Nothing doing against Zimmermann as Brewers fall

July 29, 2012

> Well, nothing new here. The Brewers lost to the Nationals today, 4-1, a game in which offense was once again hard to come by for the Crew. They might have had an excuse today, but this is still annoying to watch day after day.

Randy Wolf didn’t pitch particularly bad, but it was the long ball that did him in. He went seven innings while giving up four runs on nine hits. He walked one and struck out six. But, all of the runs Wolf gave up came on home runs, something we’ve become accustomed to seeing.

Jordan Zimmermann, on the other hand, was dominant, as he’s been all season, so there’s nothing new there either. He went six innings while giving up a run on five hits. He walked one and struck out six, lowering his ERA to 2.28. I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of Zimmermann- he seems to be forgotten in D.C., probably due to Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, despite his great numbers. He’s the most consistent pitcher on that staff, and there’s no argument about it.

After Wolf went through the Nats’ lineup without giving up a hit the first time through, the Nationals struck quickly. Corey Brown got his first career hit in the fourth inning, an opposite field solo shot. Later in the inning, Tyler Moore hit a two-run homer to extend the lead to 3-0. The Brewers did answer in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Rickie Weeks, and it looked like they were in for a big inning. But, the .205-hitting Cody Ransom got them out of the inning with a double play. The Nats tacked on one more in the fifth on Ryan Zimmerman’s solo home run.

> If there was one good thing about today’s game, it was that the bullpen didn’t implode like it’s prone to doing. Jim Henderson threw a scoreless inning with two strikeouts, and his high-90’s fastball/dirty slider combo makes him look very promising. Kameron Loe threw a scoreless ninth.

> The Brewers made another trade today, sending George Kottaras to the Athletics. The trade is still pending, but appears likely to happen. Kottaras was designated for assignment two days ago with the return of Jonathan Lucroy. You can read my more detailed story on this at Reviewing the Brew here.

> On another catching note, the Brewers signed former Astro Humberto Quintero to a Minor League deal today. Quintero was traded from the Astros to the Royals this past offseason, but was released before the All-Star break after hitting .232 in 43 games with them. He’ll go to Triple-A Nashville and give the Brewers some catching depth in the system with Kottaras likely gone.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers will go for a series split tomorrow, sending Mark Rogers to the mound. He’s making his season debut, and his first Major League appearance since late 2010. He made four appearances (three starts, one relief appearance) that season: a relief appearance against the Cubs, a start against the Marlins, and two starts against the Reds. And I have to admit he didn’t look too bad then. Rogers is just 6-6 with a 4.74 ERA at Triple-A this year, but is pitching better lately.

The Nats will counter with Gio Gonzalez (13-5, 3.13 ERA), another starter who has had success with them this year. But, since the start of June, he has an ERA over 4.00.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

 


Greinke dealt as Brewers snap skid

July 28, 2012

> It was certainly a day of mixed feelings. The Brewers finally won a game, shutting out the Nationals, 6-0. Mike Fiers was absolutely dominant once again, the Brewers offense came alive (like it actually was in Philadelphia), and the bullpen didn’t blow it. But, not even an hour before game time, the Brewers made the inevitable move of trading Zack Greinke.

Before we get to that, though, let’s talk about the bright side. Fiers evened his record at 4-4 (although it should be much better), and lowered his ERA to a rookie-leading 1.77. He went 6 1/3 scorless innings while giving up just four hits, all singles. He walked three and struck out nine.

The offense, on the other hand, wasn’t bad itself. The Brewers got in the board in the fourth inning against Ross Detwiler on Corey Hart’s two-run home run. They then added four in the fifth on RBI singles by Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun, and a two-run blast from Aramis Ramirez.

The bullpen also finally didn’t blow a huge lead. Livan Hernandez got Fiers out of trouble in the seventh, and wound up going 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Jose Veras finished the game with a 1-2-3 ninth.

> The Brewers did all this with a rather depressing cloud over their heads. About a half hour before game time, Jon Morosi reported that the Angels were extremely close to landing Greinke, and that held true. In return, the Brewers will receive three prospects: shortstop Jean Segura and pitchers John Hellweg and Ariel Pena.

There were a multitude of teams in on the Greinke sweepstakes, including the Angels, Rangers, White Sox, and Braves. But, according to Doug Melvin, it came down to the American League West rivals, the Angels and Rangers.

Supposedly, the Rangers were very interested in Greinke, but just weren’t willing to put together the prospect package. They didn’t want to part with prospects Jurickson Profar (shortstop) or Mike Olt (third base). The Brewers may have inquired on a package including Olt, but their main interest was starter Martin Perez, as I predicted. But the Rangers weren’t even willing to deal him, which makes me wonder how interested they actually were in acquiring Greinke.

So now the tables are turned against the Rangers, as the rival Angels wound up grabbing him. Greinke will only improve a rotation that already features Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Dan Haren, and the struggling Ervin Santana (who is typically good, he just hasn’t found it this season).

The prospects the Brewers received are somewhat interesting. They were all ranked in the top ten prospects in the Angels’ farm system: Segura was #1, Hellweg #4, and Pena #9. But, keep in mind the Angels do have a rather weak system.

Anyway, the Brewers may have solved their shortstop problem for the long-term in Segura, who is a threat on the bases. He was hitting .294 with seven home runs and 40 RBIs at Triple-A. You can also throw in his whopping 33 stolen bases (although you have to imagine the running game is easier in the Minors). Segura was with the Angels for a few days before the trade, but doesn’t have much Major League experience other than that.

Hellweg and Pena are both Double-A pitchers. Hellweg supposedly has a great upside and Pena, along with Segura, participated in the Futures Game (basically a Minor League all-star game). At the same time, though, the Angels aren’t known for having much starting pitching depth, which is why they needed to go out and get Greinke. So we’ll see how they pan out.

All three of these players were sent to Double-A Huntsville to “get used to the organization.” In Segura’s case, I was hoping he’d come straight to the Majors and fix our shortstop situation, but now the Brewers are talking like he’ll be a September call-up. I don’t really see the logic in that, but, at the same time, it’s not like we’ll be contending any time soon this season, so I suppose there’s no need to rush him.

Farewell, Greinke. I wish he could have stayed longer, but the Brewers put themselves in the position to get rid of him. To me, Greinke was already gone a week ago, so I’m not going to lose sleep over this. But it’s still going to be different without him around.

> Greinke was scheduled to start Sunday, but everyone knew he wouldn’t be making that start. Instead, Mark Rogers will come up and make the Sunday start. If you know Rogers’ story, you’d know it’s amazing that he’s made it all the way back after all he’s been through.

Rogers only Major League time came at the end of 2010, when he put up a 1.80 ERA in four games.

> And that’s about it. Tomorrow’s match-up is between Randy Wolf (3-6, 5.46 ERA) and Wisconsin native Jordan Zimmermann (7-6, 2.31 ERA), who is by far one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball.

Anyway, thanks for reading.


Quick hits: Brewers roster moves and rumors

July 26, 2012

> Sorry for not getting anything up during the Phillies series. But honestly, I would have been writing the same thing every day: our bullpen is a pile of garbage that needs to be disposed of. The Brewers should have had a series sweep over the Phillies, but instead the bullpen turned it into a sweep in favor of the Phillies.

Needless to say, putting in a reliever at this point means an automatic loss (in what is already a lost season).

> Anyway, there have been rumors flowing everywhere last night and this morning, which I’ll get to in a minute. But before that, here are some significant roster moves the Brewers made:

Jim Henderson has finally been recalled from Triple-A, where he was having a career year. He was 4-1 with a 2.64 ERA out of the Sounds’ bullpen, and went his first 20 or so appearances of the year without giving up an earned run.

You would have thought with those numbers that Henderson would already be with the team, but apparently the Brewers were hesitant to call him up because of his inconsistent Minor League career. Henderson, 29, has been in the Minors for since 2003, the beginning of his professional career, and seemed to have one good year, one bad year, one good year, and so on throughout his career.

The corresponding move to make room for Henderson on the roster was Jeff Bianchi getting optioned back to Triple-A. He was hitting .300 in the Minors before his call-up over the All-Star break, but didn’t reach base in 12 at-bats for the Brewers.

And here’s the best move of them all: Jonathan Lucroy was reinstated from the disabled list today. He’s been gone since late May because of a freak injury (I really don’t want to explain what I think happened again), but was hitting .345 prior to it. Too bad he couldn’t have come back earlier while the Brewers were still on the verge of contention, but I guess it’s better late than never.

In a corresponding move, George Kottaras was designated for assignment. He got off to a hot start in April, but literally hasn’t done anything since.

Sorry, Randy.

> And now for the rumors. Doug Melvin has said that Zack Greinke will likely be gone before Tuesday. He had a stellar started in Philly the night before last, and there were an estimated 20 scouts watching him. You can bet they liked what they saw.

The most likely suitors for Greinke right now are the Angels, Rangers, and possibly White Sox. The Rangers seem most likely, since, according to the Brewer Nation (@BrewerNation), the Brewers were looking at shortstop Elvis Andrus’ contract this morning.

The Rangers also have the strongest farm system of those three. The only standout for the Angels is starter Garrett Richards, who already has Major League time, and the White Sox’s system is pretty depleted.

> That’s about it. We’ll see where the rumors go from here.

So if you haven’t already, say your farewells to the short-lived Brewers tenure of Zack Greinke.


Fiers’ solid start spoiled by Brewers’ offense

July 22, 2012

> This has certainly become a recurring theme over the past few days. The Brewers once again fell to the Reds today, 2-1. That score should tell you what went wrong for the Brewers, and what has gone wrong this entire series: no offense. Thanks to this lack of offense, the Brewers have managed to sweep themselves out of contention for the National League Central, as they now sit 10.5 games back in the division. This season is starting to feel very 2010-ish.

More on that later, but for now here’s the game summary. Aramis Ramirez hit an RBI single in the third inning to give the Brewers a 1-0 lead, but the Reds answered back with two of their own in the bottom of the inning on Wilson Valdez’s RBI single and Brandon Phillips’ sacrifice fly. And that’s your game summary.

Michael (or Mike, still debating on what to call him) Fiers had yet another stellar start today. He went six innings while giving up two runs (one earned) on five hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out four. He lowered his ERA to 1.96 on the year, which leads the Majors in rookie starter ERA. But, courtesy of this so-called “offense,” his record stands at a mediocre 3-4. That’s all due to no-decisions and hard-luck losses.

> I said earlier that this season is starting to feel a lot like 2010. Just like that season, the Brewers went into a season-deciding series against the Reds with a chance to make up some ground. Instead, they lost the series (in this case, were swept), and buried themselves into the bottom of the NL Central with no hope of getting out.

But, unlike 2010, it isn’t the starting pitching’s fault. The starting pitching has been great again this year like it was in 2011, despite some injuries. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of the issue we had in 2010: it’s the offense.

Which is odd. If you look up and down the lineup, there is some talent. Norichika Aoki, Ryan Braun, Ramirez, Corey Hart, and Rickie Weeks are all names that should be productive. But it feels like none of them are; otherwise I don’t have an answer as to why the offense is slumping so horribly.

It’s not that Aoki isn’t producing. But it’s worth noting that his average has dropped from around .300 to .285 in recent days (though he did go 2-for-5 today).

Braun is having another banner year, but did have a pretty terrible series in Cincinnati. He struck out six times- three of those coming today- and his average dropped to .309 (not that it’s a bad average, but it was higher coming into the series). He also left four runners on base today.

Ramirez is the one guy who is producing right now. He went 2-for-4 today, and he’s brought his average up to .277, the highest it’s been all year. But, without guys getting on ahead of him (I should also mention the two-spot in the lineup is a gaping hole), how can he drive in the runs that he’s supposed to be driving in?

Hart has been a streaky hitter his entire career; I’ll give him that. But, he’s been mired in his bad streaks at the wrong times this year, especially with no one else around him producing. His average currently sits at .258 (it’s been flying up and down between .240 and .270 like it always does), which doesn’t give Ramirez much protection.

Then there’s Weeks. Everyone was going crazy when he finally heated up after the All-Star break and brought his average over .200 (there’s definitely an issue when people are getting excited about that), but now he’s falling back down. His average sits at .195, and he’s still on pace to have arguably the worst year of his career.

Those are the core five guys who need to be producing- getting on base, driving in runs, etc.- in order for the Brewers to win. And they aren’t doing that, especially right now. You could make a case that Martin Maldonado, who has brought his average all the way up to .280, should be in that group of core players. And I suppose I’d agree with that, considering he’s performing better than half of them anyway. But he has the same problem Ramirez is having: no one is getting on base for him to drive in.

Anyway, I’ll be done with that tangent, which was basically me trying to explain what’s wrong with the offense. I’m aware a bunch of things don’t add up- I’m just about as confused as the rest of you.

> On a somewhat positive note (it’s been tough to stay positive through this disappointment of a season), John Axford hasn’t given up a run in three appearances since he was removed from the closer’s role, which is a good sign. There was always the danger of him coming in and giving up a run or more before his removal, so it’s nice to see him string together a couple scoreless appearances.

> The Brewers have reached an agreement to sign pitching prospect Yosmer Leal. He’s a 16-year old out of Venezuela who probably will not see big league time with the Brewers any time soon, but it’s always good to stack up young pitchers.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers travel to Philadelphia tomorrow to start a three-game series with the Phillies. But no worries there: the Phillies are having a worse season than the Brewers, if you can believe that. They’ll see Roy Halladay tomorrow, then Cliff Lee and Vance Worley. At first glance that seems like a tough lineup of pitchers, but none of them are having very good seasons up to this point.

Anyway, thanks for reading.


Brewers’ offense once again absent against Reds

July 22, 2012

> This is frustrating, and just doesn’t make any sense. The Brewers, who were once known as one of the better offensive teams in baseball, have been unable to score runs at what is, statistically speaking, a hitter’s haven, otherwise known as Great American Ball Park. That trend did indeed continue today, as the Brewers fell to the Reds, 6-2.

Great American Ballpark was a house of horrors for the Brewers in 2010, and most of 2011. The Brewers swept the Reds at their home park in September of 2010, but they’ve proved this year that it was a fluke.

Yovani Gallardo’s line today was somewhat deceptive. He went 5 2/3 innings while giving up four runs on nine hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out just one. Anyway, Gallardo gave up four runs right away in the first inning. Jay Bruce hit an RBI single, Scott Rolen hit a sacrifice fly, and then Ryan Ludwick smashed a mistake pitch from Gallardo for a two-run shot. After that inning, Gallardo held the Reds in check. But, the way the offense has been lately, a 4-0 deficit is far too much to come back from.

The Brewers got their first run in the fourth inning on Corey Hart’s RBI single. They got their second and last run when a run scored on Aramis Ramirez’s double play in the sixth. The sixth could have become a big inning for the Brewers, but the double play- which was slickly turned by shortstop Zack Cozart and second baseman Brandon Phillips- killed the rally.

The Reds tacked on two more in the seventh against Jose Veras, a two-run blast from Phillips, which pretty much put the icing on the cake.

Meanwhile, Bronson Arroyo once again inexplicably dominated the Brewers. He went six innings while giving up two runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out six. I guess I don’t really see what’s so good about Arroyo, since other teams seem to hit him just fine.

> And that’s already about it. Not much news today, other than this pretty crushing loss, since the Brewers desperately needed to get out of Cincy with a series win.

Anyway, here’s tomorrow’s match-up:

Michael Fiers (3-3, 2.01 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (11-5, 2.28 ERA)


Brewers out-pitched in Cincy opener

July 21, 2012

> Tonight was just an ugly game on all fronts. The Brewers fell to the Reds, 3-1, in the first game of a critical series for the Crew. To put it simply, the Brewers were out-pitched by a Reds pitching staff that’s been pretty hot lately.

The Brewers’ pitching wasn’t, either, but wasn’t enough to match the Reds. Marco Estrada went seven solid innings, giving up three runs on seven hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out five. But, all three of the runs he gave up came on solo home run balls, coming from Zack Cozart (fourth inning), Jay Bruce, and Scott Rolen (both in the seventh inning). But Estrada had a very Estrada-like start: he mowed through the Reds’ lineup the first time through, nine up, nine down. But he broke in the fourth inning on Cozart’s homer.

Anyway, the Brewers’ only run came in the eighth inning on Norichika Aoki’s RBI double. That was the one blemish on Reds starter Homer Bailey’s line, who was stellar tonight. He went eight innings while giving up one run on six hits. He also didn’t walk a batter and struck out a career-high ten. The one thing I don’t understand is that Bailey was 0-5 with a 6.50 ERA in his career against the Brewers coming into this start, and they had already rocked him twice this year. You could make the argument that Bailey is hot right now, I suppose, but I’m not completely bought into that. Bailey went eight innings in his first start after the All-Star break against the struggling Cardinals lineup, which we saw last series. Maybe this just means the Brewers’ lineup is struggling.

The Reds used Aroldis Chapman to finish off the Brewers, who threw a perfect inning with two K’s. There were no somersaults tonight, though.

> There was one bright spot tonight: Ryan Braun’s 1,000th career hit. He came into today with 998, and got hits in his first two at-bats. He becomes the 11th player in franchise history to reach the 1,000-hit milestone, but got to the milestone the quickest in franchise history, needing just 815 career games to do it. That’s even faster than the likes of Pete Rose, Paul Molitor, and Robin Yount.

> Zack Greinke has confirmed himself that the Brewers have indeed made a contract offer to him, but refused to go any further. The word on the street is the Brewers are willing to give him five years and over $100 million, but Matt Cain’s deal is still larger than that. Unless Greinke gives the Brewers a discount because he likes pitching at Miller Park or something, it seems more and more unlikely that he’s going to get traded (or will just walk into free agency at the end of the season).

> A couple of starting pitching notes: Shaun Marcum will throw off flat ground tomorrow for the first time since he went on the disabled list. There’s still no timetable for his return, however.

Also, Tyler Thornburg has been moved back to the bullpen with the impending return of Greinke. Thorn filled in for Greinke against the Cards the day before yesterday.

> One more thing before I go. I was pretty disturbed at something I saw on Twitter tonight. I tweeted something after Braun made an outfield assist to throw out Rolen at home, and some obnoxious Reds fan made a crack about him being on steroids. It’s really too bad that this had to happen to Braun, because idiots, such as this random guy from the Reds fan base, are going to think for the rest of his career that he did a performance-enhancing drug.

Braun didn’t get out of it on a “technicality,” he got out of it because of a flaw in the process. Other than that, there wasn’t proof that he did it.

Also, Braun has vindicated himself so far this season. He clearly isn’t doing any drug, otherwise routine drug tests would have shown it by now. Yet he’s still putting up these numbers. That’s the part of this whole thing that fans of other teams seem to be misunderstanding- or just ignoring so they can keep making cracks at him.

> And that’s about it. I leave you with tomorrow’s match-up:

Yovani Gallardo (8-6, 3.59 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (4-6, 4.03 ERA)


Brewers capitalize on first inning mistakes to take series

July 19, 2012

> Despite a very discouraging first game of this series, the Brewers managed to battle back and take a much-needed two-of-three from the Cardinals. They sealed the deal today with a 4-3 nail-biter win. And we’d better get used to these nail-biters- they’ll be happening pretty often with Francisco Rodriguez assuming the closer duties.

The Cardinals have been slumping hard- and I mean hard- recently. If not for John Axford wrapping the gift to give them in the first game of this series, they would be 0-6 since the All-Star break. I thought Axford blowing the game like that was going to give the Cards a new hope and they were going to go on a hot streak from there, but that hasn’t appeared to be the case.

The sloppiness that has been Cardinals baseball the past few days showed up again today, mostly in the first inning. Norichika Aoki got on base to lead off the game, courtesy to an error by shortstop Rafael Furcal. After Nyjer Morgan hit a single, Adam Wainwright hit Aramis Ramirez with a pitch to load the bases with no outs. Corey Hart then came through with a broken bat, two-RBI single to give the Brewers the early lead. Two batters later, one of the funniest plays I’ve ever seen occurred. Carlos Gomez hit your routine groundball to Furcal, and he fielded it cleanly. It looked at first like his throw was going to be fine, but it tailed off at the end, forcing first baseman Lance Berkman to come off the bag. But, Berkman’s momentum must have been a lot greater than I thought, and he tumbled over and nearly did a somersault. Not only that, but the ball flew out of his glove as he was rolling. This error allowed two runners to score and gave the Brewers a nice 4-0 lead to work with for the rest of the game.

And that was all they would need. The Cardinals got two runs off Tyler Thornburg: a David Freese solo home run in the second and an Allen Craig solo blast in the third. Other than those two runs, the Brewers’ bullpen shut the Cards down for the most part.

But K-Rod saves are always interesting, and the tale was no different today. After striking out Skip Schumaker to start the inning, Carlos Beltran hit a pinch-hit double. K-Rod then walked Furcal, but came back to strike out Matt Holliday (who was also pinch-hitting). But K-Rod walked Craig to follow that up, and the Cards’ third run came on Freese’s bases-loaded walk. To be honest with you, though, I was fine with that- better off walking him and giving up one run than letting him hit an opposite field bases-clearing double. Anyway, K-Rod finished the game by getting Berkman to fly out.

> Thornburg was making a spot start today in place of Zack Greinke, who is taking ten days off to “recharge” (although I think something else is going on behind the scenes). Thornburg’s start didn’t go all that well: he went just 4 2/3 innings while giving up two runs on five hits. He walked four and struck out five. Those numbers aren’t bad, but he needed 103 pitches to get through just 4 2/3 innings. He also served up two home runs, which brings his season total to seven home runs given up in just twelve innings. But all of the home runs are coming on elevated fastballs in the low 90’s, which, if not set up by the correct pitches, can mean trouble. Thorn has shown flashes of a great breaking ball and a decent change-up, though, which leads me to believe he can be successful in the future.

> But the bullpen managed to pick up Thornburg. Axford, removed from the closer’s role two days ago, came in and pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings to finish the fifth and sixth innings. Manny Parra threw a scoreless seventh, Jose Veras had a 1-2-3 eighth, and K-Rod got the save, despite walking three batters in the process.

> After an off-day tomorrow, the Brewers move into their final series of this crucial stretch everyone has been talking about- a three-game series against the Reds in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, the Brewers would probably need a sweep to get out of there as legitimate contenders, which I can’t see happening. But it’s worth hoping for, I suppose.

Anyway, here’s what the matchups for the series look like:

Marco Estrada (0-3, 4.13 ERA) vs. Homer Bailey (8-6, 3.93 ERA)

Yovani Gallardo (8-6, 3.59 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (4-6, 4.03 ERA)

Michael Fiers (3-3, 2.01 ERA) vs. ???


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