All-Star Break Updates

July 20, 2013

> I think I’m just going to stop piling up the false statements, such as “I’m back for the summer! I’ll post more consistently now!” because evidently I’m unable to live up to any of them. I’m making no promises from here on out. I don’t know when the next time I’ll write an article after this: it could be tomorrow, it could be months from now. And I could go on making excuses about why I haven’t been writing recently (and there are some valid ones), but I’ll admit part of it is because this team has been horrifying to watch for the most part.

> I can’t say I’ve missed writing about this team. I’ve missed writing in general, but writing about this 2013 Brewers team throughout the first half would have certainly been frustrated rants every other day (perhaps even more often than that) and me repeatedly saying that I’ve given up hope on them. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped watching the Brewers- I need my fill of baseball, after all, and this is the only team I can legitimately root for. I couldn’t change loyalties if I tried. However, when I say I’ve given up on them, I mean it. And if you haven’t given up on this 38-56 crap show, I’d call you insane.

What exactly has led to this 38-56 first half? There are plenty of contributors. When Juan Francisco, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Sean Halton- among others- are constantly in the everyday lineup, you know it’s bad. The starting rotation has been possibly the most inconsistent in the Majors. The star player is going to be suspended any minute now (though that won’t matter; not like he’s been in the lineup consistently for two months already). And, to top it all off, the manager is still a bonehead.

In the game before the All-Star break, the Brewers defeated the Diamondbacks, 5-1. How? Beats me. Logan Schafer (hitting .234), Francisco (.252), Martin Maldonado (.180), Betancourt (.198), and Jeff Bianchi (.236) were all in the starting lineup. The win was in large part because of another solid start from the resurgent Wily Peralta (who I’ll talk more about later), but the lineups our manager has been putting out there are comical.

The starting rotation doesn’t look much better. “Ace” Yovani Gallardo has a 4.85 ERA. Up until his last few starts of the first half, Peralta was awful for the most part. Marco Estrada and his 5.32 ERA currently sit on the disabled list alongside Alfredo Figaro, who wasn’t even supposed to be in the rotation plans this year. And what happened to Mike Fiers? After posting an ERA over 7.00 as a long man/spot starter, he was optioned back to Triple-A, only to break his forearm on a line drive right back at him. Done for the season. Hiram Burgos showed flashes of being a solid starter, but an absolute bombshell of a start for him against the Reds ballooned his ERA. He’s on the DL as well. Johnny Hellweg, one of the prospects from last year’s Zack Greinke deal, came up for a time, but I really don’t want to talk about that. (Look up his strikeout to walk ratio and you’ll know why.)

It’s only a matter of time before MLB suspends Ryan Braun- and hundreds of others across professional baseball- for not cooperating with their Biogenesis case. On the bright side, it sounds like Braun’s suspension will be for only 50 games instead of the originally suspected 100, because there’s still no proof that he actually used performance-enhancing drugs (though any non-Brewers fan will likely tell you otherwise). It’s been a lost season for Braun without all that nonsense surrounding him, however. Following his long stint on the DL, he almost immediately went on the bereavement list. He’s back in the lineup tonight against the Marlins, but don’t expect him to be there for long.

Originally, I wasn’t going to blame this season on Ron Roenicke, because a lot of things haven’t gone his way. It’s hard to fight through so many injuries to both the rotation and the lineup. But when he never puts the best possible team on the field that he can, it’s hard not to blame him. I can’t remember the last time Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura, Jonathan Lucroy, and Norichika Aoki were in the lineup at the same time. Braun and Ramirez have had their share of injuries, but the other four have been perfectly healthy, yet Roenicke almost never plays all four on the same day (at least that’s how it feels). Yet he insists his team hasn’t given up. Maybe the team hasn’t, but he most certainly has.

> Now that I’ve gotten through most of the negatives, let’s move onto the positives, because there are some, believe it or not. Segura and Gomez are both having breakout campaigns as we speak, and both were rewarded with trips to the All-Star game in New York. Neither of them had hits- they were fortunate/unfortunate (depending on how you look at it) enough to face Mariano Rivera in his final All-Star appearance. But Segura turned a slick double play, which even drew praise from notorious anti-Brewer commentator Tim McCarver. Gomez was put in right field, a position he’s somewhat unfamiliar with, and that was exposed when he dove and missed a ball that wound up letting Prince Fielder have a triple.

As mentioned earlier, the starting pitching has been nothing to write home about, but the recent pitching of Peralta has been encouraging. He’s managed to hold down some tough contending teams, such as the Braves, Reds, Nationals, and Diamondbacks. In fact, he threw the first complete game for the Brewers since their first win of 2011, a three-hit shutout against the Reds. Needless to say that is my highlight of this season regardless of what happens from here on out.

Lastly, the bullpen has been one of the best in baseball, and I’m not even joking. After 2012′s disastrous “blowpen,” the retooled bullpen has been very solid. John Axford is regaining his form after a terrible start to his season. Francisco Rodriguez latched back onto the Brewers with a minor league deal and put his ineffective 2012 season behind him and has turned himself into nice trade bait. Jim Henderson has been shaky since returning from the DL, but his stats also make him look like a nice trade piece. Lefties Michael Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny (who has also been used as a starter a bit) also could be moved.

> Other than the bullpen pieces just mentioned, there are a few more names who could be moved before July 31st’s trade deadline. Gallardo’s name has been tossed around simply because he has another year of team control after this, not because he’s been particularly effective on the season. The Diamondbacks reportedly had interest in him, but they weren’t interested in moving pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs, who probably would have had to have been included to make a deal happen.

MLB Trade Rumors reported that the Yankees and Red Sox will have scouts watching Ramirez next week when he comes off the DL. There could be some interesting prospects to acquire from either of those teams, especially the Sox.

> And that’s all I’ve got right now. The Brewers are playing as I write, so maybe a recap will come later tonight.


Brewers could be done with ‘pen renovations

January 9, 2013

> For a while, I was worried that the Brewers weren’t going to be able to pick up a lefty reliever this offseason. They haven’t had a consistent left-handed arm out of the bullpen in years, and Manny Parra being non-tendered left them with almost no possibilities on their 40-man roster.

But, while I was away, the Brewers turned it around and signed two left-handers with very solid track records: Tom Gorzelanny and Mike Gonzalez.

Gorzelanny, a name Brewers fans may know from his time with the Pirates and Cubs, thrived out of the Nationals’ bullpen last season, his first full season as a reliever. He went 4-2 with a 2.88 ERA in 45 games (72 innings). He won’t strike out a hoard of batters, but hasn’t had a K/9 below 7.3 since 2008. Gorzelanny also gives the Brewers a bit of versatility out of the ‘pen- he can be a lefty specialist, a long reliever, or even a spot starter. Gorzo’s contract is for two years and $6 million.

Gonzalez, on the other hand, is a true lefty specialist, or “LOOGy” (lefty-one-out-guy). He was also with the Nats last year, but didn’t sign until midseason. In 47 games (35 2/3 IP), he posted a 3.03 ERA. But the primary stat to look at for a guy like Gonzalez how left-handed batters fare against him, and in 2012 they didn’t have much success. Gonzalez held them to just a .179 average. He did allow righties to hit .297 against him, but, assuming Ron Roenicke uses him correctly, that won’t be much of an issue.

Gonzalez

The additions of these guys should seal up the revamped Brewers bullpen, which is actually starting to look like a strength, in my opinion. If the season started tomorrow, this is how I’d assemble it:

John Axford (closer)
Jim Henderson (primary setup man)
Burke Badenhop
Mike Gonzalez
Tom Gorzelanny
Brandon Kintzler
Michael Olmsted

The first five are locks, but the last two spots could be up for grabs in Spring Training. The Brewers actually have a wealth of power righties to choose from for those two spots, however- aside from Kintzler and Olmsted, there’s Johnny Hellweg, Josh Stinson, Jesus Sanchez, or even Mark Rogers (I’ll touch on his case in the coming days). But Kintzler, who has parts of three big league seasons under his belt, will definitely be a favorite. Same goes for Olmsted, who posted god-like numbers at Boston’s Double-A affiliate in 2012.

> The Brewers also signed multiple players to minor league deals while I was away: right-handed reliever Jim Hoey, shortstop Ozzie Martinez, and outfielders Rene Tosoni and Cole Garner.

> Arcenio Leon was designated for assignment yesterday after the Brewers made the Gonzalez signing official.


The Gold Glove continues to be a screwy award

November 4, 2012

> If there’s going to be an award called a “Gold Glove” handed out to a player at each position every year, it should go to the best defensive player at that position for that given year, no?

Apparently not. Before I get into my point, here are the 2012 GG winners for each position:

American League:

C: Matt Wieters, Orioles
1B: Mark Teixera, Yankees
2B: Robinson Cano, Yankees
SS: J.J. Hardy, Orioles
3B: Adrian Beltre, Rangers
LF: Alex Gordon, Royals
CF: Adam Jones, Orioles
RF: Josh Reddick, Athletics
P: Jeremy Hellickson, Rays/Jake Peavy, White Sox

National League:

C: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
1B: Adam LaRoche, Nationals
2B: Darwin Barney, Cubs
SS: Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
3B: Chase Headley, Padres
LF:
Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
CF: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
RF: Jason Heyward, Braves
P: Mark Buehrle, Marlins

Plenty of guys were considered “snubbed” at their respective positions because of their reputation for making spectacular defensive plays. Take Mike Trout, for instance. He robbed home runs (literally going up the wall and bringing the ball back into the park) on three occasions this year as the center fielder for the Angels. But why did Jones win?

Statistically, Jones actually had a better defensive season than Trout; Jones had the better defensive WAR. Denard Span of the Twins also had a better defensive WAR than Trout.

In my opinion, that’s the way it should be- the guy who is statistically the best defender at each position should win. That happened in a few cases this year: Rollins had the best fielding percentage among NL shortstops, Barney committed just two errors at second base (which led NL second baseman, obviously), Teixera had just one error all year, Cano was tied for first in fielding percentage at second base, and so on.

But, of course, when it came to the possibility of a Brewer getting a Gold Glove, he got screwed. Aramis Ramirez led the NL in fielding percentage and had the fewest errors among qualifying third basemen. So who obviously wins the award at third base? Headley, duh.

But why? If one player has better defensive statistics than another player at a certain position, that player should win the Gold Glove. This is the one award I think should be strongly influenced by statistics, because there’s always going to be one player who is definitively better than another (statistically) at each position. Most of the defensive statistics go hand-in-hand, so it’s unlikely there’s going to be two players who each have one better defensive statistic than the other. This is a far different award than something like the MVP or Cy Young Award, in which there are a series of different statistics that don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with each other. That makes for more of an argument for who should win those award, which is why it’s okay for there to be voters.

But there shouldn’t be a vote for the Gold Glove. There’s a best defensive player at each position, and that’s that.

THE NEWS

> The Brewers signed free agent righty Michael Olmsted to a minor league contract.

> Travis Ishikawa officially elected free agency.

> Two Brewers were selected to play in the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars game- Hunter Morris and Johnny Hellweg. Morris hit clean-up and went 1-for-1 with an infield single and a sacrifice fly.

> The Cubs nearly sent Carlos Marmol to the Angels in exchange for Dan Haren last night, but the deal wound up not going through. The Angels were looking for anything they could get before they had to decline Haren’s option for 2013, but, since the trade didn’t come to fruition, they were forced to decline the option. Haren is now a free agent and could be a possible fit for the Brewers.

> 10 teams are reportedly interested in lefty free agent Mike Gonzalez. I’d take him, seeing as the Brewers will be very thin on lefty relievers once again next year (if they have any). Manny Parra, the only lefty in the Brewers’ bullpen in 2012, is probably going to be one of the next guys to go.

> Minor moves:

Rockies: Outrighted Carlos Torres to Triple-A; reinstated Josh Sullivan, Todd Helton, Juan Nicasio, and Christian Friedrich from the 60-day DL.
Orioles: Outrighted Lew Ford, Zach Phillips, and Steven Tolleson to Triple-A.
Mets: Outrighted Mike Nickeas to Triple-A.
Twins: Outrighted Sam Deduno to Triple-A.
Royals: Outrighted Manny Pina to Triple-A; reinstated Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino from the 60-day DL.
Mariners: Signed Hisashi Iwakuma to a two-year extension; re-signed Oliver Perez.
Blue Jays: Acquired Esmil Rogers from the Indians.
Indians: Acquired Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes from the Jays.
Cardinals: Outrighted Steven Hill, Bryan Anderson, and Adam Reifer to Triple-A.
Pirates: Outrighted Ali Solis to Triple-A.
Astros: Outrighted Chuckie Fick to Triple-A; outrighted Brian Bogusevic, Jorge De Leon, and J.B. Shuck, all of whom elected free agency.
Athletics: Re-signed Bartolo Colon to a one-year deal.
Marlins: Signed Kevin Kouzmanoff and Jordan Smith to minor league deals.


Game of endurance goes in Brewers’ favor

September 8, 2012

POSTGAME

> Last night may have been the biggest win of the season for the Brewers up to this point. After a two and a half hour rain delay and a four and half hour game, they came out on top against the Cardinals in 13 innings, 5-4.

Since Yovani Gallardo was getting the ball, I’m pretty sure all Brewer fans were bracing themselves for the worst. Yo is terrible against the Cards in his career, with a 1-9, 7.05 ERA mark against them going in. And he got off to a bad start, as the Cardinals jumped on him for two in the first inning on an RBI double from Matt Carpenter and a sacrifice fly from Allen Craig. After that, though, Gallardo held serve against the team he’s struggled so much against, going six innings while giving up just those two runs. He struck out six and walked none.

The first Brewers run didn’t come until the fourth inning on Taylor Green’s RBI groundout. Other than that, Kyle Loshe didn’t show many signs of breaking, until the seventh inning. He walked Martin Maldonado and gave up a single to Jeff Bianchi, which prompted Mike Matheny to remove Lohse in favor of Edward Mujica. Mujica gave up what looked like a routine line out from Travis Ishikawa, but right fielder Carlos Beltran misplayed it and let the ball get past him. Ishikawa was given an RBI double.

The Brewers then took the lead in the eighth. Carlos Gomez hit what would have been an infield single anyway, but shortstop Daniel Descalso threw the ball away, allowing Corey Hart to score from second base. After Gomez advanced to second on a stolen base, Maldonado came through with an RBI single to give the Brewers a 4-2 lead.

But this was far from over. Jim Henderson walked the lead-0ff man in the eighth, like he always seems to do. Then, after recording two outs, he gave up a game-tying home run to Yadier Molina.

The next run didn’t come until the 13th inning, when Braun dealt the Cards their finishing blow with a go-ahead solo shot off Lance Lynn. John Axford came on to nail down the save for a game that ended at 2:05 A.M. CT. Yes, you read that correctly.

[EM's coverage]

THE NEWS

> Green got the start in place of Aramis Ramirez, who’s still out with an oblique strain/bad back.

But here’s Green’s side of the story. He drove from Nashville to his home in Vancouver (God knows why), only to get the call from the Brewers after he got there. Apparently he lives four hours from the airport, so he had to make that drive, then make the four and a half hour flight to St. Louis so he could be in the starting lineup. Tack on the rain delay and 13 inning game, and Green had himself quite a day.

> Ramirez hopes to return to the lineup for tonight’s game.

> MLB.com re-ranked their top 100 prospects and each team’s top 20 following the September call-ups. Here are the Brewers’ top 20:

1. Jean Segura, SS
2. Tyler Thornburg, SP

3. Taylor Jungmann, SP
4. Jed Bradley, SP
5. Wily Peralta, SP
6. Johnny Hellweg, SP
7. Scooter Gennett, 2B
8. Hunter Morris, 1B
9. Logan Schafer, OF
10. Jimmy Nelson, SP
11. Clint Coulter, C
12. Kentrail Davis, OF
13. Ariel Pena, SP
14. Drew Gagnon, SP
15. Victor Roache, OF
16. Caleb Gindl, OF
17. David Goforth, SP
18. Yadiel Rivera, SS
19. Khris Davis, OF
20. Jorge Lopez, SP/RP

THE NUMBERS

> Brandon Kintzler got his second big league win after pitching a scoreless 12th. His first win in the Majors also came in an extra inning game.

> Beltran’s average has fallen all the way to .261.

> Tonight’s match-up:

Mike Fiers (8-7, 3.11 ERA) vs. Jake Westbrook (13-10, 3.93 ERA)


Fiers dominates once again

August 30, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Brewers pretty much let Mike Fiers and the Cubs’ defense do the work tonight in their 3-1 win. Fiers had yet another stellar performance, going 7 1/3 innings while giving up a run on four hits. He walked one and struck out six.

The Brewers got on the board in the first inning on Aramis Ramirez’s RBI fielder’s choice. The Cubs answered back in the second inning on a Darwin Barney RBI groundout, and from there it was a pitcher’s duel. Fiers was dominant, but so was Jeff Samardzija, who struck out 10 over seven innings.

But the Cubs’ defense unraveled behind him in the seventh. After Samardzija himself allowed Nyjer Morgan to reach on an error, Jean Segura drove in the go-ahead run with a single. Then the Cubs defense did something that I can’t really explain, so you can watch it here.

Manny Parra finished off the eighth for Fiers, and John Axford recorded his 22nd save.

MY TAKE

> Fiers had 82 pitches through seven innings, so, thankfully, Ron Roenicke put him back out for the eighth. He gave up a single to Barney to lead off the eighth, and almost erased him with a double play (Corey Hart botched that and a few other plays tonight).

Roenicke took out Fiers after that when he was at just 87 pitches. I was hoping tonight would be the night we see the first Brewers complete game since April of 2011, but now I’m starting to think we’ll never see one over the tenure of RRR.

THE NEWS

> The Brewers set up their Arizona Fall League roster. The prospects going are Nick Bucci, Kyle Heckathorn, Santo Manzanillo, Jimmy Nelson, Hunter Morris, Khris Davis, Brock Kjeldgaard, and Johnny Hellweg. Mat Gamel could also be ready in time.

> The Orioles won’t make the Randy Wolf signing official until Friday.

THE NUMBERS

> The Brewers eight-game streak of 10 or more strikeouts ended. They recorded seven tonight.

> Jonathan Lucroy had a rough night, going o-for-4 with three strikeouts.

> The Reds won their Major League-leading 80th game.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.19 ERA) vs. Brooks Raley (1-2, 6.64 ERA)

Keep in mind this could be Marcum’s final start as a Brewer, as he was placed on waivers yesterday.


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.


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