By Nathan Petrashek
I intended to sit down last night after the game and write about the controversy that divides Brewer nation: Rickie Weeks vs. Scooter Gennett. Instead, just before I arrived at the game, an even more controversial topic was revived by an ESPN report claiming that MLB “will seek to suspend about 20 players connected to the Miami-area clinic at the heart of an ongoing performance-enhancing drug scandal,” including Ryan Braun.
As Kyle Lobner over at Brew Crew Ball observes, that isn’t really news. MLB has been “seeking to suspend” Braun for over 1 1/2 years. What is news is that the former head of the now-defunct clinic has reached an agreement with MLB and will cooperate with MLB’s investigation. Presumably, this includes providing information and documents about his clinic’s activities; according to ESPN, Bosch will provide “anything in his possession that could help MLB build cases against” players. In exchange, MLB will drop a lawsuit it filed against Bosch, a suit that could have had legs but was pretty clearly intended to use the judicial process to obtain the documents Bosch has now agreed to provide. Bosch also gets indemnification for his clinic’s potential liability and personal security. But it seems the thing Bosch fears most is federal prosecution; his attorneys, who checked in with the Department of Justice during negotiations, also bargained for MLB’s promise to help with any future criminal charges. Which isn’t a small benefit, because MLB was the one attempting to bring federal authorities into this mess in the first place.
Bosch hasn’t yet sung; word is he’ll meet with attorneys and officials on Friday, and it’s not clear when any document disclosures will take place. The ESPN report seems to project a pretty ambitious timeline, then, in anticipating that suspensions will be levied in just two weeks. Probably not going to happen. And since we have virtually no facts about the clinic, Bosch, MLB’s investigation, or what might be revealed about individual players, including Ryan Braun, it makes little sense to speculate whether a suspension is justified at this stage. What I want to do here is outline the process of Braun’s inevitable appeal should he be suspended.
Section 2 of the Joint Drug Agreement prohibits players from “using, possessing, selling, facilitating the sale of, distributing, or facilitating the distribution of” any prohibited substance. This means that the complicated testing process we’ve all come to know is just one aspect of enforcing the JDA; a positive test will indicate the presence of a banned substance in a player’s body, but MLB can’t prove commission of any of the other offenses by virtue of a chemical test.
So how much evidence does MLB need to punish a player for possession, sale, or distribution of a banned substance in the absence of a positive test? We have no idea. The JDA doesn’t specifically say. The “Discipline” section appears to gives the Commissioner pretty much unfettered discretion to prosecute players for these acts. With respect to sale or distribution, the Commissioner only needs evidence of participation. Absent a criminal conviction or positive test, the Commissioner only needs “just cause” to suspend for use or possession. We have no idea what “just cause” is because the JDA doesn’t say.
This obviously leaves substantial room for Braun and the union to argue against any non-analytical suspension. The process for challenging a suspension will look familiar to those who followed Braun’s earlier appeal. An arbitration panel consisting of an impartial arbitrator (and perhaps two party arbitrators) will be appointed. The panel will decide independently (i.e. without deference to the Commissioner) the appropriate level of discipline and whether that discipline was supported by “just cause” – again, whatever that means. There are special rules governing the timing of these “just cause” appeals. The panel has to convene a hearing as soon as practicable but no later than 20 days after the appeal. The panel then must make “all reasonable efforts” to finish taking evidence, close the hearing, and reach a decision within 25 days. It then has 30 days to reduce that decision to writing.
What this should tell you is that, even if MLB levies a suspension against Braun within the next two weeks, it will be months before there is any definitive resolution of the matter. The legal issues-like the meaning of “just cause”-arising from the JDA’s poor drafting could elongate that timeline even further. In short: there isn’t going to be a quick resolution, and Braun could well have another lengthy fight on his hands.
By Nathan Petrashek
We’re tardy by a couple weeks on this, but earlier this month, @akschaaf from Ron Roenicke Stole My Baseball got busy handicapping a JSOnline chat with Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt. It’s always fun to watch a trainwreck, and especially fun to watch it with the RRSMB guys, so make sure you check out their continuing series of posts. But one question in particular caught my eye. Steve in Cedarburg wanted to know who’s in charge of replay at Miller Park, and complains that there’s “never a replay of a close play-ever!” And he wants to know if this is because the Brewers are just stingy, or part of some MLB-imposed mandate to obscure the truth.
A few years ago, Brewers Chief Operating Officer Rick Schlesinger (then Executive Vice President of Business Operations) addressed this topic at a Marquette University Law School forum (video here). It’s a long interview, but there’s some fantastic inside baseball stuff there. Anyway, at the time, the Brewers were getting ready to debut their shiny new 5,940 square-foot marvel of a scoreboard, and Schlesinger was asked about replay:
Q: When you’re talking about the scoreboard and instant replay, having gone to Bucks and Packers games, you can always see controversial plays on their scoreboard, but you can’t for the Brewers. I’m guessing that’s the umpire’s union?
A: That’s one of the areas where I think Major League Baseball rules are antiquated, and behind the times, and need drastic reform. Think about it, you go to another sporting event and you can see replays of controversial plays. You go to a baseball game, and because of MLB regulations, very restrictive guidelines about what we can show, we’re not allowed to show controversial plays where the umpires made the wrong call. It’s really a vestige of the old “Kill the Ump!” mentality, which I think expired in 1947 or 1948 but still exists in the minds of some of those in baseball.
The other thing I find somewhat funny is that you have people at the game watching our game feed; if there’s a bad call by the umpires, you’re seeing it 7 or 8 times on replay on Fox Sports Wisconsin, whether you’re in your seat on a handheld device,* or in a suite, or in the concourses. So you already have a segment of our market in the ballpark, seeing what other people can’t see, and now I have this 5,940 square feet of high definition scoreboard, and we’re restricted with what we can show. I have talked to the Commissioner, and I know other teams have as well. There’s sensitivity because of the umpires, but I think technology doesn’t really care about sensitivities, and I expect those rules to be reformed. I’ve also told our people candidly that we can push the envelope. I mean, we want to play by the rules, we’re in Milwaukee two miles from the Commissioner’s office, and I don’t want to get fined, but that doesn’t mean we can’t sort of go right up to the edge of what’s allowed. And if we get a warning letter from MLB that we’re being a little too aggressive with replay, well … okay. So I totally agree with you, I would love to change the rules. It will happen, it’s just not happening as fast as I would like.
Naturally, you might be asking, “What are those rules?” Truth be told, we don’t know. According to Schlesinger, they’re not for public consumption, but he told me they try to balance the “fans’ interest in seeing replays of close plays while protecting the safety of the umpires and avoiding inciting arguments on the field.” Don Walker from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel appears to have gotten his hands on the MLB rules in 2010, but it’s not clear if this is the official guidance given to clubs or if these rules are still current. In any case, he wrote:
The Brewers rely on MLB policy, which states, “Clubs must continue to use good judgment not to ‘show up’ the umpires, incite the crowd or distract players, but this admonition does not preclude showing close plays. Close plays may be shown, using good judgment and all plays must be reviewed by the scoreboard operator prior to being replayed on the scoreboard (and video monitors).”
Additionally, MLB won’t allow certain plays. They are: replays showing called balls or strikes from the current game or series; brushback pitches; or any instance where an umpire has clearly made an incorrect call.
Close plays can only be shown once and no close plays may be shown in slow motion or freeze frame.
If that is official MLB policy, it seems to leave plenty of wiggle room to show controversial plays at Miller Park. The universe of absolutely prohibited replays is pretty small. No balls and strikes, no pitches designed to move the batter off the plate, and no replays where the umpire has “clearly” made an incorrect call. But “clearly” implies discretion and should be read hand-in-hand with the directive that a replay only be shown once and at game speed. Say, for example, the runner is called out on a close play at first. The scoreboard operator could replay if, at game speed, it appears the catch arrived simultaneously with the runner – even if super slow motion would show the runner beating the catch by a hair.
So, are the Brewers just stingy, or is it a massive MLB cover-up? The answer seems to be “both.” MLB doesn’t want fans at the game to see what *really* happened because they’re afraid of fan (or perhaps even player or manager) retaliation. But despite Schlesinger’s calls for increased latitude, the team just doesn’t seem interested in pushing the envelope as far as they could. Based on my own personal experience, as an attendee of a good 30+ games every year, any play that could reasonably be called controversial seems to be off-limits at Miller Park. Of course, without some system to compare the use of in-stadium replay to the television feed, it’s impossible to evaluate whether the team is appropriately blocking bad calls or taking a more expensive view of the rule. Then again, if the team only refused to replay clearly incorrect calls, it’d be pretty obvious when there was an umpshow.
Even if the Brewers could do more within current policy, though, the underlying justification for the policy in the first place seems to have eroded. Perhaps the rule made sense when there was a real fear of fan retaliation. But as anyone who checks John Axford’s Twitter timeline can tell you, today’s fan is just as likely to be incited by a blown save as a blown call. Yet I don’t see anyone lining up to prohibit road teams from hitting walk-off home runs. Hell, I barely see anyone brave security to have their 30-second run on the field anymore. Games are a very tightly controlled environment and fans just aren’t likely to risk their own well-being to physically engage an umpire or player.
But more than that, today’s high definition world values more information. What fans won’t get at the game, they can get on TV or online instantly – and why would any team want to make attending a game less attractive? Everyone knows umpires are not infallible, and most fans will understand (if not forgive) an occasional lapse in judgment as long as the umpire shows some sign of humility. That’s exactly the trait Jim Joyce demonstrated when he apologized for blowing one of the biggest calls in history a few years ago, depriving Armando Galarraga of a perfect game with one out remaining.
So what is MLB really protecting with its restrictive replay policy? Nothing more than the right of the umpire to be wrong and arrogant. Unfortunately, there are plenty of those types already in baseball. Let’s not encourage them to remain that way.
*Mr. Schlesinger was perhaps unaware of MLB.tv’s draconian blackout policy.
By Nathan Petrashek
That’s not unwarranted. Weeks is batting .189/.302/.297 on the young season, and his defensive lapses are well documented. So what gives? Why are the Brewers still starting this guy?
To help answer that, let’s take a look at a couple other guys struggling through May 7.
Player A: .208/.255/.296
Player B: .242/.293/.435
Player A is Josh Hamilton, a career .300/.359/.539 hitter. Guess what? Hamilton’s still starting. Player B is Adrian Beltre, who you probably saw tonight. For his career, he’s at .279/.330/.475. But they’re bums, right? Bench them all!
Historical performance plays a big role in determining how long a leash a struggling player gets. Weeks isn’t Hamilton or Beltre, but he’s been a very solid offensive player during his career, slashing .249/.348/.425. Fangraphs says he’s been worth 17.3 wins above replacement (Hamilton is at 23.5 over a slightly shorter period). Point being: we know Weeks’ ceiling, and it’s pretty damn good, particularly at a position not ordinarily known for offensive prowess.
Of course, I doubt anyone would be complaining too forcibly if Weeks hadn’t had the worst year of his career last year. And it got bad last year; really bad. On May 31, 2012, Weeks was batting just .158/.292/.294. And you know what? After that, he looked a lot like the familiar Rickie Weeks, slashing .260/.344/.445.
But even more compelling is the absence of an heir apparent at second base. Scooter Gennett is doing just fine at AAA Nashville, but he’s a hit-first kid who doesn’t really play second well, doesn’t display much power, and doesn’t walk. He’s also played just 24 games at AAA, and is a complete unknown at the major-league level. Yuniesky Betancourt has done fine as an emergency fill-in at first and third bases, but he’s barely played any second base and his .306 OBP just barely tops Weeks’ .302. Betancourt is also a career .260/.290/.395 hitter. It’s all fun and games while he’s whacking home runs, but you’re nuts if you think he’s going to continue that kind of pace all year.
You can argue about where Weeks should be in the lineup right now, but there’s no question he should be in it for the time being. Let’s have this conversation in June.
By Nathan Petrashek
There are about to be a whole lot of roster moves, a reflection of just how crippled the Brewers have been for the first month of the season. Some of them have happened already, some of them will happen tomorrow, some of them will happen during the month of May. Here’s the latest on the Brewers fallen:
Jeff Bianchi activated; Khris Davis optioned: IF Jeff Bianchi was placed on the DL this spring with left hip bursitis, which sounds pretty epic but is really just inflammation that can cause joint stiffness. His unavailability led in part to the Brewers to pick up Yuniesky Betancourt, who’s knocking the stuffing out of the ball, so I guess we should all be thankful for that. In any case, Bianchi is back now, which means the Brewers currently have four – count ‘em, four! – shortstop types on the active roster. OF Khris Davis, who has received just a handful of plate attempts, was sent down to AAA Nashville. Bianchi hit .188/.230/.348 with the Brewers last season, although he sports a minor league career triple slash of .286/.340/.411.
Aramis Ramirez activated; Josh Prince optioned: Ramirez was down for a month after sliding awkwardly into second base. Despite missing nearly all of April, the team will bring him right back into the fold, though he will probably see plenty of time off early on. Josh Prince is being sent down to Nashville in a corresponding move.
Chris Narveson: Narveson has been playing catch as he rehabs a sprained finger on his pitching hand. He’s slated to return in Mid-May.
Mark Rogers: Rogers, officially placed on the DL with “right shoulder instability,” but unofficially with loss of velocity, command, and everything else that makes a pitcher go, started a rehab assignment on April 23. The Brewers will need to decide whether to activate him to the major league club or cut ties with him by May 23; he’s not likely to clear waivers. For what it’s worth, Rogers has not pitched well since beginning his rehab stint; he’s walked 6 over 3.2 innings against just 1 strikeout, and has allowed at least 1 run in 2 of his 3 appearances.
Corey Hart: Hart had right knee surgery in January. He just rejoined the team and is currently throwing, doing water aerobics, and exercising to strengthen his quads. Hart, on the 60-day DL, is eligible for reinstatement on May 30, but it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll make that goal.
Taylor Green: Green started the season on the DL with a hip injury. He elected to have season-ending surgery in late April.
Mat Gamel: Gamel had season-ending knee surgery on March 8.
By Nathan Petrashek
The Brewers bullpen falls squarely in “meh” territory right now. They’re league average just about everywhere, which is still an improvement over last year. But let’s just say trotting Mike Gonzalez (2-something WHIP) and John Axford (4.8 HR/9) doesn’t do much to light my fire.
Not to sound too summer blockbusterish, but an old terror is returning to haunt the Brewers organization. You might remember him by his pseudonym, Thirty Pitches of Terror, or simply K-Rod. Either way, Francisco Rodriguez has a visa and has been assigned to Class A Brevard. If he can make it back to the Brewers, he’ll get around $2 million on a minor league contract signed this spring.
“Thirty Pitches of Terror” isn’t exactly fair to the formerly elite reliever, the guy who, but for a colossal screw-up by his agents, might still have a closing gig today. In 2012, K-Rod tossed over 30 pitches just twice, though he came close to that in a handful of other appearances. Generally, it took K-Rod a reasonable 15-17 pitches to get through an inning. But “Fifteen Pitches of Terror” doesn’t quite have that doomsday ring to it.
Brewers fans are perhaps understandably apprehensive about the looming reunion with this menace. 2012 was undoubtedly the worst year of K-Rod’s career. He amassed a 4.38 ERA over 72 innings, walked batters at a higher rate than anytime since 2009, and his strikeouts per nine dropped to a career low. On the heels of a stellar 2011 campaign, K-Rod managed to completely destroy any trade value by midseason 2012, and didn’t even get a major league offer this offseason.
Thing is, K-Rod’s 2012 wasn’t all bad, and where it was, it was historically so. The last two months of the season Rodriguez appeared in 27 games and amassed a 2.81 ERA, with a 26/5 strikeout to walk ratio. He actually gained a few ticks on his fastball in 2012, and that and his change were both well above-average pitches last season. Rodriguez’s FIP was over a half-run better than his season ERA, which ballooned in part because of his career-worst strand rate. And K-Rod’s homerun-flyball ratio of 12.3% was nearly double that of 2011. So there’s some room for hope.
I obviously believe Rodriguez’s time as an elite closer is over. But it looks to me like a decent chance that at 31, Rodriguez still has something left. K-Rod has a few weeks to show his wares in the minors before the Brewers have to make a decision on him, so we’ll have to see where he’s at. Basically, he’s on a minor league deal with a trial period and reasonable big league salary, should he make it that far. I’d roll the dice on that, and it could very well be another win for GM Doug Melvin.
By Nathan Petrashek
Yovani Gallardo clearly didn’t have his best stuff last night, but battled through 6.2 innings against a tough (sarcasm) San Diego offense. Gallardo was in great shape heading into the seventh after throwing just 86 pitches. He was aided by quick innings in the third, fourth and fifth, during which he threw just 32 pitches. The sixth inning required a bit more effort thanks to Jedd Gyorko’s six-pitch flyout and Gallardo’s only two strikeouts of the night. But it certainly looked like Gallardo had another inning in him.
He didn’t, and the seventh is where the wheels really fell off for Gallardo. His night ended after walking three consecutive batters. Here’s how Gallardo’s seventh inning went down:
1) Alexi Amarista grounds out.
Gallardo threw two outside curveballs to Amarista, not a bad strategy since Amarista has historically swung at nearly 40% of pitches out of the zone. The first one flattened out and landed high and outside; not Yo’s finest work, but Amarista didn’t swing at it. Oddly enough, he did swing at the second curve, which was even further outside and much lower. The result: routine grounder for Jean Segura, and a two-pitch at-bat.
2) Everth Cabrera grounds out.
Gallardo retired Cabrera, but it obviously wasn’t pretty. The first two pitches, a fastball and slider, respectively, weren’t even close. Then Gallardo hung a curveball that plenty of batters could have done something with, but not Cabrera the human groundout. I call this at-bat “the beginning of the end,” even though it ended with a three-pitch out.
3) Will Venable walks.
This happened on six pitches. Gallardo continued his wild streak by throwing a change at Venable’s feet to begin the at bat. He followed with two more changeups low, but Venable hacked at them anyway, fouling off both. Gallardo’s fourth pitch was a well-located cutter clearly intended to induce a swing. But the next two pitches aren’t even close. I see the strategy in changing eye level, but it works better when you’re at least in the vicinity of the zone.
4) Chase Headley walks.
I find the Headley sequence really fascinating. Here the dugout finally gets the picture that Gallardo is done, and Tom Gorzelanny and Burke Badenhop start frantically warming up. Meanwhile, Gallardo misses low with a first-pitch curve. His next pitch, a fastball, hits plenty of the corner, but Gallardo has lost all credibility at this point. Headley doesn’t offer, and umpire Gary Darling doesn’t give him the call. Gallardo then shows that he can’t even command his fastball anymore, spiking one in the dirt before climbing the ladder a little too high. Headley was taking all the way; a four-pitch walk. Rick Kranitz goes out to talk to Gallardo, presumably to buy some time for the warming arms.
5) Carlos Quentin walks.
Gallardo starts Quentin off with a beautiful curve, but follows that up with a pitch in the dirt. Gallardo’s third pitch, a slider, isn’t well located at all, but Quentin isn’t able to pull his bat back in time. Gallardo gets a cheap strike.
Ahead 1-2 in the count, you’d expect Gallardo to burn a pitch, but he bounces a curve about a foot in front of home plate. Lucroy’s fast footwork keeps the runners from advancing, but it really doesn’t matter. Gallardo busts a fastball and a couple sliders too far away, and Quentin takes his base on Gallardo’s third consecutive walk.
As for causation, there aren’t a lot of firm conclusions we can draw from this information. Fatigue is a tough sell; Gallardo threw around 100 pitches in his first two starts, then scaled back to around 90 in his next two. Maybe it was something more pervasive; Gallardo didn’t locate well all night, throwing just 58 of his 108 pitches for strikes. But one thing I think this does illustrate is the psychological battle between hitter and pitcher. When a pitcher is off, the hitters may alter their approaches to take advantage of that fact. The Padres did just that on Tuesday, but ultimately weren’t disciplined or talented enough to really make it sting.
*All strikezone plots from Brooks Baseball.
By Nathan Petrashek
The Brewers finally ended a three-game skid on Sunday, but not before recording a franchise-worst 32 scoreless innings. That’s right; before Ryan Braun’s 8th inning dinger, the Brewers hadn’t scored a run since the 2nd inning in Chicago on Tuesday. The Brewers (specifically, the much-maligned Yuniesky Betancourt) managed to tie the game in the 9th, and might have taken the lead if not for some (attempted) bunting foolishness. Still, Jonathan Lucroy hit his first home run of the season to put the Brewers ahead for good at the top of the 10th. The Brewers have their third win, and all is right with the world.
Well, not so much. For fans who like to see runs scored (basically, if you’re not Old Hoss Radbourn), there was plenty of bad news to accompany the victory. Aramis Ramirez, who jammed his knee sliding into second base early in the season, isn’t likely to come off the DL when he’s eligible for reinstatement. I know, it’s a little cringeworthy when Ron Roenicke uses a phrase like “play it safe.” After all, this is the manager who just days ago-down a run in extras, with men on, and no other position players due to Roenicke’s own poor roster construction-declared Ryan Braun unfit to appear as a pinch hitter, and batted Kyle Lohse(!) in his stead; Braun would go 3-for-4 the next day and play nearly the entire game. But given Ramirez’s age and the lack of any other suitable options defensively at third base, it’s probably a good thing that Ramirez take whatever time he needs to get right.
The good news is that, offensively, the team has been fairly productive, even with Braun, Ramirez, and 1B Corey Hart missing time. To date, the 2013 Brewers have scored 36 runs. That’s just 3 shy of the number they scored as of this time last year, when the Brewers showcased the National League’s best offense. That those runs have come with some of the team’s best hitters (Rickie Weeks, Jonathan Lucroy, and Carlos Gomez) enduring mini-slumps is a testament to the team’s offensive potential. With those players returning to form, and Ryan Braun healthy again, it’s not unreasonable to expect this team’s offensive output to increase significantly in the coming days, even with prolonged DL stints for Ramirez and Hart.
I don’t, of course, mean to suggest that this team couldn’t use Ramirez or Hart in the lineup. Even at 36 runs scored, the Brewers’ offense ranks as one of the worst in the National League, down there with the lowly Pirates and Marlins. Although I’m certain that having Ramirez and Hart in the lineup would make the Brewers more dangerous, it’s hard to quantify how much. I love Ramirez’s bat, but (even if not entirely true) the notion that he’s a slow starter persists, and last season provided ample evidence to support that theory. That same concern doesn’t exist for Hart, but some of his lost production has been offset by Jean Segura’s and Norichika Aoki’s stellar runs, and Hart can be prone to prolonged slumps.
Bottom line: we all know that when this offense is finally healthy, it will be great. But it is fully capable of treading water for the next month or so until that happens.
by Kevin Kimmes
In the 2012 MLB June Amateur Draft, Milwaukee had the luxury of drafting 3 players in the 1st round: Clint Coulter (27th), Victor Roache (28th) and Mitch Haniger (38th). While Roache will start the season for the AZL Brewers of the Arizona League, both Coulter and Haniger will look to make a name for themselves right here in Wisconsin as members of the defending Midwest League Champion Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
Last week during the team’s media day, I had the opportunity to talk briefly with both Clint and Mitch about where they come from and what they look to do in 2013.
Milwaukee’s 1st pick in the 2012 draft, Coulter is a catcher considered by many to be the best high school player in the Pacific Northwest. A versatile ball player, Coulter started as a shortstop before being moved to third and eventually landing at catcher due to his strong arm.
“I played every game in the Arizona League at catcher and all through the winter they sent me catching drills to do. All through spring training I caught, so if it’s not catcher I’m really going to be surprised.”
One advantage that Coulter has had right out the gate was having former Major League catcher Tom Lampkin as his high school coach. Lampkin, who played parts of 13 seasons for six different teams, including the Brewers in 1993, helped define the psychological aspects of the position for him.
“I didn’t get to work with him a ton as far as technical aspects of catching, but psychologically we still talk. I just talked to him before I came. He knows that it’s a grind and that he’s been there and done that so he’s been able to talk me through stuff like that.”
Drawing comparisons to catcher Mike Napoli, Coulter says that he based his game around that of Atlanta Braves catcher, Brian McCann.
“He’s definitely a really good catcher as well as a good hitter. In High School I switch hit a little bit, hit a little bit left handed. Now I’ve stuck solely to right handed. But also, it’s the leadership aspect. He’s really respected by his peers. As well as guys like Jason Varitek, he’s got the Captain on his shirt, so if you can be the leader, you’re the catcher, you run the ship. I just want to be that type of guy.”
Milwaukee’s 3rd pick in the 1st round of the 2012 draft, Haniger made a brief appearance with the Timber Rattlers in 2012 before being sidelined with an injury.
“I tore my PCL in my right knee on a bad slide into home plate and then tried to stay in the game. I don’t know if I hurt it worse trying to run to 1st on my next at bat, but that’s when I really felt it and had to come out of the game. I had to go to Arizona for the remaining 3 months of the year and just rehab and get healthy.”
When asked about how the knee is feeling this year, Haniger assured me that it’s feeling good and that he’s faster and stronger than ever before.
As an outfielder, Haniger states that his goals for 2013 are to focus on his defense, throwing, and hitting.
“I want to continue to play good defense and throw guys out from the outfield, continue to have good at bats, hit the ball hard and do what I can to help my team win.”
Additionally, for card collectors out there, it should be noted that Haniger made his initial cardboard appearances with Brewers cards appearing in both 2012 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects and 2012 Bowman Sterling.
“It’s pretty cool. I signed a few in the offseason, so I think I saw them before anyone else did, but that was pretty cool to finally see my name on a card.”
The Timber Rattlers play their first home game of the 2013 season this evening at 6:35 PM at Fox Cities Stadium. All fans in attendance will receive a Matt Erickson bobblehead.
Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a 2013 MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.
By Nathan Petrashek
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth installment of our 2013 review & preview series. You can read the rest here.
Despite a tumultuous season at the position, first base actually turned out to be a pretty productive spot for the Brewers in 2012.
Last season was supposed to be Mat Gamel’s time to shine. Things hadn’t gone so well in his smattering of prior opportunities as a utility player, but this was the first time Gamel could finally claim a position as his own. We were bullish based on his minor-league success, projecting him at a .284/.346/.500 triple-slash line over a full season of work. That, of course, all went out the window when he shredded his ACL in early May, ending his season after just 70 at-bats. Practically a full season removed from this disaster, I often hear people speak glowingly of Gamel’s brief starting stint in 2012. This is almost certainly a case of rose-colored glasses; over 21 games, Gamel hit just .246/.293/.348, a far cry from his much healthier minor league .304/.376/.498. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Fortunately, a relatively obscure offseason signing provided the perfect contingency plan. When the Brewers brought Norichika Aoki over from Japan, they thought they were getting a fourth outfielder. But Aoki’s play begged for more opportunities, which Gamel’s injury provided by allowing RF Corey Hart to shift to first. Defensively, this move should have accommodated Hart just fine, as he had always been at- or below-average in RF. And Hart looked fine at first, from what I saw. But the numbers paint a different picture, suggesting his only positive value defensively came from his ability to prevent errors. Offensively, Hart put up one of his typical Hart seasons, batting .270 with 30 home runs and an .841 OPS. Put together, Hart was a solid 3-win player in 2012.
Unfortunately, neither Gamel nor Hart will be manning first base on opening day. Both are recovering from injuries; Gamel’s was season-ending. Hart is slated to return from knee surgery sometime in May. Until then, you’ll see plenty of Alex Gonzalez (who doesn’t like the position, hasn’t often played it, and doesn’t have a great bat) and Martin Maldonado (who also has not played it and doesn’t have a great bat). Yikes.
Hart will be a free agent after the season. Rumors of an extension have been thrown around for years, but this is probably not likely given the recent Carlos Gomez extension and Kyle Lohse signing. It will be interesting to see what the team’s plan for first base is this offseason.
Corey Hart’s Projected Stat Line (ZiPS)
141 G, 589 PA, 27 HR, 78 R, 80 RBI, 6 SB, .265/.330/.485