Monday, March 31, 2008

In the News (3/31)

1-0!

Today's Game: Brewers 4, Cubs 3 in 10
Record: 1-0, First Place
Games Ahead of Cubs: 1

- Craig Counsell, Jason Kendall and Tony Gwynn Jr. were the stars of the 10th inning. Counsell summed it up perfectly: "It's just one game, but it's sure a great way to begin the season."

- Sheets looked like a healthy Sheets, pitching 6 and 1/3 innings of two-hit, shut-out baseball despite two rain delays. Can we please, please, please have him like this for a whole season again?

- Tony Gwynn Jr. had a big game, going 2-3 with the game-winning sac fly in the 10th and a sliding catch to end the game.

- Kendall looks like a solid addition. He was 0-2 at the plate, but took a walk and laid down a key bunt perfectly in the 10th. You also have to like what Sheets said about him: "We were on the same page. I probably shook him off two or three times, and every time I shook him off, I wish I hadn't."

- Gagne sucked. He gave up a three-run lead for the first time in his career. Hopefully his struggles are not an indication of the type of season he'll have... Gagne ducked out of the locker room quickly after the game and made no comments to reporters.

- Fielder fought off the flu to make the start. He looked a little out of it, swinging way behind some pitches and appearing to overswing often, though he did collect a single in the 10th. He also misplayed a grounder to first in the ninth by attempting to tag the runner instead of stepping on the bag. Gagne should have been covering the bag, but it was still a mistake by Fielder. I'm sure he'll bounce back Wednesday.

- New Cub outfielder Fukudome raked. He had a single, a double, a home run and a walk. His three-run home run tied the game in the bottom of the ninth. Thank God he didn't come up again in the 10th. The Brewers had no answer for him. Hopefully they figure him out quick.

- Zambrano left the game with forearm cramps. It doesn't appear to be anything more serious than that.

- Michael Hunt says the Brewers are resilient.

- The Cubs wanted a quick start to the season. Too bad...

- Rick Morrisey whines... 

- Jay Mariotti joins in.

- Gallardo continues his comeback from injury. He may be back with team for April 19 start.

- The Brewers claimed Richie Gardner off waivers. The pitcher, who was formerly a highly regarded prospect, will serve as a starter with Nashville.

- Ned Yost IV has joined his dad as a coach. He'll be a hitting coach in the Brewers farm system. He played catcher and first base in the Brewers system and was not guaranteed to make the AA-Huntsville roster this season before deciding to pursue coaching.

Brewer Battle - Final: Sheets v. Braun

Over 3,800 votes have been cast. The field has been whittled down to two. Who is your 2008 Fan Favorite Brewer of the Year? Is it Ben Sheets or Ryan Braun? The choice is yours. Here is how they got to the final:



Ben Sheets has been the ace of the Brewer rotation since being called up in 2001. Before that, he was the starting pitcher for the US Olympic team in the gold medal game. Sheets has been an All-Star three times and has struck out more than 1000 batters. Even though his win-loss record doesn't seem ace-like, most Brewer fans remember the games where Ben Sheets would lose 1-0 or 2-1 during the early part of his career. Sheets started in today's opening game, the sixth time he's held such an honor.

Ryan Braun rocketed through the minor leagues. He was drafted in 2005 and started his major league career just two years later. In his first, not even full, major league career, Braun established himself as a juggernaut at the plate. Constantly learning and making adjustments, Braun hit an astounding 34 home runs in just 113 games. Not only a power hitter, Braun showed he is great at making contact because he hit .324 and showed some speed, swiping 15 bags. He ended up winning Rookie of the Year in 2007. In 2008, he was moved into the outfield. Braun never complained and learned the position fast.

Now...Vote. The poll will get taken down Thursday night so that the winner can be announced before the home opener.

VS



Whack-A-Cub

Here's something to keep you busy during the almost certain rain delay today... 

Whack-A-Cub!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Quick Prediction

I won't do a long-winded prediction post because there are roughly 10 million of those floating around the Internet already. I just want to get my prediction in writing before the season starts.

The Brewers will win the division.

This is not a homer pick. I don't pick the Brewers to win the division every year (I picked them to finish second last year and to not get the wildcard spot). I just feel like this is finally the year things have lined up right.

I'm not even going to guess at a record. There are too many variables. The division will come down to the Cubs and the Brewers in my estimation and I think it will be very close until the end. I give the edge to the Crew because their offense should be considerably better than the Cubs and I believe the Cubs starting pitching will be an issue.

Team MVP: Prince Fielder - I think he will be a league MVP candidate again with Braun putting up similar offensive numbers as well.

Team Cy Young: Ben Sheets - You can call me a fool if you want, but I think he'll stay healthy. He's had too many bizarre injuries. Luck has to swing his way again some time and he's in a contract season. I predict he'll put up an 18 to 20-win season.

Surprise player: Dave Bush - Anyone that's read this site for any length of time knows I like the "bulldog." He's been more solid than he gets credit for and has been the team's most consistent starter over the last two years. I think he's due for a breakout season. It will be interesting to see if he's asked to pitch from the bullpen after Gallardo comes back though. Either way, he will likely get his fair share of starts this season.

First call-up: This one is a lot more difficult than in past years because the Brewers bench is pretty deep and two players will have to be sent down or cut after Cameron and Gallardo join the team. I'm going to guess Mitch Stetter will be the first call-up for no other reason than that it seems like the bullpen is the area with the most question marks going into the season and Stetter could be a valuable left-handed arm.

NL Division winners: Mets, Brewers, Diamondbacks
NL Wildcard: Phillies (I think it will be a fight between the Phillies and the Braves. I give a slight edge to Philadelphia.)

NL Divisional Round: Mets over Phillies and Brewers over D-Backs
NL Championship: Mets over Brewers

AL Division winners: Red Sox, Tigers, Angels
AL Wildcard: Yankees

AL Divisional Round: Tigers over Yankees and Red Sox over Angels
AL Championship: Tigers over Red Sox

World Series: Tigers over the Mets

NL MVP: Prince Fielder
AL MVP: David Ortiz
NL Cy Young: Johan Santana
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander

In the News (Pre-Opening Day Edition)

Opening day is hours away. It's finally time for baseball!


- The weather forecast for Chicago looks ugly. Their are thunderstorms predicted throughout the day with a 60 percent chance of precipitation when the game is slated to start. Hopefully the baseball season does start for the Brewers tomorrow...

- Sheets is ready to go for opening day in what may be his last year in Milwaukee.

- Monday's game preview.

- Meet the 2008 Milwaukee Brewers.


- 10 musts for the Brewers to win the NL Central.

- Dave Pinto at Baseball Musings picks the Crew to win the division. In fact, he says Milwaukee may win the division easily. Let's hope.

- Baseball Prospectus picks the Brewers to win the wildcard.

- Jim Powell says, "Keep your October calendar open."

- Ken Rosenthal predicts Ryan Braun will win the NL MVP award.

- The Brewers payroll now tops $80 million. Who would have guessed that four or five years ago?

- The Brewers are talking to Fielder and Braun about "long-term" deals. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next couple months.

- Speaking of Fielder and Braun, are they best 1-2 punch in baseball? An argument could certainly be made for that...

- The Brewers have more veteran leadership on this year's squad.

- Michael Hunt says it's time for the Brewers to take the next step.


- Munson accepted his demotion to AAA. I'm surprised he went to Nashville since the Brewers have said Rottino will be getting most of the at-bats there as he prepares to compete for a full-time job in Milwaukee, but I'm happy he did accept it. The Brewers have pretty nice catching depth if injuries strike.



- Cameron begins his suspension. He'll provide a boost to the team after 25 games. More HERE.

- MLB players have more bat options than ever before.

- The Brewers lost one and won one at Miller Park for their final two exhibition games.

- Bush looked good in his last outing.

- Suppan settled down after a rough two innings and salvaged a decent start in his last tune-up.

- It appears the race for Brewers broadcast rights is down to two companies.

- Some changes have been made to Miller Park over the offseason.

- Byron Clarke of Goat Riders of the Apocalypse, a Cubs blog, answers some questions on BrewCrewBall.com. He says the Cubs' biggest weakness is their starting pitching, especially after Zambrano and Lilly. I agree.

Season's Eve Predictions Sure to be Half-Right

Last year I made a couple predictions. I said that J.J. Hardy was going to impress us with his bat, which he did for most of the year. I said that Elmer Dessens was going to be a strong long reliever, which he was not. I said Counsell was not going to do well, which was right, but I also said he'd hit about .250 at best, which he didn't even get close to. So I guess I'm about .500. So here are some predictions sure to be half right.

1) Corey Hart will make the All-Star team - He just will. He's gone from underrated athlete to buzzworthy athlete.

2) Salomon Torres will be the unsung hero of the bullpen - Much like Shouse was last year.

3) Counsell will do better this year - Well, it won't be very hard...

4) The Central will shake out like this:
1)Brewers - Health is always a concern, but I believe they've learned a lot from last year and should have a much stronger bullpen to get them through July and August.

2)Cubs - Spent a lot of money, got a Japanese player who's name I still can't pronounce without swearing, but still iffy in the starting pitching dept. Can you honestly say you trust Marquis and Lilly to have another strong year and you trust that Dempster will be better as a starter?

3)Reds - They've got a pretty good group, but the youth of this group will ultimately be too much for serious contention this year.

There will be a large disparity between the 3 team and the 4 team

(tie)4) Astros - Everyone talks about their offense and adding Miguel Tejada, but they have yet again NO STARTERS after Oswalt.

(tie)4)Cardinals - If their arsenal of DL'ers can reclaim past glory, I'd move them up, but Pujols can't do it all by himself

6)Pirates - I like their young pitching to keep them in games, but the sad truth is that most of their offense will probably be gone by the trading deadline.


For the rest of the league:

1) Joba Chamberlin has too much hype to live up to. The New York media has built this guy up to be the ace to end all aces. The problem is that Ian Kennedy has already surpassed him and he's basically what Carlos Villanueva was last year: A future starter being a good long reliever waiting for a chance to be in the rotation. I'm not saying the kid isn't good. I'm not harping on him, either. There is just too much hype for him to deliver (see Matsuzaka, D.)

2) Mets and Phillies are overrated in the NL East, Braves are underrated. That being said, the Braves better be praying that their rotation of Chet Steadmans can hold it together for the year.

3) One question, can the Rays be considered a surprise team when most major sports media outlets are picking them to surprise the league? Wouldn't that, then, NOT be a surprise. Needless to say, I do like the Rays, but they can't get over the BoSox and Yankees. I'd say they have a chance to bounce over the Blue Jays, but they aren't a slouch either. They do, however, have the best chance at something: playing spoiler to the Detroit Tigers in the last series of the regular season (who should be locked in a close race with the Indians).

4) I read in the Journal-Sentinel that the Dodgers will be close to winning the NL West. No, they won't be. It's just that easy. Arizona, Colorado, and probably the Padres will finish above the Dodgers.

5) Finally, I'm excited to see the race for the worst team of the year. I think it's between the Giants and the Orioles, but the Pirates and the Marlins could also be in the running. It's going to be fan-tastic.

Scenes from RFB's First Pitch - 3/29/08

After months of planning and promoting (and having a run-in with the Miller Park Security), RFB's First Pitch was held on March 29th. The Scarlet Escape, The Response, Tim Schweiger and the Middlemen, and Sunday Flood each brought their love for the Brewers with their love for doing live shows in what we hope will become an annual event. Here are some pictures of what went down...




The Response Rocks Out



The bassist thoroughly supports Bringing Back the Mug (and looks stylish in his RFB gear!)



Crowd Shot! Don't you wish you were here?



Tim Schweiger and the Middlemen rocking the Maritime



Tim Schweiger singing "Sad State of Affairs"



Ending the night with authority was Sunday Flood (nice shirt, by the way)



So that kicked off "The Hunt for Ned's October" in style.

*Apologies to the Scarlet Escape, your pictures are on a different camera

Friday, March 28, 2008

Brewer Battle - Final Four

There were some real close calls but here's how we got our final four:
Sheets def. Gallardo 51-47
Turnbow def. Gagne 57-36
Fielder def. Hardy 71-24
Braun def. Hart 52-46

The Bracket looks like this:



Here it goes! It's coming down to the wire and it's up to you! Who's your favorite on the mound? Sheets or Turnbow? Who's your favorite masher? Fielder or Braun?

VS




VS


Thursday, March 27, 2008

In the News (3/27)

This is going to be a quick and dirty In the News because I just ran out of time tonight... 

- Alcides Escobar is even closer than management hoped to making it to the bigs. The shortstop's defense is MLB-ready. His offense, which improved in the minors last year, will have to take another step, but if Hardy is injured, Escobar would likely get the call.

- Capuano will not have surgery after all. He's going to try to rehab the injury. If he succeeds, he may be able to start working his arm strength back up in a month. It's worth a shot. Tommy John surgery would put him on the shelf for a year or more.


- Proving the Cubs and Brewers are evenly matched, they duel to a tie. Well, OK, it was just an exhibition game that minor-leaguers decided...

- Yost is still mulling the line-up. If last year was any indication, the batting order will change nearly every game anyway...

- Hardy, recovered from a bad flu bug, packed on the pounds he lost with pizza. He says he feels good and went 2-2 against the Cubs today.

- The Brewers opener will be on national TV. And I will be sneaking to the lunch room...

- Baseball Musings says former Brewer Doug Davis has thyroid cancer. If true (I was unable to find it anywhere else on the Web besides where Al's Ramblings linked to the Baseball Musings report), that's terrible. I wish Doug the best and for a speedy, full recovery.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Almost Time for Brewers Baseball!

Hey Brewer fans,

We're just days away from Brewers baseball! I don't know about you, but all of us at Right Field Bleachers are jacked for the season to begin. We expect big things from the Crew in 2008.

For those of you in Wisconsin (and those willing to travel long distances for fun times), we'd like to remind you that we're having a free concert to kick off the season this Saturday at the Maritime Bar in Appleton (336 W. Wisconsin Ave.). Four great Wisconsin bands will play, starting at 9:30. They are Sunday Flood, Tim Schweiger and the Middle Men, The Response, and The Scarlet Escape. We'll also have our t-shirts there and available at low, low sale prices. It's part to celebrate our first year as RFB, part to commemorate the beginning of a memorable season, and part to get to know more of the unbelievable fans we've met over the past year. Please come out and share a beer with us. We'd love to see you again or meet you for the first time.

As always, have a good one and GO CREW!

The RFB Crew

In the News (3/26)


- It is not official, but the final roster appears to be set. It looks as though Ned and company have chosen defense as Mike Rivera will be the backup catcher to start the year. There's more on Rivera HERE.

Ben Sheets had a rough outing today in his final spring training appearance. This is not something I'd worry about. It would have been nice to see him pitch lights out, but anyone who has been a Brewer fan for more than a couple months knows Sheets never has a good spring training. The Brewers did; however, pull out a win today. Ryan Braun and Corey Hart each homered to help the cause.

- According to the JSOnline Blog, SI picks the Cubs to win the division and represent the NL in this years World Series.

- Prince Fielder was pressing early in spring training but has picked it up since getting some good words of advice from veterans Craig Counsel and Mike Cameron.

- Charter Cable has decided to add FSN Wisconsin to its high definition lineup this summer.

- This NL Central preview suggests Yost will be fired and the Crew will win the wild card. Ah...okay. I'm thinking if Yost gets fired, this team is in bad shape and not getting anywhere near a playoff birth.

- Another Brewers' preview

- I saw a similar article about a month or two ago, but it's interesting enough to post again. The article talks about how, then, Royals reliever David Riske helped turn Zack Greinke into a solid starter for the Royals. The Journal-Sentinel also has an article on Riske.

- The Brewers topped the Cactus League in attendance this spring. Good work Brewers' fans.

- Ned Yost says he finally got the catcher he has been waiting for in Jason Kendall. Kendall wasn't brought to the Brewers to hit 10-15 home runs, and he certainly won't. He was brought in because of his experience in dealing with each pitcher as an individual. A lot of people still don't like this signing by Doug Melvin, but I think Kendall is going to do wonders for our pitching staff. With young guys (Gallardo, Parra and Villanueva) making up a majority of the Brewers' rotation, a guy like Kendall could end up being priceless.

Brewer Battle - Positional Finals!

Who's your favorite starting pitcher? Who's your favorite reliever? Who's your favorite infielder and outfielder? All these questions will be answered by you. Fielder (def. Hall 97-14) will play Hardy (def. Weeks 84-26). Braun (def. Gwynn 102-7) will go up against Hart (def. Cameron 104-8). Starting pitchers Ben Sheets and Yovanni Gallardo will go against each other and it's Gagne vs. Turnbow in the relievers finale.
The updated bracket looks like this:
Who will make our Final Four???



VS




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VS


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Computers pick the Cubs

If computer projections are right, the Cubs may celebrate often in 2008

Replacement Level Yankees Weblog has taken several projection systems for the 2008 season, run the season through Diamond Mind Baseball’s simulator 1,000 times for each system and came up with a Projection Blowout. They used CHONE, Diamond Mind, Hardball Times, PECOTA, and ZiPs projections.

The results are interesting, especially relating to the NL Central division race, which I’ve knocked down to the Cubs and the Brewers. Sorry St. Louis, Cincinnati, Houston, and Pittsburgh fans. I see this as a two-horse race and the projection systems agree.

CHONE
Cubs – 86.9-75.1, 53% chance of making the playoffs, 108 highest win total
Brewers – 85.5-76.5, 42%, 106

Diamond Mind
Cubs – 85.3-76.7, 46%, 107
Brewers – 83.4-78.6, 31%, 110

Hardball Times
Brewers – 87.9-74.1, 52%, 110
Cubs – 86.3-75.7, 41%, 105

PECOTA
Cubs – 89.1-72.9, 62%, 109
Brewers – 86.4-75.6, 43%, 103

ZiPs
Cubs – 93-69, 85%, 115
Brewers – 82.6-79.4, 16%, 106

Average of all five
Cubs – 88.12-73.88, 57.4%, 108.8
Brewers – 85.16-76.84, 36.8%, 107

Average of four besides ZiPs
Cubs - 86.9-75.1, 50.5%, 107.25
Brewers – 85.8-76.2, 42%, 107.25


Some observations:

- This obviously does not mean much of anything, but it is probably the most accurate way we have available to predict the season at this point. These prediction systems, however, have been known to not predict pitching well. They also can’t predict injuries effectively and do not account for major changes in production from players. Take it for what it is, a prediction.

- No matter how you look at it, the Brewers and Cubs are very evenly matched again this season.

- While the Brewers are in first or second in all five systems, they are only first in one, The Hardball Times’ prediction. The Cubs are first in the other four.

- ZiPs loves the Cubs and hates the Brewers. ZiPs predicts the best Cubs’ record and worse Brewers’ record of all the systems by several wins/losses. The system predicts very good seasons for some players that come into the season as question marks for the Cubs (Soto, Pie, and Fukudome). If you take ZiPs out of the equation and average the other four prediction systems, the Brewers finish just a game behind the Cubs, which would mean the season would come down to the final series at Miller Park. That would make for one incredible playoff atmosphere in Milwaukee…

- The four systems besides ZiPs have the Brewers averaging a 42 percent chance of making the playoffs.

- The Cubs are a particularly difficult team to predict. Soto will take over as the full-time starting catcher with almost no major-league experience, Fukudome comes over from Japan with no major-league at bats, and Pie has only limited major-league at-bats as well. Dempster is transitioning from closer to starter and Wood is transitioning from the DL to the closer role. All five of these players will be very hard to project effectively and how much they perform above or below their projections could very easily determine the division.

- I didn't investigate, but I doubt very much that the projections used Sheets, Suppan, Bush, Villanueva and Parra as the Brewers' starting five and I also doubt it used Zambrano, Lilly, Hill, Dempster and Marquis as the Cubs' starting five. Even if it did, Villanueva, Parra and Dempster would be hard to project effectively.

- Almost all of the projections I’ve seen predict the Brewers offense to out-perform the Cubs offense. And almost all of the projections I’ve seen predict the Cubs pitching to out-perform the Brewers pitching. Personally, I think the Cubs pitching is the key to the division. If Zambrano, Hill, and Lilly stay healthy and perform all year and the Cubs don’t have a meltdown in the back end of the rotation (Marquis and Dempster with Lieber waiting in the wings), the Cubs will probably win the division. I just wouldn’t bet on that happening…

It should be another close race... Let the season begin!

Brewer fans, what are your thoughts?

In the News (3/25)

Big news today...

Claudio Vargas was released. Tom Haudricourt gives his audio opinion HERE. And there's a MLB.com recap HERE.

At the start of the season, with Sheets, Suppan, Gallardo, Bush, Vargas, Capuano, Parra and Villanueva all fighting for a spot in the rotation, the Brewers pitching depth looked plentiful. Everyone thought at least one, maybe two, would get dealt and others would go to the bullpen or AAA. A month or so later, after a likely season-ending injury to Capuano and a setback for Gallardo, the field of eight trying to break camp with the Brewers was down to six. Vargas, who the Brewers offered arbitration to earlier this offseason and signed for $3.6 million, lost out to Bush, Parra and Villanueva for the last spot in the rotation and was cut today.

My initial reaction was anger. This just seemed like terrible planning. Why offer the guy arbitration if he had no chance of making the team? How much better could it have gone for him this spring? Two injuries to starters and he put together a nice spring training. And, if they did decide to get rid of him, couldn't they have gotten SOMETHING for him? Even if it's Maxim St. Pierre's little brother? Plus, what does that leave for depth? With Capuano and Vargas out of the equation, Gallardo out for a few weeks and Sheets, Suppan, Bush, Villanueva and Parra forming the rotation, there's nothing left of the supposed rotation depth. And Vargas could easily wind up on an NL Central rival or an NL foe, strengthening the opposition.

I've calmed down a bit since the news first surfaced though... The best news to surface is that the Brewers do not owe him the entire $3.6 million contract he signed. Because they cut him early enough, they only owe him a quarter of that, which comes out to about $900,000. That's still a lot of coin to throw away and I wish the team had planned better, but it's much easier to look at than $3.6 million. Also, the Brewers depth is still fairly good. When Gallardo comes back, one of the starters (the general feeling is it could be Bush) will have to transition to the bullpen or go to AAA (possibly Parra or Villanueva in that case), giving the team an extra arm. Also, Chris Narveson, who had a great spring training, will join Nashville and could get a call-up, along with forgotten prospect Zach Jackson, who made strides during a difficult season last year and is back on the cusp of being MLB-ready.

I still wish the team had traded Vargas for something, but I do admire their guts. Management is pushing in all the chips and gambling on youth with higher upside instead of a proven veteran with a lower ceiling. Let's hope it pays off...

Other news
- Yost reveals in the first article above that the rotation will be set up like this: Sheets, Suppan, Bush, Villanueva, Parra, which means Villanueva will be pitching the home opener and the team can skip Parra from time to time to keep his innings down.

- Also in that article, Yost reveals Narveson was considered for a spot in the rotation. That says a lot about the spring he's had. Hopefully he continues it at Nashville as it's likely he'll see time in Milwaukee this season with some success in AAA.



- Gallardo pitched a minor-league game today and will probably need to pitch in at least three more before joining the rotation in Milwaukee.

- Fielder has relaxed his approach after a slow start to spring and seen much better results.


- Drew Olsen talks about Fielder's disgust with vegetarian-related interviews as Olsen conducts another vegetarian-related interview...

- Mike Downey of the Chicago Sun Times says the Cubs' rotation is deep and that Jason Marquis would be the Brewers #3 pitcher. What? This team just cut their version of Marquis when they let Vargas go.

- Jay Mariotti tells Cubs fans to get real and then picks the Cubs to win the division.

- Greg Schmitz of the Badger Herald likes the Cameron and Kendall signings.

- John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer speculates on whether the Reds should pursue a long-term deal with Adam Dunn. I hope they don't because I wouldn't mind seeing Dunn playing for some other team, preferably out of the NL.

Claudi-ohhh Really?



In a fairly surprising move, Claudio Vargas, who has had an impressive Spring, was released by the Brewers today. The emergence of Manny "Rammy" Parra gave way to the outright release of the Veteran. We all know Vargas will find a spot somewhere and quick. That's not the issue. The issue is should the Brewers have released him. If the Brewers keep him for half the year then they have to try and fit him in a deal (which probably wouldn't have happened) or try to pass him through waivers (which wouldn't have worked anyway). On the other side, Manny Parra shouldn't be sent down for his good Spring and he seems to give the Brewers a better chance to win. It was a tough position for the Brewers, but they must have felt they weren't going to end the year with him and they weren't going to get anything for him. I had a similar feeling of uneasiness with not trying Tomo Ohka again in 2007, but it turned out to be the right answer as Ohka, now in the White Sox system, has been passed around the minors. I would have felt a lot better getting at least something for the guy.

Monday, March 24, 2008

In the News (3/24)

- The Brewers are reportedly working on "long-term" contracts for Fielder and Braun. The deals would probably buy out their arbitration years and one year of free agency. I think it's very unlikely that Prince accepts a deal, but Braun has seemed open to it.

- Dillon is likely to make the team. He's been working on improving at second base and the outfield this spring. His main positions are first and third. If he hits like he did last year in sparse at-bats, he'll be on the team all year.

- Yost says Hardy should be ready to go for opening day.

- Gwynn Jr. will likely get most of the playing time in center while Cameron serves his suspension. This will be a big opportunity for Tony to showcase his talents to the Brewers and to potential trading partners. More HERE.

- Parra struggled for a second straight start today. He says he's "thinking too much" and "trying too hard." Hopefully he gets his head on straight soon because word is he'll be in the rotation to start the season...

- Braun wants to play in the World Baseball Classic. Fielder not sure if he'd like to.

- Beyond the Box Score notes something we all already know... Derrick Turnbow is not as good with runners on base.

- The Brewers are the Butthole Surfers?

- Q&A with Mark A.

- Ken Rosenthal says the Brian Roberts to the Cubs trade is on hold and will likely not be down by opening day.

- Dempster and Marquis join the Cubs' rotation, Lieber will start the year in the bullpen. I'm a little surprised Marquis won a spot over Lieber. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the Cubs have depth in starting pitching, but the back end of their rotation will be an issue this year and if injuries strike one of their top three, they are in for major trouble.

- Wood is the Cubs' closer to start the season. I'll start the over/under on the season-ending injury on June 1.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

In the News (3/23)

- Season-ending surgery likely for Capuano. It looks as though he's headed towards his second Tommy John surgery and will miss all of 2008. It's an incredibly tough blow to him. Despite his struggles last season and this spring, he's a very hard worker and tough competitor. I hope he recovers quickly and returns healthy to the Brewers for 2009. More HERE.

- Final roster decisions are looming. It appears as though Villanueva could be sent down, McClung could be winning the final bullpen spot and Munson could be kept over Rivera. Two more moves will have to be made soon after Gallardo returns to the rotation and Cameron returns from his suspension. More HERE.

- Stetter, Nix, and Rottino were sent down to AAA.

- Rottino was not too discouraged by his demotion though because the team informed him he will be given every chance to be the Brewers' future full-time #1 catcher. Hopefully he continues to develop as a catcher at Nashville this season and will be back in Milwaukee sooner than later. More HERE.

- Hardy continues to miss time with flu-like symptoms. They're wondering if it's more than the flu now though and are testing for parasites. He will play in the minor-league camp for a few days after he's healthy enough to come back. It appears prospect Alcides Escobar would take Hardy's roster spot if he is not ready to go opening day.

- Weeks hit a home run today and has looked good since returning from a hand injury.

- Sheets will start opening day. No surprise... More HERE.

- Gallardo pitched two innings in a minor-league game. He's expected back in mid-April.

- The Brewers payroll is about $82 million for this season right now, up from $68 million at the start of last season.

- Turnbow continues to tinker with adjustments. He will be an important piece of the Brewers bullpen again this season.


- Blogger names Maryvale as his favorite spring training facility.

- Milwaukee Brewers physician William Raasch is involved in a study about pitching mechanics and injuries. It's a fairly interesting story.

Brewer Battle Round 2 Continues...

Well, I was right. I didn't really have an internet connection all last week, but no worries, the quest to find the fan's favorite Brewer for 2008 continues. All the favorites moved on last week (even though I thought the Shouse Fan Club would be able to put Shouse over Turnbow). Hope you've enjoyed the first two round of the hoops tourney; I know I have. (Yay Badgers!) Now, back to OUR bracket:




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Capuano Likely Out For Season

It's being reported on the JSOnline Brewers Blog that Chris Capuano has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow. Cappy is going to get a third opinion on the injury, but it's reported that he is "likely" out for the season. He'll probably have his second Tommy John surgery before opening day. Capuano had the same surgery in 2002. It took him 11 months to recover.

Unfortunately I think a lot of Brewers fans will take this as "good news." It's never good news to lose a guy like Cappy. Personally, I was thinking (or hoping anyway) that Cappy was going to have a huge bounce-back year. I still think he'll bounce back to the same guy we knew a few years ago.

Obviously, this takes one name out of the hat in the competition for the starting rotation. It sounds as though the three pitchers, after Sheets and Suppan, will be Parra, Bush, and Vargas. I haven't doubted the decisions of Melvin and Co much, but if this is true, you'll be looking at one unhappy fella. I'm not going to get too in depth, I just think there is no reason why Carlos Villanueva should not start the year in the Brewers' rotation. I understand some of the thinking behind player's options and not losing valuable guys, but shouldn't the main goal be winning? In my eyes, the Crew's best chance at winning is with Carlos in the rotation. What else does this guy have to do? Please don't send him to Nashville. Send Bush instead!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Six deep with two to spare: Ruling in on pitching surplus

A problem I thought would be solved in time, a good problem to have, has yet to be solved as the regular season continues its approach. In making a plethora of great offseason moves in the bullpen, the Brewers have eliminated vacancies for the glut of hurlers otherwise suited and capable for a spot in the starting rotation.

Including prospects, starting capable-pitchers who spent time in the pen, and pitchers who've started for the crew at some point - a staggering nine pitchers... eight with the realistic subtraction of Zach Jackson... are vying for five rotation spots, and one presumed long reliever/spot starter role.

I've addressed this issue in a post that preceded Spring Training action, and factoring in performances, health issues and the ever-changing trade market I will now weigh in with my (slightly) updated take on the cluster fudge that is the Brewers starting pitching quandary.

One to three are easy; I'll save time by simply handing Ben Sheets, Jeff Suppan and Yovanni Gallardo the jobs (pending Yo's apparent health).

The last two rotational, and sole long reliever spots prove a bit more difficult to nail down.

I think, regardless of remaining options and effectiveness in a long-reliever/spot start role last season, Carlos Villanueva has earned the No. 4 spot in the rotation HANDS DOWN. Hell, if the club were to move Jeff Suppan's corpulent body/salary from its undeserved perch at two to a more fitting number four, Villy is an undeniably deserving candidate for the third spot, but four will do...and if there's any fairness in the world... four will do. If you harbor any doubt to him earning this spot, consider that to this point in Cactus League play (where stats for pitchers mean very little) Villanueva has posted a 2.50 E.R.A. and 13 K's in 18 innings of work. Each of those loom near or are the team lead.

On the other side of the coin is Manny Parra, who has also posted a fairly impressive spring line, excluding a so-so E.R.A. that still - in all its allegedly meaningless circumstance - rests below that of Sheets and Suppan. Yet, Parra has time, and options to grow as an ace in Nashville. I (who own a personalized Parra shirt jersey) would much prefer that outcome to his progress being virtually halted in bullpen blowout banishment. Keep him on a relatively similar throwing schedule to Sheets so he can step in when Ben inevitably gets hurt with some random injury (bird flu?).

I love Dave Bush's style - but I feel his performance thus far has failed to secure him the spot that, at one point seemed his to lose. However, I feel he provides a more versatile fit for a stop gap or step-in replacement that embodies a long reliever than either Capuano or Vargas. A former closer (college) he can also... in theory, though never proven... come in to get a few important outs. I like Bush for bullpen exile.

Much like Villanueva, Claudio Vargas has pitched like someone who deserves to be a starter. Once (and still) my favorite player to imagine being traded, Vargas has posted decent spring numbers, and has take steps in showing management his is capable of outdoing his five-inning mainstay he popularized last season. It's not pretty to anchor your starting five with someone like Vargas - but it's deserved and... if even I, a strong opponent of Vargas as a starter, have been sold to his effectiveness...then let it be so.

Where does all this leave Chris Capuano? Who cares? When healthy, Capuano has been terrible this spring. He has an option left, so if a suitor cannot be sold on this southpaw, former All-Star, once-18 game-winner then Nashville will have to do for this recent underachiever. I like Capuano, but stats from 2005 don't count toward games in 2008. And Cappy has done nothing in 2008 (or 2007 for that matter) to show he's deserving of a spot in Milwaukee. Cappy's epic pickoff move will be missed dearly wherever he may land.

In short:
1. Sheets
2. Suppan
3. Gallardo
4. Villanueva
5. Vargas

Geremi Gonzalez Jr. - Bush

What's your rotation/long man prediction?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Rotti-NOOOOOOOOO!!!

I thought this year would be different. I felt the time had finally come.

No, I'm not talking about a NL Central crown or Wold Series bid... though I hope for both of those things too. I am referring to a reasonable hope that my favorite Brewer, one Vinny Rottino, would have an Opening Day roster spot.

Alas, this isn't to be that fateful year. The Brewers sent Rottino and Stetter to Nashville today. I understand Stetter, as the pen was...and with his exit, still is considerably clogged, but I thought stars were aligning for Racine's native son.

I suppose, removing the biased scope of a fan attached to a home state appeal... sending down a player as versatile, talented and chock full of moxie as Rottino is a good thing. The club is beyond promoting personnel perhaps better suited (in terms of team structure, not individual dues) in the minors to the bigs for the sake of a good story.

I take sending down a player like Vinny to be a sign of the immense talent that remains Milwaukee bound. And much like a girl breaking your heart in your first month of courting oppose to leaving you on your five year anniversary, at least his demotion wasn't as down to the wire as last year's disappointment when Rottino was the last to be sent down prior to opening day. I don't know if he nor I could have handled such a heartbreak again.

In all - the world will continue to spin, barely... and a spot at the end of the bench will be occupied by another player Ned tags a "gamer." I hate to hope for Vinny to be brought up pre-September, as it'd indicate a probable injury to a regular player... but my cousin Vinny has earned a spot in Brew city and, his time will come. I'm sure he's upset, but will take it in stride and - the driven underdog his is, will keep working en route to realizing an extension of his big league dreams.

Until then, tear it up in Nashville, Vinny. And, oh... make sure to go to Piranha's on 2nd avenue... their sandwiches are delicious.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

In the News (3/20)

Well, it's officially spring and the Badgers advanced in the NCAA tournament. Not bad...

- Gallardo will pitch Friday. He is making his way back from torn cartilage in his knee. Gallardo will be the Brewers ace next season. It's important that he makes strides this year for the Brewers to make the next step into the playoffs.


- Capuano had an MRI and will know more about his ailing elbow by Saturday. He has next to no chance of starting the season in the rotation now, even if they find nothing wrong.

- Ryan Braun was back in the lineup today. Hardy (flu) and Weeks (sore hand) sat out again.

- Counsell changed his swing and is batting .486 this spring. Counsell is the poster boy for the "spring training stats don't matter" argument, but it's nice to see he won't be using that ridiculous batting stance again this season.

- On the same day the Journal-Sentinel suggested he may have the inside track on winning a rotation spot, Parra gave up eight runs in 3 2/3 innings. He was having an incredible spring training and will look to bounce back in his next start.

- The Journal-Sentinel says there are still some unanswered questions in the Brewers spring training camp.

- Callix Crabbe, a former Brewers infield prospect, may make the Padres. He was a Rule 5 draft pick and has been impressive this spring, batting .405 with a home run and 7 RBIs. He's played all over the diamond. It's still going to be a "tough decision" whether he makes the 25-man roster and if he doesn't, he has to be offered back to the Brewers. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

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