Tag Archives: Mark DiFelice

Let’s go down to Nashville

Posted by Steve

As well as the Brewers are playing, they have some areas that could certainly be shored up. The bench is terrible. Wil Nieves might be the worst player in the majors. They could use another dependable relief pitcher. Conveniently, pretty much all of that can be improved upon from within the organization.

The Brewers have some players performing very well in AAA. Let’s look at who could, and probably should, be up in Milwaukee.

Mark DiFelice

I’ve been driving the DiFelice Bus for weeks now, and he continues to impress: 19.2 innings, 22 strikeouts, 4 walks (one intentional), two home runs, and a 0.9 WHIP. He sure seems to be the same guy he was before his injury/surgery.

The tough part there is deciding who he’d replace. Nobody’s pitching particularly poorly. My choice is a bit unconventional, but I’d send down Marco Estrada. Not because he’s been bad or anything, but because I think he has more value to the Brewers as a sixth starter than as a fourth or fifth reliever. Call up DiFelice, let him do his thing, and let Estrada get stretched back out for when he’s inevitably needed to make some starts in Milwaukee again.

Taylor Green or Mat Gamel

There’s may only be room for one of them, but for both of these guys to be in Milwaukee while the likes of Mark Kotsay, Craig Counsell, Casey McGehee and Josh Wilson (although I guess he’s wait-and-see with the strangely good start he’s had) sop up at-bats in Milwaukee is ludicrous.

Green is 24 years old without much left to prove in the minor leagues. He’s ready to be an MLB bench player right now. Green is hitting .277/.361/.484 in AAA. Not world-beating, but nice numbers. He plays third and second, and he’d be a clear upgrade defensively from McGehee. McGehee is beyond struggling right now; he’s completely useless. Platooning him with a left-handed hitting Green is too obvious. Plus, McGehee’s big-time struggles are resulting in more Craig Counsell ABs, which is just no longer a good thing–he’s cooked.

If Green doesn’t have much left to prove in the minors, Gamel has proven all there is to prove and more. He’s hitting .306/.383/.517 so far in AAA. His career OPS in AAA is .873, which covers four seasons and 937 plate appearances.

I realize the Brewers are playing him at first to replace Fielder, but he can’t possibly be any worse than McGehee at third even with defense factored in. I’d even be willing to bet Gamel would be a defensive upgrade at this point–McGehee has been that bad defensively. Plus, with interleague games coming up, the Brewers need another solid bat available.

The Brewers need to realize they’re in a pennant race, and make sacrifices accordingly. It makes no sense to go all in on this season by trading a boatload of prospects for Greinke and Marcum, and then not field the best bench possible. Gamel is no longer some young prospect who needs to play every day and develop. He’s 25, and more than likely a finished product. He can manage part-time duty in MLB. Same with Green, who’s 24.

Caleb Gindl

If they aren’t going to call up Gamel, at least call up Caleb Gindl and ship out Mark Kotsay. Gindl is a better defensive outfielder at this point (definitely could handle CF in a pinch better than Kotsay), and is sure to be an upgrade over Kotsay and his .306 slugging percentage. Gindl isn’t setting the world on fire, but his .280/.368/.420 line in AAA translates into a solid enough fifth outfielder–something Kotsay is not.

George Kottaras

It was a baffling move when they sent Kottaras down in favor of Wil Nieves, and it looks even worse today. Nieves is the proud owner of a sparkling .400 (!!!) OPS (Here’s a fun fact: Ten MLB players have on-base percentages higher than Wil Nieves’ OPS).

Meanwhile, George Kottaras is blistering AAA pitching to the tune of a .930 OPS. Their reasoning for Nieves over Kottaras was defense, but Nieves has not looked anything close to impressive defensively. Why not just take the vastly superior offensive player? It makes no sense.

So if you’re counting at home, here are the moves I’d like to see:

  • DFA Nieves, call up Kottaras
  • Send down Estrada, return him to a starting role, and call up DiFelice
  • DFA Kotsay, call up Gamel (Or Gindl, if you’re so insistent on keeping Gamel at 1B in Nashville all year)
  • Call up Green. Corresponding move I could go either way on: either send Wilson down to AAA, or DFA Counsell. I love CC, but he’s pretty clearly done.
These moves would make the Brewers a better team than they are today–perhaps by a significant margin.

 

Slump-busting Cornucopia

Posted by Steve

Yikes.

Not too much is going well right now. The offense and defense have been terrible, and the starting pitching hasn’t kept up its great pace from early in the season. Few things I want to touch on:

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Casey McGehee. Ugh. I really do not want Casy McGehee on the Brewers. He has value, but it’s limited, and he is not a good fit on a team that already has some all-bat no-glove players. He’s just as no-glove as Fielder, Braun, and Hart, but he’s not the same caliber of hitter. His range this season is just as awful as ever, except his offense hasn’t picked up yet. I’m sure they won’t do anything in-season, and McGehee has plenty of time to turn this thing around, but I can at least say I hope the Brewers have a different player at third base by next season.

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Roenicke. The only thing I’ve seen so far from him that I’ve really liked is all the shifts the Brewers employ on defense. Really, that’s it. They sac bunt too much. Playing Kotsay as much as he has this season is inexcusable, and now he’s talking about using Kotsay in center field for God’s sake. He hit Gomez second far too long, he uses “seventh and eighth inning relievers” instead of lefty-righty matchups far too often, and, for the love of Ned Yost, can we stop with all the “contact” plays with a runner on third base? How many outs have they made at the plate this season?

Roenicke’s honeymoon period is over. All you heard in Spring was how much the players like him, and how much better he’d be than Ken Macha. Well, we’re seeing how much a good clubhouse atmosphere gets you right now. Macha was the better in-game manager (to this point), and that’s what directly impacts games.

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I’m officially starting the Mark DiFelice watch, to the point that I’ve re-upped our sponsorship of his Baseball Reference page. In 9 innings, he has 13 ks, 3 walks, and has yet to allow a home run. At least Sean Green is gone, but DiFelice should be the next guy called up when a reliever goes down.

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The Brewers need to turn this thing around right now, because the schedule gets very tough in a few weeks. For now, they can just chalk it up to a bad road trip. If they don’t go on a run here in the next couple weeks, they may bury themselves in the standings.

I’m going to the game tonight for what may be the goofiest rally-towel giveaway in MLB history. It’s cool that they’re welcoming Greinke, but it doesn’t fit. First of all, he’s obviously a low-key guy, so I can’t imagine he’s thrilled with it. Secondly, they’re in the middle of a terrible stretch, so celebrating with towels seems out of place. Either way, I’ll be happy if they just get a win.

Back from hiatus

Posted by Steve

Not really sure how this happened, but I managed not to post for a couple weeks. It’s not like there hasn’t been a ton to talk about, so I really have no excuse. If it’s any consolation, I have definitely had baseball on the mind. I’ve been working on setting up a sweet fantasy auction league, and I recently got the New Baseball Prospectus handbook after not getting one the last couple years. I’ll get around to the PECOTA projection post pretty soon, I reckon’.

Where to start? I guess Greinke’s injury is as good a place as any. It’s crappy for sure, but I don’t understand people who are angry at him for playing basketball. It’s not like he was racing a motorcycle or something. If he really only misses three starts, it’s not all that bad. Frustrating, sure, but definitely not the end of the world.

However, injuries are starting to pile up. Aside from Greinke, Mat Gamel, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Jonathan Lucroy, Mark Rogers, Manny Parra and Mitch Stetter all have injuries of varying degrees. None are serious at this point, but the team could certainly be healthier.

At least we aren’t Cardinal fans, because then we’d be pretentious and self-righteous. Also, our ace pitcher would be out for the year, and our best hitter, who also happens to be the best hitter on the planet, has one foot out the door.

On the other hand, I’ve been catching some Brewer games on the radio as much as I can. The other day on my lunch break, Yuniesky Betancourt made an error and misjudged a pop-up in a 20-minute span. Here’s hoping that wasn’t a microcosm for the Brewers’ 2011 season, but I will say that I cannot believe Doug Melvin is truly entering the season with Betancourt as his starting shortstop. He had several opportunities to upgrade with free agents, and he chose not to. Using Betancourt all season will cost them runs, which will cost them games. There’s a reason he’s used as the “bad shortstop” in this amazing FIP video.

Other thoughts:

  • The Brewers are apparently trying to convince us that Carlos Gomez is coming around. Of course, he still hasn’t drawn a walk, so, yeah… Not buying it.
  • On a similar note, doesn’t a strict platoon between Gomez and Chris Dickerson make perfect sense? Dickerson can’t hit lefties. Gomez can’t hit anybody, but he at least hits lefties better than Dickerson. If they stuck to a platoon, they could probably at least approach league average production for CF with good defense.
  • With Greinke out, the Brewers will need to figure out who to use as their fifth starter. They’d probably like that to be Mark Rogers, but after his setback it’s not clear yet whether he’ll be ready. I’m fine with Rogers filling in for the short term, but I really want him to get more time in AAA. As well as he pitched in Milwaukee last September, he still needs to show better control. His 5.6 walks per nine innings in the minors last season is way too high, and he won’t have sustained success in the majors until he improves his control.
  • I am pumped for the return of Mark DiFelice. Big time. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he made the team, but even if he doesn’t, I all but guarantee we’ll see him in Milwaukee for much of this season. If he is close to what he was, the Brewers have the potential for a great bullpen between Axford, Saito, Braddock, DiFelice, and Lowe.
  • Aside from retaining Betancourt as the starting shortstop, the most baffling personnel move to me is the signing of Mark Kotsay. Kotsay is a good OF/1B fill-in with solid defense and a nice left-handed bat… If it’s 2004. That was his last good season. Kotsay has been below replacement level the last two seasons, and hasn’t been solidly above replacement level since 2005! His defense is now horrendous in his advance age, and Bill James is projecting him for a .674 OPS. Giving him a major league contract is a baffling move, and I’m going to yell things if he makes the team over Mat Gamel. Gamel is at worst the sixth best hitter in the organization (I’d argue fourth best) and can’t just get a regular spot.

One more story for tonight, along with the caveat that I will be posting much more frequently from this point on. Last weekend I was out in downtown Milwaukee and randomly ran into some guys from Kansas City. I was dumbfounded by their reason for being here: Since KC has no NBA team, they’re all Bucks fans. They drove to Milwaukee from Kansas City to watch the Bucks! That blew my mind, since the Bucks are so crappy this year.

Anyway, I of course asked if they were Royals fans, and before I knew it, one of them was buying me a beer (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and excitedly talking baseball. They were all huge Royals fans, and really wanted to hear about the players they got in the Greinke trade. I ended up telling them that when their team is really good in a year or two, they will come to hate Ned Yost. Other highlights:

“Greinke is a weird guy. He likes World of Warcraft more than baseball. I guess it doesn’t matter, though, since he’s an awesome pitcher.”

I was met with looks of horror when I mentioned Betancourt. “Thank GOD he’s gone.”

“Rooting against the Royals is like rooting against Special Olympians.”

And finally…

“Nobody is worse than Cardinal fans. They get all offended if you show any bit of emotion, or even enjoyment. Sure they have really nice and knowledgeable fans, but they also have the ones who brag about how nice and knowledgeable they are. I CAN’T STAND Cardinal fans.”

Redifeliciousness?

Posted by Steve

I’m hanging out at Dan’s right now, and he would like me to confirm that he is indeed still alive. I’ll set the over/under for Dan’s post on the season at four. I chose a fairly high number because the Brewers look to be good this season.

Anyway, just a quick post because I happened to read that the one and only Mark DiFelice is back in camp with the Brewers. And that made me very happy. Here’s hoping he makes the team, because I will never get tired of watching him baffle right-handed hitters with 83 mph cutters.

Have the Brewers improved?

Posted by Steve

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted, but that’s partially because it’s been quite awhile since there’s been any Brewer-related news to discuss.  Since the Randy Wolf and LaTroy Hawkins signings, the Brewers haven’t done too much.  Look for things to pick up in the next few weeks, as they’ll likely add another pitcher.  I’m hoping for John Smoltz but am expecting Jarrod Washburn or Doug Davis, which frankly doesn’t excite me–especially if it’s a two year deal.

Until something happens though, we need something to talk about, right?  I thought I’d take a look at whether the Brewers have actually improved this off-season.  It’s clear Randy Wolf is an upgrade over Braden Looper and therefore improves the pitching, but does that necessarily mean the team will be better?  If you recall, I thought entering last season the Brewers might stay afloat despite their loss of Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia because of a likely improvement of their offense.  That offense did improve quite a bit, but the pitching was simply too bad.

In 2010, the pitching will most likely be better, but I’m not sure it will be enough to overcome a likely decline in offensive production.

Using an admittedly simplistic method of comparing 2009 win shares of the key players leaving this season to the win shares of the players joining the team can give us a general idea of where the team currently stands in comparison to 2009.  I’m choosing to leave off bit players like Mike Rivera (deptarting) or Trent Oeltjen (arriving) because it’s unclear what role these players will play, or in some cases, who will fill the vacant position.  It’s unclear whether the backup catcher will be George Kottaras, Jonathan Lucroy or Angel Salome, for example.

WAR stands for win shares above replacement.  If a player has a WAR of 1.0, it means the formula finds his performance worth one more win than if a replacement level player filled the exact same role.  At the risk of going off on a tangent, replacement level is defined as the expected level of performance the average team can obtain if it needs to replace a starting player at minimal cost.  In other words, a replacement level player is a scrub–generally a player who spends his career bouncing from the majors to the minors.  Players have generally gone for about $4.25-$4.5 million per win on the open market, which is how Fangraphs calculates their dollar value amounts.  For example, Randy Wolf had a WAR of 3.0, which means (according to Fangraphs) he was “worth” $13.5 million in 2009.

Here’s the 2009 WAR of the players in question.

Departing Players

Mike Cameron: 4.3

J.J. Hardy: 1.4

Braden Looper: -0.9

Mark DiFelice: 0.4

Jason Kendall: 1.2

Total: 6.4 Wins


Arriving Players

Randy Wolf: 3.0 WAR

Carlos Gomez: 0.7 WAR

LaTroy Hawkins: 0.3

Gregg Zaun: 1.8

Total: 5.8 Wins


Now, before you go panicking that the Brewers aren’t any better, there are several things to consider here.  Simply taking all these players’ 2009 performances and translating them to 2010 doesn’t work.  Obviously, some will improve and some will decline.

The Brewers pick up a huge gain in going from Braden Looper, who was actually below replacement, to Randy Wolf (not-so-fun fact: The Brewers actually had two pitchers in their rotation who were below replacement level last year in Looper and Jeff Suppan).  Most, if not all of that gain is lost, however, in downgrading from Mike Cameron to Carlos Gomez.  The Brewers are banking seriously on improvement from Carlos Gomez if they’re willing to hand him the centerfield job, which seems to be the case.  Expecting some improvement from Gomez isn’t unreasonable, as he just turned 24.  Still, he’ll almost certainly be a far cry from Mike Cameron in terms of overall value.

There are other things to consider.  Alcides Escobar’s WAR needs to be considered, but it’s difficult to calculate with just his 2009 numbers.  Simply taking his 2009 WAR and extrapolating it over a full season wouldn’t be too accurate because his 134 plate appearances is such a small sample size with which to work.

I was also unsure what to do with the second base situation.  Felipe Lopez and Rickie Weeks combined for great production from that position.  Lopez is gone, and Weeks is returning from injury, so I wasn’t sure how to use that.

Fangraphs does allow its users to project seasons, so I thought I’d throw this out here for kicks.  These are how Fangraphs’ users (likely just a bunch of baseball geeks like myself, or even geekier) project those players’ performance in 2010.  I’ll add Lopez and Weeks in this version.  This is probably the result we should be more concerned with as far as whether the Crew has improved.

Departing Players

Mike Cameron: 3.6 Slight decline projected for Cameron; not unreasonable at his age

J.J. Hardy: 3.4 Pretty large rebound projected for Hardy, which doesn’t surprise me.

Braden Looper: 0.5 Nobody even bothered to project for poor Braden, but I figured it was reasonable to assume he’d be slightly better than the gawdawfulness of -0.9 he displayed last season, since he’d never been that bad before. I decided on 0.5.

Mark DiFelice: 0.4 DiFelice is unfortunately out for the year, so we’ll stick with his 2009 production, since it still needs to be replaced somehow.

Jason Kendall: 0.9 Fangraphs expects him to be even worse.  Oh Royals, what were you thinking?

Felipe Lopez: 2.6 Lopez’s WAR between Arizon and Milwaukee was an outstanding 4.6 last year, so they’re expecting a decline.

Total: 11.4 Wins


Arriving Players

Alcides Escobar: 2.4 I have to think the Brewers would be pleased with this production in Escobar’s rookie season.

Randy Wolf: 3.0 They expect a very similar year for Wolf.

LaTroy Hawkins: 0.3 Nobody bothered to project Hawkins either.  He’s been between 0.3 and 0.8 each of the last four seasons.  I’ll go with 0.3 to be safe.

Gregg Zaun: 1.4 Slight decline expected from Zaun, but still a pretty safe bet to out-produce Jason Kendall.

Carlos Gomez: 1.1 Another one without a WAR projection, but I’ll base this on Bill James’ projection.  James has Gomez improving a bit offensively, so I bumped him from .7 in 2009 to 1.1 in 2010.  As we know, Gomez’s value, if he’s going to have any, will come from his defense.

Rickie Weeks: 3.9 A pretty optimistic projection for Weeks, one that would require him to finally stay healthy all season in order to reach.

Total Wins: 12.1

At least that looks a little better.  Again, I’m not calling this anything close to foolproof.  It’s still thrown off by the fact that Lopez and Weeks split second base last season, and obviously these are simply projections.  Still, it seems like the changes they’ve made made don’t amount to much more than a wash.  It certainly changes if they add another starter and bump Jeff Suppan out of the rotation, but until then, the Brewers look like a .500-ish team again to me.  I’ll get into this more in the future, but while I figured the offense would improve from 2008 to 2009, it’s almost certain to decline this year.  Not just going from Mike Cameron to Carlos Gomez, but elsewhere too.  Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are likely to decline some–both had fantastic years that out-produced their projections.  Casey McGehee is likely to decline.  Rickie Weeks is likely not going to put up the numbers that the Weeks/Lopez platoon did last season.  Really, the only regular player with reasonable expectation for improvement is Corey Hart, and even he has become nearly impossible to figure out.

If the Brewers do add a starter, it’s probable that they’ll be an 80-85 win team at that point, which is talented enough to get into the playoffs if some luck goes your way.  Still, they’re very unlikely to unseat the Cardinals as the favorites entering the season.

I like my women like I like my Coffey

Posted by Steve

I’m sitting here watching the Brewers-Dodgers game, and Todd Coffey just came into the game in a big spot and retired Manny Ramirez.  On a whim, I was compelled to make a quick in-game post.  I have some definite crow to eat as far as Coffey is concerned.

I was irritated when Ken Macha began using him in high-leverage situations more and more, particularly when it was ahead of DiFelice.  I thought he was a decent bullpen arm, but nothing more.  He’s proven to be a strong setup guy.  DiFelice, despite some recent struggles, will always be my first (ROOGY, that is), but Coffey has also been death to right-handers as well.  Righties are OPSing .528 against him entering tonight’s game.

The starting rotation is a huge question mark, but the Brewers’s bullpen should be in good shape in the coming years with Coffey, DiFelice and Stetter under control long-term.

Wrapping up June with a Thought Cornucopia

Posted by Steve

JSOnline.com

Heckuva game tonight!  That picture just about says it all.  When Mike Burns defeats Johan Santana, it’s safe to describe that as stealing a win.  After a rough stretch, the Brewers have rattled off four wins in five games and are back atop the NL Central.  There are plenty of things to talk about lately, and it’s been awhile since we’ve had a Cornucopia of Thoughts, so let’s get this party started quickly.

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We’ll start with the bad news.  Jeremy Jeffress, the Brewers’ top pitching prospect entering the year and a first round pick from a few years ago, has been suspended 100 games for testing positive for a “substance of abuse.”  If you’re wondering why it’s such a harsh punishment, it’s because this is actually the third time Jeffress has tested positive.  He actually served a 50-game suspension two years ago for the same problem, and if he manages to test positive one more time, he faces a lifetime ban from minor league baseball.

Jeffress has admitted to testing positive for marijuana in the past, and it’s being assumed that this latest positive test is also from marijuana.  A lifetime ban might seem harsh, but regardless of your views on the the legalization issue, it’s pretty much impossible to defend Jeffress at this point.  His value is just about nil now, and he’s dangerously close to throwing away his baseball career.  This is a tough blow for an organization that’s already short on impact pitching.

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I’ve become pretty annoyed by the Brewers’ treatment of Mat Gamel.  There’s no reason he should be sitting on the bench as much as he has.  I understand that Casey McGehee is playing great, but there’s no reason Craig Counsell should be playing over Gamel as much as he has.  Ken Macha is obviously not crazy about having Gamel’s defense in the lineup, but how is Gamel supposed to improve his defense if he isn’t playing?

The bottom line is that if Gamel isn’t going to get regular playing time in Milwaukee, he needs to be back in AAA so he can continue to work on his defense.  The argument may be that the Brewers are in “win now” mode, and that Gamel should be up because he makes the big league club better, but that’s not even necessarily the case.  The Brewers have an infielder in the minors, Adam Heether, who is lighting up AAA to the tune of a .991 OPS.  They could easily swap out Gamel for Heether and not miss a beat from what they’ve had since Gamel’s been up.  Heether is 27, so there’s not the same need to get him playing time that there is with Gamel.

I hate to see Gamel burning up service time if he’s not even going to get semi-regular playing time.

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For whatever reason, Mark DiFelice hasn’t been placed in the high leverage role that he was before having the sore arm.  He’s pitched in non-close situations frequently since returning to the team, and I can’t figure out why.  What’s troubling to me is that Macha has deferred to Todd Coffey over DiFelice is close situations lately.  Any way you slice it, DiFelice is the superior pitcher.

We saw an example of this in tonight’s game.  With David Wright set to hit, DiFelice was pulled from the game in favor of Coffey.  Can someone please give Macha a copy of DiFelice’s splits?  Right handed hitters are OPSing .390(!) against DiFelice.  That doesn’t scream ‘Take him out of the game’ when the opposing team’s best right-handed hitter is at the plate.

With Stetter against lefites and DiFelice against righties, Macha has some great weapons to bridge the gap to Trevor Hoffman.  He needs to start using DiFelice the way he should be used, which is as a righty neutralizer.

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Alright, I have to make one positive point, right?  Prince Fielder is having an absolute monster year.

Twenty home runs is great, as is the .306 batting average, but what’s really made the difference for Prince is his patience.  Fielder has always been a fairly patient hitter, but his eye this year has been outstanding.  His OBP before last night’s game was .424, which is uncharted territory for him (career high of .395).  Barring something very bad, Fielder will shatter the team record for walks in a season.

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Time for some tidbits.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this job, it’s that nobody enjoys being a Major League baseball player more than Cincinnati Reds infielder Adam Rosales.  This guy is literally always happy when on the baseball field.  At first I couldn’t tell if it bugged me, but now I love when I get a Reds game and he’s in the lineup so I can see what he’ll do next.  Check out his sprint around the bases for his first career home run.  Other great clips that I wasn’t able to find: Rosales leaping into the air with a jumpkick after a Reds walkoff win, and a post-game interview in which he yells, “It’s like a dream come true!” through maniacal laughter.

Check him out the next time you see a Reds game, but do it soon.  Rosales has plummeted to a .561 OPS, so he might not be in the big leagues much longer.

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I’m starting to feel like a GM at work, but not because of the job itself.  We’re allowed to switch games, and there are at least four Yankee fans in the office.  This means that whenever I get a Yankee game, I’ll have at least two people ask me to switch.

As the only Brewer fan in the office, this works heavily in my favor.  Yankee fans regularly try to trade me Brewer games for Yankee games.  I even talk like a GM to up the trade value.  “I’m not motivated to move my Yankee game at this time, but I’m willing to listen to offers.”

I had a Yankee game today, and it had more value than normal because Joba Chamberlain was starting (Yankee fans love them some Joba).  I actually had a guy say to me today, “I have some Brewer games next month that I could offer for that game today, but I’d rather acquire Tim’s Brewer game tonight to use and keep those games as bargaining chips down the line.”  Awesome.