Round ’em Up: Friday

11 07 2008

UPDATE 07-11-08 3:04pm – Baseball America picked their minor league All-Star team last week. Mat Gamel, Alcides Escobar, and Matt LaPorta all made the squad. It is amazing how stacked Huntsville is, even with the departure of LaPorta. (Tip of the cap to Aaron for this one)

Dixieflatline from Brew Crew Ball has a great post that takes a look at the horizontal movement of Dave Bush’s pitches and attempts to figure out why he has struggled on the road. Ned Yost says the mound at Miller Park is to Dave’s liking. That could play a big part, as Dave has far more movement on his pitches when he’s at home. Give it a look. It’s great stuff.

I never wish injury onto anyone, but the Milwaukee Brewers get some good luck this weekend. Cincinnati’s Aaron Harang will miss his scheduled start against the Brewers due to a strained forearm. The injury is not serious, but it will allow the Crew to dodge him. Harang has killed Milwaukee when pitching against them throughout his career. In 2008 alone, the big right-hander has two starts and is 1-0. He went eight innings in both starts and only gave up one run in each game. Thank goodness the Crew doesn’t have to deal with Harang this weekend.

The Junkball Blues analyzes the amount of extra-base hits the Brewers hit.  No surprise, the majority of these hitters are extra-base hit machines.  The league average is about 1/3 of the hits to be for extras.  The only players for Milwaukee that do not live up to that are Craig Counsell and Jason Kendall.  No surprises there.


I know I usually write an NL Central Review on Fridays, but it takes far too long to write. The response is not nearly as high now as it was at the beginning, so I think I will begin to include more NL Central news in the Round ’em Ups instead of a separate post each week. I apologize if you were looking for the Review today, but I would rather spread the information out through the week and give more continuous attention to the NL Central.

  • In case you did not know already, Corey Hart officially made the All-Star team thanks to your votes! Chuckie Hacks has the video of the Brewers mobbing Corey and giving him a little beer shower during his press conference. You want to know why people say Milwaukee’s clubhouse is great? Take a look at the video. It’s obvious that the guys truly like and respect each other.
  • Bill Chuck from Dugout Central takes a look at the NL All-Star team and has a little commentary after each player. He doesn’t have Corey on the list though, so it must have been written before the final vote ended.
  • has an interview of CC Sabathia with reporter Amy Nelson. It’s nice to see that CC is an articulate young man who is genuinely excited about being in Milwaukee. When asked about how much money it would take to keep him in Milwaukee after the season, however, he gave a very evasive answer. He says he wants a winning team with a great attitude. Perhaps Milwaukee can be that place for him.
  •’s Jayson Stark says Zack Greinke was Milwaukee’s Plan B if they were unable to score Sabathia. This is interesting, as all reports have said Greinke is not on the market and will not be until after the season is over. The reliever idea is intriguing though.
  • Aaron from Brew Crew Pub has a recap of the Colorado Rockies series. Let’s hope the Reds series goes a little better this weekend. The Crew needs to go into the All-Star Break on a high note.
  • SportsBubbler names RHP R.J. Seidel the Prospect of the Week. His change-up is electric. It’s nice to see the LaCrosse native put a couple good outings together. I still see him in a relief role, but it will depend on how he handles Brevard County next season. Eric Fryer is also mentioned in the Three Up category, but they make it sound like he hasn’t done anything until this week. He has raked since being promoted to West Virginia. Get used to the name.
  • The Hardball Times has a great piece that breaks down the mechanics and projectability of RHP Jake Odorizzi and LHP Evan Frederickson. The general consensus is that Odorizzi is something special, and the Brewers were lucky to get him with the #32 pick. I had not heard this before, but Jake is apparently trying out a four-seam fastball and has seen his velocity jump up to 95. With such a wiry frame, he should be able to add a couple ticks to that fastball too.Frederickson, on the other hand, did not receive much praise from THT. The author actually refused to rate Evan because the video being used did not match the reports of him. He was throwing much too slow. His control was still horrible though.
  • The Brew Town Beat gives everyone in the batting order a theme song when coming up to bat. This is a nice light piece to kill some time while you’re at work.
  • The Seattle Mariners finally released former-Brewer Richie Sexson. When you’re as tall as he is, a drop from productivity is a big fall. I suspect he’ll land somewhere. Not Milwaukee though. Don’t get excited.
  • Cardinals Diaspora thinks its time for another NL Central team to negotiate a deal with Billy Beane. This time, the target would be Joe Blanton. If you really want Joe Blanton and his 5.00+ ERA, I will not stop you. St. Louis’ pitching coach, Dave Duncan, has worked wonders with the Cards’ pitching staff in 2008, but this may be asking for a little too much.
  • Do you think the Cardinals aren’t worried about the big moves made by the Brewers and the Cubs this past week? You’d be wrong. St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa is asking for the front office to get him help right now. He does not want to wait for the return of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright in mid-August. He wants that help right now. It’s nice to make other teams feel nervous.
  • has the 7 Worst Trades in the last decade. That Aramis Ramirez deal to Chicago remains one of the worst deals that has affected the Milwaukee Brewers. Every time I think about that deal, I just get upset. How did that seem like a good idea at the time? I know hindsight is 20/20, but seriously. What was Pittsburgh thinking?

I promised you all some big news either yesterday or today. I’m still working on it. The news just didn’t quite happen when it was planned. Stay tuned though. I’m not just teasing you all, don’t worry. Something is actually happening, and it is significant.


Friday’s NL Central Review

13 06 2008

Chicago Cubs (43-24), — GB

The Northsiders had another good week, pulling farther and farther away from the pack in the NL Central. After a rare split with the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend, the Cubs returned home and swept the Atlanta Braves, who are just awful on the road. The team is still getting great pitching from Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster, along with stellar work from the bullpen.

The biggest news of the week has been the injury to Alfonso Soriano. The Cubs’ left fielder was hit by a pitch in the hand and broke his pinkie finger. You would think this would be a bigger concern to Cubs fans, but they seem to have an unnatural dislike for Alfonso. The reemergence of Jim Edmonds in Chicago has eased the pain a bit too. Last night, Edmonds hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning off of Manny Acosta. Fans change their minds according to the weather, and right now, Cubs fans are singing Edmonds’ praises. I wonder how long that will last.

  • The View from the Bleachers has some interesting observations from the past week. Take a look at the post to see some of the thoughts from yesterday’s game. One interesting thing…Reed Johnson is now tied with Chase Utley for the most HBP in the league. At least he’s good for something, right?
  • Another Cubs Blog discusses whether overusing the bullpen is actually a problem. That is, can you overuse the bullpen? The article concludes that you cannot, which is good for the Cubs. They are riding Carlos Marmol incredibly hard this season. The article suggests his arm will be okay because he used to be a starter. That’s an interesting argument. The problem is that a starter has five days to rest in between starts. Marmol doesn’t have that luxury anymore. The issue is whether his arm can bounce back and allow him to pitch effectively on short rest, not if his arm is used to throwing a bunch of innings.

St. Louis Cardinals (40-28), 3.5 GB

No doubt the biggest news of the week in Cardinal-dom is the injury to Albert Pujols. The slugging first baseman scuffled out of the batters box after making contact, but strained his calf muscle. Doctors are saying he’ll be out for about three weeks. That’s a big blow to the Cardinals. It’s also a big blow to Cardinals fans, as they’ll have nothing to talk about for three weeks. All my friends that are Cardinals fans never talk about anyone else on the team, just Pujols. It’ll be a boring three weeks.

While the media harped on the Pujols injury, the Cardinals kept on rolling this week. They were on the road against the Houston Astros and Cincinnati Reds this week, and St. Louis took both series. That’s impressive with how poorly the majority of teams in baseball have played on the road this season. In fact, the Cards are one of the only teams that have a winning record on the road. The Phillies and the Angels are the only other two teams to have a winning record on the road this season.

  • Rockin’ the Red is panicking over the Albert Pujols injury. They throw out some options as to what the Cardinals should do to make up for his absence. They make some good points. Josh Phelps could be the answer. Chris Duncan has played first base before. Why do I say Rockin’ the Red is panicking? They advocate signing Barry Bonds. Oh my…
  • Viva El Birdos has one of the best posts of the day in the blogosphere. A couple weeks ago, the site advocated trading for Brian Roberts. That is looking less and less likely as the season progresses. Instead, the site has set its sights on Ray Durham. This would be a great pick-up for the St. Louis Cardinals. San Francisco would likely not ask for much in return, and the Cards would get a valuable and productive veteran to play in the middle infield. And…this just in…Troy Glaus has found his home run stroke again. Not good.

Houston Astros (33-34), 10.0 GB

The Houston Astros are slowing imploding, even if they do have the offensive firepower to stay with anyone. Houston has now lost five straight series, two of them to the Milwaukee Brewers. Lance Berkman is still getting it done at the plate, while Carlos Lee and Miguel Tejada have continued to get in on the act. The middle of this order can flat-out hit, and they showed that consistently against the Brewers this week. The Stros can certainly put up some runs.

The problem has been their pitching. That is, their pitching besides Roy Oswalt this week. Roy absolutely dominated the Milwaukee Brewers, busting them consistently on the inside part of the plate. He struck out ten batters and pitched quite efficiently. The Astros could use Oswalt returning to his old form. Besides Oswalt, however, the starting pitching has been atrocious. Neither Brian Moehler or Brandon Backe could get through the fifth inning against the Crew!

  • Speaking of poor pitching performances, The Astros Dugout laments over the fact that the Houston Astros have given up more home runs than any other pitching staff in baseball. Even Oscar Villareal has given up 11 homers in 2008. That’s right. A reliever has given up 11 home runs in just over 30.0 innings of work. It probably doesn’t help that the team plays in a one of the best hitters parks in the league.
  • Houston Astros Baseball has a great recap of Day 1 of the MLB Draft for the Astros. In a surprise move, the Stros took C Jason Castro over 1B Justin Smoak. Money demands may have been an issue, but Smoak has the ability to be an elite player in the big leagues. Castro has the potential to be only average, in my opinion. Give the post a look. It’s a great recap. Their sandwich pick was even more off-the-radar than was Castro…

Pittsburgh Pirates (33-34), 10.0 GB

Who would have thought the Pirates would be only one game under .500 at this point in the season? Pittsburgh is playing pretty good ball right now in the Steel CIty, as they split the series with the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks last weekend and took care of the Washington Nationals at home over the past few days. This team has overachieved the whole season, but it’s been a fun ride to watch them succeed relative to their talent.

Ryan Doumit returned from the DL this week and has been raking since that point. In Washington Nationals series, Ryan hit four home runs to go with a couple doubles. That’s one way to announce your return to the line-up. Meanwhile, Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, and Nate McLouth continue to produce in the middle of the batting order. Adam LaRoche, on the other hand, is struggling mightily at the plate. He’s always been a second-half player, however, so he could begin to heat up this month.

  • Ken Rosenthal from FOX Sports says that the Pittsburgh Pirates may consider a Jason BayMatt Kemp trade. Here’s what I have to say about that: DUH! Bucs Dugout likes the idea too. They see Kemp as being a potential All-Star down the road.
  • Here’s a great post from Pittsburgh Lumber Co. on the job Doug Mientkiewicz pulled on Randy Johnson. Doug kept stepping out on Randy, who wanted to work fast. It frustrated the big lefty, and eventually caused him to lose composure on the mound. The Pirates ended up winning the game. Little things matter to opposing pitchers, so hitters shouldn’t be afraid to throw off their rhythm. I never understood why more hitters don’t step out of the box on Ben Sheets more often. Break his rhythm!

Cincinnati Reds (32-36), 11.5 GB

The Reds have had a very up and down week. They split the series with the Florida Marlins, where Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 600th home run in his career. That’s the good. The bad? Cincinnati just lost two of three to the St. Louis Cardinals at home. That has been the type of year the Reds have had. They cannot keep a winning streak going for very long, which is why they are under .500 at this point.

One of the major problems for Cincy has been the performance of Aaron Harang. After being a stabilizing force in the rotation for the majority of the year, Aaron has imploded over his past few outings. He will need to solve his problems tonight against the Boston Red Sox if the Reds want to succeed. The Reds also called up Homer Bailey from the minors, and he’s been nothing but underwhelming thus far. They young man cannot find the strike zone consistently enough to be effective. He has a special arm, so he will get every chance to succeed. That is, until Dusty Baker gets annoyed with him.

  • The Red Reporter has a post on Ken Griffey Jr., or should I say, Mr. 600.
  • A bright spot for the Reds organization has been the play of Jay Bruce since being called up from Triple-A. He’s hit for power, for average, and has played solid defense in the outfield. His play has given Cincinnati fans something to be excited about, even if the team is not performing up to expectations. The young man is the real deal, and I’m not looking forward to the day when the Brewers have to face him. He’s another big, left-handed bat in a powerful Cincinnati line-up.

Friday’s NL Central Review

30 05 2008

UPDATE 05-30-08 2:35pm – Mark Mulder of the St. Louis Cardinals says that he will retire if another surgery is required on his ailing shoulder.  I was very interested in how Mulder was going to bounce back once he made it back to the big leagues, but it is looking more and more unlikely.  Best of luck to you, Mark.


Chicago Cubs (33-21), — GB

The Chicago Cubs now have the best record in baseball. It makes me a little sick to say that, but the Northsiders have been playing some fantastic baseball. The week started out a little rocky in Pittsburgh, as the Cubs lost two out of three to the lowly Pirates. The team then welcomed the Los Angeles Dodgers to Wrigley and greeted them with a sweep. They made it four in a row by beating the Colorado Rockies yesterday. Goat Riders of the Apocalypse has a funny article thanking the NL West for being so bad and allowing the Cubs to take up the mantle as the best team in baseball.

One thing Chicago fans should be concerned about is their lackluster performance on the road thus far. They are a very average 10-13 on the road, while posting a great 23-8 at home. As you can see, the Cubs have played many of their games at home. It will be interesting to see what Chicago can do when they are away from the friendly confines of Wrigley for an extended period of time. With that said, the Cubs are getting fantastic pitching right now. Sean Gallagher pitched great this week, earning himself a few more starts in the fifth spot of the rotation. Ryan Dempster is still defying logic (meaning…he’s pitching well), and Carlos Zambrano is still chugging along nicely. He went 8.0 innings and gave up only one run against the Dodgers this week.

  • This is an interesting article from Another Cubs Blog. It doesn’t really pertain to the Cubs, but it does indirectly address the Brewers. The article is making the case that it is impossible to tell if a team is overachieving or underachieving based on what a manager does in the dugout. I understand the point here. It is valid. The problem is when a team lays a collective egg when the expectations are high. This article makes the situation a little too simplistic.
  • The View From The Bleachers is wondering whether or not the Cubs should try to sign Kenny Lofton. Are the Cubs honestly going to sign every outfielder possible until one sticks? Reed Johnson has not been spectacular, but he’s been solid and instrumental in numerous Cubs wins. Not to mention he’s a big reason Yovani Gallardo is injured for the season (no, I’m not bitter). All in all, Lofton would be an upgrade for many teams, including the Cubs. There’s no reason to mess with the chemistry right now, however.

St. Louis Cardinals (32-23), 1.5 GB

The St. Louis Cardinals are still plugging along, winning series after series. They now have won four straight series after taking care of the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers this week. The pitching has remained a strong point for the Cardinals, and the offense is producing because of the big bats of Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick has been the biggest surprise on the offensive side of the ball for St. Louis, and he’s made Chris Duncan expendable. I don’t believe the Cards will move Duncan any time soon, as they would be selling low at this time, but the point remains viable. The team has some pieces it can move to make the team better for a late-season pennant run.

  • Speaking of having pieces to move, Viva El Birdos wants the Cardinals’ organization to take a stand. Do they want to continue to contend this season? If they do, the front office should attempt to package a deal (including Chris Duncan) to get Brian Roberts from the Baltimore Orioles. The lackluster players in the middle of the infield for St. Louis has been reported here many times, so I will not delve into that too much. Brian Roberts would be a dangerous trade for a team that does not have a deep farm system, but they do have the money and will to get a move like this done. It would certainly augment the offensive in a big way.
  • In one of my favorite posts of the week, C70 At the Bat has an article that breaks down what every Cardinals t-shirt means. My personal favorite is the #15 Jim Edmonds jersey (the Cubs version). The article says that this person is “either obsessed with Jimmy Radio or just mentally deranged. Either way, please seek professional help.” Nice work.

Houston Astros (30-25), 3.5 GB

After taking two out of three from the Chicago Cubs last week, the Astros have played rather lackluster baseball. They split the series with the Philadelphia Phillies at home, but got absolutely blown out in the series finale. In fact, the bullpen gave up 11 runs in 2 innings that game. That’s hard to do, even if you were trying to do that. If you read St. Louis’ review above, you would know that Houston also lost two of three to the Cardinals on the road. I thought they had a chance to prove they were the second best team in the division in that series, but it was not meant to be.

Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence are still lighting up opposing pitchers at an alarming rate. Berkman is making a run for the midseason NL MVP award, and Pence has officially shaken off his April slump. Michael Bourn is even starting to come around a bit. Kaz Matsui is not, however. I’m still concerned as to what is wrong with Roy Oswalt. He has not pitched like the ace Houston needs him to be, and until he does, I do not believe the Astros will make a serious push for the playoffs. Time will tell, however.

  • The Crawfish Boxes analyzes the schedules thus far for the Cardinals, Cubs, and Astros. The Cardinals have had, by far, the easiest schedule of the three. The Cubs have played a majority of their games in 2008 at home. The Astros are right in the middle of the pack. This would suggest (admittedly on a very rudimentary level) that the Astros have a good chance to gain ground in the final 2/3 of the season. The article does mention that the Brewers have had the 2nd hardest schedule in the majors, so they may be able to make a run in the second half.
  • The Houston Astros have also made a few roster moves. SP Fernando Nieve has been sent down in favor of Jack Cassel. Cassel has dominated hitters in Triple-A in 2008, so it could be a nice move for the Astros. Dave Borkowski has been DFA’d in favor of Geoff Geary. I don’t want Dave Borkowski, and neither will any other major league team. Astro fans, you’ll still have your pitcher at the end of the day. Don’t worry.

Pittsburgh Pirates (25-28), 7.5 GB

The Pirates are still toying with the hearts of their fans. They go out and take care of business against the first place Chicago Cubs. The team then loses two out of three to the last place Cincinnati Reds. Granted, the series against the Reds was on the road, but it must still be frustrating for Pirates fans. Pittsburgh travels to St. Louis next and will try to right the ship against the second place team in the Central. The Pirates seem to play well against good teams, so it could be a good series.

The offensive forces of Jason Bay and Xavier Nady cannot be stopped. Pittsburgh has some nice trading chips if they would like to move them come July, which I believe they will. The organization has to save face somehow after some of the bad moves they have made (Matt Morris anyone?).

  • There has not been much going on in the blogosphere regarding the Pirates, but they did activate Jack Wilson from the DL. The light-hitting Brian Bixler was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Jack. Wait, I think I just implied that Jack Wilson is not a light-hitter. I apologize. They both cannot hit a lick.
  • Bucco Blog is always good for a nice little rant regarding the Pittsburgh Pirates. This week, the site takes up the 2008 draft. The article says that Pirates fans are already organizing a revolt against the team if the front office does not open up its pocketbooks and pay for a supreme talent in the draft. The team has consistently overdrafted players, so they wouldn’t have to pay a big signing bonus. The ramifications have obviously been seen in the lack of talent in the farm system in Pittsburgh. If fans are crying out against the management, I believe the team will have to draft a high-profile player with the second pick. Why wouldn’t they?

Cincinnati Reds (25-29), 8.0 GB

The Cincinnati Reds are still on the brink of contention in the NL Central. They are only four games under .500, and they are beating the teams they should beat lately. The Reds split a four-game series with the San Diego Padres (on the road) and took two out of three against the Pittsburgh Pirates at home. For the Reds to be successful, they need to be .500 on the road and just above .500 at home. It’s just that easy, right?

I have been a little concerned that Aaron Harang has been hit around fairly hard in his last couple outings. Perhaps he needs to face the Milwaukee Brewers, as he absolutely owns Milwaukee hitters. It is most likely just a slump that he will work out of, but it’s something to keep an eye on. Edinson Volquez has been fantastic this entire year, but Dusty Baker is still pushing his arm too much. Do the Reds really want to injure the kid?

  • The biggest news of the week is that the Reds called up CF Jay Bruce. The Red Reporter runs down some of his minor league numbers so you understand just how good the guy is. He’s someone the Brewers are going to have to face for the next decade or so. He has power, hits for average, plays solid defense, and has speed. The offense just got exponentially better with Bruce in the lineup.
  • Do you like the new trend of Sabermetrics? The Red Reporter has a nice article that analyzes the swing tendencies of Brandon Phillips. What does he swing at? How often does he make contact? It’s all here. Brandon is very much like Ryan Braun. He swings at anything and everything, especially the low and outside pitches. When the pitch is right down the middle though, Brandon (like Ryan) absolutely crushes the ball.

Friday’s NL Central Review

23 05 2008

Chicago Cubs (28-19), — GB

Last weekend, the Chicago Cubs took care of the Pittsburgh Pirates at home. Nothing to get worked up over there. The first place team in the division should take the series from the lowly Pirates. The real test came when Chicago traveled down to Houston for a surprisingly big series. I felt it was a rather sloppy series overall, and the Houston Astros took two out of three against the Cubs.

Chicago is still looking for a reliable fifth starter. Sean Gallagher is the latest arm to get a shot at the fifth spot, but he has been unimpressive in his starts. The right-handed veteran, Jon Lieber, appears to fit better as the long-man in the bullpen. His first start in the rotation was completely uninspiring, and the team quickly put him back in the relief role. My hunch is that Kevin Hart will be getting a shot for the Cubs if Gallagher doesn’t pan out, but he’s still stretching his arm out. Hell, why not stretch out Carlos Marmol? The Cubs use him enough anyway…

  • Brewers fans have been hearing rumors about a certain San Diego Padres pitcher coming to the Dairy State. Cubs fans are clamoring to get another Padre to Chicago, Greg Maddux. The Padres appear to be in “sell” mode…so much so that GM Kevin Towers may be ready for a firesale this summer. Maddux’s 3.94 ERA is solid enough to warrant the trade interest, and the search for a fifth starter at the back-end of the rotation could be solved through the trade. I suspect the name Felix Pie may come up in the trade talks if Chicago pursues this.
  • Chicago is not only looking for a fifth starter. The team is also searching for a center fielder that can hit from the left side. Management looks to have given up on Felix Pie, which is too bad. The young man has the tools to be a dangerous lead-off hitter. He simply doesn’t get enough chances to grow into a big league center fielder. Since giving up on Pie, Chicago decided to try Jim Edmonds in center. Well…he’s terrible, so that’s not working. Lou Pinella has hinted that a 28-year old rookie, Micah Hoffpaiur will get more playing time in center. You’re telling me that Pie is not better than Hoffpaiur? I don’t believe it.

St. Louis Cardinals (28-21), 1.0 GB

Last week, I was wondering if the Cardinals were beginning to regress back towards .500. They were scuffling along, and I thought the surprise team of 2008 had begun to show their true colors. The St. Louis Cardinals responded to my comments (yes, my personal comments) and took two out of three from the Tampa Bay Rays and traveled to San Diego to take the series there. Ryan Ludwick has continued to impress the past week. He’s taking more and more playing time from Chris Duncan in the outfield. Could Duncan be available in the coming month? If Ludwick keeps mashing, it certainly makes Duncan expendable.

The newly acquired Troy Glaus is beginning to heat up, which provides the offense with some much needed firepower. Todd Wellemeyer and Braden Looper have continued to be serviceable, if not above average. Joel Pinero suffered a tough loss on Tuesday, as he lost the game on one pitch (a three-run homer) in the sixth inning. The story of the year in the pen has been the emergence of Kyle McClendon. He’s attacking the strike zone and has nasty stuff. His 2.66 ERA is no fluke.

  • Viva El Birdos takes a look at how the Cardinals organization has handled roster moves thus far in the 2008 season. Hindsight is 20/20, but the Kyle McClendon and Chris Perez call-ups, along with the Jason Isringhausen decision, have looked brilliant thus far. Fans are calling for a trade to be made for a middle infielder, but the internal options are producing well enough. There may not be much power, but Aaron Miles and Cesar Izturis have been getting on base at a fairly high rate recently. Every move St. Louis has made has worked out beautifully so far.
  • The St. Louis Cardinals have been hitting a surprising amount of home runs in 2008. Offensive output was a concern in the off-season, but the team has impressed thus far. Viva El Birdos argues that the output will increase, as about 72% of St. Louis’ home runs have been solo shots. Instead of seeing this as a problem, the article notes that these home runs will inevitably come with more runners on base. That reasoning is simply wishful thinking, as the math doesn’t quite back that up. Take a statistics course.

Houston Astros (27-22), 2.0 GB

Houston fans got a bit of a mixed bag this week. The Astros took on their Texas-rivals the Rangers and laid a collective egg. I know that the Rangers are playing fairly well this season, but the red-hot Astros should not have lost the series to Texas…even if it was on the road. The team then returned to Houston, got a little home cooking, and took the series from the Chicago Cubs. Huge series win for the Astros. I know the Cubs are in first place, but they’ve already lost series to Milwaukee (twice) and Houston. I wonder how the Cubs will do when they start to play tougher competition.

The Astros do have some issues to work through, however. Their ace, Roy Oswalt, has struggled throughout 2008. He was supposedly the only sure thing on the mound coming into the season, and his problems continued yesterday in a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. Oswalt will have to get his stuff straightened out for Houston to stay competitive into September. On the other hand, Lance Berkman is still scalding hot. He’s seeing the ball so well that teams should consider simply walking him when he steps up to the plate. I am not a Berkman fan, but he has been enjoyable to watch thus far in the season.

  • Astros fans are still calling for the head of lead-off man Michael Bourn. His average is still sub-.200, but his blazing speed and fantastic baserunning skills have kept him at the top of the Astros batting order. Perhaps Bourn should be leading off, just lower in the order. Do I smell another situation where the pitcher bats in the eighth spot? That may cement the idiosyncrasy of the NL Central.
  • You cannot keep a talented hitter down forever. I continued to say that Hunter Pence couldn’t keep struggling, simply because he is a gifted hitter. Unorthodox, yes…but talented. After a horrendous April, Pence has bounced back to have a very solid May. How solid? Try .358/.421/.587 solid. Hunter Pence to the rescue indeed.

Pittsburgh Pirates (22-25), 6.0 GB

The past week has been tough for Pirates fans.  After being one of the hottest teams in baseball during the early part of May, Pittsburgh lost an intriguing series to the first-place Chicago Cubs.  The Pirates then welcomed Milwaukee to the unfriendly confines of PNC Park, yet the Brewers were able to take two out of three and the series.  It’s funny how much your outlook can be altered after a single week of baseball.

Pittsburgh’s relative success has mostly been because of the middle part of their batting order.  Jason Bay has shaken off his awful season in 2007 and returned to his All-Star form.  Bay has been carrying the offense with the help of the surprising Nate McLouth and Xavier Nady.  Nady had struggled against the Chicago Cubs, but he came to play against the Brewers.  The Pirates should probably look to trade Nady while his value has been climbing.

  • Much of the talk surrounding the Pirates has been about the June draft.  Should the team draft the collegiate hitter, Pedro Alvarez, or the toolsy high schooler, Tim Beckham?  The consensus seems to be that Pittsburgh will open up their wallets and draft Beckham.  The strategy goes like this: If Alvarez speeds through the minors and makes the big league squad by 2009/2010, what good will it do?  The Pirates need more time to rebuild.  Beckham could be a better player down the road, and it will not make a difference if he needs a little more seasoning in the minors.  The Pirates aren’t going anywhere anyway.  Makes sense to me.
  • Bucco Blog has a little rant about the management.  The Pirates organization says that it’s striving to hit the .500 mark this season.  The article makes a good point when it says, so what?  What is a .500 record going to do for anyone?  The goal should be making the playoffs, and the Pirates will only be able to do this in the relatively near future if they have a firesale and decide to invest in a major rebuilding process.  I completely agree with this point.  I would rather suffer through a couple awful seasons knowing my team is consciously trying to improve than sit through 10 straight mediocre to below-average seasons.

Cincinnati Reds (21-27), 7.5 GB

The Milwaukee Brewers looked up at the Cincinnati Reds to start the week.  The Reds appeared to keep the hot streak going after sweeping their rivals, the Cleveland Indians.  The team then hopped on a plane for their west coast road trip.  Something must have happened on that plane ride because the Reds have played totally uninspired baseball since Monday night.  The Los Angeles Dodgers easily swept Cincy, and the lowly San Diego Padres took the first game of the series last night.  When Jake Peavy, Chris Young, and Josh Bard are all on the DL and you still lose to the Padres, there is something wrong.

One problem is that Corey Patterson is terrible.  His batting average since April 9th has been .188.  And you thought Rickie Weeks was struggling…  More and more fans are calling for Jay Bruce to be called up.  I think it’s getting close to that time for Cincinnati.  Aaron Harang, their most consistent starter, struggled this week as well.  The only positive coming from this week is that Adam Dunn has decided to play some baseball.  He’s been seriously heating up lately.  Baseballs will be flying out of the parks very often I have a feeling.

  • The Red Reporter takes a look at the defense.  Overall, the article suggests that 7 out of the 9 positions are playing average or above defense.  The porous spots in the field are shortstop (where Jeff Keppinger used to roam) and in right field.  Ken Griffey Jr. has lost a few steps, so that is understandable.  There is one problem I have with this article.  How in the world can you claim that Adam Dunn is an average defender?  I don’t care what the “raw numbers” say.  The raw numbers also say that he has more errors than the average left fielder.  And please do not compare Dunn’s defensive prowess to that of Juan Pierre.  I almost got sick when I read that.
  • In case you have been living in a cave thus far in 2008, Edinson Volquez isn’t too bad.  He’s only on pace to have the best season ever for a rookie pitcher.  The article mentions that the Reds should consider trading Volquez while his trade value is through the roof.  I could get behind that.  Not because I don’t think he’s that good, but because he’s an arm injury waiting to happen.  The Reds are pushing him extremely hard this season, and for what?  A last place finish?  If they are going to push his arm, the Reds will be looking at a Francisco Lirano or Tom Gorzelanny type of second season.  If Dusty Baker intends on limiting his innings down the stretch however, it would be stupid to trade Volquez.  He’s someone that will be atop your rotation with Harang for the next four-five years.

Ten Optimistic Things To Think About

20 05 2008

It’s been a couple rough weeks for Brewers Nation (not this site, the fans) with the double sweep in Houston and Florida, the surprising losses at home against the Dodgers, and another sweep in Boston. Trolling through the comments section on sites around the web, one would think that its time to start propping ourselves on the ledge of the US Bank Building in Milwaukee and strongly consider jumping.

As Jim wrote, it’s no fun heading into Pittsburgh looking up at the Pirates in the standings. Being what it is us Brewers’ fans need some lifting up, and I thought I’d put together a post to life the spirits of the Brewers faithful. No calling for Yost’s head or Week’s bat here. The following is ten reasons to still be optimistic about your 2008 Milwaukee Brewers.

* This is not the 2004 Brewers

Granted the Brewers are sitting in last place for the first time since 2004, but this team is certainly not those Brewers. In 2004, the only reliable pitcher on the staff was Ben Sheets and of course he got injured again. Lyle Overbay starred for the offense. These 2008 Brewers are more experienced and talented that the former squad that had a decent season through the All-Star break and then suffered a terrible collapse to finish 67-94.

Of course I could make the comparison that this Brewers squad is not one of many other terrible Brewers teams, but that’s not the point. The point is that rather than looking at the 2004 season as the beginning of something positive we should be looking at the 2008 season as a continuation of the franchise’s growth. Many expected 2008 to be the breakout season for the Brew Crew, but that may or may not be the case.

Either way, compared to four years ago, this year’s team in infinitely more talented. They will not rely on single players to carry the team. People like Jeff Suppan in the rotation and other young (and improving pitchers) will back up Sheets and while Overbay is gone, there are no solo stars on this year’s team. A Prince Fielder is not alone or a Ryan Braun is not alone or a Corey Hart is not alone. The fact that I listed three players (any could more) shows that this offense is not alone in talent like teams of old.

* Its only ¼ way through the season

I’m a teacher so there are not many students that I give up on after just one quarter of the school year. One of the best things that the Brewers have going for them that, at this point, the season is still young. After about 40 games in we are certainly not the perfect position, but certainly not in the worst position either.

Anyone that was also a fan last year knows that strong or weak starts to the season have little bearing on the end result of a season. The Cubs played absolutely wonderful post All-Star break and the Colorado Rockies played out of their minds to close the 2007 season. With almost 120 games to play and any number of combinations of risings and fallings of the various NL Central teams, this Brewers team is by no means finished. The squad has all of the tools to be competitive. The only thing needed is consistency.

* Corey Hart

Speaking of consistency I hear that Milwaukee right fielder Corey Hart is legally changing his name to Corey Consistency. Mr. Consistency has been that and more for the Brewers. If 2008 was supposed to by Rickie Weeks’ breakout season, Hart may have stolen his thunder. Currently batting nearly .300 and getting extra-base hits like they’re going out of style, Corey has been the rock in the Brew Crew’s line up of struggling hitters.

* Braun is on a tear (no sophomore slump)

If you asked me earlier in the season if I was worried that Braun was being crushed under the weight of expectations for his second Major League Season you may have gotten a “yes” out of me, but after a slow start the $45 million dollar man has shown that he will probably avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. His batting average is soaring in the three-hole of the lineup and he is making big time pitchers look like chumps. At this pace he could add a MVP trophy next to the Rookie of the Year one.

* Melvin is on the case

Which is why it’s so important that Doug Melvin nailed Braun down to that eight-year, $45 million contract. Some Brewers fans are concerned that his off-season bullpen moves are not ironing out, but no one can doubt that this GM is trying to establish long-term success while balancing short-term expectations. The Mike Cameron move showed that right now we want success, but Melvin is clearly trying to establish success alongside development with Braun the future of left and possible Hart, Gwynn (although unlikely) and LaPorta being groomed for the outfield.

Melvin is working on signing such players as JJ Hardy, Prince Fielder, and Hart to long-term deals and getting vocal people like Braun to sign first and encourage others to follow suit is the right steps to take.

* Attanasio has got the big bucks and a small ego

All of which wouldn’t be possible except for the support and checkbook of Daddy Warbucks, Mark Attanasio. Time and time again Mr. Attanasio has not only spoken of building a long-term contender, but he has put his money where his mouth is. He has even made comments that said, if need be, he would shell out some money to strengthen the rotation this year.

Attanasio bought the Milwaukee Brewers not just so he could have a play-thing, but because he saw potential in the massive amount of talent the Brewers have and its incredible fanbase. This is not a Steinbrenner owner with fingerprints all over the management decisions. Attanasio is active without being overbearing.

* The young arms will improve

Pitchers like Carlos Villanueva and Manny Parra take a lot of flack because they don’t hold up quite so well the third time through the order, but often times that blurs the fact that these pitchers (along with the injured Gallardo) have great stuff. Part of being a young pitcher is that there is a massive learning curve and just like Fielder has to adjust to not being pitched inside as much these young pitchers are talented and smart enough to recognize that they must (and will) improve to become more dominant as the season goes on.

It’s easier for offenses to focus their lenses on these pitchers because they are studying one player, but our guys have to study countless batters for each game and re-work their pitch selection and delivery to go deeper into games. They will.

* Kendall is not Estrada

So it’s important that a man like Jason Kendall is behind the plate instead of Johnny Estrada. Kendall brings much more talent offensively and defensively than the embattled 2007 catcher Estrada. A hot beginning of 2008 and some great clutch hitting thus far has made Kendall’s 9-hole batting an essential part of many Brewers offensive outbursts. Offensively, Kendall is sniffing around .300 as a career hitter, walks a lot, and strikes out few and far in between. A far cry from the painful hitting of Estrada (who I swear to God only got hits with 2 out and no one on). After playing runner-up to Estrada as the worst defensive catcher in baseball last year, the 12-year veteran has pushed his caught stealing percentage is above 30 percent.

Even more important than the offense/defense numbers is that an experienced catcher that molds well with his pitching staff. This is why I worry less about our young pitchers, because Kendall knows how to call a

game and given his work ethic he will only work harder to improve these kids.

* The defense is stronger

Of course I started writing this part before the six errors in Boston, but I’ve made the point in a previous column that the defense is far and away better than it was last season. Numbers show that they are near the bottom in errors and tops in fielding percentage. Moving Braun away from the hot corner and signing Mike Cameron have been well-documented. Are they perfect? Hell no. But improvement is always a step in the right direction. The point above about Kendall is just one more area of less concern with the 2008 Brewers.

* There’s always next year

This one isn’t so much about the 2008 season (obviously, because I’m saying next year…), but Brewers’ fans need to keep everything in perspective. Expectations were and continue to be massively high for this season. Those expectations may cost someone who shall remain nameless his job and maybe even result in a few Brewers finding new homes, but most sane people realize that harnessing young talent is an on-going process. Melvin and the ownership are working on securing these young lads for the long-term, but not everything works out as quickly as the fan base expects.

Whether or not this season is a wash doesn’t mean all is lost. These are not the Florida Marlins which, in the past, have assembled one year teams and then dissembled them. Teams like the Brewers are being built for the long-term. It has been 26 years since the Brewers have sniffed the post-season so as much as it pains me each year to say it… there’s always next year if this one doesn’t work out.

By: Dan Wiersema

Friday’s NL Central Review

16 05 2008

Chicago Cubs (25-16), — GB

The Chicago Cubs had a fantastic week. They got their revenge against the Arizona Diamondbacks after last year’s sweep in the playoffs. Chicago swept the D’Backs fairly convincingly all three days. The Northsiders were not done, however. The team then welcomed the lowly San Diego Padres to town and quickly took three out of four from them.

Starting pitching has been a very big strong point for the Cubbies this week. Carlos Zambrano is on pace for 24 wins, and he’s looked every bit like their ace all season long. The biggest surprise has been Ryan Dempster. I criticized the move to the starting rotation, but it appears that the move is paying dividends for the Cubs. He pitched 8+ innings of shutout ball against the Padres yesterday, and his strikeout rate was quite impressive (12 strikeouts in the game).

  • The biggest news of the week has been the signing of Jim Edmonds. Cubs fans are torn. They hate Jim Edmonds from his days in St. Louis. I mean hate him. Not to mention the fact that he has been just horrendous in 2008. Or, as Goatriders of the Apocalypse puts it, “Jim Edmonds is on pace to suck.” Well put.Besides the fact that Edmonds is over the hill, Chicago now must decide what to do with Felix Pie. The young center fielder has shown flashes of brilliance, but the organization has not fully committed to the young man. A View from the Bleachers says that the management needs to decide the fate of Pie right now. Will the team give him a chance? If not, trade him.
  • GoatRiders of the Apocalypse has some nice trends concerning the Cubs. Derrick Lee has been super impressive this season. He is on pace for 41 home runs and 41 doubles. That’s not too bad. Geovany Soto is on pace to slug even more doubles than Lee. He’s been fantastic thus far this season. Soto gets my vote for NL Rookie of the Year thus far in 2008.

Houston Astros (24-18), 1.5 GB

The team from Texas is on a tear, and I believe they should thank the Milwaukee Brewers for that. The Crew got them started. This week, the Astros swept the Los Angeles Dodgers (who just took two out of three from the Brewers) and took three out of four from San Francisco. You want to know what’s even more impressive about this streak? It was all on the road. The Milwaukee Brewers could learn a thing or two from the Astros.

Lance Berkman has been playing out of his mind lately, hitting homers, batting for average, knocking in baserunners. He has to be on the short list of NL MVP candidates thus far. Miguel Tejada has continued his resurgence, and Hunter Pence has broken the chains of the sophomore jinx. The pitching has been solid enough during the winning stretch. Jose Valverde is back to his exuberant, dominating self. His stuff is electric.

  • To start the season, I went on a limb and declared Michael Bourn to be the breakout player of the year on Houston. I may or may not have been wrong on that one. The Crawfish Boxes notes that Michael is statistically the worst lead-off hitter in baseball. His average is .197, only six points above Rickie Weeks, but his on-base percentage is .272. That is 41 points lower than Rickie’s. He may steal a lot of bases, but he simply cannot get on base.The Astros Dugout takes a different perspective. Sure, Michael has been unproductive this season to say the least, but that does not mean the Astros made a bad trade. The sample size is much too small to discern the type of ball player Bourn is. Plus, the Astros are in much of the same predicament the Brewers are in. There is nobody else to place in the lead-off spot.
  • MLB Trade Rumors notes that the Astros will not shy away from resigning Roger Clemens if he decides he still wants to play. Honestly, that would not be a bad move for Houston. Their starting pitching is their major weakness, and a low-risk, high-reward player like Clemens could pay huge dividends down the stretch. Roger is not the pitcher he used to be, but he can most likely still put together some solid innings.

St. Louis Cardinals (24-19), 2.0 GB

The Cardinals have enjoyed a dream start to the 2008 campaign. I hope the Cardinals fans basked in the glory while they could because the team’s slide may have already started. The Cards lost 3 out of 4 to the struggling Milwaukee Brewers and 2 out of 3 to the Pittsburgh Pirates. It is inexcusable for a division-contending team to lose a home series against a team like the Pirates. Their good luck in April may be running out fast.

The bullpen has been the biggest concern. Jason Isringhausen asked to be removed from the closer’s role one day before Eric Gagne from Milwaukee asked to be removed. Ron Villone started strong in 2008, but he has come back down to earth in the last few days. In fact, the only solid performer in the Cardinals’ pen thus far has been Kyle McClendon. He has some nasty stuff.

  • Viva El Birdos has a first-quarter report card that grades every aspect of the St. Louis Cardinals. I must agree that their starting pitching has outperformed anything anybody ever thought they could have done. Kyle Lohse and Todd Wellemeyer have proven to be less than awful. In fact, Wellemeyer has been downright impressive this season, especially with how many batters he has struck out. Otherwise, the only major upgrade needed in St. Louis is in the middle infield. The organization has reportedly been searching for external options to fill the holes, and I expect that search to continue. There is much more to read. Check it out.
  • Fungoes takes a look at Jason Isringhausen. Has he truly been as bad as advertised, or has he simply been a victim of bad luck? The adjusted numbers show that Izzy has always had a lower than expected ERA, which suggests that he has been lucky throughout his career. At the same time, his 2008 ERA is way too inflated. He has been very unlucky after the ball has left the bat, and the numbers say that Izzy’s luck should turn around in a hurry. Just do not expect him to post an ERA below 3.00.

Pittsburgh Pirates (20-21), 5.0 GB

The Pittsburgh Pirates are looking more like a division contending team than are the Milwaukee Brewers, and I never thought I would be saying that in May. They have won eight out of their last ten after taking the series from the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals. Chicago will welcome the Pirates next, as two of the hottest teams in the Central will clash at Wrigley. It should be a good series.

Paul Maholm has shaken off his poor year in 2007 to come back throwing extremely well in 2008. He and Zach Duke have been picking up the slack while Tom Gorzelanny has struggled. Ian Snell struggled out of the gates this season, but he has been turning it around in his past couple starts. Xavier Nady and Jason Bay have been performing rather well as of late, and Nate McLouth is still inexplicably mashing at the top of the order. It will be interesting to see if the team can keep it up next week.

  • One of the best stories of the year in Pittsburgh has been catcher Ryan Doumit. Doumit had been criticized mercilessly on the blogs for being completely inept defensively, but he has turned that around a bit. His story will go on hold for about a month, however, as he rehabs a broken thumb. It could be a big hit to the offense in Pittsburgh.The article also notes that Rule 5 draft pick, Evan Meeks, will be staying with the Pittsburgh organization. The Pirates worked out a trade with the Rays to keep the young pitcher. Cash was all it took to get the pitcher from Tampa.
  • The best post of the week on Pirates blogs goes to the Pittsburgh Lumber Co. They had a great Round Table discussion about trade possibilities and who will get signed to long-term deals. Definitely take a look at this post. It’s a great read. Also…isn’t it sad that the Pirates have won three straight series, and their biggest concern is who they would like to trade this season?

Cincinnati Reds (18-23), 7.0 GB

The Reds had a week with two games that were postponed due to rain, even though they did get a make-up game with the Mets in on Saturday.  It was a tale of two series for Cincy.  They lost two out of three to the Mets at Shea, but the team bounced back to sweep the Florida Marlins at home.  Playoff prospects are beginning to look darker and darker as the Reds fall further behind the first place Cubs.  Cincinnati will have to right the ship in a hurry if they wish to make a run at a Wild Card berth.

Aaron Harang finally got his first win of the season this week, and it ironically came on his worst outing of the season.  He has had terrible run support throughout the year.  Joey Votto took three out of the park in the past week or so, and Adam Dunn has shown signs of life in that big body of his.  Edinson Volquez has also taken the limelight away from Johnny Cueto for the time being.  In eight starts in 2008, Edinson is sporting a cool 1.12 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 48.3 innings pitched.  That is Cy Young caliber work right there from the Rookie.

  • Shortstop Jeff Keppinger has been a fan favorite in 2008, and his production has backed up the praise.  He has proven that he can handle the load at short with a .324 batting average.  Unfortunately, as with Ryan Doumit, the fine story will take a backseat to injury.  Keppinger fouled a ball off his kneecap and fractured it.  That is just as painful as it sounds, I would assume…
  • After the extremely slow start by the Reds, the Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn trade talks certainly follow.  I’m pretty sure it’s a law of physics of some sort.  Anyway, the Seattle Mariners have been said to have high interest in reacquiring Griffey, and the price tag will not be a deterrence.  I thought the Reds would have an opportunity to get a pretty nice haul for Griffey, but it turns out that this may not be the case at all.  MLB Trade Rumors says that new GM Walt Jocketty said yesterday that the Reds are involved in no talks regarding Griffey.  This could be a smoke-screen, but it’s interesting that Jocketty would come out and blatantly lie to the press if that’s the case.

Friday’s NL Central Review

2 05 2008

St. Louis Cardinals (18-11), — GB

The St. Louis Cardinals continue to impress early this season. Since last week, they simply went out and won two home series against the Houston Astros and Cincinnati Reds. It is a mark of a good team if they can go out and beat the teams they are supposed to beat. The Brewers didn’t do it last weekend against the Florida Marlins. The Cardinals did. Their pitching staff is still throwing strikes. They have let up the least amount of walks in the entire league. That is impressive. Their offense is also near the top of the major leagues in walks taken as well. That is a good combination to have. Mike McClellan and Ryan Franklin have been great so far this season as well. It will be interesting to see if they can keep it up this week.

  • Viva El Birdos takes a look at the 2008 Cardinals compared to past teams that had similar starts. Out of the 11 teams on the list, 8 of those teams won the division. I have to believe that the Cardinals are not a total fluke this season after this start. I keep calling for them to fall off, but they do not. In 2006, the Cardinals went 18-12 in April. You remember what happened that season. Cardinal fans should be feeling good about this start.
  • Rockin’ the Red takes a look at Kyle Lohse. I wanted to see something like this. Lohse has frustrated me so much. Common sense tells me he is not good. I then look at his ERA for this season, and I see it is 2.36. Then, I just get confused and upset. Rockin’ the Red says that this is the same Lohse that played last season, just in a different place. His projected ERA is almost identical. If he makes $10M next season, I’ll just be so confused. Kyle Lohse, you are the bane of my existence right now.

Chicago Cubs (17-11), 0.5 GB

The Cubs had a rough week. They stumbled against the lowly Washington Nationals. That series loss was almost as bad as the series loss Milwaukee had against Florida. At least the Cubs were on the road… Anyway, we all know what happened the last couple days. The Cubs outscored the Brewers for the series, but Milwaukee won the series 2-1. Chicago is now 2-4 against the Milwaukee Brewers this season. Alfonso Soriano is back in the lineup (even if everyone is concerned about that), and the offense is hitting the ball very hard lately. Geovany Soto beat the Brewers Wednesday by himself. That was cool. The Cubs have another big series this weekend, as they take on the St. Louis Cardinals.

  • Critics, fans, and sports writers have been freaking out about Alfonso Soriano and his poor play this season. Perhaps the Cubs are better without Soriano? Perhaps he should not be batting lead-off? Bleed Cubbie Blue makes a great point about Sori. He may be struggling in the lead-off spot this season, but his replacements have collectively done worse. That’s hard to do, considering Soriano is batting .175 from the one spot.
  • This story probably does not matter at all, but I found it incredibly interesting. The Cubs have signed Korean high school standout Lee Hak-ju. He is a lightning-fast lefty that plays the middle infield. I’m pretty sure the Cubs already have plenty of those players. Ronny Cedeno comes to mind. This signing will probably come out to nothing, but it is still interesting.

Houston Astros (13-16), 5.0 GB

The Astros were beginning to get hot the last time we checked in. How did they follow it up? Ummmm….not well. They have lost four out of the last five games, and they lost the last two series. Their offense has gone cold. Michael Bourn is slumping. He may be stealing many bases, but he has had troubles getting on base. I really thought that Hunter Pence looked to be getting back on track after his slow start. It does not look that way any longer. I have not watched too much of the Astros in the past week, but he looks rather lost at the plate. His feel of the strike zone is a little off. I still expect it to get better though. He’s a good player. The Astros will welcome the Milwaukee Brewers to town this weekend. Hopefully, their losing streak will continue.

  • The Crawfish Boxes takes a look at what is going on with the Astros. Houston appears to have no starters that can make the All-Star team. Lance Berkman and Miguel Tejada have been solid, but not the best at their position. The Astros seem to be heading in a different direction every week. We will check in again next week to see how they’re doing.
  • I know this has been well played out, but Camden Chat has a nice article about Miguel Tejada and his “age problem.” It is from the point of view of an Orioles fan, and we all know the headaches Tejada gave Oriole fans with his trade demands. It’s an interesting read. Give it a look, even if you already know the story.

Cincinnati Reds (12-17), 6.0 GB

An interesting week for the Reds. After firing former GM Wayne Krivsky, the Reds went on to win the series against the lowly San Francisco Giants. Then, they went to St. Louis and took the first game from the Cardinals. All looked up for the Reds during that three game win streak. It was not to last, however, as they went on to lose the series in St. Louis. Johnny Cueto got shelled in his last outing. Dusty Baker must be a little worried about the young fireballer. Baker called up Cueto’s Triple-A pitching coach to come up and give him some pitching advice. The kid has a special arm, but you have to figure he will go through some growing pains. Best not to get too worked up about this whole thing. The Reds will try to turn it around against the Atlanta Braves this weekend.

  • Red Reporter has a great article that analyzes the Reds’ plate discipline. It looks at the number of pitches in the strike zone, how many pitches they swing at and make contact with in the strike zone, and it analyzes the same type of thing for balls outside the strike zone. Adam Dunn does not get very many good pitches to hit, but he also has problems making contact with those pitches he does get. Brandon Phillips seems to be too aggressive at the plate. How about Jeff Keppinger? Going into yesterday’s game, Keppinger has swung and missed at only ten pitches all season! Wow. I’m pretty sure no one on the Brewers could even come close to that number.
  • Ryan Freel, the little sparkplug that plagued the Brewers last season, is upset with Dusty Baker. Baker says that Freel told him in the off-season that he did not want to play every day this season. Now why would Ryan Freel say that? Dusty Baker is clearly grasping for straws here. He is fueling the fire by lying about what Freel said to his face. This is just a stupid argument by Baker.

Pittsburgh Pirates (11-17), 6.5 GB

More of the same from the Pirates.  They lost the series against the Philadelphia Phillies and split the series 1-1 against the New York Mets.  Pittsburgh has performed much better in day games this season, scoring almost 2 runs more per game without the lights on.  Nate McLouth no longer has his hit streak going anymore, but he still is showing a surprising amount of power.  The pitching has still been a little suspect, but the team is rolling along, losing 2 out of 3 fairly consistently.  The Pirates lost to the Washington Nationals yesterday, and they will continue the series for the rest of the weekend.

  • Bucco Blog Tom Gorzelanny is struggling, both with producing and his release point.  Many people in the Pirates organization are concerned that Tom has an injury that he is hiding.  It seems that there is nothing wrong with his shoulder that was sore in Spring Training, but his velocity is still not where it should be.  His control has gone away, but that has never been stellar in the first place.  Experts have been concerned about Gorz since last season, when his amount of innings pitched increased exponentially from 2006.  They said that he is an arm injury waiting to happen.
  • The team released Matt Morris last week, and he retired on Wednesday.  Matt seems to be content with where he is in his life.  The Pirates needed to release him, and I hope Matt is happy in retirement.