Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Usage of Chris Capuano

Fans who tuned in long enough to yesterday's frustrating 9-5 loss at the hands of the Houston Astros saw an uncommon thing of late: Chris Capuano.

Capuano pitched a scoreless ninth inning, only allowing one base runner (single). It was his first appearance in 16 days, when he pitched one inning against the Texas Rangers.

So what exactly are the Brewers doing with Capuano?

I thought it was a bit ridiculous giving him one start before relegating him to the bullpen. In that start, he gave up three runs in 3.2 innings. To be fair, there were some rather questionable plays behind Cappy, including a botched double play ball Rickie Weeks. He walked just one batter and struck out four. All in all, a pretty encouraging start from Cappy after making a pretty incredible comeback.

After immediately being sent back to the bullpen, he pitched nine days later on June 12th. His next appearance came last night.

This completely ridiculous use of Capuano has made me worried. Doug Davis is going to be brought back to the majors when he is healthy. Considering just about every other pitcher has been used much more frequently than Capuano, he might be the one sent down. If I'm not mistaken, Capuano has less than five years of service time in the majors and, barring a clause in his contract, would have options remaining.

I just can't understand how the Brewers are not able to find a use for Cappy. Zach Braddock has been very good out of the 'pen thus far and looks very good against left handers, but Capuano could also help in that role.

In the minors this season, Capuano retired 24 of the 29 lefties he faced. He didn't walk any of those lefties and fanned seven. That coincides with his career trends that has seen lefties bat just .235 against him and posted an OPS under .700. Long story short, Cappy can get lefties out.

I understand it is kind of tough to get Capuano a start at the moment. When Davis returns, the Brewers will have seven viable options to start games. Maybe a trade is something worth exploring. If Davis is able to piece a couple of decent starts together, he might garner some interest in the trade market. Starters can be very sought after this time of year and Davis might fetch a prospect. Even better, he could clear another spot for either Capuano or Manny Parra to take.

Even if Capuano isn't starting games, he still needs to see more action than what he has thus far. He could bring some things to the table that could prove beneficial. Although he has been good, Zach Braddock doesn't need to pitch every night. There's no sense in wearing his arm down the same way Mitch Stetter was abused last year.

Monday, June 28, 2010

What To Do With Weeks?

Since June 5th, Rickie Weeks has been a force atop the Brewers lineup. Here are his numbers.

.325 Batting Average (25/77)
.453 On Base Percentage (12 Walks, 6 HBP)
.597 Slugging Percentage (46 Total Bases; 6 2B, 5 HR)
1.050 OPS

This is a very nice stretch in what has been a great season thus far.

Weeks' struggles to make contact have been well documented. He has struck out 84 times this season (6th most in MLB). As of Monday, Weeks is striking out 27.5% of the time. He has always been a high strike out candidate, but that is the second highest rate in his career. Weeks career average for strikeouts is 26.5%, so believe it or not, he is pretty much in line with what is common for him.

What makes Weeks so valuable despite the strikeouts is his ability to hit for power and still show very good patience.

To combat the high strikeout rate, Weeks has walked 10.4% of the time this season. He stands right on top of the plate, which has led to quite a few HBP. Weeks has been beaned a major league high 13 times this season, including six times in June alone. Combine that with high nice walk total, Weeks has reached base 50 times via those two ways on base.

Rickie plays second base, which is usually not a place where teams expect offense. Here is where Weeks ranks among ML second basemen.

On Base Percentage- .370 (5th)
Slugging Percentage- .458 (10th)
On Base Plus Slugging- .828 (8th)
Runs- 50 (6th)
Home Runs- 13 (3rd)
wOBA- .366 (7th)

With these numbers, Weeks has already racked up a WAR of 2.0 this season. According to Fangraphs, that is equivalent to an $8 million value. This got me thinking.

With all the talk of what Prince Fielder is going to fetch in free agency, why hasn't Rickie Weeks' name been mentioned as a long term signing? Weeks has solidified himself as a very important player for the organization.

Currently, Weeks has accumulated just over four years of MLB service time. That means Weeks will hit the free agent waters after the 2011 season. With a year and a half remaining before Weeks could leave, the Brewers need to start thinking extension. I really believe Weeks would be open to this and could be had at a pretty good bargain. Here are his comments from an interview earlier this season.

"If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't," Weeks said. "You don't want to leave too much on the table, but then there's security."

Financial security is always a big draw for some players, but could be even more important for Weeks. He has had injury problems in the past and has already underwent two surgeries. It could be a risk for the Brewers, but from what I've seen from Weeks so far, it's a risk worth taking. They could lock up a very good player at a position where good players are tough to come by.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Randy Wolf: What's Going On?

Arguably, Randy Wolf has been one of the worst starters on the Brewers staff thus far. His strikeouts are down and his walks are up. These are very discouraging signs for the Brewers who signed Wolf to a three year pact worth $29.75 million this offseason.

I stumbled upon an article from FanGraphs.com on just how bad Wolf has been so far. Below is the actual article from David Golebiewski. He titled it 'Randy Wolf's Woeful Pitching.' Enjoy.

Last season, the Milwaukee Brewers’ starting rotation consisted of Yovani Gallardo and “staff.” The club boasted a potent offensive attack, ranking third in the NL in wOBA and second in Park-Adjusted Batting Runs, but Milwaukee’s starting staff placed just 13th in xFIP. While there were many Bernie Brewer slides, Milwaukee finished the year with a disappointing 80-82 record due largely to the ineffectiveness of the non-Gallardo starters.

Over the winter, the Brewers sought to end those rotation woes by snagging a pair of lefties, Doug Davis and Randy Wolf, in free agency. Yet, even after yesterday’s 3-0 victory over the Mariners, the narrative for 2010 is much the same as it was last year. Milwaukee’s offense is second in the Senior Circuit in wOBA and paces the league in Park-Adjusted Batting Runs. But the starters are the bane of Bernie Brewer’s existence yet again — 12th in the NL in xFIP. At 34-41, the team sits 7.5 games back of the division-leading Reds and nine games behind the Mets for the Wild Card.

Davis tossed just 33.1 innings with Milwaukee this season (7.56 ERA, 4.49 xFIP) before being placed on the DL with pericarditis. Wolf, inked to a three-year, $29.75 million deal, has just been howling bad.

Anyone expecting the 33-year-old to repeat his 2009 season with the Dodgers was bound to be disappointed. Wolf posted a 3.23 ERA in 214.1 frames with L.A. last year, but his peripherals suggested he was the same low-four’s ERA pitcher on display in 2007 and 2008 — with 6.72 K/9 and 2.44 BB/9, his xFIP was 4.17. Heading into 2010, both CHONE and ZiPS expected that Wolf’s .257 BABIP would climb toward the .300 range, and his FIP would settle in around 4.20. CHONE and ZiPS valued the former Phillie, Dodger, Astro and Padres as a 2.2-2.3 WAR pitcher. The FANS were more optimistic, expecting Wolf to match his 2009 output with 3.0 WAR.

Instead of stabilizing Milwaukee’s rotation, Wolf has been the unit’s biggest offender. In his first 97 innings, he has -0.8 WAR, which ranks dead last among NL starters. He is striking out 5.29 batters per nine innings, the lowest mark of his career, while issuing 4.64 BB/9 — his highest rate of free passes handed out since 2006, when he was fresh off Tommy John surgery. Wolf’s 5.39 xFIP is worst among qualified NL starters.

From 2007-2009, Wolf induced swinging strikes 8.1 percent of the time (8.6% MLB average those years). This season, batters are coming up empty just 5.6 percent (8.3% MLB average). His contact rate, 82.4% from ’07 to ’09, is 86.5% (the MLB average has remained around 81%). Wolf’s not getting hitters to chase off the plate as much, either. His outside swing percentage was 24.3 percent from 2007-2009, with the MLB average ranging from 25% to 25.4%. In 2010, his O-Swing is down to 21.1% (28.4% MLB average).

On a per-pitch basis, Wolf’s fastball has gotten hammered. The upper-80′s offering was worth +1.01 runs per 100 pitches from 2007-2009. This year, the heater has a -1.41 runs/100 mark. Looking at Wolf’s Pitch F/X data from 2009 and 2010, he’s getting fewer whiffs, strikes, and swings. Last year, Wolf deceived batters to swing through his fastball 6.4 percent. This year, it’s 5.8 percent (the MLB average is around six). His strike percentage was 69.1 in ’09 and 65.8 in 2010 (62-64% MLB average). Batters swung at the fastball 49.2 percent last season, and 43 percent this season (45-46% MLB average).

Wolf likely won’t be this bad all season long, but the Brewers clearly haven’t received the return they were expecting. There’s also the question of whether he’ll come close to justifying a $9.5 million salary in both 2011 and 2012. Manny Parra is intriguing, Chris Narveson hasn’t embarrassed himself, and Davis could resume his average innings-munching, but Milwaukee needs Wolf to turn it around. In terms of clearly above-average starters, Gallardo remains the lone wolf.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Slumping Prince?

There's no question Prince Fielder hasn't played up to expectations this season. He's dropped off in just about every major hitting category and the patience of fans is running thin.

Believe it or not, Prince Fielder has not been bad this season. He might not lead the league in home runs. He might not lead the league in batting average. However, he has still been a very good hitter thus far.

I think the main reason so much disappointment has been placed on Fielder this season is his 'conventional' stat line. When fans go to the ballpark, they see this line for Fielder.

.260 BA
13 Home Runs
27 RBI's

Those don't look like very good numbers for a cleanup hitter. One look behind the basics and it's easy to see Fielder has still been a very productive hitter.

A player really can't control his RBI count. There are just too many factors to consider. If the players in front of you don't get on base, it's tough to drive them in (see: Gomez, Carlos and his 25 starts batting second). If the players behind you don't hit, you're an easy target to pitch around. It's tough to criticize Fielder for something that he can't entirely control.

Although Fielder isn't leading the lead in homers, he still has left the park 13 times. Is it his fault that 11 of those home runs are solo shots? No. Despite popular belief, a player can't choose when to hit home runs. Anyone suggesting Fielder's inability to be 'clutch' this season, take one look at 2009.

Last season, Fielder hit 46 home runs. Almost half of those (22) were solo blasts. Fielder still had no problem driving in runs last season. He drove in 141 runs in 2009.

Fans really need to stop looking at RBI's as a huge indicator of personal success. Troy Glaus has been really good this year. He currently leads the NL in runs batted in. Here is a look at Glaus' 'conventional stats.'

.280 BA
14 HR
55 RBI

Does hitting 20 points higher with one more home runs really mean a difference of 28 RBI's between him and Fielder? Glaus hits cleanup for the Braves. Hitting in front of Glaus are Martin Prado (.380 OBP), Jason Heyward (.383 OBP) and Chipper Jones (.391 OBP). If you put those number in front of Fielder, something tell me he would have more than 27 RBI's.

It's not the fault of fans for thinking this way. I grew up with the same ways to evaluate a player. There are just better ways to look at how a player is performing now.

Ok, now that I'm done ranting, let's look at Fielder this year.

Despite hitting just .260, Fielder is tied for second in the majors in walks with 48. That has lead to a .397 on base percentage, which is pretty incredible considering the relatively low batting average. Sure that is down from a .412 OBP last season, but it's pretty tough to penalize Fielder for reaching base at a near .400 clip.

The biggest concern for Fielder is from his .453 slugging percentage. Of Fielder's 66 hits this season, 23 have gone for extra bases (34.8%). That's pretty good for a major league player, but more is expected out of Prince. In 2009, Fielder had 84 extra base hits (177 hits total), meaning 47.4% of his hits went for extras.

So why is this happening?

One main reason looks like an increase in groundballs. Last season, Fielder's groundball:flyball ratio was 0.94. This season, Fielder's ratio has climbed to 1.06.

When Fielder is elevating the ball, it isn't with the same amount of force. Of Fielder's 78 fly balls he has hit, 13 have left the park. That means Fielder hits a home run 16.7% of the time when he elevates the ball this year. That's down from 23.1% from last year (46 HRs, 199 Fly balls) and his career rate of 20.1%. One reason for that could be an increase in infield popups. Fielder has seen his infield flyball percentage raise to 11.5%; up from 5.5% last season.

Sure Fielder isn't repeating his incredible 2009 thus far, but how can that be expected. I've never seen such criticism of a player who is still producing at a very high level. I fully expect Fielder to increase his power numbers and finish strong this season. Seeing as a trade is likely in Fielder's future, it's important for the Brewers he picks up his production.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Carlos Gomez: Stuck in His Ways

How many times have you heard someone describe a player as "having all the talent in the world, but doesn't know how to use it?"

If you've been to a baseball stadium in your life, you've probably heard it. I swear, every team has a player the fans determine has superstar potential, but doesn't know what he's doing out there. The Brewers version of this is Carlos Gomez.

From my experience, these "gifted" players all have one thing in common: speed. If there is one thing the majority of baseball fans are mesmerized by, it's a player who can run. That ability can give the illusion these players can overcome so many other things that make them below average talents.

When the Milwaukee Brewers traded for Gomez this offseason, I was skeptical to say the least. What could they have seen in Gomez that made them pass on a trade that would have landed Ryan Doumit in Milwaukee? Gomez always struggled to get on base and really showed no signs of improvement.

Despite his past problems of plate discipline, Ken Macha inserted Gomez atop the Brewers lineup to start the year. After numerous examples of his inability to get on base, Macha has now said Gomez will bat no higher than sixth for the foreseeable future.

So far this season, here are Gomez' numbers.

.242 Batting Average (37-153)
.284 On Base Percentage (8 Walks)
.386 Slugging Percentage (59 Total Bases)
.670 OPS

Less than inspiring numbers. Going beyond the basics, Gomez has continued to demonstrate the same problems that plagued him in Minnesota. His O-Swing% (% of balls he swings at that are not strikes) this season sits at 35.5%. That is 5.8% higher than last season and 0.4% higher than his career average.

As you would expect, swinging at more balls has lead to weak line drive percentages. This season, Gomez' LD% sits at 16.5%. That is down from 19.2% from last year and 17.6% for his career. Granted those are not great career percentages, but lowering them isn't helping matters.

One thing many have pointed out is Gomez' inability to bunt. This was one thing that surprised me when Gomez came over to the Brewers. Manager Ken Macha said right away one of Gomez' focuses would be bunting for hits. Why? What has Gomez shown to think this is a good idea? In 2009, he got a hit 22.7% of the time he laid one down. This season, he has actually upped that to 33.3% of the time, but let's take a look at what that actually means. If Gomez can reach base on one of every three bunts, he still is only getting on base at a .333 clip. Sure that is better than his current .284 OBP, but he also isn't slugging the ball in those attempts. At best, he reaches first base and maybe moves a runner up one base. To justify bunting, a batter must reach base at least 40% of the time.

One thing Gomez was highly touted for was his defense, and rightly so. From 2007-2009, Gomez posted UZR/150's of 22.0, 17.3 and 10.9. Those are very good numbers. It might come as a surprise that Gomez has actually been a below average defender thus far in Milwaukee. In the outfield this season, Gomez has posted a -4.6 UZR/150. That is in a pretty small sample size, but there's no question Gomez has misplayed several balls this season. Cameron Maybin's inside the park HR comes to mind for me.

I really don't know what the plan is for the Brewers here. The organization really don't have a top minor league prospect in CF. The closest would probably be Lorenzo Cain, but although he has played well in AA this season, is still aways away.

In my mind, Gomez really can't develop into much of a major league player. Sure he might be talented in some areas of the game (speed and defense), but has too much to overcome. Maybe when fans are talking of how talented players could be, they should look at that players ability to not swing at every pitch. Getting on base is important, especially for faster players who could do some damage on the bases. Problem for Gomez and the Brewers is he doesn't possess that ability.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Interview Series: Brandon Kintzler

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.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Suppan Makes Cardinals Debut

After being signed by the Cardinals this week, Jeff Suppan made his first start as a Cardinal on Tuesday.

Here was Suppan's line against the light hitting Seattle Mariners:

73 Pitches (46 Strikes)
4.0 Innings Pitched
4 Hits
1 Run (Earned)
2 Walks
4 Strikeouts
1 Home Run

Take this with a grain of salt considering the Mariners' lineup is exactly the '27 Yankees. After Tuesday, they are averaging just 3.48 runs per game and rank near the bottom in every offensive category in the league.

The Cardinals pulled Suppan after four and went onto win 4-2. So what does this actually mean?

If anything, this is a good sign for the Brewers. If Suppan is in the rotation for an extended period of time, the better chance the Brewers can gain some ground on the Cardinals. Jeff Suppan is not a good pitcher. He doesn't belong on a major league roster.

Of course, the Cardinals were in need of another starter. Kyle Lohse just underwent surgery on a forearm injury and will miss an extended period of time. The Cardinals don't really have much starting pitching depth, so it is likely Suppan will be given the ball every fifth day for the time being. That is good news for every team in the NL Central.

Releasing Suppan couldn't have worked on any better for the Brewers. I laughed last week when Doug Melvin predicted Suppan would catch on somewhere in some teams rotation. What could've been better for the Brewers than him in St. Louis? Not only did they rid themselves of an awful pitcher, but he was picked up by a divisional rival the Brewers will need to catch.

Since 2008, Suppan's WAR stands at -1.0. Those numbers are unheard of. His FIPs (fielding independent pitching on an ERA scale) were 5.51, 5.70 and 4.89. I know, I know, Dave Duncan is amazing pitching coach, right? Maybe so, but there is no way, and I mean no way he can turn Suppan into a decent arm. There are just too many things working against him. Suppan might not have been worth $42 million when he left St. Louis, but he still had much better control, velocity and movement than the current state he is in.

One name to keep an eye on in the Cardinals organization if Suppan struggles is P.J. Walters. He has pretty good numbers thus far in AAA and should easily outproduce whatever Suppan brings to the table.

Mark your calendar for July 2nd. If the pitching matchups stay on schedule, Suppan will face the Brewers in St. Louis on that day. It should make for one entertaining day of baseball either way.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Casey McGehee: Back to Reality?

Looking at the 2009 Milwaukee Brewers, one would have to be excited with the production of Casey McGehee.

After almost being cut prior to the season, McGehee went onto to post a .301/.360/.499/.859 line in 355 at bats. Even more impressive about that line was it came out of nowhere. McGehee's highest OPS in his pro career prior to 2009 was .776, and that was during the 2007 season while playing for AA West Tennessee.

There is no question McGehee's 2009 excited many fans, including myself, but many were also skeptical. How could Casey McGehee go from an average minor league hitter into an elite major league hitter in one season? That doesn't happen too often, so many predicted a regression from McGehee in 2010.

McGehee made skeptics look silly at the beginning of the year.

On May 20th, McGehee went 1-3 with two runs and a walk in a 4-3 Brewers victory over the Pittburgh Pirates. The win snapped a nine game losing streak for the Brewers. At the time McGehee had racked up 151 at bats. During that span, he posted a .325/.395/.570/.965 line.

Then, just as fast as McGehee had risen, he fell off. McGehee finished the month of May in pretty bad fashion. Here is his line over the final 11 days in May.

Batting Average: .214 (9-42)
On Base Percentage: .233 (one walk)
Slugging Percentage: .309 (4 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR)
OPS: .542

That was not the finish to May fans were looking for, but it was just 42 at bats. Anyone can have a bad 42 at bats. What has occurred thus far in June has been a big red flag.

Batting Average: .159 (7-44)
On Base Percentage: .191 (two walks)
Slugging Percentage: .273 (2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR)
OPS: .464

Over the last 22 games, McGehee is batting just .186. He has drawn just three walks, while striking out 19 times. He has only seven extra base hits and only homered once. His OPS, which was at .965 on May 20th, has fallen 165 points to an even .800. His walk rate on May 20th was 11.1%. He was striking out 13.6% of the time on that date as well. His walk rate has fallen to 8.8% and his strikeouts have risen to 16.9% after his recent struggle with plate discipline.

There is no doubt in my mind McGehee will not continue to struggle this bad. The main problem for the Brewers is what they are going to do going forward.

Mat Gamel has torn the cover off the ball since returning from his injury. He posted a 1.040 OPS in 28 at bats at AA Huntsville. Since his promotion to AAA Nashville, he has a .872 OPS in 28 at bats. He is knocking on the door to the major leagues.

The worst thing the Brewers could do would be to promote Gamel to the majors and limit his progress on the bench. Many seem to think Gamel is the future first baseman of this team. With that being said, getting him major league at bats needs to be a priority. Where do those at bats come from though? Should the Brewers sit McGehee in favor of Gamel? I thought a perfect chance to call Gamel up would come for the series in LA starting tonight. Even if he was promoted, that would solve little for the time being.

The move the organization seems to be considering is trading Prince Fielder at the deadline. If Fielder is dealt, Gamel could start immediately after the trade at first base. Seeing as it is unlikely Fielder will sign back with the Brewers, this needs to be the focus for now.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Resurrection of Corey Hart

When I did my 2010 season preview for the Brewers, one of the main players I focused on was Corey Hart.

Hart was coming off his second consecutive disappointing season and was at the forefront of trade talks. I heard many Brewers fans interested in a trade that would have sent Hart to the New York Mets for John Maine.

One of the biggest red flags surrounding Hart going into this season was his inability to drive the ball for power. There is a big difference between a .300 hitter who only hits singles and one who can deliver extra base hits regularly.

A very good stat to track that is ISO, or Isolated Power. Isolated Power is a hitters slugging percentage subtracted by his batting average. In 2007, Hart's first full season, he posted a very impressive .244 ISO. After that, it seemed like Hart's power was lost for good. In 2008, Hart's ISO dropped to .191. Although a .191 ISO isn't bad for a corner outfielder, it was a drop off from his very impressive 2007 numbers.

In 2009, his power numbers only got worse. In 419 at bats, Hart had 109 hits. Of those 109 hits, only 39 of them went for extra bases (24 doubles, three triples and 12 home runs). His ISO dropped another 33 points from 2008 to .158.

Then 2010 came. In 195 at bats this season, Corey Hart has 50 hits. Although hitting just .256 on the year, it's a very loud .256. Hart has 28 extra base hits. He leads the National League in home runs with 17. His .585 slugging percentage ranks 3rd in baseball. His ISO stands at .329, which is the best in the majors.

His patience at the plate is also encouraging. Hart's on base percentage currently sits at .335. Although that's nothing to write home about, it is 79 points higher than his batting average. He has drawn 23 walks this season. He is walking 10.4% of the time, which is 1.3% more than 2009.

There is a lot to be excited about with Corey Hart. This is a very pleasant surprise considering where Hart was after last season. Through nearly 200 at bats, there is evidence to think Hart can keep this up. He is very important to the success of the Milwaukee Brewers; this year and in the future. It's very easy to forget Hart is just 28 years old. He is not free agent eligible until 2012, although he would likely get a nice raise after this season.

The Brewers will have to look at the situation and figure out if Corey Hart is in their future plans. It's a nice problem to have after many had Hart's ticket punched out of town months ago.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wolf Gone Wild

When the Milwaukee Brewers inked Randy Wolf to a deal this offseason, they had a lot to like.

Wolf had nice strike out numbers. He had decent control. He was able to limit the longball and pitch deep into games. There were a lot of reasons why the Brewers used a good chunk of change on the 33 year old veteran southpaw.

Problem for the Milwaukee Brewers is a lot of those qualities Wolf possessed in the past couple of seasons have completely disappeared in Milwaukee.

Strikeout Rates

2007- 102.2 IP, 94 K's (8.24 K/9)
2008- 190.1 IP, 162 K's (7.66 K/9)
2009- 214.1 IP, 160 K's (6.72 K/9)
*2010*- 78 IP, 49 K's (6.28 K/9)

Walk Rates

2007- 102.2 IP, 39 BB (3.43 BB/9)
2008- 190.1 IP, 71 BB (3.36 BB/9)
2009- 214.1 IP, 58 BB (2.44 BB/9)
*2010*- 78 IP, 39 BB (4.50 BB/9)

Home Run Rates

2007- 102.2 IP, 10 HR's (0.88 HR/9)
2008- 190.1 IP, 21 HR's (0.99 HR/9)
2009- 214.1 IP, 24 HR's (1.01 HR/9)
*2010*- 78 IP, 15 HR's (1.73 HR/9)

Average Start Length

2007- 18 Starts, 102.2 IP (5.7 IP/Start)
2008- 33 Starts, 190.1 IP (5.8 IP/Start)
2009- 34 Starts, 214.1 IP (6.3 IP/Start)
*2010*- 13 Starts, 78 IP (6.0 IP/Start)

I really can't fault Doug Melvin with the signing of Randy Wolf. No one could have predicted this bad of a start from Wolf. His walks are up. His strikeouts are down. The number of fly balls he gives up has skyrocketed and has lead to an astronomical 1.73 HR per nine at the moment.

Coming off an absolute career season in LA last season made him one of the best free agent options last offseason. The only thing I was worried about with Wolf was he was coming from the NL West.

One look at Wolf's 2008 and 2009 season will reveal one thing: light opponent lineups. It's no secret, the NL West is not filled with offensive juggernauts. Wolf pitched in LA in 2007 and 2009 before pitching in Houston and San Diego in 2008. Facing the likes of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Padres and Giants can only help a pitcher.

Regardless of who he was facing, Wolf was still really incredible last season. I ask anyone to predict this bad of a fall off. Sure his strikeout numbers have dropped each of the last four seasons, but his walk totals had also dropped.

The biggest worry I have about this contract is the future. If Wolf is unable to regain his form, the Brewers could be in real trouble. It's gamble enough to spend a lot of money on an aging pitcher, but it's even worse when said pitcher fails to repeat any of his numbers from the prior year. The only thing I know if Wolf is a good pitcher who should only get better. Or at least I'm praying for that.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Jeff Suppan- A Tough Look Back

Today, the Milwaukee Brewers did what should have been done a long time ago. By releasing Jeff Suppan, the club is now on the hook for about $10 million of his remaining salary. His 4 yr/$42 million contract now goes down as the worst in club history. Sure Jeffrey Hammonds was bad and the Eric Gagne experiment didn't work out, but nothing was as bad as Suppan. Let's take a look back at his career in Miwaukee.

December 24th, 2006

Brewers announce the signing of Jeff Suppan (4yr/$42 mil)

April 4th, 2007 to May 5th, 2007

Suppan starts the 2006 season with two losses, but rattles off five straight wins. After his first seven starts as a Brewer, Suppan is 5-2 with a 2.63 ERA. Even more encouraging, Suppan has learned to strike out batters and not issue walks. He starts the year with 27 strikeouts and eight walks in that span.

May 6th, 2007 to July 31st, 2007

Well, maybe Suppan hasn't learned. Over the next 16 starts, Suppan reverts to his current form. He walks 41 batters, while strikeout just 43 in those starts, spanning 91.1 innings. Over that time, Suppan goes 3-7 with an ERA over six.

August 2007 to end of season

Suppan rebounds to finish the season 12-12 with an ERA of 4.62. Fans begin to question if Suppan is overpaid, but at the time the Brewers got exactly what they paid for. Sure his ERA was a half run higher than his 2006 season in St. Louis, but his K rate actually rose and his walks decreased.

2008 Regular Season

Suppan's walks rise and his strikeouts fall. Not a good sign for a player in the second year of an abnormally large contract. Even worse, in the midst of a playoff race, Suppan takes the ball five times in September. His numbers is those starts were a joke. He averaged just over four innings in those starts and ended with a 8.44. He goes 0-3 on the month and the Brewers lose four out of his five starts. He ends the season 10-10 with a 4.96 ERA.

October 5th, 2008

(NLDS Game 4)- Dale Sveum wonders why he wasn't offered the managerial job after the 2008 season. Sveum allows Suppan to start Game 4 of the NLDS. The Brewers were facing elimination and gave the ball to their worst starter. Suppan is greeted rudely with a leadoff home run from Jimmy Rollins. It didn't stop there. Suppan is pulled after just three innings and the Brewers trail 5-0. He allowed six hits (three of which were HR's), five runs (all earned), walked two and struck out three. The Brewers lose the game 6-2 and are eliminated from the playoffs. So much for his playoff experience being a huge deal.

April 7th, 2009

Ken Macha starts his tenure in Milwaukee in a very confusing manner by selecting Suppan to start the season opener in San Francisco. Slated against Tim Lincecum, many Brewers fans assumed an 0-1 start to the season. Suppan doesn't disappoint. He goes just four innings and allows six runs (all earned). The Brewers lose 10-6.

July 27th, 2009

If there is one series where I can remember the fans being the most frustrated, it was last year against the Washington Nationals. Suppan starts the game and goes 5.1 innings and allows 10 runs (all earned). This is the first time I could remember the boos really resounding at Suppan. Sure there were rumblings before, but this terrible start really angered fans. It's one thing to get rocked, but another to get rocked by a Nationals team that was 30-68. The Brewers lose 14-6 after Josh Willingham launches two grand slams.

October 4th, 2009

With the Brewers long since eliminated for playoff contention, Suppan for some reason is given the start over Chris Narveson. He is pulled after two innings and ends the season with 80 strikeouts and 74 walks in 161.2 innings. In his 30 starts, he went 7-12 with a 5.29 ERA. Frustration with Suppan jumps to an all time high.

2010 Offseason

After the Brewers signed Randy Wolf and Doug Davis, they were left with seven starters for five spots. Suppan was not cemented in a spot, but is still in the running. He suffers and injury and starts the season on the DL. This bailed Ken Macha off the hook for the meantime considering the only justification for keeping Suppan was his awful contract.

April 15th, 2010

Suppan is activated off the DL and is given the 5th spot in the rotation. He starts against the Cubs at Wrigley and gives up four runs in five innings. Despite his rough outing, the Brewers go onto win 8-6.

April 23rd, 2010

Suppan is given his second start of the season (both against the Cubs). He is lit up to the tune of 10 hits, six runs (five earned) and is pulled in the 5th. The Brewers lose the game 8-1 and Suppan is sent to the bullpen.

May 30th, 2010

Ken Macha draws his biggest critics of the season by inserting Suppan into a tie game against the New York Mets. Suppan gives up two in the sixth and is left out for the seventh, where he surrenders two more runs before being taken out mid inning. He exits with the loudest roar of boos I've ever heard at Miller Park. The Brewers go onto lose the game 10-4.

June 4th, 2010

Suppan appears in a blowout in St. Louis. He goes 1.1 innings and gives up three more runs. It was Suppan's third game in a row he allowed a run to score. It also turned out to be the last time he appeared as a Milwaukee Brewer.


Jeff Suppan is released and has his contract go down with some of the worst in baseball history.

Here are his numbers while pitching for the Brewers...

577 IP
29 Wins
36 Loses
5.08 ERA
700 Hits
302 Strikeouts
221 Walks
.303 BAA
1.5 WAR

In this market, the going rate for one win above replacement level is about $4 million. Multiply Suppan's 1.5 WAR in his time in Milwaukee by that and it's easy to see just how bad this contract was. A $6 million return on a $42 million contract is really tough to overcome for a smaller market team like Milwaukee.

Check back soon for a look at what the Brewers options are for Suppan's open roster spot. With the injury to Coffey, they now have two open spots to fill.

I'll leave you with a quote from Doug Melvin. " I am confident that he can return to a starting rotation with another organization." Come on Doug, you're not fooling anyone. Suppan is a bad pitcher who was overpaid for a couple of playoff starts. Anyone who gives him major league starts is in trouble.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Wildcard: Chris Capuano

It may come as a surprise to many Brewers fans, but Chris Capuano never left the organization. His last start in the major leagues was September 28, 2007 at Miller Park against the San Diego Padres.

So where has he been since then?

Checking the DL would be a good start.

During Spring Training prior to the 2008 season, Capuano suffered an elbow injury. That injury led to Tommy John surgery. It was Capuano's second Tommy John surgery of his career.

Like many fans, I wrote off the possibility of Cappy ever making a return to professional baseball. It's tough enough to come back from one TJS, let alone two.

For two years, it looked like I was unfourtunately right. Capuano finally appeared in a game for the Brewers rookie level affiliate near the end of 2009. Capuano was only able to rack up nine innings in the minors before the end of 2009. Sure it was a start, but it wasn't all that encouraging.

After being invited to Spring Training in 2010, Capuano was again shut down due to arm injury. He rehabed and was sent to the minor leagues to start the season. What Capuano did there completely put him back on the Brewers' radar. His numbers in Brevard County and Nashville this season were impressive.

Brevard County (A)-

3 Games (all starts)
(2-0), 1.23 ERA
14.2 IP
12 Hits
2 Runs (2 ER)
17 Strikeouts
0 Walks

Nashville (AAA)-

4 Games (all starts)
(1-1), 1.80 ERA
25 IP
21 Hits
6 Runs (5 ER)
16 Strikeouts
4 Walks

Those are very good numbers. Even more impressive to me was how deep Capuano was pitching into games at Nashville. He was pulled after four scoreless innings in his last start because he was being called up, so I'll throw that out the window. In three starts in Nashville, Capuano went 21 innings. That's an average of seven innings a start. His pitch count in those starts have been even more impressive.

May 13th- 8.0 Innings, 84 pitches
May 18th- 6.1 Innings, 84 pitches
May 23rd- 6.2 Innings, 98 pitches
May 28th- 4.0 Innings, 59 pitches (Pulled for callup)

That means Capuano threw an average of just 13 pitches per inning in Nashville. To put that in perspective, the Brewers have not been able to keep their pitches that low. Entering today, Brewers' hurlers have average 18.08 pitches an inning. That's good for last place in the majors. The Minnesota Twins have thrown the least amount of pitches with 15.31 an inning. He should provide a nice option to help limit the burden that is being put on the bullpen.

Eating innings is one thing, but Capuano should also provide quality innings. His 39:4 K:BB ratio is very impressive through seven minor league starts this season. If he is able to keep up anywhere near that place in Milwaukee, he will be a welcomed newcomer. I'm really hoping he can provide the Brewers something they weren't really banking on. Comeback player of the year could be on the horizon for Cappy in 2010.