Thursday, March 31, 2011

Series Preview: Cincinnati Reds

Thursday March 31st

Brewers- Yovani Gallardo (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Reds- Edinson Volquez (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Gallardo looked very strong this spring. In just 18.1 innings, he struck out 23, while only issuing five walks. While I rarely looked to deeply into spring training, those are encouraging numbers from Yo.

I officially have no idea what to expect out of Volquez. Could he return to his 2008 (pre-injury) form, or will he be relegated to his injury plagued seasons of 2009 and 2010? Based on his velocity and location, I'd say the latter. If he keep the current pace he was on each of the past two seasons, it could be a huge red flag for the Reds.

Edge: Brewers

Saturday April 2nd

Brewers- Shaun Marcum (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Reds- Travis Wood (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Since the Brewers acquired Marcum this past offseason, fans were looking forward to the third game in Cincinnati. While an injury to Zach Greinke may have bumped Marcum's debut up a start, it did little to temper my excitement. It's funny how the Brewers can go from having a horrendous pitching staff last season to having the luxury of Shaun Marcum as your third best starter. I look for a big season out of Shaun.

The Reds have to be utterly thrilled over the progression of Travis Wood. After a very average 2009 season in the minors, Wood excelled in 2010. It first started at AAA Louisville and only continued after joining the Reds mid-season. I do expect his numbers this season to regress, but that doesn't mean he won't be a clog in the Reds rotation for years to come. Regardless, I'll take my chances with Marcum over him any day of the week.

Edge: Brewers


Brewers- Randy Wolf (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Reds- Bronson Arroyo (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Wolf's 2010 was about as jekyll and hyde as they come. After statistically ranking as one of the worst pitchers in the first half of the season, many, including myself, immediately regretted the large contract he received after 2009. However, Wolf was able to rebound and salvage 2010 with an impressive second half. He began pitching deeper into games, something the Brewers signed him for. If Wolf pitching like he did in the second half this season, it could go a long way in a Brewers run at the division.

Arroyo is another interesting case for the Reds. He saw his K/9 drop last season to nearly five. Sure Bronson doesn't issue many free passes, but that's getting pretty close to danger-zone. While Arroyo may be regressing a little, he is still proven himself every year as a solid pitcher. He's combined for a WAR near 14 over the past five seasons. While the majority of that may be front loaded, he still seems like he has plenty left in his take.

Edge: Reds

Series Prediction: Brewers take two out of three.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Brewers Acquire Morgan from Nats

After the trade of Chris Dickerson, it became pretty apparent the Brewers were in a pretty desperate state for an outfielder. With just Carlos Gomez as an option in center field, the Brewers quickly acted. On Sunday, they nabbed Nyjer Morgan from the Washington Nationals in exchange for Cutter Dykstra and cash.

It was pretty obvious that Morgan and the Nats wanted a split. This week, Morgan was quoted as saying, "Maybe I'm not a fit here anymore. It's time to move on." His personal battle with Jim Riggleman became news pretty much everyday. It got to the point where Morgan simply wasn't going to be a part of the plans in Washington.

Morgan, 30, is always a player I have seemed to like. He's a very good defense centerfielder and shows serviceable patience at the plate. While his career walk rate of just over 7% isn't exactly amazing, when you're backing up Carlos Gomez (career BB% of 5.1%), it looks decent. Plus, he's got a pretty nasty left hook.

Morgan does have some problems with his game. Most notably, Morgan seems to be prone to making outs on the bases. Last season, he had just a 67% success rate while stealing bases, getting caught 17 times. He is coming off a very disappointing 2010 where he hit just .253/.319/.314 in 509 at bats for Washington. Also, Nyjer isn't exactly what you would consider a power hitter. His isolated power (ISO) numbers over the past couple of seasons have been really bad (.081, .081, .061). That rarely translates into a very good slugging percentage, of which Morgan's career high is just .430, which was only in 118 AB's.

In return for Morgan, the Nationals received pretty decent compensation for someone they were likely going to release. Cutter Dykstra isn't exactly a top prospect, but did show some promise last season in A-ball. In 353 at bats last season, Dykstra posted a rather impressive .312/.416/.411 line. I wouldn't look too much into that seeing as that was the first impressive season for the 21-year old third baseman.

Take this move for what it is: insurance. The Brewers had absolutely zero options if Carlos Gomez struggled out of the gate. In getting Morgan, the Brewers now have that insurance. I'd be very surprised if Gomez was given a long leash considering a capable backup is waiting behind him. Morgan is just two years removed from a very impressive season where he posted a 4.9 WAR. Is that a realistic goal for Morgan? No, but it's not too unlikely he will outproduce Carlos Gomez this season.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Brewers Deal Dickerson, Acquire Mitre

The Brewers made a surprising move today, sending Chris Dickerson to the New York Yankees in exchange for RHP Sergio Mitre.

I have to say, this trade really shocks me. If there was one position the Brewers were overwhelmingly questionable at, it was center field. In Dickerson, the Brewers had a perfect option to replace Carlos Gomez if he struggled out of the gate again.

While the trade may shock me, I do understand what the Brewers were trying to accomplish in this deal. With Zack Greinke banged up for a couple of regular season starts, the Brewers were scrambling for some depth at starting pitching. In Mitre, the Brewers are getting another option who has starting pitching experience in the major leagues. However, experience doesn't necessarily translate to success.

While Mitre, 30, hasn't been completely useless in his career, he hasn't exactly been tearing it up either. Over the last three seasons, he is striking out just five batters per nine innings. He has been able to keep his walks down (2.51 BB/9), but still isn't blowing anyone away. During that same stretch, Mitre has a FIP near five. The one thing Mitre has been solid at is his ability to keep the ball on the ground (50.9% last season). If he is able to keep those walks down and the ball on the ground, he should be somewhat useful in Miller Park.

While weighing the positives and negatives in this deal, it's pretty clear the Brewers got the worse of this trade. By trying to salvage a couple of starts out of Mitre, the Brewers have really put themselves in trouble in the outfield. With Corey Hart likely headed to the DL, the Brewers outfield other than Braun and Gomez will consist of Brandon Boggs, Jeremy Reed and Mark Kotsay. That's troublesome to say the least. If anything, I was excited to see Dickerson get regular playing time while Hart was out.

The Brewers had internal options who were just as good, if not better than Mitre. Marco Estrada has looked very good this spring and likely loses his chance with this trade. Even if he were to come out and struggle, it would've likely been for only a couple of starts. Why deal a need for something that isn't as necessary.

In the grand scheme of things, this trade may not make or break the Brewers 2011 season. However, downgrading at positions that are very frail to begin with is never a good decision. The Brewers have been linked to Nyjer Morgan and I'm really hoping something gets done on that end. Call me crazy, but I'm just not that confident in the center field with what the Brewers currently have.