Archive for Milwaukee Brewers
For the first time this season, the Yankees are in a National League park for an interleague series. That means no designated hitter and lots of so-called strategy. The Yankees open a three-game set against the Brewers tonight, their first trip to Milwaukee since 2005. The last time they visited Miller Park, Alex Rodriguez hit his 400th career homerun (video). How about that?
What Have They Done Lately?
The Brew Crew come into this series with a 22-13 record and a +13 run differential. That’s the second best record in the game. They have hit the skids of late though, losing their last two games, four of their last five, and six of their last eight.
Manager Ron Roenicke’s club has a team 90 wRC+ and averages 3.97 runs per game, so it’s a below-average attack. That surprised me. For some reason I thought they were better. OF Ryan Braun (156 wRC+) is currently on the disabled list with an oblique problem and he is not eligible to return until next week. OF Carlos Gomez (147 wRC+) is healthy, but the appeal of his three-game suspension (stemming from a brawl with the Pirates) will be heard today, so he figures to miss at least one game this weekend. His rematch with Brian McCann will have to wait.
With Braun and potentially Gomez out, the Milwaukee lineup is headlined by C Jonathan Lucroy (117 wRC+), who is one of the most underrated players in the game. He’s a stud both at and behind the plate. 3B Aramis Ramirez (81 wRC+) is off to a really slow start, but you’ll hear him referred to as an “RBI Guy” anyway. Former Yankees 1B Lyle Overbay (79 wRC+) and 1B/3B Mark Reynolds (115 wRC+) are kinda sorta platooning at first, though Reynolds is seeing more and more time given his strong start (and Overbay’s poor start).
2B Rickie Weeks (78 wRC+) has been relegated to the bench in favor of 2B Scooter Gennett (97 wRC+). OF Khris Davis (75 wRC+) has a hilarious 35/1 K/BB, and SS Jean Segura (69 wRC+) simply hasn’t hit since about last June. He got off to such a great start last season but just stopped hitting all together. OF Logan Schafer (63 wRC+) has been playing regularly with Braun out. C Martin Maldonado (208 wRC+), OF Caleb Gindl (1 wRC+), and IF Jeff Bianchi (8 wRC+) fill out the bench and have been varying degrees of useful in limited time. It’s worth noting the Brewers have hit 36 homers this season, the fifth most in baseball. Miller Park is a big-time hitter’s park.
Friday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. MIL) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (vs. NYY) (GIFs)
Gallardo, 28, has rebounded from the worst season of his career wonderfully: 2.47 ERA (3.63 FIP) in seven starts and 43.2 innings, with excellent walk (2.27 BB/9 and 6.1 BB%), homer (0.62 HR/9 and 7.0 HR/FB%), and ground ball (51.8%) rates. He isn’t striking out many guys though (5.36 K/9 and 14.4 K%), and righties (.307 wOBA) are hitting him harder than lefties (.273 wOBA). Gallardo has reinvented himself as a two-seam fastball pitcher, using it more than ever before at the expense of his four-seamer. Both pitches sit in the low-90s. He also throws a mid-80s slider and an upper-70s curveball. Gallardo doesn’t have much of a changeup at all.
Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia (vs. MIL) vs. RHP Kyle Lohse (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Many Cardinals reclamation project pitchers fail to sustain their success elsewhere, but Lohse is the exception. The 35-year-old has a 2.72 ERA (3.25 FIP) in seven starts and 46.1 innings this year thanks to strong strikeout (8.16 K/9 and 22.0 K%), walk (2.33 BB/9 and 6.3 BB%), and homerun (0.78 HR/9 and 8.3 HR/FB%) rates. The grounder rate (39.8%) isn’t anything special. Lefties have clobbered Lohse this year (.372 wOBA) and righties haven’t touched him (.210 wOBA). An upper-80s sinker and low-80s slider are his two main pitches, though he’ll also throw an upper-70s changeup and a mid-70s curve. Lohse is really good, very Hiroki Kuroda-ian. Mixes it up, throws anything at anytime. His days of trying to throw fastballs by everyone are long gone.
By the way, expect Sabathia to get a massive ovation tomorrow night. He’s beloved in Milwaukee for what he did in 2008. Dude started four games in 12 days down the stretch and threw a 122-pitch complete game against the 97-win Cubs on the final day of the season to clinch the Brewers’ first postseason berth in 25 years. Ridiculous.
Sunday: RHP David Phelps (vs. MIL) vs. RHP Matt Garza (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Garza, 30, is a familiar face after all his time with the Rays. He has a 4.93 ERA (3.74 FIP) in his first seven starts and 42 innings with the Brewers, and the peripherals are okay: 7.50 K/9 (18.9 K%), 3.00 BB/9 (7.6 BB%), 0.86 HR/9 (8.5 HR/FB%), and 42.6% grounders. Lefties (.366 wOBA) have roughed him up pretty good so far this year. Righties (.281 wOBA) … not so much. Garza is almost exclusively a low-to-mid-90s fastball/mid-80s slider pitcher at this point. He throws a handful of mid-80s changeups and mid-70s curveballs per start, but not nearly as many as he used to. It’s worth noting Garza has been dealing with a thumb issue (jammed it during an at-bat, hooray DH!) and has his last two starts were up and down.
The Brewers were off yesterday, so their heavily used bullpen was able to get some rest. RHP Francisco Rodriguez (1.05 FIP) has been dynamite this year, as have setup men RHP Tyler Thornburg (2.12 FIP) and LHP Will Smith (2.19 FIP). Smith might be the most dominant lefty specialist in the game right now. He’s held same-side hitters a .146 wOBA with a 46.2% strikeout rate. Crazy. K-Rod, Thornburg, and Smith are three of only 12 pitchers to appear in 18 games so far this season.
The rest of the bullpen includes RHP Brandon Kintzler (6.58 FIP), RHP Rob Wooten (4.96 FIP), and LHP Zach Duke (1.84 FIP). The Brewers are also carrying Rule 5 Draft pick LHP Wei-Chung Wang (8.81 FIP), who jumped from rookie ball (!) to MLB. Roenicke never uses him. Wang has appeared in only five games (seven innings) this year and they have all been super low leverage emergency mop-up situations. They basically roll with a six-man bullpen and a 24-man roster. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees relievers, then check out Disciples of Uecker and Brew Crew Ball for everything you need to know about the Brewers.
Via George King: The Brewers have special assignment scout Dick Groch following the Yankees early in the season, leading to trade speculation. Milwaukee was scouting the team’s catchers in Spring Training and the Yankees were said to be monitoring Rickie Weeks. Groch worked for New York years ago and was the scout who originally signed a youngster named Derek Jeter.
Weeks, 31, lost his starting second base job to Scooter Gennett and is now just a bench player for the Brewers. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez could also make sense for New York, though he is owed a ton of money this season. The Brewers have gotten off to a nice little start this season — they swept the Red Sox in Fenway Park over the weekend — so I don’t think they’ll be selling anytime soon. Still, the fact that they have one of their top talent evaluators assigned specifically to the Yankees is a bit interesting.
According to George King, the Mariners had a scout on hand to watch David Phelps‘ second spring start last night. He got hit around pretty hard but held the Orioles to only one run in 2.2 innings, striking out two and walking one. Phelps is currently competing for the fifth starter spot, though Joe Girardi confirmed he will make the team in some capacity.
The Mariners have been hit hard by injuries this spring. Co-ace Hisashi Iwakuma is sidelined with a finger sprain and top prospect Taijuan Walker is dealing with a shoulder problem. Manager Lloyd McClendon confirmed both guys will open the season on the DL, leaving the team with Erasmo Ramirez, James Paxton, Brandon Maurer, and Scott Baker behind Felix Hernandez. Their need for another arm is obvious.
Seattle’s top trade chip is infielder Nick Franklin, who was pushed into trade chip status by the Robinson Cano signing. The 23-year-old switch-hitter hit .225/.303/.382 (90 wRC+) with 12 homers, six steals, and a 27.4% strikeout rate in his 412 plate appearance MLB debut last season. His defense is shaky — he’s already moved off short and is error prone at second — and more than a few people think he’ll have to drop switch-hitting and stick to batting lefty down the road. Baseball America (subs. req’d) said he “profiles as a solid regular who could play in a few All-Star Games” before last season.
The Yankees desperately need a young infielder and Franklin certainly fits the bill even though I’m not his biggest fan. I’d trade
four five years of Phelps for six years of Franklin in a heartbeat, but I suspect the Mariners are going to want another piece or two. Both the Mets and Rays have been talking to Seattle about Franklin — Tampa was reportedly on the verge of the deal, but then Jeremy Hellickson got hurt and they were reluctant to sacrifice pitching depth — so there is plenty of competition.
Of the various fifth starter candidates, the 27-year-old Phelps feels like the safest bet to be a productive big leaguer in 2014. In order to deal him, I think the Yankees would have to feel pretty good about Michael Pineda heading into the season and/or be open to signing a low-cost pitcher (Jeff Niemann? Jeff Karstens?) to replace the depth. Given their pitching situation, I’m guessing the Mariners would like to get a deal done sooner rather than later. That could work to New York’s advantage in trade talks.
In other news, King says both the White Sox and Brewers also had scouts on hand for last night’s game. Both clubs are looking for catching depth, something the Yankees can spare. Chicago has some infield depth to offer and we’ve already heard the Yankees will monitor Rickie Weeks this spring. Given the infield situation, the Yankees could swap Phelps+ for Franklin and a catcher for Weeks or one of the ChiSox infielders (or one of the Diamondbacks infielders). It doesn’t necessarily have to be one or the other.
Sorry if you thought it was Friday, it’s still only Thursday. I skipped the mailbag last week for ALDS reasons, and I figured today was the best day to tackle this week’s edition given the off day and upcoming madness tonight. Most of the questions that were sent in are outdated now (who’d you rather face in the ALDS, Texas or Detroit?), so only four questions today. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to submit your queries.
Patrick asks: Any way Yu Darvish would accept a minor league deal? Would that allow the team that signs him to have him under control for pre and arbitration years?
No, definitely not. Darvish isn’t coming over for a minor league contract. Japanese players are like everyone else; when they come over here, they are still subject to the same rules. That means pre-arbitration salaries for the first three years of their career, then three years of arbitration-eligibility before free agency. However, as a courtesy to veteran players of the Japanese leagues, MLB and the various clubs have allowed Japanese players to become free agents after their initial contracts expire. That’s how Hideki Matsui became a free agent after the 2005, or Hiroki Kuroda last season.
Daisuke Matsuzaka signed a six-year contract when the Red Sox acquired him, basically simulating the six years of team control. Darvish is still so young that I have to believe whatever team lands him will try to do something similar. I can’t imagine a team would pay through the nose for the posting fee and agree to acquire just the first two of three years of Darvish’s career. A five or six-year deal is in order here, if not longer.
Matt asks: I was reading an old Baseball America Handbook and it said that Rays infielder Elliot Johnson signed with Tampa Bay as a non-drafted free agent. How can a guy not drafted out of high school sign as a free agent? And if it’s possible, why don’t we see more guys do it?
Former Yankee John Rodriguez is another guy that signed as an undrafted free agent out of high school. From the official rules…
A player who is eligible to be selected and is passed over by every Club becomes a free agent and may sign with any Club until the player enters, or returns to, a four-year college full-time or enters, or returns to, a junior college.
In English, that means a high school kid can sign as a free agent as long as he goes undrafted, has a diploma/GED, and has not yet attended any kind of college. The best players (high school or otherwise) always get drafted at some point (even if it’s the later rounds), which is why they’re never undrafted free agent. It’s not their choice to go undrafted and become a free agent, the teams control their fate.
Rodriguez and Johnson were the fringiest of fringe prospects, which is why they weren’t drafted. College wasn’t an option for Rodriguez for whatever reason (money, grades, who knows), so he ended up signing with the Yankees after participating in a tryout camp. I’m not sure what Johnson’s story is.
Jeff asks: What will the future hold for Jesus Montero in 2012? Will the Yankees retain Russell Martin and have a catching platoon where Montero can DH on some of the days Martin catches? We know Montero can hit in the majors, so is the best option to ease him into being a major league catcher? What is Montero’s ceiling? Would it be a stretch to think he could have a .400 OBP in his rookie season and drive in 100 RBI with 30-40 HRs?
I’m certain the Yankees will bring Martin back next year. It’s very clear the front office loves him, and he provides very real defensive value while being a non-zero at the plate. With neither Montero, Austin Romine, or Frankie Cervelli ready to be an everyday catcher in the big leagues, there’s a clear opening for Martin on the roster.
Ideally, I’d like to see Montero be the regular DH (against both righties and lefties) while still catching 30-40 games. It’s obvious he’s ready for 600 at-bats in the big leagues, and this is probably the best way to get him that playing time. Any time he spends behind the plate can be a DH day for Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter or whoever needs it. I’m not ready to say he’ll be a .400 OBP/30+ HR/100+ RBI guy right out of the chute, but he has the kind of talent to do that long-term. Something like .280/.340/.460 with 20+ homers would be more than acceptable in my book next season. Remember, this kid is just 21.
Sam asks: If the Brewers lose Prince Fielder to free agency, do you think they would consider trading Shaun Marcum or Yovani Gallardo for a package headlined by Montero?
I don’t think it’s an “if,” I’m pretty sure the Brewers will lose Prince as a free agent. They went all-in this season to try to win with him, they openly acknowledge that, but I don’t think they’re going to go right into a rebuilding mode next year. They’ll still have Marcum, Gallardo, and Zack Greinke in 2012, plus Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, and John Axford aren’t going anywhere for a while. That’s a pretty good core right there. First baseman aren’t the toughest players to replace in free agency (Carlos Pena for a year? Josh Willingham?), so they can plug that hole. No, they won’t replace Fielder’s production, but they still have enough talent to win that division.
That said, the Yankees would have to listen if Milwaukee is open to trading a starter. Gallardo is a stud and I’d give up Montero for him without hesitation, but the problem with Marcum and Greinke is that they’re going to become free agents after next season. At least Gallardo is locked up through 2014 with an option for 2015. Giving up six years of Montero for one year of those two, regardless of how good they are, isn’t the wisest thing in the world. I’m sure the Brewers would be open to a deal involving Marcum or Greinke, but I can’t imagine they’d discuss Gallardo.
It’s been a long, long time since the Yankees and Brewers played in Yankee Stadium. The last time these two clubs met in the Bronx was before Milwaukee jumped from the AL to the NL in 1998, and … well here’s the box score from that game. Scott Pose leading off! Derek Jeter batting seventh! Cats and dogs, living together! Crazy how long it’s been, a baseball lifetime basically.
What Have The Brewers Done Lately?
The Brewers are coming off a three game sweep of the Twins in Milwaukee, outscoring the road team 21-6 during the series. They’ve also won four of five but are coming out of a stretch in which they won just two of six games. It happens. At 44-35, the Brewers lead the NL Central by three games and their +27 run differential is fourth best in the so called senior circuit.
Brewers On Offense
This is pretty damn close to an AL offense folks, at least at the top the lineup. Rickie Weeks flashes a .375 wOBA from the leadoff spot and comes into the series with a .348/.389/.576 batting line over the three weeks or so. Nyjer Morgan (.371 wOBA) will bat second against right-handers but Corey Hart (.359 wOBA overall, .506 wOBA vs. LHP) will bat there against CC Sabathia in the final game of the series. Batting third is one of the game’s very best, Ryan Braun. Dude’s got a .416 wOBA this year and comes into the series with a 17 game hitting steak. Because that’s not enough, Prince Fielder backs him up from the cleanup spot, and he’s sporting a .439 wOBA. He comes into the series hitting .363/.519/.800 over his last 26 games and .326/.473/.681 in his last 44 games. Someone hold me.
Things kinda drop off after that. Third baseman Casey McGehee handles most of the five-hole duties, but his wOBA is a pathetic .264 at the moment. He hasn’t hit at all, one little hit streak in May and that’s it. Yuniesky Betancourt is one of the very worst players in baseball (.264 wOBA with bad defense), and Carlos Gomez is just slightly better (.296 wOBA). The catching tandem of Jonathan Lucroy (.336 wOBA) and George Kottaras (.323 wOBA) is surprisingly productive for the position, and the just called up (as in yesterday) Mat Gamel (.409 wOBA in Triple-A) will get reps as the designated hitter.
Overall, the Brewers boast a .328 wOBA as a team, the fifth highest in baseball. They’ve hit the second most homers (91) behind the Yankees (111), and they’re middle of the pack with 53 steals. Braun (17), Gomez (15), and Weeks (seven) are the tops in that department. Fielder is going to make Yankee Stadium look very small with his power, smaller than it already looks. The good news is that Morgan and Kottaras are Milwaukee’s top power threats from the left side after him, but Braun, Weeks, and Hart can hit the ball out of almost any part of the park. This will not be a fun series for the Yankees pitching staff.
Brewers On The Mound
Tuesday, RHP Zack Greinke: The Yankees had their chance to trade for Greinke this winter, but decided against it and will now have to face him later tonight. The 27-year-old right-hander comes into the series with 80 strikeouts and nine unintentional walks in 60 IP, adding up to a 2.30 FIP. His 4.77 ERA is the result of a laughably low 58.8% strand rate and a .348 BABIP. Greinke is going to carve hitters up with two low-90′s fastballs plus a slider, curveball, and changeup. Aside from Felix Hernandez in Seattle, I don’t think the Yankees have had a tougher assignment yet this season. It’s okay though, he can’t handle New York, amirite?
Wednesday, RHP Shaun Marcum: I’m not sure if Marcum is actually going to make this start. He’s left his previous two outings early due to hip issues (after just one and three innings, respectively), but as of now he’s listed as the probably starter. Marcum is another guy having a phenomenal year, sporting a 3.16 FIP in 94.2 IP. Although the numbers don’t show it this year, the right-hander has typically had a very pronounced reverse platoon split in recent years because his changeup is world class. He’ll throw it in any count to batters on either side of the plate, though it’s most effective against lefties. Beyond that, Marcum will also throw a mid-80′s fastball (yes, 80′s) and a curveball, but that changeup is how he makes his money. The Yankees have seen enough of him over the years because of his time in Toronto, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be any easier.
Thursday, LHP Randy Wolf: After Greinke and Marcum, Wolf is going to seem like batting practice. The lefty doesn’t miss many bats 6.68 K/9 and gives up a ton of fly balls (36.1%), two traits that play right into the Yankees’ hands. His 4.08 FIP is a better indication of his talent than his 3.20 ERA, but the former is still rock solid. Wolf still has that knockout curveball, the big slow (upper-60′s) bender that he can throw for strikes or bury in the dirt. An upper-80′s fastball, slider, and changeup round out his repertoire. Andruw Jones has more plate appearances against Wolf (61) than anyone in baseball not named Chipper, but he’s just a .200/.279/.436 hitter off the southpaw.
Bullpen: Unfortunately, we won’t get to see Sergio Mitre‘s comeback tour, Milwaukee designated him for assignment just yesterday. That’s a shame. Instead we’ll have to settle for another Yankees castoff, Brewers closer John Axford. He spent a year bouncing around the farm system before being released, and he’s since turned into one the better closers in the baseball thanks to some mechanical adjustments. He will get himself into trouble (4.08 BB/9), but it’s tough to get past an 11.72 K/9 and 52.5% ground ball rate with three outs to go.
Axford’s primary setup man is Kameron Loe, who is death on righties thanks to his sinker-slider approach (64.2% grounders). Lefty Zach Braddock was just called up yesterday to replace Mitre, and he’s Milwaukee’s lone southpaw in the pen. He’s sorta like Boone Logan in that he throws hard (low-to-mid-90′s) with a slider, but he’s not like Boone Logan in that he destroys left-handed batters. Tim Dillard was also called up not too long ago, and he’s struck out 17 against just two walks in 16 IP. The Brewers other righty reliever is another Yankees castoff, old buddy LaTroy Hawkins. He came back from shoulder surgery last month and has a 2.44 FIP in 19.2 IP with a lot of grounders (60.3%). Long man Marco Estrada would (presumably) start for Marcum if he can’t go, and he’s got a 4.10 FIP in 47.2 IP.
The Yankees are going to get the best the Brewers have to offer this week, so it’s going to be a very tough series. Their starters miss bats, the lineup hits the ball out of the park from both sides of the plate, and the bullpen has some dynamite specialists in front of a very good closer. This one should be fun.
Recommended Brewers Reading: Disciples of Uecker
If you want to check out any of these three games at Yankee Stadium, RAB Tickets can get you there. We’ve got some ticket pricing info after the jump…