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.

 
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