Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Missing: Ryan Braun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Corey Hart Trade Series: Tampa Bay Rays

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

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

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

Wade Davis

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

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

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

Jeremy Hellickson

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

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

Matthew Moore

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

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

Matt Joyce

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

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


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

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Corey Hart Trade Series: ATL Braves/SD Padres

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corey Hart Trade Series: San Francisco Giants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Francisco Giants

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

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

Madison Bumgarner

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

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

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

Jonathan Sanchez

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 19, 2010

Catching Lightning Without Spending

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

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

And then reality set in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 15, 2010

First Half Breakdown (Outfielders)

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

Corey Hart- A

2.3 WAR

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

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

Ryan Braun- C+

1.2 WAR

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

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

Carlos Gomez- F

0.2 WAR

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

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

Jim Edmonds- B

1.4 WAR

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

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

Jody Gerut- D-

0.0 WAR

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

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

Adam Stern- F

-0.2 WAR

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

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

First Half Breakdown (Infielders)

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

Jonathan Lucroy- B

0.4 WAR

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

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

George Kottaras- B+

0.7 WAR

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

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

Prince Fielder- B-

2.6 WAR

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

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

Rickie Weeks- A

2.5 WAR

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

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

Alcides Escobar- D-

0.3 WAR

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

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

Casey McGehee- B-

1.3 WAR

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

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

Craig Counsell- D+

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

-0.1 WAR

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

Joe Inglett- A

1.0 WAR

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

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

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

Monday, July 12, 2010

First Half Breakdown (Relief Pitching)

After looking at starting pitching, where better to go than the bullpen?

After a rough start to the year, the bullpen has pitched pretty well of late. Even with the recent success, the Brewers bullpen has accumulated a 5.25 ERA this season, which is good for 29th baseball. Here is a look at each pitcher and their first half grade.

Carlos Villanueva- B

0.4 WAR

4.26 ERA, 44.1 IP, 55 K's, 19 BB's, 39 hits, 21 runs (21 earned)

Villanueva has been very good in 2010. His 11.17 K/9 is second on the club. The way he has been able to limit contact has been a very good sign. Where Villanueva has gotten into trouble in when contact is actualy made. He has given up an incredibly high 28.1 line drive percentage. Even with the high amount of liners he has fallen victim to, Villanueva's season is going much better than his stats would suggest. His FIP is currently 3.65, which is 3rd on the team.

Todd Coffey- C+

0.3 WAR

4.41 ERA, 34.2 IP, 26 K's, 12 BB's, 36 hits, 21 runs (17 earned)

One of the main problems I've had with Ken Macha is his constant overuse of some bullpen pitchers. Last year, there was no one abused more than Coffey. Last seasons usage may be to blame for Coffey's slow start. He was walking more batters and giving up more line drive and flyballs. That has subsided of late. In his last five outings, Coffey hasn't surrendered a walk and struck out eight batters in six innings.

Trevor Hoffman- F

-0.9 WAR

8.33 ERA, 27 IP, 17 K's, 13 BB's, 34 hits, 25 runs (25 earned)

What a difference a year makes. Hoffman has been absolutely terrible in 2010. His K/9 were 8.0 in 2009; 5.67 this year, His BB/9 were 2.33; now 4.33. Hoffman's ability to get groundballs has also vanished. His GB:FB ratio this year is .39, easily the worst in his career. He is also allowing HR's on nearly 1/6 of his flyballs. He's been better of late, but still not that good. I wonder if he will actually reach the 600 save plateau.

John Axford- A

0.7 WAR

3.12 ERA, 26 IP, 32 K's, 11 BB's, 22 hits, 9 runs (9 earned)

With Hoffman's struggles have come Axford's chance and he has grabbed it. Since taking over Hoffman's closers role, Axford has been incredible. He is striking out 11.07 batters per nine innings. His groundball ratio is exactly 2:1. Axford started the trend of Nashville pitchers coming to Milwaukee and they haven't disappointed. With plenty of service time remaining, Axford should be a mainstay for a long time in Milwaukee.

Kameron Loe- B+

0.4 WAR

1.59 ERA, 22.2 IP, 18 K's, 8 BB's, 12 hits, 7 runs (4 earned)

Loe has really come out of nowhere. Throughout his career, there was little to suggest Loe could provide anything for a major league team. After getting his callup, Loe has been very good. I still expect him to regress a bit, but if he continues to keep the ball on the ground and limit walks, he should be alright.

Claudio Vargas- D

-0.1 WAR

7.32 ERA, 19.2 IP, 18 K's, 10 BB's, 28 hits, 16 runs (16 earned)

Vargas was eating a roster spot when he pitched for the Brewers. He wasn't that good and he was very frustrating to watch. It's nice to not see him in Milwaukee anymore.

Zach Braddock- A-

0.6 WAR

4.08 ERA, 17.2 IP, 22 K's, 6 BB's, 20 hits, 8 runs (8 earned)

Zach Braddock should be a very important arm in the Brewers bullpen for years to come. He has an incredible arm and shows very good life on his pitches. His command is also very good. He has shown the ability to keep his free passes down throughout the minor leagues and his first pro season. In his last nine outings, he has not surrendered a run. He also leads the team in K/9 with 11.21.

LaTroy Hawkins- D+

0.1 WAR

9.26 ERA, 11.2IP, 15 K's, 6 BB's, 14 hits, 12 runs (12 earned)

The Brewers haven't seen much of a return on their investment thus far. Hawkins has been injured for the majority of 2010, but was very unfortunate when healthy. His opponent BABIP was .421, despite having a LD% of just over 12%. That's unheard of. His current FIP is 3.46. That might be the biggest difference between ERA and FIP in baseball. If he is able to keep his velocity up when he returns, he should be a good option out of the bullpen. That's always a big 'if' though.

David Riske- C

0.0 WAR

2.31 ERA, 11.2 IP, 7 K's, 3 BB's, 7 hits, 3 runs (3 earned)

Despite the Journal Sentinel's reports, David Riske is not 'dealing.' His increasing flyball numbers and career low HR/FB% are examples of how Riske has been okay, but not great. Also, his current BABIP is .188. If I was Doug Melvin, I would try and trade him near the deadline, to at least shed the remaining $2 million on his contract. Riske is just not that good a pitcher. He is a prime example of what paying a hefty price on a bullpen arm can do to a team.

Bullpen Grade- C

That might seem a little high with their current 5.25 ERA, but this bullpen's peripherals would suggest better numbers. Their current FIP sits at 4.00. They are currently 7th in K/9 and 13th in BB/9. Granted those aren't the best numbers, but they aren't that bad either. Add in they cut the majority of the dead weight holding them back earlier this season, the second half should be pretty good.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

First Half Breakdown (Starting Pitching)

Over the next couple of days, I will break down the Milwaukee Brewers 2010 first half. Through their first 89 games, the Brewers are 40-49 (3rd place in the NL Central). They are 8.5 games behind the first place Cincinnati Reds and 10 games back in the NL Wild Card race.

I will first look at the starting pitchers and how they have fared thus far. Next to each pitcher is their first half grade.

Yovani Gallardo- A

2.9 WAR

8-4, 2.58 ERA, 111.2 IP, 122 K's, 48 BB's, 93 hits, 41 runs (32 earned)

What more can you say about Yovani? He's been really strong all season long and has turned it on the later it got. He currently ranks 8th in the National League in ERA, 7th in strikeouts and 9th in opponent batting average. He's been even better of late while his walks have started to decrease and strikeouts have maintained. If he keeps that up, there's no reason to think Yovani couldn't make a run at a Cy Young in the near future.

Randy Wolf- F

-0.5 WAR

6-8, 4.56 ERA, 116.1 IP, 74 K's, 58 BB's, 117 hits, 66 runs (59 earned)

As encouraging as Yovani has been, Wolf has been equally disappointing. His walks are through the roof. His strikeouts have fallen. He leads of all baseball in home runs surrendered with 21. That's not to say all hope is lost with Wolf. He has pitched better of late. In three July starts, he has a 2.79 ERA and has shown much better command. It should be an interesting finish to the season for Wolf. Hopefully he is able to build on his recent success.

Dave Bush- C-

0.4 WAR

4-6, 4.14 ERA, 95.2 IP, 52 K's, 40 BB's, 103 hits, 51 runs (44 earned)

You will not meet a bigger fan of Dave Bush than me, but he just hasn't been that good this year. His walks are up and his strikeouts have fallen to troubling levels. Like Wolf, Bush struggled mightily at the start of the season and has rebounded of late. One of Bush's biggest assets in his career has been his control. Pounding the strike zone has always been Bush's scouting report. The Brewers could also decide to move Bush in the near future. He has been mentioned in numerous rumors so far.

Manny Parra- C+

0.5 WAR

3-6, 4.65 ERA, 69.2 IP, 71 K's, 33 BB's, 86 hits, 41 runs (36 earned)

Parra has been the victim of some bad luck thus far. He currently has a BABIP against him this season of .380. Although Parra has had high BABIP's in the future, that number is unheard of. He is striking out more than a batter an inning and walking only four per nine innings. Combine that with a very good GB:FB ratio and Parra's FIP (fielder independent ERA) of 4.24 is much more where his ERA should be. With Doug Davis coming back, I'm very worried the Brewers are considering sending Parra back to the bullpen. Developing Parra should be one of the main goals this season, not stunting his growth.

Chris Narveson- C-

0.4 WAR

7-6, 6.02 ERA, 86.2 IP, 71 K's, 35 BB's, 101 hits, 60 runs (58 earned)

Speaking of bad luck, Narveson also has had his struggles this season. His opponent BABIP is .338, which although isn't as bad as Parra's, is still pretty unlucky. Narveson's biggest problems have come with the gopher ball. On average, one of every eight flyballs against Narveson has left the ballpark. Narveson is giving up flyballs in nearly 40% of at bats against him, so HR's have been a problem. He has surrendered 1.35 HR/9, which ranks among the worst in the league. Even so, his ERA should be much closer to his current FIP of 4.71.

Doug Davis- F

0.0 WAR

1-4, 7.51 ERA, 38.1 IP, 34 K's, 21 BB's, 55 hits, 36 runs (32 earned)

Davis was signed this offseason to give the Brewers more depth to their rotation, but has been more a drain than anything. He has been injured for the majority of the first half and horrendous when healthy. It should really come as no surprise to fans what the Brewers have gotten out of him. He is pitching relatively consistent with his career numbers. He has always walked a lot of batters and has never struggled to get strikeouts. One of the reason I didn't mind the Davis signing was I thought they might be able to get something for his at the trade deadline, but with his injury and struggles, that may be tough. The worst thing that can happen right now is pitching Davis over a younger starter for the sake of saving face.

Jeff Suppan - F

Nothing more really needs to be said about Suppan.

Brewers Starting Pitching Combined- C

3.7 WAR

The combined WAR ranks near the bottom of MLB. Nevertheless, on paper they should be better. I'm really hoping the Brewers part ways with Doug Davis at the deadline and see what they have going forward. I'm expecting big finishes out of Narveson and Parra. Combined that with better command of late from Wolf and watching this staff down the stretch could be a little easier to stomach.

Stay tuned, I'll soon post the remaining grades for the relievers, infielders and outfielders.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Wait... This Game Means Something?

I think the majority of you remember the 2002 MLB All-Star game played at Miller Park. I can remember laughing at the look on Bud Selig's face when he realized the game could end in a tie and the backlash that would coincide.

Anyway, Benito Santiago ended up striking out to end the tenth and, with his hand upwards towards the sky, Bud Selig told the umpire to stop the game. The game ended tied 7-7.

Of course, media and fans alike blew the situation out of proportion. The bullpens were depleted and it was an exhibition game. What else could they have done?

And then, the unthinkable happened. Bud Selig decided that ties could be no more. From now on, the mid-summer classic would determine home field advantage in the World Series. Not the best team in baseball, but the best league full of all-stars.

To date, the only team this has actually been screwed out of home field advantage is the 2004 St. Louis Cardinals, who were swept by the Boston Red Sox that season. In the future, one can only imagine how many times this will happen.

Believe it or not, this is now what this post is about. No matter how irrational Selig's ruling on the all-star game was, the managers who fill out the roster have been even more. This year's NL roster was filled out by Omar Infante, who Charlie Manuel labeled as the perfect 'utility' player. Nevermind Infante's .717 OPS, or his walk rate of 5.1%. Those are just the kind of players this league needs, right Charlie? It's not like the rosters have been expanded to 34 players. I'm sure there are just going to be too many tough roster decisions and not enough position players at the end of the game.

One look to the outfield tells a similar story. Selected from the Houston Astros is centerfielder Michael Bourn. That's not to take anything away from Bourn, who is not playing awful this season, but there are players who have simply been better than him. Case and point: Andres Torres of the Giants. In full time duty this season, Torres has accumulated a WAR of 3.2, which leads all major league centerfielders. He has posted an OPS of .845 (Bourn .677) and OBP of .382 (Bourn .331). Combine that with an incredible UZR/150 of 23.6 in CF and there is absolutely no reason he shouldn't be in LA next week.

Obviously, the injustice of Joey Votto has been well documented, so I won't get into that. Long story short, he's another victim of an incorrect system. Below are some listed examples of other players who also fell victim this season. The player who actually got the nod is also listed.

National League
(Value in WAR)

Joey Votto (3.6)... Ryan Howard (1.2)
Miguel Olivo (3.0)... Yadier Molina (0.6)
Luke Gregerson (1.4)... Matt Capps (0.6)
Josh Willingham (3.1)... Jason Heyward (2.0)
Andres Torres (3.2)... Michael Bourn (1.7)
Ryan Zimmerman (3.2)... Omar Infante (0.5)

American League

Francisco Liriano (4.2)... Fausto Carmona (1.5)
Kevin Youkilis (3.2)... David Ortiz (1.6)
Jered Weaver (3.2)... Trevor Cahill (1.2)
Felix Hernandez (2.9)... David Price (2.1)
Alex Rios (3.1)... Jose Bautista (2.1)

I know, I know. Some of these players are the only representatives from their teams and that's the rules. My point exactly. If you are going to make this game mean something, put the best players in the game. Also, the managers need to stop selecting the rosters. I'm not saying Omar Infante hasn't been a good backup for the Braves this season, but he is just that, a backup for the Braves. There is no reason he should make the game over other, better players. Make the game an exhibition and have fun with it. Every franchise could still have their hometown player represented. This is just not the way to handle things. Snubs like Joey Votto, Francisco Liriano, Andres Torres, ect, only look worse when home field advantage in the World Series is on the line. If the game is going to be for that, stop letting managers butcher the rosters year after year.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Loe Down on Kameron

June 1st, 2010- Milwaukee Brewers purchase contract of RHP Kameron Loe from AAA Nashville

That was the headline I received on that day. I was less than enthused about Loe. I remembered hearing about his very large pet snake while he was pitching for the Rangers, but outside of that, there was little to be excited about as a Brewers fan.

He had started 10 games for AAA Nashville. His line was nothing to write home about. In 62.2 innings, he struck out just 39 batters and walked 19. Not bad, but not great at the same time. The one thing Loe was able to do was keep the ball on the ground, something many Brewers pitchers can struggle with. His career GB:FB ratio was just over two. Very good numbers, but his K:BB was still worrysome.

The Brewers got Loe after he pitched in Japan last season for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. In 27 innings there, he walked 12 and struck out just 18 en route to a 6.33 ERA. Keeping the ball on the ground can only do so much. Pitchers still need to somewhat limit the amount of balls put in play and not walk batters.

For these reasons, I'll admit, I didn't think much of Loe when he was called up.

Then, Loe started showing much more than his periferals would've suggested. Here are his numbers since his promotion.

14 Games
18.1 Innings
0.49 ERA
8 Hits
2 Runs (1 Earned)
15 Strikeouts
6 Walks

That already adds up to a 0.5 WAR. Pretty impressive for a pitcher the Brewers were expecting very little out of. His FIP currently stands at a very impressive 2.48, so his numbers would suggest some luck is involved in his start.

So what can we expect from Kameron going forward?

Loe has a current BAA of .134. His BABIP is .179. I think just about everyone can agree those numbers cannot continue. I don't care if you are Cliff Lee, that is unsustainable. His line drive percentage is at a relatively high 22.2%, which also coincides with the very good fortunes he has had thus far. Loe's career BABIP is .311, which is where I would expect him to go from here.

Even when Loe comes back down to earth a bit, it doesn't mean he can't be a productive pitcher out of the bullpen. If he is able to keep up his solid K:BB ratio and keep the ball on the ground, he could be okay. He is getting batters to swing at balls out of the zone 37.8% of the time. That is a career high for Loe and much better than the current league average of 28.5%. That could be the main reason for his increase in strikeouts and decrease in walks. Right now, Loe's GB:FB ratio for this year is better than 2:1. That can be a very solid weapon for Ken Macha to use to induce important groundballs in last game situations.

Regression for Loe is going to happen. No one can keep up the incredible amount of fortunate bounches he has gotten this year. If he is able to keep missing bats at a solid rate and induce a large number of groundballs, he could be a very nice find for the Brewers. One thing is for sure, I didn't see this coming.