Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Milwaukee Brewers 2013

A Slightly Delayed Milwaukee Brewers-Centered Blog…and Other Stuff

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Before I get to what’s been keeping me from blogging, first a few Milwaukee Brewers-centered updates.  The most obvious update has to do with Brewers LF Ryan Braun.  Braun came out with another statement, this one issued through the Brewers public relations department, saying that Braun cannot be more forthcoming than he already has due to the “ongoing investigation” by Major League Baseball.  And because no other MLB player has yet to step forward and admit to wrongdoing besides Braun, Braun’s suspension has remained front and center in the national news for nearly a week now.

What’s saddest about this saga, aside from Braun’s fall from grace, is how many sportswriters of national repute piled on Braun.  Christine Brennan, who writes brilliantly about ice skating, horse racing, and also is a noted baseball writer, was harsh in her condemnation of Braun — his lying, his taking of whatever PED (testosterone, allegedly, which as far as I know doesn’t help anyone hit a baseball any better, though it might be a “performance enhancer” in other ways outside of baseball), and how self-righteous Braun was in proclaiming his innocence back in 2011 and 2012.  But Jeff Passan went even further, calling Braun a “cockroach,” then admitting in a follow-up column that Braun, loathsome as Passan obviously finds Braun to be, still deserves to be paid under the contract previously negotiated between Braun, Braun’s agent, and the Brewers.

And those are just two of the many, many sportswriters who found it in their heart to cast oil on the waters, just so the story might burn a little hotter for a little longer, and thus sell more periodicals.

In other Brewers news, closer Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez was traded to the Orioles for minor-league third baseman Nick Delmonico.  This is largely considered a “win” for the Brewers front office because K-Rod wasn’t even signed to a minor-league deal by the Brewers until April was nearly over.

And, of course, the Brewers are still in last place in the National League Central.  Their next series will be against the Chicago Cubs, the team in second-to-last place.  However, as the Cubs are five and a half games ahead of the Brewers, I cannot rightfully call the next series “the battle for last place” right now.  (Maybe later?)

Oh, and by the way — the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (say that five times fast) have placed first baseman Albert Pujols on the disabled list with a partially torn plantar fascia.  Pujols is expected to miss the remainder of the season.

The reason I mentioned this?  Well, Pujols’ injury is the same one that Brewers first baseman/OF Corey Hart played with — and on — for two solid months during the Brewers 2012 stretch run for that coveted second Wild Card spot.  Had Hart not played, the Brewers wouldn’t have been in contention until the last week of the season.

Now, it’s impossible to know whether or not Corey Hart would’ve needed to have both knees repaired this year if Hart had done the prudent thing and gone on the DL last year when Hart’s injury was first incurred, as Pujols has just done.  But one thing I do know — playing on that injury was a gutty move that I truly hope will not shorten Hart’s career.  (In other words, here’s hoping that Hart will be able to make a full recovery from double knee surgery, whether it takes six more months of rehab, a full year more, or even longer.)

Anyway, after all of these Brewers-centered updates, you might be wondering why I said right up front in my blog title today that this blog had been “slightly delayed.”  It’s simple: I’m working on a story submission for a major anthology, I played another in the summer series of concerts with the Racine Concert Band (free every Sunday night at the Racine Zoo; do check us out if you’re in town), and I’m continuing to ponder various things, editing-wise.

All of this is why I only just got around to discussing the K-Rod trade, much less this whole bit about Pujols going on the DL with the same, exact injury that Corey Hart suffered last year (but played through), today.

Hope it was worth the wait.

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.

Milwaukee Brewers 2013: A Dreadful First Week

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The Milwaukee Brewers 2013 season is well underway, and there’s only one thing any observant writer can say: The Brewers look dreadful in just about every respect.

While there are some good things happening — Norichika Aoki’s four hits today (during his promotional bobblehead day), a clutch Sunday double by rookie OF-3B Josh Prince, the strong six innings pitched by Kyle Lohse on Friday, and the two good relief appearances by Jim Henderson among them — there are many more extremely frustrating things going on, which befits a team with a woeful 1-5 record.

First, and worst: The Brewers have faced many injuries already this season.  Consider that half the Brewers starting infield is currently on the disabled list (DL) — first baseman Corey Hart, of course, had knee surgery back in February, and third baseman Aramis Ramirez tweaked his knee while sliding into second base on Friday evening.  In addition, both prospective utility infielders, Taylor Green and Jeff Bianchi, are on the DL along with backup first baseman-outfielder Mat Gamel (out for the year), while Brewers rookie starting shortstop Jean Segura sustained a bruised left thigh on Sunday and is now considered “day-to-day.”

But the most frustrating injury is to Brewers’ MVP Ryan Braun, who is out with neck spasms.  While not on the DL, he’s unable to play — the closest he’s come to actually getting in a game since Friday was standing in the on-deck circle earlier today — and that means that the Brewers three best hitters are currently unavailable.

That doesn’t mean the Brewers aren’t trying in the hitting department.  They certainly are.  Players like Aoki, Prince, the recently signed Yuniesky Betancourt, Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez are all doing their best to score runs.

Second, many players are playing out of position due to injury.  Betancourt and Gonzalez between them, shortstops by trade, have played every position except second base, while Prince, an outfielder, played third base for the first time since AA ball on Sunday due to a lack of bench players.

Third, while the Brewers are carrying eight relief pitchers, half of them aren’t doing well.  The worst of the lot has been closer John Axford, who has an ERA of 20.25 and a record of 0-1 (being the pitcher of record this afternoon in an eleven-inning loss) with one blown save, four home runs, and six earned runs given up in 2 and 2/3 innings pitched.

Now, it is still early, so Axford’s extremely depressing ERA is misleading.  But giving up six earned runs — with four of ’em being HRs — in less than three innings worth of work is extremely concerning.  Worse yet, Axford has not looked sharp; his “three up, three down” tenth inning today is also, and quite unfortunately, misleading in that Axford gave up two fly ball outs that went to the wall (one in the deepest part of left center, the other to left) before striking out the third batter only after throwing a pitch wildly over the umpire’s head on a 1-2 count.

So, Axford has not looked good.  Mike Gonzalez (13.50 ERA), who came in today in relief of Axford, has had a good appearance and at least two bad ones.  And aside from Henderson, Brandon Kintzler, Alfredo Figaro and Chris Narveson, every other reliever has had at least one bad outing amidst a good outing or two.

Fourth, the starters, as a group, have also looked awful.  A bad relief pitching corps could be circumvented if the starters were up to snuff.  Unfortunately, the only starter who’s actually looked good to date is Lohse (with a sparkling 1.50 ERA).  Gallardo (5.73 ERA) has looked, at best, serviceable.  Estrada (7.20 ERA) looked awful against Arizona.  Mike Fiers (10.80 ERA) had a forgettable start.  Peralta (6.70 ERA) has looked overmatched since spring training.

As to who is available among starting pitchers?  Well, former Brewers lefty Chris Capuano (12-12, 3.72 ERA in 2012) is a forgotten man in the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen, and is a better pitcher than Estrada, Fiers or Peralta.  Narveson, who is in the bullpen probably because the Brewers are afraid of re-injuring his surgically repaired left shoulder, is also a better pitcher than Estrada, Fiers or Peralta.   Those two pitchers would give the Brewers two lefties on the starting staff, and would at least make it harder for opposing teams to tee off on Brewers pitchers.

Also, Aaron Harang (10-10, 3.61 ERA) has already been designated for assignment by his new team, the Colorado Rockies.  Harang, too, is a much better pitcher than Fiers or Peralta, and is probably better than Estrada.  So if I were the Brewers, I’d certainly be willing to give Harang a look-see.

There are also two quality relievers currently without teams.  One, Francisco Rodriguez, is well-known to the Brewers and is unlikely to be signed due to his 2012 struggles with the team.  But the other, Brian Wilson, would be an intriguing choice — while Wilson would undoubtedly need time in Arizona in extended spring training before getting some rehab appearances in the minors, at least the Brewers would know that help would eventually be on the way.

My advice is as follows:

  • Send Axford to a sports psychiatrist (if Axford isn’t already seeing one), as that may help.
  • Sign Wilson, which would give Axford some competition, as Axford seems to do better when someone is seriously competing with him for the job.
  • Trade for Capuano (and maybe even Harang).
  • Send Peralta down, as it appears he needs more time in AAA ball, and think seriously about sending Fiers back down as well.
  • And, last but not least, put Segura on the DL and call up Blake Lalli.  The Brewers need a third catcher badly, and Lalli worked with the Brewers staff extensively in spring training due to both Lucroy and Martin Maldonado playing for Teams USA and Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.  Lalli also hit well in the spring, and certainly cannot hurt the Brewers any at this point.

The last move is necessary because the Brewers are unwilling to put Braun on the DL and obviously cannot handle having only three healthy bench players.  In Sunday’s eleven-inning game, the Brewers actually had to use Lohse, the best hitter of the available starting pitchers, as a pinch hitter because that was the only move left for manager Ron Roenicke.  But Lohse struck out to end the game (of course).

As it stands, though, I feel sorry for Axford.  I’m sure he’s trying his best, as is everyone else on the team — you don’t get into professional sports if you aren’t interested in doing well for yourself and your team, after all.  But it’s obvious that something is still not right with Axford, and my guess is that whatever is it has more to do with his head than his mechanics or his will.

I just hope he can sort it out, and get back to pitching the way Brewers fans know he can.  Or it’s likely to be another long, frustrating season for the Brewers in 2013.