Brewers take series from Jays

June 21, 2012

> The Brewers completed a much-needed series win today, as they took two out of three from the Blue Jays. I haven’t had time to post over the past few days, so I’m just going to quickly recap all three games, then talk about a few things after as well.

> The Brewers took the first game, 7-6, in a hard-fought win. The game started in a way the Brewers weren’t hoping to see- Brett Lawrie, the former Brewers farmhand, hit a lead-0ff home run off Randy Wolf on the second pitch he saw. But the offense broke out against Jays starter Henderson Alvarez, scoring six runs in just the first two innings. This included RBIs from Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, Norichika Aoki, and Aramis Ramirez. But, with the score 6-3 in the seventh and two men on, Jose Bautista hit a game-tying home run (I’ll go more in depth on that situation later). The Brewers then answered back the next inning on an overturned home run by Ramirez. It was a line drive shot that was actually lower than the top of the wall in left field, but it hit off the yellow strip of padding that extends below the foul line. The ball was first called foul, but Ron Roenicke went out to argue, and the umpires eventually overturned the call after going in to look at the replay.

> Last night’s game, the Jays’ 10-9 win, should have been a fairly easy win for the Brewers, but the bullpen made sure that didn’t happen (again, I’ll talk about our bullpen issues later this article).

The Jays were leading 6-5 in the sixth inning, and after the Brewers loaded the bases with one out, they put in Jason Frasor to pitch to Ramirez. Ramirez then came through with yet another clutch hit, just as he had the night before. But this one was a grand slam to give the Brewers a 9-6 lead. Unfortunately, a combined four runs given up by Manny Parra and John Axford (yet another blown save for him) would end up being the fate of the Brewers.

> Today’s game was yet another offensive outburst for the Brewers, which is a good sign for them, considering the scored at least seven runs in all three of these games. After Edwin Encarnacion homered in the top of the second, the Brewers answered back with five in the bottom of the inning, getting home runs from Corey Hart, Martin Maldonado, and Carlos Gomez. Braun also hit a home run in the seventh inning for his 20th of the year.

> Last night (the 10-9 loss), Tyler Thornburg was making his Major League debut in place of the injured Shaun Marcum, who may actually hit the disabled list. Anyway, his debut appeared to be going fine, but it appeared to me (I was at the game) that nerves may have gotten to him in the sixth. He gave up three consecutive home runs to Colby Rasmus, Bautista, and Encarnacion. But it turned out it might not have been nerves; it may have been a serious drop in velocity, which is a cause for concern. The scoreboard at Miller Park had Thornburg topping out at 96 MPH, and I noticed the scoreboard had him clocked in the mid-to-high 80’s on all of the home run balls. Because of the angle I was at, I just assumed he had hung a couple of sliders due to nerves, but those actually might have been Marcum-speed fastballs. Those type of fastballs can be effective, but, since Thornburg had been throwing in the mid-90’s previous to that and he probably wasn’t getting much movement on them, you can imagine why it was easy for the Jays hitters to start picking him up.

> Despite the fact the Brewers won this series, the bullpen continued to slump. In the first game of the series, Wolf left the game with a 6-3 lead, hoping to pick up his first win since the end of April (despite he’s pitched well enough to win his past three or so starts). But he would have no such luck- Kameron Loe came in and promptly gave up the game-tying shot to Bautista.

Then, last night, after Thornburg’s debut, Tim Dillard came in and gave up a run to finish the sixth. Like I said earlier, Parra pitched the seventh inning of that game, giving up two runs to cut the Jays’ deficit to one run. After Francisco Rodriguez, who has been pitching a lot better as of late, threw a scoreless eighth last night, Axford came in and blew yet another save, giving up back-to-back home runs to Rasmus and Bautista.

Today the bullpen wasn’t as bad, but Dillard did allow an inherited runner to score, which charged an extra earned run to Yovani Gallardo.

But it goes without saying that the bullpen has been flat-out terrible lately. Loe is supposed to enter the game and get groundball outs against power hitters, not give up go-ahead or game-tying home runs. And I have no idea what’s going on with Axford; he may be getting the Brewer-closer syndrome. Previous victims of this include Dan Kolb, Derrick Turnbow, Eric Gagne, and Trevor Hoffman. I don’t know what it is; it feels like we have closers who are stellar for a year and a half, then it’s like they go out there and forget how to pitch. Anyway, maybe Axford shouldn’t be listed with those other names yet, but I can’t imagine the Brewers are going to stand for this much longer.

By the way, just an interesting note from the end of today’s game: Michael Fiers pitched the last inning. He was scheduled to start the first game of the White Sox series, but maybe this means Marco Estrada will be back by then. That, or the Brewers have different plans that we don’t know about.

> As I said earlier, Marcum may be on his way to the disabled list. He experienced shoulder tightness prior to his would-have-been start against the Blue Jays, his former team, so Thornburg was called up for the emergency start.

But this is why I question taking Fiers out of the rotation (assuming he has been taken out). Unless Thornburg is staying to take Marcum’s spot in the rotation until he comes back, which the Brewers hinted they wouldn’t do, I can’t imagine why they would remove Fiers in a situation like this.

> Anyway, that’s about it. The Brewers have an off-day tomorrow, then start their final Interleague series, this one against the White Sox. Here’s what the matchups are looking like:

Michael Fiers? (2-2, 3.60 ERA) vs. Chris Sale (8-2, 2.46 ERA)

Zack Greinke (7-2, 3.10 ERA) vs. Philip Humber (3-4, 6.01 ERA)

Randy Wolf (2-5, 5.11 ERA) vs. Jose Quintana (2-1, 1.53 ERA)

UPDATE: Actually, I recall Brian Anderson saying during today’s broadcast that Greinke got bumped up in the rotation to face Sale, but will be pitching on regular rest because of the off-day. So, either the Brewers are skipping Fiers’ spot in the rotation this time around, or they’re just going to go with a four-man rotation until Estrada returns.

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Brewers, Axford working on deal

March 1, 2012

> The Brewers have reportedly been trying to negotiate a multi-year deal with closer John Axford, according to a few sources. Axford is the only member of the 40-man roster to not sign a deal for the 2012 season, as he said that he’s “holding out for billions.” Obviously, that’s a joke (hopefully), but I kind of wonder if now’s the time for a multi-year deal.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d like the Brewers to lock him up for a few years. But, he isn’t a free agent for the first time until 2017. And, the Brewers have other players that they should try locking up first (Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum).

I’m not saying this is going to happen, because I doubt it will, but it can sometimes be dangerous to sign closers to multi-year deals. Closers can sometimes lose it overnight- just look at Trevor Hoffman, Derrick Turnbow, Jonathan Broxton and so on. If the Brewers go any further than three years, I might get a little worried.

But hopefully that won’t happen to Axford, and he can be the Brewers closer for a long time. If he keeps it up, he could be the next Rollie Fingers- he’s already got the mustache for it. (Link to article on Axford)

> The talks about a possible Wild Card expansion for the postseason are still alive, and will hopefully come to a close soon. If it does get done, then, starting with the 2012 postseason, there would be a one-game playoff between two Wild Card teams. The winner would then go onto the division series.

Unlike many other baseball matters, I’m actually taking a neutral position on this. If it gets done, great. Then we’d have an action-packed, dramatic one game playoff between the Wild Card teams, which would be pretty cool. But, if it doesn’t get done, that’s fine too. I like the way the playoffs are set up now, and if they stay this way, that’s fine. Let’s just hope it doesn’t become like the NBA, where it feels like every team makes the playoffs every year. I’m never going to forget last year when the Bucks were 26-40, and ESPN (or some other sports anchor) claimed that they were still “in the hunt” for a playoff spot. That’s when I realized the NBA was extremely flawed. I’d prefer baseball not go down that road, but, even if it did, I would still watch it, because it’s just fundamentally better than basketball in general.

In any case, we’ll see if this thing gets done. (Link to article on WC expansion)

> The Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina have agreed to a five-year, $75 million deal, according to multiple sources. The Cards have yet to comment on the matter, but it sounds like it’s a done deal.

Molina did his best to become unpopular with Brewers fans last season by salivating all over an umpire after a called third strike (that appeared to be a strike). But, you can’t argue the fact that he’s a great catcher, who will probably make the Hall of Fame solely because of his unbelievable defense behind the plate. He also had a breakout season on the other side of the plate last year, leading the Cardinals with a .305 batting average. (Link to article on Molina)

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


Phillies sign Papelbon to four-year deal

November 12, 2011

> Finally- the first deal involving a top-tier free agent in the 2011 offseason.

> Closer Jonathan Papelbon signed a four-year deal, $50 million deal with the Phillies today. Papelbon has established himself as one of the best closers baseball has seen over the past six years- all with the Red Sox. During his time in Boston, he posted a 2.33 ERA with 219 saves.

I guess I didn’t see this coming. I knew the Phillies were somewhat interested in him, but they appeared dedicated to Ryan Madson- their closer during the 2011 season. Apparently, though, reports of the Phillies agreeing with Madson on a four-year deal were inaccurate, as talks with Madson’s agent- the feared Scott Boras- never really advanced after that.

But, in my opinion, this isn’t the best move for the Phillies. It’s dangerous to sign closers to deals for more than two years, because they can just lose it overnight. Trevor Hoffman, Jonathan Broxton, and Ryan Franklin are prime examples of closers who just fell apart over the past few years. Hoffman couldn’t miss bats (but rebounded to notch his 600th save), Broxton struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness, and Franklin just forgot how to finish games at the beginning of this year. I don’t think any of this will happen to Papelbon, but you never know.

> The Marlins are making their long-awaited name change tonight, as they’ll go from the Florida Marlins to the Miami Marlins. The Marlins expect to be a completely revamped team next year, and the name change is only the start (or so they think). They’re moving into a new stadium, and expect to sign a few top free agents.

But I doubt the free agent part is going to happen. Albert Pujols is in Miami this weekend to meet with the Marlins, but let’s be realistic- is he really going to sign there? Can you imagine Pujols in a Marlins uniform? I can’t. (Literally, I can’t- I don’t know what their new uniforms look like yet.)

Anyway, my point is I don’t think the Marlins are going to take this seriously. They’re going to pretend to be in the bidding for these free agents and end up not being able to sign them. Then, next year when they’ll probably choke, they’ll see “but we did what we could in the offseason.”

Bottom line is, they’re still the Marlins- no matter how much they try to change themselves.

> The Twins made the first step at fixing their severely banged up infield today, signing Jamey Carroll to a two-year deal worth $7 million. The deal has yet to be officially announced, but it’s just pending a physical, which usually means it’s a done deal.

Carroll is coming off a 2011 season in which he hit .290 with the Dodgers, but was injured a few times. The Brewers appeared interested in Carroll at the Trade Deadline, but the Dodgers wouldn’t trade him.

> It was reported today that Wilson Ramos, the catcher for the Nationals, was found safe and sound 50 hours after being kidnapped in Venezuela. This was a scary situation, and it’s great that Ramos came out unharmed.

> The Brewers made one minor move that I didn’t notice yesterday, re-singing Erick Almonte to a Minor League deal. Almonte hit .303 in Triple-A Nashville last year, but just .103 in 16 Major League games with the Brewers last yaer.

> Anyway, that’s the only news from today. Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.


Brewers’ coaching staff all invited back for 2012

November 9, 2011

> Today was just another typical day in the 2011 offseason thus far- the Brewers had close to no news to talk about. I get it, it’s still early on, so not many huge moves are going to be made yet. But honestly, it’s every blogger’s nightmare to have nothing to write about…

> The Brewers did stir a little today, though- they announced that the entire coaching staff has been invited back to serve under Ron Roenicke for the 2012 season. So that means at least bench coach Jerry Narron, pitching coach Rick Kranitz, bullpen coach Stan Kyles, third base coach Ed Sedar, first base coach Garth Iorg, and “eye in the sky” John Shelby will be back.

The only question mark on the Brewers’ coaching staff for 2012 is hitting coach Dale Sveum, who has interviewed for the job of manager in both Boston and the north side of Chicago. Sveum has been passed over twice for the managerial role for the Brewers, first after serving as the interim manager for 12 games in 2008, then before this year, when Roenicke was hired.

But, for some reason, I have a feeling that Sveum isn’t going to be back next year. He clearly wants to manage, and this is probably his best chance.

Anyway, with that aside, onto the Hot Stove news…

> The Phillies are apparently close to a deal with closer Ryan Madson. Reports are saying that they’re working on a four-year, $44 million contract for the veteran reliever.

This offseason’s theme must be to overpay relief pitchers as much as possible. Just the other day, the Giants signed Javier Lopez to a two-year deal worth $8.5 million, and picked up Jeremy Affeldt’s $5 million option. And now we see the Phillies pouring it on Madson. In my opinion, especially with a veteran like Madson, it’s better to sign him to a short-term deal (1-2 years). But apparently they haven’t been paying attention to the closing collapses of Trevor Hoffman, Jonathan Broxton, and Ryan Franklin. Honestly, it seems like they can just lose it overnight nowadays.

> Terry Francona interviewed for the Cardinals’ managerial vacancy today. I expected this, and everyone else probably did, too. Francona was cut loose by the Red Sox after their historical September collapse that cost them the postseason, despite the fact it wasn’t his fault- it was the guys having fried chicken and beer in the clubhouse’s fault.

Anyway, Francona is still a great manager, and the Cards probably want someone exactly like him to fill in the void left by a future Hall of Fame manager.

> I’ve recently been hearing that the Nationals and Marlins, the two teams sulking at the bottom of the NL East, are interested in pretty much every big name free agent on the market. The Nationals are reportedly showing interest in Tsuyoshi Wada (a Japanese starting pitcher), Yoennis Cespedes (a defected Cuban outfielder), C.J. Wilson, Mark Buehrle, Roy Oswalt, Jose Reyes, Prince Fielder, and Albert Pujols (as unlikely as it is to happen). And the Marlins are interested in most of the same players.

But every big name free agent is going to want to sign with a team that will have to compete with the Phillies every year in the East, right?

> So yeah, another slow news day. But, before I go, I have one thing to announce about the blog itself- we’re now part of El Maquino’s correspondents, something he started today to try and get news about every MLB team in one place. There’s going to be one representative (or more, I guess I don’t know yet) blogger for each team, and I’ve got the Brewers. So I’m looking forward to becoming part of that.

> Anyhow, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts/comments, if you’ve got any.


Brewers’ rally against the flameout falls short

September 20, 2011

I see nothing in Carlos Marmol. Absolutely nothing.

The Brewers fell to the Cubs today, 5-2, and their magic number will stay at four for at least another day. That’s because the Cardinals beat Roy Halladay and the Phillies (talk about a worthless bunch). But that’s why I hate the Phillies- when I want them to win, which is rare, they don’t. And they win the rest of the time.

Anyway, back to the Brewers and Cubs. All five Cubs runs were driven in by Geovany Soto, who hit two two-run homers and had a RBI single. The only Brewers runs came on home runs by Jerry Hairston Jr. and Casey McGehee.

Chris Narveson had a very short start today, going just four innings while giving up three runs (two earned) on four hits. But, I guess you can’t blame him- the Brewers have been yanking him in and out of the starting rotation over the past few weeks, plus he was injured before that. Switching a pitcher between the rotation and bullpen rapidly is NOT how you help him recover from an injury. Anyway, Narveson took his first career loss against the Cubs with the loss today.

Casey Coleman, on the other hand, dominated the Brewers- just like all pitchers with ERAs over 7.00 do. He went six innings while giving up a run on just two hits. He walked three and struck out eight.

The Brewers rallied against Marmol in the ninth inning, starting with a McGehee solo homer. But, Marmol, after giving up back-t0-back hits, would strike out Taylor Green and Corey Hart to end the game.

Anyway, there are a couple reasons I called Marmol a “flameout” earlier. I just don’t see anything in him. First off, the catcher-converted-into-pitcher is having a horrible year. He has a 3.91 ERA- which is actually pretty high for a closer- and has 34 saves. Sure, 34 saves sounds alright- unless you compare it to the 43 opportunities he’s had. That’s nine blown saves. Marmol actually lost the closer’s role for awhile to Sean Marshall, but was recently inserted back into that slot. Anyway, another reason I don’t see anything in Marmol- his signature pitch, the slider, doesn’t even break half of the time. It just spins up to the plate, resulting in hard-hit balls. And, when the slider does break, it breaks way out of the zone. He’s had outings this year where he walks four or more batters this year, and gives up six or more runs. Not something you want to see from a closer.

Anyway, one more thing- Mariano Rivera broke Trevor Hoffman’s save record with his 602nd career save today. That didn’t take too long; Hoffman barely held onto the record for a year. But Rivera is definitely going to have more than 602 saves- he has a 1.98 ERA, and he’s 42. That’s something you don’t hear too often… Anyway, there’s no other active closer even remotely close to 600 saves- the next closest is ex-Brewers Francisco Cordero. But I can’t see Cordero getting to 600 saves.

But who knows. Maybe in 15 years, we’ll be celebrating John Axford’s 600th save. That’s looking pretty far ahead. But, I’d love to see it, no matter when it comes- if it comes, that is.

The Brewers will look to even up this series in Chicago tomorrow at 7:05 PM CT. Shaun Marcum (12-7, 3.40 ERA) will go for the Brewers, and he’ll be in search for some run support- something he hasn’t gotten over the past month. Marcum has been that one starter that has been amazing on the road for the Brewers, however. He has a sub-3.00 ERA on the road this season. Anyway, Marcum has one career start against the Cubs, in which he gave up two runs over six innings and earned the win.

The Cubs will counter with Randy Wells (7-4, 4.93 ERA). Wells hasn’t lost over his last nine starts, but is 2-3 with a 4.53 ERA in his career against the Brewers.


Brewers pound Reds again behind Gallardo’s 13 K’s

September 18, 2011

I knew the Brewers’ offense would come around in this series. I mean, who has a better pitching staff to get an offense going than the Reds? (Well, maybe the Royals, but they aren’t in the NL, unfortunately.)

The Brewers crushed the Reds again today, 10-1. Coming into this series, the Brewers’ offense had mightily struggled against the Cardinals, Phillies, and even Rockies. But, the Reds’ awful pitching staff has helped get them back on track. And, the Brewers are now extremely close to winning their first division title in 29 years, as their magic number now moves to five, thanks to a Cardinals’ loss to the Phillies. Not to mention the Diamondbacks lost to the Padres as well, so they’re now two games behind the Brewers for the second-best record in the National League. Oh, and yet another good thing for the Brewers- they’re one win away from 90 wins.

For the second straight start, Yovani Gallardo had the strikeout pitch working. He went six innings while giving up one run on just two hits. He also walked two and struck out a new career-high 13 batters. It was the second straight start Gallardo struck out at least 10, as he struck out 12 in his last start against the Phillies. And, Gallardo made a little history today as well- he became the second pitcher in Brewers’ history to strike out four batters in one inning, because Jonathan Lucroy couldn’t handle what would have been the third out of the fifth inning. The first Brewers to do it was Manny Parra, who struck out four in one inning last year.

Anyway, onto the offense. Ryan Braun got it started in the first by driving in his 100th RBI of the season with a single off Edinson Volquez. The Reds countered right away with Yonder Alonso’s game-tying solo homer in the second inning, but the Brewers’ offense took off from there.

Yuniesky Betancourt had a good day at the plate (which isn’t something you see too often from him anymore). He hit a solo homer in the fourth inning to give the Brewers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, and added on a RBI single in the sixth.

But, Braun delivered the knock-out punch to the Reds in the seventh inning with a three-run shot for his 31st homer of the year. Braun finished with a 3-for-5 night, and took the lead in the NL batting title chase. He’s now hitting .333, while Jose Reyes of the Mets is hitting .332.

Anyway, that wasn’t even the end of the offense. Mark Kotsay hit a base-clearing double in the eighth inning, and Nyjer Morgan followed that up with a RBI single. But that would finally be it for the offense.

By the way, Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ future Hall of Fame closer, earned his 601st career save today, which ties Trevor Hoffman for the most all-time. I was hoping Hoffman would hold onto that title longer, but I guess I wasn’t expecting Mo to have a 40+ save season at his age.

The Brewers will go for a sweep of the Reds tomorrow at 12:10 PM CT. They’ll send Zack Greinke (14-6, 3.87 ERA) to the mound. He’s coming off a short start against the Rockies that was plagued with long at-bats and bad defense, lasting just five innings, but the Brewers would come back and win that game. Anyway, Greinke is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his career against the Reds.

The Reds will counter with Dontrelle Willis (0-6, 5.04), who, no matter what he does, can’t find his first win with the Reds. And he’s pitched better than his record and ERA show, in my opinion. Willis is 3-2 with a 2.70 ERA in his career against the Brewers.

UPDATE 10:49a: Willis actually became a late scratch for the Reds earlier today due to back spasms. Matt Maloney (0-2, 6.88 ERA) will start against the Brewers in Willis’ place. This will be Maloney’s first start of the year. He’s also only faced the Brewers in relief, never in a start.