Thursday, December 11, 2008

Got Melk?

The on again, off again Mike Cameron for Melky Cabrera trade apears to be on again and may go down on Friday. I think this is a good trade for the Brewers. Mekly Cabrera is sort of the Yankees' Rickie Weeks - ton of potential but hasn't shown much yet. But he's only 24 years old. He would be the youngest starter on the Brewers. Three years from now, when Cabrera is hitting his prime, Cameron will be hitting the door.

BaseballReference lists the 10 most similar players to Cabrera through age 23:

  1. Curt Flood
  2. Bobby Tolan
  3. Jimmy Sebring
  4. Jose Cardenal
  5. Jose Guillen
  6. Paul Blair
  7. Sixto Lezcano
  8. Johnny Damon
  9. Harry Heilmann
  10. Cliff Heathcote
Nine of those ten (save Sebring) had far better careers than what Mike Cameron has got left.

Number seven conjures up images of Bob Betts announcing "Melk-y-y-y-y-y-y-y C-a-a-a-a-brera-a-a-a-a-a-a."

Monday, December 8, 2008

My Clam

The Brewers are apparently close to signing Mike Lamb. It would set up an obvious platoon at third base with Bill Hall.

According to stats on Baseball Reference, the most similar Major League play to Mike Lamb is interestingly, Gabe Kapler:

Kapler:
946 G, 72 HR, .273 BA, 340 RBI
Born 8/31/75 in Hollywood, CA

Lamb:
936 G, 69 HR, .277 BA, 345 RBI
Born 8/9/75 in West Covina, CA - about 15 mi east of Hollywood

Wow. Plus, Lamb is a left handed bat. Probably not a bad signing.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Heirs Apparent

I guess Willie Randolph's interview with Doug Melvin was a little more than a politically correct gesture. Congratulations to him on being named the new bench coach. He's a smart baseball guy and will be a valuable addition.

Ken Macha won't be looking over his shoulder or anything this season, will he? Now if we can just Hire Bob Brenly as the bullpen coach.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Macha-ry

My initial reaction to the hiring of Ken Macha is negative. I think Bob Brenly would have been a better choice. It's also my feeling that if I think that, I ought to say something about it now if I want to reserve the right to complain about him when I think complaining is due. So here I am. I do not like the choice of Ken Macha as the next Brewers' manager. Here's why:

1. Macha, for the most part, was a puppet to Billy Beane. He said in an interview that he had no say whatsoever as to the personnel makeup of the team. It's pretty commonly known who was calling the shots during his time in Oakland. So, while Macha has four year's experience and two playoff appearances, it's tough to judge exactly what kind of manager he will be, or more accurately how his presence on the team will help or hurt.

2. Macha's managing style, if he has one, was similar to that of Ned Yost - sit back and wait for the home run. Using stats from the 2007 Bill James Handbook, I calculated Macha's use of various strategy techniques compared to his AL counterparts for the 2006 season - his last in Oakland. The numbers show are a ratio of Macha's total and the average of all other managers in the league.

Lineups Used 1.067
% starters having a platoon advantage 1.001
Pinch hitters used 0.656
Pinch runners used 0.929
Defensive substitutions 0.645
Quick hooks for starting pitchers 0.963
Slow hooks for starting pitchers 1.170
120+ pitches by starting pitcher 2.963
Relievers used on consecutive days 1.229
Long (>1 IP) saves 1.026
Relief pitchers used 1.014
Stolen base attempts 0.629
Sacrific attempts 0.642
Runner moving with the pitch 0.636
Intentional walks 1.277
Pitch outs 0.932

Macha did not use a lot of pinch hitters or defensive substitutions. He also made far less than average use of stolen bases, sacrifices, and the hit and run. He pretty much filled out the lineup card and let them play. (In Macha's defense, this is also Billy Beane's style.)

As for his handling of the pitching staff, again he tends to stay with his starters longer than average and in 2006 led the AL in number of times allowing his starter to reach the 120 pitch mark.

These things give me deja vu.

3. Macha was not popular with his players (and one of them plays here now). I ran across these two articles from the San Francisco Chronicle that were written around the time of Macha's firing in Oakland:

Disconnected - GM Again Cuts Ties With Macha

"The whole thing was a weird situation for me because ever since he came here, we had a pretty good relationship, but over the last couple years, I could see things unfold, and I kept hearing things,'' Chavez said. "He's always been very open and communicative with me, and with some other players, that wasn't true. I heard some things that were kind of disturbing. I think there are going to be a lot of guys who are happy about this.''

"I felt like he didn't protect me,'' Zito said.

"When I got injured, I felt disrespected,'' Kotsay said.

"I don't want Billy to take heat for this [Macha's firing] because this is what needed to happen,'' Kendall said. "If Billy is comfortable with it, we're behind Billy. Maybe Billy saw the same thing the players saw. If Billy gets blasted in the media, it's ridiculous. Billy's going to get a lashing, and he shouldn't.''

YES - *JASON* Kendall said that. **OUR** Jason Kendall.

'Hurt" By Players' Comments, Macha Tells His Side of the Story

"I'm on the field (before games) everyday. I'm on the airplane with them. In my office with the door open," Macha said. "If anyone wants to talk to me about something, I'll give them an answer. Maybe people didn't want to hear the answers I was going to give them, and maybe that's why they didn't want to come in. But I was available."

I'm sorry, but didn't we just fire this same guy?

4. Macha does not seem to have nearly the media savy that Bob Brenly does. Bob Brenly is in the media. He knows how to deal with people in the media. I think a lot of people underestimate the importance of this. Ned Yost was horrible in front of the camera. He often seemed uptight, aggitated, and defensive. This was, in my opinion, great cause of fans' displeasure with him despite the team's success. Ned too often made it seem like things were going poorly. People pick up on that.

I must confess that I have not seen a lot of Ken Macha press conferences, but I don't ever remember him wowwing me in the ones I have.

5. Macha's success and only experience was in the American League. Brenly's was in the National League. It might be easy to make too big a deal of this, but there are some differences. Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa have shown that a good manager can manage anywhere. We don't know yet though if Macha will ever have a seat in that class.

For what it's worth, I hope I'm wrong. I hope Ken Macha clicks with this team, they play well for him, and make the playoffs again next year. But if things start going sour and the captain starts losing control of the ship, you can be sure you will read about it on In-Between Hops.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

CC Math

Rumor is that the Brewers may to offer CC Sabathia a 4-year $100 million contract to stay in Milwaukee. The idea is that offering him more per year but for fewer years might get a deal done.

Doubters say that by taking such an offer he would probably be turning down and additional $50 million in guaranteed money that he could get by signing a 6-year deal somewhere else.

Look at this deal from the Brewers perspective. Suppose that every fan that walks in Miller Park spends on average $40. (I don't know what the exact figure is, but I think that's pretty close.) To pay Sabathia's salary, you would need 625,000 fans. To put it another way, suppose that if the Brewers signed Sabathia, they would equal last year's attendance figure of 3.1 million. Is it plausible that without Sabathia the attendance would dip to 2.5 million? I think it would be very reasonable to suspect that.

Now look at it from Sabathia's standpoint. He's not giving up $50 million. After four years, he'll still be playing ball and can still sign a contract with somebody else. Even if his production declines, you would assume that he would still be in the $10 million per year range at that point. Couple that with the fact that the Brewers' deal might be $3-4 million more now than he might get if he signed a longer deal elsewhere, he's really not risking all that much.

I think this deal would be a win-win and I would be very happy if it went down.

Suspension

As I write this, about 8:00 p.m. Central time on Wednesday, it is not raining in Philadelphia - theoretically they could be playing. I'm sure the field is a mess and it's a wise decision to push the game back until Wednesday - which by the way is the day that Game 6 was scheduled to be played; the game that Major League baseball pushed back a half hour to accommodate Barack Obama's infomercial - but I digress.

The last two innings of last night's game should have never been played. Those weren't conditions suitable for a World Series. The reason the were played was of course was because they wanted to avoid the embarrassment of the game ending under a rain delay.

I think baseball should just change the rule to say that any game that starts will be finished. Period. All games will go nine innings. That way the umpires can call a game when they see fit without regard for the score. For the sake of the starting pitchers, I would like to see at least a one hour window of dry weather for a game to start, but in today's age of Doppler radar, anyone with an internet connection can predict that with pinpoint accuracy. As unfortunate as it is when a team loses a six inning, rain shortened game, it's equally unfortunate when a team builds up a five run lead in the first three innings only to have it wiped out by weather. Forget all of that. Just say that if the first pitch is thrown, the last one will be too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Odds & Ends: Bob Brenly

Brenly was the fourth manager in history to win a World Series in his first year managing - 2001 with the Diamondbacks.

In 2001, Brenly led the Major Leagues in most times keeping a starting pitcher in the game for 120+ pitches with 22. The next closest manager that year had 10. He had Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson on that team, but still.

When Brenly was fired in 2004, the Diamondbacks record was 29-50; a .367 W/L percentage. Al Pedrique took over for the rest of that season and remarkably the team got much worse, going 22-61 the rest of the way; a .265 percentage. Perhaps Brenly wasn't the problem.

Robin Yount was Brenly's bench coach in 2004. Yount resigned after Brenly was fired out of respect for him. I wonder if Brenly gets the Brewers job if he would talk Yount into returning in that role. Maybe he would even find a place for Dale Sveum.

On September 13, 2008, two days before Ned Yost was fired, Brenly signed a four year contract extension to continue as a color commentator for the Cubs.

Brenly has a son Michael who is a catcher in the Cubs organization.

In addition to his broadcasting gigs, Brenly worked for three years as a coach in San Francisco under Dusty Baker.

During his playing career, Brenly was managed by Frank Robinson and Roger Craig for three full seasons each.

At Ohio University, Brenly tied Mike Schmidt's single season home run record.

Once Brenly made 4 errors in a game at third bae but later went on to hit the game winning home run.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New Direction

Hi again. I haven't written in a while. I've been very busy mostly, but after my attempt at poetry after the Ned Yost firing, a few people suggested that maybe blogging wasn't my thing. Now that I have taken a few weeks off, those same people are asking me to post again. Either 'you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone,' or 'careful what you wish for.'

Just a few random thoughts to get caught back up...

I was obviously happy that the Brewers snuck into the playoffs. Game 3 at Miller Park was the most electric I've ever witnessed there. I really don't think getting in had much to do with Ned Yost being gone, nor with Dale Sveum at the helm. It just happened (with a little help from the Mets.) If the Brewers had won one of those four games against the Phillies in September, Ned Yost probably wouldn't have been fired, the Brewers probably would gotten in the playoffs anyway, lost in the first round anyway, and might still be looking for a new manager anyway.

I'll talk more later about Sveum, but I wasn't thrilled with his managing style. Way to much bunting, and bunting for the sake of bunting. I don't like bunting. Ergo...

As I watched the series against the Phillies, it stuck me how much better the Brewers would have to be to be one of the elite teams in the league. The Phillies have them beat at almost every position. For the long haul, I'd take Ryan Braun, but for a single season there isn't much of a drop off in Pat Burell. As for the other two outfield spots, I'd take Jayson Werth or Shane Victorino over either Mike Cameron or Corey Hart without too much hesitation. Prince Fielder is good, but Ryan Howard is better. Second base isn't even close with Chase Utley. Shortstop is about a wash, and neither team has a third baseman or catcher to speak of. The Brewers had an edge in pitching with CC, but he showed up to the playoffs with not much gas left in his tank and that was all the Phills needed for a convincing win.

Back to Sveum. Doug Melvin made the right move. There a perception among lots of people that once a person has played here, or has lived here, or has had some other connection to the organization in the past, that they are much better than they really are. Ned Yost made a 6 year managing career riding this perception. Craig Counsell extended his career by at least two years on this. And it is the reason that a lot of people wanted Dale Sveum to be retained as the Brewers next manager. The only reason. I'm sure Dale Sveum is a great guy, but I think he would be in over his head managing the Brewers. This is a young team in desperate need of strong direction. There is a lot of young talent that properly molded could be turned into a championship caliber team. The job of managing the Brewers in 2009 will require a much different set of skills, priorities, and impatience than it has over the last six. Dale Sveum's greatest shortcoming may be that he worked too long for Ned Yost. The Brewers can't take a chance that some of that rubbed off. Sveum said "his heart was ripped out" when he heard the news that he didn't get the job. Suck it up. You get to be friends with Robin Yount.

Because he released Sveum, it's obvious that Doug Melvin has another candidate in mind. If I had to guess, I would say that would be Ken Macha. Macha is the guy that Doug Melvin wanted in 2003 before he took the A's job. His teams averaged 91 wins a season during his four years at the helm. His failure to win in the playoffs did him in. I ran across this blog: www.firemach.blogspot.com.

"As usual, you left in the starters just long enough to give up enough runs to lose."

"...you won't sit Kendall because he might get upset."

"This team could do nothing else in the offseason and win at least five more games next year just because you're not asleep in the goddamn dugout."
Deja vu?

If I were allowed to pick, knowing what little I do, I might select Bob Brenly as the next manager of the Brewers. Brenly led the Arizona Diamondbacks to a World Series championship in his first season managing although the makeup of that team, mostly aging veterans, was very different from the current Brewers squad. Still, it shows the ability to walk into and existing quality situation and take the team to the top. Brenly's wikipedia entry contains the following:
Bob Brenly's only curtain call in baseball occurred during a minor league game (teams and date unknown). Brenly's team was on the road, and the home team's fans designated him as the game's "Beer Batter," where if the player struck out, beer in the stadium would be sold at half price for the rest of the game. After Brenly struck out, the fans stood on their feet and cheered for him as he came back out from the dugout and acknowledged the crowd.
How can you not like that?

The most intriguing name to come up for the Brewers spot is Bobby Valentine.


Valentine has been managing in Japan since 2003. I would be curious to see what idiosyncrasies of the game he would bring back with him and how those would play out here. In Japan for example, the starting pitchers only pitch once a week. I'm not suggesting that he would do that here, but he would certainly have formed an opinion about it and it may have an influence on his managing style.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Aftermath

Alright, I'm over my giddiness. No more corny poetry.

Some thoughts and opinions on the Yost firing:

1. Has any team ever in the history of baseball fired a manager with so few games left in the season while they were still in contention for the playoffs? I couldn't find one.

2. Was Zambrano's no-hitter in the Brewers' home park the final nail in the coffin?

3. If the Brewers were willing to fire Yost before the end of the season, in the heat of a pennant race, why now and not before the Philly series? The Brewers needed to beat the Phillies. Now the Phillies are on a roll and play the rest of their schedule against some of the worst teams in the league. The Brewers could win 9 of their last 12 games and still not get in the playoffs. I hope this didn't come too late.

4. It's being speculated that the firing was Mark Attanasio's call rather than Doug Melvin's. If it was, I wish he would admit as much. People respect Atanasio. They would back this decision. It would be refreshing to have a little bit of a maverick owner in town.

5. I still can't help but think that Ted Simmons still fits into the Brewers plans somewhere in the future. Perhaps he was removed from his dugout position so that if these last 12 games don't work out, the Brewers can clean house and Simmons won't have to go down with the ship. I would love someday to hear Simmons' take on Ned Yost - the truth; not some media friendly BS.

6. On the other hand, it would seem that the managerial job is Sveum's for the taking if he can get this team to the playoffs.

7. Interesting that Robin Yount is returning as bench coach. I think his line about wanting to return to Arizona to spend more time with his family was just that. I think the real reason he left the first time is that he didn't get along with Yost.

Adi-yost!

Toast, toast, toast, toast,
THE BREWERS FIRED NED YOST!!!!

Happy, happy, happy, happy,
God this team was getting crappy.

Hope, hope, hope, hope,
Nothing rhymes with Dale Sveum.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hartless

Adam Charles at Bugs and Cranks has a spectacularly well written piece of advice for Corey Hart regarding his comments about how he's "looser" playing in Philly. (Click here to read).

I have one tidbit to add. I hate to blame Ned Yost for everything, but I have long felt that he treats the players on this team like a bunch of cry babies. He coddles them, protects them, and never EVER calls them to task to the fans or the media. He didn't with Derrick Turnbow, with Bill Hall, Prince Fielder, Eric Gagne, Johnny Estrada, Matt Wise. You could go on and on and on. And I doubt he'll have anything negative to say about this. A good managers should set standards for his players so high that if the players lives up to them, he will be far exceeding the expectations of the fans and media. When he doesn't, you get crap like this.

As for Corey Hart, I can give him 3.1 million reason why the fans have a right to expect more from this team. If he doesn't like that and feels looser and more at home in Philadelphia than in Miller Park, then he's used one too many O's in describing how he feels.

Futility Streak

The Brewers have scored fewer than 5 runs in 9 consecutive games. This is their longest such streak since 2004. If they fail to score 5 runs tonight and run the streak to 10, it will be the longest since 1972.

Here is the list of the longest <5 run streaks in the team's history:

Year Games
1971 25
1972 17
1972 15
1972 12
1970 11
1971 10
2008 9
2004 9
2004 9
2000 9
1991 9
1983 9
1975 9
1972 9
1971 9
1970 9

You could say that the Brewers offense sputtered a bit in 1972. They scored 493 runs all season. To put that in perspective, they have scored almost 200 more than that so far this year. Almost. They're at 687. They should hit 693 tonight. Right? I hope.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Under-employed

The Brewers bullpen has been brutal in September (4.88 ERA) making Ned Yost want to stick with his starters as long as he can. If you remember late last year the bullpen also struggled and was a major contributor to the team fizzling away its lead in the NL Central. The excuse last year was that the bullpen was over worked. This year I wonder if the cause is that it's under worked.

Look at the bullpen innings per game this year compared to last year:


Bullpen Innings

2008 2007
April 3.3 3.0
May 2.8 2.7
June 2.7 3.1
July 2.7 3.2
August 2.1 3.4
September 3.5 3.3

In June, July and August this year, the Brewers pen pitched 62 fewer innings than in the same three months last year. I can't help but wonder if some of the relievers would be pitching better if had they been picking up a few garbage innings here and there over the summer.

CC Sabathia has 6 complete games for the Brewers since the trade. On August 18, Yost left him in for a 130 pitch complete game in which the Brewers won 7-1. On August 31, he went the distance again in his now famous one-hitter. Perhaps Ned Yost should have been thinking about getting his bullpen some work in a few of those games.

After the on-hitter, Yost threw a little tirade about the judgement of the official scorer. The Brewers are 2-6 since that game. I'm not saying that Yost's hissy fit is the sole cause of the recent slump, but I stand by what I said about the importance of not losing focus of the big picture.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Power Outage

Just when it looked in August like he was breaking out of his season-long power funk, Prince Fielder has now not hit a home run in 21 consecutive games played. This is the longest in-season home run drought of his career. His longest overall slump was a 23-game streak which covered the last 19 games of 2005 and the first 4 games of 2006.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Silk Sheets

Just a quick update to my post a couple of weeks ago about Ben Sheets' pitching well in September of 2004 - his last injury-free season. He now has 14 consecutive shutout innings this September and 20 consecutive dating back to August 26th - his three starts since my post.

Alright, fine. I'm gloating.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

No Hits - One Error

Apparently the Brewers are petitioning Major League Baseball to change the scoring ruling in today's game that cost CC Sabathia a no-hitter - Ned Yost being the most vocal complainer about the ruling. I find that to be immature, petty, and shortsighted.

The goal right now is to win ball games. You can't allow individual accomplishments to distract from that. A no-hitter by Sabathia gets the Brewers no closer to the playoffs than a one-hitter. Yost's ranting like he did after today's game shows a complete lack of focus. Once again, he appears distracted from the big picture.

Besides that, even if the call is reversed, I'd have a huge problem calling that game a no-hitter. There's no telling how the game would have played out from that point on. The pressure of carrying a no-hitter into the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings completely changes the atmosphere of the game. It changes the batter's and pitcher's states of mind, changes the defense, changes the pitch selection, perhaps even changes how the umpires are calling the game. Playing through those things are part of the accomplishment of a no-hitter.

Accept the game for what it was - another great game by Sabathia and another win. Drop the appeal and move on. There are bigger fish to fry.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Go Hit Sheets

With his start last Thursday, Ben Sheets has hit the 160 IP mark in a season for the first time since 2004. In August of 2004, his ERA was by far the worst of any month that year:

2004 ERA
April 3.25
May 2.19
June 2.29
July 2.60
August 4.61
September 1.53

He obviously bounced back nicely in September, posting a 1.53 ERA in 7 starts - the best of any month that year.

I think Ben Sheets is feeling the dog days of summer for one of the few times in his career. He'll be fine. He'll bounce back. He'll have many more outstanding starts this season. And all of the over-reactionists who call radio talk shows after the game claiming that Ben Sheets should be sent to the bullpen or write gloom-and-doom articles about him in their sports blogs need to go to bed and get some sleep. You'll all feel better in the morning.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Braun's Back (Or Is He?)

I don't want to cast a pall over the Milwaukee Brewers, I have no first hand knowledge of anything, and I'm certainly no doctor, but I have the same feeling this morning about Ryan Braun's back as I had about Yovanni Gallardo's knee the morning after his injury. In Gallardo's case, my worst case scenario suspicions were true.

If you look back at the video, Braun seems to have reaggravated his injury on the second to last pitch, and not the last as was reported. He swung very awkwardly at a ball well off the plate and fouled it off. Right after he had a grimace on his face that told me something wasn't right. Then he swung and missed at the last pitch, possibly making a reaggravated injury even worse.

Again, I don't know anything about anything other than having a twitchy back myself, but my fear is that Ryan Braun will be placed on the DL before tonight's game.

I hope I'm wrong.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Be Like Mike

Jason Kendall made his 110th start yesterday, vesting his option for next season.

If you projected Mike Rivera's stats out to exactly as many plate appearances as Jason Kendall has, he would have 35 more hits and 65 more RBI.


AB H HR RBI BB BA
Kendall 382 93 1 34 37 0.243
Rivera 383 128 7 99 36 0.333

I'm not saying you can do that. I'm saying if you did.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Just Pick 'Em Out of a Hat

I am now convinced that Ned Yost knows nothing about creating a proper batting order for a Major League baseball game. There can be no other reason for batting Laynce Nix third other than that, or that he is trying to lose - which it sometimes seems like he does. His continuing to put replacement players in the same spot in the batting order as the regular starters makes me wonder if he has the capacity to adapt. There have got to be 500 better batting orders with the same nine players than the one Yost used today. Cameron couldn't have batted third? Hall? Hart? Fielder? Laynce Nix hasn't had a hit in a Major League ballgame in almost two years. What makes Yost think he's all of the sudden good enough to bat third in the heat of a pennant race?

I don't care how well Ned Yost manages the other 157 games of the year. It's these five games per year that he apparently just throws away that cost the Brewers the division last year and could again this year. I'm getting pretty tired of it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Power Surge

This probably comes as no shocking revelation, but Prince Fielder has got his groove back. After hitting only one home run in the Brewers first 20 games, Fielders power numbers have been on a steady incline.


HR/G
First 54 games 0.11
Second 54 games 0.28
Last 13 games 0.54

According to the data on Hit Tracker Online, Fielder has now hit 8 home runs 425 feet or more - all since June 17th. Each of his last 7 home runs has traveled 420 feet or more - the longest such streak of his career. He's been on a pace that a 40 home run season is not out of the question.

That majestic uppercut swing is back too.


This is all great news for the Brewers, but (you knew this was coming) I can't help but wonder if Prince has maintained his vegetarian diet all season or if he hasn't been munching a cheeseburger here and there and staying under the radar about it. As long as he's producing, I don't much care one way or another. I'd just like to know if I owe a mea culpa for ripping him about it or if I can let out a big loud "see I told you so."

[Chart and blue text updated after 8/13 game]

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hi, It's Mark

Here are three phone calls that ought to take place tomorrow morning...

"Ned - Mark Attanasio. Could you please explain to me what happened last night? No, I saw that part. The whole world saw that part. I'm talking about you, Ned. I watched the video over and over. There you sat on your dead ass the whole time, scribbling on your lineup card! What was so fricking important right then that you had to write it down? You did nothing to break things up. You did nothing to discipline anyone involved. You didn't go check to see if everyone was alright. It was like you were oblivious to what was going on! Then in your press conference you try to sweep it all under the rug like nothing happened? Damn it, Ned! Who's running this team? I've got too much invested in this to watch it get pissed away. If you'd like to just sit and watch these games rather than participate, I can certainly arrange that."

"Ted? Ted Simmons? Hi, it's Mark Attanasio. Were you at last night's game?"

"Prince? Hi, Mark Attanasio. About last night. Look Prince, let me give you a little bit of advice. You are a very tallented young man. You've got a long career ahead of you and you're going to make a lot of money playing baseball. But lately you have been making some very stupid decisions in your life. What you did last night was a stupid decision. Your going to the media about your contract situation. The vegitarian thing. Look, Prince, when you're a professional baseball player, all of these things matter. They matter a lot. And if you want to have a long career in this game you've got to be aware of the perception people have... What? Well, ok, but I think Milton Bradley is an exception. Hmm? Well, Gary Sheffield might be an exception too... OK. Manny Ramirez. Point taken. Uh, huh. True, Ozzie Guillen is still a manager. Mmm, hmm. Well, Coco Crisp was never really that good anyway. Uh huh. I don't know, Prince. I think Jose Canseco only became an asshole after he quit playing..."

Friday, August 1, 2008

Remember the Red Sox

Do you remember by in May when the Brewers were swept in a 3-game series in Boston which dropped them to 7 games back and tied for last place in the NL Central? They played horribly and it seemed like the season was lost. Think about what's happened since then. That was 55 games ago. There are 54 games left in this season. It could all happen again. If the season ended right now, the Brewers would still be in the playoffs. Getting swept by the Cubs means nothing more than they were swept by the Cubs. It's ok. It happens. You can come down from the ledge.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Jeff Turnbow

When the Brewers signed Jeff Suppan, shortly after Barry Zito signed a mammoth contract with the San Francisco Giants, I remember radio talking head Mark Belling praising the Brewers for getting a pitcher who was every bit as good as Zito for a fraction of the price. The irony of the observation of course is that Suppan in fact has turned out to be every bit as good as Barry Zito. And it's a very small bit.

In general, I don't know that I agree or disagree with Ned Yost anymore than I did any other manager in the Brewers' past, however it seems that there are three or four games a year that Yost manages with his head fully up his ass and gives the game away to the other team. Today was one of those games. In his post game press conference he defended his not taking out Suppan by saying that he pitched well except for one bad pitch (the 3-run homer) to Geoff Blum. I'm sorry, but you don't score seven runs ON ONE PITCH!!! By the time Blum hit his home run, Suppan had allowed six base runner in the inning. I kept thinking of the Miller High Life guy yelling, "Take him out! Take him out!" But Yost didn't. He just sat there as if he didn't know what was going on. Now we've lost a game to the Cubs. A game that could be very valuable come late September. OK. I'm done venting.

It would be an insult to David Bush and Seth McClung if Suppan is left in the rotation while they are forced to contend with some lame-brained home-road platoon.

OK. Now I promise I'm done.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Living Legends

I've always been a Yankees fan. I am more of a Brewers fan. I was born here and have lived here for most of my life. I'm a homer. But after the Brewers, the Yankees have always held a special place in my baseball heart. The team that I have admired from afar. There's a part of me that still wishes I had married Heather Locklear. It's kind of like that.

Anyway, at this year's All-Star game, during the pre-game part, which is the best part, when they traipse out all of the all-time greats, many of which my son has never heard of, I was struck by the fact that Yogi Berra was the highlight. The greatest living Yankee. I have nothing against Yogi Berra. He was a great player. Won some MVPs (in fact, did you know that he has 13 top 20's in MVP voting?) But when you start to rattle off the greatest Yankees of all time, Berra's name is a ways down the list. Nonetheless, he is the greatest living Yankee, and should have been the focal point of the event.

Next year the All-Star game will be in St. Louis. God willing, Stan The Man will be there for the festivities. He is the obvious choice as the greatest living Cardinal. The patriarch of the team. Perhaps he will finally receive his due, and no longer be the most underrated player in the history of the game.

All of that got me thinking. Who is the greatest living player for each of the current teams? Their patriarch? The player they would feature if the All-Star game were held at their stadium? I started a list.

ESPN's Baseball Tonight has started a poll of the greatest player ever for each team. What I am thinking of isn't exactly that. I could say that I thought of this first, but that would be completely pointless. Anyway, here is my list of the greatest living ballplayer for each current team. When I say 'current', I mean it literally. Current city, current franchise. For that reason, I have left the Washington Nationals off of the list.

Arizona Diamondbacks Randy Johnson
Atlanta Braves Hank Aaron
Baltimore Orioles Cal Ripken
Boston Red Sox Carl Yastrzemski
Chicago Cubs Ernie Banks
Chicago White Sox Luis Apparicio
Cincinnati Reds Pete Rose
Cleveland Indians Bob Feller
Colorado Rockies Todd Helton
Detroit Tigers Al Kaline
Florida Marlins Dontrelle Willis
Houston Astros Craig Biggio
Kansas City Royals George Brett
Los Angeles Angels Nolan Ryan
Los Angeles Dodgers Sandy Koufax
Milwaukee Brewers Robin Yount
Minnesota Twins Harmon Killebrew
New York Mets Tom Seaver
New York Yankees Yogi Berra
Oakland A's Rickie Henderson
Philadelphia Phillies Mike Schmidt
Pittsburgh Pirates Bill Mazaeroski
San Diego Padres Tony Gwynn
San Francisco Giants Willie Mays
Seattle Mariners Edgar Martinez
St. Louis Cardinals Stan Musial
Tampa Bay Rays Fred McGriff
Texas Rangers Buddy Bell
Toronto Blue Jays Dave Stieb

Monday, July 21, 2008

U.T. (Useless Trivia)

There are two current Brewers and one former Brewer on the All-Time Two Initials For a First Name team (or the T.I. team, if you will)

C - A.J. Pierzinski
1B - J.T. Snow
2B - F.P Santangelo
SS - J.J. Hardy
3B - B.J. Surhoff
LF - R.J. Reynolds
CF - B.J. Upton
RF - J.D. Drew

SP - CC Sabathia
SP - J.R. Richard
SP - A.J. Burnett
RP - B.J. Ryan
RP - J.J Putz

Ray of Light

I love the acquisition of Ray Durham.

Not because I give a hoot about Ray Durham - I don't. I don't really see where he's going to contribute much more to the win column than Joe Dillon would have were he given the opportunity. I love it because we will finally see what Rickie Weeks is made of. I can't tell whether Rickie Weeks is a very talented ballplayer who is extremely difficult to motivate, or if Rickie Weeks isn't all that good anyway.

Last year Weeks was sent down to the minors. He came back and played very well - when it was obvious that his job was on the line. This year he was the in-vogue pick to have a breakout season by many writers (myself included) and has played like crap. If Weeks is in fact a difficult to motivate player, the trade for Durham could light enough of a fire under him to turn him into what the Brewers had always hoped he would be. That would go a long way toward putting them over the top. If not...

Either way, the acquisition of Durham will shed invaluable light on Rickie Weeks' contract negotiations this off-season for the Brewers.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mid-Summer Classic

Since 2003, when Bud Selig overreacted to his debacle tie game in Milwaukee, the home field advantage in the World Series has been awarded to the winner of the All-Star game. In those five years, the team with the home field advantage has won the World Series three times and lost twice. So it's not big deal, right? Well, in the 16 World Series leading up to that (1985-2001) the team with the home field advantage was an astonishing 14-2.

Since 1963 there have been 46 All-Star games; 45 if you don't count that one. In that stretch, the National League has had separate winning streaks of 11 games, 8 games, and 3 games. The American League is currently on a 11-game winning streak and had another streak of 6 games. That's 80% of the games which were part of winning streaks of 6 or more. That's wild.

I wonder what Bud Selig was thinking at the end of this one, and whether anything more will be done to alter the game as a result of this near-miss. If Corey Hart's throw would have been about 3 feet to the right, it would have nailed Morneau at the plate and they would have played on. Or would they?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Guillermo Turnbow 2

In the month of July, Guillermo Mota has faced 17 batters and given up 8 runs. He entered tonight's game with a July ERA of 18.00 and it went up to 24.00. He's getting some very bad breaks from the defense, but he's also throwing a lot of batting practice pitches right over the heart of the plate. The Brewers are going to need him down the stretch and it seems like he's totally out of gas right now. At his age, I wonder if a trip to the DL would do him good. If he went on tomorrow, he would be eligible to come back on his 35th birthday.

UPDATE: I see that someone is taking a little harder stance on the issue than I am.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Home Run Derby Hangover

Ryan Braun is heading to the Home Run Derby. He will be the seventh player to represent the Brewers in the event.

"If I'm invited, I'll do it for sure," Braun said on Wednesday. "I think you owe it to the fans. If you're lucky enough to be invited, I think you should do it."
By contrast, Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez will sit out the Home Run Derby, despite being the Major League home run leader last year and despite the game being played in his home stadium. He prefers to protect his swing.

In 2005, Bobby Abreu hit a record 41 home runs in the Home Run Derby. The rest of the season he hit only 6 in 265 at bats. Last Year David Wright of the Mets hit 20 homers before participating in the Derby and only 6 after. Do we need to worry about Ryan Braun ruining his swing and jepordizing his second half production by participating in the Home Run Derby this year?

I compiled the pre- and post- All-Star Game stats of every player who has participated in the Home Run Derby in the last 5 years. In terms of raw numbers, yes there has been a drop off in home run production from those who participated:


HR
1st half 839
2nd half 604
(Stats represent 40 players and over 25,000 plate appearances.)

However, those numbers don't tell the entire story. If you convert all of their stats to averages, a drop off is much less apparent:


BA SLG HR/PA
1st half 0.301 0.570 0.066
2nd half 0.297 0.550 0.061

Consider a couple of things. The All-Star Game is played slightly after the mid-way point of the season. It stands to reason that there would be more of anything before the break than after. Also, the players selected to participate in the Home Run Derby are players who likely are having high power production first halfs - often way above their career norms. The Derby has featured such non-sluggers as Bret Boone (24 1st half homers), Hank Blaylock (23), and Hee-Seop Choi (13). It shouldn't be surprising if these players come back to earth after the All-Star Game and see lower home run numbers.

For every player who has had a drop off in home run production in the second half, there's another who clearly did not. Last year Matt Holiday hit 15 before the break and 21 after. Prince Fielder was 29 and 21. Ryan Howard had 21 before and 26 after.

I think the Home Run Derby hangover is a myth. Ryan Braun should participate and Brewers fans should have nothing to worry about when he does so. Alex Rodriguez should stop snubbing his fans and participate too. By all indications, his swing is just fine.

Cubs Dance With The Ugly Sister

Career Earned Run Averages:


Rich CC

Harden Sabathia
August 4.12 3.59
September 4.90 2.88

Mark of a Champion

My boss, who is only the most casual of Brewers fans, asked me yesterday to what I attribute the Brewers resurgence. "Is it because of that Attanasio guy?", she asked. I gave her some standard off-the-shelf answer, but then I pondered that question the rest of the day and the more I did, the more the answer became clear. Yes, it is because of that Attanasio guy.

For years under the Selig administration, Brewers fans were preached to about how it's impossible to put a winning product on the field because of the economic climate of the game. The Brewers were held up as the poster child for the plight of small market teams. They struggled to draw 10,000 fans to a game and the play on the field was so horrible that it was embarrassing to invite friends to a game.

Enter Mark Attanasio. Same small market, same fans, same stadium, basically the same economic landscape, but he has completely turned this organization around - not only with money, but with smart business decision making. The Brewers organization now exudes professionalism from top to bottom. They have one of the most respected front offices in the game, filled with people who understand how to win; a concept totally foriegn to the Seligs.

The trade for C.C. Sabathia was not only intellegent, but necessary in the formula for bringing a world championship to Milwaukee. These guys get it folks. The Seligs didn't, and they never would have swung this deal.

* * *
On my way home from the game last night I was behind a guy on the freeway who also doesn't get it. He had a big sign duct taped to the back and sides of his car that read:

THANK YOU DOUG MELVIN FOR SCREWING OUR FUTURE

(Coincidentally, the guys lives only blocks from my house.) I thought...

  1. This is a product of the years and years of hand wringing and pessimism of the Seligs.
  2. Future? Really? Just how long do you want to wait?
  3. Why would you duct tape anything to your car?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

C.C.ing is Believing

I like it.

Look, I don't like losing Matt LaPorta any more than the next guy, but this is how you win championships in Major League baseball. Remember last year when the Brewers drafted LaPorta who was a first baseman in college, and a lot of people shook their heads because they already had Prince? This is a perfect example of why you draft the best player available with your high draft picks rather than try to fill needs on your team. If the Brewers had drafted someone other than LaPorta, they may not have been in a position to make this trade.

If Ned Yost sets his rotation properly after the All-Star break, Ben Sheets, C.C. Sabathia, and Manny Parra will start 6 of the 8 games the Brewers play later this month against the Cards and Cubs. Needless to say, these are huge games in the pennant race. (Here's a cheat sheet, Ned, in case you need one:)

Fri 7/18 @ SF Sabathia
Sat 7/19 @ SF Sheets
Sun 7/20 @ SF Suppan
Mon 7/21 @ StL Parra
Tue 7/22 @ StL #5
Wed 7/23 @ StL Sabathia
Thu 7/24 @ StL Sheets
Fri 7/25 Hou Suppan
Sat 7/26 Hou Parra
Sun 7/27 Hou #5
Mon 7/28 ChC Sabathia
Tue 7/29 ChC Sheets
Wed 7/30 ChC Suppan
Thu 7/31 ChC Parra

C.C. Sabathia has pitched twice at Miller Park in his career. The Brewers beat him on June 16, 2006 in an inter-league game, and he beat the Anaheim Angels last April 10 in a game that was moved to Miller Park due to snow in Cleveland.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th!

I think - finally - my work schedule is easing up. I've got inbetweenhops.com moved to a new registrar which will hopefully quit randomly changing my settings and cause the blog to crash. I've got a couple of new pieces of research I've been working on, which I'll post in the next few days. I'm looking forward to the second half of the season and hopefully the ability to post with a little more regularity. Enjoy the holiday.

Guillermo Turnbow


OK. That's kind of a low blow because he's only pitched 2 games in July, but jeez...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Scott Sighting

OK, now I've got people emailing me wondering if I'm alright and why I haven't been posting much. Yes, I'm ok. Just very busy.

A few random thoughts...

The Brewers have the third best record in the National League, yet if the season ended today they would not be one of the four teams in the playoffs.

Despite being nine games over .500, the Brewers have scored only two more runs than they have allowed this season (351-349). That kind of disparity between a win-loss record and run differential would normally be indicative of a team that's been very lucky rather than very good. The Brewers 17-6 record in 1-run games is also suggests that. Historically, a good record in close games is not and indicator of a good record overall. You could look at the other side of the coin and see that the Brewers are 26-28 in games decided by more than one run. But hey, the wins are in the book. We'll take them.

The Brewers team slugging percentage in April, May and June has been .392, .418 and .502 respectively. They have already hit four more home runs in June that they did in the entire month of May and there are still five games left to play.

The Brewers team ERA has been 4.44, 4.28 and 3.48 in the last three months. The ERA of the starters has been 2.98 in June. Luck or not, this has been a total team transformation.

How much do you think it will cost to resign the National League Cy Young Award winner this off-season?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Premature Jocularity

With yesterday's win and Cubs loss, the Brewers have gained three games in the standings in the last three days. The last time that happened was August 22-24 of 2006 when they swept the Colorado Rockies and moved from 7-1/2 games back to within 4-1/2 games of the first place Cardinals. The Brewers then went on to lose their next 10 games in a row, completely eliminating themselves from contention.

I'm not trying to throw cold water on this run the Brewers are on. I'm just pointing out that it's not necessarily indicative of things to come.

[My non-baseball life has been very hectic as of late. I'll get back to posting more as soon as I can.]

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Stars Aligned

The Brewers have won 12 of their last 16 games. They've got their ace on the mound today, then head home for a 9-game home stand against three AL teams who will be playing in very unfamiliar territory without their DHs. Albert Pujols is out for three weeks as the Cardinals head into a 3-game series with the first place Phillies. Alfonso Soriano is out for six weeks as the Cubs head out for a 6-game road trip to AL cities where they will need an extra hitter. If there was ever a time for the Brewers to get back in contention in the NL Central, it's now.

The Brewers' record right now (34-31) is only one game worse than it was after the same number of games last year (35-30). The difference of course is that last year they had a 5-1/2 game lead in the Central Division and this year they are 7-1/2 games back. Last year everyone was saying that the team was playing great and overachieving. This year everyone says they're underachieving. It's all a matter of context. The reality is that this year they are playing just about equally as well as last. What's changed is the competition. With the injuries to Pujols and Soriano, hopefully the competition has just changed again.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Road Woes

The Brewers lost another road game. They are now 14-21 on the road compared to 19-10 at Miller Park - a difference of 8 games. But they are not alone. Three other NL teams, and notably one of them the Chicago Cubs, have worse home-road differentials than the Brewers.

TEAM Overall Home Road Diff
ATL 32-33 25-11 7-22 -14.5
CHC 41-24 27-8 14-16 -10.5
CIN 31-35 19-11 12-24 -10.0
MIL 33-31 19-10 14-21 -8.0
COL 25-39 15-15 10-24 -7.0
ARI 35-30 21-12 14-18 -6.5
NYM 30-33 17-12 13-21 -6.5
PIT 31-34 19-15 12-19 -5.5
HOU 33-32 17-11 16-21 -5.5
SDP 28-38 18-18 10-20 -5.0
FLA 35-29 21-14 14-15 -4.0
LAD 31-33 18-15 13-18 -4.0
PHI 39-27 21-13 18-14 -2.0
STL 39-27 21-13 18-14 -2.0
WSN 26-40 14-21 12-19 0.0
SFG 29-36 13-19 16-17 2.5

Interestingly, there seems to be no correlation whatsoever between a team's overall success and their home-road differential. I don't know if this is normally the case or just the case this year in the NL. If I decide to figure it out, I'll let you know.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Closer (Minded) Mentality

The more I watch Carlos Villanueva pitch, and the more often he performs well out of the bullpen, the more I think that he could be the Brewers long-term solution in the closer's role. Take a look at his career numbers as a starter and as a reliever:


G K/9 BA OPS
Starter 21 6.1 .271 .831
Reliever 62 8.6 .219 .680

What I suspect will give some people pause at this suggestion is that Villanueva doesn't "seem" like a closer. He doesn't have that "closer's mentality".

Back in the 1970's, Al Hrabosky started this notion that in order to be an effective Major League closer, you have to be somehow abnormal. You have to look unkept, have a mop of hair, a long beard or funny mustache. Or you have to be fat, wear goggles and not ever tuck in your jersey. The history of Major League Baseball is littered with oddballs (1|2|3) who have been effective closers. Carlos Villanueva is not any of these things.

But while baseball has had it's share of goofs in the closer's role, it has had it's share of "normal" pitchers as well. Clean-cut, even tempered guys who went about their business and got their jobs done without calling an undue amount of attention to themselves. Mariano Rivera comes immediately to mind. He has never been a headline grabber in New York, yet will move to #2 on baseball's all-time saves list later this year or early next. The same can be said about Trevor Hoffman, the career leader in saves. John Franco is 4th on the career list. Randy Myers, Troy Percival, John Wetteland, Roberto Hernandez, Rick Aguilera, Tom Henke, and Jeff Montgomery are all in the top twenty. It is not a prerequisite that you be some sort of misfit in order to be an effective closer in the Major Leagues.

Carlos Villanueva is only 24 years old. He has a long career ahead of him and the Brewers don't have a lot of other long-term options. If you were to guess who the closer will be in 2010, you would have a hard time coming up with another candidate. Torres? Too old. Mota, Shouse? Ditto. Gagne? Please. Then what - Turnbow??? The answer may be right under their nose.

* * *
UPDATE: I just did a little more research. At the time Mariano Rivera was exactly as old as Carlos Villanueva is today, he had yet to throw a single pitch in the Major Leagues. Their birthdays are only one day apart - Rivera, Nov. 29 and Villanueva, Nov. 28.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Brett Lawrie

Brett Lawrie was the Brewers' #1 pick in today's draft. He's listed as a C/2B. That reminded me of Craig Biggio who came up as a catcher and moved to second base. Both Lawrie and Biggio bat right handed. Lawrie is 5'11", 200; Biggio is 5'11', 180. In several clips of Lawrie's scouting video, his uniform is filthy dirty. When Biggio came up with the Astros, he was assigned uniform number 4, but later switched to 7. In Lawrie's video he wears both numbers 4 and 7 (and no others). Lawrie was the 16th pick in the draft; Biggio 22nd. Here's hoping that the similarities don't end there.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Holier Than Thou

The pompous, elitist snobs who are Bud Selig's Major League Baseball, who had the arrogance to take their money grubbing information licensing case against fantasy sports franchises to the U.S. Supreme Court, were dealt a blow today when the Court refused to hear the case. MLB Advanced Media was claiming the the statistics and names of Major League players were private, confidential information that fantasy leagues were illegally using to their financial gain. I would applaud this as a victory for the fans, but it completely disgusts me that it came to this. The powers that be in Major League baseball would like it if the game were confined to sophisticated, country club gated communities where only baseball insiders - those "in the know" - were allowed in, rather than have it exposed to and tarnished by us pee-ons (sic).

Monday, June 2, 2008

The "B" Squad

I am going to defend Ned Yost (which admittedly is easy to do in hindsight when the decision you are defending worked.) Yesterday nearly 45,000 fans went to Miller Park to pick up a Ryan Braun bobblehead and watch the Brewers play the Astros. What they saw when they got there was a starting lineup that resembled a spring training game. This fueled an out roar from Internet pundits decrying Ned Yost for brining the Brewers' momentum to a grinding halt.

Here are the normal starters who were not in yesterday's lineup:

Kendall .256
Hardy .249
Hall .225
Cameron .223
Weeks .207

And, here are the replacements:

Rivera .344
Kapler .306
Branyan .292
Dillon .273
Counsell .235

People gripe all of the time when a manager sticks to the same unproductive lineup every day. You can't then turn around and rip him for doing the opposite of what you were complaining about. While the Brewers had won 5 of 6 games heading into yesterday, they had scored only 18 runs over those 6 games. The offense was still in need of a shakeup. I give Ned Yost credit for at least giving this a shot. Besides, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, and the Brewers other supposed superstar Prince Fielder were all in the starting lineup.

Honestly, if I were Ned Yost I would play the exact same lineup tonight.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tidying Up

I've taken down the Ned Yost vigil, as I said I would when I thought that his chances of surviving the season were better than 50/50. Not quite two weeks ago, it seemed like Yost's demise was a foregone conclusion. Now of course, the Brewers have climbed back above .500 and are playing very well. If Yost were to be fired during this season, two things would have to happen. First, things would have to get worse than they were 13 days ago. If he survived that mess, he will survive another mess as bad. Second, things have to go sour fast enough that by changing managers in mid-season, they would still have time to right the ship and make a run at the playoffs. Otherwise there would be no point in changing. Time is running very thin for both of those to happen. It appears that at this point, Yost's job is safe.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Price Goes Yard (As In Your Typical Back Yard)

Prince Fielder's seventh home run last night, a booming 360' shot to right off of Brandon Backe, ties him for 63rd in the Majors. It was his third home run in the last 31 games. He is now 12 home runs behind last year's NL leading pace and has still yet to hit a ball 425' this year after doing so 33 times over the past two seasons.

I don't want this whole blog to be me ranting about my frustration with Prince Fielder's offensive production this year. Therefore, I've decided that I will only rip him on days after he hits a home run. That should spread it out quite a bit.

 
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