Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Ron Roenicke

Milwaukee Brewers Fire Manager Ron Roenicke, Successor Not Yet Named…

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Folks, as anyone who follows my blog knows, I’ve wanted the Milwaukee Brewers to fire manager Ron Roenicke for at least nine months. (Take a look at my most recent blog on the subject, dated April 20, 2015, for example.)

Tonight, it actually happened. Roenicke has been relieved of his managerial duties despite the Brewers finally winning a series against the Chicago Cubs…and winning two games in a row for the first time all season.

Granted, the team is still only 7-18. Many of the hitters, such as Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, aren’t doing well. Many of the pitchers have been inconsistent at best, downright awful at worst.

But the team was finally starting to look up. Which is why the timing of Roenicke’s firing looks so very, very odd.

All fans know thus far is that Roenicke is out, the coaching staff has apparently been asked to stay in place, and a new manager is on his way to Milwaukee right now. That person, whoever he may be, will be announced at 10:30 a.m. CDT on Monday.

Because I’ve listened to all of the various reports and studied what’s available online thus far, I can at least give you an idea of the candidates’ names who’ve been mentioned, and a few who haven’t been but seem like obvious choices.

Because this hiring appears to have been in the works for a while, it argues against any current Brewers coaches, much less anyone currently working in the front office (such as Craig Counsell). Any of them could’ve been named back when the Brewers were still 2-13, so it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that any of them would be named tomorrow morning.

Yet naming a new manager mid-season is often fraught with peril, which is why it’s likely that once a new manager has been named (with the caveat that all the current coaches are still in place), he will have some ties to the Brewers already.

Note that this list is purely speculative. I have no inside information whatsoever. All I know is what the rest of you know; I’ve read Tom Haudricourt’s article, Adam McCalvy’s article, and have heard various radio and TV reports in the Milwaukee area.

So, here we go — here are my seven most likely suspects for the Brewers managerial job:

  1. Ron Gardenhire, who formerly managed the Minnesota Twins, is currently on the unemployment line. He has a lifetime record of 1068-1039, is known as a manager who works well with young talent…but has past issues with three current Brewers players: Kyle Lohse, Carlos Gomez and Matt Garza. (But if Gardenhire is the pick, why wouldn’t he bring an entirely new bunch of coaches with him?)
  2. Former Brewer infielder Don Money managed at all levels of the Brewers minor league farm system and, perhaps more famously in Milwaukee, was an All-Star for the Brewers. Money is known as a player’s manager, like Roenicke, but has a bit more fire to him than Roenicke. Currently Money is a special instructor of player development for the Brewers, and may like that job better as he’s now 67 years of age. Could the Brewers have coaxed him to help them out as their manager for the big club?
  3. Former Brewer Cecil Cooper managed a few seasons with the Houston Astros and has a winning record. Like Money, Cooper was an All-Star and a member of the best team to ever play in Milwaukee, the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers (winners of the American League pennant). Cooper is now 65 and has been out of baseball for a while…could the Brewers have coaxed him out of retirement?
  4. Hall-of-Famer Robin Yount has never managed. However, as perhaps the best player Milwaukee has ever had, Yount has always carried enormous clout with current-day players. Yount also was briefly a bench coach for the Brewers back in 2008 after Ned Yost was fired during the Brewers Wild Card playoff run…could the Brewers have talked Yount into managing, at long last?
  5. Former Brewer Ted Simmons was known in his time as a volatile competitor. He also was the Brewers bench coach during much of the 2010 season under Ken Macha. (Simmons, like Cooper, Yount, and Money, was a member of the 1982 Brewers squad.) Simmons is a viable “old-timer Hall of Fame” candidate as he has the hitting numbers to someday make the Hall. Lately, he’s been a special advisor to General Manager Jack Zduriencik of the Seattle Mariners, so perhaps it would’ve taken a bit of time to get everything contractually straightened out to hire the 65-year-old Simmons.
  6. Former Brewer infielder Dale Sveum has lately been the hitting coach at Kansas City, but once upon a time he was asked by the Brewers to finish up the 2008 season after Ned Yost was fired. Sveum has some big-league managerial experience beyond that as he managed the Chicago Cubs during 2012 and 2013. Sveum also managed in the Brewers minor-league system and is popular with the current players on the Brewers roster. Could the Brewers have managed to pry Sveum loose from the Royals?
  7. Mike Maddux is currently the pitching coach of the Texas Rangers. Word is, he wants to manage, and was under consideration for a few jobs last year. Maddux has ties to the Brewers as he was their pitching coach for six seasons. Could the Brewers have managed to pry Maddux loose from the Rangers?

So that’s it — those are my top seven speculative picks for the Brewers vacant managerial job.

My hunch is that the Brewers may have hired Ted Simmons. I am not quite sure why I think this as his name has not been mentioned once by any member of the Milwaukee media, whereas Craig Counsell’s name has been floated a great deal.

But as I said before, if Counsell is the pick, the Brewers could’ve hired him when they were 2-13.

Anyway, we will all know tomorrow as of 10:30 a.m. who the next manager of the Milwaukee Brewers is. Stay tuned.

* * * * * * Edited to Add:

Multiple sources are saying now that Craig Counsell is the new manager of the Milwaukee Brewers (as of about 1:20 AM CDT). However, Greg Matzek of WTMJ-AM 620 radio in Milwaukee (the Brewers’ flagship station), has said there’s no official comment; the only thing he knows right now is that the new manager, whoever he may be, has been hired with a multi-year deal and will not be an interim manager.

Again, if the pick is Counsell, the Brewers could’ve hired him weeks ago without all this sturm und drang. It seems very unlikely to me that the Brewers would hire Counsell at this particular time, too, considering the man already works in the front office and that Roenicke had just managed the Brewers to their first winning series and first two-game winning streak all season long.

But I guess we will see what the Brewers will do later this morning.

You can be assured that if Counsell is the pick, though, I will not be happy about it, even though I do like Counsell. (I just do not think he can fix this team. Whereas any of the seven men I mentioned can.)

Milwaukee Brewers 2015 Season Starts at 2-11…When Will Changes Be Made?

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Folks, I’ve been waiting for the Milwaukee Brewers to actually win a few games before writing this blog. But as they only have two wins all season thus far, and eleven losses, I can’t delay this post any longer.

How long is it going to take for Brewers owner Mark Attanasio to realize that manager Ron Roenicke is not the answer?

I know, I know. Roenicke was given a quiet one-year contract extension in Spring Training. That will make it quite difficult to fire him.

But something has to be done. Whether it’s a new bench coach — is Robin Yount available? — or a new pitching coach (as Rick Kranitz doesn’t seem to be doing much), or better yet, getting rid of most of the coaches, something has to be done.

Last year, I wrote a blog about how ridiculous it was for the Brewers to get rid of first base coach Garth Iorg and hitting coach Johnny Narron when Roenicke still had a job. Here’s a few words from that post:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Which is why I find the Milwaukee Brewers’ refusal to fire manager Ron Roenicke after the Brewers’ historic collapse in September 2014 so troubling.

…firing Iorg made very little sense, as Iorg wasn’t to blame for Milwaukee’s players’ brain freezes on the basepaths or Mark Reynolds’ failure to remember how many outs there were in an inning or Carlos Gomez’s inability to lay off bad pitches or even Ryan Braun’s thumb injury.

While Roenicke wasn’t directly to blame for any of those things, either, someone has to be held accountable.

I mean, really. The Brewers were in first place for 150 days of the season. Then they went 9-22 over the last 31 games to miss the playoffs and finish 82-80.

And the person who usually is held accountable is — wait for it — the manager. Not the piddly first base coach.

I stand by my assessment that Roenicke should be fired for the team’s poor play since last July.


Roenicke is the wrong man to be leading this team. He’s not a bad guy, and he does know baseball. But he can’t motivate this team. They aren’t playing well in any aspect of the game right now — not hitting, where the team has a woeful .217 batting average according to ESPN’s stats page as of 4/20/2015; not pitching, where the Brewers have a combined ERA of 4.76; and while their combined fielding percentage of .973 is not abhorrent, it should be much better than it is.

That’s why Roenicke should go.

Here’s the main reason people are already talking about putting paper bags over their heads when they go out to Miller Park to watch the Brewers play:

Team Leaders as of 4/20/15

  • Home runs: Ryan Braun (1), Jean Segura (1), Carlos Gomez (1), Adam Lind (1)
  • Batting average: Adam Lind, .302
  • RBI: Carlos Gomez, 6
  • Hits: Jean Segura, 14

The only bright spot there is Segura, who appears to have regained his hitting form from his rookie year. He’s currently batting .292, and actually has hit one homer along with four RBI.

However, our RBI leader is Gomez, a man who is currently on the disabled list (DL) with a partial hamstring tear. The second-most RBIs on the team belong to Lind, with five; Braun has three.

As usual, Aramis Ramirez is not hitting this early. (It’s rare when Ramirez does hit in April, as he did last year. His entire career, he’s been a slow starter.) So I’m not worried about him, especially as Ramirez is playing excellent defense.

Scooter Gennett has not been hitting well, either, though his fielding hasn’t been abysmal. But Gennett is out right now, too, as he had an accident while showering in Pittsburgh after yesterday’s game; he had to have stitches in his left hand, and may be placed on the DL soon.

The guy I was most worried about — until tonight’s broken toe injury — was catcher Jonathan Lucroy. He has looked dreadful behind home plate; he’s made a couple of throwing errors, he’s had a passed ball, and he just hasn’t looked comfortable. (He was injured going into Spring Training, and my guess is that he tried hard to play too early.) Lucroy also hasn’t been hitting, batting only .156 with two RBI.

But now, he has joined Carlos Gomez on the DL. And the guy coming up to replace him, Juan Centeno, is not exactly a robust hitter…Centeno was hitting less than .200 at Triple-A in Colorado Springs (a place that’s notoriously hitter-friendly). He is, however, an excellent fielder with a strong arm, so the Brewers will at least have some stronger defense coming with Centeno spelling Martin Maldonado (also an excellent defensive catcher) now and again.

As for the pitching, we have a few guys with positive stats:

Team Leaders, Pitching, as of 4/20/2015

  • Jimmy Nelson has a win, 12 strikeouts (Ks), and a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings pitched (IP).
  • Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez has one save and a 2.25 ERA in limited appearances (mostly because the Brewers have only had two winning efforts thus far; you don’t need a closer when you can’t get close enough to win a game). K-Rod has also taken one loss and has one blown save. (Three good games, and one bad thus far.)
  • Neal Cotts — a guy I didn’t even think should make the team, as he did so poorly in Spring Training — has seven Ks in 6 2/3 IP with a 1.59 ERA.
  • And Will Smith thus far has given up nothing in 4 1/3 IP and has six Ks.

(I don’t see much of a silver lining here, though I’ve tried mightily to find one.)

The Milwaukee Brewers are trying hard. They have pride in themselves and they assuredly don’t want to lose games in the same fashion as tonight’s 6-1 loss against the Reds. (The game was tied, 0-0, until the top of the 6th. Wily Peralta got rattled due to a number of factors, and gave up four runs. Then, for some reason, Roenicke trotted Peralta back out in the 7th and Peralta gave up two more runs.)

I see good defensive plays being made by guys like Lind, Ramirez, Braun, Segura and Gerardo Parra. I see better baserunning, for the most part, than last year, which means Roenicke has addressed that properly. I see true effort on the part of the Brewers — they aren’t just phoning it in.

But the team, as a whole, isn’t hitting, and almost no one is pitching well.

That is not a recipe for a winning season, much less a playoff contender.

Unless things turn around in this next homestand, I firmly believe Roenicke and the vast majority of his coaching staff should be fired. Because that way, at least the fans will know the owner holds himself accountable.

And don’t be surprised to see Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin on the chopping block, either. (As well he should be, if they cannot turn this mess around. Fast.)

Milwaukee Brewers Fire Two Coaches…But Not Manager Ron Roenicke

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The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Which is why I find the Milwaukee Brewers’ refusal to fire manager Ron Roenicke after the Brewers’ historic collapse in September 2014 so troubling.

This past Friday, in a press release, Milwaukee fired two coaches: first base coach Garth Iorg and hitting coach Johnny Narron. Hitting was a major concern for the Brewers down the stretch, so firing Johnny Narron wasn’t at all surprising. But firing Iorg made very little sense, as Iorg wasn’t to blame for Milwaukee’s players’ brain freezes on the basepaths or Mark Reynolds’ failure to remember how many outs there were in an inning or Carlos Gomez’s inability to lay off bad pitches or even Ryan Braun’s thumb injury.

While Roenicke wasn’t directly to blame for any of those things, either, someone has to be held accountable.

I mean, really. The Brewers were in first place for 150 days of the season. Then they went 9-22 over the last 31 games to miss the playoffs and finish 82-80.

And the person who usually is held accountable is — wait for it — the manager. Not the piddly first base coach.

Of course, if the Brewers had fired Roenicke, it’s very possible that every single one of the coaches on Roenicke’s staff would be looking for work right now rather than only two of them getting their pink slips. But it still looks very strange that Roenicke stayed while Johnny Narron and Iorg had to go . . . especially when you consider that Johnny’s brother Jerry Narron is still employed by the Brewers as their bench coach. (What sense is there in firing one brother but keeping the other?)

Overall, I am extremely disappointed that the Brewers retained Roenicke. But I am even more disappointed that the Brewers didn’t even have the guts to call a press conference; instead, they sent out a milquetoast press release on a Friday afternoon in the hopes that no one would be paying attention to the fact that Brewers’ owner Mark Attanasio has thus far refused to hold anyone significant accountable for the Brewers’ historic collapse.

My view is simple: Roenicke should’ve been fired, and someone else — perhaps former Brewers pitching coach Mike Maddux — should’ve been hired instead.

But that’s not what the Brewers did. Obviously, Milwaukee hopes that fans will forgive and forget the Brewers’ historic collapse. But my gut feeling is this:

No. We won’t.

Milwaukee Brewers 2014 End-of-the-Season Wrap-up

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Folks, I waited a few extra days to post my end-of-the-season wrap-up for the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers, mostly to see if the Brewers would show some sense and fire manager Ron Roenicke. But as they haven’t — yet — it’s time to fish or cut bait.

Here’s what I thought of my 82-80 2014 Milwaukee Brewers:


  • Kyle Lohse (13-9, 3.54 ERA, 198 1/3 innings pitched) was robbed. He left with the lead six more times than he has wins; if the Brewers had won even three more of those games, he’d have had a 16-win season. Lohse was Milwaukee’s most consistent starter, and threw a 2-hit shutout gem late in the season when the Brewers were still (barely) in Wild Card contention.
  • Wily Peralta (17-11, 3.52 ERA, 198 2/3 innings pitched) was a bit overrated. Peralta improved in his second season, no lie, but unlike Lohse and the other starters, Peralta’s games featured better offensive support and better relief pitching . . . so Peralta didn’t have as many no decisions as Lohse.

These were the Brewers two best season-long starters.

“But what about Mike Fiers, Barb?” you ask. “Wasn’t he great, too?”

Yes, he was.

Fiers was Milwaukee’s best pitcher down the stretch and helped keep the Brewers in contention long past their sell-by date. But Fiers (6-5, 2.13 ERA, 71 2/3 innings pitched) wasn’t brought up for good until August, which is why he’s not listed above with the two best Brewers pitchers.

“What about Yovani Gallardo (8-11, 3.51 ERA, 192 1/3 innings pitched) and Matt Garza (8-8, 3.64 ERA, 163 1/3 innings pitched)?” you ask.

Mostly, Gallardo and Garza both had better seasons than their records indicated. Both, like Lohse, were victimized by poor run support throughout the season and hit-or-miss relief pitching that often wasted their quality starts.

These five pitchers should be in the starting rotation for 2015.

Now, as for the relievers?

  • Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez (5-5, 3.04 ERA, 44 saves in 49 opportunities) was excellent at the start of the season, had an odd July, and a decent rest of the season. The home run ball was a bit of a concern at times, and K-Rod lived up to his nickname of “twenty minutes of terror,” but he’s a quality closer and at thirty-two is already tenth on the all-time save leaders list with 348.
  • Will Smith (1-3, 3.70 ERA, 78 appearances, 30 holds) was overused; prior to his overuse, Smith was a legitimate All-Star candidate and was K-Rod’s set-up man for the first three-fifths of the season.

Everyone else (with Rule 5 pick Wei-Chung Wang as a conspicuous exception) was competent and unexceptional over the long-term, though several (Zach Duke and Tyler Thornburg in particular) had some great stretches here and there that made me sit up and take notice.


Here, I’m going to break it into the good, the bad, and the ugly:

The good:

  • Jonathan Lucroy (.301, 13 HR, 69 RBI, and a league-leading 53 doubles) had a breakout season. Deservedly a starting All-Star, Lucroy will garner some MVP votes; unlike most of the other Brewers hitters, Lucroy is willing to take a walk and patiently waits until he gets his pitch. Lucroy is not the world’s fastest runner, but he also makes very few baserunning mistakes and is perhaps the smartest — and toughest — player on the team.
  • Scooter Gennett (.289, 9 HR, 59 RBI) did very well against right-handers and exceptionally poorly against left-handers in his second season in the bigs. Gennett’s main problem is that he strikes out way too much and takes far too few walks; he needs to learn some plate discipline from Lucroy.
  • Carlos Gomez (.284, 23 HR, 73 RBI, 34 SBs) did reasonably well and was a deserving All-Star. However, he swung at everything and anything — especially toward the end of the season — refused to take walks, and made some bad outs on the basepaths down the stretch. The epitome of a “high risk, high reward” player, Gomez must learn to keep his head in the game.

The bad:

  • Mark Reynolds (.196, 22 HR, 45 RBI) would’ve been acceptable if he’d just have kept hitting at his pre-All-Star levels (.205, 14, 33) because his defense at first and third was stellar. But his production fell off, his strikeouts mounted, and he had some odd mental lapses that contributed to the Brewers losing games down the stretch that they should’ve won. Reynolds should not be back in 2015.
  • Jean Segura (.246, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 20 SBs) had a great final thirty days of the season, batting .327 during that stretch, or he’d have been in the “ugly” category. And his defense continues to be way above average. But considering Segura was an All-Star in 2013, his first full year in the bigs, 2014 was a step backward. (Mind, players are only human, and Segura lost his son right before the All-Star break. That assuredly accounts for why much of his second half was abysmal.) Let’s hope in 2015, Segura gets back on track.
  • Aramis Ramirez (.285, 15 HR, 66 RBI) has decent numbers, but they are somewhat deceptive.  Down the stretch, Ramirez showed that he was tired, old, and slow — and while his defense at third was still adequate or better, he cost the team numerous runs because he simply could not run (possibly due to a lingering injury, possibly due to his age). He’s due $14 million if the Brewers pick up his contract option next year, and I’m not at all sure Ramirez is deserving of such largesse — especially considering his anemic performance (.212, 1 HR, 5 RBI) down the stretch.

The ugly:

  • Ryan Braun’s thumb injury sapped him of his power stroke and caused Braun to alter his overall hitting mechanics. None of this helped Braun’s overall numbers (.266, 19 HR, 81 RBI, 11 SBs). In addition, like Ramirez, Braun’s final thirty-day performance was dreadful (.200, 1 HR, 3 RBI). Braun has had cutting-edge thumb surgery since the end of the season, and much is riding on it; only time will tell as to whether or not Braun can regain his power stroke.
  • Khris Davis (.244, 22 HR, 69 RBI) was a major disappointment. He struck out way too much, walked too little, his defense remains a work in progress and his arm is quite weak. Ideally, Davis projects as a DH in the American League, though if he’s willing to learn how to play first base and shows some aptitude for the position, Davis might be OK there instead.

Everyone else was either mediocre or competent in some ways but not others (for example, Lyle Overbay did quite nicely as a pinch hitter and can still field at first base, but otherwise showed that he’s ready for retirement).


Simply put: The Brewers could not hit down the stretch, which cost them any chance at the playoffs. The pitching was competent and sometimes brilliant; the hitting was OK at the beginning of the season and dreadful at the end, while the fielding was for the most part steady and unspectacular.

To improve in 2015, the Brewers need a brand-new manager of the firebrand type — Ozzie Guillen, say. Or Mike Maddux, who definitely let it be known when he was upset with his pitchers during his stint as the Brewers pitching coach years ago. Or even Dale Sveum, who certainly mixed it up in his playing days and was willing to chew his players a new one in private . . .

Anything but Roenicke, who is too quiet and reserved to manage this bunch of huge, overpaid egos. He should’ve kicked some butts and taken some names during the Brewers woeful 1-13 stretch in September, and allowed at least some of his frustration to show through so fans understood he wasn’t happy with how his team was playing.

As it stands, Milwaukee was not consistent in how it’s handled Roenicke’s tenure, either. Ned Yost was fired back in September 2008 because his team was on a losing streak. Yet Roenicke’s Brewers were on a bigger losing streak, and the Brewers did not make a move.

But they had better. Because Roenicke, while a quality human being and a good baseball man, is not the right fit for this team.

Anyone who watched Milwaukee stumble down the stretch should know that.


Pitcher of the year: Francisco Rodriguez (Runners-up: Kyle Lohse and Wily Peralta)

Brewers MVP: Jonathan Lucroy (No one else was even close.)

Comeback Player of the Year: Mike Fiers (Runner-up: Zach Duke)

Rookie of the Year: No award.

Thoughts on the Milwaukee Brewers Being Eliminated From Postseason Play in 2014

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The Milwaukee Brewers have officially been eliminated from the playoffs.**

I knew this day would come, folks.

When the Brewers were not able to score hardly any runs in the second half of September, I knew this day would come.

But because hope springs eternal, I had considered some unusual possibilities that might lead to the Brewers making the playoffs anyway. Perhaps if they’d have won all their remaining games, and the Pirates had gone on a small losing streak . . . or if the Brewers had won all their games and the San Francisco Giants had gone on a small losing streak instead . . .

‘Twas not to be.

Anyway, here are just a few of my thoughts as I ponder the fact that my favorite team has been eliminated from postseason play:

  • The Brewers were at least one and possibly two hitters short in the second half of the season, and it’s not always because of the same people (though Braun’s injuries definitely didn’t help). The biggest problem I saw, throughout, were the injuries; Aramis Ramirez can’t run any longer (at all), Braun at times could barely run, Scooter Gennett could barely run, etc.But if we’d have had someone consistently mashing at first base — perhaps if Kendrys Morales had been signed in the offseason, as he was the best available first baseman, and had a full Spring Training behind him — I think the Brewers wouldn’t have lost their lead in the NL Central and would still be going to the playoffs.
  • What was Ron Roenicke thinking? Where was the urgency? He was always quiet, always understated, while the team sank and sank . . . in 2008, Ned Yost got fired when his 2008 squad did much less poorly than this one, yet Roenicke has thus far kept his job? What’s the explanation for that going to be? (Oh, I can see it now — “No one else could’ve done any better. We’re happy with Ron. See you in 2015.” Yeah, right.)

I’m not too happy with Roenicke’s managerial moves, either, to wit:

  • He waited way too long to take some starting pitchers out, and he did this consistently. (Allowing Wily Peralta to get shelled back-to-back in August didn’t help anything, to show just one bad managerial decision.)
  • In addition, why did Roenicke leave reliever Jonathan Broxton in so long in the second of Broxton’s back-to-back bad games? (When he did stuff like that, I couldn’t help it; I Tweeted stuff like, “Fire him. Fire him now.”)

Now, why did this team fall apart so precipitously? I blame injuries, mostly. But I also blame Roenicke’s inexplicable managerial moves, mostly having to do with the pitching staff.

Injuries — well, they’ll heal.

But will the team be any better this year if Roenicke stays? My guess is that it won’t.

That’s why I’m urging the Brewers to please, please, for the love of little green apples, fire Ron Roenicke and bring in someone who can instill a sense of urgency. (Much less pull the starting pitchers out a little faster when they obviously don’t have it.)


**Edited to add: San Francisco lost last night, so the Brewers technically can still get in the playoffs if they win all five remaining games, while SF loses all five of theirs. At that point, there would be one of the one-game playoff scenarios I’ve discussed between SF and Milwaukee; if the Brewers won that, they’d then play Pittsburgh in the official one-game Wild Card playoff.

I think there’s very little chance of this. But as Noah Jarosh of SB Nation says, it’s like a lottery ticket — it could happen.

So keep your eyes peeled on the scoreboard tonight.

And, of course, I’ll have an end-of-the-season wrap-up next week, as per usual, with my picks for Brewers’ team MVP, pitching MVP(s), and rookie of the year. Don’t miss it!

What is Wrong with the 2013 Milwaukee Brewers?

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So far in 2013, the Milwaukee Brewers are a riddle wrapped in an enigma, then enclosed by a tesseract.  (Yes, they are just that frustrating.)

Before you ask me how a riddle can be wrapped in an enigma, much less be enclosed by a tesseract, think about Jean Segura.  Think about how this young man has been among the National League’s top hitters thus far, and currently leads the league with a .355 average.  Then think about his main claim to fame — running the bases in reverse.

Then think about Carlos Gomez, a guy who’s never met a low, outside fastball he didn’t like to wave at.  He, too, is among the NL’s league letters in hitting, something that is astonishing enough to perplex.  This is a guy with a career .253 average, folks . . . yet he’s currently hitting .329.  (Go figure.)

Then consider that not one, not two, but five Brewers in the starting lineup — Segura, Gomez, Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez (in a limited sample) and Norichika Aoki — are currently hitting over .300 — which is astonishing.  (Also, reserve infielder Jeff Bianchi, who just came off the DL, is hitting .357 thus far.)

But the rest of the team doesn’t have even a .250 hitter among them, as Yuniesky Betancourt continues to slump from his extremely fast start, Rickie Weeks’ woes continue, and Jonathan Lucroy’s bat has gone ominously silent.

Still, despite all that, the biggest problems with the current Brewers squad lies more with the starting pitching than it does their inconsistent hitting.  The starting rotation consists of Kyle Lohse (1-5, 3.76 ERA), who’s pitched decently to better but has had little run support, Yovani Gallardo (3-4, 4.50), who’s had some good outings and some bad ones, Marco Estrada (3-2, 5.44), who’s had the run support Lohse has lacked with a mostly subpar effort, and two rookies — Hiram Burgos (1-2, 6.58) and Wily Peralta (3-4, 5.94) — who’ve mostly proven that they deserve to be sent back to AAA forthwith.

Look.  The 2013 Brewers have a decent bullpen, even though John Axford hasn’t truly been up to snuff.  (Looking better lately, though, and he pitched a fine inning in Monday night’s 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.)  Guys like Burke Badenhop, Tom Gorzelanny (currently on the DL), Mike Gonzalez, and even the recently brought up Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) have done well, while closer Jim Henderson has saved eight games in eight chances, which is quite good.

But the 2013 Brewers only have two legitimate starters in Lohse and Gallardo.  Estrada would be better off as the Brewers long man and spot starter, but as he’s the third-best healthy starter the Brewers currently have, he’s in the rotation to stay.  And really, while Burgos and Peralta have both shown flashes of competence, they’ve mostly shown that neither one is ready to be a big league pitcher, day in and day out.

Complicating matters is the lack of healthy players Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has to call upon.  Roenicke still awaits first baseman and power hitter Corey Hart, who is now slated to return sometime in June according to Adam McCalvy.  Roenicke also awaits the return of pitcher Chris Narveson, who’s certainly a much better option even coming off major shoulder  surgery than either Peralta or Burgos.  (Perhaps better than both put together.)

And both Braun and Lucroy are playing despite persistent neck stiffness because there really isn’t anyone else to put in their slots.  Mind you, it’s very difficult to replace someone who’s won the Most Valuable Player Award like Braun.  But when no one can out-hit the currently light-hitting Lucroy, you have major problems.

Basically, I see the Brewers’ problems as threefold.

  1. They need two more good starters before they’re going to be able to be consistently competitive.
  2. They need the return of both Hart and Narveson, even if the Brewers “brain trust” of General Manager Doug Melvin and Assistant GM Gord Ash decides to keep Narveson in the bullpen.
  3. They need far better situational hitting than they’ve shown thus far, as it’s inexcusable to have someone hit a triple (like Lucroy did the other day) to lead off an inning but have him still standing on third base at the end of the inning because no one can figure out how to hit a long fly ball to get him home.

If the Brewers can fix all of these things within the next three weeks, they may manage to salvage their season . . . and, not so incidentally, their manager’s job.

But if they can’t fix it, someone’s head is going to roll.  And that person is most likely to be Ron Roenicke, even though he’s obviously not to blame for the Brewers total inability to bunt, hit sacrifice flies, or do whatever it takes to score runs, nor is he to blame for Peralta and Burgos not being quite ready for prime time just yet.

For the latter, I blame Doug Melvin and Gord Ash.  They had to know that it’s risky to start out a season with not one, but two rookie pitchers, no matter how well Peralta pitched at the end of last season and no matter how good Burgos looked in the World Baseball Classic, yet they were actually prepared to go with three rookies if they couldn’t come to a deal with Lohse or another veteran starter.

Anyway, my hope is that the Brewers will start to remember their situational hitting skills and use them more frequently.  (They did a good job scratching and clawing for a run tonight, but then again, the guy hitting the RBI groundout was Nori Aoki, who happens to be the best situational hitter on the club.)  That, along with some more run support for Lohse and two additional quality starters if the Brewers can somehow acquire them, can turn around the 2013 season and save Roenicke’s job.

But that’s a tall order, as every team in the league knows that the Brewers need pitching — and will make them pay high to get it.


Note: Stats had not yet been updated as that sometimes takes a few hours after a loss when I’d originally composed this blog.  The records, averages, etc., have been fixed, as has the information about Corey Hart’s proposed return.  (That Hart’s rehab goes slowly isn’t entirely a surprise, but as many fans have hoped Hart would return sooner rather than later — and as I’m assuredly among that particular group of fans — I’d said that I believed Hart would return on the first available date as I hadn’t yet checked out McCalvy’s blog post.)

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 Lose in 9th to Phillies After K-Rod Implodes; 2012 Season Hopes in Jeopardy

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The Milwaukee Brewers lost a very tough game Monday night to the Philadelphia Phillies; the final score was 7-6.   The Brewers should not have lost this game, not after starting pitcher Randy Wolf pitched six strong innings, leaving the game with a 6-2 lead; that the bullpen (mostly reliever John Axford) was able to do well until the ninth, before closer Francisco Rodriguez came in and stunk up the joint, just makes this loss all the more heartbreaking.

Pity poor Randy Wolf.  Wolf’s season stats look terrible — a 3-6 record, a 5.60 ERA starting Monday’s game — but they are misleading in the extreme.  Wolf’s left eight other games when the Brewers have been ahead aside from his three wins — count ’em, eight.   Yet he’s won only three times. 

Why is this?  Because the Brewers bullpen has been abysmal, blowing saves eight different times in games Wolf’s started and left with a lead.   This is completely unacceptable.

Tonight, unfortunately, was no different, results-wise, than most of the rest of the season.  But perhaps looking at what specifically happened can shed some light on this particularly painful loss.

In the bottom of the seventh, Manny Parra came on in relief of Wolf.  Parra threw 27 pitches, but couldn’t get three outs; he walked three, struck out two, and while he didn’t give up any hits, did surrender one run. 

With the game at 6-3, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke brought on former closer John Axford, who fortunately shut the Phillies right down again.  Axford also pitched a scoreless eighth, recording his first official hold for the season.

Then it’s the bottom of the ninth.  The Brewers were still ahead, 6-3.  They knew that the Philadelphia Phillies, coming into Monday’s game, were a woeful 0-42 when behind after eight innings, so the Brewers had to feel fairly confident. 

Yet the Brewers ended up losing again because Rodriguez (nicknamed K-Rod) didn’t have it.   K-Rod was only able to get one out before getting into major trouble, but Roenicke didn’t have another reliever warming up in the bullpen.  While Rodriguez eventually got the second out by inducing a fly ball, the Phillies ended up scoring the winning run off that fly ball.  (A Pyrrhic victory at best.)  This was Rodriguez’s fifth blown save out of eight chances; his record is 2-5.

The Brewers are now seven games under .500.  They are in fourth place, eleven and a half games behind the front-running Cincinnati Reds, and have shown absolutely no signs of the major run they’d need in order to get to postseason play.  Which makes me think, as a Brewers fan, that any hopes that remain for the 2012 season are just that — hopes.

And what’s sad about this is that there’s some real offensive talent on this team.  Ryan Braun is having a great year, batting .309  at the start of Monday’s game, with 65 RBI and 26 HRs.  Corey Hart, who’s played a good deal of first base this year (a position he’s not played much since the low minors), was hitting .258 at the start of Monday’s game, with 45 RBI and 17 HRs.  Aramis Ramirez, who had a terrible first month and a half, was hitting .277  at the start of Monday’s game, with 55 RBI and 10 HRs.  And normally light-hitting catcher Martin Maldonado, who was hitting under .200 at AAA ball, has been doing so well at the major league level (.280 BA, 18 RBI and 5 HRs, again as of the start of Monday’s game) that he might be considered legitimate “trade-bait.”

As for the pitchers — Yovani Gallardo has been up and down, but has been acceptable, going 8-7 with a 3.72 ERA in 121 innings pitched.  Wolf has had a hard-luck year, no question about it.  (The Brewers defense has been atrocious, but you’d never know it due to the fact that the Brewers have the kindest official scorer in the majors.  But even if our official scorer were kinder to the pitcher by calling more errors on the Brewers defense (as he should), the fact is that the bullpen has not done its job, most particularly in Wolf’s games.)  Zack Greinke, who’s likely to be traded as soon as tomorrow evening, has pitched reasonably well — his record’s 9-3, he has a 3.57 ERA in 116 innings pitched — but I’d be astonished if he were with the team much longer.  Then, of course, the other two starting pitchers at the beginning of the year were Chris Narveson — out for the year — and Shaun Marcum, who’s been on the DL since June 15.

So what’s been the bright spot, if there is one, with regards to the Brewers rotation?  A guy by the name of Michael Fiers.  Fiers wasn’t expected to do anything this year for the big-league club, yet he’s pitched extremely well.  While his record is a deceptive 3-4, his ERA is a terrific 1.96 in 59 2/3 innings pitched.  Fiers is a guy who reminds me of Ben Sheets (currently on the comeback trail with the Atlanta Braves); he’s a tough-minded competitor, and he gives the Brewers an excellent chance to win every time he picks up the ball. 

The main reason the Brewers’ season hasn’t gone well is because of the many injuries they’ve suffered (to Alex Gonzales, Mat Gamel, Narveson, Marcum, Travis Ishikawa, Cesar Izturis, and catcher Jonathan Lucroy).   I accept that, as injuries are a fact of life.

However, the players who are still there must produce.  Some of them aren’t, most particularly Rickie Weeks, who as of the start of Monday’s game was hitting a dreadful .195, with 33 RBI and 9 HRs, and while Nyjer Morgan continues to have value due to his stellar defense and good baserunning skills, he’s not doing that well hitting-wise either, batting only .229 at the start of Monday’s game with 5 RBI and 2 HR in 80 games.

While it’s not General Manager Doug Melvin’s fault that so many players came up injured this season (or just aren’t as good as they should be — witness Weeks), it is his fault for trading away two good, solid shortstops — Alcides Escobar and J.J. Hardy — in previous years.  It is his fault for giving Roenicke an extension, when last year’s National League Championship Series showed how dogmatic Roenicke could be when it came to pulling — or not pulling — pitchers.  (I will never understand why Marcum, who had absolutely nothing left in the tank, got two starts in the NLCS.)  It is Melvin’s fault for not trading for a few more relievers, as most of ours are played out — and it is Melvin’s fault for believing that this team, without Prince Fielder, and with three starting pitchers all having contracts expiring at the same time (Wolf, Greinke, and Marcum), would be a contender this year.

I’m sorry to say it, folks, but unless Melvin can pull a rabbit out of his hat, the Brewers look like they’re right where they should be this year.  In fourth place.  Way out of playoff contention.

And that’s sad.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 24, 2012 at 12:14 am

Brewers losing in fifth inning

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Folks, I am so frustrated with Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke right now that I want to scream.

Remember my earlier blog post, where I said that Shaun Marcum, tonight’s starting pitcher, didn’t look really good?  (I said he was OK.  Not awful, but not great, and that I fully expected Marcum to be gone early.)

Well, apparently Roenicke has a whole lot more faith in Marcum than I do despite Marcum’s last four outings, where he compiled a 6.66 ERA.  When Marcum started to falter, quite predictably, in the fifth inning, Roenicke didn’t even have anyone warming up in the bullpen.

Just a few minutes ago, Paul Goldschmidt, a rather unheralded first baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks, hit a grand slam HR off Marcum to put the D-backs ahead 7-1.  Marcum, finally and mercifully, was lifted; just like his last start, Marcum lasted only 4 2/3 innings and looked, at best, like he has a tired arm.  (Or, quite possibly, that there may be some problem with Marcum’s arm — he hasn’t looked like the same pitcher for a month.)

Now Kameron Loe has been brought in, and another run has scored.  The Brewers are now down 8-1.

This happens in baseball, as it’s rare in the postseason to win all games (“sweep the series”) because both teams, demonstrably, are good ones that have played well all season long.  And a good team that’s finally managed to get a home game, like the D-backs, usually manages to win at least one game (the 2008 Brewers, vastly overmatched by the Philadelphia Phillies, won their first home game in ’08 behind then-Brewers pitcher Dave Bush), so the D-backs doing well tonight is not a surprise.

As of right now, it looks like it’ll be up to Brewers left-handed starting pitcher Randy Wolf tomorrow night to lock this series down for the Brewers unless there’s a major rally in store from the Brewers big bats.  I’m confident that, providing the Brewers cannot rally tonight, Wolf will pitch well tomorrow and the Brewers will close out the series in four games.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 4, 2011 at 10:39 pm