Tag Archives: Bill Hall

Sorting through “Black Wednesday”

Posted by Steve

Things sure hit the fan today.  You’ve probably heard by now, but just to recap, the Brewers made the following moves today.

DFA’d Bill Hall

Optioned J.J. Hardy to AAA Nashville

Called up Alcides Escobar

Called up Jason Bourgeois

Fired Bill Castro

Wow.  That’s a lot to compute, and to be honest, a lot to be angry about.

Hardy

Let’s start with the most shocking move, which has to be sending J.J. Hardy down to AAA.  Hardy has been a gigantic disappointment this year.  He had a great season last year, and he should be right in his physical prime, so this nosedive is perplexing.  Still, this move definitely caught me off guard.

A big wrinkle in this appears to be what this will do for Hardy’s service time.  It seems possible that by sending him to the minors now, he’d lose enough service time to delay his free agent year from 2010 to 2011.  If this move allows the Brewers to keep Hardy for two more year after this season rather than one, it’s a shrewd/dirty move depending on your perspective.  It would allow Hardy another year to rebuild his diminished trade value.

I personally think that if this is the motivation behind the move, it’s a smart play.  Hardy can only blame himself; if he hadn’t had such a poor 2009 he wouldn’t have been sent down.  Doug Melvin seemed to play dumb when asked about this situation, but of course it’s in his best interest to make this move seem entirely performance-based.  Hardy’s performance does justify the demotion, so I’m willing to buy that reasoning.

Escobar

A lot about calling up Alcides Escobar doesn’t sit well with me.  For one, he hasn’t shown he’s at all ready for the Majors.  What’s so special about a .762 OPS in AAA?  He’s only 22; why not make him actually earn his way onto the roster?  By doing this, you’re burning up two months of his service time.  Ironically, this is the same mistake they made with J.J. Hardy years ago.  Hardy was rushed to the big leagues, struggled mightily and is now set to hit free agency a year earlier than if he was kept in AAA.  Escobar at 29 is much more valuable than Escobar at 22.

The other aspect of this that bugs me is Ken Macha’s refusal to play young players.  He botched the Mat Gamel situation miserably, and he seems poised to do it again with Escobar.  Macha is already talking about using Escobar mainly against lefties.  How absurd.  Is Doug Melvin actually going to let this guy platoon each of their two top prospects for extended periods in the same season?  Top prospects need to be playing everyday somewhere.

Much of this Escobar/Hardy situation hinges on what is done for next season.  It is my firm belief that Escobar belongs in AAA to start next season.  He is just not ready to contribute offensively at the big league level.  Jose Reyes, a player many seem to hope Escobar can become, struggled mightily in the Majors early in his career when he should have been down in the minors.  Reyes wasn’t a good offensive player until his fourth season in the majors.  Elvis Andrus, another young shortstop Escobar is often compared to (both are great defenders with good speed), is also an example of a player who’s been rushed.  Andrus has a .685 OPS.  That’s terrible, and the Rangers are foolish for having him up in the majors this season.  I don’t want to see this happen with Escobar, especially if Hardy ends up getting his free agency delayed a year.  Hardy should be the Brewers’ shortstop next year.  As bad as he’s been, he still has had prolonged success at the Major League level and is therefore a much better bet than Escobar in 2010.  If Hardy’s traded, the Brewers need to find a stopgap.  Escobar is still the future, but he needs to earn his way into the starting spot.  It would be nice if he wasn’t an offensive black hole when he took over the shortstop job.

Hall

This really is just an ugly ending to a long, bad story.  This is one that I can’t blame the Brewers for at all.  Hall has been bad ever since signing his contract extension, and he’s actually gotten progressively worse each season.  He even stopped hitting lefties this year, which was his only redeeming quality outside of defense last season.  The Brewers are on the hook for quite a bit of money, but I can’t even blame them for giving Hall that contract.  At that time, he was coming off a great year, and even had a good year prior to that one.  There was no sign whatsoever of such a drastic collapse.  Just about every fan was thrilled when they signed Hall to that deal.  Heck, one of the first posts I ever made here was praising the extension.  Hall was one of my favorite Brewers, and his departure also means the end to my favorite Brewers cheer of all time: Eight Letters! Four Ls!

Castro

This move bugs me as much as anything else that happened today.  Bill Castro, an organizational soldier for the last 18 years, is fired before even completing his first season as pitching coach?  That’s deflecting blame and making Castro the scapegoat for the terrible pitching this year.  Is Castro the one who assembled a rotation featuring the Terrible Twosome of Jeff Suppan and Braden Looper?  Did Castro injure Dave Bush?  Castro was only able to work with what he was given, and what he was given this season was crap.  Castro was as responsible for the successes of pitchers over the years as any pitching coach the Brewers have had during the course of his 17 years as bullpen coach.  I understand that there’s no evidence that Castro has done a good job, but 17 years as a respected bullpen coach should earn him the chance to coach next year’s pitching staff with (hopefully) an upgrade in talent.

Again, this reminds me of the Yost firing from last year, minus the justification.  This seems more like a Mark Attanasio move than a Doug Melvin move.

These are some dark times in the Brewers organization.  Ken Macha is likely to be reevaluated after the season, and I’ve been disappointed with him continually since the end of May.  Abusing Gallardo and mismanaging Gamel are inexcusable.  I like Doug Melvin, but he deserves some blame for this season as well.  Most GMs aren’t allowed to hire a third manager.  I hope not, but I can’t help but wonder if this is the beginning of the end for the Mustachioed Marvel.

Replacing Weeks

Posted by Steve

I feel I’ve taken the proper amount of time to grieve.  It helps that the Brewers can’t seem to lose.  It also helps that PECOTA now has the Brewers as NL Central favorites.

So, how should the Brewers replace Rickie Weeks?  There are several possibilities, and each one has its downside.  It’s important to realize no option will be as good as if Weeks never got injured, so it’s just a matter of making the best out of a crappy situation.

One option is to make a trade.  Teams aren’t going to be selling off pieces just yet, but I do expecting losing teams to pull the plug on the season earlier than usual.  With the economy, many teams are going to shed salary if they’re not in contention. Incidentally, this should make it a great buyer’s market for teams like the Brewers (hey, just like in real life!)  I think we could see the first trades being made in two or three weeks.  This seems convenient, because it seems the Brewers are first going to see if they can adequately fill second base in-house.  If it’s not working out, there will be options for a trade.

A trade for a second baseman would be tricky because, as Doug Melvin already alluded to, they’ll have Weeks back next year.  They really only need someone for one year.  A Brewerfan poster called for a Brian Roberts trade, but that won’t work for a few reasons.  Roberts is more than a stopgap.  He’s a very good second baseman who would demand a lot in a trade.  I’d rather save my trading chips for another starting pitcher rather than a second baseman.  Furthermore, Roberts is under contract for three more years after this season, which doesn’t work with Weeks getting back next year.  Finally, Baltimore doesn’t even seem to want to trade him.  They’ve had several chances to in the past.

To find realistic trade options, look for losing teams with second basemen on short-term contracts.  There are two that jump out at me: Felipe Lopez and Mark DeRosa.  Both players are free agents after this season, so the Brewers would hand second base back to Weeks next season.  DeRosa is the better offensive player, but Lopez is the better defensive player.  Either would be a viable replacement and shouldn’t cost a lot in terms of prospects.  Both Cleveland and Arizona are off to bad starts and will likely just be looking to shed some salary as we move further into summer.  One thing to keep in mind is that aside from giving up prospects, the Brewers would be adding salary.  If you believe Mark Attanasio, they don’t have much room left.  They probably prefer to save that space for another pitcher, so a trade is probably not the first choice.

Free agents are other options.  Mark Grudzielanek and Ray Durham are both still unsigned.  Both are older players, and neither has much defensive range left.  Durham would be a solid bat, but his defense is pretty rough at this point.  Going from Weeks to Durham defensively is a huge downgrade, especially considering what Weeks was doing this season.

The most likely option, and what the Brewers hope works out is to fill the position with their own players.  There are a number of possibilities here, and it’s difficult to determine which would be the best.  They could use a Counsell/McGehee platoon, but I don’t like the idea of Counsell starting more than two or three times a week.  Counsell has good value as a bench player who can play any infield position, and it’s important the Brewers keep him fresh all season.  The Brewers called up Hernan Iribarren, who can play second base as well.

There is another option that I really want to embrace, but I’m just not sure if I can.  That would be to keep Mat Gamel up for good and hand him third base most every day.  You’d give Bill Hall most of the starts at second base, and use Hall against third once in awhile against lefties.  This solution would likely be the best result for the Brewers’ offense, but there are still some serious problems with it.  First, it screws with Bill Hall once again.  He’s playing a great third base, and I’m not crazy about having him switch positions again.  More importantly, though, moving Hall to second and using Gamel at third could kill the Brewers’ defense.  The defense had been very good this season with Hall, Hardy and Weeks on the infield.  Hall should be alright at second, but as we saw in his first start, Gamel could be a circus act at third base.

I’m inclined to give Gamel a try at third and hope for the best, but if that doesn’t work out you’ve screwed with Hall once again and might have hurt Gamel’s development.

This is really a tough decision with no 100% right answer.  If I had to guess, it would be that we’ll see Gamel once or twice more at third before interleague play is over, along with his starts at DH.  If Gamel is hitting well, he’ll probably get more starts at third and we may eventually see Hall play some at third.  I’m guessing we’ll see four or five different players play second base for the Brewers before the season’s over.

I’m scoring the Brewer game that’s starting in less than a half hour, so I have the rare treat to watch a game live in its entirety.  I haven’t seen the lineup yet, but it’s Yo against Wandy Rodriguez (great matchup, by the by) so I’m guessing it’s Hall at third and McGehee at second.

The end of GamelWatch

Posted by Steve

GamelWatch

GamelWatch!

GamelWatch seems to be over before it really even got steam.  Tom Haudricourt reports on his blog that the Brewers have called up Mat Gamel from AAA Nashville.  The timing of this is a bit odd, because the Hall/Counsell platoon at third base has been performing at a high level, both offensively and defensively.  Until Counsell cools off, I don’t see Gamel getting many starts at third.  Before you accuse me of insanity that would be keeping Gamel on the bench for Craig Counsell, I want to point out that the Brewers would lose a lot defensively right now going from Hall/Counsell to Gamel.  A Gamel/Hall platoon the rest of the year sounds mighty tempting, but Gamel’s defensive problems may make that a poor decision at this point.

I’m very curious to see how the Brewers plan on using him.  My guess is some might be a little disappointed in how little playing time he actually gets.  They may end up using him the way the Brewers first used Prince Fielder when Lyle Overbay was still manning first base: As a DH in interleague play and the top pinch hitter, with a rare start sprinkled in.  He may even only be up until the first round of interleague play is over, go back down to AAA and take regular starts again at third for awhile.

The Brewers are in Minnesota next week, so I expect Gamel to be in the lineup each game of that series.  If nothing else, it will be just a smidge better than their DH at times last season.  I think this is more a testament to how unhappy the Brewers are with the production of guys like Casey McGehee and Brad Nelson than Bill Hall or Craig Counsell.  The Brewers also just signed veteran lefthanded hitter Frank Catalanotto to a minor league contract, which presumably puts Nelson even more on the hot seat.  It would be a shame to see him waived, but that might be the move that’s made after tonight’s game.

Despite the issue of how to use Gamel, this is a good problem to have.  The Brewers are spoiling us, because it seems like every year or two for the last several years they’re adding a stud prospect to the big league club (Hardy, Hart, Weeks, Fielder, Gallardo, Braun, Gamel).  Having Gamel’s bat in the lineup with semi-regularity makes the Brewers’ already good offense that much more dangerous.  This is definitely an exciting move.

You down with OBP? Yeah, you know me.

Posted by Steve

I know I continue to harp on the Brewers’ excellent patience so far this year, but that’s only because it was so bad last season.  I said before the season that I felt the loss of CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets would be offset more by the offense than the pitching.  We’re only about five weeks in, but so far that’s definitely been the case.  The improved discipline has made a huge difference so far, and is seen in just about every player.

Rickie Weeks

Current OBP: .343

OBP at this time last year: .320

2008 OBP: .342

Pretty much everyone seems to prefer 2009’s Rickie Weeks to the Weeks of years past.  I’m not sure I do, although I’ll save my reasons for a different post.

Corey Hart

Current OBP: .345

OBP at this time last year: .358

2008 OBP: .300

What’s encouraging about Hart is that he isn’t even really hitting well.  His average is only .262, but because he’s walking at a career-best rate, his OBP is still alright.  If he gets his average up, the OBP will only improve (assuming he continues to be patient).

Ryan Braun

Current OBP: .463

OBP at this time last year: .311

2008 OBP: .335

Braun has been an absolute beast this season.  Like Hart, Braun is another player who struggled with plate discipline last year.  He’s been vastly improved so far in 2009 in that area.  My brother pointed out the other day that his numbers this season are basically what Albert Pujols has put up the last few years.  Again, I realize it’s only been a little over one month, but if he keeps within shouting distance of this pace he’ll be a top three MVP candidate (and actually deserve it this time).

Prince Fielder

Current OBP: .410

OBP at this time last year: .348

2008 OBP: .372

Prince has already taken 27 walks and is on pace to destroy the team record.  His batting average is only .255!  Just wait until he gets that up to the regular .270-.280 range.

Mike Cameron

Current OBP: .395

OBP at this time last year: .269 (had only played in 11 games at this point)

2008 OBP: .331

Up until a couple days ago, the Brewers had three starters with OBPs above .400, which is impressive even if it’s only May.  It’s unreasonable to expect this to continue with Cameron, whose career OBP is .341, but a .341 OBP combined with his slugging and defense adds up to an extremely valuable player.  Right now that valuable player is playing out of his mind.

J.J. Hardy

Current OBP: .289

OBP at this time last year: .338

2008 OBP: .343

Well, they couldn’t all be hitting at the same time, could they?  Hardy is definitely off to a rough start. He’s had slow starts before though, so I’m not very worried.  The good news is he’s really the only one who has been disappointing to this point.

Bill Hall

Current OBP: .364

OBP at this time last year: .276

2008 OBP: .293

By this time last season, Hall was already careening towards a terrible offensive year.  He still isn’t hitting righties (.678 OPS) but he is absolutely mashing lefties (1.269 OPS).  Hall has been very good defensively this year as well (save for the occasional holding onto the ball too long to show off his arm).  If he plays at this rate all year he’ll justify or possibly outperform his contract, which is something he certainly did not do last season.

Jason Kendall

Current OBP: .315

OBP at this time last year: .369

2008 OBP: .327

Kendall can’t hit, but it’s not a disappointment because we weren’t expecting him to.  I continue to not understand why the team refuses to pinch hit for him late in the game in big spots.  I hoped this would change with Macha replacing Yost, but we’ve yet to see it.  I went on a pretty good rant on Sunday when he let Kendall hit with two outs and the bases loaded against Carlos Marmol with Craig Counsell and Brad Nelson both available.

Craig Counsell

Current OBP: .429

OBP at this time last year: .308

2008 OBP: .355

He’s not a starter, but I included Craiggers in here because he’s been hitting out of his mind.  He’s always been a good on-base guy, but recently he’s done it despite a low batting average (hit just .226 last season).  What gives me a little hope is his new, non-ridiculous batting stance he’s using this season.  Not that I expect him to hit .333 all season like he is right now, but .275 or even .285 might be within reason.

I think I need to get to more games.

Posted by Steve

I haven’t been to many Brewer games this year. Last year I attended many more than I could afford, but for whatever reason, I just haven’t been out to that many yet in ’08. Just two, in fact, but apparently I make them count. My first game was the Friday game against the Cardinals in which Rickie Weeks had that beautiful walk-off hit, and the second was tonight’s game. Guess I know how to pick ‘em. Also, I suppose that means I need to attend more games. Fine, fine. I’ll take one for the team.

I couldn’t have asked for a more entertaining game. After a shaky start, Dave Bush looked like the 2006 version of himself, and Tim Hudson was awesome (only one walk for each team, and both were intentional!). Both sides played great defense. And who would ever think we’d hear the phrase “Great baserunning tonight by Bill Hall!” when it wasn’t sarcastic?

Good stuff. More like this Brewers, please? Kthx.

Photo taken from JSonline.com