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.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"There's a Basic Disagreement About Corey's Value"

Corey Hart appears to be heading to a salary arbitration hearing. The Brewers are offering $2.7M while Hart is asking for $3.8M. Here may be a key piece of evidence:


Curtis Granderson Corey Hart

2004-2007 2004-2008
Yrs 4 5
AB 1395 1412
R 232 203
H 390 391
2B 76 93
3B 36 18
HR 50 55
RBI 162 212
BB 131 86
K 366 278
BA 0.280 0.277
OBP 0.343 0.323
SLG 0.493 0.485
SB 35 53
2009 Salary $3.5M

Granderson's salary is part of a 5-year deal that tops out at $13M in 2013.

A key part of arbitration hearings is a comparison to similar players. Add this to the fact that the Brewers had a record attendance last year and made the playoffs - also contributing factors. I think Doug Melvin might be in some trouble on this one.

Here's another interesting comparison:


Andre Either Corey Hart

2006-2008 2004-2008
Yrs 3
5
AB 1368 1412
R 190 203
H 409 391
2B 90 93
3B 14 18
HR 44 55
RBI 196 212
BB 139 86
K 233 278
BA 0.299 0.277
OBP 0.364 0.323
SLG 0.482 0.485
SB 11 53

Either is also arbitration eligible for the first time. He is asking for $3.75M; the Dodgers are offering $2.65M - numbers eerily similar to Hart's case. Either's arbitration hearing is February 17 - the day before Hart's. If the Dodgers win, expect a last minute settlement. If Either wins, the Brewers are sunk.

 
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