Friday, January 23, 2009

A Case For 30-30-30-30-(30?)

Eleven teams in the history of baseball have had four 30 home run hitters in a season. The first were the 1977 LA Dodgers when Steve Garvey (33), Reggie Smith (32), Roy Cey (30) and Dusty Baker (30) all hit the once magic number. The other ten times have occurred since 1995, with the 2006 Chicago White Sox (Jermaine Dye 44, Jim Thome 42, Paul Konnerko 35, and Joe Crede 30) being the most recent. The Colorado Rockies account for four of those times when in 1995, 96, 97 and 99, four of their players reached the 30 home run mark.

The 2009 Brewers have a chance to add their name to that list.

THE GIMME'S

Fine. You can never just assume that any play is going to hit 30 home runs, but Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder are about as close as you come. They each turn 25 in May and are clearly on the uphill parts of their careers. Both hitting 40 home runs seems much more likely than either one of them falling short of 30.

PLAUSIBLE

J.J. Hardy hit 24 last year and 26 the year before. At 26 years old he should be entering his most productive seasons. Padding last year's number seems more likely than not.

Mike Cameron hit 25 home runs in 120 games last season. That's a 30 home run pace. He reached 30 with the Mets in 2004 and twice got into the 20's in his two seasons before joining The Crew in a very tough park in San Diego. In a full season in Miller Park, it's not unthinkable that he could toy with 30.

POTENTIAL

Corey Hart had 14 home runs at the mid-way point of last season. He tailed off misserably and memorably at the end of the year, but at 27 years old should also have some bounce back in his numbers. Between the last half of 2007 and the first half of 2008 he hit 28 round trippers. It's not unthinkable that he could put together two solid halfs. (In his career, Hart has hit almost a third of his home runs in the month of June.)

So there's five. You want another? Add Rickie Weeks. He still has too much potential to think he could never do it. Also remember that Bill Hall is only two seasons removed from a 35 home run campaign.

If you assume the following probabilities of each of the Brewers' hitters reaching 30 or more home runs in the 2009 season:

Fielder - 80%
Braun - 80%
Hardy - 50%
Cameron - 40%
Hart - 25%
Weeks - 15%
Hall - 5%

then there is (according to a mathematical model I created) a 30% chance that the Brewers will have four 30 home run hitters, and a 7% chance that they will break the Major League record with five.

In researching this, I discovered that the Florida Marlins are also well positioned to challenge this record. Look at their top five home runs hitters from last year:

Hanley Ramirez - 33 HRs in 2008/25 yrs old in 2009
Mike Jacobs - 32/28
Dan Uggla - 32/29
Jorge Cantu - 29/27
Cody Ross - 22/28

They don't have the big boppers like Braun and Fielder, but they've got a bunch of guys who are right there.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Show Him The Money

I'm rather surprised at the $8 million arbitration figure submitted by Scott Boras on behalf of Prince Fielder. I thought they would go higher than that - maybe as high as $10 million given the Brewers' playoff appearance and record attendance last year.

I'm wondering if the Brewers didn't think they same thing and submitted $6 million thinking they might settle at $8 million. Once the figures were submitted, Doug Melvin sure seemed to perk up about the prospects of settling with Fielder and avoiding a hearing. I'll guess that they settle at $7.4 - $7.5 million. That's a deal for a player of Fielder's skill and youth.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hells Bells

Let me start by saying that having Trevor Hoffman as the Brewers' closer is much better than having Jeff Suppan like I suggested in my last post. That "off the wall" comment was just that. Desperate times called for desperate measures. But with Hoffman here, these are no longer desperate times.

Hoffman's signing is worlds better that Eric Gagne last year. He's much cheaper and much more dependable. Some have looked at Hoffman's 3.77 ERA last year and called it evidence of a decline. Not so. There has been very little appreciable change in Hoffman's skill stats over the course of his career. His stats last year were really no different than his career norms:

(click on graph for larger view)


I am not at all bothered by this being only a 1-year deal with no club option. If he pitches well, he will like it here and want to come back. And if not...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Thinking Outside the Box

A. How about Jeff Suppan as the Brewers closer?
Baseball Reference.com splits pitchers' stats by high, medium, and low leverage situations. Basically high leverage situations are more game critical than medium, which are more game critical than low. Suppan pitched rather well in high leverage situations in 2008 - exactly those that the closer faces.


BA OBP SLG
High Leverage 0.244 0.268 0.370
Medium Leverage 0.292 0.372 0.464
Low Leverage 0.328 0.388 0.556

His career numbers also show the same pattern, although not as dramatic.


BA OBP SLG
High Leverage 0.272 0.322 0.403
Medium Leverage 0.276 0.339 0.447
Low Leverage 0.292 0.350 0.476

There have been all kinds of starter-to-closer pitchers who have had great success making the transition. Maybe the switch would be just what Suppan needs to salvage the last part of his career and fill a big need in the bullpen. I've got to believe that Carlos Villanueva would be just as good as Suppan as the fifth starter.

B. Shouldn't the Brewers at least inquire about Manny Ramirez?
If there was money to go after CC Sabathia with the thinking being that you make a run at a championship now, the same logic should be used with Ramirez. Imagine Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Manny Ramirez batting 3-4-5 in the order. That would make up for a lot of deficiencies in pitching. Ramirez' stock seems to have come down somewhat. Why not make a run while Prince Fielder is still around? Corey Hart would obviously be the odd man out, but the way he finished last year you've got to wonder if he's going to end up being any better than Brady Clark.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Call to Arms

Happy New Year everyone.

As the calendar turns and free agent pitchers are being signed one-by-one, I'm starting to wonder what Doug Melvin's plan is for putting together a pitching staff. Between Sabathia, Sheets, Torres, Shouse, Mota, Gagne, Taverez, Turnbow, and Zach Jackson the Brewers have lost 581 innings pitched - 40% of their team total. So far they have bought in Jorge Julio and R.J. Swindle who combined for 34 innings last year.

So who is goint to pitch all the other innings? Gallardo could pick up maybe 160 over last year's total - if he stays healthy. The returning pitchers could match last year's numbers - if they stay healthy. Without any injuries, the Brewers are still about a full starter and 3 or 4 relievers short of a full load. Add an injury or two, which is inevitable, and this team could be looking long, long season.

Time to get busy, Doug.

 
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