Tag Archives: Braden Looper

Remember when the Brewers got Greinke and Marcum? Because that’s still on.

Posted by Steve

Nobody is paying much attention to the Brewers right about now. Admittedly, I’ve even been a little caught up in Packer Fever myself. Still, it’s time to remind myself I’m a Brewer fan first. After the fairly lengthy layoff, I think it’s Cornucopia Time.

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The Brewers have clearly made great strides this off-season, but I don’t understand one key thing: it seems they are really going to go into the season with Yuniesky Betancourt as their starting shortstop. This is most likely a horrible idea. I touched on why it’s a horrible idea in an earlier post, and you don’t need to search far and wide to find evidence of him being an all-around bad player.

It’s not like there weren’t better options available. Edgar Renteria would have been worth a flier before he signed with Cincinnati for a reasonable $2.1 million. Even Nick Punto would have been a better option, as he can take a walk and play good defense. Plus, Bill Schroeder’s head would explode due to Counsell/Punto, the scrappiest shortstop platoon of all time.

It won’t surprise me to see Luis Cruz in Milwaukee this season. Cruz isn’t likely to be any better offensively than Betancourt–he put up a .281/.309/.414 line in AAA last year–but he’s a strong defensive shortstop. Still, shortstop looks to be a big problem this season.

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Here’s something kind of funny to think about: the best hitter in the bottom of the Brewers’ lineup on most days will be the pitcher. Think about it. On many days, the Brewers will probably trot out something like Lucroy-Gomez-Betancourt as their 6-7-8 hitters. Meanwhile, Yovani Gallardo won the Silver Slugger last year, Randy Wolf can hold his own offensively, Greinke apparently considered giving up pitching to become a position player a few years ago, and Marcum is supposed to be a good hitter. As good as the top five in the lineup should be, it could get ugly after that.

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If you’ve been wrapped up in football, you may have missed the most mind-boggling trade in some time. This has to be the worst personnel decision since Ryan Howard’s crippling contract extension. The Angels traded for 32-year-old Vernon Wells and the $86 million left on his contract. The response to this deal is hilarious. Fangraphs has three posts on the trade. They are titled, “The Most Inexplicable Trade Ever?” “How Could Wells Earn His Contract?” and “Death Match: The Wells Trade Versus the Zito Contract.” And then there’s my favorite reaction piece: The Orange County Register did a Word Cloud from both a Blue Jays and Angels message board on the deal. It’s simply outstanding. Highlights include “Pearl Harbor” and “Naked Pictures” from the Angels board and “Wowwwww,” “Jedi-like” and “Kiss” from the Blue Jays board.

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I’m getting very nervous about the future of Rickie Weeks. First we hear that long-term extension talks have been temporarily tabled, then we hear the sides are $2.3 million apart in arbitration. The Brewers just made Prince Fielder the highest arbitration-salaried player in MLB history, but Weeks not signing is more noteworthy in my eyes. There’s still plenty of time, but the Brewers need to realize that the time to get a bargain extension on Weeks was before last season. They won’t be able to lowball him now that he’s had a full season and is just a year way from free agency. He’d get a huge contract on the open market, so the Brewers are going to have to give him a big chunk of change if they want him to sign.

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Because I like to end things on a good note whenever possible, here’s a tidbit to warm your heart: Braden “Grimace” Looper is now a Chicago Cub.

Have the Brewers improved?

Posted by Steve

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted, but that’s partially because it’s been quite awhile since there’s been any Brewer-related news to discuss.  Since the Randy Wolf and LaTroy Hawkins signings, the Brewers haven’t done too much.  Look for things to pick up in the next few weeks, as they’ll likely add another pitcher.  I’m hoping for John Smoltz but am expecting Jarrod Washburn or Doug Davis, which frankly doesn’t excite me–especially if it’s a two year deal.

Until something happens though, we need something to talk about, right?  I thought I’d take a look at whether the Brewers have actually improved this off-season.  It’s clear Randy Wolf is an upgrade over Braden Looper and therefore improves the pitching, but does that necessarily mean the team will be better?  If you recall, I thought entering last season the Brewers might stay afloat despite their loss of Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia because of a likely improvement of their offense.  That offense did improve quite a bit, but the pitching was simply too bad.

In 2010, the pitching will most likely be better, but I’m not sure it will be enough to overcome a likely decline in offensive production.

Using an admittedly simplistic method of comparing 2009 win shares of the key players leaving this season to the win shares of the players joining the team can give us a general idea of where the team currently stands in comparison to 2009.  I’m choosing to leave off bit players like Mike Rivera (deptarting) or Trent Oeltjen (arriving) because it’s unclear what role these players will play, or in some cases, who will fill the vacant position.  It’s unclear whether the backup catcher will be George Kottaras, Jonathan Lucroy or Angel Salome, for example.

WAR stands for win shares above replacement.  If a player has a WAR of 1.0, it means the formula finds his performance worth one more win than if a replacement level player filled the exact same role.  At the risk of going off on a tangent, replacement level is defined as the expected level of performance the average team can obtain if it needs to replace a starting player at minimal cost.  In other words, a replacement level player is a scrub–generally a player who spends his career bouncing from the majors to the minors.  Players have generally gone for about $4.25-$4.5 million per win on the open market, which is how Fangraphs calculates their dollar value amounts.  For example, Randy Wolf had a WAR of 3.0, which means (according to Fangraphs) he was “worth” $13.5 million in 2009.

Here’s the 2009 WAR of the players in question.

Departing Players

Mike Cameron: 4.3

J.J. Hardy: 1.4

Braden Looper: -0.9

Mark DiFelice: 0.4

Jason Kendall: 1.2

Total: 6.4 Wins


Arriving Players

Randy Wolf: 3.0 WAR

Carlos Gomez: 0.7 WAR

LaTroy Hawkins: 0.3

Gregg Zaun: 1.8

Total: 5.8 Wins


Now, before you go panicking that the Brewers aren’t any better, there are several things to consider here.  Simply taking all these players’ 2009 performances and translating them to 2010 doesn’t work.  Obviously, some will improve and some will decline.

The Brewers pick up a huge gain in going from Braden Looper, who was actually below replacement, to Randy Wolf (not-so-fun fact: The Brewers actually had two pitchers in their rotation who were below replacement level last year in Looper and Jeff Suppan).  Most, if not all of that gain is lost, however, in downgrading from Mike Cameron to Carlos Gomez.  The Brewers are banking seriously on improvement from Carlos Gomez if they’re willing to hand him the centerfield job, which seems to be the case.  Expecting some improvement from Gomez isn’t unreasonable, as he just turned 24.  Still, he’ll almost certainly be a far cry from Mike Cameron in terms of overall value.

There are other things to consider.  Alcides Escobar’s WAR needs to be considered, but it’s difficult to calculate with just his 2009 numbers.  Simply taking his 2009 WAR and extrapolating it over a full season wouldn’t be too accurate because his 134 plate appearances is such a small sample size with which to work.

I was also unsure what to do with the second base situation.  Felipe Lopez and Rickie Weeks combined for great production from that position.  Lopez is gone, and Weeks is returning from injury, so I wasn’t sure how to use that.

Fangraphs does allow its users to project seasons, so I thought I’d throw this out here for kicks.  These are how Fangraphs’ users (likely just a bunch of baseball geeks like myself, or even geekier) project those players’ performance in 2010.  I’ll add Lopez and Weeks in this version.  This is probably the result we should be more concerned with as far as whether the Crew has improved.

Departing Players

Mike Cameron: 3.6 Slight decline projected for Cameron; not unreasonable at his age

J.J. Hardy: 3.4 Pretty large rebound projected for Hardy, which doesn’t surprise me.

Braden Looper: 0.5 Nobody even bothered to project for poor Braden, but I figured it was reasonable to assume he’d be slightly better than the gawdawfulness of -0.9 he displayed last season, since he’d never been that bad before. I decided on 0.5.

Mark DiFelice: 0.4 DiFelice is unfortunately out for the year, so we’ll stick with his 2009 production, since it still needs to be replaced somehow.

Jason Kendall: 0.9 Fangraphs expects him to be even worse.  Oh Royals, what were you thinking?

Felipe Lopez: 2.6 Lopez’s WAR between Arizon and Milwaukee was an outstanding 4.6 last year, so they’re expecting a decline.

Total: 11.4 Wins


Arriving Players

Alcides Escobar: 2.4 I have to think the Brewers would be pleased with this production in Escobar’s rookie season.

Randy Wolf: 3.0 They expect a very similar year for Wolf.

LaTroy Hawkins: 0.3 Nobody bothered to project Hawkins either.  He’s been between 0.3 and 0.8 each of the last four seasons.  I’ll go with 0.3 to be safe.

Gregg Zaun: 1.4 Slight decline expected from Zaun, but still a pretty safe bet to out-produce Jason Kendall.

Carlos Gomez: 1.1 Another one without a WAR projection, but I’ll base this on Bill James’ projection.  James has Gomez improving a bit offensively, so I bumped him from .7 in 2009 to 1.1 in 2010.  As we know, Gomez’s value, if he’s going to have any, will come from his defense.

Rickie Weeks: 3.9 A pretty optimistic projection for Weeks, one that would require him to finally stay healthy all season in order to reach.

Total Wins: 12.1

At least that looks a little better.  Again, I’m not calling this anything close to foolproof.  It’s still thrown off by the fact that Lopez and Weeks split second base last season, and obviously these are simply projections.  Still, it seems like the changes they’ve made made don’t amount to much more than a wash.  It certainly changes if they add another starter and bump Jeff Suppan out of the rotation, but until then, the Brewers look like a .500-ish team again to me.  I’ll get into this more in the future, but while I figured the offense would improve from 2008 to 2009, it’s almost certain to decline this year.  Not just going from Mike Cameron to Carlos Gomez, but elsewhere too.  Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are likely to decline some–both had fantastic years that out-produced their projections.  Casey McGehee is likely to decline.  Rickie Weeks is likely not going to put up the numbers that the Weeks/Lopez platoon did last season.  Really, the only regular player with reasonable expectation for improvement is Corey Hart, and even he has become nearly impossible to figure out.

If the Brewers do add a starter, it’s probable that they’ll be an 80-85 win team at that point, which is talented enough to get into the playoffs if some luck goes your way.  Still, they’re very unlikely to unseat the Cardinals as the favorites entering the season.

Odds and ends

Posted by Steve

For the most part, the off-season has begun the way I was hoping.  The Brewers declined David Weathers’ option (admittedly, this should have been a no-brainer).  Then on Friday they announced they were also declining to pick up the $6 million option for Braden Looper.

What a relief.  The only positive thing you can say about Looper’s time with the Brewers was that he stayed healthy all season.  He was most definitely part of the problem with the pitching staff.  The production he provided for one fifth of the starting rotation must be improved upon next season.  He likely isn’t as bad as he performed in 2009 (he was easily one of the five worst starters in baseball and had never been that bad before), but even if he’s slightly better next year, the Brewers will still get more bang for their buck if they spend that money elsewhere.  I’d be surprised if Looper stays in someone’s rotation next season.

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Some interesting reports surfacing in the aftermath of the J.J. Hardy trade.  Tom Haudricourt has reported that both Boston and Pittsburgh made offers for Hardy.  From Boston, the Brewers asked for talented young pitchers Clay Buchholz or Daniel Bard, and probably got rejected in about half a second.  TH reports the Red Sox offered prospect Michael Bowden.  Bowden is a decent prospect but nothing more.  He had a 3.11 ERA in 126.1 innings at AAA, but he had just a pedestrian strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.87.  That doesn’t bode well for the big leagues.  Bowden is not likely to be any better than any of the Brewers starters outside of maybe Jeff Suppan next season, and they don’t need another number 5 starter.

The reported Pittsburgh offers were a bit more interesting.  One offer was for closer Matt Capps.  Capps regressed terribly last season, as his home runs and walks allowed were way up.  The other offer was Ryan Doumit, which is at least a better offer than Capps.  Doumit has a career .780 OPS, which is a nice number for a catcher.  However, the Brewers seem to like the idea of giving Jonathan Lucroy a shot this year.  Furthermore, both Capps and Doumit are due for arbitration raises and will cost at least a few million more than Carlos Gomez.

Many weren’t pleased with the return for Hardy, but I’ve yet to hear a reported offer that I prefer to the one the Brewers took.

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Not great news, as rotoworld/Buster Olney reports Craig Counsell is in high demand after his solid season in Milwaukee, and could actually garner a two-year deal.  If that happens, it’s likely that Counsell will not return to the Brewers.  That would be too bad; Counsell was a great utility player last season.  You have to wonder how good his career numbers may have been had he scrapped that goofy batting stance even earlier than last season.

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Lastly, it’s been quite awhile, but we finally have a return of the Milwaukee Brewers to my dreams.  Surprisingly, this one actually did not involve Rickie Weeks.  Allow me to share.

I am at my annual family Christmas gathering, but for some reason, one of the guests is none other than Manny Parra.  Making it weirder is the fact his presence is completely normal to me.  I start chatting with him; he’s a friendly guy.

At one point a thought comes to me.  At work, Parra was one of the tougher pitchers to chart.  I always felt he threw a slider, but others were not totally convinced.  For guys like that, we were supposed to keep a look out for any interviews in which the pitcher discussed his repertoire.  It occurs to me that I have a golden opportunity–I can simply ask Manny what he throws!

“Hey, Manny, I actually have a question for you.  People have a tough time charting some of your pitches.  I have you as fastball, changeup, splitter, slider, curve.  Is that right?”

“No, man!  That’s not right at all!  All I throw is a fastball and a changeup.”

“Really?  But I’ve seen you throw multiple curveballs.  And I’ve heard you talk about your splitter!”

“I swear, just fastball and change.”

I woke up completely convinced that Parra only threw those two pitches.

Return of the Sha-wuuhhh?

Posted by Steve

My dad pulled off an incredibly cruel prank on me today.  Here’s how the phone conversation went:

D: So, did you hear the news about Ned Yost?

S: Did Houston actually hire him!?

D: Yep!

S: Oh my God!  That’s fantastic!  I don’t believe it!

D: A five-year contract!

S: WHAT!?!? (about ready to pass out)

D:  Nah, I’m just kiddin’.  He did have his interview today, though.

Boy, that will sure let the wind out of your sails.  Still, the fact that he’s actually being considered has me in a great mood.  Can you imagine having Ned Yost in the Brewers’ division?  I need to stop thinking about this to avoid getting my hopes up.

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If you watch any of the playoff games on TBS, pay attention to the strike zone they’ve been showing.  I guarantee there will be a minimum of ten missed ball/strike calls that were more than three inches off–in other words, not even borderline calls.  More likely, it will be 15-20 or more in a game.  In this technological age, how can this still be considered acceptable?  These people are the very best umpires in the world, and their ineptitude is front and center for the world to see.  When Phil Cuzzi can’t tell a fair ball from a foul one while standing 15 feet away, isn’t that proof that an improvement is needed?

The two main arguments against replay, or even an electronic strike zone, hold no water with me.

Adding replay would take more time and add to the length of the game.  Dan told me the other day that he watched someone argue this on ESPN as highlights of Jim Leyland arguing a call played in the background.  Hilarious.  Managers coming out to argue doesn’t slow down the game?  There’s a decent chance that adding this could actually cut down on game time when you consider that we wouldn’t need to watch mangers arguing for minutes at a time.  Put an official in the press box who’s assigned to replays and can immediately look at them, and it wouldn’t even be as much of an ordeal as home run calls currently are.

Umpires and human error are part of the game. Really?  Part of the game?  Ask any team who gets screwed by a bad call if they think it should be part of the game.  It’s been part of the game because, until recently, it was the best option available.  Now, an option exists that is more efficient than human umpires, but baseball refuses to use it.  As usual, the sport is behind the times.  Football has had an effective replay system for years, and it’s definitely improved the game.  Basketball uses instant replay.  Even tennis has a challenge replay system.  Yet here sit the old timers in control of baseball, resisting any sort of change from “back in the day.”

Are we really saying that having umpires and the element of human error is more important than getting calls right?  Because I’ll never be convinced of that.

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The Brewers writers at the Journal-Sentinel once again did their “player grades” at the end of the season, and once again I take exception to many of them.  Here are the ones I disagree with the most.

Jacon Kendall: C

C?  As in average?  Because Jason Kendall wasn’t even close to average, particularly on offense.  Comically, the writers admit that Kendall’s effectiveness at throwing out runners dropped dramatically, and that he has no power.  Yet his grade is held up by things that are completely intangible, such as his “toughness, leadership, the way he calls games and the way he handles himself behind the plate.”  Commence nausea.  I can’t believe how much people are willing to put up with a crappy player because of this garbage.

Braden Looper: C+

Oh goodness.  That’s above average.  Looper was decidedly below average.  He was actually bad.  His FIP was the worst in the Majors among qualified starters.  His strikeout rate was poor, and his home run rate was abysmal–also worst in the Majors (by far).  Literally the only good thing you can say about Braden Looper is that he stayed healthy all year.  Yet, even though they site his insane run support average of 8.97 runs per game, they still give him some credit for garnering 14 wins.

Rickie Weeks earns an INCOMPLETE, which I guess I understand, but then how can they give Alcides Escobar a B+?  Escobar had 134 plate appearances this year, while Weeks had 162.  Weeks was obviously far more productive… So how can Escobar receive a grade when Weeks did not?  What did Escobar do to deserve a B+?  Hit for a .701 OPS?  Weeks’ .857 OPS wasn’t worth grading, though.  Naturally.

Better yet, they concluded that Mat Gamel’s 148 plate appearances of .760 OPS was worth a C-.  Escobar got to play regularly, while Gamel would go days at a time without an appearance.  How does this add up?

Are they done?

Posted by Steve

As the Brewers struggle to break out of a prolonged slump (can you even call it a slump anymore?), it’s worth wondering if the Brewers even have a realistic shot at making the playoffs.

Statistically, of course they do.  They’re 6.5 back entering play tonight.  Teams have come back from larger deficits at this point of the season.  Whether the playoffs are more than a pipe dream at this point is another question, and for a number of reasons I’m ready to pull the plug on 2009.

The Brewers sit at a disappointing 55-56.  As sad as it sounds, they’re probably lucky to even have that record.  They’ve been outscored 549 to 519, which is good for a pythagorean record of 53-58 (.477 winning percentage).  To make the playoffs, a .477 team would need to play well over .500 the rest of the year–probably at least .600–and then hope the Cubs and Cardinals slow down.  Call me a pessimist if you want, but it’s not happening.

There’s no reason to expect that to happen.  The Brewers are 14th in the National League in runs allowed.  The starting pitching overall is terrible, and Dave Bush missing over two months hasn’t helped.  Incidentally, as I sit here typing I’m also watching Braden Looper labor through another disgusting start.  Has there been a more disappointing free agent than Looper?  He’s fallen wayyy short of any projection.  The amount of home runs he’s allowed is just insane.  I think I actually dislike watching him pitch more than Jeff Suppan, and that’s really saying something.

I expected the Brewers to add starting pitching, and by all accounts they expected to as well, but the team couldn’t even stay afloat before the trade deadline.  The horrible stretch took them out of position to make a deal.  Someone like David Weathers isn’t going to come close to putting a team over the hump.  Incidentally, Weathers is a decent reliever with an option for next year, so it wasn’t just a move for this year.  Still, nobody should feel too excited about adding David Weathers at this point.

Entering today, PECOTA has the Brewers at a 2.67% chance to make the playoffs.  To be honest, I’m even surprised it’s that “high,” but I suppose the mediocre division helps.  If you want to hold out hope on a 2.67% chance, more power to you.  I just know that I won’t be going out of my way to follow Cubs and Cardinals games.

July in review: It sucked.

Posted by Steve

Entering July, the Brewers were 42-35 and had a two game lead in the NL Central.  Hard to believe that was just a month ago.  A 9-17 month has dropped the Crew to fourth place, prevented them from trading for an impact starting pitcher and dropped their playoff odds to 2.4%.  It’s not often that a team’s season goes down the toilet in just one month, but the Brewers managed to pull it off beautifully.

To find the reason for their struggles, there’s no need to look beyond starting pitching.  The Brewers have allowed the third most runs per game in the National League.  Their starters are averaging 5.6 innings per game started, the second worst mark in the NL.  That has unsurprisingly taken a toll on a bullpen that was a team strength, but has worn down due to overuse.  Things aren’t going to go well when you have one above average starting pitcher on your team.  Let’s look at this brutal rotation.

Yovani Gallardo

Good, but not great.  His strikeout totals are great, but he’s fifth-worst in the league in walks per nine innings with 4.3.  The walks have prevented him from being efficient and pitching deep into games consistently.  It has not, however, prevented the Brewers from riding him like a rented mule.  Gallardo leads the NL in pitches thrown per start with 108.  That is mind-boggling.  No, it’s actually infuriating.  More than anything, even more than the awful July that took the Brewers out of the playoff race, the way Gallardo has been abused has me furious.  THE GUY THREW 24 INNINGS LAST YEAR!  He’s 23 years old!  Am I missing something that Ken Macha isn’t?  This is completely unacceptable.

Manny Parra

Not good.  Manny has had some good starts, but most have been the of the nibbling-then-grooving-strikes variety.  He can be maddening to watch.  I’m able to defend him a bit; he has had terrible luck.  His ERA is an ugly 6.5, but his BABIP is .368 and his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is 4.59.  In other words, he hasn’t been terrible, just below average.  His walk rate continues to be terrible, though.

Dave Bush

Incomplete.  Bush’s injury has doomed the Brewers, because it allowed for the Mike Burns era to occur.  Bush was the most known commodity in the Brewers’ rotation.  You knew you’d be getting an unspectacular yet solid starter who, until this year, would be able to pitch all season.

Braden Looper/Jeff Suppan

Awful.  Simply horrendous.  I lumped these two together because each one doesn’t even deserve his own paragraph.  If you want a good laugh (cry?), head over to fangraphs.com.  Sort by league leaders, choose National League and sort by worst FIP.  Alright, I’m sure you aren’t feeling that ambitious, so I’ll do you a favor and tell you what you’d find: Braden Looper and Jeff Suppan are number 1 and 2 on that list.  That’s right ladies and gents!  Out of all qualified starting pitchers in the National League, the Brewers have not one, but the two very worst pitchers in the league!  That’s actually incredibly impressive.  I wonder if that’s even happened before?

This terrible month has also eliminated them from being buyers at the trade deadline.  It made no sense to give up any prospects for rental players with the team hovering at .500.  The problem is, selling wasn’t a great option either.  The rental players they had to sell include Trevor Hoffman, Mike Cameron, Craig Counsell and Felipe Lopez.  There’s a strong possibility that the Brewers will attempt to bring back at least three of those players for next season, because they want to win next year.  It’s tough to be a true seller when your aim is to compete the very next season.  Also, many have mentioned J.J. Hardy in trade rumors, but I didn’t list him among the candidates to trade because I’m just not ready to hand over the everyday shortstop job to Alcides Escobar.  Escobar is hitting .302/.352/.413 in AAA.  Not horrible, but far from beating down the door to the majors.  So basically, the Brewers were forced to stand pat.

(And yes, I count the Claudio Vargas deal as standing pat.  They didn’t give up anything of value, so it’s low-risk, but I can’t stand watching the Human Rain Delay pitch).

It hurts to say it, but we have to be realistic.  The Brewers are done for 2009.  There’s no way they can compete with three terrible starting pitchers (Suppan, Looper and Burns) in the rotation.  It’s a damn shame, too.  They’re wasting career years from Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.

Prince is actually having an MVP season.  He leads in probably the number one stathead category, WPA (Win Probability Added).  From fangraphs: WPA takes into account the importance of each situation in the game. A walk off home run is going to be weighted more then a home run in a game that has already gotten out of hand. This makes it a great tool for determining how valuable a player was to his team’s win total.

In other words, a strong argument could be made that Fielder has been the MVP.  If nothing else, he’s the runaway number 2 candidate to Pujols.  Either way, they’re wasting an outstanding year with their crap pitching.

It’s sad that we’re already forced to look ahead to the 2010 season.  This team is likely going to look a LOT different next year, as it should.  In the meantime, here’s to another two months of watching the Looper Grimace.

Starting Rotation: Pretty much an emergency

Posted by Steve

Before I get started, I want to say that I used my best judgment and ultimately decided to end the tarnation streak at three.  I could have gone with something like, “What in tarnation is wrong with the starting rotation?” or “What in tarnation can the Brewers get in the trade market?” but it just felt forced.  Nothing kills a joke like overuse, so I decided to tuck away the tarnation tag until it truly fits.

I’m feeling one of those cheezy radio commercials here that are played during a game.  You know, the ones that try to relate something like banking, truck driving or insurance to baseball.

In baseball, you should never make a trade just to make a trade.  The same goes for blogging!  Don’t use a tarnation tag just to use a tarnation tag.  Before using a tarnation tag, be sure it adds to the enjoyment of the post.  For more information, call the Digger’s Hotline.

Anyway.  Things have been pretty ugly as of late.  One of the more active threads on BF right now is discussing whether the Brewers should be sellers at the deadline.  That’s jumping the gun in my opinion, but something will need to be done before long if the Brewers are going to make a serious run for the playoffs.

I’ve said I felt the offense would improve to the point of making up for the drop in pitching from last season.  So far, the offense has been good but not great–fourth in the NL in with 4.77 runs per game compared to seventh (4.63 runs per game) last season.  That won’t be enough to overcome for the poor pitching.

I didn’t expect the starting pitching to be very good as a whole to begin with, but it’s been even worse than expected.  They’ve had one good start in the last eight games.  Yo’s last start was good, but I’ve made light of his recent struggles.  I’m also getting concerned about his heavy workload.  Bush and Looper have been very hittable lately (and Bush’s arm fatigue wrinkles things even further).  As amazing as it sounds, the only pitcher pitching up to his capability over the last month is none other than Jeff Suppan.  What’s worse is the struggles of the rotation is taking a toll on the bullpen, which was stellar over the first two months.

Things wouldn’t be so dire if it wasn’t for Manny Parra.  He’s really screwed the pooch.  Dan went over why Parra is probably set to bounce back at some point, but the fact of the matter is it’s a very poorly timed implosion on his part.

Before the season, I assumed that in order to make the playoffs, the Brewers would need to bring in another solid starting pitcher to improve the rotation–at least a number three-type starter.  I still feel this way.  The problem is, quality starting pitching is not as abundant as it was around last season’s trade deadline.

Injuries have taken a toll on the trade market.  Jake Peavy was probably a lock to be traded somewhere (already was but vetoed the trade to the White Sox), but his foot injury may have him sidelined past the trade deadline.  This was a bit of a relief to me, because there was plenty of chatter that the Brewers were in talks with San Diego to acquire Peavy.  I was all ready to write an anti-Peavy post, but his injury made the point moot.  In a nutshell, my reasons against Peavy were mainly his hefty contract, but also his decline in numbers, drop in his velocity and moving out of a friendly pitcher’s park.

Roy Halladay, a phenomenal pitcher, was recently put on the DL–to be fair, he was only an outside shot to be traded this year anyway.  Erik Bedard is another good pitcher who could be traded but recently went on the DL.

Matt Cain was a popular trade target for some fans, but the Giants are hanging around so far and won’t deal him if they’re still in contention for a wildcard spot around the deadline.

Complicating the matter is the Brewers have told teams that Mat Gamel and Alcides Escobar are untouchable.  That means you can cross off guys like Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cain anyway.

I’m ready to make a pitch for my number one trade target.  Before I say who, keep in mind there is no CC Sabathia readily available this year.  There isn’t even a Rich Harden.  The best pitcher who could be available is Cliff Lee, but he’s under contract for next year; therefore Cleveland is likely to ask for a ton.  I’m not even sure they’ll trade him, because they might want to keep him to make a run next season.  To find a match, you need to identify the best pitcher likely to be available that won’t require either Gamel or Escobar.  In my mind, that pitcher is Erik Bedard.

Bedard had been a good to great pitcher in each of the last five seasons.  He’s having an outstanding 2009 so far: 65 2/3 innigs, 2.47 ERA, 1.157 WHIP, 65 strikeouts and 22 walks.  So far this season, he’s been an ace.

So why, then, would the Brewers be able to acquire him without giving up Gamel or Escobar?  Here’s why.

1) Bedard is injury prone.  He only threw 81 innings last season.  He’s currently on the DL with “shoulder fatigue,” which is never a good sign.  I wouldn’t even be discussing him, but an MRI revealed no structural damage and the plan as of now is to have him back in the rotation before too long.  If that ends up not happening, this entire point is moot and I’ll have to live with the fact that I wasted 20 minutes typing about an Erik Bedard trade.

2) He’s not a workhorse.  He will in absolutely no way come close to what Sabathia did last year.  And I’m not referring to performance, as nobody should be expected to put up the numbers CC did last year, but I’m referring to innings pitched.  Sabathia consistently went deep into the game, and made several starts on three days’ rest.  Bedard won’t do either of those things.  He has one, count em, one complete game in his entire career.  He’s generally a six inning pitcher, which is almost exactly what he’s averaged per start this season.  Not that that’s bad, but coupled with his injury history, it lowers his price to trade suitors.

3) Here’s the big one: he’s a free agent at the end of this year.  Therefore, it would be another rental situation.  The Brewers gave up a top 100 prospect in Matt LaPorta for a rental last year, but that was for a Hall of Fame-talent pitcher.  There’s no way they’d give up Gamel or Escobar to rent Bedard, nor would the Mariners expect them to.

A Mariners-Brewers trade is also logical because Jack Z is Seattle’s GM now, and he’s obviously extremely familiar with the Brewers’ system.  I’m sure there’s plenty of players in Milwaukee’s system that he’d love to add.

If Bedard doesn’t work out, there are some lesser pitchers who could be available.  Another free agent-to-be the Mariners have is Jarrod Washburn, who is quietly having his best season in years.  His stuff isn’t as good as Bedard’s, but he’s more durable and therefore less of a risk.  He actually probably wouldn’t even be that much cheaper than Bedard, and I’d be just about as pleased to get him.

Same goes for Randy Johnson.  The Brewers could get him without giving up Gamel or Escobar, but as I mentioned with Matt Cain, the Giants won’t trade him as long as they’re playing fairly well.

Another decent-yet-unexciting pickup could be our old friend Doug Davis.  He’s another guy in a contract year.

Any of these players I mentioned are better than most of the guys in the Brewers’ starting rotation right now.  The ideal pickup would be someone who’s better than everyone besides Gallardo, but there just aren’t many fits for reasons discussed above.  Regardless, the Brewers should be able to right the ship if they can add a solid pitcher.  If Manny Parra can get his head on straight as well, they’d be back in good shape.

Oh, and I’m still giving this the What in tarnation?!@ category even though it’s not in the title because I discussed why it wasn’t getting the What in tarnation?!@ category.  Wrap your mind around that one.