Monday, April 26, 2010

The 5th Starter

Now that Jeff Suppan has been relegated to the bullpen (finally), there is an open battle for the fifth spot in the Brewers rotation. The two internal candidates to fill the void are Chris Narveson and Manny Parra.

It has been announced that Narveson will immediately fill in for Suppan. This was very surprising considering how both pitchers have looked this season. Here are there stats thus far.

Manny Parra: (0-0, 0.00 ERA), 7.2 IP, 7 hits, 0 ER (0 R), 6:1 GB:FB ratio, 8 K, 1 BB

Chris Narveson: (1-0, 7.20 ERA), 10 IP, 17 hits, 8 ER, (9 R), 1.4:1 GB:FB ratio, 6 K, 7 BB

Sure those number are an extremely small sample size, but Parra's numbers are very impressive. Parra has always been pretty good at keeping the ball on the ground, but has a relatively high HR's per FB %. This has led me to think he has been an unlucky pitcher.

I was shocked considering the future potential of each pitcher. Narveson isn't over the hill, but doesn't have the upside as Parra. Parra still has four years until he hits free agency. He is surely in the future plans of this club, but is being relegated to the bullpen. Narveson clearly has the talent to pitch in the major leagues, but so does Parra.

While Narveson has struggled thus far this season, he is capable of keeping the fifth spot in the rotation. He was very impressive last season while starting, an possess very good control. He walked just 16 batters in 47 innings last season, while striking out 46. That equated to a 3.83 ERA. He isn't able to keep the ball on the ground as well as Parra, but has managed to keep it in the ballpark. In over 1000 minor league innings, Narveson's career HR/9 is just south of one.

However you look at it, the damage has been limited with Suppan. Sure he was given two starts over pitcher he is clearly worse than, but the Brewers were able to split the games. He will head to the 'pen with a 0-1 record and an ERA of 8.68. At this point I can hope, but figure the Brewers will not release Suppan. Sure there are better pitchers internally than Suppan, but they aren't making $14.5 million this season. Doug Melvin said Suppan's two starts weren't financially motivated, but how else could they be justified? I just don't see them releasing Suppan and paying more than $20 million this season to players who aren't on the ballclub (the Brewers are currently paying $7.15 of Bill Hall's contract).

One reason Parra might not be moving into the rotation is the need for a solid lefty out of the bullpen. This is even more reason to release Suppan and free up a roster spot. That roster spot could be used for Mitch Stetter, who was sent down when Suppan was activated off the disabled list. Since his demotion, Stetter is yet to allow a run in four games. In those four games, he has logged 5.1 innings and struck out six, while walking two. If last year's strike out streak is any indication of what Stetter can bring, there is no reason he should be in Nashville. Anyone can be a long reliever. There is no sense in wasting a valuable roster spot on someone for fear of releasing his enormous salary and looking bad. Jeff Suppan is of no value to this club. It's time to just cut your losses.

Moving forward, this is an immediate upgrade to a rotation that hasn't performed thus far. Something tells me the combination of Manny Parra and Chris Narveson can outperform the -0.7 WAR Suppan posted in 2009.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Domination in Pittsburgh

Words cannot describe how badly the Milwaukee Brewers dominated the Pittsburgh Pirates this week. Here's a look at the pitching/hitting stats for the series.

Brewers starting pitchers: 3-0, 0.00 ERA, 18 IP, 0 ER (0 R) 15 K, 7 BB
Pirates starting pitchers: 0-3, 15.82 ERA 9.2 IP, 17 ER (19 R), 8 K, 9 BB

Brewers relievers: 0-0, 1.00 ERA, 9 IP, 1 ER (1 R), 7 K, 2 BB
Pirates relievers: 0-0, 7.79 ERA, 17.1 IP, 15 ER (17 R), 13 K, 10 BB

Brewers hitters: 46-125 (.368), 36 runs, 8 HR, 91 total bases, 18 BB
Pirates hitters: 18-95 (.189), 1 run, 0 HR, 24 total bases, 12 BB

Now for the fun facts.

The Brewers scored 36X the runs as the Pirates (36-1)

The Brewers scored more runs than the Pirates had total bases (36-24)

The Brewers scored in 15 different innings; The Pirates scored in one.

Dave Bush walked as many times as the Pirates scored.

The Brewers bullpen recorded just two fewer outs than the Pirates starting pitchers (29-27).

Randy Wolf had as many hits as the Pirates middle infield (Wolf: 2-3; Iwamura and Cedeno 2-21).

The Pirates had six extra base hits; The Brewers had 25.

While on the topic... the Brewers had seven more extra base hits than the Pirates had total hits.

With RISP, the Brewers were 17-47; The Pirates were 2-25.

Pirates relievers recorded 52 outs; their starters recorded 29.

Pirates pitchers threw 562 pitches. The Brewers' staff threw 436.

The Pirates team ERA (already a league worst going into the series) raised from 6.34 to 7.23.

The Brewers team ERA dropped from 6.06 to 4.88.

The Pirates were averaging 4.42 runs per game coming into the series. That dropped to 3.53 after the series.

The Brewers were averaging 5.42 runs per game. That ballooned to 6.73 after the series, which is good for tops in MLB.

Anyway you look at it, this one of the most lopsided series in history of baseball.

Coming into this roadtrip, the Brewers had to like their chances. Playing nine games against the Cubs, Nationals and Pirates should be an easy roadtrip. But after dropping four of the first five, the Brewers were staring a losing road trip in the face. They scored 47 runs over the next four games, winning all of them. That secured a winning road trip.

The Brewers will now head home to face the Chicago Cubs. Stay tuned for a preview coming soon.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Jason Marquis and Doug Davis

Top of the first (Brewers batting)

Weeks singled
Counsell singled, Weeks to third
Braun singled, Weeks scored, Counsell to second
Fielder hit by pitch, Counsell to third, Braun to second
McGehee walked, Counsell scored, Braun to third, Fielder to second
Edmonds hit by pitch, Braun scored, Fielder to third, McGehee to second
Zaun singled, Fielder scored, McGehee to third, Edmonds to second

That was the entire day on Sunday for Jason Marquis. He didn't record an out and was responsible for three runners, all of whom scored. His final line...

0 IP, 4 hits, 7 runs (all earned), one walked , 2 hit batters, no strike outs

It wasn't the first time he has struggled this season. In his first two starts as a National, Marquis was 0-2 with a 12.96 ERA. So after today, Marquis is 0-3 with a 20.52 ERA.

Marquis was an all star in 2009 while pitching for the Colorado Rockies, but struggled in second half. After the mid-summer classic, Marquis' ERA was 4.56. Despite the rough finish, the Nationals rewarded Marquis with a two year, $15 million contract.

The best part of this was how big of a bullet the Brewers dodged here.

I found it very interesting Marquis was matched up with Doug Davis on Sunday. Both pitchers were linked to the Brewers this offseason. Both are at the back end of their careers. Both have struggled with their new teams in 2010.

The key for the Brewers is both don't have the same contracts. I was cringing when the Brewers were linked to Marquis early in the offseason. After reports that the Mets were pursuing him hard, the Brewers interest cooled. Marquis was looking for a three year, $30 million contract when the Brewers had interest. Signing Marquis would've been Jeff Suppan v 2.0.

Davis was signed instead to a one year deal worth $5.25 million. A much better idea considering Davis is a better pitcher and was signed for cheaper and shorter in length.

While Marquis has consistently racked up innings, he has also consistent failed to strike out batters. His career 5.3 K/9 is awful (also heavily weighted from earlier in his career). Pair that with rising walk totals (3.6 BB/9 in last three seasons) and Marquis looks like a bad contract waiting to happen.

Davis isn't Dan Haren when it comes to controlling the ball either. His 4.4 BB/9 in last three seasons is amongst the worst in baseball, but he can combat that with strikeouts. In that same span, Davis posted 6.7 K/9 on average. Sure those aren't the numbers of an ace, but they are good enough to round out a rotation.

Be upset if you want to about the way Doug Davis has pitched this season, but it could be worse. I'm just thankful Jason Marquis isn't priced into our rotation for the next three years the way Jeff Suppan was.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Series Preview: Cubs

Monday: Doug Davis (0-0, 9.00) vs. Ryan Dempster (0-0, 1.50)

Davis somehow managed four decent innings on Wednesday after a horrendous first inning. All in all, he allowed four runs in four innings. He struck out four and walked three before being lifted mid-inning in the fifth. Throughout his career, Davis has been more effective against righties. This should help him out considering the Cubs are almost completely right handed. The wind sounds like it is blowing out to right field today, so it shouldn't effect Davis too much. The main way of success for Davis is going to be to keep his walks down. Games can get really ugly for pitchers in Wrigley Field's hitter friendly dimensions. As always, solo home runs won't kill you; three run shots will.

Dempster struck out nine, while walking just two Braves in his first start of the season last Wednesday. He ended up getting a no decision after John Grabow surrendered the lead in the eighth. Dempster has been incredible since converting to a starter. Over the past two seasons, Dempster has started 65 games. In that streach, his ERA stands around 3.20. He has consistently ranked near the top in strikeouts since the conversion. Couple that with a relatively low walk rate and one could see why Dempster could be put in talks with some of the better pitchers in baseball.

Advantage: Cubs

Wednesday: Dave Bush (0-0, 4.76) vs. Randy Wells (1-0, 0.00)

Bush looked great in his first start of the season on Friday night. He struck out six Cardinals, while walking just two in 5.2 innings. He was one pitch away from getting through six before Matt Holliday connected for a two-run home run and Bush was immediately pulled. The hook seemed rather quick considering how well Bush was pitching, but the Brewers bullpen held the lead until the ninth. That's when Nick Stavinoha connected off Trevor Hoffman for a game winning homer, costing Bush the win the process. Regardless, there was a lot to be excited about the way Bush threw the ball on Friday.

Wells is a pitcher I really don't understand. His stuff doesn't blow you away. His numbers don't blow you away. But somehow, Wells figures out a way. Take his last start for example. He pitched six scoreless innings in a win over the Atlanta Braves. In that outing, he walked two batters and struck out just one. Where Wells is effective is with his control. He walked just 46 batters last season in 165.1 innings. That has helped combat his rather low strikeout rate. Despite Wells' success against the Brewers, I'm giving the edge to the Brewers in this one.

Advantage: Brewers

Thursday: Jeff Suppan (0-0, -) vs. Carlos Zambrano (1-1, 11.88)

Sigh. What else can you say? Jeff Suppan has been named the fifth starter for the time being despite being the worst option. This contract just continues to hurt the Brewers. Manager Ken Macha said the decision wasn't financially motivated, but the what was it? It surely wasn't talent motivated. Suppan was terrible each of the last two seasons. He was terrible in spring training. He was bad in his rehab start. Tell me how else can they justify this decision? Hopefully he somehow pitches alright, but the odds are not in the Brewers favor.

Zambrano was rocked on opening day to the tune of eight runs in 1.1 innings. He followed that up with a solid outing against the Reds. Zambrano struck out nine in seven innings, while walking three. He gave up three runs and got the win. Zambrano has struggled with his control of late, but the Cubs are surely favored in this one.

Advantage: Cubs

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Series Wrapup: Cardinals


Cardinals win series 2-1

What else can you really say about this series? In all honesty, the Brewers should have won the series. Anytime you are able to get the ball to Trevor Hoffman with a lead, you take your chances. It just so happened in this series, Hoffman didn't show up. He blew two saves and cost the Brewers a win on Friday night. Although everyone in Milwaukee will tell you different, Trevor Hoffman's career isn't over.

One of the best things about opening week to me is the added value put on it. If somebody hits .400 in the first couple of games, they are an MVP candidate. If somebody doesn't get a hit (i.e. Gregg Zaun), they are bad. It's pretty comical, but that's the way it is.

Milwaukee's newest example is Trevor Hoffman. Against what many will tell you, Trevor Hoffman doesn't suck. He is simply a pitcher struggling with control right now. If there's one thing Hoffman can't lose, it's control. I guess that's the story for anyone who's fastball tops out in the mid-80's. One thing people need to understand is that Hoffman has always been a soft-tossing righty with a deadly changeup. I understand Hoffman is lighting up radar guns this year, but he never did. I didn't hear anyone complain last year when he was throwing at the exact same velocity.

I know I'm in the minority in this thinking, but Hoffman will be fine. Trust me, by June we will all be laughing about this.

However, there are some more alarming things going on with this club.

Jim Edmonds

When the Milwaukee Brewers signed Jim Edmonds, I wasn't really blown away. I understood what we were getting: a player at the tail end of his career who could be a nice option off the bench. I guess Ken Macha wasn't in the same mindset. Edmonds has started four games in the first week of the season. Making matters worse, Edmonds has already batted against a lefty on three separate occasions (he's 0-3). There is no excuse for Edmonds starting over Corey Hart on a regular basis. Furthermore, there is no reason Edmonds should ever bat against a lefty.

On Sunday night, Ken Macha did what I was fearing and started Edmonds in CF. At this point in his career, Edmonds really doesn't belong playing defense anywhere in the outfield. Putting Edmonds in a corner outfield spot is troubling, but starting him in CF is inexcusable. He doesn't have anywhere near the range needed to play out there. Sure he was a great defender in his day, but his days have past. He is no more than a bench player now.

Carlos Gomez

I told myself I was going to refrain from jumping on Gomez to quickly, but that was before his most recent slump. After going 4-5 with a homer on opening day, Gomez has just one hit in his last 16 at bats. He is yet to draw a walk on the season and is showing no plate discipline. On Saturday, I watched him foul numerous balls off his foot as he chased slider after slider in the dirt. I know the Brewers were trying to teach him to reach base, but batting him second isn't a place to learn.

The Brewers have a solid CF sitting on the bench in Jody Gerut. I understand by making the Gomez trade, they were going to play him, but why everyday? If he's not producing, he should play. Learning and maturing should happen in the minor leagues, not at the top of a major league lineup. He hasn't shown any ability to get on base in his career. Why is that suddenly going to change in Milwaukee? If you are going to play him, at least run a platoon with Gerut playing against righties.

Bullpen Management

My biggest beef with Ken Macha in his time as manager of the Brewers is the way he handles the bullpen. Throwing relievers for multiple innings and just about everyday is the perfect way to run a bullpen into the ground (i.e. 2009). He has learned nothing from last year. LaTroy Hawking was unnecessarily used again on Sunday when Carlos Villanueva was pulled with two out in the eigth. Villanueva was clearly pitching well enough to finish the inning, but was pulled so Hawkins could make his fourth appearance in the last five games.

Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart

It's nice to see Weeks and Hart getting off to a nice start. Through the first week of the season, Weeks is batting .368 with two home runs and six walks. Combine that with his two HBP's and you're looking at a .556 OBP. I know it's early, but Weeks looks primed for a huge season. He's hitting the ball as hard as I've ever seen him and playing a very solid second base.

Hart is also back to hitting the ball with authority. The main thing now will be consistency. I think that starts with his playing time. It's hard to get in a groove if you're sitting the bench three days a week. Hart had four hits in seven at bats in the Cardinals series and a home run. The ball is jumping off his bat. It will be interesting to see if he can continue his momentum in Chicago.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Series Preview: Cardinals

Friday: Kyle Lohse (0-0, -) vs. Dave Bush (0-0, -)

Advantage: Brewers

Since coming over to the Cardinals, Lohse has pitched effectively. In his two seasons in St. Louis, his K:BB ratio is better than 2:1. While Lohse is not an overpower, strikeout pitcher, he has been able to keep his walks down. In his Cardinal tenure, he has thrown 337.2 innings and walked just 85 batters. That equates to a 2.26 BB/9. If there is one thing Dave Duncan has been able to do, it's teach control.

Anyone who reads this blog know how big a fan of Dave Bush I am. Now that Bush's injury plagued 2009 is in the past, I am expecting a big season. When on his game, Bush can be one of the better pitchers in the National League. The main thing to look for in tonight's start is the home run ball. Over the past two seasons, Bush surrendered an astonishing 1.5 HR/9. The Cardinals feature a tough 3-4 duo in Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. Both are capable of feeding off Bush's longball troubles. If he is able to keep the ball in the park, the Brewers should have the advantage.

Saturday: Chris Carpenter (1-0, 3.00) vs. Yovani Gallardo (0-1, 3.86)

Advantage: Cardinals

Carpenter was back at in on Opening Day against the Reds. He pitched a very impressive six innings in Cincinnati, striking out three and not walking a batter. It's that kind of control that lead to his 2009 NL Cy Young award. What makes Carpenter such a good pitcher is not only his K and BB. He is also incredible at keeping the ball on the ground. Last season he post a near 2:1 groundball to flyball ratio. He is arguably the best pitcher in the National League.

On Monday, Gallardo surely didn't have his best stuff. However, Gallardo was able to pitch a pretty good game. He allowed four runs (three earned), over seven innings of work. He walked just two, despite battling with his command all day and was able to fan five batters. When Yo is on his game, he can pitch with the best. This will be his first start since signing a 5-year extension yesterday. Runs should be tough to come by in this one, but with the way Carpenter pitched last season, I'm giving the edge to the Cardinals by the slightest margin. Hopefully we get a repeat of last season's 1-0 win with the same starters.

Sunday: Jaime Garcia (0-0, -) vs. Randy Wolf (1-0, 5.40)

Advantage: Brewers

This is a huge break for the Brewers. Manager Tony La Russa is pushing back Adam Wainwright so he can start opening day in St. Louis, so Garcia gets the nod. He will be making his first appearance in the majors since 2008 and just his second big league start. Garcia shouldn't be taken lightly however. He has shown decent control and strikeout numbers throughout the minors. Even though, Brewers fans should be thanking La Russa for this one.

Wolf is the pitcher I am most looking forward to this weekend. I was there on Tuesday and was very impressed with what I saw. Wolf fanned eight batters without surrendering a walk over 6.2 innings. Sure he gave up four runs, but his command was hopefully a sign of things to come. If he pitches anything like he did on Tuesday, the Brewers should be able to win the final game of the series.


On paper, this looks like a very winnable series for the Brewers. Clearly, the Cardinals are the favorite to win the NL Central, so it's important to win these games at home. So much emphasis is put on late season meetings, but these games are just as important.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Series Recap: Rockies

After a disappointing Opening Day, the Milwaukee Brewers responded by taking the final two games against the Rockies. For this team to succeed, winning at home is a must. Winning the first series of the season was a good start.

The Good


9.1 IP, 7 hits, 2 R (2 ER), 8 K, 3 BB (2 Intentional), 1.93 ERA

The most encouraging thing about this series was how solidly the bullpen pitched. One strength of this club is how tough they will be at the end of games. Watching LaTroy Hawkins' two spotless innings, with three punchouts was very nice to see.

The bullpen surrendered just one walk (the other two were IBB) in the whole series. Combine that with eight strikeouts and winning close games becomes much easier. Plus, I have to admit, listening to hells bells is very fun.

Randy Wolf

Randy Wolf's start on Tuesday night is one reason the term "quality start" is flawed. While Wolf didn't qualify for this, he was very impressive. Over 6.2 innings, Wolf struck out eight Rockies. Even better, Wolf didn't surrender a walk. Of his 97 pitches, 72 were for strikes. If there is one thing I like in a pitcher, pounding the strike zone is it. Sure he gave up four runs, but that's just unlucky. If Wolf keeps putting up starts like he did on Tuesday, the runs against him will be few and far between.

Rickie Weeks

Sure he struck out three times on Wednesday, but Rickie looked good offensively and defensively all series long. Here are his three game logs.

Monday: 1-3, Single, BB, HBP, R

Tuesday: 1-2, HR, RBI, 2 BB, SB, 2 R

Wednesday: 1-4, Single, RBI, 3 K

The most encouraging thing to see was his patience. Weeks was able to get on base seven times vs the Rockies. Better yet, he was able to work the pitcher everytime up. On six different occations, Weeks saw six or more pitches in an at bat. Sure he struck out three times on Wednesday, but he still worked the pitcher to a full count in two of those at bats. Very encouraging things from Rickie.

Casey McGehee

The Brewers success this season hinges greatly on the success of McGehee. I still think Mat Gamel should see frequent playing time when he returns from injury, but McGehee's start to the season was very nice. All in all, McGehee went 5-11, including a three-run home run.

The Not-So-Good

Doug Davis

Davis' first start back in Milwaukee was one to forget. By Davis' 30th pitch on Wednesday, he had already... faced five batters, walked three, allowed two runs and the bases were still loaded. His line after the first five batters...

0 IP, 2 Hits, 3 R (3 ER), 0 K, 3 BB

His line after the first five batters...

4 IP, 4 Hits, 1 R (1 ER), 4 K, 0 BB

That was one of the reasons I was so confused why Macha pulled him after a leadoff double in the 5th. He was only at 88 pitches and could have easily finished the inning. It's decisions like that that have run the Brewers into the ground last year. Instead of finishing the inning, Macha went to Todd Coffey for two innings. Watch more multiple innings from the Brewers relief. It was one of the reasons why the Brewers faultered last season.


Brewers' backstops went a combined 0-11 in the series at the plate. George Kottaras got the start Wednesday and drove in two runs, but looked terrible in the field. Not one, not two, but five times balls went to the backstop with Kottaras catching. Sure the pitches weren't the best, but they looked like balls that need to be blocked. I am positive Zaun will rebound from his 0-8 start, but

Joshua Sacco

I'll be posting a series review for the Rockies later tonight. In the meantime, here is a video a friend passed along to me. I think you'll enjoy it. Just click the video link below.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Baseball: A Game of Numbers

Before I start this post, I want to address the early success of Carlos Gomez in the first game of the season.

Gomez looked very good today going 4-5 with a HR, double and a pair of singles. Take this performance for what it is... a very good game. The key there is this was one game. As I was driving home from the game, I heard multiple callers refer to Gomez' superstar potential. I hope I am wrong, but there is little in Gomez' young career to suggest this. Five at-bats should not, and will not make up for three disappointing seasons.

The same can be said for Alcides Escobar who went hitless in four at-bats. It's one game. Sure it would have been nice for an equally impressive game as Gomez, but going hitless means little to change my thoughts on Alcides. With that being said, let's move onto my thoughts of today's game.

The main question on many Brewer fans' minds in the past week was who would start in RF. That question was answered when Jim Edmonds was penciled in on Monday. I didn't have a huge problem with this, but I would've liked to see Corey Hart get the start. My main problem with the decision came later in the game.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Brewers had runners on first and second with two outs. Randy Flores, a left handed pitcher was on the mound for the Rockies. Instead of calling back Jim Edmonds, Ken Macha allowed Edmonds to bat for himself. Words could not express my frustration with this decision. This was my main concern with letting Edmonds start this season. Sure he can destroy RHP, but he is absolutely lost against southpaws.

Over the past three seasons, Edmonds has posted OPS' of .441, .631 and .479 against LHP. Those numbers are beyond bad. In his career, Hart has produced much better against LHP. His career OPS' against LHP is .844. Nevertheless, Edmonds remained in the game and walked after a couple of bad swings. Casey McGehee followed Edmonds walk with an inning ending popup.

I guess there was no harm no foul here, but the same situation came up again in the ninth. Edmonds was again left in against a lefty and hit a soft liner to second to end the game. My question is how can Corey Hart be left on the bench in both situations? Baseball is a game of numbers. The job of a manager is to give his team the best chance to win based on those numbers. Leaving Hart on the bench in both scoring chances is absolutely inexcusable.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

'10 Season Preview: Outfielders

Last year started with the thought of a Milwaukee Brewers outfield hitting a combined 90 home runs. While Ryan Braun and Mike Cameron flourished, Corey Hart posted another disappointing season.

Exit Mike Cameron and enter Carlos Gomez.

Gomez was acquired in an offseason trade with the Minnesota Twins. While he is an amazing defender, his production with the bat is a huge dropoff from that of Cameron. Also coming in was veteran Jim Edmonds, providing an additional option off the bench.

Let's take a look at the outfielders.

Ryan Braun

In the first two seasons in his career, Braun walked just over 6% of the time. It was easy to overlook Braun's low walk totals because his high batting averages compensated.

Braun's 2009 was just what Braun needed to be put in the conversation with the leagues elite hitters. Braun showed much more discipline at the plate, walking 8.1% of the time. Combining that with a .320 batting average, Braun was able to post a .386 OBP. Sure he could walk more, but he is on the right path.

With more patience developing, there is no reason to think he can't equal his 2009 numbers where he was a near 5.0 WAR player.

Corey Hart

Frustrations with Corey Hart have officially reached a boiling point. Currently rumors are circulating that Hart may be traded to Washington to make room for free agent Jermaine Dye. This would be a huge mistake.

It's very tough to remember, but Hart was a 4.8 WAR player just two years ago. Sure 2008 was very disappointing, but 2009 did have some positives. While Hart looked completely lost in the second half of 2008, he regained his patience in 2009. His walk rate was a very solid 9.1%.

The main concern with Hart is his diminishing power numbers. Hart posted just a .158 ISO (slug%-batting average). An everyday outfielder needs to post better power numbers than that.

So in short, Hart's 2009 leads me to think he could be the best option in the two hole. The Brewers need hitter who can get on base in front of Braun and Fielder. Until he is able to show better power numbers, Hart is best in that spot.

Carlos Gomez

Well, where to begin?

My frustrations with the J.J. Hardy trade have been well documented. Nevertheless, Carlos Gomez is the starting CF for the Milwaukee Brewers. His defense will provide some help in CF, but how bad will his bat bring down this team?

Much of that responsibility lies in the lineup card of Ken Macha. If Carlos Gomez is hitting in the two hole, the Brewers offense is severly impacted. His inability to walk is something that you can't have in front of Braun/Fielder. In his career, Carlos Gomez has never posted an OBP over .300. That's beyond awful for an everyday player. It becomes even worse when he is getting the amount of at bats associated with two-hole hitters.

The main excuse for slotting Gomez here is his speed. What value does Gomez really bring with his feet? On defense a lot. On offense... not much. Over the past two years, Gomez stole 47 bases in Minnesota. Problem is he was also caught 18 times. That equates to a 72.3% success rate. To even begin considering risking a steal, a player should be successful more than 77% of the time. In his time in Minnesota, Gomez' stolen base attempts cost the Twins runs. Sure his speed "puts pressure on the defense," but pressure can easily be releaved by throwing him out, which happens more than 27% of the time.

I do expect his numbers to improve a little bit, but no where near the point of a two hitter. Before a player is given that responsibility, he needs to develop an eye at the plate. As the saying goes, you can't steal first base.

Jim Edmonds and Jody Gerut

These are two players coming off the bench who can be very productive.

While he used to be a very good defender, Edmonds has slowed and simply can't cover the ground needed to play everyday. Also, Edmonds cannot hit southpaws. Even with those shortcomings, Edmonds can still be very productive. He crushes righties. If he is used strictly in that fashion, Edmonds will fit in perfectly in Milwaukee. Even though Corey Hart has struggled mightily, Edmonds can't be an everyday player at this point in his career. At the most, Edmonds should see around 200-250 at bats.

The Brewers best option to start in CF is Jody Gerut. After being traded to Milwaukee, Gerut struggled while seeing little playing time. As his playing time increased, so did his production. Gerut has shown the ability to get on base throughout his career, as well as hitting for power. If he was starting, he is the perfect two-hole hitter. Although he is not as good a defender as Gomez, Gerut is no slouch in the field. He has posted very good UZR's throughout his career. If Gomez struggles to start the season, the key will be how long Ken Macha waits to give responsibility to Gerut.

'10 Season Preview: Infielders

If there is a more interesting part of the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers team than their infield, I haven’t found it yet. There are so many unanswered questions regarding these positions. Taking an around the horn approach, we’ll start at first base.

First base: Can Prince Fielder challenge his club records from 2009? This is the only part of the diamond that appears to be rock solid. With all of the questions Fielder has had to answer the past couple of years (i.e. weight, defense, etc.), he’s done nothing but excel.

It would be unfair to expect another repeat of his 2009. Anytime someone posts a 1.000 plus OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) and draws 110 walks, you’re in pretty elite company. Fielder absolutely flourished last year and left fans with little to question regarding his ability.

Second Base: What can Rickie Weeks bring? Weeks was off to an incredible start in 2009 before he was injured for the remainder of the season with a tear in his wrist. Anytime wrist injuries occur, it can be very scary for a hitter. In all honesty, it’s really tough to know what the Brewers have in Weeks. Sure, he possesses a great eye at the plate, but his bat could lose some of its speed.

Regardless of the injury, the most important thing to remember about Weeks is his ability to get on base. After the Brewers parted ways with Mike Cameron, this is a huge asset the team was lacking. Should Weeks rebound well from the injury, the Brewers have one of the premier second baseman in the game today.

Shortstop: Can Alcides Escobar take the reigns? It’s been talked about too frequently. Too many comparisons have been made with J.J. Hardy. Hardy is gone. The burden now rests squarely on the slender shoulders of the 23-year-old.

When I first heard Escobar would be batting in the nine hole, I was surprised and impressed. I really like the thought process behind this. Escobar likes to hit the ball on the ground (56 percent of the time in 2009). Having him hit behind the pitcher allows for him to utilize his speed rather than ground into force outs. Also, those groundballs could also find holes and score some runners who have been moved up via the bunt.

One of the main reasons I like it is it really takes the pressure off Escobar. It’s tough to think Escobar can hit second everyday. It would’ve put him in a very difficult situation. Hitting atop the Brewers order comes with a lot of responsibility. That’s not the place for a young shortstop still developing his offensive game.

Third base: I don’t know is on third? Pun intended. The Brewers have a very tough choice on who starts the hot corner this season. Based on 2009, Casey McGehee is the clear-cut option for Milwaukee. He exceeded all expectations and even garnered some interest in the Rookie of the Year campaign.

Although McGehee was brilliant in 2009, the jury is still out on him. He really never was great in the minor leagues. Good maybe, but not great. His .859 OPS literally came out of nowhere. It was his first .800 plus OPS in his professional career (including minors). Based on history alone, some regression is going to be expected.

The other option is of course Mat Gamel. Gamel struggles defensively, but could provide some much needed offense with the bat. But that all hinges on him being used correctly. Gamel is a rare instance of a lefty who kills southpaws. Problem was, in 2009 he faced mainly RHP. If used correctly, Gamel could be a much-needed piece in Milwaukee’s arsenal.

My biggest fear is the Brewers using a platoon at third. For some reason, I don’t think Ken Macha has figured out Gamel’s ability against lefties. If he is used against right-handed pitchers, it could be a huge mistake.

It’s going to be fun to watch these stories play out. Other than Fielder, there are so many questions that need to be answered. If they are answered in the Brewers favor, they could close the gap in talent between them and the Cardinals.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

'10 Season Preview: RP

While starting pitching was definitely a problem last season, relievers had their fair share of problems too.

At the beginning of the season, the bullpen was simply untouchable. Aided by the emergence of Trevor Hoffman on April 27th, the Brewers bullpen started an incredible run. With contributions from Mitch Stetter, Todd Coffey and Mark DiFelice, the Brewers bullpen was rolling on all cylinders.

And then, it suddenly all stopped.

As the Brewers starting staff was leveled with injuries and inconsistency, the bullpen’s workload increased. Short starts became more of the norm and the bullpen was expected to pitch multiple innings every night. Needless to say, this can take its toll on a bullpen.

The ‘pen went onto finish the year with a 3.97 ERA, ranking 16th out of 30 in MLB. All said, they finished pretty respectable, but their near 5.00 ERA after the all-star break really took away a special season.

Well, the faces have again changed for this part of the team (are you starting to see a pattern?). Gone from last year’s team are Mark DiFelice (injury-out for season,), Seth McClung (released) and David Weathers (released).

To help replace the loss of DiFelice, the Brewers sought help from an inter-divisional foe. On December 9th, just days after the DiFelice news, the Brewers signed LaTroy Hawkins to a two year deal totaling $7.5 million.

Hawkins, 37, pitched very effectively the last year and a half to resurrect his career in Houston. During that span, Hawkins posted a miniscule 1.71 ERA in 84.1 innings. The reason for his sudden success was his ability to throw strikes. In those innings, Hawkins walked just 21 batters, while striking out 70.

Hawkins biggest asset will be where he pitches. Seeing as Todd Coffey will be returning as the setup man, Hawkins will now be the likely 7th inning guy. The combination of Hawkins/Coffey/Hoffman immediately jumps the Brewers to having one of the toughest back ends of the bullpen in baseball.

Another very important new feature this season is the availability the Brewers have with their long relief. With the signings of Randy Wolf and Doug Davis, the Brewers now have two starters who will be relegated to the bullpen. Whether those starters are effective remains to be seen, but they can provide more innings in mop up games where the Brewers had to pitch important relief pitchers a year ago.

Anyway, here is the Brewers offseason regarding relief this offseason. Again, I’ll be looking at the stat WAR (wins above replacement level) for this.


LaTroy Hawkins: 0.3


Mark DiFelice: 0.4
Seth McClung: -1.0
David Weathers: -0.8

All said, the Brewers literally won with addition by subtraction. Dropping McClung and Weathers gives another 1.8 WAR they were subtracting based on their ’09 season. The Brewers were really dealt a blow with the loss of DiFelice, but the Hawkins signing helps.

The bullpen becomes key this season. Seeing as the St. Louis Cardinals are the clear favorite to repeat next season, having a strong bullpen is needed for the Brewers. I really expect a good season considering the bullpen shouldn’t have to log so many innings. It really does all start with starting pitching. If they are able to go deeper into games, the bullpen is a direct benefit.