Tag Archives: Corey Hart

No more half measures

Posted by Steve

The latest in the “the Brewers have no long-term plan” theme, they missed out on re-signing Corey Hart today. Hart would have been a nice option for first base this year, but oh well. So, now what?

Really, only two things should be options for the Brewers.

The first is to make a big play for a true difference maker at first base. Considering they really have no trade chips left at the big league level (that they’re willing to move, anyway), and that their farm system is bad, this isn’t a viable option. No point in dwelling, then.

The only other option should be to make due with what they have. They could platoon Sean Halton and Juan Francisco. They could give Mat Gamel a shot, which would be very cheap. While doing this, they could wait and see if Hunter Morris turns into anything (I have just about no hope for Morris, but that’s another story).

My preference would actually be to move a current starter to first base. Either Aramis Ramirez or Ryan Braun would benefit from a move to first base, as it would help them stay healthy. Between Caleb Gindl, Logan Schafer, Kentrail Davis, or other cheaply acquired corner outfielders, they could fill right field.

Either make a huge move for a true difference-making first baseman, or make due with what you have. Those are the only two viable options.

So why, then, does it feel like they’re about to do neither?

I am bracing myself for the Brewers to do something foolish, like giving James Loney a multi-year contract, or trading young pitching for Ike Davis. Neither one would make sense given the talent level of the team, but both fit perfectly with the M.O. of the Mark Attanasio regime.

Trading for Ike Davis wouldn’t be a bad move if the Brewers were one more hitter away from true contention. But, much like with the acquisition of Kyle Lohse last year, that isn’t the case. Giving up someone like Tyler Thornburg for Davis would be a dumb move.

Similarly, signing James Loney to a two-year, or God forbid three-year contract would be just as dumb. First of all, the Brewers have no business giving a merely decent veteran who plays the easiest position on the field a multi-year deal.

Secondly, it is far from a given that Loney would even be an upgrade over a Francisco/Halton platoon. Loney’s career OPS is .761, which is nothing special at all for a first baseman.

There is no good reason to trade for or give a multi-year contract to an average first baseman. But there was also no good reason to forfeit a draft pick to sign Kyle Lohse or give an injury-prone, aging Aramis Ramirez a three-year deal.

“No good reason” hasn’t saved the Brewers from themselves in the recent past, and it just feels like it won’t this time, either.

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.

So, now what?

Posted by Steve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tyler Thornburg’s return to normalcy

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

Trade/DFA Wolf, K-Rod

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One final remark

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

 

 

My mind is tellin’ me no…

Posted by Steve

I remember in 2005, 2006, before the Brewers were expected to contend, how badly I wanted the team to win. “Maybe Carlos Lee and Dave Bush will be enough to get them over the top?” Because they weren’t totally awful like teams I grew up with, I sort of got attached. I enjoyed watching a team that won more than 40% of its games, so when July rolled around, I wasn’t excited for the trading deadline. Fans liked the team, but rationality eventually won out. They weren’t going anywhere that year, so selling made perfect sense–even though I liked watching. That’s how most teams are that aren’t quite good enough, really. At some point, you have to admit that they just aren’t going anywhere and cut your losses.

I feel the exact opposite about this Brewers’ team.

Swept by the Royals. Out-managed by Ned Yost. There have been about six “This has got to be rock bottom” games so far. We just saw three in a row.

Emotionally, I want to blow this up. I’ve been reading the Brewerfan “Shopping Greinke” thread for weeks now. ‘He’s not going to sign during the season anymore… Wonder what they’d get for him?’ ‘Marcum, Wolf, Morgan, KROD, even Aoki, Axford and Hart have trade value. What if they just blew it all up? They could get a haul.’

It’s sad when that’s where I’m going emotionally. Not saying, “Well, they’re only 5 1/2 out. Baseball Prospectus is still (somehow) giving them an 18% chance at making the playoffs,” but instead saying, “I wonder what they could get if they just blew up the whole damn thing?”

And then, the rational part of me says it’s still too early to do that. If they have another two-week stretch like this in them, then fine. But really, it’s still only mid-June. Only the worst of the worst are selling at this point, if any.

Still, the worst case scenario isn’t blowing up the entire team. It’s continuing to lose and then not selling. I’m pretty terrified that the Brewers will be, oh, 9 games out of the playoffs at the deadline, and Melvin/Attanasio will say “We’re still in this. Look at the Cardinals and Rays last year!” Then Greinke leaves, Marcum leaves/signs a too-expensive deal, and the Brewers toil around 70-75 wins next year as well.

It’s not time to sell yet, but it’s getting closer. The Brewers have two or three weeks to seriously turn it around. If they don’t, I will actually be rooting for the Cardinals and Reds in hope that the Brewers will do the smart thing and start selling.

 

Opening Weekend Observations

Posted by Steve

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

————

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

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

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

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

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

————

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

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

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

Spring training overload

Posted by Steve

Hey, check out this Baseball Reference linker I learned about at Reviewing the Brew! Isn’t it nifty? Anyway…

Spring Training is great for a few reasons: you get a chance to see some younger players, and it’s a sign that baseball season is near. Really, that’s about it. It makes for a fun vacation, but baseball-wise, if I’m not there, I don’t really care.

Things that kind of suck about Spring Training:

-The games are generally boring (again, unless you’re there). Pitchers aren’t always even trying to pitch a good game; they’re working on a certain pitch or something. The games are finished by guys who won’t make the team.
-The games are generally meaningless. Performance doesn’t mean anything. Remember Erick Almonte making the team due to a hot spring training? Jeremy Reed? How long did those performances last?
-Not only are the performances meaningless, but then we have to endure people overreacting to these meaningless performances and placing importance on whether someone had a “good spring.” Remember that spring when J.J. Hardy had like a 1.100 OPS? That was the year he got sent to the minors for playing so badly.
-For every exciting prospect, there are three Brooks Conrads, Travis Ishikawas or Cesar Izturises. I don’t need to see these guys play.
-Nothing good comes out of it, but someone always seems to get hurt.
-And finally, there’s a severe lack of news.

I’m going to expand on that last point. Again, unless you’re there, the only news we have to discuss is what we get from reporters who are there. Within 24 hours of Corey Hart‘s injury, you could find probably six or more blogs discussing how the Brewers might fill right field in Hart’s absence, and they all said the same general thing. Now, everyone is talking about how the Brewers’ offense hasn’t done much in their first couple games. Sorry, but I can’t bring myself to care about that. And I wasn’t going to write a Hart post when it had already been covered plenty. The funniest part is now we’re hearing that he might actually make opening day anyway, so all that speculation could be moot.

The regular season is great, because 20 people can watch a game, and there can be 20 different reactions/opinions/ideas. It makes for interesting discussion. There is just so much more to talk about. In spring training, there are no managerial decisions to evaluate, there are no tense moments, there are no division races.

I see it as a necessary evil. I can’t even bring myself to follow the games very closely. I realize I’m in a minority, but I’ll watch if I’m around, or if a younger guy I want to see is playing (like Tyler Thornburg today), but other than that, I don’t get caught up in it too much.

All I want in March is college basketball no serious Brewers injuries. Give me that, and I’m happy.

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.

 

PECOTA Hitting

Posted by Steve

On to hitting projections. I’m doing my best to get this done before Opening Day, so here goes.

Rickie Weeks

.259/.359/.440, 16 HRs, 12 SBs, 2.0 WARP

While this is still a valuable player at second base, they have Weeks taking a big step back from his 4.6 WARP season of 2010. Most of it comes in the fact that he has an injury history, and they project him for 484 plate appearances compared to last year’s 754. Basically, what this is saying is that if Rickie’s healthy, he’ll produce–which he always has.

Carlos Gomez

.245/.293/.343, 5 HRs, 22 SBs, 0.1 WARP

Gross. Just gross. And Roenicke’s going to hit this joker second in the lineup. Gomez is what he is at age 25, and that is someone who swings at everything. His defense is very good, but his bat makes him nothing more than a backup outfielder, and that’s what he’s most likely to be for the rest of his career. A platoon with Nyjer Morgan is ideal at this point.

Ryan Braun

.303/.364/.531, 30 HRs, 16 SBs, 4.8 WARP

Finally, someone projected to improve upon last season. I think this is the first one between the pitcher and hitter projections so far. They pointed out his odd struggles against lefties last season after mashing them all of his career, and say it’s likely that it’s a small sample fluke. These projections aren’t really meant for guys like Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder–you know those guys are going to hit.

Prince Fielder

.279/.394/.528, 36 HRs, 3 SBs, 3.9 WARP

Another player likely to improve. Fielder showed great discipline, drawing 114 walks last season, but his slugging percentage was just .471. It’s hard to believe Prince is still only 27. He’s had a great tenure in Milwaukee, and there should be no hard feelings when he takes a huge contract somewhere else. Before then, though, he’ll anchor the Brewers’ lineup for one more playoff push.

Casey McGehee

.280/.336/.437, 16 HRs, 1 SB, 1.7 WARP

McGehee continues to reward the Brewers for their waiver pickup in 2009. His defense was awful last season, but his bat still made him a solid starter. Here’s hoping being a full year removed from knee surgery has helped him get into good shape and that he’ll be able to move around better at third base. The Brewers need all the range they can get on the left side of the diamond with Yuniesky Betancourt playing shortstop.

Corey Hart

.277/.334/.473, 18 HRs, 14 SBs, 1.4 WARP

Hart is due for some regression, though hopefully not much, if he performs at a similar level. His BABIP was .324 last year, and while that isn’t astronomical, it’s much higher than his career norm. I’d love to see Hart take more walks, but at age 29, he is what he is. I should be fair and mention that Roenicke is probably only using Gomez in the second spot until Hart comes off the DL.

Yuniesky Betancourt

.263/.287/.378, 9 HRs, 5 SBs, -0.1 WARP

Ladies and gentlemen, your starting shortstop! That’s right friends, your starting shortstop is projected to be below replacement level. What a nightmare of a decision by the Brewers to hand him the job. Best case scenario is that he’s so bad early that the Brewers make a transaction to replace him as early in the season as possible.

Jonathan Lucroy

.264/.328/.384, 9 HRs, 2 SBs, 1.4 WARP

I’d certainly be pleased with this line from Lucroy in his sophomore season. Last year, he was .253/.300/.329, so that’s a big jump. BP points out that he had good on-base ability and double digit home run power in the minors, so they expect him to grow into a solid, everyday catcher. His defense has drawn rave reviews as well.

Nyjer Morgan

.274/.330/.353, 3 HRs, 34 SBs, 0.8 WARP

The vast majority of Morgan’s value comes through defense and baserunning, but he’s definitely an offensive upgrade to Carlos Gomez. I’m anxious to see how long until Gomez’s inability forces a strict platoon with Morgan. I’ll say by the end of May.

Mark Kotsay

.250/.308/.350, 4 HRs, 4 SBs, -0.9 WARP

Encouraging that we’re already on our second player on the 25 man roster that’s below replacement level. -0.9 is truly impressive. This is another terrible decision to have Kotsay over Joe Inglett, Brandon Boggs, or really, anyone else. Gotta love this excerpt from BP, which was written before he signed in Milwaukee: “Given Kotsay’s limited value at any position or at the plate, you can reasonably wonder where he’ll wash up, but places like Houston and Pittsburgh might suit him.” Ladies and gentlemen, Mark Kotsay!

George Kottaras

.233/.329/.400, 9 HRs, 1 SB, 0.8 WARP

There are good things about George Kottaras, especially when compared to most catchers. He has a great eye at the plate, and he’s got a bit of pop in his bat. Unfortunately, he hasn’t ever carried a high batting average. More unfortunately, his defense was horrific last season. Opponents stole on him at will, which led to him losing his job to Lucroy. Kottaras will get a shot at some starts while Lucroy is on the mend, and when Lucroy returns, he’s likely to be kept on as the backup catcher.

Jeremy Reed

Not even noteworthy enough to garner a projection by BP, but he is quite possibly the third man on the 25-man roster who will be below replacement level. His WARP was 0.0 last season.

Erick Almonte

Same story. A 33 year-old who has all of 100 days of major league service isn’t going to get a BP projection. Odds of Almonte, Reed, or Kotsay staying on the big league team all season are pretty low.

Other notables

Alcides Escobar

.271/.313/.370, 7 HRs, 24 SBs, 1.4 WARP

“Escobar was handed the Brewers’ shortstop job in spring training and ran with it, straight through a patch of poison ivy, off a cliff, and into a vat of liquid nitrogen.”

It’s worth noting that this projection sees a pretty substantial improvement in Escobar’s second full season, and that it’s much better than what they project for Yuni Betancourt. Escobar seems to be the biggest immediate loss of all the players they gave up.

Chris Dickerson

.256/.344/.388, 6 HRs, 1 SB, 0.5 WARP

The highest projected OBP by far out of the three of Dickerson, Gomez, and Morgan, and that’s the one the Brewers traded away for a league average at best reliever. Ugh.

Lorenzo Cain

.253/.318/.367, 6 HRs, 11 SBs, 0.4 WARP

While I think Lorenzo Cain will be a solid player, it’s nice to see the Brewers didn’t give up a projected star next season or anything. Cain had a very good debut with Milwaukee, but a lot of it was due to his unsustainable .370 BABIP.

————

Well, we’ve gone through pitching and hitting projections… So what’s the bottom line? The starting rotation should be pretty great, but you have to wonder about the defense and depth for the rest of the team. I wouldn’t call them the odds on favorite for the NL Central, but they’re one of them. As of February, BP had the Brewers projected for 85 wins. I’ll go out on a limb and say 87 wins, which will be within a game or so of Cincinnati either way. The Wildcard won’t come from the Central (should be either the Dodgers or Braves), so the Brewers will need to win the division to make the playoffs.

Should be an exciting season. Keep turnin’ up the heat.


Hart signs extension

Posted by Steve

The Brewers made an interesting move for sure, as they signed Corey Hart to a three year deal reportedly worth $26.5 million. Headlines are calling it a three-year extension, but really it’s a three year deal and only a two year extension. Hart was under contract next season, and the deal includes next year, so it buys out two years of free agency.

This is a calculated risk. I love the fact that it’s only two more years. I was terrified it would be like a five year contract or something. Short term contracts are generally the way to go, as it minimizes risk. If Hart reverts to his 2008/2009 self, it would hurt–but it won’t be a franchise crippler the way Jeff Suppan’s contract was.

This is an interesting twist after the last few weeks of trade rumors surrounding Hart. The Brewers were strangely silent at the deadline. On one hand, it’s frustrating, but on the other, at least the didn’t make a trade just to make a trade, a la the Diamondbacks with Dan Haren. That deal was widely and almost unanimously panned as soon as it occurred. Do yourself a quick favor and check out GM Jerry DiPoto’s comments on the deal. An MLB GM using not only wins to justify a move, but minor league wins? I continue to be astounded by some of the people put in charge of teams.

So, yeah. If the Brewers weren’t going to get what they wanted for Hart, this is probably the best alternative. It would have been tough to replace both Fielder and Hart after 2011, and now they don’t have to. I don’t love it, because in essence the Brewers are buying fairly high on on of their own players. The writing is on the wall with Fielder, though; he’s as good as gone in the off-season. It sounds like the Brewers are interested in re-signing Rickie Weeks as well. Finally, they are sounding like they’ll move Mat Gamel around and try Brett Lawrie at third.

The question is who will replace Fielder at first? I’m not sure Gamel will hit enough to play there. Same goes for McGehee, who is a terrible defender at third. His days here should be numbered. Hart was a 1B in the minors, but that’s quite a long time ago now.

What I’d like to see will probably not happen, but I’ll throw it out there anyway: give Gamel a longer leash at third and move Ryan Braun to first. Braun was awful at third base, so they moved him to an easier position. Now, he’s still awful in left field. There’s only one easier position left, but they should give it a try. They need to do something to improve team defense. Replacing McGehee at third, Fielder at first, and Braun in left would go a long way towards accomplishing that.