Milwaukee Brewers Weekly Check-In (4-25-11)


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 surprisingly pleasant series with the Phillies, big money for Ryan Braun and an upcoming series with the rival Reds!

By: Nick Grays

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Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun Signs a Rich Deal


On Thursday, the Milwaukee Brewers organization announced that they will extend star-outfielder Ryan Braun’s contract through 2020.

The deal is worth $105 million for five years on top of the seven-year deal he signed in 2008 (seven years and $45 million). That’s right, Braun will rake in $145.5 million over the next nine seasons.

“This is an historic occasion for our franchise and for our fans, knowing that we were able to make Ryan’s desire to wear a Brewers uniform for the long term a reality,” said Brewers Owner Mark Attanasio.
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What Milwaukee’s Brewing: Streaky Shine & Return to Wrigley

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By: Melissa S. Wollering

 
Generic Windex has nothing on the absurd streaks of the Milwaukee Brewers. Dave Bush fill-in Mike Burns says Cy Young means squat after outpitching Johan Santana, former Cub Casey McGehee gets his first Grand Slam in the majors and Fielder and Braun give us a glimpse of what the Home Run Derby could look like—all in one week. Plus, the prime window to acquire another starting pitcher narrows as the Milwaukee Brewers head south to play the Chicago Cubs this Independence Day weekend.

 
The phrase ‘atop the NL Central’ still baffles me, but several solid performances, including games on Saturday and Wednesday, restored a bit of the confidence the Milwaukee Brewers lost last week. 

 
Imagine making 48 appearances for four different teams in the majors before collecting one W for your record. Enter Mike Burns.  He has to pitch against Johan Santana then watch David Wright smack a two-run homer in his first inning out. That smells of the same fear gatorade dispensers have for Carlos Zambrano. So how, or better yet, who gives Mike the confidence he needs to last through six-plus innings?

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Ryan Braun.  This question-answer game should start to look familiar by now, o-wise-avid team leadership-tidbit-seekers. Ryan Braun produces 3 hits for 4 runs and pretends third base is a slip-n-slide during a Santana error that allows him to score. Back from that early deficit, Burns goes onto last longer than Doublemint gum. Corey Hart had 3 hits, Prince Fielder goes yard in the 7th for insurance and his 20th homer of the season, Johan sprinkles in some walks, too and there’s your shocking Mike Burns win.

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Burns is the Dave Bush replacement until that minor tear in Bush’s arm heals.  He has a tendency to walk the first hitter, then settles down and starts throwing first-pitch strikes. Burns threw 66 strikes, 29 balls and 16 first-pitch strikes.

 
Shall we do the math? Throwing first-pitch strikes forces more swinging of the bat, equating to 10 outs in three pitches or less. More than half of Burns’ curve balls, fastballs, sliders and change-ups are all strikes. Is he working for the Milwaukee Brewers right now?  You bet he is.

 
Nevertheless, we’re approaching July 3rd.  In my opinion, this was a target date for Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio to tell us they’ve acquired a new starting pitcher.  Think about it.  We’re about to head south on I-94 to play the Cubs, we’re minus Dave Bush and Manny Parra in our rotation. There’s plenty of time to find one, but this would’ve been my first “date-to-watch-for” on the calendar. Names still popping up: Erik Bedard, Jarrod Washburn and Doug Davis.  Yes, former Brewer Doug Davis.  I don’t know about that.

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Did you know Jarrod Washburn is from La Crosse and went to UW-Oshkosh? Erik Bedard is from Canada, so a July 1st acquisition would be easy to remember along with his national holiday.

 
Can we please talk Casey McGehee?  His bat is so hot the Kool-Aid Man suffered heatstroke. Wisconsin’s dairy farmers say McGehee’s so hot that their cows have only produced evaporated milk in June.

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In more than 115 plate appearances this season, McGehee is hitting .325 with a .388 OBP and .544 slugging (.931 OPS).  He’s not the Savior, but he might be contributing more than anyone in the lineup since the departure of Rickie Weeks.  His defense is solid, too, considering he played exactly 7 games at second base in the minors and zero in the majors before this season.
More fun with production numbers: 73/274.  That’s the combined home runs and RBI’s Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are on pace for this season. Can you say the new Brewers’ pet dinosaur is the Thatsalottorunsasaurus? The homer record for teammates is 115 set by Maris & Mantle in 1961.  Oh, I love history.

 
History also proves though that if you want to beat the Brewers, just debut a new pitcher against them. The Brewers have lost all 4 of the last 4 games facing a newbie including Sadowski on Sunday, Figaro on June 20, Hanson (no decision, but Atlanta won June 7) and Swarzak on May 23. Yep, that’s right Peter and Palmer.

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In “Just a Bit Outside,” Miller Park isn’t perfect as a full-fledged shadow investigation is underway. No lie.  During a day game, shadows are distracting players by the 4th inning. It happens during evening games to a lesser extent as well. Last Thursday against the Twins, Prince Fielder was asked what kind of pitch he homered off of.  Turns out he hit the ball blind, didn’t even know if he’d make contact. When asked what should be done about the lighting situation, Prince responded, “I don’t know. I just work here.”

 
In “Down on the Farm,” my 25-man fantasy roster, complete with minor-league player Jeremy Jeffress, continues to produce pigs for slaughtering. Jeffress was handed a 100-game suspension for testing positive for a “drug of abuse.” He wasn’t doing well anyway and was demoted earlier in the season. Once thought of as a potential legacy pitcher, his problem with Mary Jane appears to be giving Tom Petty a better shot of pitching for the Crew in the coming years.

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Speaking of the farm, don’t expect Manny Parra to return to the big leagues any time soon.  He took a huge step back Sunday giving up 5 hits, 5 BB’s and 7 runs (6 earned) in less than 5 innings.  Gross.

 
In “Around the NL Central,” dang you St. Louis for getting Mark DeRosa. I love DeRosa and believe he would’ve been a solid veteran investment. I’ve been saying it all season. At least Doug Melvin went after him.  The bad news is Cleveland wanted young pitching prospects, which by reading above you can see WE DON’T FRIGGIN HAVE.

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In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” whenever I’m feeling down, at least I’m not feeling Cubbie Blue over Milton Bradley. Consider this when you need a pick-me-up: this season Milt has been ejected, ticked-off an ump for a suspension, decided to flush his productivity down a toilet, threw a ball into the stand with two outs, blew up at his manager and prompted Pinella to ask Milt to physically remove his jersey. Feeling better? Wait…Bradley isn’t likely to go anywhere for two more years.  Oh, now you feel on the northside.

 
And finally in “Chart Magnificence,” I started watching the Live Win Probability Charts change before my eyes each inning on Fan Graphs.  I’m told that by taking the MLB data and plugging into some crazy html algorithms, you get auto-refresh graphs like this one. When they change before your eyes, you just FEEL smarter.
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What’s Milwaukee Brewing? Pious Princes, Spare Parras & A Hint of Favre

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By Melissa S. Wollering

They were afterthoughts.  Surely Prince Fielder has hit a Grand Slam in his career.  Nope. Surely, the Milwaukee Brewers would never send Manny down to AAA and start a search for spare pitching parts. Nope. Alas, we relish in both this week.  We also take a look at why valuable players like Hardy and Cameron slump worse than aging scoliosis and what helps them bat upright again.

 
If there ever was a ‘stank’ face, it was the one Prince Fielder made right before he smacked the ball so fast into right-centerfield that Marty McFly could’ve used it as a mode of transportation in Back to the Future.
It truly was the Itchy & Scratchy—Brauny & Fieldy Show. Ryan and Prince drove in a combined 11 RBI’s Monday, prompting this: when your team is slumping, who lifts you up? Who restores the faith of the masses when the pitching is pitiful and your startling lineup is in despair?  More importantly, how do they do it?

 

Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder have provided long-term consistency, leadership and foundational strength for the Crew for some time now.  However, Monday was the first night I took a step back and admired them for rejuvenating the faith of a team who had just loss 6 of its last 7 and was now losing big-time on national television.

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Argue all you want, but isn’t that what gives Braun and Fielder each the “it” factor?  There was quite a bit of speculation in the off-season and in spring training that Fielder wouldn’t be worth the hassle of re-negotiating with Dr. Evil/Scott Boras. But combined, these two men seem to be able to alter their teammates’ emotional status, make game-winning plays and affect the entire course of a homestand or away series.

 
Example #1: JJ Hardy, Mike Cameron and Bill Hall epitomized slump before Monday.  On Tuesday, all three drove in key runs for a win. It was JJ’s first multi-RBI game since May 19th.  Cameron was 3-for-38 entering that game and Bill Hall has only 7—count them seven—hits in his last 71 AT BATS. Monday was great inspiration for fans, better inspiration for Prince & Braun’s teammates.

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Example #2: Prince has stated, “I want to do whatever I can to help the team win,” referencing the importance he places on his defensive contributions to the Milwaukee Brewers as well.  Earlier this month against Atlanta, he socked two homers and threw out a runner at the plate to keep the Braves off the board for a second consecutive game. He’s not the best first baseman in MLB, but he’s not the worst.

 
Example #3: When in doubt, Ryan and Prince make you believe ‘hey, we’re not that bad’.  It sounds simple but is easy to forget amidst a losing streak. The Brewers are one of only two teams in the National League with a winning record both on the road and at home. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the other.

 
Fielder and Braun physically hold their team together like Gorilla Glue. Is it applicable when Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio consider keeping the dynamic duo together for the good of the team next year?  Multiple years? You bet your civil war references it does. Together we stand; divided we fall. Pretty deep for baseball, hey?

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In contrast, shallow is the level of skill Manny Parra has displayed so far this season.  In this week’s “Ace’s Corner,” if you take away the starts Manny made, the Brewers have a record of 33-21 as of Wednesday. Developmentally, the kid needs work. The team won’t need a 5th starter until June 27, but it rekindles the question that’s been burning all season.  Will the Milwaukee Brewers pick up another starter mid-season?

Don’t ask me if he’ll stack up to CC, you’re smart and know better. Peavy’s DL announcement made me smirk for this reason, too. I hate throwing out names, but Ken Macha has stated they are eyes wide open up to the trade deadline.  If you absolutely want to see the options, Right Field Bleachers has a great breakdown of who’s worth it and who’s not. Names include Cliff Lee, Tom Glavine, Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson and a host of injured.

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In “Just a Bit Outside,” I am relieved to hear he turned down an offer to appear on ABC’s “The Bachelor.” I’m sure it took some restraint, considering the Ken-Finds-Barbie concept works wonders for additional T-shirt sales. Check out Miller Park Drunk for an excellent re-creation of what ABC execs must have said to Braun. The hypothetical conversation includes offering Braun the grown-up version of Walt in LOST, who holds all the island’s mysteries.  Yes, Walt is black.  And in Grey’s Anatomy…they want him to play “McJewy.”

In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” someone has too much time on their hands but has managed to amuse me.

And finally, in this week’s Chart Magnificence,” I couldn’t resist a Terrell Owens vs. Brett Favre comparison checklist.  Don’t forget to use the handy comparison checklist at work when deciding between departmental budget needs vs. wants; who gets pink slip vs. who stays; and the ever-popular inappropriate vs. appropriate responses to your boss. Enjoy.

 

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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…