Results tagged ‘ Ron Roenicke ’
By Nathan Petrashek
The Brewers finally ended a three-game skid on Sunday, but not before recording a franchise-worst 32 scoreless innings. That’s right; before Ryan Braun’s 8th inning dinger, the Brewers hadn’t scored a run since the 2nd inning in Chicago on Tuesday. The Brewers (specifically, the much-maligned Yuniesky Betancourt) managed to tie the game in the 9th, and might have taken the lead if not for some (attempted) bunting foolishness. Still, Jonathan Lucroy hit his first home run of the season to put the Brewers ahead for good at the top of the 10th. The Brewers have their third win, and all is right with the world.
Well, not so much. For fans who like to see runs scored (basically, if you’re not Old Hoss Radbourn), there was plenty of bad news to accompany the victory. Aramis Ramirez, who jammed his knee sliding into second base early in the season, isn’t likely to come off the DL when he’s eligible for reinstatement. I know, it’s a little cringeworthy when Ron Roenicke uses a phrase like “play it safe.” After all, this is the manager who just days ago-down a run in extras, with men on, and no other position players due to Roenicke’s own poor roster construction-declared Ryan Braun unfit to appear as a pinch hitter, and batted Kyle Lohse(!) in his stead; Braun would go 3-for-4 the next day and play nearly the entire game. But given Ramirez’s age and the lack of any other suitable options defensively at third base, it’s probably a good thing that Ramirez take whatever time he needs to get right.
The good news is that, offensively, the team has been fairly productive, even with Braun, Ramirez, and 1B Corey Hart missing time. To date, the 2013 Brewers have scored 36 runs. That’s just 3 shy of the number they scored as of this time last year, when the Brewers showcased the National League’s best offense. That those runs have come with some of the team’s best hitters (Rickie Weeks, Jonathan Lucroy, and Carlos Gomez) enduring mini-slumps is a testament to the team’s offensive potential. With those players returning to form, and Ryan Braun healthy again, it’s not unreasonable to expect this team’s offensive output to increase significantly in the coming days, even with prolonged DL stints for Ramirez and Hart.
I don’t, of course, mean to suggest that this team couldn’t use Ramirez or Hart in the lineup. Even at 36 runs scored, the Brewers’ offense ranks as one of the worst in the National League, down there with the lowly Pirates and Marlins. Although I’m certain that having Ramirez and Hart in the lineup would make the Brewers more dangerous, it’s hard to quantify how much. I love Ramirez’s bat, but (even if not entirely true) the notion that he’s a slow starter persists, and last season provided ample evidence to support that theory. That same concern doesn’t exist for Hart, but some of his lost production has been offset by Jean Segura’s and Norichika Aoki’s stellar runs, and Hart can be prone to prolonged slumps.
Bottom line: we all know that when this offense is finally healthy, it will be great. But it is fully capable of treading water for the next month or so until that happens.
By: Ryan Smith
It finally happened.After weeks of speculation, including some pretty crazy rumors over the last few days, the Milwaukee Brewers finally traded Zack Greinke.
After watching his stock take a hit with a rough July start followed by a mysterious “shutdown” by Manager Ron Roenicke, the enigmatic right-hander quieted his critics with a truly dominant performance on Tuesday night.
Yes, in only 87 pitches, Greinke put to rest any concerns about his health and his ability, instead causing opposing scouts and GMs to bull rush Doug Melvin’s office door.
The winning bid came from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, a team that beat out AL West rival Texas for the services of Mr. Greinke.
With the move Greinke will join an Angels rotation that already includes Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, and Dan Haren, creating a foursome as dangerous as any in Major League Baseball.
In return, the Brewers will receive three of the Angels top ten organizational prospects, including current top-prospect Jean Segura. Along with Segura, Milwaukee will also receive RHP John Hellweg and RHP Ariel Pena.A few weeks ago, I wrote an article looking at possible trade packages that Melvin would consider in a trade for Greinke. Then, I wrote that a package centered around Segura and Hellweg would have to be considered. Landing another one of Los Angeles’s top prospects apparently put the deal over the top for Melvin, who was using the rivalry between the Angels and the Rangers to up the asking price for the former Cy Young winner.
There were reports that Melvin was looking to land a top shortstop prospect in any deal involving Greinke, and Segura fits that bill. Segura had recently been called up to the big league club for the Angels, but he only appeared in one game at that level. In 94 AA games this season, Segura produced a line of .292/.346/.404 with 7 homeruns and 50 runs scored to go along with 33 stolen bases. While he would be an immediate upgrade over the current shortstop situation in Milwaukee, I would assume the organization would start with at AA Huntsville, at least for a few weeks.Hellweg and Pena also spent all of this season thus far in AA. Hellweg started 21 games, compiling a 5-10 record with a 3.38 ERA, walking 60 while striking out 88. In his first full season as a starter, Hellweg was producing a 6.62 K/9, but he also had a 4.51 BB/9, showing once again that his biggest concern is his command. Standing at 6’9”, Hellweg has some natural downhill plane on his powerful fastball, which typically sits in the mid-to-upper 90s. While he’s still a work in progress – especially with his secondary pitches – Hellweg still represents a welcome addition to the Milwaukee farm system. In 19 starts this season, Pena was 6-6 with a 2.99 ERA, walking 42 while striking out 111. Pena has some more success with the command of his pitches, resulting in a 3.31 BB/9 and an 8.74 K/9. Pena also has a lively fastball, which is reported to sit around 95 MPH with some movement. His slider is also said to be a hard slider that tends to fall off the table, allowing it to miss some bats. His changeup will need some work, as it can tend to be a BP-fastball if he doesn’t control it well. While Pena’s ceiling doesn’t appear to be as high as Hellweg’s, he seems to have a higher floor, especially considering his ability to control his premium pitches at this point in his career.
Overall, I think GM Doug Melvin did what we wanted him to do – he got the best possible return that he could for Greinke. Texas had already stated that top-prospect SS Jurickson Profar was off-limits, and they recently made it clear that 3B Mike Olt would not be available for a two-month rental. Instead of playing a dangerous waiting game with Texas, he used their interest to get the Angels to give up three actual prospects in order to acquire Greinke. As I said before, Segura could step into the everyday lineup for Milwaukee today and be an immediate upgrade, providing Melvin with the shortstop-of-the-future that he was looking for. Hellweg and Pena give the Brewers two very talented arms to work with, and you can never have enough pitching in baseball.
To Zack Greinke, I say this: Good luck. It was a blast having you in Milwaukee.
To Doug Melvin, I say this: Good job. You did what you had to do and brought back a real package that could help this team in the long run.
To the newest Milwaukee Brewers, I say this: Welcome! You’re going to love it here. I hope you like beer.
Who am I kidding – who doesn’t like beer?
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.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.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.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.
With the second half of the Low A season now in full swing and the 2012 draft a recent memory, it was only a matter of time before the Timber Rattlers saw an infusion of new talent to replace those team members who have found themselves promoted to the next level. This year, one of those call ups came with a very recognizable name: Roenicke.
Lance Roenicke is the son of Brewers’ manager Ron Roenicke. Drafted in the 25th round of the 2012 Amateur Draft by Milwaukee, Roenicke was signed on June 15th and promoted to the Rattlers roster after only playing in 3 games for the Helena Brewers in the Pioneer League where he batted .538 with an on base percentage of .571. So far, in 6 games with the Rattlers he has continued his hot start batting .529 with a .556 OBP.
On Saturday afternoon, I took a few minutes to discuss what it’s like coming from a baseball family, what he attributes his strong start to, and what it means to be on a team who is already playoff bound.
CCC: Lance, you come from a baseball family. Your dad played for 8 years in the majors, coached for 10 plus, and is currently the manager of the Brewers. Your uncle, Gary, played for 10 years, and your cousin Josh is currently with the Colorado Rockies. What advantage do you think you have coming from a baseball family?
LR: It’s an advantage just being around the lifestyle. It’s a different lifestyle and there’s a lot of games so you just have to bare with it, but I’ve been around the game my whole life. I watched my dad manage in the minors in the Dodger’s organization and then being with the big league team, with the Angels, for 11 years, so I’ve been around the game for a long time. I’ve seen a lot of great players, worked with a lot of great coaches, so I think just being around the game has tremendously helped me.
CCC: What piece of advice did you take away from all of this in order to propel you to where you are today?
LR: Just that you have to work hard, that is the biggest thing. Every level that you move up, the talent level is going to be that much greater, so you have to continue to get better, and that’s why guys are in the majors, they found ways to get better every year. I was doing well in Helena, so they brought me up here, and while I wasn’t playing right away, you just have to keep working, keep sticking with it, and keep getting better here, move on to the next level, keep getting better there. You just have to find ways to keep improving your game to separate yourself from others.
CCC: Speaking of Helena, you only played 3 games there before being called up to the Timber Rattler roster. So far in 6 games with Wisconsin you are batting .529 with a .556 OBP. What do you attribute this success to?
LR: Just grinding out at bats. I’m trying to have the best quality at bats that I can because the game of baseball is tough and you get hit. You can go 0 for 5 with five line outs or you can go 4 for 4 with 4 broken bat singles, so I just continue to work on putting a good swing on the ball, taking balls, swinging at good pitches and having quality at bats.
CCC: Your promotion was obviously tied to Jason Rogers being promoted to Brevard County. With Rogers being an All-Star, do you feel any additional pressure filling in that spot that Rogers left on the team?
LR: There’s going to be pressure regardless, but I don’t really feel it that much because I focus on each day, working hard, trying to get better each day. So if I’m in the lineup or not, I’m going to work hard and try to contribute the best that I can.
CCC: With the Rattlers already having punched their ticket to the post-season, what is your biggest focus for the second half of the season?
LR: Momentum. You see teams, like last year if you watched the World Series, the Cardinals had a great run at the end there and carried it through the post season. Winning the first half is huge as it gives us a ticket to the playoffs, but we need to have a good second half to push us through the playoffs and to have a good playoff run.
CCC: Finally, coming in mid-season do you find the team to be pretty welcoming and how has the transition been so far?
LR: I’ll tell you what, this team has some energy. This is a great group of guys with great chemistry here. They have been very welcoming of Mitch (Haniger) and I right away, and we feel like we get along with these guys pretty well and it’s fun. There’s a lot of games and you need to find ways to entertain yourselves and these players enjoy coming to the ballpark every day.
You can follow Lance on Twitter: @LTRoenicke.
By Nathan Petrashek
Well, not really. Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp’s qualifications were beyond question, but I think Axford got the short end of the “pitchers-can’t-be-MVP’s” stick in only placing 17th. Axford posted a 1.95 ERA last year and saved 46 for the Brewers. He blew a whopping two saves during the regular season, and both of those came early on. The guy was an absolute rock and, after the team acquired Francisco Rodriguez, the 8th and 9th innings were absolute locks.
This year, Axford has doubled his blown saves and more than doubled his losses from last year, and it’s only July.
The Brewers currently stand at 33-41, 8.5 games back of the division-leading Reds. If you assume Axford had converted all of his save opportunities, the Brewers would be an even .500 at 37-37, well within striking distance. If you take a further leap and assume that the Brewers had found a way to win each of the games for which Axford was charged with a loss – like last night, when Axford entered in a tie game and gave up the go-ahead run – the Crew would be 40-34.
The point of this is not to place all of the blame for the Brewers’ 2012 woes on Axford’s shoulders (the remainder of the bullpen and the offense share plenty of fault). The point is to illustrate how absolutely incredible Axford’s 2011 season was, and how critical he was to winning the division.
In this sense, Axford is not unlike Peyton Manning, whom many NFL writers jokingly said would get their MVP vote in 2011 despite being injured the entire season. With Manning in 2010, the Colts were 10-6 and easily won the AFC South. Without him in 2011, they had the worst record in football. The only difference is that Axford is still pitching for the team; he’s just not doing a good job.
In a way, Axford probably set the fan base up for disappointment by throwing so well last year. Axford was never one to toss a clean 1-2-3 inning, but he found his way out of jams the vast majority of the time. After a season and a half of sustained success, the Brewers no doubt thought they had their closer for the future, going so far as to negotiate an extension that was ultimately never signed. Casey McGehee, anyone?
If you follow him on Twitter, it’s pretty clear he’s having a tough time mentally overcoming his struggles, first brushing them off with self-deprecating humor, then lashing out at his critics with a #TwitterToughGuy hashtag. Maybe it’s time for Axford to take a break from closing games. That certainly seems to be the way the tide is flowing, as Roenicke was set to bring in K-Rod for the save last night if the Brewers managed to scratch across a couple runs in the 9th. The truth is, when you’re finding every way imaginable to lose games, what’s the harm in switching things up?
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.
The early weeks of spring training are a time of aberration and statistical abnormalities. Think about it, position players are trying to work the winter rust out of their strokes, while pitchers try to stretch out and oil up their arms in hopes that they will be limber enough to not only avoid injury this season, but also to still have something left should they find themselves pitching in Game 7 of the World Series. Combine those two approaches together and you get some statistics that defy explanation.
Today, we’ll look at what the Brewers have been doing from an offensive prospective, and I’ll be back later this week to take a look at the pitching so far. So, without further ado…
I want you to take a second and mull over the following sentence: Jonathan Lucroy is the most feared hitter in the Brewers lineup.
Now that you’ve reread it, digested it, and yet still seem to be having trouble making sense of it, let me verify that the above is not a typo. Jonathan Lucroy, so far, possesses the most devastating bat in the entire Brewers camp.
Lucroy, who finished last season with a batting average of .265/.313/.391 has more than doubled his offensive output so far this spring. In 16 at bats in 6 games, Lucroy is currently hitting .563/.563/.938 which sets the bar for all Brewers batters who have more than 1 or 2 at bats. Additionally, it should be noted that 4 of his 9 hits so far have gone for extra bases (3 doubles and a homerun), proving that Lucroy has a little extra pop in his bat to go his keen eye at the plate.
Some guys just seem to thrive in the most adverse of situations. For your consideration, Logan Schafer.
Schafer, ranked #7 in the Brewers 2012 Prospects Watch, finds himself in an unenviable position, fighting for a spot at a position that is running over with veteran talent. So far this spring, Schafer is hitting .556/.579/.944 in 18 at bats in 10 games. Meanwhile, projected opening day starter Carlos Gomez is hitting an embarrassing .160/.222/.160 in 25 at bats over 9 games. Despite his untested status, you have to believe that if Schafer is able to maintain even a respectable pace for the rest of the spring, that Roenicke will need to stand up and potentially give Schafer some consideration, at the very least until Corey Hart comes back from injury and Nyjer Morgan slots back into center.
Prior to the start of spring training, there were many pundits who feared that the veteran Gonzalez would prove to be nothing more than another offensive weak spot at short. Well, apparently Gonzalez heard them loud and clear, and has decided to put on a hitting clinic for his critics.
So far, Gonzalez has put up a stat line of .476/.500/.762 in 21 at bats over 8 games. On an interesting side note, Gonzalez is currently the only Brewer to have collected a single, a double, a triple, a homerun, and a walk this so far this spring.
Looking to capitalize on a 2011 in which he found himself as an All Star for the first time, Weeks has shown a quiet determination at the plate. His 7 walks leads all Brewers batters so far this spring, and his stat line of .385/.619/.769 in 13 at bats over 8 games is all about the extra base hit. Of his 5 hits thus far, all of them have been doubles.
Mat Gamel and Travis Ishikawa
All of the fear and trepidation coming out of the departure of Prince Fielder would seem to be just a bad case of nerves at this point, as Milwaukee appears to have two competent first basemen in camp this season.
So far, Gamel leads all Brewers in homeruns (3), runs scored (7), and RBIs (7). Additionally, he is tied with Carlos Gomez for the most stolen bases with 3 (also note he has not been caught stealing). His stat line of .318/.423/.773 in 22 at bats in 9 games is impressive for a player who many had doubts on.
Not to be out done, Travis Ishikawa is nipping at Gamels heels with a pretty equivalent stat line of his own. Ishikawa is .316/.409/.684 in 19 at bats in 9 games. His 2 homeruns this spring rank him second only to Gamel in the category.
So, there you have it, the wild, wonderful, and weird stats of spring training thus far. As the next several weeks go by, we should be able to get a better idea of which stats are actually founded in determination and focus, and which ones are simply the types of statistical anomalies that only spring training can provide.
By: Ryan Smith
To say that Nyjer Morgan is a character is a massive understatement.
Morgan, known better by his “gentleman-moniker” Tony Plush, is a veritable lightning rod for attention any time he steps near the diamond. Whether he is unknowingly delivering a game-winning, walk-off hit, voicing his displeasure with opponents, or simply firing up the Miller Park faithful and his teammates with his now-famous “Beast Mode” gesture, Morgan’s larger-than-life flair is evident from the second you see him.
But what can we expect from “Tony Plush: Year Two”?
Let me start off by saying I want to be completely honest with all of you. During August and September of last season, I was enjoying T-Plush as much as anyone else. I enjoyed all of those antics he would display during games. I loved the energy and enthusiasm he brought to the game. And I really loved the scared look that would appear on the face of Telly Hughes if he had to interview the enigmatic outfielder after a big win.
All that being said, I was also quite adamant in my proclamation that the Brewers should trade Mr. Plush as soon as the season ended.
Now let me defend my reasoning.
When the Brewers acquired Morgan before the 2011 season, I was thrilled. We took a non-prospect in Cutter Dykstra and turned him into a talented, toolsy outfielder.
Now, I also knew that Morgan was a player who came with some baggage. While he produced a few productive seasons with Pittsburgh and Washington (he posted a 5.2 WAR in 2009), he was most famous, or infamous, for his wild and out of control antics while playing for Washington in 2010. Most notably, Morgan sparked a bench-clearing brawl while playing in a heated series against the Florida Marlins. It really didn’t seem to matter who was at fault for the breakout of that brawl (Morgan had already been hit by one pitch and just had another one go behind him). The general public had made up its collective mind: Nyjer Morgan was the bad guy.
I’m a strong believer that sometimes a guy just needs a change of scenery, a fresh start. For Morgan, Milwaukee was that fresh start.
As the 2011 season progressed, Brewers fans started to sense that there was something special about this team. We actually had pitching. We had the best hitting duo in the majors. We had other players stepping up and making plays when we needed them to do so. And we had T-Plush.
Morgan made us love him. He never seemed to take a play off. He played wonderful defense (15.0 UZR/150 between the three outfield positions). He came up with clutch hits. He routinely dropped down bunts for base hits. He energized the team, Miller Park, and all of Brewer Nation.
And yet, there were still those moments when he would remind us of that ticking time bomb that drew criticism from everyone with an opinion just one year earlier.
Of course, the moment that stands out in my mind as the warning flag involved Morgan’s distaste for a few of the St. Louis Cardinals. After striking out in the ninth inning of a 2-0 loss to the Cardinals, Morgan got into a shouting match with Cardinals’ ace Chris Carpenter before throwing his chewing tobacco at the pitcher. Albert Pujols stepped up to defend his pitcher, and Morgan reacted by calling out the superstar first baseman on Twitter later that night.
This was not the T-Plush we were all falling in love with. This was Tony Plush, 2010.
I wanted no part of that Tony Plush.
I decided that it would be best to ride T-Plush into the playoffs and then try and flip him before he went all bat-shit-crazy on us in 2012.
Now, roughly one month before the start of the 2012 season, I just want to say one thing: I was wrong.
I’ve thought about it quite a bit. Could T-Plush revert back to his old ways, causing more distractions and headaches than memorable plays and wins? Sure he could. But I don’t think that’s going to be the case, and here’s why:
The 2012 Milwaukee Brewers are going to be contenders.
Yes, we lost Prince Fielder. But we added Aramis Ramirez. We got rid of Yuniesky Betancourt. We still have a pretty impressive rotation. We have the ‘stache closing games once again. We have Ryan Braun for 162 games.
And we have T-Plush.
If the Brewers have yet another successful season, one where they are in contention deep into September, Tony Plush is going to keep showing up to the ballpark. According to Manager Ron Roenicke, T-Plush is going to fly around the bases a bit more. He’s going to keep doing crazy things. He’s going to keep flashing the “Beast Mode” gesture that the fans love and opponents hate. And if he produces like last year (.304/.357/.421), we’re all going to love it.
That last part might be the most important element in understanding why I think T-Plush will be just fine this season. He’s quirky. He’s “out there” and somewhat misunderstood. He’s outspoken. And Brewer Nation loves him.
We don’t just tolerate him. We don’t simply accept him. We love him. We love his crazy antics. We love his unpredictable nature. We love the fact that he is a player who truly enjoys playing the game every single day. Maybe Nyjer Morgan or Tony Plush just needed to find a place that would love him for who is. Milwaukee is just that place.
So now, with the 2012 season just beyond the horizon, I’m ready to go into battle with T-Plush. After all, I’d rather have him with me than against me. Plus, as all of his twitter followers can attest to, he already has a pretty good battle cry:
“Watz Goood Nation!!!! Aaaahhhhhhh!!!”
T-Plush, I couldn’t have put it better myself. What’s good, indeed.
(You can follow Nyjer Morgan on twitter @TheRealTPlush)
Well, the injury bug wasted no time in buying its ticket to Arizona this year as Brewers right fielder, Corey Hart, can attest to. For the 2nd straight year, Hart looks to start regular season play on the disabled list, this time due to a torn meniscus in his right knee.
The injury, which will require surgery later this week, will leave Hart sidelined for 3-4 weeks, making the timetable tight for a potential opening day start, and potentially throwing the Brewers opening day lineup (which skipper Ron Roenicke said earlier this week was set) into turmoil.
The announcement came about an hour into the Brewers first Cactus League appearance of the year, a 1-1 tie with the San Francisco Giants, which also found Rickie Weeks as a late scratch from the lineup. Weeks, who has been nursing a sore throwing shoulder, participated in throwing drills, but was scratched about 15 minutes before the first pitch along with Hart. According to Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash, the Weeks injury is not considered to be serious.
The Hart injury does bring to light several questions which the Brewers will now need to answer in the next several weeks. For one, who will start in right field on opening day? As I have mentioned in previous articles, I fully anticipate that Japanese outfielder Norichika Aoki will be able to transition and will be ready in time to take a starting role if needed. If this indeed proves to be true, I see this as the better option over starting center fielder Carlos Gomez in the vacant spot. Why, you ask? The simple answer is, his bat.
Last season, Gomez hit an unimpressive .225 in 231 at bats with an on base percentage of .276. Compare this to Hart’s 2011 line of .285 in 492 at bats and an on base percentage of .356, and its obvious that this is a dip in offense that the club can not afford to make. Hart, along with new third baseman Aramis Ramirez, will be relied upon to close the offensive gap left in the wake of Prince Fielder’s departure. As such, Hart’s replacement will need to produce better than what Gomez did last season, even if it is only for a short period of time.
As a two-time batting champion in Japan, Aoki has proven himself to be a threat at the plate as a contact hitter with an ability to aim the ball to all fields. With many claiming that he is the best pure hitter to come out of Japan since Ichiro, the door has now opened wide for Aoki to prove it. Also, should Aoki find his way into the starting lineup, expect Rickie Weeks to move from the number one slot in the batting order to the number 5 spot, thus beefing up the heart of the order. This could also see Nyjer Morgan slot in at number one, with Aoki in the two hole.
The other problem that Hart’s injury has exposed is Milwaukee’s lack of depth at first base. The initial plan was to have Hart back up first base hopeful Mat Gamel, but now with the injury the Brewers may need to rely on Travis Ishikawa for the time being. Ishikawa, who saw no playing time in the majors in 2011, was acquired from the San Francisco Giants where he batted .265 over 4 seasons. While this may be doable for the short-term, it again highlights the problem mentioned earlier: the offensive drop off created by not having Hart in the lineup.
Finally, for those that believe that Roenicke will rush Hart back early like he did in 2011 after the Nyjer Morgan injury, I will warn you to not be overly optimistic. Hart has a history of meniscus issues, meaning that the team will be overly cautious as this most recent injury is the most severe that he has sustained to this point.
If there is a silver lining to the injury, it is this: A huge opportunity to prove themselves has now been issued to Aoki, Gomez, Gamel, and Ishikawa. The question is, who will stand up and take the call?