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)

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Ax saves back-to-back games; Wolf cut loose

August 22, 2012

POSTGAME

> Today was the ideal Brewers win: the starter goes seven strong, and the setup man and closer each throw scoreless innings to seal the win.

That’s been very uncommon this year thanks the bullpen, but it happened today in the Brewers’ 3-2 win over the Cubs, as the brooms were brought out. Yovani Gallardo won his fifth straight decision, going seven solid innings while giving up two runs on four hits. He walked two and struck out nine.

Yo gave up a lead-off home run to David DeJesus, but buckled down until giving up another solo homer to Bryan LaHair in the seventh. After the Cubs took the early 1-0 lead, the Brewers responded in the bottom of the first with three straight doubles off Travis Wood from Norichika Aoki, Ryan Braun, and Corey Hart. The Brewers added on another run on Braun’s solo home run in the sixth.

Jim Henderson pitched the eighth and struggled a bit with his command, but put up the zero. John Axford struck out the side in the ninth to record his 20th save, so maybe he’s on his way back to being a dominant closer.

THE NEWS

> In a somewhat shocking move, Randy Wolf was released prior to today’s game. With the numbers Wolf was putting up this year, it was extremely unlikely the Brewers were going to pick up his $10 million option for 2013 anyway, but he wasn’t expected to go this early.

Wolf was victim to nine blown saves behind him, but the 5.69 ERA speaks for itself. He was just flat-out ineffective this year and couldn’t duplicate the 2011 season in which he went 13-10 with a 3.69 ERA, while also getting a clutch win in the NLCS against the Cardinals.

He went 13-12 with a 4.17 ERA in 2010, including a 2.67 ERA in the second half, which was his first year with the Brewers. Wolf finishes with a career 29-32 record as a Brewer with a 4.37 ERA.

I hope Wolf gets picked up by someone (maybe a contender) down the stretch. He was a real class act, but just wasn’t getting it done for the Brewers this go around.

> In a corresponding move, the Brewers once again recalled Jeff Bianchi.

> Jean Segura was out of today’s lineup, and was witnessed limping in the clubhouse. Last night, Carlos Marmol covered first base the wrong way while fielding a Segura groundout, and Segura stepped on his foot. Segura did stay in the rest of the game.

Cody Ransom got the start at shortstop today, and the Brewers called up Bianchi just in case.

> Axford reportedly asked Ron Roenicke to return to the closer’s role. That’s a very good sign, because it means Ax’s confidence is starting to come back.

> Bartolo Colon, currently pitching for the contending Athletics, was hit with a 50-game ban today. It’s crazy how many players have been suspended this year. It was the second Bay Area player to get knocked out, with Melky Cabrera receiving a suspension last week.

THE NUMBERS

> Braun has been hot since snapping his slump, and continued that with a 3-for-4 day. His average now sits at .308.

> Ransom actually got a hit in his start, going 1-for-2. But, he naturally struck out the one time he was retired.

> Since his record evened at 8-8 following a rough start against the Nationals, Gallardo has won five consecutive decisions, only giving up more than two earned runs in one of those starts.

> Brewers pitchers struck out a cumulative 37 Cubs batters this series (12 in the first two games, 13 today).

> Wolf was released on his 36th birthday. Ouch.

> After an off-day tomorrow, the Brewers start a three-game set against the still-contending Pirates. Here are the probables:

Mike Fiers (6-6, 2.90 ERA) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (8-12, 4.00 ERA)

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

Mark Rogers (1-1, 5.02 ERA) vs. Erik Bedard (7-13, 4.76 ERA)

 


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 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