Tag Archives: Ron Roenicke

This is getting to be amazing (Kottaras)

Posted by Steve

That was about as good as a mid-April game can get.

I was at the game last night, and a few things come to mind:

1. Interesting to see that the team who used their best reliever against the heart of the order got through the inning cleanly, while the team who didn’t blew the lead. Of course I’m talking about not using John Axford in the eighth inning when Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier were up. K-Rod gave up the bomb to Ethier that could have cost the Brewers the game. Meanwhile, against Morgan, Braun and Ramirez, the Dodgers used Kenley Janson to carve the Brewers up in the eighth.

Now, I’m really not holding this against Ron Roenicke much at all, because there might not be a manager in baseball who would have used Axford there. That doesn’t mean it was the right choice not to, though. A team’s best relief pitcher should pitch in the highest leverage situations, and clearly that was the eighth inning with the only two great hitters in the Dodgers lineup coming up (By the way, I’m not giving Don Mattingly credit for using Jansen in the eighth, either. He’s not their closer, so they just happened to luck out that the heart of the order was coming up. You can bet that if he was the closer, he wouldn’t have come in then either).

2. What I will blame Roenicke for is ALL OF THE BUNTING. Goodness, I cannot believe how stupid it was to bunt with Jonathan Lucroy in the ninth inning with tiny Cesary Izturis on deck. He even left the bunt on with a 2-0 count! What kind of message is that sending to your catcher? More importantly, why is he so anxious to give up an out? Even if he was planning on using Kottaras the whole way (I bet anything he’d have kept Izturis in if the bunt had worked), it’s a bad move.

My brother gave me crap, because I told him this would be a game that I’d still be mad about even if they won, and then of course I was celebrating a minute later. I stand by it, though. I can still be angry that Roenicke called for that bunt, and that he is so bunt-happy in general.

3. George Kottaras is awesome.

Hyperbole aside for a minute. Honestly, I’ve always liked his bat, and I’m really glad to see that Roenicke finally seems willing to use him more. It’s good for a couple reasons. Obviously, it’s good because he is a power hitting lefty who is much better than Mark Kotsay, Travis Ishikawa, or whomever. But it’s also good because maybe now Roenicke won’t be so quick to yank Kottaras early on Lucroy’s days off. Last year, Kottaras often left games he’d started so Lucroy could come in as a defensive replacement. This left Lucroy without many full days off. It’s likely he wore down as the season went on, and his numbers last year support that claim: .844 OPS in March/April, .850 in May, and then never above .673 for any month afterwards.

Letting Kottaras play should help keep Lucroy fresh. Now, if we can only get Roenicke to break the Kottaras/Wolf pairing to avoid having to start George against lefties…

4. One thing I’m guessing may not have been noticeable on tv is the reaction of the crowd after Corey Hart’s hit to lead off the bottom of the ninth. I’m not talking about the initial cheer for the hit itself. After the cheering had died down a bit, Roenicke sent Carlos Gomez in to pinch run. As he did, a buzz spread around the stadium. You know a guy is exciting when a pinch running appearance gets a crowd buzzing.

5. This is perhaps a little cheesy, but I had sort of forgotten how enjoyable regular season baseball can be. Those playoff games are such a grind to watch mentally, especially when you’re at the game. I probably should have had an IV after Game 5 against Arizona. It’s nice to watch an exciting regular season game. You still pull hard for a victory, and it’s still great when they win, but there is a noticeable lack of a horrible feeling in your stomach that comes with tense playoff games. Of course, I’m hoping for more nerve-wracking playoff games again this year, but I enjoyed last night’s game quite a bit.

Mainly because I saw a Kottaras walk-off in person. Look at all those people trying to touch him. It’s like a Beatles concert.

The Perfect Game!

Posted by Steve

It was an incredible atmosphere Saturday at Miller Park, and the Brewers rose to the occasion. Other than the solo home run allowed by Yovani Gallardo in the eighth inning, the Brewers played virtually a perfect game.

The defense was just fine. Nyjer Morgan and Jerry Hairston had some impressive plays, and Braun’s outfield assist to gun down Willie Bloomquist in the first inning may have been the play of the game.

The offense, I thought, did a great job. Ian Kennedy pitched well today; the Brewers simply made him work too hard. They saw a lot of pitches, fouled balls off, and jacked up his pitch count a bit. There’s a school of thought that pitch count doesn’t matter as much as the amount of high-leverage pitches, and Kennedy threw a lot of high-leverage pitches. Obviously, Prince’s home run was the big blow, but Kennedy was under pressure almost every inning.

The story of the day, though, was obviously Yo’s performance. Gallardo is locked in right now in what may be the best stretch of his career. In his last four starts, spanning 28.1 innings, Yo has 45 strikeouts (!) and just four walks.

A wildcard in this series is the managers. I’ve criticized RRR at times this season, but I think he has the edge in this series. He started Hairston over McGehee (and batted him ahead if Betancourt), so he’s 1-1 in big decisions. We’ll see if he’s 2-2 after tomorrow with his decision to start Greinke on short rest. Kirk Gibson, on the other hand, seems to be a poor in-game manager. I was following the Diamondbacks pretty closely for the last couple weeks when the Brewers were battling them for homefield. Their games were chock-full of head-scratching bunting decisions and stupid small ball. Today, he had Ryan Roberts, likely their fourth-best hitter, hitting seventh behind Lyle Overbay (who’s just a scrub at this point) and Aaron Hill.

His worst decision, though, was letting Kennedy pitch to Fielder in the seventh. With a runner on second and two outs, they could have intentionally walked Prince. If Casey McGehee was still hitting fifth, that would have probably been the right move. With Weeks hitting fifth, though, I don’t blame Gibson for not walking Fielder. I do, however, think it was a mistake to let Kennedy face Prince. He had thrown 106 pitches, many of the high-leverage variety I was just discussing, and they had a lefty ready in the bullpen.

I suspect we’ll see more bad managerial moves from Gibson before this series is over, and the Brewers will be better off for it.

Looking ahead to Game 2… The big question will of course be: How will Zack Greinke respond to pitching on short rest again? Kevin made a good point in the comments of the last post. Roenicke would have been second-guessed on the Greinke decision either way if they end up losing this game. I’m okay with the decision, for the record–I just wish they’d have taken him out earlier in Game 162.

The team that wins the first game of the NLDS is 29-3 all-time in taking the series. That’s why Game 1 is so crucial in a short 5-game series, and it’s why it was so encouraging to see the team play so well. The hitters seem locked in, and Greinke is a better pitcher than Daniel Hudson. I’m expecting a 2-0 series lead.

Playoff Cornucopia

Posted by Steve

I had hoped to post an extensive series preview, but I just haven’t had the time. I figure a few random thoughts are better than nothing.

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The Brewers are considering starting Zack Greinke for Game 2. This would be the second time in a row he’d start on three days’ rest. I can’t say I’m crazy about that idea. It would be different if they hadn’t thrown him for six innings on Wednesday. Carlos Gomez’s three-run homer came in the bottom of the fourth. I wanted them to take out Greinke as soon as that happened; a 5-1 lead on the Pirates should have been plenty at that point. Instead, they kept him in for two more innings. If they had taken him out after the fourth, I’d feel much better about throwing him on Sunday. As it is, I’d just hold Greinke back until Game 3. It’s frustrating to wait until the third game to start your best pitcher, but it’s better than starting him when he’s less that 100% rested. Gallardo-Marcum-Greinke-Wolf is just fine for the first four games.

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Yovani Gallardo vs. Ian Kennedy is a great matchup. Kennedy is getting some play for Cy Young, which is mainly because of his win-loss record and not because he’s been one of the three or four best pitchers in the league. Still, he’s been one of the ten or 12 best in the NL, much like Gallardo.

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Overall, these teams are quite similar in their makeup.

They are both above-average offensive teams with no clear edge to one over the other. They are within ten runs scored of each other on the entire season, and within six points of wOBA.

Judging by defensive metrics and staff ERAs compared to xFIPs, Arizona has the stronger team defense (the eye test also tells us it shouldn’t be surprising that someone is better defensively than the Brewers).

The Brewers have a slight edge in the starting rotation, although once again, both teams are above average. Both teams’ 1 and 2 starters are just about a wash, but the DBacks don’t have a third starter on the level of Shaun Marcum.

The bullpen is where the Brewers pull away a bit. Brewers relievers had an ERA of 3.32 and an xFIP of 3.43. Diamondbacks relievers have an ERA of 3.71 and an xFIP of 3.92. That’s a fairly large difference. The DBacks have a good closer who is comparable to John Axford (J.J. Putz), but the Brewers have better depth after the closer. The bullpen has been such an asset all year, and I expect them to continue that against Arizona.

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The Brewers are a very slightly better team than Arizona overall, and they have homefield advantage, so they should win the series. Of course, anything can happen in the playoffs, especially in five-game series, so I’d only favor the Brewers at maybe a 55-60% chance to win. Seven of ESPN’s eight “experts” pick the Brewers to win, and Sportsnation says 73% of American expects the Brewers to win, for whatever any of that is worth. Again, the Brewers are a little better, so that makes sense, but the better team often loses a playoff series.

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As far as from my personal perspective, I think it’s similar to most Brewer fans. In 2008 I was just overjoyed to have made the playoffs. The Brewers were expected to lose to Philly, so I wasn’t overly crushed when they did. This year, though, the Brewers have a much better team than in ’08. They’re one of the two best teams in the NL, so if they don’t win their first series, I will be extremely disappointed.

***DISCLAIMER***
I’ll say one thing about the playoffs. I HATE hearing things like, “You have to play small ball in the playoffs” or “Teams manufacture runs in the playoffs.” It’s baloney. Why would you play any differently than the way that won you games throughout the course of the season? The Brewers have a dynamic offense. I’m going to be very upset if I see an excessive amount of bunting, hit-and-running, or steal attempts from players other than Ryan Braun or Carlos Gomez. Don’t give up outs; play for the big inning. You have an offense that certainly can get you one. I will say this: From what I’ve seen of Arizona this year, we’re going to love facing a team managed by Kirk Gibson. He sure seems to love the small ball. He’s made a few questionable bunting calls already just this week. Here’s hoping that works in the Brewers favor.

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I’m going to the game on Saturday. Let’s just say I have better hopes for this one than for the last playoff game I attended. It was started by Jeff Suppan and capped off by a mammoth Pat Burrell homer. With the way Yo has been pitching, I like their chances to grab Game 1 and give themselves a big advantage in the series.

B!B!K.T.U.T.H!

I won’t stop

Posted by Steve

The Brewers look great. I don’t want my negative-toned posts to take away from that. The pitching is still awesome, and the offense is back on track. They’re cruising to the playoffs, and they’re looking hopeful for that important number 2 seed. So why all my negativity?

Every post now has the playoffs in mind.

Over the last 26 games, Casey McGehee has a .593 OPS. He’s been even worse than he’s been over the course of his entire terrible 2011 season.

Meanwhile, here’s what Ron Roenicke has to say about McGehee. “It’s frustrating to (McGehee) because he feels good and his swing is good. I agree that his swing looks good. That’s why it’s surprising.”

Ron, what games have you been watching? I cannot fathom how anyone in his right mind could watch Casey McGehee at the plate and come away with the impression that he is having good at-bats.

McGehee has consistently been swinging at pitches out of the zone. At the same time, he’s taking pitches right over the plate, which shows he’s lost and is simply guessing rather than seeing and reacting. When he does swing at a strike, he doesn’t hit it square–either a foul or a weak grounder/flyout. He has hardly hit a ball solidly in the last month!

Also, on a different note, McGehee is not good defensively. He’s sure-handed enough, but his lack of athleticism limits his range. Green clearly has more range at third; anyone could see that. Yet, RRR has taken Taylor Green out of games late. He thinks McGehee is a defensive upgrade! I think he’s been listening to BA and Bill’s broadcasts too much. His affinity for McGehee is baffling.

With Weeks back, the makings of a great lineup are there. Hart-Morgan-Braun-Fielder-Weeks-Green is a great 1-6–likely the best in the NL playoffs. These last handful of games would be a great time to try this lineup and get everyone comfortable heading into the postseason.

McGehee must be removed from this lineup.

The Ol’ Boys Club

Posted by Steve

Created by DougJones43 at Brewerfan.net

I can’t say I’m surprised that Taylor Green has had exactly one at-bat and zero innings played in the field to this point, even though it’s ludicrous. I was a bit surprised, though, to read that Roenicke said the players preferred “their guys” to play.

Where do I even start with a quote like that? The players preferred? So what? The players are not responsible for deciding who plays. We are seeing a “players’ manager” taken to the extreme. RRR needs to stop worrying about what the players want and play the best lineup.

Yuniesky Betancourt has not had a day off since July 17. July 17! Corey Hart has had three days off in that time. What on Earth does Roenicke see in Betancourt? And I realize Casey McGehee has been a bit better, but how can you not give Taylor Green a start or two a week? McGehee’s right-handed; Green’s left-handed. It’s a perfect platoon situation.

Despite all this, there is no reason to freak out after the sweep by the Cardinals. Yes, the Brewers could have put them away, but they’re still in great position. They are 7.5 games up and BP gives them a 97.8% chance to make the playoffs. They have Zack Greinke starting tonight against the worst team in baseball.

The regular season will be fine. I’m just worried about Roenicke in the playoffs. His inefficiencies have been masked by stellar starting pitching for five weeks. Now that the pitching has come back to Earth recently, he’s getting exposed again.

 

Cardinals 2, Ron Roenicke 1

Posted by Steve

It’s funny how, despite a massive division lead, poorly managed games can get me fired up as though this was still a tight race. I should be going to bed, but I just got home from the game and I have to get this off my chest.

That ninth inning was as mismanaged as it can get. After Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee each had great at-bats to draw walks, Runnin’ Ron took matters into his own hands.

This is a run expectancy matrix. It shows that bunting is the wrong move; the average runs scored is higher with runners on first and second and nobody out than it is with second and third with one out.

Even though it’s the wrong move, I suppose in a vacuum I can give him a pass, because most managers make that move (which is why it drives me nuts that managers are allowed to widely make the wrong strategical moves, but I digress). This was not in a vacuum, however, because the runner at second base was Prince Fielder. The guy bunting at the plate was Yuniesky Betancourt, who apparently has never tried to bunt in his entire life. When you combine a slow runner with a clueless bunter, it makes that decision a colossally stupid one.

I’m not just saying this in hindsight, either. I was in disbelief that Roenicke was even allowing Betancourt to hit with both Mark Kotsay and Taylor Green available (my brother wisely pointed out that I shouldn’t be surprised, because Roenicke hasn’t benched Yuni yet, so why would he now?).

The right move would have been to let one of the lefties hit for Betancourt and let them swing away. Salas had just walked a batter and looked very shaky… And he has Betancourt bunt right away? How stupid. And how poorly executed by the worst starting player in baseball, who apparently cannot play badly enough to get benched no matter how hard he tries. And if RRR was so intent on bunting, why not use Counsell instead? It’s all baffling.

Really the only possible good thing to come out of this game is if Betancourt has to go on the DL. Seriously, how can a major league baseball player not know to not wrap his hand around the bat when bunting!? That is literally the first thing you’re taught as a kid when you’re learning to bunt. Hoping for injury sounds harsh, but the baffling Brewer braintrust (alliteration!) has shown us that injury is the only way to get this poor player out of the lineup.

This game was virtually meaningless in the grand scheme, as the Brewers are 99.9% for the playoffs according to BP. But it illustrates a great concern about their manager’s poor in-game strategy that could really hurt them in the playoffs.

 

 

… And continue to roll

Posted by Steve

The Brewers seemingly cannot lose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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