Round ’em Up: Sunday

13 07 2008

UPDATE 07-13-08 1:05pm – Take a look at the brawl in the Huntsville Stars game last night!  Also, the error Cole Gillespie has in the highlights is downright embarrassing…(A tip of the cap to Mass Hass at Brewerfan.net for this one)

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(Insert your own witty opening right here.) Let’s jump right into this.

  • Ned Yost says that the defense is drastically improved from last season. He doesn’t want us to look at the number of errors though. That isn’t a realistic representation of the improvement. Yost likes the fact that the outfield has more range than last season. They can get to more balls.Sure, the defense has improved some from last season. It is by no means above-average, however. Bill Hall has a penchant for making the difficult play look easy and botching the routine plays. Ryan Braun may not have an error in left field, but he’s still trying to throw every man out at home and not hitting the cut off man. That allows runners on the basepaths to move up into scoring position after a mere single. Prince Fielder is certainly not above-average at first. The only real improvements are Mike Cameron in center field and Jason Kendall behind the dish. You like how I did that without looking at stats? Ned Yost would be proud.
  • The Brew Town Beat analyzes the trend of the platoon for the Milwaukee Brewers. There is the Bill Hall/Russell Branyan platoon. There is the proposed Dave Bush/Seth McClung platoon. Brew Town suggests a Craig Counsell/Joe Dillon platoon while Rickie Weeks gets sent down to Nashville to work some things out. My guess is Milwaukee is not going to go down that path unless there is a productive trading option – like a Ray Durham.
  • Jon Rauch is receiving a lot of attention on the Trade Market. I would suspect that Milwaukee will or has already kicked the tires. The problem is that Washington is known for trying to screw other teams in a deal. I suspect the asking price will be exorbitant.
  • Battlekow on Brew Crew Ball has a nice overview of the Future’s Game. It actually started about an hour ago, so go check it out on ESPN2. Mat Gamel and Matt LaPorta are playing. Check it out.
  • Vinny Rottino and Lindsay Gulin were named to the PCL All-Star team. Rottino has performed better than expected behind the plate. He may be the back-up in Milwaukee next season. Gulin has been one of the only consistent performers in the starting rotation in Nashville. He has been walking too many people lately, but his ERA is still extremely respectable.Luis Pena was a late addition to the All-Star team as well. As it says in The Sunday Harvest, Pena started out horrendously. He’s turned it on lately though. The right-hander will probably be called up to the big leagues in September, if not before.
  • The Hardball Times analyzes the Rich Harden trade. The article takes the position that the Oakland A’s probably got the better end of the deal because they got a surplus of talent that could become everyday players in the bigs.
  • Dugout Central asks who the most disappointing teams in the AL and the NL have been this season. In the AL, I would say the Cleveland Indians have been the most underachieving team. The San Diego Padres take the cake in the National League, in my opinion.
  • The Junkball Blues wonders why the amount of complete games have gone down so dramatically throughout the history of baseball. You can blame strict pitch counts and high salaries for that.
  • Seamheads looks at the Tampa Bay Rays and their attendance. Even though they are having the best season in their history, they just broke the one million mark for attendance. That’s rough for the management. Perhaps they will be moving sometime soon…




Crew falls victim to Sabathia hangover

7 07 2008

It was something I had seen coming all day.

The opening game for the Milwaukee Brewers against the Colorado Rockies was a trap game.  It fell between the exhilarating news that CC Sabathia is coming to Milwaukee and tomorrow evening’s game when Sabathia makes his debut.  All the media outlets, the fans, and probably the players looked past this game.  It was dangerous right from the get-go.

Seth McClung and the Crew didn’t make it seem that way in the first, however.  The big right-hander cruised through the first and looked to have his A-stuff.  The first two Rockies batters struck out, and Seth had tallied four Ks through three innings.

After the first three innings, however, McClung completely lost his command.  The next inning and two-thirds were a downright struggle for the big guy.  He walked five people and forced Ned Yost to pull him before even reaching 90 pitches.  Amazingly enough, the damage wasn’t too bad.  For how poorly Seth threw the ball in the fourth and fifth innings, he only allowed two runs.  The Brewers still had a chance to pull out a win.

Ubaldo Jimenez and the Brewers offense had different thoughts about that, however.  Jimenez hadn’t pitched effectively on the road this entire season until tonight.  The free-swinging Brewers seem to fall victim to those types of pitchers though, don’t they?  Hard throwing right-handers that struggle to find the strike zone tend to fair well against the Crew, as Milwaukee’s young hitters do not enjoy working the count.

They did try early in the game.  Craig Counsell took a lead-off walk, and J.J. Hardy continued his hot hitting with a single up the middle.  Two on and no out in the bottom of the first.  All looked well for the Crew, especially after Seth mowed down the top of Colorado’s order.  That changed quickly after Ryan Braun grounded into a double play.  I know I talk about momentum a lot in these games, but that is a momentum killer.  It allowed Jimenez to get out of the inning without giving up a run when he struck out Corey Hart to end the frame.  The Crew struggled with runners in scoring position early in the game, and struggled to get runners in scoring position late in the game.

Milwaukee showed signs of life in the eighth, however.  Gabe Kapler reached on a fielding error, and Craig Counsell somehow got a pop-up to the catcher to fall for a hit.  J.J. Hardy takes a walk.  The bases are loaded, and the Brewers are down 0-4.  Rally time!

Nope, nevermind.  Ryan Braun steps into the box and smokes a grounder up the middle.  It ricochets of the mound and into the glove of Colorado shortstop Clint Barmes, who turns the double play.  All the wind is knocked out of Brewers fans sails.  That is, until Prince Fielder hit a towering shot to center field to pull within one.  The Crew never got closer.  4-3 Rockies.

On a side note, did anyone else find it annoying how Jimenez successfully picked off the Brewers twice early in the game?  It erased two big base runners and simply frustrated me beyond belief.  The guy made two or three moves towards Braun and Hart at first, yet they both got picked off relatively easily.  I admit Jimenez does have a very quick move, but he is a right-handed pitcher.  It’s not that quick.  Pay attention on the basepaths.

Records: Brewers (49-40); Rockies (38-52)

Hero of the Game: Prince Fielder

It was nice to see Prince get a hold of one in the eighth inning.  It was pretty much the only highlight of the game for the Crew.  Someone does need to talk to Prince about his back foot though.  It slips out on every swing.  That cannot be good for his power.  I do not remember it being that bad last season.  Perhaps that is the reason for his inconsistency in 2008?

Goat of the Game: Ryan Braun

Ryan grounded into two crucial double plays and got picked off of first.  It was a game to forget for Ryan.  Shake it off and have a big day tomorrow, young man.  That is why there is more than one game in a series.

On Tap

CC Sabathia makes his Milwaukee debut tomorrow evening against left-hander Mark Redman.  I will be at the game tomorrow evening, so a game wrap is unlikely.  I’m extremely excited to see the big guy pitch.  I wouldn’t be surprised if CC struggles with his command tomorrow, as he will be amped up.  Hopefully that doesn’t happen though.





Prince reigns over Pittsburgh

5 07 2008

Prince Fielder may be struggling at the plate, but sure saved the Brewers tonight with timely hitting in the bottom of the ninth inning.

In a 1-1 game in the bottom of the ninth, Rickie Weeks battled back from a 0-2 count to draw a huge walk to start the frame. That turned out to be a huge boost for the team.

J.J. Hardy then sacrificed his 16-game hitting streak by laying down a sac bunt to move Rickie to second base. Pittsburgh reliever Tyler Yates chose to next intentionally walk Ryan Braun to get to a struggling Prince Fielder and to set up the double play.

Brewers fans rose to their feet in support of their Prince. Yates started him off with a couple fastballs on the outside part of the plate to head in the count 0-2. The right-hander then tried to make Prince chase a ball at his eyes. Prince appeared to be too eager at the plate and almost obliged. Now down 1-2, I thought Yates was going to bury a ball in the dirt, as Prince showed he wanted to swing at everything. Instead, he tried to sneak an outside fastball by the big lefty. It didn’t work. Prince served a line drive to left-center field that scored Rickie from second. 2-1 Brewers. Ball game.

Milwaukee got an absolute gem of a start from right-hander Dave Bush. He changed speeds beautifully all day, and his curveball stayed down in the zone all day. Bushie had fantastic control this evening, especially on the outside corner. I’m not sure how often it has happened all season, but he did not walk an opposing batter all game, while striking out six.

It turned out that Dave Bush needed to pitch well tonight, as Paul Maholm also spun a gem on the mound. Besides a nice opposite field home run from Mike Cameron, Pittsburgh’s left-hander went eight innings without surrendering another run. His curveball and change-up fooled Milwaukee hitters all evening. Tonight’s game was the epitome of a pitcher’s duel.

Even Eric Gagne threw the ball well, pitching the top of the ninth without giving up a run. He gave up a hit and struck out one. While his velocity has gone way down since injuring his shoulder, the command has been a thousand times better. His change-up has been absolutely nasty for him, falling right through the zone and fooling opposing batters. The command on his fastball has been much better. He has been able to work the corners much more effectively than before his stint on the DL.

The lack of velocity will be a hindrance of Gagne, but the better control may land the former closer 8th inning duties. If he is able to keep up the fine performances, I wouldn’t mind that at all. Don’t worry, that’s not a self-fulfilling prophecy at all.

There is some news on the C.C. Sabathia trade front.

Tom Haudricourt reports that Doug Melvin is waiting for a response from the Indians on their trade proposal. All signs point to the package being Matt LaPorta/Taylor Green/Lorenzo Cain. The Indians will probably wait until Monday or Tuesday before deciding on anything. They could perhaps ask for more in return, but nothing new seems likely to occur before Monday.

ESPN.com’s Buster Olney says that the Indians are fielding other offers from the Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Tampa seems more focused on a right-handed outfielder and probably lacks the motivation to make a strong offer for Sabathia. If they do decide to make a play, however, Milwaukee may be on the outside looking in. Tampa has an incredible farm system and can outplay the Brewers. They will test the waters, but most likely will look elsewhere.

The Dodgers need a shortstop, but could change gears and hone in on the left-hander. They should have enough to get the deal done. It all depends on the motivation and the transparency of their proposal. Olney says Los Angeles has a tendency to balk at proposals. They will say one player is available, then back off and say he’s not.

Most likely, the Philadelphia Phillies will be the toughest opponent if they choose to be aggressive. Their farm system does not have as many offensive five-star prospects, but they could offer more players to get the deal done. I have heard that Philadelphia prefers Erik Bedard though.

Records: Brewers (48-39); Pirates (40-46)

Hero of the Game: Prince Fielder

The award could easily go to Dave Bush for his gem of a performance, but I came away from the game very impressed with Fielder’s resilience in the ninth inning. He has fought his swing the past couple weeks, but the big guy came up big to win the game. After trying a little too hard on the first three pitches, the fourth pitch from Tyler Yates turned out to be the charm. He didn’t overswing and took the ball where it was pitched. A great win for the Brewers.

Goat of the Game: Jason Kendall

Jason just didn’t look comfortable at the plate tonight. He did call a superb game for Dave Bush this evening, but he went 0-3 at the plate. The catcher doesn’t really deserve the Goat. Sorry, Jason.

On Tap

RHP Jeff Suppan will battle LHP Zach Duke in the series finale at Miller Park. The Crew looks to sweep the Pirates and continue their fine play. The game starts at 1:05pm CT on FSN North.





Brewers come from behind to bite the D’Backs

2 07 2008

Milwaukee has secured at least a split in the road series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.  The way almost all of the major leagues has played on the road this season, that is a victory in itself.  When you consider Brandon Webb will be on the hill tomorrow afternoon, the magnitude of this win is augmented greatly.

In one of the brightest stories of the 2008 season thus far for the Milwaukee Brewers, Seth McClung continued to impress on the mound as a starter.  I will be the first to admit that he did not have his A-stuff tonight.  The big guy may not have even had his B-stuff, but he battled and scraped together 5.1 innings while only giving up two runs.  The main thing: He gave the Crew a chance to win the game.  That’s what a starting pitcher must do.

Finishing with six strikeouts and only one walk, Seth excited the game in the sixth inning.  He scattered 8 hits and limited the damage.  Five of those hits, however, came in the first two innings.  His fastball had lots of life this evening, and McClung was dialing it up on the radar gun.  The big right-hander kept the team in the game and gave them a chance for a comeback.

And come back they did.

After Mike Cameron laced a two-out double in the seventh inning, Ned Yost called on Rickie Weeks to pinch hit.  Rickie has been out with a stomach virus the past two games, so it was a risky call on the part of the skipper.  Beware of the weary, however.  Weeks absolutely crushed an 0-2 pitch out of the park to left field.  3-2 Brewers.

The lead was short-lived though.  David Riske – who did throw more than fastballs today, by the way – gave up a first pitch bomb to Justin Upton.  It was almost a carbon copy of the Weeks home run.  3-3 Brewers.

For all the flak Mike Cameron has been getting from Brewers fans the past couple weeks, he came through in a big way tonight.  After Russell Branyan led off the inning with a single that ricocheted off Arizona first-baseman Mike Reynolds, Cam fought off a couple tough pitches before depositing the eventual game-winning single to left-center field.  That’s clutch hitting from the veteran center fielder.  That is why Doug Melvin signed him in the off-season.

Salomon Torres converted his 14th save after Branyan tagged third and threw a bullet to first base to end the game on a double play.  It was a big play by Russell, as Salomon worked himself in a spot of trouble after Orlando Hudson led off with a single and got to second after a deep fly ball to left.  All was for naught, however, as the Crew pulled out another one-run victory.

A couple other things to note after tonight’s game.  Did anyone else think that Stephen Drew’s cleat shot to Jason Kendall in the eighth was a cheap shot?  I understand he was trying to knock the ball loose from Kendall’s glove, but he risked seriously injuring Milwaukee’s catcher by spiking him in the gut.  I thought Kendall showed his true veteran mentality when he simply walked away from the situation.  Whether or not the Brewers catcher pursued the matter, I’m a little surprised a fine player like Stephen Drew would do that.  It was in the heat of the moment, but those metal spikes are no joke.

Joe Dillon pinch hit this evening and continued his fine approach at the plate.  He hit an absolute rocket out into deep left-center.  It looked to have a chance to get out of the park.  It certainly was going to give Milwaukee some insurance on the scoreboard.  That is, until Chris Young came out of nowhere to make a spectacular play, jumping into the wall and hanging on to the ball.  Fine play, Mr. Young.

Big Prince Fielder is still struggling at the plate.  He is going to very much welcome a little home cooking starting this weekend.  I’m not so sure Miller Park is going to help much unless he changes his approach at the plate, however.  He has a natural upper cut on his swing, which is why he hits so many home runs.  The upper cut is so pronounced right now though, that it is getting to Jim Edmonds territory right now.  Flatten out the swing, big boy.  That and don’t try to hit every ball out of the park.  That may help too.

This may be jinxing him, but J.J. Hardy continued his hit streak.  It is now at 14 games after a 2-4 performance with a clutch RBI in the sixth inning to start off the scoring for the Crew.  His bat is staying through the hitting area much longer right now, and he’s naturally getting better wood on the ball as a result.  That two-spot fits J.J. well, I think.

I have been unable to confirm this, but Arizona commentator Darron Sutton apparently said there is a deal going on between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Milwaukee Brewers.  I did find it a little strange that Doug Melvin and Gord Ash have been attending this series, but there has been no confirmation.  The words were that the deal was going to come through “very, very soon.”

The only thing I can think of is a little help in the bullpen.  Arizona has some expendable arms with the likes of Tony Pena, Juan Cruz, and Chad Qualls.  They would almost certainly be looking for a bat in return.  Could Mike Cameron find himself on a plane to Arizona soon?  It could make some sense, as Gabe Kapler has been terrific.  Perhaps Gabe is the one in question.  Or perhaps this is completely unsubstantiated and nothing will happen.  Only time will tell.

Records: Brewers (46-38); Diamondbacks (42-43)

Hero of the Game: Mike Cameron

Mike came through today in a big way at the plate.  He almost hit one out of the park in the second inning, but it hit a little too far down on the trademark.  That at-bat was a sign of things to come for Mike, as he finished the game going 2-4 with two huge RBI.  His single in the ninth inning proved to be the difference in the game.  This is the type of player Mike Cameron can be on a daily basis.  Hopefully he can get on a hot streak sometime soon.

Goat of the Game: Prince Fielder

I understand Prince is an incredibly streaky hitter, but that swing needs to get a little flatter.  The plate discipline needs to improve.  He’s far too talented to fall into huge funks like he has this season.  Prince sorely needs to see Miller Park again.

On Tap

Manny Parra will take on Brandon Webb tomorrow afternoon in the series finale.  Parra has looked much better on the mound lately, and he’ll have to pitch effectively for Milwaukee to stand a chance against the fantastic Brandon Webb.





Round ’em Up: Tuesday

1 07 2008

There is not too much going on the web today.  At least, nothing of too much substance.  Everything is focused on the possible C.C. Sabathia trade to Milwaukee.  That is understandable, as that would be the biggest news that happened to Milwaukee baseball in quite a few years.

  • (Hat tip to battlekow at Brew Crew Ball) A Cleveland Indians blog, Tribe Report, takes a look at what Milwaukee could give Cleveland to get the deal done.  They are focused on getting Prince Fielder.  I will never say never, but…I see very, very, very little chance of Doug Melvin trading Prince before the off-season.
  • Doug Melvin talked to Tom Haudricourt about some trade possibilities.  The Brewers GM said that he is always keeping his ears open to trades.  It certainly does sound like Doug is pretty set on making a trade before the deadline.  He says he is not going to do anything stupid, however.  I guess he is saying that because of the Linebrink trade last season.  Let’s hope a Linebrink-esque trade doesn’t happen.
  • Joe Morgan from ESPN says that Milwaukee should try to sign Ben Sheets this off-season.  Good.  I’m glad he’s incredibly informed.
  • Jeff Sackmann from Brew Crew Ball takes a look at the first half of the season.  He concludes that Milwaukee is quite lucky to have 44 wins at this point.  I think the negative run differential is mostly due to the beginning of the season.  That will need to change though.
  • Scout.com says Manny Parra is starting to figure things out on the mound.  That is good news for the Brewers, obviously.




Home runs cannot push Crew past Twins

27 06 2008

The offense did it’s part, but it wasn’t enough.

Corey Hart’s two homers were not enough to overcome Minnesota’s seven runs.  J.J. Hardy confused everyone watching by socking a two-run home run to the opposite field.  A monster blast by Russell Branyan was not enough.  The 12 hits pounded out by the Crew were not enough to pull out the ‘W’ tonight.

A long story short…one cannot blame Milwaukee’s offense for losing tonight’s game against the Twins.  Even Rickie Weeks continues to swing a pretty good bat since coming off the DL this week.  It may just be me, but Rickie always seems to rake after coming off an injury.  Just an observation.

The infallible Seth McClung came down to earth a bit this evening, struggling through 4.2 innings and giving up five runs.  Minnesota managed nine hits off the big right-hander.  Seth simply didn’t have his ‘A’ stuff tonight.  Heck, he didn’t even have his ‘C’ stuff.  After the bunch of fine performances in the past couple weeks, however, I am more than willing to look past this start.

Seth’s control was spotty at best today, as he found far too much of the plate far too often.  He seemed a little reluctant to throw the curveball this evening, and the Twins hitters jumped on his fastball.  The big man put together a poor outing in every sense, and he will look to rebound next week.  Let’s hope he does in a big way.  The rotation has begun to rely on Seth at the back-end.  If he begins to lose his command, the Brewers may seriously begin to push the C.C. Sabathia envelope.

With a tie game, Ned Yost turned to Guillermo Mota to preserve the 6-6 tie.  Mota has been struggling over the past month, but he looked to be throwing the ball quite well tonight.  Even Joe Mauer’s go-ahead solo shot was a 96 mph fastball at his shoulders.  That is not a location mistake.  A pitcher cannot do anything but tip his cap to the hitter at that point.  It was a good pitch.  Mota couldn’t go to the slider on an 0-2 count to a lefty.  If he hung it, it was gone.  He and Kendall made the right decision, and Mota threw it where Kendall wanted it.  Joe Mauer simply connected.  Ballgame.

The Brewers made it interesting in the top of the ninth against closer Joe Nathan, but were unable to capitalize.  Prince Fielder was up at the plate with runners and first and second.  A grounder to first base ended the threat, however.  Fielder is still over-aggressive when he has the chance to win the game in the ninth.  He needs to relax more at the plate.  Maturity will help alleviate that tension though.  It will come.

Records: Brewers (43-36); Twins (44-36)

Hero of the Game: J.J. Hardy

I know Corey Hart hit two home runs today, but J.J. did something I never thought I would see again.  He drove the ball with authority to the opposite field and hit a home run.  The Brewers shortstop went 2-5 in the two-hole in the lineup.  He has continued to look pretty good since being moved to the two spot.  If Hardy can consistently drive the ball to right field with authority, pitchers will have to pitch him inside again.  Brewers fans should know what Hardy can do with an inside fastball.  His scorching start to the 2007 season should be an indicator of that.  He mashes the inside fastball.

Goat of the Game: Seth McClung

This award cannot go to Guillermo Mota tonight.  He did not throw a bad 0-2 pitch to Joe Mauer.  It was shoulder-high and at 96 mph.  What more can you ask for from Guillermo?  The all-star catcher simply deposited his strikeout pitch over center field.

Seth McClung, on the other hand, had a terrible outing.  The big right-hander was unable to preserve any lead Milwaukee had over Minnesota, and it eventually came back to bite the Crew.  I look forward to next week when fans can see how he responds to this start.  He’s done nothing but impress thus far, so I suspect that will continue next week.

On Tap

Rookie left-hander Manny Parra will battle veteran right-hander Livan Hernandez tomorrow night in Minneapolis.  The game will start at 6:10pm CT.  Manny looks to rebound from a below-average start, but it will not be an easy task against the surging Twins.  Control will be key for Manny tomorrow evening.





Sup, Offense Off in Finale Loss

25 06 2008

Following his disastrous 1 2/3 inning performance in his last outing, Brewers pitcher Jeff Suppan was hoping for a solid outing in his side’s finale against the Atlanta Braves. Suppan was actually very good through four innings allowing only two runs, but ran into trouble in the fifth, giving up two more. All in all it was the bats that failed to back up Sup in his pitching this afternoon, putting up two runs in the third. Final score: Braves 4, Brewers 2.

Suppan had never won at Atlanta and this afternoon would not be his day either. Braves starter Jorge Campillo was a Brewers killer on both sides of the game. Through seven innings he allowed only four hits and two runs alongside six strikeouts. With the bat Campillo stroked two hits and came around to score both times.

In the end, the Crew walked away from Turner Field with two of three and a solid start to their road trip. Rickie Weeks was solid again (I didn’t give him props for his 3-for-4 night earlier) going 2-for-4 in the leadoff spot. Watch out NL if Weeks continues this tear.

The bats have been a little off in Atlanta, but super pitching from Dave Bush and Ben Sheets kept the Braves at bay. Suppan was decent (not a “quality start,” but decent), but the bats couldn’t support the guy.

Records: Brewers (43-35); Braves (38-41)

Hero of the Game: Rickie Weeks

About the only guy who came to play. Since Sheet’s effort overshadowed Weeks’ 3-4 outing before I’ve got to give him credit today. When he came back off the DL I thought maybe Yost wouldn’t put him back up top (who else would go up.. I don’t know) and see if he could earn the spot back, but he has hit exactly how a leadoff guy should. Runner-up credit goes to Mike Rivera who grabbed another spot start and made it look like Jason Kendall was still behind the plate and at bat (and that’s a good thing).

Goat of the Game: Prince Fielder

After roasting the Orioles at home, Fielder was down right bad in the “ATL.” No hits, no walks, a few defensive blunders, and 2 Ks for the fat man. Here’s to hoping he puts another fly ball of the speakers in the Metrodome.

On Tap:

Travel day tomorrow, but the I-94 series continues in Minneapolis on Friday. Scott McNasty (5-3, 3.79 ERA) hits the hill against Nick Blackburn (6-4, 3.68 ERA). The Twinkies lead the season series 2-1.

By: Dan Wiersema