The Hunt for Ken’s Machtober

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By: Melissa S. Wollering

 
Formerly known as What Milwaukee’s Brewing, The SportsBank.net flips the switch on this baseball column in anticipation of October. On Sunday, Doug Melvin and Ken Macha initiated Step 1 in their master plan to secure a return to the playoffs for the Milwaukee Brewers.  Switch-hitter Felipe Lopez increases options at the leadoff spot, fills the void Rickie Weeks left at second base and could be used to play almost any position in the Crew’s infield if needed. The only problem: this move still leaves fans chomping at the bit for another starting pitcher.

 
First things first: was it worth the price tag? Like finding a Deron Williams Cartier diamond-encrusted watch replica at the Dollar Store, yes it was worth it. Arizona drew the short end of the stick on this one.

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This Lopez move sort of reminds me of last season’s Ray Durham pickup. Lopez is an unrestricted free agent come fall. Milwaukee would need to negotiate to keep him, but has the freedom of knowing they’re not married to a long-term contract.

 
The Brewers could get a compensation pick after the first round next June if he shops another team; Class B is what Doug Melvin’s guessing. Felipe has about $1.5M left on his $3.5M contract.

 
The only thing the Brewers organization sacrificed was AAA outfielder Cole Gillespie and A reliever Roque Mercedes. Gillespie was batting .242 with seven homers and 27 RBI in Nashville, but started the season on the DL. Mercedes was 1-1 with a 1.08 ERA and six saves in 29 games played down in Brevard County. Rookie Mat Gamel was sent back down to AAA to free up space on the roster. No worries; this just gives Gamel daily playing time and it’s only a matter of weeks/months before he’s back in the bigs.

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How This Brings Them Closer to October….


Ken Macha has been frustrated while trying to find a right-handed hitter to anchor the top of the lineup when the team faces lefties. Craig Counsell can still be used at second against right-handed aces if needed, and both Craig and Casey McGehee (another 2B substitute) can be utilized elsewhere in the infield.

 
Rickie Weeks exited stage left with a torn-up wrist just as his curtain had gone up for the first time in opera house history.  Weeks was contributing with a .857 OPS. Lopez may make up for some of that lost production, considering 2B has been a sieve on the flip side (offense) for the Brewers. Lopez has been batting .301 with 18 doubles, six homers and 25 RBI for the Arizona D-Backs. More to love: he is batting .313 from the right side of the plate and .298 left-handed. As of Sunday, he ranked second in the NL with a .372 OBP.

 
Arizona beat writers seem to agree that Lopez is selecting more good pitches to swing at and drawing the walk more often. As a result, he should bring more consistency to the lineup and put more guys on base for Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder to drive home.

 
He also provides a boost to the Brewers’ defense, with solid experience at nearly every position in the infield. He previously struggled with his defensive skills at shortstop, but he’s never disappointed at second. In fact, he may have flown under the radar in value due to the bad wrap he picked up while working his previous position.

 
The NL Central is anyone’s division right now. Any effort to improve the quality of play could increase the W column. Just a handful of wins could be the blueberries in your bran flakes. Think about it breakfast fanatics, and feast on it if the Brewers make it to Machtober.

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Any Downside?


Felipe has called Toronto, Cincinnati, Washington, St. Louis and Arizona home.  If five cities were happy to trade him, what makes Milwaukee his sensation destination?

 
Skeptics believe the move won’t make an ounce of difference because the team does not resemble a 90-win ensemble right now. We’ll let you watch and let YOU decide.

 

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Still Needed in the Quest for October….


Doug Melvin made it clear that he tried to nab a Diamondbacks pitcher in the deal (all bets are on lefty and former Brewer Doug Davis).  However, GM Josh Byrnes wasn’t biting.

 
Melvin says he has little to no interest in handing over Mat Gamel or SS prospect Alcides Escobar, but that may limit the organization’s ability to trade for a pitcher of quality.

 

As you read in Blue Jays Don’t Migrate to Milwaukee, I’m not optimistic Roy Halladay will land on a beam of the retractable roof in Miller Park, but the buzz isn’t going away.

 

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Perhaps the most convincing indication Melvin is serious is that he has a habit of becoming mysterious and quiet right before he pulls the trigger on trades. All is quiet on the Halladay front right now, and he brushes information off as “the same old rumors” when possible.  The C.C. Sabathia trade was a prime example of Melvy’s masterful deception, which the guys over at Right Field Bleachers explain in detail quite well.

 

Many of you read the content of premiere insider Tom Hardricourt as well.  If you do, you know he’s changed his tune in recent days and believes Milwaukee will try to secure Roy if only to get him out of the hands of the Cubs and Cardinals.

 

On Twitter Sunday, Tom let us know Dick Groch, Melvin’s top scouting assistant, was in Toronto watching Roy pitch. Regardless of whether the Brewers club possesses the worm of choice for the early bird, we know they are interested. And a solid nest of starting eggs in the rotation should be Step 2 in the Hunt for Ken’s Machtober.

Blue Jays Don’t Migrate to Milwaukee

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By Melissa S. Wollering

Doug Melvin and I seem to share a media relations philosophy that I wish I could impress upon others. A trade or acquisition rumor is a waste of time UNLESS it becomes worth it to explain to you why the rumored possibility was silly, unbeneficial and not going to happen.  That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun and discuss the realistic price the Milwaukee Brewers would have paid if they were serious about Roy Halladay.  Which they are not.

 
Blue Jay migration to Milwaukee is historically less popular than Milwaukee migration north towards Canada. Sure birds fly south, but Milwaukee is hardly south of anything other than Minneapolis.

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A year and a half of Halladay is worth what? He likely commands a combination of no less than four players who all play in the bigs now or have received at least one call to the majors in the last season and a half.

 
In order to make a trade, the Milwaukee Brewers would almost certainly want to “off-load” a boil or two such as Bill Hall.  Maybe Jody Gerut, who has not exactly panned out. Here’s an eyebrow raiser: how about off-loading Jeff Suppan if his payroll goes with him?

 
Dangling Roy like a piece of meat in front of Siegfried’s tiger suggests shameless, overpriced self-promotion on the part of the Jays who certainly want an inflated return for Roy boy. If Doug Melvin had to put together potential options lists, perhaps they would look something like this.

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Alcides Escobar 2B, Mat Gamel 3B/DH, JJ Hardy SS & Angel Salome C 

 
Escobar has been called up and could be ready for everyday play in the next year. JJ may not be worth the future investment if Milwaukee tries to keep Prince Fielder. Gamel’s defense isn’t there yet, but he has no trouble fitting into a DH spot. Angel Salome is pretty close to the majors and the Jays are slightly short at the catcher spot.

 
Alcides Escobar SS/2B, Lorenzo Cain OF, Angel Salome C & Brett Lawrie

Lawrie sings O’ Canada in the shower and brushes his teeth with maple syrup.  He can also play anywhere on the diamond and could become a stud faster than it takes Celine Dion to get tipsy on Molson Ice. As many readers know, Lorenzo Cain is my boy and Toronto’s CF Vernon Wells is driving everyone up a wall with his lack of consistency.

 

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Manny Parra, SP, Jonathan Lucroy C, Brett Lawrie & JJ Hardy SS

 
At this point you realize we might as well deal either Escobar or Hardy in any of these hypothetical trade cocktails. Only one can play if the other sticks around forever. We also have two decent catching prospects in Lucroy and Salome, so one is expendable.  Manny Parra may have problems as long as he stays in Milwaukee. He wouldn’t be the first Milwaukee Brewer to find success north of the border.

 
Evan Anundsen, SP, Angel Salome C, Corey Hart RF & Alcides Escobar SS/2B

 
Evan is arguably the best minor league pitcher this season for Brevard County. He’s only in Brevard, I know. But he threw a no-hitter earlier this year and in contrast to the Blue Jays’ pitching prospects, he’s not injured. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend dealing Hart, but I can see it being an option.  Mat Gamel may eventually land in CF and with the success of Casey McGehee we could afford it. That is unless Toronto is drooling over Casey, too.

 
There is only one line of reasoning I agree upon with Halladay trade advocates. If the Milwaukee Brewers don’t go after him, the Cardinals or Cubs could. Does this look good to you?  Vomit in my mouth.

 
Wainwright – ERA+ – 135
Carpenter – 180
Pineiro – 123
Lohse – 104
Halladay – 154

 
The talent that Milwaukee would have to give up to bring Halladay is not likely worth the approximately $7M the organization would be liable for, plus another $15.75 due in 2010. Would it make Braun happy?  Oh, now my sarcasm is coming up.  Yes, let’s do it for Brauny. 

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I think the best written statement on this comes from none other than the St. Louis Dispatch:

 

Asked about the price tag for Halladay, a club source said: “Give Ricciardi all our minor-league rosters and let him circle any 5 names.”  –Joe Strauss, SL Post Dispatch

This is why Milwaukee would not have acquired Roy.  This is why Blue Jays don’t migrate south for the summer.

Despite Ten Wins, Kevin Slowey Still Not an Ace

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By Shaymus McLaughlin

There are only two pitchers with ten wins in the major leagues. Unsurprisingly, one is Roy Halladay, the all-star caliber Blue Jays pitcher whose 2.53 ERA, 88 strikeouts, and 1.04 WHIP are all within close proximity to the league leader in those categories. It makes perfect sense that he has accumulated ten wins already this season.

The other one actually shocked me. As I was catching up on the Twins game against the Astros last Friday, I noticed an odd piece of information: Kevin Slowey had just become the baseball’s second ten-game winner.

Um, what?

Slowey is a good pitcher, without a doubt, but really? 10 wins? I’ve watched him pitch a number of times this year, and although I’m never disappointed in what I see, I’m rarely in awe like I am when watching his ten-win counterpart Halladay pitch. I had no idea he was actually pitching that well.

After the game, plenty of credit was given to Slowey on the internet and nightly sports recap shows for having hit the win mark so quickly. And rightfully so. 10 wins and only 2 losses in a measly 14 starts is very good. But how the heck did he do it? Slowey has never been seen as the potential ace of the Twins’ young staff. That moniker has been given to Francisco Liriano pre-injury and Scott Baker after his stellar conclusion to last year, but people have never talked about Slowey as a great pitcher until now. And frankly, despite his 10 wins, calling Kevin Slowey a great pitcher at this point seems premature. Just look at the numbers.

His statistics are respectable, but outside of the abnormally high win total, they look simply decent. Currently, he sports a 4.04 ERA, which doesn’t even match the likes of Randy Wolf (3.29), Aaron Harang (3.66) or Matt “We seriously got this guy for Delmon Young” Garza (3.83). It’s solid, but it’s not even good enough to crack the 25 best starting pitchers.

This guy has a better ERA than Kevin Slowey

His 1.37 WHIP places him on the same level as his ERA: It’s not embarrassing, but not elite by any means. Once again he’s outside the top-25. He’s a stunning 8-0 at home, compared to 2-2 on the road, but it’s not because he’s pitching any better. His ERA at home (4.07) is actually 8 points higher than on the road (3.99). Slowey’s numbers against lefties (37.1 IP, 36 K, 12 BB, 1.82 WHIP and a .348 BAA) are below-average at best, but he manages to balance it with his solid pitching against righties (47.1 IP, 31 K, 2 BB, 1.01 WHIP, .260 BAA).

So how has he managed to scrape together a league-leading 10 wins?

It’s simple. He’s gotten lucky.

To start, he’s had to pitch on the road only five times this season. As evidenced above, location doesn’t seem to affect the way he pitches, but it does change the way the offense performs. The offense bats only .264 on the road and scores an average of 4.09 runs per game. If we discount the anomaly that was the 20-run outburst at Chicago, their run production drops to 3.58 runs per game. At home, the offense spikes significantly. The team hits at a .280 clip and provides an average of 5.38 runs. Since Slowey has been able to pitch at home in nine of his starts, he’s generally received better offensive production than his staff counterparts.

Consequently, the run support for Slowey has been much better than it has for any of the other starters. The offense generates an average of 5.5 runs per game when Slowey starts the ball game. Conversely, Nick Blackburn, whose 3.09 ERA leads the Twins, is given only an average of 4.23 runs per game (discounting the fluke 20-1 White Sox win once again), and has only won 6 games as a result. Perkins (5.22 runs/game), Baker (5.0 r/g) and Liriano (a shockingly low 3.64 r/g) also receive less run support from the Twins’ offense than Slowey does.

Most importantly, Slowey seems to be immune to the disease known as TBS (Twins’ Bullpen Syndrome), in which leads hemorrhage away and once-healthy games turn into rotting, losses. Slowey has only two no-decisions this year, and only one in which he left the game with a lead, only to watch the Twins’ bullpen blow the game (an 8-6 loss to Toronto). In every other game, the bullpen has managed to uphold the lead that Slowey exited with. Compare this to Blackburn, who has seen six games in which he exited with a lead or tie, only to be let down by those same relief pitchers.

Even Twins bat boys are not safe from TBS

This is not meant to discredit Kevin Slowey. He’s pitched some wonderful games for the Twins this season, and clearly has the ability to be an effective starting pitcher for years to come. He just isn’t quite the ten-win ace that Roy Halladay is.

At least yet.