Khris Davis, man of (too) high expectations

By Nathan Petrashek

davisLet’s get this out of the way: Khris Davis had a crappy homestand.  I get that going 0-12 while only reaching base twice isn’t going to woo many fans.  It’s not like anyone else was knocking the cover off the ball during that homestand either, though.

Let’s not close out the book on Davis quite so fast.  While Davis is now only slashing .250/.278/.346 on the year, he was key during the Brewers’ nine-game win streak, batting .343/.343/.486 with 8 runs.

Davis hasn’t yet hit a home run.  I understand that’s mildly concerning since power seems to be his one plus tool, and Davis certainly showed it last year with 11 home runs over 153 plate attempts.  Extrapolating that out over a full season would have Davis hitting over 35 bombs, which I think we all know is pretty unreasonable.

Part of the problem is Davis’s aggressiveness; last year, he was one of the ten-worst left fielders in swinging strike percentage among those with at least 150 plate attempts.  He’s going to be a strikeout-prone batter.  It isn’t that he’s swinging at bad pitches, necessarily, but he’s seeing many more breaking balls so far, as pitchers have figured out that Davis feasts on fastballs.  Davis’s contact rates across the board this year are pretty abysmal; it’s clear there’s going to be a period of adjustment.

Even if that’s a slow process, the home runs will come. Davis has hit just eight fly balls this year, so its way too soon to start worrying about the power.  To some extent, I think the concerns about Davis stem in part from his performance in front of home fans, as he doesn’t have a hit at Miller Park but is slashing .406/.406/.563 on the road.

So no, I’m not worried about Khris Davis yet.  .250 is probably about right for his average, he’s never going to have a huge walk total, and the power will likely come, particularly in hitter-friendly Miller Park.

2014 Position Preview: Aramis Ramirez, Third Base

By Nathan Petrashek

Editor’s note: This is the sixth article in Cream City Cables’ 2014 position preview series. Other positions: catcher, shortstopcenter fieldleft field, and right field.

aramisWhen the Brewers first signed Aramis Ramirez, no one was really sure whether or how he would hold up through the duration of his three-year contract.  Things didn’t start too well; in 2012, Ramirez’s first year, he hit just .214/.264/.381 in April, leading many to comment on Ramirez being a notoriously”slow starter” and all that kind of nonsense.  We thoroughly debunked it in 2012 and so far in 2014 Ramirez hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down, hitting a torrid .478 in 21 plate attempts.

Red flags abound with Ramirez, though.  To say he’s not young is being charitable; he’ll turn 36 in June, well beyond most ballplayers’ primes.  His age is showing, too, as he missed a substantial portion of the 2013 season with knee issues: first, a sprained left knee, and later, tendinitis.  Even when Ramirez was active, he was clearly hobbled and had just a .773 OPS upon hitting the DL.  Ramirez returned in August, and his .301/.387/.528 triple slash in the final months (and without Ryan Braun in the lineup) probably erased whatever doubt the team had about their starting third baseman coming into 2014.

Ramirez looks to have rebounded nicely defensively from numerous horrid seasons with the Cubs, and has made a few outstanding plays at the hot corner already this season.  He’s not a rangy third baseman by any means, but still has a pretty good throwing arm and doesn’t commit many errors.

The Brewers aren’t paying Ramirez for his defense, though; they’re paying for his bat.  Ramirez has been remarkably consist throughout his career, hitting close to .300 with 25-30 home runs.  That power is clearly diminishing, but Ramirez still makes decent enough contact to hit for average.  Ramirez is aggressive at the plate though, which could result in higher strikeout totals, something he has has typically avoided.

As is true of most aging players, the big question will be Ramirez’s health.  Ron Roenicke has suggested he’ll give Ramirez regular rest, so don’t expect a repeat of the 630 plate attempts Ramirez made in 2012.

2013 Recap

351 PA, 43 R, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 0 SB, 10.3 BB%, 15.7 K%, .283/.370/.461, 132 wRC+

2014 Projections

Steamer: 533 PA, 62 R, 19 HR, 74 RBI, 2 SB, 7.4 BB%, 14.3 K%, .282/.343/.464, 125 wRC+

ZiPs: 469 PA, 56 R, 17 HR, 79 RBI, 2 SB, 7.0 BB%, 14.3 K%, .183/.343/.475, 128 wRC+

Contact Status

Will make $16M ($6M deferred) in the final year of his three-year deal with the Brewers; mutual option for 2015 with $4M buyout.

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

 

Splitsville: Rattlers and Chiefs Split Double Header To Even Series At Two Games A Piece

by Kevin Kimmes
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Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you do both in the same day. Welcome to the joys of the double header.

After Friday’s game was cancelled due to the never ending icy grip of Mother Nature, the Rattlers announced that the game would be made up on Sunday afternoon as part of pair of 7 inning contests. After the Rattlers evened the series at a game a piece on Saturday, the stage was set for a showdown that was anything but Minor League.

You see, Sundays in Appleton are “Brewer Sundays”, a celebration of the team’s Major League affiliation, and what better way to kick off the first one of the season than with a visit from Hall of Famer, Rollie Fingers. Yes, the man, the myth, the mustache was in the house to throw out the ceremonial first pitch and didn’t disappoint, throwing a strike right across the plate.

The Chiefs, still stinging from Saturday’s loss, wasted no time going after Rattler starter Anthony Banda. After a throwing error by shortstop Angel Ortega allowed Chiefs’ leadoff hitter C.J. McElroy, Jr. to reach base, second baseman Mason Katz crushed a ball over the wall and gave the Chiefs an early 2-0 lead. They would never look back.

Adding an additional run in the 5th, 3 runs would be all it would take to maintain control of Game 1. The Rattlers would not go down without a fight though tallying 2 runs in the 6th as both Ortega and Johnny Davis scored off of a Francisco Castillo single. Your final in Game 1: 3-2 Peoria Chiefs.

After a brief intermission, the Rattlers were ready for Game 2 and this time they would strike first blood. The bottom of the 2nd opened up with Rattlers’ 3rd baseman Taylor Brennan working the count full before unleashing a solo homer that gave Wisconsin an early 1-0 lead.

Peoria would answer back with a solo homer of their own from Katz in the top of the 6th, knotting the score at 1 run a piece. Realizing that time was of the essense, the Rattlers fired back in the bottom half of the inning with both Davis and Chris McFarland crossing the plate to regain the lead for Wisconsin. Rattlers’ reliever Harvey Martin’s spotless 1-2-3 7th would seal the deal in Game 2.

Rattlers win Game 2 3-1.

Today’s outcomes bring the 4 game opening series to an end, resulting in a 2-2 record for both teams. The Rattlers now hit the road for a 6 game road trip beginning with 3 games against the West Michigan Whitecaps and concluding with 3 games against the South Bend Silver Hawks. The Rattlers return home on Monday, April 14th as they kick off a 3 game series against the Lansing Lugnuts.

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.

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Pre-Game Notes 4/6/14

by Kevin Kimmes
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It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame. Hey Bernie, let’s play two!

Brewer Sunday, double-header, Rollie Fingers…if you’re not on your way to Fox Cities Stadium, WHY NOT? Here’s some quick news and notes leading into today’s contest:

- Streak Complete: The Rattlers broke a 7 game losing streak which dated back to the end of the 2013 season yesterday with their 8-4 win over Peoria.

- Rattle On: Taylor Brennan found himself on base 4 times yesterday with 2 singles (in the 1st and 3rd) and 2 walks (in the 4th and 7th).

- Deja Vu: Speaking of Taylor Brennan; he, along with Michael Ratterree and Clint Coulter each scored runs in back to back innings (the 4th and 5th). That’s 6 runs, 3 players, 2 innings. Impressive!

- Saving the Day: Tristan Archer picked up the 1st Rattler save of the season completing 4 innings of work on Saturday. His tandem partner, Barrett Astin, picked up the Rattlers’ 1st win.

Can’t make it out to the games today? You can still catch all the action on 1280 WNAM.

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.

Matt Erickson: Post Game Interview 4/5/14

by Kevin Kimmes
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Cream City Cables: Well, it took tries, buy you guys picked your first win of the season. How does it feel?

Matt Erickson: It feels great. Anytime you can get a win it feels good. We did a nice job in those middle innings; 4th, 5th and 6th; of putting back crooked numbers in the 4th and the 5th and adding one in the 6th after they added one in the 5th. It was nice.

CCC: Speaking of the 4th and 5th inning; Ratterree, Brennan and Coulter each picked up a run in those innings. The 4, 5 and 6 hitters really came together today.

ME: The whole middle of the lineup and (Jose) Pena, you know he’s 2-3 with 2 RBIs, he had a big hit in one of those innings whether it was the 4th or the 5th, I can’t exactly remember, but there’s 7 hits from the middle of the lineup today and we needed it because we didn’t do much at the top where yesterday we set the table pretty good and were able to get some big hits. But, you’re right; 4, 5, 6, 7 collectively today did some damage.

CCC: Chris McFarland tacked on the 2nd Timber Rattlers home run of the season driving one out to deep center field. What were your thoughts on that?

ME: You know, Mac is a guy who had some really good offensive success two years ago in short season. Last year he came here and struggled a little bit at times but did show flashes of offensive production and an ability to drive the ball. If he’s a guy that can win some counts, he’s got some foot speed and he’s also able to drive the baseball into the gaps with a little bit of power and if he can solidify that 2 hole where he can be an on base guy and drive some runs in, that will be huge for us.

CCC: Today, the tandem of Astin and Archer got you through the full 9 (innings). What did you like about what you saw out there?

ME: I think we got away with some stuff early. Astin came out the first few innings and his fastball was elevated. They were getting a lot of good swings on his fastball. I think he did a nice job, especially in the 2nd inning, I believe it was 2nd and 3rd no outs, he used his breaking ball to get out of that situation and executed some really good pitches when he wasn’t having command of the bottom of the zone with his fastball. But, later in his appearance, the 4th and 5th inning, I think he did a better job of getting tilt and getting better control of the bottom of the zone, getting more ground balls and not as good of swings on his fastball, so that’s a good adjustment there.

Archer did a nice job of coming in and pounding the zone early. It got away from him a little bit in the 8th, our overall team defense was a little bit sloppy in the 8th, we had an error, a couple of wild pitches, a walk and another kicked ball, but we wound up making a play at second base to minimize that damage, but we were just able to finish.

CCC: With tomorrow being a double-header, any changes in preparation going into tomorrow’s games?

ME: No, I mean, similar schedule to today but it’s supposed to be a little bit nicer, a little bit warmer. We haven’t been on the field in the last 3 days, so we’re going to try and hit out on the field and take a BP, get our ground balls there and hopefully win a few games.

CCC: Thanks, Matt.

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

Timber Rattlers Pre-Game Notes for 4/5/2014

by Kevin Kimmes
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Heading out to the ballpark this afternoon? Here’s a few notes to make you the smartest guy in your section.

- It’s Deja Vu All Over Again: For the 2nd consecutive season Timber Rattlers’ catcher Clint Coulter went yard on Opening Day. Coulter’s homer came in his final at bat of the night during the 9th inning on Thursday night.

- A Strong Start: Despite the loss on Thursday night (Peoria won 8-4), Timber Rattlers’ starter Taylor Williams had a solid first outing of the season. In five shoutout innings, Williams struck out seven while only walking one. The 7 strikeouts set a new professional single game record for Williams.

- Hazy Shade of Winter: Mother Nature just wouldn’t cooperate on Friday night leading to cancellation of Game 2 of this 4 game homestand. The cancelled game will be made up as part of a double-header scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.

- Playing Both Sides: Rattlers’ lead off hitter Omar Garcia showed skills on both sides of the ball on Thursday night recording 3 hits and laying out for an amazing diving catch in the 3rd inning.

Can’t make it out to the game today? You can still catch all the action on 1280 WNAM.

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.

Rattled: Peoria Brutalizes Wisconsin on Opening Day Despite Dazzling Effort by Williams

by Kevin Kimmes
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33 degrees. It’s not exactly what most folks would consider to be ideal baseball weather, but when you are playing spring ball in the Midwest League these things can pretty much be expected.

Today is Opening Day for the MiLB (Minor League Baseball for the uninitiated) and in Appleton, WI the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are facing the Peoria Chiefs to start the season for the 6th time since 1995. While the brave souls in the seats are sparse, I’m told that the club level overhead is packed to near capacity. As I said before, it is 33 degrees at game time.

Most of the players on the Opening Day roster have never faced these kinds of conditions before, a fact that Clint Coulter expounded upon:

“…we have a lot of guys who hadn’t played in anything like this and then also this is their first full season, first time they’ve really played in front of a crowd like we’ve got here.”

The Rattlers manage to strike first blood in the 3rd inning after Rafael Neda singles and is driven home on a triple by Omar Garcia. Garcia, who made a spectacular diving grab in the top half of the inning, brought his A-game with him showing skills on both offense and defense.

Wisconsin starter Taylor Williams was dazzling on the mound for the Rattlers striking out 7 in 5 innings of work. “I just tried to go out there and command my fastball, command my zone, and give the defense behind me a chance to make plays,” Taylor said post game.

“Dominant,” was how Rattlers skipper Matt Erickson described Williams performance. “He was pounding the zone early and obviously he was putting away people too. He gave us a great chance early in that ballgame to win that game.”

However, the tides began to turn when the ball was turned over to Williams’ tandem partner, Tyler Alexander.

In the 6th Alexander would yield a run, tying the game at 1. The Rattlers would take the lead back in the bottom of the inning (2-1), but that lead would be short lived.

The top of the 7th would become what can only be described as a massacre. Alexander would load the bases with only 1 out leading to his removal. His replacement, Chris Razo, would fair no better. By the time the dust cleared the Chiefs had batted around and the Rattlers found themselves on the losing end of a 7-2 score.

Wisconsin would battle back in the bottom of the 7th when a Michael Ratterree triple would be driven home on a sacrifice fly to deep center by Taylor Brennan. It would be the only run for the Rattlers in the inning, it’s relevance erased when the Chiefs would tally yet another run in the top of the 8th bringing the score to 8-3.

A Clint Coulter homerun in the bottom of the 9th would bring the score to 8-4, however it would be all the offense the Rattlers could muster.

The Rattlers return to action Friday night at 6:35 PM for game 2 of this 4 game Opening Week matchup.

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.

Timber Rattlers 2014 Opening Day Pre-Game Notes

by Kevin Kimmes
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Tonight, the Timber Rattlers kick off the 2014 season at home against the Peoria Chiefs. Here’s what you need to know if you are heading out to the ballpark tonight (game time is set for 6:35 PM).

- Back for his 4th season as the skipper of the Timber Rattlers, Matt Erickson (204-209) is just 12 wins shy of passing Gary Thurman (215-198) for the most wins by a Wisconsin manager in franchise history.

- 6 former Rattlers have made the 2014 Opening Day roster. They are: pitchers Preston Gainey, Harvey Martin and Chris Razo; catchers Clint Coulter and Rafael Neda; and infielder Chris McFarland.

- The Brewers made 2 roster moves in order to reach tonight’s 25-player limit. Those moves find Rodolfo Fernandez (P) and Paul Eshleman (C) placed on the disabled list.

- If tonight’s matchup seems like ” It’s deja vu all over again”, that’s because it is. Tonight marks the 6th time these two teams have faced off to start a Midwest League season. Wisconsin holds a 3-2 advantage in the previous 5 matchups.

- The all time series between Wisconsin and Peoria (which dates back to 1995) finds the Rattlers in the drivers seat. The Rattlers are 148-142, with a 69-84 record here at Neuroscience Group Field.

- This year marks the Chiefs 2nd season as an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Chiefs had the Rattlers number in 2013 winning 11 of their 17 head to head contests.

Can’t make it out to the game tonight, you can still catch all the action on TWC Sports WI, 1280 WNAM, and on MiLB.TV.

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.

Quick Notes From Timber Rattlers’ Media Day

by Kevin Kimmes
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Here are some quick notes from today’s media day:

- The 2014 Timber Rattlers are shaping up to be one of the youngest teams in the Matt Erickson era. The youngest player, David Denson, was born 1/17/95 (19 years old). The elder statesman of the group is 25 year old Lance Roenicke (born 6/8/1988), son of Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke.

- While on the topic of Lance Roenicke, this year Lance will be taking on the role of player/coach with a focus on coaching 1st base. However, if you ask him, it sounds like it will be 100% coaching as his playing days are most likely a thing of the past:

“…it’ll be pretty much entirely coaching unless, I mean, we have guys dropping down with the flu or something like that. Hopefully I’ll just be staying out there at 1st base and working with guys as far as leads and all that goes. As far as my playing career goes, that’s behind me right now.”

- Rattlers’ skipper Matt Erickson announced that Taylor Williams will be the Rattlers’ Opening Day starter when they kick off the season on Thursday night at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium. Williams, a 4th round selection for the Brewers in the 2013 draft, spent his 2013 season with Milwaukee’s Rookie League affiliate Helena. When asked about his feelings regarding the forecast for Thursday night’s opener, Williams had the following to say:

“…I’m pretty used to the cold weather. I’m from the northwest. I played a little bit of college ball in Ohio so the cold weather, I don’t think it’s going to effect me too much. I’m not too worried about it.”

- One 2014 Rattler made a name for himself this past weekend in Milwaukee’s scrimmage against the Kansas City Royals. That player is Michael Ratterree.

In Saturday’s Spring Training finale, Ratterree was given an opportunity to bat in the 7th and took full advantage, homering to center.

“It felt amazing. Honestly, when I was running around the bases it felt like a dream, it didn’t feel real. It was just awesome, running into the dugout, getting high fives from everybody. It was just an unreal experience for me.”

- Returning to the Rattlers this season is catcher Clint Coulter. Coulter, who began the season in Appleton in 2013 before being moved down to Rookie level Helena, is taking it all in stride:

“You know, you never want to get demoted, but I didn’t take it as a demotion. I was really privileged to be up here. There’s not a lot of high school catchers that get a chance at full season ball their 1st year.”

The Timber Rattlers kick off the 2014 season this Thursday evening when they take on the Peoria Chiefs at 6:35 pm in game 1 of a 4 game home stand. Home stand highlights will include bobble head give aways on both Thursday and Saturday as well as a special appearance by Hall of Fame closer Rollie Fingers on Sunday afternoon.

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.

K-Rod takes over as closer “for now”

By Nathan Petrashek

K-Rod-mulls-legal-action-against-former-agents-3O1144NF-x-largeAn Opening Day win is always fun, but this one came with a twist:  the Brewers, nursing a 2-0 lead in the ninth, called upon Francisco Rodriguez, not Jim Henderson, to secure the handshake.  K-Rod managed to do so, despite an eight-pitch at bat by the first batter, Chris Johnson.

Ron Roenicke made the change official after the game, telling reporters he wasn’t pleased with Henderson’s spring:

To be fair, Henderson’s spring wasn’t anything special, as he accumulated a 6.00 ERA over 9 innings with 7 strikeouts and 5 walks (1.56 WHIP).  Still, for a front office who justified jettisoning Juan Francisco by citing the general meaninglessness of spring statistics, the move is odd.

Henderson pitched 60 innings of 2.70 ERA ball in 2013, notching 28 saves and a hefty 75 strikeouts.  He may have had a little luck on his side (3.58 FIP), and struggled against lefties (.786 OPS).  Henderson was developing a change to counter that split and help keep left-handed batters from sitting on his 95 mph fastball.

K-Rod has plenty of closing experience but is a long way removed from his 62-save season in 2008.  He’s been a favorite of the Brewers front office though, and has had three separate stints with the team in as many years. Rodriguez even briefly took over the closer’s role last season, earning 10 saves as the Brewers looked to shop him (successfully) at the deadline.