Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why Jim Boylan will make John Hammond look like a genius

I posted that tweet the day Jim Boylan was named interim head coach. It's time to back it up!

As we all know, Scott Skiles and the Milwaukee Bucks agreed to part ways late at night January 7th. At the time he was 16-16, .500, but on a four game skid.

Scott Skiles and the Bucks agreed to part
ways on January 7th.
16-16. Average. It's about what most expected out of this Bucks team: mediocrity.

Reports say that Skiles didn't like the makeup of his roster and wanted a buy out before the 2012-2013 season even began. That being said, it would seem as though Skiles ultimately made the decision to leave. That would make sense, seeing as the lackluster Milwaukee organization seems to have been happy at .500.

Jim Boylan, long time assistant for Coach Skiles, took control of the Deer on an interim basis. Though it seems as though it was Skiles' decision to leave, the average fan looks to GM John Hammond for this decision. In the end, it's Hammond's job on the line. In the final year of his contract, he needed to win (or in the Bucks case, be anywhere at or above .500) to keep his job. He agreed to part ways with Skiles and he named Boylan head coach.

Jim Boylan assumed the head coaching position
on an interim basis
It saved him his job. Today (it's January 23rd when I'm writing this) we learned that John Hammond's contract as General Manager of the Milwaukee Bucks has been extended for three years. Much like in the Skiles scenario, I'm not sure how I feel about this yet. I do know one thing, though: Jim Boylan will make John Hammond (and now the Bucks organization, coincidentally) look like a genius.

As I stated earlier, the Bucks were 16-16 when Skiles elected to leave the team. Average. Not bad, not good. Well, it wasn't too bad from my point of view, considering the opponents they faced are a combined 661-655 (.502 winning percentage, based on teams records as of January 23rd). They were playing decent opponents and were still able to keep their head above water.

But Skiles left anyways. And Jim Boylan stepped in. Out of the gate, he's 6-2. We struck gold! Or is it fools gold? The eight teams Boylan's Bucks have faced thus far are a combined 135-193 (.412 winning percentage).

So, what you're saying is that the Bucks will still be mediocre in the long term?

False. Remember the title? Jim Boylan (or, I suppose, the Bucks schedule) will make John Hammond (and, I suppose, the Bucks organization) look like a genius.

John Hammond's contract with the Bucks was
extended for three more seasons.

The schedule doesn't get much more difficult from here on out. There are 42 games yet to be played. The teams on the Bucks schedule for those games are a combined 851-869 (.495 winning percentage). Yes, it's only a slight change from the teams Skiles faced earlier in the year, but it's still below .500. Put simply, the teams they play lose more than they win. That bodes well for Jim Boylan, John Hammond, and everyone upstairs.

By firing Scott Skiles and naming Jim Boylan head coach, and by extending John Hammond's contract, the Bucks organization will look awesome when the Bucks finish 6th-7th in the East (hooray for mediocrity!). John Hammond will be everyone's hero for sticking to this amazing (*sarcasm*) roster he built and for promoting Jim Boylan. And Jim Boylan will feel accomplished, then become an assistant coach again.

Of course, injured players will be returning and other players will become injured, yadda yadda, but based on the numbers, the outcome of this Bucks season may be better than we expected, much to the chagrin of Scott Skiles.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Brewers: Year in Preview

Pitchers and catchers report to training camp in just 33 days. You can almost smell the Koops Mustard and Usinger's sausage now; or maybe that's just Wisconsin. I digress.

With the anticipation of baseball just around the corner, it may be fitting to take a look at where the Brewers stand. After a handful of free agent additions this winter, the Brewers roster seems all but completed. However, there is still much to be determined in the starting rotation, where there is room for several top prospects to make the cut.

Nyjer Morgan / T-Plush / Tony Gumbo elected free
agency in November
Back in November, a number of Brewers elected free agency. Nyjer Morgan, Jose Veras, Kameron Loe, Alex Gonzalez, Shaun Marcum, Francisco Rodriquez, Travis Ishikawa, and Manny Parra will no longer be part of the organization in 2013. Of course, four of those players were part of the worst bullpen in baseball in 2012. The Crew posted a bullpen ERA of 4.66, good for worst in all of baseball. Melvin made a concerned effort to fix the bullpen this winter, a la the departure of Veras, Loe, K-rod, and Parra.

New Bullpen
With that crop of relief pitchers saying goodbye, the Brewers were left without a singe LHP in the bullpen. A trade for former Devil Ray Burke Badenhop (RHP) and FA signings of Tom Gorzelanny (LHP) and Michael Gonzalez (LHP) helped to rebuild the bullpen and provide some depth with both RHP's and LHP's.

There are still some things to be determined in the bullpen, but as I see it, it looks to have shaped up this way:

Long Reliever: Tom Gorzelanny. He was a former starter for the Pirates and Nationals who finally found some success in the bullpen last year. He has good stuff against both righties (.247) and lefties (.237); just the kind of guy Roenicke likes to use here.

Lefty Specialist: Mike Gonzalez. Good against lefties (.179), not so good against righties (.297).

Set up man: Jim Henderson. He was a breakout guy last year during Ax's struggles. With the hopes that Axford will be more of his 2011 self, Henderson will see the 8th inning.

Closer: John Axford. Melvin made it clear at the end of last season that even though Ax had struggled, he was still the Brewers' closer. Hopefully DM made the right call.

Other guys: Burke Badenhop and Brandon Kintzler are shoe-ins to make the roster. I am a strong supporter of both Josh Stinson and Tyler Thornburg. One (maybe both, I doubt it though) will make the roster.

(Read a similar article from

A host of other minor league prospects (and others) will also be competing for spots on the opening day roster, including: (Italicized players have a good chance to be on the opening day roster, parenthesized number is their rank in Brewers organization, via

RHP Nick Bucci
RHP Hiram Burgos
RHP Fautino De Los Santos
LHP Miguel De Los Santos
RHP Johnny Hellweg (5)
RHP Santo Manzanillo
RHP Michael Olmsted
RHP Ariel Pena (12)
RHP Jesus Sanchez

SS Jeff Bianchi
UT? Mat Gamel
2B Scooter Gennett (6)
UT Taylor Green

CF Khris Davis (18)
RF Caleb Gindl (15)
CF Josh Prince
CF Logan Schafer (8)

Non-Roster Invitees
A whole host of promising young talents will join the Brewers at training camp. The list:

RHP Jairo Asencio
LHP Jed Bradley (4)
RHP Darren Byrd
RHP Donovan Hand
RHP Taylor Jungmann (3)
RHP Arcenio Leon
LHP Travis Webb

C Dayton Buller
C Anderson De La Rosa
C Blake Lalli
C Rafael Neda
C Adam Weisenburger

SS Hector Gomez
1B Hunter Morris (7)
UT Donnie Murphy

CF Kentrail Davis (11)

Opening Day Roster
I see the opening day roster shaping out something like this:

Tyler Thornburg made his first
Major League start in 2012
John Axford
Jim Henderson
Tom Gorzelanny
Michael Gonzalez
Brandon Kintzler
Burke Badenhop
Josh Stinson
*The Brewers are insistent Thornburg will be a starter in the future. Because of this, I see them choosing to use him as a starter in Nashville over the opportunity to pitch out of the bullpen in Milwaukee

Yovanni Gallardo
Mike Fiers
Marco Estrada
Chris Narveson
Mark Rogers
Estrada was forced into the starting rotation
in 2012 after an injury to Chris Narveson.
He was 5-7 with a 3.64 ERA last year.
*Over and over again this summer, DM has stated how much guts the A's had starting so many young pitchers. I think deep down, that's what he wants to be. After Spring Training, the rotation will probably look like this, but I would prefer to see Peralta here and Estrada in the bullpen (bumping Stinson out). Estrada is a good starter, but great from the pen. Put him where he succeeds.

RF Norichka Aoki
1B Corey Hart
LF Ryan Braun
3B Aramis Ramirez
Alex Gonzalez!
C Jonathan Lucroy
2B Rickie Weeks
CF Carlos Gomez
SS Jean Segura

UT Mat Gamel
UT Donnie Murphy
C Martin Maldanado
UT Taylor Green
OF Logan Schaefer
*I would prefer the Crew sign a veteran SS (Alex Gonzalez!) and not use Murphy there, but I wouldn't be surprised if they kept their pockets closed the rest of this off-season.

The Bullpen is much improved and should be competitive. The offense will be as good as last year, if not better with an improved Weeks and an upgrade at SS. The question marks are in the starting rotation. As they go, the Brewers will go. Which Mike Fiers will we see? Can Rogers stay healthy for a big league season? How will Narveson rebound from season ending surgery last year?

If the pitching can be in the upper half of baseball, the Brewers will shine.

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