Hamilton, Dempster wiped off the market

December 15, 2012

> For the second straight offseason, the Angels have picked up the best hitter on the market with a sneaky deal that no one saw coming. Following a year in which they gave Albert Pujols a 10-year, $254 million deal, they handed out another huge contract to Josh Hamilton, this one for five years and $175 million. 

If you told me you saw this coming, I’d call you a liar. Their outfield seemed set with Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo, and Peter Bourjos, a young core that could last them a long time. But, much to the chagrin of their division rival Rangers, they went out and stole the best free agent on the market, and will insert Hamilton into one of those outfield slots (likely Bourjos’).

It was speculated all offseason that the Brewers had interest in Hamilton, and there were articles as recent as December 6th saying that Milwaukee would make a run at him. But, realistically, the Brewers were never going to get him, especially at his price tag.

Anyway, the Angels’ lineup now looks something like this: Trout, Erick Aybar, Pujols, Hamilton, Kendrys Morales, Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Alberto Callaspo, and Chris Iannetta.

Looks like Los Angeles is the new New York.

Hamilton

> The Brewers’ top starting starting pitching target, Ryan Dempster, was also taken away, as the Red Sox wooed him with a two-year, $26.5 million deal. Apparently, the Brewers were willing to give Dempster two years plus an option for a third, but they didn’t come close to what Boston was offering cash-wise. Anyway, I don’t see Dempster doing well in the American League after what he did for the Rangers last year, but that was his choice.

With Dempster off the market, the likelihood of the Brewers bringing in a free agent starter this offseason decreased by a lot. The rest of the crop is either too Jeff Suppan-like or won’t fit the Brewers financial situation. The next best option after Dempster would be Edwin Jackson, but that would only happen if he would be willing to take a one-year or two-year deal. If the reports of Jackson wanting a four or five-year deal are true, then the odds of him coming to Milwaukee aren’t very good.

But, as I’ve been saying, it isn’t the end of the world if the Brewers don’t bring in a new starter for 2013. I’m completely fine with them staying in-house and using the prospects who are big league-ready. If that is the case, the ideal rotation for the Brewers would be Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, Chris Narveson, Wily Peralta, and Mike Fiers. While that seems like a relatively inexperienced rotation to someone who doesn’t watch the Brewers everyday, I think the Brewers will get by, especially with the best offensive lineup in the National League backing them up.

> One more major signing: the Tigers finalized a deal with Anibal Sanchez, who nearly went to the Cubs, this morning. The Cubs reportedly had a five-year, $75 million deal in place with Sanchez as recent as last night, but the Tigers were given the opportunity to counter the offer, and wound up getting him back.

Sanchez was one of the starters who the Brewers probably wouldn’t have been able to afford, but at least it’s good that the division rival Cubs won’t get him.

> Doug Melvin basically said that he doesn’t want Shaun Marcum back.

> The Brewers have been linked to Mike Adams, one of the better relievers on the market, recently. But Tom Haudricourt considers them out of the hunt for him. Adams started his career with the Brewers, pitching for them from 2004 to 2006.

> Long-time Brewers farmhand Amaury Rivas has signed a minor league deal with the Marlins. He was always one of my favorite minor league pitchers for the Brewers, but I figured he’d be gone at some point.

> Minor moves: 

Rangers: Signed Brandon Snyder to a minor league deal; outrighted Konrad Schmidt to Triple-A.
Padres: Signed Juan Oramas, Sean O’Sullivan, Gregorio Petit, and Rene Rivera to minor league deals; acquired Chris Rearick from the Rays.
Twins: Signed ex-Brewer Brandon Boggs, Ray Olmedo, Bryan Augenstein, Reynaldo Rodriguez, Scott Earlton, Virgil Vasquez, Mike O’Connor, and Jason Lane to minor league deals.
Giants: Signed Andres Torres to a one-year deal; signed Chad Gaudin to a minor league deal.
Braves: Signed Ramiro Pena to a one-year deal.
Rockies: Signed Tommy Manzella to a minor league deal.
Mets: Re-signed Manny Acosta to a one-year deal.
Yankees: Signed Bobby Wilson and Gil Velasquez to minor league deals; designated Josh Spence for assignment.
Cardinals: Signed Alex Reyes to a minor league deal; signed Ty Wigginton to a two-year deal.
Nationals: Signed Neivy Pilier and Brian Bocock to minor league deals.
Rays: Acquired Vince Belnome from the Padres.
Phillies: Signed Andres Blanco, Josh Fields, Cesar Jimenez, Steven Lerud, Michael Martinez, Zach Miner, Jermaine Mitchell, Pete Orr, and Humberto Quintero to minor league deals; claimed Mauricio Robles off waivers from the Mariners.
Royals: Signed Xavier Nady to a minor league deal.


Crew will have to compete for Dempster

November 30, 2012

> Turns out the Brewers aren’t the only team expressing interest in Ryan Dempster. In fact, the other two teams could be very tough to bid against, seeing as they each reside in relatively big markets.

The two teams the Brewers will have to deal with are the Angels and Red Sox, both of whom are in desperate need of a starting pitcher; perhaps even more so than the Brewers.

If the Brewers don’t end up signing a veteran starter this offseason, it isn’t the end of the world. The Brewers still have a nice crop of big league-ready starting pitching prospects to choose from, including Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers, and Tyler Thornburg. The same can’t be said for the Angels or Red Sox, however. The reason the Angels acquired Zack Greinke at the Trade Deadline was because of their lack of prospects ready to start at the big league level, and now they’re in jeopardy of not being able to re-sign Greinke. The Red Sox, on the other hand, have just had all sorts of starting pitching issues over the past few years, and now they’re trying to dip into the free agent market to fix it.

Despite the fact both of these teams have bigger markets than Milwaukee (though we have a ton of payroll flexibility right now), the Brewers could hold a few advantages. The first is that the Brewers are the only of these three teams in the National League. After posting a 5.09 ERA with the Rangers in the second half of 2012, which is his only extended period of pitching in the American League, it goes without saying that Dempster is an NL pitcher. Dempster’s success at Miller Park could also factor into the decision.

Or, the Brewers could get lucky and one of the other teams will drop out of the bidding. Last year, it was speculated early in the offseason that the Phillies- who needed a third baseman- were targeting Aramis Ramirez. There was no doubt in my mind that they were going to sign him and the Brewers would be left hanging, but the Phils unexpectedly dropped out and left Ramirez for the taking. It’s unlikely, but perhaps similar circumstances will ensue this offseason.

Anyway, like I said earlier, it isn’t the apocalypse (not until December 21st, that is) if the Brewers don’t sign Dempster. Their farm system is ready to occupy a few of the rotation spots if need be. And Dempster isn’t the only guy on the market. There are guys like Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson out there, who could also be potential fits for the Brewers (though, as I’ve preached, Dempster is the much safer play).

Dempster isn’t a neccesity, but could be a very nice asset to the 2013 Brewers.

> Tomorrow is the deadline to tender or non-tender arbitration-eligible players. John Axford, Marco Estrada, and Carlos Gomez appear to be locks to be tendered contracts. Chris Narveson will probably be given a contract. The only guy who isn’t so likely to be tendered is Manny Parra, who I wouldn’t mind seeing the Brewers cut ties with at this point.

> Minor moves: 

Pirates: Signed Russell Martin to a two-year deal.
Rays: Signed Mike Fontenot to a minor league deal.
Royals: Outrighted Chris Volstad and Brayan Pena, both of whom elected free agency; re-signed Felipe Paulino to a one-year deal.
Rangers: Signed Collin Balester and Yangervis Solarte to minor league deals.
Padres: Signed Travis Buck, Eddy Rodriguez, and Daniel Stange to minor league deals.
Athletics: Signed Scott Moore to a minor league deal.
Yankees: Re-signed Mariano Rivera to a one-year deal.
Nationals: Acquired Denard Span from the Twins.
Twins: Acquired Alex Meyer from the Nationals.
Indians: Re-signed Blake Wood to a one-year deal.


Brewers should target Dempster or Lohse

November 24, 2012

> Over the past few days, the first crop of starting pitchers have been plucked off the free agent market: Jeremy Guthrie signed a three-year pact to stay with the Royals, while Hiroki Kuroda returned to the Yankees on a one-year deal. Personally, I was gunning for the Brewers to somehow nab Kuroda, but it was unlikely the whole time.

With Kuroda gone, the top veteran starters on the market are Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez, Dan Haren, Edwin Jackson, Brandon McCarthy, Ryan Dempster, and Kyle Lohse, and there are two names on that list whom I think the Brewers have a good chance at signing. Greinke and Sanchez are too expensive (Sanchez is asking for six years and $90 million). McCarthy is a great pitcher, but his injury history is going to hurt the type of deal he gets. Haren and Jackson are both veterans I wouldn’t mind having, but there are safer options.

And those safer options- safest for the Brewers, at least- are Dempster and Lohse.

While he was in the National League with the Cubs last year, Dempster was one of the best pitchers in the game. His 5-5 record with the Chicago doesn’t tell how good he was, but his 2.25 ERA does. He also had a streak of over 30 consecutive scoreless innings going for a while. He did spend a bit of time on the disabled list, but has a history of being a relatively healthy pitcher. Things fell apart for Dempster after he was traded to Texas at the Trade Deadline, as he posted a 5.09 ERA in 12 starts with them (despite putting up a 7-3 record). That was Dempster’s first time pitching full-time in the American League, however; it’s safe to say he’d return to form once he returned to the NL.

Lohse, meanwhile, was the surprise ace of the Cardinals’ staff in 2012. The 34-year old started his career with the Twins in 2001, but didn’t really have an overall solid year until 2008 (15-6, 3.78 ERA), his first year with the Cards. Lohse had off-years in 2009 and 2010 due to injuries, but showed signs that he was getting his stuff back in 2011, when he went 14-8 with a 3.39 ERA. He finally put it all together in 2012, going 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA and placing seventh in the NL Cy Young balloting. Though Lohse had a somewhat inconsistent career early on, the trends of the last few years tell us that he probably isn’t going to regress anytime soon.

The reason I picked these two guys as the best potential targets for the Brewers is because they are both groundball pitchers. Seeing as Miller Park is a hitter’s paradise, a groundball pitcher would be a nice addition, as long as the Brewers are interested in picking up a starter. And, the recent performance of flyball pitchers at Miller Park hasn’t been great. Jeff Suppan is my prime example, but it’s worth noting that there was a reason that Shaun Marcum was significantly better on the road.

If I had to choose between the two, I’d go with Dempster. Most would probably pick Lohse because his basic numbers over the past few seasons have been better, but there are a few reasons I’m taking Dempster. The main reason is that Dempster, though he’s considered a groundball pitcher, picks up his fair share of strikeouts as well, which is always something I look for in a pitcher. Some say strikeouts are insignificant and are overrated. But, the more a pitcher is striking batters out, the less the ball is being put in play, and the opposition won’t score as many runs. That’s my take on strikeouts, at least, even if they drive up pitch count in some cases. Anyway, Dempster had a K/9 of 8.0 in 2012 (career 7.8), while Lohse’s was 6.1 (career 5.6). I think Dempster’s numbers would play better at Miller Park than Lohse’s.

Not to mention the huge success that Dempster has had at Miller Park in his career. He has a 2.66 ERA there, so he seems immune to the fact that Miller Park is considered a hitter’s park (probably because he’s a groundball pitcher). Meanwhile, Lohse has a terrible 6.95 ERA at the Brewers’ home. Yet another reason Dempster is the safer play.

So far this offseason, the only free agent starter the Brewers have expressed interest in is Dempster (obviously they want Greinke, but know they aren’t going to get him). Perhaps they’re going through the same thought process, seeing as Dempster appears to be an affordable, yet effective option for the Brewers.

> The Padres are reportedly interested in Shaun Marcum. To be honest, I would have been okay with the Brewers bringing him back on a two-year deal or something along those lines. But, ever since last offseason, I’ve been getting the impression that Marcum and the Brewers’ front office don’t get along very well. Otherwise I’d think Marcum would want to stay.

> Minor moves: 

Dodgers: Signed Osvaldo Martinez to a minor league deal.
Phillies: Signed Josh Fields to a minor league deal.

> Remember the “Occupy Marlins Park” poster I showed yesterday? Well, this was the result, apparently. (Picture via @elmaquino)

Hopefully the riot was at least a few more fans than that. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that’s the entire Marlins fanbase right there.

> That awkward moment when you’re typing “Dempster,” and your computer wants to change it to “Dumpster.”


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.


Thoughts from the early offseason presser

October 15, 2012

> This article is well overdue, but I figured it was necessary at some point. A day or so after the offseason, Ron Roenicke, Doug Melvin, and a few others met with the media to discuss their early offseason goals and what we can look for from the Brewers going into 2013. Melvin in particular had some interesting comments, and basically explained what the status of some players are going into 2013.

John Axford is the closer, Corey Hart is the regular first baseman, Alex Gonzalez could be the starting shortstop, and, if he returns, Mat Gamel will serve as a bench player.

These are all some very debatable points. I agree with two of them, I’m relatively neutral with one of them, and then there’s one I think should receive some re-consideration.

The one I favor most is Hart remaining at first base. Following Gamel’s season-ending injury back in May, the Brewers found that Travis Ishikawa wasn’t getting the job done, so they moved Hart in from right field, and it paid off. To go along with his solid offense (which a player needs to be a first baseman), Hart provided Gold Glove-caliber defense at the position as well. If he plays as well as he did this year at first base in 2013, he’s a legitimate Gold Glove candidate. This move also allowed the Brewers to play Norichika Aoki every day in right field, and that also paid off, as Aoki posted a sensational rookie season.

I also agree with placing Gamel on the bench as a utility player. He’s had plenty of chances to start- the best one coming in 2012- but spoiled all of them with injuries or lazy play. Thanks to his ability to play multiple positions (first base, third base, and the corner outfield positions), however, he still has the opportunity to be a valuable utility player, and a power left-handed bat off the bench.

The one I’m relatively neutral (at least for the time being) on is the possibility of Gonzalez starting at shortstop. I liked what I saw from Gonzalez early in 2012 before his season-ending injury and would have gladly taken him back, but that was before the Brewers acquired Jean Segura. If the Brewers really want Segura to start at short for the long-term, they might as well start doing it now. I wouldn’t mind seeing Gonzalez return as another utility bench player, a role I feel he could play well. But I think what will determine this decision is the kind of spring Segura has.

Lastly, I do NOT want the closer’s role simply handed to Axford to start 2013. I’ll admit he finished sort of strong in 2012, but that doesn’t change the fact that he led the Majors with nine blown saves. His home runs allowed and walks significantly rising from his 2011 season definitely contributed to that. I know the excuse is that the Brewers don’t have anyone else who can take over, but that is a false statement. It’s true that the Brewers are slim in the relief corps at all levels, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have anybody. For instance, Jim Henderson threw the ball very well down the stretch. The Brewers could also sign an established reliever this offseason. The closer’s job is still Axford’s job to lose, but, especially if he has a bad spring, it shouldn’t be handed to him by default.

POSTSEASON COVERAGE

> The Tigers took a 2-0 ALCS lead over the Yankees today. Last night’s game was dramatic as ever, with Jose Valverde blowing a 4-0 lead- which was a non-save situation- including two-run home runs to Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez. But Delmon Young gave the Tigers the lead in 12th inning, which would win the game. The biggest storyline, however, was Derek Jeter’s ankle fracture, which ended his postseason.

The Yankees’ offense continued to stay ice cold in today’s game, as they were shut out, 3-0. It’s hard to say whether or not Anibal Sanchez threw a gem, or if the Yankees’ offense is just awful. That offense killed a stellar start from Hiroki Kuroda, who took a perfect game into the sixth and struck out 11 over 7 2/3 innings.

> The Cardinals took the first game of the NLCS with the Giants. Both starters- Lance Lynn and Madison Bumgarner- got knocked around, but the Cards’ bullpen prevailed in tossing 5 1/3 shutout innings. The offensive heroes were who you’d expect: David Freese, who hit a two-run blast in the second inning, and Pete Kozma, who contributed an RBI double in the fourth. Carlos Beltran also had a two-run homer in the fourth.

THE NEWS

> Tom Haudricourt suggested Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse, and even Brandon McCarthy as possible veteran starting pitching adds for the Brewers this offseason. I wouldn’t mind any of those, but I would also toss Kuroda into that mix, despite the fact the Yankees will want him back badly. Haudricourt also said that the Brewers will more than likely sign an SP through the free agent market rather than trade for one due to all the prospects the Brewers have had to part with in recent years.

> Haudricourt doesn’t think the Brewers will trade Hart or Rickie Weeks to create payroll flexibility. Hart has expressed his desire to stay in Milwaukee for the rest of his career, while Weeks’ salary isn’t as big of a deal due the Brewers’ current payroll situation.

> Lastly, Haudricourt said that Nyjer Morgan will probably be non-tendered and easily replaced by Logan Schafer, as we all expected.

> Edwin Maysonet and Juan Perez each declared free agency.

> Today’s minor moves:

Rangers: Outrighted Luis Hernandez, who declared free agency.
Padres: Outrighted Matt Palmer, who declared free agency.
Yankees: Designated Cory Wade for assignment.


Ninth-inning rally gives Brewers another comeback win

September 22, 2012

POSTGAME

> This team simply can’t lose. The Brewers once again pulled off the improbable, rallying in the ninth inning to defeat the Nationals- the best team in baseball- 4-2. Looking at the box score, you probably wouldn’t guess that it was that “improbable” of a comeback- the Brewers were only down by one going into the ninth. But, if you consider how foolish they looked in all aspects of the game during the first eight innings, then it was rather improbable.

Edwin Jackson, who for some reason dominates us, once again held off the Brewers for eight stellar innings. He gave up a run on six hits while walking none and striking out six. The only run Jackson gave up was as Jonathan Lucroy home run in the second inning, but that didn’t appear to phase him much.

After a bad first inning in which he gave up a two-run bomb to Adam LaRoche, Shaun Marcum probably had his best start since coming off the disabled list. He went six innings while giving up two runs on four hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out three.

The Nationals brought on Tyler Clippard for the ninth inning, which I actually questioned. Clippard has been getting hammered recently, and Drew Storen got the save for the Nats last night, so why not put Storen back in his usual role? (If you didn’t know, Storen spent more than half of the season on the DL and Clippard filled in for him.)

Oh well; the Nats paid a big price for it. Norichika Aoki started the rally with a bunt single. Two batters, after Aoki had reached third base on a passed ball and a sacrifice fly, Ryan Braun tied the game up with an RBI single. After a Braun steal, Aramis Ramirez wasted no time giving the Crew the lead on an RBI double. The Brewers tacked on one more in the inning on Travis Ishikawa’s RBI infield hit.

John Axford came on for the ninth, and, unlike his counterpart, nailed down the save.

MY TAKE

> For some reason, Ishikawa got the start at first base today, despite the fact Corey Hart proved himself relatively healthy yesterday. It’s also worth noting Hart was hitting .545 in his career against Jackson. But that’s RRR logic for you (which, for some reason, I continue getting gas for on Twitter).

Ishikawa should have gone 0-f0r-4, but he got lucky on shortstop Ian Desmond’s misplay in the ninth.

> Sometimes I wonder if Ed Sedar knows what he’s doing as the third base coach. In the fourth inning, with the Nats ahead 2-1, Ramirez hit a soft liner into center field; not nearly deep enough to score Braun, who was on second base. But “the windmill” was at it again; he sent Braun home, and he was thrown out by center fielder Bryce Harper.

Sedar nearly left the time two years ago for a Minor League job for the Astros; I wish he would have taken them up on that.

> Jon Morosi brought up a great point on Twitter earlier today that I should have speculated on prior to this: had the Brewers not suffered the Lucroy injury, we could already be ahead of the Cardinals. Not saying that Martin Maldonado didn’t do a great job while Luc was on the DL, but keep in mind Lucroy was hitting .345 before he went on the DL. If that bat had stayed in the lineup all year, this race would definitely be a different story.

THE NEWS

> The Brewers acquired catcher Yorvit Torrealba from the Blue Jays. Not a major acquisition; probably just so the Brewers have some catching depth down the stretch behind Lucroy and Maldonado. Should the Brewers make the postseason, though, Torrealba would not be eligible for the roster (unless he were replacing an injured player).

> The Cubs walked off on the Cardinals earlier today in 11 innings. The Brewers are now 1.5 games back. Yes, this is really happening.

THE NUMBERS

> The 3-4-5 guys in the lineup tonight- Braun, Ramirez, and Lucroy- went a combined 7-for-12.

> Axford recorded his third consecutive save in as many games. That means he’ll probably be unavailable tomorrow.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Wily Peralta (2-0, 2.14 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (19-8, 2.95 ERA)

Gonzalez is shooting to become the first 20-game winner in baseball this year, but the Brewers knocked him around back in Milwaukee earlier this year, so it won’t be easy.

THE EXTRAS

> The Brewers acquiring Torrealba gives me an excuse to re-visit this episode: Torrealba literally whacked an umpire in the face during a winter ball game.

> Sometime during the game- I can’t remember which inning- Brian Anderson gave us an update on the Reds-Dodgers game. He said the Reds were winning, 1-1.

OK, Brian.


Brewers mount comeback to hold ground

September 21, 2012

POSTGAME

> It’s now safe to say that the Brewers are never out of any game. Despite a large early lead, they had to play comeback today, and they were successful. The Brewers managed to take a 9-7 win in a four-hour, back-and-forth contest with the Pirates.

The Brewers got off to a quick start, jumping on Wandy Rodriguez for three runs- including an Aramis Ramirez two-run blast- in the first inning. But, with a 4-0 lead in the third, Mike Fiers gave up a three-run homer to Andrew McCutchen. Fiers, who needed 81 pitches to get through just three innings, was removed after that.

After tying the game in the fourth, the Pirates rallied against Kameron Loe for three in the sixth inning, with a home run from Clint Barmes and an RBI single by Starling Marte.

Going into the eighth inning, the Bucs had a comfortable 7-3, but you could just tell the Brewers were going to mount a rally against struggling reliever Chad Qualls. And they wasted no time in doing so, as a two-run double from Norichika Aoki and a two-run triple from Rickie Weeks quickly knotted the game up at 7-7. Ramirez then gave the Brewers the lead with an RBI single. Logan Schafer tacked on an insurance run with an RBI single in the ninth as well.

John Axford nailed down the save for the second straight night, as he worked around a Jean Segura error to strike out the side.

MY TAKE

> Segura’s error in the ninth inning should have probably been charged to first baseman Travis Ishikawa. Segura’s throw was slightly high, but it’s a throw that Ishikawa has to be able to handle.

> After the bullpen got off to a rough start (Brandon Kintzler gave up the lead following Fiers’ exit, then Loe nearly let the Pirates blow it open), they settled down nicely to shut down the Pirates for the rest of the game. Jose Veras got out of Loe’s jam in the sixth, Manny Parra threw a scoreless seventh, Francisco Rodriguez handled the eighth, and Axford got another save as he continues his return to form.

> I hate to say it, but Fiers is starting to look legitimately fatigued on the mound. He hasn’t pitched more than five innings in any of his last three starts. As I noted on Twitter earlier, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ron Roenicke pull the plug on his season any day now.

> Jason Grilli plunked Ryan Braun in theseventh inning- when the Pirates had a three-run lead. That drew a standing ovation from the Pittsburgh crowd. Hope they enjoyed the eighth-inning rally too.

So now I’ve concluded that their fanbase doesn’t deserve a playoff berth, or a mere .500 season. If they act like that, they can stay in the cellar of the NL Central for the next 20 years as well- or longer.

Stay classy, Pittsburgh.

THE NEWS

> Corey Hart made an unexpected return to the lineup today. He went 1-for-3 with a single, but it was noticeable that he was uncomfortable at the plate. Hart was removed in the fifth in exchange for Ishikawa.

> Axford said that the Zack Greinke trade “sharpened the Brewers’ focus.”

> Roenicke made a case for Aoki’s Rookie of the Year chances.

THE NUMBERS

> The Brewers’ current five-game winning streak is their longest on the season.

> This is the first time all year the Brewers have been give games over .500.

> Here’s the explanation for the Brewers passing up the Bucs in the standings: the Brewers have won 23 of their last 29 games. During that same stretch, the Pirates have won seven games.

> Oh, and the Pirates fell a game under .500.

> The Dodgers lost to the Nats, so the Brewers have leap-frogged them in the Wild Card race.

> The probables for the upcoming series against the Nationals:

Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.91 ERA) vs. Edwin Jackson (9-10, 3.89 ERA)

Wily Peralta (2-0, 2.14 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (19-8, 2.95 ERA)

Yovani Gallardo (16-8, 3.59 ERA) vs. ???

Marco Estrada (4-6, 3.56 ERA) vs. ???

THE EXTRAS

> MLB Network’s Intentional Talk interviewed Axford the other day. But I was more amused at the murderous look on Jim Henderson’s face the entire time. Click here; you’ll know what I mean.

> This year’s edition of rookie hazing. They’re supposed to be the Flintstones… I think?

(It would appear Carlos Gomez took the photo.)


Brewers reportedly decline Yuni’s option; full list of free agents

October 31, 2011

I didn’t look much at news today because I was busy, but here was the first thing I saw when I finally did- “Brewers decline Betancourt’s option.” My day was instantly made.

That’s right, Yuniesky Betancourt-haters (including myself). He probably won’t be playing shortstop for the Brewers next year, which means better defense at that position and better offense in the lineup- hopefully.

Betancourt had a pretty bad 2011. But it may have been good for his standards, actually. He hit .252 with 13 home runs and 68 RBI. All of those stats are worse than his 2010 season with the Royals, in which he hit .259 with 16 home runs and 78 RBI. Anyway, if you add his 2011 stats to his lazy defense at shortstop, you can see why the Brewers declined his option.

My guess is that Doug Melvin will make a push for Jose Reyes, the Mets’ All-Star shortstop who is now a free agent. His .336 batting average won him the NL batting title (although he technically cheated to get it). Reyes doesn’t hit for much power, but he did lead the NL in triples with 16. His offense, defense, and speed all make him a giant upgrade from Betancourt.

Oh yeah, and the Brewers are also expected to be top contender for lefty starter C.J. Wilson. He went 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA as the ace of the Rangers this year, but he had an ugly postseason, as he went 0-3 with an ERA hovering around 7.00. But, he would make a great addition to the Brewers’ rotation, and would probably push lefty Chris Narveson (11-8, 4.45 ERA) back into the bullpen.

And just a couple more things before I move onto my next topic- the Brewers’ declined reliever Francisco Rodriguez’s $17.5 million option, but that was expected, as there was no way the Brewers would have been able to afford that. Also, Dale Sveum is going to be interviewed as one of the possible managerial candidates for the Red Sox. No idea why they’d want him, unless they’ve already given up on next year.

Anyway, onto the next topic. Here is a list of every free agent from every team, with their respective position next to their name:

Atlanta Braves

Alex Gonzalez, SS

Scott Linebrink, RP

Nate McLouth, OF

George Sherrill, RP

Jack Wilson, SS

Arizona Diamondbacks

Jason Marquis, SP

John McDonald, SS

Xavier Nady, OF

Lyle Overbay, 1B

Baltimore Orioles

Vladimir Guerrero, DH

Cesar Izturis, SS

Boston Red Sox

Erik Bedard, SP

J.D. Drew, OF

Conor Jackson, OF

Trever Miller, RP

David Ortiz, DH

Jonathan Papelbon, RP

Jason Varitek, C

Tim Wakefield, P

Chicago Cubs

John Grabow, RP

Reed Johnson, OF

Rodrigo Lopez, SP

Ramon Ortiz, RP

Carlos Pena, 1B

Kerry Wood, RP

Cincinnati Reds

Ramon Hernandez, C

Edgar Renteria, SS

Dontrelle Willis, SP

Cleveland Indians

Chad Durbin, RP

Kosuke Fukudome, OF

Jim Thome, DH

Colorado Rockies

Aaron Cook, SP

Mark Ellis, 2B

Kevin Millwood, SP

J.C. Romero, RP

Chicago White Sox

Mark Buehrle, SP

Ramon Castro, C

Juan Pierre, OF

Omar Vizquel, SS

Detroit Tigers

Wilson Betemit, SS

Carlos Guillen, 2B

Magglio Ordonez, OF

Brad Penny, SP

Ramon Santiago, 2B

Joel Zumaya, RP

Florida Marlins

Greg Dobbs, 3B

Jose Lopez, 2B

Javier Vasquez, SP

Houston Astros

Clint Barmes, SS

Jason Michaels, OF

Kansas City Royals

Bruce Chen, SP

Jeff Francis, SP

Jason Kendall, C

Los Angeles Angels

Russell Branyan, OF

Joel Pineiro, SP

Horacio Ramirez, RP

Fernando Rodney, RP

Los Angeles Dodgers

Rod Barajas, C

Casey Blake, 2B

Jonathan Broxton, RP

Jamey Carroll, SS

Jon Garland, SP

Hiroki Kuroda, SP

Mike MacDougal, RP

Aaron Miles, 2B

Vicente Padilla, SP

Juan Rivera, 1B

Milwaukee Brewers

Yuniesky Betancourt, SS

Craig Counsell, SS

Prince Fielder, 1B

Jerry Hairston Jr., 2B

LaTroy Hawkins, RP

Mark Kotsay, OF

Francisco Rodriguez, RP

Takashi Saito, RP

Minnesota Twins

Matt Capps, RP

Michael Cuddyer, OF

Jason Kubel, OF

Joe Nathan, RP

New York Mets

Miguel Batista, RP

Chris Capuano, SP

Scott Hairston, OF

Willie Harris, 2B

Jason Isringhausen, RP

Jose Reyes, SS

Chris Young, SP

New York Yankees

Luis Ayala, RP

Eric Chavez, 3B

Bartolo Colon, SP

Freddy Garcia, SP

Andruw Jones, OF

Damaso Marte, RP

Sergio Mitre, RP

Jorge Posada, DH

Oakland Athletics

Coco Crisp, OF

David DeJesus, OF

Rich Harden, SP

Hideki Matsui, DH

Josh Willingham, OF

Philadelphia Phillies

Ross Gload, OF

Raul Ibanez, OF

Brad Lidge, RP

Ryan Madson, RP

Roy Oswalt, SP

Jimmy Rollins, SS

Brian Schneider, C

Pittsburgh Pirates

Derrek Lee, 1B

Ryan Ludwick, OF

San Diego Padres

Heath Bell, RP

Aaron Harang, SP

Brad Hawpe, 1B

Chad Qualls, RP

Seattle Mariners

Josh Bard, C

Adam Kennedy, 2B

Wily Mo Pena, OF

Jamey Wright, RP

San Francisco Giants

Carlos Beltran, OF

Pat Burrell, OF

Orlando Cabrera, SS

Mark De Rosa, 2B

Guillermo Mota, RP

Cody Ross, OF

St. Louis Cardinals

Edwin Jackson, SP

Gerald Laird, C

Albert Pujols, 1B

Nick Punto, 2B

Arthur Rhodes, RP

Tampa Bay Rays

Juan Cruz, RP

Johnny Damon, DH

Casey Kotchman, 1B

Texas Rangers

Endy Chavez, OF

Michael Gonzalez, RP

Darren Oliver, RP

Matt Treanor, C

Brandon Webb, SP

C.J. Wilson, SP

Toronto Blue Jays

Shawn Camp, RP

Frank Francisco, RP

Kelly Johnson, 2B

Jose Molina, C

Washington Nationals

Rick Ankiel, OF

Todd Coffey, RP

Alex Cora, 3B

Jonny Gomes, OF

Livan Hernandez, SP

Laynce Nix, OF

Ivan Rodriguez, C

Chien-Ming Wang, SP


Looking onwards to Game 3…

October 12, 2011

If you saw the Brewer game last night, you probably know why I titled this post the way I did.

A day after taking the all-important game 1 of the NLCS, the Brewers were destroyed by the Cardinals in game 2, 12-3. But, in my opinion, the Brewers didn’t lose to the Cardinals- they lost to Albert Pujols. The Machine went 4-f0r-5 with three doubles, a two-run homer, and five RBI. The only Brewers pitcher to retire Pujols was Chris Narveson, who made him ground out in the eighth inning. After that out, the Milwaukee crowd stood up and gave a standing ovation, probably with a sense of sarcasm. Anyway, two Pujols’ four hits came off struggling Brewers starter Shaun Marcum, who is in the middle of a horrible stretch.

Now, there are a couple theories as to why Marcum is having such a tough time on the mound right now. My first guess is that he’s just running out of gas, because he’s never pitched this many innings in his career. Marcum threw 200 2/3 innings this year, which was a career-high for him. If you include his two awful postseason starts, he’s thrown 209 1/3 innings. The other theory is that he’s just nervous because this is his first time in the postseason- his former team, the Blue Jays, were rarely ever contenders while he was there.

Anyway, despite this blowout game by the Cardinals, Tony La Russa still found a way to use practically every pitcher in his bullpen. He removed starter Edwin Jackson after just 4 1/3 innings because his pitch count was getting high early, and he didn’t trust Jackson to get out of a fifth inning jam. So, from there, La Russa went on to use Arthur Rhodes, Lance Lynn, Fernando Salas, Marc Rzepczynski, Mitchell Boggs, and Jason Motte. This has to be the first time I’ve seen the team on the winning side of a blowout game manage to use six relievers (seven total pitchers). Even the Brewers only had to use five pitchers, despite Marcum going just four innings. And Kameron Loe pitching one third of inning while giving up four runs (that 108.00 ERA fits him well).

Tomorrow will be a battle of aces- Yovani Gallardo (17-10, 3.52 ERA) vs. Chris Carpenter (11-9. 3.45 ERA). This should be an interesting matchup, considering neither has had much success against the opposing team. Gallardo is 1-7 with a 5.66 ERA in his career against the Cards, while Carpenter is 5-4 with a 4.67 ERA in his career against the Brewers.

By the way, Jeff Suppan is apparently going to be throwing out the first pitch before game 3. I don’t know if this is the Cardinals’ way of making fun of the Brewers, but I don’t see why they’d have any other reason to let this former bust throw out the first pitch. Anyway, if you don’t know the story of Suppan and the Brewers, well- actually, just consider yourself lucky.

Oh, and here’s another funny thing before I go- Theo Epstein is more than likely becoming the general manager of the Cubs. I let you laugh at that yourself instead of giving a long explanation. Because even I can’t explain why the Red Sox GM would want to become the Cubs GM.


Brewers win slugfest, take 1-0 advangate in NLCS

October 10, 2011

Today’s game was one of the best games I’ve ever been to. From Tony La Russa getting booed so loud that you can’t hear yourself think, to the huge fifth inning for the Brewers, to John Axford closing it out- it doesn’t get much better than that for a Brewers fan.

The Brewers hammered the Cardinals today, 9-6, and took a 1-0 advantage over them in the NLCS. The pitching was pretty shaky for both sides, as seen by the score, which you didn’t expect with today’s matchup of Zack Greinke and Jaime Garcia. But, at least Greinke’s undefeated record at home this year remained unscathed, despite his rough start.

Greinke went 6+ innings while giving up six runs on eight hits. He walked two and struck out six. And even though he gave up six runs, he got the win and remained undefeated at Miller Park this year. I read an article by Mike Bauman earlier today that got a little more in depth on that, but I’ll just say that I can’t believe it, either. No matter how many runs he gives up, he’s still invincible.

Garcia, on the other hand, also had a very shaky start. He went just 4+ innings while giving up six runs on six hits and took the loss. But Garcia made it interesting early by, after giving up a two-run homer to Ryan Braun in the first inning, beaning Prince Fielder on his first pitch to him. Warnings were issued, but nothing else really happened after that, as far as the bad blood between the Brewers and Cardinals.

The Cardinals struck first against Greinke on Matt Holliday’s RBI single in the first inning. But, the Brewers immediately answered back in the bottom of the inning on Braun’s two-run shot I talked about earlier. The Brewers preserved the lead until the fourth inning, when Greinke gave up a three-run home run to David Freese to give the Cards a 4-2 lead. The Cardinals also tacked on a fifth run on Lance Berkman’s RBI single in the fifth, but, after that, they just completely fell apart (pitching-wise, at least).

Corey Hart led off the fifth with a single, followed by Jerry Hairston Jr.’s double. That put runners on second and third with no outs, which brought Braun, a.k.a the new Mr. October, to the plate. He hit a ground-rule double to score Hart and Hairston, which cut the deficit to 5-4. Then, Fielder came up and hit a go-ahead two-run blast on the first pitch he saw from Garcia. That’s about as good as revenge gets.

But the inning wouldn’t stop there. After Garcia was removed, Octavio Dotel entered the game, and promptly made a throwing error on a play Rickie Weeks probably should have been out on. But, Weeks advanced to second on the play, which brought Yuniesky Betancourt to the plate. After a long battle with Dotel, Betancourt crushed a two-run homer to extend the Brewers’ lead to 8-5. After that, the bleeding finally stopped for the Cardinals, but the damage had been done, thanks to one of the greatest innings in Brewers’ postseason history.

The Cardinals’ sixth run came on a run that scored on an Albert Pujols double play, so that almost doesn’t even count. Meanwhile, the Brewers’ ninth run came on a Jonathan Lucroy RBI single (of course he starts hitting AFTER Ian Kennedy is gone).

I’ve been meaning to say this for awhile now, but Braun and Hairston are really having a spectacular postseason thus far. I guess coming in you expected Braun, who had four RBI today and hit .500 in the NLDS, to have a great postseason, but how about Hairston? He’s making Ron Roenicke look like a genius for starting him over Casey McGehee at third base for pretty much every postseason game so far, by hitting .375 in the NLDS. Hairston also went 2-for-4 today.

And here’s another thing I found hilarious today. If you’ve never been to a postseason game before, then you might not know that the announce every player and coach and have them run out onto the field and line up before the games. So, when La Russa ran out, he got booed like crazy, as I mentioned earlier. But I noticed him take off his cap and wave it to the fans, which is probably his way of making fun of those Milwaukee idiots- er, fans. Yes, Tony, Wisconsin absolutely loves you.

Tomorrow should be a pretty good pitching matchup between Shaun Marcum (13-7, 3.54 ERA) and Edwin Jackson (12-9, 3.79 ERA). Marcum is in the midst of a series of bad outings right now, which started with a bad start against the Phillies, and continued with bad outings against the Rockies and Pirates to finish the season. It’s also bled into the postseason, as he went just 4 2/3 innings his last time out against the Diamondbacks, while giving up seven runs. So hopefully that all ends tomorrow.

By the way, one more thing before I go- the rest of my NLCS posts will probably be in collaboration with El Maquino ( @El_Maquino), who is the owner of a Cardinals blog. We’re probably still going to have to talk about it a little, but hopefully we’ll have it going by tomorrow night. Anyway, you can see El Maquino’s site here. Whether you’re a Brewers fan, Cardinals fan, or any fan, I’d recommend checking it out.


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