Tag Archives: Trevor Hoffman

Trevor Time and Macha… Malaise?

Posted by Steve

News!  One day after the season, and we already have 2010 news to talk about.

First things first.  The Crew put a nice cap on a disappointing season by sweeping the Cardinals in St. Louis.  If that in any way has a negative effect on St. Louis as they head into the playoffs, I’m all for it.  In fact, I will say right now that if the Cardinals do not win the World Series, it will be because they ended the season on a low note–thanks to the Brewers.

An 80-82 record for 2009 stinks, but since I’ve been all about 2010 for the last two months, we can easily make it a good thing!  That record is in the bottom 15 of MLB teams, which means the Brewers can sign a Type A free agent and still keep their first round pick.  I don’t necessarily expect them to do so, but at least it’s an option.

Slipping through the cracks on this crazy Monday afternoon (apparently there’s some football game tonight?) may be the news that Trevor Hoffman has quickly re-signed with the Brewers for next season.  The deal is for $8 million, and Buster Olney reports that there is a mutual option for 2011.

Spending $8 million on someone who will soon be 42 years old is generally a good way to build a bad team, but Hoffman is definitely an exception.  Hoffman was fantastic this season: 1.83 ERA, 0.907 WHIP, 3.43 strikeout to walk ratio.  At worst, he was one of the top 20 relief pitchers in the majors.

Hoffman is getting a raise from the $6 mil he made in 2009, and $8 mil for a closer is about the most I’m comfortable with.  He has a great track record, though, and has showed no sign of slowing down.  The Brewers have every reason to expect him to be a good closer again next season.

The other move I’d like to see get done quickly is the re-signing of Mike Cameron for another year.  Cameron made a comment a few weeks ago along the lines of being “willing to make sacrifices” to come back next season.  That certainly seems to mean a pay cut, or at least no pay raise.

There’s a sentiment that bringing back Hoffman and Cameron eats up money that should be spent on starting pitching, but I don’t agree with it.  These are productive players who are worth their salary.  There are other ways to trim the fat off the payroll and free up space to acquire pitching.  The Brewers should make the following moves:

  • Non-tender Seth McClung.  He was awful this year and will be set to make a couple million bucks next season.  No need to spend that on his 1.03 k/bb ratio.
  • Decline Braden Looper’s $6 million option.  Looper was bad this year–below replacement level, in fact.  His “production” should be replaced and improved upon by a newcomer.
  • Do not, I repeat, DO NOT RE-SIGN JASON KENDALL.  He was quite possibly the worst everyday player in baseball.  Seeing his $4.25 million salary come off the books is a beautiful sight to behold.  I’d much rather let Jonathan Lucroy, Angel Salome and Mike Rivera battle it out and split time.  It probably still won’t be very productive, but it can’t be any worse than what they had this season–and it will be cheap.  Plus, the Brewers are likely to have one black hole in their everyday lineup next year (Escobar), so they can’t afford to play both Escobar and Kendall.
  • Decline David Weathers’ $3.7 million option.  Weathers is no longer good.  His overall numbers this season are poor.  There’s no reason not to give some youngers guys a shot next year.  Someone like John Axford is likely to put up at least the 1.5-ish whip that Weathers brings, only he’ll do it for the league minimum.  I will miss his new nickname used in the BIS office, though:  Jeff Karstens’ dad.

I’m also pretty much resigned to the fact that the Brewers will probably be trading J.J. Hardy, which means at least $4.5 million more off the books (before the salaries of the player(s) they receive in return).

That’s roughly $20 million right there that can be trimmed without losing very much production.  I’d much rather save money there than save it by letting actual productive players (Hoffman and Cameron) walk.

Finally, we’re on to Ken Macha.  He is being brought back next season, and I can’t say I’m surprised.  Doug Melvin was not the driving force behind the firing of Ned Yost, and it’s not surprising that he wouldn’t want to fire a manager that he hand-picked one year ago.

I’m not crazy about the move, but I guess it’s not the worst thing in the world.  He’s certainly not as bad as Ned Yost.  What’s funny is Macha and Yost seem to be polar opposites in a lot of ways.  For the first two months of the season, I thought Macha did an outstanding job with bullpen management.  Meanwhile, “Ned Yost” and “outstanding bullpen management” have never been used in the same sentence until this one was created.

Yost’s strength was with a young team with no pressure to win.  He wasn’t bad when Fielder, Hart, Hardy, Weeks, etc. were all breaking into the big leagues and nobody expected the Brewers to win games.  He was protective of his players to the point of absurdity.  But when the team’s talent grew, Yost was in way over his head.

On the other hand, Macha has only managed winning teams until this season.  He isn’t afraid to criticize a player in the media, which is fine.  He never did anything over the top, and to be honest it was refreshing after listening to Yost say “Soup pitched great!” so many times in 2008.  Because he’s only had winning teams, I didn’t realize that he apparently hates playing young players.  His mishandling of Mat Gamel all season is embarrassing and completely inexcusable.  He abused Yovani Gallardo.  He wasn’t even crazy about playing Alcides Escobar full time when J.J. Hardy was in AAA.  He said Josh Butler would get a start.  Not only did he not give Butler a start; but Butler was sent home before the season even ended with only four major league innings under his belt.  That Craig Counsell continued to get starts in September was also an embarrassment.  Counsell had a good season, but you know what you have in him.  September is the time for non-contenders to get a better look at their young players, and Macha just refused to do that.

Here’s hoping the Brewers field a more talented team next year, because I’m guessing (okay, hoping) that Macha is more equipped for that type of team.

Say, this was fun.  I really enjoyed getting to use the Sha-wuuhhh?? tag again for nostalgia’s sake.

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.

My body too DiFelicious for ya

Posted by Steve

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Obviously, the Brewers are playing well in pretty much all facets of the game over the last couple weeks, but the bullpen in particular has been tremendous.  Since Hoffman came off the DL, everyone has fallen into place and pitched very well.

Hoffman’s numbers this season are hilarious: 8 innings, 3 hits, 0 walks, 8 strikeouts, 0 earned runs and a .231 OPS against.  He has been flawless.  That’s not all, though.  Take a look at how other pitchers have thrown since Hoffman took over as closer.

Mark DiFelice: .375 OPS against

Carlos Villanueva: .534 OPS against

Mitch Stetter: .467 OPS against

Seth McClung: .570 OPS against

Todd Coffey: .757 OPS against

Jorge Julio: .646 OPS against

I realize we’re only talking about a handful of innings for each pitcher, but the point is that literally every reliever on the team has thrown well since Hoffman came off the DL almost three weeks ago.  I’m feel confident with any reliever outside of Jorge Julio, and to a lesser extent, Seth McClung(and if R.J. Swindle replaced Julio I’d feel confident in every reliever).

Ken Macha deserves credit for understanding the strengths of each of his relievers.  Stetter is tough on lefties, but unlike Brian Shouse, can get righties out at a decent rate.  Villanueva is the best option against switch hitters or a staggered lefty-righty lineup because he can use his slider to righties and his changeup to lefties.  DiFelice and Coffey are death to right-handers.  More often than not, Macha has put his relievers in favorable conditions that play to their strengths.  Again, it’s only been six weeks (I feel like I’ve said that a hundred times), but Macha has been a huge improvement over Ned Yost as far as bullpen management is concerned.

This doesn’t really have anything to do with the rest of this post, but I just wanted to further illustrate how well the team has been playing.  Here are MLB rankings over the past week in my fantasy league: Trevor Hoffman 21, Rickie Weeks 28, Ryan Braun 29, Prince Fielder 45.

Before I wrap this up, I once again need to harp on the amazing job Mark DiFelice has done.  He has come out of nowhere to become a lockdown setup man.  It’s really an great story; the guy spent ten years in the minor leagues, and after adding one pitch (the cutter) to his repertoire a couple years ago he has just taken off.  His control is outstanding.  He has issued one unintentional walk in 17 2/3 innings while striking out more than a batter per inning–absurd!  I love the way he does it too–with a slow, low-to-mid-eighties cut fastball that must drive hitters crazy when they can’t hit it.  It’s not like he’s pumping mid-90s heat and wicked sliders up there.

The mancrush I have on him is approaching frightening levels.  Aside from sponsoring his B-Ref page, my facebook profile picture is a photo of him.  I have to imagine I’m the only person on the planet (aside from DiFelice himself, possibly) who can say that.  I may have to order a DiFelice jersey as well.  What can I say?  I can’t help myself.  Just look at him.  He’s better than you, he knows it, but he’s not about to make a big deal out of it or anything.

I dont think you ready fo this jelly, National League.

I don't think you ready fo this jelly, National League.