The Question

People asked me questions on Twitter. So I shall answer them.


We did the reader questions on HBT Daily an hour ago or so. Here are the leftovers. Which, like pizza and lasagna and Thanksfiving stuff, is better than when they were served fresh.  There were not quite as many questions this week since we did it on such short notice, but some good ones all the same.

Q: Can the Phillies find a way to add a consistent bat to the line-up to protect Howard?

Yes. As soon as Chase Utley comes back. Well, OK, that’s not protection, because protection is bunk, but it is adding a bat, and the return of Utley hitting the daylights out of the ball is way more likely then Philly finding a big bat on the trade market. Because there really aren’t any. Seriously: the best you can hope for is maybe a Josh Willingham/Jeff Francoeur type, and I don’t see that as a game-changer.

Q: Who wins in a fight? Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, or Miguel Cabrera?

Elijah Craig. Who was a great, great man.

Q: Why am I still an Astros fan?

Because you know that when Jim Crane takes over as owner this summer he’s going to fire Ed Wade.

Q:  I was going to ask about my status for tonight’s game, but you said HBT and not SBT.

This question refers to the idea this questioner — @MrWorkrate — had a few days ago: NBC launching SoftballTalk.  Which is brilliant, frankly. We could tackle all the tough issues, such as how attenuated can the relationship be before the player is truly considered a ringer? What one piece of equipment purchased by your IT guy/third baseman makes him cross the line from “committed player” to “softball douche?” (I’m thinking big elbow pad). How many times can the guy from accounting make the “hey Alice, does your husband play softball too” joke before it’s justifiable homicide? (we passed that point years ago).  Lots of issues floating around softball. Ripe for explanation at SoftballTalk.

Q: If a player has pain in his shoulder & numbness in his hands during spring training, when do you pony up for the MRI? 

This question was asked by Twitter’s fake Frank Wren, clearly in reference to Jason Heyward’s current issues. I just wish the real Frank Wren would have actually considered it. Because, really, I’m getting awfully tired of Jason Heyward being described as totally healthy until the exact moment he isn’t, after which everyone says “well, clearly he has been hurting for a long time! Look at his awful batting line!” Grrr.

Q: If you had to choose one of Bourbon or Baseball, for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

Depends. Can I switch to scotch?

Q: Who’s most likely to block McCann (the best in the NL) a the All-Star Game starter? Buster Posey (media darling) Yadier Molina (threepeat) or Miguel Montero (hometown favorite)

Won’t be Montero, because I don’t think I’ve ever met a Diamondbacks fan, and someone would have to vote for him. Selig will force Bruce Bochy to add him to the roster to placate the folks in Phoenix, however.  My guess would be Posey.  Everyone loves Buster. Who was out on that play at second base in the NLDS. Thrown out by Brian McCann. The best catcher in the National League.

Q: Is Brandon Phillips the best all-around 2nd baseman in baseball?

I’m coming around to that idea. At least if, with the right kind of eyes, we can look and honestly say that we’ve seen Chase Utley’s high-water mark —that place where his wave finally broke and rolled back.

That’s all we got this week. We’ll try to give you a bit more notice next week.

Playoff Reset: The AL Wild Card Game

Wild Card
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Each day throughout the playoffs we’re going to be doing what we’ll call a reset. Not always a preview, not always a recap, but a generalized summary of where we stand at the moment and what we have to look forward tonight.

Today, of course, is Day One of the playoffs so we can really only look ahead, so let’s look ahead to what’s on tap in tonight’s one and only game.

The Game: Houston Astros vs. New York Yankees, American League Wild Card Game
The Time: 8:08 PM Eastern. Or thereabouts.
The Place: Yankee Stadium, New York
The Channel: ESPN
The Starters: Dallas Keuchel vs. Masahrio Tanaka

The Upshot:

  • Dallas Keuchel is the Astros’ ace and may very well win the Cy Young Award, but he’s (a) pitching on three-days’ rest; and (b) not in Minute Maid Park, where he is clearly superior compared to how he does on the road. At the same time, (a) the Yankees haven’t figured him out this year, going scoreless against him in 16 innings and striking out 21 times, including a poor performance against him in the Bronx a month or so ago; and (b) lefty sinkerballer types are basically the platonic ideal of a pitcher you want to throw against the Yankees to drive them crazy. While, historically, pitchers going on short rest in the playoffs fare poorly — in the past 20 years they are 18-37 — sinkerballers and extreme groundball pitchers fare much better than most. It ain’t a perfect setup for him, but you gotta like Keuchel here.
  • Meanwhile, Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka has made one career start vs. the Astros: this year, back on June 27. He got beat up, allowing six runs in five innings, receiving no decision. Those disclaimers about past performance not being indicative of future results you see in financial services commercials should apply to this and all other past matchup stats you see in the postseason, however. One random start here or there — or two in Keuchel’s case — doesn’t tell us a ton. This is baseball and tomorrow is always another day. At least if you don’t lose the Wild Card Game. More of a concern for Tanaka: rust. He has pitched only once since tweaking his hamstring against the Mets on September 18 and it wasn’t a good outing. At least he’s rested?
  • Both teams are dependent on the longball but both teams have struggled at times on offense down the stretch, with the Yankees’ bats being particular quiet in the season’s last month or so. Someone needs to wake up A-Rod. And Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Chase Headley and Brian McCann for that matter too. Of course, all of that firepower may not matter. The playoffs often see offenses go quiet and pitching come to the fore. Both teams have decent bullpens — the Yankees’ far, far more than decent — and given Tanaka’s rust and Keuchel’s short rest, this one is very likely to come down to multiple innings of hard-throwing relief. That favors the Yankees if they can keep it close.
  • Both teams are basically stumbling into the postseason, with the Yankees having lost six of their last seven games. They’re also under .500 since the end of July. The Astros swooned themselves in the second half, going 11-16 in September before rebounding in the season’s last week. Good thing momentum generally isn’t a thing in the playoffs — remember those 2000 Yankees losing 15 of 18 before the playoffs started and then won the World Series! — because neither team here has much of it.

This is the Astros’ first playoff game in a decade. While the Yankees haven’t been in the postseason since 2012, there is a lo tof playoff experience here, making this an interesting study in contrasts from a storyline perspective. At least if you’re into storylines. Personally I’m not. I’m more into baseball games and in this baseball game, I think Keuchel is a tough draw for the Yankees, even on short rest, and that for New York to advance they’re gonna have to be a team they haven’t been for weeks and maybe months: one that lays off junk down low and hits the ball hard.


Mike Scioscia will return as Angels manager in 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 21:  Manager Mike Scioscia #14 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the dugout during batting practice before a game against the Minnesota Twins at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 21, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

It was assumed already, but Mike Scioscia made it official during Monday’s press conference for new general manager Billy Eppler that he will return as Angels manager in 2016.

Scioscia, the longest-tenured manager in the majors, has been at the helm with the Angels since 2000. There was a clause in his contract which allowed him to opt out after the 2015 season, but he has decided to stay put. He still has three years and $15 million on his contract, which runs through 2018.

Jerry Dipoto resigned as Angels general manager in July amid tension with Scioscia, so there were naturally questions today about what to expect with first-time GM Eppler in the fold. According to David Adler of, Scioscia isn’t concerned.

“I think we’re going to mesh very well,” Scioscia said. “If we adjust, or maybe he adjusts to some of the things, there’s going to be collaboration that’s going to make us better.”

Eppler is the fourth general manager during Scioscia’s tenure with the team.

After winning the AL West last season, the Angels finished 85-77 this season and narrowly missed the playoffs. The team hasn’t won a postseason game since 2009.