The Hunt For Ken’s Machtober: Bullpen Breakdown

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 By: Melissa S. Wollering

The starting rotation is experiencing full engine failure, prompting a bullpen meltdown. For the Milwaukee Brewers to salvage their race for October, the organization prayed to the skies above.  Doug Melvin ordered some stormy Weathers to cool off overheated relievers.  He also ordered the Coming of Jesus.  Jesus Colome, that is.

 

 
39-year-old David Weathers gets around. He has license plates from 10 metropolitan cities: nine in the U.S., one in Canada. He also dated both of your twin sisters; as a Yankee and a Met. Doug Melvin worked out a deal after the trade deadline, when Cincinnati put Weathers on waivers. The Crew is handing over a player yet to-be-named or just plain cash.

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Weathers brought sun as well as rain clouds into Milwaukee as a Brewer from 1998 to July of 2001, when he was dealt to the Cubs. He is the third reliever added to the Brewers’ bullpen in ten days and was sought out with the hope that he can eat up late innings. Needless to say, he provides experience, a sneaky cutter ball and the ability to be one of two set-up men for Trevor Hoffman (the other being Todd Coffey).

 
According to Tom Hardricourt, no one was more shocked about his return than Weathers himself.  The good news: Weathers is self-forecasting fresh pitching because he’s received an easy workload and adequate rest in Cincy.  Can he bring clear skies back to a state under a permanent tornado watch?  Check out TSB’s 7-Day Weathers’ Outlook in “Chart Magnificence” below.

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Former Milwaukee Brewer Claudio Vargas is also back to provide some semi-fresh arm action. Mmm…at this point should we find Ruben Quevedo? No? By the way, Doug Melvin gave the Dodgers minor-league catcher Vinny Rottino in exchange.

 
Finally, nothing shows Melvin’s desperate plea for divine intervention more than summoning Jesus himself to the bullpen. Last week, the club called up righty-reliever Jesus Colome from AAA Nashville to replace R.J. Swindle. The lefty could have used his right arm, right toe, left ear or rear end and still wouldn’t have made a difference in the Brewers’ physically-drained bulllpen. Swindle had three stints in the bigs with the Brewers, ultimately allowing a dozen hits and a dozen runs in less than 7 innings, for a 16.20 ERA.  Cue the coming of Jesus.

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Melvin signed Colome several weeks ago after his release from Washington and was assigned to Class AAA Nashville. He’s been great in four outings there; going 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA and two saves, three hits and two walks allowed in seven innings, and 11 K’s. If he doesn’t knock your socks off just remember, Swindle allowed at least one run in each of his last six outings.
It’s clear that the bullpen breakdown is a direct result of Melvin’s inability to obtain a starting pitcher while Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan are on the DL. 

 

 

During the injury waiting game, the Hunt for Ken’s Machtober has been stymied by starters habitually making short-inning appearances and relievers being beckoned über early.

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Case and point: the tired Mark DiFelice.  He’s made 45 appearances so far this year and even cost the organization Friday’s game. Typically, DeFelice can sack righties. Instead, he hung a “cut” fastball to Houston’s Jason Michaels, who served himself a three-run shot on a silver platter that night. DeFelice admits he’s been dropping his arm and not following through on his trusted pitch. He’s highly unlikely to be the only one in the bullpen doing such a thing.

 

 
Chew on this: the Brewers are 1-21 in games in which Chris Smith has come to the mound. You know you have problems when your pitcher can’t hold a six-run lead.  In addition, you know you have problems when your beer pitcher can’t hold the six-pack you need it to in order for you to get through such a game.

 

Ken Macha worried this domino effect would prevent his team from vying for the “up-for-grabs” NL Central. With the Brewers back below .500, tied for third with the Astros as of Monday and five games off the pace, Ken’s Hunt had better include an improved bullpen first and foremost, with a glorious return for Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan fairly soon afterward.

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Other things worth fixin’ like country fried steak: get somebody on base before there are two outs already on the board. Seriously.

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Stop taking game-critical abuse from senile umpires. On Sunday, Ryan Braun took a third strike so far outside that Humberto Quintero used an Inspector Gadget extendable arm or Stretch Armstrong putty limb to retrieve it. Braun rightfully complained to home plate umpire Larry Vanover. Replays showed the fastball was spotted in Austin, Texas. Those calls are not helping the Brewers.

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Lastly, stranded runners destroy big opportunity innings. AGAIN, these are game-critical innings. On Saturday, the Crew got one run off Mike Hampton in the first but could have put a few more up on the board.

 
In the coming weeks, we’ll keep tabs on the submarine in Ken’s Hunt for you.  Remember that until Machtober, the Brewers do not surrender.

What’s Milwaukee Brewing: Interleague Interruption & Locker Room B-Line

By Melissa S. Wollering

Bill Hall hits a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the 10th Sunday to beat St. Louis 1-0 and what does he do? Pivots like a runway model at first, leads the entire team up the dugout stairs to the locker room at cheetah speed and signals to the whining Cardinals that they can take Milwaukee’s untucked jerseys and SHOVE THEM. No high-fives, no on-field celebration and no coincidence.

Apparently, the St. Louis Cardinals grumble the most about the Milwaukee Brewers untucking their shirts after victories. Complaints emerged again after the Brewers’ last sweep of the red birds at Busch Stadium on May 17. If you still haven’t heard the story, the tradition honors Mike Cameron’s father, who untucked his shirt after a hard day’s work.

It’s no surprise.  The Cardinals are bitter due to the fact the Brewers have dominated the NL Central rivalry as of late, winning 9 of the last 10 games in St. Louis and 14 of 19 overall since the start of last season.

The Milwaukee Brewers, however, are NOT dominating interleague play. Call it a mere interruption if you’re an optimist and a giant gaping black hole in play if you’re a pessimist, but the Minnesota Twinkies sat on the Crew like a fat kid on a Hostess cupcake.

Manny Parra and Braden Looper struggled as rookie Anthony Swarzak prompted umpteen texts/emails to my phone courtesy Palmer and Christian. Swarzak was so good, that during my drive to Green Bay that evening, I resorted to throwing in a book on tape rather than listen to the entire game. My hosts had a beer waiting for me as soon as I stepped in the door. It was THAT rough. They knew.

Let me preface the following with the fact I do not believe this was the case this weekend; however, do the Twins get THE most bloop hits of any MLB team? Is the Dome its own galaxy with an alternate centrifugal force affecting the gravitational pull of balls? With a shoutout to my most recent hosts Justin & Amy Z. in Green Bay, when Rickie Weeks’ rear-end orbit went in for surgery along with his wrist, did the energy shift to the Dome?

Ken Macha has some seriously negative energy focused on Adrian Johnson. The ump called foul when Mitch Stetter’s pitch hit Joe Mauer hear his hand with two runners on and two outs. Mauer started walking toward base, but Johnson called him back convinced it hit the bat. Then Ron Gardenhire stomps out of the dugout and successfully gets the call overturned, which leads to Morneau’s grand slam, which seals the sweep. You watch the replays. You decide.

At least Mike Cameron celebrated a home run that night—his 250th. He and 19 other players have hit at least 250 homers and stolen at least 250 bases. Cameron has 291 steals in his career to be exact. He also broke the 1,500 mark in hits earlier this season. I feel like untucking my shirt at work solely based on his achievement this week.


JJ Hardy should be back in the lineup Tuesday after dealing with back spasms over the weekend. I could make a horrible joke here by adding the same two words you can add to the end of those quotations that come out of fortune cookies, but I’ll save it. Meantime, in his absence, Craig Counsell has been filling in at SS.

In Rickie Weeks’ absence, Casey McGehee and Craig Counsell have been holding down the fort at second base. Counsell has also settled into the leadoff spot in the lineup.

Mat Gamel and Casey McGehee have seen some playing time at third and Frank Catalanotto was called up from AA Huntsville. The outfielder was signed to a minor-league deal a week ago and should help the Brewers’ bench. To make room for him, lefty reliever R.J. Swindle was sent down to AAA Nashville. Swindle was supposed to help the bullpen during the Twins match up but failed, by pitching twice and surrendering runs both times.

Jody Gerut is the Brewers’ newest acquisition and also a backup outfielder, courtesy of the San Diego Padres.  We actually got something for Lil’ TG (Tony Gwinn, Jr.) one month after we couldn’t pawn him for anything. Jody (a left-handed hitter, bonus) has seen some playing time in right field for Cory Hart already, but is used to being part of platoon in SD.  He’s probably a bit disappointed with the change, but seems to be upbeat about helping the Brewers. As a result of the Gerut trade, Chris Duffy was outrighted to AAA Nashville.

Speaking of the farm system, Milwaukee Brewers’ “top” pitching prospect and my personal fantasy league draft selection Jeremy Jeffress is performing so poorly, he was just demoted to Class A Brevard County last week. He was a first-round draft pick in ’06, but was struggling at AA Huntsville, going 1-3, with a 7.57 ERA in 8 starts. He’s being replaced with another first-round draft pick named Mike Jones, who is on a 4-0 start with 4.06 ERA this season.

Also in “Ace’s Corner,” Gallardo imploded on himself last week only to realize he suddenly needed to pitch the biggest game of the season so far (with the Brewers needing to snap their 3-game losing streak and maintain their lead in the NL Central on Monday). Sure enough, he and Chris Carpenter duked it out in a Memorial Day duel. Yo had a no-hitter going into the 6th inning and Carpenter a perfect game until Craig Counsell nixed it as he led off the 7th. Both pitchers worked 8 innings respectively and each gave up zero runs on dos hits.

Biggest hit this season for Bill Hall = Monday’s game-winner.  His slump is still terrible, but in his interview after the game, Billy held back tears as he described how badly he wants to break out of it.  Kudos, Billy. I don’t know if it’ll save your career with the Crew long-term, but I feel for you and respect the passion you have for the game.

Also impressive this week, the Brewers have recorded the second highest number of walks of any team in MLB and Prince Fielder is on par to annihilate the Crew’s team record for walks in a season. ‘Walk It Out’ can repurposed from Johnny Estrada’s batting song.

In “Just a Bit Outside,” Prince Fielder has a new theme song.  Really?  No clue, but someone took time to make this rap masterpiece.  Sheesh.

In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” they lost eight straight prior to Tuesday. David K. is about to quit on them for his 298,917th time.  I don’t blame you DK. On a brighter note, Mr. T. is the #*$@^#!  I know he can’t sing, but can he visit Wrigley more often?  This is entertainment at its finest.  As bad as Denise Richards was, is as good as Mr. T. IS.

In “Chart Magnificence,” we praise Lange’s blog at Sheffield’s House.  Lange wondered what positions our favorite Brewers would play if they were stuffed in pads and dropped onto a football field.  Enjoy!

What’s Brewing in ’09: Opening Week Woes, Cold Soup & Hot Hitting

By: Melissa Wollering


It wouldn’t be rivalry if there weren’t highlights and lowlights to the Brewers Opening home stand against the Cubs this past week.

 

 

     
Personal highlights include the first christening of my new handmade cornhole game with my little brother, having a Brewers fan tell me ‘that’s an impressive amount of liquor you brought for two people,’ a picture on the Warren Spahn plate near the outfield entrance in honor of the late Walter Wollering, and of course Rickie Weeks safe at the plate last Friday.


Plus, at 10:33 a.m. Opening Day, sitting in traffic backed up before the off-ramp to Miller Park Way, Bill Schroeder decided to get out of the vehicle dropping him off and walk the rest of the way to the press entrance.  First he came by our car, peeked in and asked, “What’s everybody waiting for?”
Personal lowlights include Suppan’s pitching, Vanillawafer’s pitching and the four male Cubs fans next to me calling me blondie and exiting from the middle of the row a combined 42 times in 9 innings while I’m trying to score the game in my new geekster Uecker-carbon-copied scorebook (made it myself).


Let’s go good, bad, ugly. Good is Mike Cameron snapping out of his – I need to speak with a psychologist after I fractured Joe Martinez’ scull three times – hitting slump.   Cameron returned to glory Wednesday with two solo home runs to help the Brewers actually win a game. He was freakin’ after leaving San Fran and probably needed to rid himself of nightmares before being able to smack the ball again.


Braden Looper may be the only Brewers starting pitcher who knows walking multiple batters is generally unfavorable in the game of baseball. Todd Coffey and Mark DiFelice were the only men who impressed me from the pen.  Maybe now that David Riske’s been put on the DL, lefty reliever R.J. Swindle can also contribute.  He was just brought up from AAA.  God knows we need Hoffman and fast. Hells Bells need to ring throughout Miller Park more than ever.

 
First however, Brewers bench coach and former Mets manager Willie Randolph will get a chance to seek revenge on the team that gave him a raw deal. Maybe the Brewers can beat up on the Mets in their new house to help Willie out with that.

 
I have also received a few apologies from Wickie-haters this week. For most of his four years with the organization, Wickie Reeks has earned his nickname by being called the biggest underachiever on the team. On Opening Day, quotes unlike anything anyone has ever heard before came spewing from his proud teammates and coaches.

 
“He pretty much won the game for us,” says Ken Macha. “I just know it’s going to come together for him. It might be happening right now.”

 
“You can’t ask for anything more than Rickie gives,” Seth McClung said.  “He gets here early and works so hard. Nobody deserves it more.


Weeks tied the home opener with his bat and won it with a slide to the plate as the Brewers rallied in the bottom of the ninth.  The swarm of B’s at the plate said more about Rickie’s overdue break than the team though.  The team then went on to SUCK IT UP by losing the next 4 in a row.

Which brings us to the bad.  Or in this case, sad.  Merle Harmon, the original radio voice of the Milwaukee Brewers passed away this week.  Harmon partnered with Bob Uecker from ’71 to ’79 and he’s as legendary as they come. With the recent loss of so many baseball greats these last few weeks, the only consolation I can provide is that these amazing men are probably playing a game of countless innings up in the heavens together.

 
Yovani Gallardo isn’t pitching like Yovani Gallardo either.  In his loss to the Reds this week, he went 5 innings giving up 7 runs on 3 hits and 4 BB’s. Also sad, at one point this week, Ryan Braun had hit like 2 for his last 18 or something awful like that. But the bigger picture reveals worse: the Brewers have left a total of 27 on base throughout the last few games. Vomit in my mouth. 

Jeff Suppan not only got a-talkin-to by Macha, not only will he sit out his next start but he should also consider retiring next year out of guilt and forfeit his salary back to the organization so they can pay SOMEONE WHO DESERVES IT. I’m torn because what is more alarming: 3 HBP? 10 BB in < 9 innings? 2 HR’s AND ONLY 2 K’s? 

 
It begs the question: can two terrible starts combined with an ugly performance down the stretch last season be enough to give a veteran pitcher an Essen Haus boot to the drawers? Among Brewers who pitched at least 300 innings for the organization, Jeff Suppan has the fourth worst ERA.  Here are your top five: Glendon Rusch, Jimmy Haynes, Gene Brabender, Jeff Suppan and Steve Woodard. You want league-adjusted?  Fine, when you use ERA+, then Soup drops to eighth. He’s also second worst in quality start percentage, behind Brabender again.

 
It used to be funny when Madison 1070 AM guys pulled the Conan O’Brien wonder-dog “for me to SUUPPP—AANNN” quote out, but now it’s just reality. In this week’s “Chart Magnificence,” we study Jeff’s movement on pitches. Compare the difference between these four starts.


He threw a great deal of strikes in Sept. 07 and most of his misses were just shy of the zone, too. A year later, his pitches weren’t painting the corners; they were decent pitches to hit. Even so, Suppan managed to cash in a 3.00 ERA based on a joke-of-a .214 batting average on balls in play. Then by the end of last season, Suppan had just crumbled and combined his unimpressive throws with zero command and complete inaccuracy when it came to the zone. Commanding the strike zone is his only hope for saving himself. Painting corners and changing speeds will also need to be part of the equation. Note his falling velocity is also working against him.


In “Around the NL,” Cecil Cooper could be the first manager fired.  What?  He said the Astros were going to win 120 games?  Not if your entire team hates you. Tony La Russa says Chris Carpenter’s going to be out “for a while.”  Heh.  Meanwhile, the Pirates actually won some games and acquired Delwyn Young.  But Young hasn’t been a healthy OF.


This deserves a call-out but it also fits in this column – YOU DO NOT HANG A DEAD GOAT AROUND THE HARRY CARAY STATUE. No way.  No how. No matter who you are, you do not do that.  I’m not even going to expound on that.


But finally in, “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” I was pleased to see Cubs fans boo Jason Marquis only to have watch him beat his former team and cash in for 2 RBI’s at the same time. Rich Harden only lasted 3 innings, too.  Giggle.

 

 
Plus, in a rewind to Sunday, Prince rightfully tipped his hat to Reed Johnson after Reed robbed Prince of a grand salami.  See, when Milton Bradley left with an injury, it was the luckiest thing that could’ve happened to the Cubs. Milton would NEVER have made that play at the wall, but Reed Johnson is just ridonkulous. Game-changing catch on a moon shot.  Classy describes what I think of Prince’s gesture, too.