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 do in Braves with huge 5th

September 13, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Brewers are over .500 and three games out of the Wild Card.

No, seriously.

I didn’t think I’d be saying that any time soon, but the Brewers’ great play recently has pushed them back near contention. They KO’d the Braves tonight, 8-2, and improved to 72-71 on the season.

Paul Maholm looked good the first few innings with a few defensive gems behind him, but he completely unraveled in the fifth. With a 2-0 lead, he gave up a go-ahead three-run blast to Rickie Weeks. The Brewers got three more RBI hits from Jonathan Lucroy, Travis Ishikawa, and even Yovani Gallardo in that inning.

Yovani Gallardo was solid as well, going seven innings while giving up two runs on four hits. He walked three and struck out six, earning his 15th win of the season.

THE NEWS

> Corey Hart was out of the lineup again, and reportedly received custom foot support for the nagging arch injury. But, he’ll be available on Friday at the earliest, and even then he’d likely be in a pinch-hit role.

> Carlos Gomez left the game after attempting to break up a double play in the second inning. He was successful in doing that, but bruised the lower quadriceps on his right leg in doing so. Gomez is considered day-to-day.

Logan Schafer took his place in center field and in the lineup.

> Mat Gamel won’t be ready for the Arizona Fall League.

> The Brewers have changed their plans for Tyler Thornburg now that they’re contending.

> MLB released its 2013 schedule, including the new Interleague-every-series concept. The Brewers make some interesting Interleague trips, including visiting Seattle, and the Athletics coming to Miller Park for the first time.

> The Cardinals lost. Might as well start paying attention to what’s going on in the WC standings.

THE NUMBERS

> This is only the second time in franchise history the Brewers have swept the Braves.

> The Brewers are now over .500 for the first time since they were 4-3 in April.

> Ishikawa went 2-for-4 with three RBIs, all coming on a bases-clearing double in the fifth. He isn’t quite as bad as I advertise him at times, I guess.

> The Brewers have an off-day tomorrow following a 20 games in 20 days stretch (during which they thrived). They’ll start a series against the Mets on Friday. Here are the probables:

Mike Fiers (9-7, 3.05 ERA) vs. Jeremy Hefner (2-6, 4.94 ERA)

Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.71 ERA) vs. Chris Young (4-7, 4.39 ERA)

Wily Peralta (1-0, 3.46 ERA) vs. Collin McHugh (0-2, 3.60 ERA)

MLB has yet to post the probables, so I just based this off the last order through each team’s rotation. The Mets’ starters might be one off since they’re using a six-man rotation.


Brewers push their way back to .500

September 12, 2012

POSTGAME

> We’ve waited a long time for this. The Brewers finally made it back to .500 (71-71) with their 5-0 win over the Braves tonight, and maybe now they can take it one step further.

Marco Estrada was stellar, going 6 2/3 shutout innings while giving up four hits. He walked one and struck out six. He gave up a few near-home runs that were caught about as close to the wall as you can get, but it doesn’t matter much as long as they were outs.

Tim Hudson looked on his game after giving up a first inning home run to Rickie Weeks. After the second inning, he didn’t allow another baserunner until the sixth. But his wheels fell off in the seventh. Hudson gave up back-to-back singles to Aramis Ramirez and Jonathan Lucroy to start the inning. Then, two batters later with the bases loaded and one out, Jean Segura beat out a double play ball to drive in a run. That wound up costing the Braves, as Taylor Green and Norichika Aoki hit back-t0-back RBI singles to extend the lead to 4-0. Then, in the eighth inning, Aramis Ramirez hit a mammoth solo home run,  his 23rd of the year.

THE NEWS

> Corey Hart was out of the lineup again with his foot problem. He’s going to get custom foot support tomorrow to “ease the pain,” and he should be back in the lineup before long.

> The Brewers extended their player development contract with the Nashville Sounds, their Triple-A affiliate. The deal runs through 2014.

> Ken Rosenthal suggests that the Brewers need to sign a starting pitcher and fix their bullpen problems this coming offseason.

In my opinion, the SP market is going to be so bad that the Brewers might as well stick with the prospects they have and see what they can get; they’ve shown that they’re ready to perform at the big league level. But the bullpen definitely needs to be addressed.

THE NUMBERS

> This is the first time the Brewers have sat at .500 since April, when they were 9-9. Yeah, it’s been awhile.

> After starting the year winless, Estrada has three wins in his last four starts.

> Weeks had one career hit against Hudson coming into the game, but recorded two against him tonight (the home run and a triple). Weeks also had the only hit against Hudson in his last start against the Brewers, a one-hit shutout in May of 2011.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

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


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)


Greinke K’s 12 as Brewers return favor to Cubs

June 7, 2012

> After how terrible last night’s game turned out, today’s game was unbelievable.

> A day after being embarrassingly shut out 10-0 by one of the worst teams in the National League, the Brewers came back and defeated the Cubs, 8-0. The story of the night was Zack Greinke, who, you could argue, had the best start of his Brewers tenure. The Brewers’ offense also broke out for five runs against Cubs starter Paul Maholm to show that it hasn’t completely disappeared yet.

But first I’ll talk about Greinke’s gem. He went seven innings while giving up just two hits. He walked two and struck out 12, a new Brewers-high for him. Like I said, you could make the argument that this was the best stuff he’s ever had as a Brewer, but there was also his eight inning of two-hit ball against the Reds back at the beginning of May. He struck out 11 in that start. But Greinke once again continued his home dominance, improving to 15-0 at Miller Park.

The Brewers got on the board first in the fourth inning on Ryan Braun’s RBI single. Cody Ransom followed that with an RBI double. Then, Brooks Conrad, who has acquired a batting average since I last posted, hit a broken bat two-RBI single to cap off a four-run fourth inning. The Brewers also tacked on another run in the fifth on a Corey Hart sacrifice fly.

In the bottom of the eighth, Taylor Green was pinch-hitting for the pitcher’s spot in the lineup, and it paid off. He hit his first career home run- a three-run shot- off of Carlos Marmol, who hung him a slider. That pretty much finished off the Brewers’ blowout of the Cubs; nearly the exact opposite of what happened last night.

> The 2012 First-Year Player Draft came to a close today. The highlights of the Brewers’ picks came in the first round and the compensation round. They took catcher Clint Coulter as the 27th pick overall, outfielder Victor Roache as 28th overall, and outfielder Mitch Haniger in the compensation round. All three of these guys are considered big bats, and that was the Brewers’ focus this draft. After snatching up good pitching in last year’s draft (Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley), they wanted to replenish their Minor League system, which is lacking consistent power hitters at the moment.

Another highlight was that the Brewers took manager Ron Roenicke’s son, outfielder Lance Roenicke, in the draft. But that was a common theme in the NL Central: the Cardinals took Mike Matheny’s son, and the Cubs took ex-Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum’s son.

> Other than that, there wasn’t much news today. But, school officially finished for me today, which means I’ll be able to get back to posting here on BW a lot more consistently. Even since school started back in September I’ve been pretty on and off as far as posting goes, but I’m going to try and post every day throughout the summer.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers will play the rubber game of this series tomorrow at 1:10 PM CT. They’ll send Randy Wolf (2-5, 6.05 ERA) to the mound, and he’s having the definition of a terrible season. But, one of his best starts of the season came against the Cubs back in May: six shutout innings.

The Cubs will counter with Matt Garza (2-4, 4.10 ERA), who the Brewers have struggled a lot against recently. But Garza has had his own struggles as of late, with his ERA ballooning up over 4.00 in his past few starts.

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


Bullpen makes things interesting in ninth vs. Cubs

April 10, 2012

> Going into the ninth inning of today’s game, it didn’t appear that the Brewers would have any issues closing out this game. But, a few bullpen moves by Ron Roenicke made for a tight finish on the north side.

First off, though, the Brewers did defeat the Cubs, 7-5. Shaun Marcum picked up the win in his first start of the season, as he managed to make those dismal postseason starts in 2011 an afterthought. The offense wasn’t bad either, but again, the bullpen- at least in the ninth inning- nearly rose a few questions.

Marcum’s start was solid, as he went six innings while giving up three runs on five hits. He struck out six and walked none. Although he gave up two home runs in the first two innings, he did a good job of missing bats, something he was struggling with towards the end of 2011.

The Brewers scored right away in the first inning on an Aramis Ramirez sacrifice fly. Ramirez was making his first start in Chicago since leaving the Cubs, and it probably made Cubs fans miss him. Anyway, the Cubs answered back right away in the bottom of the inning on Darwin Barney’s solo home run. The Cubs then took a 2-1 lead in the second on a solo shot by Bryan LaHair. But, the Brewers tied it back up in the third on Rickie Weeks’ second home run of the year- yet another solo shot.

In the fourth inning, the Brewers made the first of two successful squeeze plays, this one by Marcum. But the Cubs evened the score in the fifth on a Blake DeWitt sacrifice fly. That followed a “triple” by Geovany Soto, but he only reached third because center fielder Nyjer Morgan lost the ball in the light and wind on what would have been a routine fly ball.

The Brewers then took a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish in the sixth on a Mat Gamel RBI triple. Jonathan Lucroy followed that up with a sacrifice fly to make the score 5-3. Ramirez then hit an RBI double in the seventh. Carlos Gomez tacked on one more run in the eighth on the second squeeze of the game by the Brewers.

Then came the ninth, where things got interesting. The Brewers held a 7-3 lead up until that point. Jose Veras and Francisco Rodriguez had handled the seventh and eighth innings respectively, so you’d think John Axford would come in for the ninth (despite the fact it wasn’t a save situation). But, like many managers do nowadays, Roenicke took the four-run lead for granted and put in Manny Parra instead. As we all know, he’s just returning after missing all of 2010, so he hasn’t had much work lately.

So, sure enough, Parra gave up a leadoff double to Ian Stewart. He then induced a groundout from LaHair, but Steward advanced to third on the play. Although it was already a save situation, Roenicke had Axford warming up along with Tim Dillard. So he decided to put in Dillard for some reason, I’m still not quite sure why. Dillard came in and walked Soto, and that was all he did. Roenicke then brought in Axford at last, but things were still starting to go downhill. On what could have been a game-ending double play, the third baseman Ramirez booted an easy grounder, which allowed Stewart to score, and left guys on first and second. Steve Clevenger followed that up with an RBI single, but the center fielder Gomez committed a missed catch error, allowing runners to reach second and third.

But Axford managed to strike out David DeJesus for the second out of the inning. He then walked Barney to load the bases. But, Axford finished the game by striking out Starlin Castro on three pitches.

> The back-end of the bullpen isn’twhat worries me at the moment, but more so the middle relievers. Dillard, Parra, and Kameron Loe haven’t looked particularly sharp so far. I know we’re only four games into the season, but hopefully this gets fixed soon.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers will play the second game of this four-game series tomorrow at 6:05 PM CT. Chris Narveson will go for the Brewers, making his first start of the season. He’s dominated the Cubs in his career, going 6-1 with a 3.51 ERA against them.

The Cubs will counter with free agent acquisition Paul Maholm, who has seen a lot of the Brewers with the Pirates over the past few seasons. He’s 3-8 with a 4.45 ERA in his career against the Crew.

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


Brewers’ bullpen can’t hang on against Cards

April 9, 2012

> The Brewers had somewhat of a repeat of the first game of the season today, losing to the Cardinals 9-3. Like the first game, the Brewers’ bullpen blew up late, and didn’t give the offense much of a chance to try and catch up. Marco Estrada gave up two runs in two innings, Tim Dillard gave up a run, John Axford gave up two runs in his 2012 debut, and Kameron Loe gave up a run. In other words, every pitcher the Brewers used today gave up a run, which is never good.

Randy Wolf was on the hill for his 2012 debut, and didn’t pitch particularly bad. He went five innings while giving up three runs on nine hits. He struck out seven and walked one. Wolf managed to strand a lot of St. Louis baserunners, but had to work for it, as he threw 108 pitches in just five innings.

The Cards got on the board right away in the first on Matt Holliday’s RBI double. They got another run in the fourth on a Rafael Furcal RBI single, and another in the fifth on David Freese’s RBI single. The Brewers scored in the fifth on yet another Corey Hart home run, this one a solo shot. He’s currently tied for the league lead with three home runs.

The Cardinals got two more runs on Carlos Beltran’s two-run homer in the seventh. They also picked up another one in the eighth on Tyler Greene’s RBI single. The Brewers got their second run of the game in the eighth on Alex Gonzalez’s first hit (and RBI) as a Brewer, which was an RBI double. That followed Norichika Aoki’s first hit in the MLB.

The Cards tacked on three more in the ninth on Shane Robinson’s three-run blast, which pretty much put away the game. Ryan Braun hit his first home run of the year in the ninth inning, but the game was already over by then.

Oddly enough, the Brewers just couldn’t hit Lance Lynn, Chris Carpenter’s temporary rotation replacement. He went 6 2/3 innings while giving up a run on just two hits. He struck out eight and walked one.

Then again though, the Brewers have a history of not being able to hit rookie pitchers for their lives, so this start could mean nothing, for all we know.

> I’m glad this series is over. Now theBrewers move onto a hopefully easier opponent- the Cubs. They’re playing them in Chicago, however, a venue the Brewers haven’t had much success in over recent years. Anyway, here are the pitching matchups (the statistics are from 2011):

Shaun Marcum (13-7, 3.54 ERA) vs. Chris Volstad (5-13, 4.89 ERA)

Chris Narveson (11-8, 4.45 ERA) vs. Paul Maholm (6-14, 3.66 ERA)

Yovani Gallardo (17-10, 3.52 ERA) vs. ???

Zack Greinke (16-6, 3.83 ERA) vs. ???

Gallardo will probably be facing Ryan Dempster, and Greinke should be up against Matt Garza, but the Cubs haven’t officially announced it yet.

Anyway, all four of these pitchers have above-average career numbers against the Cubs, so this should be a good series for the Crew.

> And that’s about it. Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.

 


Did the Cubs’ rotation improve?

January 20, 2012

> Probably not.

The Cubs had another Cubs-esque year in 2011, going 71-91. The actually had a half-decent offense, as they were near the top of the NL in team batting average.

But why were they so bad? Their pitching; primarily the starting rotation. Practically none of their starters performed to the expectations they were expected. They did deal a few of their starters and acquired a few as well, but I don’t know if it was enough to lift them out of the chasm that is the bottom of the NL Central.

This is how I would assemble the Cubs’ rotation in 2012:

#1 starter- Matt Garza- 10-10, 3.32 ERA

Garza was the only decent starter in 2011, despite the fact Mike Quade named him the #3 starter at the beginning of the season. Garza actually had a career year, setting a career-best ERA. His wins don’t show it, but he didn’t get run support most of the time.

Garza also had a career-high in strikeouts, punching out 197 in 198 innings. His K/9 was exactly 9, which was a huge improvement from his 6.6 K/9 while pitching for the Rays in 2010. Garza, who used to be known as primarily a fly-ball pitcher because of his aggressive use of the high fastball, could be turning into a strikeout pitcher.

For some reason, Garza is on the Cubs’ trade block. If they trade him, their rotation will have close to no hope in 2012, as you’ll see from the pitchers I’m about to talk about.

#2 starter- Ryan Dempster- 10-14, 4.80 ERA

Dempster had an awful 2011, to say the least. In 2010, he went 15-12 with a 3.85 ERA, so his numbers really plummeted in 2011. The only area he was half decent was his innings and strikeouts. He ate up 202 1/3 innings, something the Cubs needed.

Garza has a sinker, splitter, and slider in his repertoire, so he’s known as a groundball pitcher. But, his 8.5 K/9 in 2011 was a career-high, so, like Garza, he could be becoming a strikeout pitcher.

But, since Dempster’s career year in 2008 in which he went 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA, his ERA has consistently gone down- 2.96, 3.65, 3.85, 4.80. Maybe we could expect worse next year, but I kind of doubt it. Dempster can be a good pitcher, but he just isn’t consistent enough yet, and it may be too late in his career to turn it around.

#3 starter- Paul Maholm- 6-14, 3.66 ERA

After the Pirates opted not to re-sign Maholm, the Cubs picked him up on a one-year deal, and, in my opinion, it isn’t a bad pickup. His 6-14 shows nothing of how well he pitched in 2011- the Pirates didn’t have any offense.

Maholm definitely isn’t a strikeout pitcher, as he had just a 5.4 K/9 in 2011, to go along with 97 strikeouts in 162 1/3 innings. I don’t see him pitch very often, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe he’s a groundball pitcher. But it’s fine that he doesn’t strike out many batters- Garza and Dempster have that covered.

I think Maholm will have a decent year in 2012. But that’s just my gut feeling, I could be wrong; he’s been pretty inconsistent over the past few years.

#4 starter- Randy Wells- 7-6, 4.99 ERA

Wells got injured in his first start of the year, so he missed the first few months. When he came back, he struggled, and for most of the year his ERA was well north of 5.00. But, he had a good September that included a shutout against the Giants, and lowered his ERA by a large margin.

Wells is an extreme groundball pitcher, and his K/9 was just 5.5 in 2011. Yet, he somehow found a way to give up 23 homers in just 135 1/3 innings, which means left a few too many sinkers up.

I don’t know about Wells. I don’t see much in him, and have a feeling he won’t have more than an average season in 2012.

#5 starter- Chris Volstad- 5-13, 4.89 ERA

The first thing the Cubs need to to do with Volstad- thank him. He was part of the trade that sent the psychopath- AKA Carlos Zambrano- to the Miami Marlins, so they won’t have to deal with his antics anymore. Anyway, with that aside, I see talent in Volstad. He hasn’t had the best career so far, but he’s still young and has time to turn it around. I think the Marlins gave up on him a bit early, and it was actually their fault for his lack of wins, because they didn’t give him any run support.

Volstad is considered a groundball pitcher, but I don’t really see it, as he gave up 23 homers in 2011. He doesn’t strike out all that many, with his K/9 being 6.4 in 2011. But I think all he needs to do is start missing more bats, and he’ll be successful.

I see a bright future for Volstad, but for some reason I have a feeling he won’t be in Chicago very long.

And that’s how I think the rotation should go. There will be some competition in Spring Training, as Casey Coleman, Travis Wood, Andy Sonnanstine, and possibly Jeff Samardzija could possibly challenge for a spot in the rotation.

> Today was the day. Ryan Braun finally pleaded his case in front of three arbitrators earlier today, but not much info was released. The decision won’t be made by Saturday, however, so we’ll have to wait a little longer.

The case took place a few days earlier than expected, as it was supposed to happen after Braun received his MVP award at a dinner on Saturday. At least that’s what’s Lance Allen reported earlier this month. But it would be nice if it were all settled before the dinner; it could make things a little less awkward, or ten times more awkward.

> And that’s about it. Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.


The 2011 Pirates could be a signal…

December 4, 2011

> A signal that they may be coming back from the dead.

The Pirates had a typical Pirates season in 2011, typical meaning what we’ve come to expect of them ever since 1992. They went 72-90, which was at least an improvement from their 57-105 season in 2010. But, it was still nowhere near contention, as they finished 24 games back of the first place Brewers.

The Pirates can say the finished ahead of the Cubs and Astros for the first time in a few years, but each of those two teams had excuses- the Cubs were managed by Mike Quade, and, by the end of the season, the Astros didn’t have one household name (AKA star player) on their team.

But, it appeared at the All-Star break that the Pirates weren’t going to finish the season like they usually do. Around that time, they were actually in first place for awhile. The terms “first place” and “Pirates” hadn’t been associated with each other since 1992.

By the All-Star break, the Pirates were just one game out of first place. And they had rode pitching all the way there. At the time, their starters- Paul Maholm (6-9, 2.96 ERA), Kevin Correia (11-7, 4.01 ERA), James McDonald (5-4, 4.42 ERA), Charlie Morton (7-5, 3.80 ERA), and Jeff Karstens (7-4, 2.55 ERA)- were all giving the Pirates a chance to win. And their bullpen was solidified by All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan, who, at the time, had yet to blow a save all year.

On one fateful night, however, everything fell apart.

It was July 26th, and the Pirates record at the time was 53-48- good for third in the NL Central and still in the heat of the pennant race (the Cardinals and Brewers were tied for first). The Pirates were in the final game of a three-game series with the Braves in Atlanta, and looking for a series win. Little did they know that when the game started, they’d have to wait around seven hours for a result- a very frustrating result.

The game ended up going 19 innings. The starter that night, Karstens, had turned in just five innings, forcing the Pirates to use nearly every pitcher in their bullpen.

In the bottom of the 19th inning, the game tied 3-3, reliever Daniel McCutchen was in his sixth inning of work (and he was supposed to have a night off). Scott Proctor, the relief pitcher for the Braves, was at the plate, while Julio Lugo stood at third base. McCutchen threw a slider, and Proctor tapped a grounder to third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez threw it home to catcher Michael McKenry, who caught the ball and tagged out Lugo.

But home plate umpire Jerry Meals had other ideas.

The Pirates playoff hopes were crushed by an umpire in the 19th inning of a game in Atlanta.

After McKenry obviously tagged Lugo, Meals called Lugo safe, and the Braves won, 4-3, in 19 innings. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle came bustling out of the dugout to join an argument that McCutchen and McKenry were already having with Meals. But there was no changing it- the wrong call had been made, and it stood.

The next day (actually the same day, as the game ended early the next morning), Meals did what only an idiot umpire would do- come out and admit that the call was wrong after the game is over. I hate it when umpires do that, because they’re simply enraging the team they screwed over more, because now that team knows that they actually had a shot at continuing the game and possibly winning.

Anyway, in some Pirates’ fans minds, that was probably the end of the season for them. You can’t blame them for not recuperating in time after a game like that because of the exhausted bullpen (and everyone else was probably exhausted as well).

Remember the numbers I listed for the Pirates’ starters earlier? Yeah, they looked a little different by the end of the season. Maholm finished didn’t win another start all year, finishing 6-14 with a 3.66 ERA. Correia,  who had already started his decline before the numbers I showed, faltered even more before he went on the DL to finish the year, going 12-11 with a 4.79 ERA. McDonald actually pitched decent, finished 9-9 with a 4.21 ERA. Morton couldn’t continue what appeared to be a great comeback season for him, going 10-10 with a 3.83 ERA. Lastly, Karstens finished 9-9 with a 3.38 ERA, a significant increase in ERA from 2.55.

But, I have a feeling the Pirates aren’t going to be pushovers in the Central for much longer. They have loads of talent, such as Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, and so on. If they can get a little more pitching and just put everything together over the next few years, they could be a force in the Central.

But first, they need to find a way to beat the Brewers, who have flat-out punished them over the past few years. Since 2009, the Pirates have a total of nine wins against the Brewers. Personally, I hope that continues, though.

> Rumor has it that the Brewers may have already made an offer to free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez. I’ve heard that it’s a three-year deal with a mutual option for a fourth, but it’s nowhere near confirmed- it may have not even happened yet.

Still, I kind of hope the Brewers sign him. That would at least help fill the void that Prince Fielder is going to leave in the offense.

> I’ve also heard from various sources that Doug Melvin has spoken with free agent shortstop Jose Reyes‘ agents. A few weeks ago, it was supposedly “guaranteed” that Reyes was going to sign with the Marlins, but I haven’t heard anything between the two teams since

Now, Brewers might sign one of them (meaning Reyes or Ramirez, but I kind of doubt they’ll sign either. But imagine if they signed both. The payroll simply won’t permit (and that new salary cap isn’t helping either), but those two on the Brewers would make up for Fielder’s absence.

UPDATE: The Marlins and Reyes have reportedly agreed to a six-year, $106 million deal, which officially puts the Brewers out of the mix for him.

> Unless Fielder can’t find a job with another team. It doesn’t appear anyone wants him, and same goes for Albert Pujols. Who would have thought that the two most coveted free agents on the market might be forced to sign with their former team if they want to keep playing in the MLB?

> Former pitcher Pedro Martinez officially announced his retirement last night, after not pitching in the Majors since 2009 with the Phillies.

Say what you will, but he’s going to the Hall of Fame.

> A minor trade happened yesterday, as the Blue Jays sent lefty starter Brad Mills to the Angels in exchange for catcher Jeff Mathis.

> It’s still early in the day, and nothing’s really happened yet. But, if something does happen, I’ll update ASAP. Anyway, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.


Looking back at the first week of 2011′s offseason

November 7, 2011

> The first week of the 2011 MLB offseason was rather quiet, with none of the top free agents reaching agreements with new teams (or the ones they were already with). But I guess that wasn’t expected. Anyway, despite this, there were a lot of minor moves, with some more significant than others, and later in this article I’ll try to go through every move made. But, before that, there is one Brewers-related piece of news that I should probably share.

> Dale Sveum is going to be interviewed for the Cubs’ managerial vacancy tomorrow. Ugh.

Over the past few days, Sveum has been considered the front-runner to become the new Red Sox manager, but nothing has been confirmed. And now he’s going to have a chance to become the Cubs’ manager, a team he has seen up close and personally for quite a few years now as the Brewers’ hitting coach.

So the reason I said “ugh” earlier is because, no matter who it is, I find it painful to see someone from a team I like leave for a team I hate. For instance, I was crushed a few years back when Brett Favre left the Packers for the Jets, and eventually the Vikings- a team I despise. (That is, until I figured out what a loser Favre was under the surface, but you still get the point.) Anyway, I’d be happy for Sveum no matter where he goes (if he does end up managing), but let me say I’d be much happier if he went to the Red Sox instead of the Cubs.

> But, with that aside, let’s get to all the moves that occurred during this first week of the Hot Stove. I guess I didn’t realize how much I didn’t cover on BreakingWI, but here’s my chance to redeem myself.

> Frank McCourt agreed with MLB to sell the Dodgers, and hopefully put this divorce-bankruptcy crap behind him and the franchise. The Dodgers suffered that for far too long, and hopefully whoever ends up being the team can right that ship.

> The long expected CC Sabathia opt-out never actually happened, as the Yankees managed to retain him by adding an extra year, worth $25 million, to his already-remaining for years on the seven-year deal he signed back in 2008 (after he left the Brewers). So much for that… I was looking forward to him sticking it up the Yankees’… Er, maybe I shouldn’t go there.

> The Indians acquired 15-year veteran starting pitcher Derek Lowe from the Braves. Lowe has definitely been on a decline in recent years, but the Indians hope his veteran presence can anchor their very young rotation.

> The Phillies successfully signed designated hitter Jim Thome to a one-year deal worth $1.225 million. Oh, wait, they’re a National League team… Apparently they expect him to play a little first base and be a power lefty off the bench, but I can’t see this deal working out very well.

> Cards manager Tony La Russa decided to retire after 33 seasons as a Major League manager. He definitely went out on top, that’s for sure…

> Davey Johnson is going to be the Nationals’ manager in 2012 as well, after picking up where Jim Riggleman left off midway through the 2011 season.

> The Giants exercised their option on lefty reliever Jeremy Affeldt, and also signed fellow lefty reliever Javier Lopez to a two-year deal.

> The Dodgers re-signed Juan Rivera to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million after acquiring him from the Blue Jays halfway through the 2011 season.

> The Cubs exercised their half of the option on third baseman Aramis Ramirez, but Ramirez declined his half, thus becoming a free agent.

> The Nationals re-signed starter Chien-Ming Wang to a one-year deal, following three seasons full of injuries- two of which he didn’t even pitch at all. But, before that, he was a dominant starting pitcher for the Yankees.

> The Diamondbacks made a few signings on and off the field, as they locked up shortstop John McDonald with a two-year, $3 million deal, along with a one-year deal worth $1.2 million for catcher Henry Blanco. They also extended GM Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson, both of whom completely turned around what looked to be another disappointing season coming in.

> The Brewers declined their $17.5 million option on Francisco Rodriguez, which was inherited from the Mets. They also declined a $6 million option on shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt (HOORAY!).

> The Mets pretty much came out and said that they’re not going to be able to retain shortstop Jose Reyes. Not that I’m surprised, but it’s sort of odd that they’d come out and say it like that.

> The Braves have announced that they would trade starter Jair Jurrjens and outfielder/second baseman Martin Prado, if given a good enough deal. Right now, the Royals look like the best destination, at least for Jurrjens.

> The Giants are willing to trade starter Jonathan Sanchez. Not sure who would want that walk-machine, unless they really need starting pitching.

> The Cardinals declined their options  on shortstop Rafael Furcal and reliever Octavio Dotel. That was surprising to some (including me).

> The Red Sox picked up their $6 million option on shortstop Marco Scutaro.

> The Nationals appear to be in the running for starter Roy Oswalt, whose option was declined by the Phillies prior to the World Series.

> It sounds like the Phillies are literally dying for Michael Cuddyer, which means they’ll probably have him. But that would pretty much nullify the Thome deal, because Cuddyer could play a similar role, but is so much more versatile.

> The Diamondbacks declined options on starter Zach Duke, second baseman Aaron Hill, and shortstop Willie Bloomquist, but are probably open to re-signing Hill and Bloomquist.

> The Blue Jays picked up their option on outfielder Edwin Encarnacion, but declined their option on reliever Jon Rauch.

> The Royals picked up their $6 million option on closer Joakim Soria, who is coming off a horrible 2011. But, prior to that, he was one of the top closers in the game.

> The Reds picked up their option on second baseman Brandon Phillips, but declined the option on closer Francisco Cordero.

> The Padres declined options on starter Aaron Harang, reliever Chad Qualls, and first baseman Brad Hawpe. I thought it was interesting that they didn’t pick up Harang’s option, because he actually quietly put up a good season.

> The Rays exercised their option  on starter James Shields and closer Kyle Farnsworth, while declining both of those pitchers’ batterymate, Kelly Shoppach.

> Mariners closer David Aardsma, who did not pitch at all in 2011 due to an injury from 2010, has elected free agency. Whichever team that signs him will probably have to wait until at least June for his services in the Majors, however, as he’s still recovering from the injury.

> The White Sox picked up their option on reliever Jason Frasor, who they acquired from the Blue Jays at the Trade Deadline.

> The Indians exercised their option on starter Fausto Carmona, but declined the option on the injury-plagued center fielder Grady Sizemore.

> The Pirates declined options on catcher Ryan Doumit, shortstop Ronny Cedeno, catcher Chris Snyder, and starter Paul Maholm. I thought they should have kept Maholm at least, because he’s good- just doesn’t get run support. But they can do whatever the want to keep themselves from having their first winning season since 1992, for all I care…

> The Rockies declined their option on starter Aaron Cook. That was definitely expected, as he’s been injury-plagued and ineffective over the past two years.

> Lastly, the Rangers exercised their option on Japanese reliever Yoshinori Tateyama.

Well, that took awhile, but thanks for reading. Feel free to leave thoughts on these moves, if you have any.



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