Monday, December 27, 2010

Brewers Ink Saito

One of the biggest questions for the Brewers this offseason was relief pitching. They took a huge step forward today and addressed that concern by signing veteran right-hander Takashi Saito. According to reports, Saito can earn up to $3.2 million this season if he reaches all of his performance bonuses.

Believe it or not, last season's bullpen wasn't all that bad. Despite ranking near the bottom of baseball in ERA, their peripherals suggested a bit of bad luck was to blame. It was concerning to see the Brewers demolish the eight best bullpen in baseball according to FIP, but changes have been frequent this offseason. The Brewers cut ties with Carlos Villanueva, Todd Coffey and Trevor Hoffman in past couple of months.

Saito, 40, is an upgrade over any of those pitchers if he can stay healthy. After suffering a major arm injury in 2008, many were concerned about the veteran regaining his form. Despite a drop off in his production in 2009, Saito returned to his dominant form in 2010. While pitching for the Braves last season, Saito was incredible. He registered a very impressive 69 strikeouts in just 54 innings, good for a 11.5 K/9 rate. His control also came back as he walked just 17, or a 2.83 BB/9. That good control and movement led to a 2.83 ERA, which just do happened to be his highest while pitching in North America. He also had his highest groundball rate of his career, inducing 43.6% of hitters to keep the ball out of the air. The increased strikeout and GB rates, coupled with better control was good enough to produce a very good 2.43 FIP.

What's even more to like is the price of Saito. Sure injuries and Saito's age are a concern, but they also really helped the Brewers in negotiations. If Saito was a little younger and a more reliable to stay healthy, he would have easily been able to garner a three-year deal, which has been handed out on numerous occations this offseason. But due to those factors, Saito comes really cheap. Better yet, even if Saito is injured, his entire contract isn't even guaranteed. Reports are that the Saito base contract is worth less than $2 million. A really good price for a really good pitcher.

With the signing of Saito, the Brewers now have addressed their bullpen issues. Near the end of games, opposing teams will have to contend with Saito, John Axford and Zach Braddock. If the Brewers are able to bring back Chris Carpuano in a bullpen role, I would assume the roster would be complete. That's one pretty indimidating pitching staff.

Monday, December 20, 2010


This post is not going to be about just how bad Yunieski Bentancourt is. I know, it's tempting to write one so close to acquiring one of the worst players in baseball, but not this post. This going back to one major error the Brewers organization made during last offseason.

Pretty much everyone remembers the trade. The Brewers sent J.J. Hardy to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Carlos Gomez. Immediately, the were many skeptics of this trade. What was even more disappointing was the way the Brewers handled their excess shortstops they had at the time.

The reason the Brewers were so ready to trade Hardy was the young shortstop waiting in the wings: Alcides Escobar. Escobar, 22 at the time, was just coming off a nice season where he actually hit pretty well. In AAA, Escobar had a pretty impressive .298/.353/.409 line, while playing just about everyday. He was then called up to the majors after J.J. Hardy's demotion to AAA. It seemed like an interesting move considering if Hardy stayed in the minors for the remainder of the Sounds' season, he wouldn't hit free agency until 2011. Hardy stayed down there and would have to wait (until after this season) to hit free agency.

However, the move also did another thing.

Sending Hardy to the minors was heavily criticized as the Brewers were just trying to gain another year of service time. While Hardy was struggling, I think everyone could agree this was the Brewers intended action. Hardy was not happy, but while under team control, what choice did he really have?

What happened that offseason was where the mistake occurred.

Hardy was immediately placed on the trading block. What irritated me about this was the way the Brewers did it. They never said Hardy had no chance to return to the club, but the writing was on the wall. They received offers from the Pirates and Orioles, but ended up deciding to go with Minnesota's offer of Gomez. Someone they thought could solidify centerfield in Milwaukee.

By giving the reigns over to Escobar and trading Hardy, the Brewers forced their hand. During his big league career, Hardy was always an asset to the Brewers. He had consecutive 4.0+ WAR seasons prior to 2009. Even in 2009, despite struggling with the bat, his defense was again incredible, as he was still able to post a 1.4 WAR season.

My question to Doug Melvin is, what was the rush? Hardy was under team control and still pretty cheap. Why start Alcides Escobar's service clock a year early? Hardy could have, and should have remained in Milwaukee in 2010. The correct move would have been to let Escobar get more at bats in AAA, further making him ready once 2011 came. There was no question how much Escobar struggled in 2010. A extra year of experience in AAA could have been the remedy.

If the Brewers would have done this, nothing would have affected yesterday's trade. Escobar would have been sent to Kansas City as part of the package and the Brewers would still have Hardy on the team under one more season of control. How appropriate is it the Brewers are now in NL contention and have two glaring weak spots to go along with a great rotation? Carlos Gomez (CF) was traded for Hardy and Yunieski Bentancourt (SS) now plays in the spot where Hardy would have been. Knee jerk reactions, like the Brewers had last season, lead to mistakes. In baseball, mistakes can be very costly.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Brewers Land Greinke; Send Package

The Brewers said this offseason they were looking to add two starters after a dismal 2010. After acquiring Shaun Marcum less than two weeks ago, the Brewers made a huge splash today in reeling in Zack Greinke from the Kansas City Royals. Along with Greinke, Yunieski Bentancourt heads to Milwaukee in exchange for Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress.

My first reaction to this trade was skepticism. There is no question Greinke is one of the best pitchers in baseball, but at what cost was he coming to Milwaukee. A lot of young talent was shipped in this trade. Young talent that also was very cheap and could have helped for a longtime. It's very difficult to analyse this trade considering just how many variables go into it.

The Good

In Greinke, the Brewers have landed an absolute ace and now have one of the best rotations in all of baseball. Placing Greinke with Gallardo, Marcum, Wolf and Narveson, the Brewers rotation really only trails the Philadelphia Phillies compilation of studs. If this season can tell us anything, pitching wins games in baseball. With the staff the Brewers have assembled this offseason, winning games should happen pretty often in Milwaukee. At least for the next two years.

Greinke, 27, is locked up through the 2012, making $13.5 million each of the next two seasons. With a contract extension with Greinke being very tough, this essentially is the window for the Brewers to win. Over the past three seasons, Greinke has racked up an average WAR of 6.5 a season. That was highlighted by his 2009 season, where after posting a 9.4 WAR, he was awarded the American League Cy Young award. He regressed a little bit last season and saw his ERA raise from 2.16 in 2009, to 4.17 in 2010. While a drop in strikeouts could have been to blame, I would say his numbers were a little skewed by a low LOB% (runners left on base). His career average was 76.3% before last season, but he saw that fall to 65.3%. His FIP of 3.34 last season is a much better representation of where his numbers should have been. Coming over to the NL Central, Greinke should thrive. There is no question he could be a Cy Young candidate again in 2011.

It was really tough to see Lorenzo Cain go in this deal. He has been a pleasant surprise during his time in Milwaukee. Couple that with him playing meant Carlos Gomez wasn't, and many will understand just why Cain quickly became a fan favorite here. But, by all accounts, this was the right time to sell Cain. High. There's no question Cain posted good numbers while in Milwaukee, but he had two things working against him.

Cain's BABIP was one of the main reasons he was excelling. During his three stints in different levels last year, Cain had BABIP's of .402, .371 and .370. There is no doubt those numbers are unsustainable and will come down. If Cain is going to be a good major league player, his strikeout numbers need to come down from the 20% range. If he continues to strikeout at that pace, his value will be limited.

The Bad

Yunieski Bentancourt. Yikes. In trading for Bentancourt the Brewers have acquired one of the worst shortstops in baseball. He can't hit. He doesn't walk. He's not fast. He doesn't play defense. That about sums up Bentancourt's game. His career line of .272/.296/.393 is not inspiring. He does have some power, which should only improve after trading in the very large ballparks in Seattle and KC for Miller Park. He was able to post a career high 16 home runs last season. Even though, if you are expecting a good hitter in return, keep dreaming.

But wait, Alcides Escobar couldn't hit either. While that may be true, Escobar was at least capable with the glove. Bentancourt isn't. Over the past three seasons, his UZR of -37.6 ranks at the bottom for major league shortstops. In 2009, Bentancourt had a -16.7 UZR, the same season where he had an incredibly bad -1.7 WAR. Yes you read that correctly: a -1.7 WAR. The more playing time Bentancourt gets, if any, hurts the Brewers and the value of this trade. He has one year left on his contract, where the Brewers will need to pick up $3 million and a $2 million buyout the Royals will pick up next year in the trade. I really wonder if acquiring Greinke and Bentancourt together was the only way. My guess is it was.

The Brewers parted with a lot of cheap, young talent in this trade. The key to creating a successful franchise is building a good farm system and utilizing them before they are eligible to cash in big. By trading players like Escobar, Cain, Odorizzi and Jeffress, the Brewers forfeited that. The player I'm most worried about giving up in this trade is Odorizzi. Yes he is years away from the bigs, but he has all the tools to be a good front line starter. Parting with him and Jeffress, two pitching prospects, in the same trade is tough to swallow. Especially considering the lack of pitching prospect the Brewers have.


After the trade was first announced, I was disappointed. I'm starting to come around to it however. The Brewers did give up a lot, but really didn't part with proven major league talent, or top tier prospects (other than Odorizzi). In order to acquire a pitcher like Greinke, you are going to have to give up talent. I think the Brewers gave up their share of that in this trade, but have set themselves up for a really good team for the next two years. What worries me is what happens after that. A trade that wipes out a good portion of your farm system can be very tough to cope with over the long haul. It's trades like that that can set up teams for prolonged periods of losing. I'm beyond excited for the next couple of seasons, but worried to say the least for what happens after that.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday's Rumors: Cain, Uehara, Loney

The Brewers have moved quickly the past couple of days and apparently have no signs of slowing down. Here are the early rumors coming out of Orlando.

The Brewers are apparently willing to trade Lorenzo Cain in order to secure another starting pitcher, according to Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse. Trading Cain would mean Carlos Gomez starting everyday in centerfield. Yikes.

The Brewers are reportedly one of six teams who are interested in free agent reliever Koji Uehara, according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. They say Uehara is Japanese for control. Let's see, 55 strikeouts and five walks. Yeah, I'd be interested too.

There have been some mumbling connecting the Brewers to James Loney, if Prince Fielder is dealt. This one comes from Ken Rosenthal, who cites sources. It's pretty tough to get excited about Loney, who has only posted a WAR above two once (2.1 in 2007). If Fielder is traded, Derrek Lee should be the bat coming back to Milwaukee via free agency in my opinion.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Brewers Acquire Marcum from Jays

The Brewers went a long way in shoring up their 2011 rotation Sunday by trading for Toronto Blue Jays starter Shaun Marcum. However, the move didn't come cheap as the Brewers had to send one of their top prospects, Brett Lawrie, in exchange.

The early reaction I have gaged from this trade is Lawrie is a lot to give up for a pitcher like Shaun Marcum. That may be true, but I also believe many are underestimating the talent level of Marcum.

The evaluation of this trade breaks down to two different points.

1) Marcum's talent and health issues

2) Marcum's signability

3) Lawrie's future

When looking at the first point, there's little doubt that Marcum is a talented pitcher. Last season, he was able to post an ERA of 3.64 in the high powered AL East. That was right about where he should have been as he registered at a 3.74 FIP. Last season was highlighted by his sparkling 1.98 BB/9 and a strikeout to walk ratio of nearly four to one. Those are very good numbers, but there was also some concern with Marcum's finish to the season and how it related to his past.

Near the end of the 2008 season, Marcum left a start with elbow pain. Days later, it was revealed Marcum would have to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair a ligament in his pitching elbow. Marcum subsequently missed all of the 2009 season before returning to be the Blue Jays opening day starter in 2010. During the first half, Marcum cruised to a 3.44 ERA, but struggled in the second half. After the All-Star game, Marcum's ERA was more than a half run higher than prior to it. Many attributed it to his increased workload and shoulder fatigue after coming off the surgery. One closer look at the numbers revealed an increase in Marcum's strikeout rates, while decreasing the amount of walks he issued after the break. If anything, his peripherals would suggest he pitched a little better after the break last season.

To be successful in Milwaukee, Marcum will need to keep the ball on the ground more frequently. Prior to the injury, Marcum was able to induce groundballs better than 40% of the time in his career. In 2010, he saw that number drop to 38.4%. Not a huge dropoff, but something to look at in the future.

Many are hinging the success of this trade of if the Brewers are able to retain Marcum. Right now, Marcum is entering his second season of arbitration, meaning he'll hit the free agent market after the 2012 season. I'm personally very high on Marcum and think locking him up sooner than later is the correct route the Brewers should take. The closer Marcum comes to free agency, the more the Brewers are going to have to shell out to keep him. Coming off a serious arm injury, the risk does come high by doing this. However, having a full healthy season under him puts my mind at ease a bit. I also believe the injury could leave Marcum more willing to listen to extension offers and lock up his financial security for years to come. Word of out Milwaukee is the Brewers "think they have a chance to sign Marcum longterm," according to Ken Rosenthal.

On to Lawrie.

There is no question the Brewers parted with a valuable piece in this trade. Lawrie, 20, is one of, if not the Brewers top prospect. His major league service clock is yet to start ticking, giving him a full five or six seasons under team control. At AA Huntsville this season, the second baseman was able to post a pretty impressive .285/.346/.449 line in full time play. That equated to a very nice .361 wOBA. While Lawrie's offense seems to be progressing nicely, his glove work hasn't. There has long been questions on if Lawrie is too much of a liability to stay in the infield. Scouts have said it's an alarming problem that could easily land Lawrie in a corner outfield spot sooner than later. If that's the case, that really hurts Lawrie's value as slugging second basemen are much more difficult to find than a productive corner outfielder.

I'm not saying Lawrie wasn't a lot to give up, but I do like this trade for the Brewers. They landed a front line starting pitcher to help Yovani Gallardo atop the rotation. This year's playoffs are a perfect indication of just how important starting pitching is. By landing Marcum, the Brewers helped close the gap that they will need to overcome to compete in the National League. They may still be a pitcher away, but this is a step in the right direction.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Breaking Down the Carlos Villanueva Trade

In a surprising move to say the least, the Milwaukee Brewers traded reliever Carlos Villanueva to the Toronto Blue Jays Friday. In return, the Brewers will receive a player to be named later in the deal.

Pretty safe to say this one came out of nowhere.

Just one day after essentially cutting ties with Todd Coffey, the Brewers wasted no time in dealing Villanueva. What the Brewers are set to get in return could a difficult answer.

The player to be named later tag doesn't always mean garbage is coming back. Sometimes there are matters that do not allow the player to be named during the deal. One of those matters would be the impending Rule 5 draft. So likely, the Brewers will be getting back one of Toronto's Rule 5 candidates. After quickly looking over the list, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Brewers pick up Brad Emaus.

Emaus, 24, has put up solid numbers in each of the past couple season while playing in the Blue Jays minor league system. This culminated in 2010, where between AA and AAA, Emaus posted a .290/.398/.476 in 534 plate appearances. Those are some pretty impressive walk and power numbers from a second baseman. Also, selecting Emaus makes even more sense after recently letting Joe Inglett go. Better yet, Emaus is a right-handed bat, something the Brewers desperately need of the bench.

Of course, this is all speculation, but it seems like an okay return for Villanueva. I'm disappointed to see Villanueva go, but this is a much better way than if they were to just have non-tendered him. At least the Brewers are able to possibly get a useful piece in return.

Villanueva, 27, has a lot of talent. Last season, he struck out an incredible 11.45 batters per nine innings pitched. However, his inability to keep the ball on the ground usually is not a good recipe for success in hitter friendly Miller Park. Despite the high strikeout and low walk totals, Villanueva limped his way to a 4.61 ERA. His FIP would suggest he was a bit unlucky as he came in with a 3.74.

I've always like Villanueva. I think if he is put in the right situation, he would be a very good pitcher. I don't know if the right situation is Toronto though. The Rogers Centre is a tough park for a flyball pitcher like Villanueva to succeed. I hope he can bounce back, but it's tough to imagine running through the gauntlet of AL East lineups will help matters.

Time will tell if this move pays off, but the Brewers need to start it off correctly by selected Emaus as their return. Now down two bullpen arms, I expect the Brewers to heavily explore the free agent market for a reliever. Quite possibly, they could even select one in next weeks Rule 5 draft. One thing is for sure, as of now, the talent in the Brewers bullpen has talent a step back.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Brewers Non-Tender Inglett, Coffey

The Milwaukee Brewers decided to cut ties with pitcher Todd Coffey and infielder Joe Inglett Thursday. Here are some quotes from Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin on the moves.

Todd Coffey:

"We felt we'd look at what else is out there. I talked to Todd and he understood. This gives us more flexibility with our money."

While there is no way to argue not signing Coffey frees up money, there are some things to be cautious about in that statement. It leads me to believe the Brewers are going to test the free agent market for help in the bullpen. Contracts in recent seasons are exhibit A on just how risky that proposition can be. Just last season, over $11 million was shelled out to Latroy Hawkins and Trevor Hoffman, who responded with a combined ERA over seven. I'm not saying that bargains can't be found out there, but I think the Brewers dropped the ball here. If I had the chance to sign Todd Coffey to a one year deal with little financial risk, there's no way I'm passing that up.

Joe Inglett

"We wanted to keep ourselves open there. I told Joe we might get back to him if he doesn't find something else. He did a good job for us."

Despite struggling horribly near the end of the season, Inglett have a solid season in Milwaukee. I was a little more surprised with this move considering how successful Inglett was off the bench. However, that's not to say I didn't understand it. If there were some thing the Brewers struggled with last season, it was the lack of a right handed bat and power off the bench. By non-tendering Joe Inglett, the Brewers allow themselves room to address those problems. Generally speaking, utility infielders who can handle the bat are tough to come by and many would question this move. However, looking at the state of Milwaukee's bench, I would argue this was the correct move.

To Tender or Not: Todd Coffey

With less than 24 hour before Thursday's 11 PM CT non-tender deadline, the Milwaukee Brewers have an interesting question to answer. Should they tender a contract to Todd Coffey?

Coffey was a Cincinnati castaway during the 2008 season. With a bilegured bullpen, the Brewers quickly snatched up the righty and never looked back. Over the final weeks of the '08 season and all of 2009, Coffey was arguably Milwaukee's most consistent reliever. During that year plus, Coffey logged 91 innings while posting a very strong 2.67 ERA. His peripherals also suggested this was no fluke.

Over that time, Coffey's K:BB ratio was nearly 3.5:1. Coffey always excelled during his career as a groundball specialist, which followed him to the Brew City. His GB:FB rate check in strongly at 1.25. There was little to suggest a fall off was coming. Well, in 2010, those peripherals didn't really fall off at all. In fact, Coffey was able to check in with a career high 8.1 K/9. Problem for Coffey was that also came with some regression in other areas. He walked nearly one more batter per nine innings and watched his groundball rate go from 52.3% to 47.6%. Making matters worse, his HR/FB rate increased to his highest since arriving in Milwaukee. Coffey surrendered the same amount of dingers in 21 fewer innings between 2009 and 2010.

In the end, this all lead to a lofty 4.76 ERA for Coffey. By anyone's account, one can assume luck wasn't on Coffey's side in 2010 (His FIP was more than a half run less at 4.20). The real question for the Brewers is what do they do now?

Todd Coffey made just north of $2 million last season. If the Brewers offer him arbitration, he is likely going to see a raise despite his troubles. For sake of keeping it simple, let's assume that if offered, Coffey's 2011 salary would check in right under $3 million. So, is Todd Coffey worth that figure next season? Many say no, I say yes.

Although bullpen help can come cheaply from the minor leagues (i.e. 2010 Milwaukee Brewers), there are just too many unanswered questions for the Brewers to non-tender Todd Coffey. Despite his poor performance in 2011, Coffey is still a workhorse out of the bullpen. The past couple of season's, the Brewers bullpen has been extremely overworked. Is it really worth saving the $3 million we could give to Coffey just to watch the same problem happen year in and year out? Sure a lot of blame lies with starting pitching, but once in the bullpen, a team needs guys who are able to go multiple innings, or pitch in back to back games. If there is one thing Coffey has proved in his time in Milwaukee, it's that he is always ready to take the ball.

I fully expect Coffey's number to revert back to normal. Does that mean a sub-three ERA next season? Maybe not, but I highly doubt that a 4.00+ ERA is in store in 2011. I fully agree wasting money in the bullpen can be a huge mistake. Maybe I'm missing something here, but tendering Todd Coffey would hardly be a waste.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

End of Season Awards

The Milwaukee Brewers lost Sunday, wrapping their season up with a 77-85 record. Let's take a look at the team awards.

MVP: Rickie Weeks

This was a lot easier for me than most would think. Sure Corey Hart had a higher batting average, more home runs and more RBI's, but this argument isn't even close. Weeks plays second base, while Corey Hart plays in right field. Second base tends to be a much lighter hitting position than the average right fielder would produce. Secondly, Weeks plays average defense, while Hart is an absolute hack in the field. This season, advanced fielding statistics said Weeks's defense saved the Brewers 1.6 this season. Hart's troubles ended up costing the Brewers 5.9 runs in the same measure.

Anyway, Weeks posted an incredible 6.0 WAR on the season. That was the highest on the club by far. Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder finished tied for second with a 4.3 WAR each. Rickie Weeks is a very good player who deserved a healthy season to show what he could do. He got that in 2010 and didn't disappoint.

Cy Young: Yovani Gallardo

Yovani, much like in 2009, was a lone wolf this season. The pitching struggles that cost the Brewers this season had little to do with their ace. Here's what you need to know:

31 Games Started
185 Innings Pitched
3.84 ERA
3.03 FIP
200 Strikeouts
75 Walks
178 Hits

That 3.84 ERA doesn't do justice to just how good Yovani was this season. Anytime a pitcher nears 10 K/9, that's a very impressive season. For the year, Yovani was able to rack up a WAR of 4.6. He's an absolute run away for Cy Young of the staff considering the next closest pitcher in term of value was John Axford at 2.0. If Yovani is able to limit his walks a bit next season, the sky is the limit for him.

Comeback Player of the Year: Corey Hart

This a no brainer. The difference between 2009 Corey Hart and this season's version was astronomical. His ISO (isolated power) jumped nearly .100 points. His slugging percentage was raised by .105 points. Although his OBP stayed pretty much the same (.003 higher), he was a great #2 hitter. Betting behind Rickie Weeks led to a ton of RBI opportunities this season and Hart cashed in. He was one of three Brewers to reach the 100 RBI plateau. Pretty incredible for a guy who was nearly cut at the beginning of the season. Hopefully he is able to keep up this level of production after signing his healthy contract extension. If I were the Brewers, I would strongly consider moving Hart to first base to cover up his horrid defensive prowess (-5.9 UZR this season). Despite his struggles in the field, Hart still had a 3.3 WAR, or 2.6 wins better than 2009.

Rookie of the Year: John Axford

Talk about coming out of nowhere. Axford burst onto the scene in a mop up role after being promoted mid-season. With the struggles only increasing in the 'pen, Axford soon got his chance to pitch in meaningful games. That responsibility only increased after Trevor Hoffman lost his ability to close ball games. Axford recorded his first save of 2010 in Minnesota on May 23rd. He would go onto to close out 24 games, while blowing just three saves. In 58 big league innings, Axford struck out a ridiculous 76 batters, while walking 27. Those are impressive numbers for a pitcher who came out of nowhere. He had a 2.0 WAR in 2010 and looks to be a mainstay in the bullpen for years to come.

Surprise of the Year: Lorenzo Cain

In 2009, Lorenzo Cain had a tough season. After being diagnosed with a knee injury early in the season, Cain really never recovered. He played injured the entire season and his numbers suffered greatly. That year, Cain had an OBP under .300, while playing between A and AA. In 2010, Cain regained his top prospect form. While playing between AA and AAA, Cain was able to post an OBP of .402 in 331 at bats. After seeing the terrible play of Carlos Gomez and an injury, the Brewers were left with a void in centerfield. Cain grabbed the bull by the horns. In 144 at bats, Cain hit .306 for the Brewers. His walk rate took a slight dip, resulting in a lower OBP of .344. However, Cain was able to slug .417 in his big league at bats. He also played tremendous defense. In limited playing time, advanced fielding statistics pegged Cain at a 2.7 UZR. All that added up to a 1.1 WAR, despite playing just 20% of the season. Pretty impressive after Cain's 2009.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chris Narveson is Dealing

As the Milwaukee Brewers struggled their way through the middle of the summer, they started losing their followers. Let's face it, there's not a ton to get excited about a team just 'playing out the games.' However, one very big reason to get giddy is the close to Chris Narveson's season.

On Thursday, Narveson held the Mets to one run over 6.2 innings. It was just another impressive start for Narveson, something that has become normal over the past two months. He fanned nine Mets and walked just three. Even more encouraging was Narveson's ability to keep the infield busy. Of the 11 in-play outs, eight were on the ground. It was a great way to cap a good season for Narveson.

Entering August, Narveson was 8-7 with an uninspiring ERA of 5.68. While advanced statistics suggested he deserved a better fate, there's not too much to write home about with an ERA in the high fives. His main problem seemed to come from his fly ball tendencies. While his HR/FB ratio wasn't out of the ordinary, Narveson was only able to keep the ball on the ground 35% of the time. Needles to say, with hitters consistently elevating the ball, home runs were going to be surrendered.

Then August came.

Narveson immediately seemed like a new pitcher. It started at Wrigley Field on August 3rd and ended tonight at Citi Field. Here are Nerveson's numbers over his final 11 starts.

64.0 IP, 53 Hits, 26 Runs (25 ER), 4-2, 3.52 ERA, 57 K's, 22 BB's

Although Narveson was never blessed with a triple digit fastball, he has shown a pretty good ability to locate the ball. That has been even more apparent of late.
Narveson was tagged in two of those 11 starts. In both outings, his control was missing (seven walks to just one strikeout). Even with those poor outings, Narveson was able to post a 2.5:1 K:BB ratio in the final two months of 2010. Very encouraging stuff to see from the young southpaw.

So just exactly where does Narveson's value stand for the Brewers? Despite his success of late, I'd say everyone can pretty much agree Narveson isn't an ace, but more a very good back end of the rotation type. He can strikeout batters regularly and doesn't walk too many. Just how good he will come down to how well he can get ground balls. In a stadium like Miller Park, flyball pitchers don't last too long. In 2010, Narveson's groundball rate was just over 40%. While that's not terrible, it's not that good. For him to succeed that will need to come down.

Despite his high flying frequency, Narveson was still able to post a FIP of 4.21 this season. That's exactly what the Brewers are going to need out of him next season. He wont be able to file for free agency until 2015 and isn't arbitration eligible until 2012. His value to this organization is immense. It's not too often good young pitchers can be had for next to nothing. A thanks has to be given to the St. Louis Cardinals for parting ways too soon with him. It's just a great find by Doug Melvin. How about instead of worrying about developing our own pitching talent, we just take other teams? I guess that's easier said than done.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Farewell Dave Bush

Despite meaning little to either organization, Wednesday's game between the Mets and Brewers held some meaning. After holding the Mets scoreless for six innings, Dave Bush was pulled in what will likely be his final start in a Brewers uniform.

This is a tough post to write for me considering Dave Bush is one of my favorite Brewers. I've always seen him as a reliable pitcher who, although not spectacular, was a good value to the organization. Could he throw in the upper 90's? No. Could he be considered an ace? No, but Bush always seemed to somehow contribute something to the team. His fastball topped out in the mid to upper 80's and he gave up his fare share of gopher balls, but at the end of the year, his numbers suggested just how underrated he was.

Bush was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays during the 2005 offseason as part of the trade that sent Lyle Overbay out of town. At the time, I considered Bush and Zach Jackson a relatively minor return for Overbay, but Bush came into Milwaukee firing strike after strike. His 2006 season was very impressive. Bush went 12-11 that year and posted a 4.41 ERA. Although those numbers might not blow you away, his advanced numbers suggested a much different outcome.

In 2006, Bush registered as a near four WAR player. His strikeout to walk ratio was a mere 4:1. Speaking of walks, Bush just didn't issue them. His 1.63 BB/9 ranked next to the top in the NL. His FIP was a much more respectable 3.98. Easy to say, the future looked bright for Bush.

Although Bush was useful in his next four seasons, he just wasn't the same pitcher. After his 3.8 WAR season in 2006, Bush combined for just 3.1 WAR from '07 to '10. His strikeouts and walks were still decent, although not as impressive. So, what lead to Bush's average seasons? Simply, Bush wasn't able to keep the ball on the ground.

In 2006, Bush induced grounders 46.6% of the time. He saw that number consistently drop over the next three seasons ('07: 43.4%, '08: 41.1%, '09: 34.4%). This season, Bush was able to up that total to a still disappointing 39.7% of the time. Combine those numbers with Bush's tendency to allow the bleacher bums to take home a souvenir. He was very consistent over that time frame by average a HR every 12% of the time a ball was hit in the air in just about every season. While that is just above average for a pitcher, Bush allowed many more flyballs than the average hurler. More flyballs led to many more home runs.

As Bush's command and ability to avoid bleachers left, so did they majority of his success. It all culminated this season when Bush was only able to produce a 0.1 WAR season. A season that will likely be his final in Milwaukee.

I really like Dave Bush, but he's just not that good of a pitcher anymore. After this season, Bush will be a free agent. I just don't see the Brewers spending free agent money on him. Sure he's a relatively decent (way too close to replacement level) option at the back end of a rotation, but the Brewers really have no need for that. After the emergence of Chris Capuano and Chris Narveson, Bush's days were numbered. He will be missed in Milwaukee, but if Bush makes another start in a Brewers uniform, Doug Melvin will have done something wrong.

I was there in Game 3 of the 2008 NLDS, when Bush was able to pitch the Brewers to their first playoff win in a quarter of a century. He was a big reason the Brewers even made the playoffs that season. Thanks for the memories Dave. Your contributions to this organization didn't go unnoticed.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Resurgence of Randy Wolf

After signing this offseason, Randy Wolf did little to earn his large paycheck throughout the first half of 2010.

In his first 21 starts in Milwaukee, Wolf was bad. Actually, Wolf was beyond bad. After those starts, Wolf was 7-9 with an ERA of 5.12. Even more alarming was Wolf's peripherals. His walks were up (63 in 128 IP) and strikeouts had drastically dropped below his career average (82 in 128 IP).

With those struggles, Wolf managed an incredible WAR of -1.1 in that span. Needless to say, the Brewers weren't receiving much of a return on their $29.75 million investment.

When the Brewers signed Wolf, I wasn't entirely blown away. He was a good pitcher who had shown the ability to possess good control, while striking batters out. He was surely an upgrade over the 2009 staff, but the cost wasn't cheap. Shelling out $30 million is always risky, but Wolf seemed like an alright gamble. But after his first half struggles, that contract began to look Suppan-esk. For his first half performance, I gave Wolf an F and deservedly so.

Then, Randy Wolf started pitching more like Randy Wolf.

Start after start Wolf started showing some of his old form. It started on July 26th against the Cincinnati Reds where Wolf went seven very strong innings, striking out five, while walking one. He surrendered just two runs in that game and the Brewers went onto beat the Reds 3-2.

After that, it was like Wolf was again ready to pitch. Between that start and Wednesday's win over those same Reds, it's been an entirely different Wolf on the mound.

In his past 11 starts, Wolf is 6-2 with a 2.57 ERA. What's been even more impressive to me has been his control throughout that stretch. He has walked just 22 batters in 73.2 innings and fanned 53. That also includes one terrible start where Wolf walked five batters without recording a strikeout, which heavily detracts from just how good he has been of late. In those 11 starts, Wolf has managed a 1.6 WAR. For the season,

Wolf's WAR for the season now stands at 0.5. Surely that's not what the Brewers were expecting when they signed him, but Wolf has managed to salvage what would have been one of the most disappointing years for a Brewers pitcher in recent memory.

Going forward, I have a lot more confidence in Randy Wolf. That's something I couldn't have said with a straight face just two months ago.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Brandon Kintzler Interview Rerun

Brandon Kintzler was kind enough to talk to me this summer while playing for the Nashville Sounds. He dominated the minor leagues and has been called up for September. Here is a rerun of his interview from back in June.

As Brandon Kintzler delivered his 12th pitch of the at bat to Memphis Redbirds shortstop Tyler Greene Tuesday, he had to be frustrated. He's noticed quite a difference in his 4.1 innings since being promoted to AAA Nashville.

"They don't want to strikeout up here for some reason," Kintzler said.

It has been quite a difference from his time as closer in AA Huntsville where hitters could do little but swing and miss. In 22.1 innings there, Kintzler struck out 23, while walking just one batter. He converted every one of his 10 save opportunities there and has started to show up on the Brewers radar. I'm sure his 0.40 ERA in 22.1 AA innings doesn't hurt either.

However, the road to a possible big league promotion for Kintzler hasn't always been so smooth.

Kintzler was drafted in the 40th round of the 2004 amateur draft by the San Diego Padres. He went onto pitch in two seasons for the Padres minor league affiliates before being released because of health concerns.

"They said they were getting impatient with me and basically cut me loose," Kintzler said. "I tried rehabbing it for six months and ended up having to have surgery."

From there, Kintzler was open to just about anything that could keep his career going. That including a trip to the Northern League in a place Kintzler wasn't too familiar with.

"I didn't even know Winnipeg even existed, let alone where they were," Kintzler said. "They said it was kind of near North Dakota, so I said alright. They told me I needed a passport, so I hopped on a plane. I ended up getting rookie of the year and had a so so year the next. I saw a lot of guy weren't getting picked up there, so I asked for a trade."

Kintzler noticed the majority of players who were signed by teams were playing in the United States, so he requested a trade and found himself in St. Paul, MN.

"I knew the Saints were essentially the Yankees of Independent ball, so I asked to be traded there," Kintzler said. "It worked out well for me."

After the Independent League all-star game, Kintzler caught his break when the Brewers came knocking.

"They sent me straight to Double-A, which was kind of a shocker," Kintzler said. "I had never even pitched above Low-A, so I was pretty excited about that chance they gave me."

During his brief tenure under Brewers control, he has impressed. Kintzler finished the 2009 season with Huntsville, striking out 32, while only walking nine in 35.1 innings. His success only continued to impress while closing games this year, but he felt his only walk was questionable.

"That was one walk was a strike by the way, it shouldn't have been a walk," Kintzler said.

He's also combined that solid K:BB ratio with an ability to keep the ball on the ground. Last season, his GO/AO (ground outs/air outs) ratio was a very solid 1.4:1. This year, those numbers have only gotten better. In 26.2 innings between Huntsville and Nashville, Kintzler has upped that ratio to 1.67:1. That probably helped lead to opponents batting just .149 off him.

"I was kind of nibbling when I got to Double-A last year," Kintzler said. "My mentality is just to attack hitters. If I can keep the ball down, they are just going to hit groundballs anyway."

With his solid numbers so far this season, if Kintzler is able to stay healthy, he could be yet another option to look at from the Nashville Sounds bullpen. John Axford, Kameron Loe and Zach Braddock have all made positive appearances after their callups. It's quite a story for a pitcher who found his career all but over a couple of years ago.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Could Cliff Lee Land in Milwaukee?

With nearly $50 million coming off the books in 2010, the Brewers have made it pretty apparent they plan on focusing on starting pitching. I know, what's new? Although they have been burned in the past, the Brewers have some options on the free agent market, including Cliff Lee.

In all honesty, the Brewers are not that far away from being a major force in 2011. Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has expressed hesitation to give big money to another pitcher. This has led many to believe the Brewers will ship first baseman Prince Fielder for a front line starter. My question is why?

I completely agree trading Fielder is in the best interest of the team, but not for a soon-to-be free agent starter. The maximum value for Prince would come in the form of a couple of top prospects; one of which being a starter. By doing this, the Brewers will have six full seasons of control over that player. By trading Fielder for a pitcher like Matt Garza (I heard some rumors of this), the Brewers would still be on the hook for a large contract and have limited control before Garza leaves for free agency.

Say the Brewers ship Fielder for a top pitching prospect. They know will also have Fielder's contract off the books, which could immediately be used to throw at Cliff Lee. This would give the Brewers both a young starter to build around and the bets left hander on the planet.

If there was any debate who the best lefty in the game was coming into this year, Lee has silenced it.

Lee, 31, has always been an incredible pitcher, but has been unreal this year. After missing a full month, Lee still ranks 6th in the American League in innings pitched with 179.2. How is that possible? Well, Lee has averaged nearly eight innings a start. Considering how overworked the Brewers bullpen has been in recent years, that's a huge addition.

It's one thing to throw innings, but it's another to dominate during those frames. That's exactly what Lee has done. This season Lee has struck out 156 batters. That's very good, but what makes it incredible is his control. He leads MLB with a gaudy 13:1 K:BB ratio, issuing only 12 walks. According to FanGraphs, Lee has racked up a WAR of 19.8 over the past 2.5 seasons. Like I said, he's the best southpaw baseball has seen in a while.

The real question is the price tag that comes along with Lee. Seeing as he is the best pitcher on the market, he won't come cheap. I'd venture to guess Lee wants something around five years somewhere in the range of $80 million. Even that might be a little light. I agree that's huge money, but Lee could really put the Brewers over the top. Ryan Braun and likely Rickie Weeks will be locked up over the next five seasons at reasonable prices. In Lee, the Brewers would then have a solid starter to put alongside Yovani Gallardo. A 1-2 of Lee and Gallardo could reek havoc for the next couple of seasons in the Brew city.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Brewers Release David Riske; Make Room for Gomez

To clear room for Carlos Gomez, whose DL stint is over, the Brewers released David Riske Monday. The move was a longtime coming considering Riske's struggle to stay healthy and poor performance.

Riske signed a three-year deal worth $13 million in the 2007 offseason. The contract will go among the worst in franchise history. Worse yet, it was just another failed pitching signing by Brewers GM Doug Melvin.

In his three years in Milwaukee, Riske was constantly battling injuries. Riske had an elbow injury from the start of his contract. He ended up having to undergo Tommy John Surgery last June, missing almost of all 2009 and a large chunk of 2010. Here are Riske's season statistics as a Brewer.

2008: 42.1 IP, 5.31 ERA, 47 Hits, 25 BB, 27 K's, 5.47 FIP
2009: 1.0 IP, 18.00 ERA, 4 Hits, 0 BB, 0 K's, 3.10 FIP
2010: 23.1 IP, 5.01 ERA, 25 Hits, 8 BB, 16 K's, 4.12 FIP

Taking those numbers into account, over his tenure in Milwaukee, Riske managed to rack up a -0.6 WAR. Using fair market value, Riske's performance actually produced a negative performance based salary of $3 million. Not a very good return on the Brewers original $13 million investment. The contract might not be as bad as Jeff Suppan's, but few are and Riske's isn't that far off.

Another troubling decision today was the Brewers bringing Carlos Gomez back. With the return of Gomez, the Brewers now have too many outfielders, with too few spots for them to play.

With the additions of Lorenzo Cain and Chris Dickerson, Gomez immediately became the worst outfielder on the team. There is absolutely no justification for Gomez taking playing time from either player. He has options remaining, so why not put him in Nashville? I don't think he will ever amount to anything, but why not give him everyday playing time in Nashville. If there is something there, playing in Nashville can only help him. Taking playing time from Cain and Dickerson is the worst thing the Brewers can do for the remainder of the season.

Now that Riske is now done in Milwaukee, the Brewers have almost rid themselves of every useless player on their roster. I fear Gomez will be given too many chances in the future and I truly believe it is in the best interest of the club to release him. Time will tell the intentions of the Brewers, but tendering a contract for Gomez next season seems pretty dumb.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gamel Time?

If you ask Mat Gamel about his 2009 season, I would venture to say he was all that happy with it. After a mid-season callup, Gamel batted just .246 in 130 big league at bats. However, he was able to walk a bit and show some power in that same time, with a .340 OBP and .431 slugging percentage. Not bad numbers, but numbers Gamel would like to improve on.

He has responded in 2010. Gamel has been a very good hitter at AAA Nashville. In the Sounds 7-6 win Monday, Gamel went 3-4 with a double, walk and grand slam. After yesterday's performance, Gamel has now posted a .322/.397/.513/.911 line in 267 at bats in AAA. He has also accumulated 10 homers and 58 RBI in that same span.

So who is the real Mat Gamel and what can he bring to this franchise?

Throughout his minor league career, Gamel has shown just exactly what kind of baseball player he is. He struggles defensively. He strikes out and walks a lot. He shows decent, but not overwhelming power with his above average bat. To me, that sounds like a player with some pretty decent value.

Gamel's 2010 has much more reminiscent of his career line of .304/.377/.489/.866. He has been very consistent at every level with those numbers and should have little trouble producing good numbers at the big league level. Where he would play is another huge question.

With Prince Fielder all but gone in the future, first base does have an opening. Gamel's 6' frame isn't all that conducive to the position, but then again, neither did Fielder, who was two inches shorter. Playing Gamel at first base does make sense, as the Brewers could hide Gamel's biggest problem: his glove.

Coming up through the minors, Gamel has always played third base. It seemed to work perfectly coming into last season, as the Brewers had a glaring need there. However, Casey McGehee has shown he can play third and likely would get the nod over Gamel. This season, McGehee has a 2.4 WAR, despite costing the Brewers nearly six runs with his glove. I firmly believe Gamel can outproduce McGehee with the bat, but his glove makes McGehee look like the second coming of Mike Schmidt. I just don't see the Brewers playing Gamel long term at third base.

The other option I have heard is in right field. This really depends on what the Brewers are going to do with Corey Hart. Hart's UZR this season in right has been a very bad -11.5. I have heard some rumblings of Corey moving to first base and placing Gamel in right. This would make some sense considering Corey's large 6'6" frame. However, doing this would introduce two players to positions they have never played. I doubt Gamel could do much worse than Hart in right, so I am hoping this is the route the Brewers explore.

In the meantime, the Brewers hands are really tied. I expect them to trade Prince Fielder in the offseason, but until that happens, there is no place to play Gamel in Milwaukee. Thus, there is no sense in calling him up just to ride the bench (i.e. 2009). The best way to handle things for now is to get him some starts at either first base or right field. Something tells me Adam Stern and Joe Koshansky don't really have a chance to make a big impact in the future. Getting Gamel acquainted to those position should be priority one for this club.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Breaking Down the Edmonds Trade

If there has been one thing Doug Melvin has excelled in during his time in Milwaukee, it's getting good value out of his bench. That continued this season with Jim Edmonds and also allowed Melvin to grab a nice return when the veteran was dealt today.

Jim Edmonds was sent to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for outfielder Chris Dickerson. Another example of how finding value in the offseason can translate into great value at the deadline.

Edmonds, 40, played tremendously for the Brewers this season. In 217 at bats, he has a .286/.350/.493/.843 line. One thing I criticized Edmonds for this offseason was his defense. Although Edmonds clearly doesn't possess the speed he once had, he still played a very good centerfield this season. His 7.0 UZR this season is his highest since he posted an 8.4 UZR for the 2005 Cardinals.

So what does a great bat and solid defense translate to? Despite not playing everyday and battling injuries, Edmonds was able to rack up a 2.5 WAR. Given the market average of $4 million per 1.0 WAR, this Brewers $800K investment is very successful. According to, Edmonds worth this season is exactly $10 million. With Drew Stubbs struggling in centerfield, Edmonds is an excellent pickup for the stretch run in Cincy.

Dickerson, 28, is an absolutely brilliant pickup by Melvin and the Brewers. He has shown an ability to show patience at the dish and has shown decent power for a centerfielder. Combine that with very good defense and fans can understand how valuable Dickerson could be to the future of the Brewers. Speaking of the future, Dickerson will not eligible for free agency until after the 2014 season. He is cheap, under control and good, three things that are very nice in a player.

Like I said, Dickerson has always had a very good understanding of the strike zone. Throughout his minor league career, he has drawn a free pass in about 14% of his plate appearances. His 6'3", 230 lbs frame has also lead to some power. He has 35 extra base hits in 357 big league at bats. As usually is the case, that big body has also lead to some holes in his swing, leading to a high strikeout rate. In those same big league at bats, Dickerson has fanned 30% of the time. Although high strikeout rates can be a cause for concern, if he is able to balance them with walks, he should prove very valuable.

Another very nice attribute in Dickerson is his glove. In just shy of 850 innings in the outfield, Dickerson has a 10.4 UZR. Every scouting report I have read praises Dickerson's strength and accuracy with his arm. Those are two things that are tough to find in center. The Brewers are looking for a longterm solution in centerfield. I really like Lorenzo Cain, but having another player, like Dickerson, can only help.

Dickerson first broke into the majors in 2008 with the Reds. In limited playing time (102 AB), he was able to post a .413 OBP and an OPS over 1.000. His power regress a bit in 2009, when he posted a .743 OPS in 255 at bats. Despite the drop off in power, Dickerson was still very selective, walking 13% of the time en route to a .370 OBP.

Hampered by injuries this season, Dickerson is currently rehabbing in the minor leagues. He broke a bone in his hand back in April on a swing and only was able to log 44 at bats this season. In his current rehab stint, he is murdering the ball. In 43 minor league at bats, Dickerson has homered three times, walked nine and has an OBP of .528, with a 1.296 OPS. Granted that's a very small sample size, but I'd say he'll be ready to join the Brewers very soon.

This move really impacts three other Brewers. Trading Edmonds made a ton of sense, because it translated into immediate playing time for Lorenzo Cain. Considering the Brewers playoff chances are pretty much non-existent, playing Edmonds did nothing for the future of this club. Until Dickerson is able to join the team, Cain should start everyday in center.

Adding another centerfielder also means the Brewers are not impressed with Carlos Gomez... and why should they be? Gomez has been absolutely terrible this season and shows no signs of being a productive player in the foreseeable future. The J.J. Hardy trade was an absolute joke. It's time to admit that and move on. Not renewing Carlos' contract is a move that makes too much sense. Another Brewer who will likely not rejoin the team is Jody Gerut. With Dickerson and Cain sharing the majority of the playing time in centerfield, Gerut's days are likely numbered. As long as Joe Inglett remains on this club, giving the Brewers another outfield option, I don't see Doug Melvin using a roster spot on Gerut.

No one really wanted to see Jim Edmonds leave, but this move was an absolute must for the Brewers. After announcing he would likely retire after this season, keeping Edmonds would've only hurt the Brewers and the development of their young players. It is smart to not just save face and play for a couple of meaningless wins at the end of the season. With the farm system severely lack in outfield talent, landing Dickerson was an excellent acquisition for the Brewers. Celebrate Milwaukee.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The CF Debate (Or Lack There Of)

If the Milwaukee Brewers are lacking one thing, it's a deep farm system. Prospects have not progressed well, or have been dealt and that has left Milwaukee scrambling to find help.

However, one prospect has made his way back from injury and into the plans of the Brewers organization: Lorenzo Cain.

When Doug Melvin traded for Carlos Gomez this offseason, he thought he was getting his centerfielder of the future. "Carlos brings to our club great speed, athleticism and energy at a position that we needed to fill," Melvin said. By those statements, one can assume Melvin expected Carlos Gomez to fill the centerfield void left after Mike Cameron departed to free agency. Problem for Melvin and the Brewers is that speed, athleticism and energy don't always lead to talent.

Is Carlos Gomez fast? Yes

Is Carlos Gomez athletic? Yes

Does he bring energy? Sure

Is he a good baseball player? No

Gomez has shown the exact same problems that plagued his in the Twin Cities. He doesn't walk. He doesn't hit for power. He strikes out way too much and, to put it lightly, he is lacking baseball knowledge. For further explanation, check this play out. Gomez leads the team in outs on the bases: a category you don't want to be atop.

The problem with Gomez is he just doesn't get on base. Entering today, Gomez is hitting .228/.286/.350/.636 in 75 games this season. With this season, Gomez' career OBP in the majors is a horrid .291. His plate discipline can only be defined as terrible. This season, Gomez has struck out four times per every walk he draws. Those are just numbers that don't belong in the major leagues.

Cain, 24, has a much better track record for success in his pro career than Gomez. Although not touted as a 'top prospect' like Gomez has always been billed, he has outperformed him at every level.

This season, Cain has spent time in both AAA Nashville and AA Hunstville. Combined between his two stops, Cain has posted a .317 batting average and a very promising .402 on base percentage. I know many fans like the speed Gomez has, but Cain also has shown his burners. Better yet, he knows when to use it.

I've never really been a huge fan of the stolen base, but when used effectively, it can be a nice weapon. With Cain, he has that weapon. This season, Cain has stolen 26 bases and only been caught three times for an 89% success rate. Cain also has nine triples on the season and 11 doubles.

One big question on Cain was his 2009 season when he hit just .218/.294/.330/.624. Cain tore his PCL early in the 2009 season and never really recovered. He was only able to log 206 at bats. Considering his past success and the small sample size, it pretty reasonable to throw out his 2009 numbers.

One big thing both players have in common is they still have options remaining. This means the Brewers could send Carlos Gomez to the minor leagues and not have to wait and see if he clears waivers. Why play Gomez over Cain when he gets back? Cain has a much higher ceiling and could have a positive impact on the future of this team. Sure Gomez was once considered an 'A-level' prospect, but just because he was labeled that by scouts does not make him a good player. If the Brewers are smart, the majority of the playing time this season should go to Lorenzo Cain. It's time to admit the Gomez trade was a mistake. Let's not make it worse by stunting the growth of a talented young player like Cain.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Not So Glovely

Everyone knows the old sports saying: 'Defense wins championships."

Well, in baseball, that's not exactly true. If you can't hit the ball, you're not going to win much. Just ask the 2009 Seattle Mariners. They finished the season 85-77, but they were absolutely incredible in the field and on the mound. Their team UZR was an incredible 85.3. To put it simply, that means their defense saved them a run in just about every other game.

Those numbers probably help lead to their 3.87 ERA, good for sixth best in all of baseball. Keep in mind that was before Cliff Lee arrived in town. If you tack on those runs, their team ERA raises to 4.40, or 19th best. If you are looking for a reason why the Mariners didn't go onto the playoffs, examine their lackluster offense who managed to only post 3.95 runs a game.

Conversely, the Milwaukee Brewers can hit. They are currently eight in baseball with 506 runs scored, or 4.73 a game. The problem for the Crew has been inconsistent pitching and defense. Brewers arms have given up 519 earned runs this season, which equates to a team ERA of 4.93. That's already good enough for fifth worst in MLB, but factor in bad fielding and the Brewers have been a joke when not batting.

Only the Astros (56), Cubs (60) and Nationals (54) have surrendered more unearned runs than the Brewers (53) this season. That means the Brewers average an unearned run in every other game. If you follow advanced fielding statistics, it's been just as ugly for the Brewers. Here are the UZR (runs saved or lost) for every player who has logged over 300 innings at a position.

Ryan Braun -10.2
Corey Hart -8.1
Casey McGehee -7.4
Prince Fielder -5.1
Rickie Weeks -2.5
Carlos Gomez 0.2
Alcides Escobar 0.2
Jim Edmonds 5.4

Combining all of those numbers, Brewers starters have cost the team 27.5 runs this season. That makes them the fifth worst defense team in baseball this season. With a team that struggles to pitch already, giving extra outs and extra runs is a recipe for disaster.

Contrary to belief, the Brewers were a pretty decent defensive team last season. The managed a team UZR of 3.5, which ranked them 12th in baseball. The two defensive minded Brewers who departed were J.J. Hardy and Mike Cameron. Cameron saved an incredible 11.4 runs last season, while Hardy saved 6.8 himself. Craig Counsell also received much more playing time and was able to save 5.9 runs.

Clearly pitching has been a big problem for the Brewers this season, but the defense is not helping matters.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Corey Hart Extension

I was surprised, like many of you, when I woke up and read the news.

The Milwaukee Brewers signed Corey Hart to a three year deal that will keep him in Milwaukee through 2013. The pact is reportedly worth $26.25 million.

Hart, 28, is having a career season for the Brewers. After going yard Sunday, Hart now sits with 23 home runs. He is hitting .288/.346/.565/.911 in 347 at bats. Pretty incredible numbers for a player many wanted cut earlier this season. It hasn't been all perfect for Hart though. He has struggled in right field this season posting a -12.8 UZR/150, easily his worst season defensively in his career. Despite those very poor fielding numbers, Hart has still registered as a 2.1 WAR player this season.

My favorite part of this contract is the length. Seeing as Hart was still under team control for one more season, the deal really only extends him for two additional seasons. Based on projections, Hart was likely going to make around $7-9 million dollars in his final season of arbitration, so the deal doesn't seem to unreasonable. Many who dislike this deal cite a possibility of Hart regressing back to his struggling form. Even if that happens, the length of this contract really won't hurt the Brewers future plans too bad.

Taking the final year of arbitration into account, Hart's deal breaks down to two years, somewhere in the range of $17-19 million. Not cheap, but not too bad considering just how well Hart has hit this season. With the going market rate of $4 million per 1.0 WAR, the deal seems fair. I don't think there are many people out there who don't think Hart can realistically accumulate a 7.0 WAR over the next three seasons.

What I take from this deal is what it means to the future of the organization. The two other players scheduled to hit free agency with Hart were Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks. After the extension, the writing is now on the wall for both players.

Hart will be scheduled to make around $10 million in 2013, the final year of the deal. Combine that with the other players signed through that date (Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo), the Brewers now have $ 27 million already committed that season. If the Brewers were really serious about signing Prince Fielder long term, Hart would not have been offered an extension. If Fielder were to sign after this deal, the Brewers would have nearly 60% of their payroll committed to four players that season. In a small market like Milwaukee, that just can't happen.

However, with Weeks, the Brewers can now shift their focus to him. I have to say, I'm disappointed Hart's extension was given precedence over Weeks. I've said all along I think Weeks could be an absolute steal.

Looking around the league, second basemen are severely underpaid. The only second basemen making over $10 million per season are Chase Utley and Brian Roberts. Roberts has been injured this season, but has still racked up 13.0 WAR combined over the last three seasons. In Utley, the Phillies have been just spoiled. Over the last three years, Utley has a combined WAR of over 22.0. Those numbers are unheard of. At fair market value, he should fetch $28-30 million a season, or $18 million more than his current contract.

The best part about extending Weeks is the Brewers wouldn't even need to sniff that pay range. I think a five year deal worth $35-40 million would get the job done. Considering Weeks is swinging the bat better than ever and is already a 4+ WAR player this season, that's very reasonable.

In short, the Corey Hart signing was a decent deal for the Brewers. Hopefully Hart is able to keep up his current torrid bat and start playing better defense. If he does both, the deal could be incredible for the Brewers, If not, they are only on the hook until 2013. It's the type of low risk, high reward deal fans like to see. If they are able to fetch some decent players for Fielder this offseason, the future doesn't seem so bad. It's tough to imagine how quickly these negotiations progressed. In the span of 48 hours, Corey Hart went from possibly being dealt to signed long term. Like they say, baseball is a game of inches.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Missing: Ryan Braun

Despite starting the mid-summer classic in Anaheim, Ryan Braun has not been an all-star this season. After Wednesday's 1-4 performance, Braun has seen his OPS drop to .791. Although a .791 OPS isn't terrible, it's pretty incredible just how far it has fallen.

On May 10th, Braun's OPS was an incredible 1.048. That included a .445 OBP and .603 slugging percentage. Then, Braun just stopped hitting. Here are his numbers since that day.

May 10-31: 72 AB's, .236/.267/.403/.660, 2 HR, 7 RBI
June: 110 AB's, .264/.299/.409/.708, 3 HR, 16 RBI
July: 98 AB's, .204/.233/.388/.621, 5 HR, 15 RBI

Since May 10th: 280 AB's, .236/.268/.401/.669, 10 HR, 38 RBI

Throughout his career, it would have been tough to find months where Braun struggled to hit .300. This year, it is tough to find months where Braun's on-base percentage surpasses that mark. If you are looking for a reason why nearly every one of Prince Fielder's home runs have been solo shots, look no further than Braun.

With his current struggles, Braun's value to the team has completely vanished. On May 10th, he already was a 1.4 WAR player. He current is a 1.0 WAR talent, or -0.4 WAR below what he was 280 at bats ago.

Okay, I understand Ryan Braun is a really good player, but his recent trends are very worrisome. Since 2007, Braun's isolated power has declined every season.

2007- .310
2008- .268
2009- .231
2010- .187

One encouraging sign for Braun has been his ability to keep his strike outs down. Over the last four years, Braun has seen his K rate fall more than 7%. Here are Braun's strikeout percentages each of the last four years.

2007- 24.8%
2008- 21.1%
2009- 19.1%
2010- 17.7%

Even more encouraging has been the development of his plate discipline. Even though he has regressed in 2010, Braun's walk rate has improved tremendously since his rookie season.

2007- 5.9%
2008- 6.3%
2009- 8.1%
2010- 7.1%

So why is Braun struggling so much considering he's making more contact? Well, the contact he has made has not been very solid, as evidence by his declining ISO numbers. Also, Braun has seen the amount of fly balls he hits greatly reduce over the past four years.

2007- 44.9%
2008- 44.1%
2009- 34.1%
2010- 35.9%

There's really no rhyme or reason as to Braun's struggles. The fans can just hope Braun returns to his rookie form. I wonder if substituting contact for power is what is holding Braun back. If you ask me, I'm willing to stomach 150+ strikeouts if it means Braun's power being rediscovered. Sure strikeouts can be frustrating, but so can a player not playing up to his full potential.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Corey Hart Trade Series: Tampa Bay Rays

For the final segment of the Corey Hart trade series, I will be looking at a potential deal to the Tampa Bay Rays. I have thought for some time the Rays are the leading candidate to acquire Hart, as they have a lot of young pitching; something Doug Melvin is seeking.

Currently, the Rays have Ben Zobrist alternating between second base and left field. Zobrist is a really, really good player, but could be that much valuable if he was playing at second base (a position not usually frequented by offensive threats). If the Rays acquired Hart, that would move Zobrist to second base full time and Sean Rodriguez to the bench. It would also give the Rays the option of DHing Hart, seeing as Will Aybar isn't the best option for that slot. With all the options Corey Hart can provide for the Rays, it makes too much sense for them to acquire.

As to what the Brewers could pry away from the Rays, that's up in the air. As stated above, Doug Melvin is insistent on acquiring young pitching, so let's start there.

Wade Davis

With the names of David Price, James Shields and Jeff Niemann, Davis was mentioned as next in line for the young stud staff in Tampa. However, this season, Davis has been anything but a stud. In 102 innings, he has struck out just 65 batters and allowed 43 free passes. To be blatantly honest, his 4.41 ERA has been very lucky. His 5.48 FIP and -0.1 WAR tell a much gloomier tale for Davis.

That's not say Davis doesn't have ability though. Since being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2004 amateur draft, Davis was very good in the minors. In 138 minor league starts, Davis had a 3.28 ERA. Over 767.1 innings, he fanned 745 batters, while walking 283. Those are pretty good numbers.

However Davis is already pitching in the major leagues, which could be looked at as a positive and negative for the Brewers. Sure trading for Davis would immediately give the Brewers a major league ready starter, but he service clock has already started ticking. Granted it is still well under one full season, but any used time can be considered as something the Brewers don't want to see. In short, I'm not saying Davis is a bad pitcher, but he is not the type of pitcher I would like as a return for Hart. There are just too many question marks that go along with him.

Jeremy Hellickson

You may remember Hellickson from starting the Futures Game last week in LA. Hellickson, 23, is one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball. With a very strong rotation already, the Rays may be willing to part with Hellickson.

This season, Hellickson is 12-3 with a 2.51 ERA at AAA Durham. He has struck out 119 in 114.2 innings with only 35 walks. Every scouting report I have seen says Hellickson is a sure fire ace and should be the main target in a trade for the Brewers.Of course this all hinges on the Rays and if they want to part ways with Hellickson. He is yet to throw an inning in the major leagues, giving him six full seasons before he can hit the free agent waters. Combined that with the ability he possess and prying him away from the Rays could be tough.

Matthew Moore

I have started to hear Moore's name surface more in recent trade talks with the Brewers. Moore, 21, is currently pitching at Single-A Charlotte. After being drafted in the 8th round of the 2007 amateur draft, Moore has spent parts of two seasons with the Rays. In that time, he has pitched 301.2 innings and averaged 12.7 K/9. Control has been a little bit of an issue with 158 walks, but he still maintains a really strong K:BB ratio.

The one main drawback for the Brewers with Moore is how far he is away from the major leagues. Despite having incredible stuff, I would imagine the Brewers would take their time maturing Moore. The one thing that scares me is the Brewers are in a win now mindset and might pass on Moore just because he couldn't contribute right away. I think he would be able to hit the majors by 2012. With Fielder's contract running out after next year, the Brewers might not want to wait until then for another arm in the rotation.

Matt Joyce

Joyce, 25, is a name I haven't heard yet, but could be a very nice piece to look at for the Brewers. He is currently spot starting in right field for the Rays, but receiving much playing time. This season, he has posted a .220/.387/.441/.827 line in just 75 at bats. His high walk rate is no fluke though. Throughout the minor leagues and during his brief tenure in the bigs, Joyce has always been a very patient hitter. At every level he has maintained a near 10% walk percentage, while still showing power.

The one main problem in shipping Hart is the Brewers absence of a corner outfielder to fill the void. The only upper level outfield prospect the Brewers have is Lorenzo Cain and he is a centerfielder. By adding Joyce, the Brewers would have that option and still have it under plenty of control. Joyce is still yet to rack up a full year of service time and would come very cheap for the next five seasons. Another reason the Rays would be willing to part with Joyce is the abundance of outfield prospects they enjoy. Waiting in the wings are both Fernando Perez and Desmond Jennings. Granted Perez' stock has fallen off late, but he does still hold some value.


If Hart come back healthy in the next couple of days, I really expect a deal to get done with Tampa. If the Hellickson offer is on the table, by all means take it. However, if Hellickson is not offered, it gets a bit more complicated. In a deal for either Moore or Davis, I would require Matt Joyce also be included. Sure the Brewers would be selling very high on Corey Hart, but he is a high value player based on this season. In deadline deals, recent stats tend to outweigh past success. There are few outfielder available who can match Hart's success this season, so acquiring top-level talent shouldn't be a problem.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Corey Hart Trade Series: ATL Braves/SD Padres

Continuing the Corey Hart trade series, let's take a look at what a potential trade to the NL East leading Atlanta Braves would mean for both teams.

Right field in Atlanta is currently occupied by Jason Heyward, so something tells me Corey Hart will not be taking over there. However, left field is a little more wide open. Sharing the duties in left are Eric Hinske and Matt Diaz. Hinske has had a nice season with the bat this season, posting a .273/.340/.492/.832 in 183 at bats. However, it's pretty safe to say the Braves would prefer to use Hinske off the bench. He has a -10.4 UZR/150 in left this season.

In Diaz, the Braves have a much better defensive option, but he has also struggled with the bat. In 117 at bats, Diaz is batting .256/.293/.453/.746 for the Braves. Despite posting a UZR/150 of over 30 in LF, he has still only has a 0.5 WAR this season. However, Diaz has 13 hits in his last 34 at bats, with four homers. He looks to be back to his normal form at the plate. I'd be very surprised if the Brewers and Braves are able to strike a deal, seeing as the Braves probably won't overpay for Hart and the Brewers are overly looking to ship him.

So, instead of breaking down a trade suitor unlikely to happen, I'll look at the San Diego Padres.

If there is one team in need of a bat in the major leagues, it is the San Diego Padres. If there is one team in the major leagues in need of a right fielder, it is the San Diego Padres. That has led to a lot of attention on Corey Hart.

The Padres are currently averaging 4.35 runs per game, good for 12th in the National League. Starting in right field is Will Veneble. In 217 at bats, Veneble is hitting .235/.321/.410/.731, with above average defense (4.0 UZR/150). That's good enough for 1.4 WAR this season. Not bad, but also not as good as Corey Hart.

In left field, it's a similar story for the Friars. They are currently starting Scott Hariston, who has a pretty similar line, with much worse defense. He is currently hitting .240/.319/.397/.717 in 229 at bats, with a -7.0 UZR/150. Still not as good as Hart, but remember where both these players are playing. In San Diego, the ball doesn't go anywhere, leading to power outages from just about everyone. Going off topic, I wonder what Adrian Gonzalez could do in another ballpark. Anyway, what could the Brewers fetch in a trade with the Pads?

The biggest problem in completing a trade with the Padres is their lack of upper level young pitching. Doug Melvin has let it known he wants young arms at the deadline if anything is to be completed. Sure they have Mat Latos, but he is going nowhere. Other than Latos, the only other top 10 prospect that is a pitcher in their organization is Adys Portillo, but he is A-ball and not pitching well there.

One piece that could be of interest to Melvin, however is Jaff Decker. He is the third ranked prospect in the Padres organization and could help fill the outfield void after Hart leaves. Decker, 20, was drafted in the first round of the 2008 draft. In three minor league seasons, Decker has posted a .435 OBP and a OPS just under .900. Those are really impressive numbers. Even so, I don't know if Melvin will be willing to part with Hart for a player who is a couple of seasons away from the majors.

If the Padres were willing to include Clayton Richard in a trade with the Brewers, they might be a little more willing to part with Hart. However, the Padres, as stated above, aren't blessed with upper level pitching talent, so parting with Richard creates another hole. Something I'd be willing to bet the Padres are unwilling to do. That's why, if I had to guess, Hart has little chance to end up in SoCal with the Pads. I'm not saying it can't happen, but the odds aren't as likely as a move elsewhere.

Stay tuned as I'll have an article soon on Hart and a possible destination to Tampa Bay.

Corey Hart Trade Series: San Francisco Giants

Let's face it, 2010 has not been a good season for the Milwaukee Brewers. Currently, they sit 43-53, 11.5 games back in the NL Central. According to, the Brewers have a 0.2% chance of making the playoffs this season. Like I said, it hasn't been pretty.

That's not to say there hasn't been bright spots. Rickie Weeks is tearing the cover off the ball. Young relievers have come to the major leagues and shined. Although the Brewers best story lives in right field.

Coming over a very disappointing 2009, many wanted Corey Hart out of Milwaukee. Rumors of his release followed him throughout Spring Training and the beginning of the season, culminating in sitting the bench on opening day in favor of Jim Edmonds.

Hart ended up rebounding to the tune of his second all-star appearance in three seasons. What makes this even better for the Brewers is what it could mean for the future.

Hart currently has a .908 OPS and is second in the national league in home runs. He is free agent eligible after the 2011 season. He is likely to receive a raise in arbitration after his strong season.

If Corey Hart and Prince Fielder are part of the 2011 Brewers, they will have a better chance at the playoffs, but at what price? Is having a shot in 2011 worth selling off the future of the franchise? I agree the Brewers have a much better chance of signing Hart long term than Prince Fielder, but that doesn't mean he's going to come cheap. Signing Hart long term would likely cost the Brewers $10 million per season in a multi-year deal. I'm not saying Hart is not worth that, but why give him that much money when he could be dealt for a nice package? With the Brewers chances for success in the near future looking rather slim, there is no time like the present to trade Hart.

With divisional races so tight, a big piece at the trade deadline could propel a team to the playoffs. Lucky for the Brewers, the teams in those races are in need of a right fielder and would likely part with good talent to acquire one. Corey Hart has been linked to numerous teams, but three have stood out. Here is the start of the Corey Hart trade series and what each deal could mean for the Brewers.

San Francisco Giants

The Giants have a big need in right field. They're currently trotting out either Nate Schierholtz, or Aubrey Huff, who also starts at first base. Starting Huff in right field leads to poor defense (-35.8 UZR/150 in RF) and starting Ishikawa at first base (a normal power spot) leads to fewer runs. Granted Ishikawa has hit the ball well this season, but he has never really been that good of a hitter and his 77 at bats indicate a small sample size. If Corey Hart came to the bay, it would a go a long way to securing a possible playoff spot for the Giants.

That's not to say Corey Hart is going to be easy to acquire. After already racking up 2.5 WAR this season, the Brewers really don't want to part ways with Hart. In return for his services, many have said the Brewers are asking for either Madison Bumgarner, or Jonathan Sanchez in return. Let's take a look at each player and what acquiring them would do.

Madison Bumgarner

Bumgarner, 20, is already pitching in the major leagues. In five starts this season, Bumgarner is 3-2 with a 2.41 ERA, including eight scoreless at Miller Park on July 6th. He has struck out 24 batters in 33.2 innings, while walking seven. Pretty good numbers for someone who is younger than me (that's scary).

In the minors, he was just as good. Over three seasons, Bumgarner went 34-6 with an ERA of 2.00 in 355.2 innings. He fanned 315 batters and walked only 77. He was recognized as the 9th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America in 2009 and 14th best this season.

The most exciting part about acquiring Bumgarner to me is how cheap he will come. Bumgarner's major league service time currently sits at 0.027 years, meaning he will not hit free agency for another six seasons. With how cheaply he will come and the ceiling he has, I am jumping up and down with his name being mentioned as a possible return.

Jonathan Sanchez

Sanchez, 27, is also a pretty good pitcher with an incredible arm. He tops out in the high 90's, with good movement on his pitches. His career is highlighted by the no-hitter he tossed last July against the San Diego Padres.

This season, Sanchez is 7-6 with a 3.42 ERA in 19 starts. He is striking out nearly a batter an inning (110.2 IP, 109 K's) and walking one every two (110.2 IP, 54 BB's). This season's ERA is the best in his career, likely due to some luck. His BABIP this season is .275, which is by far the lowest in his career.

One thing that worries me with Sanchez is the high amount of fly balls he tends to surrender. His GB:FB ratio this season is .81. While he might be able to get away with that in the cavernous AT&T Park, Miller Park is not so forgiving. Another less attractive thing on Sanchez is he has been in the majors for a while. He has accumulated just over three years of service time thus far and would hit the open market in 2013. Sure that's down the road, but he is also due for a large arbitration raise soon.

The strangest thing about this deal is mentioning Sanchez and Bumgarner is the same sentence. If Doug Melvin is saying we will take either player, does he really think the Giants are going to part with Bumgarner? He is much cheaper and could very well be a better pitcher than Sanchez next season. That just seems odd to me. If Bumgarner is on the table, take it. If Sanchez is the only one being offered, I think the Brewers are best inclined to explore their options. I'm not saying Sanchez is a bad return, but the great thing about the trade deadline is the amount of options teams are given for players in demand.

Stay tuned, I'll have more on Corey Hart and his possible destinations coming very soon.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Catching Lightning Without Spending

Remember the month of April? Gregg Zaun was in the middle of his poor start to the season, while Jason Kendall was hitting single after single in Kansas City.

While the hatred of Zaun grew incredibly fast, so did the appreciation for Kendall's departed service. In short, Zaun started the year 0-21, during the same stretch as Kendall's 14 game hitting streak. Many questioned Doug Melvin for not extending Kendall and all the 'veteran leadership' he provided. Never mind his below average production and high asking price... Doug Melvin was wrong.

And then reality set in.

Kendall's OPS is back where it belongs: in the mid-.650's. He has played below average defense as well. All Kendall's 314 at bats have led to is a 0.6 WAR for a player in a two year, $8 million contract. Not very good return on the Royals investment for a team looking to rebuild with a 36 year old catcher.

The fans in Milwaukee have seen a much different kind of story behind the plate this season: production without paying much for it. Below are the current lines for Milwaukee catching this season.

Gregg Zaun: 102 AB's, .265/.350/.392/.743, 2 HR's, 14 RBI
Jonathan Lucroy: 93 AB's, .280/.316/.376/.692, 2 HR's, 5 RBI
George Kottaras: 143 AB's, .203/.326/.427/.752, 7 HR's, 21 RBI
Brewers Catchers: 338 AB's, .243/.330/.404/.734, 11 HR's, 40 RBI

All told, Brewers catching ranks 14th in OPS and OBP and wOBA. Not bad considering their best option (Zaun) went down early in the season. Brewers backstops have been productive. Zaun, Lucroy and Kottaras have all racked up 0.6 WAR, despite limited playing time, equaling the production of Kendall in nearly 1/3 the at bats.

Brewers backstops have also thrown out 20 of 87 would be base stealers this year, which is slightly above the league average.

With Jonathan Lucroy seemingly ready to take control of catching for seasons to come, fans have to be excited over what might be. Better yet, the Brewers are not on the hook for a $4.5 salary for a below average, aging catcher next season. I know it hasn't been said much this season, but kudos to Doug Melvin and the front office on this one.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

First Half Breakdown (Outfielders)

Note: (.AVG/.OBP/.SLG/.OPS)

Corey Hart- A

2.3 WAR

.288/.349/.569/.918, 306 AB's, 21 HR's, 65 RBI

.247/.340/.416/.756. That was Corey Hart's line after an 0-5 game on May 14th. The Philadelphia Phillies were in town and the Brewers lost the game 9-5. This game stands out to me after hearing Corey Hart booed loudly in every one of those five at bats. Corey Hart had become public enemy number one in Milwaukee and rumors of a possible Jermaine Dye sighting were murmured throughout the talk shows and papers. And then, Corey Hart started launching balls. In his first 89 at bats up to that point, Hart homered just three times. After that, he has gone deep 18 times in 217 at bats, or once every 12 times up. He has also stopped his alergic reaction to extra bases. Of his 88 hits this season, 42 have went for extra bases. He has resurrected a swing Brewers fans became accustomed to before the 2008 All-Star break and is now one of the most sought after trade chips on the market. After almost being released by the Brewers, his name is swirling in San Francisco, with Madison Bumgarner or Jonathan Sanchez as possible returns. His defense hasn't been good this year (-8.9 UZR/150), but we'll let that slide after where Corey was just months ago.

Ryan Braun- C+

1.2 WAR

.292/.348/.479/.827, 13 HR's, 54 RBI

Fitting that Ryan Braun would come up right after Corey Hart considering just how different their seasons have gone. Ryan Braun started the season on fire. On May 9th, Braun was hitting .365 with an OBP of .445 and an OPS well over 1.000. Things change really quickly though. In both June and July, Braun's OBP was under .300. Braun's power also deserted him, posting slugging percentages on .409 and .415 in those months. Brewers fans should have also noticed below average defense in left as Braun is posting his second straight poor defense season (-15.8 UZR/150). Braun started to show signs of turning things around right before the All-Star break, so hopefully that can coincide to Braun-like production for the rest of the season. Braun is just too good of a hitter for this recent slump to continue.

Carlos Gomez- F

0.2 WAR

.229/.282/.356/.638, 205 AB's, 5 HR's, 20 RBI

I don't know how else to put this: Carlos Gomez is a bad baseball player. When the Brewers traded J.J. Hardy for Gomez, I was upset. I became furious after learning the Brewers were offered Ryan Doumit for Hardy and passed on the trade. I was irate after Carlos Gomez began the season batting in the two hole. There are just so many things that are frustrating with Gomez. He doesn't walk. He swings at way too many pitches out of the zone (36.6% of the time he chases). To make matters worse, Gomez' best attribute has disappeared. He's always been a phenominal defender in the big leagues, but is posted a -UZR this season (-0.8). I understand Gomez is a young player, but there is nothing to suggest he might actually turn into a productive major leaguer. He has a lot of time before he can test the free agent waters and I fear the Brewers might be willing to stick with him until then. Everyday Gomez remains a Brewer, I get more and more anxious to see what Lorenzo Cain can do in Milwaukee.

Jim Edmonds- B

1.4 WAR

.273/.337/.448/.785, 172 AB's, 4 HR's, 12 RBI

When Jim Edmonds signed with the Brewers, I wanted him nowhere near centerfield. His advanced fielding statistics suggested even playing him in a corner outfield position was a risk. I figured Edmonds would be a nice bench option, but underestimated just how bad Carlos Gomez would play. Despite being injured and not playing everyday, Edmonds has still managed a 1.4 WAR. While playing in centerfield, Edmonds has given the Brewers a good bat in a position where few exist. Even better, Edmonds has played solid defense this season, ranking highest amoung UZR's among Brewers outfielders. Not bad for a one year deal worth little money.

Jody Gerut- D-

0.0 WAR

.197/.230/.366/.586, 74 AB's, 2 HR's, 8 RBI

Gerut didn't get much playing time when he was healthy, but has been injured for an extended period of time. I still feel Gerut could be a productive CF with consistent playing time, but has really struggled this season. However, he did hit for the cycle in one of his starts. Although Chad Moeller and Carlos Gomez have hit for the cycle in their careers, so take that with a grain of salt. When he returns, I look for him to rebound.

Adam Stern- F

-0.2 WAR

.000/.000/.000/.000, 8 AB's, 0 HR, 1 RBI

I felt I'd throw in Stern for some humor. Nothing suggests he is of major league caliber talent and should never sniff Milwaukee again. His promotion immediately reminded me of Corey Patterson's last year.

First Half Breakdown (Infielders)

Note: (.AVG/.OBP/.SLG/.OPS)

Jonathan Lucroy- B

0.4 WAR

.267/.300/.372/.672, 86 AB's, 2 HR's, 5 RBI

Lucroy has been a pleasant surprise for the Brewers. He struggled in AAA and was forced into action when Gregg Zaun went down with a season ending injury. Lucroy was thrust into becoming the main catcher and has played well. He has thrown out seven of 21 potential base stealers and has been alright with the bat. I'm really hoping his great plate discipline returns. After leading the majority of his minor league teams in walks, Lucroy has been issued a free pass just 4.4% of the time this season.

George Kottaras- B+

0.7 WAR

.207/.331/.444/.775, 135 AB's, 7 HR's, 28 RBI

So how does one bat just .207 and still post a .775 OPS? With power and patience. Of George's 28 first half hits, 17 have went for extra bases. He also ranks 6th on the team in walks, despite logging far fewer at bats than everyone else. For a reference, Kottaras has walked four more times (27) than Alcides Escobar (23) in 148 fewer at bats. Pretty good numbers for a backup catcher. The only thing holding him back is his inability to throw out baserunners (17%), although that has gotten better of late.

Prince Fielder- B-

2.6 WAR

.265/.401/.494/.895, 324 AB's, 20 HR's, 39 RBI

After a characteristically slow power start, Fielder has been driving the ball of late. He has 13 long balls in his last 137 at bats. Despite the slow start, Fielder never lost his patience at the plate. He has walked 15.4% of the time this year and posted an impressive .401 on base percentage, despite hitting .265. His .494 slugging percentage is still well below his career average, but that will rise by the end of the year. His defense has slipped (according to UZR), but Fielder still remains an elite first baseman. My guess is as good as yours, but I'm thinking Prince remains a Brewer until this offseason, although I'm not saying I agree with that. There is no way the Brewers can/should meet any of Fielder's contract requests.

Rickie Weeks- A

2.5 WAR

.269/.370/.449/.819, 361 AB's, 15 HR's, 53 RBI

Weeks has established himself as one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball this season. His ability to get on base and hit for power as a second baseman are a huge asset to the Brewers. A lot of people will tell you Weeks belongs in the two-hole, but I ask why? Sure he hits for power and strikeout a lot, but who on this team is a better option to bat first? As long as Rickie is reaching base 37% of the time, there's no place I would rather see him. The combination of Weeks, Hart, Braun and Fielder has to be one of the best top four in baseball right now. Look no further than that to find this club's offensive success.

Alcides Escobar- D-

0.3 WAR

.244/.301/.323/.624, 283 AB's, 2 HR's, 24 RBI

I've never been really high on Alcides. Throughout the minor leagues, his numbers never blew me away. He never really walked much and obviously lacked power, but he is young and cheap, so he does hold value. But 2010 has been just terrible for him. The struggles at the plate and in the field have been one of the main reasons this club has been mediocre. My frustration has only grown with Escobar while watching hit weak ground ball after weak ground ball. Part of the reason for Escobar's struggles are what he swings at. In 2010, Escobar has swung at 30.5% of pitches out of the strike zone. Making matters worse, he is connecting on 78.1% of those swings. Subsequently, Escobar continues to chase pitches, while failing to make solid contact, leading to outs. His defense has also been bad (-2.0 UZR/150). His 14 errors are tied for second most in the majors.

Casey McGehee- B-

1.3 WAR

.274/.342/.455/.797, 325 AB's, 13 HR's, 53 RBI

After a red hot start to the season, McGehee really fell off. He has just four home runs in his last 177 at bats, after hitting nine in his first 148. Even so, McGehee has been an alright hitter. I'm just worried his recent struggles at the plate could be McGehee regressing back to his pre-Brewer form. Couple that in with a -14.6 UZR/150 at 3rd base and red flags really start to rise. One nice thing to see from McGehee has been his patience. He is walking a career high 9.4% of the time this season.

Craig Counsell- D+

.238/.306/.308/.614, 130 AB's, 1 HR, 13 RBI

-0.1 WAR

April 29th, 2010. Craig Counsell doubled off Wade LeBlanc in a 9-0 Brewers loss. Why do I bring that up? Well, that was the last time Craig Counsell actually had an extra base hit. Could this finally be the end for Craig Counsell? He has really struggled at the plate this season, but what worries me more is his glove. One of Counsell's main attribute has always been his defense, but even that has fallen off. His UZR/150's by position are as follows: SS:-0.9, 2B: 7.4, 3B:-25.2. Granted his time at third has been limited and those aren't the worst numbers, but not what the Brewers need from Counsell. He was incredible last season and has been a useful player throughout his career, but the end seems near for Counsell.

Joe Inglett- A

1.0 WAR

.328/.416/.507/.923, 67 AB's, 0 HR, 2 RBI

So just how does a player tally a 1.0 WAR in just 67 at bats? Well it's pretty tough, but by player like Inglett has this season. Granted his .415 BABIP is sure to help, but Inglett has been a force off the Brewers bench. Nine of his 22 hits this season have gone for extra bases, including three pinch hit triples. He's always had pretty good plate discipline, but Inglett's eye has been incredible this season. He is swinging at just 18% of balls out of the strike zone (league average- 28.6%). That has lead to his 11.4% walk percentage. He last played SS in 2008 for the Blue Jays. It has me wondering if he might be able to give it a try again. What do the Brewers really have to lose there? Also, Inglett has accumulated just over two years of service time, meaning he should be a Brewer for the foreseeable future. Pretty good snag by Doug Melvin.

CHECK BACK SOON. I'm currently working on the outfielders wrapup and should have it posted with an hour or two.