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.
Without 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) 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 started 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 www.wisportsblog.blogspot.com)
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 theirrank in Brewers organization, via www.mlb.com)
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)
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
*The Brewers are insistent that 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
|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. I think after Spring Training the rotation will shape up 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
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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October 7, 2012
Brewers 2012 recap, glance to 2013
The Milwaukee Brewers 2012 season was a real head-scratcher. A rocky start...well not so much a rocky start as a bad five months...found the Brewers struggling for air as the season neared September. The bullpen was a disaster, and the starting pitching never completely clicked either. Injuries devastated every area of the team. Major contributors to the starting pitching, the bullpen, defense, and the batting lineup all fell victim to the injury bug early on. Things were bad. They were really bad, so bad that the Brewers traded away pitching ace Zack Greinke and moved pieces around to begin grooming for the future. But something clicked in September. The Brewers dominated down the stretch and found themselves coming from 12.5 games out of the wild card, to just 1.5 by late September. Unfortunately, the surge was all for naught as the Cardinals took advantage of an easier close to the season and ran away with the final wild card spot.
The way the season ended left the Brewers with a lot of questions. Are we as bad as we played for the majority of the season? Are these young pitchers as good as they played in September? Who plays first base, shortstop next year? Let's look at how the Brewers got to this position, and where they need to go to get back into playoff contention in the future.
The Crew were the talk of baseball at the end of the 2011 season, winning the division, reaching the NLCS, the whole Ryan Braun MVP and steroid thing, and losing Prince Fielder (and what would prove to be crucial bullpen pitchers) to free agency. The Brewers used the off season to fill their holes. Aramis Ramirez was picked up as a power hitter to fill in at 3rd, sure handed SS Alex Gonzalez improved the defense, and Mat Gamel came in to replace Fielder at 1st. They also added to their outfield depth with Japanese star Norichika Aoki.
I, for one, thought they had built themselves an even better ball club than the year before. The defense was improved, and Fielder's production could easily be replaced with the Gamel/Ramirez combination. The majority of the season, however, proved otherwise.
The Brewers committed the 9th most errors in all of baseball during the 2011 season, but improved to 18th this year. Every member of the 2011 infield (Fielder, Weeks, Betancourt, McGehee)was in the top five of most errors by their position. A nearly complete remodeling of the infield improved the defense. The additions of Ramirez, Gonzalez, and Gamel were obvious improvements defensively. Even when Gonzalez and Gamel went down with injury, their back ups played well defensively as well (cast includes: Hart, Ishikawa, Izturis, Ransom, and others).
Marquee trades prior to the 2011 season made the Brewers pitching staff dominant. The Crew expected similar output from the same cast in 2012, but to no avail. Narveson was injured early, forcing long reliever Marco Estrada to assume a starting role. Marcum missed significant time during the middle of the season due to injury, as did Estrada. The Brewers blew up the pitching staff after seemingly falling completely out of contention. During one stretch, Gallardo was the only starting pitcher still in the rotation.
Here's where it gets interesting: the rookies that filled in the rotation were good, really good. Mike Fiers, Mark Rogers, Tyler Thornburg, and Wily Peralta all showed that they are ready to make the jump to the big leagues. Despite early struggles and throwing a bunch of rookies, the Brewers ended the season with some relatively positive numbers. They led the entire league with 1402 strikeouts, a club record.
The bullpen was less interesting. Other than strikeouts, the Brewers finished near the bottom in every other major statistical area for pitching, largely (though not entirely) in part to the bullpen struggles. Following the 2011 season where John Axford was untouchable in the 9th and the Hawkins, Saito, K-rod show turned baseball into a five inning game, 2012 was a ginormous step backwards. The revolving door of closers and the inability to find anybody who could consistently get outs left every fan to cringe when a starter was pulled in a close game.
I'll be the first to say “I told you so” to anyone who doubted the batting lineup entering the 2012 season. The Brewers expected a drop off with the departure of Fielder, but put up even better numbers this season. They were better in every offensive stat other than walks and strikeouts. I expect them to continue to put up good numbers for years to come, as well.
Ryan Braun had another MVP type season, hopefully putting to rest some of the “steroid” talk (though the allegations were that he used 'roids to heal from an injury, not bulk up...but I won't be the first to correct you!). Aramis Ramirez was also a bright spot. After an expected slow start, he came around and was a force in the lineup. Lucroy continued to improve and showed he will be a serious threat. Even though he spent time on the disabled list, Lucroy average .320 on the year and was clutch.
Upper management will have some big decisions to make this offseason. As of now, Gallardo is the only sure-fire starter. It's assumed that Fiers will join him, and hopefully Narveson will recover from surgery well and re-join the rotation. Peralta, Rogers, and Thornburg will get long looks from the coaching staff.
It sounds like Hart will remain at first, and Aoki in RF. I like this decision, though I would like Aoki to hit closer to .300+. Logan Schaefer may get looks as well with Hart leaving the outfield. With Hart at first, Gamel will probably fight for time as a backup at 1st and 3rd.
Shortstop is the other intriguing position. Young, up and coming star Jean Segura was acquired in the Zack Greinke trade. He showed he has a sufficient arm and an encouraging developing bat, but he has a second baseman's body and is prone to errors. The Brewers can pick up Alex Gonzalez's contract for another year if they chose, but a less expensive and less risky option may be available via free agency.
Finally, the Brewers need to address the bullpen. I am a firm believer that sending Estrada back to the bullpen will make a big difference. Melvin seems committed to Axford, so the Brewers need to address a 7th and 8th inning guy. The Brewers could resign K-rod for significantly cheaper than his current $8 million contract if they think he can bounce back from his less than stellar year. Regardless, the bullpen needs two more solid options for the Brewers to be a viable division contender.
Here are my immediate thoughts on the roster next year:
RP Yovanni Gallardo
RP Mike Fiers
RP Wily Peralta
RP Mark Rogers
LP Chris Narveson
C Jonathan Lucroy
1B Corey Hart
2B Rickie Weeks
3B Aramis Ramirez
SS Jean Segura
LF Ryan Braun
CF Carlos Gomez
RF Norichika Aoki
RP Marco Estrada
RP Tyler Thornburg
RP Jim Henderson
LP Manny Parra
RP Francisco Rodriguez
RP John Axford
LP a guy like Randy Choate?
RP a guy like Octavio Dotel?
LP Juan Perez (not sold on him, but we need more lefties) or RP John Stinson (is he ready to make the jump to the bigs?)
OF Logan Schaefer
1B Mat Gamel
SS Alex Gonzalez (re-structure contract?)
C Martin Maldonado
UT Nick Punto or Ryan Theriot
Obviously, even in my semi-non-cash-restricted scenario where I can get whatever players I want, there are still question marks. Even though Melvin said he wasn't playing on making a big free agent splash this year, it should be a very interesting off-season. The Brewers will be back in business if they can address a couple of problem issues (mainly the bullpen and starting pitching). Even so, in a division with the Reds and Cardinals (yes, the Pirates I suppose...) they won't win the division in 2013. Thankfully, the once deemed “emptied” farm system actually shows really good promise and has been producing well in their opportunities in the bigs.
One thing's for sure, I'll still be watching and “rolling out the barrel” in 2013 and for years to come. Go Crew!
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Stats and information from:
brewers.mlb.com via Adam McCalvy
September 24, 2012
Brewers still in good position
Despite the Cubs failure to steal winnable games from the Cardinals, the Nationals domination of the Brewers in game two, and the Crew's failure to make up any ground, the Brewers still have themselves in a great position. With ten games remaining, the Brewers are still just 2.5 games back.
If you looked at the Brewers schedule a month ago, you probably wouldn't have given them much of a chance on their current road trip. With consecutive road series against the Pirates, Nationals, and Reds the Crew finds themselves 5-1 with four games remaining. That's nothing to complain about!
If the Cardinals drop just one game in their series with the Astros, the Brewers can afford two losses in the remaining four games of this trip. This will put them just 3.0 games out of the second wild card spot (WC2). In the final six games of the season, the tables are turned on the Cardinals. The Brewers finish with two home series and six winnable games against the Astros and Padres whilst the Cardinals finish with the Nationals and Reds.
For the Brewers to complete the climb to the postseason they will need help, but not luck. (Assuming they are only 3.0 games out) If the Cardinals lose both series, as they statistically should, they will drop four games. The Brewers then, need to go 5-1 in their final six games to force a one game playoff with the Cardinals.
See how doable this is? #WeBrewlieve
Shout out to Alex Tien for inspiring me to blog more frequently, also for inspiring me to use the word “whilst” in this blog.
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September 19, 2012
Road to the postseason
The Brewers improbable fight back into playoff contention finds them 2.5 games out of the second Wild Card with 16 games remaining. The next 10, however, could decide their fate.
Beginning tonight at 6:05pm, the Crew begins a crucial, grueling 10 game road trip. Tonight is the first of three against the Pirates, who are tied in the standings with the Brewers at 2.5 games back. After three games in Pittsburgh, the Brewers play four against the NL best Washington Nationals and then three against the divisional leading Cincinnati Reds. For the Brewers to remain in contention, they will need to find at least seven wins on this road trip. They finish the year with the Astros and Padres at home.
The importance of the road trip is heightened when you examine other schedules. Only the Dodgers and the Cardinals (current Wild Card leaders) stand in the Brewers way. The Dodgers schedule is nearly identical to the Brewers. They will take on the Nationals, Reds, and Padres during a nine game road trip and finish the year with the Rockies and Giants. The incumbent Cardinals are a different story. They have nine games let with the Astros and Cubs and finish the year with Washington and Cincinnati at home. Their considerably easier schedule gives them a leg up and good chance to hold off the competition for the final Wild Card spot.
|Wild Card Contender||Brewers||Cardinals||Dodgers||Pirates|
|Opponent (number of games in series)||@Pittsburgh (3)||Houston (3)||@Washington (3)||Milwaukee (3)|
|@Washington (4)||@Chicago Cubs(3)||@Cincinnati (3)||@Houston (3)|
|@Cincinatti (3)||@Houston (3)||@San Diego (3)||@NYM (4)|
|Houston (3)||Washington (3)||Colorado (3)||Cincinnati (3)|
|San Diego (3)||Cincinatti (3)||San Francisco (3)||Atlanta (3)|
I see each team finishing as follows:
Brewers: 9-7 (83-79)
Cardinals: 9-6 (86-76)
Dodgers: 6-9 (82-80)
Pirates: 6-10 (80-82)
The Cardinals have to be the favorite to hold on to the last spot. Whoever wins the Brewers/Pirates series will have the best chance to knock them out. The Dodgers have too difficult a schedule to make up ground like the other teams will. The standings will look like this at the end of the regular season:
The Brewers have relied on unknown pitching prospects during their run. If they can continue to get solid starts from guys like Fiers and Peralta and can maintain the consistency out of the bullpen, they'll have a shot. I believe that will unlikely, but we'll know for sure after this road trip.
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May 16, 2012
Brewer's Roster Moves
Recently, much has been made about a potential Brewers-Josh Hamilton union. The Brewers are one of the possible suitors for Hamilton because of their low guaranteed payroll for 2013.
Other fans want priority placed on resigning pitching ace Zack Greinke. Both Greinke and Hamilton will take up a large portion of the payroll, so the Brewers won't be able to add both.
Still other fans want the Brewers to blow up the current roster. Trade Greinke, Marcum, Weeks, Hart, and K-rod for younger position players. This group of fans believes a few position players, teamed with the plethora of young pitching, can bring the Brewers to back to the top in only a few short years.
No question, Attanasio and Melvin will have much to debate as this season progresses and throughout the offseason. But what course of action will they take?
This will depend on the Brewers success this season. If they can right the ship and get back in the playoff hunt, the Crew will most likely not blow up the team, but play for another post-season run. If they continue to struggle and fall out of contention as the trade deadline approaches, they may elect to trade and get younger.
To me, adding Josh Hamilton adds nothing but a good story to the Brewers. The addition of Hamilton will mean the Brewers will not resign Greinke, Marcum, or K-rod. They will also be adding another outfielder to a stacked OF group. Braun, Gomez, Hart, Aoki, and Morgan are all quality OF's already.
More sense could be made of the “rebuild” choice for the Brewers. The Crew's minor league affiliates are filled with good pitching prospects. Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg are developed pitchers in the Brewers AAA and AA clubs, while recent draft picks Jed Bradley and Taylor Jungmann pitch high-A ball. By trading some high value pieces on this years team – like Greinke, Marcum, and K-rod, who are all free agents after this season – and adding some poisition players, this team could be a contender again in three or four years.
Of course, this plan will mean a few years of losing baseball in Milawukee.
Regardless of the Brewers choice, there are going to be some angered or frustrated fans. Attanasio and Melvin have done nothing but good things for the organization in the last few years, and have earned the trust of their fans. Hopefully, the aggressive minded Attanasio won't be temped by Josh Hamilton, but will pursue quality prospects that will rejuvenate an empty farm system. The Brewers have the key pieces to be good for several years. Braun, Gallardo, and Lucroy are All-Star players at important positions. With the incoming pitching and a few more infield prospects, the Brewers could be very good for several more years.
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May 8, 2012
The Brewers are desperate for offense. It doesn't help that their one and two hitters consist of Weeks (.174), Gomez (.280), Aoki (.211), and Morgan (.169). Gomez has been a bright spot at the top of the order, but is on the 15-day DL with a sore hamstring.
In Weeks' defense, he's top 10 in the MLB with walks (20). Regardless, the top of the order needs help.
This is my proposed changes for the Brewers lineup (with a healthy Gomez):
- Gomez (.280)
- Lucroy (.303)
- Braun (.288)
- Ramirez (.215)
- Hart (.247)
- Conrad (.000)/Green (.200)/Ishikawa (.222)
- Weeks (.174)
- Izturis (.179)
Gomez is a prototypical lead off hitter. He has a lot of speed and is more of a contact hitter. Aoki can fill that spot until Gomez returns. Lucroy in the 2-hole is high for a catcher, but he's the best hitter on the team not named Ryan Braun. He takes a lot of pitches and is capable of moving runners. This will put more runners in scoring position for Braun.
Ramirez has had a slow start, no surprise. He'll be fine in the clean up role as the season progresses. I'd like to see Hart there, but he has said that he's uncomfortable as the fourth hitter. When Kottaras (.310) plays, switch him and Hart. Hart will then hit second and Kottaras fifth.
I'd prefer the Brewers to give either Conrad or Green a chance to start at first base for a while, preferably Green so that Conrad can spell Weeks at second. But any of those three guys will do an average job at first. Weeks prefers to hit in the lead off spot, but with a .174 BA, he's not in a position to be calling the shots. Bump him down in the lineup until he proves himself.
Izturis is a terrible hitter, but he's the only option as of now. There are two easy outs for opposing pitchers at the bottom of this lineup.
The Brewers lack of offense comes down to the poor production from the top of the lineup. They have to make some changes to get the team in gear. A radical lineup change may be just what the offense needs to start hitting again.
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stats from brewers.com
May 1, 2012
Problems with Braun's three homer game
The Brewers opened a three game series with the Padres yesterday in San Diego. Padre's “PETCO Park” is not known to be a hitter's ball park, but apparently no one told Ryan Braun.
Randy Wolf gave up a run in the second, so the Brewers would have to play from behind. In the fourth, Ryan Braun answered with a solo shot that knotted the game at 1-1. The Brewers would add two more in the inning to take a 3-1 lead that they would never surrender. In the very next inning, Braun hit a two run home run. Then again, in his third consecutive at bat, Braun hit another deep ball; a solo home run to left field. Braun would triple in his final at bat, scoring two more and giving him 6 RBI's and 15 total bases on the night. The bullpen picked up struggling starter Randy Wolf, and the Brewers won 8-3.
In a year where the offense has struggled to score, it's refreshing to see eight runs on the board for the Crew. However, Braun's magical night did shed light on some of the Brewers offensive issues. Two of Braun's three home runs were solo shots, and Nyjer Morgan struck out in front of Braun before each homer. The top of the order has struggled to produce early in the year. Among everyday starters, hitters 1-4 are a combined 73 of 299 (.244), while hitters 5-8 are 70 of 268 (.261). Infact, the bottom half of the order has more RBI's, fewer strike outs, and the same amount of home runs.
Thankfully, as of late Ramirez has gotten his average up over .200 and Braun looks to be back on track. Hopefully, Weeks will join the rest of the starting lineup in the .200's (wouldn't mind if Morgan joined him, as well). If the top of the order can begin to hit and produce, it will only make the second half of the order even better.
The Brewers go again tonight at 9:05, where Marcum will face Edison Volquez. Watch for some production from the top of the order!
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Stats from brewers.com