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:

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.

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