Reviewing a crazy week for the outfield and bullpen

By Nathan Petrashek (@npetrashek)

It’s been a interesting few days for the Brewers. Injuries to Ryan Braun (oblique), Aramis Ramirez (elbow), and Jean Segura (bat to the face) have left the team shorthanded on the bench, and heavy bullpen use has left it short on relievers, too.

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Mercifully, Martin Maldonado returned from a 5-game suspension on Monday, only to find himself pitching on Wednesday in the final inning of a blowout loss to the Cardinals.  After an abbreviated start from Matt Garza and another three-inning disaster for the seldom-used Wei-Chung Wang, there really weren’t many better options. Most of the high-leverage players had been used the previous two days, and it made no sense to toss them in for mop-up duty. The Wang story has been fun, but instinct tells me it won’t last the year.

Yesterday, the Brewers somewhat addressed their reliever crunch by adding Rob Wooten to the mix, but at the outfield’s expense. Utility man Elian Herrera was optioned to Nashville, leaving Carlos Gomez and Khris Davis as the Brewers’ only true outfielders. Mark Reynolds started in right field in the first game against Cincinnati. If you saw Herrera play right during the Cardinals series, you’ll probably agree he wasn’t missed much.

Wooten, for his part, was a mess yesterday. He inherited a bases-loaded jam from Jim Henderson, who also gave up a go-ahead two-run Great American shot before departing.  Wooten walked the first batter, allowed a two-run single, and hit a batter before recording the final out of the inning.  After the smoke cleared, the Reds had scored five in the frame.

Fortunately, Segura and Ramirez both returned to the lineup yesterday. Ramirez went 0-4, picking up right where he left off, but Segura had a pair of hits and a RBI.  Braun remains out indefinitely, and my strong suspicion is that he will wind up on the DL tomorrow, when Logan Schafer is likely to be activated.

That doesn’t help much for tonight, though, so this afternoon the Brewers placed Henderson on the DL with shoulder inflammation and called up OF Caleb Gindl, who is starting in right tonight. If that seems a little too convenient for you, Disciples of Uecker does note that Henderson was again struggling with his fastball velocity yesterday.

The outfield crunch won’t be entirely solved when Schafer returns, as Gomez’s appeal of his three-game suspension for the Pittsburgh brouhaha remains pending.  Word is that will be heard on or around next Monday (UPDATE: The Brewers say it’s Friday), so don’t expect lineup consistency any time soon.

Straight Outta Compton: An Interview With Timber Rattlers’ Speedster Johnny Davis

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by Kevin Kimmes

If I told you there was a player on this year’s Timber Rattlers roster with only one year of baseball experience, could you pick him out? While you might think it would be easy to spot, inexperience showing at the plate or in the field, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Meet Johnny Davis.

The Compton, CA native, who’s walkup is the apropos “Straight Outta Compton” by rap legends N.W.A., is a speed demon on the base paths and a hitter’s nightmare in center field. Drawing comparisons to current Brewers’ center fielder Carlos Gomez or the fictional Willie Mays Hayes, Davis was the fastest player in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft according to Baseball America.

Cream City Cables: Prior to 2013 you had never played organized baseball. You played football, you ran track, so what made you decide that baseball was the path you wanted to take?

Johnny Davis: I always knew when I was a kid that I wanted to be a professional athlete and a scout saw me working out baseball with my little brother and told me I could get drafted. So, I thought, might as well do it, might as well get it done.

He told me he wanted to sign me right then and there but by me being in college he couldn’t, he had to wait until the draft. So I went to college, played baseball and got drafted.

CCC: Your speed in the outfield and on the base paths has drawn comparisons to players like Carlos Gomez and the fictional Willy Mays Hayes. As you continue to learn the game, what has been your biggest focus thus far?

JD: My biggest focus is trying to learn to get good jumps, trying not to get picked off by pitchers. Those things are tough, especially when they know I’m running. Sometimes a pitcher will pick at me more times than he’ll throw pitches, so it’s really tough getting a jump, it’s really tough stealing bases. It’s easy for someone who’s an average runner to steal bases, but someone who’s a plus runner it’s very hard to steal bases, very hard.

CCC: From a hitting perspective, early in the season you were trying to kill every ball you saw, but lately we’re seeing more slap hitting from you. What kind of adjustments have you had to make to bring your average up to .300?

JD: Just thinking about knowing my role and putting the ball in play. That’s what I need to do and that’s why I changed my approach and started putting the ball in play.

CCC: From a defensive perspective in the outfield we’ve watched you lay out for some balls that frankly looked like “Top 10 Plays”. What’s your mental approach to playing defense?

JD: Taking base hits from the opponent and helping my pitchers anyway I can. That’s my main focus when I’m on defense. I want the ball hit to be hit to me, I want it to be hit in the gap. I pride myself on my defense and I want to layout for balls and things like that.

CCC: Anything else we should know about Johnny Davis?

JD: Toughest competitor you’ll ever meet…EVER!

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

Nothing happened yesterday

By Nathan Petrashek (@npetrashek)

Well, yesterday was pretty ho-hum around Milwaukee.  I mean, pretty much nothing of any significance at all happened, so I don’t know what all the fuss is about.

It’s not like suspensions from the Easter massacre were announced.  Martin Maldonado didn’t receive a five-game suspension and begin serving it immediately.  Carlos Gomez wasn’t slapped with three games pending his appeal.  On the Pirates side, it wasn’t two games for Travis Snider and one game for Russell Martin.  And Gerritt Cole, who instigated the fracas, didn’t get anything.  Wait a minute …

As for Johnny Hellweg, he’s going to be fine.  Sure, the Brewers’ number four prospect (Baseball America) has a torn ulnar collateral ligament, but who doesn’t now days?  I’m sure the second opinion he’s getting from noted Tommy John doc James Andrews will show he’ll be good as new with rest and Advil.

And the Brewers certainly didn’t play an extra-innings affair which they lost to the Padres, 2-1, in the 12th.  Hopefully tonight a stymied Brewers offense will be among other stuff that doesn’t happen.  It’s Kyle Lohse versus Tyson Ross at 7:10.

 

2014 Position Preview: Carlos Gomez, Center Field

By Nathan Petrashek

Editor’s note: This is the second of Cream City Cables’ 2014 position preview series.  Other positions: Catcher.

There was a time when Carlos Gomez looked like another failed high-profile prospect.  Minnesota washed their hands of him in late 2009 and shipped him to Milwaukee for J.J. Hardy, who was himself coming off a terrible season.  Gomez was speedy, sure, but he could never manage to hit enough.  Owner of a .243/.291/.357 line between 2007 and 2011, it got so bad for Gomez that he found himself the right-handed component of a platoon with light-hitting lefty Nyjer Morgan.

gomezSomething clicked for Gomez in 2012, when he hit 14 second-half home runs with a .278/.321/.488 slash line.  Gomez attributes the turnaround to essentially ignoring the advice of his coaches, who were pressing Gomez to exercise better plate discipline and get on base more frequently to make use of his game-changing speed.  Instead, Gomez embraced his free-swinging attitude.  Even though he saw a dreadful 3.39 pitches per plate attempt in 2012, he set new career highs in virtually every offensive category.  The Brewers believed enough to sign Gomez in the offseason to a 3-year/$24M deal.

It was wise of them to do so.  With a full-time job in hand, in 2013 Gomez bested nearly every career offensive record he set in 2012.  He improved from 37 to 40 stolen bases, showcases the game-changing speed that has become his trademark.  But more than that, his final line of .284/.338/.506 shows marked improvement in his power and contact.  With a .344 BABIP, some of that may be luck, but it’s also reasonable to believe some of it was maturation.

In the field, Gomez is one of the best players in the game.  He won the Brewers’ first gold glove since 1982 last year for his exceptional play, and DRS says his defense saved 38(!) runs last season.  It’s more fun to watch them than talk about them, though, so here you have Gomez stealing a Joey Votto home run:

And that is how you put up a 7.6 WAR season.

2013 recap

590 pa, 80 r, 24 hr, 73 rbi, 40 sb, 6.3 bb%, 24.7 k%, .284/.338/.506, 130 wRC+

2014 projections

Steamer: 623 pa, 73 r, 21 hr, 74 rbi, 32 sb, 6.1 bb%, 23.6 k%, .251/.305/.433, 101 wRC+

ZiPS:  491 pa, 69 r, 19 hr, 58 rbi, 32 sb, 5.7 bb%, 24.4 k%, .260/.313/.462, 111 wRC+

Contract status

Signed to a 3-year/$24M contract in 2012; two years remaining.

All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.

Sometimes, In An Arguement, Nobody Is Right: Dissecting The Braves/Brewers Dustup

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by Kevin Kimmes

I decided to sleep on last night’s game before writing about it at length. It seemed like the sensible thing to do in the wake of an altercation that escalated extremely quickly. Frankly, there was a lot to mull over and digest for something that lasted less than five minutes in total duration, and letting it all settle in, I now think I can discuss it sensibly.

Neither side was without fault in what happened on Wednesday night.

There, I said it. Despite what Atlanta’s fanbase wants to say (and boy were their fans ever speaking their minds on social media Wednesday), their boys are not some universal gate keepers who’ve been anointed with policing all that is right and good about the game of baseball (that’s St. Louis’ job, just ask them). Now, before I get bombarded with hundreds of expletive riddled comments and emails, let me also point out that Gomez’s handling of the situation was not without fault either. I think it’s best to break this down piece by piece.

June 23rd, 2013 (Miller Park) Bottom of the 1st, 2 outs, Braves lead 4-0

The origins of last night’s kerfuffle seem to stem from an incident that happened just over 3 months ago. With two men retired in the bottom of the 1st, Gomez steps to the plate to face Paul Maholm and gets hit by a pitch to the knee. Gomez takes his base and Lucroy steps to the plate.

Whether this is intentional or not appears unclear, however one has to wonder due to Maholm’s history of being with Pittsburgh during a period of time in which Milwaukee absolutely owned them. In his defense, pitching Gomez outside is a huge mistake as he has the power to turn on pitches that don’t make it far enough outside. Your safest bet as a pitcher? Pitch him inside, which this may just have been an off target attempt at.

Now on 1st, Gomez steals 2nd beating out a throw from Braves’ catcher Brian McCann. The reasoning for the steal is two fold: 1) move the runner into scoring postion and 2) test McCann’s ailing arm. At this point in the season, McCann (who had surgery on his throwing shoulder in October of 2012) was suffering from soreness which was impeding his ability to throw out runners at 2nd. The stolen base would be a moot point as Jonathan Lucroy would record the third out and we would move on to the top of the 2nd inning.

Breaking Down The Incident

Carlos’ major infraction in Wednesday’s game was what is commonly referred to as an “unwritten rule” of baseball, in this case spending too much time watching your ball leave the yard. The general feeling is that when you are at the dish, if you crush one, act like you’ve been there before, because if you don’t then it appears that you are trying to show up the pitcher.

In Jason Turbow and Michael Duca’s book The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing, & Bench-Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America’s Pastime the authors frame up the violation as follows:

“Several code violations, however, are universally abhorred. At or near the top of any pitcher’s peeves is the home-run pimp, a hitter who lingers in the batter’s box as the ball soars over the wall.”

Normally the cause for retaliation, Gomez spun convention on it’s ear and used it as retaliation for getting plunked back in June. This, of course just threw gas on a fire that had been smoldering since the teams had last met, and sent Maholm into a tizzy.

“F@#king run, God d$%nit!”, Maholm screamed at Gomez as he lazily rounded the bases. His outrage, now growing as both McCann and Freddie Freeman joined in, was met by a chorus of boos from the sparse crowd in attendance. Not to be outdone, Gomez began chirping back. But it wasn’t over, McCann was about to light the fuse and blow this thing sky high.

Blocking the plate down the 3rd base line, McCann now stood between Gomez and homeplate making it impossible for him to touch the home and score the run. One can only assume that McCann was still thinking about Gomez stealing against him in the June contest and since the gauntlet had already been thrown down, he was going to get his vengeance as well.

Now nose to nose the tension became palpable and the benches cleared. Somewhere out of all this chaos, Reed Johnson found his way to the center of the scrum and threw a haymaker which hit Gomez in the face before he retreating back into the mob.

Johnson’s role in this seems random until you realize that teams commonly have a player that they will use as a dummy in situations such as this for this exact purpose. Johnson’s job, attack the opposition so that they get the message and no starters get served with a suspension or get injured in the process. In this case, Johnson delivered on his orders and got suspended along with Gomez for a game each earlier today.

Repercusions

In the course of the “unwritten rules” this matter should now be closed. So, if you were expecting to see more fireworks come the 2014 season opener, sorry my friend, but you are most likely out of luck. For one thing, McCann, who seemed to take the most offense to Gomez’s actions, is a free agent this offseason meaning he will most likely not be a Brave at the start of 2014 and thus no longer part of the equation.

Additionally, Milwaukee has historically not been a retaliatory organization. Don’t believe me? In 2012, Milwaukee batters were hit more times (90) than any other team in the major leagues. By comparison, Milwaukee pitchers hit the least number of batters (31), thus proving that they don’t believe in retaliation on the whole.

If I am the Braves management, I would be lighting up Maholm, Freeman and McCann for inciting a dangerous situation in a meaningless game. With the playoffs set to start in less than a week, teams have begun resting starters to protect them from accidentally getting injured and potentially damaging a teams run towards the World Series. What Maholm, Freeman and McCann did was selfishly put themselves right in harms way in a game that meant nothing.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and an MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

Gomez settles down

By Nathan Petrashek

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Carlos Gomez has decided to settle down, and not just at the plate.  While the buzz so far this spring has been his five walks and .529/.652/.765 triple slash line, the 27-year-old outfielder had another reason to smile on Wednesday.

The Brewers rewarded Gomez for last year’s strong second half with a 3-year, $24M extension.  According to Tom Haudricourt, the deal will pay Gomez $7 million in 2014, $8 million in 2015 and $9 million in 2016.

Gomez’s hot streak in 2012 apparently played into Doug Melvin’s decision.  The GM said Gomez has recently “come into his own.”  That’s true at least offensively, but Gomez has always been a superior defender in center, and so long as he continues to roam the outfield, it look like he’ll be worth the money on defense alone.

Which brings an interesting point: why would Gomez, one year shy of free agency, decide to sign a below-market deal now? And make no mistake, it is below market.  B.J. Upton, with much better power but his own plate discipline problems, just inked a 5-year, $75M deal with the Braves.  Gomez was never going to command that much, but with another season like last year’s, a 3-year deal might well have topped $40M.  The move is uncharacteristic-to say the least-of Gomez’s agent, Scott Boras, who sure enjoys the bidding war that free agency sometimes brings.

One possibility is that Boras doesn’t necessarily buy in to Gomez’s second half, and wants to “sell high” while Gomez is also having a hot spring.  Or maybe the suggestion came directly from Gomez, who sees an opportunity for financial security and stability in Milwaukee.  Whatever the reason, the Brewers are getting a fairly good deal on a young middle defender.

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Win Midwest League Championship

20120917-110332.jpgby Kevin Kimmes

Despite leaving Appleton on Thursday tied at a game a piece, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers were able to overcome the hostile environment of playing on the road and took games 3 and 4 in Fort Wayne in order to win their first Midwest League pennant. The win was the cherry on the sunday of what was an amazing season for Milwaukee’s Low-A affiliate. So, without further ado, let’s look at some of the highlights.

8 Timber Rattlers Take Part in the Midwest League All-Star Game

The following players took part in this years All-Star Game held at Kane County:

Greg Hopkins
Seth Harvey
Drew Gagnon
Rafael Neda
Jason Rogers
Tommy Toledo
Mark Williams
Yadiel Rivera.

7 Players Promoted to High-A Brevard County

Jason Rogers
John Dishon
Seth Harvey
Parker Berberet
Tommy Toledo
Drew Gagnon
Andy Moye

Rehab Starts A Plenty

The following Brewers each spent some time on the Appleton Roster this year:

Carlos Gomez
Jonathan Lucroy
Shaun Marcum

For the Record

Brandon Macias set a dubious team record becoming the most hit batsman in team history. Macias was hit 21 times this season, breaking the old record of 18 times held by Luis Tinoco.

Chadwin Stang’s 19 game hitting streak was the 3rd longest in team history behind Luis Tinoco (27 in 1996) and Josh Womack (22 in 2005).

Ben McMahan became only the 2nd player in team history to record double digits in doubles, triples and home runs in a season with 21/11/15. The only other player to complete this accomplishment was Chris Colton in 2004.

The following players had multi-homer games this season:

Tyler Roberts
Max Walla
Cameron Garfield
Greg Hopkins (x2)

Cream City Cables would like to not only congratulate the players, coaches, and staff for all they did to make this championship possible, but also would like to thank the organization for providing us access to the team and players throughout the season. I can’t wait to get the 2013 season started to see what the team does in defense of the title.