Posted by Steve
So much to talk about… Where to begin? The Crew has been playing well lately. April has pretty much gone as expected. Struggled through the first half of the month against tougher teams and good pitchers, and making up ground against ones who aren’t as good. They continue to completely own the Pirates. I believe it’s 14 straight wins, which is just downright batty. Anyway, let’s get this party started quickly.
I’ll start with the topic that was the inspiration for the post title. Incidentally, if you know what the title is referencing, you have good taste.
The Brewers are walking like it’s nobody’s business! The team is currently fourth in the NL in walks, compared to ninth last season. Two guys I harped on all last season for poor plate discipline, Corey Hart and Ryan Braun, have really been great this month. Hart had 27 walks all of last season but has 12 this month. Last night he was 2-2 with three walks! Braun has an incredible 1:1 k/bb ratio with 14 walks and just 14 strikeouts. Offensively, Braun, Cameron and Hart have been tremendous in April. If Braun and Hart are able to keep up this plate discipline all season, they’ll have monster years. Braun in particular will challenge for the MVP.
Of course it’s so incredibly early, and things could go south in a hurry for those two as far as patience is concerned, but it was still worth discussing.
You’re probably assuming I’m going to use this section to rain compliments on my guy Rickie Weeks for what he’s done so far this season. Not the case. As encouraging as the power numbers have been for Weeks (who would have thought he’d be tied for the team lead in home runs at this point?), I’m a bit concerned about his lack of walks so far. Weeks has just three walks this month compared to 19 strikeouts. He’s hitting .268, and I figured if Weeks hit .268 he’d have an OBP of .370 or .380. Well, it’s just .318 (he also has three HBPs).
Just like I’m not ready to proclaim Braun and Hart as patient hitters after one month, I’m not ready to make any conclusions about Weeks’ lack of walks so far. This is the naked eye test, which means take this with a grain of salt, but it appears to me that Weeks is being more aggressive at the plate. That’s helped him make better contact, which is something he needed to do. Last year he let a lot of hittable strikes float by, and he’s not doing that as much this season.
His increase in slugging has coincided with a drop in OBP. Whether that’s a correlation is unclear at this point, but let’s hope not. The hope was that he’d pick up the slugging without sacrificing the OBP. I want Ian Kinsler, not Brandon Phillips.
Side note: Speaking of Kinsler, want reason #21,432 the MVP voting is a joke?
Dustin Pedroia last year: .326 batting average, .376 on-base percentage, .493 slugging percentage, won MVP.
Ian Kinsler last year: .319 batting average, .375 on-base percentage, .517 slugging percentage, 20th in MVP voting.
You’re probably assuming I’m going to use this section to rain compliments on my guy Mark DiFelice for what he’s done so far this season. And you’re absolutely correct! DiFelice has easily been the Brewers best reliever this year. The best way to evaluate a pitcher is by defense-independent numbers: walks, strikeouts and home runs allowed. So far, DiFelice is walking 2.5 per nine innings, striking out 10.6 per nine innings and allowing .8 home runs per nine innings. All three figures are outstanding.
Before the season started, I told a few people at work the Brewers were going to get a huge season from DiFelice. Nobody had even heard of him; keep in mind these are all baseball nuts. It’s now reached the point where I feel the need to make an announcement after each scoreless inning Big D throws. I come home from work, and the first thing I say to my roommate is “1-2-3 inning, two Ks for DiFelice!” I’m sure everyone’s beyond annoyed already. Only five more months guys!
Oh, it’s already nice having Trevor Hoffman. This is very reminiscent of the Brewers adding Mike Cameron to the roster at the end of April last year. I like how the bullpen shapes up with Hoffman in place.
I do have one gripe. I couldn’t help but notice the sound of a chiming bell after a Hoffman strikeout the other night. Come on Brewers! This is the same sound effect you used for a “Big Ben” Sheets strikeout! You can’t re-hash the Sheets sound effect! That’s weak sauce! What’s wrong with playing a quick clip of Hell’s Bells or something?
Julio vs. Swindle
I was hoping the Brewers would cut Jorge Julio when Hoffman came off the DL, but instead they optioned R.J. Swindle back to the minors. Swindle, like DiFelice, has great numbers in the minors the last couple seasons. I loved the idea of having two lefties in the bullpen, particularly against teams loaded with left-handed power hitters like the Mets, Phillies and Reds.
Unfortunately, the deciding factor in this decision was not baseball related. It came down to money and options. Julio is set to make around a million dollars, so even though he’s been ineffective (as he was last season), his salary bought him more time. Meanwhile, Swindle had options remaining, so he was the odd man out. Swindle is only 25, so I’m pretty sure he’ll have a lengthy career in the big leagues. Let’s hope the Brewers are the ones to give him that shot.
Well, that didn’t take too long. I already had to chart a Manny Parra game the other day. I had a lot of fun attempting to tell the difference between his splitter, change-up and slider. Making it more fun was the fact that he continues to nibble, issue walks and drive me crazy. I’m beginning to get concerned that Parra’s turning into Oliver Perez. Still waiting on a good start from him. We’ll get one sometime…
Perks of the job
I’ve mentioned funny things that come from watching baseball games all day, with a specific example being that kid in the pink shirt at the Rangers game last year with the flying elbow. There have been some good ones so far in April.
At a Blue Jays game last week, we had a grown man in the stands WITH A GLOVE completely whiff on a foul pop up and take it right off the cheekbone. They showed him two minutes later and he already had a HUGE welt. I think we watched that replay about 10 times.
In the Orioles game the other night, a fly ball was hit down the left field line in foul territory. Nelson Cruz made a nice catch along the wall, but not before a fan who was a good ten feet from where the ball ended up completely leaped onto the field. He also mistimed his jump terrible. The ball was still in the air, and you just saw a guy go flying across the ball about a half second before Cruz caught it.
A lot of come from terrible analysts as well. Bert Blyleven may deserve to be in the Hall of Fame more than anyone currently not in, but all it took was one Twins game for me to decide that he’s a bad analyst. Blyleven and “sideline reporter” Ron Coomer were discussing pitch counts during a Francisco Liriano start. They both felt pitch counts have ruined the game (and completely disregarding the fact that pitchers careers last much longer than they did back in the day). They continued to ridicule the Twins for keeping Liriano on a pitch count. It honestly lasted like three minutes. Finally, the Twins play-by-play announcer, who had been silent for the entire discussion, finally blurted out, “Guys, Liriano missed ALL OF LAST YEAR with an elbow injury!” It was awesome.
During a Mets broadcast, the play-by-play was discussing Bill James and said something along the lines of, “Some guys come from the Bill James school of thought that clutch hitting doesn’t exist.” Ron Darling fired back with this gem: “Well, how many times has Bill James come up to bat with runners in scoring position?” Hilarious! Because we all know you aren’t qualified to discuss, study or have opinions about baseball unless you’ve played it professionally.
Bill may be getting better at his scouting reports, but I assure you, most analysts of other teams are worse. This is an actual scouting report of Jair Jurrjens from a Braves broadcast. It rivals anything Bill had last season.
We want second half J.J.
Can be dyn-o-mite!
I never heard explanations, so I have no clue what chocolate eggs could mean. Somehow, I like it better that way.