Tag Archives: Ryan Braun

No more half measures

Posted by Steve

The latest in the “the Brewers have no long-term plan” theme, they missed out on re-signing Corey Hart today. Hart would have been a nice option for first base this year, but oh well. So, now what?

Really, only two things should be options for the Brewers.

The first is to make a big play for a true difference maker at first base. Considering they really have no trade chips left at the big league level (that they’re willing to move, anyway), and that their farm system is bad, this isn’t a viable option. No point in dwelling, then.

The only other option should be to make due with what they have. They could platoon Sean Halton and Juan Francisco. They could give Mat Gamel a shot, which would be very cheap. While doing this, they could wait and see if Hunter Morris turns into anything (I have just about no hope for Morris, but that’s another story).

My preference would actually be to move a current starter to first base. Either Aramis Ramirez or Ryan Braun would benefit from a move to first base, as it would help them stay healthy. Between Caleb Gindl, Logan Schafer, Kentrail Davis, or other cheaply acquired corner outfielders, they could fill right field.

Either make a huge move for a true difference-making first baseman, or make due with what you have. Those are the only two viable options.

So why, then, does it feel like they’re about to do neither?

I am bracing myself for the Brewers to do something foolish, like giving James Loney a multi-year contract, or trading young pitching for Ike Davis. Neither one would make sense given the talent level of the team, but both fit perfectly with the M.O. of the Mark Attanasio regime.

Trading for Ike Davis wouldn’t be a bad move if the Brewers were one more hitter away from true contention. But, much like with the acquisition of Kyle Lohse last year, that isn’t the case. Giving up someone like Tyler Thornburg for Davis would be a dumb move.

Similarly, signing James Loney to a two-year, or God forbid three-year contract would be just as dumb. First of all, the Brewers have no business giving a merely decent veteran who plays the easiest position on the field a multi-year deal.

Secondly, it is far from a given that Loney would even be an upgrade over a Francisco/Halton platoon. Loney’s career OPS is .761, which is nothing special at all for a first baseman.

There is no good reason to trade for or give a multi-year contract to an average first baseman. But there was also no good reason to forfeit a draft pick to sign Kyle Lohse or give an injury-prone, aging Aramis Ramirez a three-year deal.

“No good reason” hasn’t saved the Brewers from themselves in the recent past, and it just feels like it won’t this time, either.

State of the Brewers: Longing for 2005

Posted by Steve

It is only appropriate that I am about to experience the least anticipated World Series of my lifetime (even worse than the Subway Series), since this was my least enjoyable baseball season in at least ten years. And by “experience the least anticipated World Series of my lifetime,” I mean I’ll turn it on for the last few outs if the Cardinals are facing elimination. Maybe. That didn’t work so well the last time.

This year, and really, the current state of the Brewers, is depressing not so much because of the below .500 record. We’ve lived through much, much, much worse Brewers years as far as baseball performance is concerned. It’s that it was so predictable, and yet the Brewers’ brass was unable to foresee it, or at least to admit it.

The problem with the Brewers is exemplified by one move: signing Kyle Lohse. The fact that they saw themselves as one number 2/3 starting pitcher away from the playoffs is very concerning. They clearly were not, and that is not just hindsight talking. I saw it beforehand, but so did many others.

But not the Brewers. They kept looking short-term, and once they ran out of minor league pieces to trade, they ran out of options.

I was able to stomach the 90-100 loss seasons of the early 2000s, because there was at least hope on the horizon. Many terrible seasons had amassed an impressive array of draft picks. Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy, Corey Hart, Ryan Braun, and Yovani Gallardo would all join the big league club within a few years’ time. There was finally excitement, a light at the end of a long, miserable tunnel.

Now? The Brewers are about to enter their fourth consecutive year without one prospect on the same level as any of those mid-2000s players. Sure, they’ve added some much-needed quantity over the last two seasons, but they are sorely lacking in quality prospects.

Ready for something truly depressing? Read this next paragraph, and then tell me if there is one team in the NL Central you wouldn’t trade places with.

A couple months ago, Baseball America released its mid-season top 50 prospects. Included on that list were four Cardinals, three Pirates, three Cubs, two Reds, and, of course, zero Brewers. Even if we go back to the start of the season, when BA ranked their top 100 prospects, Wily Peralta was the only Brewer to crack the list.

What this should tell you is that the Cardinals and Pirates, already good teams, will just continue to reload (or improve, from the standpoint of the Pirates). They aren’t going anywhere. The Reds are on their way out, but even they have a better system than Milwaukee. The Cubs are going to be bad for the next year or two yet, but they look the way the Brewers did in the mid-2000s; they have a lot of exciting players in their system.

So… What can be done? Well, what they should not do is hold on to their veterans, sign a free agent starting pitcher or two, and try to patch together another .500ish season. Basically, don’t do what they’ve tried the past few years.

It’s time for Mark Attanasio to read the writing on the wall: it’s time to blow this up and rebuild. They’ve proven the patchwork strategy isn’t working, so it’s time to change philosophies.

That also means something larger: it’s time for Doug Melvin to go.

Melvin has done some very good things in Milwaukee. He oversaw the reconstruction of a truly terrible franchise, fielded two playoff teams and won one division title. He was two games from his first World Series. Sure, you could argue he could have done more with that core they had, but he also could have done much worse.

It’s been a few years since Melvin was able to work some magic. Most importantly, he still hasn’t been able to adequately replace Jack Zduriencik. The Brewers haven’t had one impact draft pick since Brett Lawrie, and that has been what’s killed them more than anything.

Doug Melvin departing isn’t the most important key to turning this around–all that truly matters is that the Brewers stop their short-term thinking. The best way to do that, however, is to bring in a younger GM who is willing to oversee a rebuilding process.

There are players to build around. Jean Segura, Jonathan Lucroy, and Wily Peralta is a decent starting point. Many fans would hate this move, but Carlos Gomez’s value will never be higher. He’s still young (and affordable) enough to bring back a huge haul, yet, he’s old enough that by the time the team around him is good again, he’ll be leaving or out of his prime. The adage of trading a player a year too early rather than a year too late (i.e. Corey Hart, Aramis Ramirez, and hopefully not Kyle Lohse) rings true with Gomez.

Other players should go as well–many should have already, of course, but I don’t need to harp on that any further. They have no choice but to hold on to Braun at this point, so that will at least be in a holding pattern for a while. But even that could be short-term.

They key for a mid-market team like the Brewers is to find young talent and bring up waves of it. The Brewers haven’t had a wave since Gallardo ended their big one about four years ago. They have some players who could be impact prospects, but they’re still in the lower levels of the minors. What they need to do is collect players who are within two years or so of the big leagues and bring them up together, à la Fielder, Weeks, Hart and Hardy.

The concern, from Attanasio’s perspective, is clearly attendance. They’ve drawn extraordinarily well the last five years, and it would be understandable to be hesitant to jeopardize that. I’d argue that Brewer fans are patient; look how bad the teams were for so long, yet fans came back. They’ll do the same in support of an exciting, young team. It beats the alternative of gradually losing attendance year-to-year with no future in sight.

There are a large number of fans who feel jaded after the Ryan Braun saga. I don’t worry about it, personally, but many do. It could actually be a great time to explain to the fans that the strategies of the past few years haven’t worked, and now the team is changing course. I really think many would be open to that.

Hope isn’t lost for Brewers fans. It’s just on hold. Take me back to 2004, 2005 (and not just for this reason). I’d much rather root for a young, rebuilding team with a bright future than for one without much present or future. Unfortunately, if they don’t rebuild, that’s all we’ll have.

This is all very annoying

Posted by Steve

You know things were bad when by 8:30 last night I was wishing #RoyalBaby was still dominating my Twitter feed. I don’t have much to say at this point about Ryan Braun, other than it’s disappointing and the timing works out very well from a Brewers’ perspective. Other than that, my feelings are summed up very well by a great post over at Ron Roenicke Stole My Baseball: 9 Annoying Braun Things From Yesterday. It’s a quick read and definitely worth it.

A different way of evaluating this Brewers season

Posted by Steve

The All-Star Break is always a time of evaluation for MLB teams. They evaluate where they are in the playoff race and decide what direction they want to go at the trading deadline. I certainly have my opinions on what the Brewers should do at the trading deadline, but first, I want to take a look back at this season.

There’s no doubt that the Brewers have had a disaster of a season. They are in last place in the N.L. Central and have the second-worst record in the league. There’s no way to put beer goggles over that one.

But instead, I want to look at how the Brewers’ season has gone compared to expectations. There were obviously varying opinions on how this season would go, but there were also many people who assumed the Brewers would not have a good year. I was one of them, although I can’t say I thought the record would be quite this bad.

So yes, it could be easy to say this is a lost season. But when you compare the events of the season to what was expected, I actually come up with more positives than negatives.

Quickly, let’s look at what we did expect: We knew the starting rotation wouldn’t be good, and it turns out it’s terrible. It is disappointing that guys like Mike Fiers, Tyler Thornburg and Mark Rogers haven’t done a thing in Milwaukee this year, but it’s also not shocking.

That’s about it.

Almost nothing else about this season has gone as expected, and a number of those things are positive. But let’s look at the negatives first.

Negatives

Ryan Braun continues to face controversy

There is so much that could be said here, but there is still no revealed evidence, so any analysis at this point would simply be conjecture. It is not a surprise that Braun is tied up in this, since we knew about it before the season. I am listing it here, though, because it seems that MLB is even more determined to “get” Braun that I even assumed. Rumblings quickly escalated from 50 to 100 games and then to the ridiculous possibility of a lifetime ban. So this is certainly not good news, even though it’s only slightly surprising.

Corey Hart is out for the year

This is in the same category as the Braun one. Is it surprising Corey Hart has missed time this year due to injury? Of course not; that’s been going on for each of the last few seasons. What is surprising is that he’s now lost for the season. That’s a huge loss–some for what he would have brought to the offense this year, but much more for what the Brewers could have gotten back for him in a trade if he’d been healthy.

Aramis Ramirez can’t stay healthy

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have listed this one under unexpected at all, because Aramis Ramirez being banged up is anything but surprising. It’s why I hated the signing two years ago–not because he can’t hit, but because he can’t stay healthy. Like Hart, this one really hurts because they can’t trade him right now. It seems like best case scenario is he proves himself enough to be included in a waiver deal in August.

Yovani Gallardo kind of sucks

This is definitely the worst negative of the season, and it’s a big reason why the Brewers are currently awful instead of the anticipated mediocre. I plan to break this down at much greater length soon, but in short: Yo has been bad. His velocity is down, his starts are short, and he’s killed his trade value. He could have been a huge chip for the Brewers, but his value may now be so low that they are forced to keep him.

And that’s all I’ve got. Those are the four things that are currently killing the Brewers, and only three are actually on the field. These are the only things I can come up with that went wrong that were not totally expected. Not good, for sure, but I’d have expected more in a season that’s gone this poorly.

Now, to the positives.

Positives

Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez

I put these two together, because A) both performances are incredibly impacting and B) both were pretty unexpected. Yes, I had high hopes for both players, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted that Gomez and Segura would be 2nd and 12th respectively in WAR for the NL and both make the All-Star team.

Gomez is already making his contract extension look like an absolute steal. His center field defense is elite, and his bat has become a plus. He’s managed to finally meet his potential that scouts raved about years ago. He’s still only 27, meaning he can still be seen as somewhat of a long-term piece in Milwaukee.

Segura’s performance is perhaps even more encouraging. He’s dirt cheap yet for three years (unless the Brewers sign him long-term, which would be great), and he’s already playing at a very high level. Yes, he needs to be more patient offensively, but it’s clear that he’ll be the type of guy the Brewers can just pencil in at shortstop for the next 5+ years and not have to worry about anything. Even if Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena flame out completely, which I’d say is pretty unlikely, Segura makes that Greinke trade last year look like highway robbery.

The performance and increased value of these players has been the most surprising development of the season, good or bad, for the Brewers.

The Bullpen is very good

Last year the bullpen was just about the entire reason the Brewers missed the playoffs. This year, Doug Melvin made some shrewd trades and signings, and it’s been almost as good this year as it was bad last year.

Now obviously, a good bullpen is useless on a team as bad as the 2013 Brewers. So why is this a positive? Because it gives them a bunch of trade chips!

To varying degrees, every pitcher in the bullpen should be available this coming deadline. My hope is at least two get traded, and ideally, even more. The Brewers should take every chance they can get to improve the young talent in the organization.

Wily Peralta looks like a promising young pitcher again

Peralta looked so good at the end of last year that his uneven first half was extremely frustrating. He has incredible stuff: elite fastball velocity, a nice slider and a two-seamer that I swear defies physics. That’s why it’s great that he’s looked so good his last few times out. If he can keep this up, he’ll soon be the top-of-the-rotation type guy that we envisioned and hoped for.

Norichia Aoki is no fluke

Aoki has been another bright spot on the team, proving to be a legitimate lead-off hitter. The Brewers need to trade him, which is too bad, because I enjoy watching him play. However, 30-year-old corner outfielders with 1.5 seasons left on their contracts don’t serve much of a purpose on a last place team.

The Brewers have a worse record than expected

Yes, this is a good thing. Here’s why: last year, when they were mediocre, they very nearly held on to Zack Greinke, which would have been a cripplingly stupid move. This year, there’s no way they could be tempted into making a “buyer’s” move; they’re just way too far out.

Guys like Gallardo, Hart, and Ramirez have all taken hits to their trade value, which hurts, but there are still players to trade. Kyle Lohse should be dealt, which would erase some of the sting of forfeiting a first round pick for him. Aoki should be dealt. Relievers should be dealt. There will likely be no grand prize like last year’s Greinke trade, but the Brewers have a real chance to once again bolster the 2014 and 2015 teams. And if Gallardo can put a few good starts together in the next couple weeks, it’s possible they could nab something very good for him.

I’ll have more to come on the trade deadline shortly, but I thought this would be an interesting way of illustrating how I felt the season has gone so far.

Catching Up

Posted by Steve

After a hiatus, there are a number of things to write about. To cover some of what we’ve  missed, let’s roll out a Pitchers and Catchers Report Cornucopia of Thoughts (#ThoughtCornucopia).

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I might as well address the Ryan Braun thing first, even though I’m already tired of it. All I know is that we don’t know if Braun has used anything, and I’m plenty annoyed by people acting like they do (either way). All I know is the only “evidence” to prove him guilty is two pieces of handwritten notes. Additionally, articles like this exist.

It’s my personal opinion that a sizeable percentage of MLB players are using some sort of PED, and it’s become hard for me to care too much. My problem is the double standard that exists. Todd Helton and Tony La Russa get DUIs, something that literally endangers the lives of others, and they can still be seen as “great baseball guys” or better yet, “great guys.” Just watch Todd Helton this season. He won’t be booed at opposing parks, yet Ryan Braun will be skewered. And I’m not saying Todd Helton necessarily deserves to be booed—just trying to illustrate this strange hatred of PEDs.

A quick Google search reveals several writers mentioning Braun and Helton in the same article, and even a Baseball Nation article titled “Todd Helton’s arrest and Ryan Braun’s involvement with Biogenesis.” Might as well have been “Poker tips and the mating rituals of lemurs.” They’re just as similar, and I’m equally uninterested in reading both articles.

Same thing with the BBWA voting nobody into the HOF despite many deserving candidates. Will Tony La Russa have any trouble whatsoever getting into the HOF? Of course not, even though what he did was more harmful, dangerous, and reckless than using PEDs.

The same goes for the crazy double standard that victimizes baseball. The NFL has incredibly lenient testing, while baseball uses freaking blood tests. Yet which sport is seen as having a substance abuse problem?

Anyway, this ended up being less about Braun and more about baseball in general. Hopefully he can avoid a suspension.

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The news of the day is the re-tear of Mat Gamel’s surgically repaired ACL. You have to feel awful for Gamel, but to be honest, it’s likely that this is not a huge loss. The two options that might seem the most obvious are to either let Taylor Green, Hunter Morris, or Khris Davis have the first base job while Corey Hart is out. I have supported letting Taylor Green play third and moving Aramis Ramirez to first base in the past, but I don’t see that happening for two reasons: One, Corey Hart should be back by mid-May (don’t see them moving Ramirez for just six weeks), and two, the Brewers just don’t seem to like Taylor Green that much.

I think it’s more likely that we see Alex Gonzalez play first, which is not a pretty thought. Gonzalez as a shortstop is just fine and dandy, but certainly not as a first baseman.

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Meanwhile, the Brewers ended up not signing a starting pitcher. While I am a bit surprised, I am not disappointed. If the choice came to either no free agent SPs or three years for Ryan Dempster, I’m fine with no free agents.

The Brewers did make a couple nice, low-risk signings in lefty relievers Tom Gorzelanny and Mike Gonzalez, but relievers are not the difference makers that starters are.

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This all goes to my last post, which still holds true a couple months later. The Brewers are very likely not making the playoffs this year. The fact that they are now down to their third string first basemen (and we aren’t even sure who that is yet) doesn’t make me feel any better than I did a couple months ago. PECOTA projects the Brewers for a 79-83 record and an 18.3% chance of making the playoffs. That sounds about right to me, and in fact, I’d say they have a greater chance of finishing last than first. The awful Houston Astros added a few wins to the Brewers’ record last year, but without them in the division there shouldn’t be a truly awful team in the NL Central (I actually kind of like the Cubs’ starting rotation).

Just because I do not have the same optimism that I had the last couple years at this time doesn’t mean there isn’t much to look forward to this season. I am anxious to see how some of the young starting pitchers do, I am excited for Jean Segura, and I have hope that Carlos Gomez can build on a career year. And if they are struggling, the trade deadline should be an exciting time. Gomez, Nori Aoki, Ramirez, Corey Hart, and a number of others would all be candidates to be traded.

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And finally, just because I don’t want this to seem entirely negative, I’m a big fan of the fan-designed uniforms the Brewers will be wearing in Spring Training. The hats are okay, but the uniforms are pretty slick in my opinion. I really like the idea of combining the old logos with the more current colors, which is what I was hoping the Brewers would do a few years ago when they introduced the current retro unis instead.

Opening Weekend Observations

Posted by Steve

At the risk of over-analyzing something that I saw in the first three games of a 162-game season, here are some thoughts I have after watching the Brewers and Cardinals.

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The Cardinals still have a great offense, most likely the best in the National League if they stay healthy. Of course, that’s a big if with the age and health history of many of their core players, but still.

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That fact makes Zack Greinke’s performance on Saturday all the more impressive. I’m not going to say that Greinke is now going to have a monster season because he had a good start in his first game, but then again, I thought he’d have a monster season before that game anyway. From the bad luck to reports of his new cut fastball to Ryan Braun saying he looks like a man on a mission, it just seems like he’s poised to make a run at the Cy Young. Obviously, you have to hope the Brewers can get him signed as quickly as possible.

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Ryan Braun is still good. This is in no way surprising, and normally, it isn’t even important that he looks good after three games. But in his strange case, the better he does early, the less of a story his suspension saga becomes.

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Corey Hart was obviously the story for the Brewers. Hard to believe up until 10 days ago or so they didn’t even know if he’d be ready to play in the first few series. He’s locked in. He reminds me of Geoff Jenkins in that he tends to get white hot for stretches and carry the offense. That was actually a conversation I had this weekend: Would you take Corey Hart or Geoff Jenkins? Based on my gut feeling, I thought that they probably had very similar numbers. Sure enough, their career numbers are almost identical, and sure enough, Jenkins is on Hart’s to 10 list of similar batters through age 29 at Baseball Reference.

Anyway, it would be swell if he kept up this hitting for a while.

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If Hart is the positive story from this weekend, the bullpen has to be the negative one. I still ask why Marco Estrada was considered a lock for the bullpen entering spring, but other than that, I am not reading into anything at all. I will wait to see how they look against a non-Cardinals offense before I get worried.

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George Kottaras is handsome and hits deep home runs. He also needs to hit higher than 8th when he starts.

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Now for my favorite part of the weekend: the Brewers’ defense. This is one where I’m not trying to get too excited after three games, but it’s clear that Alex Gonzalez is a big upgrade over Yun-E. He needs to be hitting eighth, though. Also, I was encouraged by what I saw from Mat Gamel, although a lot of that is just comparing it to how bad Prince Fielder is.

Tidbit #2

Posted by Steve

So much for the break from Ryan Braun stuff. This tidbit isn’t really much of a tidbit after all: it potentially could make Braun’s entire case. Yet, somehow, nobody is talking about it. Will Carroll, formerly of Baseball Prospectus and now of Sports Illustrated, is considered a doping expert and has published a book on the topic. He has been talking all weekend about his piece with info that nobody wanted to host. Apparently it was too similar to the one SI already had? Except for the fact it had info nobody else’s did, so I don’t really understand.

Anyway, Carroll decided to put his article on Amazon for 99 cents. Rather than link to that, I want to share an article that discusses Carroll’s info. It links to the Amazon article if you are so interested in splurging.

The author, Chad Moriyama, is a Dodgers blogger–something I found a bit interesting, because many Dodgers fans were calling for the MVP to go to Matt Kemp after this Braun story broke (Kemp should have won the MVP in the first place anyway, but that’s beside the point). Anyway, he’s very objective in this piece, and most of his commenters seem to be as well.

He also attacks the “technicality” angle, correctly pointing out that chain of custody is part of the science. And he highlights the new info that we’ve only seen from Carroll: Braun’s defense team was able to replicate the positive test in a new sample by following the same procedure as Braun’s handler.

This is again, a piece of evidence that should exonerate Braun, yet no national media member has run with this. ESPN sure as hell hasn’t. All the national polls at web sites show that the majority of people believe Braun is guilty, yet this hasn’t been widely reported? Asinine. People aren’t hearing the entire story.

Of course, there’s no total proof that Braun is innocent, but you cannot say there is for any other MLB player, either. All the facts that have come in over the last 4-5 days show that there is no logical way to assuredly proclaim Braun’s guilt, and that anyone doing so is ignoring evidence.