Monday, March 31, 2008

3/31: Brewers 4, Cubs 3 (10)

There are a trillion places on the web where you can get a blow-by-blow, pitch-by-pitch rundown of what happened in every game. I don't intend top repeat any of that here, but I do want to record some random thoughts and ponderings I have. My own personal diary if you will - the things you don't keep track of on the scoresheet - the in-between hops.

The Brewers still can't score runs for Ben Sheets.

You know how when a team has a really good year, you often get the sense that everything is going right for them, even when things are going bad? Bill Hall's base running blunder made me think of that. Zambrano was knocked out of the game on the play. That kind of stuff.

It's odd seeing a skinny catcher in a Brewers uniform.

Good to see Tony Gwynn contributing. I hope he's hitting .450 when Cameron comes back.

Did we really sign Eric Gagne, or did Derrick Turnbow grow a beard and buy a pair of goggles? Man - that was bad. I wonder if Gagne will lead the team in saves this year. My son says Gagne is a steroid bloated fake. He did nothing today to disprove that.

Prince looked mighty ticked after the botched play at first base - at himself or at Gagne?

There was quite a bit of emotion out of the Brewers. They stayed in the game after blowing the lead in the ninth. That's good to see.

Nice win against a very good team.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Fallacy of Accurate Predictions

Heard this on the radio this morning - a website, www.fanbay.net, has picked the Brewers to finish fifth in the National League Central. Fifth!

Like many in the national media, they do not see the Brewers winning the National League Central. But fifth???

Let's take a closer look. Here is how they (they - not me) see the National League (they only give you the wins - I filled in the other two columns):


W L GB
New York 91 71 --
Philadelphia 87 75 4
Atlanta 81 81 10
Washington 80 82 11
Florida 74 88 17





W L GB
San Diego 88 74 --
Colorado 87 75 1
Arizona 86 76 2
Los Angeles 82 80 6
San Francisco 73 89 15





W L GB
Chicago 84 78 --
St. Louis 84 78 --
Cincinnati 84 78 --
Houston 83 79 1
Milwaukee 82 80 2
Pittsburgh 72 90 12

Wow. Quite a pennant race it's going to be. Then a three-way playoff for one division and another one-game playoff for the wild card spot. Yeah, ok.

Do you see something else? They've got 12 teams finishing .500 or better. In fact, according to their predictions, the National League will go a combined 1318-1274; an astonishing 44 games over .500. They must not think much of the American League, hey? The only way such a lopsided result could occur is if the NL owns the AL in inter-league play. Let's check:


W L GB
New York 95 67 --
Boston 92 70 3
Toronto 84 78 11
Tampa Bay 74 88 21
Baltimore 66 96 29





W L GB
Los Angeles 90 72 --
Seattle 90 72 --
Texas 73 89 17
Oakland 67 95 23





W L GB
Detroit 95 67 --
Cleveland 89 73 6
Chicago 84 78 11
Minnesota 74 88 21
Kansas City 69 93 26

If you do the math, you see they've got the American League also playing over .500 (1142-1126). There's obviously no way that can happen, and if you try to fix it, you pretty much need to change your prediction for every team.

In a couple of weeks, I am going to unveil a program I wrote to estimate each team's chance of winning their division title given their current win-loss records. One of the main principals that strikes you when using such a system, or really any system of predicting outcomes of events, is that you must balance both sides of the equation. The percentages must add up to 100%. The wins must equal the losses. This seems like a simple principle, but it's amazing how many people get it wrong.

If you are reading this, you probably think that the Brewers are going to win the NL Central. Let's say that you think that their chances of doing so are about 60%. Then what chance do the Cubs have? 40%? They can't - that wouldn't leave anything for any of the other teams. 30%? That would not only mean that you think there is only a 10% chance that the division winner will be either the Cardinals, Reds, Astros, or Pirates, but it also means that you think the Brewers chance of winning is double that of the Cubs. See the problem?

If you actually go through the exercise of dividing up 100% among the six teams in the NL Central and want to be as accurate as you can and be fair to every team, using all of the information available to you, you will probably be forced assign a number less than 50% to every team. Try it. But what that means is that every team in the division is more likely to not win than they are to win. It also means that if you try to predict a winner, you are more likely than not to be wrong - no matter who you pick.

Call me a wuss or call me an astute mathematician, but this is why I stay out of the predictions game.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

SI Jinx

The Sports Illustrated baseball preview issue just showed up in my mailbox, and they are picking the Brewers to finish 3rd in the NL Central behind the Cubs and Reds. Ouch. They do predict a 85-77 record for the Crew but obviously think very highly of the Reds off-season moves.

The first line of the article says:

"Memo to baseball blogoshpere: Manager Ned Yost doesn't want your help."
Uhh, if SI is right, he will need it.

Ryan Braun dons the cover along with Justin Upton and Troy Tulowitzki.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Youth Is Served

In what apparently came down to a decision between Claudio Vargas and Carlos Villanueva, the Brewers chose to go with youth. Good for Doug Melvin. Villanueva is six years younger than Vargas and therefore has much more upside. As I commented a few days ago, the Brewers need significant improvement out of a couple of starters if they are to rise to championship caliber. Villanueva has a much better chance at doing that then Vargas.

Understanding why the Brewers were unable to trade Vargas and were rather forced to release him is rather simple. He carries a $3.6M contract and isn't anywhere near good enough to warrant that. Suppose you are the GM of the Toronto Blue Jays and Doug Melvin comes knocking offering up Vargas and his $3.6M price tag for your AA right fielder. You will realize, understanding the situation that the Brewers are in, that if you wait a few days you will be able to sign Vargas as a free agent for $1.2M and keep your AA right fielder. It's pretty much a no-brainer.

Monday, March 24, 2008

More on Capuano

Brewers Bar points out that next season the Brewers must either offer Chris Capuano salary arbitration or allow him to become a free agent. The key is that the minimum amount they can offer him is $3M - a 20% reduction from this year's salary. It is highly unlikely that they would do that, especially given the salary climate they are in with other players. Therefore, Capuano will be free to shop his services around to other clubs. There are a whole bunch of teams that would probably take a chance on a left handed starter who is three years removed from an 18 win season with a fresh tendon in his elbow for somewhere in the $1-$1.5M range. If he pitches again in the Majors, it will most likely not be in a Brewers uniform.

ParrAAA?

Manny Parra may have punched his ticket to Nashville (AAA). He gave up 4 runs in the first inning today against Colorado and has given up 5 hits and 4 walks through 3 innings with no strikeouts. This is the second straight poor outing for Parra.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Un-Capped

Chris Capuano's season and possibly his career with the Milwaukee Brewers is over. He will likely have Tommy John surgery - his second - with the hope of returning to the mound sometime in 2009. Cappy will be in his final arbitration year then. Depending on Ben Sheet's status (free agent at the end of '08) and the progress of Gallardo, Villanueva, Parra, and prospect Jeremy Jeffress, there may be no point in the Brewers giving Capuano another shot.

I found an article from USA Today about players who have had a second Tommy John surgery. It doesn't paint a very pretty picture. It talks about an 18 month recovery period and slim prospects of future success. This from the guy who invented the procedure in the first place, Dr. Frank Jobe.

In hind sight, you might have seen this coming. Following up his 18 win season in 2005, Capuano pitched great for the first half of 2006 (10-4, 3.21), making the All-Star team. He faded badly in the second half posting an ERA of 5.17. Last year he was great in April (4-0, 3.21) but miserable from there on. This year, he didn't make it out of spring training. You have to wonder if the tendon in his elbow has been wearing down over the past three seasons and finally just gave way.

While it was possible that Capuano wouldn't have made the team, let alone the starting rotation this spring, it is never good to lose a player to injury like this. There was a small chance that he could have had a bounce back season; now there is none. There was a chance that he could have been traded for a couple of prospects. Maybe one of those prospects would have helped you win a game in September in the middle of a pennant race. We'll never know. Those are the types of things that championship teams have happen. Unfortunately for the Brewers those things are going to have to come from somewhere else.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Spring Drags Eternal

This is the worst part of the baseball season. Spring training has been dragging on for about five weeks now. All of the stories about who's going to make the starting rotation, who's looking good (no one ever talks about who's looking bad), who's going to make the club and who's not, who has options left and who doesn't, and what the batting order will be have been hashed out until there is absolutely nothing more to say. Everyone knows that Mike Cameron will miss the first 25 games. Everyone knows that Yovanni Gallardo will join the rotation sometime in mid-April. Everyone knows that Prince Fielder is a vegetarian. Everyone knows that Jason Kendall will bat ninth. Everyone knows that Rickie Weeks is the in-vogue pick for a breakout season (we don't talk about that other thing - and oh yeah, by the way, has anyone noticed if Corey Hart is around?) We're all counting the days, raring to go. But it's still more than a week away. Nine more dreary, sloppy, slushy days.

Back in February, ten days before the opening of spring training, winter smacked us upside the head. It's done the same ten days before the regular season. This morning, my yard looks just like it did in those pictures. I've never needed a winter to end and a baseball season to start more than I do this year. I'm ready to go. Nine more days until Opening Day; the best part of the baseball season.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Completely Nauseating

Will this f^$#!%& b^##$*!# ever end?????

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Brewers Starting Staff Has No Depth

Well actually, yes it does. But if I would have titled this article as such, you probably wouldn't have read it because at least 75,000 other articles and blog posts written this off season have made reference to how deep the Brewers starting rotation is. The Brewers have eight pitchers vying for five spots in the rotation. Even with injuries to Yovanni Gallardo and Chris Capuano, baring a trade, a pitcher with a significant amount of major league experience and/or potential will have to be sent down to AAA. This plethora of pitching is keeping Ned Yost up at night.

Because of this glut of pitchers, there has been much talk of the Brewers trading one of their starters, even for minor league prospects, just to clear the logjam. There has been almost no talk at all of the Brewers trying to add another pitcher to their staff. I think this is shortsighted on their part.

A deep pitching staff is not necessarily a good pitching staff. Consider the profile of the top eight pitchers on this team:

This pitching staff is very good. It has a Cy Young candidate as its ace and two other All-Stars. This staff will undoubtedly win a lot of games. It is not at all, however, deep. The fourth starter is below average and their are no major league caliber pitchers to fill the #5 spot.

Now consider this staff:

This staff is very deep. It has eight pitchers who are of major league caliber. It is not, however, very good. You might call this staff the Milwaukee Brewers and you might call the last six bars on this chart Jeff Suppan, Claudio Vargas, Manny Parra, David Bush, Chirs Capauno, and Carlos Villanueva.

I fear that the larger number of starting pitchers on the Brewers staff has led them (and led many fans) into a false sense that the staff will also be rather good. The reality is that the Brewers starting staff isn't particularly good. There are probably 100 pitchers in the Majors who would step right in to the Brewers rotation if we had them. Five of those pitch for the Chicago Cubs.

In order to win the National League East, some of the Brewers young starters - those with more upside potential like Gallardo, Parra, and Villanueva - are going to need to make their bars quite a bit taller. Those are the ones the Brewers should bring north. If they do so, then they are playing to win.

If instead they bring the more known quantities of Vargas, Bush, and Capuano, they are playing to not lose. That's a game you can never win.

Yost Feuding With Wild, Wild West

This is a gem. The LA Times (yes, that LA Times) is reporting that Ned Yost (yes, our Ned Yost) is carrying on a "feud" with the Anaheim Angels (hee, hee, hee). Apparently last spring Yost was miffed at Angels skipper Mike Scioscia for bringing a team of mostly minor leaguers to a spring training game in Maryvale. So miffed that he filed a protest with the commissioner's office. Now Yost has retaliated by doing the same thing at their game yesterday in Tempe. The only near-starter that he brought to the game was Tony Gwynn Jr. When questioned about it, he told reporters:

"I heard there's a real high flu area over that stadium, they say it's in the air."
How do they say? ROFL? You gib'em hell, Nedly.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fehr Game

The media seems to be baiting Donald Fehr into suggesting that the MLBPA is investigating a collusion charge as it relates to Barry Bonds. First of all, I would find it quite a stretch to call it collusion if no team wants to sign an oft injured 43 year old accused felon with a reputation for being a cheater and a jackass. But second, here is the headline of the article:

Sniffing for collusion, Fehr wonders why Bonds is unwanted

and here are the quotes in the article from Donald Fehr:

"We always look at the free-agent markets every year and make judgments about them, and if we come to the conclusion with respect to any player that there's a matter worth pursuing, we'll pursue it," he said. "But I'm not going to make any suggestions or accusations unless and until we come to that conclusion."

Fehr wouldn't say whether he found it troublesome that no team has publicly said it wants Bonds.

"I haven't talked to him about it or his agents and I don't want to comment personally about it since I haven't had the opportunity to do that," he said.
I'm sorry, but in fairness to Donald Fehr, I don't see anything in his comments to warrant the headline and its specificity to Bonds. Either Fehr said something else that didn't make the article which would be incredibly bad editing, or this editor is trying to make something out of nothing. I guess it pays to read the fine print.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Arms Race 4 - The Finale

For my final installment of Arms Race (since by next week we will pretty much know who's in and who's out), I handicap the Brewers' pitchers chances of making the starting rotation as follows:

1. Ben Sheets (100%)
2. Jeff Suppan (100%)
3. Claudio Vargas (95%)
4. David Bush (90%)
5. Manny Parra (65%)
6. Carlos Villanueva (50%)
7. Chris Capuano (0%)
8. Yovanni Gallardo (0%)

Capuano left today's game with elbow soreness almost guaranteeing him a trip to the DL (even if he's not really hurt). Carlos Villanueva has pitched respectably, but Manny Parra has been outstanding and I believe now has the inside track for the fifth starting spot.

With so many other teams suddenly looking for pitching help, I believe David Bush will attract some offers. Knowing that Gallardo will be thrown into the mix a few weeks into the season, it still wouldn't surprise me if Melvin pulled the plug on a deal, settling the rotation at least temporarily. Once Gallardo returns, there will be another logjam which would likely either send Villanueva to the bullpen or Parra to AAA, depending on who's not performing.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Brewers radio guy Jim Powell used the first paragraph of his first blog entry of the season to rip on... blogs.

The world was bad enough when people just tried to jam their opinions down your throat while at the bubbler at work or school. Now everyone with an internet connection feels compelled to publish their every musing on any and all issues ad nauseam. I like my opinions just as everyone agrees with their own, but I have no impulse to believe that my every thought should be scrutinized and fleshed out by everyone else.
Hmm. Last time I went online, I was able to choose what I wanted to read and what I didn't.

Everyone has an opinion. Not everyone has to listen to it.

Arms Race 3.5

Chris O'Capuano and Carlos O'Villanueva each start in St. Partrick's Day split-squad games today. Both are severely on the bubble for spots in the starting rotation. The recent surge by Manny O'Parra has made the race even more complicated. A bad outing by either pitcher today will almost certainly seal their AAA fate.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Where's The Beef?

I had a discussion this morning with a co-worker about Prince Fielder. We were wondering together how long it would be before Prince hit a home run this spring, and how long it would take for people to start connecting the dots between Fielder's lack of power production and his new vegetarian diet. Apparently, we aren't the only one's wondering that as Tom Haudricourt mentions it this afternoon in his blog post.

Vegetarians have a hard time getting their protein. Protein is what supplies muscle power. You can drink all the shakes and eat all the peanuts that you want - it's just not the same. There could very well be something more than coincidence here with Prince.

Besides, isn't becoming a vegetarian a weird life-decision for someone like Fielder to make? He said he did so because of a book his wife got him that described how certain animals were treated and slaughtered for food.

"After reading that, (meat) just didn't sound good to me anymore," Fielder said. "It grossed me out a little bit. It's not a diet thing or anything like that. I don't miss it at all."
Notice that nowhere in Prince's explanation does he say, "I did it because I think it will make me a better ball player." If it's fair to criticize a player for being fat and out of shape, which we do all the time, I think it's fair to criticize this. The organization, and we as fans, have an expectation that players are going to keep themselves physically fit so they can play the game at the peak of their abilities. Fielder's stats so far this spring are suggesting that perhaps he's not doing that. If his power drought continues, criticism of his vegetarian diet will be fair game. Pardon the pun.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Triple Crown in Brew Town?

According to John Dewan's Stat of the Week, which compiles 2008 statistics projections from the The Bill James Handbook: Projections Update 2008, Ryan Braun will finish in the top three in each of the triple crown categories.

Batting Average
.331 Albert Pujols
.331 Hanley Ramirez
.326 Ryan Braun

Home Runs
52 Ryan Howard
46 Ryan Braun
43 Adam Dunn

Runs Batted In
142 Ryan Howard
126 Albert Pujols
122 Ryan Braun

Albert Pujols gimpy elbow may take him out of the running, cracking the door a bit wider for Braun.

James also projects that Yovanni Gallardo will finish second in the National League ERA race at 3.19 to Johan Santana's 2.96.

Interestingly, James' projections say that Prince Fielder will hit only 42 home runs this year after hitting 50 in 2007. Fielder has yet to homer this spring.

Cameron Speaks

Mike Cameron discusses his 25-game suspension with USA Today's Bob Nightengale. Cameron twice tested positive for amphetamines in 2007, and is therefore subject to six random drug tests this season.

"But there's nothing I can do about it now. I've got to be so careful. I can't just pick up something at a gas station or a GNC store. …"
In the story Cameron also reveals that he has scheduled an appointment with a neurologist concerning aftereffects of his 2005 collision with Carlos Beltran.*
"I'm fine physically," Cameron says, "but mentally, I'm not so sure. It's just little things. Lapses here and there. I may be fine, but it can't hurt. I just want to find out for sure, and whether I need anything to help me."
Everything I hear about the type of player he is and type of teammate he is in the clubhouse is very positive, but honestly, I just don't have a good vibe about the Mike Cameron signing. I obviously hope I'm wrong, but I'm worried that this could blow up in the Brewers face. If Cameron fails one if his tests, it would carry an 80-game suspension. On top of the 25 games he's already serving, that would in essence wipe out his season. One little lapse at a gas station, and boom. Something could come of this neurological thing that would case him to miss time or hurt his play on the field. He could get injured. There are just a lot of what-ifs.

Ned Yost would be wise to pick a center fielder out of spring training and stick with him for the whole first 25 games, rather than using the rotating, platoon, musical chair system that he seems to be planning on. Tony Gwynn would be my pick. Gwynn has two triples and a home run so far this spring, tying him for the team lead in extra base hits. He is the only other natural center fielder on the team. In center field, more so than any other position, the Brewers need a Plan B. Playing Gwynn in center for the first 25 games would tell you if you have one.

*[There used to be a YouTube video of the collision, but MLB Advanced Media in their pompous arrogance, ordered it removed.]

UPDATE:
Brew Crew Ball (A great Brewers blog which I thank profusely for linking to my stuff; if you didn’t come from there you should really go check them out.) asks:
"Mike Cameron is a professional baseball player, with access to all the training staff and other help that comes with it. Even if he wasn't, he's a millionaire many times over. Why, with all the resources available to him, is he grabbing energy drinks and the like at a gas station?"
My response: You could have asked that same question last year and look what happened. Ball players do all sorts of stuff that us common folk would think would be deterred by the allure of money. Nobody understands it, but it happens. I’m just saying that with the clunked head thing with Beltran, and now the neurologist thing, and the fact that Cameron would even bring up “picking something up at a gas station”, I don’t know – it just seems like a lot more volatile deal than I wish it were.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Arms Race 3

Ben Sheet has been lights out so far this spring. It's good to see Ben pitching this well. Hopefully it carries over until the regular season. Deciding whether to resign him after a 20-win season would be a nice problem to have.

Claudio Vargas continues to pitch well. I believe at this point a trade would be the most likely thing to keep him out of the rotation. I had him at 85% last week, I'll keep him there.

Manny Parra is also making a case for himself but at this point I still see him as a long shot. Still, I'll bump him up from 5% to 20%. Yovanni Gallardo drops from 10% to 5%. His recovery from knee surgery is progressing nicely, but I really don't think the Brewers are going to push him. He's probably right now where everyone else was at the start of camp.

On the other side of the coin, David Bush and Chris Capuano are struggling. Bush has given up 10 hits and 4 walks in 5 IP; Cappy 10 hits and 1 walk in 4 IP. I think collectively they have let one of the spots slip away, with Carlos Villanueva being the beneficiary.

Once again, there isn't much to say about Jeff Suppan except that he'll be there.

1. Sheets (100%)
2. Suppan (100%)
3. Vargas (85%)
4. Bush (70%)
5. Villanueva (65%)
6. Capuano (55%)
7. Parra (20%)
8. Gallardo (5%)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Value of Kendall Batting Ninth

Ken Rosenthal from FOX Sports discusses Jason Kendall batting ninth and the (supposed) impact it will have on the Brewers offense:

"The team's assistant scouting director, Tony Blengino, and statistical analyst Dave Lawson suggested that such an arrangement could help the club score 25 to 30 more runs."
This claim is an absolute, 100% load of crap. There is no way - NONE - that moving Jason Kendall down to the #9 spot and batting the pitcher eighth will have that big of an impact. I have no idea who Tony Blengino and Dave Lawson are. In fairness, I don't know for certain that they even said this, or if Ken Rosenthal has his facts mixed up. But I do know that if they did say it, my faith in the Brewers' ability to statistically analyze the game of baseball has just taken a big hit.

Anything that makes a 25-30 run difference over the course of the season is HUGE. That many runs represents two and a half to three games in the standings. That's about how much the Houston Astros would improve if they replaced their first baseman Lance Berkman with Albert Pujols. It just isn't that easy or every team would be doing it.

All of the research I have seen on the subject suggests that batting the pitcher eighth might gain a team one or two runs over the course of a season. Let's suppose that Jason Kendall is the ideal candidate for this scenario - and that's not saying much because if Jason Kendall were really that good of a hitter he would be batting somewhere else in the lineup - but let's just say; maybe you bump it up to three or four runs. Fine.

Now, that doesn't mean it's not worth doing. If you have a choice of picking up four extra runs by flipping two guys in the batting order or signing a $4M free agent, which is the other way you could do it, you obviously make the move. But let's be realistic about how big of a change this really is.

Later in the article Rosenthal points out:
The plan, Yost says, makes sense only because Kendall is a unique hitter — one with a career .375 on-base percentage and extreme ground-ball tendencies. Hitting him behind the pitcher would help prevent him from grounding into double plays.
This is one of the things that makes this idea work. Batting behind the pitcher, Kendall will rarely be hitting with a runner on first. This is because when they bat, pitchers are trying to bunt runners from first to second, and when they're not doing that, they're striking out. Kendall has hit into as many as 27 double plays in his career and has had seasons of 19 and 18. Let's say that ordinarily he would be at 18. With fewer chances to ground into double plays, maybe you cut that down to six. There - you've got twelve extra outs to work with - about four innings worth. Four innings in which you can score some of those three or four runs.

[Hat tip to Al's Ramblings.]

Gold Glove? Really?

Ned Yost had been impressed enough with Ryan Braun's defense in left field that he said the following:

"He's got an opportunity one day to win a Gold Glove in left field. He certainly does."
Wow. That's some pretty big talk.

Gary Sheffield made a successful transition from being a natural shortstop to less than stellar third baseman to very talented, albeit underrated outfielder. Bill James points out about Sheffield in "The Bill James Gold Mine 2008":
"His throwing arm is off the charts... quick release, low, flat trajectory on his throws, tremendous power and just phenomenal accuracy.

"He was an outstanding outfielder, ran well, read the ball well, threw outstanding."
Perhaps those same things will be said about Braun one day. It doesn't seem outside the realm of possibility.

Earth to Bud

Taking his usual approach to the steroid mess in baseball, Bud Selig has stated that he will not read Barry Bonds' recently released grand jury testimony.

"I think all the lawyers around me will, but I don't think there's any reason for me at this time."

Saturday, March 8, 2008

How High Will He Go?

Mark Attanasio has stated that he is interested in signing "all" of the Brewers young stars to long term contracts. What a refreshing change from a team's whose management used to hold itself up as the poster child for the plight of small market teams. Obviously from a fans perspective, it would be great to sign them all - but is it realistic? I did some back of the cocktail napkin figuring:

The final 2008 numbers are not in yet, but in 2007 the Brewers team salary of $72M ranked 18th in the Majors (again, don't hold me to the exact figures - I've got a small workspace here). Given the off-season moves, the 2008 figure will come in close to the same which means the ranking will be about the same. If we look two or three years out, about what kinds of salaries are we talking for all of these guys? Rough numbers (in 2007 dollars):

Prince - $12M
Braun - $12M
Gallardo - $8M
Weeks - $7M
Hardy - $6M
Villanueva - $5M
Hart - $5M

Factoring in what they make now, these figures would add about $50M to the Brewers payroll. That would give the Brewers the third highest payroll in baseball behind the Red Sox and Yankees. Granted that if all these players stayed together, the Brewers might be the third best team behind the Red Sox and Yankees, but there is no way that under baseball's current economic structure that Milwaukee, Wisconsin can support a payroll that large. And, these figures only cover their arbitration years. Once they become bona fide free agents some of these figures could go much higher.

So, unless Mark Attanasio has way more money than anyone believes and is willing to spend it on this ballclub, the Brewers are going to be forced to pick and choose between the current players and simply let some of them go.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Memories of 4

I will crawl out of my Brett Favre funk and get back to writing about baseball. Please bear with me. It's tough. Real tough.

On a radio call-in show yesterday, people we telling their greatest Brett Favre memories. They were all of the things you would guess - the Super Bowl win, the game after his father died, the last game at County Stadium, an so on. My greatest Brett Favre memory was from a game that Favre didn't even play. It was in Super Bowl XXXV when Baltimore Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer took himself out of the game in the third quarter and went to the locker room because he had a cut on his left pinky finger. 'What a freakin' pussy,' I thought to myself. 'Brett Favre wouldn't take himself out of a Super Bowl game if his pinky had been chopped off.' And I truly believed that. What Trent Dilfer did that day is the polar opposite of what I believed Brett Favre to be. There was no tougher competitor to ever play the game. That moment encapsulated it all.

His press conference starts in a bit. After it's over, I'll throw away my crying towel and get back to business.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

4

In the days of my youth, I would become a Green Bay Packers fan on about October 1st - the last day of the Brewers regular season. I would follow the Packers with at least moderate interest until they we're no longer in contention for the playoffs. Many years, that was about two weeks later.

Then, 17 years ago, something happened that made watching football far more enjoyable than I had ever dreamed it could be. It required me to do double time during the last month of the baseball season, and follow the Packers from week one. On many occasions I would even watch a Packers game while the Brewers were on a different channel.

Today, something happened that allows me to rededicate my Septembers to baseball. Thank you, Brett. Words can not express how much fun it's been.

Arms Race 2

Claudio Vargas takes the mound for the Brewers today as they butt heads with the Cubs for the first time. This begins the second time through the rotation for the Brewers. Here's a quick recap on how each of the starters performed the first time out:

Vargas - B
Bush - F
Sheets - A
Suppan - D+
Villanueva - A-

I still think that Capuano (C- in a relief performance) should be strongly in the running for the fifth starting spot. Given Bush's performance the first time out, Suppan and Sheets are the only two I see as locks. Someone asked me why I had Suppan ranked ahead of Sheets (in terms of likelihood to make the rotation) in my last post. It's because Sheets sometimes gets injured and Suppan doesn't. No other reason. If Suppan is 99%, Sheets is 98%.

My updated rankings:

1. Suppan (100%)
2. Sheets (100%)
3. Bush (90%)
4. Vargas (85%)
5. Capuano (60%)
6. Villanueva (50%)
7. Gallardo (10%)
8. Parra (5%)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Davey Lopes Has Prostate Cancer

Former Brewers manager Davey Lopes has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. The prognosis is good. I obviously wish him all the best. Lopes, 62 , is currently the first base coach for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Money Where His Mouth Is

So, Prince Fielder has publicly expressed displeasure with the paltry $670,000 he's going to have to play for this year.

"I'm not happy about it at all... There are a lot of guys with the same amount of time I have who have done a lot less than me and are getting paid a lot more. But my time is going to come and it's coming quick, too."
Really. How Sheffieldesque.

I've always thought that the one skill that sports stars are generally extremely lacking at, that would benefit them greatly if they were good at, is how to market themselves. Everything they say - everything they do will influence how much money they will make over the course of their careers. By publicly complaining about a contract over which he has no control (thank you Donald Fehr), and with which the Brewers are handling in a fiscally responsible manner, Prince Fielder has begun the process of labeling himself as a complainer. A label that could eventually cost him far more than the two of three hundred thousand extra dollars he wanted this year.

For example, if you were Doug Melvin right now, would you be thinking that you can get better value out of signing Prince Fielder to a 5-year deal or Ryan Braun? Or Rickie Weeks? Or J.J. Hardy or Corey Hart? Prince has sent the message loud and clear that he is going to drive a very hard bargain. Maybe because of that you let him go and concentrate on signing your other players. From Fielder's point of view, that's one less team to negotiate with. It's not that he won't find another team to sign with, but it gives him that little bit less leverage when he does. All of this then assuming he stays healthy until the big payday comes. By taking a hard line, he's bearing that risk himself rather than selling the risk to his team.

Another marketing faux pas Prince made this spring was to announce that he is a vegetarian. No one wants to hear that their 280 pound slugging first baseman has switched to tofu. Far be it for me to tell anyone how to eat. If he wants to be a vegetarian, I suppose I'm ok with that as long as it doesn't hurt his performance on the field, but again it's a nightmare for his image and will hurt his earning potential down the road. He should have kept that development to himself.

Prince has also had a well-publicized spat with his father in which he is the one refusing to bridge the gap. When I first heard the story a few years ago, I thought, "what a jerk Cecil Fielder must be." As Prince's career plays out, I'm now beginning to wonder how far the apple fell from the tree. Prince needs to realize that the people who could be soon writing him $10M checks will be wondering that too.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Performance Enhancing Surgery

Jason Kendall had laser eye surgery over the off-season and credits this to an improved batting eye.

"I feel like I'm 18 again," Kendall said of his vision improvement. "I'm picking up the rotation on the ball like I used to."
Good news. Hopefully that will translate to a few more base runners for Rickie Weeks to knock around. But that’s not the point of this post.

I’ve often pondered that if steroids are so detrimental to the game because they give players an unfair advantage, why don’t things like LASIK surgery fall into the same category? I’ve posed this question to a number of people and they react like I’m nuts. “Of course steroids are worse. I mean, they’re steroids. You know. They’re not natural.” Oh yeah? Getting a corrective lens soldered onto your eyeball with a laser beam IS natural?

It has been demonstrated to us by the likes of Ken Caminiti and Lyle Alzado that taking steroids is dangerous to your health. It’s certainly not something we want our kids doing, lest they grown up to be mutants or worse yet predecease us. But didn’t at least a few poor souls go blind while doctors perfected LASIK? Isn’t there still some risk involved with that too? What if doctors were able to develop drugs that would improve your strength and stamina with no side effects whatsoever? Would those be ok? What if it wasn’t done with chemicals? What if implanting a series of electrodes in your biceps and lungs did the same thing? Would it be ok for players to have that surgery? Tommy John surgery has been perfected to the point that a young pitcher may wish to have it before his elbow hurts. Do we allow that? How bad must his elbow hurt before we give him the ok? These are all things that sports are going to someday need to address.

There are many things that players do to their bodies to enhance their performance – everything from eating right and getting to bed at a decent hour to hiring a personal trainer who is allowed to dictate their body chemistry down to the last electron. We are ok if a player takes ergocalciferol (vitamin D), but feel it a scandal if he takes androstenedione. We’re uneasy about a player having elective Tommy John surgery, but have no trouble at all if he has elective LASIK surgery. It’s perfectly fine to get a cortisone shot in your knee, but you’re a cheater if you get an HGH shot in your other -nee. Why? Where exactly is the line? I'm just asking.

[Cartoon above from Slate magazine. Click on picture for article. Hat tip to David at Baseball Musings for the link to the Jason Kendall story.]

 
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