Tag Archives: Francisco Rodriguez

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.

 

 

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.

The forgotten pitchers

Posted by Steve

Despite the return of Francisco Rodriguez, I have my doubts that the Brewers’ bullpen will be as good as it was last year. Takashi Saito will certainly be missed, and so will LaTroy Hawkins. In fact, the Brewers are entering Spring Training with only four short relievers who had big league success last season (Axford, K-Rod, Loe, Veras).

This of course means they will need a lot of contribution from guys who didn’t play a role last year. Notice I didn’t necessarily say new pitchers, though. That’s because it’s quite likely that most of that production will be filled by old faces–the likes of Manny Parra, Zach Braddock, Mark Rogers, and Brandon Kintzler. Parra, Rogers, and Kintzler are all coming off surgeries that cost them much or all of 2011, and Braddock is attempting to bounce back from some sleep/personal issues. The (very) early report on all of them is pretty good.

The fact that Rogers, a guy plagued with one injury after another over his career, is even throwing and feeling okay is good news. The former high first round pick is out of options, which means he’ll need to make the team this season. It seems the surgery he had last season for carpal tunnel syndrome was somewhat responsible for his sometimes high walk total, if you believe what Rogers says. If that’s the case, I feel pretty good about Rogers’ chances of becoming a good reliever. He still has great stuff, even after all this time, and I hope the Brewers give him a real shot in the pen. He will miss the first eight games of the season, however, as he finishes a 25-game suspension for a banned supplement. Seems the Brewers can’t get away from that stuff.

Another former starter who will need to be turned reliever is Manny Parra. Parra missed all of last year with shoulder surgery, but it sounds like he’s 100% this Spring. Parra and Rogers are very similar: missed last year due to surgery, former starter, and out of options. For this reason, I consider Parra all but a lock to make the team. If you remember, his last couple years he was being yanked around between starting and relieving, which yielded mixed results. Perhaps finally entering the year with a clear role will be beneficial for him.

Then there’s Zach Braddock, who not very long ago was my favorite Brewers prospect. Braddock had electric stuff, especially for a lefty, coming up through the system and into his rookie year. Then came 2011, which was a mess. Braddock battled off-field issues (which are fruitless to speculate on, in my opinion) that pretty much threw out his entire season. Reading his quotes yesterday, he sounds to me like he’s feeling great and throwing the ball well too. The Brewers basically went all of last season without a lefty reliever. Now it seems like they could have two power lefties out of the bullpen if things go well with Braddock and Parra.

Lastly, there’s Brandon Kintzler. He threw 14 strong innings before falling to injury himself last season. In 2010, he had a phenomenal year between AA and AAA. I expect him to play a role in the bullpen this season, even if he doesn’t make the big league team immediately.

Obviously, the Brewers can’t bank on all four of these pitchers have successful seasons, but if they got strong performances from even two of them, it would go a long way toward matching the production of last year’s bullpen, a huge strength of the team. You figure the locks for the pen are Axford, K-Rod, Veras, Loe, and Marco Estrada (although I’m not personally convinced Estrada should be a lock). That leaves two spots for the four I’ve mentioned, with Rogers being eliminated because of his suspension to start the season. Due to the fact that Parra has no options, I expect him to make the team. That means Kintzler, Braddock, or others such as Frankie de la Cruz, Mike McClendon or Tim Dillard will likely battle it out for one spot. Due to the nature of the long season/inevitable injuries, though, I expect to see most, if not all of these players in Milwaukee at some point in the season.

 

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.

Cool off-season, Brewers. Not.

Posted by Steve

When the Alex Gonzalez signing broke Friday, I figured I could wait til Monday to post about it. What was going to happen over the weekend, anyway?

So basically, we have the good (Alex Gonzalez signing), the bad (Aramis Ramirez signing), and the ugly (Braun).

It seems silly to talk in depth about Alex Gonzalez, which is what I would have done a few days ago. So for now, I’ll just say that the fact I’m excited about his signing goes to show how truly awful Betancourt was. Gonzalez isn’t a great shortstop by any means. He’s an awful hitter with just as poor OBP skills as Betancourt, or at least almost as poor. The reason I’m excited is because no matter what metric you consult, the consensus is that he’s a good fielding shortstop. That means he’s a fairly significant upgrade, and he was cheap and only for one year. Not bad, all things considered.

Really, this has to be about Braun…. But what is there to even say at this point? Other than this seems like a bizarre case, not too much. At the risk of sounding like a Giants fan defending Barry Bonds, the few details we do have seem so fishy that it sounds like he could be innocent, so I’m fully willing to reserve judgment until more information comes out. Even if he does end up looking to be clean, I am fully expecting him to be suspended. MLB is trying to look tough with their new PED program, and what better way to do that than by making an example of a superstar? Short of proof that some guy spiked Braun’s sample for banging his girlfriend or something, I don’t think MLB will accept his appeal.

One thing that seems hopeful are the reports that it was not a PED, but simply a “banned substance,” whatever that means. That could mean his suspension would be only 25 games, and might save Braun’s public image a bit.

I know I haven’t really said much, but I don’t know that there is much to say about it at this point.

So, let’s talk about Aramis Ramirez. You know, the guy who threw his helmet at my favorite player of all time. The guy who hit a crippling walk-off homer against the Brewers years ago. The guy who has been criticized for laziness, can’t field anymore, and is 34 years old.

The guy who now plays third base for the Brewers. Ugh.

Even putting aside the fact that I don’t like him at all, I hate this signing. I detailed why a couple posts ago, and Ramirez ended up getting even more money that I would have figured. I hate the fact that there’s a third year. Who was Doug Melvin bidding against? Nobody else was even reported to be interested in him. Why a third year? He can’t even play third base right now; I cringe to think of three years from now.

Really, the Brewers acquired yet another first baseman. Their overall disregard for defense is really getting old, as Ramirez is  worse than McGehee at third.

If the Brewers had $36 million or whatever burning a hole in their pocket, I wish they’d have spent it in a place where they didn’t have a viable replacement already. Edwin Jackson to replace Chris Narveson would have been a better use of that money, for example.

So now Taylor Green remains a backup for the next three years. To be honest, they might as well just trade him now. They’d get more value out of him that way.

For what it’s worth, and I’m just rambling now, if Braun is out I’d like to see Ramirez at first, Green at third and Gamel in left during that time.

But anyway. Some good news: as I was typing this, the Brewers traded Casey McGehee to the Pirates for reliever Jose Veras. I’m shocked they got something in return, but I’m glad they won’t be paying 3 million bucks or whatever for McGehee.

So I guess we’re looking at an infield of Ramirez, Gonzalez, Weeks, and Gamel. Probably about average offensively, while still below average defensively. I’d love the infield if it was only going to look like that for a year, but like I said, I don’t want Ramirez for three years.

So, I guess there isn’t too much left for the Brewers. They need to sign a utility infielder–I wouldn’t mind Nick Punto as a good defensive utility player, since Green is an offensive player. They also probably need to trade K-Rod, as their payroll is now over $100 million.

The Brewers, depending on Braun’s status, should still be good next year. My problem is that they could have still been good without overpaying for an aging Aramis Ramirez.

 

Well, crap.

Posted by Steve

Doug Melvin and the Brewers just got bamboozled: Apparently Francisco Rodriguez has decided to accept arbitration.

Goodbye draft picks and a good shortstop. Hello to the most expensive set-up man in baseball.

For the record, I don’t blame Doug Melvin at all. I would have done the exact same thing. I really wanted him to offer K-Rod arbitration. I didn’t think there was any way he’d accept. This is the guy who bitched and moaned during a playoff stretch because he wasn’t getting a chance to close games. There was no way he’d accept arbitration from a team who wouldn’t even use him as a closer. Obviously, he found that the market for closers wasn’t as good as he thought.

This is truly surprising, as Melvin only first mentioned this possibility just the other day. Clearly, he anticipated Rodriguez declining the arby offer.

“That hasn’t really been part of our thinking but it probably should be. Obviously, it would affect what you do in other things but he’d fill a hole that we have right now, too.”

So, what now?

The Brewers have a few options. They could still try to trade K-Rod. A couple years ago, Rafael Soriano accepted arbitration in a similar situation and was traded straight up for reliever Jesse Chavez. The Brewers could hope for something like this, and it’s probably the most desirable outcome.

Another option would be to flat out release him. Arbitration contracts are not guaranteed. He could be released before the end of Spring Training, and the Brewers would only be on the hook for 1/6 of his salary. Considering he made $11.5 million last year, he’ll probably be at around 13 mil, in which case the buyout would be a bit over $2 million. The Brewers released someone in this way a couple years ago… I want to say it was Claudio Vargas. That, of course, was a much smaller penalty since Vargas didn’t make nearly this much.

Here’s hoping the Brewers are able to deal KROD without having to pay much of his salary. Again, I don’t blame Melvin at all, but he gambled and lost. Now they have to deal with it.

To look on the bright side, here’s hoping this development prevents the Brewers from throwing a boatload of cash at Aramis Ramirez. They have even less money to work with now, so they need to focus solely on shortstop. That, or finding someone to take KROD and his @13 million off their hands.

Ron and his bullpen

Posted by Steve

One thing Ron Roenicke has continued to do throughout the playoffs is manage his bullpen like it’s still the regular season. In the games that the Brewers’ starter has been knocked out early, he’s brought in people like Marco Estrada or Kameron Loe. Twice he’s done this with a day off the next day. In fact, the Brewers lost Game 5 without pitching any of their three best relievers.

This cannot happen. The only way I’d be okay with seeing Estrada pitch today is if the Brewers are winning by six runs or more.

If Marcum gets knocked out early tonight, and the Brewers find themselves down by three or four runs, it needs to be Hawkins/Saito/KROD coming in to keep the deficit where it is, not Estrada to let the Cardinals tack on to their lead.

There is some debate over whether the Brewers should be pitching Marcum tonight. Other options could be to pitch Yovani Gallardo on three days’ rest, or to start Chris Narveson.

I like the decision to stick with Marcum. He hasn’t been sharp lately, but I didn’t think he was horrendous his last time out. Plus, we know Marcum is a good pitcher–better than Narveson. He’s proven that over the course of the season and his career. I also don’t like bringing Yo back on three days’ rest. He’s never done it in his career, so doing it in the most important Brewer game in almost 30 years seems pretty crazy. Plus, then they’d be in a mess for Game 7.

I know I generally say you need to worry about winning the next game before managing for Game 7, but when the decision isn’t clear-cut (bringing back Yo on three days’ rest isn’t an obvious move), you might as well play to give yourself a better chance in Game 7.

I can’t say why, but I’m definitely expecting a win tonight. The crowd will be crazy, the team will be happy to be back home, and I expect them to score a lot of runs.

Most importantly, I’m just not ready for baseball season to be over yet. This team has been so fun to watch, and it wouldn’t be right for this to end before Game 7.

Who’s ready for a positive post?

Posted by Steve

I realize my last few posts have been negative, which seems goofy for where the Brewers are right now. I would like to just explain myself a bit. Friday I was at Game 5, which was beyond amazing. Thing is, I didn’t get a chance to post until after the weekend, which is also the last time the Brewers won until tonight. So basically, my availability prevented me from any of the excited, this is amazing-type posts.

What a game tonight! Randy Wolf, as he said, threw the game of his life. I wasn’t even concerned when he gave up those to flukey homers, because he had pinpoint control all night. Great, great job.

Jerry Hairston Jr. has been a godsend. Who knew when they acquired him in July how good he’d be. His offense has been a pleasant surprise, and his defense at third is silky smooth.

I’ve been on Francisco Rodriguez at times this year, but he’s been very solid in two outings this series. Great job tonight against the heart of the order in the eighth.

Prince Fielder: Gold Glover? If someone had only seen him play defense in this series, they might think so. From a diving stop to a series of great scoops at first, his defense has been tremendous. His scoop of Hairston’s throw tonight may have saved the game.

Jonathan Lucroy has been a defensive whiz. He is blocking everything in the dirt, and it’s resulting in some big strikeouts.

Tonight’s game was absolutely massive. Had they lost, their season was essentially over. Now, they have the edge. The pressure is back on St. Louis. The Brewers only need two out of three, and it just so happens that two out of the three remaining games would be at Miller Park.

I’m hoping they only need one of those games, however. I have a great feeling about Zack Greinke tomorrow. I feel like he’s been on the brink of a great outing for a while. He’s been a bit unlucky with some bloop hits before a home run, but tomorrow is the day he puts it all together.

By the way, I love reading his quotes.Like this one:

On his home/road splits: “The big thing is I’ve had some really bad games on the road — the Chicago Cubs game and the Yankees game were really bad. I guess the Pittsburgh game, I was cruising the whole game and all of a sudden, I think it’s the seventh inning and I gave up 4-5 hits in a row. Besides those two games, I felt like I’ve pitched just as good everywhere. Those two games…it wasn’t because of being on the road. It’s just because of bad games.”

I also love this one:

Did you get much feedback regarding what you said about Chris Carpenter: “I guess I didn’t get a whle lot. My wife likes to read stuff, and then she gets mad, and she’s mad that I said it. But it just happened, and I don’t need to talk about it anymore.”

Awesome.

Two more wins. I can’t believe the Brewers make the World Series with just two more wins. I never thought I’d see this day.

I leave you tonight with some entertainment. These are highlights from a Cardinals message board from tonight’s game.

- Playing in Milwaukee doesn’t even remind me of baseball…Like, I dunno. It’s just not baseball.
- It just bothers me even watching a game in Milwaukee. I hate to buy into the sign stealing thing, but no team is just that good at home and the fans just suck ass. It physically makes me angry watching them play at home. I don’t know why, it just does.
- That is really going to hurt tonight and tomorrow.
And next week. And it’s kind of chilly in STL tonight. It’s gotta be throbbin
- And now Hairston. I’m so tired of these scrubs. Holy [bad word]. Hairston, Weeks, Betancourt, Wolf. They’re beating us. Not Fielder, not Braun, not Gallardo.
- Seriously, braun looks terrible away from Milwaukee. Probably nothing.
- This whole team looks punchless outside of Milwaukee. Probably nothing.
- I just [bad word] hate Milwaukee. Not the team or the city, just the people that live there

… And continue to roll

Posted by Steve

The Brewers seemingly cannot lose.

It’s easy to think back to the terrible teams, or even the teams under Ned Yost, and remember how they used to seem to find ways to lose. This team is finding ways to win.

The only aspect of the team that has been great over this incredible run is the pitching. The defense has been just as bad as it has all year, and the offense is up and down. Over their last two games and 19 innings, they’ve scored three runs… And still managed to win both!

They are 19 games over .500 and have a 5-game lead. They have won 16 of 18 games. This is so surreal that I cannot express my many thoughts in one standard post. We’re going to need a cornucopia of thoughts.

————

This has gotten me in trouble before, but I’m addicted to Baseball Prospectus’ Playoff Odds Report. As of Sunday morning, the Brewers had an 87.6% chance to make the playoffs, and it will be even higher after they won Sunday. That’s a big number. We’re approaching the point where if they don’t win the division, it would have to be considered a choke. Maybe it’s not quite there yet, but anything over 90% and then missing is a choke in my book.

It’s worth noting that this streak has pulled them even with the Braves, who lead the wildcard. They’re now tied for the second-best record in the NL. Soon the secondary goal of finishing ahead of the NL West team (and avoiding the Phillies in the first round) will come into play. 

————

The starting pitching has been the story all year, and it has been very good lately. However, it’s not like any one starter has been completely dominant–it’s more like they’ve been consistently good, something to the tune of 6-7 innings, 1-3 runs allowed on most nights.

The area that has been dominant, however, is the bullpen. The bullpen has been number 1 in xFIP in the NL in August, and in the last 30 days, it’s 3.28.

John Axford is simply overpowering–he is the best Brewer reliever I can remember. The most important part of the K-Rod trade wasn’t adding K-Rod himself (more on this in a moment); it was bumping down guys like LaTroy Hawkins and Kameron Loe. When you have those guys pitching the sixth and seventh instead of the eighth, your bullpen is going to be in better shape. It’s the deepest pen they’ve had in years, and the haven’t even acquired a lefty reliever yet (fingers crossed). I think the bullpen is the biggest reason for their incredible run the last three weeks.

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K-Rod is a pretty good reliever. That said, I hate watching him pitch. He’s like Claudio Vargas–guys are always on base. You always feel like he’s teetering on the edge of blowing the game. His walk rate is too high, and his strikeout rate isn’t enough to make up for it. 

This isn’t to say he sucks. He’s just not what he was in his early/mid-twenties, and I would love it if Ron Roenicke would stop automatically using him in the eighth inning. In fact, K-Rod is third or fourth on my list of relievers I’d like to see in a high-leverage situation. Takashi Saito has been great lately, and he’s been a superior pitcher to K-Rod the last few seasons–he just doesn’t have the big name. LaTroy Hawkins has done a very good job as well, and when Kameron Loe is used correctly, he’s an asset.

So basically, I just want to see K-Rod utilized for what he is instead of what he was. He was a dominant closer; he is a solid but not great reliever.

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It’s time for the Felipe Lopez experiment to end. It was worth a shot when Rickie Weeks went down, but Flip just doesn’t have the 2009 magic in him. His bat speed is gone, so his laziness on the field isn’t worth it anymore. It’s time to get Taylor Green up. For the love of God, it is time to get Taylor Green up. To be eligible for the playoff roster, he needs to be called up before September. DFA Lopez and call up Green.

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Speaking of Weeks, that studmuffin is already taking ground balls, not even three weeks after that hideous ankle injury. It sound like he may be back ahead of the six-week timetable, which would obviously be a huge lift. It’s incredible that the Brewers have been able to win so much without him, so getting him back ahead of time just seems like a cherry on top of the sundae.

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If I had a nickel for every time someone has said something along the lines of , “Hey Steve, how about your boy Yuni now! You have to eat some crow!” I’d have, like, six nickels. Still, there is sentiment that Yuni is somewhat making up for his abysmal first half.

He isn’t. Hitting for a few weeks won’t make up for the fact that he was one of the five worst regulars in baseball for three months. Secondly, while I’ve never been a fan of his offensive game, that’s always been my secondary concern. To anyone who gives me a little crap about Betancourt, I just point to his defense. It’s still terrible and hurting the team.

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I want more Jerry Hairston! Okay, it’s not like he’s a world-beater, but he’s being used like he’s a right-handed Craig Counsell. He’s currently a better option than what the Brewers have at second base, shortstop, and third when you factor in both offense and defense. Yet, he really only starts against lefties. He also hasn’t played an inning at shortstop, which is incidentally where he should be spending most of his time.

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Tomorrow is a huge day for the Brewers, and it has nothing to do with starting a series against the Dodgers. It is the deadline to sign draft picks. Both of their first round picks, Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley, remain unsigned. All indications are that they will be signed, but it’s still a little unsettling–particularly when you think back to just last year, when they were all set to sign Dylan Covey.

Jed Bradley is the one who is particularly concerning, because the Brewers used the comp pick from Covey to select him. If they don’t sign Bradley, they don’t get another comp pick next year–that pick is lost. No doubt Bradley is using that as leverage, and it’s likely the Brewers will have to pay him more than they’d like because of it.

Still, it will be inexcusable if they don’t sign both of these pitchers. They realize the need to get impact arms in the organization, though, and I’d be very surprised if both do not sign tomorrow.

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Back to the big league team. There is no reason to expect the hot streak to end. Their next four series are against teams under .500, so they should keep rolling. They’ll need to, because the Cardinals also have their next four series against losing teams too.

Well, that was unexpected.

Posted by Steve

The Brewers are the center of the baseball world today, with Prince Fielder winning All-Star MVP and the shocker of acquiring Francisco Rodriguez late last night.

Relief pitching is not the Brewers’ biggest area of need, but from the sounds of things, this is something that fell into Doug Melvin’s lap and was too good to pass up. The Brewers send two players to be named later (PTBNL) and get some cash (amount unknown at this time) in return.

I wouldn’t expect those PTBNLs to be anyone of significance. The reasoning is actually a bit complicated.

K-Rod has a whopping $17.5 million option that kicks in next year if he finishes 55 games. He has already finished 34 games. K-Rod is still a solid reliever, but he isn’t nearly as dominant as he was a few years ago. In other words, nobody wants to pay him $17.5 mil next year.

The Mets had to trade K-Rod. Their financial woes are well documented, but they couldn’t simply remove him from the closer’s role when he was having success. The union would have cried foul, and K-Rod probably would have won an appeal.

So not only did the Mets have to trade him, but they needed to trade him somewhere that he A) didn’t have on his 10-team no-trade list, and B) had an established closer in place so they could justify not using K-Rod to finish games.

Pretty tricky, huh? Suddenly the Brewers look like one of the only teams who could have taken him. This is why the Mets were backed into a corner and were obviously eager to deal him as soon as they could.

One thing I’m unclear on is his free agent status. If K-Rod is a Type A and the Brewers can offer him arbitration and get comp picks for him, this is potentially a steal. However, I’m unclear if this is possible once they buy him out after this season. I’ve found conflicting reports on this, although MLB Trade Rumors has him as a Type A.

So… All business stuff aside, how’s this trade for the Brewers?

The only way it’s bad is if the amount of money they’re spending on K-Rod prevents them from upgrading shortstop. Shortstop is a much, much bigger priority than bullpen help, and I will be furious if they don’t address it. I don’t believe this move prevents it, though. The Mets are contributing some money for this season, because their main concern was the option for next year. Therefore, I don’t think the Brewers took on a large financial burden here.

There won’t be a closer controversy or anything. Axford has been outstanding, and they won’t let K-Rod get near that 55 mark. I’m sure he’ll notch a few saves the rest of the way if Axford is overworked, but nothing crazy. As Doug Melvin said, this was just a way to add a quality reliever.

This does give Roenicke, who has shown signs of much better bullpen management in recent games, another weapon to play with. You’d think he’ll use K-Rod as his “eighth-inning guy,” but at least that’s a much better option than just Kameron Loe (by the way, see how effective Loe can be when used effectively, as in only against righties?).

With the additions of K-Rod and Saito the rest of the way, the bullpen should be an area of strength. Doug got a good move out of the way early, and this should give him plenty of time to address priority number one: a new shortstop.

Oh, and the most underrated part of this trade? That $17.5 million option should keep K-Rod from celebrating like an idiot. He can’t celebrate a save when he’s not closing, right?