Tag Archives: Jonathan Lucroy

May: The month of repeated groin punches

Posted by Steve

Wow.

It’s hard to imagine this getting much worse. The injuries have reached a comedic point, with whatever broke Jonathan Lucroy’s hand taking the cake. It’s actually fun to imagine the possibilities, assuming the story is true. What was in his suitcase? Was he using an aluminum metal case? Was it full of unmarked bills? Did it contain the nuclear football?

The injuries are just piling up. They’ve used their fourth shortstop of the year, which really doesn’t matter because all of them suck other than the one they started the year with. They’ve also lost their catcher, two first basemen, a center fielder, a starting pitcher, that starting pitcher’s replacement, and a closer’s facial hair. That’s all in one month. Oh, and they’ve also gone 9-15 over that span.

After such a terrible month, it is difficult to see this ending well. Plenty of people seem to have given up on the season. Although the Brewers have made it much tougher than they’d like, it’s too early to give up on the season. Baseball Prospectus still gives the Brewers an 18.1% chance of reaching the playoffs, believe it or not.

Even with all the injuries, I don’t think the Brewers are as bad as they’ve played. Obviously, Baseball Prospectus thinks that way too, as they give the fifth place Brewers the third-best chance in the division of reaching the playoffs.

I still have some hope. For one thing, the starting pitching has been much better lately. Their starting rotation is 13th in the NL in ERA, but 8th in FIP and xFIP. First, that’s much better than what it was three weeks ago. Secondly, this, just like last year, shows us that the Brewers starters are better than their ERA implies. Some of this can be blamed on defense (again, like last year), but they have also been fairly unlucky–their allowed batting average on balls in play is .307, which is the third-highest in the NL. Save for the random Arizona debacle, Greinke has been lights out lately. Marcum has been very good, and Gallardo and Wolf have been better too. It will be interesting to see if Mike Fiers can hold down a spot with Marco Estrada out.

I also think the loss of Jonathan Lucroy could be overstated. I recently made a post at Reviewing the Brew explaining why we should have expected Lucroy’s numbers to come way down the rest of the season. People were too caught up in how he’s done this year and expecting that all season, when in actuality, it’s entirely possible that George Kottaras outperforms what Lucroy would have done over the next 4-6 weeks. Just as big of a loss from Lucroy to Kottaras will be from Kottaras to Martin Maldonado as the backup catcher. Maldonado has a good defensive reputation, but he’ll be close to an automatic out.

I still maintain the only injury that is possibly fatal at this point is at shortstop. Alex Gonzalez is a solid player, and any of the three guys they’ve used to fill in all suck. They’re in a catch 22 right now. They need a shortstop and better fifth starter to reach the playoffs, but to get in position to make trades for those players, they need to first play better.

The next 3-4 weeks are critical. If they’re ten games out of a playoff spot by July, I’m probably ready to call it a season. At that point, it’s likely goodbye to Zack Greinke. Marcum, K-Rod and Wolf would probably all be gone, too. As much as I’d like to see Greinke sign, the Brewers could get a great haul for him if they’re out of the running.

The one thing that could be devastating for the Brewers is if they stay under .500 but still close enough that management (okay, Mark Attanasio) doesn’t want to sell. If they finish near or below .500 without trading off any players, someone deserves to be fired. With the haul they could get for Greinke, Marcum, Wolf, and K-Rod, they could contend again fairly soon.

Still, it isn’t yet time to fully have that conversation. The schedule looks favorable as soon as the team returns home, and the Brewers will have one other thing going for them: I’ve been so busy that I’ve hardly posted this month, which is clearly why they’ve struggled. I’ll be posting more going forward, which can only help, right?

Or are you telling me that you’re doubting a team that will feature a batter of Mike Fiers and Martin Maldonado, Cody Ransom at shortstop and three other players with negative WARs on the season. Is that what you’re telling me?

Brewers to extend Jonathan Lucroy

Posted by Steve

The Brewers seem to be continuing their trend of extending their young players before they reach arbitration today, inking Jonathan Lucroy to a four or five year deal. Full details are yet to be released, but to be honest, I have time to do this now, so I’ll go ahead and post on it anyway.

My initial reaction, even before seeing the money: I don’t really get it. I have to think eventually one of these deals are going to come back to bite the Brewers. Gallardo and Braun (the first contract, at least) are one thing. Lucroy is another. He’s not an elite talent, and he has yet to post a season in which he was even average offensively.

He was the seventh-most valuable position player on the Brewers last year (checking in behind Carlos Gomez, who barely had half the plate appearances of Lucroy.). Lucroy’s 1.7 in 478 plate appearances is much less impressive than George Kottaras‘ 0.8 in just 123 plate appearances.

Now I’m not saying that Lucroy is a bad player, or even that Kottaras should be starting (though I wish he’d play more; his bat is seriously undervalued), but I’m just saying this all adds to my confusion about this extension. Few players have done less to earn a lengthy extension than Lucroy has done to this point.

It can’t totally be about defense. Sure, Lucroy is solid defensively when compared to Kottaras, but both catchers are well behind Martin Maldonado defensively. It wouldn’t have surprised me to see Maldonado in Milwaukee this season, but you’d think they’ll make room for him by next season for sure. This deal seems to lock in Lucroy as the starter, but what if Maldonado passes him up? Then this contract doesn’t look so smart.

I’m sure the money will be nothing alarming; it will most likely just take him through his arbitration years, but the Brewers are still assuming more risk than they need to. Like I said, this is a great move with elite players like Yo and Braun. But was Jonathan Lucroy really going to break the arbitration bank? Nope, and that’s why I don’t really understand this one.

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.

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

Randy Wolf: Tired Act

Posted by Steve

Randy Wolf has been okay I guess as a pitcher during his Brewer tenure, but that’s not what I want to discuss. He has really come off as a whiny prima donna this season, and it’s getting old.

He constantly takes issue with home plate umpires, walks off the mound before a call, etc. Today he hit a long foul ball and emphatically called for a replay–and the replay showed it was clearly foul. I’m not one to defend baseball’s lack of technology in umpiring, but showing up an ump as a player is a bad idea.

That’s not all that bad by itself, but when you couple it with his insistence on a “personal catcher,” it’s extremely annoying. I have no idea what Wolf’s problem with Jonathan Lucroy is, but he needs to grow up and stop hurting the team. How is he hurting the team, you ask? Because the last several times Wolf has pitched, he’s been opposed by a left-handed starter. Starting George Kottaras against a lefty is hurting the team. Lucroy should get every start against left-handed pitchers.

I’m also convinced that Wolf’s insistence on not working with Lucroy at least contributed to Wil Nieves being up as long as he was, although obviously there’s no way to prove that.

I’m annoyed that the Brewers are catering to Wolf’s every need, as well. Lucroy is going to be here a lot longer than Randy Wolf. Maybe they should be doing what’s best for him (and the team).

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.


Riding it out

Posted by Steve

No, I haven’t bailed on the blog just because the Brewers aren’t any good.  I was out of town the past week and haven’t been able to post–though it was a bit refreshing to get away from the games for a few days.  That Pittsburgh series eliminated just about any desire I had to watch Brewers-Nationals for four days.

This is a rough time to be a Brewer fan.  There isn’t much of anything left to play for.  That wouldn’t be a huge deal if the team was expected to be bad, but the Brewers hoped to be a good team.  This has been an extremely disappointing season, and the dog days of summer will be particularly rough because of it.

Not only are the Brewers not good enough to be in the playoff race, but they are also not bad enough to be in another intriguing race.  In the office, there are fans of the Orioles, Nationals, Royals and Padres.  Many of these guys are openly rooting for their team to lose in order to win the race for Bryce Harper in next year’s draft.  Incidentally, they were all pleased with the Brewers for getting swept by the Pirates… Glad to help :/ . Observing this anti-race has been very amusing, and I find myself jealous that my team isn’t in either race.

With all that being said, the Brewers still need to make the best of a bad situation.  Here are things I would like to see over the last five weeks of the season.

Shut down Gallardo

I realize I’ve beaten this to death, so I won’t rehash everything again, but the point is there’s absolutely no reason for Gallardo to be pitching in September.  Yo is at 164.1 innings after throwing just 24 last year.  Sure, the pitching will be gawdawful without him, but who cares?  Wins don’t mean much of anything at this point.  Unfortunately, I’d be shocked to actually see the Brewers do this.

Hand 3B to Gamel

The Brewers botched the handling of Gamel this season, but it’s not too late to amend that somewhat.  He’s started hitting again in AAA the last few weeks.  It’s time to call him up and play him everyday at third base the rest of the season.  The Brewers should be preparing to make Gamel their starting third baseman from the outset of 2010, and giving him peace of mind in the form of regular playing time should help make that happen.

Making this move even more obvious is the clear pain that Casey McGehee is playing through.  McGehee will need surgery in the off-season but has gutted it out in the meantime.  Whether it’s related to his injury is debatable, but McGehee’s numbers have really fallen off.  Play Gamel at third and let McGehee come off the bench the rest of the season.  Unlike the Gallardo one, I’m optimistic that the Brewers will actually make this move.

Make Rivera the starting catcher

Perhaps laser eye surgery isn’t so wonderful after all, as both Bill Hall and Jason Kendall have had abysmal years.  Everyone’s favorite old, gritty, beardy, crazy-eyed catcher appears to be done.  Mike Rivera has gotten more playing time the last couple weeks, but the Brewers should take the next step and make him the “starter” the rest of the season.  They know what they have in Kendall (not much), and I have no interest in him returning to the Brewers unless it’s in a backup role–and even then I wouldn’t be excited.

The Brewers have a couple of catchers close to MLB ready in Jonathan Lucroy and Angel Salome.  I expect to see Salome called up and given some starts, which means there shouldn’t really be any need to play Kendall more than once a week.  The Brewers will need to decide if Mike Rivera is in their plans beyond this season, and playing him more down the stretch will help them make that decision.