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Brewers’ first year-end press conference summary

October 8, 2009 Leave a comment

Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin and his staff held their traditional “post-mortum” news conference…reading between the lines, Melvin inferred:

  1. Prince and Ryan are not going anywhere
  2. Melvin wants to add at least 2 “established” starters (presumably, one via free agency and one via trade)
  3. They probably won’t re-sign Mike Cameron, Jason Kendall, or Felipe Lopez
  4. Rickie Weeks is not going anywhere
  5. Suppan is slated for the bullpen…unless he somehow has a spectacular spring, I imagine
  6. They’re still interested in Ben Sheets
  7. Alcides Escobar will play short next year and J.J. Hardy will be traded

All in all, no new news…just a reiteration of what many fans (myself included) want to hear.

Now the hard part…making it happen.

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Brewers Season Grades: Solid Contributors

Yesterday we handed out grades for the bottom of the Class of 2009 — those players who earned D’s and F’s.  Today, we recap a group of players that were more productive, and generally good to have around.  Guys who earned C’s were serviceable but most likely replaceable without much cost, while those with B’s were good but had something holding them back.  With that much said, here are the grades…be sure to check back tomorrow when I hand out A’s to the cream of the crop.  Feel free to comment if you agree/disagree below.

B’s
Yovani Gallardo (B): He performed well considering the fact that he was forced into the ace role a year after missing most of the season with a torn ACL.  The high walk totals led to too many short outings, however — how much of it was nibbling, and how much was it just him hitting a wall late in the season?

Mitch Stetter (B): One of my concerns heading into the season would be how well the Brewers would replace Brian Shouse’s old LOOGY role.  Stetter filled in very nicely, and even showed a bit of effectiveness against right-handed batters, increasing his value.  It’s always nice to develop your own relievers — the Brewers got a lot of of value out of him considering his low salary.

Claudio Vargas (B-):
It was easy to scoff at the deadline deal that brought Vargas back to Milwaukee — most were frustrated that Doug Melvin didn’t bring in a starter to help the rotation — but the Human Rain Delay performed admirably as a long reliever, sucking up a lot of innings following short outings from the starters and keeping the team in games.  All in all, Claudio may have found his niche.

Craig Counsell (B+):
After the way Counsell fared at the plate the past couple seasons, it was hard to get excited about him coming back, even at the extremely cheap price of $1 million as a utility player.  A new batting stance seems to have done wonders for Craig, as he put up one of the best batting lines of his career without the ridiculous Lightning Rod stance.  He was especially valuable during the time between the Weeks injury and the Lopez trade, and he’s performed so well that you have to imagine the club wouldn’t mind him coming back next year on a similar 1-year, $1 million deal.

Casey McGehee (B+): Another year, another scrap heap pick up by Doug Melvin that paid huge dividends.  Very few people thought much of the waiver wire pick up late last season — some Cubs fans even mocked the Brewers for making the move — but McGehee put together an incredibly unexpected season.  Heading into spring training, how many people thought McGehee would make the 25-man roster, let alone have his name mentioned as a possible Rookie of the Year candidate?  As I’ve noted before, it’s no guarantee that Casey will be back with the club next season, but at the very least he’s been another Melvin gamble that’s paid off in a big way.

Mike Cameron (B): It’s easy to get frustrated with the high number of strikeouts and the low batting average, but Cameron’s defense and home run pop has again made him worth the money he’s making.  His range isn’t what it used to be in center, but there’s no doubt he’s made Ryan Braun look like a better left fielder, and most fans likely won’t realize what they had until he’s gone.  Here’s to hoping Cameron makes good on his word that he’d be willin to make some sacrifices in salary to stay on with the club — or, at the very least, he doesn’t sign with the Cubs in the offseason.

C’s
Seth McClung (C-): Big Red was a valuable part of the bullpen early in the year, essentially filling the role Vargas filled in August and September.  A move to the rotation flamed out badly, though, and one could point to his horrendous start against the Cubs in Wrigley Field as the beginning of the end of the Brewers’ season.  I still think he has value as a long reliever, but I doubt many people would mind if he was replaced.

Chris Narveson (C): Narveson’s season was nearly a complete mirror image of McClung’s — he flamed out as a long reliever in his first big league stint, but filled in admirably in the rotation when Manny Parra went down with neck spasms.  Narveson hasn’t pitched deep into games in his starts, but he’s shown enough promise there that he at least has to be considered for a bottom-of-the-rotation spot during spring training next year.  I hesitate to raise his grade too high, due to the fact that you can never fully trust outings in the first and last months of the season. 

Chris Smith (C+):
Perfectly acceptable in mop-up duty, and saved quite a few innings from the rest of the bullpen by going two or three innings at a time in a number of appearances.  Also perfectly replaceable, which is why I can’t bear to give him a much higher grade than this.

Mark DiFelice (C+):
His cutter was unhittable early in the year, even drawing the attention of national writers.  Unfortunately, he was never the same following injury, and finished the year on the 60-day DL.  He’s a great story — here’s to hoping that he can recover and again be a big part of the bullpen in 2010.

Frank Catalanotto (C): An afterthought signing, and it could be argued that the Brewers had no intention of playing him in the majors until they ran into injury problems at the big league level.  Far from spectacular, but far from useless in the absence of Corey Hart in August.

Jody Gerut (C-): Gerut was the subject of a lot of criticism early in his tenure as he struggled to get into a groove at the plate as a pinch hitter.  Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, a lot of Gerut’s biggest detractors were also big supporters of Tony Gwynn, Jr. and the bad feelings about Gwynn never getting a real shot in Milwaukee may have rubbed off on him.  Gerut came into his own with a hot stretch late in the season, and with a projected salary in the low $1 million range, he wouldn’t be a bad option for a cheap stopgap centerfielder if Cameron isn’t brought back.

Corey Hart (C-):
For whatever reason, Corey’s seemed like a completely different player following his All-Star game appearance last year, and has struggled to find many hot streaks at the plate.  He lost about a month with an emergency appendectomy, which you can’t blame him for, but even before the injury he wasn’t living up to expectations.  It’s crazy that about 18 months ago, many thought of him as being untouchable in trade talks, and now we’re trying to figure out ways to pry pitching from the Braves by using him in mock trade offers.

Brewers Sweep Cards; End Season 80-82

As trying as the past couple months have been for Brewers fans to endure, it’s still a sad sight to see the season end.  The good news?  The team continued to play hard until Game 162 was in the books, capping off a three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals.  In many ways, the season finale was the 2009 season in a nutshell: short outing from the starter (Suppan pulled after a couple innings) with a big lead surrendered late in the game.

While the series had no significance to the Brewers other than where they’ll end up drafting next June, they did manage to rain on St. Louis’ parade by dealing the Cards crucial defeats that prevented them from clinching homefield advantage throughout the NL playoffs.  You’re welcome, Los Angeles.

While many in the state of Wisconsin will now turn their full attention to football — I hear there’s a big game tomorrow night — forgive me if I spend a little while reflecting on the 2009 season and looking ahead to what the team can do to improve in 2010.  As bad as the team has been at times this year, the fact that they managed to crack the 80-win barrier for the 4th time in the past 5 years is still a positive sign.

Beginning tomorrow, I’ll start handing out season grades to the players from this year’s squad.  We’ll start tomorrow with the bottom of the class — those receiving D’s and F’s for the year — but to whet your appetite, here are players who earned “incompletes” for the 2009 season.  For multiple reasons, we didn’t get to see enough of them for me to formulate a solid grade:

John Axford – Seems to have some good stuff, it’s just a matter of gaining control.  Kind of reminds me of Derrick Turnbow in a way.
Josh Butler – Didn’t get much of a chance with the big league club this year, but here’s to hoping he can compete for a rotation spot next year.  Performed well enough in the minors to make the Gabe Gross trade seem pretty fair.
David Riske – Lost to surgery.  It’s a shame this free agent signing hasn’t worked out, because it actually seemed like a solid deal at the time.  Now the Brewers would be lucky to get much of anything out of him.
Alcides Escobar – Has shown flashes of that electric speed and defense already.  I think we’re ready to see it on a full-time basis next season.
Mat Gamel – Struggled to hit consistently with the big league club, but it doesn’t help that he spent a lot of time riding the bench.  I still think of him as the best hitting prospect the team has, and has extra value considering he hits left-handed on a predominantly right-handed team.
Jason Bourgeois – Hope he’s enjoyed the cup of coffee, because there’s no real reason for him to see the big leagues next year. 
Corey Patterson – A little part of me died every time I saw him in the leadoff spot.  I can appreciate the numbers he put up in Triple A, but it’s pretty clear to everyone now that he’ll never be much more than a Triple A All-Star.
Rickie Weeks – One of the saddest stories of the 2009 season.  Weeks finally seemed to be coming into his own when another wrist gave out.  Here’s to hoping he can bounce back next year and it doesn’t take as long for him to get his confidence back this time.

Last game for ’09 Brewers…but not for Ken Macha

October 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin confirmed to JSOnline.com writer Tom Haudricourt that Brewers’ manager Ken Macha would return in 2010.  Bench coach Willie Randolph and hitting coach Dale Sveum were also asked to return, while interim pitching coach Chris Bosio was not offered a contract with the parent club, opening the way for Macha to choose his former pitching coach Rick Peterson…who, ironically, was also Randolph’s pitching coach while he was managing the Mets.  Bullpen coach Stan Kyles was also not offered a contract, while base coaches Ed Sedar and Brad Fischer were also retained.

In the interview, Melvin noted that:

Pitching has been our problem.  We need to make sure we
look and get the right people in the right decisions. I don’t want this
to drag on. I want those people to be part of our decisions.  We can’t have starting pitchers with 5.00 ERAs.  It just doesn’t add up to a winning season.

Of the 5 Brewers’ starters with the most starts this season, only Yovani Gallardo had a sub 5.00 ERA at 3.73; Looper (5.22), Suppan (5.30 before Sunday’s start), Parra (6.36), and Bush (6.38).  While it may be difficult to replace all four of these starters in the rotation for ’10, Melvin knows he needs at least one new are–and ideally a second–to get the fans excited for the 2010 campaign.

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Brew Crew’s ’09 home season ends

September 27, 2009 Leave a comment

The 2009 Milwaukee Brewers played their final game at Miller Park this season, finishing with a loss to bring the home portion of their schedule to 40-41.  This means that the Brewers will have to finish 41-40 on the road to reach .500, or go 4-2 on this final 6-game road trip in Denver and St. Louis.

While I think the team did about as well as many of us thought that they would–hover just around .500 after losing CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets–disappointment that the team couldn’t maintain last year’s success is being felt by most fans…especially when you consider they years that Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun had.

One thing is clear–some pieces need to be replaced…particularly in the starting rotation.  How and when they unfold remains a mystery–while Yovani Gallardo and Manny Parra have been relatively steady for their age, Jeff Suppan, Braden Looper, and Dave Bush are all expendable.  However, Suppan has a huge contract for 2010 that no other team will want to touch (except the Cubs’ if they are really that interested in dumping Milton Bradley), and Dave Bush is viewed as a workhorse, despite being inconsistent.  And all indications are that Doug Melvin will exercise the Brewers’ option on Braden Looper for 2010.  Internal candidates are few and far between, although Chris Narveson is likely to get two more starts and–if he pitches well in those two meaningless starts–certainly has made a case to be considered for starting next year.

After an off day, Brew Crew fans still have Bob Uecker on the radio before the playoffs begin…and, of course, I think there might be a big football game next week to look forward to as well.

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First look at Brewers’ 2010 AAA rotation

September 18, 2009 1 comment

It will be announced later today (Friday) whether Brewers’ starter Yovani Gallardo will be shut down for the remainder of 2009 and if Josh Butler will make Gallardo’s scheduled start on Saturday.

Butler would be the 10th pitcher to start for the Brewers this season–besides the original five starters, Mike Burns, Carlos Villanueva, Seth McClung and Chris Narveson have all made at least one start for the Crew.

While McClung and Villanueva are likely to return to the parent club’s bullpen in ’10, Narveson and Burns are likely to be the top starters for AAA Nashville next year provided, of course, that the pitching coaches feel that they project as starters and have success in Maryvale next year.  Their starter numbers for the Brewers to date and their overall AAA stats are:

Burns:

Brewers:  3-4, 6.86 ERA, 8 GS, 40.67 IP, 30 K’s to 13 BB’s;

AAA:  8-3, 2.62 ERA, 14 GS, 92.67 IP, 63 K’s to 16 BB’s (also starter stats) 

Narveson:

Brewers:  0-0, 6.00 ERA, 1 GS, 3.0 IP, 2 K’s to 3 BB’s

AAA:  4-4, 3.70 ERA, 6 GS, 75.33 IP, 76 K’s to 26 BB’s

…as a starter at AAA: 1-1, 4.08 ERA, 6 GS, 35.33 IP, 33 K’s to 15 BB’s

If Butler makes two or three starts–and is somewhat successful–he’ll likely get a shot at the Sounds’ rotation next year, too.  Butler went 1-1, 3.60, 3 GS, 15.0 IP, 15 K’s to 1 BB at Nashville this year as a 25 year-old.

Besides Burns, Narveson, and Butler, look for Chris Cody (8-8, 4.90 in AAA) to remain in the Sounds’ rotation next year; Cody was acquired from the Tigers and was promoted to AAA midseason, and cooled off after a hot start.  The fifth starter will likely be former #1 pick Mike Jones (1-2, 6.53) or former Brewer starter Chris Capuano.

This means that ’09 Sounds’ starters Tim Dillard, Lindsay Gulin, and Chase Wright will either be traded, released, or sent to the bullpen.  It also means that the Brewers will have five bonafide options for their parent club rotation should an injury occur or one or more starters struggle.

Also look for Mark Rogers to join AA Huntsville sometime next year. 

 

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Brewers to decide among these four players

September 15, 2009 Leave a comment

Let’s pretend that you are the Brewers’ GM and wanted to look at four prospects’ AAA stats for the year and received these numbers:

 Plr. Age   G  AB  R   H HR RBI BB SO SB  OBP  SLG  AVG OPS E
  A  23 109 430 76 128   4  34 32  65  42 0.353 0.409 0.298 0.762 16
  B  28 112 379 62 111 16  59 59  84   5 0.400 0.501 0.293 0.902 13
  C  25 105 379 46 118   3  54 28  63  13 0.362 0.412 0.311 0.774   5
  D  24   75 273 42   76 11  48 38  89   1 0.367 0.473 0.278 0.839 18

Given just these numbers, who would you be most likely to keep?  Who would you most want to trade?

Player B is the oldest, but he’s almost played the most games, has the most HR’s, the most RBI’s, the highest slugging percentage and the highest OBP. 

Player A is the youngest, but has the most Hits and SB’s.

Player D has the fewest games, fewest hits, the most K’s (and the highest K/AB), and the highest errors.

Now…player A can play SS or 2B; player B played at 2B, SS, 3B and OF, while player C can play 2B or SS, while player D can only play 3B.

Who are these players?  Player B is Adam Heether, while player A is Alcides Escobar.  Player D is Mat Gamel, and Player C is Hernan Iribarren.

Does that change anything?  Should it?  Seems like Adam Heether should be kept in place of Craig Counsell (except Heether bats right-handed)…but may also have some trade value.  Based solely on numbers, Gamel would seem to be the least desirable–but many believe has upside potential.

The biggest question?  Why didn’t Melvin call up Heether?  Heether is not on the 40-man…but why not?

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