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.


Brewers’ BBWAA awards handed out

October 17, 2012

> The Milwaukee chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America handed out their annual awards to Brewers players on Monday. Most of the awards went to the guys you’d expect to receive awards, but there were a few surprises.

Ryan Braun received the MVP award- I want to say unanimously because he received all eight first-place votes, but there were other players to whom the award would have been worthy. Braun backed up an MVP season in 2011 with a 2012 that was just as good: 41 home runs (a career-high for him), 112 RBIs, and a .319 batting average. Braun also stole 30 bases for his second straight 30-30 season. He led the National League in home runs, total bases (356), runs (108), and OPS (.987). He also tied for the league lead in extra-base hits with 80.

Yovani Gallardo took home the best pitcher award, and we can safely say that was unanimous (he also received all eight first-place votes). He put up close to identical numbers to his 2011 season in 2012, going 16-9 with a 3.66 ERA. Those 16 wins led the Brewers by a landslide, and tied him for sixth in the NL. Gallardo also had his fourth straight 200+ strikeout season (204 this year).

Aramis Ramirez won Top Newcomer, taking seven of the eight first-place votes. He hit 27 home runs and had 105 RBIs in his first season with the Brewers. Ramirez also reached the .300 mark on the last day of the season. He led the NL in doubles, was tied with Braun for the most extra-base hits, and was just three shy of Lyle Overbay’s franchise record for doubles. Ramirez was also the best defensive third baseman in the league, as he had the fewest errors and a .977 fielding percentage. Norichika Aoki took the other first-place vote after his sensational rookie season.

Somewhat surprisingly- but deservingly- Marco Estrada won the Unsung Hero award. He went just 5-7, but had a very respectable 3.64 ERA, and was a reliable option after being thrown in the rotation full-time. Carlos Gomez, Martin Maldonado, and Mike Fiers also received first-place votes for the Unsung Hero.

Lastly, John Axford received the Good Guy Award. I’m in agreement with this one since Axford managed to keep a positive attitude through his struggle of a season in 2012. Corey Hart, Nyjer Morgan, Gomez, and Estrada also received first-place votes for this award.

POSTSEASON COVERAGE

> There are games in progress right now, but here’s the coverage from the last two days.

> The Giants defeated the Cardinals, 7-1, on Monday. The Giants got their first start of more than six innings, as Ryan Vogelsong threw seven strong. Meanwhile, the Giants’ offense took advantage of some shoddy Cards defense to knock around Chris Carpenter. Angel Pagan hit a lead-off home run, and Marco Scutaro and Ryan Theriot had two RBIs apiece.

> The Yankees’ offense remained dormant, as they lost to the Tigers, 2-1, last night. The fact that Justin Verlander was pitching (8 1/3 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 K) might serve as an excuse, but now the Yanks are a game from elimination. The Tigers, meanwhile, can reach the World Series for the first time since 2006.

THE NEWS

> Livan Hernandez and Yorvit Torrealba each elected free agency after rejecting their outright assignments.

> The Brewers added Jesus Sanchez, a righty reliever, to the 40-man roster. He had a 1.62 ERA in 71 2/3 innings combined at Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville.

If only Jesus could have saved our bullpen this year.

> Buster Olney suggested that the Brewers are players for Josh Hamilton, who will more than likely be one of the most highly-touted free agents on the market. The Brewers probably don’t have the money, but might be able to sway him since Johnny Narron is one of their coaches. Narron and Hamilton are very close.

> MLB Trade Rumors looked at the offseason situation for the Brewers.

> The minor moves over the past few days:

Cubs: Acquired Marcelo Carreno from the Tigers to complete the August Jeff Baker trade.
Mets: Removed Justin Hampson and Rob Johnson from their 40-man roster, making them both free agents.
Dodgers: Outrighted Blake Hawksworth, who elected free agency.
Blue Jays: Claimed Scott Cousins off waivers from the Marlins; claimed Cory Wade off waivers from the Yankees; designated Juan Abreu for assignment.
Red Sox: Claimed Sandy Rosario off waivers from the Marlins; designated Che-Hsuan Lin for assignment.
Nationals: Outrighted Carlos Maldonado and ex-Brewer Brett Carroll, both of whom elected free agency.
Orioles: Outrighted Ronny Paulino and Dana Eveland, both of whom elected free agency.
Yankees: Outrighted Justin Thomas, who elected free agency.
Marlins: Outrighted Nick Green, Donnie Murphy, and Gil Velazquez to Triple-A.

THE EXTRAS

> Rumors have been circling ever since Monday’s extra-innings Tigers-Yankees game that Alex Rodriguez was caught flirting with fans while he was in the on-deck circle. Well today it was confirmed, and now there are pictures to go with the story. Turns out one of the blondes he was talking to is a model.


Brewers serve up Gio’s 20th

September 23, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Brewers have seemed invincible recently, but I suppose a good offense and a Cy Young contender can put that to a halt quickly. The Brewers lost to the Nationals today, 10-4, in a game they let get away too early.

Wily Peralta had a very short start- he went just 2 2/3 innings while giving up three runs on five hits. He walked four and struck out four. But you could just tell it was going to be a short outing from the get-go; despite not giving up a run in the first two innings, he needed 42 pitches to get through them. He left the game with 73 pitches after having recorded just two outs in the third.

Peralta gave up consecutive RBI hits to Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche, and Ian Desmond in the third before being taken out in exchange for Livan Hernandez.
But Hernandez got completely murdered by his former team in the fourth, allowing three-run homers to both Ryan Zimmerman and Desmond.

All the while the Brewers’ offense was being silenced by Gio Gonzalez, who became the first 20-game winner of 2012.

THE NEWS

> Ryan Braun is reportedly dealing with some groin issues after a “rough slide” into home last night. He’s going to play through them for the stretch run, however. Braun went 1-for-3 with an RBI today.

> MLB Trade Rumors has continued to mention Alex Gonzalez’s vesting option for 2013 that would have come into play had he achieved 525 plate appearances this season. But, since he went down in May, there’s almost no chance he returns to the Brewers next year.

> The Cardinals defeated the Cubs in extra innings, so the Brewers fall to 2.5 games back in the Wild Card race for the time being. However, the Phillies, Dodgers, and Pirates all lost, so the teams close behind the Brewers will stay pat as well.

THE NUMBERS

> Yorvit Torrealba made his Brewers debut today, replacing Martin Maldonado in the fifth inning. But he went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.

> Taylor Green hit his third career homer in the ninth inning.

> Peralta had allowed just one extra-base hit in his first three big league starts coming into today. But, he gave up three XBH’s in a row in that rough third inning.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Yovani Gallardo (16-8, 3.59 ERA) vs. Chien-Ming Wang (2-3, 6.92 ERA)

Gallardo’s last loss was against the Nationals back in late July, and his record fell to 8-8 after that. Since then, though, Gallardo has been untouchable, going 8-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 10 starts following that outing.

THE EXTRAS

> I don’t think I’ve ever seen MLB refer to a home run as a “downtowner” in a highlight label.


The blowpen strikes back

August 30, 2012

POSTGAME

> The bullpen was in mid-season form today, managing to blow what was once a 9-3 lead and turned it into an 12-11 loss to the Cubs. And it’s too bad, because there were a lot of great storylines for the offense.

Shaun Marcum wasn’t himself today, and it showed early, as the Cubs got RBI hits from Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, and David DeJesus in the first two innings. But the Brewers stormed back against Cubs starter Brooks Raley, posting a five-run third inning that included a grand slam from Jonathan Lucroy. Ryan Braun hit a two-run homer the next inning.

The Brewers tacked on two more on a Lucroy single in the sixth, but the bullpen had another episode, allowing six runs. There were extra-base hits, bases-loaded walks, and basically everything you don’t want to see.

Cody Ransom promptly gave the Brewers the lead on a solo shot in the seventh, however. Lucroy tacked on another RBI in the eighth for a seven-RBI day.

With John Axford for some reason unavailable after pitching the last two games, Francisco Rodriguez was put in for the save. After striking out Joe Mather to start the inning, K-Rod gave up a double to DeJesus, walked Luis Valbuena, gave up an RBI single to Castro, an RBI double to Rizzo, then a walk-off single to Alfonso Soriano. Yep, went from good to bad pretty quickly.

MY TAKE

> Why K-Rod was used in the closer’s role today is beyond me. He had been pitching great in the eighth inning recently, having not given up a hit in his last eight appearances. So, instead of keeping K-Rod where he had been producing, Ron Roenicke used Jim Henderson in the eighth, where he threw a scoreless inning.

But I don’t get why Henderson isn’t the back-up closer (or just the regular closer). K-Rod has proven he’s not going to get better this year, and he’s definitely not coming back next year. So why bother using him there?

> I’ve been a Manny Parra-backer for pretty much his entire career, but what a pile of junk he’s turned into. After being removed from the starting rotation in late 2010 following a 3-10 record and an ERA over 5.30, he was put into the bullpen, where he threw well until the end of the season. He didn’t pitch at all in 2011 due to a series of back and elbow injuries, but was going to be relied on heavily as the one lefty in the ‘pen this year.

And he’s been terrible. He has a 4.62 ERA, and hasn’t been able to touch the strike zone half the time. That showed again today, as he walked two in a third of an inning while allowing some of Livan Hernandez’s runs to score.

But what gets me is that Parra came out earlier this year and, following a bullpen explosion similar to this one, that he “was having a good year, no matter what anyone else said,” and that the breakdown was a fluke.

Nope, it happens every other outing. Parra better be sent packing along with K-Rod at season’s end.

THE NEWS

> Roenicke said he wasn’t bothered by the lack of complete games. I love how he just keeps brushing off this stat nonchalantly, continuing to say that our bullpen should be able to pick up one or two innings.

Well guess what, Ron? The Brewers have no complete games, and the worst bullpen in baseball. Those two things do NOT add up. This is what people who continue saying this season isn’t RRR’s fault are failing to understand.

> The Brewers will unveil the new Bob Uecker statue at Miller Park tomorrow.

THE NUMBERS

> Lucroy hit his second grand slam of the year. It was also his second seven-RBI game of the year.

> Rickie Weeks went a perfect 5-for-5.

> Ransom went 3-for-4. I was hoping I’d be able to write here that he didn’t strike out for once, but the one time he was retired- in the ninth inning- was via the strikeout.

> Hernandez and Parra gave up a combined six earned runs in that disaster sixth inning.

> The match-ups for the upcoming Pirates series:

Jeff Karstens (5-3, 3.47 ERA) vs. Mark Rogers (2-1, 4.28 ERA)

Marco Estrada (2-5, 4.02 ERA) vs. A.J. Burnett (15-5, 3.67 ERA)

James McDonald (12-6, 3.57 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (14-8, 3.52 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.


Henderson struggles in 10th as Brewers fall again

August 12, 2012

POSTGAME

> I guess there’s no getting around these bullpen problems. The Brewers lost to the Astros again today, 6-5, in 10 innings. The Brewers never had a lead in the game, so there wasn’t a save for the bullpen to blow. Up until the 10th inning, it actually wasn’t that bad, but Jim Henderson ran into some control problems in the 10th, which eventually doomed the Brewers.

Henderson had also pitched the ninth, but it seemed to be a breeze, as he had a 1-2-3 inning while striking out the side. But he ran into a wall in the 10th. He gave up a lead-off single to Jose Altuve, then walked back-t0-back batters in Marwin Gonzalez and Steve Pearce. With the bases loaded and no outs, the Brewers were forced to go with five infielders and bring everyone in. So all Scott Moore had to do was drive a single into no-man’s land somewhere in the outfield, and that’s exactly what he did.

Marco Estrada had a pretty rough start that was actually cut short. He went just four innings while giving up four runs on seven hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out three. Estrada threw just 66 pitches, but was removed in the fifth inning with runners on first and third in place of pinch-hitter Cody Ransom. Ransom struck out (shocker), but Norichika Aoki followed it up with a two-run double to tie the game at 4-4.

ADDRESSING THE BULLPEN

> I thought the Brewers were going to win for sure today, since Ron Roenicke didn’t use John Axford or Francisco Rodriguez. Instead, he used almost everyone but, with Livan Hernandez pitching the fifth, Manny Parra the sixth, Kameron Loe the seventh, Jose Veras the eighth, and Henderson tossing the ninth and 1oth (although he didn’t record any outs).

Of course, though, people on Twitter were bashing Henderson for blowing the game, and that isn’t completely fair. Up to this point, Henderson had been lights out, and the only reliable reliever in the Brewers’ bullpen (and I think he still holds that title).

But the game wouldn’t have gone any differently had K-Rod or Axford been used in the 10th, so there’s no use in saying Henderson shouldn’t have been used in the situation. Last night I blamed Roenicke for not using Henderson, and I still do. But there’s not much he could have done tonight.

Anyway, here’s my theory that I’ve been trying to preach the past few days. In games where the Brewers have a three-run or less lead after the seventh inning (in other words, a hold/save situation), they should try Loe in the eighth, and Henderson in the ninth. Those are the two guys I sort of have confidence in at the moment. Loe has been shaky at times this year, but, out of the rest of the relievers, he’s been the best. Loe also has setup experience. He showed that he couldn’t handle the pressure of setting up when the Brewers were contending during the first half of 2011, but now the circumstances are different. Plus, they have no other choices right now, so it couldn’t hurt to try him.

Henderson has obviously proven he can close. He has yet to give up a run or a hit in the ninth inning. In three appearances in the ninth inning, he has six strikeouts and one walk. I have a feeling the 10th inning tonight was a fluke.

I’d love to see Roenicke try this. Hopefully he doesn’t assume Henderson can’t handle the job after his 10th inning tonight.

THE NEWS

> Mark Rogers said he didn’t mind that Moore broke up his no-hit bid in the sixth inning last night.

> Wily Peralta had a very efficient start for the Sounds tonight, going seven innings while giving up on run on six hits. He walked one and struck out six in Sacramento.

THE NUMBERS

> Tonight was the first time the Astros won back-to-back games since late June. Great.

> Carlos Gomez once again went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He might finally be cooling off.

> Jean Segura went 2-for-4 with an RBI for his first multi-hit game in the bigs.

> Jonathan Lucroy went 2-for-3 to bring his average back up to .331. He had a .345 average coming off the disabled list, but slumped down into the .320’s.

> Tomorrow’s pitching match-up:

Yovani Gallardo (10-8, 3.79 ERA) vs. Jordan Lyles (2-8 5.69 ERA)


Greinke dealt as Brewers snap skid

July 28, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, thanks for reading.


Brewers shut down Astros in opener

July 7, 2012

> So, despite the huge rant I went on last night that I was going to take a break, the break only lasted a day. Looking back on last night, I made a bigger deal about the whole thing than I should have. Regardless of the season the Brewers are having, let’s get on to covering them.

> After a very disappointing split with the Marlins, the Brewers took one to open their three-game set with the Astros, 7-1. It was your ideal game- good starting pitching, good relief pitching, and good offense- a game the Brewers have struggled to put up lately.

It started with a solid start by Yovani Gallardo, who, after the second inning, basically dominated a young Astros lineup. He toughed out six innings that he needed 108 pitches to get through, but he gave up just one run on four hits. He also walked three and struck out six for his seventh win of the year. He brought his ERA down to 3.74, the lowest it’s been since a a two inning, eight run disaster against the Cardinals in May. Even though Gallardo hasn’t been getting many wins lately, his numbers are beginning to return to where they should be.

The offense had a good night against Astros starter J.A. Happ, who the Brewers traditionally hammer. Happ did have a 1-0 record with a 3.27 ERA in two starts against the Crew so far this year coming into tonight, but he would not have the same luck. The Brewers hopped all over him early with a pair of first inning solo home runs by Norichika Aoki and Ryan Braun. The Astros answered with a solo blast by Scott Moore in the bottom of the inning, but after that Gallardo and the bullpen held the ‘Stros scoreless.

The Brewers didn’t score again until the sixth inning on Rickie Weeks’ seventh home run of the season, a two-run shot to make the score 4-1. The Brewers would tack on three more in the seventh with an RBI triple by Carlos Gomez, and RBI single by Aoki, and an Aramis Ramirez RBI double.

Lastly, the bullpen finally had a much-needed shut down game. After Kameron Loe’s ERA ballooned from 3.34 to 4.21 during the bullpen disaster against the Marlins on Tuesday, he came out and threw a perfect inning today. Then, Livan Hernandez threw two scoreless innings to finish off the Astros and seal the win.

> I doubt I’m the only one who feels this way, but I’m now far more than skeptical about our bullpen, even after their performance today. I didn’t post during the Marlins series, but the bullpen was flat-out terrible during the last three games of that series. Francisco Rodriguez is all over the place, John Axford is blowing saves like never before, Jose Veras is back to being Jose Veras, and the list goes on.

> On the bright side, though, it was reported yesterday morning that the Mets are interested in re-acquiring K-Rod. Keep in mind that, for a contending team, they have a terrible bullpen as well.

So you can have K-Rod back for free, Sandy Alderson. Just don’t blame us when your team misses the playoffs because of your bullpen- again.

> I was browsing Twitter this morning, when I found some ESPN analyst’s picks for the first half awards (i.e. MVP, LVP, ROY). I usually don’t waste my time with ESPN baseball reporters, since they don’t know anything about the sport half the time, but I thought I’d take a gander at it.

So I looked at the guy’s LVPs (LVP stands for Least Valuable Player, if you didn’t know). And guess who he had for the National League?

Rickie Weeks.

ESPN continues to prove to me that they know absolutely nothing about baseball, nor does it appear they even pay attention to it on a daily basis. A few weeks ago, I would have agreed with this analyst’s pick of Weeks, but he’s actually hitting over .300 for his 15 games or so, so I’ve let him off the hook.

If I recall correctly, Gaby Sanchez of the Marlins was one of his honorable mentions for the NL LVP. Sanchez, who was an All-Star last year, has been optioned to Triple-A TWICE this year. That’s the first time since 1995 that an All-Star has been sent down the following season, and probably even longer that the player was sent down twice. So how the analyst didn’t give it to Sanchez is beyond me.

But at least I was reminded why I don’t waste my time with ESPN.

> On a different note, Ron Roenicke mayhave finally grown a pair today.

Alright, that’s a bit harsh. But he finally stood up for one of his players. In the top of the ninth today, Braun was drilled in the small of the back by a Rhiner Cruz fastball. As usual, no warnings were issued, despite the fact the Brewers far and away lead the Majors in HBPs.

But, in the bottom of the ninth, I was blown away: the Brewers retaliated. With two outs in the ninth, Livan hit Jason Castro in the back with a fastball. I didn’t catch the speed of the pitch, but it was probably your typical 80 MPH Livan-ball, so it’s not the end of the world for the Astros. But I was very happy to see the Brewers retaliate for once, whether or not it was Roenicke’s decision, or Livan just did it on his own.

> And that’s about it. As I said at the beginning, forget about the break. My writing will iron itself out eventually, and I’ve realized that quitting writing isn’t going to help with that. The solution is to keep writing, which is what I’m going to do from here on out.

But, the Breaking Wisconsin site itself will be undergoing renovations. I’ve began to notice that my choice for blog design is boring, so I’ll definitely change that at least.

> Anyway, I leave you with tomorrow’s pitching matchup:

Zack Greinke (9-2, 3.08 ERA) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (6-6, 3.54 ERA)

Greinke is an All-Star snub, in my opinion, and deserved one of the last pitching spots over Lance Lynn. But I’m not going to argue about it; this is going to be one of the worst ASGs in a LONG time. David Wright and Carlos Ruiz, the NL’s leading hitters, aren’t even starting. Shows you how smart fans are becoming (at least San Francisco fans).


Brewers reward Greinke in extras after vintage duel

June 23, 2012

> Today, a Brewers starter went nine innings for the first time since April of 2011. Yet, the Brewers still don’t have a complete game since April of 2011.

> The Brewers defeated the White Sox today, 1-0, in ten innings. This was by far the best pitchers’ duel the Brewers have been involved in this year. You knew it was going to be a duel coming in, with Zack Greinke going for the Crew and Chris Sale for the Sox. Both are having All-Star campaigns, and continued their remarkable seasons today.

Greinke may very well have had his best start in a Brewers uniform today. He fired nine shutout innings while giving up just three hits, all singles. He walked one and struck out four. While the strikeout numbers may have been down, these are the types of starts that Ron Roenicke must be looking for: pitching to contact and keeping the pitch count down, which is exactly what Greinke did today. He threw exactly 100 pitches through nine, and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him go out for the tenth. Anyway, it didn’t matter that the strikeouts were down for Greinke tonight, because he didn’t even allow a runner to reach second base. Yeah, he was that dominant.

Sale, on the other hand, also had a stellar start. He went eight shutout innings while giving up four hits. He walked one and struck out seven. The Brewers had a few chances to score against him, particularly in the fifth and seventh innings, when they had a runner on second with one out in each inning. But Sale weaved his way out of trouble in both situations.

Sale was removed in favor of Addison Reed in the ninth, and I was worried that if the Brewers didn’t score that inning, Greinke wouldn’t factor in the decision. Reed did toss a perfect ninth, but Greinke came back for the ninth and matched him.

Aramis Ramirez led off the tenth with a double off Jesse Crain, his second double of the night. He was pinch-run for by Nyjer Morgan. Corey Hart then struck out. But, with Rickie Weeks batting, Crain threw a wild pitch that allowed Morgan to advanced to third. Weeks took advantage of it and slapped an RBI single to left field, which would be the only run of the game.

I was honestly hoping for Greinke to come back out and pitch the tenth, but instead struggling closer John Axford was on. And it looked like he was going to have another rough night, as he walked Gordon Beckham to lead off the inning. But he came back to strike out the American League leader in home runs, Adam Dunn, which was a huge out. But he still had to deal with another great hitter in Paul Konerko. Axford may have caught a bit of luck with him- he hit a ground ball down the line, but third baseman Taylor Green had him positioned perfectly, and from there the Brewers turned a game-ending double play.

> Prior to today’s game, the Brewers reportedly sign veteran starter Livan Hernandez to a one-year contract. But the news was leaked in an odd way- ex-Brewer utility man Bill Hall announced it via Twitter after he ran into Livan at an airport.

Anyway, Hernandez has been around for quite some time. He was most recently released by the Braves on June 18th after putting up a 4.94 ERA out of their bullpen. But Livan could be of help for the Brewers, who could need an extra starter if Shaun Marcum does end up hitting the disabled list, or if Marco Estrada has a setback in his rehab. If neither of the situations happen, though, Hernandez could be a long reliever.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers will play the second game of their last Interleague series tomorrow at 6:15 PM CT. They’ll send Randy Wolf (2-5, 5.11 ERA) to the mound, who has had just terrible luck his past three starts. He should have won all of them, but the bullpen found a way to blow it each time. So don’t be deceived by the numbers; he’s been a lot better as of late.

The White Sox will counter with Dylan Axelrod (0-1, 3.52 ERA), who will make a spot start in place of the injured Philip Humber.

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


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


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