Rauch, Frasor, Farnsworth, Gonzalez on relief radar

December 18, 2012

> Doug Melvin has already missed out on multiple opportunities to sign relievers this offseason, the most notable guys being Jason Grilli and Sean Burnett. But, for the first time this offseason, Melvin himself named off a few relievers that the Brewers are currently interested in. Those names included Jon Rauch, Jason Frasor, Kyle Farnsworth, and Mike Gonzalez, all of whom were in my relief pitcher article from a few weeks back.

In my opinion, Frasor is by far the most attractive pitcher of those four. He fits the bill of a power arm the Brewers are looking for, and can pitch the eighth inning (I’m not so sure I completely trust Jim Henderson in the eighth yet). Frasor doesn’t have the greatest career numbers, but you have to take into consideration that he’s spent the majority of his career with the Blue Jays in the AL East, so a move to the NL might do him good.

Frasor

The other three options Melvin listed are decent, I suppose. Farnsworth had a breakout season in 2011 as the Rays’ closer, but had an injury-plagued 2012. Gonzalez is that coveted lefty the Brewers are looking for (though I’d much prefer J.P. Howell, who I’m surprised Melvin didn’t mention), but the competition for him his; same goes for Howell. And I’d stay away from Rauch- he reminds me too much of Kameron Loe.

But if Melvin does decide to go after one of these guys, hopefully he gives him a substantial offer. Not that I want Melvin to overpay for a reliever, but I felt like he didn’t go hard enough for guys like Grilli or Burnett. However, the four guys Melvin mentioned today should come much cheaper than Grilli or Burnett.

> The Brewers signed utility infielder Donnie Murphy to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training. Murphy, who’s pretty versatile in the field, isn’t the greatest at the plate, as he hit just .216 in 129 plate appearances for the Marlins last year, and is a career .205 hitter. But, he does provide some depth at shortstop,a position the Brewers struggled with last year until the acquisition of Jean Segura. After Alex Gonzalez went down, we saw the tandem of Cody Ransom and Cesar Izturis flail miserably.

Anyway, Murphy should compete with guys like Mat Gamel and Taylor Green for one of the back-up infielder spots.

> Minor moves: 

Red Sox: Signed Stephen Drew to a one-year deal.
Athletics: Signed Hiroyuki Nakajima to a two-year deal.
Astros: Signed Carlos Pena to a one-year deal; designated Mickey Storey for assignment.
Cubs: Designated Jeff Beliveau for assignment.
Giants: Signed Santiago Casilla to a three-year extension.
Angels: Signed Luis Rodriguez to a minor league deal.
Royals: Released Ysrael Abreu, Jose Brazoban, Adelso Polanco, and Yerinson Tatis.


Brewers making lefty relievers a priority

December 3, 2012

> The Brewers went a long time without announcing it publicly, but we all knew left-handed relief pitching was a necessity for the Brewers coming into this offseason. In fact, getting an established, healthy lefty for the bullpen has been a huge issue for the Brewers ever since early 2011. Going into that season, the Brewers thought they were going to have Zach Braddock, Manny Parra, and Mitch Stetter as left-handed options out of the ‘pen, but injuries (and personal issues, in Braddock’s case) plagued all of them. Parra missed all of 2011, Stetter had season-ending hip surgery early on, and Braddock never quite regained his 2010 form. So, for their playoff run in 2011, the Brewers went without a lefty arm out of the ‘pen (until the postseason, when Chris Narveson was available). 

Now, all three of those lefties are gone, and the Brewers will have to begin from scratch. They’ll probably have to do so via the free agent market, where there’s a solid crop of left-handers. Those options include Sean Burnett, Randy Choate, Mike Gonzalez, J.P. Howell, and Tom Gorzelanny.

Choate would probably be the toughest guy to sign, because the Dodgers have expressed interest in bringing him back, and we all know the Dodgers are going to get whoever they want this offseason. I thought it was going to be the same situation for Burnett and the Nationals, but now that we know he’s not actually seeking a four-year deal (which would have been ridiculous), I see him as a possibility for the Brewers. Howell would also be decent, but the market for him is reportedly at least eight teams; same goes for Gonzalez. Gorzelanny would be the easiest and cheapest option, but I see him as more of a lefty long reliever, which the Brewers might already have if they decide to move Narveson to the bullpen.

In my opinion, the best guy on that list is Burnett. Ever since 2009, he’s been one of the best left-handed relievers in the game. In 2012, he had a career year with the Nats, going 1-2 with a 2.38 ERA in 70 games (56 2/3 IP). He also had a 1.9 BB/9 and 9.1 K/9, which are exactly the stats you want to see out of a specialist like Burnett. My only concern regarding those numbers are they were far better than his career statistics in each of those categories- he has a career 3.6 BB/9 and 6.6 K/9, which leads to believe he could regress back to those numbers eventually. Regardless, Burnett is probably the best option on the list.

Burnett

There’s only one issue with the Brewers and the left-handed relief market: the Cardinals are also in dire need of a lefty reliever. Marc Rzepczynski flamed out under the pressure of being the only lefty reliever the Cards could rely upon in 2012. The Cardinals tried to fix that with minor leaguers Barret Browning and Sam Freeman, but neither of them really panned out, either. Hence, the Cards are also in the market for a lefty reliever.

It was reported the other day that Burnett came out and asked the Cardinals for a four-year deal, but his agent shot that down immediately (thank goodness). Still, that could mean the Cards also think Burnett is the best lefty available, so it could end up being a bidding war between them and the Brewers.

> When asked about the recent acquisition of Burke Badenhop, Doug Melvin called him a “young, cheaper Kameron Loe-type pitcher.”

I like the younger and cheaper part, but there was absolutely no need to insult the new guy right away. It’ll be tough for him to be as bad as Loe was.

> The Rockies are interested in another lefty reliever, Daniel Schlereth, who I almost forgot about. Schlereth hit the free agent market the other day after being non-tendered by the Tigers. He doesn’t have the greatest career numbers, but, if the other options thin out quickly, he could become a potential option himself.


Brewers have arby decisions to make

November 26, 2012

> It came upon us rather quickly, but the arbitration deadline is already this Friday. Coming into the offseason, the Brewers had nine players to whom they would have to decide whether or not to tender them contracts, but that list has since been cut to five. Nyjer Morgan, Jose Veras, Travis Ishikawa, and Kameron Loe were all arbitration-eligible, but were cut loose earlier this month, so they’re no longer the Brewers’ problems to deal with. All of those names would have probably been non-tendered anyway.

But, there are still five arbitration-eligible players on the Brewers’ roster: John Axford, Chris Narveson, Marco Estrada, Manny Parra, and Carlos Gomez. Back in October, MLB Trade Rumors projected the possible salaries each will earn in 2013: they had Axford at $5.1 million, Narveson $800,000, Estrada $1.6 million, Parra $1.6 million, and Gomez $3.4 million. Most of them- save for Axford- should come relatively cheap.

The only immediate non-tender candidate that comes to mind is Parra, who I have to guess the Brewers are sick of at this point. He has great stuff, he’s a lefty, he once threw a perfect game in the minors- so why hasn’t he been able to find it during his first few years in the Majors? I thought shifting him to the bullpen permanently would benefit Parra mentally, and help the Brewers as a team, seeing as they went most of 2011 without a left-hander in the ‘pen. But, in 2012, Parra was unable to maintain consistency, and Ron Roenicke was hesitant to use him in tight situations (for good reason). $1.6 million isn’t much (though I get the feeling Parra will attempt to demand more), but he should follow Veras and Loe out the door.

I’m sorry, but Axford isn’t going to get $5.1 million. The case for him is that he saved 35 games in 2012, but then you have to remember he blew a Major League-leading nine saves. Axford is going to get the closer’s role back in 2013, but not at that price.

Gomez is going to be the Brewers’ starting center fielder in 2013 (unless they somehow pick up Josh Hamilton) following his breakout season at the plate, at least power-wise (he slugged a career-high 19 home runs). I’d take that and his dangerous abilities for $3.4 million, no doubt.

Lastly, there’s Narveson, who will certainly be back in 2013 (although it’s uncertain whether he’ll be in the bullpen or rotation). MLBTR is predicting that his season-ending rotator cuff surgery will keep him below a salary of $1 million once again, so the Brewers should be able to bring him back easily.

All of these guys will probably avoid arbitration. The Brewers’ last arby hearing came last spring with Veras, but the Brewers won it easily.

> According to Jim Bowden, Zack Greinke’s “camp” expects him to become the richest right-handed pitcher in history, while even possibly passing Cole Hamels’ six-year, $153 million deal with the Phillies.

OK, I love Greinke, but let’s step back and look at this from another perspective. Greinke’s career ERA is 3.77. That’s a good ERA, no doubt. But is it honestly worth giving him the richest contract in history for a pitcher? Matt Cain, who currently has the biggest contract out of any righty in history, has a career 3.27 ERA. Hamels’ career ERA is 3.34.

Another thing to keep in mind about Greinke: that career ERA is with his AL Cy Young year in 2009, during which he put up a 2.16 ERA. Take that away, and he his career ERA is borderline of 4.00. Not to mention Greinke’s lowest single-season ERA other than the CYA year is 3.47.

Again, not trying to hate on Greinke or anything; I’d love for the Brewers to bring him back (though now I know it’s not going to happen). But does he deserve to be the richest right-handed pitcher in the history of the game? No way.

> Minor moves: 

Indians: Outrighted Brent Lillibridge, who elected free agency.


Loe, Morgan, Veras, and Ishikawa likely gone

November 2, 2012

> Schoolwork- endless schoolwork. That’s basically my excuse for getting articles up the past few days. The past three days have been the worst of the year for me. I’m hoping the next few weeks will be at least a bit lighter, otherwise my time to write on BWI will get mercilessly crunched. Anyhow, I’m not going to write a big article today, but all the news I’ve missed should cover that up.

THE NEWS

> So far, the offseason is going as planned- the Brewers are getting rid of the useless players, so to speak, in order to create roster space. The first batch of players to go is Kameron Loe, Nyjer Morgan, Jose Veras, and Travis Ishikawa.

Morgan’s outright to Triple-A (and eventual election of free agency) probably gathered the most national news, especially because of the role he played on the postseason team in 2011. He was responsible for getting the Brewers to the NLCS on that unforgettable walk-off hit against the Diamondbacks in the NLDS, and he ingrained himself into the minds of Brewers fans (and into the minds of other fans, but in a negative way) with all of his aliases. But it just wasn’t Nyjer’s season in 2012. He hit a measly .239, and lost practically all of his playing time so that Carlos Gomez could prepare for a possible starting role in 2013. The emergence of Norichika Aoki didn’t help his cause either. And, with the left-handed Logan Schafer proving that he could possibly play the role of the fourth outfielder in 2013, there just wasn’t a spot for Morgan. So I thank Morgan for all of his contributions in 2011, but his antics and things weren’t fitting this year.

Loe and Veras also elected free agency following outright assignments. Loe was one of the Brewers’ best relievers in 2010, posting a 2.78 ERA. He had a second-half surge after getting off two a rough start in 2011, but it was the opposite this year. He had an ERA below 4.00 for most of the season, but it faded all the way to 4.61 in September. Statistically, Veras was one of the Brewers’ best relievers this year (though it’s not good when a guy with a 3.90 ERA is your best reliever). But he quietly had innings just about as frustrating as some of Francisco Rodriguez’s innings, so I’m relatively glad that he’s gone.

Lastly, Ishikawa was outrighted to Triple-A today, and is expected to elect free agency after he clears waivers. Ishikawa had his moments with the Brewers, but overall was the poster-boy of an extremely weak Brewers bench.

After their 2012 performances, I don’t think any of these players will be missed. However, Morgan will always be remembered: he’s written his legacy into Milwaukee history.

> The Brewers claimed reliever Arcenio Leon off waivers from the Astros.

> K-Rod was charged with domestic abuse for that incident in Wales that popped up two months ago.

Just stay away from Wisconsin, K-Rod.

> Speaking of K-Rod, the Brewers did not give “qualifying offers” to him or Shaun Marcum.

This “qualifying offer” thing is something brought about by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and basically replaced the Type A/Type B free agent system, which usually determined whether or not a team would receive draft picks as compensation for losing key free agents. Qualifying offers now play that role, and they are determined by the average salary of the top 125 player salaries from the previous season. That salary this season was $13.3 million.

As if K-Rod or Marcum are going to get $13.3 million on the market anyway. This was a no-doubter for the Brewers.

Only nine players received qualifying offers from their respective teams: Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton, Rafael Soriano, Nick Swisher, Hiroki Kuroda, Adam LaRoche, David Ortiz, B.J. Upton, and Kyle Lohse.

> Minor moves (and a lot of ‘em):

Tigers: Exercised 2013 options for Octavio Dotel and Jhonny Peralta; outrighted Don Kelly to Triple-A.
Rays: Exercised 2013 options for James Shields, Fernando Rodney, and Jose Molina; declined 2013 option for Luke Scott.
Braves: Exercised 2013 options for Brian McCann, Tim Hudson, and Paul Maholm; claimed Jordan Schafer off waivers from the Astros; outrighted Erik Cordier, J.C. Boscan, and Robert Fish off their 40-man roster.
Astros: Designated Matt Downs for assignment; declined 2013 option for Chris Snyder; outrighted Fernando Abad, Sergio Escalona, Edgar Gonzalez, Jose Valdez, and Kyle Weiland to Triple-A.
Athletics: Outrighted Dallas Braden and Joey Devine, both of whom elected free agency.
White Sox: Signed Jake Peavy to a two-year extension; exercised 2013 option for Gavin Floyd; declined 2013 options for Brett Myers and Kevin Youkilis.
Mets: Exercised 2013 options for R.A. Dickey and David Wright.
Rangers:
Declined 2013 options for Scott Feldman and Yoshinori Tateyama; claimed Konrad Schmidt off waivers from the D-backs.
Cubs: Outrighted Justin Germano to Triple-A, who elected free agency.
Dodgers: Re-signed Brandon League to a three-year deal.
Orioles: Declined 2013 option for Mark Reynolds.
Indians: Exercised 2013 option for Ubaldo Jimenez; declined 2013 options for Travis Hafner and Roberto Hernandez (I still call him Fausto Carmona); outrighted Kevin Slowey and Vinny Rottino to Triple-A; claimed Blake Wood off waivers from the Royals.
Royals: Declined 2013 option for Joakim Soria; acquired Ervin Santana from the Angels; claimed Guillermo Moscoso off waivers from the Rockies; claimed Brett Hayes off waivers from the Marlins; designated ex-Brewer Jeremy Jeffress and Jason Bourgeois for assignment.
Yankees: Outrighted ex-Brewer Casey McGehee to Triple-A, who elected free agency; returned Rule 5 Draft pick Brad Meyers to the Nationals.
Reds: Ryan Ludwick and Ryan Madson each declined his side of his mutual option for 2013.
Pirates: Exercised 2013 option for Pedro Alvarez; declined 2013 option for Rod Barajas; released Hisanori Takahashi.
Blue Jays: Claimed Scott Maine off waivers from the Cubs; designated Scott Cousins and David Herndon for assignment; exercised 2013 option for Darren Oliver; re-signed Rajai Davis.
Diamondbacks: Declined 2013 options for ex-Brewer Henry Blanco and Matt Lindstrom.
Rockies: Ex-Brewer Jorge De La Rosa exercised his player option.
Nationals: LaRoche and Sean Burnett each declined their player options.
Giants: Declined 2013 option for Aubrey Huff.
Twins: Claimed Josh Roenicke and Thomas Field off waivers from the Rockies.
Orioles: Claimed Alexi Casilla off waivers from the Twins.
Padres: Designated Josh Spence and Blake Tekotte for assignment.


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.)


Nearly astounding comeback falls short

September 10, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Brewers had to have this game, and, after an amazing late comeback, it looked like they were going to get it. But, they couldn’t bring the momentum into extra innings, losing to the Cardinals 5-4 in 10 innings.

The Cards jumped on Shaun Marcum right away in the first inning, with home runs from Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran within a span of three batters. Matt Carpenter gave the Cards another in the second inning on an RBI double, and memories of the Brewers’ last NLCS game in 2011 were brought back. The only two Brewers runs came on a wild pitch that allowed a run to score in the second inning and a Jean Segura RBI single in the fourth.

Fast forward to the ninth inning. The Cardinals brought in their flamethrower, Jason Motte, whom the Brewers haven’t been able to touch since he was put into the Cards’ closer role. But today was a different story. Two batters after a Segura double, Norichika Aoki hit a game-tying homer on a 99 MPH fastball from Motte.

After that, I thought the Brewers were going to win for sure; everything’s been going our way lately. But not today- Kameron Loe gave up the walk-off single to Allen Craig in the 10th inning, and that was that.

MY TAKE

> Two out of three in St. Louis is usually good for the Brewers, but they desperately needed the sweep today. The Brewers don’t have any more head-to-head match-ups against the Cards for the rest of the year, and the schedules don’t exactly go in the Brewers’ favor either. The Cardinals get to play 12 of their last 22 games against the Padres, Pirates, and Astros, while the Brewers still have series against the Braves, Nationals, and Reds left.

So I’d love to see the Brewers do what the Cards did down the stretch last year, but I’m not going to get my hopes up.

THE NEWS

> Ryan Braun and Corey Hart each had to leave the game early today. Braun has a wrist problem that’s been lingering the entire season, and Hart had a mild sprained ankle. Neither are considered very serious.

Logan Schafer took over for Braun in left field, and Travis Ishikawa came in to play first base.

> The Brewers claimed Miguel De Los Santos off waivers from the Rangers. They had released him on Friday.

De Los Santos, a left-hander, put up a confusing 5.22 ERA for the Rangers’ Double-A affiliate this season. The reason I say confusing is because Baseball America thought De Los Santos had the best change-up in the Rangers’ organization prior to the season.

The Brewers now have two De Los Santos’ down on the farm, having acquired Fautino De Los Santos from the Athletics in exchange for George Kottaras back in early August.

> Mark Rogers said he isn’t ready to be shut down. Neither am I.

> Today is the 20th anniversary of Robin Yount’s 3000th career hit.

> Zack Greinke got the win for the Angels tonight, going seven strong against the Tigers.

THE NUMBERS

> Brandon Kintzler threw two scoreless innings. But I find it strange that he doesn’t have a strikeout in the Majors yet this year, especially with the kind of stuff he has.

> Segura went a perfect 3-for-3. He’ll need to put together a good stretch here if he wants to prove he can be the everyday shortstop next year.

> The probables for the upcoming series against the Braves:

Mike Minor (8-10, 4.58 ERA) vs. Wily Peralta (1-0, 5.14 ERA)

Tim Hudson (14-5, 3.59 ERA) vs. Marco Estrada (2-6, 3.99 ERA)

Paul Maholm (12-9, 3.67 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (14-8, 3.76 ERA)


Loe picks up Axford in shaky ninth

August 25, 2012

POSTGAME

> It was another bullpen classic tonight. The Brewers squeezed past the Pirates, 6-5, in a game that should have been a much easier win. They had a three-run lead going into the ninth inning, but, after a dominating performance on Wednesday, John Axford couldn’t handle it today.

The Brewers jumped on Wandy Rodriguez early, with back-to-back RBI hits from Corey Hart and Jonathan Lucroy to give them a 2-0 lead. But the Pirates answered back on an Andrew McCutchen two-RBI single in the fourth.

It was a pitchers’ duel between Mike Fiers and Rodriguez until the Brewers finally broke the game open in the seventh. Rodriguez was removed with a runner on second and two outs in favor of Jared Hughes, who got his head blown off by the Brewers. He started by hitting Rickie Weeks with the first pitch he threw, then walked Ryan Braun to load the bases. Aramis Ramirez made him pay with a bases-clearing double.

The Brewers had a 6-3 lead going into the ninth, so Axford was put in for what looked like an easy save situation, especially after his save Wednesday. But nothing is easy for him nowadays. He walked McCutchen and Garrett Jones to start the inning, then gave up an RBI single to Neil Walker. Axford seemed to find it for two batters, notching back-to-back strikeouts of Pedro Alvarez and Jeff Clement. But then he gave up another RBI single to Michael McKenry, and Ron Roenicke decided to yank him for Kameron Loe, who struck out Gaby Sanchez to record the save.

AXFORD CAN’T HANDLE IT ANYMORE

> I wrote an article yesterday regarding Axford’s confidence coming back after he recorded back-to-back saves. I also mentioned that he himself went up to Roenicke and personally asked for the closer’s role back.

But I guess I was wrong. Axford just no longer has the ability to string together good outings. I want to say he’ll get better, but each blown save (or practically blown save, which was the case tonight) just lessens my confidence in him more and more.

Yes, I know it’s probably too early to judge him, and there’s no reason that he can’t still turn it around before season’s end. But, at the same time, there’s no reason that he can’t become the next Derrick Turnbow, which, scarily enough, seems to be exactly what’s happening to him. Axford had a ton of saves last year and sub-2.00 ERA, and now can barely string together two good outings.

Sound familiar? Yes, it sounds very familiar. The exact same thing happened to Turnbow. And we all saw what happened to Turnbow after this happened to him.

I hate to be all negative about Axford, because he has great stuff, and still has the potential to be that dominant closer. But, just like Turnbow, he can’t get it together mentally anymore.

(Sorry if I brought back any bad memories with that photo.)

THE NEWS

> Randy Wolf said the Brewers organization treated him with respect and “has been outstanding” even after they released him. He’ll return to his home in Los Angeles to work out and hopefully wait on another big league opportunity.

> Shaun Marcum was offically reinstated from the disabled list today and will make his first start since early June tomorrow.

THE NUMBERS

> Fiers bounced back nicely after two rough outings against the Rockies and Phillies. He went 6 2/3 innings while giving up three runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out 10, which tied a career-high.

In Fiers’ two previous starts, he had a whopping 15.43 ERA.

> Braun got walked three times tonight, one of those times intentionally. Ramirez made the Bucs pay for all of those by going 2-for-4 with three RBIs.

> Jean Segura’s average has fallen to .189.

> Fiers finally recorded his first career hit, which was a bunt single to ignite the seventh inning rally.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Shaun Marcum (5-3, 3.39 ERA) vs. Jeff Karstens (4-3, 3.79 ERA)


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.


Odd baserunning miscue looms large

August 19, 2012

POSTGAME

> Tonight was a strange game, and pretty much all the breaks went against the Brewers. They were narrowly defeated by the Phillies, 4-3, in a game that could have been won 5-4.

The Phils got on the board in the second inning on back-to-back home runs from John Mayberry Jr. and Erik Kratz. The Brewers answered one of those runs in the bottom of the inning on Aramis Ramirez’s solo shot, but the Phillies took it right back on Ryan Howard’s RBI double in the third.

Down 4-1 in the eighth inning, Ryan Braun hit a two-run blast to cut the lead and knock Cole Hamels out of the game, but Jonathan Papelbon came on and got the four-out save and seal the win for the Phillies.

ODDITIES ON THE BASEPATHS

> Before I get too far into this, I’m going to say that I watched the first few innings of the game on a TV with no sound, so I couldn’t hear any analysis or anything.

And hearing some analysis on a play like this would have been useful. In the third inning, with two outs, Jonathan Lucroy, who was hitting second today, hit a single. Braun came up and hit a line drive that bounced off the yellow line on top of the wall in left field, and that usually signifies a home run.

Apparently not, though. Lucroy was running from first base, and Braun, who thought he had extra bases if not a home run, was close behind him. But Braun had to stop about halfway between first and second base, because, for some reason, Lucroy was still sitting at second base. Braun appeared to be screaming at Lucroy and pointing to third base, but by that time Dominic Brown had already thrown the ball back into the infield, and Braun was eventually thrown out.

Turns out Lucroy had missed second base as he was running, and had to go back and step on it again. But, again, the ball was already back to the infield, so one of them would have been thrown out eventually.

I’m confused about a few things here. If there were two outs and Braun hits a fly ball, Lucroy should be running as hard as he can no matter what. Unless he really overran second base that far and had to go back a ways to touch it again, I don’t see why he couldn’t at least make it to third (even if it were a close play), and then there’s runners on second and third with two outs. Again, though, I was watching the game without sound, and the classic FSWisconsin camera work didn’t help me out too much either.

But, Lucroy’s baserunning aside, it appeared Braun should have had a home run. It looked like it hit the top of the wall, which would make hit a home run, regardless of whether or not it bounces back onto the field. FSWisconsin was showing replays of the ball hitting the yellow as well. I listened to some audio later and heard Bill Schroeder say that Braun “missed a home run by inches,” but FSWisconsin didn’t show an angle close enough to the wall for us to see, so I guess we’ll never know.

I guess this is just another frustrating way to lose in a frustrating season.

THE NEWS

> Rickie Weeks got the day off today. Cody Ransom took his place, and I’ll tell you what he did in the numbers section. (But you can probably already guess.)

> Yesterday, Doug Melvin expressed his confidence in John Axford rebounding from his struggles.

“It’s too early to say. We believe in John. I believe in John Axford, I believe in his stuff, I believe in his character, his poise. I think there’s 16 teams that they don’t have the same closer they had at the start of the year. That position, there’s so much pressure on that closer role. You look at other teams. People are yelling for a change after four of five [blown saves].”

> The Astros fired Brad Mills today. The last thing the Brewers will remember him for was him coming out to argue with umpires every five seconds in that last series.

THE NUMBERS

> What you’ve all been waiting for: Ransom struck out four times in four at-bats. He’s clearly going for a 90% strikeout rate by the end of the season.

> Mike Fiers got roughed up for the second straight outing, giving up four runs in five innings. His ERA has gone from 1.80 to 2.90 in his last two starts.

> The bullpen was uncharacteristically good tonight. Kameron Loe, Francisco Rodriguez, and Jim Henderson combined for four shutout innings.

> Braun hit his 33rd home run, which already ties his total from 2011.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Kyle Kendrick (5-9, 4.53 ERA) vs. Randy Wolf (3-9, 5.65 ERA)

 


Fiers succumbs to the thin air

August 14, 2012

> I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t see this coming. The Brewers fell to the Rockies tonight, 9-6. It was by the far the worst start of Mike Fiers’ young career. He went just 2+ innings while giving up eight runs on nine hits, including an extremely rough third inning, in which the Rockies racked up six straight hits without Fiers even recording an out.

Normally, I don’t use excuses when pitchers have bad outings, but I suppose there’s a legitimate one here. Coors Field has reverted back to its old ways this year, and the ball has been flying out of there like it was in the 90′s. When the stadium first opened, it was a very hitter-friendly ballpark, and it was because of the thin air in Colorado, due to the fact it’s in the mountains and much more elevated. That made the ball fly farther. So now, baseballs used at Coors are stored in a humidor before they’re used. That worked for the past decade or so, but something seems faulty this year, and Fiers isn’t the first victim. A pitcher doesn’t throw nine consecutive quality outings and then have an implosion like this.

The Brewers did score six runs against a very weak Rockies pitching staff, the highlights being a two-run homer from Carlos Gomez in the sixth, and a Rickie Weeks three-run shot in the ninth (although Weeks’ home run came off Will Harris, who was making his big league debut). But that wouldn’t have even been enough to overcome the hole Fiers put them in from the third inning on.

The bullpen was solid for the most part, which is a good sign, I guess. Mike McClendon threw two scoreless innings (but he allowed two of Fiers’ inherited runners to score). Livan Hernandez had to eat up three innings, and gave up the only run after Fiers’ departure. Francisco Rodriguez threw a scoreless eighth.

ROENICKE RESPONDS TO THE MEDIA

> This isn’t something we’ve seen from Ron Roenicke very often since the beginning of his tenure as Brewers manager. He’s always been known as that soft-spoken, calm manager who doesn’t always try to have his way with umpires, or with reporters barraging him with questions. But, on Friday, he was a bit uncharacteristic with the media.

Roenicke has been hit hard by the media, fans, and so on due to some of his decisions with the bullpen lately. On Friday, he was questioned about his handling of his bullpen lately, but he let out some of his own frustration to reporters. RRR said:

“Give me some options. You harp on me about this, but you don’t have any options for me.”

That was the first time we heard Roenicke actually call out the bullpen publicly, saying he felt he didn’t have any reliable options anymore. He also could have been indirectly firing at GM Doug Melvin for not attempting to assist him through these harsh times.

I’ve been saying the past few days that Jim Henderson should become the permanent ninth inning guy, but he shot me down after losing all control in the 10th inning of Saturday’s game. Roenicke said he doesn’t like using Henderson in the ninth, however. So who?

Kameron Loe converted the save yesterday, but a soft-tossing sinkerballer with a history of giving up more than enough hits isn’t going to be the long-term solution. K-Rod and John Axford, both with ERAs hovering over 5.00 at the moment, haven’t shown that either of them are ready to take back over the closer’s role for good. The rest of the ‘pen is pretty much slop right now, with no closer material among them.

My only solution- at least for now- is letting the starters go deeper. Roenicke has already announced that he isn’t a fan of that, but going back to a bullpen that is going to blow the game 99% of the time isn’t working.

So my suggestion to RRR is to sit down with a few of the starters and tell them that they’re going to start pitching into the eighth, or finish of games, more often. Maybe he’s already done that, as Yovani Gallardo threw a season-high 7 2/3 innings yesterday. That may have been the plan for Fiers today as well, but there isn’t much you can do when he can’t stop giving up hits in third inning.

While Roenicke does have some rights to say he “needs more options,” he’s really the one who’s in control of that. He can tell the starters to go deeper. He can request that Melvin go out and try to acquire a cheap, yet reliable reliever. He can go down on the farm and call up a guy like Rob Wooten and give him a chance. I’m not going to cut Roenicke much slack on this.

THE NEWS

> Mark Rogers was placed on the paternity list today as he waits for a newborn to join his family. He should be back to make his scheduled start on Wednesday for the series finale.

In a corresponding move, Jeff Bianchi was recalled from Triple-A. He grounded out in a pinch-hit appearance today.

> Jean Segura was given a day of rest today after being spiked in a play at the plate yesterday. This is likely precautionary, as Segura did play the rest of yesterday’s game after the play.

THE NUMBERS

> Gomez went 3-for-4 with two RBIs in today’s game. He needed that after taking the collar in the last two games against the Astros.

> Hernandez had to bat today, and he actually snapped a streak of 57 plate appearances without a strikeout. That was the longest in the Majors. Hernandez got to bat much more often as a starter with the Nationals the past few years, and he could always handle the bat.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Randy Wolf (3-8, 5.46 ERA) vs. Tyler Chatwood (2-2, 5.06 ERA)

THE EXTRAS

> Casey Rottman, one of the survivors of the theater shooting in Aurora, CO, last month, threw out the first pitch at today’s game. Turns out Rottman is a Mequon native.

> Segura got a Twitter handle today. Follow him at @jeansegura9.


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