Wednesday, March 30, 2005

My 2005 Predictions

Since most of the major media outlet-types have their predictions for the season out already, I figured it'd be time to put mine up. The only team I'll pick a W-L record for is the Crew, simple final standings for the others. Here goes...

American League East
1. Red Sox
2. Yankees
3. Orioles
4. Blue Jays
5. Devil Rays

This is a pretty tough one to pick, but the Red Sox are the better team in my opinion. The Yankees have far too many question marks in the rotation after Johnson, and to a lesser extent Pavano. Kevin Brown is probably finished, Mussina hasn't been great for a long time, and who knows how Jaret Wright fares after leaving the tutelage of Leo Mazzone. The Red Sox lost very little, aside from Pedro, but replaced him with Wells, and replaced Derek Lowe with Matt Clement. The offense is still easily the best in the league. The Orioles should be improved, and have a nice offense, but the pitching is lacking. The Blue Jays team this year will likely cost J.P. Ricciardi his job. The Devil Rays simply won't be ready to win until Delmon Young and B.J. Upton are matured.

American League Central
1. Twins
2. Indians
3. White Sox
4. Tigers
5. Royals

This is a no-brainer. Terry Ryan is an excellent G.M., and this may be his best team yet. Johan Santana is the best pitcher in baseball, and Justin Morneau will breakout this season when finally given a chance to play everyday. The Indians are moving in the right direction, with players like Hafner and Victor Martinez. The White Sox are a joke, in my opinion. Their "speed and defense" rebuilding plan is ridiculous. This team will struggle, mightily. How does a team with a great amount of resources allow Magglio Ordonez to leave and trade Carlos Lee? They play in the most HR friendly park in the league, yet decide to build a team around two things that have very little influence on wins and losses. This is why Kenny Williams should lose his job, soon. The Tigers signed the aforementioned Ordonez to a huge deal out of desperation. This is never a good sign, but he can still hit a lot better than Jermaine Dye, his replacement in Chicago. The Royals? Yeah, they're still awful, but maybe they could get better and fire Allard Baird and hire Ricciardi when he gets fired in Toronto. Otherwise, why not hire Rob Neyer?

American League West
1. Angels
2. Athletics
3. Rangers
4. Mariners

This is easily my favorite division in the league. There should be some awesome baseball played there this season, like last. I don't know why I picked the Angels, maybe by default, but most likely because of Vlad. They probably would have been better off going after Beltran harder, but they got Finley instead. He's alright, but he's getting older. They could have gotten Beltran and a generic middle IF for the money they put into Finley and Orlando Cabrera, and been a much better team for it. I'm not a huge fan of their pitching, though I do like Colon and Escobar. The bullpen is excellent, especially K-Rod. The A's are my favorite team in the division, and my favorite team not called the Brewers. Much has been made of their trading Hudson and Mulder, but they will be fine. Hudson is awesome, but Mulder was awful in the second half of last season and was dealt for a pair of studs, Dan Haren and Daric Barton, along with Kiko Calero. Hudson netted the team another one of their new starters, Dan Meyer, along with power-arm reliever Juan Cruz. This new rotation, with Zito, Harden, Haren, Meyer, and Joe Blanton could be extremely good. Obviously they will go through some growing pains, but don't underestimate Billy Beane - he's still the best at what he does. Their line-up is not great, but Chavez is spectacular. They also added my favorite Brewer, Keith Ginter. The A's could definitely win the division, so I'd say that my pick of the Angels is definitely nowhere near a lock. The Rangers have the most exciting infield in the game, with Teixiera, Soriano, Blalock, and Young. That is a nucleus, now if they can just get some pitching aside from the backend of their pen. The Mariners are a decent team, but I'm not sold on Beltre - he will have a huge fall-off from last season. Who knows about Sexson? Virtually the only known commodity on the team is Ichiro. The man is amazing. The division also boasts two of my favorites for Rookie of the Year, Nick Swisher of Oakland and Jeremy Reed in Seattle.

National League East
1. Braves
2. Marlins
3. Phillies
4. Mets
5. Nationals

How can you not pick the Braves? They add Huddy to the rotation, as well as Smoltz. Smoltz won't throw 200 innings without his arm falling off, but if they baby him enough he will be very good. Getting Kolb might help them, but as I have stated earlier, he will fall off big time unless he starts K'ing people. The offense may struggle, especially in the corner OF spots with Jordan and Mondesi. The Marlins improved immensely with Delgado, Cabrera is an absolute stud, and the pitchers when healthy are dominant. I'm not a huge fan of other spots in their lineup, mainly Pierre and LoDuca. The Phillies are run incompetently, by Ed Wade, as well. Hence, they will fail. I love Thome and Abreu, but that's about where it ends. The Mets made some big splashes in the offseason, but they still don't have it. Beltran is amazing, Piazza can still hit, Wright will be great, but other than them, who knows? The Pedro signing is quite vexing, both in terms of money and length. He's not durable and he's not getting any younger. There's a good chance he implodes sooner than later. The Nationals are what they are. Brad Wilkerson is my favorite player in the entire league, and Jose Guillen is there now, but they will be bad in vintage Jim Bowden fashion.

National League Central
1. Cardinals
2. Cubs
3. Brewers (82-80)
4. Astros
5. Reds
6. Pirates

The Cardinals are still the class of the division, considering they have the division's three best hitters in Pujols, Edmonds, and Rolen. I don't like their pitching, but the rest of the division has actually regressed, aside from the Brewers, so the Cards are still the favorite. The heaps of praise being thrown on Mulder is odd, considering his finish to last season. The inflated W-L record he sported was simply because of the huge run support he got early in the season. Regardless, some "experts" have picked him to win the Cy Young. I won't. The Cubs have gotten worse in several ways, and most of them of their own choosing. The pitching staff is injury-riddled again, a trademark of a Dusty Baker team. The offense lacks anyone who really gets on base, hence the poor offense last season. So, they go and trade away their best offensive player, Sosa, and get Jerry Hairston in return, and sign Jeromy Burnitz. I can smell the championship now! Get your excuse book out Cub fans, you'll need it this year - what'll it be? Bartman? The goat? Alou hasn't been replaced and the middle IF is weak with a rapidly declining Nomar. They could seriously finish worse, but we'll see. Prior and Wood, if/when healthy and teamed with Zambrano are awesome, and tough to beat. The Brewers have improved a great deal, and probably have less question marks than the Cubs. The Lee deal gives them a solid hitter in his peak years, to team with Overbay. Clark is an improvement over Podsednik, a full season of Branyan will be exciting, and the signing of Damian Miller to catch improves the weakest position on the team (what wouldn't). The tandem of Sheets and Davis at the top of the rotation is stellar. If Capuano stays healthy, and Santos pitches well the staff could be very good. The pen is going to be alright, with much more power, and hopefully many more K's. The Astros lost Beltran, Berkman is hurt, Bagwell and Biggio are declining rapidly, and Brad Ausmus is the worst everyday player in MLB. They have a ton of questions, thus the 4th place prediction. If Pettite is healthy the staff could be very good, with Clemens still doing what Clemens does. The Reds have a nice OF and nothing else. They paid one of the highest prices for mediocrity ever in signing Eric Milton, who will serve up bunches of homers in that park. The Pirates are bad - really, really bad. Oliver Perez is stuck there, and it's too bad, because he'd likely be a huge star in any other market. Bay can hit, Craig Wilson is decent. Nothing else to say, they could lose 100 games.

National League West
1. Dodgers
2. Padres
3. Giants
4. Rockies
5. Diamondbacks

The weakest division in baseball. However, I like the Dodgers a lot, which is probably pretty uncommon. The trade of Green was excellent, as were the signings of Drew and Jeff Kent. They have some issues with the pitching, but their stadium will help mask that. Choi is poised for a breakout at first, Milton Bradley is a very good player, and Werth can get the job done. The Padres, like the Dodgers, get a little help from their pitcher's park. The team is pretty good, especially Peavy. The lineup has some deteriorating players like Giles and Klesko who get hurt by the park effects. The Giants are very old. Bonds is very good, but the reason I have them in 3rd is that you simply don't know when he comes back. If it's early May, like I heard today, they could easily win the division. If he doesn't, they could easily finish third. I'll do the unpopular thing and bet that Barry will be back later than May. The rest of the lineup could be good, but at the ages of Vizquel, Alou, Grissom, Snow, etc., they could all collapse and the team could sink. Schmidt is an excellent pitcher, but other than him I don't like the rotation a whole lot. Benitez was a good move, aside from the crazy price they paid of course. The Rockies could be on the rise at some point in the near future. With prospects like Atkins, Barmes, Nix, Holliday, Closser, and of course Jeff Francis, they could actually have something built around Helton for once, and soon. That doesn't even take into effect Ian Stewart and Chris Nelson, who are farther away. But with what their park does to pitchers, it's hard to expect them to ever go better than .500, and usually quite worse. The Diamondbacks might be as bad as they were last season, which would be quite an accomplishment. How can a team win with a middle infield of Craig Counsell and Royce Clayton? They can't. The pitching's bad, the offense is bad, the front office is bad, who's worse?

Postseason:
American League

Divisional
Red Sox over Angels
Twins over Yankees

Championship
Red Sox over Twins

National League

Divisional
Marlins over Cardinals
Dodgers over Braves

Championship
Marlins over Dodgers

World Series
Red Sox over Marlins

Awards:
American League
Cy Young - Johan Santana, Twins
MVP - David Ortiz, Red Sox
Manager - Ron Gardenhire, Twins
Rookie - Nick Swisher, A's
Executive - Terry Ryan, Twins

National League
Cy Young - Tim Hudson, Braves
MVP - Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Manager - Bobby Cox, Braves
Rookie - J.J. Hardy, Brewers
Executive - Paul DePodesta, Dodgers

Hammer away!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

ST Game 25: Santos' struggles

The Brewers dropped another Cactus League game yesterday, but more importantly Victor Santos' struggles continued. Now, if you've read anything here before (Hendrickson, et al) you know that I despise decisions being made by using spring stats. The sample size is too small, the hitter advantages in the parks is astounding, and the players are much different than those seen on a field once the calendar flips to April. So, count me in the Santos camp. I don't think he will do what he did pre-break last season, but an ERA in the 3.90 range is very likely. That's still about half a run better than league average last season, so he's quite a valuable pitcher. There are definitely reasons to be concerned about Vic, like his crazy HR rate in the second half last season, couple with his 5.97 ERA. His peripherals aren't exactly sterling, so there is some credence to the opinion held by some that he was simply a first half wonder. I think there is an explanation for his second half collapse last season: fatigue. His innings total (154) was his highest total since he was in AA in 1999. His poor spring performance could potentially be traced to his not pitching in winter ball this past off-season.

In reality, he is probably the 4th best starter the Brewers have, following Sheets, Davis, and Capuano. If he can do the league average, the Brewers will have a pretty solid rotation in spots 1-4 dependent on Capuano's health in the 3rd spot. The number 5 spot is another issue, but Glover could do alright. If he's not he could easily be dispatched and replaced with Hendrickson, Obermueller, de la Rosa, etc.

Recap: Angels 14 - Brewers 8
Today: Brewers (de la Rosa) vs. Cubs (Mitre)

Hacking Mass and various other BP

Baseball Prospectus has it's fun "HACKING MASS" competition up. For those unfamiliar, you pick who you think the worst player at each position is, as well as two pitchers. I won't say who's on my team yet, but I will say there are no current Brewers and three former Crew members on my team. Also, you are not allowed to take a Rockies pitcher this season, but there are plenty of awful pitchers to be had. Sign up.

Also, BP has it's "Prospectus Hit List" pre-season edition up. They have the Brewers as the 24th best team in the league, and project a 74-88 record for this season. Here's the little they say about the team:

Talent on the farm offers promise for the post-Selig era, but they'll take their lumps for a while yet.

I would say that they will do a little better than 74-88, but it's definitely a possibility that they finish in that area. I'll be doing my predictions sometime in the next day or so.

Monday, March 28, 2005

The closer situation

A little blurb from today's MJS:

Even before Adams' ugly inning, Yost said he was not ready to designate the second-year pitcher as his closer to begin the season.

"I'm just not there yet," Yost said. "I'm looking at the total package and seeing who's best suited for it.

"The thing that made (former closer) Dan Kolb so valuable is he would have nine- and 10-pitch innings and be available to pitch again the next day. If you throw 19 or 20 pitches, you can't do that. We're having too many 19- and 20-pitch innings (from candidates for closer)."

Of the other candidates to pitch the ninth inning, Derrick Turnbow has shown the most potential. Turnbow throws his fastball in the mid-90-mph range and has been getting his breaking pitches over for strikes more consistently than in the past.

"Your eyes pop out a little at his stuff," Yost said. "I see some good signs. I've still got to see him some more."

This is a little surprising, I guess. Though I despise the term "closer", as well as "save", I do think a bullpen functions at it's peak when the pitchers have defined roles. I'm sure this situation will be cleared up soon, and hopefully Adams gets the job. He earned it with his performance last season, as well as over the course of his minor league career. The odd thing about last season was his .90 GF/FB ratio, yet his HR rate being less than one per 9 IP. This could simply be due to small sample size, and will go unanswered as I can't find a GB/FB from his minor league time. His HR rate was only .73/9 IP in the minors, though, so it seems he may have simply given up an inordinate amount of flyballs last season.

Kolb was an aberration last season, in my opinion. A pitcher simply has to miss more bats than he did in order to sustain such a high performance level. He was a groundball machine, but when you strike out only 21 men in 57 1/3 IP, something is bound to go wrong. It appears that said something will be 3B Chipper Jones and his butcher-like fielding ability. Also, he actually had a much better season for the Brewers in 2003, is 30, and has a history of arm troubles. Seemed like the right move at the right time to me. He can take his "closer mentality" and sweet facial hair and Godsmack entrance south, where he will likely decline sharply and rapidly.

Of the other options, Turnbow is most intriguing. The guy brings gas, and K's a decent amount of batters, and also holds the title of first known positive steroid tester. His ERA's were less than stellar, but his H/9 , HR, etc. were very good. He has a chance to be very good this season. It'd be hard to justify Bottalico being included in the closer "battle", though not just because of his spring numbers. He's usually an extreme flyball pitcher, yet gave up very few HR last season pitching in a pitcher's park (Shea). He should be able to post an ERA around league average, which isn't bad, but probably isn't worth the million he's going to get. He's one of my biggest candidates to be traded at or before the deadline.

Here's how I see/hope the pen shaking out:

LR - Matt Wise (R)
LR/MR - Wes Obermueller (R)
MR - Justin Lehr (R)
MR - Jorge de la Rosa (L)
7th - Bottalico (R)
8th - Turnbow (R)
9th - Adams (R)

This is, of course, dependent on the Brewers not stupidly keeping 13 pitchers. This seems much less likely due to the DFA of Kieschnick. Obermueller has had a strong spring and, seemingly ignoring past performance, will likely make the team. However, he has been rumored to be sought after in trades. The man has thrown nearly 600 innings of professional baseball, showing next to nothing, yet will likely make the team. A better pitcher is bound to come available via waivers or trade, and I think Melvin would be wise to take advantage of it at the expense of Obermueller, who has options left.


Kieschnick, etc.

Sorry again for the lack of real updates over the weekend. I had to work the holiday, and couple that with the Badgers and family commitments left little time for my 6 or 7 readers. On to Brewers news.

Brooks "Toolshed" (or "Bruce" as Uecker once called him) Kieschnick was DFA'd by the Brewers over the weekend. If he clears waivers on Tuesday, which I think is unlikely, the Brewers will have 10 days to trade, release, or assign Kiesch to AAA. I can't really say I'm surprised by the move, however, I am a little discouraged with how much emphasis the Brewers seem to be placing on Spring Training. Brooks has worked a whopping 6 1/3 innings, while other chaff are given a chance to pitch. Obviously the deck was stacked against him from the start of camp, even though he pitched fairly decent when healthy last season. He posted an above average ERA (3.77 compared to lg. avg. 4.30), had an above average HR rate, and a VORP of 8.2 as a pitcher in 43 IP. As a hitter, he wasn't as productive as he was in '03 (.300/.355/.614), posting a line of .270/.324/.365. However, the bullpen is a much more crowded place this year with the additions of Turnbow, Lehr, etc. and the change to a much more power-oriented pen. I fully endorse that move, although I and many others will definitely miss Brooks. I do feel, however, that sentimentality is an ineffieciency. The day a GM starts worrying about what the fans think is the day he should be fired. Melvin has shown time and time again that he will do whatever is in the best interests of the team, not listen to fans who latch on to a particular player, be it Sexson, Podsednik, Kolb, or Kieschnick.

Other developments included the reassignnment of Ben Hendrickson and Jose Capellan to minor league camp. Jeff Bennett will join them in Nashville, and attempt to "close". Obviously, if you have read anything I have written lately, I'm a big fan of Hendy and would have liked to see him be given a shot in the rotation. However, he apparently has some mechanical issues to work on, and Nashville is the best place for it. Capellan seemed destined for AAA from the day he was acquired, though there was some sentiment for wasting his talents and sticking him in the MLB pen. This was 100% the right move. He's obviously not ready for the bigs, and might not be until next year. AAA sure beats the heck out of watching his talent be wasted in one inning stints in Milwaukee, as I would rather see him fail as a starter before being banished to the pen. Bennett is what he is, a replacement-level pitcher and little else. Arms like his grow on trees.

Spring Training results:
ST Game 22: Brewers 11 - White Sox 0
ST Game 23: Brewers 8 - Giants 3
ST Game 24: Rangers 10 - Brewers 6

Notes:
Nothing really big happened in the three above games, aside from Glover likely sewing up the 5th starter spot in the White Sox game by pitching 5 shut-out innings. Mike Maddux might have pulled yet another scrap-heaper into a gem. Let's see when the season starts though, as Glover will struggle to get regular work in April, which does help to soften the blow of moving Hendrickson back down to AAA where he will be the ace of staff and work on regular rest, which is probably best for a 24 year old.

Friday, March 25, 2005

ST Games 20/21

The Brewers won one and lost one in Cactus League action the past two days. Here's some recaps and thoughts.

ST Game 20: White Sox 17 - Brewers 9
I was able to watch this one on Comcast Sports (Ch. 640) on DirecTV, and although they lost, it was a fun game to watch. The plate discipline Prince Fielder shows is amazing for a 20 year old. He drew three walks and hit a HR. Some people seem to think he is ready now, although I don't put myself in that camp. Sure he has had a great spring, but doesn't anyone remember Jose Fernandez? Spring training numbers are useless, but for Prince they are encouraging, especially the patience he has shown. That attribute will make his adjustment much easier when his time finally does come. Some people say "trade Overbay ASAP" to make room for Prince - I'd say trade Jenkins, if you can get some team stupid enough to take on that bloated salary, and move Overbay to RF. Obviously that decision is a season, or at least a few months away if Prince really starts on a tear in Nashville. Carlos Lee continued his hot spring, homering again, and getting (what appeared to be) intentionally hit by Damaso Marte. He also threw Scott Podsednik out at the plate. Victor Santos' poor line is partially due to the wind aiding balls over the fence and deep into the OF.

ST Game 21: Brewers 8 - Mariners 6
Ben Hendrickson, who I will back until he is finally given a legitimate shot in the rotation, started this game and didn't pitch poorly. The HR he gave up to Beltre was due to Clark slipping down and allowing Beltre an inside the parker that scored three runs. Hendy will be fine, but it looks as though we as Brewer fans will have to endure at least a month of Glover-mueller in the rotation. The best we can hope for is league average, but that's probably a stretch. Jeff Cirillo won this game with a walk-off HR, which was his first extra base hit of the spring. For reasons probably due to lack of talent, Cirillo will likely break camp as a Brewer, even though he hasn't hit a lick in 4 years. Derrick Turnbow pitched well in picking up the overvalued win, and should definitely make the team.

Today: Brewers (Glover) vs. White Sox (Garcia)
This is probably Glover's shot to get a spot in the rotation, as the battle of mediocrity rages on between he and Obermueller.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Cubs pitching injuries

Since the Brewers are facing the Cubbies today, I figured it would be a good time to discuss the injuries to their ace pitchers. Kerry Wood and Mark Prior both went down in the span of about a week, and yesterday Joe Borowski injured his hand. Great news for Brewers fans, obviously, as managers around the league (on on the North Side) are choking on their toothpicks and tightening up their batting gloves. Obviously, Dusty Baker is the last man you want handling promising young arms, and he is proving it yet again. The only one of the Cubs prized trio that has yet to have a relatively serious arm injury is Zambrano. I happen to think Zambrano has the best stuff on the rotation, and he's a horse. However, his number has got to be up soon, as every day pitched under Duddy is a day closer to the baseball grave yard of dead arms. The Borowski thing is just comical, as everyone knows (or should, at least) that LaTroy Hawkins has the best stuff of any of the Cubs relievers.

Last season, Hawkins blew nine "saves" while serving as the team's "closer". Apparently, he lacks the "closer mentality", or the "killer instinct" required to close games. I am of the opinion that the position of a closer is sheer myth, mainly generated by the media in big markets like Chicago. If you don't have cool facial hair, an equally cool entrance theme, and say stupid things to the large media contingent in your large city, you therefore lack the "mentality" of a closer. Look at Hawkins' numbers in save and non-save opportunities last season (courtesy of Baseball Prospectus):

Save situations: 33.7 IP, 33 H, 13 R, 12 ER, 5 HR, 6 BB, 30 K, 3.21 ERA
Non-Save: 49.3 IP, 40 H, 14 R, 12 ER, 5 HR, 8 BB, 40 K, 2.19 ERA

I think that unless the Cubs go out and make another dumb trade, like for Dotel as had been rumored in the past, they will have a solid guy to get the last three outs in Hawkins. Though the Brewers, and other NL Central teams, were fortunate to see the Cubs lose two of their three aces, the Cubs were lucked into using their least favorite option in the closer role. But, even though he is their least favorite option due to media and fan perception, he is their best option.

Here's to the Cubs making Dempster their closer or overpaying in a trade!

Rosenthal's NL Rookie? James Jerry Hardy.

Ken Rosenthal of The Sporting News doles out his preseason MLB awards. His pick for the NL Rookie of the Year is none other than Brewers SS J.J. Hardy.

Rookie of the Year:
J.J. Hardy, Brewers. Everyday shortstops usually fare well with voters. Hardy's instincts will carry him, though he might not be as strong offensively as last year's top rookie shortstops, Bobby Crosby and Khalil Greene.

I happen to agree with him, and not just simply because he is a Brewer. Even though it was an extremely small sample last season at AAA, Hardy is definitely improving his offense. That was considered his only shortcoming prior to last season. Hardy will draw his walks, rarely K, play stellar defense, and hit around .270 in the low-pressure 8th spot in the Brewers order. Most people consider him a Top 30 prospect in the entire league, and Baseball America has him as the #3 prospect in the Brewers system. If he continues to prove his torn labrum is completely healed, and his power stroke continues to improve like it started to last season, he could easily be an All-Star in no time. Here's some various projections for Hardy's 2005 season:

Baseball Prospectus PECOTA: .268/.328/.437, 15 HR, 19.3 VORP
Baseball Forecaster: .264/.337/.411, 12 HR
ZIPS: .252/.347/.397, 15 HR
John Sickels: .256/.330/.396/, 12 HR

I think all Brewers fans would be happy with those numbers, especially those by BP.

Capuano locking up spot

Thanks to his continued great performace in spring training, Chris Capuano has pretty much locked up a spot in the Brewers rotation. Most Brewers fans had all but assumed it to be the case before the spring, but at least Capuano has earned it by pitching extremely well. Cappy was a productive pitcher for the Brewers last year, but couldn't stay healthy, a problem he has had since about 2002, when he had Tommy John surgery. Ever since, he has had bouts of elbow problems, including tendinitis last season. Some scouts say he projects as a number 2 guy in a rotation. I don't think so, but if he gets his K rate back to the 8.41/9 he had in the minor leagues, and drops his HR rate back under one (or at least to the NL average of 1.1), like it was in his D'Backs system days he will be a very good pitcher. Obviously he's not much of a workhorse either, but I would like to hope the team would prefer quality over quantity in terms of innings. Again, though, he has only 121.1 IP under his belt at the MLB level, and should continue to improve IF he is able to stay healthy. Here's my view of the Brewers rotation at this point:

Sheets
Davis
Santos
Capuano
Glover-mueller

Clearly, the 5th spot has some issues. However, if the team would just commit to Hendrickson, rather than give the impression of giving up on him, the chances of him being productive are much higher than Glover or Obermueller's. Nonetheless, this rotation looks much better than the one the Brewers trotted out last April, especially if Obermueller isn't in it.

Yesterday's ST Game: Padres 4 - Brewers 3
Today: Brewers (Capellan) @ Cubs (Koronka)

Monday, March 21, 2005

ST Games 14-19

Sorry for the lack of updates, been a busy weekend with the Badgers, UWM, as well as the state High School basketball tournaments. Anyhow, I'll post the links to the last few games recaps, then add a little bit at the end about what is currently going on.

ST Game 14: Brewers 6 - Rangers 4
ST Game 15: Giants 3 - Brewers 2
ST Game 16: Diamondbacks 13 - Brewers 10
ST Game 17: A's 5 - Brewers 1
ST Game 18: Cubs 4 - Brewers 2
ST Game 19: Brewers 8 - Rangers 5

The Brewers have made a few roster moves. Matt Erickson, Julio Mosquera, Sam Narron, Andy Pratt, Jeff Housman, Nelson Cruz, Luis Pena, and Brad Nelson were reassigned. Interestingly, Cruz was sent to AAA Nashville, while Nelson was sent back to AA. This seems to confirm various firsthand reports saying that Cruz was a much more advanced player than Nelson. The team also mercifully released LHP Rigo Beltran.

On to what's been going on with the team. It appears that for some unknown reason, Ben Hendrickson stands a very good chance of being sent back to AAA. He has pitched a whopping 9 innings this spring, and it seems like most are ready to give up on him based on this insanely small sample, coupled with another small sample (46.1 IP) from the bigs last year. These people seem to ignore the fact that Hendy completely dominated his competition in AAA last season to the tune of a 11-3 record and 2.02 ERA. Granted, his peripherals are less than dazzling, but his K rate of 6.7/9 IP is almost exactly league average, and was about 1 per inning before he had some injuries in '03. He also has a nifty GB/FB ratio, which will help him succeed in Miller Park, and surrendered only .5 HR/9 last year at Indy. He is also an extreme strike thrower, kind of like Sheets was, but he is going to need to miss more bats than he has. Obviously, the main difference between the two was the few extra MPH Sheets had on his heater. However, Sheets gave up bundles of HR. There are reports, also, that Hendrickson has tweaked his mechanics a little bit and added a little to his fastball - this could easily be the cause of his struggles early in spring training. The main thing with Hendrickson was so many people had such high expectations of him. He will likely turn into a very solid third starter, in my opinion, but all I'll say is don't sleep on him. Guys that utterly dominate in AAA usually have success at the MLB level. Consider the alternatives: Gary Glover and Wes Obermueller. Out of those two, you have to kind of like Glover a bit more, just due to the fact that Obermueller has failed so miserably in the past. He is legitimately awful, whereas Glover could serve some purpose to the team, and pitched decent, albeit in a small sample, last year in September.

The third base situation is hopefully starting to clear itself up, with Branyan having what Yost termed a "quarter-step lead" over the woefully bad Wes Helms. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a new way of thinking for Yost called the "play the better player movement". I do, like I have said a few times, like Helms vs. LHP. He can rake them, but leave him out against RHP and play him as little as possible at 3B.

Today: Brewers (Capuano) @ Padres (Darrell May)
Also, there is a Drew Olson chat about to begin.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A study: BB and HR - Is there a correlation?

This evolved from a discussion on the BF.net forums. One fellow poster said that AVG was more important for a power hitter than OBP, and that great hitters "expand their zone" in order to "produce runs". Thinking this was blatantly wrong, I decided to do a little research. I looked only at 2004 numbers, and found that players that walked over 100 times (9) all hit over 30 HR. For this "study", I'll use the always handy ESPN.com sortable stats to look at the numbers over the seasons of 2000-2004 to see if there is any correlation between a hitters BB and his HR total. I'll also include RBI's, even though I think the batter has zero control over them and that the stat, like most counting stats, is meaningless. I'll also take into effect the players that hit over 30 HR, but walked lass than 100 times. For these players, I will provide averages only, due to the fact that there are many more 30 HR hitters than there are players who walk 100 times. Here goes it:

2004 (Player - BB - HR - RBI):
Barry Bonds - 232 - 45 - 101
Bobby Abreu - 127 - 30-105
Todd Helton - 127 - 32 - 96
Lance Berkman - 127 - 30 - 106
J.D. Drew - 118 - 31 - 93
Adam Dunn - 108 - 46 - 102
Brad Wilkerson - 106 - 32 - 67
Jim Thome - 104 - 42 - 105
Jim Edmonds - 101 - 42 - 111

Average 100 BB player in 2004:
36.7 HR
127.8 BB
98.4 RBI
1.041 OPS
.303 AVG

Notes: Now, obviously there are some outliers. Bonds is incomparable to any other player in any other era. Wilkerson is also a bit of an anomaly because over 400 of his AB's came from the lead-off spot in an anemic offense. Now, on to the 28 non-100 BB, 30 HR players of 2004.

Average less than 100 BB, 30+ HR player in 2004:
35.8 HR
65.8 BB
109.8 RBI
.903 OPS
.285 AVG

So, these great "RBI machines" of 2004 were less productive in every facet from the kings of BB aside from RBI. Like I said earlier, RBI is a meaningless stat that is less a reflection upon the hitter than it is on the other players on his team. This means that teams on which the lead-off hitter does not get on base, the hitter has less RBI opportunites, except when they knock themselves in via the longball - something players who walk 100+ times hit more often than those who don't. Now let's try 2003.

2003 (Player - BB - HR - RBI):
Barry Bonds - 148 - 45 - 90
Jason Giambi - 129 - 41 - 107
Jim Thome - 111 - 47 - 131
Todd Helton - 111 - 33 - 117
Carlos Delgado - 109 - 42 - 145
Bobby Abreu - 109 - 20 - 101
Lance Berkman - 107 - 25 - 93
Brian Giles - 105 - 20 -88
Jose Cruz, Jr. - 102 - 20 - 68
Frank Thomas - 100 - 42 - 105
Erubiel Durazo - 100 - 21 - 77

Average 100 BB player in 2003:
32.4 HR
111.9 BB
102 RBI
.960 OPS
.289 AVG

Notes: In 2003, the players who walked 100+ times averaged fewer HR's, due to the inclusion of Cruz and Durazo, as well as the lower HR output by Abreu. Definitely not as flukey as 2004, as Bonds' BB total isn't as sky-high. Let's take a look at the 24 30+ HR players of 2003 that failed to walk 100 times or more.

Average less than 100 BB, 30+ HR player in 2003:
36.25 HR
63.7 BB
106.9 RBI
.927 OPS
.292 AVG

This time, the less patient guys out HR'ed the 100 walkers, thanks in small part to a flukish season by Javy Lopez, and a full season by Richie Sexson. They also carried a higher AVG, however, their RBI advantage shrunk, along with their average BB total - anyone think those are connected? The 100 BB guys also continued to have a decent advantage over the others in OPS as well. So, there were some slight differences between 2003 and 2004. Which one was an anomaly? Let's consult 2002 for help.

2002 (Player - BB - HR - RBI):
Barry Bonds - 198 - 46 - 110
Brian Giles - 135 - 38 - 103
Adam Dunn - 128 - 26 - 71
Jim Thome - 122 - 52 - 118
Jason Giambi - 109 - 41 - 122
Chipper Jones - 107 - 26 - 100
Lance Berkman - 107 - 42 - 128
Rafael Palmeiro - 104 - 43 - 105
Bobby Abreu - 104 - 20 - 85
Sammy Sosa - 103 - 49 - 108
Carlos Delgado - 102 - 33 - 108
Jeff Bagwell - 101 - 31 - 98

Average 100 BB player in 2002:
37.25 HR
118.3 BB
104.7 RBI
1.015 OPS
.299 AVG

Notes: Bonds again was freakish, with his huge BB total, also Todd Helton failed to make the list, because he had 99 BB. He will definitely help the other guys. Regardless, 2002 looks a lot more like 2004 than 2003 did. This time, 9 of the 12 players who walked 100 times had over 30 HR. A much better rate than 2003. However, some players who walked less than 100 times had some pretty amazing seasons as well, let's take a look at how the 19 30 HR/less than 100 BB players fared.

Average less than 100 BB, 30+ HR player in 2002:
35.6 HR
67.6 BB
110.8 RBI
.917 OPS
.294 AVG

This time around, the walking men licked the hackers in every category except the treasured RBI. They evn took AVG, which was the point of contention all along in this "study". I don't know about you, but I'd gladly take the 100 point advantage in OPS over the measly 6 RBI. The numbers in 2002 fell much more in line with what I thought the numbers would look like. Now, 2001.

2001 (Player - BB - HR - RBI):
Barry Bonds - 177 - 73 - 137
Jason Giambi - 129 - 38 - 120
Sammy Sosa - 116 - 64 - 160
Jim Thome - 111 - 49 - 124
Carlso Delgado - 111 - 39 - 102
Troy Glaus - 107 - 41 - 108
Jeff Bagwell - 106 - 39 - 130
Bobby Abreu - 106 - 31 - 110
Rafael Palmeiro - 101 - 47 - 123
Luis Gonzalez - 100 - 57 - 142

Average 100 BB player in 2001:
47.8 HR
116.4 BB
125.6 RBI
1.054 OPS
.299 AVG

Notes: Obviously, this is knee-deep in the juiced era. Bonds hit 73 that year, and several other players put up suspicious seasons as well. However, this should apply either way, as I know of no evidence that shows steroids having an effect on a player's plate discipline or strike zone understanding. Hence, the players who hack also will have increased HR totals as well, so it really shouldn't effect the project. Regardless of other circumstances, those averages for the 10 100 BB walk players are flat-out staggering. Once again, it is back to every one of them having 30+ HR, and this time they each had 100 RBI as well. Now, let's look at 2001's 30 free-swingers with 30+ HR.

Average less than 100 BB, 30+ HR player in 2001:
37.6 HR
65.6 BB
113.4 RBI
.942 OPS
.302 AVG

This time around, the patient hitters dominated in every category, aside from a three point disadvantage in AVG. Otherwise, this really illustrates my point that patience will lead to more runs scored and RBI's for hitters. Time for the last installment, 2000.

2000 (Player - BB - HR - RBI):
Jason Giambi - 137 - 43 - 137
Carlos Delgado - 123 - 41 - 137
Jim Thome - 118 - 37 - 106
Barry Bonds - 117 - 49 - 106
Brian Giles - 114 - 35 - 123
Frank Thomas - 112 - 43 - 143
Troy Glaus - 112 - 47 - 102
Jeff Bagwell - 107 - 47 - 132
Jorge Posada - 107 - 28 - 86
Tim Salmon - 104 - 34 - 97
Jim Edmonds - 103 - 42 - 108
Todd Helton - 103 - 42 - 147
Rafael Palmeiro - 103 - 39 - 120
John Olerud - 102 - 14 - 103
Gary Sheffield - 101 - 43 - 109
Alex Rodriguez - 100 - 41 - 132
Bobby Abreu - 100 - 25 - 79

Average 100 BB player in 2000:
38.2 HR
109.6 BB
115.7 RBI
1.021 OPS
.310 AVG

Notes: There is one outlier in the group, John Olerud, who drives down the HR average. Otherwise, it looks very good. The HR's are obviously down from the ridiculous 2001 average, the AVG is up, and everything else is pretty comparable. Let's look at how the last group of 30 under-100 guys stack up.

Average less than 100 BB, 30+ HR player in 2000:
35.2 HR
66.6 BB
112.5 RBI
.953 OPS
.302 AVG

Well, this time the 100 BB guys won in every category again (I think), proving my point on how the best and most consistent run producers and "RBI machines" are those who walk and hit what a pitcher gives them, rather than "expand their zone" and at the same time expand their chances of making an out and hurting their team.

Here's the 5 year averages for each type of player.

Average 100+ BB player from 2000-2004:
38.5 HR
116.8 BB
109.3 RBI
1.018 OPS
.300 AVG

Average less than 100 BB, 30+ HR player from 2000-2004:
36.1 HR
65.9 BB
110.7 RBI
.928 OPS
.295 AVG

So there you have it. Which player would you rather have - the patient hitter that takes pitches rather than makes outs, or the RBI-driven player who swings at bad pitches and increases his chances of making out in order to attain that elusive RBI? My contention all along has been that the player that is patient is much more likely to help his team score runs than the player who swings away rather than work a BB. The RBI is the most overrated stat in the game, and the tiny average 1.4 RBI margin held by the free-swingers over the most patient players every year is useless, compared to the 90 point OPS advantage held by the others. A team should be built trying to compile the highest aggregate OPS, in my opinion, therefore give me the "Walking Men" over the "RBI Machines" every day of the week.

What do my precious few readers think about this? For instance - if a player hits 30+ HR, should he also walk 100 times? Or if a player walks 100 times should he also hit 30+ HR? Which comes first? The BB's or the HR's?

ST Game 13 recap


Branyan (AP Photo/Roy Dabner)

Brewers 6 - Royals 3
The Brewers picked up another victory yesterday in Cactus League action. However, there were some negatives. Ben Hendrickson continued his rocky spring, even though he picked up the win. Hendy struggled with command of his curveball and was roughed up a bit, giving up 3 runs, 5 hits, and 2 BB in his two inning stint. Wes Obermueller followed with 4 excellent innings of shutout ball. Hopefully, the braintrust doesn't weigh the ST stats too heavily in regards to the pitchers. Hendrickson has a chance to be a much better pitcher than Obermueller, but it may be in the best interests of the club and Lil' Ben for him to start out the season in Nashville and for a pitcher like Jorge de la Rosa or Obermueller to take his spot in the rotation. It seems people did have too high of hopes for Hendrickson, even though it seemed all along that his ceiling was that of a third starter type. All I hope for out of him is league average production, which would be an excellent upgrade over the Franklins, Kinneys, and Obermuellers of years past. Once again though, before anyone gives up on Hendrickson after 6 IP in Arizona, bear in mind the fact that he dominated AAA last season with an ERA under 2.50.

On the offensive side, Russell Branyan continued his hot spring going 3-3 with a HR and a 2B. If he doesn't win the starting job, it tends to give some credence to the folks who claim conspiracy is leading to Helms getting more playing time due to his friendship with Yost. Branyan can flat-out mash, and for a team with a dearth of power last year his presence for an entire season could mean a lot. He also plays acceptable defense, especially compared to the display Helms put on last season. Damian Miller also went 3-3 with an RBI. He will be a huge upgrade over the play of Moeller/Bennett last year if he simply puts up his career average OPS in the .740 range.

Today, the Brewers (8-5) have a split-squad of night games. Sheets faces Pedro Astacio and the Rangers in one, while the Brewers/Giants matchup features Chris Capuano vs. Jason Schmidt.

Monday, March 14, 2005

ST Games 11/12: A win some, lose some weekend

Sorry for the lack of updates over the weekend on Cactus League action. A friend is home from school that I haven't seen in a while, and a busy college hoops weekend as well. So, here's my recaps and thoughts on the Brewer action over the weekend.

ST Game 11: Brewers (Davis) @ Rockies (Wright)
This was pretty much a shelling, which those of us fortunate enough to have DirecTV were able to watch. Jamey Wright was in vintage form, which was good for The Crew, but bad for Carlos Lee, who was hit by a pitch. He's fine, but it was about as scary a Brewer moment I can recall. Doug Davis pitched extremely well, and Wes Helms hit two HR. Rickie Weeks had an excellent game as well, working counts, getting on base. Jose Capellan looked quite alright for two of his innings - his fastball just 'splodes. Nelson Cruz continued to impress after he came in for Lee, however he made some poor plays in the field. Pat Borders owns 20 year old AA pitching in ST games. After Branyan came in for Helms, he went deep as well. This was a total moonshot over a 35 Ft. fence in CF. Both of them are hitting the ball well over the past few days, but (deep breaths) it's only Spring Training. Bottalico struggled mightily with his control, but I don't really think there's any reason for concern. Dave Krynzel has a tough day, going 0-5, as did Julio Santana. Thankfully, Santana is a longshot, but he has pitched very poorly. Derrick Turnbow considered to sew up his spot in the Brewer pen - there will be some big time fireballers in that pen with Lehr, Turnbow, and de la Rosa. Final Score: Brewers 17 - Rockies 9.

ST Game 12: Brewers (Santos) vs. Diamondbacks (Halsey)
This game started out extremely well, also, but the Brewers surplus of Spring fodder gave it up at the end. Victor Santos bounce back very well from his previous start, and gave up no runs in three innings of work. Russell Branyan, Corey Hart, Dave Krynzel, Rickie Weeks, and especially Brad Nelson hit the ball very well. Really though, the story of the game was the poor pitching performances turned in by Andy Pratt, Brooks Kieschnick, Rigo Beltran, and Luis Pena. Likely, none of them aside from Brooks make the team. Final Score: Diamondbacks 15 - Brewers 11.

Today: Brewers (Hendrickson) vs. Royals (Lima)

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Who's surprised? More steroid talk

A blurb from the NYDN article describes the regimen Mark McGwire used to become a 270 pound steroid freak:

The recipe called for 1/2 cc of testosterone cypionate every three days; one cc of testosterone enanthate per week; equipoise and winstrol v, 1/4 cc every three days, injected into the buttocks, one in one cheek, one in the other.

It was the cocktail of a hardcore steroids user, and it is one of the "arrays," or steroid recipes, Mark McGwire used to become the biggest thing in baseball in the 1990s, sources have told the Daily News.

Long before Jose Canseco claimed he injected McGwire in the behind in his tell-all autobiography "Juiced," the man known as Big Mac denied ever using illegal steroids. But according to FBI sources, McGwire's name came up several times during "Operation Equine," a landmark anabolic steroids investigation that led to 70 trafficking convictions in the early 1990s. No evidence against McGwire or any other steroid user was collected, and one former agent who worked undercover in the case says McGwire was not a target.

Hopefully, no one is surprised by this. If they are, they would be the definition of an eternal optimist for not realizing that McGwire was juiced. You just don't get to be that big without the help of something. I'm glad this is coming out, as McGwire has basically been shielded by the media because of his "magical" 1998 season. It turns out it wasn't that magical at all, it was just dirty. I really have no respect for the man any longer, even though I kind of thought all along in '98 that he was using. I am glad to see Canseco's allegations starting to be proven true. I own his book and I recommend everyone read it, even though some parts of it are probably fabrications, like the way he basically tries to explain his way out of his criminal wrongdoings. However, the man is an expert on steroids, and I tend to believe the majority of what he has to say on the subject.

Also, Jeremy Giambi admitted to steroid use in the KC Star:

"It's something I did,'' Giambi says. "I apologize. I made a mistake. I moved on. I kind of want it in the past.''

I do, however, have a lot of respect for both Giambis. It seems like they are really the only ones who are owning up to what they did. I am actually pulling for them, as odd as that sounds. For a Brewers fan, pulling for a Yankee won't be easy, but I think Jason Giambi deserves support. He is a genuinely good guy, and I think his steroid use has nothing to do with his (and Jeremy's) incredible plate discipline. I will predict that Jason's line looks something like .280/.400/.475, which would be a nice way to prove a lot of people wrong, and I'm in his corner. If a player admits to cheating like the Giambis have essentially done, you can forgive them. But, when a player like McGwire blatantly lies for years about his indiscretions, it's sad. Hopefully, more players will come clean. This is a forgiving country, and the people love the game.


Friday, March 11, 2005

Hall to the OF?

From Adam McCalvy's Brewers notes on the official site:

Position switch: Is it time to add Bill Hall to the list of Brewers backup outfielders?

Urging reporters to not "make a big deal out of this because it ain't a big deal," Yost said he spoke with Hall on Thursday morning about getting some experience in center field during Spring Training. Hall started Thursday's game at shortstop, his natural position.

"Right now, we've got David [Krynzel] and we've got Brady [Clark], but we'd like to put Billy in the outfield this spring," Yost said. "It gives us another option."

Why Hall?

"Billy is so athletic," Yost said. "Out of everybody that we've got on the infield, he is by far the guy that you can do that with. He is athletic enough to play center field, or to play left field."

Hall said he had only played three games in center field in his whole life -- at Triple-A Indianapolis under then-manager Cecil Cooper. On Thursday, Hall shagged fly balls in center field during batting practice, and Yost said Hall may play center field in a "B" game next week.

"It's something you have build up your arm to," Hall said. "Whatever is going to get me more ABs [at-bats], I'm definitely up for."

I will state right now that I firmly oppose any plan that is devised to give Billy Hall more playing time. I will refuse to bend on this belief. The man has really done nothing in a Brewers uniform, aside from two magical nights last April. Sentimentality is an important part of the game for a lot of fans, but how does Bill Hall's 2004 line of: .238/.276/.374 help the Brewers win ball games? It doesn't. Hall's MLB OBP has yet to break the magical .300 mark, and his defense has been nothing special, either. However, despite all of this, some Brewers fans tend to think that Hall should play every day at SS to give Hardy more time to learn at AAA. Really, it's Hall that could use more seasoning in AAA, being that his career minor league OBP was a sparkling .309.

Now, there is one potential upside resulting from moving Hall to the OF. That would be that it would give the Brewers an opportunity to send Dave Krynzel to Nashville to work on his plate discipline and offensive game in general. Also, it may be a bit of an indicator that Doug Melvin has soured a bit on Magruder-type guys and would maybe try to make a deal to acquire a legitimate back-up CF like Marlon Byrd or Willie Harris.

I will give Hall a little break: he's only 25. But, he has really shown that he is nothing more than a utility IF with a little pop.


ST Game 9: Brewers lose to Royals


Ben Sheets (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Well, the Brewers lost another meaningless spring training game, but who cares? The ace of staff was back, and pitched a rock solid first inning in his first appearance of the spring following offseason back surgery. In his one inning of work, Big Ben fanned two while hitting one batter. He didn't allow a hit. The Brewers scored all of their runs in the second inning off of the ancient Kevin Appier. The runs resulted from patient AB's and walks by Carlos Lee and Damian Miller, and a pair of run scoring hits, one of which was a double by SS prospect J.J. Hardy. The other was by CF Dave Krynzel. The best pitching of the day by the Brewers came from Sheets and Brooks Kieschnick, each of whom worked scoreless innings. After another rocky outing by a pitcher named Phelps (Tommy), I seriously think the Brewers should stay away from pitchers with that surname. Also, Rickie Weeks continued his shoddy fielding with another error. He's definitely going to need to improve that aspect of his game.

Today, the Brewers take on the Giants, with Gary Glover facing off against Brett Tomko. Go Crew!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

More official business: A Mascot


Official "Brew Grit" Mascot: Brady Clark

I know, I know, the "official business" that I'm taking care of in these two most recent posts may be dull, but it has to be done. After thinking long and hard about an official mascot/hero for the BG, I came to one conclusion: it can be no other than new everyday CF Brady Clark. No Brewer, current or likely even past, can match the grittiness, intensity, and ability to get to first base that Clark posesses. Many scoffed at the idea of Clark becoming the starting centerfielder and lead-off man for the new-look Brew Crew, ignoring his superior on-base skills and defense in comparison to Scott Podsednik. Face the facts - "Scotty Po" was a one-trick pony, and his one trick (SB) wasn't even that valuable when you consider the fact that stealing first has not yet been written into the rules. This past winter, Doug Melvin decided it was time for an upgrade. No more ponies - it was time to trade it in for a full-grown "Caballo". Thus, Brady Clark's reign as everyday player began. It was a long journey, as chronicled in this piece from "The Oregonian", but finally he appears to have reached his destination. Clark exudes the qualities valued at "Brew Grit", and I know he will succeed in his new roles as both CF/lead-off man and "Official Mascot of Brew Grit". Some may disagree with this decision. To them I have one simple question: who else?

"Bill of Grit": 1st Ammendment

Tom Meagher, who runs the excellent "Fourth Outfielder" Dodgers blog, has proposed an ammendment, which has been accepted, to the "charter" of Brew Grit that I stated in my Intro, via e-mail. Thanks, Tom. Here it is:

Brett,

I checked out your blog today. You're doing some pretty good work so
far. Keep it up.

I noticed your intro included the statement "If something is impossible
to quantify numerically, it doesn't exist." While I think you're on the
right track, I would propose an amendment: "Given the number of things we can
reasonably quantify from verified data, when analyzing baseball it is
typically not worthwhile to speculate the impact of unquantified
phenomena." Just my two cents. The stats we have now are all surrogates
for better data - K/9 tells us a lot, but an analysis of pitch location and
velocity could tell us a lot more. The issue is that anecdotal evidence
is nearly useless, and until numerical records of pitch data and so forth
are kept or available, we are better off leaving what we haven't
quantified out of our analysis.

Tom



Brewers lose another ST game

The Brewers dropped their third straight Cactus League game yesterday to the Rockies. Chris Capuano took the loss, but didn't pitch that poorly, although Rick Helling did. Ancient catcher Julio Mosquera had a nice day at the plate, going 2-2. The Brewers face the Royals today, with Ben Sheets finally making his spring debut. I think I speak for all Brewer fans when I say, I don't care if they win or not today - just don't get hurt Ben!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Brewers drop both games

Well, the hot start came to an end today as the Brewers dropped both games of a split squad against the Mariners (8-4) and Padres (18-5). Victor Santos was shelled, as was Sam Narron, and no pitcher really turned in a great performance. However, all was not lost, as Prince Fielder continued his torrid spring with a mammoth HR against the Mariners, as did Carlos Lee with his 4th of the spring against the Padres. Geoff Jenkins also hit two homers in the San Diego game. JJ Hardy went two for three with a double and an RBI single against the Mariners. Starter Ben Hendrickson pitched two scoreless racks. The Brewers continue Cactus League action tomorrow against the Rockies, with Chris Capuano facing off against Joe Kennedy.

ST Game(s) 6 and 7: vs. Mariners and vs. Padres

Split-squad action today, with the Brewers trying to go to 7-0 for the spring. Ben Hendrickson takes on the Padres at "home", and Victor Santos faces the Mariners on the "road". The line-up against the Padres features Weeks, and mostly the rest of the regulars aside from Hardy with Hall taking his place. Lee is playing as well, after his wife told him to stay in Arizona an extra day to play more. The Brewers/Padres game will be webcast live on the Brewers website, again with Bill and Daron providing the play-by-play. Go Crew!

What would have happened?

A great, I repeat great, article at Hardball Times. What they did was take into account what player would have done had they not gone to war. A friend and I had this discussion last night reagrding Ted Williams. I said that he would have been better than Ruth had he not taken four years out to go to war, we had pegged him at a career total of 690 HR, which we thought was a conservative estimate. THT says The Splinter would have ended up at 709 career HR, just six short of breakin The Babe's total of 714. They also said his career OPS would have been 1.129 (.485/.645), a slight improvement over his 1.116 actual mark, and he would have wound up with 3,475 career hits. In my opinion, Ted Williams is truly "The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived" - plain and simple. Again, check out the article, it's worth a read.

Monday, March 07, 2005

ST Game 5 (Recap): Brewers vs. Mariners


Nelson Cruz (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Another day, another win for the Brewers in Cactus League play. The Brewers rode prospect Nelson Cruz, acquired this winter from Oakland along with Justin Lehr in exchange for Keith Ginter, who hit a two-run HR and added an RBI single for good measure. Lyle Overbay and Enrique Cruz also went deep for the Crew, with Cruz's HR being a Grand Slam. Doug Davis started, and struggled, as is to be expected, in his first appearance of the spring season. He gave up 3 earned runs in two IP, while striking out no one. However, the pitching star of the day was definitely Jorge de la Rosa, who struck out four Mariners in two innings of work while walking no one and surrendering just one hit. Twenty-one year old Dana Eveland also did a nice job working out of a two on, none out jam in his lone inning. Next, the Brewers take on the Padres and Mariners in split-squad action tomorrow. Once again, if you saw the "live" blogging earlier, and had any opinion on it whatsoever, please feel free to comment or send me an e-mail.

ST Game 5: Brewers (Davis) vs. Mariners (Madritsch)

Off to a hot 4-0 start in exhibition games, the Crew takes on the Mariners for a second time tday with Dealin' Doug taking the hill for the first time this spring. The game is available for free on the Brewers website, with Daron Sutton and Bill Schroeder providing the call. As will likely become a custom in my game previews, here is the BrewerFan IGT. Enjoy, as I may possibly do a little "live-blogging" on this post during the game as I see fit. In all likelihood I will provide a recap as well.

OK, here's the line-ups for the game:

Brewers:
Krynzel - CF
Spivey - 2B
Overbay - 1B
Jenkins - RF
Cirillo - DH
Helms - 3B
Cruz - LF
Hardy - SS
Moeller - C
Davis - P

Mariners:
Ichiro! - DH
Reed - CF
Beltre - 3B
Ibanez - 1B
Boone - 2B
Winn - LF
Olivo - C
Spiezio/Choo? - RF
Reese - SS
Madritsch - P
......
2:40 PM
Currently 3-2 Mariners, following a 2-R jack by Nelson Cruz. According to some who have seen him in person this spring, Cruz is a more advanced player than either Brad Nelson or Corey Hart, and I'm beginning to believe it.
......
2:50 PM
Jenkins hits a "sacrifice" bloop down the LF line caught by Beltre, scoring Spivey, who walked and was moved to 3rd by Overbay. 3-3 now, with Cirillo flying out to go to 0-2 for the game. Matt Wise will be entering the game for the Brewers following Davis' 3 ER in 2 IP.
......
3:05 PM
Hardy makes a nice catch, running a loooong way into LF. Wise pitching well at this point, seems to be a lock to make the Opening Day roster as a long man at least. Well, he was pitching well until Beltre (2-2) crushed a 2B off him, with 2 outs. Ibanez (1-2) made the final out, following a two RBI 2Bin the 1st.
......
3:20 PM
Miguel Olivo scores from third with two outs following a rundown started by Spiezio taking off from 1B. Kind of a crazy play, as is normal with ST games. Schroeder thinks it was a designed play in which Spiezio stays in the rundown long enough for the runner at third to score. 4-3 Mariners.
.....
3:30 PM
Overbay takes Hueber(sp?) deep to tie the game back up. To that point the Brewers had been dominated by Hueber, who struck out Cruz and Hardy last inning. Jenkins slaps a little single to third. Apparently he was actually protecting the plate. Cirillo follows him with another single. Two on, no outs, and 10 hits for the team thus far. Helms does the Helms thing and K's. Cruz follows up with another RBI to give the Brewers the lead. De la Rosa has entered the game for the Crew.
.....
3:45 PM
De la Rosa pitches very nicely, finishing the inning with a K of Beltre. The score: Brewers 5 - Mariners 4 after five innings.
.....
4:35 PM
Well, I leave the house for a little while, and what happens? Enrique Cruz hits a Grand Slam, of all people. It's 9-5 Brewers as I write this, following 7 innings of play. Also, Jorge pitched very, very well today, K'ing them left and right. A very encouraging occurence, hopefully leading to the Brewers completely cutting ties with "The Run Fairy" Wes Obermueller.
.....
4:50 PM
Pretty uneventful top of the 8th for the Brewers, Cirillo likely finishes his day up at 2-5. Young Dana Eveland enters the game now for the Crew, I would assume to finish things off for the day. Apparently, the team is leaning toward using him pretty much strictly as a RP. Doesn't make much sense to me, considering his dominance thus far as a starter. Eveland gets a big DP, after kind of losing his composure. Also, the 6 and 4 in the DP were Cruz and Erickson - thank goodness it's ST! Eveland works completely out of it after putting the first two on. Great job by Dana. End of 8 - Brewers 9 - Mariners 5.
.....
5:00 PM
The top of the 9th has gone very well thus far, Durrington got on and scored thanks to a single by Julio Mosquera. Nelson has also gotten on, and has just come in to score along with Mosquera on a base hit by Magruder. It's now 12-5 Brewers. Following a base hit by Erickson, the Brewers now have 18 hits in this game. Branyan just ripped a double off the LF wall, scoring another run, 13-5 Brewers. This has turned into vintage Spring Training, quickly. Corey Hart makes a "productive out" knocking in Erickson to make it 14-5. Cirillo K's looking to end the inning. End of 8 1/2 - 14-5 Brew Crew.
.....
5:15 PM
John Novinsky has come into the game to mop-up. Bill Schroeder finally wakes up the folks with this - if you get on base you are good! Scott Podsednik doesn't get on base. Ergo, he is not good. Clark gets on base, which means he's good. Bill is learning, and it's about time. For some odd reason, Ichiro! is still in the game in the 9th inning in the first week of Spring Training. Hargrove has also done a pitch-out in this game, did he not get the memo that the games don't count. Ichiro did just rip a double off of Novinsky, making it second and third following the BB issued to Spiezio. Novinsky is really struggling with his control, like Eveland probably attributable to nerves a little. He gave up a run on a sac fly off the bat of Jeremy Reed. He's a nice ball player, I must add. Now, a HR to Willie Bloomquist to make it 14-8. He now gets the final out on a grounder to Branyan. Final score - Brewers 14 - Mariners 8. Brewers ST record: 5-0.
......
I'll put up a little recap in a while, once a full recap and box score are available elsewhere. In the meantime, if anyone dug the semi-live blogging, comment if you like. It may become a bit of a semi-regular thing whenever I can do it.

No asterisks*

Bud Selig says that the players who used steroids and happened to break cherished records while doing so will not have asterisks put next to their "accomplishments" in baseball's record books. Apparently, it is not "fair to the players" that their tarnished records be noted as such with the use of an asterisk. So, let me get this straight. If you use steroids and break records - "hey, you're cool", but if you happen to break a record because MLB has lengthened the regular season from 154 games to 162 - "you didn't really break the record." Please tell me: how does this make any sense at all?

Also, apparently the same players that were "invited" to testify last week by members of the U.S. House of Representatives may now be subpoenaed and required to appear in front of the committee. These players are Jose Canseco (he's already RSVP'd), Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Frank Thomas, and Curt Schilling. Also, Selig, Don Fehr, Sandy Alderson, and Kevin Towers have been invited to testify. I'm all for this, I think the steroid stuff needs to be aired out in the public eye so those of us who love the game can get a plain view of who exactly was juicing, and who wasn't.

Team Chemistry

David Pinto at Baseball Musings posted this morning about team "chemistry". He was also kind enough to post about and link to the BG. It's much appreciated. On to the topic of chemistry. This is a prime example of what I was talking about in my intro when I said that if something wasn't quantifiable by numbers, it doesn't exist. To expound on what David said, I think that chemistry is no more than an excuse used by teams that chronically underachieve. Case in point: the 2004 Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs were supposed to go to the World Series. Instead, they failed and missed the playoffs entirely. This can be attributed to a number of things, but the two sharing the top spot on the list have to be Manager Dusty Baker and not getting on base. Baker's favoritism for inept, unproductive players like Ramon Martinez and Jose Macias coupled with his poor handling of great young arms like Prior and Wood lead to injuries and poor play all-around. The Cubs also have one chronic problem - they can't seem to get to first base. Baseball Prospectus details this excellently in their new book, but the gist of the story is that the Cubs, though they hit a lot of long balls, fail to score runs due to the fact that no one is on base when said long balls are hit. This again is attributable to Dusty, for such great decisions as to hit Corey Patterson lead-off. More so, though, it is the fault of Jim Hendry for not acquiring players who can get on base at a decent level.

Now what do the Cubs do after the expectations of greatness came crashing down on their season? Of course, they fire Dusty Baker! Wait, no they don't, they trade Sammy Sosa - an aging, yet still quite productive offensive player - because he had become a "cancer" in the clubhouse (they replaced him with Coors-inflated ex-Brewer Jeromy Burnitz). The Cubs also agreed to pay most of his salary as part of the trade, which netted the team Jerry Hairston. The fact of the matter about baseball is that it is, when broken down, truly an individual sport pitting batter vs. pitcher. The myth of team chemistry is an excuse used by big-spending, big-market teams which feature incompetent people in high places that fail to reach their overzealous fans' lofty expectations.

Once again, thanks to Baseball Musings.

New Power 50 at BrewerFan

Toby Harrmann at BF has posted an update of his "Power 50" ranking of the top 50 prospects in the Brewers farm system. Some bits:

19 Salome, Angel R C 18 R R

Will be able to play defense at the MLB level - his hitting prowess will determine if he's able to stick around in the bigs

Salome is probably my favorite prospect in the system. He's been compared a lot to Pudge Rodriguez, and comes from Manny Ramirez's H.S.

28 Woolard, Glenn AAA SP 23 R R

Not on the 40-man, not in major league camp, not even assured of a spot with the AAA team, all of which adds up to a heavy index of ridiculousness

Another guy who I love. I say he and possibly Jeff Housman will be making starts in Milwaukee come September - possibly sooner in Woolard's case.

31 Richardson, Grant A 1B 22 R R

A ton of power potential, though like all first basemen not named Prince Fielder in the Milwaukee system, he'll have to find his outfield glove eventually

My favorite pick in last year's draft. The guy is an OBP machine, as is the guy behind him, Steve Sollman.

34 Gwynn, Jr, Tony AA CF 22 L R

The Brewers are thinking about promoting Gwynn to AAA out of spring training and they are idiots for doing so

Right on. TGJ is not very likely to ever wear a Brewers uniform, in my opinion.

41 Gamble, Jerome AAA MR 24 R R

Rarely does a team get a talent as capable as Jerome Gamble on the minor league free agent market, but he immediately becomes one of the Brewers' top relief prospects

Gamble could turn out to be Dan Kolb Pt. II. Probably Melvin's most overlooked pickup of the winter.

Check out the rest, and do so every other week when he updates. I'll more than likely post it every time he does a new one, though. It's excellent analysis, one of the many fine things offered by BrewerFan.

Baseball Analysts NL Central Preview

At Rich Lederer and Bryan Smith's new blog, Baseball Analysts, they have done a little NL Central Preview. I'll post the relevant sections, then comment a little below.

J.D.: I don't think a salary cap is necessary for the NL Central to see different teams contending. I think it's altogether possible that the Astros are about to go into a bit of decline, and there are things to like about the Brewers, Reds, and Pirates. The biggest problem with the NL Central is that all three of the second-tier teams thought that building a new stadium would be a panacea, when it clearly is not. I think now that stadium construction is finished for the Brewers, Reds, and Pirates, they'll all focus more on trying to build contenders because that's the only way to increase attendance for the next 20-30 years.

Bryan: Yes, the small-market teams are showing that the right order is a good team and then a new ballpark rather than the other way around. You have to spend money to make it, not tax the public, right?
......

J.D.: I wrote a little about the Brewers a couple of weeks ago, and I just don't see them climbing out of the hole they've dug anytime soon.

Rich: The Brewers are on their way up. I'm not suggesting that they will be good this year, but there is cause for some optimism a couple of years out.

Bryan: I think a lot depends on the new owner and whether he'll take that budget up. They need to keep Ben Sheets and Carlos Lee, that's for sure.

J.D.: They've got some good minor league talent, but their method of operation seems to be almost entirely draft dependent, and they really don't seem to draft well enough for them to have a sustained run. I could see them becoming quite good in a year or two and for a year or two, but I think that's the best Brewer fans can hope for.

Rich: Hope is on the way in the form of Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy, Prince Fielder. But I'll defer to Bryan on this subject.

Bryan: Prince is definitely the best of the three; it won't be long until he is right in the heart of that order. Weeks' struggles worry me, but I think he'll have a good year and allow the team to trade Junior Spivey. And while I might be a seller of Hardy, he's going to be an everyday player. Maybe Royce Clayton, but an everyday player.

Rich: Don't get me wrong here. I'm not suggesting that Hardy and Weeks will become the next Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. But Fielder certainly looks as if he would have fit right in there on Harvey Kuenn's Brew Crew ballclubs in the '80s.

Bryan: Well, Doug Melvin has proven to be quite good at finding cheap talent. Podsednik, Davis, Kolb...

Alex: ...and then trading those three. I actually applaud their trading methods more than anything else.

J.D.: I will admit that I'm a big fan of the Posednik for Lee trade. Most teams come out ahead when they trade with the White Sox though.

Rich: Trading Kolb for Jose Capellan is exactly the right type of move a team like the Brewers should make. What good is Kolb going to do them?

Bryan: I will say that I think Mike Maddux is now the second best pitching coach in the game. If they can recreate some offensive numbers of old, I think success is likely.

Rich: That's about as unlikely to happen as Carlos Beltran playing for the Astros this year.
......

Bryan: Alright guys, let's close this out with some actual predictions. I'll lead it off: Cubs, Cards, Astros, Brewers, Reds, Bucs.

Rich: Just as I thought, Bryan. OK, this is a tough one for me. The only way the Cubs are better is if they get full years out of Nomar Garciaparra, Mark Prior, and Kerry Wood...

J.D.: Well, while you're thinking, Rich, I'll go with the Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, Astros, Pirates, Brewers.

Alex: I say Cardinals, Cubs, Astros, Brewers, Pirates, Reds.

Rich: Put me down for the Redbirds and Cubs 1-2. No way any of these other teams finish first or second. I'll pick the Astros for third but with a record right around .500. Pirates fourth. Reds fifth. Brewers dead last once again.

So, for the second straight week, it looks like Bryan is by himself in the divisional prediction. The official Baseball Analysts consensus has the Cardinals on top, followed closely by the Cubs. The Astros, despite most of the roundtable participants expecting a reasonable regression, are projected to place third.

Outside of J.D., the Reds, Brewers and Pirates are picked to finish anywhere from fourth to sixth. While we hope promising farm systems and new regimes will even out the division, color us skeptical. Dollars don't always have to be the determining factor in success, but a lot more sensibility will be needed than what Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh have shown in recent years.
........

Well, a couple things jump out at me. Alex Ciepley from the Cub Reporter is apparently uninformed to the fact that the Brewers haven't traded Doug Davis, but actually they signed him to an extension. The other Cub guy involved, Bryan Smith, says J.J. Hardy will be Royce Clayton, which I totally disagree with. There really is nothing to lend one to believe that's what Hardy will evolve into. In AAA last year (warning: small sample) Hardy tore the cover off the ball, walked more than he K'd, hit for power, and played MLB-caliber defense. The only thing that matches up with Clayton is the last one, but Hardy will prove to be a much better hitter than Royce Clayton because of his plate discipline and additional power. They do commend Doug Melvin, which would be very hard not to do. The guy is brilliant, and keeps getting better. Also, kudos to them for showing some love to Mike Maddux, he's got his work cut out for him this year, but he'll squeeze every but of talent out of the pitchers.




Sunday, March 06, 2005

ST Game 4: Brewers 9 - Royals 6


Carlos Lee (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

The man in the above picture is awesome, no doubt about it. And so is the guy behind him - there's your numbers 3 and 4 hitters for the next few years Brewer fans. Soak it up and enjoy. Now on to the game...

Rick Helling pitched well for the Crew today, but it was really the explosive offense put on by Carlos Lee and Prince Fielder that won this game. You may say "It's Spring Training. Who Cares?" to which I'll answer "me." It's just a thing of beauty to be able to see the future of this Brewers club; like Prince, Weeks, Hart, Nelson, etc, get some experience facing MLB quality pitching. All-in-all, El Caballo was 3-3 with two HR (the first a massive park-leaving shot approximately 475 ft., according to Bob Uecker) and 5 RBI. He now has 3 HR and 9 RBI for the spring season. The Royal One was also 3-3 with 3 RBI. Brady Clark, or "King Grit", was 3-3, with 2 2B's, a 3B, and 3 runs scored. The pitching was good for about 4 innings, with Helling, Bottalico, and Jeff Bennett doing the hurling. After them, the game was turned over to pitchers in the Rigo Beltran, Julio Santana, and Ben Diggins phyla. Not good. Granted, it's spring, and the pitchers aren't exactly in game shape at this point.

Yahoo!'s recap

Up next: Brewers vs. Mariners, Monday at 2:05 CT - maybe I'll try to live blog a little bit. We shall see. Daron and Bill will have the call on Brewers.com.

Attanasio - Classy

For those of us lucky enough to listen to Saturday's Brewers/A's game on the network, we were treated to Mark Attanasio sitting in for a few innings with Bob Uecker. It was just great to hear him talk of his love for the game, and his knowledge was surprising. The guy exudes class and success, and it's nice to know that he takes that much of an interest in his new acquisition that he was willing to sit in on the broadcast for a few innings, as well as take in the spring opener against the Mariners. It really affirms it for me: Brewer fans, we are in good hands with Mark A.

PS - I'll post a little bit on today's whuppin' of the Royals a bit later, since I really haven't said anything about the team's great start to exhibition games.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Harris/Helms: Dead

Well, Brewer fans can go back to dreaming again. According to Doug Melvin, the rumors of the Wes Helms/Willie Harris swap were untrue. Just another Chicago media creation. Here's a blurb from the JS:

No truth to it: The first trade rumor of the spring involving the Brewers has surfaced. And it has been shot down.

General manager Doug Melvin said there was absolutely no truth to a radio report out of Chicago that indicated that the Brewers were discussing a deal that would send third baseman Wes Helms to the White Sox for infielder-outfielder Willie Harris.

"I haven't talked to (White Sox general manager) Kenny Williams since we did the Carlos Lee trade (in December)," Melvin said.

"Willie Harris is probably a player who people think is available, and we've looked at him, but I haven't talked to Kenny. That (rumor) probably came from scouts sitting around, talking."

Harris might be a fit for the Brewers, who wouldn't mind having another infielder-outfielder type on their roster. And Helms is expendable because of his $2.7 million salary, poor performance in 2004 and the fact the Brewers also have Russell Branyan and Jeff Cirillo in camp.


Cardinals better in '05?

Gammons says so. Doesn't make much sense to me, with the biggest drop-off being at SS, where Eckstein replaces Renteria. Eckstein is gritty, and don't get me wrong - I love grit, but grit is most effective when accompanied by talent. This is unfortunately where Eckstein is lacking. Renteria, on the other hand, was either the #1 or #2 best SS in the NL over the past few years accompanied by Furcal. Another of their big acquisitions was Mark Mulder, who was pretty much a below average pitcher from July on last year. The Cards seem to think he's an ace, but I don't, and I think they gave up too much to get him by trading Daric Barton and Kiko Calero, as well as Dan Haren, a pitcher with a dominant minor league history. One is considered to be possibly the best hitter in the minors, and the other is a highly effective reliever with nasty stuff. Chris Carpenter's season last year had much more to do with the great offense the Cardinals had, not some tremendous improvement out of an oft-injured pitcher. He will fall off sharply from last season. Matt Morris? Don't get me started. A pitcher with an ERA around 5 is not, I repeat not, and "ace". Yeah, he eats innings, but doesn't do much else. I am not taking the Cardinals lightly, obviously us Brewer fans are in no position to do that, but I am saying they are not a great team. A good one? Yes. They are still essentially loaded with bats with Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, and Larry Walker, if (a BIG if) he's healthy. I will say right now that this Cardinals team, managed again by the easy-to-dislike Tony LaRussa, wins no more than 90 games and has a hard time winning the Central again unless Jocketty is able to pick up a good SP on the cheap.

More from Batman

Bill "Batman" Batterman over at BrewerFan has posted his list of the top ten seasons by a Brewers hitter, again by VORP. He has also broken down the top five by position, as well. Pretty much the names you'd expect, here's the rundown:

10b. Paul Molitor (1988) - 66.9
10a. Paul Molitor (1979) - 66.9
9. Paul Molitor (1992) - 67.4
8. Robin Yount (1984) - 69.1
7. Robin Yount (1980) - 70.8
6. Paul Molitor (1991) - 74.3
5. Cecil Cooper (1980) - 80.4
4. Robin Yount (1983) - 81.8
3. Paul Molitor (1987) - 82.3
2. Robin Yount (1989) - 83.2
1. Robin Yount (1982) - 110.3

Bill adds that Youn't 1982 mark was the highest mark of the '80's, and was one of only three over 100.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The bench situation

Today's JS runs down the bench for the Brewers. This always seems to start out as a bit of a strength, then is so depleted by the end of the season that in includes greats such as Pete Zoccolillo, Angel Echevarria, Ryan Thompson, and other esteemed legends of Brewers lore. This year's bench competition is wide open, with Hall, Helms, and Moeller the only seemingly sure bets. Other players like ex-Brewer and current NRI Jeff Cirillo have a shot, along with Durrington and Magruder. With Clark in the lineup and Podsednik gone, Dave Krynzel has an excellent shot to stick this spring, even though it may be too soon for him to be expected to contribute at the ML level. If Helms is dealt, as has been rumored, Cirillo then goes from a bit of a long-shot to a near-lock. The team likes his ability to play 1B, 2B, and 3B, plus potentially a corner OF spot on occasion. The main problem with Cirillo is, since leaving Coors, he has forgotten how to hit. Here's the numbers from the past few disastrous seasons for Jeff, which resulted in his outright release last season by San Diego:

2002 (SEA, 485 AB): .249/.301/.328, OPS+ of 74, 6 HR, 31 BB
2003 (SEA, 258 AB): .205/.284/.271, OPS+ 50, 2 HR, 24 BB
2004 (SDP, 75 AB): .213/.259/.293, OPS+ 48, 1 HR, 5 BB

Yeah, it's a great story that he wanted to come back so badly, but don't hold your breath on Cirillo circa-1999 to come back. He's 35 and hasn't hit in three years, in other words he's a nice guy but not much of a ballplayer anymore. Cirillo commented on the matter in the article:

"This game is easier to play when you are out there every day," he said. "There is no doubt about that. A lot of it is timing. It's just hard to get your timing when you aren't playing a lot.

"Some of it is confidence, too. When you're batting in the first inning, you now you're going to have three more at-bats in the game. When you go in to pinch-hit, there is more pressure because that's probably going to be your only at-bat. If you let a good pitch go by, you might not get another one to hit.

"Playing defense (as a reserve) isn't as hard as hitting, but it's important that you're loose. The biggest thing is getting your arm loose."

Here's my prediction on how the bench looks come April 3:
IF - Bill Hall - R
C- Chad Moeller - R
3B/1B - Wes Helms - R
OF - Dave Krynzel - L
OF - Chris Magruder - S


Finally, the games have arrived!

After a couple weeks of spring training, the exihibition games finally begin with the Brewers facing off against the Mariners and A's in a split-squad action. Both games will start at 2:00 PM CT, with Ben Hendrickson facing the A's and Chris Capuano facing the Mariners - with the aforementioned Jose Capellan following on his heels. Here's a little bit from the Brewers official site, regarding who plays where:

Capuano will start for one split-squad against right-hander Joel Pineiro and the Seattle Mariners. Ben Hendrickson will start for the Brewers' other split-squad across town at Phoenix Municipal Stadium against Dan Meyer and the Oakland A's. Both games begin at 2 p.m. CT, and Brewers television broadcaster Daron Sutton will call an audio webcast of the Brewers-Mariners game on the Brewers Web site.

Jorge De La Rosa and Matt Wise will follow Hendrickson against Oakland, each scheduled for two innings or 40 pitches, followed by Ben Diggins and Sam Narron for one inning or 25 pitches apiece. Dennis Sarfate is also making the trip.

Against the Mariners at Maryvale, Capuano, Jose Capellan and Tommy Phelps each will pitch two innings or 40 pitches. Andy Pratt, Rigo Beltran and Kieschnick are scheduled to follow for an inning or 25 pitches.

Carlos Lee will make his unofficial debut in the road game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, where he can serve as the designated hitter. Yost is easing Lee into game action because he was one of the last position players to arrive in camp. Wes Helms, Bill Hall, Junior Spivey, Brady Clark and Chad Moeller are among the players expected to start against Oakland left-hander Meyer, one of the players acquired from the Braves for Tim Hudson.

At Maryvale against the Mariners, the Brewers lineup looks like this: CF Dave Krynzel, 2B Rickie Weeks, 1B Lyle Overbay, 3B Russell Branyan, LF Geoff Jenkins, C Damian Miller, LF Brad Nelson, SS J.J. Hardy and Capuano.

Now, of course Spring Training recods don't matter, but this has to be the most anticipated Brewers pre-season camp in recent memory. The influx of prospects and new talent like Lee has people's optimism at sky-high levels. The games should be especially fun to follow this March, since Yost plans to play his usual starters for about half a game, followed by the kids like Prince, Weeks, Nelson, Krynzel, etc. I think this strategy is a pretty excellent one, getting the "kids" a chance to see some ML pitching.

Also, here's a link to the best place to keep tabs on a Brewer game, the Brewerfan.net In-Game Thread.

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