Category Archives: Milwaukee Brewers 2012

Still long odds

Posted by Steve

The Brewers have really accomplished something over the last month. We’ve talked about how amazing it is that they’re even in the running for the playoffs, but now, what are their chances of actually finishing it off and getting there?

Not good.

Entering today, Baseball Prospectus gave the Brewers a 5.2% chance to reach the playoffs, while the Dodgers are at 11.4% and the Cardinals are at 79.5%. The reason it’s so high has been on display over the last couple nights: The Cardinals have an incredibly easy schedule and a two-game lead on the next closest team.

The Brewers are playing out of their minds, but unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if the Cardinals (and Dodgers, I guess) don’t lose as well. The Brewers gained five games on St. Louis over ten days, whichsd is an amazing number, but it still may not be enough. The Cardinals play the Astros, Cubs, and Astros again yet this season. They’re beating up on Houston for the second night in a row, which means even after beating the Pirates and essentially vanquishing any playoff hopes Pittsburgh had left, the Brewers haven’t gained any ground.

The Brewers have 14 games left. Normally, you’d think winning nine of those games would chase down the Cards, but with that darn schedule, I’m not so sure. I feel fairly confident in saying more than nine wins in their last 14 will do it, but at the same time… That’s very difficult to do.

Yes, they’ve been playing at that rate for a long time (22 wins in last 28 games), but like I said, that’s also an unsustainable rate. The team is really firing on all cylinders, though (BTW, Jean Segura, you guys!), so who knows.

They certainly have our attention, and what they’ve done should absolutely be applauded, but if they slip up even a bit, this won’t last long. The Pirates were right with the Brewers at the start of this series, and two days later you can pretty much stick a fork in them. This could just as easily happen to the Brewers.

Let’s not do this to ourselves.

Posted by Steve

I only have time for a brief post, but I had to chime in on this. The Brewers are in the midst of a very nice stretch. In the past month or so, they’ve played the way most of us expected them to play all season. They’ve been fun to watch, for sure.

With that said… Are we really roping ourselves into thoughts of playoffs again? Do you really want to put yourself through this?

The Brewers are playing their best baseball of the season; they’ve been one of the hottest teams in the NL. And now they’re “only” 7 games back of the final wildcard spot. So, what does that bring their playoff chances to? Maybe 4%? 5%?

Try 0.4%.

And BP calculated that before today’s loss, so by now it’s even lower.

There are too many teams to leapfrog for it to be plausible. Even if the Brewers were to sweep the Cardinals this weekend, there would be other teams ahead of them who will have won. There are just too many teams to chase down in such a short amount of time–and that’s before considering the fact that this team in all likelihood doesn’t have the talent to put together the historic run a playoff appearance would require.

I’m watching the Brewers for the reasons I’ve described lately: namely, watching all the young players and looking toward their chances for next season. Suit yourself, of course, but I’m not going to set myself up all over again for the inevitable letdown.

Less Randy Wolf = More interest in Brewers

Posted by Steve

It’s only a fraction of how necessary it was to release Jeff Suppan a few years ago, but it still needed to happen: Randy Wolf has been released.

I’ll at least take a paragraph to reflect on Wolf’s tenure and his signing in general. He was okay here for two years, with last year being his best. His peripherals weren’t really even that different this year save for a bit of a higher home run rate; he was killed by a .340 BABIP. If you’re mad at Wolf for this performance, I don’t really agree with you. The honus should go on Doug Melvin for giving a declining player a three-year deal. Of course, if Wolf didn’t get a three-year offer from Milwaukee, he’d very likely wouldn’t have signed here, but so what? It’s just Randy Wolf. Point is, I don’t want to go more than two years on any free agent pitcher unless his numbers show he is solidly above average.

Essentially, my interest in the Brewers’ rotation going forward is inversely proportional to the presence of Randy Wolf. And now that Randy Wolf is gone, the rotation just got a lot more interesting.

We’ll get to see, presumably, all of the young-ish pitchers who have a shot at the rotation next season. Not just Mike Fiers and Mark Rogers, who have already had auditions, but Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg as well. We will also see a cameo from Shaun Marcum, who is auditioning for next season–I suppose there’s still an outsider’s outside chance Marcum could be dealt on waivers, but he’ll only have one, maybe two starts before the August deadline, so the chances of that are almost nil. More likely, he’s taking a longer audition for a chance to get a nice contract somewhere next season.

Basically, the rotation will consist of Marcum and Gallardo every five days,with some mash-up of Fiers, Rogers, Thornburg, Peralta, and Marco Estrada taking the last three spots. There have been rumblings of the Brewers shutting down Rogers, Fiers and even Estrada to prevent them from taking too much of a jump in innings from last season, which of course is smart in a now meaningless season. One way to accomplish this would be to piggyback them in starts–essentially each guy pitches three innings on the same day every five days. The starting pitcher would be Mirke Fiergers or something.

I did hear some concern over the release of Wolf in that the Brewers might need a veteran to eat some innings if they end up needing to shut down most/all of the younger pitchers. I’m really not worried about that; if that happens, the Brewers just need to call up some AAA soldier. I’m warning you now, Brewer fans: Brace yourself once again for some Claudio Vargas appearances in September.

Anyway, the Brewers are making some smart decisions now that they’re out of contention. By the end of this season, they should have a solid grasp of whether Jean Segura is ready to be the starting shortstop (I’ve actually been more impressed with his glove than his bat to this point, which doesn’t match his scouting report), and which of these pitchers should open up 2013 in the starting rotation.

Plus, it will simply be more fun to watch these guys pitch over Randy Wolf.

Brewers deal Izturis, call up Segura

Posted by Steve

Well, that didn’t take very long.

The Brewers “lost” Cesar Izturis to the Nationals on waivers and have called up newly acquired shortstop prospect Jean Segura. Segura excelled during his brief stint in AA Huntsville, hitting .433/.500/.533 in eight games. In a season that’s going nowhere, the Brewers decided to roll the dice and give their shortstop of the future a head start on the big leagues.

While exciting, this move isn’t without a bit of controversy. By calling him up now, the Brewers will more than likely burn his first year of service time next year. If they kept Segura in the minors the rest of this year and until June or so of 2013, next season wouldn’t be considered a full year of service time, and the Brewers would control his rights for an extra year. Someone on twitter called it “preferring his age 23 season over his age 29 season.”

I understand the concern, and I would have been completely fine if the Brewers decided to hold him back for this reason. But I think it’s more important to go case-by-case and look at the individual player rather than use a blanket strategy for every good prospect. The Cubs just called up Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters rather than holding them out until midway through next season. Holding players back isn’t as obvious of a move as it may seem.

If the Brewers deem Segura ready, I am totally fine with calling him up. It’s arguably just as important to give him MLB experience, particularly in a season that no longer matters, as it is to preserve his service time. The fact is, the Brewers are not the first organization to decide Segura was ready for the majors. The Angels had just called him up before including him in the Greinke deal. It’s definitely not a stretch to say he’s ready for a test drive.

The only regret I have over this transaction is that we just sold the tickets we had for tonight’s game. Other than that, I’m glad I’ll have renewed interest in watching the Brewers again.

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.

 

 

So long, Zack

Posted by Steve

In a season in which seemingly everything has gone wrong, something finally went right for the Brewers. Zack Greinke needed a strong start to answer questions after his layoff, and he went above and beyond. Three base runners in seven innings (and he could have easily kept going), some great defensive plays, and to top it off, a massive home run.

His trade value should be just about fully restored, and I’d be very surprised if he made another start with Milwaukee. Since he won’t re-sign, this is good news for the Brewers. I’ve been focused on Greinke trade possibilities for weeks now, and now that it’s finally clear he’s gone, it’s bittersweet. Greinke is an awesome pitcher, and my favorite since Ben Sheets. With him gone, it’s unlikely the Brewers will contend in 2013, so it probably means another year of losing.

Getting a great return for Greinke will really help, but it sucks that he didn’t stay here long term.

I think FS Wisconsin in-game reporter Jerry Augustine put it best tonight.

“”What better way than have to watch a great pitched game… from a PITCHER on his birthday!””

Well said, Jerry. Well said.

Judgment Day

Posted by Steve

Dominoes are starting to fall around Major League Baseball. Two or three trades went down today, depending on whether Ryan Dempster accepts his trade to Atlanta. Two of those deals involved big-name pitchers who are impending free agents. Dempster went to Atlanta (assuming he accepts) for starting pitcher Randall Delgado, ranked the #46 prospect by Baseball America entering this season. Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante were traded from Florida to Detroit for a package that included starting pitcher Jacob Turner, ranked #22 on the same list.

The package Florida received for Sanchez and Infante would have really excited me had the Brewers got that for Greinke. These deals are encouraging for the Brewers, because (a healthy) Greinke should bring back more than either Sanchez/Infante or Dempster.

The “healthy” part is the key. Tomorrow is a huge day for the Brewers and any team interested in Greinke. You can bet that after the bizarre “battery recharging,” teams will want to see him have an effective start in which he at least convinces people he’s healthy. If he does, I anticipate tomorrow being Greinke’s last start in a Brewer uniform.

Detroit and Atlanta are presumably out of the starting pitching market after their deals today, although you never know. More likely now would be Washington, Baltimore, and Anaheim.

Two other things might be working in the Brewers’ favor.

1. The Phillies are really trying to re-sign Cole Hamels, and there seems to be a real chance he signs. If he does, that leaves Greinke as the clear top starter available.

2. The Rangers just lost starting pitcher Colby Lewis, who will need Tommy John surgery. Their need for a starting pitcher is even greater now than it was. The Angels are within striking distance, and the hard-charging A’s are close behind them (Darkhorse Greinke candidate?)

Assuming Greinke looks okay tomorrow, my guess is that he goes to Texas for Mike Olt. Philly seems to be demanding Jurickson Profar for Hamels, but I still have to believe he’s untouchable. If Greinke looks good tomorrow, the Brewers should offer him to Texas for Olt. I now believe, given the deals made today (which would seem to raise Greinke’s price) and Texas’ increasing desperation, they would be willing to trade him.

There could be more parts involved, maybe someone like K-Rod, Nyjer Morgan, Kameron Loe, the Brewers’ competitive balance draft pick going with Greinke, or some other lower-rated players coming back to Milwaukee along with Olt.

Anyway. Just a guess; we’ll see what really happens. Only thing for sure is tomorrow is a huge day for the Brewers and the trade value of Greinke. Here’s to a strong start from him. It will be bittersweet, knowing he’ll be leaving, but it’s the best thing for the franchise at this point.

Something’s amiss

Posted by Steve

Something odd is going on with the Brewers and Zack Greinke. This morning, reports broke that Greinke is scratched from his next start. The Brewers are claiming Greinke is not injured, and that he has not been traded. The quote flying around the internet is he’s “recharging his batteries.”

Mm-k.

I call BS. All we’ve heard from the Brewers recently is how important this nine-game stretch is. “It’s against the three teams ahead of us! We can make up ground! We’re not selling until we see how these nine games go!” Then, out of the blue, they decide to just give Greinke some extra rest right in the middle of that stretch. I don’t think so. He’s got arm fatigue, or something else is wrong is more likely. Otherwise it just doesn’t make sense. If they’re pushing him back a day or two so he starts against the Reds, I’ll stop worrying, but if he doesn’t pitch in that series either, it’s a huge red flag.

This can only hurt his trade value. Teams are going to suspect something is wrong, as they should. We’re going to hopefully find out more this evening, but right now I’m trying to convince myself the baseball gods don’t hate the Brewers by not only striking them down with injuries that ruined their chance of competing, but also took out their two biggest trade chips with injuries right at the deadline.

I was going to write about something else today: MLB’s inaugural “Competitive Balance Lottery.” Everything you need to know about it is right here, so I’ll save the time of typing out the description–just give that a read.

This seems pretty fascinating, actually. The Brewers have the highest chance of being the one team that doesn’t receive a pick, but the odds are still likely that they will get one. I will be interested in seeing how this affects the trade deadline, since these picks can only be traded up until that point. I was also going to speculate on how this could play into a potential return for a Greinke deal, but after this morning’s news, I’ll just go punch some stuff instead.

The nine-game playoff series, and messing with Tyler Thornburg

Posted by Steve

I’ve made it quite clear that I want the Brewers to be sellers. I don’t feel their ever-dwindling playoff chances are worth holding on to several assets that will expire after this season.

It seems like the Brewers are inching closer to this thinking, but not quite yet. Seems it’s put up or shut up time, according to Doug Melvin.

The Brewers next nine games are against the Pirates, Cardinals and Reds–the three teams ahead of the Brewers in the NL Central. There’s no real problem in waiting nine more days, except I am very worried that after something like a 5-4 stretch, Melvin/Attanasio will conclude the Brewers are “still in this thing” and hold on to Greinke and everyone else.

The only way I could be talked out of selling is if the Brewers went 8-1 or 9-0. Those are the only two records that would put them above .500, and I just can’t support buying/not selling when the team isn’t even above .500.

It seems the Brewers have decided to go all in in these nine games, however. They’ve sent down Taylor Green to make room for shortstop Jeff Bianchi (fifth player this year on the roster whose primary position is shortstop!), and they designated Tim Dillard for assignment to bring Tyler Thornburg back to the big leagues.

I don’t have a problem sending Green down, only because they weren’t using him anyway. He still hasn’t gotten a real chance in the majors in Milwaukee, and it’s no sure thing he ever will. That bugs me, but given the roster makeup, they have no other real option.

The Thornburg thing is trickier. Obviously, they want to make the bullpen as good as they can. I can’t blame them for that. Jose Veras has been brutal and shouldn’t be in high-leverage situations at all, really. I had no real problem with Tim Dillard, although his numbers weren’t great, they weren’t terrible. I can’t say I understand keeping Livan Hernandez over him, but again, this is the last guy in the bullpen. It’s not a huge deal.

The much more important factor in this is Thornburg. Are the Brewers really doing the right thing by taking him out of a starting rotation and putting him in the bullpen? It smacks of desperation, and it bugs me that they are seemingly putting the team’s very small playoff chances ahead of the development of their top prospect.

Not to say moving a young pitcher to the bullpen for a time hasn’t worked before. Chris Sale is taking that route right now with great success. Still, the White Sox are monitoring his innings very closely because of his huge jump in innings. Last year he threw only 71 innings out of the Sox bullpen. He’s already at 101, and they’re in the middle of a playoff race. That’s a pretty dangerous jump. All sorts of studies show that pitchers 25 and under who increase their innings load by 30 or more from the previous season are at risk.

Thornburg is at 85.1 innings this year when you add up his starts in AA, AAA and his one MLB start. If he stayed in the rotation, that puts him around 160 innings–a near perfect jump from his 136 innings last year. Finally, 160 puts him in position to throw a full season next year–hopefully, in Milwaukee.

So instead of keeping their top prospect on a perfect course, they’re potentially screwing with his workload to chase a pipe dream playoff chance.

If they put him in the rotation soon, whether to replace Wolf, Estrada, or Greinke after a trade, I’m fine with this, but I’m not sure that happens. As of right now, I’m not loving what I’m seeing from the Brewers’ front office.

 

Just lose, baby.

I have the misfortune of being a Milwaukee Bucks fan. Save for one season in 2001, the Bucks have wallowed in mediocrity for most of my life. One reason for this is while they are often bad, they are rarely bad enough. The NBA is constructed in such a way that tanking can pay off. It’s near impossible to contend for a title without a superstar, and superstars are generally drafted in the top five picks.

Yet, under the ownership of Herb Kohl, the Bucks refuse to tank. This year is a prime example. With an injured Andrew Bogut, the Bucks were sitting pretty with the fifth worst record in the NBA and a struggling team. Instead of building for the future, they made win-now moves, which was good enough to get them to ninth in the Eastern Conference and the 12th overall pick. Once again this season, they look to be patching things together for another season around .500 rather than rebuilding for the future. Awful. It’s a good thing I’m not nearly as big of a Bucks fan as I am for the Brewers.

So what do the Brewers have to do with the Bucks? Nothing, really, but the comparison can be made. It is time for the Brewers to invest in their future rather than this season, or even next season. Therefore, I’m now openly hoping the team loses for the next few weeks.

It’s not for the same reason I root for the Bucks to lose, because it has nothing to do with obtaining a higher draft pick. The MLB draft is much more of a crapshoot anyway, way too much for tanking to be a good strategy. No, I’m rooting for the Brewers to keep losing in order to protect them from themselves. I want there to be no doubt in Doug Melvin’s mind–or perhaps more importantly, Mark Attanasio’s–that the team should sell.

Even though things weren’t looking good, for weeks I kept the attitude of, “Well, they still could come back. They still have a 20-whatever percent chance.” Well, Baseball Prospectus now has that down to just a 6.3% chance at the postseason, the bullpen is in shambles, and in direct contrast to last season, the Brewers seem to find creative ways to lose games.

I was fine riding out this season and hoping for another playoff run. I actually thought they had a decent chance, and when you have a real chance, you need to go for it. However, they got hit hard with injuries, and the bullpen has been much worse than Doug Melvin probably ever imagined. It happens, and it’s not the end of the world. With all the impending free agents, next year’s team is going to look a lot different. My hope is that the team doesn’t take the patchwork approach of the Bucks and instead looks toward the future.

Things would have been entirely different if the Brewers could have signed Zack Greinke earlier this year. It’s entirely possible that the Matt Cain contract extension changed the course of the Brewers’ franchise. Before that deal, we were looking at $85-95 million as a hopeful extension for Greinke. I remember hoping they could keep it at $100 million or under. Now, there’s no chance of that.

Greinke is just a few months away from the open market, where he is very likely to exceed Cain’s deal. I am not even comfortable with the Brewers giving a pitcher Cain money, much less more than that, so I consider Greinke as good as gone.

Without Greinke next year, it’s hard to see the Brewers making a playoff run. And if they don’t have a real chance next year, why not overlook next season in order to increase their chances in 2014 and beyond? Trading not only Greinke, but Marcum (PLEASE GET HEALTHY SOON), Hart, Morgan, K-Rod, Axford, Aoki, or anyone else they can get good value for shouldn’t be off the table.

This would be a tough sell to Mark Attanasio, who needs to run a business and wants to continue drawing fans. That’s why I’m hoping the Brewers force his hand. If they’re 8+ games back around the trade deadline, it will be an easier sell.

Since I see that as beneficial for the franchise overall, I am rooting for them to lose. It feels strange, but honestly, it makes the games a lot less stressful. I still watch, and I’ll still go to games, but it’s nice not to get so frustrated by a team that would otherwise frustrate the hell out of me.

It shouldn’t be much longer now. By this time in 2008, CC Sabathia was a Brewer. Buyers are likely preparing their offers now. There have been reports of the Brewers scouting the Rangers’ and Braves’ minor league teams, so you have to think there has been plenty of dialogue between the Brewers and contending teams.

All we need now is for them to keep losing and push a deal over the edge.