Wednesday, June 30, 2010

PROTECTING THE VALUE OF AN ASSET

The Brewers have placed pitcher Jeremey Jeffress on their 40-man roster, and in doing so (let's just be blatantly honest here) are protecting him from further tests for marijuana.  Players on the 40-man roster enjoy protections from the player's union and are not subject to such tests.  One more positive test would ban him from baseball for life.

There are two ways to look at this.  One is to be disgusted because you think Jeremy Jeffress is a punk, pot-head kid who can't get his life straightened out and doesn't appreciate the tremendous gift God has given him.  You think that he's going to be a poor influence and poor role model on the team and the Brewers shouldn't be protecting a deviant like this.

The other way to look at it is to recognize that Jeffress is a very talented pitcher, and despite his character flaw, is a high risk but potentially valuable asset to the Brewers organization.  With one more positive test, he would no longer be an asset.  You can do something to minimize the risk, thereby protecting the value of the asset.  To me, this is the proper way to look at it and I think Doug Melvin is doing the right thing.
 
The goal isn't to build a team full of upstanding gentlemen who you would be happy to have your daughter date.  It's to build a team full of players who can win.  If you can get the first part with the second, then all the better, but sometimes you can't.  You need to be able to deal with that.  They don't give World Series trophies to the teams with the most model citizens.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

TRADE BAIT

The Brewers seems to have a fair bit of tradeable pitching right now.  Macha obviously has no intention of using Trevor Hoffman in the closers role anymore.  Don't you think a team like the Phillies or Dodgers would like to get him for the stretch run?  Chris Capuano has no role on the team.  Todd Coffey seems expendable.  Even Doug Davis could be moved.  I'm not saying they could package all of those guys for Cliff Lee, but perhaps they could clear the logjam and get a decent minor leaguer or two.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

SHIPWRECK

This has nothing to do with baseball.  The steamship L.R. Doty, which sank 112 years ago in Lake Michigan was found last week by a team of divers. The man who spearheaded the search, Brendon Baillod is a lifelong historian of the Great Lakes.  He is also my cousin.  This has got to be as exciting for him as finding a Honus Wagner baseball card would be for me.  There - I tied it in.

Congratulations Brendon!

Monday, June 21, 2010

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKED

Remember a few months ago when a Prince Fielder for Kevin Youkilis and Clay Buchholz trade was being kicked around?  Too bad that trigger was never pulled.  You could make a case for trading Prince even-up for either one of them right now, let alone both.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

AFRAID OF THE BIG BAD WOLF

George Kottaras is the starting catcher today in Colorado.  It's the 4th straight game start by Randy Wolf that Kottaras has caught.  At the end of May, the plan was for Johnathan Lucroy to be Wolf's personal catcher, however when the two appeared unsynchronized, the switch was made to Kottaras.

I have never liked the practice of a pitcher having his own personal catcher and especially don't like this match up.  Randy Wolf's ERA, albeit in only 12 innings, is 1.50 when Lucroy is his catcher.  Lucroy has been hitting extremely well and Wolf hasn't been pitching particularly well so he could use all of the offensive help he can get.

Plus, Randy Wolf is going to be around another two years.  From all appearances, Lucroy will be as well.  The two have got to learn to work together at some point.

CHECKING SHEETS

I took a look at Ben Sheet's game logs this morning.  On the season, Sheets is 2-7 with a 4.95 ERA.  However, except for a couple of blow-up games around the end of April in which he gave up 8 and 9 earned runs, he hasn't pitched all that poorly.  Throw those two games out and his ERA is 3.49.

Here are the scores of the A's games that Sheets has pitched at the point when he was taken out of the game (A's score first, then their opponent, then Sheet's IP):

0-3, 5 IP
1-3, 6
5-0, 6
0-2, 6
4-8, 4
1-9, 3-1/3
3-2, 6-1/3
1-1, 6
3-4, 6-2/3
0-0, 6
3-3, 7
3-4, 6
0-4, 6
1-5, 6
1-4, 7

In 9 of Ben Sheet's 15 starts, the A's offense failed to score more than 1 run while Sheets was in the game.

In total, the A's are averaging 3.6 runs per game (whole game) on the days when Ben Sheets pitches, which is a full run per game under the league average and half a run worse than the A's themselves score when anybody else pitches.

Funny how those things follow people around.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

TREVOR TIME

The Brewers are dead last in the Major Leagues with only 10 saves on the season.  I'm guessing that they are also last in save opportunities in that 12 of their 28 wins have been by a margin of 4 or more runs.

This is just a gut feel, but I think it's time that Ken Macha reinstate Trevor Hoffman as the team's closer.  Get him to 600 saves so we can take down that onerous banner in Miller Park.  That thing has been hanging there all year, not moving, and serves as a constant reminder of a failed season.

Hoffman has not allowed a run in his last four outings and except for the 3-run blow-up on June 1, has pitched rather well in his mop-up role.  He has a 3.38 ERA since being demoted - even with the one bad game.

I have nothing against John Axford.  He's pitched very well.  I think he would equally effective in the 8th inning.  But if Hoffman can regain some level of respectability in the closer's role, I think it would give the bullpen a lot more balance.  And if he can regain his form of last season, it might be the spark the Brewers need to salvage something from this year.  The Brewers have 16 home games before the All-Star break.  Wouldn't it be a shot in the arm to see that the number 600 next to the scoreboard by then?

And if he fails...  not much lost.  But then it will be time to take the banner down and wish Trevor Hoffman the best of luck as he moves on with his life.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A SHEEP IN WOLF'S CLOTHING

Last night Randy Wolf allowed fewer hits + walks than innings pitched for the first time this season - a stat I dubbed a "real quality start".  He had 11 such outings last year.

Before the season started, I predicted that Wolf would have more wins and a lower ERA than John Lackey - (remember the talk about the Brewers signing him?)  Despite how horrible Wolf has been this season, A couple more starts like this one and I'll still have a chance at being right.


W-L ERA WHIP
Wolf 5-6 5.08 1.57
Lackey 7-3 4.54 1.56

Before you get too down on Randy Wolf, notice that we could have had about the same thing for three times as much money.  The free agent pitching market is not a friendly place to shop.

BIG HOW MANY?

So the college conference shuffle seems to have come to an end with four Big 12 schools announcing yesterday that they are staying put.  So what did we get out of this?  The Big Ten now has twelve schools, the Big 12 now has ten schools, and the BCS still exists.

Back to baseball...

Monday, June 14, 2010

CONSISTENCY

Bill Schroeder opened tonight's broadcast by praising Ken Macha for using the same top five in the batting order the last three days, saying that using a set lineup was necessary to consistently score runs.  Like many things Bill Schroeder says, this is crap.

In their history (through last year), there have been 1,792 games in which the Brewers used the same top five in the batting order as the game before.  They averaged 4.41 runs in those games.  In the 4,588 games when they used a different top five in the batting order, they scored 4.48 runs per game - slightly more.

I actually expected the data to show Schroeder to be right, but not because consistency has anything to do with it.  With a good hitting team, I'd think you'd tend to stick with a set lineup more so than with a weaker hitting team.

So many people make a big deal about batting orders.  They really don't matter much at all.

Friday, June 11, 2010

STARS NOT SHINING

As maligned as the Brewers pitching has been lately, it's the offense that has been more the cause of the month long slump.  The team scored almost two fewer runs per game in the last 30 games as they did in the first 30:


R/G RA/G
Games 1-30 5.78 5.30
Games 31-60 3.90 6.00

Would you have guessed that Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks would be #1 and #2 on the team in home runs at this point in the season?

Ryan Braun has not hit a home run for 15 games.  Last year he had streaks of 19, 17, and 14 games without a home run and still hit 32 on the season, but he's already 5 behind last year's pace.

Prince Fielder didn't hit a home run until game #17 last year, yet this year he is already 6 home runs behind last year's pace.

As I've said before, it's the superstars on your team that determine success or failure.  The Brewers two biggest superstars are not living up to that status right now, and that has as much to do with the 10-game under .500 record as the whole pitching staff put together.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

RETHINKING THE DRAFT

I did a quick analysis of the relative success rate of pitchers drafted out of high school vs. pitchers drafted out of college.

I looked at all pitchers drafted in the first round of the 2000-2004 drafts - long enough ago to tell who's going to make it and who's not, but not too long ago that scouting and evaluating methods would have changed much.

In those years, a total of 111 pitchers were drafted in the first round - 61 from a 4-year college, 45 from high school, and 5 from junior college.  The five from junior college included only one player who has played in the Majors - Phil Dumatrait.

Of the pitchers drafted out of college, 39 (64%) have played in the Major Leagues.  The top 10 ranked by WAR are:

Name Pos WAR
Jered Weaver RHP 14.5
Justin Verlander RHP 14.3
Mark Prior RHP 13.7
Joe Blanton RHP 11.7
Jeremy Guthrie RHP 10.1
Huston Street RHP 8.9
Noah Lowry LHP 8.3
Joe Saunders LHP 8.2
Chad Cordero RHP 8.0
Paul Maholm LHP 7.5

Of the players drafted out of high school, 45 (56%) have made the Majors.  A slightly smaller percentage, but a much more impressive top 10:

Name Pos WAR
Zack Greinke RHP 20.5
Scott Kazmir LHP 18.1
Matt Cain RHP 16.5
Adam Wainwright RHP 14.3
Cole Hamels LHP 12.5
John Danks LHP 12.1
Chad Billingsley RHP 9.7
Jeremy Bonderman RHP 6.9
Gavin Floyd RHP 5.6
Phil Hughes RHP 2.2

Doug Melvin said in an interview yesterday:
“College pitchers can get there early but they can leave early, too."
I give him credit for having done his homework and for using the pick as it probably should be used - a long term investment with a high ceiling rather than a quick fix.

Monday, June 7, 2010

WITH THE 14th PICK...

Dylan Covey.  A high school pitcher that Baseball America had ranked 26th on the board.  With three other quality college pitchers available - Alex Wimmers (Ohio State, ranked 17th), Brandon Workman (Texas, 20th), and Asher Wojciechowski (Citadel, 21st).  Man, I can't wait until 2016.

THE CANDLE IS OUT

The eulogy can be found here.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

YOU'RE #2

Here is a good question for the Brewers brass as they head into Tuesday's "powwow":

Who is the second best pitcher on the team?

Seriously.  Who is?  Starter or reliever - doesn't matter.  It's a very tough question.  And when you figure out who #2 is, ask yourself how many Major League pitchers, currently on other teams, you would take in a trade even up for him.  100?  150? 200?  It's a pretty sad situation.

Going into today's game the Brewers are allowing 4.2 runs per game when Yovani Gallardo is the starting pitcher and 6.2 runs per game when anyone else is.  I'm not sure what's going to come out of this meeting on Tuesday, because no matter how you line up a bunch or turds, you still end up with a pile of...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

IMPERFECT GAME

I am baffled by the people who do not want instant replay used in baseball.  To say that you prefer to have the 'human element' kept in the game is to say that what happened to Armando Gallaraga last night was proper and just.

We don't accept human error in any other walk of life when there is a better, non-human process to fix it.  If you deposit $1,000 in your bank account and the teller misses a zero and only credits you $100, you don't accept that and say, "Oh well, that's how life is - people make mistakes", when you have the canceled check in your hand as proof.  You don't complain that it will slow down your day to go back and get the other $900.

Bud Selig should right this wrong, change the play to an out, and announce that baseball will take steps to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.  If Major League Baseball overturns the call and credits Galarraga with his perfect game, ten years from now nobody is going to say that his perfect game was somehow tainted because an ump's call had to be overturned and that he really didn't throw a perfect game.  If they let the call stand however, ten years from now people will still say that the ump blew it and Galarraga got screwed.

Actually, there is a way for Jim Joyce to save face on this.  He should make a statement to Bud Selig that umpires need to be able to use all available technology to do their jobs in the most accurate manner possible.  He should lead the charge - an umpire.  What a strong statement that would be.

UPDATE 6/4:  What a classy move last night by Armando Galarraga, Jim Joyce, the Tigers organization and Tigers' fans. Long after this season ends, more people will remember that Galarraga almost threw a perfect game than that Dallas Braden actually did.

I still think it rather spineless of Bud Selig to not set it straight.  You can say it would have been a can of worms, but the last out of a perfect game is a far different worm than any of the others before it.

 
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