You Gotta Have Heart: What Being a Small Market Fan Means to Me

You gotta have heart, but a great mustache doesn’t hurt either.

by Kevin Kimmes

Yes, today’s title (well part of it) is taken from the musical “Damn Yankees”.

Already I can hear some of you saying, “A musical? That’s girl stuff!”, but in this case, oh how wrong you would be. See “Damn Yankees” is the story of a devoted Washington Senators fan named Joe Boyd who sells his soul to the devil so that the Senators can acquire a “long ball hitter” and finally beat the “damn Yankees”. It’s a story about unflinching devotion to your team even when you know that the outcomes will probably just break your heart.

Now replace Senators with Brewers, and Yankee’s with Cardinals, and you have a story that most Milwaukee fans can identify with because we, much like Joe, have seen our fair share of suffering over the years. It’s part of what being a small market fan means to me.

It means having the odds stacked against you:

From 1998 to 2012, Milwaukee played in the NL Central, the only division in all of baseball that was composed of 6 teams. So what, you say? Well, due to the fact that the division contained 1 more team than most (2 more than the AL West), Milwaukee’s chances of winning the division in any given year were a meager 16.67%. That’s 3.33% lower than most MLB teams.

It means being thankful for what you have:

When the Braves pulled up stakes and headed south to Atlanta, Milwaukee was left with a gaping hole where baseball had once resided. To their credit, the White Sox did try and remedy this to some extent by playing some games each year at County Stadium, but it just wasn’t the same as having a team to call our own. For this reason alone, I will always respect Bud Selig, not for being commission, but for returning baseball to a city that truly loves the game.

If you need further proof of this point, consider that Milwaukee ranked 11th in overall attendance last year despite being the team with the smallest market.

It means taking the highs with the lows:

My experiences at Miller Park have included being on hand the night that Milwaukee clinched the NL Central title for the first time and the day that they were officially eliminated from the 2012 playoff hunt. You learn to love the highs and accept the lows. It’s all part of loving the game.

It means staying true to your team, even when all hope is lost:

I ended the 2012 season by catching 3 out of the last 4 Brewers home games at Miller Park. Milwaukee was mathematically eliminated from the Wild Card hunt after losing the 1st of the 4 games, but I went to the remaining games anyway. Why? Because, you never know what you might see. In fact, for my troubles I got to see Martin Maldonado hit his first career grand slam, and Kameron Loe and Manny Parra pitch for the last time as Brewers.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and an applicant for the 2013 MLB Fan Cave. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

Restocking The Pen: Brewers Acquire Tamba Bay Reliever Badenhop

Badenhopby Kevin Kimmes

With the non-tender deadline now past and the Winter Meetings set to begin on Monday in Nashville, Milwaukee has wasted no time in beginning its quest to rebuild a bullpen that at times was more of a liability than an asset in 2012. Their first acquisition comes in the form of former Tampa Bay Rays’ and Florida Marlins’ reliever Burke Badenhop.

Badenhop, a righty, was acquired by The Brewers in exchange for minor league outfielder Raul Mondesi, Jr. Mondesi, who spent 2012 in the Helena Brewers organization, is probably best known for not touching home plate and costing his team an extra-innings comeback victory earlier this year.

Badenhop is coming off of a 2012 which saw him set new career marks in ERA (3.03), WHIP (1.203) and BB/9 (1.7). He holds a career stat line of  16-17 with a 4.08 ERA over 313 innings pitched over 5 major league seasons. Additionally, Badenhop is a ground ball pitcher, a skill which should come in extremely handy in the friendly confines of Miller Park.

Badenhop joins Brewers’ closer John Axford in a bullpen that Milwaukee seems determined to overhaul for the 2013 season. No surprise as the Brewers bullpen ranked last in the Majors last season with a 4.66 ERA and 29 blown saves.

Today’s news comes hot on the heels of the teams decision to non-tender lefty Manny Parra on Friday making him the fifth reliever to be cut loose by the organization this off-season. The team previously cut loose Kameron Loe, Livan Hernandez, Francisco Rodriguez and Jose Veras.

Stay tuned to Cream City Cables for all of the latest Milwaukee Brewers news as the “hot stove” heats up in anticipation of the 2013 campaign. And, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @kevinkimmes, @NPetrashek, and @ryanhenrysmith2.

Brewers Rumor Roundup

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.

History in the Making?

By: Ryan Smith

I remember watching Monday’s game against the Phillies fearing that a win would once again convince GM Doug Melvin that this year’s Milwaukee Brewers could be contenders. It didn’t matter that the Phillies currently reside in the cellar of the National League East; a win against Roy Halladay could have been just the type of win that Melvin and Manager Ron Roenicke would have used to say that the team was still in it, even though the Brewers just got swept in their “do-or-die” series over the weekend.

Then Roenicke went to the bullpen.

Roenicke has had to make too many trips to the mound this year because the relievers have not done their jobs.

You know the rest. One lead blown. Then another. Then another. With the bullpen for this year’s Milwaukee Brewers, no lead is safe.

After Tuesday’s debacle of a bullpen appearance, many Brewers fans started flooding Twitter and Facebook with claims that this had to be the worst bullpen ever.

This got me to thinking: where exactly does this bullpen rank among other historically bad bullpens?

There’s not really one stat that you can look at to figure this out. Some people would argue that Blown Saves would be the place to start, but that isn’t fair to the terrible bullpens on terrible teams. It also doesn’t take a look at the entire picture because the Save didn’t even become an official stat until 1969. You could look at ERA, but that is oftentimes quite dependent on team defense as well as pitcher performance. I’m sure most Brewer fans would make a case for BB/9 because that seems to be the Achilles heel for this year’s squad.

So since there’s no single stat to tell the story, I decided to look at all of them.

Let’s start by looking at Blown Saves. The Major League record for Blown Saves in an entire season is 34 by the 2004 Colorado Rockies, followed by the 2002 Texas Rangers with 33. As of right now, the Brewers have 18 official Blown Saves on the season, three behind this year’s Rockies. The Crew is on pace for 30 Blown Saves over the span of 162 games, which would be tied for seventh all-time. So in the Blown Saves category, the Brewers are up there, but they are not the worst bullpen ever.

Next, I had to take a look at walks and BB/9 because it seems like Milwaukee relievers can’t take the mound without issuing a free pass or three. On the year, Milwaukee relievers have issued 145 walks, which is the third-highest total in baseball. All-time, the most walks ever issued by a bullpen in a season was 347 by the 1996 Detroit Tigers, with the 2000 Pittsburgh Pirates coming in second with 343. in case you were wondering, the 2012 Brewers are on pace for roughly 242 walks, which wouldn’t even be in the top-30 for most walks ever in a season.

If I look at BB/9, I have to adjust what I’m looking at a bit. If you go all the way back to 1871, the 1908 Brooklyn Superbas (now the Los Angeles Dodgers) had a 108.00 BB/9. Of course, if you look closer, you’ll see that the Brooklyn Superbas only had one pitcher make a relief appearance. That pitcher was Pembroke Finlayson, and he walked four batters in one-third of an inning.

Manny Parra is just one of the guys who issues far too many walks.

If you don’t go back any further than 1970, you would find the 1971 Chicago White Sox with a 6.89 BB/9 and the 2000 Pirates with a 5.92 BB/9. Right now, the Brewers have a 4.39 BB/9, which is the second-highest mark in the league behind the Cubs at 5.00 BB/9. So you can see that, while they are one of the worst bullpens this season when it comes to issuing walks, they are nowhere near the worst bullpen ever in this area.

Finally, I had to look at ERA and True Runs Allowed (tERA) to gauge where this Brewers bullpen ranks among the most ineffective units in the history of the game. This year, the Brewers have the third-worst bullpen ERA in the majors at 4.76. Once again, I had to limit my research to no later than 1970 because the highest 100 ERAs of all-time all occurred before 1970. Using a more modern-day comparison, the 2007 Tampa Bay Devil Rays had a 6.16 bullpen ERA, which easily beat out the ’96 Tigers (5.97). Once again, this year’s Brewers bullpen is bad, but they are not historically bad when it comes to ERA.

The sample-size for tERA is even smaller because this stat wasn’t even calculated until 2002. Even with this smaller window, you can see that Milwaukee’s tERA of 4.79 is only the fourth-worst mark in baseball in 2012. Historically, the ’12 Crew is no match for the Rockies of 2003 (6.37) and ’02 (6.32).

I do want to point out that at no point during this article was I defending the performance of the Brewers bullpen this year. I spent a good chunk of the early months of the season coming to the defense of John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez, telling fans to give them time, to have faith.

All too often, Roenicke finds himself without the answers during postgame press conferences.

And now, here I am, feeling like a damn fool.

The harsh truth is that we’re more than likely stuck with these guys for the rest of the season. Whatever trade value Rodriguez had going into this last series was pretty much left for dead in Philadelphia. John Axford has looked better as of late, but I’ll believe he’s figured it out when I see it. Manny Parra can’t find a strike zone big enough to hit consistently. Hell, I’m actually happy when Roenicke calls Livan Hernandez on in relief. Frankly, it’s not pretty out there.

The entire purpose of this article was to point out that, while 2012 has been a frustrating year for the Brewers bullpen, it has not been the worst season ever. Maybe Brewers fans were just spoiled by the 2011 ‘pen that always seemed to come through. LaTroy Hawkins, Takashi Saito, and Rodriguez locked down innings six through eight, and we all know how dominant Axford was last season. This year has just been one of those years where anything that can go wrong will go wrong. And it seems that much worse after a year of complete domination.

But let’s slow down the talk of the 2012 Milwaukee bullpen being the worst bullpen ever. Those other squads have quite a lead on our guys.

Then again, if there’s one thing these guys can consistently do, it’s make a lead disappear.

Offseason 2012: Projected Brewers Arbitration Salaries and Projected Payroll

Matt Schwartz, as explained on MLBTradeRumors.com, has developed a very accurate system for projecting player arbitration salaries.  That is an important matter for the Brewers, as seven players are arbitration-eligible entering the 2012 season.  Using that information and the current team payroll obligations listed on Cot’s Baseball Contracts, we can make some educated guesses about how the Brewers’ offseason will look.

First, the arbitration salaries:

Shaun Marcum (SP) – $6.8M

Casey McGehee (3B) – $3.1M

Kameron Loe (RP) – $2.8M

Nyjer Morgan (CF) – $1.9M

Carlos Gomez (CF) – $1.8M

Manny Parra (SP/RP) – $1.2M

George Kottaras (C) – $0.8M

None of the projected arbitration salaries are truly shocking.  Shaun Marcum nearly doubles his 2011 salary, which is to be expected after the kind of year he had.  Nyjer Morgan and Casey McGehee get big raises in their first years of arbitration.  McGehee certainly does not deserve $3.1M for what he did last season, but panel will look at his 2010 and 2009 season, too, if it comes to that.  Despite the big paycheck, I think the Brewers will give McGehee another shot this year rather than nontendering him.  Manny Parra is an interesting nontender case, but given the Brewers’ struggles finding a quality left-hander this past year, I think they’ll hold on to Parra too.  At $2.8M, Kameron Loe would probably not be offered a contract but for the departures of Takashi Saito, LaTroy Hawkins, and Francisco Rodriguez in free agency.

If we assume the Brewers tender each arbitration-eligible player a contract, the Brewers will spend $18.4M on arbitration.  That’s about 22% of their 2011 Opening Day payroll ($83.59M).

Add those arbitration salaries to the Brewers’ guaranteed obligations for 2012, and the team has already spent $76.48M.  That’s nearly the amount the Brewers spent on their Opening Day rosters in 2008 and 2009, and just $7M shy of the team’s 2011 Opening Day payroll.  Fans’ speculation that Prince’s $15.5M 2011 salary would free the team up to spend big is a misconception; those salary savings are largely eaten up by the extensions for Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, and Yovani Gallardo.  Collectively, those four players will receive a nearly $13M raise from their 2011 salaries.*

With $76.48M already committed to the 2012 roster, the Brewers still have some big holes to fill.  They will need infield talent, as Prince Fielder and Yuniesky Betancourt have both likely reached their ends with the team.  The Brewers will need to revamp their bullpen, as some of its best players (Saito, Hawkins, and K-Rod) will be leaving.  And though that $76M accounts for the outfield and starting pitching, the Brewers will need some quality bench depth, as Craig Counsell, Jerry Hariston, Jr., and Mark Kotsay are also free agents.  If we assume the Brewers will look to strike near the $87-88M range for payroll this year, that leaves about a $1.7M average per roster spot for the departing free agents (and that number doesn’t account for pre-arbitration players like Jonathan Lucroy and John Axford, who generally make somewhere around $400-500K per year).  I don’t envy Doug Melvin’s job.

Speaking of which, Doug Melvin is also in the final year of a three-year extension signed in 2008.  Look for the Brewers to extend his contract again this winter.

*By the way, I’ve heard some rumbling about Braun’s extension, signed this past year, not being so team-friendly at about $20M per year in its late stages.  Braun’s salary in 2012: just $7M.  Last year the MVP hopeful made only $5M.  This year, Greinke, Randy Wolf, Corey Hart, and Rickie Weeks will all earn more than Braun.

 

Where We’re At

If you’d have told Ron Roenicke, whose squad was reeling with injuries at the end of spring training, that the Brewers would be playing .500 ball on the verge of getting Zack Greinke and Corey Hart back, I’m sure he’d have said, “I’ll take it.”

Hart and Greinke, two key cogs in the Brewers’ postseason aspirations, are slated to return at the end of April.  Hart began his rehab assignment Tuesday at AAA Nashville, going 0-2 with a strikeout.  The Brewers expect that he will need about 20 at-bats before he is ready to come off the DL.  Greinke has also been moved to Nashville after facing one over the minimum in three innings of scoreless ball at Class A Brevard County.

The Brewers have plenty of other injured players, though.  Sergio Mitre still has not pitched after being hit by a line drive on April 18, though he should be back soon.  Nyjer Morgan was placed on the DL today after a thigh bruise he sustained in an unnecessary collision with Pittsburgh catcher Ryan Doumit failed to heal; Brandon Boggs has been recalled from AAA to take his place.  Manny Parra (back) is improving and is expected back in late April, as is offseason acquisition Takashi Saito (hamstring). 

The pitching injuries have left the Brewers a bit short, but, by and large, the replacements have performed spectacularly.  Marco Estrada is 1-0 in two starts with a 3.46 ERA.  And aside from one mistake pitch to Shane Victorino that cost the Brewers a win against Philly, Brandon Kintzler has performed admirably (1-1, 3.86 era, 6:1 k:bb). 

The Brewers (9-9) are currently third in the Central behind St. Louis (10-9) and Cincinnati (10-9). 

The Crew starts a three-game home series tonight against the Astros (7-12) featuring ace Yovani Gallardo (1-1, 4.62 era, 13:9 k:bb) versus righty Nelson Figueroa (0-2, 7.31 era).  Gallardo has struggled mightily in his past two starts, but looks to get back on track tonight against a weak offensive lineup.  Gallardo has never lost to the Astros in Milwaukee, so lets hope the trend continues.

Disaster Strikes

Seems like there are only about six baseball players who manage to avoid the disabled list every year.  Zack Greinke isn’t one of them.

Of course, everyone knew it would happen eventually.  I was only half joking when I suggested the other week that the Brewers pick up Kevin Millwood now to fill in for whomever would get hurt down the road.  Fortunately, Greinke’s cracked and bruised ribs (injuries he received in a game of pickup basketball, of all things) aren’t expected to keep him out for more than four weeks.  But that’s long enough that Greinke will likely miss opening day.  So what do the Brewers do in the meantime?

Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf, Shaun Marcum and Chris Narveson are the pitchers still standing.  My guess is Roenicke decides to start Gallardo on opening day, followed by Marcum and Wolf in games two and three versus the Reds.  That would give us Narveson for the home opener.  Not exactly a name that inspires a ton of confidence in the fans.  But hey, if that’s how it shakes out, good for the kid.

So who becomes the #5?  Manny Parra, who has been maddeningly inconsistent in his past starts, is pretty much out of the question.  I get the sense he is now exclusively a bullpen arm, a role in which he was very effective last year.  Besides, he’s only pitched a third of an inning in Spring Training due to lower back tightness. 

Mark Rogers, one of the Brewers’ big-league-ready prospects, hasn’t pitched at all this spring because of shoulder tightness.  Shoulder injuries have sidelined him for a few years now, so you can expect the Brewers to take a cautious approach.  No help here either.

I’ve heard Wily Peralta’s name mentioned as a spot-start candidate, but I’m skeptical he’s the right guy.  Although he has logged more innings than many other candidates, those innings have been pretty unremarkable; in 42 innings of AA ball last year, Peralta pitched a respectable 3.61 ERA, but had almost as many strikeouts (29) as walks (24).  And he hasn’t really distinguished himself this spring, either, with a 4.50 ERA in four innings and 3 walks to 1 strikeout.

But I am intrigued by two other guys:  Brandon Kintzler and Mark DeFelice.

Kintzler was signed by the Brewers in 2009 and was immediately placed with AA Huntsville.  Since then, he’s had stints with AAA Nashville and appeared in 7 games for the Brewers last year.  Kintzler didn’t do so hot with the big league club (7.36 ERA in 7.1 innings with 9 K to 4 BB), but has some impressive minor league stats (2.95 ERA with a 5.50 K/BB ratio in 2 AA seasons; 2.36 ERA with a 3.50 K/BB ratio in 1 AAA season).  He’s performed admirably so far this spring, too, with a 1.59 ERA over 5.2 innings with 3 strikeouts and no walks.

Everyone probably remembers Mark DiFelice, who last pitched for the Brewers in 2009.  He lost the entire 2010 season to shoulder surgery and is currently on a minor league contract with a spring training invite.  DiFelice has made the most of it, going 3 innings with a 3.00 ERA with 5 K and 1 BB.  DiFelice was pretty decent with the Brewers in 2009, too, making 59 appearances for a 3.66 ERA and a 3.20 K/BB ratio. 

What’s clear is that someone who didn’t necessarily expect to pitch in the big leagues at the start of spring training might very well get an opportunity here.  Both Kinsler and DiFelice have shown promise and are likely making an impression on the Brewers’ new skipper, which could help their chances considerably.