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.
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.
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.
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.
We’re a lucky 13 days away from Opening Day 2012.
(First of all, Happy 30th Birthday, Corey Hart!)
Moreover, it’s the second-to-last weekend without regular season baseball for the next six months.
Please excuse me for a moment while I reread that sentence, smile and exhale contently.
Where were we?
Toward the end of the 2010 season, the writing seemed to be on the walls at Miller Park.
The Brewers were limping to a 77-85 record and a third-place finish in the National League Central.
Littering the roster were players the likes of Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, Doug Davis, Jody Gerut, Chris Smith, Adam Stern, Joe Inglett (knuckleball notwithstanding), and other players that have at best moved on to a different team and at worst are now out of the game altogether. Wasting space on the bench along side them was manager Ken Macha too.
And arguably the team’s best player received a standing ovation in his final home game because fans realized that what made the most sense for the future was probably sending Prince Fielder to a different team in order to get some return for him before he would inevitably leave town after the 2011 season anyway.
In short, the system was no longer working in Cream City, though you could argue that perhaps it never had because no World Series title had come home. All offense and minimal pitching wasn’t getting the job done. It was time for a change.
That change came by way of two off-season trades to acquire starting pitching. One was already discussed five days ago when we previewed #18 Shaun Marcum.
The other shall be discussed now because he wears #13. His name is:
It was nearing Christmas in 2010 and Brewers fans were happily examining Shaun Marcum’s career statistics and wondering how he would perform following Yovani Gallardo as the number two in the starting rotation.
Then, all of a sudden, an acquaintance of mine started tweeting one night about another trade that he had caught wind of. If it went down, it would change the game in the NL Central. If it came off, it would turn the division on its ear.
Needless to say, it went down.
Doug Melvin sent four young, talented ballplayers to the Kansas City Royals as a return for one “shortstop” and one Donald Zackary Greinke.
A former Cy Young Award winner coming to Milwaukee? That reminded a lot of people of the 2008 acquisition of CC Sabathia. That led to a playoff appearance. That was a good thing.
We all know now that 2011 ended with a trip to the NLCS, but it didn’t quite start out so happily.
Pitchers and Catchers reported to Spring Training in 2011 to expectations and hope among fans. Fielder was not traded, Greinke and Marcum were on the mound, John Axford was ready to slam the door on nearly any game with a late and close lead…in short, optimism abounded.
Then news began trickling out about a pickup basketball game, a hard fall, and a cracked rib.
The newly-acquired ace was shelved. He wouldn’t be with the team on Opening Day. He wouldn’t make a start in the entire month of April or maybe more. How would the team survive?
Greinke’s first start was on May 4 in Atlanta against the Braves. Greinke lost that start, only going four innings and allowing five runs (four earned).
Well, then worry turned to panic for some.
The team was 13-17 after Greinke’s first start. The cries were roughly the same. They gave up too much for this injury-prone bum. This guy can’t pitch even though he is “healthy”. They’re paying him how much to pitch this poorly?
Greinke won four of his next five starts, but allowed 16 earned runs over 30 innings.
The sky was officially falling.
“Maybe we can trade him.” “What a bum!” “Cy Yuck!”
It’s like it was “Jump to Conclusions Mat” night at Miller Park.
The only thing keeping the critics somewhat at bay was that by the end of May the team was 30-25 overall. In fact, from the first game Greinke pitched through the end of the season, the team played 33 games over .500 baseball.
Something about getting that piece back in the rotation calmed this team down. It helped Marcum, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson all perform better by way of bumping them to lesser opponents. It helped challenge Gallardo to be at his best each and every time out.
Greinke made everybody around him better. That’s an incredibly difficult thing to do in a sport like baseball. You are so self-reliant at times in this particular team game. Every at-bat is a one-on-one battle until wood hits leather, and even then there’s usually something that prevents a defender from being involved. Foul balls into the stands, home runs, come-backers…there’s a lot of aspects of the individual battle inside of the team sport.
But somehow Greinke had that effect.
He had an 11-0 record at Miller Park in 15 starts. His peripherals were solid despite some of the traditional stats not looking as good.
There is a statistic called xFIP which stands for expected fielding-independent pitching. To put it crudely, it measures what a pitcher’s ERA would be if the defense wasn’t a factor. Greinke’s was a 2.56 which was the best mark in baseball. (Gallardo, for the record, was tenth in all of baseball with a 3.19 xFIP.)
Greinke finished the season with a 16-6 record, 3.83 ERA, having allowed 161 hits and 45 walks (1.20 WHIP), 82 runs (73 earned), an opponents’ batting average of .245 and recording 201 strikeouts…in just 171.2 innings pitched over 28 starts. Yeah, 201 strikeouts after missing an entire month of starts.
Greinke wasn’t very good on the road, and he struggled in the playoffs, but those things (and perhaps the looming visage of free agency on the horizon) have made Greinke hungry though. He has spent Spring Training 2012 healthy which has allowed him to find a delivery which increases his control without sacrificing velocity. He’s also working on a new pitch.
A guy who struck out 201 and only walked 45 feels that he’ll have better command in 2012. He’s also put a cut fastball in his repertoire for the new season. In his most recent start of this writing, Greinke threw 76 pitches, over twenty of which were cutters. The results speak for themselves: 5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K.
Do you think he’s ready for the season to begin? So does Ron Roenicke.
There has been talk this spring about a possible contract extension between Greinke and the Brewers. I, myself, reported on initial contact to that end happening last December during the Winter Meetings.
If the 2012 Cactus League is any indication, it would certainly behoove the Brewers to lock Greinke up sooner rather than later. If he has a season that lives up to his 2011 peripherals while having the traditional stats more in line with his ace persona…it could cost the Brewers a pretty penny to retain his services.
Working in Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio’s favor is that Greinke has praised them both in the media throughout the tenure of his employment in Milwaukee. He is allowed to scratch his itches, like attending a college baseball game to scout a player, for example. Milwaukee understands his social anxiety and allows Greinke to excuse himself from long meetings to take a quick mental break before getting back to work.
The environment has been wonderful for Greinke, and we fans are a big part of that. He loves playing in front of us and the support we show him is paramount in the Brewers’ attempts to retain his services.
In short, one more time, this relationship has been wonderful to this point and could very likely be wonderful for a few more years at least if a deal can be struck.
Greinke is working without an agent, though news came out today that he’s been consulting with Ryan Braun on some pitching comps as far as contracts that have been signed. No telling if anything will come of it, but at least for now it appears to be all positive.
For the Milwaukee Brewers to continue competing in the window which they’ve opened for themselves, quality pitching is a must. And when that quality is of such a high level and is already in town…
Well, it just goes to show you how important these negotiations are…assuming the sides are even actively talking at this point.
Short-term, however, and as a matter of opinion, 2012 is looking like an amazing opportunity for the Milwaukee Brewers to not only repeat at NL Central Champions, but also to possibly advance at least one more step into the World Series.
Once you’re in, anything can happen.
And should Greinke decides to stay in a Brewers uniform beyond 2012, anything might be possible over the length of that deal.
In short, as fans we should be so lucky.
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.)
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.
This installment in “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” marks the halfway point in the series.
I have written 23 parts, this is the 24th and I have 23 more to go before Opening Day.
It’s truly a labor of love.
That’s also what game of baseball at a professional level can be for many players. The passion is there but the breaks never go their way. The mind is willing but the flesh is weak. The body endures but the mind plays tricks.
It has been a career of miscommunication between body and mind for today’s subject:
The 2004 First-Year Player Draft has produced a member of the Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation. That starting pitcher, Yovani Gallardo, was drafted in the second round that year. The person drafted in the first round was Mark Elliot Rogers.
Drafted out of high school with the 5th overall pick in the draft, Rogers was described by Baseball America with the following scouting report:
“His fastball was so dominant against weak competition in Maine this spring that he struck out 99 in his first 38 innings, while allowing just three hits. Rogers’ lean, athletic build with room to fill out and get stronger. His fastball generally sits in the 90-95 mph range, with natural, hard running action and occasional bore. Rogers’ hammer curve has solid rotation with three-quarter break and excellent depth for his arm slot. He projects as a No. 2 or 3 starter.”
The problem with projections is that they can all be rendered moot without health; and Rogers simply has been unable to stay healthy.
Rogers first began to feel shoulder discomfort while pitching for the High-A affiliate at Brevard County in 2007. The subsequent off-season saw Rogers undergo shoulder surgery to repair a frayed labrum. Rogers still wasn’t healthy, however, and required a second surgery in 2008 to cleanup scar tissue around the site of the original surgery.
That second surgery had been put off for a while in part because Rogers was worried about needing a second surgery on the same injury. He may have felt his career was on the line. Fortunately the second surgery was a success and Rogers was finally able to begin to throw pain-free once his rehab was completed.
Rogers spent 2009 under a very restricted workload once again at Brevard County. He also threw in the Arizona Fall League after the regular season.
The next year began for Rogers in Huntsville at Double-A (he made one spot-start for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds during the year) and actually ended with Rogers’ big league debut. A far cry from missing two seasons of development.
Rogers pitched in four games for the Brewers, including two starts. His results were pretty good but the accomplishment of making it there at all should be the focus.
Now, finally, let’s take a look at Rogers 2011 season.
Following the trades for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, Rogers was resigned to begin the season in the minor leagues. An infamous pick-up game of basketball opened the door to a big league job.
Along with Amaury Rivas, Wily Peralta and, ultimately, Marco Estrada, Rogers’ spring all of a sudden became about possibly heading north on the 25-man roster.
Any guesses as to what cost Rogers the opportunity that Estrada turned into a season-long MLB job? If you guessed “injury” you’ve been paying attention.
Rogers’ Spring Training was slowed by shoulder stiffness early in camp so he wasn’t ready to go by the time the team needed a fill-in. Rogers began the season in the minors after all, but that wasn’t the worst of what would happen in 2011.
After that early shoulder stiffness, Rogers ended up battling dual carpal tunnel syndrome which would eventually require surgery to fix.
What else could go wrong, right? How about a 25-game suspension for using a banned stimulant?
Rogers has addressed the situation this spring saying: “I felt stupid. Obviously, I regret what happened, but it falls on nobody’s shoulders but my own. I’m paying the penalty for it.”
He also explained that he was trying anything to salvage his season saying that “I took a supplement that wasn’t [approved]. I was surprised to get that phone call. But it’s definitely my fault. I take full responsibility for everything I put in my body, and I let that lapse.”
2012 was looking like it could be the end of Rogers’ time with the Brewers. Normally he’d have been out of minor league options to begin the year. However, with all the injuries and missed time, the Brewers petitioned the league for an additional option which was granted last fall.
What that means is that even though (and especially because) there aren’t any openings in the big league rotation this year, Rogers gets another season in the minors to hopefully stay healthy and refine his game so that when up to four jobs are available next spring, Rogers has the chance to compete and win one.
Rogers still has 6 games of his suspension left to serve, but should hopefully hit the ground running (or would that be hit the mound pitching?) once he’s allowed to.
In other words, Rogers needs to finally have lady luck turn in his favor in his professional career. He feels “significantly different” in his wrists and expects his command to rebound as a result.
Believe me when I say that as Brewers fans we’re breaking out the four-leafed clovers and rabbits feet.
We’re inside six weeks, faithful (or first-time) readers. If you look to the right-hand side of the page, and are reading this on the day it was first posted, you’ll also notice that we’re a week away from on-field action against another team.
It’s an exciting time of the year to be sure. One where, in a normal set of meteorological circumstances, we’d be talking more about the trading of the seasons from winter to spring.
Do you see what I did there?
One off-season removed from the trading which brought us Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, today “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” profiles the only trade acquisition this current off-season:
Acquired in exchange for 3B Casey McGehee back in December, Jose Enger Veras was recently described on Twitter by Brewers beat writer Adam McCalvy as “gigantic” when he reported to Maryvale for the start of Brewers Spring Training. In the tradition of reporting that a player has reported to camp in the “best shape of his life”, the term was met with some worry by those that read it. McCalvy clarified that he simply meant that Veras, who stands 6’6″ and is listed at 240 pounds, is every bit of human that his bio suggests.
Veras, 31, pitched exclusively out of the bullpen last year for the Pittsburgh Pirates (as he has throughout his professional career) where he posted a line of 2-4, 3.80 ERA, 71.0 IP, 54 H, 32 R (30 ER), 6 HR, 34 BB, 3 IBB, 79 K. He held opponents to a .206 batting average, and his WHIP totaled 1.24 for the year. He was 1-for-8 in Save opportunities for the Pirates, and hasn’t saved a game since 2007 when he was 2-f0r-2 for the New York Yankees. In other words, neither incumbent closer John Axford, nor incumbent setup man Francisco Rodriguez need worry about their jobs.
That isn’t to say that Veras doesn’t have late-inning value. He was the primary setup man for Pirate closer Joel Hanrahan and appeared in 79 games. His talents and level of ability definitely fit better in the 7th inning, which for the record is where the Pirates would’ve pitched Veras in 2011 had Evan Meek been healthy the entire season. The 7th inning just so happens to be a spot where the Brewers have an opening (actually, two) created by the free-agent departures of LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito.
It’s extremely early in the process to determine anything definitively, but if camp broke today and the Brewers faced the Cardinals tomorrow and the starter could only make it through six…it would be a safe bet that Jose Veras would get the ball first in a close game where the Brewers had the lead.
Veras features a big fastball (range: 92 MPH – 97 MPH with a 94.1 MPH average velocity), curve ball (range: 75 MPH – 82 MPH, average: 78.6 MPH), and split-fingered fastball (80-86 range, 83.8 average).
He is a strikeout pitcher, as evidenced by his 79 strikeouts in 71.0 innings last year and his career 249 strikeouts in 247.1 innings pitched. When batters put the ball in play against him, the ball tends to head skyward. His career ground-out-to-fly-out ratio is 0.81 and was actually 0.68 in 2011.
Bottom line: He’ll contribute positively much more often than not, but like any relief pitcher is prone to give up runs in bunches. In the 19 appearances in which Veras allowed runs to score on his record, he allowed multiple runs nine times. To put it another way, he seems to be a very on or very off pitcher (just based on hard numbers), so it will be part of manager Ron Roenicke’s job with the help of bullpen coach Stan Kyles, to make sure they can identify the days when they might be getting an off Veras.
Day three of this (possible) eight day run is here as we are an even 50 days away from Opening Day.
Picking out the man who wears number 50 on his back for the Milwaukee Brewers might seem a little like finding the right car at the dealership. Many choices to be sure, but there’s just something about this particular model that makes it stand out.
In this case, those conspicuous features include a bald head, lean body, and most notably a 6’8″ frame.
Of course I can be referring to none other than right-handed relief pitcher:
I’ve been including a picture of each player as I’ve gone through this series, but briefly considered simply putting a picture of the lightning rod in this space and then just including Loe’s picture later in the piece.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Nobody attracted more heat throughout the year on a Brewers’ mound than did Loe.
Loe pitched in parts of five seasons with the Texas Rangers before spending 2009 pitching professionally in Japan. The Brewers lured him back in 2010 so the upcoming season will be his third with Milwaukee.
Sure, Zack Greinke caught heat for his basketball escapades, and Shaun Marcum had his struggles late in the year, but deservedly or not Kameron David Loe caught heat early, often and consistently throughout 2011.
Loe’s 2011 season consisted of 72 appearances in which Loe totaled 72.0 innings pitched, a 3.50 ERA, 65 hits allowed, 30 runs allowed (28 earned), 4 home runs, 18 walks (two of which were intentional), and 61 strikeouts. He also hit two batters. Loe tallied one save and posted a record of 4-7.
He did appear in five games in the 2011 postseason, pitching twice against Arizona and thrice opposing St. Louis. The Cardinals put the only dents into Loe’s ERA by tagging him for four earned runs in Game 2 of the NLCS on October 10, a game which St. Louis won 12-3.
In three of Loe’s appearances he gave up at least three earned runs. Those three appearances combined for 12 earned runs in only 1.1 innings pitched. They were ugly outings and you can’t discount them when analyzing Loe’s season, but to fly off on the other end of the spectrum and try to claim that Loe was terrible more often than not or that he couldn’t ever get anybody out would be just as foolish.
Loe made 54 scoreless appearances and seemed to give up runs in appearances which were bunched together, though not always consecutively. What that means is probably a whole lot of nothing, but the facts remain.
Following the injury to Takashi Saito and kid-gloves approach the Brewers used with LaTroy Hawkins through much of the year, Loe was forced into working a lot of situations he normally wouldn’t have been called upon for. He was pitching to left-handed hitters in high-leverage situations. He was pitching in close and late situations. It cost him and the team.
If you’ve been a faithful reader of the series, you may recall that I mentioned in the Francisco Rodriguez article how when the Brewers acquired K-Rod their bullpen had already lost 20 games. Well, seven of those were Loe’s. To point out another thing, Loe wasn’t the pitcher of record in a loss once Rodriguez was acquired. As the back-end of the bullpen got filled out throughout the year, Loe was able to pitch in situations more suited for his skill level and abilities.
In an ideal world, Loe wouldn’t have to pitch to a left-handed hitter ever. He also would be used situationally in either early bullpen work for full innings for possibly 7th inning work when the match up at the plate works in his favor or the situation dictates a certain kind of pitcher being needed.
The reality of the baseball life is that Loe will be called upon in situations that are, for lack of a better phrase, above his pay grade. So long as those behind him in the bullpen repeat their solid seasons and allow Loe to pitch to his strengths, I expect that Loe will have an even better ratio of quality appearances to awful ones.
Loe’s ratio of ground ball outs to outs recorded in the air was an impressive 2.77 in 2011. That’s aided by the number one pitch in Loe’s repertoire: a sinker which he throws between 88-90 MPH. According to Pitch F/X information, he threw his sinker 78.6 percent of the time in 2011. He secondary pitch was a slider thrown with an average velocity of 79.4 MPH. He threw a handful of change ups but nothing worth noting. Interesting to note is that Pitch F/X said that Loe didn’t throw a straight fastball all season.
The sinker had pretty good movement, breaking down and in to right-handers, and the slider moves enough to where it can be a fair compliment to the sinker. As that 2.77 GO/AO ratio points out, though, the sinker is Loe’s main weapon.
Loe was eligible for salary arbitration this offseason and settled with Milwaukee at a figure of $2.175 million.
With the departure of Hawkins and Saito in free agency, Loe’s veteran leadership will be a welcomed presence. With the addition of Jose Veras via trade, Loe should primarily pitch in those controlled situations which I outlined earlier.
Put it all together and the result will hopefully be a positive contribution to Milwaukee’s efforts to repeat as NL Central Division Champions and take the next step or two in 2012.
Three of the last four days in our player preview countdown to Opening Day have been lost to Brewers coaches. Yesterday’s culprit was bullpen coach Stan Kyles who wears #53 when in uniform.
Today however, and for the next seven days following today, a player wears the number in question. That would make it eight straight for “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers”, a stretch which shall not be broken this year and which is only duplicated once, but this stretch includes a non-roster invitee to Spring Training who I’m still debating on whether to profile. Unless I hear an outcry of want, that player, Juan Perez who was assigned #46 when the Brewers acquired him, probably won’t be previewed.
I won’t be holding my breath while waiting for his fan base to cry out in support, but I still haven’t officially made up my mind. After all, I strive to preview players on the 40-man roster and/or those who could contribute to the 25-man roster at some point in 2012. The only thing working in Perez’ favor is his handedness.
But enough about those other members of the Brewers organization; as it is 52 days until Opening Day, we are here today to discuss the player who wears 52:
Working as a starting pitcher for each of 23 appearances in 2011 as a member of the Double-A Huntsville Stars, Cody Michael Payne Scarpetta posted a season linescore of 8-5, 3.85 ERA, 100 H, 61 R (50 ER), 8 HR, 61 BB, 98 K, 1.38 WHIP over 117.0 innings pitched. He held opponents to a .234 batting average.
Scarpetta’s play in the first half of the minor league season earned him a reward of sorts. With a bit of an overworked bullpen just before the Major League All-Star Game break, Milwaukee officially optioned Mat Gamel back to the minor leagues on July 10, 2011 and called up Scarpetta for a game that same night against the Cincinnati Reds.
With the game tightly contested the entire way (eventually won by the Brewers with a bottom of the ninth walk-off from Craig Counsell), Scarpetta didn’t enter the game and therefore has no official Major League career to speak of yet. The fact remains that Scarpetta was in uniform for the game and no doubt learned plenty from his 24-hour tour of Milwaukee.
The level of performance that earned him that one-day callup would not carry over to the 2011 Arizona Fall League where, in five appearances (four starts) as a member of the Peoria Javelinas, Scarpetta lost three games and allowed 16 earned runs on 13 walks and 14 hits, two of which were home runs, in just 7.1 innings pitched. That was bad for an ERA of 19.64 and a WHIP of 3.68!
Small sample size or not, and regardless of the fact that the AFL is littered with on-the-cusp talent, it’s clear that Scarpetta simply didn’t have much of anything to offer in Arizona. The future remains bright enough for Scarpetta, though, and he likely could contribute out of the bullpen if needed in 2012.
For a look at how he got to this point, let’s go back and review Scarpetta’s early years as a professional.
Scarpetta was originally drafted in the 11th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft out of Guilford High School and forewent a commitment to Creighton University to sign with the Brewers organization. In an odd circumstance, Scarpetta (who is still only 23 years old today) had his original deal voided because of an injury and when the team resigned him it was forced to add him to the 40-man roster at the end of the same year (2008) or risk losing him to the Rule V Draft.
What that also means is that Scarpetta’s minor league options began having to be used up immediately to keep him in the system beginning with the 2009 season. Normally a player has three options but with the unique circumstances of Scarpetta’s situation, the league granted a fourth minor league option to the Brewers on Scarpetta therefore allowing them to stash him in the minors for one more year before doing so would require exposing him to waivers first.
As you can surmise, 2012 will be an important year in Scarpetta’s development as his final minor league option will be used.
Scarpetta will be working on a fastball that’s already been described as “very good” and sits in the low 90s, a plus curveball that was described as “the best in the system” by Baseball America prior to the 2011 season and a changeup which, while improved, is still developing. He’ll need all three of those pitches to profile well if he’s to get a legitimate shot at joining a Brewers rotation that could, technically, have four openings in 2013. As it stands today, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum will both be free agents at the end of 2012, Randy Wolf could become of a free agent if the Brewers decline their 2013 option and Chris Narveson becomes arbitration-eligible prior to the 2013 season which could always lead to a non-tender if Narveson doesn’t perform well enough this year.
Preparing for that final step, Scarpetta will take the next step in 2012 by most likely beginning the year in the rotation for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. If he doesn’t start in Triple-A, he’ll likely be one of the first looks for an early-season promotion thereto.
To be successful at the highest minor league level, Scarpetta will have to overcome the command and delivery issues that have some baseball people saying that his best (or possibly only) path to the majors is a complete dedication to the bullpen. It’s been said that Scarpetta has “enough stuff” to start, but you have to be able to control that stuff to be successful at starting.
Listed at 6’3” and 244 pounds, Scarpetta has good size and a build that should hold up well throughout a season regardless as to his eventual role. Naturally everyone in Milwaukee hopes Scarpetta can be an effective contributor in the rotation, but again it remains to be seen if he’s got those kinds of chops.
With pitchers and catchers set to officially report to Spring Training in just five days, and all the uncertainty beginning in 2013 both individually and with the big league pitching staff, the most important season so far in Cody Scarpetta’s career is about to get underway.
What he does with it could make all the difference.
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.
By: Big Rygg
- Yovani Gallardo
- Shaun Marcum
- Randy Wolf
- Chris Narveson
- John Axford
- Takashi Saito
- Kameron Loe
- Sean Green
- Zach Braddock
- Mitch Stetter
- Sergio Mitre
- Brandon Kintzler
- George Kottaras
- Wil Nieves
- 1B – Prince Fielder
- 2B – Rickie Weeks
- SS – Yuniesky Betancourt
- 3B – Casey McGehee
- Bench – Craig Counsell
- Bench – Erick Almonte
- LF – Ryan Braun
- CF – Carlos Gomez
- RF – Mark Kotsay
- Bench – Jeremy Reed
- Bench – Nyjer Morgan