Friday, January 29, 2010

Central Regression

Coming into the 2010 season, the Milwaukee Brewers return with similar talent. Sure the names and faces have changed, but it's a good debate if this team has actually improved. Even with some holes on their roster, the Brewers could still make the playoffs in 2010. Arguably all of the top tier teams in the NL Central have gotten worse this offseason. I know it's said frequently, but this division is up for grabs.

After each team profile, I will post the projected record of each team based on the newly released projected standings on Each players WAR (Wins above replacement level) for the 2009 season are posted in the parentheses.

Chicago Cubs

Additions- Marlon Byrd (2.4), Xavier Nady (-0.1), Chad Tracy (-0.6) and Carlos Silva (-0.1)

Total WAR 1.6

Departures- Milton Bradley (1.0), Jake Fox (-0.1), Aaron Miles (-1.3), Aaron Heilman (0.2), Rich Harden (1.8), Reed Johnson (0.4), Kevin Gregg (-0.3)

Total WAR 1.7

While their WAR +/- is only a -0.1, the Cubs talent level has severely dropped this offseason. Although Milton Bradley is a troubled player, he is also very talented. Trading him for Carlos Silva made no sense at all. Not only is that a huge downgrade in talent, but the Cubs already had a better option for the rotation in 2010. If Silva pitches over Tom Gorzelanny next season, the Cubs might have made one of the worst trades in recent history.

BP record projection: 77-85

St. Louis Cardinals

Additions- Brad Penny (2.5) and Rich Hill (0.4)

Total WAR 2.9

Departures- Brad Thompson (0), Rick Ankiel (0.1), Troy Glaus (-0.2), Mark Derosa (1.7), Khalil Greene (-0.8), Joel Pineiro (4.8), John Smoltz (1.1) and Todd Wellemeyer (-0.3)

Total WAR 6.4

While I did like the Penny and Hill additions, I still think the Cardinals should have retained Pineiro and Smoltz. Too much emphasis what put on locking up Matt Holliday. Losing a 4.8 WAR player like Joel Pineiro is a huge blow to this team. If Smoltz is not retained, the Cardinals rotation has taken a huge step back. Everybody points to the Matt Holliday trade for why the Cardinals ran away with the division last year, but what about the pitching? Having a starting rotation combine for 17 WAR is just incredible. Even with the losses, the Cardinals have to be the favorite to keep the division crown in 2010.

BP record projection: 89-73

Houston Astros

Additions- Brett Myers (-0.5), Cory Sullivan (0.1), Kevin Cash (0), Matt Lindstrom (0) and Brandon Lyon (0.7)

Total WAR 0.3

Departures- Jose Valverde (0.7), Miguel Tejada (2.6), LaTroy Hawkins (0.3), Mike Hampton (0.9) and Darin Erstad (-0.9)

Total WAR 3.6

No real explanation needed here. The Houston Astros are the Houston Astros. I am constantly questioning where this franchise is going. They spent 3yrs/$15 million on Brandon Lyon after a 0.7 WAR season. There's a short list of relievers who should garner that kind of money and Brandon Lyon's name is not on it. Ed Wade's transactions since taking over as GM have been really confusing. Maybe that's the reason he and Shawn Chacon don't see eye to eye.

Cincinnati Reds

Additions- Chris Burke (-0.2), Aroldis Chapman (-), Josh Anderson (-0.3) and Miguel Cairo (0.2)

Total WAR -0.3 (Obviously not including Chapman as he did not pitch in MLB in 2009)

Departures- Kip Wells (0.1), Jonny Gomes (0.6) and Edinson Volquez (0.3)

Total WAR 1.0

I really have no idea what to expect out of Aroldis Chapman. I guess the only certainty will be Dusty Baker logging unnecessary innings on his arm late in the year. Sure the Reds have some young talent coming back, but they just have too many holes. Anytime Willy Taveras gets playing time in CF, there's a problem.

BP record prjection: 82-80

Pittsburgh Pirates

Additions- Ryan Church (1.0), Jack Taschner (-0.2), Octavio Dotel (0.8), D.J. Carrasco (1.3), Brandon Jones (0), Brenden Donnelly (0.6), Vinnie Chulk (-0.2), Bobby Crosby (-0.7), Javier Lopez (-0.1), Akinori Iwamura (1.3) and Brian Bass (-0.3)

Total WAR 3.5

Departures- Matt Capps (-0.4), Brain Bixler (-0.1), Luis Cruz (-0.2), Phil Dumatrait (-0.7) and Jesse Chavez (-0.4)

Total WAR -1.8

I really liked a lot of the things Neal Huntington did this offseason. The Octavio Dotel signing (1yr/$3 mil) was one of the best in baseball this offseason. Also, by signing D.J. Carrasco and Brenden Donnelly, the Pirates can now use them as great trade bait for a team seeking bullpen help at the deadline. I also thought they got the better end of the Akinori Iwamura trade. However, the Matt Capps decision one of the worst moves of the offseason in baseball. Although Capps posted an unlucky 5.80 ERA in 2009, he is still one of the best relievers in baseball, and he's still only 26. In 2009, Capps struck out 46 batters, while walking 17. The Pirates easily should have considered 2009 a fluke. Capps' BABIP last season was a ridiculous .370. He was just one season removed from a 2008 campaign where he walked just five batters all year. Those are numbers teams would love at the back of their bullpen. Projected 2010 Standings for the NL Central

St. Louis 89-73
Cincinnati 82-80
Chicago 77-85
Milwaukee 75-87
Houston 75-87
Pittsburgh 70-92

While these standing are interesting to look at, I don't see Milwaukee winning just 75 games in a weak NL Central next season. Check back soon, I'll have my 2010 NL Central breakdown posted.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Edmonds signs with Milwaukee

Today, the Milwaukee Brewers signed Jim Edmonds to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. If Edmonds makes the club, he would be guaranteed $850,000, but could make upwards of $2 million in incentives.

I really have to admit, I didn't see this one coming. When the Brewers were mentioned as having interest in another outfielder, I was confused. The Brewers already have a capable backup who can play all three positions in Jody Gerut. With the Brewers being tied to names such as Ryan Freel, Reed Johnson, or Gabe Gross, I figured why spend money on a 5th outfielder. While I not questioning the ability of either Gross or Johnson (I am for Freel), it just didn't seem like a necessary expense. This is what is so perfect about the Edmonds signing.

By signing Jim Edmonds, the Brewers are not contractually obligated to pay him, or give him a roster spot. If Edmonds comes to spring training and struggles, the Brewers can just release him.

Edmonds did not play baseball in 2009, so it is tough to gauge what the Brewers can expect out of him. After a rough start to the 2008 season in San Diego, Edmonds was released and picked up by the Chicago Cubs. He then rebounded to post a .937 OPS in 250 at bats in Chicago.

Even with his productive stint in Chicago, Edmonds value to the Brewers is on the bench. He could provide a decent option if Corey Hart continues to struggle. Edmonds has completely dominated right handed pitching throughout his career. From 2000-2009, Edmonds posted OPS' over .880 against righties in every season but one (2007 -.775). In 2008, Edmonds posted a .883 against right handed pitching.

If Edmonds is capable of playing at his 2008 level, the Brewers need to be wary of where/when they use him. At this point in his career, Edmonds is not the player he once was. In earlier years, Edmonds could produce against lefties, but those days are gone. In his last three seasons, Edmonds has failed to produce an OPS above .650 against lefties (.479, .631, .441). On top of that, Edmonds' well documented defensive prowess is no longer one of his strong points. While playing CF in 2008, Edmonds racked up a -23.3 UZR/150 in 840 innings. Those are not the defensive numbers of a everyday outfielder, especially an everyday centerfielder.

One thing to watch after this signing is the bench for the Milwaukee Brewers. If Edmonds makes the team, the bench now becomes filled with lefties. Joining Edmonds would be Joe Inglett, Jody Gerut, Craig Counsell, Mat Gamel and whoever the Brewers decide to backup Gregg Zaun. While that is a very strong bench, a right handed option is still needed. Sure Mat Gamel can hit left handed pitching (Macha doesn't understand that), but the Brewers are really short on right handed hitters. I look for Adam Heether to make a run at the opening day roster. He would provide a right handed bat off the bench and can play just about anywhere in the field. Melvin mentioned one of the things he liked about Joe Inglett was his ability to play outfield. If Edmonds makes the club, Inglett's outfield abilities really become useless, which really opens the door for Heether. Inglett probably plays better defense than Heether around the board, but a righty is needed off the bench.

All in all, I really like this signing for the Brewers. Edmonds comes very cheap and could provide some value for the Brewers next season. With that being said, he needs to be used correctly. At this point in his career, Edmonds has no reason to step foot in center field. Also, Edmonds should not be allowed to bat against left handed pitching. The clear cut role for Edmonds would be to back up the corner outfielders. He provides a good option off the bench and could spot start if Corey Hart or Ryan Braun need a day off. Only time will tell if this pays off, but this has the potential to be a very good signing for the Brewers.

Monday, January 25, 2010

At WAR with the Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers are in one of the most important times in franchise history. Prince Fielder is just two seasons away from hitting free agency, which has turned the organization into a "win now" mindset. With the team looking for immediate help, the one way to accomplish this goal is to improve the team. While it has been a busy offseason in Milwaukee, whether the team is any better is up for debate.

One of the most important stats to look at when determining the value of a players is WAR. WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement, which tracks a player's value to a team over a certain season to the production of a replacement level player. In a nut shell, replacement level is what an average AAA callup could produce if they are given everyday playing time in the major leagues.

Finish 80-82 last season was certainly not how the Milwaukee Brewers wanted to respond after their first playoff appearance in 26 years. Sure the departure of C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets hurt, but with one of the most potent offenses in baseball returning, the Brewers had a chance. The offense lived up to expectations all season. Combined in 2009, Milwaukee Brewers position players posted a 25.8 WAR (good for 2nd in the NL and 6th in MLB). Problem is, the pitching also lived up to what many feared. As a staff, Milwaukee Brewers' pitchers were just 3.0 WAR. For a reference point, that was good for last in all of baseball.

After the terrible pitching display shown all season in Milwaukee, it would only make sense the club labeled it their top priority this offseason. The Brewers went out and landed both Randy Wolf and Doug Davis to help limit the damage. With the Brewers being on a limited budget, to acquire these players, others had to go. Doug Melvin found his solution by trading J.J. Hardy to Minnesota in exchange for CF Carlos Gomez(saving the club around $4 million). With the addition of Gomez, the Brewers decided to not renew the contract of Mike Cameron (saving around $9 million). So basically, the starting pitching was address at the expense of two important positional players. Sure the pitching improved, but what about the team?

Looking at the additions/subtractions from this offseason, based on their 2009 season is alarming.

Additions- Randy Wolf (3.0), Gregg Zaun (1.8), Doug Davis (1.7), Carlos Gomez (0.7) and Latroy Hawkins (0.3)

TOTAL in 2009- 7.5 WAR

Subtractions- Felipe Lopez (4.6), Mike Cameron (4.3), J.J. Hardy (1.4), Jason Kendall (1.2), Mark DiFelice (0.4) and Braden Looper (-0.9)

TOTAL in 2009- 11 WAR

Based on their 2009 numbers, the Brewers team WAR has been reduced by 3.5 with these moves. Seeing as this was just one season, this doesn't give an accurate assessment of what the Brewers have lost/gained this offseason. Alcides Escobar will be playing everyday and is not considered an addition. While I am reluctant on how much Escobar can produce, he will provide value to the team next season. Also, after giving Carlos Gomez the everyday job in CF, he will likely outproduce his 2009 WAR. He is only 24 years old and playing everyday could develop him into a productive player.

One of the main question marks is Rickie Weeks. Weeks has always been a good player (many will tell you otherwise), but he is coming off an injury. After a hot start in 2009, Weeks racked up a 1.5 WAR after just 37 games. Expand that start into a full season and Weeks' WAR of around 6.0 easily helps cushion the blow of losing Felipe Lopez. Now I'm not saying that Weeks can produce that kind of 2010, but even more pressure will be put on him. Rather than being a good player in a potent lineup, Weeks will now need to be a major contributor.

After the Doug Davis signing, the Milwaukee Brewers 2010 club seems to be set. The pitching has certainly taken a step forward, but it came at the expense of some very productive position players. Sure the club is more balanced now, but are they actually better?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Inevitable: Doug Davis signs with Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers just signed Doug Davis to a one year deal worth $4.25 million, with a mutual option for 2011 for $6.5 million. No matter how you look at it, the Brewers were going to sign at least one more pitcher this offseason. In Davis, the Brewers are getting another option in what was once a depleted rotation.

It's hard to be disappointed in the contract considering the length and money involved. While Davis is not an ace by any standards, he has proven to be a usable pitcher in the major leagues.

This will be Davis' second stint as a Milwaukee Brewer. Davis pitched in Milwaukee from 2003-2006, before being traded to Arizona as part of the Johnny Estrada deal. Over his career, Davis has racked up a respectable 6.7 K/9. The one thing that has always hindered Doug has been walks. Last season, Davis walked an incredible 103 batters which lead MLB. Davis' constant stubbornness to give into batters has lead to a career average of 4.1 BB/9.

Despite high walk totals, Davis has been able to keep a relatively low ERA. While in Arizona, Davis posted ERA's of 4.25, 4.32 and 4.12. Those number need to be taken with a grain of salt considering he played in the light hitting NL West. Looking at those numbers closer, Davis' advanced stats aren't as pretty. His FIPs (Fielding Independent Pitching) for those same seasons were 4.72, 4.15 and 4.84. Davis' walks lead to a high number of baserunners. In those same seasons, Davis posted WHIP's of 1.59, 1.53 and 1.5, which is much higher than the MLB average of 1.41. So how was Davis able to post decent ERA's? Well, he stranded runners. A lot of runners. On average for those three seasons when a runner reached base, he was left there 74.8% of the time (MLB average is 71%). While a 4% might not seem like a big deal, it can be the difference of a good and bad ERA.

While his years in Arizona weren't bad, Davis' prime occurred in a Brewers uniform. After being a waiver claim in 2003, Davis went onto pitch very effectively in Milwaukee. In his three full seasons as a Brewer, Davis posted ERA's of 3.39, 3.84 and 4.94. While his last season in Milwaukee was unspectacular, Davis' first two were a great surprise. In those first two seasons, Davis racked up 430 innings. Davis struck out 377 batters and walked 172 in that same time frame, posting a very solid K/BB ratio.

The real question that needs to be answered is what are the Brewers getting in Davis? I think the real answer falls somewhere in between what he was in Milwaukee and Arizona. While another 200+ strikeout season would be nice, it's tough to expect that out of Davis. The walks are going to be there, but Davis needs to limit them to be effective. While I hate the term "innings eater," that is exactly what Davis is. He has consistently posted 200+ innings throughout his career. Even in 2008, when he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, he was still able to log 146 innings. While both Davis and Jeff Suppan can eat innings, Davis has the ability to give quality innings, while Suppan cannot. Considering how overworked the Brewers bullpen was last season, Davis' durability should be a huge addition.

Looking at next years projections, Davis is not very highly regarded. Bill James projects Davis to post a 4.46 ERA in just over 200 innings, while CHONE has him at a 4.69 ERA in 167 innings. While those are certainly not the numbers the Brewers are looking for, it would still be an upgrade over last year's staff.

Looking at the rotation now, the Brewers are loaded with depth. Still in the running for the rotation are Davis, Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf, Dave Bush, Jeff Suppan, Manny Parra and Chris Narveson. The question now becomes, who are the odd men out? Davis, Gallardo and Wolf are all locks, so the final two spots will be distributed between the others. While Narveson impressed at the end of last season, he is unlikely to start the year in the rotation. When asked who would start in the rotation, I absolutely loved Doug Melvin's answer. "Players help us make those decisions." Judging by that response, I would guess the last player out will be determined in spring training. It will be important to see who is left out considering how wide open the NL Central is this year. Sure Suppan is in the final year of his contract, but starting him over Bush/Parra could be a huge mistake. In a year like this, a huge mistake could be very costly.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The "Wait and See" Approach

Free agency in the game of baseball is tough to predict. With the ever changing economy, teams have been forced to scale back spending. Gone are the days where mid-level talent was greatly compensated, placing a new importance on building a franchise via the draft. Even so, large contracts continue to be given out, but when are these contracts being inked? It seems as the days go by during the offseason, the asking price/years fall substantially.

It really is no secret, it happens just about every year. With teams signing players to huge contract at the start of free agency, they are much less motivated to sign other players as the offseason continues. It comes down to simply supply and demand. If a team signs one of their needs, they are far less likely to sign another player who would've fit that mold. Subsequently, unsigned players have fewer teams to battle for their rights, driving the price way down. My question is why are general managers forcing signings early in the offseason, when comparable talent can be found much cheaper by waiting?

While team are less likely to "sell the farm" on free agency, big contracts are still being signed. John Lackey signed with the Red Sox for 5yrs/$82.5 million. Jason Bay recently signed with the Mets for 4yrs/$66 million and Matt Holliday inked a 7yr/$120 million deal with the Cardinals. The point of this post is not to examine if these were good signings or not, but to question what patience could've done for the teams.

Obviously, the shorter a contract is, the more it benefits an organization. In baseball, unlike other sports, teams have to be much more careful of how they spend their money. Baseball contracts are made up of guaranteed money, meaning even if the player is hurt, he is still entitled to receive payment. In short, spending money in free agency comes with a risk, a very big risk.

Looking at the above contracts, there are similar players available on the free agent market. Right now, the "best" starting pitcher left is Joel Pineiro. While Pineiro struggle to strike out hitters (4.4 K/9 in 2009), his control is incredible. He walked just 27 batters in 214 innings last season while pitching in St. Louis. Coming off last season, Pineiro was expecting a large payday. Reports early this offseason had him asking for a four year deal, worth around $60 million. But as the days come and go, so do the suitors, and subsequent money. As pitchers have fallen off the market and teams have filled needs, Pineiro's asking price has plummeted. There are reports right now he is discussing a 2yr/$15 million contract with the Dodgers. Oh and by the way, Pineiro is a type B free agent, meaning he wouldn't cost the team signing him a first round draft pick.

Meanwhile, the Mets and Cardinals already signed their big free agents, in Jason Bay and Matt Holliday. As the two big free agent outfielders fell, so did the prices on others, leaving great bargains to be had. Soon after, one year deals were signed by Vladimir Guerrero ($5 mil), Hideki Matsui ($6.5 mil) and Ryan Church ($1.5 mil). Sure these players are in the back end of their career's, but so will Bay and Holliday once their contracts are up (Bay 35, Holliday 36).

As the days pass, the more tense free agents are getting. As teams continue to fill out their rosters, players drop their asking prices, leaving for great bargains to be had. The question I continue to ask myself is why are teams immediately jumping into the free agent market, while competition and prices are high? Why not just take a wait and see approach to find good options at cheaper prices and shorter contracts? Sure you might lose out on the "top free agents," but the money teams could save can be used to find other upgrades. It seems to be every season teams find value bargains like Bobby Abreu, or Orlando Hudson. Sure there not the "top free agents," but you're also not paying "top free agent" money for their services.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Chris Narveson: Viable Option?

It is widely accepted the Milwaukee Brewers are still seeking help with their starting rotation. It seems they have been connected to just about every available pitcher on the free agent market, but could the void be filled internally?

The best option in house seems to be Chris Narveson. One of the most enjoyable pitching performances last season at Miller Park occurred in a spot start from Narveson. On September 23rd, Narveson pitched 5 2/3 innings against the Chicago Cubs. While it was just Narveson's third start of the season, the control and movement on his pitches was simply incredible. In his start, Narveson threw just 70 pitches, but still managed to strike out ten, without walking anyone. He gave up just four hits and allowed one run.

So, the question is what do the Brewers really have with Chris Narveson?

Up until his move to Milwaukee, Narveson's career was quickly fading. He was drafted in the second round of the 2000 amateur draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. Over the next five seasons, Narveson became the #2 rated prospect in the Cardinals organization, and for good reason. In that time frame, Narveson was used almost entirely as a starter, logging 447 innings. He struck out 407 batters, while only walking 133. Those numbers equated to a nifty 3.06:1 K:BB ratio.

Narveson was then sent to the Colorado Rockies as part of the trade that landed Larry Walker in St. Louis. It seemed as soon as that trade was completed, Narveson lost his effectiveness.

He finished out the 2004 season with the Colorado Rockies' AA affiliate Tulsa, where he struck out 14 batters in 20 innings, while walking 13. Narveson's time with the Rockies didn't last long. He was traded just before the 2005 season to Boston for Byung-Hyun Kim. After struggling again, now with the Red Sox organization, Narveson was placed on waivers and claimed by the Cardinals. After struggling to find his command in two more seasons with the Cardinals, he was granted free agency after 2007.

The Brewers signed Narveson and gave him an invite to spring training, where he impressed. The Brewers decided to send Narveson to AAA for the 2008 season, where he regained some of his form. While his 2008 ERA of 5.43 would suggest otherwise, Narveson pitched a solid 136 AAA innings. He struck out 125 batters, while walking 57 for a 2.2:1 K:BB ratio. A high BABIP (batting average of balls in play) was the reason for the abnormally high ERA. In 2009, Narveson continued his success at the AAA level. In 26 appearances, six starts, was able to post a 3.70 ERA in 75 innings. He struck out an incredible 76 batters, while walking just 26. The strong work allowed Narveson to earn a promotion to Milwaukee.

After a brief mid-season call up, Narveson remained in major leagues for good after being recalled in late August. He was able to respond over the next month and a half. In that time frame, Narveson struck out 37 batters, while walking just 11 in 36 1/3 innings. He was given four starts, including his incredible outing against the Cubs. For the entire season, Narveson finished 2-0 with a 3.83 ERA.

Even after his incredible finish to the 2009 season, it's tough to know what to expect going forward. Many often discredit performances later in the season, because teams usually load their rosters with young talent to see what they have. I'm not so quick to discredit Narveson's finish considering the incredible control and movement of his pitches he showed at the end of 2009. Would I lock him into my 2010 rotation? No, but he has to be looked at as an option.

Narveson's current projections for 2010 are all over the place. Bill James projects an ERA of 4.73 in 78 innings (65K's, 34BB). CHONE has Chris at a much more respectable 4.18 ERA in 56 innings (54 K's, 23BB). I bring up these projections, because they are very similar to a starting pitcher the Brewers have been linked to. Jarrod Washburn currently projects for a 4.09 ERA with Bill James, and a 4.63 ERA with CHONE. The only difference between Narveson and Washburn is the price tag on each. Narveson will make the league minimum, while Washburn is currently seeking a three year deal, worth around $20 million.

Obviously Narveson's ability to go deep into games is in question, but he has shown in the minor leagues he can be a starter. In the last two seasons, Narveson has started 28 games for Nashville. He was drafted, and pitched almost entirely as a starting pitcher. He throws multiple (I've seen three, but heard four) pitches relatively effectively. I just can't fathom why the Brewers would overpay Jarrod Washburn when they have an equally talented pitcher currently in house.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Top Moments of 2009

Last year was disappointing to say the least for the Milwaukee Brewers organization. Following the club's first playoff birth in 26 years, the Brewers finished two games under .500, good for third place in the NL Central. While 2009 was frustrating, it didn't come without it's fair share of memorable moments.

Top 10 Moments of 2009

10. Mitch Stetter's Streak

After the loss of Brian Shouse, in 2009 the Brewers were searching for a solid lefty out of the bullpen. In his brief time in Milwaukee, Mitch Stetter showed flashes of brilliance, but also was prone to walks. That all changed for a brief time this season when Stetter was able to record 15 straight outs via the strikeout. During his 15 K streak, Stetter didn't walk a batter, while surrendering just three hits and no runs. His K streak occurred in the middle of a 17 game stretch where he didn't allow a run. In that stretch, Stetter struck out 24 batters in 14.2 innings, while walking just three batters.

9. Dave Bush's near no-no

There is no player on the current Brewers roster who has come closer to pitching a no-hitter than Dave Bush. In 2008, Bush came within just six outs of accomplishing the feat, only to see former Brewer Lyle Overbay triple down the left field line. Well, on April 23, 2009, Bush came one out closer only to see a similar fate occur. After pitching 7 1/3 innings of hitless ball, Dave Bush watched former Brewer Matt Stairs hit a 86 MPH fastball off the right field foul pole. It was really tough to watch, but it couldn't overshadow Bush's great performance where he out pitched Cole Hamels enroute to a 6-1 Brewers win.

8. Prince Fielder knocks 'em down

On September 6th, Prince Fielder hit a walk off HR in the bottom of the 12th inning to defeat the San Francisco Giants 2-1. While the HR didn't mean a whole lot to the Brewers (seeing as they were already out of the playoff race), it proved to be very controversial. After hitting his HR, Prince jumped high on home plate only to see his entire team fall upon his landing. Personally, I thought the entire scene was very comical, but others thought the Brewers were, once again, disgracing the game. It's tough to see how the Brewers intended to cause any harm by the celebration. Sure the HR dealt a huge blow to the Giants, who were right in the middle of a playoff race, but it was still in fun. These guys are just playing a game out there. It was refreshing to see a team able to celebrate in the midst of a very disappointing year.

7. Cameron Robs HR, Brewers Walk Off

June 27th saw one of the best games at Miller Park this season. In the top of the 7th, Mike Cameron made one of the best catches I have ever seen to rob Nate Schierholtz off a go ahead home run and keep the game tied 4-4. The score would remain the same until the top of the ninth inning when the Giants rallied to score two runs off Trevor Hoffman and his 1.25 ERA at the time. Trailing 6-4, the Giants called on one of the best closers in the game in Brian Wilson. The Brewers responded with a three run rally capped by walk off double by Prince Fielder.

6. Casey and Mack McGehee

On July 29th, Casey McGehee's son Mack McGehee threw out the first pitch at Miller Park, but this wasn't like any ordinary pitch. Mack McGehee, 2, is suffering from cerebral palsy, a brain disorder that great affects muscle movement and coordination. Catching Mack's pitch was Casey, who was brought to tears at the sight of his son's excitement. That was not the last of the McGehee's that night. Casey, although not starting, responded by hitting a pinch hit, go ahead two run home run in the sixth inning. The Brewers would hang onto a 7-5 victory thanks to McGehee's heroics. It was truly one of the best moments in 2009.

5. Brewers Rally in Pittsburgh

There is no question over the past few seasons the Brewers have struggled to win on the road. Combine that with a late deficit, and May 4th spelled another loss for the Brewers. Trailing 3-1 in the top of the eight inning, the Brewers were in need of a rally. After loading the bases with two outs, the Brewers called on Ryan Braun, who was fresh off the plane after recovering from a stiff back, off the bench. Braun responded by delivering a two run, popup double to tie the game 3-3. However, the Pirates scored in bottom of the inning on a Jason Jaramillo double and lead the game 4-3 going to the ninth. The Brewers were not done however. After back to back singles by Jason Kendall and Craig Counsell, Corey Hart walked to load the bases with no outs. J.J. Hardy tied the game with a line drive sac fly to center, setting up Rickie Weeks with runners on the corners and just one out. Weeks continued the rally by launching a fastball into the left field seats for a three run home run, propelling the Brewers to a 7-4 come from behind victory. While Weeks' season would end shortly after that, it was nice to see the confidence on his face after that hit.

4. Ryan Braun does it again

Just about every baseball fan in Milwaukee recalls Ryan Braun's two run HR in 2008 against the Chicago Cubs on the last day of the season, sending Milwaukee to the playoffs. Well, May 8th, 2009 was more of the same from Braun. After being frustrated for seven innings by Cubs' pitching, the Brewers found themselves trailing 2-1, in the bottom of the eighth inning. After a double by Corey Hart to start the inning, Ryan Braun came up to face Aaron Heilman. Braun promptly sent Heilman's 1-0, 100 MPH fastball into the right field bleachers for a 3-2 Brewers lead. Trevor Hoffman went onto pitch a perfect top of the ninth for a 3-2 Brewers victory. Maybe it's just me, but it's nice to see Cubs fans file out of Miller Park disappointed.

3. Hell's Bells

The way the closer has taken off in baseball is incredible. It seems every time they enter a ballgame, the crowd goes insane. They are greeted with music blaring over the speakers, graphics flashing over the scoreboards and general hoopla is involved (Sorry, I really like those Coors Light Coaches ads). To me, there was really nothing that would ever compare to "Enter Sandman" in Yankee Stadium for Mariano Rivera, but then again, I had never seen "Hell's Bells." On April 27th, Hoffman returned from a stint on the DL to make his first appearance as a Brewer. Sure the Brewers were up by 5 and it wasn't a save situation, but Hoffman's intro still rang true. Hell's Bells made it's first appearance at Miller Park. Hoffman promptly dispatched of the Pirates, throwing a 1-2-3 inning and finished a 10-5 Brewers victory, but what was started was really entertaining. For the next five months, the city of Milwaukee was obsessed with Hell's Bells. It became the official party song of the summer. The electricity inside Miller Park when that song is played was incredible.

2. Comeback on Opening Day

There are few things that rival opening day in Miller Park. It has really been some sort of ritual to the city of Milwaukee. People arrive hours before the game to tailgate, and have fun. Some have said, and I agree, it is the official start to spring. This season was no different. People arrived early. People drank heavily. Some didn't make it into the game and really could've cared less, but they missed out. After being throughly dominated by Rich Harden and the Cubs' bullpen, the Brewers found themselves trailing 3-2 going to the last half of the ninth inning. Enter newly acquired Cubs' closer Kevin Gregg. After Jason Kendall grounded out to start the inning, Ken Macha called on Chris Duffy. Yes, that Chris Duffy. It proved to work out after Duffy drew a walk. Then, Rickie Weeks stepped to the plate. Weeks ripped a 2-1 fastball over the head of Alfonso Soriano to tie the game. After a wild pitch advanced Weeks to third, Corey Hart was walked, setting up runners on the corners for Ryan Braun. Braun nubbed a 1-2 fastball to short. Instead of trying to turn a double play, Ryan Theriot threw home to try and get Weeks. Weeks' headfirst slide beat the tag and sent Miller Park into a frenzy. The Brewers won 4-3 on one the best opening days in recent memory.

1. Cleveland Rocks

I may be a little bias in the matter considering I went to Cleveland this season to celebrate my birthday with my brother, who now lives there. Opening a three game series in Cleveland, the Milwaukee Brewers were apart of "Major League night." In tribute to the original "Major League" movie, every fan was given Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn bobbleheads. Bob Uecker even threw out the first pitch for his role as Harry Doyle. After grabbing an early lead, the Brewers fell behind 8-3, after just four innings. Battling back, the Brewers responded with four runs over the next two innings and pulled back to trail 8-7. The Indians, however, were not done, answering the Brewers with a four spot of their own in the bottom of the sixth for a 12-7 lead. After scoring one in the seventh, the Brewers found themselves down four going to the eighth. I remembering joking to my brother that "if we can just load the bases for Braun or Fielder." Well, little did I know that would actually happen. After J.J. Hardy flew out to start the eighth, the horrible Indians' bullpen struck again. Matt Herges and former Brewer Luis Vizciano walked the bases loaded and gave up a single to Ryan Braun. Still holding a 12-9 lead, the Indians' lefty Rafael Perez was summoned into the game to face Prince Fielder. Fielder ripped a hanging slider on the first pitch he saw into the right field bleachers. It was his first career grand slam and gave the Brewers a 13-12 lead. They went onto win 14-12 and eventually swept the Indians in a three game series.

Let me know if there are any moments you thought I missed that should've been on the list. Yes, I did remember the run-off victory and Yovani's incredible 1-0 performance against the Pirates, but I thought these were better.