Tag Archives: Carlos Gomez

Which decision is worse?

Posted by Steve

We’re getting tantalizingly close to MLB’s regular season, but my enthusiasm has been curbed a bit by two curious decisions made by the Brewers over the last few days.

The first is the result of the least exciting first base competition in recent memory (except for last season). The Brewers have shipped out Juan Francisco, opting instead to keep the Ageless Wonder, Lyle Overbay.

That’s actually a poor nickname for Overbay, because he hasn’t resembled a wonder in several years. His last season with an OPS+ over 100 was 2010. Wrap your mind around this: Overbay has been below replacement level the last three years! At age 37, it’s amazing that a team was even willing to invite him to Spring Training, much less keep him on a freaking 25-man roster.

I know Juan Francisco isn’t a barnburner, but he was at least something that could have ended up as a pleasant surprise. That was within the realm of possibility. He can do things that Overbay can’t, such as hit a baseball hard or with any power whatsoever. The Brewers are using defense as an excuse, but first base is a position you need offense from. To put it in a different way–both of their floors are in the basement, but at least Francisco’s ceiling is off the ground. This is an inexplicable move. If Overbay is on the roster for more than a month, something is seriously wrong.

The other move that makes no sense was handed down by Runnin’ Ron himself. Actually, the only reason it isn’t shocking is because Roenicke made the decision. Say hello to Carlos Gomez, your new leadoff hitter for your Milwaukee Brewers.

Gomez had an excellent year last year–the best of his career, by far. And in his career year, his on-base percentage was still not good enough to hit leadoff. His OBP was .338 last year, but just the year prior, it was .305! And even after last year, his career mark is .303.

Carlos Gomez is multi-talented, but just about the one baseball skill he does not have is on-base ability. It just so happens that on-base ability is the single-most important trait of a good leadoff hitter.

As Ron Roenicke mentioned, no, they don’t have Shin-Soo Choo on their team. But that doesn’t excuse this decision. Rickie Weeks (or Scooter Gennett), Jean Segura, or Jonathan Lucroy all would be better options at leadoff than Gomez, because they each are likely to have better OBPs.

These are admittedly not major decisions in the grand scheme, and each is correctable fairly early in the season. It is just frustrating at this point because there is nothing that makes either one a good bet at this time.

State of the Brewers: Longing for 2005

Posted by Steve

It is only appropriate that I am about to experience the least anticipated World Series of my lifetime (even worse than the Subway Series), since this was my least enjoyable baseball season in at least ten years. And by “experience the least anticipated World Series of my lifetime,” I mean I’ll turn it on for the last few outs if the Cardinals are facing elimination. Maybe. That didn’t work so well the last time.

This year, and really, the current state of the Brewers, is depressing not so much because of the below .500 record. We’ve lived through much, much, much worse Brewers years as far as baseball performance is concerned. It’s that it was so predictable, and yet the Brewers’ brass was unable to foresee it, or at least to admit it.

The problem with the Brewers is exemplified by one move: signing Kyle Lohse. The fact that they saw themselves as one number 2/3 starting pitcher away from the playoffs is very concerning. They clearly were not, and that is not just hindsight talking. I saw it beforehand, but so did many others.

But not the Brewers. They kept looking short-term, and once they ran out of minor league pieces to trade, they ran out of options.

I was able to stomach the 90-100 loss seasons of the early 2000s, because there was at least hope on the horizon. Many terrible seasons had amassed an impressive array of draft picks. Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy, Corey Hart, Ryan Braun, and Yovani Gallardo would all join the big league club within a few years’ time. There was finally excitement, a light at the end of a long, miserable tunnel.

Now? The Brewers are about to enter their fourth consecutive year without one prospect on the same level as any of those mid-2000s players. Sure, they’ve added some much-needed quantity over the last two seasons, but they are sorely lacking in quality prospects.

Ready for something truly depressing? Read this next paragraph, and then tell me if there is one team in the NL Central you wouldn’t trade places with.

A couple months ago, Baseball America released its mid-season top 50 prospects. Included on that list were four Cardinals, three Pirates, three Cubs, two Reds, and, of course, zero Brewers. Even if we go back to the start of the season, when BA ranked their top 100 prospects, Wily Peralta was the only Brewer to crack the list.

What this should tell you is that the Cardinals and Pirates, already good teams, will just continue to reload (or improve, from the standpoint of the Pirates). They aren’t going anywhere. The Reds are on their way out, but even they have a better system than Milwaukee. The Cubs are going to be bad for the next year or two yet, but they look the way the Brewers did in the mid-2000s; they have a lot of exciting players in their system.

So… What can be done? Well, what they should not do is hold on to their veterans, sign a free agent starting pitcher or two, and try to patch together another .500ish season. Basically, don’t do what they’ve tried the past few years.

It’s time for Mark Attanasio to read the writing on the wall: it’s time to blow this up and rebuild. They’ve proven the patchwork strategy isn’t working, so it’s time to change philosophies.

That also means something larger: it’s time for Doug Melvin to go.

Melvin has done some very good things in Milwaukee. He oversaw the reconstruction of a truly terrible franchise, fielded two playoff teams and won one division title. He was two games from his first World Series. Sure, you could argue he could have done more with that core they had, but he also could have done much worse.

It’s been a few years since Melvin was able to work some magic. Most importantly, he still hasn’t been able to adequately replace Jack Zduriencik. The Brewers haven’t had one impact draft pick since Brett Lawrie, and that has been what’s killed them more than anything.

Doug Melvin departing isn’t the most important key to turning this around–all that truly matters is that the Brewers stop their short-term thinking. The best way to do that, however, is to bring in a younger GM who is willing to oversee a rebuilding process.

There are players to build around. Jean Segura, Jonathan Lucroy, and Wily Peralta is a decent starting point. Many fans would hate this move, but Carlos Gomez’s value will never be higher. He’s still young (and affordable) enough to bring back a huge haul, yet, he’s old enough that by the time the team around him is good again, he’ll be leaving or out of his prime. The adage of trading a player a year too early rather than a year too late (i.e. Corey Hart, Aramis Ramirez, and hopefully not Kyle Lohse) rings true with Gomez.

Other players should go as well–many should have already, of course, but I don’t need to harp on that any further. They have no choice but to hold on to Braun at this point, so that will at least be in a holding pattern for a while. But even that could be short-term.

They key for a mid-market team like the Brewers is to find young talent and bring up waves of it. The Brewers haven’t had a wave since Gallardo ended their big one about four years ago. They have some players who could be impact prospects, but they’re still in the lower levels of the minors. What they need to do is collect players who are within two years or so of the big leagues and bring them up together, à la Fielder, Weeks, Hart and Hardy.

The concern, from Attanasio’s perspective, is clearly attendance. They’ve drawn extraordinarily well the last five years, and it would be understandable to be hesitant to jeopardize that. I’d argue that Brewer fans are patient; look how bad the teams were for so long, yet fans came back. They’ll do the same in support of an exciting, young team. It beats the alternative of gradually losing attendance year-to-year with no future in sight.

There are a large number of fans who feel jaded after the Ryan Braun saga. I don’t worry about it, personally, but many do. It could actually be a great time to explain to the fans that the strategies of the past few years haven’t worked, and now the team is changing course. I really think many would be open to that.

Hope isn’t lost for Brewers fans. It’s just on hold. Take me back to 2004, 2005 (and not just for this reason). I’d much rather root for a young, rebuilding team with a bright future than for one without much present or future. Unfortunately, if they don’t rebuild, that’s all we’ll have.

A different way of evaluating this Brewers season

Posted by Steve

The All-Star Break is always a time of evaluation for MLB teams. They evaluate where they are in the playoff race and decide what direction they want to go at the trading deadline. I certainly have my opinions on what the Brewers should do at the trading deadline, but first, I want to take a look back at this season.

There’s no doubt that the Brewers have had a disaster of a season. They are in last place in the N.L. Central and have the second-worst record in the league. There’s no way to put beer goggles over that one.

But instead, I want to look at how the Brewers’ season has gone compared to expectations. There were obviously varying opinions on how this season would go, but there were also many people who assumed the Brewers would not have a good year. I was one of them, although I can’t say I thought the record would be quite this bad.

So yes, it could be easy to say this is a lost season. But when you compare the events of the season to what was expected, I actually come up with more positives than negatives.

Quickly, let’s look at what we did expect: We knew the starting rotation wouldn’t be good, and it turns out it’s terrible. It is disappointing that guys like Mike Fiers, Tyler Thornburg and Mark Rogers haven’t done a thing in Milwaukee this year, but it’s also not shocking.

That’s about it.

Almost nothing else about this season has gone as expected, and a number of those things are positive. But let’s look at the negatives first.

Negatives

Ryan Braun continues to face controversy

There is so much that could be said here, but there is still no revealed evidence, so any analysis at this point would simply be conjecture. It is not a surprise that Braun is tied up in this, since we knew about it before the season. I am listing it here, though, because it seems that MLB is even more determined to “get” Braun that I even assumed. Rumblings quickly escalated from 50 to 100 games and then to the ridiculous possibility of a lifetime ban. So this is certainly not good news, even though it’s only slightly surprising.

Corey Hart is out for the year

This is in the same category as the Braun one. Is it surprising Corey Hart has missed time this year due to injury? Of course not; that’s been going on for each of the last few seasons. What is surprising is that he’s now lost for the season. That’s a huge loss–some for what he would have brought to the offense this year, but much more for what the Brewers could have gotten back for him in a trade if he’d been healthy.

Aramis Ramirez can’t stay healthy

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have listed this one under unexpected at all, because Aramis Ramirez being banged up is anything but surprising. It’s why I hated the signing two years ago–not because he can’t hit, but because he can’t stay healthy. Like Hart, this one really hurts because they can’t trade him right now. It seems like best case scenario is he proves himself enough to be included in a waiver deal in August.

Yovani Gallardo kind of sucks

This is definitely the worst negative of the season, and it’s a big reason why the Brewers are currently awful instead of the anticipated mediocre. I plan to break this down at much greater length soon, but in short: Yo has been bad. His velocity is down, his starts are short, and he’s killed his trade value. He could have been a huge chip for the Brewers, but his value may now be so low that they are forced to keep him.

And that’s all I’ve got. Those are the four things that are currently killing the Brewers, and only three are actually on the field. These are the only things I can come up with that went wrong that were not totally expected. Not good, for sure, but I’d have expected more in a season that’s gone this poorly.

Now, to the positives.

Positives

Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez

I put these two together, because A) both performances are incredibly impacting and B) both were pretty unexpected. Yes, I had high hopes for both players, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted that Gomez and Segura would be 2nd and 12th respectively in WAR for the NL and both make the All-Star team.

Gomez is already making his contract extension look like an absolute steal. His center field defense is elite, and his bat has become a plus. He’s managed to finally meet his potential that scouts raved about years ago. He’s still only 27, meaning he can still be seen as somewhat of a long-term piece in Milwaukee.

Segura’s performance is perhaps even more encouraging. He’s dirt cheap yet for three years (unless the Brewers sign him long-term, which would be great), and he’s already playing at a very high level. Yes, he needs to be more patient offensively, but it’s clear that he’ll be the type of guy the Brewers can just pencil in at shortstop for the next 5+ years and not have to worry about anything. Even if Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena flame out completely, which I’d say is pretty unlikely, Segura makes that Greinke trade last year look like highway robbery.

The performance and increased value of these players has been the most surprising development of the season, good or bad, for the Brewers.

The Bullpen is very good

Last year the bullpen was just about the entire reason the Brewers missed the playoffs. This year, Doug Melvin made some shrewd trades and signings, and it’s been almost as good this year as it was bad last year.

Now obviously, a good bullpen is useless on a team as bad as the 2013 Brewers. So why is this a positive? Because it gives them a bunch of trade chips!

To varying degrees, every pitcher in the bullpen should be available this coming deadline. My hope is at least two get traded, and ideally, even more. The Brewers should take every chance they can get to improve the young talent in the organization.

Wily Peralta looks like a promising young pitcher again

Peralta looked so good at the end of last year that his uneven first half was extremely frustrating. He has incredible stuff: elite fastball velocity, a nice slider and a two-seamer that I swear defies physics. That’s why it’s great that he’s looked so good his last few times out. If he can keep this up, he’ll soon be the top-of-the-rotation type guy that we envisioned and hoped for.

Norichia Aoki is no fluke

Aoki has been another bright spot on the team, proving to be a legitimate lead-off hitter. The Brewers need to trade him, which is too bad, because I enjoy watching him play. However, 30-year-old corner outfielders with 1.5 seasons left on their contracts don’t serve much of a purpose on a last place team.

The Brewers have a worse record than expected

Yes, this is a good thing. Here’s why: last year, when they were mediocre, they very nearly held on to Zack Greinke, which would have been a cripplingly stupid move. This year, there’s no way they could be tempted into making a “buyer’s” move; they’re just way too far out.

Guys like Gallardo, Hart, and Ramirez have all taken hits to their trade value, which hurts, but there are still players to trade. Kyle Lohse should be dealt, which would erase some of the sting of forfeiting a first round pick for him. Aoki should be dealt. Relievers should be dealt. There will likely be no grand prize like last year’s Greinke trade, but the Brewers have a real chance to once again bolster the 2014 and 2015 teams. And if Gallardo can put a few good starts together in the next couple weeks, it’s possible they could nab something very good for him.

I’ll have more to come on the trade deadline shortly, but I thought this would be an interesting way of illustrating how I felt the season has gone so far.

Weeks, Gomez, Segura, and yes, more Yuni

Posted by Steve

I have continued to be a putz and not post nearly as much as I’d have liked to in recent weeks. I still insist that will change shortly, but in the meantime, here’s a post that more or less addresses the hot-button issues of the young 2013 season.

There are really four players that are standing out so far this season, for one reason or another: Jean Segura, Carlos Gomez, Rickie Weeks, and, of course, Yunieski Betancourt.

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Let’s start with Segura. This has been the best-case scenario for the Brewers. He has exceeded even the loftiest expectations to this point. He is tied for Troy Tulowitzki for the best WAR among shortstops. Defensively, he’s been excellent, to the point that you have to wonder what led some scouts to predict he’d eventually need to move to second base. He clearly won’t finish the season with the .914 OPS that he currently sports, especially considering his .368 BABIP, but even finishing at, say, .814 would make him an incredibly valuable player. Even more encouraging is the power he’s shown. He’s slugging .530 with 4 home runs already, showing that he has 10-15 HR potential, if not even higher.

To me, Segura has been the best/most encouraging part of the season to this point. I’ve been critical of some of Melvin’s moves as of late, but the Greinke trade, both to acquire him and then to deal him, seems to have been handled flawlessly. The Angels have to already be kicking themselves (They hit the trifecta: gave up Segura+, didn’t make the playoffs, then didn’t retain Greinke in the off-season), and the potential is there for this to be one of the most lopsided trades in recent memory. And, not to seem like I’m patting myself on the back, but the Brewers seem to have made the correct move in calling him up for the end of last season–a move I endorsed last year.

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Now, to the most surprising player of the season–not just with the Brewers but likely in all of baseball: Carlos Gomez. I loved the Gomez signing (not going to link to two of my old posts in one post, but I did) and I took him in fantasy baseball, yet I’ve still obviously been thrilled and surprised by his production this year. Much like Segura, this is beyond any reasonable expectation. Gomez has been, according to WAR, easily the best player in all of baseball this year.

Gomez made a huge leap forward last season, and so far, has made an even bigger leap this year–obviously, as he’s been an MVP-type player through the first five weeks. Like with Segura, we need to be guarded with our excitement: he has an insane .420 BABIP, compared with a .309 number for his career. Such a huge gap could lead anyone to ask whether this is entirely a fluke.

I contend that it’s not–not entirely, at least. Gomez hasn’t been walking very much still, but he never has. What he has been, though, is more selective at the plate. Unlike Yuni, who has shown no improvement in plate discipline, Gomez has. He’s seeing 3.97 pitches per plate appearance this year, compared to 3.39 last year. It’s obviously a small sample still, but it’s still very encouraging. It’s easy to see why Gomez was once considered a great prospect. He had five tool potential, and he’s shown that so far. At age 27, it’s possible he is just hitting his stride. That’s a very, very exciting thought.

——–

And now, to the player everyone seems to want to talk about: Rickie Weeks. He makes this list for the exact opposite reason Gomez and Segura do: He’s been very bad. Weeks is hitting .193/.308/.298. People are calling for his head and for Scooter Gennett to get a chance. Fortunately, that won’t be happening anytime soon.

Weeks has been a streaky hitter over his career, and it’s easy to forget how good he can be when he’s going this poorly. But it is interesting to note that this is not the worst slump of his career–not by a long shot, in fact. Last year, for a 58-game stretch, he hit .150/.296/.261.

The cries were there for Weeks to be benched last season at this point as well. If the Brewers had listened, they’d have missed out on some very solid production the rest of the year.

His next 84 games, he hit .280/.358/.495, an elite line for a second baseman.

Look, it isn’t ideal that Weeks goes through stretches like this. But the Brewers gave him a significant contract; they cannot just bench him. That would mean simply eating his contract, and that won’t happen. And they would be foolish to trade him now, when his value is quite low. They have no choice but to let him find his way out of this slump. That will happen eventually. He’s been having bad luck, too–his BABIP is well below his career average.

——–

Let’s compare this to Yuniesky Betancourt, who simply won’t let me stop talking about him. Yuni improbably leads the Brewers in home runs, and people won’t stop proclaiming what a savior he’s been. Yes, he’s been on a power surge. But aside from a few more home runs than expected, he hasn’t been any different than over his entire career.

I mentioned this recently, but I still keep hearing about how Yuni has “changed his approach” and is “more selective.” Today alone I heard it twice: Tom Haudricourt said on the radio that Yuni is being more patient, and Brian Anderson mentioned the same thing tonight on the TV broadcast.

The numbers simply do not back that up. Betancourt is seeing the fewest pitches per plate appearance in all of baseball! He’s on a hot streak in which he’s just making a bit more contact. The same is basically said in today’s Fangraph’s article on Yuni, titled, Yuniesky Betancourt Hasn’t Changed a Bit.

Here’s my biggest beef with the Yuni love, coupled with the Weeks hate. Now, if you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that I love Weeks and can’t stand Betancourt. But it goes beyond that. The two main narratives seem to be 1) RICKIE WEEKS SUCKS!@!#! and 2) YUNI B IS AWESOME!!#@!!

How about this for a true fact: Rickie Weeks has a higher on-base percentage than Yuniesky Betancourt!

We have Yuni, who’s as hot as he’s ever been, and we have Weeks, who’s close to as cold he’s ever been, and Yuni is still so awful at getting on base that he’s still below Weeks’ OBP. That just shows the inherent difference in value between the two. Weeks has great plate discipline that allows him to get on base even during slumps. Betancourt has awful discipline that prevents him from getting on base even when he’s hot.

I will give Betancourt this: he’s much more difficult to hate when he isn’t playing shortstop. At least half of my hate for him as a player was for his awful, no-range defense at shortstop. He’s much, much more palatable–even valuable–as a utility infielder who never plays shortstop.

So, that just about brings to an end my long-winded post about the Brewers. My goal from now on: Post more often so as to prevent rambling posts in the future.

Carlos Gomez extension: Smart move, good value

Posted by Steve

The Brewers made a bit of a surprise move today with an extension of center fielder Carlos Gomez, reportedly for 4 years/$27.5 million. It actually replaces his contract for this season, meaning it’s essentially a three-year extension for $24 million. Considering Gomez was entering his final year before free agency, I’m surprised the Brewers were able to get him this cheaply.

Gomez was a valuable player, even in a platoon role, the last few years–mainly because of his defense and baserunning. Last year, though, he put together an offensive season that people envisioned years ago when Gomez was a highly regarded prospect. He set career-highs in batting average (.260), on-base percentage (.305), and slugging percentage (.463). While those first two numbers aren’t all that impressive, the slugging percentage is. And when it’s combined with Gomez’s defense in a crucial position, it makes for a valuable player: His WAR of 3.5 was 11th in baseball among center fielders, and he had far fewer plate appearances than any of the others in the top ten.

Gomez is still only 27, so there is good reason to believe his performance can match, and possibly even exceed, his performance last season. He will never be a good on-base player, or even a decent one most likely. However, playing one of the most important positions makes that more palatable.

If there is anyone saying the Brewers spent too much on Gomez at $8 mil a year, I’d ask what the Brewers could have gotten for that money instead. Michael Bourn just signed for 4/$48 mil. B.J. Upton was below Gomez in WAR last year, and he just signed for 5/$75! Fangraphs had Gomez worth $9 million in 2012, and $15 million in 2013. If he’d had another year like last year in 2013, he’d probably double his value to $50 mil or so on the open market. He might earn his contract over the next four years on just defense alone.

The Brewers do have some fairly promising young outfielders coming up in Logan Schafer, Caleb Gindl, and Khris Davis. None of them, however, are nearly as highly regarded as Gomez was. Davis and Gindl are really only corner outfielders, and there’s nothing wrong with using Schafer as a 4th outfielder or in a soft platoon with Gomez.

It’s kind of funny to think back to a few years ago, when the general reaction of Brewers fans to the J.J. Hardy-for-Gomez trade was disappointment. Here’s what I wrote in 2009 when the trade went down. I actually didn’t pan the trade, which I wasn’t sure of myself until I went back and looked (the most painful part of that post by far is when I mentioned Mat Gamel having a lot of trade value. Oof.). Both players have had some success since the trade, although it is interesting that Gomez got the larger contract extension.

Whether the Brewers are contenders or not, this is a good move. They have a good player signed through his prime, and it’s inexpensive enough that it will be tradeable down the road if necessary.

In honor of this contract let’s watch a couple Carlos Gomez GIFs. One flattering, one not so much, but both awesome.

 

Catching Up

Posted by Steve

After a hiatus, there are a number of things to write about. To cover some of what we’ve  missed, let’s roll out a Pitchers and Catchers Report Cornucopia of Thoughts (#ThoughtCornucopia).

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I might as well address the Ryan Braun thing first, even though I’m already tired of it. All I know is that we don’t know if Braun has used anything, and I’m plenty annoyed by people acting like they do (either way). All I know is the only “evidence” to prove him guilty is two pieces of handwritten notes. Additionally, articles like this exist.

It’s my personal opinion that a sizeable percentage of MLB players are using some sort of PED, and it’s become hard for me to care too much. My problem is the double standard that exists. Todd Helton and Tony La Russa get DUIs, something that literally endangers the lives of others, and they can still be seen as “great baseball guys” or better yet, “great guys.” Just watch Todd Helton this season. He won’t be booed at opposing parks, yet Ryan Braun will be skewered. And I’m not saying Todd Helton necessarily deserves to be booed—just trying to illustrate this strange hatred of PEDs.

A quick Google search reveals several writers mentioning Braun and Helton in the same article, and even a Baseball Nation article titled “Todd Helton’s arrest and Ryan Braun’s involvement with Biogenesis.” Might as well have been “Poker tips and the mating rituals of lemurs.” They’re just as similar, and I’m equally uninterested in reading both articles.

Same thing with the BBWA voting nobody into the HOF despite many deserving candidates. Will Tony La Russa have any trouble whatsoever getting into the HOF? Of course not, even though what he did was more harmful, dangerous, and reckless than using PEDs.

The same goes for the crazy double standard that victimizes baseball. The NFL has incredibly lenient testing, while baseball uses freaking blood tests. Yet which sport is seen as having a substance abuse problem?

Anyway, this ended up being less about Braun and more about baseball in general. Hopefully he can avoid a suspension.

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The news of the day is the re-tear of Mat Gamel’s surgically repaired ACL. You have to feel awful for Gamel, but to be honest, it’s likely that this is not a huge loss. The two options that might seem the most obvious are to either let Taylor Green, Hunter Morris, or Khris Davis have the first base job while Corey Hart is out. I have supported letting Taylor Green play third and moving Aramis Ramirez to first base in the past, but I don’t see that happening for two reasons: One, Corey Hart should be back by mid-May (don’t see them moving Ramirez for just six weeks), and two, the Brewers just don’t seem to like Taylor Green that much.

I think it’s more likely that we see Alex Gonzalez play first, which is not a pretty thought. Gonzalez as a shortstop is just fine and dandy, but certainly not as a first baseman.

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Meanwhile, the Brewers ended up not signing a starting pitcher. While I am a bit surprised, I am not disappointed. If the choice came to either no free agent SPs or three years for Ryan Dempster, I’m fine with no free agents.

The Brewers did make a couple nice, low-risk signings in lefty relievers Tom Gorzelanny and Mike Gonzalez, but relievers are not the difference makers that starters are.

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This all goes to my last post, which still holds true a couple months later. The Brewers are very likely not making the playoffs this year. The fact that they are now down to their third string first basemen (and we aren’t even sure who that is yet) doesn’t make me feel any better than I did a couple months ago. PECOTA projects the Brewers for a 79-83 record and an 18.3% chance of making the playoffs. That sounds about right to me, and in fact, I’d say they have a greater chance of finishing last than first. The awful Houston Astros added a few wins to the Brewers’ record last year, but without them in the division there shouldn’t be a truly awful team in the NL Central (I actually kind of like the Cubs’ starting rotation).

Just because I do not have the same optimism that I had the last couple years at this time doesn’t mean there isn’t much to look forward to this season. I am anxious to see how some of the young starting pitchers do, I am excited for Jean Segura, and I have hope that Carlos Gomez can build on a career year. And if they are struggling, the trade deadline should be an exciting time. Gomez, Nori Aoki, Ramirez, Corey Hart, and a number of others would all be candidates to be traded.

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And finally, just because I don’t want this to seem entirely negative, I’m a big fan of the fan-designed uniforms the Brewers will be wearing in Spring Training. The hats are okay, but the uniforms are pretty slick in my opinion. I really like the idea of combining the old logos with the more current colors, which is what I was hoping the Brewers would do a few years ago when they introduced the current retro unis instead.

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.

Aoki, K-Rod, and others

Posted by Steve

It’s been quite a while since the last post, but that’s really because there has been virtually no Brewers news to discuss. Then all of a sudden, today we were hit with rapid-fire Brewers news.

How about an off-season Cornucopia of Thoughts?

K-Rod
I was pleasantly surprised that he agreed to a base salary of $8 million. I was expecting at least 11. At 8 mil, the Brewers no longer need to trade him. Or if they want to he’ll be easier to trade. My guess is they end up keeping him, because their bullpen is fairly weak without him. I can’t say I’m excited to watch him pitch, though.

Aoki
A possible fallout of the K-Rod deal might very well have been that the Brewers could now afford to sign Norichika Aoki, although I’m guessing this would have happened anyway. Since I’m pretty much resigned to the fact that Braun will be out 50 games, I’m happy about this signing (with the caveat that the yet-to-be-revealed salary isn’t insane). Hopefully he will be a competent fill-in for Braun for those 50 games. If nothing else, he will be a nice improvement on defense. In fact, when Hart is playing first on occasion (as Melvin recent admitted he’s planning for), an outfield of Aoki-Gomez-Morgan will be fantastic defensively. Even though two of those guys can’t throw, that outfield will rival Arizona’s or any other as one of the best in baseball because of all the ground they’ll cover. When you consider the Brewers have Alex Gonzalez over Yuni and Aoki over Kotsay, you might come to the conclusion that the defense this year could be much improved.

Mainly though, I’m just hoping Aoki can get on base at a pretty nice clip. The Brewers sorely need some OBP guys with Gomez/Morgan, Gonzalez, and Jonathan Lucroy in the everyday lineup.

Other signings
The Brewers have agreed to terms with Kameron Loe, Manny Parra, Carlos Gomez, and Nyjer Morgan on one year deals to avoid arbitration in recent days. When I was projecting the budget, I thought guys like Parra and Loe might be non-tendered. It sure seems like the Brewers will have a larger payroll than I expected; they’ll be pushing $100 million. Pretty crazy considering they were around $40 mil when Mark Attanasio took over the team.

Ryan Braun
This thing is sure dragging out. As I said earlier, I am fully expecting Braun to be out for the first 50 games. I have no idea whether he’s innocent (nobody really does), but my guess is he might be able to save some face in the public eye, but will fall short of overturning his suspension. MLB doesn’t care about intent, so whether there was intent to use a drug as a performance enhancer or not doesn’t really matter.

Craig Counsell
Craig Counsell is joining the Brewers’ front office as a special assistant to the GM. Most everyone seems excited that Counsell is staying in the organization. That’s fine, I guess, but wow is this one of those things that justifies my decision to abandon my pursuit of a job in baseball. Some of my friends have been in Baseball Ops for over five years, are really good at what they do, and are still going year-to-year on low-paying internships. Meanwhile, Craiggers waltzes into a nice cushy job with no front office experience. I’d be much more annoyed if I was still trying to make it, I suppose.

No, really. Start managing like it’s the playoffs.

Posted by Steve

It’s been a few days since I was able to post, and quite a bit has happened in the world of Brewers baseball over that time. It’s old news by now to talk about beating Arizona, so I’ll just say that attending that game was perhaps the most nerve-wracking and exhilarating thing I’ve ever experienced. Amazing.

But moving on to this series. Of course, my worst nightmare of facing the Cardinals came true. Anybody but the Cardinals. Since there’s nothing they can do about it now, let’s take a look at what we’re working with this series.

Everyone is talking about the struggles of the Brewers’ starting rotation. The starters have struggled, but people seem to be downplaying one important factor: They’ve been facing great offenses. Arizona scored more runs than the Brewers this season, and the Cardinals are the best offense in the National League.

I would argue that neither Zack Greinke on Sunday nor Shaun Marcum yesterday were awful. Both allowed some cheap hits and then made the fatal mistake of giving up a meatball with runners on. Marcum certainly doesn’t seem like himself, but he was hurt by bunting, hit-and-runs and poor defense as well.

At some point, you have to be willing to admit a good part of the runs the Brewers hav given up is due to the Cards’ great offense.

Now, how does that help any going forward? It doesn’t, really; they’ll still be facing a great offense. It’s why I don’t expect the Brewers to win this series, but you never know. The Brewers’ offense has knocked around Cardinal pitching as well, so I expect more slugfests going forward.

Before looking ahead to the rest of the series, I want to reflect on yesterday’s trouncing. Obviously, the pitching and defense needs to be better, but I was again discouraged by what I saw from Ron Roenicke. Again, his moves are ones that managers make in a regular season game. There was no sense of urgency.

After the top of the fourth inning, the Cardinals had a five-run lead. The Brewers finally got on the board with Weeks’ homer and cut it to 5-2. I ask you this: Is a three-run deficit heading to the fifth inning still a winnable game? Apparently not to Roenicke. At least that’s what his decision communicated.

After cutting the lead to three runs, the Brewers needed to hold the Cardinals right where they were. They had their 2-3-4 hitters coming up. Who does Ron turn to when he needed a hold? Saito? Hawkins? Even Loe with right-handed Pujols and Holliday due up?

Nope. The answer is: the last guy in the bullpen! That’s right; after cutting the lead to three and the heart of their order coming up, Roenicke called on Marco Estrada. Unbelievable.

Again, this move makes perfect sense during the regular season. Marcum wasn’t getting it done, they pinch hit for him in a scoring opportunity, and then they need the long reliever Estrada to eat some innings and save the bullpen.

But what are we saving the bullpen for now? Especially with a day off before the next game! The Brewers gained nothing by not having Saito, K-Rod or Axford pitch yesterday. They wouldn’t have lost anything either, as I mentioned, because of the off day today.

This is just like when he kept Randy Wolf in to face Cowgill in the game against Arizona. Both times it was crucial that the Brewers stop the bleeding, as they were very much still in the game. Both times RRR failed to recognize that fact, and the game blew up and got away from them.

As much as I despise Tony La Russa with every fiber of my baseball being, he runs circles around Roenicke when it comes to this. He removed his starting pitcher with a three-run lead in the fourth inning! Talk about something you’d never see during the regular season. Yet, it was the right move. TLR sensed the Brewers were figuring Edwin Jackson out, and he made a proactive move rather than the one Reactive Ron Roenicke (“Reactive” has replaced “Runnin’” until further notice) made.

So anyway. I want to see that change immediately, or the Brewers will waste more opportunities.

Quickly looking ahead. What do the Brewers need to do? They don’t necessarily need to win tomorrow; they just need to win one of the next two. I’d feel great about a 2-2 series. I’m not sure I see it, though.

I’m very nervous about tomorrow. I wish the Brewers would essentially punt Game 3 and put their eggs in the Game 4 basket. Here’s my reasoning: tomorrow is Yo against Chris Carpenter (ugh). Carpenter’s been lights out lately, and the odds of the Brewers beating Carpenter in the Cards’ first home game of the series is pretty low. So why waste Yo in this game? Pitch Randy Wolf instead. That way, if you lose the game, no big deal–you have a huge advantage in Game 4 with Gallardo against Kyle Lohse. And if you somehow win the Wolf-Carpenter match-up, well then you’re sitting pretty with Yo against Lohse in Game 4 and a great chance at a 3-1 series lead.

But if Yo loses to Carpenter tomorrow, suddenly they’re faced with Randy Wolf on the mound in a must-win game. Not an enjoyable thought, but  a very real possibility.

This is all moot, as Yo is going to start tomorrow. Like I said, this makes Game 3 much more crucial than I’d have liked it to be. For this reason, the Brewers need to do everything they can to give themselves an edge. Specifically, I’d like to see Carlos Gomez get the start in center over Nyjer Morgan.

I know it sounds funny to ask for Gomez to start against a righty over Morgan, but consider the factors. First, Morgan and Carpenter have their history, and you never know what sort of controversy might arise with Morgan in the lineup. More importantly, though, Morgan hasn’t been hitting lately, and he has very poor numbers against Chris Carpenter in his career. And most importantly, Gomez is the team’s best defender, and they’re going to need all the defense they can get in what could be a low-scoring game. Gomez isn’t likely to hit Carpenter, but neither is Morgan, so get the All-World defender in center if it’s a wash. Morgan’s play in center yesterday should only further help RRR to make this decision.

To be honest, I’d be fine playing Morgan in right over Hart. That makes the outfield defense fantastic. hart only has a .701 OPS against Carpenter in his career, so it’s not like the Brewers would be missing much.

So, to recap:

  • Remember it’s the playoffs, and manage accordingly
  • Flip Yo and Wolf.
  • Since you won’t flip Yo and Wolf, at least play Gomez in center. The Brewers need great defense in what they hope is a low-scoring game.
  • Win plz.

 

Fine-tuning

Posted by Steve

The Brewers are (obviously) in outstanding position as August winds down. They have a massive 8.5-game lead and an 98.2% chance at the playoffs according to BP. It is now time to start thinking about how to best fine-tune the team for the playoffs.

Lefty Reliever?

The absence of a left-handed reliever out of the bullpen seemed glaring a month ago. Now, with this huge lead, it is much less so. I wouldn’t turn one down, but it would have to be a good one–not some guy who just happens to throw left-handed. I say this because come playoff time, Chris Narveson will be out of the rotation and in the bullpen.

Don’t be surprised if we hear Daniel Ray Herrera’s name. Yes, the same guy who had a brief and disastrous stint in Milwaukee earlier this season. He’d been terrific since going back to Nashville. I’ve been told he’s added a knuckleball, and apparently it’s working for him.

Betancourt

Remember when Yuni was hot? Yeah, that’s long over with. He’s 2 for his last 28, which probably started around the time the pronunciation of his name changed. And literally as I type this, Yuni doesn’t even come close to a weak grounder up the middle.

As soon as Weeks comes back, Hairston needs to move to shortstop. It’s that simple. Will the Brewers do this? I’d be surprised.

Taylor Green… For the love of God, Taylor Green

He’s hitting .337 in Nashville. .337! With a .997 OPS and better defense than Casey McGehee. Even if they don’t start him, right now the Brewers bench infielders are Craig Counsell and Josh Wilson. Both are contributing next to nothing. At least Counsell brings defense, but Wilson brings nothing.

You have to assume Green will at least be a September call up, but that’s not enough. To be eligible for a playoff roster, you have to be on the 25-man roster before September.

I’d like to see Green and Mat Gamel called up for Tim Dillard and Josh Wilson sometime before September. Like the Betancourt thing, though, I’m not expecting this to happen. It’s a shame, because Green may be the final piece to this season’s puzzle.

Still…

Even if these moves that should happen don’t happen, the Brewers are still looking great for an October run. Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez will both be back, which will improve their defense, offense, and depth.