Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Brewers manager Ron Roenicke

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.

Brewers Sweep Reds — Then Lose to Astros. Huh?

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I have been puzzled by many things when it comes to the 2012 edition of the Milwaukee Brewers.  Why Brewers manager Ron Roenicke and Brewers pitching coach Rick Kranitz continue to have jobs is definitely at the top of the list.

The Brewers had a three-game homestand on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday against the best team in the National League — the Cincinnati Reds.  And what do you know?  The Brewers swept them.

Now, as to why I didn’t say anything about it?  I was hoping to write something tonight about the Brewers now having a four-game winning streak, and I didn’t want to jinx it.

Anyway, the Brewers were doing well against the Houston Astros in the top of the eighth inning, as they were leading, 3-1, in Houston after a nifty start by Brewers rookie starting pitcher Mark Rodgers.  However, Houston scored a run against Brewers reliever Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez in the bottom of the eighth, which made the game 3-2.

The Brewers ninth came and went, so it was up to Brewers relief pitcher John Axford to close out the 3-2 win.  However, Axford was wild; worse, Axford couldn’t seem to throw strikes.  And because of this, Axford ended up first blowing the save, as the Astros tied it up, 3-3; then, Axford also lost the game, as the Astros scored the winning run, 4-3.

Rodgers’ winning effort goes for nothing, all because Roenicke didn’t have the sense he was born with to get someone else in there once it was clear Axford didn’t have it.  (Two batters in would’ve been soon enough; also, that was before the Astros scored a run, so maybe a different pitcher would’ve still been able to save the game.)

And what really stinks about this is that Brewers reliever Jim Henderson (a thirty-year-old rookie who has two saves in two save opportunities) and Axford were both ready to go in the bottom of the ninth.  However, Brewers pitching coach Rick Kranitz (who supposedly consults with Roenicke on every pitcher, all the time) called for Axford.  And then, Roenicke didn’t realize he needed to get Axford out of there — which is why I blame them both for this loss.

See, sometimes it’s easy to blame a player like Axford who just doesn’t have it.  But Axford is a very good pitcher who’s tried everything to get it together; as I’ve said before, I think there’s something mental, not physical, going on there (though if I were the Brewers, I’d also check out Axford’s pitching mechanics with a specialist, just to cover all the bases).

That’s why I blame Kranitz and Roenicke instead, as they are supposed to understand when one of their players is having trouble.  Yet, for whatever reason, they just didn’t — and when Axford, quite predictably, ran into problems, neither of them seemed to believe there were any other viable options than Axford. 

Even though Henderson was warm in the bullpen.  And certainly could’ve at least attempted to save that win for Mark Rodgers and the rest of the Brewers, especially considering that Axford had shown nothing while putting the first two guys on base.

Yet Roenicke and Kranitz didn’t make a change.  And the Brewers lost.  Again.

That’s how the Brewers, who looked great at home against the Reds, ended up losing to the worst team in baseball, the lowly Houston Astros. 

And as it’s the joint failure of the Brewers manager and Brewers pitching coach that led to this unlikely win for the Astros, not just the failure of any specific pitcher (even though it’s obvious Axford had nothing), my solution is simple: fire Kranitz and Roenicke.  Fire them both.  Now.

Otherwise, they will both continue to make bad decisions about which pitchers should come in, and which shouldn’t.  (As they’ve done all year long.)   And they’ll never blame themselves; oh, no.  Instead, they’ll blame the players — yet it’s obvious that the blame must be shared to anyone excepting these two men: Rick Kranitz, pitching coach.  And Ron Roenicke, manager.

That’s unacceptable to me as a Brewers fan.  Especially as I have eyes and a brain, and know how to use both.  Which is why I’m sick and tired of Roenicke and Kranitz continuing have jobs when, during the course of 2012, they’ve done nothing to deserve it. 

The definition of insanity has often been given as, “Doing the same thing over and over again after it’s already been proven not to work.”  If that’s the case, then Kranitz and Roenicke have both proven that they are not up to the task of doing even a mediocre job for the Brewers.  Which is why both of them should be fired, soonest.

Brewers win game 5 in 10 innings, Advance to NLCS

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Game five of the NLDS between the Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks is over, with the Brewers winning, 3-2, in ten innings.  But let me set the scene for you, as this game was even more exciting than the scoring shows.

The Brewers led, 2-1, after Yovani Gallardo had pitched a smart and gutty game through six innings.  Both relief pitchers, Takashi Saito and Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod), pitched well enough in their innings (Saito the 7th, K-Rod the 8th) to keep the game 2-1.   The Brewers went into the top of the 9th with Brewers closer John Axford, who hadn’t blown a save since April, brought into the game to close it out. 

But sometimes, the best-laid plans of mice and men do not work.  Instead, Arizona tied the game at 2-2, though Axford was able to get three outs and preserve the tie (he still got a blown save).

The ninth went by quietly, as only Jerry Hairston, Jr., hit the ball hard (and, unfortunately, right at Gerardo Parra in left field).   No runs, no hits, no errors.

The tenth inning rolled around, and Axford was still in there.   Axford had only pitched two innings seven times this past year; he usually is a strict one-inning closer, partly because of how successful he’s been.  As Axford had not looked all that good in the ninth, I was very concerned — however, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke made the right move to leave Axford in as he breezed through the top of the tenth.

In the bottom of the tenth, J.J. Putz, the D-backs closer, was brought in to pitch to preserve the tie.  Craig Counsell went up to bat; he lined out to right field.  Carlos Gomez came up, and hit a single to left field.  Now Nyjer Morgan stood at the plate, and he’s been a tough clutch hitter for the Brewers all season long; I’m sure D-backs manager Kirk Gibson knew this, but he also knew that Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder (the Brewers #3 and #4 hitters) were up after Morgan and so Gibson elected to take his chances with Morgan.

At this point, Gomez stole second base, but was unable to take third on a wild pitch by Putz. 

Pitch after pitch went by; finally, Morgan got a pitch to hit and roped a single into center.   Gomez is the fastest man on the team, so I knew if anyone could score from second base, Gomez could do it.   And Gomez did it — he scored easily — which means the Brewers won, 3-2, and will advance to the National League Championship Series against the winner of the St. Louis Cardinals-Philadelphia Phillies matchup, which is currently in progress.  If the Cardinals win that game, the Brewers will have home field advantage in the next round of the playoffs; if the Phillies win, the Brewers will not.

This is the first post-season series the Brewers have won since 1982.  Like the ’82 Brewers, it took the ’11 Brewers five games to win the series; unlike the ’82 Brewers, they were ahead, 2-0 (the ’82 Brewers were behind, 0-2, even though they, too, had home field advantage; unlike this series, until game five, every road team had won the game).  And in this one, the ’11 Brewers did not win a single road game — but they didn’t have to, either.

Now, the one thing you need to be aware of is that Sam Ryan, reporter for TBS, was on the field right after the Brewers won the game.  Morgan dropped a few “f-bombs,” which I would’ve told you were quite predictable — but Ms. Ryan doesn’t seem to understand things like this. 

This is the same reporter who didn’t seem to know who in the world Brewers Hall of Famer Robin Yount was when she spoke with him during game 2; Yount was very polite to her, but if I had been Yount, I would’ve pulled her aside and pointed to Yount’s retired number #19, which is prominently displayed at Miller Park (the Brewers’ stadium).  I would’ve told her that I was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, too, and one of the few players to ever win Most Valuable Player awards at two different positions, shortstop in 1982, and center field in 1989.  And next time, that she should do her homework or stay home and let someone who knows more about baseball get paid.

There are many female baseball reporters who would’ve done a better job than Ms. Ryan did, during game 2 and at the end of game 5; I do blame her for even putting a microphone on Morgan because while I really like Morgan as a player, he’s a high-strung guy who’s been known to lose his cool before.**  (Granted, he was on a huge emotional high at this point.  But he’s not like Brewers sluggers Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Corey Hart or Rickie Weeks; Morgan doesn’t have that level of self-control and everyone should know it unless they’re completely clueless, like Ms. Ryan apparently is.)

Anyway, Axford ends up with the ultimate rarity for a closer — a blown save, and a win.  I’m sure he’ll take it, as will all Brewers fans.

What a game.  What a finish.

Let’s hope the Brewers have something left for the NLCS, where Zack Greinke will be pitching game 1.


** Now, does this excuse Morgan for dropping the “f-bombs?”  No, not really.  It makes it comprehensible, but it certainly isn’t excusable.  Morgan should know better.