Spring Training isn’t here yet, but, everyone is optomistic about their chances… The MLBRT Crew talks about some early thoughts about the 2015 season and is MLB ready for the “pitch clock”? 1) Major League Baseball recently announced that they will test having a pitch clock at the Double-A and Triple-A levels in 2015. Cubbies Jon Lester said he opposes any such idea. Among other things that he said was “I feel like if you do add a clock it just takes all the beauty away from the game. I think you’re going down a path you don’t want to go down.” What’s your thinking on the idea of a pitch clock in baseball, especially in MLB? Archie:
I say okay if there are no runners on base. As SOON as a runner is on 1st or 2nd, the pitch clock should be turned off. Reason? One of the primary ways a pitcher/catcher combo controls the lead for any base stealer is to vary delivery to the plate. Sometimes this requires more than the usual hold time at the rubber.
Earl: I’d be the first person to say the game needs to be sped up but something about this doesn’t sit right with me. I have to agree with Lester for now that a pitch clock does take something away from the beauty of the game, but I also think we need to see how successful the pitch clock actually is in the minor leagues. If it works, and maintains some of the game’s beauty than it won’t be a bad thing.
Joe: Jon Lester on a pitch clock said “If you (use a pitch clock) you take the beauty out of the game. There’s such a cat-and-mouse game as far as messing up hitters’ timing, messing up pitchers’ timing. Different things that fans and people that have never played this game don’t understand. I feel like if you do add a clock it just takes all the beauty away from the game. I think you’re going down a path you don’t want to go down.” I don’t disagree, to a large part, with what Lester says… but… we don’t need a pitch clock anyway. There are already rules that cover the problem in the rule book… The first rule is number 8.04. It states the following “When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher is to deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds.” That is from the time the pitcher is in possession of the baseball with the batter in the batter’s box ready to go to when the ball is thrown. The penalty for an obvious delay of this rule is a “ball” added onto the count. Second rule is 8.05, which is the balk rule, under part ‘h’ of that rule, it says that if the “pitcher unnecessarily delays the game”, that the umpire can call a balk when runner(s) are on base. Also, rule 6.02 which states “the batter shall take his position in the batter’s box promptly when it is time at bat.” If, the batter attempts to leave the batter’s box, the umpire can still allow the pitch to count and call “ball” or “strike”. These rules are NEVER enforced. Enforce the written rules and there is no need for any clock in MLB.
Steve: It really depends on how they utilize it and how much time is going to be allowed. I am all for speeding the game up, and avoiding unnecessary time in between pitches. But you have to be realistic when it comes to the time. I am hearing 30 seconds in between time. That would be fine with me. If you start talking somewhere in the 10 to 15 second range, then we could have a problem.
2) There’s a lot of talk about how the Chicago Cubs are primed to make a move to the top of NL Central in 2015, but, what about the Houston Astros in the AL West? Are they ready to make the jump to the front of their division in 2015?
Archie: I would hold off purchasing playoff tickets for the Astros as of now. There are reasons for Astros fans to be excited going into the season with acquisitions like El Oso Blanco, but he alone cannot propel the Astros to the top of the Western division.
Earl: The Astros have made a lot of moves, a lot, but I still think they are a year, if not more, away from taking the AL West. They have a lot of promising youth, and they may improve this season, but the Astros have been so woeful for so long that it’s hard for me to see them all of a sudden challenge the A’s, the Angels, the Mariners, and the Rangers in the AL West.
Joe: The Astros’ ability to score last year was terrible… 629 runs in 2014. They ranked 14th out the 15 team AL. GM Jeff Luchnow made moves hat should fix that as he got in one manner or another, Evan Gattis (LF/DH/C), Jed Lowrie (SS), Luis Valbuena (3B) and Colby Rasmus (CF). None of these guys will, in all likelihood, lead the majors in any offensive categories, but, they will help improve the Astros run scoring abilities. They also have a couple of players who they expect bigger and better things from as they settle into playing in the majors, most notably their second year righter George Springer… (UConn alum, btw)… who had 20 HRS in just 78 games/295 ABs. He does need to get his average up from .231 and cut down on the strikeouts …113 in those same 295 ABs. And, they have one of the best second basemen in the AL… Jose Altuve… led the league in hits, batting and SB. He should either maintain that ability, or, maybe get better. Their bullpen had trouble holding leads late and that should be improved, as they acquired veteran relievers Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek. Their starting pitching is suspect, and, IMO, although they acquired some guys who might step in as starters and help, but, no one that stands out. In a division that has the Angels, Mariners, A’s and Rangers they finished only ahead of the woeful Rangers. Can they contend in the AL West in 2015? No.
They may get up to third in that division… a big maybe… but, that’s about it. But they will be better than they have been and that considering their woeful record in the past few years that will be a major improvement.
Steve: Houston intrigues me as they have a high powered offense. I don’t think that they possess the pitching to really compete, especially in a division as loaded as the AL West. With the Angels still a solid team, to the Mariners who seem to be ready to contend, and you can never bat your eye at Oakland either. Texas is seemingly on the rise after an injury plagued season. I just don’t think Houston in that division can compete with those other teams.
3) The Baltimore Orioles slugged their way to the top of 2014 AL East with a MLB leading 211 HRs. They lost Nelson Cruz who had a career year in 2014 and lead all of MLB with 40 HRs. So far, they haven’t replaced that middle of the lineup power. They also lost Nick Markakis their mainstay right fielder. Can they still repeat in the AL East?
Archie: Repeat as AL homerun leaders; doubtful. Repeat as AL East Champs; with the return of Davis and a healthy Machado and a couple of bull pen returns, they should be able to compete for the Eastern title.
Earl: I’ll give you a definitive answer: no. Losing that much and seeing the Red Sox bolster their lineup, the Blue Jays trying to add to what they got going, and the Yankees still hanging around, I can’t see the O’s winning the AL East again. To be honest, I think they are in a fight with the Rays to avoid the cellar.
Joe: I don’t think the Oriole have done anything this off-season to replace the power that they lost. I, also, think they are hoping some guys who either had injuries, or, just were terrible in 2014 live up to expectations, or, return to previous form… see Manny Machado and Chris Davis. My opinion? they better hope they do or they will finish no better than third it the AL East. Toronto and Boston have amped up their offenses, and, if, there pitchign improve only slightly they have to both have to be the odds on favorites to fight for the top spot in the East.
Steve: Losing Cruz hurts, So, “No”, they do not repeat as AL East champions. I think Boston with all they have done in the offseason will take over once again. Baltimore though will compete throughout the year and will contend for the division title, and possibly be favored to be a wild card winner. Boston has just done too much, and Baltimore has to find a replacement for Cruz to make up for that power, which is really what won them many games last season.
4) Less than a month to pitchers and catchers and about three months before Opening Day, and, free agent Max Scherzer has yet to choose his landing spot. He is an ace but he is also a 30-year-old ace. A reason he has yet to sign might be that teams are either unable or unwilling to pay his desired cost in years and/or dollars. Is he, and by extension, his agent Scott Boras overplaying his hand? Ooops…With Scherzer signing with the Nationals…let’s change question #4… With the Nationals acquisition of Max Scherzer their pitching staff now has 6 starters… Obviously Scherzer is one, followed by Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark… should they trade one and maybe load up with some offense or just stand pat?
Archie: IF, and only IF, either Escobar or Desmond CANNOT play 2nd, then I would put together a deal of Escobar and Roark for maybe some additional offense but where would you put him? The Nationals have pretty much indicated they have decided to go with Tyler Moore as their everyday 1st baseman by letting LaRoche walk away. Ramos is a top ten Cather in the league. You have Harper, Span and Werth in the outfield. One of the best hitting SS in all of baseball in Desmond. Zimmerman is getting old but is still serviceable. They can substitute Escobar at 3rd in a pinch. That only leaves replacing 2nd baseman Danny Espinosa. That is about the only weak link in the lineup. So, you have to ask yourself do I give up a better than average Starter for a 2nd baseman; if that answer is yes then I would target either Weeks or Gennett from the Brewers.
Earl: I expect the Nationals to ship Roark, Zimmerman, and Strasburg. I’m not saying they will deal all three, but I definitely expect they’ll float their names in trade talks and trade one of them for the best player they can get in return. The Nationals added to what is an already strong pitching staff which definitely frees up some room to use the excess for trade bait.
Joe: Now, that Scherzer is a National… Yeah, right now, on paper, they have to be considered as having one of the best starting rotations, if not the best, in MLB, and, considered a big favorite to win the NL, and, even to win the World Series. But, that’s on paper. But, if, they don’t at least win the NL East in a walk… I will be shocked. Wil they move one of the other pitchers? Why should they unless someone comes in and overwhelms them with an offer? And, the way some teams need pitching ya never know. Still… they would need to be over whelmed with an offer before they should pull that trigger. I am a steadfast believer in the old rule of thumb… “Ya can nver have too much pitching.”
Steve: Well I guess this was a little premature. I will just say that Scherzer signing with Washington makes the Nationals the absolute team to beat in the National League. I would be surprised if they don’t win 100 games next season. They may have one of the best pitching rotations from top to bottom that I have ever seen in my lifetime (which is a long time). Question comes, is he worth that much money. Well I don’t think any one person is worth nearly 200 million dollars over a 7 year period, but, with his last two seasons being 39-8, I would be hard pressed to say that he deserves this contract. I just hope for Washington’s sake that he lives up to his monetary value.
5) Manager Terry Collins said that he believes the Mets will be playing post season baseball in 2015. Is that a realistic appraisal, or, is he just talking your basic run of the mill generic manager speak?
Archie: IMO, there are too many better teams in the NL for the Mets to reach that lofty goal this year; even as the second place WC team. Let’s start with Dodgers, Giants, Cardinals, Nationals, Cubs, Padres, Reds, and, maybe even the Marlins are all better suited to reach the post season than the Mets. Again, just my opinion.
Earl: Mets fans want to believe. New York baseball wants to believe, and I want to believe. Despite the Blue Jays cap that is currently sitting on my head, I am a New Yorker and I once was a big Mets fan. I’m not so into the Amazins anymore, but I think things around here are better when the Mets are at least challenging for the postseason. The NL East, outside of the Nationals isn’t that challenging. The Braves could take a step back, the Phillies don’t look great, and who knows what you’ll get from the Marlins so there is a chance for the Mets but I think Collins is just giving manager speak.
Joe: So far the Mets’ “big” moves this offseason have been the signing of outfielder Michael Cuddyer in November to a two-year, $21m contract, and, the signing of outfielder John Mayberry Jr, to a one-year, $1.75m contract a month later. I’m not aware of a hell of a lot of anything else. So, given that it seems like all they have really changed is these two guys and given that neither addition impresses me that much… IMO, Collin is just talking the talk because that’s what managers do… But… say it often enough and the players hear it often enough… and, the next thing… ya never know… miracles do happen and “Ya gotta believe” is happening all over again. But, realistically, right now? I think Collins is just doing his job and saying the right things.
Steve: If I recall we touched on this a bit right after the season ended. I will say the same thing. WHAT HAVE THE METS DONE? They are not a playoff team, they may be in contention for a wild card until August, but there are too many solid teams above the Mets that they have a very small chance to compete for the playoffs. Terry Collins is doing right by his team by giving them the motivation to win, so by saying that does not hurt anything, but he is in above his head if he thinks the Mets are post season bound next year.
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