Sunday February 5th, 2012
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 you are a Jays fan. What’s your opinion on Joey Bats? How can he go from 15 HRs to leading the league 2 years in a row? Joe
JH: I am??!! I have been accused of many things, but a Jays supporter is not one of them. Being based in Toronto, many people naturally assume that I am a Jays fan. Plus we have many Jays readers and followers, so their team often comes up in conversation. Here is the scoop on many Jays fandom. If you have to categorize me a particular “team fan”, then the Tigers will be that pick. Only since AA has taken over the team have I been excited about the Jays prospects. JP did a masterful job of destroying the Jays farm system and creating a mediocre Jays squad for years. AA has swooped in and created a team that looks like they are on the verge of contention for years to come. I am a fan of the game overall (obviously). I like what the Jays are doing and see a bright future ahead…and that’s all I have to say about that.
As far as your Jose Bautista question, I see where you are going with it. Here are my thoughts. Back in August 2008, I was horrified when the Jays traded Robinson Diaz for Bautista. A young catcher with upside for a limited utility player? No thanks I said. From there, I was mortified when Bautista proceeded to become the home run king. I have heard the whispers of steroids/HGH/PEDs and how Bautista became a star overnight. I also heard the talk that Cito Gaston fixed his swing and got him to become more aggressive instead of swinging late. I think the latter, rather than the former are true. With drug testing in full swing, I would like to think that Bautista would have been caught had he been “juicing”. Can I guarantee? Absolute not, considering the Braun scandal. Some players do figure it out late in life and Jose Bautista appears to be one of the lucky few. Unfortunately, our cynical society does not allow us to be 100% confident in many of our modern athletes, with the amount of PEDs that have apparently flowed in the game. I would like to believe in Bautista. I really do. Let’s stick with the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ mentality and give him his due. Unless proven otherwise, Jose Bautista figured it out and turned into one of the best all-around players in the game. I am prepared to give credit where credit is due.
Q: Arbitration hearings have started. Is there a count of how many have been heard, how many left to hear and winners/losers? Old Man Mack
JH: A shout-out to the final people over at MLB Trade Rumors, as Tim, Ben and the gang do some fine work in providing the latest transactions in the world of baseball. If you haven’t visited it already, they have a dedicated page called Arbitration Tracker which will answer all your arbitration questions. You will be able to see all the figures submitted by both players and teams, the mid-point and the award amounts. By my count there are still 19 players left with scheduled arbitration cases (who could still settle beforehand). I have seen 2 cases heard and the players are 0-2 (Lannan and Niemann both lost their cases). A fascinating process, in my opinion most of these cases should be settled before arbitration. Likely a lot of hard feelings can be achieved but little else from going through arbitration. But budgets are budgets and money is money. Welcome the business side of baseball.
Q: Is Brett Lawrie in the top 100 (fantasy players)? Forrest
JH: Now that is interesting. Hmmmm….is Brett Lawrie a top-100 fantasy baseball right now? My answer off the cuff is…no. Maybe one day. But not today. Reason? There are thirty MLB teams. I can think of the top of my head at least 3-4 players per team that are better than Lawrie in fantasy terms right now. Don’t get me wrong, Lawrie is a stud. He is good and will get better. But we only have a very small sample size for him thus far in the big leagues. With his blazing start in 2011, you have to expect a bit of regression this year. It’s called the “sophomore jinx”. Will Lawrie fall victim? Maybe. Possibly. It also depends on your league. Lawrie to me is a strong player to have in a keeper league, while being less valuable in a non-keeper league. Right this minute, I would rather have players like Youkilis, Verlander, Fielder, Halladay, Rivera, Strasburg, Cabrera, Avila, Choo, Gallardo, Weaver, Haren, Mauer, Hernandez…and the list goes on. Lawrie is not far off and would make my top 120 or 130. Give him another year and you could be seeing a top 50 player…or higher!
Q: Do you think the Miami Marlins will Contend in the NL East this upcoming Season? Marty
JH: Contend- yes. Win- no. The Marlins are definitely improved, no doubt. But they have not done enough in my mind to take them over the top. The Phillies are still the team to beat, with the Braves being close behind. The Nationals? With their improved rotation, I would be very nervous about them. Reyes will bring excitement and Buehrle/Zambrano will help stabilize the rotation and Bell solid as the closer. But I just see some of the other teams being too strong. At best, I see the Marlins in 2nd place. But at worst? A 4th place finish. They are still missing a big bat and need all their key players to stay healthy. Too many if’s for my liking.
ATR: Who will enjoy being stretched out in 2012: Feliz, Sale, or Chapman? Justin
JH: Looking at the crystal ball, I am seeing clear visions. Neftali Feliz and Chris Sale are both headed back to the bullpens by June at the latest. Both have enjoyed success in the bullpen and I can see each being ok but not great starters. They could develop over time, with the White Sox having more patience than the Rangers. But in a sport with a “win now” mentality, both will be relievers if they cannot succeed early on. Chapman on the other hand, I am seeing a different vision. With Ryan Madson entrenched as the closer, I can see Chapman being needed more in the rotation. With his stuff, he would be a very dangerous starter if he could learn some control. That could come sooner rather than later, as early as 2012. At the very least, Chapman could be a fine 4th or 5th starter. He will go 5-6 innings per start and rack up a ton of K’s. So yes to Chapman, no to Feliz and Sale right now. Especially Feliz- as he will turn one day (if he hasn’t already) into a Papelbon lock-down closer. But if the Rangers aren’t careful, they could be hurting his long-term growth if they continue this see-saw back and forth like the Mariners did with Brandon Morrow some years ago.
Q: Who do you think will be in the World Series? Ethan
JH: I was discussing this with a reader the other day. He predicted the Dbacks and Tigers. I have to like those picks. If I had to look at the top-4 teams, I am seeing the Tigers/Angels in the AL and Reds/Dbacks in the NL. The Yankees, Rays and Rangers will still be strong, as will the Red Sox. The Phillies, Cards, Brewers and Giants will provide a challenge in the NL. But I can’t get over the look to the Angels and I am sensing good things coming out of Anaheim this year. The Dbacks look very powerful and have built a team that will contend for the next several years. But the Reds are a strong force and manager Dusty Baker should be able to get the most out of that squad this year. I would like to say Tigers and Dbacks as well- that would be my heart pick. But looking at the crystal ball, I am seeing Angels and Reds right now. I can’t say why. The crystal ball says what it says. If it changes in picture, I will let you know.
Q: What do the Nats gain from banning Phillies fans??? Tammy
JH: If this is not THE dumbest thing I have ever heard, it definitely comes close. For those that are not familiar, the Nationals are trying to block Philadelphia fans from buying tickets to Phillies/Nats games by curbing where you reside when buying single game seats. Silly. Silly. Silly. Firstly, the Nats have enough of an attendance problem as it is, so they certainly should not be limiting ticket sales. Secondly, by discouraging Phillies fans at the stadium, it will create a hatred type mentality for those fans that do make the games. Baseball is about the love of the game. Rather than discouraging certain fans, the Nats should encourage all fans to buy tickets to their park. This new idea will have the effect of creating a bitter rivalry between the two teams every time they play in Washington, which might actually be a good thing. But the issues and conflict that it could create in the stands between opposing fans is a negative one. Let’s not forget what recently happened between Dodgers and Giants fans when hatred becomes spread. People can become injured or even yet, have a risk of life. Let’s spread baseball love- not hatred people.
Q: Are the Tigers done? And not will they do this or not, but your thoughts on Jeff Francis for Detroit’s lefty problem? J Raddy
JH: They are not done. The Tigers are never done. With the addition of Prince Fielder, the Tigers are even more serious World Series contenders in 2012, despite the loss of V-Mart. When you have Verlander and Fister in the rotation, Avila behind the plate and Cabrera/Prince in the heart of the lineup- you are going to be winning a ton of baseball games. Jeff Francis, or a Francis type pitcher is not the answer. Firstly, he was already signed by the Reds. But secondly, too many question marks surround him. If the Tigers can score a true #3, like Roy Owalt- they will be unstoppable (if they aren’t already). The more likely scenario is the team going with what they have, with a tweak or two. Turner could be the #5 if he has a strong spring, with the club picking up a Fister type pitcher at the deadline. If no Oswalt, the Tigers could sign 1-2 veteran pitchers to minor league contracts and invite them to spring training. Near the end of spring, come cut time, they could then pick someone up to start the year. Dombrowski is a smart guy and knows what he doing. By the time October rolls around, don’t expect the exact same Tigers roster that you see today.
Q: Realignment 2013 Proposal: Dennis
al east nyy, bost , tap b, Miami. and balt
al central detr . min, chic w, torn, and clevel
al west tex, oak, sea, laa, and houst
nl east phil, atl, nym, wash, and pitts
nl central milw, stl, cin, chic c, and kann
nl west arz, sd, sf, col, and lad
play 4 divisional teams 18 games each and other 10 league teams 7 games each and one divisional of the league 4 games each. would only need to play 2, 2 games series in interleague play against the same team home and away all other series would be 3 or 4 games series. Only houst , kann, and miami would change leagues, and only Pittsburgh and Toronto would change divisions.
JH: Very ambitious my friend. Very ambitious indeed. I prepared an article on MLB realignment back in May 2011 that you should check out. I caught a ton of flack for it, but many people have a tough time with change. It is interesting the route that you have gone. Currently, only the Astros are moving (to the AL West), with the rest of the teams staying put. I agree that the current divisional alignments don’t work and need a shakeup. Ultimately, I would like to have 2 more expansions, bringing the total amount of teams to 32. I think only upon expansion will you see a true realignment in baseball. It’s not that I don’t like your plan- it has merits. But I am not sure geographically and with team rivalries why some of the changes would be implemented. KC and St. Louis in the same division is a no-brainer, as is Miami and Tampa Bay. We can definitely agree that more realignment is needed, but perhaps a shift in the number of divisions or the format on playoff seeding needs to shift as well. For now, we will have to live with Houston in the AL West in 2013 with 2 more likely added Wild Card teams for now.
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Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports: You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)