Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Baseball Second-Guessing . . . Does it Ever Work?

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Folks, as I continue to watch my favorite baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers, stumble out of the gate, I have revisited a few of my baseball blogs from the past week-plus.  Some of the comments I’ve made obviously were insightful — I suggested bringing up Blake Lalli, mostly because we need three catchers if two of them are likely to play due to being short-handed on the infield — but some were clearly not.

I wonder, sometimes, if this is how Brewers manager Ron Roenicke feels.  Roenicke has all sorts of stats available to him that I’m not likely to ever see — even in these days of WAR (Wins Above Replacement), BABIP (Batting Average of Balls in Play), and other esoteric stats — and yet, he, too, can be wrong and get second-guessed.  Frequently.

Now, I’m still not backing off what I said last night about Rickie Weeks.  Weeks has a well-known tendency when in a serious slump to wave at the outside fastball.  He’s done it for years, he’s unlikely to ever change, and because of this, he’s not the world’s best hitter to have up in a clutch situation.

Batting Weeks fourth was possibly the best choice considering the others tried at clean-up since Aramis Ramirez went on the 15-day DL (Alex Gonzalez and Jonathan Lucroy) did not do well.  At least it was a change, and with change comes the possibility for better even if it doesn’t always happen.

My blog last night (the first half of it, anyway) was more about how frustrated I was that Weeks wasn’t pinch-hit for by either Martin Maldonado or Lalli, both of whom were still sitting on the bench.  Maldonado has been an acceptable hitter with some power, while Lalli is a bit of an unknown quantity and might’ve taken St. Louis Cardinals’ closer Mitchell Boggs by surprise.  And either of them could’ve done the same thing as Weeks — struck out on four pitches (the MLB recapper says only three, which I find odd) — but with greater panache.

That is, if panache matters in a 2-0 loss where the Brewers only garnered two hits, one by Nori Aoki in the first and one by Jean Segura in the ninth.

Speaking of Segura, I’m glad his injury wasn’t serious enough to put him on the DL.  I’d called for that when I thought there was absolutely no way the Brewers would bring up another position player except by putting one of their few reasonably healthy ones on the DL; considering how Segura and Aoki are among the few bright spots on the team (Braun is hitting for contact and has a .406 average, though he took “the collar” with an 0-4 with 3 Ks last evening), it would’ve been a shame to shut Segura down.

So that’s a suggestion I made that obviously would’ve been a bad move for the team.  And since I go off all the time about how I don’t understand this, that, or the other move by Roenicke, I may as well admit when a move I’d have made definitely wouldn’t have worked.

And two other suggestions I made — those of bringing Chris Capuano onto the Brewers and putting Chris Narveson back in the starting rotation for the Brewers — obviously won’t work at the moment, either.  Capuano should get several weeks in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ rotation now that former Brewers ace Zack Greinke is on the DL due to an injury to his collarbone sustained in a recent bench-clearing brawl with the San Diego Padres.  (Carlos Quentin, who precipitated that brawl for the Padres, has been given an eight-game suspension.  He’s appealing, so he’s still playing, but eventually he’ll have to sit.)  And Narveson is on the DL with a blister on his pitching hand, so he’s obviously not a candidate for the rotation at this time.

One other suggestion I made requires more thought and far more information — that of sending Wily Peralta back down to AAA ball.  Peralta had a good, solid start against the Cubs on Tuesday evening despite some horrible weather.  But because it was so cold, and no one hit particularly well in that game for either side, it’s possible that Peralta’s performance looked a bit better than it actually was.

Even so, Peralta now has one terrible outing, and one good one.  His ERA remains higher than it should be at 4.50 in twelve innings of work.  I’m not convinced he’s the best answer over time, but he’s probably the best pitcher the Brewers have available unless they want to bring up Hiram Burgos from AAA Nashville.  (Or until Capuano becomes available again down the line, providing “Cappy” can stay healthy.)

The main thing to remember with the Brewers right now, if you’re an ardent fan, is this: it’s still a young season.  Anything can happen, no matter how bad things look right now.  We have had some good pitching from Kyle Lohse and Jim Henderson (with relievers Figaro, Gorzelanny and even Gonzalez looking better every game) and some good hitting from Aoki, Segura, and Ryan Braun.  Alex Gonzalez’s fielding all over the infield has been solid.  Yuniesky Betancourt hasn’t been bad, especially considering he was a very late signee and had no Spring Training with the club.  And so far, Maldonado has continued his hitting ways, as in a limited sample (four games), he’s hitting .286 thus far.

So it’s not hopeless.

Just remember, fellow fans, that it’s much easier for us to second-guess.  I don’t often say something like this, because it is blindingly obvious, but here goes: Since we’re not there in the clubhouse, and we don’t know who has what nagging injury to deal with, or who may have come in hung over that might temporarily be in Roenicke’s doghouse for good reason, or who has the flu and can suit up to make things look good on the bench but can’t really play, we don’t have all the facts most of the time.

All of that said: I’d still have put in Maldonado, or maybe Lalli, to pinch-hit for Weeks last night.  (I stand by that and will stick to it.)  Though they are at least playing today — Maldonado’s catching for Yovani Gallardo, and Lalli is about to make his first-ever big-league start at first base — so maybe they’ll spark the Brewers to a big win.

Here’s hoping.

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