2014 Position Preview: Ryan Braun, Right Field

by Kevin Kimmes

Editor’s note: This is the fourth article in Cream City Cables’ 2014 position preview series. Other positions: catcher, center field, and left field.

From the first official game of Spring Training, one thing has been apparent: where Ryan Braun goes, the boo-birds follow. For those of us that have followed the ups and downs of the “Braun Saga” we know why. An MVP season, accusations of cheating, “redemption” when those accusations didn’t stick, an MLB “witch hunt”, and a crushing finale in which we found out that all of our darkest suspicions where true. These have been the highlights and lowlights of Braun’s recent career.

With that said, the 2014 season is a new start for Braun. His suspension now completed, he finds himself in new territory: right field. Filling the gap left by the recently departed Corey Hart, Braun now tends the field out where “the dandelions grow“. Sometimes a change of scenery such as this requires a period of adjustment, but this time, that just doesn’t appear to be the case.

In 12 Spring Training appearances, Braun has 0 errors as a right fielder. As if this wasn’t reassuring enough, the bat appears to be back in a big way too. Sporting a robust .440/.548/.800 in Cactus League play, Braun also has a pair of longballs to his credit. The first of these, recorded in his first at bat of his first Spring Training game, had a cinematic quality to it.

Walking to the plate to a chorus of boos, Braun tomahawked an 0-1 offering from A’s starter Tommy Malone over the left field fence stunning the jeering crowd into silence and sending out a resounding roar from the Brewers’ faithful. Fans saw this as a return to form for the beleaguered slugger while detractors just drew more suspicion from the performance.

Believe what you may, Braun appears to be putting the whole thing in the rear view mirror and moving on, and that’s good news for Milwaukee as they look to take a run at another year of stout competition in the NL Central. Sporting a franchise high payroll (the first ever to exceed $100 million), the Brewers appear to be “all in” this season. Nowhere may this be more apparent than in Braun’s move to right field.

The move allows Kris Davis, who filled in out in left during Braun’s suspension and collected 11 homers for Milwaukee, to continue on in an everyday role for the Brewers. That kind of power will be needed to help balance out the loss of Corey Hart’s bat and to possibly stoke the fires of an explosive offense like the one Milwaukee fielded in 2011 when they led the NL in homeruns.

Look for Braun to have a bounce back season as he looks to move on from his recent turmoils.

2013 Recap

253 PA, 30 R, 9 HR, 38 RBI, 4 SB, 10.7 BB%, 22.1 K%, .298/.372/.498, 135 wRC+

2014 Projections

Steamer: 576 PA, 79 R, 26 HR, 82 RBI, 16 SB, 9.5 BB%, 19.1 K%, .291/.363/.514, 139 wRC+

ZiPs: 664 PA, 99 R, 33 HR, 116 RBI, 22 SB, 8.9 BB%, 17.6 K%, .300/.367/.540, 148 wRC+

Contract Status

Signed thru 2020, 8 yrs/$45M (08-15), 5 yrs/$105M (16-20) & 21 mutual option

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

Welcome to the new Cream City Cables – First Podcast!

By Nathan Petrashek

You might have noticed by now we’ve given the website a facelift.  We used to be tied to the MLBlogs.com movement, but they stuck ads all over our blog and the format was far too restrictive for what we wanted to do.

What did we want to do, you ask?

Well, today we’re introducing our first ever podcast, something that will perhaps become a regular feature here.  Writer Ryan Smith (@ryanhenrysmith2) and I talked first base, Matt Garza’s contract, the rotation, Jean Segura, and Khris Davis.  We’re still getting a feel for this thing, so it’d be much appreciated if you’d let me know on Twitter (@npetrashek) or in the comments below what you liked or didn’t like.

You can listen to it or download the file using the link’s below.  We anticipate having it and subsequent podcasts available in the iTunes store soon.

Podcast Season 1 Episode 1

*Note: the podcast was recorded late last week

Stay tuned to CCC, as position previews start this week, and we’ll be introducing some fantasy content this month!  You can find all this and more using the navigation menu below the header.

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.

Will the Acquisition of A.J. Burnett Steer the Pirates Ship in the Right Direction?

by Kevin Kimmes

Well, it’s official, the Yankees have worked out a deal to send A.J. Burnett and $20 million in cash to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for outfielder Exicardo Cayones and right-handed reliever Diego Moreno. While the move makes sense for a Yankees squad who had been carrying 7 potential starters since the January 13th acquisition of Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda, does the move benefit a Pirates squad who many have already written off to be in the bottom half of the NL Central this year?

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

When the Yankees acquired Burnett in 2009 it was to bolster a starting rotation which carried CC Sabathia as its ace, along with Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain.  Burnett was viewed as a potential number 2 coming off of a 2008 season where he had gone 18-10 in 35 appearances (his career best for win percentage) with an ERA of 4.07 for the Toronto Blue Jays. For the short-term the acquisition seemed to pay off as Burnett went 13-9 in 33 games in 2009, and carried an ERA of 4.04 (2nd best for Yankee starters behind Sabathia). However, something was about to go horribly wrong.

The 2010 season marked the beginning of  Burnett’s fall from grace as he posted the worst ERA of his career (5.26) as well as a sub .500 winning percentage (10-15 in 33 games), something he had not done since 2001 when he was with the Florida Marlins.

2011 proved to be a slight improvement (11-11 in 33 games with and ERA of 5.15), but obviously was not the sort of production the Yankees had expected when they signed Burnett to a 5 year $82.5 million dollar contract. Thus, a decision had to be made.

Off the Hook

With this years Yankees already sporting more starting pitchers than needed going into camp (Sabathia, Nova, Garcia, Hughes, Pineda, and Kuroda), A.J.’s failings made him expendable. So, when the Pirates failed to acquire veteran free agents Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt, the stage was set for talks to begin.

Reportedly, the Pirates will be required to cover $13 million of the remaining $33 million due to Burnett over the next two years. So, at $6.5 million per year, is the investment worth it to a Pirates team that, ironically enough, is also overstocked with starting pitching?

One More Try

Earlier in the week, Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle, was optimistic regarding the move pointing to the likes of Javier Vasquez and Carl Pavanno as examples of players who were able to revitalize their careers by leaving New York. Some of this optimism my also be coming from the fact that PNC Park is considered by many to be more of a pitcher friendly park, especially when compared to the new Yankees Stadium.

Another thing to consider is that Burnett should provide some durability to a Pirates starting rotation that struggled with durability last year. In 2011, not a single Pirates pitcher reached 175 innings. Burnett, despite having some injury issues early in his career, has provided over 180 innings of starting pitching in each of the last 4 seasons showing that he should be a reliable starter for the Pirates.

So, what can fans expect from Burnett this year. I predict that he will find himself 11-10 in 33 starts with an ERA around 4.52. Will this change the Pirates standing in the NL Central race? Yes, but only slightly as it moves them up a spot past the Cubs, meaning they should finishing 4th in the Division behind Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and St. Louis.

Sorry Pirates fans, this move, while beneficial, will not change your course for the season drastically enough to make you a contender.

Road Woes

I’m not ready to say that the 2011 Brewers will be defined by their horrid road record (8-18, one of the worst in baseball), though they’ll certainly need to turn that around at some point.  But with the way the Brewers have been playing at home (at 21-7, they’re the first MLB team to 20 home wins), they don’t exactly have to play winning ball while away.  A .500 road record will probably get them in the dance.

But a step backward yesterday; a 3-7 loss to the Reds at Great American isn’t going to help.  Still, it isn’t quite the disaster some in the media make it out to be.  Yes, we dropped another game on the road.  Yes, it was to the division rival Reds.  And yes, the Brewers again had trouble putting runs across the plate.

Still, it’s not quite fair to put this Brewers team in the same box as the team that went 0-3 against the Reds to start the year.  We have Zack Greinke, apparent ace, back in the rotation, and he’s going to start tonight.  Shaun Marcum, who will go in game 3, is a totally different pitcher than he was during his disastrous first outing against the Reds.  We’ve got some new bats in Nyjer Morgan (who as a new Brewer went 1-2 in the first road series in 2 PA), Corey Hart (who was on the DL), and Josh Wilson (who was incognito as a Diamondback).

Add to that the fact that it was our number five, Chris Narveson, starting yesterday.  He’s been serviceable so far (1.2 WAR), but he’s still a number five, and that means you’re going to ask, like Ron Roenicke did, what he was thinking on an occasional pitch:

No, you can’t do that to [Jay Bruce]. And then he turned around and did it again on a 1-2 to Gomes. They had a lot of two strike hits today, and all of them bad pitches.

Narveson is going to get tossed around once in a while.  It was just bad luck that it happened yesterday, on the road, against the Reds.

So as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t do much good to measure the Brewers effectiveness at Great American based on the results of the games so far.  I think the real test is going to come tonight and tomorrow, when they throw their best (Greinke and Marcum) up on the mound and see what happens.  If the Brewers drop the next two, then yeah, we can worry; the Brewers are sitting at 1-6 against the Reds so far this year, and I don’t see any way the Brewers win the central if they can’t figure Dusty Baker’s team out.