Hitters for hire
Two questions for you: What's your best guess on the order the four unemployed big boys (Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza) will be signed and the most likely teams doing the signing? Also, how do you think my Yankees' three touted young pitchers will be doing by mid season, given their current challenges and Joba's likely challenge in switching over to starting?
--- Tom Hall, Mebane, N.C.
Maybe there is a chance Oakland could sign Frank Thomas now that he's cheap, but is he an upgrade on Mike Sweeney? If Sweeney's knee becomes a more serious issue, then Oakland would have more interest. The issue for Thomas, Sosa and Bonds is they all are primarily DHs, and unless Seattle gives up on Jose Vidro, I don't see an opening right now unless an injury creates one. And even Seattle might be smarter to give at-bats to Jeff Clement, who was hitting almost .400 in the minors.
As for the Yankees' young guys, I expect Chamberlain to be the Yankees' most dominant starting pitcher in the second half. I think he'll be transitioned into the rotation around June and need about four starts to get stretched out. I think Hughes will be fine, though I think the second half will not be kind to him, given his age and lack of innings. Kennedy is hard to define. He is a command and control guy who has had terrible command so far this month, so we're not getting a true read on him. But if he keeps walking people and nibbling like this, he'll be the first one out of the rotation.
Seeing how badly Carlos Delgado is struggling and how well Angel Pagan has been playing, do you think the Mets would consider platooning Moises Alou and Delgado at First? This would save some wear and tear on Alou's legs.
-- Paul, Pine Bush, N.Y.
The Mets aren't quite there yet. Delgado, who started terribly last year, needs a longer look, and I wouldn't be convinced Alou can play the position. I'm not saying he can't, but it's a more difficult job than it looks. But Delgado does threaten to be a lingering issue for the Mets. He has stopped becoming a power threat at Shea Stadium and against lefthanders.
Tom, you brought up something interesting about Manny's stats over a 162 game stretch...what is the best 162 game stretch by any hitter? That would be interesting to see don't ya think?
-- Tony Taylor, Hays, Kansas
A: Yes, that would be cool to see the best 162-game stretches for power and average. I believe both Ichiro and Tony Gwynn have hit .400 over a 162-game stretch. And how about this 162-game stretch from 1998-99 for Sammy Sosa: .296, 76 HR, 172 RBI. Ouch.
Generally you're right about Manny in your article about him. Just can't agree with you that Frank Robinson is below Manny. That confirms how underrated Robinson is. They have virtually the same OPS+ (and that's before Manny starts declining). Frank has lot more RBI, Runs, Hits, HR, and Frank did it in an era more favorably to pitchers.
-- Mark Taylor, Seattle
I can definitely see the argument for Frank Robinson over Manny -- depending on how Manny ages. Robinson remains one of the most underrated great hitters who was amazingly consistent. He hit 64 homers after his age 36 season. I'm guessing Manny, though, will hit at least 100 more after this one.
Great right handed hitters? I think you made a mistake by overlooking Kirby Puckett. Puckett has the fifth most hits in the first five years of a modern baseball career, and the second most hits in the first ten years. His .356 average in '88 was the highest by a right-hander since Joe DiMaggio in 1941, and he compiled a .318 average for his career. In what would have been his best RBI year, 1994, Puckett had an amazing 112 in 108 games before a strike ended the season. Puckett also averaged nearly 206 hits per year over eight years ('85-'92). That's a nicely rounded body of work.
-- Ben, Fargo, N.D.
A: Puck was a fabulous hitter who unfortunately had his career cut short before he had a chance to rank among the all-time greats. He was a joy to watch, especially because the way he played hard every day set the tone for those Minnesota teams. But he doesn't crack my top 10, mostly because of a shortened career, but also because his power and OBP were not far above average (one 30-homer season) and because he was a groundball hitter who batted 53 points higher at home (on the Metrodome carpet) than on the road. I mean, if you're talking the five or 10 greatest righthanders ever you have to bring some really high standards.