Round ’em Up: Wednesday

30 04 2008

UPDATE 04-30-08 3:52pmHere is the article Adam was talking about.  Miller Park is the second-highest rated stadium in the MLB behind Jacobs Field.  I personally think that Safeco is the nicest and Miller Park is second.  Just me though.

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The Brewers took the first game against Chicago in fine fashion. The offense looks to have shaken the slump that has plagued them throughout the year. Ben Sheets looks to have gotten over his tight triceps. Mike Cameron played extremely well yesterday. I’m a happy Brewers fan right now.

  • Tom Haudricourt has a few quotations from Mike Cameron about his return yesterday. I don’t think Mike could have hand-crafted a better Brewers debut at the plate after the double and a run scored in the first inning.
  • Amy Nelson from ESPN seems to enjoy writing the human interest pieces for ESPN.com. She has a nice article about Mike Cameron and his lonely road back to the big leagues to start the 2008 season. It’s cliche, but Mike seems to have found a more profound respect for the game this season. I respect a man who can sit back and reflect a bit on his life. Professional baseball players get to play the game they love and make loads of money doing it. They have it pretty good. Mike now knows that and does not take the game for granted anymore. If only everyone could find that kind of humility and respect for what we have in our lives. The world would be a better place, that’s for sure.
  • Lost in Mike Cameron’s return yesterday was the return of Ben Sheets. He had a night he would like to forget, as he walked seven Cubs hitters. The Crew won the game, so that is of little importance. Everyone expected him to be a little rusty. The important thing is that he reported no pain in his right triceps after the game. I don’t know about this morning, but that was the best news of yesterday.
  • Ned Yost has vehemently defended Derrick Turnbow to fans and reporters alike. He has said that he has full confidence in Derrick even when fans were booing him off the field. Let’s be honest…it was getting a little annoying. Ned’s tone changed today, however. He says that he no longer has the confidence to send Derrick out in important situations until he can become more consistent. Ned’s right, it is a guessing game with Turnbow. He can be electric and dominating, but he can also be just terrible. Turnbow needs to prove a little something to the skipper to get in the game again.
  • The Brewer Nation wants to know what will happen when Joe Dillon is available to come up to the big league squad again. My response? Until the bullpen can see its workload diminish a bit, Joe will stay in the minors. We’ll revisit this question once it becomes relevant again. The Crew needs 13 pitchers right now.
  • SportsBubbler says that 3B Mat Gamel is the prospect of the week. Gamel has been absolutely mashing in Double-A Nashville. If he can get his defensive deficiencies figured out, he may be in a big league uniform sooner rather than later. With that said, it is a big “if.” Mat is pretty bad defensively.
  • Do you remember Greg Aquino? He couldn’t find the strike zone for the Brewers, and when he did, the baseball usually found its way out of the ballpark. It seems that the Baltimore Orioles have figured that out too. Baltimore DFA’d him today. It’s too bad. He has a great arm.




Offense sparkles against Cubs

30 04 2008

I don’t know what happened, but the Milwaukee Brewers decided it was time to break out of their offensive funk.  They broke out of it in a big way yesterday.

It all started with Mike Cameron in the first inning.  In his first at-bat with his new team in 2008, Mike ripped a double and later scored on a Prince Fielder sacrifice fly.  It set the tone for the day, and the offense never quieted against Jason Marquis and the Chicago Cubs.  Cameron finished the day going 3-5 with a double, two RBI, and two runs.  Not a bad way to start the year as a Brewer, eh?

Ben Sheets certainly did not have his best stuff today, but it was just nice to have him on the mound again.  He walked seven batters yesterday.  SEVEN!  In his previous four starts, he had four walks total.  I must admit, it was rather frustrating to see Benny have the control problems he did.  The most important thing, however, is the fact that he is pitching again without discomfort in his triceps area.  Hopefully, the Brewers were able to avoid any big injuries right there.

Back to the offense though.  Mike was not the only Brewer to have a big day.  Corey Hart went 3-5 and was just a home run short of the cycle.  J.J. Hardy went 3-4, which was crucial to the Brewers victory today.  The best at bat of the year for J.J. thus far was the at bat in the second inning when he stayed back on a Jason Marquis sinker and roped it to the opposite field.  Known as a straight pull hitter, it was very impressive to see Hardy take it the opposite way.  Bill Hall, Prince Fielder, and Ryan Braun also had nice games.

Records: Brewers (15-11); Cubs (16-10)

Hero of the Game: Mike Cameron

What a debut for Mike Cameron yesterday.  He got a double in his first at-bat with the Brewers, and he later scored.  I think that opened the floodgates for the team as a whole, but it also allowed Mike to relax and not worry about having to impress anyone on the team.  He already got his first hit out of the way, so he did not have to press.  I said it before yesterday’s game, and I’ll say it again: Mike Cameron could be the sparkplug this offense needed to get going.  If yesterday’s game is any indication, that could be correct.

Goat of the Game: Salomon Torres

It is hard for me to get too picky at this point, but Salomon almost blew an easy win for the Brewers.  In the seventh inning, the Brewers offense blew the game open with a three-run inning.  Torres came into the game looking to protect that lead so the bullpen (and Eric Gagne in particular) could rest.  Instead, he allowed the Cubs to put a three spot on the board.  It quickly became a game once again.  It turned out to be of very little significance, but it could have mattered.





Round ’em Up: Tuesday

29 04 2008

If you haven’t read Dan’s article below, give it a look.  Please give a comment and tell me what you think of it!  Also, if you would like the opportunity to write for BrewersNation, send me an email.  We can set up a day where your article would run, and we’d see what kind of response it got.  Anyway, on to the Round ’em Up!

  • Today is a big day for the Milwaukee Brewers.  In case you did not know that, Tom Haudricourt spells it out for you.  Mike Cameron will make his debut for the Crew today, and I am very excited to see him today.  Perhaps he can be a sparkplug for the Brewers offense.  We all know it needs it.  In addition, Ben Sheets comes back from his injury to take on the Chicago Cubs.  It is incredibly easy to overestimate the importance of a game this early in the season, but it is hard to say that this series against the Cubs does not hold some importance.  If the Crew can go into Wrigley and take two games, this week will be an automatic success.
  • Prince Fielder looks to be getting hot at the plate.  In case you needed another reason to think he’s about to break out, Prince looooves the long ball at Wrigley.
  • Sticking with Tom Haudricourt to start the day, he analyzes the clutch hitting for the Brewers.  They were ungodly awful with runners in scoring position (RISP) this weekend against the Florida Marlins.  I would prefer to forget that series ever happened, thank you very much.  J.J. Hardy and Rickie Weeks have been terrible with runners in scoring position this season.  Hardy is a little more worrisome, as he is batting ahead of the pitcher.  If he cannot get the runners in, the team will most likely not score that inning.  We all know the pitcher spot will not drive in the runs.  He needs to step up his game this week.
  • Adam McCalvy answers fans questions in the Brewers mailbag this week.  Is it me, or does Adam seem to shy away from making any bold predictions or any concrete statements?  I suppose that comes with being a writer for the MLB.  You cannot afford to make anyone upset.
  • Here’s an interesting article on Alcides Escobar and how he became such a good fielder.  He actually practiced as a youngster.  What a concept, huh?!  He is a fantastic fielder, but he’s struggled this year defensively for Huntsville.  I’ve been very surprised by that.
  • Are you scrambling for information on Josh Butler, the player the Brewers acquired for Gabe GrossHere’s an article about what happened when the trade occurred.  Interestingly enough, Butler was about ready to pitch against Brevard County when he received word that he was just traded to Milwaukee.  Instead of pitching in that game, he simply crossed the diamond and put his stuff in Brevard County’s dugout.  That is incredibly ironic!
  • Do you hate the Chicago Cubs?  Play Whack-A-Cub and relieve some of that stress.  Plus, it will save you from doing work for a while.
  • RealGM Baseball has their Power Rankings up following Week 4.  I do not mean to be crass, but these rankings are stupid.  There is no possible way that the Cincinnati Reds are four spots better than the Milwaukee Brewers.  Zero chance that is true.
  • People are beginning to ask if Francisco Cordero is worth the money the Reds are paying him.  The answer is no, no closer is worth that much money.  With that said, he has done nothing but convert every save opportunity for Cincinnati.  The problem is that Cincy has given Coco only four chances at a save.  That’s probably not good.




Visiting Writer: Analyzing Milwaukee’s defense

29 04 2008

Because I’ve been so busy lately, I have decided to open a search for another blogger that can help keep the content running. This person would take part in writing articles for the site, and just running things when I am unable to do so. If you are interested in the position, shoot me an email. Send me an article, and we’ll see what kind of response it gets. Here’s what we have for today. It’s good stuff. Tell us what you think!

Hi my name is Dan and I’ll be helping out BrewersNation here from time to time. I wanted to take the opportunity today to look at the Brewers defense and how it stacks up so far this year. Jeff Sackmann at Brew Crew Blog was talking about it the other day and I agreed with the whole of his argument, but disagreed on some of the details. When I say “defense,” just for clarification, I’m looking at the position players that support the starting pitcher and not the pitcher himself. Moving along….

The big picture is that, overall, the Brewers defense is looking remarkably improved from last season. Here’s a position by position look at our defense:

Catcher: Jason Kendall is something special behind the plate. First off , I want to say that I absolutely hated Estrada last year. I felt his calling of the game for his pitchers was sub-par (thus some of our pitching problems last year) and his pick off percentage was dreadful. One only has to look at how our starting rotation is pitching this season to see that Kendall is calling a much better game behind the plate. His throws to second are much better too. Hanging near the bottom of the league in “caught runners” with Estrada must have worried the veteran catcher. But actually in spring training coaches worked with Kendall on not leaning so far forward in his throw. The result is better accuracy and opposing offensives have taken note.

First Base: Prince’s wife, Chanel, not only showed Fielder where meat comes from, but also pointed out that his defense ranked near the bottom of all MLB first basemen. Whether its off-season moves, veggie burgers make him lighter on his loafers, or a combo of both the slugger is looking quicker and more agile holding on to the #1 bag. Several acrobatic catches, stops, and dig outs have made Prince a threat both offensive and, now, defensively. Emulating Pujols as a true player on both sides of the playing field is a welcome goal for the youngster.

Second Base: Rickie Weeks is heralded as a “young talent” on the brink of a “breakout” season, but so far in this infant year I have been less than impressed with him. Putting aside his seizuring bat and anemic offensive production, Weeks is looking shaking on the defensive end as well. A few spectacular plays does not cover up the fact that Rickie has had trouble not only turning double plays (like the ninth inning dirt ball that should have gotten Gagne out of a blown save against the Cardinals last week), but turning outs into outs. He frequently is spiking the ball in the dirt on routine plays and only the improved glove of Fielder is saving Weeks from further embarrassment. I don’t want to be too hard on Rickie, statistically he is looking better without as many errors, but numbers don’t always tell the whole story. If he is going to have that breakout season, the second baseman is going to have to step up his game.

Shortstop: J.J. Hardy is playing well. There’s nothing spectacular to report from this spot on the diamond. His throws continue to by laser beams and on the money. He’s certainly not giving poor service to Weeks when they’re trying to turning the double play. I was particularly impressed with the couple of times that he’s found himself in shallow left trying to gun the runner down at first. Even though he came up short the other day on that exact play, his accuracy, range, and effort is something to be applauded. Keep up the good defensive work.

Third Base: Whatever frustration Bill Hall might still harbor for getting schlepped around the field from SS to Center to 3rd now should hopefully be subsiding. Hall certainly looking more natural playing in the dirt rather than the lonely grasses of the outfield. His throws have been pretty good and the range has been acceptable. No one can question that booting Braun to left field and filling the position with Hall is a down grade. He might not win any Gold Gloves, but Hall will always give you a solid game at the hot corner.

Left Field: Ryan Braun is the other beneficiary of the off-season merry-go-around. The reigning ROY’s offensive contributions often wiped away the dozens of runs his errors contributed to the opposition. So far Braun has looked pretty good in the outfield. He misplay a flyball in the inaugural series against the club, but had otherwise played decently back there. His great diving catch against the Marlins on Friday and the airmail (no connecting flights with the cut-off man) to snag Pujols at the plate put him on the highlight reels; the caliber of play that he never could produce at third. Like Hall, Braun may never win any awards in left, and he’s no Jenkins (yet), but the kid has the range and the arm to make the position his own.

Center Field: The trifecta of Gabe Gross, Gabe Kapler, and the now return Tony Gwynn held down the fort during the 25 game absence of Mike Cameron. Tony’s gets good marks before he got injured, but Kapler is the real surprise at this positions. Not only has his bat been a wonderful addition to the team, but he covered the center of the field wonderfully. I was thinking that Hart might cover center once Gwynn got injured, and a platoon would take right, but Kapler proved more than capable in getting to balls in center. Gross on the other hand was disappointing. Yost kept on insisting that he just needed regular playing time to help both his bat and glove, neither which proved to be true once Kapler also hit the wall (pun intended) and got injured. Save a small spike in offensive production right before he got traded to Tampa Bay, Gross didn’t have the speed, range, or know-how to get to the hits that Kapler, Gwynn, Cameron, or most center fielders would have gotten to. Cameron will hopefully lock down center for good and we can look for another Gold Glove for him.

Right Field: Corey Hart’s height and speed have always made him an asset in the Brewer’s outfield. Its obviously the reason I thought he might take center during Gwynn’s downtime, but it is his glove and a few fundamentals that have shaken my confidence in him lately. Don’t get me wrong, I like Hart (and my girlfriend has an unhealthy obsession with him), but he’s missing the mark on a number of throws to home that might (just might) have been outs if they were on the money. I would expect Braun to miss the plate, but since Hart has jumped to the top of many sleeper star lists because of such previously good defense the bar is now higher for him. I know that lights might have caused some trouble for Corey the other day as well, but lights are as standard to a ballpark as mid-day drunks so Hart better get used to both. Its probably just a misnomer for the shaggy Texan, so I look forward to better games ahead for him.

Like I wrote at the top of the article (which probably seems like hours you wish you could have gotten back) the Brewers defense has gotten better since its disastrous last season. They are turning outs into outs and taking away a few hits unexpectedly too. This all helps the man in the middle of the diamond throw a much better game when he knows he has competent defenders behind him. While the bats have been quite it is this improved defense that have kept the Brewers in the game.





Minor League Boxscores: Tuesday

29 04 2008

Nashville Sounds (5-18), 8.5 GB

Final 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Colorado Springs 4 0 0 2 0 3 0 0 0 9 12 2
Nashville 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 2

RHP Richie Gardner – (L, 0-1) 3.1 IP, 7 hits, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 K – 7.20 ERA
3B Joe Dillon – 2-4, 2 1B – .227 BA

Huntsville Stars (17-8), — GB

Final 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Jacksonville 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 9 2
Huntsville 1 2 1 0 0 3 0 0 X 7 12 3

LHP Sam Narron – (W, 4-1) 6.0 IP, 8 hits, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K – 2.90 ERA; 1-2, HR (1), 2 RBI – .500 BA
3B Mat Gamel – 2-3, 2 1B, 2 BB, SB (2), 3 runs – .367 BA
1B Chris Errecart – 4-4, 2 RBI, BB – .303 BA
SS Alcides Escobar – 2-5, 2 1B, SB (3), run – .272 BA

Brevard County Manatees (15-10), 2.0 GB

Final 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Vero Beach 1 1 0 2 1 0 0 1 0 6 12 1
Brevard County 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 6 X 7 9 1

RHP Alexandre Periard – ND, 6.0 IP, 9 hits, 5 ER, 1 BB, 9 K – 4.50 ERA
RHP Omar Aguilar – (S, 8 ) 1.0 IP, 1 hit, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K – 0.64 ERA
2B Jimmy Mojica – 1-4, HR (2), 3 RBI – .343 BA
1B Stephen Chapman – 1-4, 2B, 2 RBI – .260 BA

West Virginia Power (9-15), 6.5 GB

Did not play.





Bush vs. Parra debate

28 04 2008

Dave Bush has been sent down to Triple-A now that Yovani Gallardo is back in the roation and Ben Sheets is fully healthy.  We have been speculating for weeks that Bush may be traded, but the Brewers opted to simply send him to the minors to work some of the kinks out.  Good.  Fine.  Moving on.

Not so fast.  Many people believe that Manny Parra should have been sent to Nashville instead of Bush.  I personally believe that Parra saved his job in the big leagues with his outing yesterday, so I understand that line of thinking.

Brewers Bar believes that Parra should have gotten sent down because he cannot go deep into games.  Citing the bullpen’s heavy workload, Jesse asserts that it would be better to have Bush go six or seven innings and give up a run or two more than stick with Parra who will tax our bullpen.  Parra certainly has better stuff than does Bush.  That does not mean he should stay in the bigs, however.

In-Between Hops, however, argues that people are reading too much into Parra’s short outings.  Fans and critics are saying that he simply cannot go six or seven innings.  Scott Segrin disagrees.  Parra can go deeper into games, but Ned Yost and the Brewers are trying to save his arm and pull him before he throws too many pitches.  Parra has thrown the fewest pitches per game (only 90 pitches/game), so perhaps there is some truth to that.

I believe Brewers Bar has the more persuasive argument here.  Ned Yost and the Brewers are almost certainly attempting to limit the number of pitches Manny Parra is throwing, but it does make our bullpen work harder.  After Manny went 5.1 innings, David Riske, Guillermo Mota, Mitch Stetter, Derrick Turnbow, and Eric Gagne all worked.  Because it went to extra innings, so did Seth McClung.  That is a lot of relievers to be in every five days.  Dave Bush does not have the ceiling that Parra has, but he does have the durability that Parra lacks.  That is huge for the Crew’s ‘pen right now.

Before you accuse me of having the same type of “Bush-love” that Ned has for Dave Bush, let me explain a little more.  Dave Bush actually has given up three fewer hits in one inning less of work.  Parra has walked one more batter than Bush as well.  Bush does have problems with giving up the long ball, however.  In one less start, he has given up three more home runs than Parra.  This does raise a red flag, but one must notice that Dave has pitched 22.2 innings in four starts.  Manny has pitched 23.2 innings in five starts.  That may seem innocuous this early in the season, but it will multiply throughout the rest of the season.

Finally, I would like to suggest that Manny would be a great fit as a long man in the bullpen.  It would keep his pitch count and innings down, while allowing him to enjoy success early in his pitch counts.  In his first 25 pitches, Parra allows opposing hitters to hit a measly .160.  In his next 25 pitches, he only gives up an opposing batting average of .260.  As a long reliever, most of his work would be in these areas.

Once Parra gets above the 50 pitch mark, however, things go downhill very quickly.  Between pitch number 51 and pitch 75, opposing hitters are hitting a fine .357, with an on-base percentage at .406.  His effectiveness dwindles significantly the further he gets into the game.  Between pitches 76 and 100, hitters are batting a staggering .563!  If Parra were the long man in the ‘pen, the Brewers would be able to utilize his strengths.  He is young, so these numbers are bound to get better, but he is most effective pitching only three to four innings at a time.

Dave Bush is not as flashy as Manny Parra, but he eats plenty of innings.  He is certainly more frustrating than Parra, but he is a solid number five starter in the rotation.  Placing Manny as the long man in the bullpen would allow Manny to gain big league experience, while still making a spot start or two along the way.  This, of course, would mean that the Brewers would have to get rid of one of the other arms in the bullpen.  That would be a whole different argument.  All in all, it is a positive thing for the Milwaukee Brewers that there are more major league caliber players than positions on the roster.  Depth is key to a division title.





Minor League Boxscores: Monday

28 04 2008

UPDATE 04-28-08 12:45pmBrewerfan.net is reporting that LHP Zach Braddock is getting called up to Brevard County after yesterday’s dominating performance.  In case you missed it, Zach struck out 10 batters in only four innings of work.  Don’t be too worried about the short outing.  The Brewers organization is just being cautious with his arm.  It’s special.  Congratulations Zach!

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Nashville Sounds (5-17), 8.5 GB

Final 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Nashville 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 7 1
Omaha 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 X 3 5 0

LHP Chris Narveson – (L, 0-4) 7.0 IP, 5 hits, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 K – 4.18 ERA
DH Russell Branyan – 2-4, 2 1B, RBI – .412 BA
2B Hernan Iribarren – 1-5, RBI, SB (5) – .321 BA

Huntsville Stars (16-8), 0.5 GB

Final 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Jacksonville 0 0 0 0 2 1 5 0 1 9 12 0
Huntsville 0 0 2 0 0 2 4 1 1 10 13 1

LHP Brae Wright – ND, 5.0 IP, 9 hits, 2 ER, 4 BB, 5 K – 3.33 ERA
3B Mat Gamel – 3-4, 2 3B, HR (3), 4 RBI, BB, 3 runs – .358 BA
C Angel Salome – 3-4, HR (2), 2B, RBI, 2 runs – .310 BA
RF Matt LaPorta – 1-3, 2B, 2 runs – .289 BA

Brevard County Manatees (14-10), 2.0 GB

Final 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 R H E
Vero Beach 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 8 3
Brevard County 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 8 4

RHP Mike Jones – ND, 3.0 IP, 1 hit, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K – 4.09 ERA
RHP John Axford – ND, 4.0 IP, 4 hits, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K – 3.98 ERA
CF Darren Ford – 1-6, 1B, SB 2 (13)
C Anderson de la Rosa – 2-5, 2B, RBI – .360 BA

West Virginia Power (9-15), 6.5 GB

Final 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Delmarva 0 0 0 1 0 0 3 0 0 4 6 4
West Virginia 2 0 0 0 1 3 1 0 X 7 13 2

LHP Zach Braddock – ND, 4.0 IP, 2 hits, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K – 0.00 ERA
RHP Wes Etheridge – (S, 4) 2.0 IP, 1 hit, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K – 2.31 ERA
1B Curt Rindal – 2-4, 2B, HR (3), RBI – .211 BA
RF Caleb Gindl – 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI – .256 BA
DH Jonathan Lucroy – 2-4, 2 1B, RBI, run – .318 BA