a long-term deal, say 5 years, he will expect at least $20 million per year.  On a 2 or 3 year deal, perhaps $25 million per season. This is where things get very tight for the Rangers. They have so many young players to lock up, that there is only so much money to go around. But if he doesn’t stay in Texas, where does Josh Hamilton go? Boston and New York are not options, as the media and fan scrutiny would not fit in well with his personality. Baltimore? Chicago? Seattle? That is about all I can come up with.

Assuming Hamilton stays in the AL, perhaps the Orioles or Mariners give him a 4-year, $80 million deal. But alas, GMs sometimes spend like drunken’ sailors in the offseason. My gut says that someone will give him his $100 million. Hopefully it is not the Rangers, as they will need to move too much young talent in the process- rather than lock up them to extensions. Chicago may also not prove to be the best fit for personality, so if I’m a betting man- I see Hamilton either staying in Texas, or going to Seattle or Baltimore. I think the laid back Seattle mentality would be perfect for Josh Hamilton. With Ichiro’s salary off the books, the team can afford to spend. But even they may see him as a risky investment. For his superstar status, remember that Josh Hamilton is a ticking time bomb. That means GMs will be uncomfortable putting their necks (and jobs) on the line for him. That likely means less years and dollars on the contract and few options of where he goes. Taking any other view on the young man to me is taking too much of a chance. The risk just doesn’t outweigh the reward if you ask me.


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Jonathan Hacohen is the Founder & Lead Baseball Columnist for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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About Jonathan Hacohen

I practice daily yoga. Most foods are organic. If you catch me in the supermarket, it will be in the produce aisle. Warrior 1 Yoga was born from my wish to help people be healthy and happy. I preach the 4 key's to life: nutrition, exercise, water and sleep. This is my journey - I am hope to meet you along the way to share a similar path!

Posted on September 16, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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