The Winter Meetings aren’t officially underway just yet as I sit down to give my keyboard a workout this evening, but the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee is set and baseball executives from across North America have checked into their rooms and have no doubt begun to follow up on things begun prior to departing for Music City.
Doug Melvin is there (along with his entourage) and has had plenty to say about what he expects out of the 2012 Winter Meetings. With appreciation to the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel for the quotes themselves, I’ll be laying out some things Melvin said and analyzing what I think they mean for the Brewers heading through the rest of the off-season.
Before I do that, let’s recap the basics about what educated fans know already about the Brewers and their needs.
The bullpen was bad in 2012. In fact, it underperformed so incredibly that it alone could be labeled as a singular reason that the team failed to reach the postseason. Just a handful of losses flipped to wins and the Brewers would have had that opportunity to face the Braves in the first-ever National League Wild Card Game.
As a result of their collective struggles, the bullpen has been basically gutted. Gone are multi-year Brewers like Kameron Loe, Francisco Rodriguez, Tim Dillard, Mike McClendon, and Manny Parra. Along with them, first-year tryouts for Jose Veras and Livan Hernandez ended in free agency. Even short-term fixes like Vinnie Chulk came and went. The only guys left who pitched in the big league bullpen to end the regular season and are still a part of this organization are likely closer John Axford, likely setup man Jim Henderson, and the finally healthy Brandon Kintzler.
As we all know, the Brewers did announce a trade acquisition on Saturday when they dealt a minor-league outfielder for established relief pitcher Burke Badenhop. That addition still leaves three jobs to be filled. FoxSports.com’s Jon Morosi already tweeted earlier this evening about one of those open roles:
#Brewers are prioritizing a lefty reliever. Among the available free agents: Burnett, Choate, M. Gonzalez, Howell, Gorzelanny.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 2, 2012
Just some names to know.
A return of all five starting pitchers from the 2011 NLCS team was seen as a rarity, not to mention that the Brewers only used six starting pitchers all that season. Now? Randy Wolf was released, Shaun Marcum is a free agent, Zack Greinke was traded, and Chris Narveson is coming off of shoulder surgery.
That’s the stuff of how question marks are made.
Yovani Gallardo is set to return atop the rotation but after that hasn’t yet been decided. As it stands right now, the Brewers have probably six arms vying for the open four spots in the rotation. Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Chris Narveson, Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers and, to a lesser extent in my opinion, Tyler Thornburg.
Doug Melvin has mentioned a couple of free agent starters by name this off-season already (Edwin Jackson and Ryan Dempster, for the record) but had some commentary on that front as well.
Will Jean Segura begin the season as the starting everyday shortstop in Milwaukee or in the aforementioned city of Nashville as he gets a bit more seasoning in Triple-A? Who will take over as the backup infielders after the Brewers burned through a number of MLB veterans during 2012? Travis Ishikawa is gone, Alex Gonzalez is a free agent after being hurt most of the season, Mat Gamel should be healthy but missed a ton of at-bats and doesn’t really have a job at this point…and that’s just the infield.
In the outfield, Nyjer Morgan was released and Logan Schafer seems incredibly obvious to become the fourth outfielder with Milwaukee. After that, though, will they carry a fifth outfielder? If so, who will it be?
About the only spot on the field where there isn’t a question is behind the plate. Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado are healthy and coming off of strong seasons.
Excuse whilst I knock on some wood.
Okay. With that, let’s get to those quotes from Melvin.
The big quote is one about payroll. After setting a franchise record in 2012 with a payroll north of $100 million, the Brewers finished in the red, meaning that they actually lost money this year. (Part of that is because the fans didn’t show up quite as well as they had budgeted for, but wins bring attendance.)
Melvin said, “(The payroll is) coming down. We’ll probably look at (an opening payroll) of $80 million or thereabouts. We want to keep flexibility in case players become available.”
In other words, despite a large chunk of money coming off the books there should be no expectation of a dollar-for-dollar reassignment. That could limit how much the Brewers can do in free agency but it will almost certainly limit the magnitude of what the Brewers can do.
That assumes that Melvin sticks to his initial words, but more on that in a bit.
Melvin was clear in that the Brewers don’t plan to get involved on high-end (in terms of years or dollars) relief pitchers.
“We’re not looking at those kinds of guys. We’d probably be reluctant to go three years with anybody. We might have to do two. David Riske was our last three-year deal for a reliever. That didn’t work out,” said Melvin.
Would left-handed reliever Sean Burnett be a pipe-dream then? Burnett had to debunk a rumor that he was seeking a four-year deal but that doesn’t mean he isn’t looking for three.
The starting rotation was mentioned earlier and was brought up to Melvin as well. He stated that with how the contracts worked out with Jeff Suppan and Randy Wolf that the Brewers “wouldn’t go three years with a starter. You look at those contracts and they don’t usually work out. Look at all the free-agent players who have been traded the last few years. Free agency gets people excited, but it’s not as effective as people would like to think.”
Does that mean that following a report which I linked to on Twitter the other day that the Brewers are taking themselves out of the market for the aforementioned Jackson and Dempster, both of whom are believed to be seeking deals of a minimum three years? Perhaps.
Melvin stated that the Brewers will probably go with some of their younger players in the rotation but that he understands the dangers of trusting a small sample size.
As for the offense, Melvin admitted (as reported in this space) that contact was made between him and Josh Hamilton’s agent Michael Moye, but Melvin also said that, “I don’t see (a big-ticket signing) happening. If it does, we’d have to be creative with something.”
Melvin added, “You never know how those things work out. I never thought we’d be able to get Aramis Ramirez last year (for what they signed him for). Things change. If major things happen, you have to be prepared to act quickly.”
In other words, Melvin is reminding everyone that you simply can’t use definitives when discussing transactions in Major Leage Baseball. Or, to go the cliched route…Never say never.
Finally, for the bench, Melvin said that they’re in the market “mostly for depth.” He stated that they “may have to go with some of our younger guys” but that “it’s always nice to have an experienced bat on the bench.”
And since a lot of you have reached out via social media as to why I haven’t pass along many rumors in the last few days, Melvin confirmed that he has made no offers to any free agents yet and, as of the time he said so out loud, he didn’t have any serious trade talks going either.
Then again, he’s in Nashville now at the Winter Meetings. It’s made for just those kinds of things.
Stay tuned all week for reaction and analysis to anything and everything that I hear or read related to the Brewers. I’ll pass it along just as soon as I can.
My suggestion? If you aren’t on Twitter or you are and don’t follow me @BrewerNation…now’s one of the best times of the year to take the plunge. I can’t always blog right away but tweeting is much easier to do on the fly.
Doug Melvin, General Manager of our beloved Milwaukee Brewers, was on the radio this afternoon on AM 1250 WSSP in SE Wisconsin for a few minutes talking about his off-season plans.
Here is a transcript of the interview (which you can listen to by clicking here):
On speculation connecting the Brewers to certain players (i.e. Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke):
“Well, I don’t think those are the names that were gonna be involved with. I think this is gonna be a year we’ll take a look at the free agent market, but more than likely I don’t anticipate us being actively involved in free agency. We may try to find different ways to improve our ball club. We do like the current club we have. We were 36-23 with the third best record in the National League after August 1st with some of the young pitchers we brought up. We do have most positional guys back so I wouldn’t get too excited about those kinds of names. I think a lot of it is speculation. It often makes sense. This is the time of year when those kind of things happen.”
On having young pitching after years of waiting for some and if he may have to trade some of it away to acquire a proven starter:
“We feel right now there’s probably a better chance we’re going to hold onto our young pitching. We saw Mike Fiers come up last year. He struggled a little bit later (in the year). We saw Mark Rogers and Wily Peralta both come up with the power arms they showed us in the past. We had Tyler Thornburg. We’ve got Hiram Burgos who’s going to be added to the roster, had a very good year. We’ve had Taylor Jungmann who’s probably going to be at Double-A. We’ve got John Hellweg who’s pitched very well in the Fall League and was just picked by the scouting bureau as the best player on that Phoenix ball club. So, we do have some depth with our pitching. Jimmy Nelson we like; we’re very high on him. Nick Bucci (too) so. We’ve got a chance to have, out of 10 starters in Double-A and Triple-A, we have a chance to have 8 to 9 of them they’re gonna be legitimate prospects we think will pitch in the big leagues. The big league pitchers? It’s time to give Wily Peralta, time to give Mark Rogers that opportunity.”
In discussing fan support following a rough first half and the resultant decisions surrounding trading away Zack Greinke:
“Who’s not to say that if we kept Zack Greinke that we might’ve got back in this thing. You have to make some tough decisions sometimes. When a shortstop was included in a deal for Zack, we just had to make the decision at that particular time. … It’s a credit to Ron, the coaches, the players that they didn’t give up and it’s something that we can learn that in baseball you can be six, seven, eight games out and that can be made up in two weeks time. So, it’s a lesson we all can learn that sometimes you gotta be a little bit patient. It is a long season.”
Asked if there is any way Zack Greinke can be back in a Brewers uniform:
“I don’t know. I’m sorry but I don’t think that’s gonna happen. As much as Zack liked it here and enjoyed it here, there’s a couple clubs that are gonna get heavily involved with him. He is no doubt the number one pitcher out there…from the starting pitching standpoint. I think he’s gonna do very well but I would expect that we may get a phone call from his agent but I think in the end it’s going to be difficult for Zack to come back here to Milwaukee under the amount of money he’s probably gonna be offered.”
Asked if he would like to add a veteran starting pitcher and if any free agents intrigue him:
“Yeah, there’s a few names out there. Obviously we’re gonna lose Marcum and we’re gonna lose Greinke so we’ve talked about adding a starting pitcher. We do have to add to our bullpen too. Edwin Jackson’s another name that’s been out there. I don’t know where he’s headed or what his thought process is. We do have an opportunity; we can go with the current guys we have. The tough part with that is that any kind of injury, then you really tap into not having the depth that’s needed over the course of 162 games. Going with the younger guys and Yovani, Marco Estrada, Mike Fiers, Rogers, Wily Peralta, Chris Narveson will be back and be healthy. The part of that is you really cross your fingers that everybody’s going to stay healthy and everybody’s gonna produce. So you would like to have a veteran that you could put out there in the rotation that could eat up a couple hundred innings, but you also want quality innings. In the past, we’ve had the Jeff Suppan, Randy Wolf. They both came in here when we didn’t have the younger pitching and they gave us innings and that but obviously you’d like to get the quality. Pitching takes a long time to develop.”
On Manny Parra and fans growing impatient:
“He’s on the roster now and we’ll wait and see. I can’t indicate at this time, but…there comes a time when changes of scenery do help players and that happens sometimes. That’s what we’ve talked about before and if you look at Manny’s numbers and break them down, the numbers are there. You’d like to see more consistent performance, so you know, there’s a possibility. Manny right now’s on our roster at this time and we’ll wait and see.”
On arbitration, bullpen changes:
“I think you’ll probably see three to four new faces out there. I think John Axford, Jim Henderson, I think Brandon Kintzler pitched well enough that he can step in and perform in one of those roles. We would like to maybe try to get a left-hander but we also want a left-hander of quality if we can otherwise we’ll just stay right-handed. But I can see where you could turn three or four names over in that bullpen. Also with the starting pitchers there’s going to be one of those guys that will lose out (on a rotation spot) and will probably go to the bullpen and be a long guy.”
On Axford sticking as closer in 2013:
“I’d like to think that John can. As I said in the press conference at the end of the year, he had two months where he had more than one blown Save. He does strike out people. His strike out rate is still one of the best in the game. His walk rate was too high this year and he needs to get that back down. I do like having a closer and a guy in the bullpen that’s gonna strike people out. I think that’s important. That’s why I like a closer that’s gonna get strikeouts so I lean a little bit towards (Axford) but they also have to reduce the walks. We’re confident, in John, the stuff is still there but gonna have to improve on his command and control.”
On how he feels about the hitters:
“We look at it and we feel pretty good about the ball club we put out positional-wise. Offensively, it’s a pretty good ball club. It fits both what Doug Melvin looks for and what Ron Roenicke looks for. I’m a home run and doubles guy and Ron likes the aggressive style. We fulfilled both those (philosophies) leading the leagues in home runs and also stolen bases we were first or second. We were very aggressive on the bases scoring runs, second in the league in sacrifice bunts. We scored runs in a lot of different ways. I do believe with our ballpark we’re always gonna be a team that’s gonna rely on the home runs just because of the facility we play in and that. But I’m pleased with the positional aspect of our game. I think I’m more than pleased in the fact that Maldonado coming on the scene we’re very set at catching. Having a young shortstop in Jean Segura, being young up the middle with catching, shortstop, Rickie bounced back, and then Carlos Gomez in center field. Carlos is a five-plus guy so we’ve gotta determine is Carlos is here over the long haul or is he here for (only) one more year.”
On Alex Gonzalez possibly returning:
“We’ve gotta make that decision yet. Alex is a free agent so he could test the market too. When it comes down to asking players, when you’re a free agent, he’s gonna want to know his playing time. How much time is he gonna play or do we view him as an extra guy and are we going with Segura. We have to answer that question. Jean is playing winter ball right now and is hitting almost .400 and he hit very well the month of September for us. We’re pretty high on (Segura) at this point. We can go with Jean Segura. We just want to make sure that is the right thing to do. Alex would love to return to us but it’s probably going to be about playing time. ‘Are we the right fit for him?’ And if you do bring Alex back, what impact does that have on Jean Segura? We haven’t made that final call yet. Right now we’re probably leaning toward Segura and just letting Jean do the job because we do think the resources are going to be needed for pitching.”
On Josh Hamilton again:
“No. There’s nothing going on. If he wants to sign that “Andre Dawson” contract…that $500 thousand contract that Andre Dawson did for the Cubs. I think it’s about time a player did that so I’m waiting for that one.”
On any off-season proclamation like he did in 2010 before acquiring Greinke and Marcum by stating he was going to go get some pitching:
“I don’t have any right now. I gotta go check the piggy bank.”
Alright, Brewer Nation. What do you think of what the GM had to say today?
Wondering who wore a certain uniform number all-time for the Milwaukee Brewers?
The Brewer Nation has got you covered. If you found this list on its own, head back here for the full repository after checking out this one.
Sixto Lezcano (’74)
Buck Rodgers (’80-’82)
Jim Kern (’84-’85)
Dan Plesac (’86-’92)
Graeme Lloyd (’93-’96)
Bob Wickman (’96)
Steve Woodard (’97-’00)
Kane Davis (’00)
Ruben Quevedo (’01-’03)
Junior Spivey (’04-’05)
Dana Eveland (’05-’06)
Jeff Suppan (’07-’10)
Mark Rogers (’10, ’12)
Tyler Thornburg (’15-’16)
It’s been a long off-season for baseball fans, made to feel somewhat longer here in the Midwest by mild temperatures that we normally don’t feel until the regular season is well underway.
The Brewers made their first League Championship Series since appearing in American League’s version back in the 1980s. That means the off-season is officially shorter for Brewers fans and players, but after falling two wins shy of the National League pennant and an appearance in the World Series it’s been a painful shortened time.
There isn’t anyone among us in Brewer Nation who can claim a longer or more painful off-season than that of Brewers starting pitcher, and subject of today’s profile:
Acquired during the preceding off-season for top prospect Brett Lawrie, plenty was expected of Shaun Michal Marcum before he ever put on a Milwaukee Brewers jersey.
After missing the entire 2009 season while a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, Marcum rebounded in 2010 and seemed healthy and effective enough in doing so.
Milwaukee was in desperate need of an upgrade to its rotation after suffering for years with the likes of Jeff Suppan, Braden Looper, Dave Bush and even a stunted comeback attempt by Doug Davis. Sure, Yovani Gallardo was doing well and free-agent pickup Randy Wolf was fine enough, though overmatched by trying to be the number two, but they needed more front-end talent.
The Toronto Blue Jays made Marcum available and Doug Melvin pulled the trigger on the straight-up swap. The reason for the cost was because Marcum is talented and showed himself to be healthy. This is the same guy that pitched Opening Day for the Blue Jays in 2010.
It was immediately apparent that the Brewers had acquired a new number two…well, at least until the Zack Greinke deal went down.
Marcum’s 2011 campaign almost didn’t start off with the team. He suffered through a bout of shoulder stiffness (the same as he’s going through right now in 2012) that nearly took him to the disabled list. He was able to get up to enough of a pitch count to be deemed ready-to-go out of the gate. With fellow import Greinke on the DL with a cracked rib, Marcum was even more necessary to start the season on the right foot.
He began the year with very good results and was arguably the team’s best pitcher for the first two months of the season. Who knows how long that level of play would have kept up and what kind of season numbers he could have posted if not for a hip injury suffered during interleague play prior to a start at Fenway Park on June 17.
It’s my opinion that Marcum wasn’t the same all season after that injury.
His numbers prior to the injury look like this:
14 GS, 7-2 record, 90.2 IP, 69 H, 29 R (27 ER), 2.68 ERA, 23 BB, 83 K, 7 HR, 1.02 WHIP
And his number post-injury (regular season only) were:
19 GS, 6-5 record, 110.0 IP, 106 H, 55 R (52 ER), 4.26 ERA, 34 BB, 75 K, 15 HR, 1.27 WHIP
Still, Marcum managed to start 33 games in 2011 (winning 13 of them), but the season caught up to him eventually.
Despite all his overtures to the contrary, it was pretty apparent that something was wrong with Shaun Marcum this past October. He says he wasn’t injured, and while that must be true, he certainly wasn’t effective.
Now, all players go through certain periods of worse success than “usual”. Marcum is no exception and he and his coaches claim that all the 2011 postseason struggles were a result of one of those periods of ineffectiveness.
Those postseason numbers were:
3 GS, 0-3 record, 9.2 IP, 17 H, 16 R (all earned), 14.90 ERA, 5 BB, 5 K, 3 HR, 2.28 WHIP
I’m no pro scout or manager or baseball coach, but my educated eye saw some things that just lended themselves to the idea that Marcum was worn down. It wasn’t like the if the season lasted another two months that Marcum was going to pull out of that funk along the way.
His innings total (200.2) in just the regular season was the highest of his career. He had pitched through a couple of injuries during the regular season, not to mention the shoulder stiffness that he opened the spring with. The aforementioned hip injury was bad enough, but exactly one month late, on July 17, during a spectacular defensive play on a ball bunted to his right, Marcum bounded off the mound and spun while underhanding a throw to first base. That resulted in an official neck strain and likely an unofficial sore shoulder.
All of those things added up to a pitcher being put through a lot over 33 starts. To me, all signs pointed to physical exhaustion which coupled with a resultant mental exhaustion in the playoffs leading to the results on the field which we all remember far too vividly.
Much of that will fade with time, helped especially by Opening Day which of course is 18 days away from the day I’m writing this.
What will really help Brewers fans get over it, though, would be a duplication of last year’s early success out of Marcum.
As of this writing, that’s currently in mild jeopardy as Marcum has not yet appeared in a Cactus League game. There is still enough time to get him a handful of starts, but he needs to be to a certain pitch-count-based level of endurance before being ready to pitch in a regular season game.
That notwithstanding, the path in 2012 for the 6’0”, 195 pound, 30-year-old right-hander from Kansas City, Missouri is a relatively clear one. When healthy, be that on Opening Day or shortly at a point thereafter, he’ll be in the starting rotation. He’ll look to make 30+ starts and help lead the Milwaukee Brewers on a successful defense of their National League Central Division title, complete with a return trip to the postseason. It’s just that when Marcum last takes the mound in 2012, he’ll be anticipating much different results.
Let’s hope that by then, as fans, we’ll be able to anticipate a positive outcome as well instead of being haunted by the memories of opportunities squandered.
By: Big Rygg
Talk about your worst-case scenario.
The Brewers had lost two in a row to the Cubs at Wrigley, the second game punctuated by a LaTroy Hawkins meltdown when the Brewers had a three-run lead in the eighth inning. The wind was blowing out for the third day in a row. Derrek Lee was back in the lineup (for a while at least) after sitting out the game prior while nursing a thumb. Cub ace Carlos Zambrano was on the bump for the home team coming off a strong outing against the Mets despite his Opening Day woes in Atlanta.
And the coup de grace? Jeff Suppan was on the mound for Milwaukee, making his first start of the 2010 season after starting the year on the disabled list due to an injured neck which many fans attributed to Suppan craning his neck to watch all of the hits he was giving up during Spring Training.
Ever hear of a perfect storm?
Well, with apologies to Chris Berman, “That’s why they play the games.”
Sure, Suppan wasn’t great. In fact, he wasn’t even good. He surrendered four earned runs over just five innings of work on six hits (including two home runs) and a walk. His season ERA now stands at 7.20.
But this article isn’t about what the results were today. That’s old news. We’re here to break down how Suppan produced those results and what it could mean about his projected performance for the balance of the 2010 season.
The wind was blowing out, this is true, but both of the home runs the Suppan gave up (to Derrek Lee and Marlon Byrd, respectively) would’ve been homers on a different wind day too. They were crushed. Suppan missed up on Lee’s home run, but at least it was on the same third of the plate as his catcher’s mitt. On Byrd’s blast, the target was set on the outside corner and the pitch drifted back to just inside the middle of the plate, just above the knee.
Other than those mistakes, Suppan was hitting the corners decently well and even struck out four batters today. The day was, however, a Brewers-career-in-a-bottle game for Suppan right down to the “except for a couple of pitches, Soup pitched great!” soundbyte from former Brewer manager Ned Yost.
Soup always seems to maximize the damage he does to himself with those bad “couple” of pitches. Either it’s a multiple-run home run or walking the bases loaded before giving up a two-RBI bloop single or three-RBI gapper.
It’s bad luck when it happens some of the time. It’s a trend when it seems to happen most of the time. It’s telling when you keep doing it to yourself.
Catcher Gregg Zaun, who caught today, said (to paraphrase) that no more could have been asked out of Suppan today.
Now I realize that he’s just being a good catcher, but can we as fans really not ask more than 5.0 IP, 4 ER, 2 HR? I think we absolutely have to ask for more, nay demand more.
The problem with Jeff Suppan, though, is not with what can be asked of him, rather it is how much can be expected of him.
Assuming Suppan sticks around in Milwaukee and makes, say, 20 more starts this season for the Brewers, I think all that can be expected is seven wins courtesy of a 5.50 ERA and a WHIP around 1.75 at best.
Look, the offense won’t be able to bail Suppan out like they did to Braden Looper so many times in 2009. The win/loss record and the supporting numbers should much more accurately reflect Suppan’s pitching ability then did Looper’s 14-7 record from a year ago.
I’d love to be able to see Jeff Suppan’s career resurgence as he’s in a virtual contract year. I’d love to see a 20-6 record over 33 starts with a sub-3.50 ERA. I’d love to see the Brewers actually have to consider exercising Suppan’s option before still deciding to cut him loose.
I’d also love to win the lottery tomorrow. I don’t play.
I have to be realistic in my thoughts about Jeff Suppan in 2010 and therefore I have to temper my expectations every fifth day as long as his number keeps getting called.
If Doug Melvin, Gord Ash and Ken Macha settle on a different fifth starter for the bulk of this year, the Brewers have a chance to win seven to 10 more games. That’s a big swing out of the five-hole, but if anybody can live down to expectations better than Jeff Suppan…
Well let’s just say that I wouldn’t want him on my team either.
By: Big Rygg
In my quest to post an article related to every Milwaukee Brewers player that I felt had a legitimate shot at making the 25-man roster to begin 2010, I knew this day would inevitably arrive.
Perhaps it was my subconscious that has been secretly delaying my completion of this daunting but doable task. Maybe in some parallel universe the decision as to whether or not Jeff Suppan will be pitching as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2010 has already been made and I was not forced to write this article.
However, with as many articles as have now backed up in my queue, it is time to unclog the drain and allow the rest of my words to come pouring through.
Suppan was signed following his brilliant 2006 postseason as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, the one in which he basically pitched his team to the World Series. He was rewarded at the time with the NLCS MVP Award. He was rewarded later with a four-year, $42 million contract from the Brewers, complete with a club option for a fifth year that carried a $2 million buyout.
The Brewers and their fans have been waiting for their reward from Suppan ever since.
Brought in to be a “big game” pitcher, Suppan has struggled in that role. He hasn’t pitched well on Opening Day. He hasn’t pitched well in nationally televised games. He couldn’t even pitch well when given the chance to duplicate what earned him his Brewers contract in the first place and extend the club’s 2008 postseason run. (A fully rested CC Sabathia would have pitched Game 5 of that series, lest we forget.)
When it became apparent, if not blatantly obvious, that “Soup” was no longer the pitcher that he was brought in to be – or perhaps he never was? – the talk became all about how he was an innings-eater, a rotation-stabilizer, a good example for the young guys, an adjective laden excuse, a blah blah blah blah, a yadda yadda oh my god.
For those of you whom the reference to the movie BASEketball is lost on, what I’m saying is that the words that continually echoed from the manager’s office (regardless of its occupant) were empty rhetoric. The same things are being said this spring. Oh, it may sound like “the wind was tough today” or that there is “normal progression” going on, but sifting through the muck leads us to the nuggets of truth contained amidst the wasted breath.
Granted, it is one thing to not put a teammate or a charge on blast in front of the media. It’s quite another to blindly support someone on the surface when deep down you must be thinking the same thing that knowledgeable fans of the team are thinking, namely: “Why couldn’t Melvin have signed Suppan to a three-year deal or perhaps not at all?”
The easy answer to that, of course, is that Milwaukee needed to prove that it was willing to spend top dollars on free agents to show that a new regime had taken over, one that isn’t going to be afraid to pay to compete. The supplement to that argument is that the contract Suppan signed was the “going rate” at the time which is to say that had the Brewers not offered it, somebody else would have and they would have been the team that Suppan ended up playing for.
But the past is the past and the present is today; and as of today in this universe, Jeff Suppan is a signed member of the Milwaukee Brewers. Therefore, we discuss his prospects of making the 25-man roster.
In his most recent outing of the spring (yesterday, for those of you keeping track), the Brewers won the game. This would normally be a good thing for Suppan but if you take the time to look, the Brewers won the game 10-8. Therefore, they didn’t win it because of Suppan but rather in spite of him. Suppan gave up four home runs (fortunately solo shots) and two more deep fly balls to center field that would’ve been home runs in most parks except that the centerfield wall in Scottsdale is 430 feet away from home plate.
Still, it is Spring Training. Pitchers work on different things and don’t necessarily throw their entire repertoire right away. Suppan could have been trying a brand new pitch (by all accounts he wasn’t) or simply working on location (which was awful). There is also the argument that new pitching coach Rick Peterson’s tweaks are still being adopted and that with time they should help.
Suppan said that after trying the tweaks (which involve movement of the hands) that he felt he was getting more movement on his pitches, the likes of which he hadn’t seen in some time. Maybe he got away from the advice in his last outing. After all, Suppan was on record earlier this spring saying that he was going to be preparing for the season like he always has because nobody had told him that he was in a competition for a spot in the rotation. Maybe he tried Peterson’s advice once to humor him and then went back about his normal business.
If we take Doug Melvin at his word in that the competition for the rotation spots is an open one, what needs to happen for Jeff Suppan from here on out is at least average baseball.
That’s regardless of what anybody else in the competition does. Even if Dave Bush, Manny Parra and Chris Narveson go flawless the rest of spring, all Suppan has to do to justify a final attempt at squeezing some sort of significant return out of the contract he signed back a few years ago is to be at least okay. That way, the front office can save face if they announce that he’ll begin the regular season as a starting pitcher.
As for staying in the rotation the entire year? Well, that’s an article for a different day and another thousand words.
Here are a few words worth writing though if for no other reason than to put the minds of Brewer fans at ease…
Yovani Gallardo was named the starter for Opening Day at Miller Park.
By: Big Rygg
I know that this idea is a bit corny and overdone already, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t taken a fair amount of time to compile the information that that led me to the decisions that I have made regarding my (and since I’ve been the entirety of the written Brewer Nation for quite some time now) and the Brewer Nation’s….
ALL-DECADE 25-MAN ROSTER!!! (which will come in the next post)
But first, some interesting tidbits for you all to digest followed by some high and low statistical totals for the decade of 2000-2009. A lot of these numbers helped me figure out my all-decade roster.
- There have been 111 non-pitchers that have have at least one plate appearance for the Milwaukee Brewers this decade.
- There have been 131 individuals that have pitched at least one-third of an inning for the Milwaukee Brewers this decade, including two position players (Trent Durrington and Mark Loretta).
- The most common first name amongst Brewers in this decade is “Chris” (11 players). Second place goes to “Mike” (10 players).
- Most seasons (or parts of seasons) played with the Brewers in the 2000s was 8, a record held by Geoff Jenkins, Bill Hall and Ben Sheets
Hitting Mosts (you might notice some themes here):
Games Played: 1015 – Geoff Jenkins
Plate Appearances: 4154 – Geoff Jenkins
At-Bats: 3698 – Geoff Jenkins
Runs: 558 – Geoff Jenkins
Hits: 1021 – Geoff Jenkins
Doubles: 232 – Geoff Jenkins
Triples: 21 – Corey Hart
Home Runs: 182 – Geoff Jenkins
Total Bases: 1835 – Geoff Jenkins
Runs Batted In: 594 – Geoff Jenkins
Stolen Bases: 113 – Scott Podsednik
Times Caught Stealing: 35 – Bill Hall
Walks: 345 – Prince Fielder
Intentional Walks: 66 – Fielder (Five more than Jenkins, but more than triple third place)
Strike Outs: 970 – Geoff Jenkins
Times Grounding into a Double Play: 90 – Geoff Jenkins
Times Hit By a Pitch: 86 – Geoff Jenkins
Sacrifice Hits: 21 – Mark Loretta
Sacrifice Flies: 32 – Prince Fielder (One more than Jenkins in far fewer PAs)
Hitting Highests (minimum 100 plate appearances):
Batting Average: .320 – Felipe Lopez
On-Base Percentage: .407 – Felipe Lopez
Slugging Percentage: .574 – Ryan Braun
On-Base Percentage + Slugging Percentage: .931 – Ryan Braun
Games Played: 1 (Tie – Carlos Corporan & Julio Mosquera)
Plate Appearances: 1 (Tie – Carlos Corporan & Julio Mosquera)
At-Bats: 1 (Tie – Carlos Corporan & Julio Mosquera)
Runs: 0 (8 players never scored but Pete Zoccolillo was on base the most times without scoring – 6 times)
Hits: 0 (4 players, Robert Perez had most Plate Appearances without a hit – 5)
Doubles: 0 (10 players with at least one hit had no doubles. Tony Fernandez had 18 hits without a double)
Triples: 0 (48 players with at least one hit had no triples. Carlos Lee had 275 hits without a triple)
Home Runs: 0 (20 player with at least one hit had no home runs. Tony Gwynn had by far the most without a home run with 60. Next closest? Nine.)
Total Bases: 0 (4 players. Robert Perez had 5 plate appearances without a base.)
Runs Batted In: 0 (11 players had at least one plate appearance without an RBI. Brad Nelson had 31 for the most.)
Stolen Bases: 0 (Since you can’t steal if you don’t try, 12 players had at least one attempt without a stolen base. Wes Helms and Felipe Lopez tied for the most with 3.)
Times Caught Stealing: 0 (16 players with at least one stolen base were never caught. Santiago Perez and Mel Stocker each stole 4 bases without getting caught.)
Walks: 0 (9 players never walked. Israel Alcantara had the most plate appearances without drawing a walk with 32.)
Intentional Walks: 0 (49 players never were intentionally given first base including Alex Sanchez who had 684 plate apperances without one.)
Strike Outs: 0 (5 players never struck out as a Brewers this decade. Nelson Cruz had the most PAs as a Brewers with 7. The fewest Ks with at least 100 PAs? Lenny Harris who only struck out 17 times in 215 PAs.)
Times Grounding into a Double Play: 0 (17 players never grounded into one this decade. Alcides Escobar had the most plate appearances without a GIDP with 138.)
Times Hit By a Pitch: 0 (36 players were never hit by a pitch. Marquis Grissom had the most plate appearances without ever getting plunked as a Brewer this decade with 640.)
Sacrifice Hits: 0 (58 players had none with Geoff Jenkins topping the list by having 4154 plate appearances.)
Sacrifice Flies: 0 (41 players never hit a sac fly this decade. John Vander Wal had 374 plate appearances without even a single sac fly.)
Hitting Lowests (4 players had zeroes in all categories, Robert Perez having the most plate appearances (5) without any stats, so the following is the lowest among players with at least one hit):
Batting Average: .067 – Chris Barnwell (2 Hits in 30 at-bats)
On-Base Percentage: .071 – Corey Patterson (1 Hit in 15 plate appearances)
Slugging Percentage: .067 – Chris Barnwell (2 singles in those 30 at-bats)
On-Base Percentage + Slugging Percentage: .143 – Corey Patterson
Wins: 86 – Ben Sheets
Losses: 83 – Ben Sheets
Games Played: 224 – Luis Vizcaino
Games Started: 221 – Ben Sheets
Games Finished: 129 – Derrick Turnbow
Complete Games: 18 – Ben Sheets (Sabathia had 2nd most in the decade in one-half season: 7)
Shutouts: 4 – Ben Sheets (Sabathia had 2nd most in the decade in one-half season: 3)
Saves: 65 – Derrick Turnbow
Innings PItched: 1428 – Ben Sheets
Hits Allowed: 1402 – Ben Sheets
Runs Allowed: 650 – Ben Sheets
Earned Runs Allowed: 591 – Ben Sheets
Home Runs Allowed: 160 – Ben Sheets
Walks Issued: 313 – Ben Sheets
Intentional Walks Issued: 25 Tie (Ben Sheets & Jeff Suppan though Suppan did it in far fewer innings – 1428.0 IP to 546.0 IP)
Strikeouts: 1206 – Ben Sheets
Batters Hit: 54 – Dave Bush
Balks: 5 – Chris Capuano
Wild Pitches: 49 – Ben Sheets
Earned Run Average: 0.00 – 6 players (Chris Saenz pitched the most innings: 6.0)
Walks and Hits Per Innings Pitches: 0.00 – Trent Durrington (Best by an actual pitcher? Mike Crudale with 0.75)
Hits Allowed Per 9 Innngs: 0.00 – Trent Durrington (Best by an actual pitcher? Mike Crudale with 0.96)
Home Runs Allowed Per 9 Innings: 0.00 – 11 players (Mike Crudale pitched most innings without allowing a home run: 9.1 IP)
Walks Issued Per 9 Innings: 0.00 – 3 players (Jesus Colome pitched most innings without issuing one: 6.1 IP)
Strikeouts Per 9 Innings: 18.00 – Mark Loretta (Best by an actual pitcher? Allan Simpson with 16.88)
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio: 5.12 – CC Sabathia (of pitchers that issues at least one walk)
Wins: 0 – 42 Players (Chris Smith pitched most games without a win: 35)
Losses: 0 – 29 Players (Chris Smith pitched most games without a loss as well)
Games Played: 1 – 4 Players (Trent Durrington, Mark Loretta, Chris Saenz, Chris Mabeus)
Games Finished: 0 – 5 Players (of players who relieved at least once – Chris Mabeus, Josh Butler, Mike Matthews, Kyle Peterson, Jimmy Haynes)
Complete Games: 0 – 42 Players (of players who started at least once – Jimmy Haynes started most games without a complete game: 62)
Shutouts: 0 – Jeff Suppan (Most games started without a shutout: 95)
Saves: 0 – 82 Players (of players with at least one relief appearance – Jose Capellan had most relief appearances without a save: 85)
Innings PItched: 0.1 – Trent Durrington (Actual pitcher with least? Chris Mabeus – 1.2 IP)
Hits Allowed: 0 – Trent Durrington
Runs Allowed: 0 – 3 Players (Chris Saenz pitched most innings without allowing a run: 6.0 IP)
Earned Runs Allowed: 0 – 3 Players (Chris Saenz pitched most innings without allowing a run: 6.0 IP)
Home Runs Allowed: 0 – 11 Players (Mike Crudale pitched most innings without allowing a home run: 9.1 IP)
Walks Issued: 0 – 3 Players (Jesus Colome pitched most innings without issuing a walk: 6.1 IP)
Intentional Walks Issued: 0 – 37 Players (CC Sabathia pitched most innings without issuing an intentional pass: 130.2 IP)
Strikeouts: 0 – Trent Durrington (Two pitchers only had 1 K but Jared Fernandez threw most innings with fewest strikeouts: 6.1 IP)
Batters Hit: 0 – 34 Players (Nick Neugebauer pitched most innings without hitting a batter: 61.1 IP)
Balks: 0 – 102 Players (Carlos Villanueva pitched the most innings without balking: 372.1 IP)
Wild Pitches: 0 – 27 Players (David Weathers pitched most innings by far without a wild pitch: 158.0 IP)
Earned Run Average: 27.00 – Bob Scanlan (5 Earned Runs in 1.2 IP)
Walks and Hits Per Innings Pitches: 4.20 – Chris Mabeus (4 hits, 3 walks in 1.2 IP)
Hits Allowed Per 9 Innngs: 32.40 – Bob Scanlan (6 hits in 1.2 IP)
Home Runs Allowed Per 9 Innings: 5.59 – Brandon Kolb (6 HR in 9.2 IP)
Walks Issued Per 9 Innings: 16.20 – Chris Mabeus (3 walks in 1.2 IP)
Strikeouts Per 9 Innings: 0.00 – Trent Durrington (Worst by Actual pitcher was Jared Fernandez who had 1 K in 6.1 IP for a 1.42 ratio)
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio: 0.25 – David Manning (2 Ks to 8 walks)
By: Big Rygg
So have we finally seen enough? Wait…wrong question. We definitely have. Allow me to rephrase…
So…have they finally seen enough?
Of course the “they” in the revised question refers to Milwaukee Brewer Manager Ken Macha and General Manager Doug Melvin. And whatever might I be talking about when I ask if enough of it has been seen?
That’s a simple answer as well.
Julio almost single-armedly threw the Milwaukee Brewers from a series-opening (and road trip-beginning) victory into a loss. Between walks, hitting a couple of batters and general ineffectiveness all the way around, Julio was ultimately charged with four earned runs without recording a single out.It skyrocketed his ERA from 5.71 (still poor by itself, don’t get me wrong) to 7.79.
Now, to be fair, over his last four outings, Julio had put together 5.2 innings of scoreless ball. This was is mostly low pressure situations. Monday night should have been another low pressure spot again, just bridging the gap between Jeff Suppan who Houdini’d his way around trouble for the most part but did so by racking up 100 pitches in just 5 innings. All Julio was charged with was pitching through the 6th so that Coffey, Villanueva and (if necessary) Trevor Hoffman could take the game over and close the door.
But what did Julio accomplish? He loaded the bases, pushed a run across whether the Marlins wanted it or not, and finally gave way to Coffey who couldn’t stop the bleeding and actually allowed a run of his own in the inning as well. But with a a four run lead, facing the bottom of the order…you just can’t do what Julio did tonight and expect to stick in the big leagues very long.
I’ll admit that after seeing the numbers Julio put up in Atlanta at the end of last season, I was optimistic when the Brewers signed him in the off-season.
After a rough spring, Julio surprised everyone by making the 25-man roster when the team headed north to San Francisco for the opening series of the 2009 regular season. That could be as much of a matter of timing that he’s stuck with the team as long as he has. Julio made the team in the first place primarily because Hoffman was injured so there was an opening. When Hoffman was ready to come back, David Riske needed time on the DL (from which he’s still rehabbing). Even now, when the rumors are that the Brewers will be calling up someone from the minors to help the bullpen out, there’s talk that Mark DiFelice might have to go on the DL due to some elbow inflammation.
But truly, I don’t see how the stars continue to align to allow Julio to ply his trade at the Major League level. Maybe it’s because he does have a live arm and can throw very hard. Maybe it’s because every now and then he comes out and has a few appearances in a row where he doesn’t allow any runs to score.
Therein lies the problem, however, is because you just don’t know who is coming to the mound from the bullpen on a given night despite Ken Macha having Bill Castro call Stan Kyles with the exact same name.
Julio’s earned runs allowed over his last 10 appearances? 0, 0, 1, 0, 4, 0, 0, 0, 0, 4. How can a manager be expected to trust that arm?
So, to quote some lyrics from the song that the Miller Park audio crew has been using for when Jorge Julio is summoned from the bullpen:
“Well, I’m on my way
I don’t know where I’m going
but I’m on my way
I’m takin my time but I don’t know where”
Allow me to respond to those lines the way Doug Melvin should have tonight after the game in Miami…
You’re going to the waiver wire because you’ve been designated for assignment. Oh, and as for taking your time? Don’t bother. Get to steppin’.
(I mean seriously…could you see Doug Melvin say “Get to steppin'”? That’d be hilarious.)
By: Big Rygg
As I write this, the first game in New York is tied 4-4 in the bottom of the 7th inning. Mitch “Irish” Stetter (my own nickname for him, but feel free to adopt it) has just been removed from the game after allowing Mike Rivera to show why so many professional athletes over the years have taken ballet. I’m not saying Rivera takes or has ever taken ballet, but the spin move he just pulled off was a thing of beauty.
Moving, this post is mostly about the entirety of the upcoming road trip as opposed to the current game (though Hallelujah that Braun got his first home run out of the way a couple of innings ago!!).
The Brewers began the 2009 regular season on the road out in California for three games before hosting two teams for three games each at Miller Park. Beginning tonight, however, the Brewers take their first (of three) 9-game, 10-day road trip.
We start where we are tonight, brand-new Citi Field in Flushing, New York where the marquee matchup of the weekend comes tomorrow when Yovani Gallardo squares off against one of the best pitchers in all of the majors in Johan Santana. Tonight’s matchup, as I mentioned, is all square as I write this but the Metropolitans are threatening. Sunday is looking like a Met win already (hey, until Jeff Suppan shows me a glimmer of hope, I have to go with recent history), so finding a way to win tonight would be a plus.
After the Brewers first series ever at Citi Field (Todd Coffey just got out of a Mitch Stetter jam!), the Brewers head to their personal 2008 House of Horrors: Citizen’s Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia, PA. The Brewers were 0-6 in Philly last year, including those two lost games in the NLDS. Philadelphia’s resident ace left-hander Cole Hamels is pitching tonight, so we should see him in Game 3 of the series.
Then, in what on paper (and if you read this blog often enough, you should know how I feel about “on paper”) should be the easiest series of the trip, the Brewers travel to Houston, Texas to take on the Astros. The Crew avoids arguably the best pitcher in the NL Central Division in Roy Oswalt courtesy of the schedule makers. Even still, Houston is a tough place to play as a visitor and the Brewers have an all-time record well below .500 there.
(Todd Coffey just induced a David Wright ground out to escape his own bases-loaded jam in the 8th. Whew!)
Realistically, a team hopes to play at or near .500 ball on the road and over .500 ball at home. Therefore, the best you can fairly expect the team to do on this long road trip is 4-5. Hopefully the Brewers can pick up an extra one here and there and have a very successful trip.
Two notes before I let you all go here, Gary Sheffield hit his 500th career home run in the game this evening. Good for him, I guess, but a hard slap in the face that the team he broke into the Major Leagues with and dragged through the mud before leaving town (yes, he still gets booed mercilessly when he plays in Milwaukee) would give up the milestone.
Second, The Brewers finally have a second lefty in the bullpen due to the situation with David Riske’s elbow. R.J. Swindle was called up to the parent club in what really is fortunate timing. The Mets and Phillies have a lot of potent left-handed bats, and even a couple of switch-hitters that are much more dangerous when batting left-handed. For example, the Brewers used Mitch Stetter tonight in the 7th inning. Should a big situation come up in the 9th (or later should this go to extra innings), Ken Macha has the opportunity to bring in another left-hander. That allows Macha to manage the situation on its own, and not have to worry about a “what if” situation where your lefty might be more useful later in the ballgame. For example, Jerry Manuel used his only lefty in the 6th inning after Ryan Braun hit a 3-run home run with nobody out.
Anyway, it’s the bottom of the 9th, Seth McClung is on the bump and the heart of the Mets order is due up…ain’t baseball grand?
Come on boys! Let’s play some free baseball for the fans in NYC tonight!