Tagged: Nyjer Morgan

Milwaukee Brewers Uniform Number History: #2

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.

#2

Ted Savage (’70-’71)
Bob Hiese (’71-’73)
Jack Lind (’74)
Bob Sheldon (’74-’75)
Alex Grammas (’76-’77)
Len Sakata (’79)
Randy Ready (’83-’86)
Kiki Diaz (’90)
William Suero (’92-’93)
Jose Valentin (’94, ’95-’99)
Tyler Houston (’00-’02)
Bill Hall (’02-’09)
Joe Inglett (’10)
Nyjer Morgan (’11-’12)
Scooter Gennett (’13-Current)

Series In Review: Brewers Fall Short of First Four-Game Wrigley Sweep

The Brewers hit the road following their brief three-game season-opening homestand. They headed south on Interstate 94 to Chicago to take on the Cubs in a four game series which, because it’s Chicago, meant two evening games and two day afternoon games.

The Crew took the first three games in the series and looked good heading into an opportunity for their first ever four-game sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley Field. They fell painfully short of that goal, but more on that later.

The fact is that in a venue where the 96-win 2011 Brewers only won two games all year, leaving town with three notches on the bedpost is certainly an acceptable outcome.

For more on each game’s individual happenings, read on!

Game 1 – Monday – Brewers (1-2): 7, Cubs (1-2): 5

Winning Pitcher: Shaun Marcum (1-0, 4.50) Losing Pitcher: Shawn Camp (0-1, 7.36)
Save: John Axford (1)

In the opening tilt of the series, the Brewers not only scored early (RBI sac fly by Aramis Ramirez, plating Nyjer Morgan), but often (scoring runs in six of their nine frames).

In a nice blend of small ball and…big ball, I guess…the Brewers got a solo home run from Rickie Weeks in the third and RBI extra-base hits from Mat Gamel (triple) in the sixth inning and Ramirez (double) in the Brewers’ next frame. Milwaukee also picked up RBIs by way of both a safety and suicide squeeze, and a pair of sacrifice flies.

The only real point of concern came in the bottom of the ninth when, sporting a 7-3 lead and with closer John Axford having just thrown 27 pitches the night before, manager Ron Roenicke called on Manny Parra to finish out the game.

Parra allowed a leadoff double and was lifted for Tim Dillard once the left-handed hitters were done. Dillard walked Geovany Soto which forced Roenicke’s hand.

Axford entered the game and allowed his first batter faced to single home a run on Parra’s linescore. With men at second and third and only one out, Axford struck out David DeJesus but then walked Darwin Barney to load the bases.

In a beautifully-called and executed sequence, Axford then struck out Starlin Castro on three pitches to end the game.

Game 2 – Tuesday – Brewers (2-2): 7, Cubs (1-3): 4

Winning Pitcher: Chris Narveson (1-0, 3.60) Losing Pitcher: Paul Maholm (0-1, 13.50)
Save: Francisco Rodriguez (1)

A cold night in the Windy City saw a team of (mostly) hooded men residing in the first base dugout.

The hoods designed to keep a player’s head and neck warm could also be pulled up to cover the face while running the bases, and the sight of so many of the Brewers wearing them caused many fans to invoke a “ninja” theme to the evening’s events.

It was a mostly fitting description for the early part of the game as the Brewers struck blows to the Cubs starting pitcher repeatedly. The loudest blow of the night for Milwaukee came from the first hitter in the batting order to plays sans shroud, Alex Gonzalez. He made plenty of noise by blasting a three-run home run into the left-center field bleachers, capping the scoring at five for the frame.

The ninja thing might have been a perfect description if not for the fact that Corey Hart and Mat Gamel were both hit by pitches in the first inning. After all, ninjas are supposed to be incredibly stealthy and therefore shouldn’t be able to be plunked.

Or something.

The Cubs were never really in this game, though they did cut the lead to three runs in the third inning.

There was more ninth inning drama as well. The Brewers once again put a four-run lead up against the Cubs final three outs and put a non-closer on the bump to begin the ninth.

After Kameron Loe had pitched two mostly brilliant innings of scoreless relief, Jose Veras was given the first chance to slam the door but hung a curveball to Geovany Soto which was blasted into the stands for a home run. After striking out the scuffling Marlon Byrd, Veras walked the pinch-hitting Bryan LaHair.

The situation now being a three-run lead with the tying run in the on-deck circle made it a Save opportunity. With John Axford having thrown over 50 pitches over the previous two days, manager Ron Roenicke had decided prior to the game that the Ax Man was off limits tonight. Roenicke walked to the mound and signaled for a right-hander to enter the game.

Francisco Rodriguez jogged to the mound looking to record his first Save as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.

K-Rod needed just seven pitches to get through the final two hitters. He secured Chris Narveson’s first Win of the year by striking out David DeJesus and inducing Darwin Barney to ground out to Alex Gonzalez.

The Brewers had just guaranteed themselves no worse than a series split, but had eyes for more.

Game 3 – Wednesday – Brewers (3-2): 2, Cubs (1-4): 1

Winning Pitcher: Yovani Gallardo (1-1, 5.91) Losing Pitcher: Ryan Dempster (0-1, 1.88)
Save: John Axford (2)

Yovani Gallardo’s start on Opening Day was brutal. (You can click here for that recap.) A lot of people were questioning the staff ace and his abilities, which is ridiculous but they were, and were looking for a bounce-back start against the Cubs.

Gallardo delivered.

Going seven strong innings, only allowing one run (earned) while scattering five hits and two walks, he struck out six Cubs hitters on the day. He shaved nearly nine runs off of his ERA (early season small sample sizes are fun!), nearly a point and a half off of his WHIP, and thousands of doubters off his back about his admittedly rough start five days earlier.

Nearly exceeding his performance, however, was Cub starter Ryan Dempster. He too pitched on Opening Day for Chicago, but with much better personal results than Gallardo achieved. Dempster made it to the seventh scoreless, but allowed a one-out, two-run home run to George Kottaras which proved to be the difference in the game.

Gallardo was set to be pinch-hit for had Kottaras not come through, but instead he came back out in the bottom of the seventh and worked himself into and out of the only substantial Cub threat of the afternoon.

The eighth and ninth were by design after that, with both Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford striking out the side around two walks and one double, respectively.

Having hoisted the L flag atop Wrigley for the third consecutive game, the Brewers looked to do what they had never done before…

Sweep a four-game set from the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Game 4 – Thursday – Brewers (4-2): 0, Cubs (1-5): 8

Winning Pitcher: Matt Garza (1-0, 1.23) Losing Pitcher: Zack Greinke (1-1, 6.75)

When you head into the final game of a series with a chance to sweep that series, and you have one of the best pitchers on your staff starting, you feel pretty good about your chances that day. So, too, did the Brewers with Zack Greinke toeing the rubber on Thursday afternoon.

In a confluence of recent and unfortunate trends, however, Greinke pitched during the day and on the road. While coincidental at best, neither of those situations was particularly friendly to Greinke last season. (For the record: Greinke’s Win-Loss record was good during the day last year, but we all know how much that actually reflects his performance.)

Regardless of the circumstances, Greinke seemed out of sorts the entire day. He barely touched speeds with his fastball that he usually sits comfortably at. He normally sits 94-95, touches 97, but on Thursday he was sitting 91-92 and his high watermark only rounded up to 95. PitchFX information had Greinke topping out at 94.9 MPH, while averaging 92.64. (Those figures were quoted to me by mutual Twitter follow Jaymes Langrehr of the Disciples of Uecker blog. You can follow him on Twitter: @JaymesL.)

The second half of the Brewers pair of aces could only muster 3.2 innings pitched on Thursday afternoon, and he was charged with eight earned runs before it was all said and done. That was a far cry from his seven shutout innings against the St. Louis Cardinals five days prior.

The highlights of the game for the Brewers would be that two relief pitchers, who had been previously roughed up a couple of times, posted multiple, scoreless innings in relief of Greinke. Manny Parra took over in the fourth inning and pitched through the sixth, striking out four along the way while walking none. Tim Dillard then covered the seventh and eighth, also walking no one. Each relief pitcher allowed two hits while working.

Otherwise, Matt Garza simply had his way with every Brewer hitter not named Nyjer Morgan (two hits in four trips to the plate) or Jonathan Lucroy (one hit, one walk in three PAs).  Garza only allowed three hits through 8.2 innings pitched, while striking out nine and walking only two.

His only hiccup, if you can even call it one, was when Garza induced a ground ball back to himself off of the bat of pinch-hitter Norichika Aoki but then threw the ball way over and past first baseman Bryan LaHair, allowing Aoki to reach.

With Garza then at 119 pitches, Cubs manager Dale Sveum marched to the mound and lifted his starter in favor of Monday’s starter Shawn Camp. Camp got George Kottaras to ground out on four pitches to finalize things.

In Summary…

Like I said at the top, taking three out of four games at Wrigley Field is never a bad thing, regardless of whether you lost the final game with arguably your best pitcher on the bump.

Games against the very much so rebuilding Cubs are just as important, if not more so, as games against other opponents in the division. You must beat the teams which you are supposed to beat if you hope to approach last season’s franchise-best win total.

I really liked seeing solid starts from Shaun Marcum and Chris Narveson in their first turns, and was greatly encouraged by the fact that heavy use early didn’t affect John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez as they were both very good as usual.

The bats need to wake up a bit still. Look no further than notoriously slow starter Aramis Ramirez (2-for-22 to begin the campaign) as evidence of that, but there is plenty of time to turn things around.

After beginning 2011 with a 0-4 record and not winning for the third time on the road until their ninth try, being 4-2 after six with three victories away from Miller Park isn’t a bad place to be.

The Brewers are in Atlanta tonight for the first of a three-game series. Tonight is the Braves’ home opener. That game will be contested by Randy Wolf and Jair Jurrjens with the first pitch being scheduled for 6:35 Central Daylight Time.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #2 Nyjer Morgan

How many times in your life have you said that the quantity of something is “just a couple”? Too many to count?

A lot of people use “couple” to mean any relatively small quantity. It’s noon and the late football game starts at 3:15. How long until the game? “A couple of hours.”

I’m driving eastbound on I 94 toward Miller Park and am at mile marker 301. My exit is Exit 305B. How far away is it? “A couple of miles.”

In reality, “a couple” is two. No more, no less.

If you expect the Brewers to win a couple of games this weekend, you expect them to win two of three in the weekend series against the Cardinals.

It is with that in mind that I am so happy to say…

We’re a couple of day away from Opening Day!!

That’s it, that’s all! Two short days.

It is also with that number in mind that I present to you today’s profile on the man once thought to only have a couple of personalities (though we now know better, don’t we?):

Nyjer Morgan

image

The many personalities which were on display at various times for Nyjer Jamid Morgan each have their own personality traits.

Tony Plush is the on-field entertainer which fans see the majority of days on the baseball field. Tony Hush was developed when Morgan needed to stay quiet to the media for a stretch after Tony Plush got Morgan into some verbal hot water. Tony Tombstone was credited for Morgan’s cowboy getup on the plane between Houston and St. Louis during a team dress up flight. Antonio Picante (or Tony Hots) is Morgan’s alter ego for his fans of Hispanic descent.

There are more (more than a couple more), but you get the idea.

What they all boiled down to in the end was a player who not only put smiles on the faces of fans throughout Brewer Nation, but also frustrated grimaces on those faces of his opponents.

More importantly, though, is that Morgan et al put numbers in the scorebooks and runs on the board.

Hitting primarily from the number two spot in the order and as part of a strict platoon with Carlos Gomez (Morgan started against right-handed pitchers and Gomez against lefties), Morgan ended up making 90 starts for the Brewers, playing in 119 games total, during the 2011 season. That’s despite the aforementioned platoon and two stints on the disabled list.

The first trip to the DL (4/18-5/2) was due to a right quadriceps (thigh muscle) contusion suffered when running into Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit on a play at the plate. The second injury cost him 21 days (5/6-5/21) as was caused when he tried to bunt a ball which struck his left middle finger, fracturing it.

Still, Morgan posted a season line of .304/.357/.421, 378 AB, 61 R, 115 H, 20 doubles, 6 triples, 4 HR, 37 RBI, 19 walks, 70 K and 13 steals (caught 4 times).

Those numbers were very solid for Morgan despite fluctuations from previous years in his steals (though you tend not to steal in front of Ryan Braun) and walk rate. Still, Morgan’s extrapolated numbers would’ve been some of the best of his career in multiple categories.

That was in large part to manager Ron Roenicke’s dedication to that centerfield platoon with Gomez. Morgan has never been able to hit left-handed pitching with any kind of success, let alone consistency. It made more sense to limit the exposure of Morgan’s main weakness while allowing Gomez’ superior defense to get some irregular but predetermined playing time.

Morgan responded again and again throughout the year, culminating with a couple of walk-off hits that might cement his place in on-field moments in Brewers history including his RBI single which scored his platoon partner Gomez from second base and sent the Brewers to their first League Champion Series in nearly 30 years.

Off the field, Morgan had a number of iconic moments as well in 2011.

From prematurely ending interviews to simply taking some of them over. From “Throwin’ up the T” to popularizing the team’s “beast mode” celebration. From jaw-jacking with Giants fans in his hometown of San Francisco, to calling out players on Twitter. From his “Usain Bolt” in the dugout to his keen sense of when and where the camera was on him. From being a “Jungle Correspondent” for the Jim Rome television show to heeding a fan’s advice when told to “go fly a kite” on a windy off day.

The list goes on and on.

He’s spawned t-shirts and websites and even taken to social media in a successful attempt to interact with fans. He’s got a rabid following here in Milwaukee and his hardnosed, gritty style of play has won over the Miller Park faithful while at the same time annoying the heck out of fans on the road all over the country.

But it almost never happened.

Spring Training 2011 was going along smoothly and everything seemed to be falling into place with the team. The roster was coming into focus and it appeared that the outfield depth chart was basically finalized with Jeremy Reed and Brandon Boggs getting the final two spots.

Then Doug Melvin talked on the phone.

On that phone call, the Brewers general manager traded minor league position player Cutter Dykstra and some cash to the Washington Nationals in exchange for the enigmatic and (by some accounts) apparent bad seed, Morgan.

The deal was made official on March 27, 2011 but the legend that is T-Plush didn’t begin immediately. He was subject to numerous naysayers and doubters who thought his “thuggish” attitude and caricature antics would be an unnecessary distraction and point of contention in the Brewers tight-knit clubhouse.

Not knowing how to react to this group of men to whom Morgan was presented following the trade, he infamously recalled later that he just said “What’s up, f******?” to the group and any possible tension was alleviated.

After all, Morgan said, he decided that if he was going to fit in, he’d have to do it as himself and not as something he wasn’t.

Good call, Mr. Plush.

As for 2012? It appears that things will begin much how they ended.

Morgan won’t start on Opening Day since the St. Louis Cardinals are throwing left-hander Jaime Garcia that day, though we can probably expect a pinch-hitting appearance on Friday should a situation call for one. Morgan should start the final two games of the series against righties Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn though.

Assuming Morgan can stay healthy, and Roenicke sticks to his platooning ways, Morgan still has the chance to post the best numbers of his career in 2012.

The main difference between this year and last, however, is that if he should fall into a Casey-McGehee-like slump, there are other options that can start and would probably perform capably in the role.

Import Nori Aoki is a centerfielder by trade and top prospect Logan Schafer will be staying ready as the starting centerfielder with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. Both Aoki and Schafer hit left-handed, and can fly around from gap to gap.

And then there’s always the toolsy Gomez who could perhaps finally put it all together at the plate at some point.

But the role of primary centerfielder belongs to Morgan for now. And if 2011 proves to be any indication of what we can expect in 2012, it’ll remain Morgan’s job during and into another playoff run.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #7 Norichika Aoki

One week.

Seven days.

168 hours.

10,080 minutes.

604,800 seconds.

As of 3:10 P.M. (Central Daylight Time) today, those are the independent totals of those different time measurements which, when counted down to zero, take you to the scheduled time for the first pitch of the 2012 regular season for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Can you feel the anticipation? Has the excitement started to build for you yet? Have you come up with your sick day story for work (and have you made sure you haven’t used it before)?

Whatever this next week holds for you personally or professionally, the biggest thing is making sure that your plans for Opening Day itself are set.

When are you arriving to the stadium? Are you tailgating? Shuttling in from Bluemound or the surrounding area? Planning on going in for team introductions and to see Miss America Laura Kaeppeler throw out the first pitch?

Or if you live too far away or weren’t able to acquire tickets… Are you tailgating at home? Having friends over? Playing some bean bag toss, ladder golf, or other game on your lawn?

Regardless of what it is, having a plan in place helps to make the day a success.

A man who doesn’t yet know what his plan will be in seven days is one of new imports to the ball club this year, and the man who will wear number 7 on his jersey:

Norichika Aoki.

At times, when discussing additions to a sports team, people will call the new players “imports” as I did above. Well, in the case of the 5’9”, 180 pound, left-handed hitting Nori Aoki, “import” is doubly true.

After spending the first eight years and 985 games of his professional career playing in the Nippon Professional Baseball League as a member of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, and posting a career batting average of .329 along with 84 home runs, 385 RBI and 164 stolen bases, Aoki was posted to the Major Leagues.

Without attempting to explain the entire system, the Milwaukee Brewers posted the winning bid of $2.5 million which is paid to the Swallows if Aoki and the Brewers could agree to a contract to bring the former NPB batting champion, seven-time All-Star, six-time Golden Glove Award winner, and seven-time member of the Best Nine to the United States and MLB.

That winning big was announced on December 19, 2011 and the Brewers had a finite window in which to negotiate with Aoki. If they could come to terms, Aoki would join the Brewers for Spring Training. If not, the Brewers would keep their bid amount and Aoki would continue his career in Japan.

Aoki seemed to be willing and wanting to come to MLB, but at what cost on a total contract value became the question. This is a guy with major accolades over in NPB and multiple turns on the international Japanese team, including both of the World Baseball Classics which have been held to this point.

With all of those accolades, it was kind of a shock both that the Brewers won the negotiating rights and for how much they spent to do it. This seemed to indicate that the total contract cost wouldn’t be prohibitive for Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio’s budget.

Long story short (too late?), on January 17, 2012 the Brewers and Aoki agreed to a two-year contract with a team option for 2014, worth a total guaranteed amount of $2.5 million. It breaks down to $1 million in 2012, $1.25 million in 2013 and a buyout of the team option of $250k. On the high end, that figure can balloon all the way up to $8.1875 million if the club option is exercised and he hits all of the built-in incentives.

So why the seemingly low guaranteed dollar amount?

Part of it stems from Aoki’s age, but mostly from the fact that when NPB switched to a style of baseball which more closely mimicked an official MLB ball, Aoki had the worst numbers of his career. That was chalked up in the local media as him being stubborn about not being able to direct the ball wherever he wanted on the diamond quite as easily.

Aoki’s batting average in 2011 was a mere .292 with significantly decreased home runs, walks, and stolen bases over the previous five years.

What’s more, the Milwaukee Brewers don’t scout Japan with any kind of regularity and no scout in the organization had seen Aoki play in NPB in person. With the uncertainty regarding how his game would translate and the unfamiliarity between the parties, it seemed like a smallish contract was a wise move by the Brewers.

The terms were agreed to after Aoki worked out for the Brewers’ brass at their Maryvale facilities in Phoenix, Arizona and Aoki has been working toward a role on the team since. He has stated that the biggest change in Spring Training is that they worked a lot more often and longer sessions in Japan. He was having trouble getting acclimated to a lesser schedule.

That may have been a contributing factor in that Aoki began the Cactus League by going 5-for-30 (.167) with 1 triple, no home runs, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, and 0 SB through March 15. Manager Ron Roenicke then pulled Aoki aside for a chat about not worrying about impressing the team and that they just need Aoki to play his game, relax and realize that he’s got a job here.

Since then, Aoki has been on a blistering pace of 12-for-21 (.571) with 2 triples, 1 home run, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 3 SB, 2 K.

The other concern with Aoki was whether his throwing arm would be strong enough to handle center field, let alone right field. While he hasn’t been great in that regard, his arm has seemed accurate enough if sometimes lacking velocity. In other words, he’ll usually need to hit the cutoff man, but at least he’s able to.

All in all, the future appears bright enough that the chance Milwaukee took in importing Aoki should provide some benefits to reap.

As for Aoki’s plans on April 6? We should know soon enough whether Corey Hart will be far enough along in his rehabilitation from meniscus surgery to start in right field on Opening Day. If Hart is a go, Aoki’s name will be announced near the beginning of player introductions (since they are done numerically if you’re not in the starting lineup).

If Hart can’t answer the bell, chances for Aoki look up. If a left-handed starter takes the mound for St. Louis, then it would behoove Roenicke to not start Nyjer Morgan if at all possible, though he still could. However if a right-handed pitcher starts Milwaukee will likely go with Aoki to start the ballgame over the right-handed hitting Carlos Gomez.

But whether he starts on April 6th or not, Aoki is here for at least this year and the next so he’ll get his share of starts at some point.

Bottom line for Aoki though seems to be making sure he stays within his game and what got him to the heights of NPB and subsequently across the Pacific. That will help win games.

And if he helps win games, the Brewers and their fans will be very happy indeed.

Milwaukee Brewers on ESPN Top 500 MLB Players List

ESPN is slowly revealing its list of the best 500 players in baseball, heading into the 2012 season.

This was determined by a team of 34 “experts” (their word) were given a list of the top 600 players projected to play in the Major Leagues this season.

Using a 0-10 scale, they evaluated “only the quality of each player for the 2012 season” which means no past performance should be factored in, though we know that likely won’t be the case.

In the event of ties, ZiPS was used to project performance and therefore break those ties.

I make this post to pull out the Brewers players as they are revealed.

The surveying took place over the last two weeks of February, so I’m very interested to see where Ryan Braun’s final ranking comes in.

Ages listed are as of July 1, 2012.

Without further ado, here are the Brewers that have been revealed to this point on the list:

Rank – Name – Position – Age – Twitter handle (if appicable)

# 6 – Ryan Braun – LF – Age: 28
# 42 – Zack Greinke
– RHP – Age: 29
# 53 – Yovani Gallardo
– RHP – Age: 26
# 84 – John Axford – RHP – Age: 29 – @JohnAxford
# 90 – Rickie Weeks
– 2B – Age: 29
# 130 – Shaun Marcum
– RHP – Age: 30
# 133 – Aramis Ramirez
– 3B – Age: 34
# 144 – Corey Hart
– RF – Age: 30
# 173 – Francisco Rodriguez
– RHP – Age: 30 – @El_kid_rod57
#232 – Randy Wolf
– LHP – Age: 35
# 320 – Alex Gonzalez – SS – Age: 35
# 330 – Jonathan Lucroy – C – Age: 26
# 331 – Nyjer Morgan
 – CF – Age: 31 – @TheRealTPlush
# 362 – Chris Narveson
– LHP – Age: 30 – @sleep_trick
# 458 – Carlos Gomez – CF – Age: 26 – @C_Gomez27
# 461 – Mat Gamel – 1B – Age: 26 – @JMGamel

I will be updating this post daily as more names are announced.

(A cool little bonus to the list is that ESPN is including confirmed Twitter handles for players when they know them, and while they’ve included Chris Narveson’s, they skipped both Gomez’ and Gamel’s. I have included them in this post.)

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #22 Logan Schafer

We’re nearing the three week mark of our countdown to Opening Day. Today is a mere 22 days away from April 6th.

It’s a major sports day on the calendar this year also. The first day of the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament, NBA trade deadline, NFL free agency is in full swing (Mario Williams and Calvin Johnson got HOW much??). Yeah…there’s a lot going on.

But it is today which brings the focus of “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” to an outfield prospect that finally saw time at the big league level this past September:

Logan Schafer.

I interview Logan Edward Schafer for the blog last year, right around this time in fact. Here is a link to that interview. It gives some insights into him, including a self-scouting report and also talks about how he was drafted in three separate years before finally agreeing to a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.

I suggest that you click the link above, read that and then come right back here to finish up this post. It’ll be here when you get back.

I want you to read that because I don’t want to spend time rehashing his injury history and whatnot.

In case you didn’t click, Schafer has been stricken with the injury bug a few times in his minor league career, including suffering a broken thumb last spring.

Once the thumb injury healed, Schafer went on to in play at three levels of the minor leagues, though his nine games at High-A Brevard County would be best described as a rehab assignment. Still, he hit .306 there over 36 at-bats.

In Double-A at Huntsville he posted a .302/.368/.392 line in 189 at-bats over 50 games. At Triple-A for the Nashville Sounds, Schafer put up a .331/.401/.521 line in 169 at-bats spanning 40 games. It was at the Triple-A level where Schafer found his power as well, totaling 20 extra-base hits including hitting five home runs.

As his bat continues to blossom, it’s his defense which (as he told you himself in that interview) has always been his best tool.

In 96 games defensively (all as a center fielder) in 2011, Schafer logged 812.0 innings, and had 241 total chances. He recorded 227 putouts and had 11 assists, including three double plays. Schafer was also involved in a triple play which got him some airtime on the four-letter network’s highlight show. His Range Factor was also the best of his career and clocked in at 2.48.

Schafer uses his 6’1”, 180 pound frame to glide through the outfield with tremendous ease. He is currently 25 years old which means that his peak is definitely right in front of him.

Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin realizes this as well, saying that despite the fact that the Brewers currently have great depth at the centerfield position, he is not going to be trading Schafer. That’s music to the ears of many Brewers fans. It’s also nice to hear that despite having to trade away Lorenzo Cain in the Zack Greinke deal, the team still has a young option that might be able to play every day in the near future.

What’s more, Schafer is hungry to succeed. He played in the Arizona Fall League for the Brewers and hit over .300 again with an OPS of .812 in the desert. He works hard and will continue doing so in order to realize his dream.

As for the beginning of 2012, unless Corey Hart’s surgically-repaired meniscus forces him to begin the season on the disabled list, chances are good the Schafer will head to Nashville to once again fill the starting centerfielder role in order to play every day and stay ready. If Hart doesn’t miss any regular season time, there simply isn’t any room in Milwaukee’s outfield as currently constructed.

Ryan Braun, and the platoon of Nyjer Morgan and Carlos Gomez will start in the outfield alongside Hart, with Norichika Aoki likely being the primary backup at all spots (assuming the Japanese import’s bat gets going by the end of Spring Training).

Schafer, on the other hand, is having a tremendous Spring Training, for what it’s worth. In 18 at-bats prior to today, Schafer has 10 hits including three doubles and two triples. He has scored three runs and driven in three more. He’s also swiped one base while being caught once.

Yes, the future is bright for the native Californian product from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. It just seems that he’s currently in a bit of the situation Mat Gamel has been dealing with for years: no spot to play yet on the 25-man roster.

But as in Gamel’s case, for Schafer it only seems to be a matter of when an opening presents itself as opposed to if it will.

One thing which you can be sure of is that when opportunity comes knocking, Logan Schafer will be ready to walk through the door.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #27 Carlos Gomez

After yesterday’s one day break, in large part because of the Detroit Tigers and Victor Martinez’ knee, “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” returns as we are inside of four weeks until Opening Day!

Just close your eyes and imagine the…wait, bad idea. If you close your eyes you won’t be able to read what I’m describing.

Seriously though, we’re 27 days away from filling Miller Park and the parking lots surrounding it with the sounds, smells, and sights of game day.

I can’t wait.

Unfortunately, we all have to wait those 27 days.

If I had to guess, though, today’s subject will find a way to get there in 26 days because he really just might be able to cover that much ground that fast.

Of course I’m talking about the Brewers’ resident defensive genius:

Carlos Gomez.

The 26-year-old (born: December 4, 1985) native of the Dominican Republic, Carlos Argelis Gomez covers as much ground as anyone while manning the outfield for the Milwaukee Brewers.

How much ground? Well, when he was with the Minnesota Twins a few years ago, it was said that Gomez was the most likely player to catch a fly ball at the foul line from his center field spot.

Care for another example? Just a couple of days ago the Brewers were running pop-up priority drills where the pitching machine would send balls into the air and it was up to the defenders to determine who would make the catch. Brewers third base coach Ed Sedar was running the drill and let Gomez, who was playing right field for the drill, know that the next pop-up was for him.

The ball was purposefully popped up on the infield grass.

Gomez made the catch.

It was actually Gomez incredible range that got him hurt last year, in a manner of speaking. In a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 20th, a ball that most centerfielders would have let bounce in front of them was hit to shallow center. Gomez got close enough to make a diving catch and broke his collarbone in the process. He missed six weeks of action, returning to the majors in September.

Gomez’ play in the field has never been in question during his time in the big leagues. What relegated him to a fairly hard platoon in 2011 was his play at the plate.

He hit .225 for the season (52-for-231) with eight home runs, 24 RBI, and was 16-for-18 on stolen base attempts. However, he also only walked 15 times and struck out 64 times. That resulted in an on-base percentage of only .276 which doesn’t allow Gomez to utilize his speed enough on the bases. As for his slugging percentage of .403 (built with 11 doubles and three triples to go along with the eight homers), it’s nowhere near enough for a guy that believes himself to be capable of being a number three hitter in a big league lineup.

Gomez’ body lends itself to that end. He stands 6’4″ and weighs 210 pounds and when he turns on a pitch and makes solid contact, the baseball gets where it’s going pretty quickly.

The power that is present, however, also betrays Gomez. There are times when it seems that he is staying within himself and driving the ball the other way but then he hits a massive home run and his plate discipline disappears from his at-bats almost as quickly as the ball over the fence.

When you can pull a ball with the authority that Gomez can, pitchers will pound the outside corner both on and just off the plate. It is only by laying off of those pitches or taking them the other way consistently that will force pitchers to come back to the inside when Gomez can then turn on them and unleash his power. Sometimes is feels like Gomez is so amped up at the plate that he simply doesn’t have the patience to force the pitcher into giving him the best pitch to hit.

If he can ever truly reign in his abilities, he’ll be as amazing to watch with a bat in his hands as he is with a glove on one of them.

That hardly means that Gomez is without merit for this team. He is a tremendous defender as I have stated but he can definitely contribute as a pinch-runner and is also dynamic at the plate in bunting situations. He won’t be able to keep a starting job in an outfield over the course of an entire season unless his offense improves. Unfortunately in this day and age of the game, offense is expected from every position on the diamond with the possible exception of catcher if a team is stacked everywhere else.

You don’t have to have a ton of power in center field though, and that’s where Gomez needs to make an adjustment if his goal is to start 150 games. He might be able to increase his batting average and on-base percentage enough to warrant those starts if he alters his approach. The only one that stands in the batters box is Gomez though, so he has to want to do it. The big thing is that he is just entering his prime years from a physical standpoint.

The bottom line right now for Gomez is that he’ll make the team by rolling out of bed each morning but he’ll also likely be back in a platoon with Nyjer Morgan to begin the year. Morgan hit well over .300 last year against right-handed pitching but can’t hit his weight against lefties. Gomez fills those starts which aren’t nearly as often.

The only wrinkle could be the meniscus tear suffered by Corey Hart which Hart had surgery to correct this past Tuesday. If Hart misses time at the beginning of the season then Gomez could possibly start on Opening Day. That will depend on what Manager Ron Roenicke decides to do with the open right-fielder job. Then again, if Hart doesn’t start in RF on Opening Day, it could very well be Japanese import Nori Aoki, a left-handed hitter, who gets the spot start against likely a right-handed pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Regardless, expect plenty of web gems out of Carlos Gomez this season along with the occasional flashing of power at the plate. On those occasions he reaches bases safely via a walk or hit, don’t blink or you might miss him stealing a base.

The bad news is that, like has been said, you can’t steal first base. That’s a shame for Gomez who’d certainly be on much more if he was allowed to.

You can follow Carlos Gomez on Twitter @C_Gomez27.

“Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” Series Will Return

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be reviving my “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” season preview series for the blog. It’s been too long.

In the series I preview Brewers players on the 40-man roster (along with some non-roster invitees too) the same number of days before Opening Day by their uniform number.

For example: Nyjer Morgan wears #2. He therefore gets previewed on April 4 which is two days prior to Opening Day (April 6). Likewise, John Axford who wears #59 will be looked at on February 7, so on and so forth.

I’m looking forward to this and thought it made good sense to bring the series back this year because of all the roster turnover this off-season.

I hope you’ll come along for the ride!

Milwaukee Brewers S.W.A.T. Team Indeed Special

The Milwaukee Brewers have been gaining in both popularity and recognition on a national level due to their superb play as of late. This popularity led the FOX broadcasting network to option games on consecutive Saturdays to become a part of their national broadcasts.

During a pre-taped segment at Miller Park (the game today is part of a three-game series at Citi Field in Flushing, NY) FOX broadcaster Chris Rose discussed various topics with several Brewers players, including one Nyjer Morgan.

 

The story of Tony Plush is one that has not really been tackled by this blog despite my extensive discussion about it on Twitter. I won’t rehash anything here but suffice it to say that Morgan is more than a bit unique. In fact, in the taped segment Prince Fielder agrees with Rose’s assessment of Morgan as “a little crazy”.

The reason for this post is not, however, due to any of Morgan’s actions, hand-gestures, yelling or otherwise. Instead it is being written to expound on something Morgan uttered when he was in the midst of being quizzed on Milwaukee Brewers trivia by Rose.

Rose asked Morgan if he knew what the nickname of the 1982 Brewers offense was. As any Brewers fan with knowledge of the team prior to 2008 would know, it was “Harvey’s Wallbangers”. Morgan didn’t know this, admitted as much, but said that he knows that this group is calling themselves the “SWAT team”.

This could have a simple reference to swatting baseballs with baseball bats but I like to think of it in another way whether Morgan meant it as such or not.

S.W.A.T. is an acronym for specialized police forces around country and elsewhere. S.W.A.T. stands for Special Weapons And Tactics. This a moniker that, quite simply in my estimation, personifies the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers perfectly.

Let’s take that in halves and I’ll show you what I mean.

Special Weapons: The Milwaukee Brewers have plenty of players that can be categorized as “Special Weapons”. Here’s an incomplete list.

  • Ryan Braun: Former Rookie of the Year. Four-time elected All-Star Game starting outfielder. Currently second in the National League in batting average. Leading the NL in runs scored and slugging percentage.
  • Prince Fielder: Youngest player to ever hit 50 home runs in a single season. Two-time elected All-Star Game starting first baseman. Recipient of MVP votes several times. Batting over .300, with 28 HR, 96 RBI. Leading the NL in RBI. Second in the NL in OBP and OPS.
  • Nyjer Morgan: Spark plug that always seems to be in the middle of game-winning situations and game-turning plays. Recently had a double-digit game hitting streak. Getting on-base multiple ways. Keeps the clubhouse loose and keeps everybody relaxed during the grind of the season.
  • John Axford: Second in the National League (and all of MLB) in Saves. Current owner of a 34 consecutive Saves streak. Three pitch arsenal which can all be thrown for strikes. 97-98MPH heat. Outstanding control. Came out of nowhere to take over the closer role from future member of the Hall of Fame, Trevor Hoffman and has converted saves since then at a 92.4% clip.
  • Take your pick of the Starting Pitchers. They are currently on a spectacular run of efficiency and dominance. The only recent hiccup was Randy Wolf’s start on August 20 in New York but otherwise it’s been a tremendous past few weeks. Getting stronger at the right time. Here are a couple of highlights from the new members this year to the Brewers’ rotation.
  • Zack Greinke: 12-4 record. Former AL Cy Young Award winner. Currently 9-0 at Miller Park this season (the team is 11-0 in his home starts). 151-29 K-BB ratio.
  • Shaun Marcum: 11-3 record. 2.47 ERA on the road. .227 opponent batting average. Has played stopper more than a couple of times this year.

Again, that’s an incomplete list because several others could be on it but let’s move ahead to…

Tactics: Under first-year manager Ron Roenicke, the Brewers have employed several tactics that have helped them defeat opponents on a consistent (and lately near constant) basis. Here are a handful of examples.

  • Over-Shifting: The Brewers have shifted a lot this season as a way to help make up for a lack of range amongst three-quarters of their infield. Not only have they shifted against the biggest left-handed hitters by having the shortstop play up the middle or even on the first-base side of second-base, but they’ve also flipped the script and done the opposite against right-handed hitters by having the second baseman play up the middle on several occasions. This has led to many batted balls that would normally be easy hits against a standard defensive alignment to wind up as outs in Fielder’s glove at first.
  • Squeeze Plays: When Roenicke took over he warned everyone that this team would be much more aggressive on the base paths. The result has been mixed at times with the baserunners running into several outs as they tested their own limits or simply miscalculated their odds for success. However one base running tactic that Roenicke has used several times this year with good success has been the suicide squeeze (with its less exciting cousin the safety squeeze sprinkled in as well). There have been a couple of bad examples lately due to missed signs, but they are still employing the tactic.
  • Five-man Infield: Late in games when the opponents have the winning or tying run at third base with less than two outs, Roenicke has made it a habit to head to the mound to talk to his pitcher and infield, and to beckon left fielder Ryan Braun in from his normal spot to fill space on the dirt instead. This has worked more often than it has failed but just the radical idea of trying it makes it a specialized tactic indeed.
  • Strict Platoons: Most contending teams don’t have strict platoons at any position. The Milwaukee Brewers have two. First is the fact that Randy Wolf and starting catcher Jonathan Lucroy haven’t ever been able to get on the same page when it comes to the way Wolf likes to pitch a game. Therefore, Lucroy does not catch Wolf at all. Backup catcher George Kottaras does instead. Wolf feels more comfortable so it makes sense. The other strict platoon is in centerfield. After the plan to begin the season wasn’t effective, Nyjer Morgan began starting against all right-handed pitchers with Carlos Gomez starting against lefties. Once Gomez got hurt coupled with Morgan’s stellar play, many fans were calling for Morgan to start every game. This wouldn’t have been the best option and it wasn’t the option Roenicke went with. Other players have filled the role against lefty starting pitchers and Morgan has continued playing at a high level due to being put in the best position to succeed.

With all of these examples of tactics and weapons, I think it’s pretty clear that whether “T-Dot” intended it or not (and let’s be honest, he probably did), S.W.A.T. is an absolute personification of the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers.

Simply stated it’s another dynamite drop from the silver-tongued Tony Plush, aka Mr.Eezzy Breezzy, aka Mr.Gotta B Startin Somthin, aka Mr.Professional Tony Gumble, aka T-Dot…Nyjer Morgan.

This S.W.A.T. team is highly talented, highly trained, and will take down an opponent with skilled precision and remarkable play.

The National League has been on notice for a while. The nation itself is taking notice as well.

It’s about time.