Category Archives: Handsome George Kottaras

So, now what?

Posted by Steve

For the last few weeks, all the focus was on Zack Greinke: first his health, then on what return he’d bring back in an impending trade. Now that the Greinke trade is complete, it feels a little confusing. What are we supposed to focus on now?

One thing’s for sure; this is still the same awful bullpen. Yesterday’s game showed that, and the bullpen isn’t going to change. Not that that matters much though; wins and losses are irrelevant now.

That’s one thing that’s kind of nice. I no longer feel like I need to hope the Brewers lose games in order to ensure they trade Greinke. I still really don’t care whether they win, but at least I don’t have to be annoyed when they do. I really didn’t enjoy that.

So anyway, the question is, what am I looking for the rest of the season?

I don’t expect the Brewers to contend next year without Zack Greinke. The starting rotation is going to look much different next year, and they have many young pitchers who will be getting their feet wet. Thing is, I want that to happen. I don’t want Doug Melvin to feel like he needs to go and sign two more Randy Wolfs because he needs to patch together another okay team. Mark Rogers, Wily Peralta, Tyler Thornburg, Johnny Hellweg, Ariel Pena, Tayjor Jungmann… The Brewers need to turn several of those players into major league pitchers, particularly starters, if they are going to have success within the next 4-5 years. I don’t want to see the development stunted by aging #4 starters.

For that reason, I would love to see Aramis Ramirez and/or Corey Hart traded before the deadline. If Melvin targeted players at the AA level or so, the way he did with Greinke, there shouldn’t be too long of a turnaround. In fact, I bet they’d have a solid team by as early as 2014.

Trading Hart and Ramirez makes a lot of sense. Both players have good value right now. Ramirez in particular should be traded because of the money that he’s owed. He has performed so well that right now, you could get a team to take most (or even all?) of his contract and send you a legitimate prospect or two. That opportunity may not be there by next season.

Same situation with Hart. He is under contract through 2013. If the Brewers trade Hart before the start of next season, the team who acquires him will have the right to a compensation pick. If they wait until next season to do it, it will be the same situation as Greinke–no pick for that team. A lack of comp picks won’t dampen the return on elite players like Greinke, but it could on a merely solid player like Hart.

Of course, I’d be truly shocked if either of these players were dealt this year. Doug Melvin’s MO isn’t to trade players when their value is highest; it’s to hold on to them, use the value for the Brewers, and then take a lesser return/let them walk in free agency. In this case, I strongly feel holding on to them is the wrong move. Doesn’t matter what I think, though.

So then, what do I want to see the rest of the year? Let’s make a list, shall we?

Tyler Thornburg’s return to normalcy

The Brewers sent Thornburg back to the minors today, capping the end to a short yet stupid experiment. His schedule has been completely erratic over the last month or so, and it capped off with a “tired arm” after pitching multiple innings in consecutive outings. What a foolish way to handle your top pitching prospect. I want to see Thornburg back starting games, and I don’t even want to see him in Milwaukee unless he is in the rotation. No more coming out of the bullpen for Thornburg the rest of the year.

Trade/DFA Wolf, K-Rod

I expect the Brewers to DFA Francisco Rodriguez soon. It’s been a train wreck in slow motion over the last couple weeks for Franky. He went from burying his trade value six feet under to clearly not even warranting a spot on the team. He’s a sunk cost; the Brewers have too many young pitchers they should take a look at to keep wasting innings on a broken K-Rod.

Wolf should be let go, too. There’s a chance someone will take him off the Brewers’ hands for nothing, but if not, there is no need to keep giving him starts. Same thing with wanting to see younger pitchers.

In a similar vein, if Shaun Marcum is able to come back this year, he’d be a good candidate for an August waiver trade. Something to think about.

Give the young pitchers a long look–in the starting rotation

All those pitchers I mentioned earlier should get some consideration for rotation spots in Milwaukee. Mark Rogers had an encouraging outing yesterday. He is out of minor league options, which means the Brewers have to have him on the MLB team next year or lose him. He should stay in the rotation the rest of the year.

Wily Peralta has turned his season around. He should take Randy Wolf’s spot in the rotation as soon as possible.

Thornburg, Hellweg, and Pena should all be given consideration based on how they pitch going forward as well.

Within a few weeks, call up Jean Segura and hand him the keys to shortstop

I understand giving Segura some time yet in AA, but I don’t think he should need more than a couple weeks. Unless he falls flat on his face in Huntsville, I want to give him time in MLB in a low pressure situation in which he knows he’ll play every day. From a marketing standpoint, the team should want to show off the prize of the Zack Greinke trade as well. It’s a win-win.

Think about it. Not only do these moves make baseball sense, but it’s a much more watchable team. How much more enjoyable would the team be with a rotation of Gallardo, Fiers, Rogers, Peralta, Estrada/Thornburg/other young pitcher and Segura at shortstop every day the rest of the way? Right now, when Wolf or Estrada pitch, I don’t even feel obligated to watch. I’d want to watch this “new” team every day the rest of the season, though.

One final remark

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the departure of George Kottaras. First, let me say it was a questionable move. Travis Ishikawa serves no purpose on this team and does nothing that Kottaras can’t. They should have gotten rid of Ishikawa and left Kottaras as the backup first baseman/third catcher/top pinch hitter off the bench. But, they didn’t, and it sounds like Kottaras finds himself in a larger role on a playoff contender, so good for him. Plus, no matter what happens to him in his baseball career, he’ll still be devilishly handsome.

 

 

May: The month of repeated groin punches

Posted by Steve

Wow.

It’s hard to imagine this getting much worse. The injuries have reached a comedic point, with whatever broke Jonathan Lucroy’s hand taking the cake. It’s actually fun to imagine the possibilities, assuming the story is true. What was in his suitcase? Was he using an aluminum metal case? Was it full of unmarked bills? Did it contain the nuclear football?

The injuries are just piling up. They’ve used their fourth shortstop of the year, which really doesn’t matter because all of them suck other than the one they started the year with. They’ve also lost their catcher, two first basemen, a center fielder, a starting pitcher, that starting pitcher’s replacement, and a closer’s facial hair. That’s all in one month. Oh, and they’ve also gone 9-15 over that span.

After such a terrible month, it is difficult to see this ending well. Plenty of people seem to have given up on the season. Although the Brewers have made it much tougher than they’d like, it’s too early to give up on the season. Baseball Prospectus still gives the Brewers an 18.1% chance of reaching the playoffs, believe it or not.

Even with all the injuries, I don’t think the Brewers are as bad as they’ve played. Obviously, Baseball Prospectus thinks that way too, as they give the fifth place Brewers the third-best chance in the division of reaching the playoffs.

I still have some hope. For one thing, the starting pitching has been much better lately. Their starting rotation is 13th in the NL in ERA, but 8th in FIP and xFIP. First, that’s much better than what it was three weeks ago. Secondly, this, just like last year, shows us that the Brewers starters are better than their ERA implies. Some of this can be blamed on defense (again, like last year), but they have also been fairly unlucky–their allowed batting average on balls in play is .307, which is the third-highest in the NL. Save for the random Arizona debacle, Greinke has been lights out lately. Marcum has been very good, and Gallardo and Wolf have been better too. It will be interesting to see if Mike Fiers can hold down a spot with Marco Estrada out.

I also think the loss of Jonathan Lucroy could be overstated. I recently made a post at Reviewing the Brew explaining why we should have expected Lucroy’s numbers to come way down the rest of the season. People were too caught up in how he’s done this year and expecting that all season, when in actuality, it’s entirely possible that George Kottaras outperforms what Lucroy would have done over the next 4-6 weeks. Just as big of a loss from Lucroy to Kottaras will be from Kottaras to Martin Maldonado as the backup catcher. Maldonado has a good defensive reputation, but he’ll be close to an automatic out.

I still maintain the only injury that is possibly fatal at this point is at shortstop. Alex Gonzalez is a solid player, and any of the three guys they’ve used to fill in all suck. They’re in a catch 22 right now. They need a shortstop and better fifth starter to reach the playoffs, but to get in position to make trades for those players, they need to first play better.

The next 3-4 weeks are critical. If they’re ten games out of a playoff spot by July, I’m probably ready to call it a season. At that point, it’s likely goodbye to Zack Greinke. Marcum, K-Rod and Wolf would probably all be gone, too. As much as I’d like to see Greinke sign, the Brewers could get a great haul for him if they’re out of the running.

The one thing that could be devastating for the Brewers is if they stay under .500 but still close enough that management (okay, Mark Attanasio) doesn’t want to sell. If they finish near or below .500 without trading off any players, someone deserves to be fired. With the haul they could get for Greinke, Marcum, Wolf, and K-Rod, they could contend again fairly soon.

Still, it isn’t yet time to fully have that conversation. The schedule looks favorable as soon as the team returns home, and the Brewers will have one other thing going for them: I’ve been so busy that I’ve hardly posted this month, which is clearly why they’ve struggled. I’ll be posting more going forward, which can only help, right?

Or are you telling me that you’re doubting a team that will feature a batter of Mike Fiers and Martin Maldonado, Cody Ransom at shortstop and three other players with negative WARs on the season. Is that what you’re telling me?

This is getting to be amazing (Kottaras)

Posted by Steve

That was about as good as a mid-April game can get.

I was at the game last night, and a few things come to mind:

1. Interesting to see that the team who used their best reliever against the heart of the order got through the inning cleanly, while the team who didn’t blew the lead. Of course I’m talking about not using John Axford in the eighth inning when Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier were up. K-Rod gave up the bomb to Ethier that could have cost the Brewers the game. Meanwhile, against Morgan, Braun and Ramirez, the Dodgers used Kenley Janson to carve the Brewers up in the eighth.

Now, I’m really not holding this against Ron Roenicke much at all, because there might not be a manager in baseball who would have used Axford there. That doesn’t mean it was the right choice not to, though. A team’s best relief pitcher should pitch in the highest leverage situations, and clearly that was the eighth inning with the only two great hitters in the Dodgers lineup coming up (By the way, I’m not giving Don Mattingly credit for using Jansen in the eighth, either. He’s not their closer, so they just happened to luck out that the heart of the order was coming up. You can bet that if he was the closer, he wouldn’t have come in then either).

2. What I will blame Roenicke for is ALL OF THE BUNTING. Goodness, I cannot believe how stupid it was to bunt with Jonathan Lucroy in the ninth inning with tiny Cesary Izturis on deck. He even left the bunt on with a 2-0 count! What kind of message is that sending to your catcher? More importantly, why is he so anxious to give up an out? Even if he was planning on using Kottaras the whole way (I bet anything he’d have kept Izturis in if the bunt had worked), it’s a bad move.

My brother gave me crap, because I told him this would be a game that I’d still be mad about even if they won, and then of course I was celebrating a minute later. I stand by it, though. I can still be angry that Roenicke called for that bunt, and that he is so bunt-happy in general.

3. George Kottaras is awesome.

Hyperbole aside for a minute. Honestly, I’ve always liked his bat, and I’m really glad to see that Roenicke finally seems willing to use him more. It’s good for a couple reasons. Obviously, it’s good because he is a power hitting lefty who is much better than Mark Kotsay, Travis Ishikawa, or whomever. But it’s also good because maybe now Roenicke won’t be so quick to yank Kottaras early on Lucroy’s days off. Last year, Kottaras often left games he’d started so Lucroy could come in as a defensive replacement. This left Lucroy without many full days off. It’s likely he wore down as the season went on, and his numbers last year support that claim: .844 OPS in March/April, .850 in May, and then never above .673 for any month afterwards.

Letting Kottaras play should help keep Lucroy fresh. Now, if we can only get Roenicke to break the Kottaras/Wolf pairing to avoid having to start George against lefties…

4. One thing I’m guessing may not have been noticeable on tv is the reaction of the crowd after Corey Hart’s hit to lead off the bottom of the ninth. I’m not talking about the initial cheer for the hit itself. After the cheering had died down a bit, Roenicke sent Carlos Gomez in to pinch run. As he did, a buzz spread around the stadium. You know a guy is exciting when a pinch running appearance gets a crowd buzzing.

5. This is perhaps a little cheesy, but I had sort of forgotten how enjoyable regular season baseball can be. Those playoff games are such a grind to watch mentally, especially when you’re at the game. I probably should have had an IV after Game 5 against Arizona. It’s nice to watch an exciting regular season game. You still pull hard for a victory, and it’s still great when they win, but there is a noticeable lack of a horrible feeling in your stomach that comes with tense playoff games. Of course, I’m hoping for more nerve-wracking playoff games again this year, but I enjoyed last night’s game quite a bit.

Mainly because I saw a Kottaras walk-off in person. Look at all those people trying to touch him. It’s like a Beatles concert.

The New Russell Branyan

Posted by Steve

And he’s so dreamy.

Opening Weekend Observations

Posted by Steve

At the risk of over-analyzing something that I saw in the first three games of a 162-game season, here are some thoughts I have after watching the Brewers and Cardinals.

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The Cardinals still have a great offense, most likely the best in the National League if they stay healthy. Of course, that’s a big if with the age and health history of many of their core players, but still.

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That fact makes Zack Greinke’s performance on Saturday all the more impressive. I’m not going to say that Greinke is now going to have a monster season because he had a good start in his first game, but then again, I thought he’d have a monster season before that game anyway. From the bad luck to reports of his new cut fastball to Ryan Braun saying he looks like a man on a mission, it just seems like he’s poised to make a run at the Cy Young. Obviously, you have to hope the Brewers can get him signed as quickly as possible.

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Ryan Braun is still good. This is in no way surprising, and normally, it isn’t even important that he looks good after three games. But in his strange case, the better he does early, the less of a story his suspension saga becomes.

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Corey Hart was obviously the story for the Brewers. Hard to believe up until 10 days ago or so they didn’t even know if he’d be ready to play in the first few series. He’s locked in. He reminds me of Geoff Jenkins in that he tends to get white hot for stretches and carry the offense. That was actually a conversation I had this weekend: Would you take Corey Hart or Geoff Jenkins? Based on my gut feeling, I thought that they probably had very similar numbers. Sure enough, their career numbers are almost identical, and sure enough, Jenkins is on Hart’s to 10 list of similar batters through age 29 at Baseball Reference.

Anyway, it would be swell if he kept up this hitting for a while.

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If Hart is the positive story from this weekend, the bullpen has to be the negative one. I still ask why Marco Estrada was considered a lock for the bullpen entering spring, but other than that, I am not reading into anything at all. I will wait to see how they look against a non-Cardinals offense before I get worried.

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George Kottaras is handsome and hits deep home runs. He also needs to hit higher than 8th when he starts.

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Now for my favorite part of the weekend: the Brewers’ defense. This is one where I’m not trying to get too excited after three games, but it’s clear that Alex Gonzalez is a big upgrade over Yun-E. He needs to be hitting eighth, though. Also, I was encouraged by what I saw from Mat Gamel, although a lot of that is just comparing it to how bad Prince Fielder is.