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Keith Law Chat: Brewer Items

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Keith Law held his weekly chat on ESPN.com this afternoon, and there turned out to be a fair amount of Brewer-related content. Alcides Escobar and Mark Mulder were a couple players that were mentioned.

Steve (Chicago): A. Escobar Or S. Castro
Klaw (1:55 PM): Castro.

(snip)

Brian (Madison): Not liking Escobar’s bat?
Klaw (1:57 PM): He doesn’t walk and isn’t going to hit for power. Castro’s bat is special.

He’s definitely not the first scout to say something to that effect, and we’ve known for awhile that Esco’s lack of patience is a concern and he’ll be lucky to hit more than a few homers a year. Hard to argue this point, even if Castro is entering his age 20 season and seems to be a year or two away from the majors.

Paul (Richfield WI): Do you think Mulder can contribute at a big-league level in 2010?
Klaw (2:01 PM): No.

Short and to the point, and again, hard to disagree with. While it would be great to see the Brewers take a chance on Mulder and get rewarded for it, it doesn’t seem likely. Mulder hasn’t pitched in more than three games in a season since 2006, and hasn’t pitched well since 2005. He turns 32 this year. If the Brewers get anything out of him this season, it’ll probably be a sign that things are really going their way. It’ll be nice to get him under contract, but he (or Chris Capuano, or John Halama) should not be counted on to do much for the big league club.

If anything, they should keep looking for that fifth starter in the free agent market as long as asking prices continue to tumble. Hey, Doug Davis says he’s interested.

Milestones Give Fans Reasons to Watch

While the team is likely out of the playoff race and watching this team try to pitch on a nightly basis has become a bit of a chore, there are still quite a few reasons to watch this team — mainly, they can really hit.  In honor of Alcides Escobar hitting his first career home run yesterday afternoon in Washington, here’s a look at some other Brewers on the verge of reaching some important milestones.

– Ryan Braun needs 3 home runs to reach the 100-homer mark.  Ryan Howard currently holds the record for quickest to 100, reaching the century mark in just 325 games.  Braun won’t break that record — as of yesterday, he’s already appeared in 384 contests — but Braun can potentially join an exclusive club by the end of the year.

The amazing start to Braun’s career has often been compared to that of another NL Central rival, Albert Pujols.  Pujols burst onto the scene by hitting 114 home runs in his first three professional seasons, tying the record that Ralph Kiner held for over 50 years.  While it seems unlikely that Braun can reach 114 by the end of this season (he’d need 17 more in the final 39 games), it is likely that he can join Mark Teixeira and Joe DiMaggio in a tie for fourth place on that list.  Both Tex and Joltin’ Joe hit 107 homers in their first three seasons. 

Of course, Braun is at a bit of a disadvantage in this race, due to him only playing in 113 games his rookie year and 151 games last year.  He’s on pace to set career highs in both games played and home runs this year, though, and if you go by games played instead of full seasons, he’s still hitting the ball out of the park at a historic rate.  Only five players have hit 100 home runs in their first three seasons.  At any rate, Braun will become the 6th…not bad company to have, is it?

– Prince Fielder needs 17 RBI to break the team record for RBI in a season.  Fielder has racked up 110 RBI to this point, and at the rate he’s been driving in runs this year, he’ll obliterate the current record of 126 currently held by Cecil Cooper.  Fielder made a run at the record in 2007, but fell short by ending the year with 119.  Richie Sexson nearly broke the record in 2001 (125) and 2003 (124), but was the victim of poor lineup support.  Fielder has had high-OBP players in Braun and Craig Counsell hitting in front of him all year, and with Felipe Lopez tearing the cover off the ball in the leadoff spot since coming over from Arizona, he’s had no shortage of possibilities.  RBI is a stat of opportunity, and Prince has done well to capitalize on the opportunities he’s been given this year.  Fangraphs has the Rest of Season ZiPS projections on Fielder, which predict he’ll finish the year with 44 HR and 142 RBI — MVP-type numbers if it wasn’t for that Pujols guy.

– Fielder is on pace to shatter another team record…Jeromy Burnitz’s mark for walks in a single season.  No Brewer has ever eclipsed the 100-walk mark — Burnitz’s mark is 99 — but Fielder has already taken 82 free passes to first in 123 games.  Part of Prince’s improved walk totals has been the lack of a solid #5 hitter to provide protection (the spot’s been a revolving door of Corey Hart, Casey McGehee, and Mike Cameron all year), but he’s also done a fantastic job of laying off pitches he normally would’ve hacked at.  The result?  Fielder’s on the verge of hitting over .300 for the first time in his career, and seems likely to finish the year with an OBP north of .400 for the first time, too.

– On a different note, Braden Looper is 6 home runs away from surrendering more homers in a season than any other pitcher in Brewers history.  It’s safe to say that Looper hasn’t pitched as well as anyone hoped this year — the Brewers paid him to be a #4-type starter, and he’s actually pitched below replacement level.  No one expected him to put up a sub-4.00 ERA like he did in St. Louis, but no one thought he’d lose so much velocity on his fastball and lack movement on every pitch in his repetoire.  Before the season it seemed like a lock that the Brewers would pick up his 2010 option, but now his future with the club is a little hazy.  You have to figure that four rotation spots on next year’s club are already relatively locked in — Yovani Gallardo, Dave Bush, Manny Parra, and Jeff Suppan.  If the Brewers are planning on upgrading the rotation, they’d likely have to either let Looper go, find a taker for Suppan’s ridiculous contract, or both.  Of those, turning down Looper’s option is probably the easiest route to take.

What Should Melvin Do With Hardy?

August 16, 2009 1 comment

J.J. Hardy homered for Triple A Nashville on Saturday night, going 1-for-4 with a walk in his first start since being demoted.  While he looks to recalibrate his swing and get back on the track that made him an All-Star, an interesting storyline may potentially be developing.

As reported when Hardy was sent down on Wednesday, if Hardy stays in the minors for at least 20 days, he will fall short of the required number of days on the active roster to get credit for a full service year.  If that were the case, the Brewers would control Hardy through the 2011 season, not 2010.  This could have a huge effect on Hardy’s future with the club, but much more importantly, it could also have a huge effect on his trade value.

Read more…

Is Macha Next?

After all the events on what was called “Black Wednesday” at One Brewers Way, one man managed to escape with his job — manager Ken Macha.  While Bill Castro, J.J. Hardy, and Bill Hall were all shown the door yesterday, Macha will continue to manage this team.  Of course, the question is just how long he’ll be the manager.

During yesterday afternoon’s press conference, Doug Melvin sounded less than enthused about Macha’s performance at this point in the season.  When asked whether Macha should feel nervous, Melvin alluded to the fact that changing managers (again) will be considered.

Some of you will remember that Macha signed a two-year deal upon securing the job this past offseason, a contract that many found as an early sign that the Brewers’ front office wasn’t entirely confident in their new hire.  The Brewers, like most Major League teams, don’t like having their managers answering questions about job security when they’re in the last year of their contract.  As a result, they typically give an extension before the manager enters that final season — it happened with Ned Yost, and many anticipated Macha to get that extension with a reasonably successful season this year.  The only problem?  Macha hasn’t done much to warrant that extension.

We saw what happened to Castro when the entire pitching staff except Yovani Gallardo and Trevor Hoffman underperformed compared to their career numbers.  Hitting coach Dale Sveum may be on the chopping block considering how poorly most of the roster has hit this year, too.  Macha has seemed out of touch with his players at times this year, and has shown a propensity to prefer crappy veterans over promising prospects in his starting lineups — something you don’t want to see when you’re running a small-market club.  The fact that Melvin had to sit Macha down and explain to him that Alcides Escobar will be starting 4 or 5 times a week seems to indicate that the front office wasn’t pleased with how Macha handled Mat Gamel’s time on the active roster and wanted to make sure Craig Counsell wasn’t going to be the everyday shortstop with Hardy in the minors.

The only staff member who’s seemingly done their job well this year is Willie Randolph, who’s connected well with many of the team’s younger players and made the likes of Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder passable defensive players.  It’s only speculation, but to me, it seems logical and entirely possible that Willie Randolph could be this team’s manager at the start of 2010.

I’m curious to know what others think.  Should Macha be brought back?  If not, who should the Brewers target to replace him?

Is Another Trade Coming?

Here’s one for the folks who like to look for any small signs of a trade — super prospect Alcides Escobar was removed in the 6th inning of tonight’s Nashville Sounds game.  And there is no longer a team listed next to his name when you search for him on MiLB.com.  

Uh oh.
Perhaps it isn’t as bad as it looks for those of us who absolutely do not want to see Escobar traded in the next week.  After all, if you click on his name in that same MiLB.com search, the Nashville Sounds logo is still on his player profile.  And there’s the possibility that if a trade was made, it includes J.J. Hardy — not Escobar — and Esco is just on his way to join the Major League squad.
What we do know is that trade talks between the Brewers and the Seattle Mariners have heated up in the past 24 hours.  Jarrod Washburn — a native Wisconsinite — is scheduled to make his next start on Tuesday for the Mariners.  The Brewers have not committed to a Tuesday starter despite calling up Tim Dillard prior to the series finale against Atlanta.  Tom Haudricourt has confirmed that the Brewers are interested in Washburn.  Adam McCalvy spoke to Ken Macha earlier today, and it seems like the Brewers’ manager is convinced something is going to happen soon.  
If there is a move, we’ll likely hear about it in the next 24 hours, due to Washburn’s schedule. Let’s just hope the Brewers aren’t going to give up Alcides Escobar in a trade for a mediocre lefty with a lifetime 4.00+ ERA.  I wouldn’t even be happy to see Hardy go in that trade, unless Washburn was just part of a package coming back to Milwaukee.  We’ll see what ends up happening, but you can’t say things aren’t getting interesting in the final week before the deadline.

Three Sounds Represent Brewers in AAA All-Star Game

July 16, 2009 1 comment

The Pacific Coast League may have lost the 22nd Triple-A All-Star Game in Portland, but it wasn’t by fault of any of the Brewers’ representatives.  The Nashville Sounds produced three All-Stars this year — top prospect Alcides Escobar, reliever R.J. Swindle, and right fielder Brendan Katin — and all three played well in the nationally televised game.

Escobar, who’s had a busy week between playing in the marathon Futures Game in St. Louis on Sunday and in Wednesday night’s Triple-A tilt, went 1-for-3 with a single before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the 8th inning.  Escobar hit second in the PCL order, behind Eric Young Jr. — the son of the former Brewer — and received a nice bit of pre-game hype from the ESPN crew.

Swindle has been hit hard in his pair of brief big league appearances with the Brewers, but has been lights-out for the Sounds, putting up a 0.93 ERA and 0.983 WHIP in 38 innings of relief.  The deceptive lefty put up a scoreless 7th inning for the PCL, allowing a hit to Drew Stubbs, but also striking out Jorge Padilla.  With Mitch Stetter having some good success against right-handed batters for the Brewers, you have to imagine that Swindle will get another crack at the Milwaukee bullpen the next time a spot opens up.

Katin had the biggest impact of the three, however, hitting a solo home run off J.D. Martin in the 3rd inning for the PCL’s first hit of the game.  Katin would end up playing all 9 innings, getting an at-bat in the bottom of the 9th inning with a runner on third and one out, and the PCL trailing 6-3.  Katin was unable to get the runner home, grounding out to the pitcher for the second out of the inning.

The PCL would mount a small rally with two outs, though, when Esteban German hit a two-run homer to cut the deficit to 6-5.  E.Y. Junior followed by striking out to end the game, giving the International League their 5th All-Star win in 7 years.  Not quite an American League-type run, but I’m sure they’ll take it.

Maybe the Brewers All-Star curse extends to the minor leagues, as well. 

Game Box Score
Inning-by-Inning Recap