Comparing the mega-teams from LA

December 17, 2012

> Following the 2011 season, Los Angeles was not in a good state as far as the sport of baseball goes. The Angels and Dodgers hadn’t reached the postseason in 2010 or 2011, posting some of their worst seasons in decades (by their standards). The Angels were struggling to find any offensive consistency to back their decent starting pitching. The Dodgers were having similar issues, but their problems extended off the field as well, as Frank McCourt left them bankrupt.

I don’t think the Dodgers were expecting to contend in 2012 (at least early on) because of where they were financially, but their one huge move was giving Matt Kemp an eight-year, $160 million deal following his MVP-caliber campaign in 2011. The Angels, however, made themselves early favorites for the World Series by signing Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $254 million deal, and C.J. Wilson to a five-year, $77.5 million deal.

Fast-forward to the 2012 offseason- following yet another season in which neither of these teams made the postseason- and a lot has changed. The Dodgers are nowhere near bankrupt; in fact, they’re the polar opposite, thanks to Magic Johnson and Co. The Angels are in the same position they were last year, but if they don’t make the postseason this time around, there’s something very wrong.

Anyway, let’s take a look at each of these teams from every angle- the lineup, the rotation, the bullpen, and so on. Both of them are considered near locks for the playoffs, but one has to be better than the other, right?

THE LINEUPS

Angels: 

1. Mike Trout, CF
2. Erick Aybar, SS
3. Albert Pujols, 1B
4. Josh Hamilton, RF
5. Mark Trumbo, LF
6. Kendrys Morales, DH
7. Howie Kendrick, 2B
8. Alberto Callaspo, 3B
9. Chris Iannetta, C

Dodgers: 

1. Mark Ellis, 2B
2. Luis Cruz, 3B
3. Matt Kemp, CF
4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
5. Hanley Ramirez, SS
6. Andre Ethier, RF
7. Jerry Hairston Jr., LF
8. A.J. Ellis, C
9. Pitcher

OK, first off, Hairston isn’t going to start the entire season. Once Carl Crawford returns from the disabled list, he’ll take Hairston’s spot, and that’ll change the whole culture of the lineup (many project Crawford to hit second). But, until Crawford comes back- which will probably sometime in late May- that’s what I’m guessing the Dodgers’ lineup will look like.

Anyway, those are both powerhouse lineups. The each feature possibly the best 3-4-5-6 combos in their respective league in Pujols-Hamilton-Trumbo-Morales and Kemp-Gonzalez-Ramirez-Ethier. It’s hard to say which is really better than the other; both are going to be very exciting to watch. While I think the Angels’ lineup might be the more exciting with three perennial MVP candidates in Trout, Pujols, and Hamilton, I think the Dodgers have the overall better lineup. The reason I say this is because there are more experienced hitters in the Dodgers lineup, and by experienced, I mean hitters that you know what you’re going to get from them. Kemp, A-Gon, Ramirez, and Ethier aren’t necessarily “veterans” yet, but they’ve certainly been around the block a few times and have shown they can produce consistently at the big league level from year to year. The Angels definitely have that experience in Pujols and Hamilton, but they have a lot of younger, inexperienced hitters who I think we need to see more from. There’s no denying that Trout had the best offensive rookie season in quite some time, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to be susceptible to a sophomore slump. Trumbo hit over .300 for the most of the season last year, but then flamed out for the last two months and fell to a .268 average.

I think if everyone in the Angels’ lineup performs to their ability (and that includes Kendrick, who everyone thought was going to be a batting champion one day), then they’ll have the better lineup. But until that happens, I’d put my money on the Dodgers’ lineup, especially once Crawford gets back.

Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp

THE ROTATIONS

Angels: 

1. Jered Weaver
2. C.J. Wilson
3. Tommy Hanson
4. Joe Blanton
5. Garrett Richards

Dodgers

1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Zack Greinke
3. Chad Billingsley
4. Hyun-Jin Ryu
5. Josh Beckett

Coming into this offseason, both teams wanted to improve their starting rotations, and I think each did. However, I think the Angels losing Greinke really hurt them. I also wasn’t in complete agreement with them just giving up on Dan Haren and Ervin Santana; I really wonder if they’re going to get what they could have gotten from those two from Hanson and Blanton. And Richards is going to be good somewhere down the road, but I’m not so sure he’s ready for a full-time rotation spot. There are even some question marks surrounding Wilson, who had a terrible second half for the Angels in 2012. Weaver is no doubt the ace, but health is a bit of a concern with him; same goes for Hanson.

To me, the Dodgers obviously have the better rotation, even though there are a few enigmas in theirs as well. Kershaw/Greinke is one- if not the best- 1-2 punches in baseball, and they get to throw half of their games at the pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium. After Kershaw and Greinke, however, there are a few questions. Billingsley can be an All-Star caliber pitcher when he’s on, but that isn’t always the case. Perhaps not having the pressure of being a #2 starter will help him. Anyway, the 4-5 spots in the Dodgers’ rotation should go to Ryu and Beckett, in my opinion. The Dodgers also have veterans Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano, and Aaron Harang, all of whom are capable of starting, but I think Ryu and Beckett will give them better results than any of the other two.

Clayton Kershaw

It’s evident that both of these teams will have to back up their rotations with those huge lineups, but I think the Dodgers are better off starter-wise.

THE ‘PENS 

(NOTE: I only put the six guys who I thought were guaranteed spots. There are probably going to be a few other long relievers in each bullpen>)

Angels: 

Ryan Madson
Ernesto Frieri
Scott Downs
Sean Burnett
Kevin Jepsen
Jerome Williams

Dodgers: 

Brandon League
Kenley Jansen
Ronald Belisario
Scott Elbert
Matt Guerrier
Javy Guerra

This is actually the one category in which I think the Angels are better off. There’s only one guy that I think the Dodgers can count on to be consistent, and that’s Jansen. The rest of the guys- including League, who they named their closer and threw $22 million at- have had up-and-down careers.

The Angels, on the other hand, have a nice mix of young flamethrowers and veteran guys who know how to pitch. I loved the Madson pick-up; I expect him to have a good year even though he missed all of 2012. Frieri can also close if need be. Then they have a great tandem of lefties in Downs and Burnett. This has the makings of a great bullpen for the Angels.

Frieri

These are both going to be very exciting teams to watch, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we saw an LA vs. LA World Series (though it never seems to work out that way). I think the Dodgers have the slight edge, but that’s not to put a damper on the team the Angels are going to field.

> The Phillies signed Mike Adams to a two-year, $12 million deal (plus a vesting option for a third year), so that puts to bed any rumors that spoke of his possible return to Milwaukee. But Doug Melvin probably wouldn’t have been willing to give him $6 million a year anyway.

> The Mets are being the Mets once again, as they have a deal in place to send the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner- R.A. Dickey- to the Blue Jays in a seven-player deal. The deal also includes Josh Thole and another prospect going to the Jays along with Dickey, while the Mets are getting back Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, John Buck, and a prospect.

I’m starting to wonder why the Mets gave an extension to David Wright if this is what they intended to do all along, but that’s their screwed-up organization for you. But I like the deal for the Blue Jays. They may have hurt themselves in the long run, but they’re making themselves favorites for the AL East next year. They’ve assembled a pretty nice rotation in Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, Brandon Morrow, and Ricky Romero, all of whom have been considered aces at some point in their careers.

> Minor moves: 

Phillies: Signed John Lannan to a one-year deal.
Marlins: Signed Jonathan Albaladejo and Ed Lucas to minor league deals.
Giants: Signed Javier Herrera to a minor league deal.
Twins: Signed Mike Pelfrey to a one-year deal.


Analyzing the veteran starters on the market

October 30, 2012

> Doug Melvin and the Brewers have made it known that they’re probably going to go after a free agent starter this offseason, preferable an experienced guy to anchor what looks to be a young rotation. Personally, I’m still debating whether or not that’s the right decision; the bullpen probably needs more tending to than the rotation. But, if the Brewers do choose to go after a free agent veteran starter, there’s actually a surprisingly decent market for that category this offseason. Here’s a list of the key possibilities for the Brewers:

Ryan Dempster
Zack Greinke
Jeremy Guthrie
Edwin Jackson
Hiroki Kuroda
Kyle Lohse
Brandon McCarthy
Anibal Sanchez*
Dan Haren*
Jake Peavy*

*Sanchez, Haren, and Peavy all have options (or other contract impediments) with their current teams, so it remains to be seen if they actually reach the free agent market.

Basically, the guys I listed are possibilities that I wouldn’t mind the Brewers signing, and most of them are relatively realistic for the Brewers as well. Greinke, obviously, isn’t very likely, but you still can’t count him out.

Dempster was stellar with the Cubs in 2012, but sort of fell off a cliff with the Rangers (despite a winning record in Texas). He’s clearly better in the National League, but I’d say one of the only benefits of the Brewers signing Dempster is that they wouldn’t have to face him (he has 15 career wins against the Brewers).

Guthrie might be the worst option on the list. He was awful with the Rockies, probably because of Coors Field, but resurrected himself with the Royals during the second half, posting a 3.16 ERA. Guthrie is still one of the riskier options on the list, however, and the Brewers will probably try and go with someone else.

Jackson quietly had a decent year as the fifth starter in the Nationals’ rotation, but he’s had an inconsistent career, and the number of teams he’s played for will tell you that. I wouldn’t mind the Brewers signing him, but there’s a bit of a risk with him as well.

For me, Kuroda is the best option on the list. After years of getting no run support in Los Angeles, he blossomed on the big stage in the Bronx. He proved he can pitch in the hitter-friendly environment of Yankee Stadium, meaning he probably wouldn’t do too bad at Miller Park.

There’s no denying Lohse had an unbelievable season in 2012, but I just don’t see him fitting in with the Brewers. Plus, he’s going to draw a ton of money (at least $12 million a year), and I don’t see the Brewers spending that on a starter.

In my opinion, McCarthy is one of the more underrated pitchers in the game; he knows how to shut down a good offense. But, it’s not often that he isn’t injured, whether it be shoulder/elbow problems, or taking line drives off the head.

Those are my top options. There are also guys like Joe Blanton, Jeff Francis, and Daisuke Matsuzaka, but there’s no doubt that those guys would turn into Jeff Suppan-like signings, so I hope the Brewers stay away from them.

THE NEWS

> Now that the offseason has officially started, the Brewers made a series of roster moves today. Shaun Marcum, Francisco Rodriguez, and Alex Gonzalez all elected free agency. Marcum and K-Rod are both as good as gone, but Gonzalez has a chance of returning as the back-up shortstop (or starter, depending on Jean Segura’s status). The Brewers also reinstated Mat Gamel and Chris Narveson from the 60-day disabled list. Lastly, they re-signed shortstop Hector Gomez to a minor league deal.

The Brewers’ other free agents, Livan Hernandez and Yorvit Torrealba, are already on the market, as they elected free agency during the NLCS.

> The Gold Glove Finalists were announced today. Here’s a list of them at each position:

American League

Pitcher: Jeremy Hellickson, Peavy, C.J. Wilson
Catcher: Alex Avila, Russell Martin, A.J. Pierzynski, Matt Wieters
First base: Adrian Gonzalez, Eric Hosmer, Mark Teixera
Second base: Dustin Ackley, Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia
Shortstop: Elvis Andrus, J.J. Hardy, Brendan Ryan
Third base: Adrian Beltre, Brandon Inge, Mike Moustakas
Left field: Alex Gordon, Desmond Jennings, David Murphy
Center field: Austin Jackson, Adam Jones, Mike Trout
Right field: Shin-Soo Choo, Jeff Francoeur, Josh Reddick

National League

Pitcher: Bronson Arroyo, Mark Buehrle, Clayton Kershaw
Catcher: Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero, Carlos Ruiz
First base: Freddie Freeman, Adam LaRoche, Joey Votto
Second base: Darwin Barney, Aaron Hill, Brandon Phillips
Shortstop:
Zack Cozart, Ian Desmond, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins
Third base: Chase Headley, Aramis Ramirez, David Wright
Left field: Ryan Braun, Carlos Gonzalez, Martin Prado
Center field: Michael Bourn, Andrew McCutchen, Drew Stubbs
Right field: Jay Bruce, Andre Eithier, Jason Heyward

That awkward moment when Gonzalez isn’t on the Red Sox anymore, yet could win the AL Gold Glove at first base.

Anyway, Ramirez should win the third base GG, seeing as he had the fewest errors in the league at the position. But Braun won’t win the GG in left field, because steroids. (You can bet that’s what all of the voters are thinking.)

> Minor moves:

Yankees: Exercised 2013 options for David Aardsma, Cano, and Curtis Granderson.
Phillies: Declined 2013 options for Ty Wigginton, Jose Contreras, and Placido Polanco.
Twins: Declined 2013 option for Scott Baker; signed P.J. Walters to a minor league deal.
Orioles: Exercised 2013 option for Luis Ayala.
Athletics: Optioned 2013 option for ex-Brewer Grant Balfour; declined Stephen Drew’s option; signed Mike Ekstrom to a minor league deal.
Dodgers: Declined 2013 options for ex-Brewer Todd Coffey, Juan Rivera, and Matt Treanor.
Pirates:
Outrighted Jeff Clement, Eric Fryer, and Daniel McCutchen to Triple-A.
Indians: Signed Takuya Tsuchida.


Estrada picks up first win of ’12

August 22, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Brewers once again handled the Cubs today, taking them down 5-2. Marco Estrada finally got his first win of the season that he probably should have had a few months ago, but it took this long for the bullpen to hold serve for him.

The Brewers’ first run came in the fourth on a bases-loaded infield single from Corey Hart. It was the first hit of the night given up by Cubs starter Chris Rusin, who was making his big league debut.

That was all the Brewers got that inning, but they received a gift run in the sixth on a bases-loaded wild pitch by Alberto Cabrera. The pitch after that, Jonathan Lucroy smacked a two-RBI double to extend the Brewers lead. The Brewers also got a run in the eighth on Carlos Gomez’s RBI single.

The Brewers carried a 5-0 lead into the ninth inning, but, naturally, the game had to end on a shaky note. Manny Parra could only record one out and allowed two baserunners, so Ron Roenicke went to Jim Henderson. He recorded the second out, but Roenicke decided to give the easy save opportunity to John Axford, who came in and converted the one-out opportunity.

WHAT’S UP WITH Z?

> Everyone remembers when the Angels made a splash at the Trade Deadline, acquiring Zack Greinke from the Brewers in the first blockbuster deal of this year’s deadline. The Brewers got Jean Segura in return, who would be part of their future plans, but the centerpiece was obviously Greinke, who everyone thought would make the Angels have the scariest rotation in baseball.

Not so much. Greinke has struggled mightily in his first five starts for the Angels, posting a 1-2 record with an ugly 6.19 ERA. When Greinke went to the Angels, his ERA on the season was 3.44, but, after allowing six runs in six innings to the Rays yesterday, his ERA has ballooned to 4.01.

Writers are tossing around many different reasons for Greinke’s struggles early in his Angels tenure, but I think there are two logical explanations.

The first is Greinke’s social anxiety disorder. He was spoiled that the first two teams he was with- the Brewers and Royals- were located in two of the smallest media market cities in baseball. But Los Angeles is a different story. At first glance, it might not look like it’s a pressure-packed place to play, given the struggles of the Angels and Dodgers in recent years. But, LA is considered the second-largest media market in baseball after New York, so you can bet the media hounds the players and managers there. Greinke could very well be succumbing to the pressure he’s never felt before. That makes you wonder why he didn’t stay and try to agree to an extension in Milwaukee, or even Kansas City. Greinke made it clear that he wanted to win, but probably not at the price of his anxiety acting up.

My second, and more likely, theory is that Greinke is off to another slow start with a new organization. Keep in mind Greinke was horrible during the first half of 2011 (his first year in Milwaukee), posting a 5.66 ERA prior to the All-Star break, but was one of the best pitchers in baseball during the second half. This could be happening to him again, but he doesn’t have an entire half to get adjusted this time.

I have a feeling that Greinke’s struggles are due to a little bit of both of these theories- for instance, the disorder could be what causes his slow start with new organizations.

But it’s definitely not all on Greinke; the Angels’ pitching staff as a whole has been atrocious in August. Coming into play tonight, they had a 6.76 ERA in August, by far their worst ERA of any month this years. And it’s mostly because of the starters. Along with Greinke’s struggles, C.J. Wilson hasn’t won since the All-Star break. After a great comeback year last year, Dan Haren is struggling with injuries and consistency again this year. Ervin Santana is having the worst year of his career. Heck, even Jered Weaver gave up nine earned runs the other day- to the Mariners. So something’s definitely wrong down in LA.

THE NEWS

> Shaun Marcum threw six innings and gave up one earned run in his final rehab start last night, so he should be set to make his first start since early June in the upcoming Pittsburgh series.

> Mike Fiers and Mark Rogers, the current targets of the Brewers’ innings-limit philosophy, will still make multiple starts before their limits come into play, according to Roenicke. But the Brewers will probably make up for that by limiting their pitch counts.

> MLB Trade Rumors confirmed that Hart has said he’d like to stay with the Brewers after his current contract runs out.

THE NUMBERS

> Estrada and Rogers each received their first win of the season on back-to-back nights. Estrada was stellar tonight, going six innings while striking out nine.

> Kameron Loe looked flat-out nasty tonight, tossing a scoreless inning with two K’s. He’s on one of the rolls where his sinker is just untouchable.

> Rusin had a strange debut. He retired the Brewers nine-up, nine-down in his first run-through of the lineup. He wound up giving up just one hit in five innings, but still took the loss because walks and hit-by-pitches came around to score.

> Speaking of HBPs, the Brewers were hit three more times tonight, including Norichika Aoki getting hit twice. As always, they lead the Majors in HBPs by a landslide. But, they’re last in the league in hitting batters. Shows what kind of manager we have.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Travis Wood (4-9, 4.83 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (12-8, 3.67 ERA)

Wood dominated the Brewers during his Reds tenure, but has been a different pitcher since. In Gallardo’s last start against the Cubs, he went six innings while striking out 10, but also gave up five earnies.

THE EXTRAS

> You’ll be seeing this Segura play all night.

> Reds prospect Billy Hamilton stole his 147th bag of the year. I’m still confused too.


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.


Brewers’ bullpen holds serve until extra inning W

July 9, 2012

> I missed most of today’s game, but something rare took place, apparently: the Brewers’ bullpen didn’t give up a run. *gasp*

> The Brewers defeated the Astros today, 5-3, in ten innings. The offense had another relatively slow day, but it was just enough to squeak past the Astros. The Brewers’ bullpen was also stellar, holding the ‘Stros down to give the Brewers a win in their last game before the All-Star break.

Zack Greinke was starting his second consecutive game, and it didn’t go very well. If you recall yesterday, he was ejected in the first inning after four pitches for spiking the ball at the ground. So he was able to come back and start again today, but went just three innings while giving up three runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out five. Greinke’s bright spot was that he struck out the side in third inning, but other than that, he wasn’t very sharp. Ron Roenicke had already announced prior to the game that Greinke wouldn’t go very deep, and that he wanted to get Marco Estrada, the original scheduled starter, his share of work in.

All of the Astros runs came in the first inning. Jordan Schafer led off the game with a single, and Jose Altuve drove him in with a double. One batter later, J.D. Martinez hit an RBI single. Then, Greinke had a temporary lapse of command. After striking out Jed Lowrie and giving up a single to Chris Johnson, Greinke walked Brian Bogusevic to load the bases, then served up a bases-loaded walk to Chris Snyder. He struck out the pitcher, Jordan Lyles, to end the inning, but the damage had been done, and it was obvious Greinke was still shaken up about yesterday.

The Brewers answered in the second inning on Rickie Weeks’ solo home run, but didn’t score again until Aramis Ramirez’s RBI single in the sixth.

The next threat came in the eighth inning. Astros reliever Wesley Wright walked Norichika Aoki to start the inning. After Nyjer Morgan moved him over with a sacrifice bunt, Ryan Braun once again came through in the clutch and hit a game-tying RBI single. Braun then stole both second and third base, but Corey Hart killed the rally.

Neither squad scored in the ninth, so the game was sent to extras, which has been quite the theme for the Brewers this year. The Astros put in struggling reliever Fernando Rodriguez for the tenth, and he walked Morgan to start the inning. Morgan then stole second, which prompted the Astros to intentionally walk Braun. Then, with Ramirez batting, Rodriguez threw a wild pitch (apparently the last name Rodriguez automatically makes you an erratic reliever), and both runners advanced. So Rodriguez was gifted with another open base, and naturally walked Ramirez. Hart then made up for his rally-kill in the eighth by hitting a go-ahead RBI single. Weeks followed that up with another RBI single. Unfortunately, Rodriguez found his stuff and struck out the side from there, preventing the Brewers from putting up a big inning.

John Axford was on for the save in the bottom of the inning, and we all know how he’s pitched lately. It looked like we were in for another blown save when he gave up back-to-back singles to Snyder and Matt Dominguez. But, after Schafer moved both runners on a sacrifice bunt, Ax came back to strike out Altuve and Scott Moore to end the game and earn hi 15th save of the year.

> As I’ve kept saying, the Brewers bullpen was outstanding today. Until Axford gave up the singles in the tenth, the Astros hadn’t gotten a hit since the second inning when Greinke was still in. Estrada did indeed get his work in, tossing three near perfect innings, blemished by one walk while striking out three. Jose Veras, Francisco Rodriguez, and Manny Parra each threw perfect innings of their own as well.

I’m not going to get too excited about this, because it is the Astros. But this is a good sign and should be a confidence-builder for the Brewers’ struggling bullpen.

> Don’t look now, Jayson Stark, but Weeks is legitimately starting to get hot. He went 3-for-5 today with two RBIs, yet his average is still at an excruciating .199. Guess he’ll have to wait until after the All-Star break to bring it over the .200 barrier.

> Greinke already sort of made history today, being just the second pitcher this season to start consecutive games (C.J. Wilson of the Angels being the other). But now he’s got a chance to do something a pitcher hasn’t done since 1917: start three start games. Greinke is scheduled to start the first game after the All-Star break (which has been changed to four days this year), and that would count as three consecutive.

If he only he were starting the All-Star Game too.

> And that’s about it. After the ASG, the Brewers face a crucial stretch of division opponents in the Pirates, Cardinals, and Reds. This could decide the fate of their season, and whether or not they can get back in contention. Let’s hope for the best.

> Anyway, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.


Braun’s positive test reportedly came from medication

December 20, 2011

> I don’t know if this makes it better, but at least we may know the cause of this whole issue.

> Ryan Braun‘s positive drug test (which was actually because of an unusually high amount of testosterone) apparently came because of some sort of medication. Braun was using this medication to get around a “private medical issue.” Both the medical issue and the medication used are still unknown.

But all of this doesn’t really change anything. Braun’s appeal in front of an arbitrator is still probably going to happen sometime in January, and the fact that no Major League player has ever won an appeal drug-related still looms over him. But, hopefully the fact that it was just “medication” changes that. But who knows- maybe the medication was a drug of some sort. We won’t know until the whole appeal process is over.

In the meantime, I’m still extremely angry at ESPN for leaking the information early. But, I’ve already vented about that in like three different posts, so before I do again, let’s move on…

> The Yu Darvish speculation is over- the Rangers have won negotiating rights with him. It was expected by almost every source that the Blue Jays were going to win the bidding, but the Rangers ended up offering more cash.

This make since for the Rangers, though, who just lost their staff ace, C.J. Wilson, to their division rival Angels. Assuming Darvish doesn’t turn out like Daisuke Matsuzaka, he’ll replace Wilson’s role as ace.

> The Darvish news makes the fact that the Brewers have officially won negotiating rights with Japanese outfielder Norichika Aoki almost unnoticed. The Brewers said that, since they don’t have any scouts currently stationed in Japan, that they’ll have a workout with Aoki at their Spring Training complex in Maryvale, Arizona sometime in January. But, it needs to be before January 17th, because that’s the deadline for coming to terms with Aoki.

Anyway, you can read my post about where I think Aoki fits with the Brewers from the other day, because it’s kind of complicated, and I don’t want to write it all again.

> Jimmy Rollins officially re-signed with the Phillies today. But, the scary thing is that he gave some serious thought about coming to the Brewers.

Rollins was offered a four-year deal by the Brewers, and gave it some serious consideration.

“I had a four-year deal on the table, but it wasn’t necessarily with a team that I could have seen myself playing for,” were Rollin’s exact words.

Which is completely fine with me. I couldn’t see Rollins in a Brewers’ uniform either, and I wouldn’t have been thrilled had he signed with the Brewers. I’m content with Alex Gonzalez, who I can’t wait to see play defense next year.

> And that’s about it. Before I go, I have a few announcements- my midterms are finally over, but I’m leaving on vacation the day after tomorrow until January 3rd. So, I won’t be posting daily during that time. I might not post at all- but, if I do, they’ll probably be much shorter posts, since they’ll be coming from my phone. I will continue to tweet on my Twitter account (@BreakingWI) with all the Brewers news, though.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.


Message to K-Rod: Don’t be a Gagne…

December 9, 2011

> If you were a fan of the Brewers in 2008, then you probably remember this name- Eric Gagne.

When the Brewers signed this man to close in the 2008 season, they were expecting the former All-Star- even former Cy Young Award winner- to pitch like he did during his glory days with the Dodgers, in which he was one of the best closers in baseball.

Instead, they got a piece of trash who put up a 5.44 ERA and recorded just 10 saves. I remember going to games in which he pitched, and Brewers fans were not kind to him, and Gagne deserved it.

It was large in part to the fact that the piece of trash cost the Brewers $10 million, and he responded by putting up those awful numbers. Yes, the Brewers signed a reliever for $10 million. Sound familiar?

Well, it should, considering Francisco Rodriguez is going to be staying with the Brewers in 2012, but for even more money than Gagne in 2008.

The other day, Rodriguez accepted his arbitration offer that the Brewers gave him, and didn’t expect him to accept. It just shows that he actually wanted money more than the opportunity to close. Anyway, Rodriguez made $13.5 million last year, and, judging by his good performance while with the Brewers, he’s going to get at least a slight raise- probably somewhere in the $14 millions. That would make him the most expensive player on the Brewers’ roster.

But, when I saw that amount of money next to Rodriguez’s name, guess whose name popped right into my head? Gagne’s. I doubt Rodriguez will stoop that low, but there’s always a chance.

And there are a few reasons that he probably won’t. Rodriguez’s resume (as far as his career numbers go) are actually better than Gagne’s before the Brewers signed him. Gagne had three All-Star appearances, while Rodriguez already has four. Rodriguez has never had a Cy Young Award like Gagne, but has finished as a finalist for the award more times than Gagne. Plus, Rodriguez already pitched for the Brewers last season, and put up an impressive 1.86 ERA during his time there (excluding his time with the Mets last season).

I noticed the other day that some people (Cardinals fans in particular) making fun of the Brewers for not expecting Rodriguez to accept arbitration. Oh no! We have one of the best closers of all time as our setup man! Whatever will we do?

Meanwhile, the Cardinals just lost Albert Pujols to the Angels. If I were a Cards fan, I’d be a little more worried about that.

Anyway, to sum everything up, my message to K-Rod is: please, don’t follow in Gagne’s footsteps. Unless you want the entire city of Milwaukee- and probably the rest of Wisconsin- to hate you.

> So this morning, I was told by a source that the Brewers were extremely close to signing Aramis Ramirez. I was so excited that I nearly tweeted the news while I was at school, but thought better of it (plus, I didn’t have service on my phone at the time anyway).

Unfortunately, it turns out that the source had read the ticker on MLB Network wrong, meaning the Brewers actually haven’t signed Ramirez- yet.

Tom Haudricourt (@Haudricourt) of the MJS is pretty confident that the Brewers have a good chance of signing Ramirez sometime next week. And I do too, as the Brewers are really the only contender left for him. The Angels were the best competition, but just signed Pujols and C.J. Wilson. So, unless they want to go bankrupt- like their NL counterparts, the Dodgers- they’re definitely out on Ramirez. The Phillies were also after him at one point, but pulled out earlier this week because they found out that they wouldn’t be able to move incumbent third baseman Placido Polanco. I think the Tigers were also in on Ramirez last week, but I don’t know why they pulled out- probably figured that they were content with defensive specialist Brandon Inge.

UPDATE: I definitely didn’t see this coming today, but, courtesy of one of those outbursts in hits I get every so often, Breaking Wisconsin has reached (and passed) the 1,000 hit mark. So I’d like to thank each and every viewer for taking the time to stop by and read my blog; I really appreciate it, and I hope you continue to come back and read it.

If you consider that I started this blog back in Interleague play, which was towards the end of June (I remember my first post ever was about the Brewers making an epic comeback against the Twins), 1,000 hits really isn’t that much. I know of multiple bloggers who get over 1,000 hits daily.

I’m obviously not at that point yet, but I’m definitely content with what I’m getting now. 1,000 hits was one of the biggest milestones I wanted to pass on this blog, and now I’ve done it. So thanks again to everyone who reads my blog- couldn’t have done it without you guys.

> That’s about all I’ve got for now. It’s still early, so expect updates as the night rolls along. But, for now, feel free to leave your thoughts below. Thanks for reading.


Thank you, Angels.

December 8, 2011

> Oh, how ironic this is.

> The Cardinals can say good-bye to their longtime All-Star first baseman and omnipotent MVP candidate, Albert Pujols. Meanwhile, the Brewers can rejoice not having to face Pujols for at least 10 more years.

It was announced today that Pujols has signed a monster deal with the Angels. The deal is reportedly for 10 years worth between $250 and $260 million, and has a full no-trade clause, which is what separated the Angels’ deal from the Marlins’ offer.

Pujols was exactly what the Angels needed, because, like many other west coast teams, they have close to no offense. Pujols can act as an entire offense, if needed. He has a career .328 average and 445 home runs.

But the irony in this is that, probably around a month and a half ago, I announced on Twitter that I would be cheering for the Rangers in the World Series, instead of the Cardinals. Naturally, I got hate from some conceited Cardinals fans (who were already bashing to the Brewers anyway, which is why I don’t see why they thought I’d be cheering for the Cards).

But one of the haters (who was  Cards fan, obviously) got into a full-out argument with me. After we’d been having the argument for awhile, this is what he said (and I’m quoting him directly):

@BreakingWI also we will see next year when we smash u again. No prince = no playoffs he’s as good as gone. Pujols will come back 2 repeat

You’ll first notice his complete absence in grammar, but that isn’t the point. “Pujols will come back 2 repeat?” He probably wasn’t expecting it, but it makes him look like a complete idiot at the moment. As much as I want to, I’m not going to call him out using his actual Twitter username, and I doubt he reads this blog. But I hope he feels like crap right now.

So sorry, Cards fans, but “Pujols isn’t coming back 2 repeat.” (And I’m actually legitimately sorry to the classy Cardinals fans who read this blog, but I had to put this out there.)

> Back to the Angels. They also signed starter C.J. Wilson to a five-year, $77.5 million deal today. With Pujols and Wilson on their side, they’re actually a legitimate contender to go deep into the playoffs next year.

And they did all this after announcing at the beginning of the offseason that they’d only have about $15-20 million to spend. This is just slightly more…

> Finally, onto some Brewers news. According to Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal), the Brewers have signed shortstop Alex Gonzalez to a one-year deal with a vesting option.

Offensively, Gonzalez is similar to Yuniesky Betancourt, unfortunately. He hit just .241 with 15 homers and 56 RBIs, which is actually worse than Betancourt on a few different fronts.

But his defense is just spectacular, which is why I like him more than Yuni. His .981 fielding percentage crushes Betancourt’s 2011 fielding percentage of just .965. Gonzalez can also routinely make those highlight reel plays you see all the time. Not to mention he has an extremely strong arm, which is what a shortstop needs.

> Just to clarify from last night, Francisco Rodriguez did in fact accept the Brewers’ arbitration offer. This cuts their chances of possibly bringing back Prince Fielder, but it doesn’t put them all the way out of the running for Aramis Ramirez.

> It’s still pretty early, so I’ll update more as the day goes on. But, for now, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.


Recap of all major awards

November 23, 2011

> Yesterday, the NL MVP was handed out. This marked the last major award of the offseason. And I’m proud to say that, for the first time ever, I got all of my predictions right. Not that I agreed with all of them, but they were probably the most logical choice fore each award.

> Anyway, here are the top finishers for each award (courtesy of Baseball Reference):

AL MVP

1. Justin Verlander, Tigers

2. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox

3. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays

4. Curtis Granderson, Yankees

5. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

6. Robinson Cano, Yankees

7. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox

8. Michael Young, Rangers

9. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox

10. Evan Longoria, Rays
NL MVP

1. Ryan Braun, Brewers

2. Matt Kemp, Dodgers

3. Prince Fielder, Brewers

4. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks

5. Albert Pujols, Cardinals

6. Joey Votto, Reds

7. Lance Berkman, Cardinals

8. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

9. Roy Halladay, Phillies

10. Ryan Howard Phillies

AL Cy Young Award

1. Justin Verlander, Tigers

2. Jered Weaver, Angels

3. James Shields, Rays

4. CC Sabathia, Yankees

5. Jose Valverde, Tigers

6. C.J. Wilson, Rangers

7. Dan Haren, Angels

8. Mariano Rivera, Yankees

9. Josh Beckett, Red Sox

10. Ricky Romero, Blue Jays

NL Cy Young Award

1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

2. Roy Halladay, Phillies

3. Cliff Lee, Phillies

4. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks

5. Cole Hamels, Phillies

6. Tim Lincecum, Giants

7. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers

8. Matt Cain, Giants

9. John Axford, Brewers

9. Craig Kimbrel, Braves

AL Rookie of the Year

1. Jeremy Hellickson, Rays

2. Mark Trumbo, Angels

3. Eric Hosmer, Royals

4. Ivan Nova, Yankees

5. Michael Pineda, Mariners

6. Dustin Ackley, Mariners

7. Desmond Jennings, Rays

7. Jordan Walden, Angels

NL Rookie of the Year

1. Craig Kimbrel, Braves

2. Freddie Freeman, Braves

3. Vance Worley, Phillies

4. Wilson Ramos, Nationals

5. Josh Collmenter, Diamondbacks

6. Danny Espinosa, Nationals

7. Darwin Barney, Cubs

7. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers

AL Manager of the Year

1. Joe Maddon, Rays

2. Jim Leyland, Tigers

3. Ron Washington, Rangers

4. Manny Acta, Indians

5. Joe Girardi, Yankees

6. Mike Scioscia, Angels

NL Manager of the Year

1. Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks

2. Ron Roenicke, Brewers

3. Tony La Russa, Cardinals

4. Charlie Manuel, Phillies

5. Fredi Gonzalez, Braves

6. Bruce Bochy, Giants

6. Clint Hurdle, Pirates

8. Terry Collins, Mets

8. Don Mattingly, Dodgers

> Most of them seemed deserving enough. Although I was surprised to see Longoria even on the AL MVP ballot.

> Anyway, onto some Brewers news. They’ve offered arbitration to free agents Prince Fielder and Francisco Rodriguez. Assuming both decline it (which they probably both will), the Brewers will get four premium picks in next year’s First-Year Player Draft.

> Which brings me to my next point. I didn’t pay much attention to the small print of the labor agreement reached between MLB and the players’ union because I was celebrating Braun’s MVP award, but apparently this new agreement is creating a salary cap on how much teams can pay players to sign with them after being drafted. This will probably effect how some teams draft for the next five years, especially teams that rely on the draft in order to contend, such as the Rays.

But hey, it’s what we’ve grown to expect from Bud Selig.

> The biggest news of today was the Indians bringing back the injury-prone Grady Sizemore on a one-year deal worth around $5 million. I guess they aren’t giving up on the center fielder yet, despite the fact he’s had five different surgeries over the past three years, and has averaged below 100 games played per season during that span.

> Bruce Chen has decided to go back to the Royals for the third straight year, but this time signed a two-year deal. Chen really came out of nowhere as a solid pitcher for the Royals in 2010, and had an even better 2011. But I’m surprised Chen’s “chencision” was to return to the Royals instead of play for a contending team. (In case you haven’t noticed, I occasionally use @TrippingOlney jokes on here.)

> Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts. I’ll update again if any other big news comes out tonight.


Kimbrel, Hellickson take home ROY awards

November 15, 2011

> Needless to say I called this a few days ago.

> Craig Kimbrel and Jeremy Hellickson took home the NL and AL Rookie of the Year Awards today (respectively). So for those of you who say that pitchers shouldn’t win this award (or the MVP), then this wasn’t your year.

Kimbrel was thrown into the Braves’ closer role since future Hall of Fame closer Billy Wagner retired before this year started. And he handled it just as Wagner would have; possibly better. Kimbrel set the record for the most saves by a rookie closer with 46, which also tied Brewers closer John Axford for the most in the NL. He put up a 2.10 ERA with 127 strikeouts in 77 innings. Despite the fact Kimbrel technically ended the Braves’ season by blowing a save against the Phillies on the final day, he was still the most deserving of any NL candidate.

I was one of the few (or so it seemed) who actually thought Hellickson would win. And you can’t argue with the numbers. His 13-10 record could have been better, and actually should have been better- he was victim of low run support from a weak Rays offense various times. But, his 2.95 ERA in the AL East was unbelievable, especially for a rookie. Hellickson also ate up 189 innings, the most among rookie starters in the Majors. I don’t know what it is about the Rays and managing to put together all of these homegrown starters who will eventually become aces (David Price being the other standout homegrown ace for them).

> Anyway, onto the Hot Stove news of the day. Unlike the other Hot Stove days thus far this offseason, this one was actually somewhat busy.

> The Dodgers are reportedly nearing an eight-year deal with center fielder Matt Kemp. The deal would be worth $160 million, which is odd, since I heard the Dodgers wouldn’t be able to make any of these gigantic signings until the Dodgers are sold. But it probably has something to do with the fact that Kemp is already on the team.

Kemp is coming off a stellar 2011 campaign, in which he hit .324 with 39 home runs, 126 RBIs, and 41 steals. He was just one home run away from the coveted 40/40 season. Kemp also won the Gold Glove for NL center fielders and one of the outfield Silver Slugger Awards as well. He and Ryan Braun are the two top contenders for the NL MVP this year.

> The Angels are apparently “serious” c0ntenders for free agent starter C.J. Wilson. I find this strange, considering the Angels’ biggest need is obviously offense (as is any team in the AL West not named the Rangers). The Angels already have a trio of aces in Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana (if you consider him an ace; I do).

Wilson is coming off a season in which he went 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA as the ace of the Rangers’ staff. The year before, he was 15-8 with a 3.35 ERA, but was a reliever every year before that. So it should be interesting to see how he responds to what’s probably going to be a big multi-year deal.

> Theo Epstein, the new Cubs’ president, talked to Carlos Zambrano for the first time today. Epstein announced that Zambrano will have to “work his way back” to earn a spot on the Cubs’ roster for next year.

But honestly, why are the Cubs still even giving this psychopath a chance? He’s put together enough scenes to embarrass the Cubs forever, and was already placed on the disqualified list. I thought the disqualified list would be the last straw, but apparently not.

At the same time, however, I can’t really blame them. Zambrano still has a large portion of his contract left in 2012, and the Cubs won’t want to eat up another huge contract after releasing a player (similar what they did to Carlos Silva before the 2011 season).

> Before I finish, here’s some Hot Stove news related to the Brewers:

> Doug Melvin announced that the Brewers won’t offer Prince Fielder a contract during this week’s GM meetings in Milwaukee. Not like Scott Boras would have accepted an offer, anyway.

> Melvin also said that he hasn’t decided whether or not to meet face-to-face with Jose Reyes and/or his agent. Reports are saying that Reyes is extremely close to signing with the Marlins, but nothing is official yet.

> The Brewers are apparently interested in bringing back Yuniesky Betancourt on a contract worth less than what his option for 2012 would have been worth. I hope this a last resort option if the Brewers become that desperate for a shortstop…

> Lastly, the Brewers are also interested in bringing back Jerry Hairston Jr., who put up a stellar postseason for the Brewers in 2011.

> Anyway, that’s all I’ve got. Thanks for reading, and free to leave your thoughts.


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