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Kid gloves (cont.)

Posted: Friday May 11, 2007 12:58PM; Updated: Friday May 11, 2007 12:58PM
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Can you give more details on why you say the Cubs' starting pitching is "thin"? Their top four starters (Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis and Rich Hill) have an average ERA of 3.11 (without Z it's 2.22.) They average 6 1/3 innings per start, not great but respectable. They have started 23 of the club's 26 games. They have an average BA-against of .212. Their average WHIP is 1.11. I have deliberately avoided their fifth starter, but these statistics seem pretty good.
--Paul W. Joireman, Chicago

As you might have noticed from my Meche call, my pitching assessments don't come with 100 percent guarantees. I thought Lilly was pretty good but didn't have faith that Marquis, who had a 6.02 ERA in St. Louis last year, would be anywhere near this good. In summary, they're proving to be a lot better than I thought.

Do you think Ryan Howard will recover and hit at least 40-45 homers and drive in 110-130 runs while batting at least, say .290-.300?
-- David Danser, Mt. Holly, N.J.

Howard will hit at least that many home runs. With his talent and swing in that ballpark, he's going to hit a ton of homers if he stays healthy. But with his propensity to strike out I could see him winding up in the .260 range.

In five years we'll look back and say that Mark Shapiro was a great GM for not signing C.C. Sabathia. But in reality his "greatness" is foisted upon him by his team's salary cap. Just like in Minnesota and Oakland, these GM's are not allowed to fall in love with overrated, over-the-hill free agents. They are forced to keep their teams young and hungry. Name me another fat pitcher who stayed good for many years. David Wells? Absolutely not worth all the greed and gout attacks. Signing C.C. would be a mistake. Didn't we learn our lesson with Sid Fernandez?
--Jorge, San Antonio

I think that after the expected salary range -- probably $16 to 18 million -- you've hit on the No. 1 reason why the mid-market Indians aren't going to take a chance and sign Sabathia to a Barry Zito-like contract. Sabathia is a great kid and a fine athlete, but his chances to be good and healthy for another seven years are diminished by his, shall we say, rather large form. The Indians love Sabathia, but I don't believe they're going to take that sort of long-term risk. They also probably feel better knowing that they have one of the game's best pitching prospects, right-hander Adam Miller, who's just about ready to make an impact.

Yes the Royals are as bad as always -- you had to get one right! Anyway, how about David DeJesus, though? He's proving to be quite a player, very quietly.
--Ben, Kansas City, Mo.

Thank you for noticing. Actually I believe it may be two I got right (I also didn't like the Nationals all that much). And I'm with you on DeJesus. He may be the best player in the majors that hardly anyone knows anything about. He's quite a good hitter and a wonderful center fielder, as well.

Why is Kei Igawa getting all the bad press in New York, while Daisuke Matsuzaka seems to get a pass, even though their statistics aren't too far apart?
--Silas Kaine Ezell, Fayetteville, Ark.

The reason Matsuzaka continued to get pretty good press throughout his slump is that scouts and executives throughout the game continued to sing his praises. Right in the middle of his troubles, Dice-K won my SI poll to determine the pitcher with a year or less of experience that baseball executives would most like to have, while Igawa won the poll for who's the most likely $46 million import to be demoted to the minors. (OK, I was kidding about that second poll, though Igawa was demoted shortly after I received your e-mail.) Really, I'm not sure what Yankees scouts saw in Igawa. He pitched to a 7.63 ERA and didn't even look that good.

What? No backhanded comments on Phil Hughes' 6 1/3 innings of no-hit baseball against the Rangers on May 1? Even though he got injured, that was dominating pitching. Where's Homer Bailey now?
--Colin, New York

Do you still think Bailey is going to be better than Hughes? I doubt that Bailey has the makeup to pitch in New York like Hughes.
--Theresa, New York

This was another one of my, shall we say, imprecise pitching calls. Perhaps I was talking to the wrong scouts. Perhaps I was seeing Hughes on the wrong days. Or perhaps I fell in love with the name "Homer Bailey." In any case, I think most, if not all, baseball experts would agree that Hughes has now surpassed Bailey, a Reds prospect, on the list of top pitching phenoms.

I was at the Yankees game yesterday... How come Joe Torre hasn't been fired yet? Yesterday's game was filled with awful managing decisions.
-- Gerry Kanter, New York

I see you every day I'm in New York (Gerry is the chief doorman at my building) and I had no idea you felt this way. Maybe my constant negativity is finally wearing off on you. I will say that Torre is fortunate that George Steinbrenner has mellowed so much. Had this been the old Steinbrenner, no way Torre would have lasted past the 2004 ALCS.

I want Bobby Valentine as manager for the Yankees to replaced Torre. Thoughts?
--Jason T, N.J.

I think Valentine would be an excellent choice should Torre finally be fired. That would be my choice, as well. Valentine is brilliant and New York-tested, and it would be fun to see him manage a team where he isn't the star. However, I think Steinbrenner already has made up his mind, and Torre's replacement will be Don Mattingly. I believe GM Brian Cashman might prefer Joe Girardi or perhaps even Valentine, whom he likes and admires, but I don't think this will be Cashman's call if it happens any time in the next few months.

In as much as the "great Alex Rodriguez" was an excellent choice for your player of the month, I think that if you use the entire month in that reckoning, Barry Bonds might have been a better choice. A-Rod outslugged everybody, but his gaudy OPS was nonetheless outdone by Bonds.
--Eric Campbell, Toronto

While Bonds was the best in the National League, I think A-Rod was the top player in the majors for the first month. A-Rod outhomered Bonds 14-8 and also did a nice job at third base, while Bonds is a DH in left field. I'm sure Bonds is disappointed to have been beaten out by A-Rod for my honor, but maybe owning the all-time home run record will make him feel better.

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