Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lineup Card

JSOnline posts the Brewers starting lineup for today's Spring Training opener against the A's.

2B Rickie Weeks
CF Mike Cameron
1B Prince Fielder
LF Ryan Braun
RF Corey Hart
3B Bill Hall
SS J.J. Hardy
DH Gabe Gross
C Jason Kendall
SP Claudio Vargas (not batting)

Apparently Ned Yost is serious about batting Fielder third and Braun fourth as that is what he's going with today. I don't make much of the fact that Jason Kendall is in the ninth spot though. Given that the game is using a DH, this would probably be the order you would anyway.

The Arms Race

I've had other obligations tugging me away from the blog the past few days, but just to keep things moving, here are the Brewers starting pitchers ranked by my opinion of their probability of being in the rotation at the end of spring training:

1. Jeff Suppan
2. Ben Sheets
3. David Bush
4. Chris Capuano
5. Claudio Vargas
6. Carlos Villanueva
7. Yovanni Gallardo (starts on DL?)
8. Manny Parra (AAA)

Do the top five look familiar? They should. They're the same five that broke camp last year. I'll update the list through training camp as (if) my opinion changes.

Play Ball!

Oakland (Blanton, 0-0, 0.00) vs. Milwaukee (Vargas, 0-0, 0.00). Maryvale Baseball Park, 2:05 p.m.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

King High

ESPN in running an AP story about Cecil Fielder, alleged gambling addict, now coaching a minor league team in Atlantic City. In it, the elder Fielder discusses his relationship with his estranged son Prince. There still seems to be quite a divide between the two of them. The more I learn about their personalities, the more I realize that some kids grow up faster than their folks.

Thou Shalt Not

The Biz of Baseball reports that Major League Baseball is severely tightening restrictions on the amount of content (pictures and video) that news outlets can show from games. The restrictions include a 120-second limit on game video, a limit of 7 pictures from any one game posted online, and a requirement that non-text content from games be removed after 72 hours.

This is another example of the blatant, pompous arrogance that continues to exude from the upper management of baseball in their seemingly endless attempt to strangle their cash cow. God forbid that someone else should make a couple of bucks off of their multi-billion dollar industry.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Celebrating Diversity

MLB.com ran a feature story today about the number of African-American players on the Brewers roster. The article pointed out that four of the eight projected everyday starters in the field are black. It also noted that not only is top free agent signee Mike Cameron African-American, but so are Tony Gwynn Jr. who will likely cover for him during his suspension, and top Brewer prospects Lorenzo Cain, Brent Brewer, Darren Ford, and Jeremy Jeffres. It went on to praise Doug Melvin and Jack Zduriencik for this remarkable accomplishment in an environment where the percentage of African-American players has dropped 10.6% since 1995, and saw only two in the most recent World Series.

For the love of Pete... Can't we get to a point in society when we stop counting African-Americans? Can we?

Honestly, it never really stuck me that Mike Cameron was black until this article pointed it out. I mean, I know what Mike Cameron looks like, but the color of his skin had no more impact on my opinion of him as a baseball player than whether or not he had a beard. And I wish it wouldn't to anyone else. These pointless tallies of people of color are not pointing out racism or raising awareness of racism - they are racism. Prince Fielder, Bill Hall, Rickie Weeks, Mike Cameron, and Tony Gwynn are on the Brewers for the same reason that J.J. Hardy, Ryan Braun, and Corey Hart are - they are very good baseball players (sorry, Jason Kendall). By coincidence, they happen to be black. That's all it is - coincidence. Nothing more, nothing less. It won't be until we stop making a big deal about things like this that we will truly have a colorblind society.

In the article Prince Fielder is quoted as saying:

"[I]t's not about skin color. It's about being a good player. If we keep saying that [African-American kids] aren't into baseball, then they're not going to be into it. If anybody keeps putting things in your mind, of course it's going to stick. I think we should be more positive. Let's not worry about who's not playing, and look at who is playing."
Amen, Prince.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

(Dis)order

Quite a buzz was started in Anthony Witrado's JSOnline blog about Ned Yost considering batting Jason Kendall ninth and batting the pitcher eighth. The comments in the blog have been so harshly critical of this suggestion, that Tom Haudricourt had to jump in and ask people to "chill out."

"Yost hasn't decided on anything. He's just mulling EVERY possibility... Nothing is set in stone. Is it wrong to consider all possibilities? Folks need to chill out. I would worry about a manager who is NOT open-minded. It never hurts to consider all possibilities. I wouldn't get too worked up about this, unless getting worked up is your thing and you can't help yourself."
(hee, hee, hee, hee)

I'm going to do something that I do much less often than the alternative and defend Ned Yost. First of all, Haudricourt is right - you want a manager who considers every possibility and thinks outside the box. There are over 362 thousand ways that 9 players can be put together in a batting order, but in today's age of computer modeling, it is possible to consider every last one of them. Any manager would be wrong to not do so.

In a book called "The Book" by Tom Tango. Micheal Lichtman, and Andrew Dolphin - which by the way is in the top 5% of best baseball books ever written - an entire chapter is devoted to a deep mathematical analysis of the construction of a Major League batting order. The authors even study the subject of batting the pitcher eighth and conclude that doing so gains your team about two runs over the course of a season. Granted that's not much, but it is a positive. At the risk of Bill Schroeder, the Brewers TV color commentator, pulling his hair out (he would yammer on and on when Tony LaRussa did this), I think it's something Ned ought to try.

One issue I do have with Yost's idea is batting Ryan Braun second and Prince Fielder third. The thinking here is that moving them (especially Braun) up in the lineup gives them a bunch more plate appearances over the course of the season. This is true. But, batting Prince in the #3 spot is going to bring him up to bat much more often with no men on base - namely every game that neither Weeks nor Braun gets on in the first inning. He can't do as much damage with no one on base as he can with some baserunners to knock in. (This is also studied in "The Book".) I think it might even be better to split up Braun and Fielder in the lineup. I like the following:

2B - Weeks
LF - Braun
RF - Hart
1B - Fielder
CF - Cameron
3B - Hall
SS - Hardy
P - Pitcher
C - Kendall

The 5, 6, and 7 spots would be pretty much interchangeable depending on who has the hot bat. This would also move Corey Hart into a position where he will see some pretty good pitches to hit.

One last thing to consider - your starting pitcher only bats about twice a game. After that you pinch hit. Batting Kendall after the pinch hitter, if he gets on base, would give him a chance to move a runner into scoring position in front of the heart of your order. That's the one thing that Jason might be good at with a bat in his hands.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Contract Extension for Braun?

One of the headline stories on MLB.com speculates that the Brewers and Ryan Braun are working on a long term contract extension.

UPDATE: I left this comment in the BrewersNation blog. I thought it would make sense to copy here...

Signing Braun now would be a way of front loading your payments to him rather than back loading them. In theory, he would get more per year now than he otherwise would, but less per year 4-5 years from now than had he waited to sign until then. I think it makes sense to sign some of your key players to long term deals now as a way to flatten out the overall payment schedule. If you wait until they are all arbitration eligible, they - as a group - are going to take you to the bank when you finally have to sign them all to big deals.

I doubt Prince Fielder - or let’s more accurately say, Prince Fielder’s agent Scott Boras - would even consider a long term deal with the Brewers at this point. Prince stands to earn $10M-$15M/yr through his next three arbitration years. Then a $100M+ contract awaits him after that - sooner if Boras can talk the Brewers into trading him. Everyone realizes that a contract of that magnitude doesn’t fit in the Brewers big picture - Mark Attanasio or not.


(No) Strength of Schedule

The Major League schedule makers have spotted the Cubs a game or two on the Brewers before the season has even started by giving them a ridiculously soft inter-league schedule. Home Run Derby has started a series examining each team's inter-league strength of schedule. This year, teams from the NL Central play teams from the AL East, in addition to their usual geographic rivals. In the Central, the Cubs have by far an easier schedule than any other team in the division. They are the only team in the division who doesn't have to play either the Yankees or Red Sox and get their six rival games against the hapless White Sox. The Brewers, on the other hand, have the second most difficult schedule in the division, including a 3-game series at Fenway Park.

Another hat tip to David at Baseball Musings.

Friday, February 22, 2008

VillanuevAAA?

There is some talk that Carlos Villanueva may start the season in the Minors. This takes some people by surprise given his much talked about 2-2, 1.99 ERA record in six starts last year.

I wondered just how good those starts were anyway. I devised a simple little point system to evaluate each of the Brewers pitcher's starts last season. I gave 1 point each for pitching 7 or more innings, striking out 7 or more, and walking no more than 1 batter in each start. The most points you can get for any particular start is 3 and the lowest, obviously 0. Then I calculated each pitcher's points per game started:

Pitcher Starts Points
Gallardo 17 1.06
Sheets 24 1.00
Bush 31 0.94
Capuano 25 0.80
Suppan 34 0.62
Vargas 23 0.57
Villanueva 6 0.17
Parra 2 0.00

As you can see, there was nothing particularly spectacular about Villanueva's starts. He did keep runs off the board, which is obviously the idea, but he didn't do any of the things that dominant pitchers often do.

Gallardo's position on the list is a pleasant surprise. There are many indicators pointing toward stardom for Yovanni.

Winter Camping

I hear there were people camping outside of Miller Park yesterday already to be in line to buy single game tickets which go on sale tomorrow morning. Just a reminder of how times have changed.

Opening Day Lineup 2003

Name Pos.
1. Alex Sanchez CF
2. Eric Young 2B
3. Richie Sexson 1B
4. John Vander Wal LF
5. Jeffrey Hammonds RF
6. Wes Helms 3B
7. Eddie Perez C
8. Royce Clayton SS
9. Ben Sheets RHP

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ryan Howard Paves Way for Prince

It looks like Prince Fielder will be able to afford a lot of salad and Boca Burgers after he signs a new contract next year. Ryan Howard of the Phillies has raised the bar for first-time arbitration cases with a $10M score. You don't need statistics to tell you that Fielder and Howard are uncannily similar players. Howard's paycheck is sure to be the lead story in Fielder's contract negotiations next year.

With Matt LaPorta waiting in the wings with his fresh three years of pre-arbitration, you wonder how long the Brewers will hold on to Fielder. His trade value has got to be enormous, especially with a couple of years left before free agency. Moving Fielder after this year or next would clear the way for LaPorta, clear about $12M off of the payroll, and land you a handful of quality players in return. It will be interesting to see if Melvin follows this model, or tries to lock up all of the young stars with long-term contracts.

ADDENDUM: In the article about Prince's new vegetarian ways is the following:

He does know his favorite vegetarian food so far is Boca Burgers, a burger patty made from soy protein and wheat gluten. But he is obviously still a newbie because he has to "load it up with ketchup" for it to be just beyond tolerable.
Huh? His "favorite" food is "just beyond tolerable"? Maybe he ought to rethink this whole vegetarian thing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It's Not His Fault

Ned Yost, playing his usual game of blame transference, pointed out how Jason Kendall's poor percentage of throwing out opposing base runners is misleading, because his pitchers weren't giving him a chance.

"His pitchers did not give him a chance. It was probably 70% of the time (that he had no chance). So, then he's a 30% thrower, which is about right.

"Forget throwing percentage as a judge of a catcher's defensive abilities," said Yost. "It is not a true judge of what he's capable of doing. That's not fair because so much depends on a pitcher's ability to give him a chance."

What Yost fails to point out is how he thinks the Brewers' pitchers are going to fare any better at giving Kendall a chance. The team was 26th in the Majors last year in caught stealing percentage. I guess we can expect more of the same.

Oh, wait a minute. I guess that was Johnny Estrada's fault.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Smashing

Houston Astros right fielder and 2007 Rookie of the Year candidate Hunter Pence walked through a glass door at his spring home in Kissimmee, Florida resulting in several cuts on his arms and legs. The story says he was getting out of his hot tub to go to the bathroom and didn't realize the door was closed.

Whenever you hear a story like that don't you automatically assume that there's a part of it that's not being told?

Examining Jeff Suppan

All of the discussion about the Brewers 2008 starting rotation has surrounded Ben Sheets’ health and free-agent status, the youth of Yovanni Gallardo and Carlos Villanueva, the battle for the final spot between David Bush, Chris Capuano, Claudio Vargas, and Manny Parra, and which of that last group might get traded. But because of all of those discussions, the forgotten man in the shuffle other than a mention that he will be there, might be the most valuable of the bunch, Jeff Suppan.

Suppan enters the second year of a 4-year, $42M contract making him the third highest paid Brewer behind Ben Sheets and Eric Gagne. The by end of his contract, undoubtedly several of the Brewers’ young stars will pass him by on the salary scale and if he maintains his consistent performance will be an absolute bargain.

Suppan led the Brewers with 33 games started and 203 IP last year. He also tied Ben Sheets and David Bush with 12 wins. Since 1999, only Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Livan Hernandez have started more Major League games.

In each of the last three seasons, Suppan has finished strong – further testament to his durability.


ERA
Year 1st Half 2nd Half
2005 4.21 2.78
2006 5.83 2.39
2007 5.00 4.12

In the major stops in Suppan’s career, he has been slightly more successful than the teams he has been on:



Team Suppan


W L Pct W L Pct
1995 to 1997 Bos 249 219 .532 9 6 .600
1999 to 2002 KC 268 379 .414 39 51 .433
2004 to 2006 StL 288 197 .594 44 26 .629

With an improved defense in 2008 it would not be a stretch for Suppan to win 16 games, as he did twice with the Cardinals in 2004 and 2005. If that happens, there will be baseball in Milwaukee in October.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Yost Interview

I had promised to discuss Tom Haudricourt's article about his interview of Ned Yost in Sunday's paper, except my furnace was out yesterday and it was only 52 degrees in my house. Made it a little hard to type.

The article was mostly fluff anyway and did nothing to change my mind that Yost had a complete meltdown last September in the game against the Cardinals when he ordered Albert Pujols pluncked. Yost said he did it to stick up for his players. The Brewers were in the middle of a pennant race. The game was in the 8th inning with the Brewers leading by one. That's not the time to stick up for your players - that's the time to win a ballgame. Sticking up for your players is something that can reap long-term benefits for a manager, but there was no long term at stake here. There were only four more games.

Part of being a successful leader is to never lose sight of the final goal. On that day last September, Yost was not a successful leader.

Gagne Discusses Mitchell Report

"What Paul LoDuca said." -EG

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Oh-Yo

Yovanni Gallardo will have surgery on his knee and start the season on the DL. The prognosis right now is four weeks, but expect the Brewers to be very cautious with this.

One of the concerns about Gallardo heading into the season was how many innings he would be able to pitch. Starting the season a month or two late will undoubtedly rid them of that concern. This is still not the way you want to start the season.

You can never, ever have too much pitching.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Yo

John Sickles at MinorLeagueBall.com does an excellent job of rating and raking Major League prospects up through the time they make the show. He has some very possitive things to say about Yovanni Gallardo:

Gallardo should be recognized as Number One starter and among the best pitchers in baseball in the 2008-2012 window
Yo.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Yost But Not Least

In Sunday's newspaper will be an interview by Tom Haudricourt of Ned Yost. In it, Yost explains his meltdown... uh, actions, during the last week of the 2007 in which he was ejected three times and made may questionable moves including hitting Albert Pujols in retaliation in a critical game. Should be an interesting read and I'll be sure to give you my take.

Saving For The Future

Sports Bubbler just wrapped up an excellent series on the Brewers Top 20 prospects. Here are the links if you'd like to take a read. Most included pictures of the players.

1. Matt LaPorta (OF/1B)
2. Manny Parra (LHP)
3. Mat Gamel (3B)
4. Cole Gillespie (OF)
5. Jeremy Jeffress (RHP)
6. Jonathan LuCroy (C)
7. Taylor Green (3B/2B)
8. Angel Salome (C)
9. Rob Bryson (RHP)
10. Caleb Gindl (OF)
11/12. Brent Brewer (SS)/Alcides Escobar (SS)
13/14. Darren Ford (OF)/Zach Braddock (LHP)
15/16. Lorenzo Cain (OF)/Michael Brantley (OF)
17/18. R.J. Seidel (RHP)/Luis Pena (RHP)
19/20. Steve Hammond (LHP)/Mark Rogers (RHP)

The list is a little shallow on pitching, especially near the top - something the Brewers will certainly address at this June's draft. Recall that they traded one of their top pitching prospects Will Inman to get Scott Linebrink.

[Originally posted 2/14. Updated links and bumped back to top 2/15.]

Milwaukee Brewers vs. J.J. Hardy

Unless a deal is stuck over the weekend, the Brewers will be headed to their first arbitration case in quite a few years on Monday with J.J. Hardy. The Brewers are offering Hardy $2.4M while he's asking for $3.05M. The arbiter, of course, must chose between one of those two figures.

One of the ways arbiters decide is to look at similar players and consider what they make. Fortunately for us fans, Baseball-Reference.com has a fascinating little utility which identifies who those similar players are. In glancing down the list of players most similar to J.J. Hardy, one jumps out as being amazingly comparable, and probably very relevant to Hardy's arbitration case - Jhonny Peralta of the Indians. Peralta is a year older than Hardy, also a shortstop, and has eerily similar career stats:

Player Age G HR BA OBP SLG
Hardy 25 310 40 .263 .321 .429
Peralta 26 527 62 .266 .336 .425

Another fascinating website, Cot's Baseball Contracts, lists the contract status of every Major League player. A quick check of Peralta shows that his 2008 salary will be $2.25M - slightly less than the Brewers' offer to Hardy. Peralta's salary is part of a of a 5-year deal that he signed last year, and has built-in pay raises, but even next year when Hardy is eligible to go back to the bargaining table, Peralta's salary will be only $3.4M. It appears that J.J. Hardy is aiming a little high. He would be best served to go back to the Brewers with an offer of $2.5M-$2.6M and get a deal done. Otherwise, I expect the Brewers to win this one.

There has also been a lot of talk in the blogosphere about the long term impact of a player going to arbitration. Arbitration hearings are ugly. As Bill James put it once, the player tries to convince the arbiter that he's Cal Ripken and the team tries to convince the arbiter that he's Royce Clayton. A lot of dirty laundry gets aired. The feeling is that if a player loses an arbitration case, he walks away with a bad taste in his mouth and remembers that when it comes to free-agency time. If the team loses, they feel they've got an over-paid prima donna on their hands. I don't buy either argument. I don't think there's room for grudges and spite when it comes to negotiating multi-million dollar contracts. Both sides are doing what they feel is most fiscally responsible for themselves. When it comes time to negotiate Hardy's contract again, his performance on the field will dictate how it goes down - not some bad blood over an arbitration hearing.

UPDATE: Hardy signs for $2.65M avoiding arbitration.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Charitable Rookie

Tom Haudricourt reports that Ryan Braun has donated his $10,000 bonus for winning NL Rookie of the Year to Habitat for Humanity. Apparently Braun also did some charitable work for the group last year.

I don't mean to pick on Ryan Braun or to make light of his generosity by using him as a springboard for this comment, but the story reminded me of something I heard years ago from some baseball talking head about why you hear of so many players being involved in charitable doings. And it's not because they're all such nice guys. It's taxes. They get a tax write off for the time they spend. In essence, a baseball player can make money at about the same rate doing charitable work as he does playing baseball. And because they are who they are, I doubt that many of them are in there doing any of the heavy lifting. They show up for some photo opps, scoop a few shovels of dirt while the cameras are rolling, shake a few hands, and get on their merry way. It's a fairly lucrative gig. Again, I'm not picking on anyone individually. Ten grand is a lot of money and Braun is paying with his wallet rather than his time - he should be commended for that. And I'm not saying that having a baseball star show up at your charitable event doesn't go a long way toward helping your cause. Nor am I saying that there aren't any generous baseball players. I'm just saying...

Little T

My son points out a good article on Tony Gwynn Jr. and his hit that knocked the San Diego Padres out of the playoffs last year.

Yanks to Play Spring Games at "The Boss"

The Yankees are renaming Legends Field, their spring training facility in Tampa, Florida, to George M. Steinbrenner Field. The move comes at the recommendation and support of the Tampa City Council and Hillsborough County Commissioner. Another classy move by a classy organization. Can Bud Selig Park be far behind?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Miller-vale

The New York Mets have ordered their spring training park in Port St. Lucie Florida to tear down the existing outfield wall and replace it with one that conforms to the dimensions of their new Citi Park. What a great idea. Especially for a team like the Brewers that have an oddly shaped field. They should do that in Maryvale.

Hat tip to Baseball Musings for the story.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Storm Before the Calm

3-5 inches of (more) snow tonight

Looks like a quiet week otherwise. Brewers are packing for Arizona. Players report Saturday and the first workout is Monday.

God, this winter can't end soon enough.

I did find an interesting bit about reliever David Riske on RightField Bleachers via BrewersFan.net.
There, I got in two plugs at once.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Braun a Bust?

David Gonos at CBS Sportsline lists Ryan Braun as a possible fantasy bust for 2008.

Third base -- Ryan Braun, MIL: That's right, I said it. The guy that ripped the cover off the ball in just five months of the majors last year is someone I think might take a small step back. Is he still a top-10 third basemen? Of course. Should he continue to be drafted with the third pick of the second round on average? That's a tough one. I'd like to point to a slow finish to the season, but he had nine homers and 29 RBI in September -- that's pretty good. What was my point again? OK, so I'm not completely sold on labeling him a bust, but still the 15th-best player in Fantasy? That's a tough sell.
Granted, he hedges quite a bit, but the point is well taken. Ryan Braun is probably not as good a player as his 2007 stats.

Ned, Ned, Ned (Part 1)

Ned Yost discusses the Brewers batting order:

"I can tell you right now that Rickie is going to lead off," he said. "That's one spot I can say is set, right now.

Yost is considering his options for the No. 2 spot in the lineup, including shortstop J.J. Hardy and catcher Jason Kendall.
I started this blog almost three weeks ago and so far I think I've done a pretty decent job of laying off of Ned Yost. But there is only so long I can bite my tongue. Jason Kendall batting second? The worst hitter in your lineup? Not that J.J. Hardy would be all that much of an improvement with his .323 OBP, but Jason Kendall? Please. Why not bat the pitcher second, Ned?

Yost has also toyed with batting Prince Fielder third and Ryan Braun second. That will be just great - every time Rickie Weeks gets on base, Jason Kendal will bunt him over to second, which will open up first base so Fielder can be walked. You bat your worst hitter second and in doing so, take the bat out of the hands of your best hitter. Brilliant.

So as to put my money where my mouth is, I'd bat Corey Hart second. Look at his statistics and forget for a minute that he looks like Corey Hart. He has a .295 BA, .353 OBP; 30 points better than Hardy and almost 50 better than Kendall. He's a respectable bunter - 5 SH last year. He's very fast and doesn't ground into double plays.

Panther Baseball


The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers open their 2008 baseball season on Friday in Jacksonville Florida. The Panthers are picked to finish third in the seven team Horizon league. They play their first 27 games on the road (I wonder why) before opening their home schedule on April 11 vs. Cleveland State.

The Panthers will play a double-header against Youngstown State at Miller Park on Thursday May 15, following the Brewers-Dodgers afternoon game.

Other UWM home games are played at Henry Aaron Field in Milwaukee. Directions and a schedule of games are online.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Stay Drry Lary


Apparently former Brewers pitcher and current (until yesterday) Detroit Tigers announcer Lary Sorensen learned a little more than how to pitch a baseball during his time in Milwaukee. He has been arrested for his 7th DUI. According to the report, Sorensen's blood alcohol level was six (that's right - 6 - S-I-X) times the legal limit of 0.08 in Michigan. Holy crap! That's 0.48! He's lucky he's not dead. He was taken to the hospital for treatment of alcohol poisoning. Hopefully he gets the help he obviously needs.

If you're as old as me, you might vaguely remember that Sorensen was one of 11 players suspended by Commissioner Peter Ueberroth in 1986 for cocaine abuse. Obviously his troubles in life started early.

Hat tip to Chuckie Hacks for the story.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Yankee Stadium

The $1.3B house being built in the Bronx across 161st Street from The House That Ruth Built, will carry the same name as its predicessor - Yankee Stadium. Deciding not to cave to corporate greed and the allure of the almighty dollar (cough, cough), the Yankees have decided to forego the naming rights pot of gold and keep the most recognizable stadium name in all of sports. Kudos to them.

Brewers on TV

As was previously announced, FSN North and WMLW will broadcast 150 Brewers' regular season games this year. In addition, 4 games will be broadcast nationally on FOX. That leaves only eight games that are not on TV (all day games):

Thursday, April 24 @ Phi
Thusday, May 29 vs. Atl
Thursday, July 10 vs. Col
Saturday, July 19 @ SF
Monday, August 11 vs. Was
Wednesday, August 20 vs. Hou
Wednesday, September 3 vs. NYM
Wednesday, September 10 vs. Cin

FSN North will also rebroadcast 17 weekday day games in prime time, including Opening Day on April 4. That way if you go to the game, you can come home and watch it again on TV.

Uhhh, ok - take that back...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Looking Forward





Pitchers and catchers report in just 10 days.

A Bird in the Hand

...and $2.55 million to Bush.

The Brewers signed David Bush for slightly below the midpoint between their respective arbitration figures. This leaves J.J. Hardy as the only unsigned Brewer. The two are $650K apart based on arbitration offers. One would assume that Hardy will get a one-year deal for somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.8M.

While that would finish Doug Melvin's contract work for this year, he's going to have his hands full next year. Baring Hardy signing a long term deal, by my calculations, the following players will be eligible for salary arbitration going into 2009:

Chris Capuano
Claudio Vargas
David Bush
Derrick Turnbow
Prince Fielder
Rickie Weeks
J.J. Hardy
Corey Hart

Add to that Ben Sheets and Eric Gagne will will be eligible for free agency and Melvin will have a lot of financial analysis to do between now and this time next year.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Breakout


Anthony
DiComo at MLB.com selects his players most likely poised for a breakout in 2008. Rickie Weeks is at the top of his list (mine too).

[H]is batting stroke returned -- he hit .327 in August -- then his power followed. Nine home runs over the final month were reminder enough that this former first-round Draft pick has yet to play a full season in the Majors. He has yet to prove all that he can do.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Mr. Nice Guy (Part 2)

(Which has nothing to do with Part 1)

The Hardball Times published an interview by Chris Jaffe of Bill James. In it, Jaffe askes James, "Who is the nicest person you've ever met in baseball?" After a couple of obligatory, anonymous references to people who work in his office (with the Boston Red Sox), the first person he mentions by name is Brewers' outfielder Gabe Kapler. Who'da guessed?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Yankees beat Red Sox, 17-14

Super.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Long Haul

Tom Haudricourt started a discussion in his blog about which of the Brewers young players they should try to secure with long term contracts.

The collective bargaining agreement says that once a player has three years of Major League service he is eligible for salary arbitration. After six years he is eligible for free agency. J.J. Hardy was eligible for arbitration this year for the first time, and Corey Hart, Prince Fielder, and Rickie Weeks will be eligible next year for the first time. Should the Brewers try to sign these players to multi-year deals?

If a player goes to salary arbitration, it seems by definition, you wind up paying fair market value for him. True, a little bit higher or lower depending on what the arbiter decides, but all-in-all, pretty close. If you chose to, you could just keep signing players to one-year contracts throughout their arbitration years and as a result wind up paying roughly a fair market price for them. The decision to sign a player to a long term contract while he is in his arbitration years would then be dependant on whether you feel the player will become better or worse than he is right now and therefore worth more or less money. If you feel that a player is going to get better and therefore demand more money two or three years from now, it would be wise to try to sign him to a longer deal with the thinking that over the course of his contract you will wind up saving money. Strangely from a player’s perspective, it works just the opposite. If a player feels that he is going to be significantly better two or three years from now, then he will hurt his earning potential by signing a long term deal.

Now of course that’s all very simplistic. There is more to the decision than that. From the player’s perspective, there is the security of knowing that you have a guaranteed pay check for some period of time and from the team’s perspective there are things like present and future value of money, gate receipts, media revenue projections, and so on. But at its core, it seems to still boil down to figuring out which players have the best potential to improve, then signing the ones who do and not signing the ones who don’t.

Right now the three players that the Brewers have signed beyond the 2008 season are Jeff Suppan, Bill Hall, and David Riske. A handful of others have a club option for 2009, but those are the three to whom the Brewers have guaranteed money. If you looked at their roster and decided which three players you wished were signed beyond ’08, none of those three would probably be on the list. In fact they wouldn’t be in your top five or top seven. That being said, you could argue that the Brewers may have made unwise decisions by signing those three players and instead should have saved the money to lock up Fielder, Hardy, Weeks, or Hart at the risk of possibly losing in Hall’s case, or not signing in the other two cases, those players.

The history of the Brewers, and many other teams I suppose, is littered with players who signed long term contracts and then underperformed. At the time the signings took place, they seemed to make sense, but as they played out the players became a financial drain on their teams, locking up precious resources for little in return.

No one has a crystal ball to know if a 24 year old player is going to be better when he’s 27 than he is today. If you did the decisions would be easy. But there is a sense I think that most decent 24 year old players will be better when they’re 27, and therefore it makes sense to sign as many of them as you can for as long as you can. You think that in the long run it will be cheaper to sign J.J. Hardy to a three-year deal now than to sign him to a series of three one-year deals for an amount decided by an arbiter. But then why do so many of them go bad? Just what are the odds of a player being better when he’s 27 years old than when he’s 24?

Well, I thought I’d check.

I set up a study using the Sean Lahman database. The study (for now) only includes hitters. The metric I used for determining value was Bill James basic runs created formula:

RC = (H + BB) * TB / (AB + BB)

[I’m sure that the 50% of the readers of this blog who are sabermetricians are both cringing at the simplicity of this design, but I feel it serves the purpose.]

I pulled a list of players from 1950 to present who at the age of 24 (season year minus birth year) had at least 25 runs created, and who were at least 27 years old in 2007 (so I could study them three years later). In order to reach 25 runs created, you have to play about half time. Ranked by RC at the age of 24, at the top of the list were Albert Pujols, Vladimir Guererro, and Willie Mays; at the bottom Luis Terrero, Mike Heath, and Kenny Landreaux. There were 748 such players.

Then I looked at the runs created for those players when they were 27 – three years latter. I was curious how many were better and how many were worse.

For each player, I indicated whether they had gotten better or worse simply by the difference in their runs created. Of the 748 players in the study, 376, or almost exactly half had improved by the time they were 27. The other 372 had declined (including 43 players who were no longer playing at the age of 27). Isn’t that interesting. It’s a crapshoot. A 24 year old player on average has a 50/50 chance of being better in three years.

Then I divided the players into four equal sized groups based on the rank order of their 24 year old RC.

Group Players Improved Pct
Top 187 78 42%
Second 187 92 49%
Third 187 97 52%
Bottom 187 109 58%

As you can see, players in the top one-fourth of the study were far less likely to improve than players in the bottom one-fourth. There are two forces at work here. One is that players tend to improve up to about the time they are about 27-30 years old, and then decline after that. The other is that sometimes players put up stats that suggest a level of achievement above their natural ability – perhaps because of luck more than anything. Those players’ stats tend to decline the next season. This study suggests that the second force is stronger.

I repeated the study looking at 25 years olds and compared how they fared three years later at the age of 28. This time, using the same post-1950 and 25 RC criteria, there were 1,032 players in the study. (This stands to reason since there are more decent 25 year old players than there are decent 24 year old players.) Three years later, only 412 of those players, or 39.9% were better.

I again split the study into four equal groups:

Group Players Improved Pct
Top 258 82 32%
Second 258 116 45%
Third 258 111 43%
Bottom 258 103 40%

This time it was only the upper fourth of players who much less likely to improve, however there was no group that was more likely to improve than decline.

I think the moral of the story is that the players who you would be most tempted to lock up with long term contracts, the ones who are very good at a very young age, are the ones from whom you are least likely to get a return on your investment. An example is Prince Fielder. He hit 50 home runs last year. Next year he is probably more likely to hit fewer than 50 than he is to hit more than 50. That doesn’t mean he won’t hit more than 50. It just means that the odds aren’t on his side. If you sign him to a contract as if he’s going to hit 50 home runs every year, you have a good chance of being disappointed.

Jared over at Right Field Bleachers discusses the Brewers situation and eloquently echoes my feelings. The Brewers don’t need to be in any hurry to sign their players to long term deals and to do so could derail their future. They have exclusive rights to J.J. Hardy for another three years, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, and Corey Hart for another four, and Ryan Braun and Yovanni Gallardo for six. There’s plenty of time to sort out who’s worth keeping and who’s not.

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Short Walk

The Brewers announced that there were no former Brewers or Braves elected to the Walk of Fame at Miller Park for 2008.

[No] former Brewers or Milwaukee Braves player or staff member received the necessary 75% vote for election to the Walk of Fame. Former Brewers outfielder Ben Oglivie was closest with 71% (27 of 38 ballots).

Voting is conducted among local media and members of the Brewers organization.

In 2007, the first year that former Braves players were on the ballot, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn and John Quinn were elected. No one was elected in 2006.
Only thirty-eight people vote? Really? That's it? That seems a little bit elitist.

This is now two out of the last three years that there were no new inductees. Given the recent history of the Brewers... I guess that thing had its run.

 
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