Tag Archives: Manny Parra

Winter Meetings Preview

Posted by Steve

First things first. I am still alive, and I still like baseball. I thought that might need to be said, given the huge time lapse since my last post.
It’s no excuse, but I have in fact been pretty busy. I had been meaning to post after the Brewers were officially eliminated, and again when the Cardinals lost (at least we have that). I have also been meaning to post off-season stuff. This is perhaps my favorite time to write about the Brewers, and I have no one to blame but myself for missing out on it.

Still, I can get this one in before the Winter Meetings really get underway. This year they’re in Nashville, at the Grand Opryland Hotel. The last time the meetings took place there, I was in attendance. Seems like forever ago, but fun memories nonetheless. I look forward to all the tweets and articles about how massive and over-the-top that place is (edit: This one from two minutes ago from Jay Jaffe).

Anywho. Let’s get to it, shall we? There’s plenty to talk about, especially since I haven’t posted in so long. Let’s look at each area and figure out where the Brewers should be looking to improve for next season. Before we do, let’s keep something in mind: The Brewers’ payroll is going to drop this year, possibly considerably. That means no top-tier free agents.

Starting Rotation
A year ago we were discussing how the Brewers would return all five starters to the rotation from the year before, a rarity in baseball. This year is almost as rare on the opposite end of the spectrum: Most likely the only starter returning from the Opening Day 2012 rotation is Yovani Gallardo. Greinke, Marcum and Wolf will all be with other teams (or maybe retired, in Wolf’s case?). Narveson I suppose could be back, but I highly doubt the Brewers currently view him as a lock for the starting rotation in April.

After Gallardo, there are plenty of names in the mix. Narveson, Marco Estrada, Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers, Mike Fiers, Tyler Thornburg, and maybe even Taylor Jungmann, Hiram Burgos, Johnny Hellweg, or Ariel Pena.

That’s a pretty nice collection of young arms, certainly better than the Brewers have had in a handful of years. But does that mean they should be satisfied going with Yo and then four of those guys who stick after being thrown against the wall?

Not if they want to contend. They need to add one established, 2/3 type starting pitcher. The Brewers have made big trades to acquire pitchers in the past with pretty solid luck, and they have made free agent signings with less luck (Wolf was solid enough until his last season). Still, I am taking a bit of an unusual stance here, considering I normally want to stay away from big free agent deals. I would rather the Brewers sign a free agent than trade for one, mainly because I don’t want them to keep dipping into the farm system. There are actually plenty of solid starters available this season.

Zack Greinke is the main prize, but that ship has long sailed. The Dodgers seem prepared to offer him eleventy billion dollars. Anibal Sanchez is probably number two, but I imagine he’ll be priced out of the Brewers’ range as well. The Brewers have been mentioned as potential suitors for Kyle Lohse (STAY AWAY) and Ryan Dempster. Given Dempster’s age, I’d only be open to it if it’s a two-year deal at most, and even then, I wouldn’t be thrilled. Here are some other starters I’d like to see them pursue:

Dan Haren
He’s long been one of my favorite pitchers. While his strikeout rate has declined each of the last four seasons, one thing has kept him as an above average starter: His crazy low walk totals. Last year was his worst season in years, but he still had an xFIP of 4.00 because of his great command.

The question with Haren is health. His velocity has come down, he’s into his 30s, and both the Angels and Cubs have balked at bringing him in for what is essentially a one-year, $12 million deal. He seems like a good bounceback target, but I also sort of expect him to stay near the West Coast.

Brandon McCarthy
Here’s another one of my favorites, half for his solid pitching/low walk totals, half for his awesome sense of humor, twitter account and taste in television shows. He sounds like he’s a full go to return from the scary line drive he took off his head. I would have no qualms about giving him a two-year deal. He was good last season and phenomenal in 2011. Given Haren’s health question marks, I actually think I’d rank McCarthy at the top of my wishlist for starting pitchers attainable for the Brewers.

Edwin Jackson
A very different pitcher than Haren or McCarthy, Jackson doesn’t have the tiny walk rate (although it’s much better than earlier in his career). What makes him a solid option is his solid K and home run rates along with his durability: He’s thrown over 183 innings each of the last five years. He’s never gotten a multi-year deal, but he’s an above average starting pitcher who I would be fine giving a two-year deal.

Joe Blanton
A very unexciting option, but he would provide stability. He is a durable pitcher with a nice low walk rate, although he doesn’t get many whiffs at all. He likely shouldn’t be too expensive, and might only warrant a one-year deal.

Joe Saunders
We’re getting progressively less exciting, as Saunders is more or less a left-handed Blanton, maybe a bit worse. But again, he’s a durable pitcher who won’t break the bank.

And finally, two familiar faces.

Shaun Marcum
Yes, his health is a question mark, but there’s little doubt that when he’s healthy, he’s a good pitcher. Last year his walks were up, which brought him back to around league average, but he would be a good option that could possibly be had on just a one-year deal.

Carlos Villanueva
The numbers weren’t great last year, but xFIP liked him. He’d be a decent bet to give league average numbers. Certainly not exciting, but also not expensive in the least.

Other Options: Kevin Correia, Kevin Millwood, Erick Bedard.

I’d be surprised if the Brewers didn’t land one of those starting pitchers listed above. In terms of likelihood, I’d rank them: Dempster, Marcum, Blanton, Lohse (ugh), McCarthy, Saunders.

BullpenThis is obviously a glaring need after last season. The transformation is already underway. Jose Veras, Manny Parra and Kameron Loe are already gone. The only guys who should feel safe at this point are John Axford and probably Jim Henderson. The Brewers just picked up groundballing specialist Burke Badenhop in a trade a couple days ago, who is a decent option at an affordable price.

They need to get at least one solid LOOGY, and they’ve been rumored to be in contact with Randy Choate, Sean Burnett, Mike Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny. Any of those would fit.
My preference on relievers is the same: short-term deals, absolutely no more than two years unless it’s someone who’s very good. Other names who interest me: Mike Adams, Jason Grilli, Koji Uehara, Kyle Farnsworth, Chad Durbin, and LaTroy Hawkins. Most of these guys could be had for one-year deals. They can fill in the rest of the spots with the Brandon Kintzlers and Mike McClendons of the world, along with a couple of the young pitchers who don’t make the rotation.

Outfield
Honestly, the Brewers are set here. Nyjer Morgan is gone, but with Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, Corey Hart, Nori Aoki, Logan Schaefer and depending on what they do with him, Mat Gamel, the Brewers are just fine. They had a very productive outfield last year, and it’s the one area they don’t need to spend much time on this off-season.

So then why do we keep hearing about Josh Hamilton?
It makes zero sense. The Brewers have talked about wanting to keep their payroll down, and about not wanting long-term free agent contracts. They also don’t have a need anywhere in the outfield. How does Josh Hamilton fit anywhere into that? Yet, we keep hearing that the Brewers are interested. Even today there’s rumblings about it from Ken Rosenthal.

Signing Josh Hamilton to a large deal does not even accomplish much. They have a much bigger need in the rotation, and then they’d have to trade Corey Hart more than likely. So then you’ve pretty much just gone in circles.

I just want Hamilton to sign somewhere so I don’t have to keep hearing rumors about him with the Brewers.

Infield
The starting positions are set, assuming Corey Hart stays at first base. If they don’t, I suppose Mat Gamel would be the other option (if he doesn’t get traded). The one need they have right now is a backup at middle infield. I refuse to be forced to watch several hundred Cody Ransom/Cesar Izturis/Edwin Maysonet plate appearances this season. With Jean Segura being so young, and with Rickie Weeks’ durability issues the last few seasons, a backup SS/2B is a big need.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much there. Unless someone like Alex Gonzalez or Marco Scutaro is willing to sign as a backup, the best MI options would be Ronny Cedeno, Jason Bartlett, or… ? This might have to come through a trade. It could be a difficult spot to fill.

Final WishlistSo, this off-season, my wishlist for the Brewers includes: One starting pitcher, two more relievers, and a solid middle infielder. That’s doable, right?

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.

PECOTA Pitching

Posted by Steve

Opening day is just a few days off, and I am just plain giddy. Between high expectations for the Brewers and two awesome fantasy leagues, I’m not sure I’ve ever been this excited for a season. Of course, that means I’m running out of time to analyze PECOTA projections. Here’s what BP came up with for Brewers pitchers.

Before I get into the pitchers, though, I want to tough on a pretty fascinating chart they’ve had on the Brewers. They took a closer look at the wide gap between the Brewers’ offensive and pitching output the last two seasons, and found it was historic.

During the 2009-2010 seasons, Brewer hitters accumulated a 497.1 VORP, third in baseball behind the Yankees and Red Sox. During the same span, Brewer pitchers accumulated a 73.2 VORP, second worst in baseball behind the Pirates. This means their hitters have contributed 423.9 VORP more than their pitchers, which is the third most offensive-dominated team over a two-year span since 1954.

So, we knew they were wasting a good offense. But if you truly wanted to see how ugly it was, there’s as good (or bad) of an illustration as any.

One last point about PECOTA’s pitching projections: they don’t seem to project anyone for 200 innings. For example, even though Zack Greinke has thrown for 220, 229.1, and 2o2.1 innings the last three seasons, PECOTA projects him for 179 innings this season (and that was before his cracked rib). I’m guessing this is because pitchers who throw 200 innings are becoming increasingly rare, and they’re taking some account for injury to each pitcher, because just about every pitcher who threw a full season last year is projected for lower innings totals.

Edit: Looked into this more, and apparently the innings projections are low because they’re giving the average expected innings, not the most likely. Russ on brewerfan broke it down nicely for me:

“A typical workhorse might look something like this (actual numbers for illustration only):

200-220 IP: 40% chance
180-200 IP 25%
140-180 IP: 25%
100 – 140 IP: 20%
Below 100: 5%

While it’s most likely that that player will end up with between 200-220 IP, the average is brought down by the small chance of missing significant time.”

Gosh, I love brewerfan.net. On to the projections.

Zack Greinke

179 innings, 3.52 ERA, 181 ks, 55 BBs, 17 HRs

To be honest, this is a pretty conservative projection in my mind. You certainly couldn’t be upset with this line, but he had an FIP of 3.34 last season. Moving to the NL, you’d expect that to drop a bit. I personally expect something like 3.0 to 3.2.

There’s one excerpt that makes me shake my head: “Moving to Milwaukee–one of the few teams with even poorer defensive numbers than the Royals–won’t help Greinke…” Ugh.

One last thing about Greinke. One guess as to who his #1 comparable on baseball reference is through age 26.

Yep. Of course it’s Ben Sheets.

Yovani Gallardo

150.1 innings, 3.79 ERA, 159 ks, 65 BBs, 12 HRs

They called Gallardo “baseball’s most overlooked ace.” Again, his walks are higher than I’d like, but he makes up for it some by strikeout out more than a batter per inning. Yo’s still only 25, and he’s an extremely valuable piece signed to a great contract.

They also commented on Gallardo’s bat. I found this very entertaining: “Gallardo out-slugged Ryan Braun, had a higher TAv than Casey McGehee, and owns a career .677 OPS that surpasses that of Carlos Gomez.”

Shawn Marcum

134.2 innings, 3.88 ERA, 113 ks, 39 BBs, 19 HRs

I love me some good k/bb ratio guys, and Marcum was sixth in all of baseball last season–in the AL East. For whatever reason, they don’t think Marcum can keep up the phenomenal walk rate of last season. That does seem tough to do, but Marcum seems to benefit a ton by escaping the AL East. This is still a nice walk rate, and if this line is extrapolated out to a full season, he’ll have given the Brewers great production.

Randy Wolf

161 innings, 4.46 ERA, 116 ks, 61 BBs, 22 HRs

“His walk and strikeout rates reached their worst levels in years, he struggled against lefties… He’s not about to pull a complete Suppan, but there’s trouble ahead.”

Yikes. To be honest, though, it seems like BP thinks his real collapse came last year, not this season. They have his improve chance at 42%, while his collapse percentage is “only” 26.

Chris Narveson

115 innings, 4.74 ERA, 94 ks, 47 BBs, 17 HRs

Those would be perfectly acceptable numbers for a fifth starter. In fact, that would be one of the best fifth starters the Brewers have had in years. a 2:1 kk/bb ratio is pretty dece as well. Better yet, they have his Improve at 41% and his Collapse at just 14%.

John Axford

73.1 innings, 1.6 WHIP, 77 ks, 51 BBs, 7 HRs

This is probably the most pessimistic projection for a Brewer pitcher, and it has to do with Axford’s career walk rate. It’s always been pretty high, and they seem to think it will catch up with him big time this season. “Although it’s possible that Axford has developed a newfound ability to find the strike zone and will spend the next half-decade closing games at Miller Park, Brewers fans will just as likely wake up one morning to discover that yesterday’s Rollie Fingers has morphed into today’s Derrick Turnbow. You’ve been warned.” Dun dun dunnnn.

Zach Braddock

47 innings, 1.43 WHIP, 57 ks, 28 BBs, 5 HRs

Second verse, same as the first? Like Axford, Braddock showed great stuff last season. Like Axford, Braddock walked too many batters. Both pitchers made up for it somewhat last season with a very good strikeout rate, but unless control improves, the walks will catch up with Braddock. He’s still a young pitcher, so I’m more excited about Braddock’s long-term future in Milwaukee than Axford’s.

Takashi Saito

58 innings, 1.19 WHIP, 65 ks, 21 BBs, 5 HRs

That’s more like it. Saito historically has a great k/bb ratio, and PECOTA has that resulting in very solid production once again this season. Saito might end up as the most underrated acquisition of the off-season. He’s a very good relief pitcher despite his advanced age, and if he doesn’t fall off a cliff, he’ll be an important piece of the bullpen.

LaTroy Hawkins

52 innings, 1.37 WHIP, 37 ks, 17 BBs, 6 HRs

The Brewers got virtually nothing from Hawkins in a season lost to injury, and Hawkins would need to have a pretty great season for his signing not to go down as another pitching free agent blunder. This projection actually seems pretty optimistic to me, which is pretty sad when you know you’d be pleased with a 1.37 WHIP for a relief pitcher.

Kameron Loe

116.1 innings, 1.48 WHIP, 70 ks, 42 BBs, 15 HRs

Another projection, another mediocre line. BP points out that Loe’s swinging strike rate jumped to almost 10%, by far a career high. For that reason, they aren’t sure his 2010 wasn’t a fluke. Interestingly, his innings projection is so high because they project him for 7 starts, which I can’t say I understand. Put it this way: If Kameron Loe has to make 7 starts, the Brewers will probably be in trouble. He’s much more suited as a right-handed specialist, as lefties historically crush him.

Manny Parra

134 innings, 1.59 WHIP, 118 ks, 67 BBs, 17 HRs

Ugly line here too, but a little curious, since they project him as a starting pitcher. No doubt this is a reasonable expectation if the Brewers once again kept Parra in their rotation, but I wish they’d have projected him as a reliever. Last season, Parra had terrible numbers as a starter (1.74 WHIP, 1.83 k/bb) but was much better as a reliever (1.35 WHIP, 2.73 k/bb). I have at least some hope that Parra can be an effective relief pitcher.

Sean Green

65 innings, 1.50 WHIP, 51 ks, 33 BBs, 6 HRs

Green is a groundball specialist, which is often a nice way of saying he doesn’t strike out many hitters. He throws a ton of sinkers that either get ground balls or move out of the strike zone. He’ll probably be a fringe bullpen guy, one of the last on the team. Shouldn’t be terrible, though.

Sergio Mitre

93 innings, 1.39 WHIP, 56 ks, 27 BBs, 13 HRs

Like Loe, they project Mitre for a handful of starts that he hopefully won’t get. Mitre had a .226 BABIP last season, which suggests he’s in for a rude wakeup call. Even though the Brewers turned around and replaced Chris Dickerson, I don’t see the reason for adding Mitre. I’d much rather have their fourth and fifth outfielders be Morgan and Dickerson than have Mitre at all.

Other notables

Mark Rogers

85 innings, 4.66 ERA, 76 ks, 57 BBs, 9 HRs

Walks have been Rogers’ problem, and if PECOTA is correct, they’ll be a huge problem this year if he’s in the majors. He’s got great stuff, but he has to improve his control if he ever wants to be an effective major league starter. It’s good that he’s getting more time in AAA.

Amaury Rivas

88 innings, 5.43 ERA, 56 ks, 44 BBs, 13 HRs

Rivas will be another candidate to eat up some spot starts during inevitable injuries. Problem is, he’s already 25, and his strikeout rates are too low to expect him to be a successful starting pitcher. PECOTA calls him middle-reliever material at best.

Mark DiFelice

No projection

Prepare for the return. It’s coming.

Final Thoughts

I think I just put more stock into hitting projections, which are probably easier to project because of the innings projection difficulty and the increased likelihood of injury for pitchers as opposed to hitters. That’s why I’m not too troubled by their overall underwhelming projections for Brewer pitching. They do like The Big Three, but probably not as much as what we’re hoping we get. The bullpen is more of a concern, as really the only guy they think will be above average is Saito. I am worried somewhat that Axford could turn into Turnbow, but I also think we’ll see Mark DiFelice back in the bullpen before too long, which would be a boost if he’s anywhere close to his pre-injury form. Regardless, with three frontline starters, it seems likely that their bullpen will be much more rested than the last few years.

I am worried about the defense, but the staff itself is the best in a long time outside of 2008–and even stacking it up against that staff would make for an interesting debate.

Jeff Suppan to DL with injured pride

Posted by Steve

Thankfully, the Brewers are making decisions based on talent rather than salary. Jeff Suppan has been put on the disabled list with what the Brewers are calling neck stiffness–perhaps whiplash from turning to watch his gopher balls fly out of the park?

This is the best move for the Brewers, as it allows them to keep their 12 best pitchers on the opening day roster. Manny Parra, Dave Bush, and Chris Narveson have no minor league options remaining, so if any one of them did not make the team, the Brewers likely would have lost him to another team.

Suppan hasn’t pitched in the bullpen in years, and everyone knows he didn’t deserve to be in the rotation, so there’s really no place for him. Plus, the only way to keep him on the roster would have been to demote Carlos Villanueva, who is really the only candidate with a remaining minor league option. This move is probably even better than simply cutting Suppan. This way, they can hang onto him for depth purposes. And who knows–maybe he actually is injured. It sounds like he actually has been injured slightly, but it couldn’t have been anything terrible if he’s been pitching all spring.

The only remaining question in regards to pitching is whether Manny Parra or Chris Narveson will be the fifth starter. Chris Narveson has pitched better this spring, but I don’t like basing these types of decisions on spring training performances–particularly when he’s only pitched 12 innings. Narveson did have a nice 2oo9 season between AAA and Milwaukee, so I won’t really mind if he’s named the fifth starter. This decision gives us something to discuss now, but in reality, within a month at most it won’t even matter. Injuries and performance will dictate changes, and I’d just about guarantee that both Parra and Narveson will make multiple starts this season.

Anyway, this is what we’re looking at for an opening day staff. Nothing special, but it looks to be a fairly substantial improvement over last season’s disaster.

1. Gallardo

2. Wolf

3. Davis

4. Bush

5. Parra/Narveson

Parra/Narveson

Vargas

Stetter

Villanueva

Hawkins

Coffey

Hoffman

Spring Training Fluff

Posted by Steve

At this time of year, we’re starving for news to overanalyze.  For example, Rickie Weeks has a 1.059 OPS.  Discuss his awesomeness at your respective water coolers, break rooms, study groups and playgrounds.

Because of this, we get a lot of fluff pieces.  In the past, both Jason Kendall and Bill Hall have gotten laser eye surgery in an off-season, leading to Spring Training stories about improved eyesight and to me creating a ‘The Wonders of Laser Eye Surgery’ tag.  In both instances, the surgery had no positive impact on the player’s offense.

This year we get a similar story on Corey Hart.  He’s going to wear prescription goggles.  First of all, awesome.  I had RecSpecs one year in Little League before I got contact lenses, and they were badass.  Secondly, I refuse to get sucked into thinking his offense will improve due to this.  They sort of had me hoping with Hall, and that was a disaster.

There’s a similar story on, of all people, Jeff Suppan.  Apparently, new pitching coach Rick Peterson suggested something new with his hands that he’s all excited about.

It all makes a lot of sense.  It’s simple.  If it adds that little extra on a pitch, that one pitch may get you out of an inning rather than throwing another ten pitches.  I’m excited.

No.  I won’t do it.  I will not allow myself to think that Rick Peterson is going to salvage Jeff Suppan.  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but my prediction is that I’m going to get really tired of all the Rick Peterson love this year.  Let’s take a look at the starting rotation:

Gallardo:  He never had a walk rate close to last year’s poor mark, so there’s reason to expect it to drop down.  So he’ll be better.

Parra: He fell far short of expectations last year, so there is again reason to expect at least a small rebound.

Bush:  He’s healthy again.  He pitched well until he was hit on the arm by that line drive last year.

Wolf: He’s better than Looper.

Davis: He’s better than Suppan.

Suppan: Even if he made no changes, it would be almost impossible to be as bad as he was last year.  He had a historically bad season.

So, the rotation will be better.  Here’s what people will notice. “Hey, there’s a new pitching coach this year!  Causation always means correlation!  Therefore, Rick Peterson must be the reason the pitching is better!”

Prepare to be annoyed.  Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Odds and ends

Posted by Steve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I swear, just fastball and change.”

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

July in review: It sucked.

Posted by Steve

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

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

Yovani Gallardo

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

Manny Parra

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

Dave Bush

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

Braden Looper/Jeff Suppan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starting Rotation: Pretty much an emergency

Posted by Steve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What in Tarnation is wrong with Manny Parra?

Posted by Dan

The Brewers sent Manny Parra down to Nashville after yesterday’s debacle, calling up lefty Chris Narveson to take his place. You would have a hard time finding a more disappointing performance this year than that of ole Manny. Instead of a breakout year, the Crew so far hasn’t even really gotten serviceable numbers from Parra. After yesterday, his ERA ballooned to 7.52 with a tidy 1.92 WHIP. It’s easy to forget the stretch of 5 starts at the end of April/beginning of May in which he turned 4 quality starts out of 5, with the only non QS being a 5 inning, 1 run outing.  Since then however, the wheels have come off: 21.1 IP, 32 ER(!!), 16 K:16 BB.  Clearly, by being able to merely turn on your computer, and access the internet you are able to see the problem for Parra is his walk rate: it currently is at 5.1 BB/9.  The problem seems somewhat bizarre as Parra has a career minor league walk rate of 2.5, yet that number has grown to 4.5  over his MLB career.

Long term this horrible stretch is just a hiccup, and sending him down to Nashville will hopefully allow him to recover his lost control so he contribute to the Crew later this year.  I’ll also add that Parra has been rather unlucky this year, with a strand rate of only 60.5%, which is 10% lower than his career norm. His FIP of 5.12 is nearly 2.5 runs lower than his actual ERA which signifies he’s pitched better than his 8 ERA indicates (it must be hard to pitch bad enough to warrant an 8 ERA). Hopefully he fixes whatever is causing his problems throwing strikes, and is back in a month.