Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Eye of the Beholder


A Sports Illustrated fan poll has named Miller Park the second best stadium in all of baseball. Chris De Luca of the Chicago Sun Times has named Miller Park the 25th best stadium in all of baseball. There's an obvious punchline there, but I'll let you fill it in yourself.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Selling Parra Short

A lot is being made about Manny Parra's inability to pitch through the sixth inning of games. I think that criticism is very shortsighted.

A lot of research has been done on the devistating effects of overworking young pitchers. Parra is only 25 years old, and less than three years removed from surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder. His career high in innings is 139 when he was 20 years old and in A ball. If he makes 32 starts this season averaging six innings each he would hit 190 innings - probably far too great a workload for him.

Parra has hit the 100 pitch mark only once in his five starts and is averaging fewer pitches per start than any other pitcher on the team:

Pitcher Pit/Start
Gallardo 115
Villanueva 102
Bush 100
Sheets 96
Suppan 92
Parra 90

This may be a conscious effort on Ned Yost's part to keep Parra's workload in check, rather than an inability on Parra's part to pitch deep into games. The Brewers (and fans) should be happy with five good innings out of Parra. If more is demanded of him, there will likely be an unhappy trip to the DL.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Braun Deal Close?

Eli's MLB Rumors reports that Ryan Braun's agent is in town again discussing a long-term contract extension. The article also suggests that Braun will eventually return to third base, and that getting a deal done with him now will help in the negotiations with Fielder.

Prince on Pace

Prince Fielder's home run production continues to almost exactly mirror that of last season.

OK - Ned's right. Let's get off his back about the vegetarian thing.

10,000

Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs for getting their 10,000th all-time win before the Florida Marlins did.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gagne Out?

Eli's MLB Rumors reports the following in today's News and Notes:

Gagne Out As Closer?: One scout told me that Brewers executives are pushing for Gagne to be moved to a lesser role in the bullpen. This move would likely give the spot to Salomon Torres or David Riske.
As harsh as I've been on Gagne, this seems a tad premature. That being said, it shows a lot more urgency on the Brewers part than most of us are used to. There are a lot of ways to shuffle the deck in the bullpen with as many arms as they have. If this is true, it appears the Brewers are not going to lock themselves into anything that's not working. Also if that sentiment carries through to the rest of the bullpen, I've got to believe that Derrick Turnbow's days with the team are numbered.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

All Arms

By activating Yovanni Gallardo and sending Joe Dillon down to Nashville, the Brewers are only three pitchers away from what I'm sure would be Ned Yost's dream - 17 pitchers and 8 position players on the roster.

With so many pitchers on the team, why was Gagne kept in after giving up the game tying home run? He was pitching for the fourth day in a row. He looked extremely uncomfortable on the mound. The chance that he was going to get the next guy out was about 1%.

Another blown save and two more homers allowed for Gagne. That now makes 23% of his blown saves and 18% of his home runs allowed since becoming a closer in 2002 that have happened this year. And this year is only 18 games old. At this pace, he'll blow 27 saves, which he obviously wouldn't be allowed to do. Unless he starts pitching better (and less often) he is going to lose his job.

The Brewers are a very good team and will have lots of save opportunities. Yost has got to have another pitcher to go to besides Gagne for every one of them.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Bad Breaks

Is it just me, or have there been a huge number of broken bats this season? It seems like four or five times every game, bats are shattering and pieces flying all over. I mentioned this earlier in the season and at the time I attributed it to the colder weather. But it just keeps happening. This is something that Major League Baseball will do absolutely nothing about, until someone gets seriously hurt and then everyone will say that they ought to do something about that. I will say I told you so.

Sheet!!!

Ben Sheets has left tonight's game with tightness and pain in his right triceps. I imagine this will answer the Yovanni Gallardo question. Anytime Sheets ever leaves a game due to an injury, I automatically assume he will wind up on the DL. I'm very often right.

UPDATE: From JSOnline:

There could be more concern than Yost led on, however. Sheets said the soreness, which he first felt the day after his start in New York, was close to the torn latissimus dorsi muscle he suffered in 2005, which lingered into 2006. Sheets admitted that the proximity to the old injury made him nervous about how long this one could linger.

"It's really sore," Sheets said. "It's kind of up in that region, top of the triceps and near the lat that I injured a couple years ago.

So, Sheets was sore last Sunday (The day after his start on Saturday) and on Monday, Doug Melvin went out and signed Jeff Weaver. That tells me that there is again some serious concern about Sheets' durability. It also tells me that Melvin is really on the ball.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

1 for 15

After 15 games this year, Prince Fielder now has exactly as many home runs as he had after 15 games last year - one.

He'll need four more in the next five games however, to keep pace.

Not Hittin' the Road

4/16: Cardinals 5, Brewers 4

Ned Yost again played the weakest hitter on the team in the #2 spot in the batting order, but that's far from the Brewers worst problem right now. As a team they are batting only .214 on the road. Not a single hitter looks confident at the plate.

If the Brewer lose this afternoon's game, they will drop to 3-1/2 games behind the Cardinals and match the furthest they've been out of first place in the NL Central since the end of the 2006 season. The next six games are against the Cards and Reds. If don't get the bats going... Well, let's hope they do.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Disorder

4/15: Cardinals 6, Brewers 1

Why, when Ned Yost gives a guy a night off, does he always put the replacement in the same spot in the batting order as the other guy? Gabe Gross batting second and Joe Dillon third? It's no wonder we didn't score any runs. Would it be too much to rethink the batting order given the eight guys you plan on playing tonight rather than base it on the eight guys you played last night? Corey Hart and Bill Hall should have been in the #2 and #3 spots.

Yost was asked about flipping Hall and Hart in the order. He said, "I'm not starting that." Um, Ned... You already did. Just a couple days ago with Fielder and Braun.

The Brewers have now lost 4 or the last 6.

Finally, did you get as sick as I did about hearing that it was "tax day" yesterday? Isn't every day "tax day" in Wisconsin?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Dream Weaver

The Brewers have apparently signed starting pitcher Jeff Weaver. This is a bit of a head-scratcher. He obviously(?) won't take Sheets', Suppan's or Gallardo's spot in the rotation. There are already three pitchers in the other two spots who seem every bit as good.

This is probably nothing more than an insurance policy. Remember, we still have Ben Sheets. If you look at the staff without him in there, then all of the sudden having Jeff Weaver looks pretty good.

UPDATE: According to MLB.com, the St. Louis Cardinals were interested in Weaver this spring. I wonder if that played a role in why the Brewers signed him - keep him away from the competition.

Jenkins Coming Home


The folks over at Right Field Bleachers are encouraging people to go out to the ballpark next Wednesday to cheer Geoff Jenkins as a thank you for his time here in Milwaukee. Jenkins was a class ballplayer who never complained about his contract and never complained about the direction the team was going, despite the train wreck of a front office that was here for most of his stay. He was the sole bright spot of an embarrassing era in Milwaukee Brewers history.

The game is part of the 5-county promotion that the Brewers put on. You can get in for half price if you live in the area. Go out there and say thanks.

An interesting debate has flared up in a forum at Brewerfan.net about the merits of cheering or booing Jenkins at next week's game. I've never understood fans who boo players simply because they leave for another team. If you are going to boo a player like Jenkins who left as a free agent, then you ought to give the same treatment to guys Mike Cameron, Eric Gagne, and David Riske, because they did the exact same thing - just to someone else. It doesn't make any sense. If you're out there booing Jenkins, you certainly have every right to. But then I also have the right to think you're an idiot.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Smoke and Mirrors?

Despite a great 8-4 start, the meat part of the Brewers offense (sorry Prince) isn't producing much at all. Corey Hart bumped up his batting average yesterday with a 4-for-5 game, but look at the rest of them:

Player BA
Hart .295
Braun .226
Fielder .222
Hall .220
Weeks .213
Hardy .205

I know there's more to success than batting average, but the Brewers are also last in the National League in walks. They are fifth in home runs, but have none From Fielder, Hardy, or Hart.

I'll look at the glass half-full. Gabe Kapler and Jason Kendall have been carrying so much of the load that the Brewers are still a very respectable third in runs scored in the NL. They have stolen 11 bases out of 13 attempts, and have made very few base running blunders. They are also playing noticeably better defense than last year. (I know. The weather this past weekend was noticeably better than it was in January. It's still nowhere near great, but it's moving in that direction.)

With all of the other good things going on, if the Brewers start getting some serious production out of the main part of the order, like they did for most of last year, they are going to be an offensive force to be reckoned with in the NL. And if they don't...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

4/13: Brewers 9, Mets 7

A nice come from behind win to cap off a 3-3 week against the Reds and Mets.

Two more home runs today, but still none from Prince, J.J.. and Corey. Prince and Ryan Braun were flip-flopped in the batting order, but still went a combined 1-for-9.

David Wright's home run for the Mets was only their fifth of the season. Wright has three of the five.

I know it's still a couple of weeks out, but if Gabe Kapler keeps playing as well as he is, do you just automatically give the job to Mike Cameron when he comes back. Just pondering.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

4/12: Brewers 5, Mets 3

Your team is on the road playing one of the top rivals in the league. You've got a 3-game losing streak and haven't been hitting a lick. You desperately need a win but today are facing one of the top pitchers in the league. Who do you want on the mound? There is only one answer to that question.

If you define a "stop" as a starting pitcher getting a win in a game that ends a 3 or more game losing streak, Ben Sheets led the Brewers last year with 4 (the whole team had 9), and leads again this year with one.

Johan Santana gave up three home runs for only the sixth time in 177 career starts.

It's getting to be about time to start keeping track. Prince, J.J. Hardy, and Corey Hart are still on the home run schneid.

Bill Hall is on pace to break the all-time Major League records for both home runs and strikeouts in a season.

Friday, April 11, 2008

4/11: Mets 4, Brewers 2

The bats have gone ice cold. Ten runs in the last four games. You're not going to win many at that pace. Their prospects don't get much better tomorrow as they must go against Johan Santana.

I wonder if this was one of those games that Ned Yost is thinking about keeping Manny Parra's innings down this year. I thought it was weird that he was pulled after only four innings and 72 pitches.

Prince Fielder is still only one home run behind last year's pace.

Yost Milestone

Tonight Ned Yost will tie Tom Trebelhorn for second most games managed in the history of the Brewers at 819 games. Treb leads Yost in victories 422 to 380. Phil Garner is the all-time leader in games managed with 1,181. Yost would hit that mark early in the 2010 season.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

4/10: Reds 4, Brewers 1

When I came home for lunch, Carlos Villanueva was taking a no hitter into the 5th, and when I got home for dinner it was a 4-1 loss. Aaron Harang plain outpitched Villanueva. That's going to happen.

Here are the Brewers runs allowed by inning so far this year:

Eight runs allowed in the first five innings, and 29 runs allowed in the last four. That's a little bothersome.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

4/9: Reds 12, Brewers 4

I suppose it's better that all of the wheels fall off on the same night. 0-2 when Bush starts. 6-0 when it's anyone else. I don't think it will be a very tough decision when Gallardo is ready.

Another home run for Bill Hall. He had four last April too - wound up with only 14 for the season. Like Fielder's homerless streak, don't make more of Hall's hot streak than it is. Corey Patterson of the Reds has four home runs too.

Ex-Brewers Resurfacing

MLB Rumors reports that the Mets are very close to signing Claudio Vargas. He apparently would make a few starts in AAA before being called up.

The same site also reports that the San Diego Padres are interested in signing Damien Miller.

New Home

I know there are a trillion ways to access blog material, but for those of you who were using the old fashioned Blogspot link (http://inbetweenhops.blogspot.com/), I've finally managed to get In-Between Hops at its own domain. I am now:

http://www.inbetweenhops.com

I also wanted to thank all of the other bloggers who have been linking to my posts. Yesterday, this blog hit a new traffic record. A meager 150 visitors, but that's about 143 more than were reading during the first couple of weeks. I thank every one of you too. Before I started this a little less than three months ago, I had no idea there were as many passionate Brewer fans online. I am humbled to be a small part of that world.

Blown Up

Chuckie Hacks reports that Eric Gagne has only 12 blown saves in his whole career. Really? By God, he's right - and two of those are this year. Blown saves didn't become an official stat until 2002, but since that time, Gagne has pitched in 297 games and has recorded 178 saves - with 12 blown saves. The most blown saves he's ever had in a season are four - last year, and in 2002, his first year as closer for the Dodgers. Two already this year.

And something else scary - since 2002 he's only given up 20 home runs, and two of those are this year. Yes, this is reason for concern.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

4/8: Brewers 3, Reds 2 (10)

The signing of Mike Cameron is already paying off. Bill Hall looks like a totally different player now that he is back in the infield. He hit his third home run and is making plays at third that Ryan Braun wouldn't have had a prayer at. Hall is playing better now than he did at any point last year.

J.J. Hardy raised his batting average by .112 points. Jason Kendall is batting over .500!

Another nice extra inning win. Don't look now, but the Brewers have the best record in the Majors.

Pitchers Duel

The Brewers game Saturday against the Mets will be Ben Sheets vs. Johan Santana. It don't get much better than that.

Monday, April 7, 2008

MLB.bomb

There must be some other people out there in the blog world who have subscribed to MLBTV. If so, I am wondering if what's happening to me ever happened to you.

Since the day I subscribed, anytime I try to access MLB.com - any part of it, including MLBTV - the site just sits there trying to load and in the mean time sucks so much of my bandwidth that I can't access anything else on the web. This is the second year in a row that I have had horrendous problems with the service. Last year they put a $1, 5-day hold on my debit card every time I switched the viewer to a different game - being male as I am, it ran up to about $250 once before I realized it and it caused me an overdraft on my account. I canceled the service after that.

I decided to give it another go this year and used a seldom used credit card to avoid the trouble I had last year. As I write this, I am on my second hour of being on hold with their customer service number. While on hold, I used my other phone to dispute their charges and cancel the credit card I used to subscribe.

It's been a long time since I've run across anything so frustrating. The MLBTV service is a complete embarrassment to baseball.

UPDATE: I finally got through to tech support and after a half hour of being talked down to and told that my system configuration is the problem, I formally canceled the service. I stand by my comments.

Prince's Meatless Tater Watch

I'm starting to hear a couple of rumblings here and there about the fact that Prince Fielder has yet to hit a home run this season (he only had one in spring training). And whenever that comes up, the vegetarian thing is slipped in too. Right now it's still one of those "I'm not sayin', but other people are sayin'" things. But other people are sayin'.

To set everyone's mind at ease - at least for the moment - in 2007, Prince Fielder hit his first home run in game 2 of the season, but didn't hit another until game 16. That means that even if his home run drought continues, he will only be one behind last year's pace all the way up until next week Friday.

As a service to the broccoli fearing, In-Between Hops will chart Prince's home run progress this season.

(Click on chart for larger image)

In the chart above, the red line indicates Fielder's home run tally during his NL leading, meat eating 2007 season, while the green line will indicate his progress during this, his vegetarian 2008 season. As you can see, there is no early evidence that Fielder's new eating habits have sapped him of his power. We'll keep watch as the season progresses.

(TIC)

Batting Champ?

A quick glance at the MLB Leaderboards shows Jason Kendall atop the NL in batting average. I thought I would quick get get Jason some diggs - short lived as they will be.

Ben Sheets has not given up a run in 15-1/3 innings which obviously ties him for the NL lead in ERA.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

4/6: Brewers 7, Giants 0


Ben Sheets took all of about three minutes to strike out the side in the first inning en route to his first shutout since his rookie season. Gabe Kapler and Ryan Braun each homered for the second consecutive day as the Brewers methodically pummeled the San Francisco Giants, earning a sweep of the series.

Over 44,000 in attendance. I understand the Brewers set a new franchise record for largest opening series attendance.

In the 5th inning, Corey Hart singled with two out. He easily stole second, but then J.J. Hardy was intentionally walked to bring up Ben Sheets. I wonder if it would be better to bat Corey Hart 7th instead of Hardy. Hart is about the best base stealer on the team and many of them are going to go wasted if he's batting two spots ahead of the pitcher.

The Giants hit two ground-rule doubles to center field. I wondered after each of them if Mike Cameron would have caught them. Kapler wasn't close to either one.

All eight of Sheet's strikouts came in the first five innings.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Artificial Turf (gag) at Miller Park

This piece by Don Walker suggests that Miller Park will eventually install Field Turf. Quite honestly, I don't find this very surprising, and is a consequence of what I believe was a design flaw in the stadium. There is very little direct sunlight inside of Miller Park. Even when the roof is open, you get the feeling that you are indoors. It has always seemed difficult to get a good turf growing until well into the season.

Do I care? I don't know. I think all field sports should be played on real grass, but as technology advances, the lines between real and artificial surfaces are blurring. The Field Turf fields of today still seem a little bit phony to me and still seem to play a little bit different than real grass, but they are nowhere near as bad as the fuzzy cement that dominated the 70's and 80's. Many natural turf fields have elaborate drainage systems below genetically mutated grass. It's nothing at all like the lawn in your front yard. If this is what keeps Miller Park viable, then so be it.

The article says,

Don't expect things to change too soon. But it seems that Miller Park will one day have a kind of artificial surface.
That's what they always say. Unless there is a huge backlash, which I don't expect, the stuff will be in by Opening Day 2010 - maybe even next year.

4/5: Brewers 5, Giants 4

I didn't catch much of the game because I was outside working in the yard. If you weren't there, you should have been too. There are plenty of baseball games in a season, but not many days like this.

Manny Parra pitched well and Gagne got his first save. Those are both huge positives as the Brewers continue to beat up on the hapless Giants.

I've got tickets for tomorrow's game.

Friday, April 4, 2008

4/4: Brewers 13, Giants 4

Note to self: leave earlier next year. We left Germantown for Miller Park at 9:15 a.m. On a normal day this is a half hour trip, tops. But of course this wasn't a normal day. Stopped for maybe 10 minutes (ok, 15) to pick up tailgating supplies - food plus all of the cutlery and utensils that we didn't think to bring. Also stopped quick to buy new baseball gloves for my son and me - I thought doing it on Opening Day would be a nice touch. It's something I had been promising to do since his sixth birthday. He's 17 now. Ok, so by the time we got to the general vicinity of the stadium and got stuck in traffic it was about 10:15. After 45 minutes we were in line and in plain view of the parking lot, a mere 150 or 200 cars away from the pay window when a police officer started yelling to everyone that if you hadn't purchased an advanced parking ticket, you were S-O-L. We hadn't, so we were.

Tailgating was obviously out. So was playing catch. We made it back to State Fair Park, which was the recommended alternative, and took a shuttle bus in. All in all, this wasn't a bad way to go. We were inside the stadium by noon, in plenty of time for the first pitch.


I estimated that the percentage of people at the game who were wearing some form of Brewers apparel was about 90%. That would be about 88% more than five years ago. It's really neat to see. We're finally all look like real baseball fans out there.

Speaking of apparel, my son and I have a huge disagreement as to how cool Prince Fielder is dressing lately. He thinks the look is very retro and the shit. ("The shit", I'm told means the opposite of "is shit.")


For my opinion of it, I am obviously an idiot.

Speaking of idiots... If you have shoes like this...


please know that there are about 2,000 other people sitting behind you who would like to see the game too. When you put your legs up on the pole like that, you consume a little more than your share of field of vision.

Billy Hall hit two home runs and the Brewers won a laugher. 3-1. All is good.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

4/3: Cubs 6, Brewers 3

We need to be thinking about whose spot in the rotation Yovanni Gallardo is going to take when he comes back in a couple of weeks. (Actually, Doug Melvin and Ned Yost need to be thinking about that, but you know.) Dave Bush did nothing to help his cause today.

J.J. Hardy managed only one single in the whole series. I wonder if hitting in front of the pitcher's spot is going to mean he'll have a tough time finding pitches to hit.

Is it just me or have there been a ton of broken bats this year? Every game I watch it seems like there's about one an inning. And they're not just cracking at the handle. They're busting apart into pieces. Weird.

Homecoming at Miller Park tomorrow. There'll be a baseball game too.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

4/2: Brewers 8, Cubs 2

I only saw bits and pieces of the game - listened to Pat Hughes do the last inning on the radio. He and Ron Santo already sound a bit disgusted. The Cubs are playing like the Cubs.

Jason Kendall doubled to lead off the fifth which led to a run - driven in by the cleanup hitter, Braun. This 'second leadoff hitter' thing batting Kendall ninth worked today and from what i can tell hasn't cost them yet.

As I write this, Pittsburgh is losing to Atlanta 3-2 in the 7th. If that holds, the Brewers will be in first place all alone. The Reds are also losing, and the Cardinals are tied. There are only three wins so far in the NL Central and the Brewers have two of them.

I know. I know.

How Often Does That Happen?

Rickie Weeks hit the first pitch of today's game for a home run.

The last time a Brewer did that was May 17, 2005 by Brady Clark off of Claudio Vargas. Fernando Vina did it on June 28, 1996 off Juan Guzman. Paul Molitor did it twice - once each in 1991 and 1888. Before that, there aren't a lot of pitch-by-pitch records of games.

So it happens, but it's very rare.

NJIT Professor Picks Brewers

My economist friend who scours obscure websites for ammo to use in political arguments with me ran across this article in Science Daily about "indefatigable" math professor Bruce Bukiet of the New Jersey Institute of Technology whose detailed mathematical models predict that the Brewers have the best chance of any team in the NL Central to win the division:

The expected number of wins for each team is:

  • AL East: Yankees -- 98; Red Sox -- 98; Blue Jays -- 86; Rays -- 75; Orioles -- 63;
  • AL Central: Tigers -- 96; Indians -- 87; White Sox -- 79; Twins -- 74; Royals 63;
  • AL West: Angels -- 92; Mariners -- 78; A's -- 75; Rangers -- 70;
  • NL East: Mets -- 92; Braves -- 89; Phillies -- 84; Nationals -- 73; Marlins -- 70;
  • NL Central: Brewers -- 84; Cubs -- 83; Reds -- 81; Cards -- 80; Astros -- 79; Pirates -- 71;
  • NL West: Rockies -- 85; Padres -- 85; Diamondbacks -- 83; Dodgers -- 82; Giants -- 75;
He points out that according to the model, the division will be very close between every team except Pittsburgh, with any other team having a realistic chance of winning.

This study kind of ties in with my Sunday post about predictions.

 
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