Thursday, December 31, 2009

THE PALL DECADE TEAM

The Milwaukee Brewers have now completed four full decades of play in the Major Leagues.  As this decade comes to a close, people are putting together their best and worst of the decade list for everything, including the Brewers' all-decade team.  But how does this last decade stack up against the other three in Brewers history?

1.  The 1980's
801 Wins, 760 Losses, .513 W/L Pct., six winning seasons, two playoff appearances, one World Series appearance

No surprise here.  The decade of the80's remains the most successful in the club's history.  Despite back-to-back 90 loss seasons in 1984 and 1985, the Brewers still managed to play 41 games over .500 over the 10-year span.

2. The 1990's
742 Wins, 811 Losses, .478 W/L Pct., two winning seasons, no playoff appearances

Quite a drop off, hey.  The Brewers had only 3 different mangers in the 90's - Tom Trebelhorn, Phil Garner, and Jim Lefrebvre (for 49 games) - the least number of any decade.

3.  The 1970's
738 Wins, 873 Losses, .4581 W/L Pct., two winning seasons, no playoff appearances

The expansion/relocation Brewers salvaged the 70's with Bambi's Bombers posting two 90+ win seasons in '78 and '79.

4.  The 2000's
741 Wins, 878 Losses, .4577 W/L Pct., two winning seasons, one playoff appearance

It's true.  Based on regular season success, the 00's have been the worst decade in the history of the team.  If I ranked them subjectively, I would move this decade up to #3 based on the playoff year, however when you look back there were so many dog years in there to that it's hard to rank it any higher.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

TWEET TWEET

Being on the edge of 50 years old, I'm a little slow on the uptake on the whole Twitter way of communicating.  I follow a number of people there now but have never written a "tweet" of my own.  If you'll indulge me, I'm going to practice here.  In 140 characters or less, these are my top-of-mind tweets on the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers:

THE PITCHERS

Yovanni Gallardo, SP
I am picturing a Javier Vazquez type career.  Hopefully not one that spans so many different teams.  Will be very good but never great.

Randy Wolf, SP
Best bargain of all free agent signings.  Will have more Ws and lower ERA than Lackey.  He's not Jeff Suppan 2.  I mean, he's not - right?

Manny Parra, SP
He is the most complicated player on the team to figure out.  Great talent.  Horrible success.  Needs an up year in '10 or he will be done.

David Bush, SP
Incredibly bad luck in 2009 led to incredibly bad stats.  Teases you with 1-2 outstanding starts per year - up that to 4-5 and he's solid.

Jeff Suppan, SP
Most likely on team to not be on 2011 roster.  Would fare better as a reliever.  Most damage comes from the second time through the order.

Trevor Hoffman, Closer
Will face his biggest battle ever with Father Time.  My guess is he will take a couple of knockdowns but make it to the end of the fight.

Latroy Hawkins, RP
Like that he went to the winter meetings to personally pitch his services.  That's says professionalism to me.  Good plan B if TH gets TKOd.

Todd Coffey, RP
Would probably weigh 350 pounds if he didn't sprint in from the bullpen as often as he does.  Seems incredibly durable.  Good guy to have.

Claudio Vargas, RP
2009: 1.64 ERA in 8 G w/LAD, 1.78 in 28 G w/MIL.  Has never done anything in his career that would have predicted that.  Worth another look.

Carlos Villanueva, RP
Always thought he would be better.  Because he wasn't, he never found a role.  Still doesn't have one.  May never get one.  Not here anyway.

Mitch Stetter, RP
Pitched 6 G in '07, 30 in '08, 71 in '09.  Extrapolate that out and he'll pitch in 130 G in 2010.  WHIP rising but ERA not - ERA may follow.

Chris Narveson, RP/SP
The Brewers just don't have good luck with the St. Louis Cardinals cast offs.  Like him but it's very tempered because of that.  Good # 7 SP

David Riske, RP
I'll avoid the obvious pun.  Had great control early in his career.  If he can get that back he's still got a few solid years ahead of him.

THE HITTERS

Greg Zaun, C
There are about fifteen decent catchers in the Major Leagues and then a bunch of Greg Zaun's.  The Brewers have one of the Greg Zaun's.

Prince Fielder, 1B
The best hitter who has even worn a Brewer uniform.  There, I said it. Do I have room to say it again?  The best hitter who has ever worn a…

Rickie Weeks, 2B
Still waiting for him to have that breakout season.  Could the sixth time be the charm?  Averaged only 95 games per season in his career.

Alcides Escobar, SS
The REAL deal.  The last young Brewer I had a vibe like this about was Ryan Braun.  Before that was Nelson Cruz.  Before that Paul Molitor.

Casey McGehee, 3B
Most likely player on team to collapse.  2009 was so far outside his career norms, you can't believe he will produce anything close in 2010.

Ryan Braun, LF
If he keeps this production it's hard to imagine he'll not want to renegotiate his contact some day.  Highest valued played in the Majors.

Carlos Gomez, CF
Most value will come from his defense.  If he can turn a double into an out once or twice a week and hit .250 he'll be a valuable addition.

Corey Hart, RF
Two straight downturn seasons when he should be peaking.  RF is now a glaring weakness on team.  We need to be thinking about an upgrade.

Craig Counsell, IF
2009 production was a fluke.  I know I'm in the minority, but I never liked him.  If he weren't from Wisconsin I'll bet you wouldn't either.

Jody Gerut, OF
Older, slower, better power, and better batting eye than Tony Gwynn Jr.  Other than that they're the same.  Oh, yeah - less famous dad too.

Mat Gamel, 3B
See Casey McGehee.  He remains the Brewers top prospect and chances are better than 50/50 that he will be the starting 3B by year end.

THE FRONT OFFICE

Mark Attanasio, Owner
Proving "small market" is just a euphemism for "small payroll."  Thought he'd sell by now.  Wrong - he's in for real.  God bless you, Mark A

Doug Melvin, GM
I've come to where I never believe anything Doug Melvin says.  I think that's a sign of a great GM.  Aren't five others I'd rather have.

Ken Macha, Manager
Um, let's see.  What can I say about Ken Macha?  Thinking…  Give it a minute - I'll come up with something.  I know I will.  Wait for it…

THE DEPARTED

Braden Looper, SP
Transition to SP may earn him $10 mil more in his career than he would have earned otherwise but may end it 5 years earlier than otherwise.

Seth McClung, SP/RP
Not as good as people make him out to be.  Walks up and strikeouts down for two straight years.  When people talk about VAR, he's an R.

Jason Kendall, C
I have a sense that he whined about playing time.  No clue if I'm right.  There were 150 times he should have been pinch hit for though.

J.J. Hardy, SS
Is he really as good looking as people say?  I'm no judge but… never mind.  Too bad.  I had high hopes.  I think he will do well in MIN.

Mike Cameron, CF
I ripped on the Brewers for signing him because of his PED suspension.  I was wrong.  Now, nothing but respect.  He's a very classy player.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

December 26th.  My favorite day of the year.  364 days until Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Festivus everyone.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

According to data by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, there are 35,955 students enrolled in Milwaukee Public Schools in grades 7-12 (never mind how many actually show up).  Assume that half of the students are male.  The government is buying 2.6 million condoms to hand out to these students.  That would mean that they expect every one of the male students in this age group to have sex 144 times during the school year.  [Oh, to be young again.]  It's no wonder they aren't learning anything in class given how busy they are otherwise.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

Tom Haudricourt blogs about how Bill Hall and Jeff Suppan's contracts have put the Brewers in a financially strapped position, leaving them little or no money to improve the team.  This is true.  However Ryan Braun's contract is really helping the team right now.  They are getting $15 million/year production out of a player who will earn a tenth of what Jeff Suppan will in 2010.  That's how baseball is.  You can look at any team and find the worst two or three contract situations and talk about the burden that creates, but every team carries that same burden.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Congratulation to the UW-Whitewater Warhawks for winning the NCAA Division III football championship.  They have played Mount Union from Ohio each of the last five years in the D3 championship game.  (That's amazing.)  This is their second win.  Maybe they ought to promote these two teams to D2 - or just let them keep going for a best-of-seven..

Monday, December 14, 2009

BETTER TO BE LACKEY THAN GOOD

Which pitcher would you rather have:


W
L
ERA
WHIP
BB/9
K/9
Age
Pitcher A
11
8
3.83
1.27
2.40
7.10
31
Pitcher B
11
7
3.23
1.10
2.44
6.73
33

Pitcher A was widely regarded as the best free agent available this off-season and is about to sign an $85 million deal with the Boston Red Sox.

Pitcher B signed a free agent contract with the Brewers for a third of that.

There is a very interesting scenario setting up in the NFC playoffs involving the Packers and the Arizona Cardinals.  As you probably know, the two teams play each other in the last regular season game in Phoenix and the strong possibility exists that the two teams will play each other again the following weekend in the playoffs.  What makes it more interesting is that by the time the final regular season game kicks off, both teams may already know their playoff fates.  The game is a 3:00 CST kickoff.  There are no other games starting that late that could possibly affect the NFC playoff picture.  It's quite possible that by the time the Packers/Cardinals game starts, the two teams will already know for certain that they are facing each other in a playoff game the following week.  Can you imagine a more odd situation for a coach?  You don't want to play any of your top players for fear you could expose them to an injury at the hands of your playoff opponent.  You don't want to show the other team any of your plays.  You don't want them to know your snap cadence, your pass routes, your formations, your coverage schemes, your sideline signals - any of that.  How could you possibly coach a game when you know that the best thing for your team to do would be to forfeit and go home?

A BUSH IN THE HAND

I am a bit surprised that so many other people were surprised that the Brewers tendered a contract to David Bush next season.  Certainly his 5-9, 6.34 record was very unimpressive, but if you look a bit deeper you'll find a pitcher who was not nearly as bad as that record would indicate.

Studies have found that BABIP (batting average on balls in play) tends to be very consistent from pitcher to pitcher and team to team.  In other words, when you take away the walks, strikeouts and home runs, pitchers have very little ability to control whether a batted ball will turn into an out or a hit.  The Major League BABIP tends to be around .300 and was .303 last season.  Twenty-three of the thirty teams finished with BABIP within .010 of the league average.  The Brewers team BABIP was .305 - right about average.

There is no measurable ability by individual pitchers to maintain either high or low BABIPs over a number of seasons.  When a pitcher's BABIP is very different from .300, the difference can be mostly attributable to luck - good or bad depending on the direction of the difference.  In 2009, David Bush's BABIP was .320, but was .420 in the second half when he was battling back from an injury.

Another statistic that tends to be fairly consistent from pitcher to pitcher is "strand rate" - or the percentage of base runners allowed who do not score.  The league average is about 75%.  In the second half of last year, Bush's strand rate was only 50%.  Not only were more batted balls off of Bush getting through for hits, but they were doing so in bunches causing his ERA to be much higher than what it should have been given some better luck.

Luck tends to even out over time.  Just because Bush suffered from some incredibly bad luck last year does not mean that he will have good luck in 2010, but it means that the odds are with him in terms of it not being as bad.  Until two starts before hitting the DL, Bush was 3-3 with a 4.58 ERA.  His walk, strikeout and home runs percentages were very near his career norms.  With a shallow starting rotation, at only 30 years old, David Bush is not a pitcher the Brewers should be throwing on the scrap heap.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE

The Brewers have rather clearly netted the biggest gains in the free agent market so far, but two other NL Central foes are on their heels.  Here are the top six so far (ranked by that statistically precise statistic, IMO):

  1. Milwaukee Brewers - SP - Randy Wolf, RP - LaTroy Hawkins, C - Gregg Zaun
  2. Houston Astros - RP - Brandon Lyon, 3B - Pedro Feliz, RP - Gery Majewski
  3. New York Yankees - SP - Andy Pettite
  4. St. Louis Cardinals - SP - Brad Penny
  5. Seattle Mariners - 3B - Chone Figgins, OF - Corey Patterson
  6. Texas Rangers - SP - Rich Harden
With Mike Cameron in discussions with the Cubs, the Pirates already signing Bobby Crosby and the Brewers continuing talks with Craig Counsell, it appears that the whole division is looking to upgrade.

There are still a few unsigned players who would vault whichever team signs them immediately to this list (Matt Holliday, John Lackey, Jason Bay), but it appears that no matter what happens from here, the Brewers will come out in the top five.

UPDATE:  Added Gregg Zaun - oversight.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Since a month ago, when I predicted the Packers wouldn't win more than three games the rest of the season, they've won four in a row.  This is why I don't have a blog about football.

This is a funny headline...

I realize I'm not breaking any new ground by suggesting that college football ought to have a playoff.  I just don't understand how they have gone on for so long without one.

I would set up an eight team playoff with the winners of the five major conferences getting an automatic bid:  Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Big 12, and Pac 10.  I'd give two other spots to winners of other conferences with preference given to undefeated teams.  The final spot would be an at large bid.  The conferences would be free to determine their champion by whichever means they choose.

Under this system, the argument that a playoff would make regular season games less significant would hold no water.  All late, significant regular season games are conference games so they would be extremely important in terms of who gets into the playoff and who doesn't.  Early in the season, good teams would be more comfortable playing each other because those games don't count toward a conference championship.  Teams would want to face good competition to tune up for the conference schedule.

The teams that would make this tournament this year would be:

  1. Alabama, SEC, 13-0, #1 AP
  2. Texas, Big 12, 13-0, #2
  3. TCU, Mountain West, 12-0, #3
  4. Cincinnati, Big East, 12-0, #4
  5. Boise State, WAC, 13-0, #6
  6. Oregon, Pac Ten, 10-2, #7
  7. Ohio State, Big Ten, 10-2, #8
  8. Georgia Tech, ACC, 11-2, #9
In a different year, with fewer undefeated teams, Florida would have gotten in as the at-large.

You can seed the tournament however you'd like - a 1 plays 8 would do.  Look at the bracket it would create:



Who wouldn't like that?  Every first round game would feature an undefeated team and one of the games would have two.  The season would end however, with at most one.

PIERRE SOUP

Tom Haudricourt believes that a Jeff Suppan for Juan Pierre trade makes sense.  The Brewers have $14.5 million committed to Suppan - $12.5 million in salary in 2010 and a $2 million buyout at the end of the year.  Pierre will earn $10 million in 2010 and $8.5 million in 2011.

The only way I can see this trade making sense form the Dodgers perspective is if it's straight up - contract for contract.  If the Dodgers would need to give the Brewers money to balance the finances, I don't see why they wouldn't just keep Pierre.  He would seem to have more value than Suppan because there are some situations in which his skills would be beneficial (bunting, pinch running, etc.)  I can't really say the same for Suppan.

OK, so let's say the trade is straight up and the Brewers eat a bigger contract but get a better player.  I still wouldn't do it.  The reason is that with the $4 million they save, the Dodgers would be in a better position to sign a free agent pitcher like Randy Wolf and make the Brewers less able to do so.  I would rather have Wolf and Suppan than Juan Pierre and some $4 million lesser free agent pitcher.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

THE RISE AND FALL OF BILLY HALL

With the signing of Chone Figgins by the Mariners, it leaves you to wonder if Bill Hall even has a chance of making their team.  They have a well stocked outfield and a very capable backup infielder in Jack Hannahan.  They are only on the hook for about $2 million of his 2010 contract (with the Brewers paying the other $7 mill+).  It makes you wonder if the M's will just cut their losses and let him go.

When you look at Hall's career power numbers, it's clear that his 35 home run season in 2006 was an aberration.



I bring this up because in 2006, Bill Hall was the same age that Casey McGehee was in 2009.  I did a similar chart for him a couple of weeks ago, but here it is again:



I'm just saying that we need to be very careful about our future expectations of players when we see things like this.

I think we should have a health insurance model in this country that works exactly like the life insurance model does.

  1. If you purchase a health insurance policy, you should be able to keep it forever.  You should be able to keep it regardless of what job you switch to or what state you move to.
  2. When you buy a health insurance policy the insurance companies should be able to price it based on your current health status, but they should not be allowed to drop you if your health status changes.  A life insurance company can't drop your policy if you all of the sudden contract cancer.  A health insurance company shouldn't be able to either.
  3. Like life insurance, health insurance policies should cover individuals - not families.  A parent's policy could cover children until they turn one year old, but that's it.
Under this model there would be a strong incentive for people to buy health insurance when they are very young.  They would be paying for their future health expenses in their early years.  I don't see what the downside would be.

Friday, December 4, 2009

BREWERS SIGN GREGG ZZZZZZZAUN

This is a cheaper, older version of Jason Kendall, and little more.  He's a switch hitter with very even platoon splits (.732/.730 career OPS).  He's only once played more than 110 games so it's likely that he doesn't whine about playing time like, uh...  This makes it seem that someone like Salome or Lucroy could be eased in over the course of the year, which perhaps makes this signing a positive.  Zaun has only made a little more money in his entire 15-year career (about $15 mil) than Jeff Suppan will make next year ($12.5 mil plus $2 mil buyout at season's end).  Zaun is the nephew of former Orioles catcher, Rick Dempsey.  Net impact - zero.  He makes the team no better or no worse.

Some other blogger pointed out (and I'd mention who if I could remember) that Gregg Zaun's website is sick.  Can't agree more.

ATTENTION!

Deadspin reports that 108 players received medical exemptions last year due to their alleged suffering of ADHD.  That would put the rate of the disorder among ballplayers more than five times that of other adults.  If anyone thinks that the era of performance enhancing drugs is over, your head is in the sand.

I was driving through one of the worst blizzards I've ever seen yesterday near Whitewater.  It was so bad that I was going to pull over to the side of the road to wait for it to let up - except I couldn't figure out where the side of the road was.  By the time I got up here to Germantown - nothing.  It seems that the WI-IL border has been a magnet for snowstorms the past few years.  I'm happy about that.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

HUNGRY FOR THE WOLF

Tom Haudricourt says in his blog that there is a rumor on the street that the Brewers have agreed to a 3-year deal with Randy Wolf.  I'd like to go on the record (in my continuing distancing of myself from all of the Doug Melvin haters) and say that I think this would be an outstanding signing.  In fact, I would rather have Randy Wolf than John Lackey for the same price.

Wolf was 7th in the Majors last year in Real Quality Starts with 11.  The whole Brewers team had 20.  His money stats have been on the incline for the past four seasons, unlike Lackey's who are moving in the opposite direction.  Signing Randy Wolf would make the Brewers starting rotation 50% better than it is right now.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

There are a trillion Tiger Woods jokes on the net.  Only a few made me chuckle...

Why does Tiger like Cadillacs?
Because he got a hole in one on his drive.

Why did Elin hit Tiger with a 5-iron?
Because someone else was playing a round with his putter.

What do Tiger Woods and baby seals have in common?
Both have been clubbed by a Norwegian.

WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS A FAILURE TO ARBITRATE

The Brewers are not offering salary arbitration to Mike Cameron, Jason Kendall, Felipe Lopez, Braden Looper, and David Weathers.  There are a lot of angry comments around the blog world - especially about Lopez who many think could have played a key role.  You know what I think?  So what...?

I'm always amazed at this time of year (and other times, but this time especially) how people pay so much attention to what are marginal, replaceable players.  This group of players wasn't going to make a difference of more than 1 or 2 games at most next year - and maybe not even in the positive direction.

The players who are going to determine the success or failure of the Brewers in 2010 are Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Alcides Escobar, Rickie Weeks, Yovanni Gallardo, Manny Parra, Trevor Hoffman, and the top free agent starting pitcher they sign.  The rest are mainly interchangeable parts.  I hate to be so blunt, but it's true.  No team ever won a championship because of their utility infielder.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

BEST SEASON EVER

In his discussion last week about his own personal National League MVP ballot, Tom Haudricourt proclaimed of Prince Fielder's 2009 season, "You could make a case that it was the best across-the-board season in franchise history."  Really?

When I read things like this my immediate inclination is to start crunching numbers and see if he's right.  When you do that it's hard to deny that Fielder's season should be very near if not at the top of the list.  He shattered the team record with 141 RBI, and his 46 home runs were topped only by his own lofty 50 in 2007.  In scrolling down the Baseball Reference leader board, he set franchise records for OPS, Games Played (tie), Walks, Runs Created, Adjusted OPS+, Adjusted Batting Runs, and Adjusted Batting Wins.  Thank God for statisticians - or stats adjusters; I don't know which.

But this time I'm going to use a different tool.  I have the fortune of my own personal memory.  A few days before my 9th birthday, the Seattle Pilots were declared bankrupt, and a few days after that the Milwaukee Brewers played their first game in County Stadium. losing to the California Angels 12-0.  My favorite players that year were Tommy Harper, Mike Hegan, Danny Walton and Phil Roof.  If I can remember Phil Roof, surely I ought to be able to put together a list of the best individual seasons ever by a Brewer.  So here goes...

10.  Cecil Cooper, 1980

It's hard to pick out Cecil Cooper's best season but I had to put him on this list because he was my favorite Brewer ever to watch.  1980 was probably his best when he hit .352 and drove in 122.  He would have won a batting title that year were it not the year George Brett flirted with .400.  In his career, Cooper was a 5-time All Star.  He received MVP votes in five different seasons.  He won three Silver Slugger Awards, two Gold Gloves, and won the Roberto Clemente Award.  Yet in 1992, when he was eligible for the Hall of Fame voting for the first time, he didn't get a single vote.  Not one.  I have always considered that a travesty and often wondered if there was ever another Major League player so decorated for whom the same thing was true.

9.  Mike Caldwell, 1978

23 complete games.  Think about that.  Six of them shutouts.  The entire Brewers team hasn't had 23 complete games in the past four years combined.  The stat is somewhat a reflection of the times, but in 1978, when Iron Mike took the mound, the bullpen typically got the day off.  Caldwell finished 22-9 with a 2.36 ERA, propelling the Brewers to their first ever winning season.  He shut out the AL East rival New York Yankees three times.  His 293 innings is an unheard of total by today's standards.  Only one other pitcher has 20+ complete games and 20+ wins in a season since Caldwell did it in 1978 - Phil Niekro in '79.

8.  Gorman Thomas, 1979

The original Bambi's Bomber.  In 1979, Gorman Thomas hit 6 home runs in 7 games in late April and went on to obliterated George Scott's team record 36 homers by blasting 45, giving the Brewers their second ever league home run champ.  He also obliterated his own team record of 133 strikeouts, whiffing 175 times. His blue-collar style of play resonated with Brewers fans like no player had before.

7. Robin Yount, 1989

You can't leave an MVP season off of a list like this, can you?  Yount won his second MVP in 1989 by default in a split decision.  Four other players received at least three first place votes each.  1989 was the last season that Yount hit 20 home runs.  The last he had 100 RBI.  The last he batted .300.  Three years later he got his 3,000th hit.  A year after that he was gone.

6.  Ryan Braun, 2007

Clearly the best rookie season ever by a Brewer.  His .634 slugging percentage is a team record.  Projected out to a full season, he would have hit 49 home runs.  Braun started 112 games at third base for the Brewers in 2007.  I suspect that will wind up being his career total.

5. Don Sutton, 1982 and CC Sabathia, 2008

OK, this is cheating a little.  This is really CC's spot in the order.  But Don Sutton showed old Brewers fans that trading for Sabathia in 2008 could be a very good thing.  Sutton was traded to the Brewers on August 30 and was 4-1 in his seven starts.  He got the ball on the final day of the season needing a win to clinch the division and held the potent Baltimore Orioles to just two runs.  Sabathia joined the team in early July and was 9-0 before finally losing on September 16th.  Asked to pitch 7 complete games in their playoff chase, the Brewers used Sabathia like a rented mule.  It turns out he was.  Sadly, Sabathia got shelled in his only playoff appearance for The Crew and they never had a prayer against the dominant Phillies.

4.  Prince Fielder, 2009

Based on statistics alone, Haudricourt is right - Prince Fielder's 2009 season was the best ever by a Brewer. Only a few of things keep this season from ranking higher - the success of the team or lack thereof, the fact that there is (arguably) a better first baseman in his same league, and the knowledge that Fielder's 2009 season may not be the best he's got.  This is a special player. We all sense that there may be better seasons to come.  He'll get another shot at this list.  I'll never forget that home run celebration against the Giants.  I've always said that the single most memorable moment in Brewers history was Cecil Cooper's base hit in Game 5 of the 1982 playoffs driving in Jimmy Gantner and Charlie Moore with the eventual winning runs.  Prince's 12th-inning, game winning blast on September 6th may be number two.

3. Rollie Fingers, 1981

Oddly, Rollie Fingers never saved 30 games in a season for the Brewers.  But had a strike not stolen two months of the 1981 baseball season, he would easily have topped 40.  With apologies to "The Bulldog" and "Skeeter", Fingers was the first dominant closer the Brewers ever had.  He won both the Cy Young and MVP Awards in 1981 becoming the first relief pitcher to ever do so.  Fingers struck out Lou Whitaker for the final out of the Brewers first playoff clinching game and embraced Ted Simmons in front of the mound.  It was the first time Brewers fans had witnessed such jubilation by players from our home team.

2.  Paul Molitor, 1987

Nothing captivates the imagination of a baseball fan like a streak.  The Brewers started the 1987 season 13-0.  On July 16th, his first day back off the DL, Molitor doubled in the bottom of the second inning and began what stands as the fifth-longest hitting streak in modern baseball history at 39-games and the longest since Pete Rose's 44-game streak in 1978.  On August 26, when Rick Manning hit a game winning single in the bottom of the 12th inning with Molitor on deck, ending the streak, I had never heard the home fans boo a player who had just won a game.  I doubt I ever will again.  Molitor finished the season with a .353 batting average - a team record that still stands.

1.  Robin Yount, 1982

In 1982, we all "grew up" as baseball fans in Milwaukee.  We had tasted the playoffs for the first time a year earlier and came into the season as a favorite to win the pennant.  Our wives and girlfriends knew all of the players' names, our grandparents stopped calling the Brewers "the Braves", and "The Kid" was no longer a kid - he was a superstar; the first Milwaukee Brewer to win an MVP.  In a land of rainbows and unicorns, Yount would have hit one more home run in that division clinching 10-2 drubbing of the Orioles on the last day of the season, to finish with 30 instead of 29.  With his one extra hit he would have won the AL batting title instead of Willie Wilson.  And the Brewers would have won the World Series instead of the Cardinals.  But this isn't Utopia.  It's Milwaukee.  But I like it all the same and remember these players and these seasons as the best I've ever seen.

Friday, November 27, 2009

On Amazon.com right now, many music CDs (the actual physical CDs in a case) are cheaper than the MP3 downloads of the same music.  That makes no sense to me at all.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

SWINGING FOR THE FENCES, AND SWINGING, AND SWINGING

Major League Baseball set a rather dubious record in 2009. For the second consecutive year and the third time ever, the percentage of plate appearances resulting in a home run or strikeout topped 20%, continuing a pattern that started in the 1920's and shows no sign of slowing down.


So what?  Well these are the two outcomes - the only two - which involve no defense or base running; the things that purists claim make the game unique.  That makes for long, boring games.  You have to worry for the long term success of the game if it devolves into the game of "strikeout" we used to play as kids, while the fielders just stand there and watch.

Bill James writes about this in greater detail on his website and offers some ideas for correcting it.  The site is well worth the $3/month subscription fee.

Monday, November 23, 2009

HAPPY FOR CAPPY

Chris Capuano, who is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, was signed to a minor league deal by the Brewers today in what was a nice but probably meaningless move.

Wikipedia lists 132 Major League pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery.  Do you know which one of them has the most career wins?  You ready?  Here it comes - it's Tommy John.  Don't you find that just a little bit odd?  You'd think that one of the 131 pitchers after him would have topped his total.  John had 288 career wins - 26th all time.  By my count David Wells is next with 239 (56th), then Kenny Rogers with 219 (76th), John Smoltz 213 (88th), and Jimmy Key 186 (145th).

The point here is that Timmy John racked up an impressive win total because of the surgery, not despite it.  It hasn't had that same affect though on very many others.  While the surgery has allowed a lot of pitchers to come back and pitch at all, the list who have been effective reads more like a who's who of has-beens and unfulfilled promises.  Unfortunately Capuano will fit well on the list.

Where would you put the over/under on career Major League wins for Cappy from this point forward?  I'd put it at one.

Can you spell "publicity stunt"? I knew you could.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My wife bought a box of Sudifed yesterday and was irate that she had to let them record her driver's license number and wait ten minutes to be put into some databse to do so. Because 0.01% of the population makes hallucinogens out of an otherwise useful product, the other 99.99% of us have to be hassled when we buy it. Yet when we catch one of these 0.01%, we slap them on the wrist and give them 3 months probation. Government has run completely amok.

TEAM RQS

About a week ago I introduced Real Quality Starts - those in which a starting pitcher allows fewer hits plus walks than innings pitched. Here are the rankings of all Major League teams in RQS in 2009:

Team
RQS
League
Chi White Sox
43
AL
San Francisco
42
NL
Tampa Bay
42
AL
Seattle
40
AL
Atlanta
38
NL
Boston
38
AL
LA Angels
38
AL
Florida
36
NL
NY Yankees
36
AL
LA Dodgers
35
NL
Colorado
34
NL
Texas
34
AL
NY Mets
32
NL
Philadelphia
32
NL
San Diego
32
NL
Detroit
31
AL
Arizona
30
NL
St. Louis
30
NL
Chi Cubs
29
NL
Kansas City
29
AL
Houston
28
NL
Cincinnati
27
NL
Minnesota
27
AL
Washington
26
NL
Oakland
25
AL
Pittsburgh
25
NL
Cleveland
23
AL
Baltimore
22
AL
Milwaukee
21
NL
Toronto
21
AL

A pretty sad situation for the Brewers.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

BIG BLUE MACHINE

I just finished Joe Posnanski's outstanding book "The Machine" which tells the story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds. If you are old enough to have been around back then, it's a wonderful reminiscence, and if not it's an excellent look at how baseball used to be.

Sparky Anderson managed the Reds in '75. When he was hired as the Reds' manager in 1970, he was only 35 years old despite his hair being stark white. I guess that's why he never seemed to age.

Anyway, Anderson's philosophy of managing a ballclub was that you had your superstars and your 'turds' (that's what he called them.) On the Reds, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan were the superstars and everyone else were turds. The superstars were the team. They got all of the glory. Everything revolved around them. The turds were the pieces needed to create an environment in which the superstars could shine. They were the stage and the props. The superstars were the actors.

I've always agreed with this philosophy of building a team. I think the most important aspect of a team is how good your best player is. The next most important aspect is how good your next best player is. And it follows in order from there. That's a point that gets lost in a lot of discussions about how teams need to tinker to fill holes, or who the utility infielder should be. That stuff doesn't much matter. The superstars matter.

The Brewers right now have two superstars - Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. By almost any measure, they are two of the top ten hitters in baseball. The notion that we should trade one of them away to fill other holes on the team seem preposterous to me.

Fielder is probably the better of the two but not by much. If you trade Fielder you only take a small hit on the quality of your best player. But you take a huge hit on the quality of your second best player - and your third, and your fourth. And for what? To make your 8th, 9th or 10th best players better? That makes no sense to me at all. Teams should try to accumulate players like Fielder and Braun, not trade them away.

Granted the Brewers only control Fielder for two more years and at some point the economic realities of the game set in. However they've got two full years to worry about that. Fielder and Braun are at their peaks right now. They are the players who can win you a championship. If your philosophy is to trade one of them away for some other team's turds - well, you know what you'll wind up with a pile of.

Sports Illustrated has predicted their 65-team NCAA Men's Basketball bracket. There are no Wisconsin teams among them. If that happens, it will be the first time since 1998.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

JARROD WASHEDUP

Jarrod Washburn says the Brewers are on his radar screen. It's a sad state of affairs when signing someone like a 35-year old, gimpy knee'd Washburn makes your rotation better. Washburn has never in his career had a full-season ERA higher than Manny Parra's, Dave Bush's, or Jeff Suppan's ERA last year.

Isn't this starting to remind you of Brett Favre?

This is a glimpse into government run health care. They will way more often tell us what procedures we don't need than which ones we do.

Monday, November 16, 2009

MIGHTY CASEY

Casey McGehee finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting today. He was obviously a long shot to win. He did get one first place vote - I assume from the Milwaukee writer. All in all, I think he finished about where he should have.

Something bothers me though about Casey McGehee. Here is a guy who spent 7 years in the Cubs' minor league system, clawing his way up, a half a level at a time, with nothing more than a 25 at-bat joe to show for it. The Cubs finally say 'enough'. The Brewers pluck him off the scrap heap and POW - he's one of the top rookies in the league. How does that happen? How does a 26-year old career minor leaguer whose original team has given up on, all of the sudden, out of nowhere, when he finally gets to the Major Leagues, put up power numbers that are double anything he's ever done before at any level in professional baseball in a career that covers over 3,800 plate appearances?

I'm not saying what you're thinking. I'm not even insinuating that. I'm just asking the question. How does that happen?

And I'm asking another question. Has Casey McGehee done enough to warrant handing him the third base job in 2010 and turning our best third base prospect into trade bait? I don't think so. I'm not comfortable with that.

Here's the same chart for Mat Gamel:

All I'm saying is that looks a little more normal to me. I'd expect Gamel to be much more likely to maintain or even improve his offensive production than I would McGehee. Unless of course whatever happened in 2009 keeps happening in 2010. Whatever that is.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Would you feel safer if jailed terrorists were held in Cuba, or about 200 miles from Milwaukee?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I have just witnessed the most amazing NBA game I've seen in at least 10 years. I tuned the Bucks game in at the end of the first quarter and still saw all 55 of Brandon Jennings points - 29 in the third quarter.

What Jennings did tonight is not something that average players do - even on a fluke - and certainly not something that 20 year old rookies do. He is a special player and this was a special night.

REAL QUALITY STARTS

Not that baseball needs another new statistic...

A Quality Start (QS) is credited to a starting pitcher who pitches at least 6 innings and allows 3 or fewer earned runs. There were 2,344 quality starts in the Major Leagues in 2009. A full 49% of all games started were credited as quality starts.

It would seem that for an event to be called "quality", it ought to happen quite a bit less than half of the time. This would be like calling a quality at bat anytime you got a hit, a walk, or hit the ball hard. There is some truth to that, but what is real quality?

I came up with a new, as easy to compute statistic which I call a Real Quality Start (RQS). To get an RQS, a pitcher must allow fewer base runners than innings pitched. Simple. In a mathematical formula it's equally simple:

(H + BB) < IP

There were 946 Real Quality Starts in the majors last season - only 20% of all games started. Comparing the two stats side-by-side, you can see that RQS is a much more stringent test of true quality:

QS RQS
Number 2344 946
% all starts 49% 20%
W (by SP) 1293 631
L (by SP) 389 86
W/L Pct. 0.769 0.880
ERA 2.04 1.40

The Major League leaders in RQS last season were:

Pitcher Team RQS
Tim Lincecum SF 15
Dan Haren Ari 14
Javier Vazquez Atl 13
Chris Carpenter StL 12
CC Sabathia NYY 12
Jon Lester Bos 12
Randy Wolf (FA)
LAD 11
Josh Johnson Fla 11
Jered Weaver LAA 11
Ricky Nolasco Fla 11
Ted Lilly ChC 10
Josh Beckett Bos 10
Bronson Arroyo Cin 10
Edwin Jackson Det 10
Zack Greinke KC 10
Felix Hernandez Sea 10
Wandy Rodriguez Hou 10
Carl Pavano (FA)
Cle 9
Roy Halladay Tor 9
Barry Zito SF 9
Mark Buehrle ChW 9
Kevin Correia SD 9
Gavin Floyd ChW 9
Justin Verlander Det 9
Scott Feldman Tex 9
Clayton Kershaw LAD 9
Jarrod Washburn (FA)
Sea 8
Johan Santana NYM 8
Joel Pineiro StL 8
Rich Harden (FA)
ChC 8
Scott Kazmir TB 8
Scott Baker Min 8
Jason Hammel Col 8
John Danks ChW 8
Matt Garza TB 8
J.A. Happ Phi 8
John Lannan Was 8
Jair Jurrjens Atl 8
Kevin Millwood Tex 7
Jason Marquis (FA)
Col 7
John Lackey (FA)
LAA 7
Cliff Lee Cle 7
Jorge De La Rosa Col 7
Matt Cain SF 7
Cole Hamels Phi 7
Joe Saunders LAA 7
Chad Billingsley LAD 7
James Shields TB 7
Jeff Niemann TB 7
Luke Hochevar KC 7
Ross Ohlendorf Pit 7
Clayton Richard ChW 7
Trevor Cahill Oak 7

Noticeably absent from this list are any Milwaukee Brewers - and noticeably present are a number of free agent who the Brewers are rumored to have some interest in. Look how far down the list John Lackey is - and how many other free agents are above him. The more of this stuff I see, the more I think Lackey is going to be a Suppan-esque albatross for whoever signs him.

I was a little surprised that the Brewers declined Bradon Looper's option. Looper actually tied for second on the team with 4 RQS:

Gallardo 6
Looper 4
Bush 4
Parra 2
Suppan 2
Burns 1
Narveson 1

What that chart really shows though is just how pitiful the Brewers' pitching was in 2009.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

THE KING OF 'POP'


(click picture for more)


This has absolutely nothing to do with anything, but why would a contraption like this have a seat belt? It seems to me that the worst thing that could happen is you'd tip over. If you did, I'd think the last thing you'd want to to be strapped to it.

I know they've only played 6 games, but many of the national sports outlets picked the Bucks to be the worst team in the NBA. Their 4-2 start - without Michael Redd - has really come out of nowhere. I watched a good portion of the game last night - this after a couple of weeks ago thinking that I wouldn't watch a single game all year.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

FOOLS GOLD

No Gold Glove Awards again for the Brewers. Did you expect any? Do you remember the last one? It was Robin Yount in 1982. 151 different players have won a total of 479 Gold Glove Awards since then. Bret Boone has been retired for three years. He hasn't played a full season for five years. Before that, he won 3 Gold Glove Awards. The last year a Brewers won a Gold Glove Award, Bret Boone's dad did too. Greg Maddux holds the career record with 18 Gold Glove Awards. Maddux played his entire career - beginning to end - since the last time a Brewer won a Gold Glove Award. Phil Niekro won a Gold Glove Award the last time a Brewer did. Phil Niekro. Think about that.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

State home sales up 5.8%, first increase since late 2007
Get ready for a flood of what will appear to be (but isn't) encouraging economic news as we start to lap last year's abyss. Keep in mind that anything will look good in comparison.

I must confess that I have contributed many, many times to this environmental hazard.

LACK(EY)ING?

Before anyone gets too excited about the prospects of the Brewers signing John Lackey...

(click image for larger view)

Prayers today for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who revealed that he has a form of blood cancer.

Monday, November 9, 2009

I found myself rooting against the Packers towards the end of yesterday's game. I took a look at their remaining schedule and honestly, I don't see them winning more than 3 more games. If they finish under .500 I think McCarthy and Thompson will be gone - and I think that will be a good thing. The Packers need to bring in people from outside the organization who have no ties whatsoever to Brett Favre it they are ever seriously going to "move on."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

MORE ON GOMEZ

In Gomez' last season in AAA (2007) he had a .363 OBP. He he can reach that level in the Majors, this will wind up being a great trade for the Brewers.

I'm happy that the Brewers are not going to immediately put Gomez in the leadoff spot. There would be a temptation to do so just because of his speed. I wonder whose decision that was though. It should be Macha's, but I don't think is was. Back to my first point about Gomez OBP, I think about .350 or so would be the threshold for moving him up to the leadoff spot and batting Weeks second. I wonder if Gomez will bat 9th with the pitch 8th. He would seem to be the perfect guy to do that with.

Someone (Hartzgung) in a JSOnline comment compared J.J. Hardy to Khalil Greene

Greene
2007:
.254 BA, .291 OBP, .468 SLG, 27 HR, 97 RBI, $2.25 MM
2008:
.213 BA, .260 OBP, .339 SLG, 10 HR, 35 RBI, $4.5 MM
2009:
.200 BA, .272 OBP, .347 SLG, 6 HR, 24 RBI, $6.5 MM

Hardy
2007:
.277 BA, .323 OBP, .463 SLG, 26 HR, 80 RBI, $400K
2008:
.283 BA, .343 OBP, .478 SLG, 24 HR, 74 RBI, $2.65 MM
2009:
.229 BA, .302 OBP, .357 SLG, 11 HR, 47 RBI, $4.65 MM

It's an excellent comparison which I think extends beyond just the statistics. I'm not saying that J.J. Hardy is going to have the same type of emotional problems that Greene had. I'm just saying that their personalities and demeanors are not all that dissimilar.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

WHO IS CARLOS GOMEZ?

A friend of mine asked me that last night. I think the best answer is that we don't yet know who Carlos Gomez is. He's 23 years old, and from all indications he's still a young 23. There are a lot of 23 year old ball players who we don't know who turn into very good major leaguers.

I think the part of this trade that we don't know yet - that we need to know in order to properly evaluate it - is what Doug Melvin is going to do with the money he saved by dumping Hardy and Cameron. When we know that, this trade might look on balance to be a very good deal for the Brewers.

A few Melvin quotes that I like:

"His defense will serve as a key component to us improving our pitching."

"My thinking is that guys with speed develop later. Look at some of the players from years ago: Otis Nixon, Lance Johnson, Tom Goodwin. Even Shane Victorino [of the Phillies] and Michael Bourn [of the Astros], two guys that are in the big leagues and play a good center field. They were 25, 26 before they made their big jump in the big leagues."

Melvin said the Brewers were planning to keep second baseman Rickie Weeks in the leadoff hole and would try to hone Gomez's offensive potential in another spot.


Those are things that you hear a good Major League GM say and not things that fans say about their fantasy teams. There's a huge difference.

As for J.J. Hardy - I don't think this is a huge loss and I think the Brewers got as much for him as they could. Remember, he was playing so poorly last season that the Brewers sent him down to the minors. Put yourself in some other teams' shoes. That doesn't look like a very attractive fish to land in a trade. Had the Brewers not weaseled another year of arbitration out of him by sending him down, I really don't think they would have gotten anything for him.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I'll be Back

I know it's been almost six months, but I was never really gone. Just got busy and fell out of the habit of writing. After the Yankees victory parade tomorrow I'll get back at it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lost for Weeks

I've been trying to estimate in my head the impact of losing Rickie Weeks for the rest of the season. Spinning around the radio dial yesterday I heard the words "horrible" and "devastating loss." Clearly, losing Weeks is not good news for the Brewers. He was having an All-Star season and his improved play has obviously played a part in the Brewers success. On the other hand, losing Weeks does not all of the sudden turn the Brewers into the Washington Nationals. So what is the impact really?

I know there are formulas that turn every last statistic into wins and losses, and one could use those to calculate how many wins Rickie would generate over a replacement level player. That's not what I'm trying to do. I am trying to figure it out using only logic and common sense - sort of a cocktail napkin calculation. Suppose then that to start the discussion you say that losing Rickie Weeks will cost the Brewers five games in the standings this year. Is that a fair estimate?

Suppose that with a healthy and productive Rickie Weeks, the Brewers are a 90-win team. Suppose also that the Washington Nationals are a 60-win team. Forget for now that the Nationals have Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn. Let's just think for them as a team of replacement level players, because even with Zimmerman and Dunn, that's basically what they are. That means that with a healthy and productive Weeks, the Brewers are 30 games better than the Nationals. To whom then do you attribute those 30 wins?

Well, if you say that Weeks is worth five, don't you have to say that Braun and Fielder are worth at least seven each? Trevor Hoffman and Yovanni Gallardo would also have to be worth seven. Right there with those five players we're up to 33 wins - without giving any credit at all to anyone else. It's safe to say then that the impact of losing Rickie Weeks is something less than five games in the standings. It's probably less than four because you run into the same math problems with that number too. In the end, I think three would be a good guess - that Rickie Weeks represents about one-tenth of the difference between the Brewers and the Washington Nationals.

I think we tend to overestimate the impact of any one player on a team. We look at the Brewers' record since Trevor Hoffman is off the DL and attribute all of that success to him. While some of it is, there have been a lot of other things happening May that weren't happening in April. It's not all Trevor Hoffman. Neither has it been all Rickie Weeks.

Now, the three games that the Brewers lose with Weeks may well mean the difference between making the playoffs or not. But with Weeks out, maybe Mat Gamel will come along and chip in a win or two. Maybe Manny Parra will chip in one. And of course maybe a lot of other bad things could happen too. The point is that if the Brewers fail to make the playoffs this year it will not be only because they lost Ricke Weeks.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

30:30 Vision

Over the off-season I argued that the Brewers had a reasonable chance to become the 12th team in Major League history to have four 30-home run hitters. After shooting my mouth off like that, I'm obviously going track it and point out the accuracy of my prediction at the most opportune times. Tonight is one of those times. The Brewers currently have four players who are on a 30 home run pace - Braun (39), Weeks (39), Fielder (34), and Cameron (34). J.J. Hardy (25) is just a tad off the pace. Corey Hart (15) and Bill Hall (15) could get back in the game with just a couple of long balls.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Defense Rests

In Saturday night's Brewers-Cubs game, there were 40 walks plus strikeouts - 20 on each side. Going back to 1970, I can only find five 9-inning games with more than that:

7/10/1997, Philadelphia at Florida - 45
5/4/1975, Houston at San Francisco - 43
4/17/1986, Texas at Milwaukee - 42
9/10/1998, St. Louis at Cincinnati - 41
9/18/1995, Florida at Philadelphia - 41

There were four other games with 40.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Halled Away

Before tonight's game even starts. I'd like to go on the record to say that I don't agree with the switch of Bill Hall to left field. Just based on observation, it seems that Hall has saved a bunch of runs this year with his glove. This move, to me, weakens them defensively more than they would be hurt offensively by playing Duffy, a rather good fielder, in left. I hope the game isn't decided by a ground ball down the third base line that Bill Hall kicks around in the corner.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Substitutes

I've noticed something a tiny bit odd about Ken Macha's lineup selection. So far this year, not counting Mike Rivera playing in place of Jason Kendall, on eight occasions Macha has sat one of the regular starters (Hall 2, Cameron 2, Hardy 2, Weeks 1, Hart 1) . Five of those eight times have been in games when Manny Parra is the starting pitcher. That's a bit disproportionate to what you would expect.

I don't know if that's enough yet to call it a trend or if it has any significance. I don't know if it has anything to do with the fact that Parra is 0-4 or that the Brewers are 0-5 when he starts. I was just something I noticed and thought I'd go count. I'll keep any eye on it and see if it continues.

Still Here

I know there are a small handful of people still checking in. I'm still here. I've been busy creating a new online database system for my fantasy baseball league and working on a couple of rather involved baseball research studies, which together have been consuming about 95% of the 12 hours a day I feel I can devote to baseball. The database system is in place and working fine. That should free up a little more time for In-Between Hops.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I Want Barack Obama to Fail

Rush Limbaugh opened a hornet's nets just before the Presidential Inauguration by proclaiming that he wanted Barack Obama to fail. Many in the media took the comments to mean that he wanted the economy to fail and wanted America to fail. Limbaugh reiterated that it was not the case that he wanted the country to fail - only that he wanted Obama to fail in furthering his political agenda. And so they've been bickering back and forth ever since.

I was arguing this very point today with a friend of mine and offered up the following analogy which I think clarifies Limbaugh's position. Suppose that it were reported in the media one day that Doug Melvin were in negotiations with Barry Bonds' agent for him to sign a contract with the Brewers. Some Brewers fan would welcome the news with open arms. Afterall, these are the Brewers, this is Doug Melvin, they have drunk the Kool-Aid and agree with anything that Doug Melvin and the Brewers do just because they are Doug Melvin and the Brewers. They never question. Never second guess. It's a violation of their fan-hood to disagree with anything the Brewers do.

You on the other hand, are a thinking fan. You feel that signing Bonds would be ruinous to the Brewers. You feel he would be a distraction, a disruption, and isn't that good of a ballplayer anymore. He would take playing time away from a younger, developing player and cause disharmony in the clubhouse.

So, do you want Doug Melvin to fail?

Yes. You want him to fail in his attempt to sign Bonds. But that doesn't mean that you necessarily want other things he attempts to fail (unless he's thinking of signing Roger Clemens too.) It certainly doesn't mean that you want the Brewers team or organization to fail. To say that you want Doug Melvin to fail does not mean you are no longer a fan of the Brewers. Quite the opposite. You recognize that there is a distinct difference between wishing for an entity to succeed and wishing for the person running that entity to get whatever he wants. You also have enough conviction to not sit idly by while someone is flushing an organization you love down the sewer under the guise of leadership.

Isn't baseball great? It casts light on everything.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A-Roid

I need to give credit to poster Chris at Bill James online for this suggestion, but it's a great point.

Bud Selig is clearly very upset about Alex Rodriguez' admitting steroid use. So much so that he suggested considering reinstating Hank Aaron as the home run champ. Why now and not two years ago when Bonds broke the record? You see, A-Rod held a very important card in Bud Selig's legacy. He was ultimately going to be the solution to the conundrum of Barry Bonds. Bonds as home run champ does not sit right with anyone. But Rodriguez was quickly approaching and likely would have passed Bonds' mark in a few years. Had he been 'clean' that would have, in an odd way, exonerated Selig for the whole steroid mess. Now, no matter what, Selig will go to his grave with a steroid user as the home run champ - the record that the man in baseball he admired most once held. Pretty heavy stuff.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Macha vs. Kendall - Round 2

Back when Ken Macha was hired, I commented that I had a negative initial reaction because of an apparent history of bad blood between him and his players. One of the players from whom he took a verbal right hook was Jason Kendall.

"I don't want Billy to take heat for this [Macha's firing] because this is what needed to happen''
Well, now Macha has not so elegantly informed Jason Kendall, via the media, that his playing time is going to be cut this year.
“That would keep Jason fresh so that when we get to crunch time, he’s got some gas left,” said Macha. “I could see him getting at least one day off a week. He’s not going to be happy about it. That’s just too bad.”
"That's just too bad."?!?!? No word from Kendall yet. We'll see if he swings back.

I'm telling you, I don't like it. There are a lot of pouters on this team. A manager who's this cold to the players has got to be enough of an a-hole to back it up and Macha doesn't seem to be. I'm worried this isn't going to work.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Buy Low

It would seem that right now would be the ideal time for the Brewers to sign Ben Sheets. Crazy? Think it through. With Sheets unable to pitch, the Brewers hold all of the cards. If any other team signs him, even to a multi-year deal, they will give up draft picks before he even throws a pitch. Nobody is going to do that. The Brewers obviously wouldn't give up picks by signing him so they have least to lose.

Suppose they sign Sheets now for a 2-year deal - maybe $2M this year and an incentive laden deal for 2010. They would settle the dispute over who pays for his surgery and avoid any PR fallout. They would potentially have him back for a pennant run in September and they would have him under contract in 2010, when they could either trade him or earn back the free agent draft picks. Sure, it's a roll of the dice, but it has a big upside.

Who knows - maybe they could bring him back next year as the closer. That might be a role better suited for his fragile body.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Solving the SP Shortage

Last season the Brewers went into spring training with eight pitchers considered contenders for the starting rotation. The talk was all about who makes it and with whom you must part ways. Times were good.

This year all the talk is about whether the Brewers can afford to sign another starter. Or more accurately, whether they can afford not to. They go into the season with only two true veteran starters and one of those two on the fringe of acceptability. The fifth starter, Seth McClung, really isn't a starter and really never was. The top two in the rotation are very young and very susceptible to being overworked. It is becoming apparent that the payroll will not support another MLB caliber pitcher. What's a team to do?

The In-Between Hops Plan:

  1. A four man rotation: Gallardo, Parra, Bush, and Suppan
  2. Limit the starters to 5 IP per start - no exceptions
  3. Pick 3 relievers - Villanueva, McClung, and Riske would probably do - to pitch three inning stints - the 6th through 8th innings of every game - on a regular rotation
  4. A closer for the 9th - Hoffman
  5. Four or five extra relievers for various miscellaneous and mop-up roles
Let me pick this apart. Item 1: Any four-man rotation looks better on paper than the same four guys and a marginal fifth starter.

Item 2: They key to avoiding overwork - and this is key - would be to limit the starters to five innings per start; no if's, and's or but's. You take them out even if they're throwing a no-hitter. This is about the season; not about a single game. They're probably going to give up a hit next inning anyway. You get them out of the game while there's still some gas in the tank rather than wait until they run dry. You do it with your car. You do it with your starting pitchers. It will make for a shorter recovery period for their next start in four days.

There are 162 games in a season. Suppose that in two of those games, because of double headers or whatever, you use a spot starter. That leaves 160 games, divided four ways - 40 starts each. With a strict five inning limit, the cap on the number of innings from any starter would be 200. Most likely it would be less because they won't always make it to the fifth, will miss a start here or there, or the schedule dictates that you use a spot starter more than twice. That brings them all in around 180 innings; probably a decent workload.

The starters will still get most of their wins - (valuable things to have when salary negotiation time come around) - because they are pitching through the fifth inning. The couple they'd lose by leaving games early would be made up for by the eight extra starts each would get.

Item 3: This strategy would create a new role for three relievers. They would each pitch (or hope to pitch) a three inning stint every third day on a regular rotating schedule. They would know which days they are pitching and could prepare for the games both mentally and physically in much the same way a starter would. Because they would each only pitch in one game of a three-game series, the opposition would not have the luxury of seeing them twice. (And in fact, would have to scout and prepare for seeing a significant number of innings from six different pitchers, not just three.) Three innings every third day works out to 162 innings on the season at most. Probably 120-130 would be realistic. Seth McClung and Carlos Villanueva seem fully suited for a role like this. This role could also be used as a transition to and from the starting rotation or to and from the bottom of the bullpen. I'm thinking Chris Capuano here. Jeff Suppan if he struggles. Mitch Stetter if he pitches well.

Item 4: No change in the closer's role. You still have Hoffman for the ninth.

Item 5: These are your mop up guys. You bring them in in the 4th or 5th if the starter struggles, in the 7th or 8th if the middle relievers struggle, or at the end of the game to clean up a mess.

The beauty of this plan is that every pitcher on the staff would have a clearly defined role. You would have an automatic system to limit Gallardo's and Parra's innings, yet get eight extra starts out of each of them. The workloads of the relievers would be spaced out much more evenly over the course of the season. You would have three pitchers at the ready to jump into the starter's role if needed with very little change in preparation or workload, and four pitchers at the ready to jump into one of the middle relief roles. There would be a lot less throwing up in the bullpen (old Jerry Coleman joke). With clearly defined roles, there would be very few wasted warm-ups. The games would go faster with fewer pitching changes. Finally there's economics. An extra middle reliever to fill the spot opposite McClung and Villanueva would costs much less than an extra starter. Everybody wins.

 
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