Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Ken Macha out as Brewers manager; more on Brewers.

with 4 comments

The Milwaukee Brewers, who finished with a 77-85 record, fired manager Ken Macha today by the simple expedient of not picking up his option for next season.  Macha said here (http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports/104276948.html):

“Nobody likes to be let go, but I understand baseball, too,” Macha said. “I’ve been around a long time and been through this stuff. I told (Melvin) this Milwaukee experience for me was tremendous.

“It’s too bad we didn’t win more games, but I appreciate him bringing me here. … The expectations were to put up more wins and we didn’t do that. That’s the game.”

Macha’s words were classy, especially as he found out he’d been fired last evening via the media rather than by his good friend, Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin.  Macha continued:

“When you sit down and build your club … you really got to compare your club to the other teams that have won,” Macha said. “How do we stack up with say St. Louis? We signed Randy Wolf and LaTroy Hawkins. … Yeah we filled some holes, but are we on the same level with (Chris) Carpenter and (Adam) Wainright? So maybe the expectations were a little high but you still have to win.

“We lacked that No. 1 guy going out there. That’s my thoughts. If you could put someone at the top (of the rotation) and move everybody else down, you’d give yourself a much better chance to win.”

Now, this is something I, as a fan of the Brewers, said all year long.  Yovani Gallardo is not an ace.  He is a good pitcher and would probably be just fine as the second pitcher on the Brewers staff, but he is no ace.  And Randy Wolf, who’s a fine number three pitcher, has too much pressure on him as a number two pitcher — all of those roles, ace, number two pitcher, number three pitcher, are clearly defined now in major league baseball, and the ace of the staff is expected to be the guy who shuts down the opposition no matter what’s been happening with the rest of the club.  (In other words, if the Brewers had lost six or seven in a row and Gallardo’s turn was up, he was expected to keep the other team in check while he was out there and get the Brewers a better chance to win thereby.  Gallardo can do this, but he mostly doesn’t — that’s why he’d be better as the number two pitcher on the staff because he’d have far less pressure on him thereby.)

Going on in Anthony Witrado’s blog from today’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Macha also acknowledged his trying relationships with stars Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder while noting that several other players he had good relationships with thanked him after yesterday’s season finale, including Corey Hart, Casey McGehee and Wolf among plenty of others.

Skipping ahead in the blog:

“If the effort wasn’t reciprocated, then there’s not a whole lot I can do about it. You can’t force guys to do that,” Macha said. “Some guys were open to discussion and some guys weren’t, I guess, but that’s the same with every club.

“I talked a lot to Ryan, almost every day, but he does his own thing. He’s going to do what he wants to do.

“With Prince, I think he had some issues this year to deal with, the contract probably being the main thing, and at times he was hard to talk to. I don’t know if there were any guys on the staff that talked a whole lot to him this year.

“Those are the two guys, but the rest of the guys it was all positive. I opened up to (Braun and Fielder) but you have to have a back and forth. The faces of the franchise, that’s what they are.”

After reading all this, while I remain convinced Ken Macha was always the wrong man for this job, I feel rather sorry for him.  I’ve been in positions where I came into a job and wasn’t really given a chance, and it sounds like that’s exactly what happened between Macha and Brewers’ stars Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, who were both extremely angry after Ned Yost was fired in 2008 with only twelve games remaining in the season.  (For the record, I was, too.  I liked Yost a great deal.)

Macha had nothing to do with Ned Yost’s firing whatsoever, but I think because he was known to be such good friends with Brewers GM Doug Melvin, those two players in particular never gave Macha much of a chance.  But what really surprises me is that apparently no one could reach Fielder this year — which explains Fielder’s extremely poor year, where he dropped in home runs from 46 to 31, dropped in RBI from 141 to 83, and dropped in batting average from .299 to .261.  Fielder is the Brewers clean-up hitter, yet he had the fewest RBI of anyone who batted in the top five of the Brewers batting order, as you’ll see by this quick list:

Brewers RBI leaders:

Casey McGehee, 104 (bats fifth) — .285 BA, 23 HR, .464 slugging percentage

Ryan Braun, 103 (bats third) — .304 BA (led team), 25 HR, .501 slugging percentage, .365 on base percentage

Corey Hart, 102 (bats second) — .280 BA, 31 HR (8th in league), .525 slugging percentage (led team)

Rickie Weeks, 83 (bats first) — .269 BA, 29 HR, 184 strikeouts (led team), .366 on base percentage

Prince Fielder, 83 (bats fourth) — .261 BA, 32 HR (sixth in league), .401 on base percentage (led team), 114 walks (led team)

Now that you’ve seen that list, here’s some more information.  Corey Hart started the season on the bench because he’d had a horrible Spring Training; he played so well Macha had to play Hart, and eventually Hart not only made the National League All-Star team, he took part in the Home Run Derby as he was among the league leaders in home runs at that time.  Corey Hart finished with career highs in home runs and RBI and greatly improved his defensive play in right field; pretty good for a guy who started out on the bench, eh?

Then there’s Casey McGehee, who in his second full season led the team in RBI.  McGehee is a third baseman who was an older-than-average rookie last year that GM Doug Melvin picked up prior to 2009 — McGehee had been buried in the farm system of the Chicago Cubs, but was a good, solid hitter and Melvin knew it.  Signing McGehee, who started 2009 on the bench and eventually became the starting third baseman, then continued on in that role in 2010, was probably one of Melvin’s best — and most unheralded — moves of the past two years.

The other three guys — Weeks, Braun and Fielder — were all expected to do well.  But Weeks, in the past, had trouble staying healthy due to problems with his wrists that required operations; that he finished a whole season credibly, improved his defense, and led all major league lead-off men in RBI was impressive.  Braun got hit on the hand by a fastball thrown by Braves pitcher Tommy Hanson early in the season, had a huge dip in all batting stats during the summer, but rallied to have his usual excellent year in RBI, batting average and on base percentage (this includes hits, walks, and getting on base via errors).  It was only Fielder who had a rotten year, especially by his standards — and as Macha said, that’s probably due to contractual reasons as Fielder is eligible next year for arbitration, then is a free agent, so for the moment does not have financial stability assured.  (That Fielder is a client of hard-nosed agent Scott Boras is another concern, but of course Macha would never mention that even though everyone knows it’s part of the problem.  The Brewers offered Fielder $100 million for five years — $20 million a year — but Boras said that wasn’t enough.  That didn’t go over well with Brewers fans at all, though no one blamed Fielder, a bluff, genial, good-hearted man, for Boras’s actions even though Boras works for Fielder, not the reverse.)

Since this will probably be my final blog about the Brewers for a while, I may as well give my end of the season awards now.

Brewers Most Valuable Player: Corey Hart (Casey McGehee, second) — this is because when the Brewers still had a shot to get back in the pennant race and everyone else slumped, Hart carried the team through much of May and June.

Rookie of the Year: John Axford, who took over the closing job from Trevor Hoffman and never looked back, going 8-2 with a 2.48 ERA, and saving 24 out of 27 games.

Brewers Most Valuable Pitcher: John Axford.

Comeback Player of the Year: Chris Capuano — Capuano’s stats of 4-4 with a 3.95 ERA in 24 appearances (and nine starts) are a little misleading, though they’re perfectly fine.  As it stands, “Cappy” is the first player to effectively pitch in the major leagues after a second “Tommy John” ligament replacement surgery on his pitching arm.  He also is a study in perseverence, as his second comeback required nearly two full years of rehabilitation.  Capuano deserves serious consideration as major league comeback player of the year.

The Brewers had many good players who had fine years for them in 2010; they just did not jell as a team.  Here’s hoping that next year, the Brewers will be much better and give the fans a great deal more excitement overall.

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Excellent summary of the season, Barb. Why isn’t ESPN calling you? 😉

    Let’s hope Melvin’s off-season is better than last year’s. Great point about McGehee — I didn’t even realize that Melvin had anything to do with that one.

    Connie

    October 6, 2010 at 8:44 am

  2. Thanks, Con. I try. 😉 And I don’t know what it is about ESPN; they don’t return my calls, that’s all I know. 0;-)

    Yeah, some of Melvin’s best moves were the quiet ones — signing Loe and Cappy to minor league deals, signing McGehee, those were important keys to the season. Just having those three guys kept the Brewers from being much, much worse. (Not that this should be enough to judge a GM by, but it at least balances the misfires Melvin’s obviously had with some successes.)

    Barb Caffrey

    October 6, 2010 at 8:06 pm

  3. Very interesting analysis, Barb.
    You might also have mentioned their Runs Scored:
    McGehee 70, Braun 101, Hart 91, Weeks 112, Fielder 94.

    John Axford, eh?

    HTB

    H T Baseballfan

    October 13, 2010 at 11:39 am

    • Yes. Weeks had a great year for runs scored; really he needs to learn how to take a walk now and again, but he’s really good at scoring runs. He and Fielder were the top two in getting hit by pitches this year, too . . . I just had to stop somewhere with quoting stats, so I decided against mentioning runs scored as other than Weeks, no one hit the top ten in that category on the Brewers. (I’m not sure Weeks hit the top ten, either, but he was close if he didn’t. The stats changed markedly in the last two weeks as Weeks was in a pretty bad slump toward the end of the season. His average dipped from the near .280 it had been since June, too.)

      Yeah. Axford was the most consistent pitcher the Brewers had. Wolf had a good last third. Gallardo had a good first half, which is why he got named to the All-Star game. But only Axford had a good _full year_, and my goodness, Axford is a rookie!

      Barb Caffrey

      October 13, 2010 at 8:28 pm


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: