Milwaukee Brewers Weekly Check-In (4-4-11)


If you’re not one of those baseball nerds who follows every single thing going on in the Milwaukee Brewers Organization, don’t worry, because The Sports Bank’s Nick Grays has you covered with what happened in the past week and what’s going on in the future.

And if you are one of those nerds, feel free to join in on some good old analysis of America’s pastime in the Brew City.

This week we talk about the Brewers depressing series with the Reds and the team going ahead.

By: Nick Grays

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What Milwaukee’s Brewing: 30 in 50, Raw Relief & Fountain vs. Fist

milli_vanilli

By: Melissa S. Wollering

Thirty W’s in 50 games—the Milwaukee Brewers make club history with that number.  It’s also just the second time the Crew has won 30 prior to June 1.  Unfortunately, the next day, Jorge Julio throws raw steak at the Fish, single-handedly loses a game and prompts Ken Macha to rethink his entire bullpen. Now that’s more like the Brewers we know and love. Ugh.
 
The bright side: the Milwaukee Brewers swept the Reds after an interleague interruption to the Twins and losses to the red birds. Also good: Trevor Hoffman is 13 for 13 in saves.  But the rest of the Milwaukee Brewers’ bullpen is now valued beneath Milli Vanilli’s Grammy award at any local pawn shop near you.

 

The Brewers were on top of the Florida Marlins 4-2 Monday, when Jorge Julio entered in the 6th inning to give up five runs, four earned. Coffey stepped in that inning because after all that, Julio still couldn’t record ONE OUT. If Julio were the piece of raw meat I saw travel towards the plate Monday night, I’d feed him to Siegfried & Roy’s tiger. I’d also make sure that tiger lived a happy, fulfilling life in the Brewers bullpen reminding relievers not to THROW CRAP.

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Ken Macha just might tear apart his bullpen. He released Julio 14 hours later and called up AAA Nashville’s Mike Burns. Burns has pitched for the Sounds, recording a 6-2 record, 2.98 ERA in 10 starts and one shutout game. He’s pitched in the majors for Houston, Cincinnati and Boston and will serve a middle-reliever role.

If Macha had wanted David Riske, forget it. On Tuesday, Brewers Asst. GM Gord Ash announced Riske will undergo elbow surgery immediately and it could be as serious as Tommy John’s. He’s done for the year after just one outing.

Mark DeFelice has recently been held out of games due to his ailing elbow and could be placed on the DL any day. The Crew has R.J. Swindle but kicks itself every time it calls the LHP up because he gives up runs every time he enters a game.

In the event Macha needs someone else who can cover several innings, he could call up Nick Green or Chase Wright. Seth McClung and Mitch Stetter were so overworked by Monday, they were unavailable. Coffey and Villaneuva aren’t seeing much rest lately either. Tim Dillard would have been another decent choice to bring up Tuesday, except he pitched 7 innings on Sunday for Nashville and needs rest. Dillard has transitioned from reliever to starter.

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Mike Cameron left Monday’s game with knee irritation and Ryan Braun was part of that double-switch because he fouled a ball into one of his shins. Maybe if Braun wasn’t so busy throwing Remetee promotions parties on Milwaukee’s northside, he wouldn’t foul the ball in that direction.  Nothing is said to be serious with either player. Braun’s back in the lineup Tuesday.  Cameron is not. Jody Gerut is in.

Can we talk about the positive? May showered the Milwaukee Brewers’ with 18 victories and the wins are saving fans money.  A line formed at Miller Park Monday morning as people purchased discounted tickets to the Rockies’ series next week. The team offered a dollar off of loge level seats for every victory in May. $28 seats became $10 seats. Windell Middlebrooks calls them ‘good seats at an honest price’.

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Contributors worth recognizing include Prince ‘Month of May’ Fielder. His OBP of .450 gives statisticians chills; he whacked 9 homers, 31 RBI’s and 20 runs; AND his reflective shades complement his .305 average for the month. That’s not bad considering he lost your friend and mine, Rickie Weeks.

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Craig Counsell’s performance has exceeded the worth of his contract and it’s only June. Yovani Gallardo is finally showing signs of Ace potential. And Trevor Hoffman is playing paramedic, performing CPR on the bullpen even though he was out the first month of the season.  He is already approaching the top of the list in saves in the NL. He also converted his 13th save on the day the Milwaukee Brewers released his first bobblehead figure.  Remember when the Derrick Turnbow bobblehead release signaled his demise? Oh, Turnblow.

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I understand Miller Park finally got it right for Hoffy on Friday, playing AC/DC’s ‘Hells Bells’ the correct way. As the Brewers secured the final out in the 8th, all graphics on the video board went out, cameras and lights went dark and music stopped. Then, Hoffman opened the door and BONG! As he started jogging, music blared and video of ‘Trevor Time’ appeared.  Someone from San Diego must have faxed a step-by-step procedure manual to Milwaukee.  Thanks, San Diego.

I’m glad they got it right just in time to welcome Francisco Cordero back to Milwaukee.  Are you still celebrating your dollar figure or scratching your head about last season’s record under .500? We’re over you like cheekless chaps on Cher, Coco.

As for the offense, Ken Macha is now making it clear that if you were waiting for the Brewers to play small ball, even during the hitting funk prior to the Reds’ series, you wasted your time. Macha still subscribes to the idea that home runs and walks win games; stolen bases and sac bunts do not. Macha also insists this philosophy isn’t a product of his time with the Oakland A’s.

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During spring training, batting coach Dale Sveum spoke extensively about shifting offensive reliance on homers towards more of a manufacturing-friendly attitude. Macha just chucked that idea to the wolves this week.  He says that prior to sweeping the Reds, the Brewers’ only problem was passivity at the plate.  What is Macha’s solution should home-run bats become silent? Encourage hitters to be more aggressive on first-pitch strikes a.k.a. earlier in the count. I wonder if Sveum and Macha are clashing on philosophies this season.  It would appear they, are but no one’s talking about it.

In June, watch out for Corey Hart and Manny Parra. Hart has hit around .306 (20 points higher than his monthly average) and slugs .583 (100 point difference) in the month of June. Parra also loves the start to summer. He went 5-0 with a 2.59 ERA last June. However, Alcides Escobar will not start at second for the Brewers any time soon.  He’s back to shortshop down in Nashville.

In “Just a Bit Outside,” if the fan next to you at Miller Park is ticking you off, you can now text park personnel for someone to monitor and investigate the situation. As part of the organizations’ “Play Nice – Be a Friendly Fan”, you can now report misconduct by texting BREWERS, followed by a space and their seat or ballpark location to 41513. If a player punches a Gatorade dispenser, that’s a separate issue.

gatorade-dispenser

In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” I’m sure you’re shocked that I would take this opportunity to deluge Mr. Ryan Dempster and Mr. Carlos Zambrano for their two separate attacks on a defenseless hydration device. Dempster’s new book (to be released in the off-season), “Speaking With Your Fist”, recounts Ryan’s experience after walking in two runs in the 2nd inning to the Pirates on Memorial Day.  That’s when he ran into the dugout and punched the soda fountain to pieces. But friends, it lived on.

You see, the Cubs’ soda fountain for Gatorade is one you’d see at Hardees or the BK, with approximately six varieties of pressurized beverage for players’ electrolyte pleasure. Great Zeus’ beard—who would put this in their dugout?  It was only a matter of time before the oversized, bulky monstrosity, which splashed sticky liquid in players’ faces, would get on someone’s nerves.  Its refrigerated cooling device hums like a kazoo, driving men bonkers. zambrano

The dispenser’s epic tale ended once Los named his Nueva amiga Fontana de’ Gatora.  Unlike a nice, garden-variety wooden beverage barrel from the 50’s, this dispenser could not withstand such a blow.

Typical dispensers require service calls for maintenance if they happen to be blasted with 35 ounces of maple. Alas, in this economy, the Cubs decided they didn’t want to keep calling the repairman to put the thing back together every time Zambrano attacked it.  So it has been placed on waivers. Bless you, Gatorade dispenser. You aren’t the first victim of Z’s angry demeanor and you won’t be the last.

Cubs-Brewers Exchange

By: David K. and Melissa S. Wollering

Thesportsbank.net’s inaugural Cubs-Brewers exchange!  After taking two of three from the depleted Cubs, the Brewers have leapfrogged Chicago in what is shaping up to be a competitive NL Central Division.  TSB’s Brewers expert Melissa S. Wollering and our resident Cubs fool, David K. share their thoughts on this weekend’s series.

DK: Well, at least we saved face by winning Sunday and avoiding an embarrassing sweep to your Brewers.  After Saturday’s game, I was ready to quit the Cubs for about the 214,736th time.  Somehow whenever I threaten to do that, they manage to get a win and just suck me back in.

Kudos to the Crew though.  Ryan Braun’s game-winning home run Friday night was baller.  Saturday, you guys treated our bullpen like they were Eric Gagne and Derrick Turnbow.  You have the best record in baseball since April 19th, winning 15 of your last 20.  Enough with the compliments though.  It’s time to make some excuses.

We played this series without Carlos Zambrano, Derrek Lee, and with Aramis Ramirez separating his shoulder in the first game.  That would be like the Crew being without Yovanni Gallardo, Prince Fielder, and Ryan Braun.  Doesn’t sound fun does it?

By the way, can we get Craig Counsell to take a drug test?  He has to be on the juice after going yard Saturday night.

MW: I firmly believe I stood up during his home run and shouted, “that was just worth more than we paid you for your entire 2009 season contract.”  When looking directly at Craig’s face I always think it has been frozen in time since he’s all of 12 ½ years old.  Perhaps his going yard was more of sudden burst of youth circa 1987. But yes, you can test him for banned substances, by all means.

What has surprised me even more than the Brewers recent stellar offensive display is its pitching. The Crew is either tied with the Cubs or is now leading the league in quality starts with at least 18.  Considering all 5 members of your Cubs starting rotation were said to be better than the best starter we had at the beginning of this season, how do you feel about that, David?

DK: I hate it because I was a big basher of the Crew’s rotation at the beginning of the season.  Yo is living up to his stud potential and Dave Bush has been solid.  As of late, Suppan has been more crafty veteran than washed-up junk-baller.  As for that supposedly sweet Cubbies rotation; Zambrano, Rich Harden, and Ryan Dempster all have ERA’s in the upper-four’s.  But that’s not the major issue.  It’s our bullpen which I trust as much as I would trust Ron Santo not to scream after a Cubs walk-off home run.  I mean, Chad Fox’s ERA is 135.00 in his two games.  Granted, his arm is pretty much dead, but still, a 135.00 ERA?  Even Gagne and Turnbow are laughing at that.

By the way, did you notice Braun’s home run Saturday night when he stared down Dempster after he knew it was gone.  Granted, Dempster had beaned Braun in the helmet the at-bat before, but still, it seems like Braun is getting a little cocky these days which I am usually all about, just not against by Cubs.  K?  Thanks.  For the record Braun is batting .619 against left-handed pitchers this season.  That is shocking.  Not 135.00 ERA shocking, but nonetheless shocking.

MW: That staredown you speak of consisted of steel-tipped darts protruding from Braun’s eyes, yes.  Good thing Dempster was looking back at the ball in awe instead of at Braun or you would have had two pitchers go down in agony that night.  Fox’s arm looked as though it fell off right then and there.  That’s gotta be tough to rehab all that time and throw it out during one of your first outings back.

Surprisingly, our starting rotation is playing to its potential.  Prior to Sunday, Suppan had 4 quality starts in a row.  That’s a shocking as Paula’s song-and-dance return to the stage on last week’s American Idol. But our bullpen isn’t all that much better than yours with the exception of Trevor Hoffman.  When you have someone like Jorge Julio, who’s given up 7 hits and 10 runs (9 earned) in the last 7 days, you tend to want to throw things at the television before the man even finishes running to the mound.



On a bright note, Fukudome’s on base-percentage when he comes to Miller Park is ridonkulous.  Even with three of your stars MIA you might be able to win even if you skipped the other 8 men in the starting lineup and just sent him out to bat for you every third inning.

DK: A) Somehow I just picked up Trevor Hoffman in fantasy baseball league.  B) I think we should call him George Julio, just like it was Bill Mota last year.  C) We can say five of the Cubs stars are MIA.  The aforementioned Big Z, D-Lee, and A-Ram, but don’t forget Milton Bradley and Geovany Soto who are both hitting well below the Mendoza line.

Besides about thirty pounds, what has gotten into Rickie Weeks this year?  He is finally playing like an All-Star second baseman, no longer looks completely incompetent in the field, and doesn’t talk like he has marbles in his mouth during post-game interviews anymore.

Well a tip of the cap to you and the Brewers.  You got us this time around evening the season series at 3-3.  Finally, the Crew travel south to Wrigley in early July for a four-game series so we will get home field advantage.  Hopefully by then our big guns will be healthy and our bullpen situation figured out.  ‘Til then…

MW: …’til then get on the Rickie bandwagon. What’s gotten into him is aggressive swinging early in the pitch count combined with patience at the plate for more hits, more BB’s, and fewer K’s.  Finally the leadoff hitter we’ve been waiting for. Too bad we almost gnawed our arms off it took so long. Braun and our pitching staff need to stay healthy for the Independence Week showdown in Chi.  We may be even now, but we know your baby bears have every intention of setting off some fireworks on the field before the real thing lights up the skies above Lake Michigan. It’s always a superb matchup during which we’ll have to do this again.

What’s Brewing in ’09: The $90M Mark, Blood Sacrifice & Child Smuggling

By: Melissa S. Wollering

 

When we saw everybody at the fan event [in Milwaukee last month], we were still at a bit of a discomfort point [with the pitching]. Now, I’m at a little bit of a discomfort point on the payroll.” –Mark Attanasio

 
Reporters chuckled, but here’s the sobering truth: one of baseball’s smallest payrolls is pushing $90M. That becomes reality should Gagme make the team and he and other players become eligible for their negotiated incentives.

 
Or it could pay off. Picking up CC Sabathia and Ray Durham last season pushed them beyond $90M but gave the team a NL Wild Card birth. It also fueled ’09 ticket sales. 1M+ are gone—the earliest date in franchise history. Plus, the org set a new single-day sale record on Saturday. That’s Guns N’ Roses-sellout-style.

 

 

 

 
One concern is over the Brewers’ portion of MLB revenue sharing, which is expected to tank like Derrick Turnblow’s pitching in ’07. One possible replacement: Gov. Jimmie Doyle’s proposal for a special team license plate. Just shell out cash to the DOT and a portion pays off the Miller Park stadium debt.  Bonus = you could pick the “M” or the ball-in-glove logo. I’ll take retro, please in honor of the Eau Claire native who designed that logo. It’s been named among top 5 sports logos of all time by some.

 

 

There may have been no life raft for the payroll had Milwaukee successfully courted Sabathia for ’09. Attanasio’s brilliant plan: “We were going to buy a small, regional bank and apply to the government for federal aid. All that TARP money could have helped us.”

No amount of TARP money could have bought you a spot at the front of the line last Saturday. That’s when single-game tix went on sale at Miller Park, half-naked fans braved the cold days prior and hot dogs get passed out to lucky dorks at what they call the Arctic Tailgate. If you didn’t get what you were looking for because opening day has been sold out for centuries, you can shed blood for tickets. I’m not kidding.

 

 


The BloodCenter of Wisconsin location near Wausau is entering donors into a drawing for two Opening Day Cubs/Brewers tickets. Seriously, if you’re willing to sacrifice blood for just a chance at getting in, I cannot do anything but honor your dedication and then vomit in my mouth.

 
More feel-good news: the US Airways Flight 1549 co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, will throw out the first pitch opening day. He’s from the village of Oregon, near Madison, of which I shall soon reside. Glad I have someone famous in my town despite the fact it is named after a state. By the way, they should give him a cameo on Lost as a pilot of yet another plane going down on that island.

 
Fine, I’ll talk real baseball. In Spring Training, we’re seeing more Mike Rivera and less Jason Kendall. This will hold true for regular season as well. Macha says he wants to the give the Incredi-Kendall more rest, considering he contributed to a franchise-record 149 games last season.

 
Corey Hart has left his ’08 September stats in the dust and is all-of-a-sudden red-hot. This Monday, he went 3-3, including a 2-run homer. Brad Nelson’s getting a look in the outfield. Chris Duffy seems to have the one-up on Trot Nixon if Macha can only take one of the two. And Counsell changed his batting stance and is commanding positive results.

 
Speaking of Craig Counsell, he recently pulled rank like Colonel Potter on M.A.S.H. He took Vinny Rottino’s semi-broken-in infield glove and commandeered it like Jack Sparrow to a French vessel in the Caribbean. Apparently, Alcides Escobar has two of JJ Hardy’s old gloves because he likes the softness as well. I’m told these guys slather them in conditioner from time to time – no joke. That’s a Pantene commercial in the making.

 

 
In week 2 of “Ace’s Corner,” Macha set the exhibition rotation as Suppan, Gallardo, Parra, Looper and Bush, although Looper’s going to miss a start now due to tightness in his left-side. Many think this could be the start-of-the-season lineup too, designed to take pressure off Gallardo and give the home crowd the opportunity to cheer for Looper on Opening Day at Miller Park. Gallardo’s record could also benefit from facing lower-caliber opposing starting pitchers.

 
Danny Knobler at CBSSports is flattering us. He thinks Gallardo has Cy Young potential this season. However, Gallardo’s the last on the 40-man roster to not yet agree to terms for the ’09 season. Get a move on it, Yo-yo.

 
Omar Aguilar is an underdog for a bullpen spot, but the RHP reliever is turning heads in Spring Training. Chris Narveson is playing B games and won’t make the roster, but did pitch a 3-inning no-hitter Monday. And Trevor Hoffman pulled a CC gesture of gratitude, by taking out a full-page thank you ad in the San Diego-Union Tribune. Stay classy San Diego.

 
By the way, CC made headlines for smuggling a small child into spring training. This needs no explanation.

 

 

 
In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” apparently teams approached the baby bears about trading for Kosuke Fukudome, although get this: ONLY IN TRADES where GM Jim Hendry would have had to take back BAD CONTRACTS. The Mariners, which have been trying to pawn pitchers Jarrod Washburn and Erik Bedard, are rumored to have been among them. “Hontou desu ka” is how you ask really? in formal Japanese.

 
In “Just a Bit Outside,” I share with you the first Uecker line of the season at 2:22 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25th versus the Oakland A’s. Brewers execute a double-play to end the inning and Cory Provus shares a Bob-on-a-fishing-boat story complete with Bob’s big catch. Ueck says, “Actually, that took place underwater as I held onto the big catch for dear life, hoping one of them would pull me to shore.” Ah…it’s good to hear that voice again.

 

 
And because you crave more “Chart Magnificence,” this week I bring you the JJ Hardy-Carlos Quentin Bar Graph courtesy of our friends at Beyond the Box Score. Of course we salute Soxman in this Chart edition. If you’re wondering why it’s comparing a LF to a SS, they looked down the list of ’08 WAR and picked players of similar value where public perception was different. Now they want to see if Carlos could rebound fielding-wise in what they considered a more “constrictive” ballpark. Geeky…but so wonderful.

Stay tuned for more Spring Training insight and Brewers Worth Fantasizing About for your fantasy rosters next week…