Tagged: Guest Commentary

More All-Star Weekend (with a Brewer Emphasis)

"Ladies and Gentlemen…I give you the future!!!"


While I can’t directly place that quote, I’m sure it has been uttered at least more than a few times throughout cinematic and literary history. It is also a perfect opening line to my latest All-Star Weekend brainchild: a review of the Future’s Game.

This is not just any old review, oh no. Nowhere (except for right here, now that I think of it) will you see that the USA team bested the World squad 8-5 or the fact that a huge three-inning scoring run put the game away, nor that the World team showed great heart in trying to come back from such a large deficit.

What you will see is how the Milwaukee Brewers organization was involved in all of that.

Ryan_braunFirst of all, let’s handle the Brewer farmhand on Team USA: Ryan Braun. He entered the game as a defensive replacement at the beginning of the sixth inning, and flashed the leather with his one chance. Yes, I noticed he did strike out looking in his only AB. But, overall I was pleased with his performance. Braun will, of course, return to AA Huntsville for more seasoning.

Yovanig_1Secondly, we’ve got Team World pitcher (and currently Single Brevard County prospect): Yovani Gallardo.

Gallardo’s line from the game:
1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 0 ER

Note: After having scored for three straight innings, Gallardo pitched the 5th and held Team USA in check, allowing his team a chance at a come back.

Finally, the third and final Brewer that was involved in the game…..

KylesTeam World (and AAA Nashville Sounds) pitching coach: Stan Kyles.

Not only did Stan do a good job with Gallardo and really all but one pitcher in VERY limited time with them, but he is also be serving as the pitching coach for the Pacific Coast League’s All-Star team in the game tomorrow night.

Read more about Kyles’ involvement and thoughts on the game by clicking here.

All things considered, not a bad showing for the Milwaukee Brewers organization. We have a few players participating in the AAA All-Star game tomorrow as well, so be sure to check back here for analysis.

And now for a quote that I can place….

"The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades!"

……maybe Corey Hart could loan me some, you know, since it’s the afternoon and all.


That’ll happen…


Yeah…that will happen.

My pick for the Derby didn’t make it out of Round 1, which had I remembered to pay attention to the fact that he played 19 innings yesterday….well, I wasn’t making much sense, was I?

It was one helluva show to say the least. David Wright hits 16 dingers in the first round, and unbeknownst to me, but knownst to the announcers, first round homers count into the second round. Tejada and Berkman, with 3 each and Troy Glaus who actually didn’t get shut out this time around with 1, were out of it before they even finished swinging. Shameful showing.

When Dye hit 7, I was fairly comfortable until I realized who was still left to hit. You had to know that Papi and Howard were going to hit more than 7.

Que será será, right?

Howard ended Ortiz’ night in the second round by vaulting from 4th to tied for the lead by the end of that round. Howard then outslugged Wright 5-4 in the final round to seal the back-to-back victories for Philadelphia.

Congratulations, Ryan Howard. Just don’t let what happened to Abreu last year happen to you.


A Different Focus…

It is All-Star "weekend" for a few more days in Pittsburgh, and even though there are now three Brewers on the roster for the first time since 1983, I’ve got precious little to say about the Brewers right now that’s positive. As such, I’ll hold off on all of that until later and turn my focus to tonight.

I know Rob won’t be watching tonight or tomorrow night’s activities, but I will and would like to attempt some sort of analysis about the Century 21 Home Run Derby.

First of all, allow me to say how much I L-O-V-E corporate sponsorships on pointless fanfare. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate Miller Brewing Company and the oodles of money they have given first Mr. Selig and later Mr. Attanasio for the rights to name Miller Park as such. Hey, it helped alleviate at least some of the taxes I have to pay as a Milwaukee County resident. Conversly, I am extremely pleased that while the Green Bay Packers have sold sponsorships from everything from the vendor booths to ticket gates, it is still simply: Lambeau Field.

Back to my point, the fact that Century 21 is the flagship sponsor of this event is lost on me. It’s great that somebody with a chance to go to Pittsburgh on a Monday night in July has a chance to win a house. That’s great. And I know that the Derby is pure exhibition and purely for bragging rights to the winner….

I guess what I’m trying to question is whether we need to be reminded who the sponsor is as often as ESPN will remind us. Because believe you me, ESPN is nothing if it isn’t a sponsor-pleasing, money-generating powerhouse. But if it’s truly for all the fans, and not just Joe Homeowner who already owns a house but might have the chance at a bigger and better one, how about we focus on the exhibition and just watch powerful men crush leather balls over walls?

Okay, now that I’m down off my soapbox, let’s get to the predictions…

Representing the American League we have (in alphabetical order): Jermaine Dye, Troy Glaus, David Ortiz, Miguel Tejada.

The National League is represented by: Lance Berkman, Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Howard, David Wright.

The Derby itself, for those of you who may not know (although seriously, if you’re perusing MLBlogs as a way to learn about the game….well, let’s just say that I don’t think there are many of that kind out there) is a "Top Half Advance" format where each hitter has 10 "outs" to hit as many Home Runs as possible. An "out" is any time the player swings at a pitch that does not result in a Home Run. Therefore, it’s truly anybody’s game.

Last year we saw Bobby Abreu (he of only 8 HRs this year and not even on the All-Star roster), hit 24 in one round alone, setting the single round Derby record!! He was in danger of elimination in Round 2, however, but David Ortiz who had hit the second most in a round ever with 17 tired out. Abreu then out-slugged Ivan "Pudge" Rodríguez in the finals to take home a deserved win.

This year? We do have a former winner in Miguel Tejada (2004 champion), and a two-time participant in David Ortiz. A lot of the other players, if not all of them, have never been in the Derby before. I think Berkman was, and I know for a fact that Cabrera, Dye, Howard and Wright never have been. I’m not sure either way about Glaus.

They say that left-handed pull hitter have the advantage at PNC Park due to the dimensions of the field. I say "they" are pretty much correct.

PncparkdimensionsThe numbers are kind of hard to read, but it’s 325′ to the left field corner, 389′ to left-center, including one spot of 410′ just left of center. Straight-away center field is 399′, the right-center gap is only 375′, and the right field corner is a measley 320′ away. Add to that the fact that the Allegheny River sits not too far beyond the right field wall, and it could make for a fun evening.

Who, you ask, are the lefties in this group? Well, if you don’t know that David Ortiz is, then you don’t actually follow baseball. The other southpaw swingers are Ryan Howard and Lance Berkman (if he choose to swing lefty, which the switch-hitter is leaning toward doing). Dye, Tejada, Cabrera, Wright and Glaus are all righties.

All of that being said, I am going to go out on a serious limb and take a dark horse for this competition. Nobody would have chosen Abreu last year except for his countrymen (as was the set up for the Derby with eight players representing their eight different countries of birth) and maybe his momma. But, those that did were correct.

In this light, I shall select Jermaine Dye, OF, Chicago White Sox as my pick to win. See what I did there? If he wins, I’m a genius. If he loses, it’s as expected and I will, at worst, be applauded for taking a gamble.

To find out if I’m incredibly correct or just a man who loves the underdog, tune into the Century 21 Presents the Century 21 Home Run Derby, brought to you by Century 21.

See what I mean about the overkill…..


Wednesday Afternoon at Wrigley

I’m guessing the our illustrious host was too distraught to post after the Brewers gave one away yesterday afternoon. I shall try to fill the void and analyze one of the more frustrating losses we’ve had lately. Yes, more frustrating than getting swept by Pittsburgh. Yes, more frustrating than losing two out of three to the Royals. Is it more frustrating simply because it was against the Scrubbies? Yeah. That’s probably why.

Let’s talk about the positives first, because if I get going on the negatives, I’ll never remember to get to the positives.

Dave Bush’s linescore from the game: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K. Quality start, nice strikeout total, scattered those seven hits pretty well. Yes, he gave Juan Pierre his first homerun in about a decade (seriously, it was over 600 ABs I think), but all in all a very nice outing for Bush….especially on the road.

The team took five walks, including a nice one by Corey Hart who realized that his most important job when he pinch-hit was to find a way to get on base. He did that via a base on balls and ended up scoring on Bill Hall’s homerun. That’s the type of thing that we should be talking about today, if not for Ned Yost’s bathroom break in the bottom of the eighth.

Wait…what’s that? He was in the dugout for the entirety of that inning? Well then why does he leave Dan Kolb in the **** game after Jacque Jones’ single? I’m not unrealistic. There are reasons to leave him in after Derrek Lee’s 2-R blast. Afterall, he responded by striking out the next two hitters. But then, he gives up a 2-out single to Jacque Jones……..it’s time to get him out of there. After the home run, you get somebody warming up if there wasn’t already. Two strikeouts and two mound visits are more than enough time to warm up for anybody out there. Once the next base hit came, you yank Kolb. You could’ve brought in Ben Hendrickson for all I would’ve cared, but you had to get Kolb out of the game.

(Yes, I know Hendrickson is in AAA. I was making a point that it didn’t matter who it was.)

What’s more, Jones should’ve been dead to rites at home plate. Why wasn’t he? The easy answer is Moeller dropped the ball. There’s more to it than that. Yes, Moeller dropped the ball, but that throw was a multi-hopper from Jenkins. So, a bad throw and a bad catch, right? Nope, we’re still not there. Jenkins looked to be playing about two steps in front of the warning track out in right at the start of that play. He might not have been quite that deep, but that’s a ball that Jenkins can normally run down. Yes, you don’t want a ball to get behind you in that situation, but if he has nothing else, Jenkins has pretty decent defensive range. He could’ve gotten back on a fly ball. Not to mention that it was light-hitting Ronny Cedeño at the dish.

So, we’ve got bad positioning, a bad throw and a bad catch. They say bad things come in threes, but are you ready for problem #4 on this play? It’s that Kolb nibbled against Cedeño and ended up running the count full. That gave Jacque Jones a running start on the play. Without the running start, the farthest he gets is third base and then the catcher, Blanco, would’ve been at the plate. He’s a lot less likely to hurt you batting .228 then Cedeño’s .277. Lest we forget my earlier point that Kolb shouldn’t have been on the mound at that point in the first place, and you can maybe see why I choose that pitch as the most important point of Wednesday afternoon.

Five errors, FIVE!!!, on a play that ended up only being charged with one error in the box score.

In the spirit of SportsCenter, I offer a closing #…….14.

That’s a ******** 14 strikeouts, 8 of which came against a rookie pitcher that seemed to get stronger as the game went on. He shouldn’t have been able to dominate the lineup that we put out on the field. Marmol had a WHIP of 0.79 against our superior offense. He dropped his ERA by 80 points!! That’s just unacceptable.

You know what else is unacceptable? Splitting this series.

Time to bear down, boys. Prior is 0-2 with a ginormous ERA still. Let’s tag him early and often. Oh, and when we get the lead, let’s keep on going and put it away.


Long time comin’…

Well, well, well. It looks as though Mr. Melvin and Mr. Yost are finally starting to pick up on what the fans have been crying for the past couple of weeks. The bullpen is getting shaken up.

Better late than never? Maybe…we’ll have to see if the changes that they’ve chosen to make actually make a difference.

I’m here to today, after a hiatus, to discuss the bullpen and try to sort out some of the things that apparently have just now been brought to the attention of Uncle Doug and Cousin Ned. There have been plenty of transactions affecting the pitching staff this season, and I’m going to go through them by the players that have (at least for the moment) been given up on.

First and foremost, Ben Sheets starting on the DL didn’t hinder the club much. It’s much different to be without a guy for a couple of weeks at the beginning of the season than it is to lose a guy while you might be in a race for the wild card in August. So, while it worried me (especially coupled with how Sheets ended last season despite the fact that everybody said the injuries were unrelated), I didn’t view it as that big of a deal at the time.

Jared Fernandez (0-0, 9.95 ERA)
Moving along, let’s discuss the junk that has been knuckleballer Jared Fernandez. I’m guessing that there is a reason he’s been basically a minor league lifer. Maybe he just isn’t good enough to get guys out at the Major League level. He was brought onto the 25-man roster primarily, it would seem since he is a knuckleballer, to be the long man in case starters got in trouble.

The thing about a long man is that he’s not just supposed to eat up innings to save the rest of the bullpen. He’s also supposed to try to stop the bleeding from the wound that the starter ripped open.

That was the biggest problem with Fernandez…he didn’t keep us in the game. It didn’t matter when he pitched. Early, late, it was the same result. His ERA is four (yeah, only four) games was 9.95. That’s seven earned runs in only 6.1 IP. And to think…he almost didn’t need Sheets to go on the DL to make the opening day roster. They were seriously considering him on his own merit at the end of Spring Training.

And all of this was between two stints with the big league club this year. They had already decided to give up on him when they brought up two relievers on April 18th. They only recalled him for the second stint because Tomo Ohka went on the DL and they needed a long man since the long man at the time, Ben Hendrickson, was going to need to start.

It also says something when you then choose to outright him to clear a spot on your 40-man roster, and nobody else in baseball gives him a second thought.

Justin Lehr (2-1, 8.62 ERA)
That brings me to Justin Lehr. Please don’t get misled the 2 wins. The much more telling sign of his effectiveness over the past several weeks in the gaudy ERA. In case you’re curious, that’s 15 ER in 15.2 IP. You want to know how you get to that bad of an ERA? How about 24 H and 7 BB in those same 15.2? That’s a WHIP of nearly 2.00. That’s not good.

The bigger problem with Lehr, is that through his first five appearances, he hadn’t given up an earned run. Appearance #6 led to his first earned run and his only loss, but that still kept his ERA at 1.59.

On April 23rd, he pitched a third of an inning and the wheels fell off. Five earned runs ballooned his ERA to 9.00. It’s been a roller coaster ever since. At the time of his demotion, his ERA was holding at 8.62 after being down as low at 5.93 at one point after the April 23rd debacle. Inconsistency at the Major League level will get you sent to the Minor League level very quickly. Yost and Melvin apparently felt that they needed to see 30 full days of inconsistency before deciding that maybe Lehr needs to work something out in Nashville before being able to be relied on again.

Mike Adams (0-0, 11.57 ERA)
Speaking of reliability, what about the man that Derrick Turnbow replaced last season as our closer? In 2004, Adams had a 3.40 ERA in 43 games. Not too shabby at all. In 2005, after a trade of Dan Kolb to the Atlanta Braves, Adams was penciled in as the closer. He got lit up. In one of his admittedly better moves, Yost tried Turnbow in the ninth inning. Turnbow thrived, matching the club record for saves that Kolb had just set the previous year. As for Adams, he was sent down to work out his problems. When he eventually came back to the bigs, he wound up with a 2.70 ERA in 13 appearances. Good numbers.

Then 2006 came along. Adams started the season in Nashville after a spring in which the team felt it had great depth in the bullpen. They felt Adams would get more playing time in Nashville and sent him there to begin the season. On April 18th, after Rick Helling went on the DL, both Adams and Chris Demaria (who I’ll get to next) were summoned to the parent club. Adams pitched in two games, gave up 3 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks in just 2.1 IP. He was sent back down to AAA on April 26th, with the team saying that the extra arm in the bullpen wasn’t as necessary, and that Adams would get more playing time in AAA to keep him sharp in case they needed the help again. It was said that the team felt Adams was a guy that could help them out a lot if a hole at the right spot opened up in their bullpen.

What I’m saying, is that unless they are talking about an injury to Kolb or Matt Wise is when they’d bring Adams back, I’m confused. We have needed more middle inning help lately, and Adams is still toeing the rubber in Tennessee. Maybe the production in his two appearances in April worried the team a bit more than they would let on at the time.

Chris Demaria (0-1, 5.93 ERA)
When this guy was brought up, did anybody think differently than I did? I saw this kid as an innings eater for when the games got out of hand. That’s the only justification I could come up with when he stayed up instead of Adams only 8 days after they were both called up.

Anyway, in his Milwaukee Brewers debut, Demaria pitched one inning, and gave up two hits, two walks, two earned runs and one home run. At the time that he recorded the third out of that inning, his ERA was 18.00.

Over the next three appearances he didn’t give up a run as he drove his ERA back down into the 3’s with one solid outing after another. Beginning on May 6th, however, he bought a ticket for a rollercoaster ride which finally officially end tomorrow with his demotion back to Nashville for waiver wire pick up Chris Mabbeus. During that ride? Every other game was good, every other game bad. Yost went on record as saying that it got to the point where you didn’t know what you were going to get with Demaria. A manager has to trust his bullpen. You can’t hope that this will be a good outing for a guy. You have to trust that the occasional bad outing is the anomoly, and just not the next appearance away.

Ben Hendrickson (0-2, 12.00 ERA)
Not that I think anybody who would be reading this would need this explained to them, but an Earned Run Average is calculated in a way that it shows how many earned runs a pitcher would surrender, on average, over 9 innings pitched. Therefore, an ERA of 9.00 means that for every three out you record, you are giving up one run. That’s an awful ratio in baseball. Due to the sheer volume of innings that starters throw, an ERA in the mid to low 3’s is considered quite good. A starter also tends to work a minimum of 5 IP per start so that they can qualify to be the pitcher of record (not to mention the bullpen can’t be expected to handle 4+ innings pitched every night). Relievers need to stay under a 4.50 ERA to be considered effective. The only reason that they get a bit more leeway is because since they throw fewer innings, mistakes are magnified and it takes them longer to get a bloated ERA figure back down.

Having read all that, please glance back at Ben Hendrickson’s ERA for his work with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2006. Frightened? I’m sure Ned Yost was too, but unfortunately there wasn’t another option at the time, it seemed, because  although Dana Eveland was on the AAA roster too, and currently looks to be settling down in the bigs, he had just thrown a start for the Sounds when the Brewers needed the extra arm and he wouldn’t have been rested enough to throw right away.

Add to that the fact that they used Hendrickson on May 2nd (the game where Sheets got destroyed by Astros hitting and subsequently hasn’t pitched since) and he was very good in that game, pitching 4.2 innings and only giving up one unearned run.

The Crew needed a starter once Sheets was scratched from his scheduled start on May 6th against the Dodgers, and Hendrickson was tabbed for duty. He pitched effectively enough on 3 days rest, allowing 3 ER in 5 IP. He took a no decision in that game.

Then, either something wasn’t working or he was tipping his curveball which he couldn’t throw for strikes anyway in the next start. In just 2.1 IP, he gave up 7 ER. He walked 3 and allowed 7 hits in those same 2.1 IP. He ERA skyrocketed from 2.79 to 7.50. Incredible jump. The Brewers couldn’t come back from that deficit and Hendrickson took the loss.

The next (and thankfully last) time out, Hendrickson could not record a single out. He started the game, threw 19 pitches, gave up one walk, five hits and a ******** SIX earned runs. SIX!!! His ERA shot to 12.00, and his ticket was all but punched back to Nashville. He’s got talent, and his fastball was actually hitting 92-93 MPH this season, but when you can’t throw your breaking stuff for strikes, all anybody has to do is sit on the fastball that doesn’t have a ton of movement. The friendly confines of AAA will hopefully help Hendrickson regain his confidence for another try later in the year.

Everybody else…
We shall see what the rest of the bullpen, along with the new faces, brings to the mound. Yes, everybody has bad days. Even Turnbow has a loss and blown save on the year. Nobody is untouchable.

But it’s the ability to make the bad outings the exceptions to the rule. When Metallica’s "Fuel" pumps from the Miller Park soundsystem or just in the fans’ heads if the team is on the road, 9 times out of 10 the game is as good as over. (If you want to get technical, it’s been 14 of 15 in save opportunities this year so far…)  Turnbow has been touched up a couple of times, but he always bounces back and produces the next time out.

Wise, Kolb, Jose Capellan and even lately Jorge De La Rosa have all been pitching effectively enough and usually doing their jobs. If nothing else, they’ve done their jobs well enough to have not joined Hendrickson, Adams, Demaria, Lehr and Fernandez in the Volunteer State.

As for the new guys, Joe Winklesas was wildly effective in getting the one out he has been asked to get in the major leagues since 1999. Nobody is sure how long Carlos Villanueva will be with the big league club after leap frogging AAA to come up from the AA Huntsville Stars, but in his only inning of work thus far he struck out two. And while Brian Shouse had that rough first appearance, in giving up a run, not recording an out and forcing Yost to bring in Capellan to get out of the inning, he’s pitching well enough in his role as a situational lefty. He has only given up 1 ER with the Brewers this season. It was in his last appearance, and with the trend this year with our pitchers, you can bet I’ll be paying attention to his next few appearances in order to make sure it wasn’t the start of another downward spiral. Something tells me that Shouse, a 37-year old specialist who made his big league debut in 1993 has the ability to keep things in check.

Final thoughts…
To summarize, the only way to know how somebody is going to pitch is to have them pitch. AAA stats are good indicators, past performance is a good indicator, but ultimately you won’t know how a guy will do unless you send him out there. My issue is that Yost routinely sends guys out that have no business coming into a game. That’s not always his fault. You can’t only utilize Capellan, Kolb, Wise, de la Rosa and Turnbow. Their arms would fall off by the All-Star break, especially with how unreliable some of our starting pitching has been.

Yes, we’ll get Ohka and Sheets back at
some point this season, and both two work horses eating innings will
make the bullpen that much better since they’ll work less and be more
rested. It’s a trickle-down effect that all ties together in the end.

The point is, Yost and Melvin need to recognize that when you have Mike Maddux sprinkling magic powder on these pitchers, and they are still getting shelled repeatedly…maybe it’s time to make a change.

Now that changes have begun, we need to rightfully give them time and see if they’ve worked. I just hope that if something goes wrong, it won’t be too late by the time another change is made.


“You can’t win ’em all…

…if you lose the first one." (or as of today, two.)

Welcome to another season of Brewers’ baseball! I’m happy to announce that not only have our Milwaukee Brewers gotten off to a 2-0 start over the likely basement-step-dwelling Pittsburgh Pirates (since the Reds will be in the cellar itself), but also that the offense appears to be clicking. Once Prince settles down by getting that first hit, the fans will begin to realize that there is another reason to stand up, arms overhead, and yell "OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" this season. That reason, of course, being for the Offense.

Speaking of the offense means mentioning the lineup too. Although I’ve ready many people that were questioning the reports of a probably J.J. Hardy in the two-hole prior to the beginning of the season, I’ve heard nothing if not quiet since. It’s been my experience that when a reporter/sports writer is correct, they’ll let you know about it as fast as their media outlet allows by patting themselves on their back. When they’re wrong, they usually admit their mistake….but they tend to wait a while in doing so. Hardy is the type of guy you want batting second. Patient enough to allow lead-off hitter Brady Clark an opportunity to attempt to steal a base, should that be the call, and not a guy who swings and misses a whole lot either, especially with two strikes on him. Clark will get on base; he proved that last season. Hardy will move Clark around the bases effectively, getting Clark into scoring position for the RBI guys, Geoff Jenkins and Carlos Lee. And once Prince Fielder starts contributing with that big, big bat…well, that’s why the top of an order is considered the most dangerous. And I’ll be back with a second guest commentary on our defense, so I’ll talk about the leather Fielder has been flashing so far this season in that post.

But talking up slots 1-5 isn’t meant to discount our 6, 7 or even 8 hitters. Most teams in the league (with the obvious exception of a team like the Yankees who have Hideki "Godzilla" Matsui handling the job) would kill to have a hitter in the 6-hole with the pure ability of Rickie Weeks. He not only "Ichiro’d" two of his hits last night through pure hustle, but he laced a third hit into the gap and picked up Fielder’s slack nicely.

And to have a stable, consistent veteran like Corey Koskie batting 7th? Yeah…I’ll take that any day of the week. Unless the Crew is facing a left-handed starter. Then I get "stuck" with Billy Hall? LOL I think I’m okay there too, yeah.

When Damian Miller calls the game, you know that there is a solid contributor just before the pitcher. It’s a nice thing to have. Even Chad Moeller will have games where he handles his business in the batter’s box. Moeller has hit for the cycle in his career. Has Derek Jeter or Pete Rose ever done that? Nope.

The point being, our offense can get the job done. An average of six (6) runs per game (which obviously will fluctuate) would do wonders for our pitching staff.

Let’s get ’em on, move ’em over, and knock ’em in.