Results tagged ‘ George Kottaras ’
Well, the deal is now official, the Milwaukee Brewers have acquired right-handed reliever Fautino De Los Santos from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for the recently optioned George Kottaras. De Los Santos will report to Triple-A Nashville for assignment.
De Los Santos has spent the better part of 2012 with Triple-A Sacramento, where he was 1-3 with a 7.25 ERA in 28 relief appearances after beginning the season on the Athletics’ Opening Day roster and posting a 3.00 ERA in 6 games. He was optioned on April 24.
It is unclear at this point if the plan is to keep De Los Santos in Triple-A for the time being, or if this is just a temporary move on the part of the team while they sort out the mess that currently is the bullpen.
Cream City Cables will continue to keep you updated on all of the latest trades and rumors as we approach the trade deadline.
By Nathan Petrashek (@npetrashek)
A lot of Brewers seem likely to find new digs over the next few days, and we’ll be recapping any credible trade rumors here. Check back often for the latest updates.
Randy Wolf. The Brewers rotation is going to look a lot different next year. Many speculated that Wolf could be moved at the deadline; the only question is, “for what?” ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that the Brewers will trade him for nothing, “if you take the money.” Wolf is earning $9.5M this year and has a club option for next year at $10M with a $1.5M buyout.
Shaun Marcum. Marcum is still recovering from an injury that has sidelined him since June 14. While Marcum isn’t going to be traded before Tuesday’s non-waiver deadline, he may be a waiver trade candidate after he returns to action.
***UPDATE***: Adam McCalvey reports (on Twitter) that Marcum’s second bullpen did not go well.
Zack Grienke. Opposing GM’s have seemingly done a 180 on Greinke in the last week. After he was skipped in the rotation, execs were quoted as saying they were “concerned,” even going so far as to call him “scary.” Other big-market execs said they wouldn’t touch Greinke because of his known anxiety issue. But after Grienke’s heavily scouted seven-inning masterpiece in Philly, he has become the prize of the trade deadline, especially since Cole Hamels is no longer available. Teams known to be fawning over the righty include the Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, Atlanta Braves, and White Sox. The White Sox are pushing hard, but they don’t appear to have the pieces necessary to land Greinke; several league sources have reported that Doug Melvin’s asking price is astronomical and includes a top shortstop prospect. The Braves dropped out after refusing to part with top pitching prospect Julio Teheran, as did the Orioles after Melvin suggested Manny Machado. At this point, it looks to be a two-way battle between the Rangers and the Angels, though Texas appears to be the frontronner and is presumably very motivated after losing the last two world series. Still, their top prospect, shorstop Jurickson Profar, is reportedly off the table, even though the Brewers (and other teams) are no doubt asking about him. The Angels don’t seem too confident in their chances to land Greinke.
***UPDATE***: Greinke was traded to the Angels late Friday for a package that includes three of the Angels’ top-10 prospects: SS Jean Segura (#2), RHP Ariel Pena (#9), and RHP Johnny Hellweg (#4). The Rangers apparently didn’t come close to that offer, refusing to trade Jurickson Profar, Mike Olt, or even Martin Perez. In fact, the Rangers’ best offer appears to have been IF Leurys Garcia, LHP Chad Bell, and RHP Justin Grimm; a pittance compared to what the Brewers ultimately wound up with, if I may offer my editorial opinion. The Angels’ decision to include Pena led Doug Melvin to pull the trigger, and the Angels now have perhaps the best rotation in baseball. You can read our own Ryan Smith’s analysis of the trade here.
Francisco Rodriguez. K-Rod was looking like a sure candidate to be dealt at the trade deadline, but then he became the closer. Over the last week, he’s allowed 7 earned runs over 3.1 innings of work, with 7 walks against just 4 strikeouts. The Giants were reportedly in on him until they watched him pitch. K-Rod apparently alienated the Brewers, too, as Ron Roenicke announced the team would deploy a closer-by-committee.
George Kottaras. Kottaras was designated for assignment yesterday, a formality designed to open up a roster spot for returning catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Doug Melvin is reportedly attempting to find a new big-league home for the backup catcher; Kottaras was told to stay in Milwaukee while Melvin shopped him around.
***UPDATE***: The Brewers have dealt the lefty catcher to the Oakland A’s, according to Tom Haudricourt. The A’s apparently have to make a corresponding roster move, and the deal will not be announced, nor will we know who the Brewers are receiving, until Sunday. You can read Ryan Smith’s take on George Kottaras’s move here.
Nyjer Morgan. Morgan was a great pickup last year, but this year has been a struggle for the lefthanded hitter; he’s batting just .228/.299/.274. The Brewers would love to move his $2.35M salary, especially with Carlos Gomez playing so well, but there don’t appear to be many suitors right now.
Kameron Loe. Loe may be the only Brewers reliever to be moved before the trade deadline. After a two-inning, three-strikeout scoreless showing on Thursday, Loe should draw some interest from teams looking for bullpen help (i.e. Cincinatti Reds, Rangers, New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, etc.). Loe has allowed just two runs over his last nine outings.
Manny Parra. Manny Parra, like Rodriguez, was a great trade candidate until this week. With plenty of scouts in attendance in Philly, Parra walked three on Tuesday and gave up four earned runs. That came on the heels of another three-walk performance the day earlier. It’s a shame, because Parra had pitched well through July up until that point (7.1 ip, 2 bb, 10 k, 1.23 era). Nothing simmering on the trade front here.
***UPDATE***: According to CBS’s Danny Knobler (via Twitter), the Brewers have received some inquiries about Parra, but may keep him and re-convert him into a starter again. That didn’t end well the first time. Parra as a starter is 23-26 with a 5.44 era, 1.692 whip, and 1.71 k/bb ratio. As a reliever, he has a 3.82 era, 1.406 whip, and 2.62 k/bb.
Corey Hart. The Brewers are listening on Hart, but would have to be “bowled over” by the offer to move him, reports Tom Haudricourt. Still, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Hart included in the Greinke deal if it nets the Brewers a top shortstop and pitching prospect.
Aramis Ramirez. Like Hart, the Brewers are listening, but the price is high. The team is not motivated to sell simply to rid their books of the $16M Ramirez is due in 2014 (he’ll earn $10M next season, too). Early reports linked the Dodgers to Ramirez, but they appear to have satisfied their desire for a bat with Hanley Ramirez.
Jose Veras. No doubt the Brewers would love to unload Veras and his 1.72 WHIP, but I can’t imagine a contender that would want to play with that kind of fire. By the same token, I couldn’t figure out why the Brewers would want to play with that kind of fire back in December. Veras has the third-most walks among MLB relievers and I can’t see him going anywhere. K-Rod is tied for fourth, incidentally.
By: Ryan Smith (@ryanhenrysmith2)
And just like that, the Brewers have continued in their role as a trade deadline seller.
Recent reports state that the Brewers have come to an agreement to send catcher George Kottaras to Oakland. Kottaras had been recently designated for assignment (DFA) because of the emergence of Martin Maldonado and the return of The Jonathan Lucroy.A career backup, Kottaras became a fan favorite in Milwaukee this year with his late-game heroics, coming through multiple times to help the Brewers claim victories. His ability to come through in clutch situations even created a buzz around Miller Park and on Twitter, with the verb “Kottaras” being introduced into our lexicon. After a game-winning hit, some fans could be heard saying “You’ve been Kottarased!”
As Kottaras came back to Earth after his hot start to the season, Lucroy started to dominate on a nightly basis. When Lucroy broke his hand, many thought it would be a great opportunity for Kottaras to showcase what he brings to the team. But Kottaras ran into an injury bug as well, and Martin Maldonado was called up. From there, Maldonado impressed everyone with his ability to handle the bat while also providing solid defense from the catcher position. It was only a matter of time before Lucroy would return from his injury, and it became apparent that Kottaras was going to be the odd man out.
When he was DFA, Kottaras was told to remain in Milwaukee, as GM Doug Melvin planned on trying to trade the catcher to another team so he could remain in the majors. Oakland, needing help at the catcher position and currently only 4.5 games behind the AL West-leading Texas Rangers, proved to be the destination Melvin was looking for.
As the backup catcher for Milwaukee over the last three seasons, Kottaras appeared in 174 games, hitting 17 homeruns with 55 runs batted in and 49 runs scored. Over the last few years, Kottaras received a majority of his playing time serving as Randy Wolf’s personal catcher, guaranteeing Kottaras a start every fifth game. In 49 games last season, Kottaras really showed what he could do by producing a line of .252/.311/.459. This season, his numbers dropped a bit, with a line of .209/.409/.360, which is still an upgrade over what Oakland catchers have combined to do on the year (.198/.250/.269). Oakland’s primary catcher, Kurt Suzuki, bats right-handed, so the left-handed Kottaras could create a natural platoon with him.
As of right now, there has been no report as to what Milwaukee will receive in exchange for Kottaras, and Melvin has stated that he doesn’t believe the deal will be finalized until Sunday. Considering Kottaras is a 29-year-old career backup who was recently DFA, I would not expect much in return. The Brewers probably will receive a low-level project prospect or two. This trade was most likely more about Doug Melvin doing Kottaras a favor by sending him to a team that will keep him in the majors.
Check back with Cream City Cables as the Brewers continue to be sellers at this year’s trade deadline.
By Nathan Petrashek
Another day, another injury. This time it’s Jonathan Lucroy, one of the few bright spots for a 2012 team that has seen expectations of a repeat division title slowly fade. The team announced yesterday that Lucroy will miss 4-6 weeks with a broken hand, the result of a dropped suitcase at the team hotel. We’ll leave it to the television and radio folks to test the veracity of that claim. The rookie Martin Maldonado will handle primary catching duties for the time being. It looks like those folks desperately hoping for a Kottaras trade won’t be getting their wish.
The evidence of loss is almost overwhelming. Only half of the original starting infield remains. At first base, the Brewers are fielding Corey Hart and Brooks Conrad (in his second go-around with the team this year) after Travis Ishikawa, who had been filling in admirably (or at least adequately) for Mat Gamel, was placed on the DL with an oblique strain. The situation isn’t much better at shortstop. Alex Gonzalez gave way to Cezar Izturis, who has now given way to Cody Ransom, a recent waiver claim from Arizona. The only two members of the infield left standing are Rickie Weeks and Aramis Ramirez, who is still shaking off the effects of a bruised elbow thanks to an errant pitch. Weeks might as well be on the bench. He hasn’t even performed at replacement level (.156/.290/.293), and we’re now two months into the season.
The injuries extend to the pitching side, too. The Brewers started the year with some depth at SP, but that is almost entirely eroded thanks to a season-ending injury to Chris Narveson and a more temporary situation with his replacement, Marco Estrada. This sets the stage for Michael Fiers’ first major-league start tonight against the Dodgers.
By my count, that’s three positions at which the Brewers are down to replacements of replacements. People are starting to lose hope. In the latest Brew Crew Ball tracking poll, only a slim majority of Brewers fans still think the Brewers have a shot at the playoffs. Those are mostly fans, mind you. More objective folks are probably less inclined to be optimistic. This feeling of despair apparently knows no limits, and is starting to reflect on GM Doug Melvin, whose approval rating dropped significantly for the first time.
I’ve often thought that the most telling sign of a person’s character is how they react when bad things happen. This is true in baseball too. Doug Melvin can’t conjure up players to fill a baseball roster; not good ones, at least. His options are limited. He could go out and trade for some front-line talent, though most teams aren’t selling and the price tag even if they were would probably cause sticker shock. He can sign one of the few remaining free agents out there, though there’s likely a reason they haven’t caught on yet – price (Roy Oswalt), injury (Ross Gload) and lack of reciprocal interest (Derrek Lee) being prime candidates. Or – and this is the approach he has taken – he can rely on minor league talent to get by.
It’s worked before. Jonathan Lucroy was a promising, though not exactly highly touted, prospect once. He punched his big-league card straight from AA on the heels of an injury to every day catcher Gregg Zaun. Two years later, he has blossomed into one of the most complete catchers in baseball.
By not trading the farm or dumping loads of salary in pursuit of an increasingly unlikely playoff berth, Melvin is taking a responsible approach to the injury plague. He’s conserving resources while at the same time evaluating the players of the future, and making inexpensive, low risk tweaks – like adding Cody Ransom – where necessary. We’ll see two new pieces of the puzzle tonight in Fiers and Maldonado. Try not to expect too much from them; watch them for the promise they might hold for the future.
And don’t judge Melvin too harshly; he’s doing the best with what he has. Whether than is also true of Ron Roenicke will be the subject of another post.
By: Ryan Smith
The Brewers had just experienced a four-game losing streak at the hands of the Houston Astros and the Minnesota Twins. To make matters worse, the Crew only managed to score 10 runs over the course of those four games. Some fans – myself included – couldn’t help but start to wonder if it was too early to be genuinely concerned about this season. At that given moment, the Brewers were pathetic.
Then last Sunday’s outburst happened. The Brewer bats woke up to the tune of 16 runs. Sure, a good portion of those runs came against the very mortal Jason Marquis, whose less-than-stellar performance that day forced him into unemployment. Still, it was nice to see the team wake up at the plate.
For Brewers fans, Sunday’s game was a damn good time.
Helping to lead the charge on Sunday was The Jonathon Lucroy. (I’ve decided to refer to him as “The Jonathon Lucroy” because of the way he’s dominating at and behind the plate this season.) Already having a breakout season, The Jonathon Lucroy continued his success at the plate with a monster performance, crushing two home runs and knocking in seven runs along the way. I couldn’t help but think that Sunday might have been just what the doctor ordered: a game to build some confidence for our struggling lineup.
On Monday, my excitement would be put on hold.
Randy Wolf was pitching.
Now let me point out that I am a fan of Randy Wolf. I was never a big fan of Randy Wolf as the second guy in our rotation, but as our fourth? Sign me up.
My problem with Randy Wolf is George Kottaras.
Let me point something else out: I like George Kottaras. As a kid, I grew up cheering for Milwaukee and Boston, and I’ve continued to do so for quite some time, so I liked Kottaras well before most Brewers fans started using his name as a verb early this season.
My problem with George Kottaras is Randy Wolf.
I can buy into the idea of a pitcher having a “personal catcher” for a few reasons. Tim Wakefield always had a specific catcher in Boston, and if you remember Jason Varitek trying to catch the knuckleballer in the ’04 playoffs, you completely understand why he has his own catcher. I would understand if someone like Daisuke Matsuzaka had a personal catcher because he came to the big leagues with a rumored seven pitches. I would even understand if someone like Justin Verlander or Roy Halladay requested a personal catcher because, well, I’d give those guys whatever the hell they wanted.
But Randy Wolf? As Tom Haudricourt tweeted during Monday’s game, Randy Wolf has exactly eight 1-2-3 innings this season. He’s pitched 46.1 innings thus far. That performance warrants a personal catcher?
Sorry. I don’t buy it.
I’ve heard other arguments for this whole “personal catcher” situation that Wolf and Kottaras have going. I get the idea that giving The Jonathon Lucroy an off-day every fifth game will help save his legs and keep him fresh into September.
But does the situation have to be so rigid? Does it have to be every fifth game? What about every seventh game? Wouldn’t that still give him more off days than other top-tier catchers have throughout a given season?
Or if they insisted on giving him that fifth game off, couldn’t they juggle it around from starter to starter, based on the each game’s pitching matchup?
Monday’s game against San Francisco was the perfect example of my last point. The Giants were sending southpaw Madison Bumgarner to the mound. The Jonathon Lucroy is, quite simply, hitting the crap out of the ball against lefties, sporting a line of .419/.455/.742 in 2012.
The left-handed George Kottaras, in limited at-bats, has a line of .167/.500/.167 against lefties this season. So basically, he knows how to draw a walk against left-handed pitching but isn’t as gifted when it comes to actually swinging the bat in those same situations.
So I have to ask Ron Roenicke one thing: why?
Why take out a guy who is hitting the ball with reckless abandon regardless of where you put him in the batting order? Why give him an off-day against a left-handed pitcher when he might be our most dangerous bat against lefties outside of Ryan Braun? Why not wait and give Kottaras his turn in the lineup against Matt Cain on Tuesday?
Because it was Randy Wolf’s start. And George Kottaras is Randy Wolf’s personal catcher.
Before the game, when asked about possibly changing this philosophy, Roenicke said, “I like them both out there. I think there should be some times when I’d rather put ‘Luc’ in there catching Randy. Tonight would be one of them. But we need to talk to them more about that if we decide we’re going to go that way.”
Once again, sorry. I don’t buy it.
Mr. Roenicke, I’m a fan of yours. I like the style of game you preach to the players. I like your aggressiveness on the bases. I love seeing a suicide squeeze once a week.
But I also know that you’re the manager and they are your players. It is your job to try and put out the lineup that gives us the best chance to win the game on any given night. “We” don’t need to talk about anything if “we” are going to make a decision.
You need to make that decision. The next time Randy Wolf is matched up against another lefty, you need to put out the best lineup possible.
You need to make sure you have The Jonathon Lucroy out there. Because right now, The Jonathon Lucroy trumps any “personal catcher” system that you have in place.
By: Ryan Smith
It appears that I haven’t written a post in quite some time. While I may be lacking in the extra time that it takes to write consistent, quality posts, I certainly have not been lacking ideas for new columns.
After an opening weekend that saw Gallardo look like a batting practice pitcher one day, followed by Greinke absolutely shutting down that same St. Louis team the next day, I decided that I wanted to write an article reminding everyone that I said Greinke would be the team’s “ace” for this season. Then Greinke had his start in Chicago with a chance for the sweep, and he proceeded to stink up the joint (which is not an easy thing to do considering Wrigley already reeks). Too late for that column.
Two weeks into the season, I decided that I wanted to write an article about early season overreactions, pointing out some statements and thoughts that had been running through Brewer Nation. I was going to write about how everyone needs to calm down and not promote George Kottaras ahead of Jonathon Lucroy based on a few long balls. I was going to write about how we need to wait a bit for Aramis Ramirez to get his feet under him before all of Milwaukee called that signing a mistake.
But then, two weeks into the season became three weeks into the season which then became a month into the season. Too late for that column.
After today’s extra-innings loss to the Twins, the Brewers find themselves at 16-24. A 16-24 record means they’ve now played 40 games, which is roughly a quarter of the way through the season. As I looked at the standings and pondered what I could write about, I realized something:
Much like my column ideas, it’s starting to appear like it may be too late for this Milwaukee Brewers team.
Don’t get me wrong – there are still 122 games left in the season, so they have plenty of time to turn things around. But as I watch them play (which has been downright painful this past week), I have growing concerns about certain areas of this team.
And the fact that there are 122 games left doesn’t make me say that we have time to fix those concerns. In actuality, it makes me fear that those concerns could only grow to more frightening levels as we make our way through summer.
So let’s take a look at some of my concerns at this early but not-so-early juncture of the 2012 season, shall we?
First, allow me to give you a hypothetical situation:
You are Ron Roenicke and the Brewers are up 3-2 going into the 8th inning. The starter has thrown 107 pitches, so he’s done for the night. For some reason or another, Axford and Loe are not available for this particular game. You need to select two guys to send to the mound to get the next six outs, and your options are Rodriguez, Veras, Dillard, Parra, and Chulk. Who do you choose?
If you’re like me, you just got that disgusting vomit taste in your mouth. With a few exceptions, Axford has been typical Axford, giving the fans close calls but usually coming through in the end. Loe looks like a different guy than the one who was only appearing in low-leverage situations late last year. But everyone else? Let’s just say that if Roenicke goes through the entire season without having a late-inning heart attack, I’ll consider that a victory.
Luckily, bullpen improvements happen every year for contenders, either with organizational call-ups – Tyler Thornburg would fill this role nicely – or through trade deadline moves, like when we acquired K-Rod last season. The only problem is if we keep losing like we have been, we won’t be contenders when July rolls around.
Another issue I have with this team is at the plate. More specifically, it pains me that a good portion of our hitters have the plate approach of a Little League team. Braun has been Braun, leading the team in most statistical categories and providing a consistent, dangerous bat, and he hasn’t been alone. I mean, who could have seen the type of season Lucroy is producing thus far? Oh, that’s right – I said he could do this, as did Cream City Cables founder Nate Petrashek. But beyond Braun and Lucroy and the occasional power surge from Hart, the early portion of this season has not seen a lot of consistency at the plate for this team. Ramirez has started to look better in recent weeks, though that’s not saying much considering how terrible he was in April. Perhaps my biggest concern with our hitters is Rickie Weeks. It’s one thing to start slowly, but he’s not really showing any signs of improvement. Needless to say, my confidence in Mr. Weeks is being challenged.
Finally, I can’t help but worry about all of the injuries that have hit Milwaukee in the first six weeks of the season. Last year, the Brewers only had to use six starters throughout the course of the entire season. Now, we’ve lost Narveson for the season, putting more pressure on the rest of our very talented rotation. We lost new infield regulars Gamel and Gonzalez. Gonzalez’s defense was as advertised, so that isn’t something the team can just replace overnight. And Gamel’s injury was heartbreaking. The guy finally gets his everyday shot and, quite frankly, does well in that spot. So of course he goes out for the season. Travis Ishikawa has been a pleasant surprise, but it would have been a nice luxury to be able to bring him off the bench on most nights as a pinch-hitter or a defensive replacement. In 2011, the Brewers had limited injuries that impacted the everyday roster. This year, it seems like that run of good luck may have come to an end.
As I said earlier, I’m not giving up on this season. It’s still too early to just start looking to next year (unless you’re a Cubs fan). But if they don’t start turning things around soon, it might be too late for the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers.
By Nathan Petrashek
It’s pretty incredible that two players who don’t see regular playing time are tied for the team lead in average, and yet that’s just where George Kottaras and Carlos Gomez find themselves with just one game to go in April. Both have made game-changing contributions to the team in the early season that need to be recognized, and have made the case that they deserve more playing time.
Kottaras has plenty of late-inning heroics already. On April 11, he delivered the team’s only runs on a two-run shot off Ryan Dempster in the seventh inning to deliver what remains Yovani Gallardo’s only win of the season. Then on the 17th against the Dodgers, Kottaras plated the go-ahead run on a two-run double at the bottom of the ninth. In 22 ABs, Kottaras is raking .318/.500/.773, with all but one at bat coming against righties. It has been refreshing to see Kottaras used more in late-inning, high-leverage situations, but to really maximize his skills, the whole notion of using him as Randy Wolf’s personal catcher should be scrapped. Kottaras, hitting just .182 for his career against lefties, should always cede the start to Jonathan Lucroy in that situation, freeing him up for additional starts against righties and pinch hit appearances.
Gomez has shown flashes early this season of developing into the player we have hoped he’d become for the last two years. With appearances in 18 games, Gomez is slashing .318/.333/.545. Gomez has walked just once, and his OBP leaves something to be desired but is nonetheless a dramatic improvement over last year’s .276. Most people are familiar with Gomez’s speed, and he hasn’t disappointed this year, swiping five bags. What has been really surprising, though, is Gomez’s plate discipline. After ending about 28% of his at-bats last year via the K, Gomez has struck out just three times so far in 2012, about 7% of his at-bats. In general, he’s swinging at more pitches in the zone and fewer outside, and has been able to make contact at rates well above his career averages. Only time will tell if the 26-year-old Gomez is one of those rare late bloomers, but he certainly looks like he’s finally put it all together in the early going. And with CF platoon mate Nyjer Morgan batting just .176 a month in, Gomez’s production is certainly welcome.
By: Ryan Smith
2012 would mark the second-consecutive season that I made it to the Milwaukee Brewers home opener. Now that I’m writing for Cream City Cables, I thought this would be a good opportunity for an article. After tossing around a few ideas, I decided that I wanted to tackle the day in the form of a running diary. I chose to take this approach for two reasons:
Reason #1: I’ve enjoyed the writing of Bill Simmons for over a decade now. I find his mix of sports content, opinion, pop culture and humor to be consistently entertaining to the point that I still look forward to his weekly articles on Grantland.com. Being a Bill Simmons fan, some of my favorite articles that he has written have taken on the running diary format.
Reason #2: I don’t remember the 2011 home opener. The game started at 1 pm. We were drinking outside of Miller Park by 8:30 am. We had jello shots with the tailgaters around us. Shots of whiskey and blackberry brandy were passed around generously. My cousin Zach brought beer margaritas – a concoction that is equal parts frozen limeade concentrate, citrus soda, beer, and tequila – and I feel that he was very liberal with his use of tequila. In our circle of friends, we call these “Flux Capacitors” because they tend to allow the consumer to travel through time, which is a nicer way of saying they make you black out. So yeah, I figured that a running diary would force me to stay coherent throughout this season’s home opener.
With all that being said, I woke up early on Friday, April 6th, grabbed a six-pack of Spotted Cow and a black coffee, and headed out to the apartment of Cream City Cables creator Nate Petrashek. It was finally time for some Brewers baseball. Let’s jump right into the action.
9:54 AM – I’m at the apartment of Mr. Petrashek. Nate’s girlfriend Sarah is ready, and Jason Stuewe has also arrived. My cousin Zach and his fiancé Michelle just parked outside. I’m checking to see where a few of our friends are. Our college friends Matt, Hof, and Pete are supposed to meet us at 10 AM so we can get to Miller Park by 10:30. Hof and Pete are historically known for being late. Nate says he spoke to them earlier and they were on pace to arrive ten minutes early, so I ask what time it is. Stuewe promptly replies “Six minutes early.” So much for that.
9:58 AM – Matt arrives with Hof and Pete. This might be the first time those two have ever been early. For anything. Time to load up the cars and head off to Miller Park.
10:27 AM – We stop at a Walgreens to meet up with some of Nate’s other friends. Everyone in our tailgating group packs into three cars. Now it’s REALLY time to get to Miller Park.
10:58 AM – We’ve officially arrived. The parking lot seems more cramped than last year, or what I remember of last year anyway. We quickly realize that the row of cars in front of us decided to set up their tailgate stations as far away from their cars as possible, putting them right at our bumpers. Luckily, they are willing to adjust their tailgating placement so we can all come together and spend the next four hours preparing for the home opener.
10:59 AM – Shots! Before the cars are even unpacked, Stuewe is passing around shots of Jack Daniels. Nate raises his solo cup and yells “Fuck the Redbirds!” I’ll drink to that.
11:09 AM – Apparently, there has been some more tailgate shifting going on, so we have extra room on the other end of our cars. We pack everything up and shift to the east. In the process, Nate drops the grill. Boo, Nate. Boo.
11:15 AM – Stuewe now passes out cigars in honor of opening day. I don’t smoke very often, but I feel this is an occasion worthy of lighting up. So let’s see, I have a beer in hand, I’ve taken a few shots, and now I’m smoking a cigar. 24-year-old me is loving this right now. Cue obscure reference to Will Smith and a “victory dance.”
11:23 AM – I just have to say that this weather is absolutely gorgeous. Perfect opening day weather. Earlier in the week, it looked like we’d be dealing with a windy, 40-degree day. Instead, I see people putting on sunscreen. Where’s my bottle opener?
11:30 AM – Nate starts ranting, saying “You gotta win today! Set the tone!” He’s talking to no one in particular. This is actually pretty routine with him.
11:36 AM – Someone mentions the holiday weekend, to which Stuewe replies “Yeah, I keep hearing about that. What’s the holiday?” Umm, it’s Easter. Kind of a big one. Today isn’t called Good Friday just because of the home opener, buddy.
11:43 AM – So far, I’m on my second beer and I’ve only had four shots. Right now, I think my chances of remember Opening Day ’12 are looking pretty good.
11:58 AM – Can someone make an air freshener that smells like brats on the grill? I don’t care about lavender, vanilla, or apple cinnamon, but I’d be perfectly fine if my apartment always had the scent of brats on the grill.
12:10 PM – Crisis averted. My bottle opener – the one I’ve had on my keychain since college – just broke. Luckily, it was a minor issue and I easily fixed it. Still, a close call.
12:18 PM – Just saw a guy walk by with a personalized jersey. Everyone is our group agrees that personalized jerseys suck. I love when we’re all on the same page.
12:28 PM – You know how you always hear about how Wisconsin has an obesity problem? If you ever doubt it, just come to opening day. Or any Brewer game. I’m looking around and I see fruit and pasta salads on tables all around us, completely untouched. It’s the thought that counts.
12:37 PM – Matt brought steak sandwiches for the grill this year. Bravo, Matt. Great choice.
12:50 PM – Another jersey rant: we all agree that it’s lazy to simply put tape over the name on your old jersey. Fielder is gone. Either accept it and wear his jersey with pride or buy a new one. And by the way, Ramirez isn’t #28.
12:51 PM – Nate is now heckling the guy who has “Ramirez” written on tape over Fielder’s name. The guy is absolutely clueless.
1:00 PM – Finally breaking the seal.
1:03 PM – There’s a fucking line at the men’s room, yet no wait at all for the women. Sometimes life just doesn’t make sense. A guy in line ahead of me says that it’s because “90 percent of the people here are dudes.” That seems a little high. Then again, so does he.
1:10 PM – First trip inside the men’s room of the 2012 season. I think all men assume that the women’s room is the complete opposite of the hell we visit. I figure that they have couches to sit on while they wait and the room smells of daisies and sunshine. Meanwhile, I’m waiting in line, surrounding by the scent of bad decisions.
1:21 PM – Nate returns from the restroom, and apparently I missed a fight. We all agree that it is not proper etiquette to enter the restroom through the exit door. Someone breaking this unwritten rule was then accused of being a Cubs fan for doing so. They proceeded to get into a shoving match while standing by the urinals. Nate left, saying “Nothing good could come from that situation.” Agreed.
1:32 PM – Hof goes to crack open another Bud Light until we question his loyalty to the Brewers. After all, can you really drink a Budweiser product when you are at Miller Park and the Brewers are about to play the Cardinals? Hof succumbs to peer pressure and trades the Bug Light for a Miller Lite.
1:36 PM – The blackberry brandy is making the rounds again. Hof initially refuses, but another dose of peer pressure gets him to take a swig. Peer pressure is Hof’s fatal flaw.
1:43 PM – The third game of “bag tag” just took place. For those that are unaware, “bag tag” is when one guy decides to backhand another guy in the genital region. This usually results in one participant sitting down for a few minutes. All the males in our group are on complete lockdown now.
1:44 PM – Right now, I’ve had five beers and 11 shots. Once again, 24-year-old me would be perfectly fine right now. I’m thinking that I should slow down. It’s hard not to get drunk when you tailgate for over four hours.
1:54 PM – Nate is getting defensive. For no reason. I like when he gets like this. It’s really easy to get him to rant about pretty much anything.
2:12 PM – Team effort to create a human wall so Nate could avoid a trip to the dreaded men’s room. I love when we all come together to work towards a common goal. Mental note not to walk on the passenger side of Stuewe’s car.
2:31 PM – Time to head in to Miller Park. My official Opening Day 2012 Tailgate line looks like this: 1 brat, 1 burger, 1 hot dog, 1 steak sandwich, 8 beers, 15 shots.
2:48 PM – Today’s free giveaway: 2012 Brewers Magnet Schedule. I like giveaways that I won’t immediately throw in the garbage.
3:03 PM – Does anyone else really enjoy watching drunk people trying to act sober? I just watched a guy swipe at the railing four times before he just sat down on the steps.
3:08 PM – I love the first time that the team takes the field. Not just on opening day either. Every game.
3:10 PM – Gallardo takes the mound for his third opening day start in a row. I still think Greinke should have gotten the ball today, and that in no way is an insult to Gallardo.
3:20 PM – Gallardo gets through the 1st inning, allowing two walks and throwing 20 pitches. Not a great start, but he put a zero on the board.
3:24 PM – Weeks leads off the season with a base hit, followed by a Gomez triple! 1-0!
3:26 PM – Braun comes up for his first at-bat of the season. The ovation is ridiculous. I’m joining in on the “MVP!” chant.
3:27 PM – Braun lines out sharply to short.
3:32 PM – Yadier Molina leads off the top of the 2nd with a solo homerun. I hate Molina. Hate him.
3:37 PM – It’s still the top of the 2nd and Hof is falling asleep. More on this in a moment.
3:38 PM – Did you know that the last concert Randy Wolf attended was to see the band Tool? I love in-between inning trivia.
3:39 PM – Hof heads out to get ice cream. I suggest a soda or coffee. Anything with caffeine, really. It’s a long game, Hof.
3:41 PM – Gamel’s first at-bat of the year and he flies out to center. I can already hear the doubters warming up.
3:46 PM – A woman loses the between-inning game, and the crowd proceeds to boo her. Stay classy.
3:48 PM – Gallardo serves up his second homerun. Tie ballgame.
3:49 PM – Homerun #3…
3:51 PM - …and #4. It’s now 5-2. Hof yells “You suck, Gallardo!” Hof tends to do this at times. He quickly overreacts, only to retract his statement 20 minutes later. I’m surprised he’s not saying we should trade Yo at this point.
3:58 PM – Lucroy visits the mound for the third time this inning. That’s never a good sign.
4:00 PM – I also love when everyone complains about balls and strikes from the stands. We’re sitting on the third base side in the upper deck of Miller Park. I’m going to assume the umpire at home has a better angle than I do right now. It’s probably a ball; after all, most of the strikes thrown by Gallardo today have ended up in the stands.
4:10 PM – Pete: “Fucking Gallardo will probably give up four more this inning too!” I forgot to mention this, but Pete is Hof’s older brother. It must run in the family.
4:18 PM – Hof is dozing off once again, slowly leaning out into the aisle.
4:23 PM – Gallardo is done for the day. He only lasts 3 2/3 innings…not a great start to 2012.
4:30 PM – Hof is falling asleep for the third time. This is getting sad. Or funny. Yeah, I’m going to lean towards “funny” right now.
4:32 PM – Pete has put the rally cap on…in the 4th inning. I can’t blame him.
4:35 PM – Got the “Crazy Cap Shuffle” wrong. I used to own that game. I’m frazzled right now.
4:38 PM – And the Milwaukee Brewers have their first 1-2-3 inning of 2012! Too bad it’s the 5th inning.
4:40 PM – I swear, I can’t go anywhere without hearing “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson. I hate that song. Damnit, Kelly!
4:48 PM – Runners on 1st and 3rd, no outs, and we don’t score. Fuuuuuuuu…
4:55 PM – We have one of those annoying fans behind us right now that cheer extra loud for their team when they are winning. If you were just cheering to cheer for your team, you wouldn’t be looking around and trying to make eye contact with all of the home fans. By doing that, you are no longer just a fan; you are a douche. Fuck you, douche.
5:01 PM – Sausage Race time! I always cheer for Guido. Sadly, Hot Dog gets away with an early start and Guido settles for 2nd place.
5:06 PM – Braun’s now 0-3. Let the steroid comments commence, haters.
5:32 PM – T-Plush pinch hits. His appearance wakes up the comatose crowd for a moment.
5:36 PM – Two on, no outs, and we fail to score again. Somebody pass the whiskey…
5:44 PM – I guessed the attendance wrong too. The jumbotron is owning me today.
5:46 PM – They’re playing “Jump Around” right now. I think 12 people are actually jumping. Everyone else is too tired/full/depressed right now.
5:48 PM – And the rally cap is on!
5:53 PM – Braun and Ramirez are a combined 0-8 today…
6:02 PM – 10-2, top of the 9th…I should have had more to drink…
6:03 PM – Make that 11-2…
6:09 PM – They said the attendance was over 46,000 for today’s game. Right now, I doubt there’s more than 6,000 remaining.
6:15 PM – Lucroy gets hit by a pitch. Silver lining from today’s game is that Lucroy, Gamel, and Hart have all been on base three times.
6:17 PM – Pinch-hitter George Kottaras hits a 3-run shot, making it 11-5.
6:20 PM – I’m not completely certain, but I think Hof just said he shit his pants. I’m glad I’m driving separately.
6:22 PM – And Braun gets the final out, going 0-5 on the day.
6:23 PM – The Brewers fall on opening day, 11-5. Not a great start to the season, but I’m reminded that we started 0-4 last year. Things seemed to work out well for us then. Time to pack up and head home. I might try to do a few more of these throughout the course of the season. Until next time, Go Crew!
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always viewed the launch of the Topps Baseball set as one of the earliest signs of spring. Prior to spring training, or even the groundhog seeing (or not seeing) his shadow, the set marks the first sign of hope that another season is on its way despite it’s release in the middle of winter’s icy cold grip.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve made collecting the entire 660 card set a yearly tradition. This year, I thought I would use the blog to share my love for these cardboard keepsakes and to specifically focus on what Brewers fans can expect to find in the first half (Series I is composed of cards 1-330) of this years set .
We’re Number 1, We’re Number 1!
For the second consecutive year, Brewers slugger and 2011 NL MVP, Ryan Braun finds himself on the first card of the set. While this honor is a great one (former Brewers 1st baseman Prince Fielder had graced this spot in 2010 with a photo of his infamous September 2009 walkoff celebration), this year is “doubly” special for Braun.
Why you ask? Well, this year Topps decided to change up their “chase” variants (short printed versions of some cards with alternate photos and lower print runs) which for the last several years had been reserved for the retired greats of seasons past. This year, the focus is on celebrations and off field hijinks, leading to Braun’s card having 2 separate versions. Shown above, is the standard version of Braun’s card depicting him doing what he does best, knocking the crap out of the ball. His alternate card (pictured to the left), features Braun doing his signature “boxing” home run celebration with Fielder.
For those looking for the short print, your best chance is to check with your local hobby shop or eBay as the estimated average of finding a short printed card (of which there are 22) is only 2 per hobby case.
So, Who Else Made The Cut?
Below is a list of the other players who can be found in the main set donning a Brewers uniform. For convenience sake, I’ve broken this down into 2 groups: those currently with the team and those no longer with the team.
Currently With The Team:
# 29 Active NL Wins Leaders (Wolf)
# 66 Nyjer Morgan
#143 George Kottaras
#146 Carlos Gomez
#181 2011 NL Batting Average Leaders (Braun)
#210 Zack Greinke
#262 Shaun Marcum
#272 2011 NLDS Brewers Game 5 (Morgan)
#294 John Axford
No Longer With The Team:
# 57 Yuniesky Betancourt
# 77 2011 NL Home Run Leaders (Fielder)
#136 Casey McGehee
#224 2011 NL Runs Batted In Leaders (Fielder)
#327 Mark Kotsay
Of all of the cards listed above, the two that I love the most are the Nyjer Morgan cards. First, his standard card (#66) is the same photo of him, Braun, and Fielder that graced the cover of the August 29, 2011 issue of Sports Illustrated (shown on the left). Due to the national exposure that this photo got, this has become one of those instant classics and was a real surprise to me when I pulled it out of a pack.
The other card to feature Morgan is the 2011 NLDS Brewers Game 5 card (#272). Here we find Morgan in full “Beast Mode” as he celebrates his walk off single that sent the Crew to the NLCS for the first time in franchise history. I love this photo choice so much simply due to the fact that it just sums up the energy and the enthusiasm of the 2011 campaign so perfectly. It’s Brewers baseball, in the post season, and “T-Plush” is supplying the charge. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Digging for Gold: The Inserts
Topps decided to go with a gold motif for this years inserts. This means everything from gold ring toppers, pins, coins and just plain old gold foil can be found in abundance in these subsets. Let’s look at which Brewers, and Brewers alum can be found here.
**Note – I have not included former Brewers below if the card they appear on shows them in another team’s uniform (sorry Minnesota Twins Paul Molitor), with the exception of cards featuring players on the Milwaukee Braves.**
Golden moments is a 50 card set composed of cards celebrating historic moments in MLB history which were accomplished by not only those that have come before, but from today’s stars as well. Here we find two cards of interest: GM-10 which celebrates Prince Fielders “Wake Up, Walk Off” from this past season, as well as GM-15 which celebrates Ryan Braun’s passing of Robin Yount for the longest consecutive game on base streak in franchise history. An autographed version, relic version, an auto/relic variant, as well as a “24k gold infused” version numbered out of 5 pieces are also available for the Braun card.
Additionally, the following players each have relic cards in this subset:
GMR-CH Corey Hart
GMR-CM Casey McGehee
GMR-JA John Axford
GMR-JLU Jonathan Lucroy
GMR-PF Prince Fielder
GMR-PM Paul Molitor
GMR-SM Shaun Marcum
GMR-YG Yovani Gallardo
This 75 card set celebrates the career highlights of 15 legends of the game (5 cards each). Brewers fans, or more specifically Milwaukee baseball fans, may be interested in checking out cards GG51-55 which feature none other than “Hammerin” Hank Aaron as a Milwaukee Brave. As with the Braun card found in Golden Moments, the Hank Aaron cards found in this set also have autographed (numbered out of 10), relic (numbered out of 10), and auto/relic parallels (numbered out of just 5). Additionally, there is a Gold Coin variation which has a production number based on the player’s jersey number (in this case 44) and contains an actual gold coin with the players likeness on it.
These 25 dual-player cards statistically compare a hero of yesteryear to a modern day player. As with the main set, this subset again finds Ryan Braun in the lead-off spot teamed up with none other than “The Ignitor”, Paul Molitor. A dual autographed parallel of this card also exists.
1987 Topps Minis
Topps classic wood grain design from their 1987 set gets the mini treatment in celebration of the sets 25th anniversary. Braun (TM-1) again leads off this 50 card subset and is joined by Brewers ace Zack Greinke (TM-35).
You want something no one else has? How about the actual letters off of this past years All-Star warmup jerseys? That is what Topps is offering in this subset where each piece is numbered 1/1. Fielder (shown at left), Weeks, and Braun all appear here meaning that Brewers Nation will need to figure out how to sort out the 17 total pieces available between these three players.
Topps Silk Collection
100 of the base sets cards were also printed as mini version on gold silk and numbered out of only 50 pieces each. Included in this subset are Ryan Braun (SC-1), Zack Greinke (SC-47), Shaun Marcum (SC-62), and John Axford (SC-81).
Base Set Paralells
Each of the 330 card in the base set features two different parallels: Platinum and Wood. The platinum cards are numbered out of 61 pieces in honor of this being Topps 61st set. These are identical to the base cards with the exception that they sport a platinum colored border. Like the platinum parallels, the wood parallels are also identical to their base cards except that these cards are a tribute to the 1962 set and are all numbered 1/1.
So there you have it, a thorough look at the Brewers cards in this years set so far. I’ll be back with a look at Series II after it is released in June. In the mean time, if you have any questions regarding this set, or card collecting in general feel free to hit me up on Twitter at @kevinkimmes. Happy collecting!
By Kevin Kimmes
The offseason always brings its fair share of speculation. Sometimes this is caused by offseason moves that create an air of hope, potentially transforming an also ran into a contender. Then there’s the agony when a top producer packs up their locker with no hope of returning dealing a crushing blow to their former team and the fans that had cheered them on for years. And of course, there is even the ever optimistic mantra of the Cubs fan who says “Maybe next year”.
This offseason, Milwaukee’s fans have had to deal with both of the first two scenarios as the additions of Alex Gonzalez and Aramis Ramirez to the infield should reap immediate benefits, while the loss of Prince Fielder’s bat in the lineup creates some issues in the run production department.
Today, I will look at each position and speculate on who will be there on opening day and consider what Bill James is predicting they will do from an offensive stand point. Additionally, I will try to project an opening day batting order for the season opener against the Cardinals on April 6th at Miller Park.
**All stats provided courtesy of Fangraphs**
The Starting Pitchers:
This season sees the return of all 5 starters from Milwaukee’s 2011 NL Central Champion squad (Gallardo, Marcum, Greinke, Wolf, and Narveson). Below are projections for each of the starters for 2012 :
Based on these projections, Gallardo should be the opening day starter. His projected 9.53 strikeouts per 9 innings coupled with an ERA of 3.46 give him a slight advantage over Greinke (8.33/9, 3.52) and Marcum (7.3/9, 3.52). Additionally, both stats are improvements over Gallardo’s 2011 number (8.99/9, 3.52) meaning that the best may be still to come from Milwaukee’s ace.
Also returning from the 2011 squad is catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Based on the numbers (136 projected games, the same as last year) it appears that speculation is leaning on Lucroy being the everyday catcher with the exception of days when Randy Wolf is pitching. Last season, Wolf used backup catcher George Kottaras as his personal battery mate, giving Lucroy a break every few days.
In regards to offensive output, the projection leans on Lucroy having a very similar season to last year (.264/.328/.393 compared to last seasons .265/.313/.391). Additionally, he is projected for 12 homeruns, 53 runs, and 64 RBIs which is a slight improvement over last seasons 12 homeruns, 45 runs, and 59 RBIs.
At 1st Base:
As much as I’d like to tell you that by some divine miracle an 11th hour deal was made to keep Prince Fielder in Milwaukee, we all know by this point that this will not be the case. Instead, the Brewers will be looking to 3rd base convert Mat Gamel to fill the hole at 1st. As Adam McCalvy reported last week, Gamel is working hard this offseason to be ready for spring training and to assume a spot in the starting lineup on opening day, something that Gamel has missed out on the past three years due to Spring Training injuries.
While it would be unrealistic to expect Gamel (who has a .222 batting average in 194 plate appearances over 4 seasons) to bring in the same kind of power hitting production that Fielder had, he should improve his career stats in an everyday role. While Bill James only has him projected for 118 games (potentially factoring in his history of injuries), Gamel should hit around .282/.342/.476 with 19 home runs this season.
At 2nd Base:
As a returning All-Star, Rickie Weeks will be looking to build on his injury shortened 2011 campaign by again manning the bag at 2nd. Weeks, who hit for 20 home runs last season will again be called on to hit the long ball in order to help ease the offensive depletion caused by Fielders departure.
According to James, Weeks should have another All-Star worthy performance this year as he is projected for .262/.355/.453 with 22 homeruns, 62 RBIs, and 12 stolen bases in 136 games.
At 3rd Base:
Welcome to Milwaukee Aramis Ramirez! After an extremely disappointing 2011 by regular 3rd baseman Casey McGehee, the prospect of what Ramirez brings to the table, both as both a defender and as a batter, are exciting to say the least. In 149 games last season for the Chicago Cubs, Ramirez hit .306/.361/.510 while crushing 26 hits for homeruns, numbers that the Brewers hope he repeats for them in 2012.
Ramirez represents the best chance that the Brewers have for closing the run production gap created by Fielder’s departure as he is projected to hit for .285/.350/.500 with 26 homeruns and 94 RBIs in 140 games.
As I have reported previously, the addition of Alex Gonzalez at short, while providing an upgrade defensively, leaves the Brewers in roughly the same spot offensively at short.
Gonzalez is projected to hit .237/.278/.381 with 14 homeruns and 60 RBIs in 145 games.
With the official signing of Norichika Aoki, the Brewers seem to have taken the first step into the realm of possibility that they may be without reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun for the first 50 games of the season. The signing makes for some interesting scenarios in the outfield as Milwaukee will be able to choose amongst several righty and lefty hitters to fill out these three spots.
Assuming that Braun is suspended (historically the odds are not in his favor), I would not be surprised to see Aoki in his spot in left field come opening day. In Japan, Aoki is a career .329 hitter with 84 home runs, 385 RBIs and 164 stolen bases in 985 games over 8 seasons.
Center field will again be the home to the platoon of Carlos Gomez and Nyjer Morgan. Having a righty/lefty platoon definitely gives Milwaukee versatility in center field allowing them to not only play to whomever has the hottest bat at the time, but to also play for advantage when it comes to pitching matchups. While Gomez is the better pure fielder at the position, Morgan brings speed and charisma.
While it is hard to say at this juncture who will win the opening day start (a lot will be determined in spring training), I’m going to go with my gut feeling and place Morgan in my line up due to the intangibles that he brings to the team and his ability to whip the crowd into a frenzy to start off the year. Morgan is projected to hit .288/.345/.362 with 2 homeruns, 36 RBIs and 25 stolen bases in 130 games, while Gomez is projected to hit .242/.297/.375 with 5 homeruns, 24 RBIs and 16 stolen Bases.
Despite some speculation (including talk from Brewers GM Doug Melvin) about Corey Hart being used at first base, it seems like a foregone conclusion at this point that right field will continue to be his primary position. Hart is projected to hit .274/.338/.488 with 25 homeruns and 80 RBIs.
The Opening Day Lineup
Based on the information above, here is what I believe the Brewers may field on April 6th. Keep in mind that injuries and play during spring training could play a role in drastically changing this:
1) Corey Hart RF
2) Nyjer Morgan CF
3) Norichika Aoki LF
4) Aramis Ramirez 3B
5) Rickie Weeks 2B
6) Mat Gamel 1B
7) Alex Gonzalez SS
8) Jonathan Lucroy C
9) Yovani Gallardo P
So, there you have it the potential opening day lineup and starters by position. Go Crew!