Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Paul’s Ten Biggest Brewer Fears

10. Prince Fielder’s increased platoon split

Year - RHP _ LHP (OPS)
2006 - .835, .819
2007 – 1.100, .834
2008 - .955, .733

When Prince came into the league he hit lefties and righties reasonably well. In 2007 he (in my opinion) began to pull the ball more frequently, and to great effect, however, the league adjusted and while Prince still pounds righties something fierce, lefties are having an increasingly easy time with the hefty lefty. Having a platoon split is fine. Most players have them. The problem with the Brewers is that they are very right handed, and if Prince stays this way or gets worse, it will make him very easy to manage in high leverage situations. He didn’t even take his walks last year against lefties, putting up a terrible .313 OBP. Yuck.

You can count me amongst those who would like to see Fielder traded. His offense isn’t that great for a first baseman, and his defense gives a lot of his value back. He should be traded while something can be had for him.

9. Corey Hart’s Swing

Say Mr. Hart, why the long swing?

One thing I’m always on the lookout for is luck v. adjustments. Sometimes a slump or a hot streak is due to luck, but in Corey’s case, I think it may be more than that. Corey’s always had a long swing that makes him prone to striking out. The problem last year was that pitchers would set him up with a fastball, and then pound him low. Corey couldn’t (and couldn’t afford to) lay off those low pitches. If he is to get back to being a productive player, he has to develop more of a take and rake mentality, and let those low pitches go by.

8. CC and Sheeter will hurt more than you think

Why? Because in games pitched by Sheets and CC, the bullpen often did not see much, if any action. Granted the bullpen will probably be better this year, but you’re also likely to see more of it. Gallardo will probably be treated with kid gloves, at least early on (and especially if he plays in the WBC, as expected), and Parra is still young enough to warrant a pitch count. We are used to getting big doses of the bullpen in Jeff Suppan and Dave Bush starts, but now this may be a common occurrence.

7. Who is number 5?

Is it McClung? If not, who else, and if so, who is going to pitch the second half of his games?

6. Depth

So long, Gabe Kapler. By Russ, King of the Three True Outcomes. Hello Mike Lamb. Hi there, Tony “Not Tony Gwynn, Sr.” Gwynn, Jr.

5. Our Wart Covered Prospects.

Angel Salome has a weird body type that scouts can’t figure out. If he can’t catch adequately there is no place for him. Mat Gamel has been Braun-like at third and his value goes wayyyy down at first. Jeremy Jeffress digs the weed. Brad Nelson is actually a beaver. There are no sure things down there.

4. Bill Hall/Mike Lamb

Bill Hall and Russell Branyan. Yeah, OK. Bill Hall and Mike Lamb? I guess it’s better than just Bill Hall.

3. Who is on second?

Do we continue the Rickie Weeks experiment? Can he finally get his head out of his ass?

2. Who is catching?

This is a bigger problem than just the catcher. In general, you have a dead out in the 9 spot. When Kendall catches, they basically have a dead out in the 8 spot as well. With 2 dead outs in the lineup you can’t give too much more away, which is why it’s crucial that Hart starts watching those low pitches, and Rickie plays at least average, and either Bill Hall or Mike Lamb takes advantage of this platoon, and Prince Fielder doesn’t try to pull lefties. The offense wasn’t that good last year. They can’t give too much more away. And remember, without Branyan last year, they do not make the playoffs.

1. What if disaster strikes?

The single worst part of Doug Melvin’s lack of spending this offseason is what it may mean as the season moves along. Think about this. Reed Johnson takes out Yovanni Gallardo’s leg last year, and the Brewers manage to go out and get CC Sabathia, an adequate replacement if ever there was one. What happens if there is a major injury this year? What if Ryan Braun gets hurt? You will not see Adam Dunn brought in, because the budget is too tight. You won’t see a pitcher brought in either, in all likelihood.

Last year this team dealt with bad luck by using their financial resources. This year they have to rely on good luck. That’s a tall order, because injuries are the norm in professional sports, not the exception.

For all of these reasons, I am not optimistic. I do not think they will me an unmitigated disaster, but for now it’s hard for me to imagine this team being substantially over .500.


DannyNoonan said...

It's really looking bad. The fact that Tony Gwynn Jr. is our 4th outfielder and we don't have a 5th scares the crap out of me, especially considering how Hart played last year.

Having 1 good starting pitcher, 2 okay starting pitchers and 3 guys that are good for like 4 or 5 innings isn't good either. Maybe Cappuano will come back. We have him on an AAA deal, right?

And third base is just gross. What does Melvin have against that position?

PaulNoonan said...

I don't know, but I also know that the Cardinals are in much better shape, especially in the minors. The Pirates will probably be a bit better. At least we still have the Reds (disaster this year) and Astros (it's finally over for them).

I think we still have a puncher's chance, but that's about it.

tracker said...

"Brad Nelson is actually a beaver."

Now that's funny.

Anyway, I think Christopher Trotman Nixon is our 4th outfielder, not that that should be of much comfort.

Re Hart, I know there are guys that tall who play successfully in the majors. For some reason, though, when he gets to the plate, the zone looks huge, and his bat looks tiny. I'm never surprised to see him strike out.

Third base is only half gross. Hall is good in a platoon.

E.S.K. said...

Reason #1 is why I think the Brewers will be under .500. They have no one at any point in their organization who can fill in without a massive production slide (maybe Gamel at 3rd).

Suppan has been sliding steadily and precipitously for 4 years. He will slide again. He will still be one of the 5 best starters the Brewers have, even if everyone is healthy.

The problem with the Brewers rotation is that there is not a single consistent arm in the bunch. There could, quite easily, be 3 or 4 straight night where the starter doesn't make it 10 outs. That is a serious problem.

Hopefully this is the inverse of my Packers pick, but this team is going down very hard. I'm sickeningly confident in my sub-80 wins guess, assuming no other starting pitchers are brought in.

tracker said...


10. Prince has never taken walks vs. lefties. Plus he raised his ops by 50 points in the last three weeks of the season.

9. Point.

8. Bush could make up for a lot of that loss. He had a stretch of 13 games late in the season, 9 of which he pitched into the 8th, 11 of which he pitched into the 7th. He could've pitched longer in his last three had Yost not been micromanaging. It wasn't performance that got him pulled from those.

And for all the kvetching about Suppan, his numbers are inflated by a couple really bad outings. He had a string of 8 starts from late July on in which he finished 7 innings in 6 of them. As a back of the rotation guy, I think he's OK.

7. We'll see. If it's Clunger he'll need continued control improvement, but part of the reason many of his starts were short is because he was still being stretched out. They had no intention of leaving him out there for more than 80 pitches.

6. Goodbye Counsell.

5. Yeah, but Gamel probably only matters if Lamb goes down (or sucks). Salome likely won't matter in 09. Nor will Jeffress, or Brad Nelson's beaverness. Guys like DeFelice and Dillard, I believe, can contribute.

4. Bill Hall and Mike Lamb is also better than Bill Hall and Craig Counsell. For all we remember of the Glory that was The Muscle, he only had 132 abs compared to Counsell's 248.

3. If you consider 08 as a season spent with his head up his ass, I'm not so bad with it. A .342 obp wasn't horrible. Granted, he got some relief vs rhers, but even if he is full-time, his platoon splits are within .100 career and in '08 (unlike Hall, who had more than a .300 difference). His head may have been ear-deep defensively. Whether that can improve is debateable, I guess.

2. Kendall's no deader an out than he was last year. And Macha, or any other manager on the planet, is more likely to replace his deadness in the lineup on a regular basis than Yost was.

1. Yeah, if Braun gets hurt, we're fucked. Let's hope he doesn't.

88 wins.

E.S.K. said...

What do you see the wins/losses of the starting pitchers being Track? It doesn't mean anything, but predicting a number like that sort of gives one a general idea of how well you expect them to perform. You must have some really high expectations for Dave Bush?

tracker said...

Using the pitching win/loss stat? 16-10 range for Bush, ERA in the low-mid 3's. This would be consistent with his performance last year from the end of May on.

McClung, Soup, Parra all .500 area. Suppan didn't deserve to be .500 last year and might fall short this year, but McClung had a 107 ERA+ last year and has the potential to make up a game or two. Gallardo probably fewer decisions than Bush because he'll be less likely to work deep into games, but an ERA in the low 3's. They'll win games he pitches, even if he doesn't get the "win."

The way I look at it in rough terms is this. If we use 90 wins as the baseline from last year, missing half a season of CC costs you four wins (86). Gallardo = Sheets, so no +/- variance. Bush gets you 1+, because you replace two months of crappy Bush with two months of new Bush. A slightly better pen that doesn't have to endure Gagne, Turnbow, Mota meltdowns gets you the rest of the second Bush win. No significant change in the offense.

So 88-74. Have a few things fall your way, nobody gets hurt, don't let Counsell play, that turns to 90 or 92 and another wild card.

PaulNoonan said...

Not that I'm optimistic, but managing is a big wild card too. Macha may make up some ground.

E.S.K. said...

I think you are way too high on Bush. He dropped his WHIP .3 point from 07 to 08. Yeah, maybe he is hitting his peak at 28, which would make sense, but then look at his BABIP. .245!

There is no way in hell Bush can keep up a number like that, and if one thing is clear it's that when people get on base, Bush gets rattled. OPS rises 30 points when men are on base against Bush. He is at his worst when there are 2 outs in an innings (.784 OPS) last season.

James, CHONE and Marcel all project Bush to actually meet a lot of his numbers from last year, but assuming a significant increase in BABIP I don't see it. .245 is an unsustainable number, and he is at his worst when men are on base. It's a bad formula.

The rest of your projections all assume best case scenario for the pitchers. McClung only average 5 innings a start last year and 4 of his 12 starts he didn't even make 5 innings. While some of that can probably be stretched out just through off-season prep to be a starter, he's a 5-6 inning guy at best.

I'm also less than convinced that this pen is any better. Mota has a 105 ERA+, Turnbow only pitched in 8 games, and Gagne had an ERA+ of 79 (and the team was 34-16 in his appearances).

Hoffman had an ERA+ of 101. What other significant additions have been made to the bullpen?

tracker said...

I'm still not exactly sure what to make of babip as applied to pitchers. Since a mean babip on flyballs is different than that of ground balls, I don't see how you can make a blanket statement that any pitcher's babip must regress to the major league mean without further analysis of how he gets his outs.

I was looking at some of Hoffman's splits. Rhers have a .249 babip against him, career. That's more than 2000 plate appearances. Shouldn't some regression to the mean have occurred by now? Or was he born lucky, and has lived lucky for 16 years?

Anyway, if I come up with some more time I'll delve further into my defense of Dave Bush, which would require an anlysis of ground-ball flyball ratio. But I'll add this. A regression to a babip mean, by rough math, would add .1 to his whip, which would still be very good.

As for the rest of the pen, I consider a healthy Riske a significant addition.

E.S.K. said...

Well, for his career Bush is at .290 BABIP. That is why I say .249 is unsustainable.

Who else is in the pen that you like so much? Riske pitched in 45 games last season, which is only 3 fewer than his career average. A full season of Todd Coffey is certainly an improvement over Turnbow. Jorge Julio is probably an improvement over Gagne...although his absurd inconsistency may temper his usefulness.

While we're going for optimism, might as well say that Stetter is the May, June, July version and not the April, September, October version.

Even given all this, the bullpen is a minor improvement, however even if you love the starters you have to admit they will pitch significantly fewer innings per start this season. This will tax the pen. If they can handle it then that marginal improvement will be huge. If they can't, lack of depth will kill this team in the pen as well.

tracker said...

Riske's best seasons came when he appeared in 60-70 games. Injury last year not only significantly limited his appearances, but his effectiveness when he did pitch as well. 1.701 whip. He's just better than that, and at 31 yo, they surely expected far more than 45 games out of him.

But no doubt, the pen will get a workout. I'd like it better if Shouse were part of it, and I don't think this is the season where you try to stash a Rule 5 guy (morlan) like they may try to do. DeFelice, Dillard, Aguilar, et al will play sooner or later.

E.S.K. said...

DeFelice, Dillard, Aguilar, et al will play sooner or later.

Therein lies the problem my friend

ahren said...

i take 84 wins and over... you take 83 wins and under... you choose the wager-- $20 or a 12 pack of beer of the winner's choice.

i'll take the first 10 bets...

E.S.K. said...

We'll make that bet when Cactus breaks. Once the Brewers trade Fielder and Weeks for Uggla and Josh Johnson AND sign Dunn to play first, I'll look pretty stupid betting the under on a 90 game winner.

I do love the fact that I am the most pessimistic. Hopefully I am pleasantly surprised for once...I could use it after this Packer season.

PaulNoonan said...

Hi Ahren, long time no talk. I'll take that bet. Just one though.

Speaking of wagering, E, I believe I still owe you beer. You around any time soon?

E.S.K. said...

You could meet me at the airport Friday night. Couple of hoodlums stole my car Monday morning and I am flying in to pick up one I just bought.

It's at the airport though, so I'll be leaving right from there.