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Wednesday, April 24th 2019
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Baseball Mockery

As the dreaded off season continues, talks have begun about eliminating the shift thanks to the baseball commissioner Rob Manfred. The reasoning lies in creating more offense so baseball can be more attractive to more people. Yes ladies and gentlemen, a pitching dual where every pitch matters is no longer entertaining enough.

With these discussions, baseball is now leaning towards the play of the offense. That sounds fairly familiar. What other sports favor the offense? That’s it, the NFL. Looks as though Rob Manfred might need to take a meeting with the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to see how far baseball can go in favoring the offense.

Eliminating the shift is erasing all defensive strategy, so where do they stop. Strategy is the beauty of baseball, it’s chess not whack a mole. So here are additional rule changes to really help the offense get the upper hand.

X marks the spot- I think we need to go back to the roots of every baseball player. MLB needs to get in touch with the little league coach in themselves and create X’s on where each infielder must stand in the field. Even shading so slightly to get a head start is just too much of an advantage.

No sprinting, just jogging- Having fast outfielders like Lorenzo Cain is just too much of a “step up” for the defense. No more sprinting to a ball because outfielders may rob a double that could produce more runs for the offense.

All starting pitchers must go at least 6 innings before using a bullpen pitcher- That’s right, discount what the Brewers did in 2018. Changing the pitcher every couple of innings is too hard for the hitters because they can’t get multiple looks at a pitcher. Dang players can’t adjust!

No bullpen days- Piggybacking off the last rule, bullpen games will not be allowed. Discounting again what the Brewers used to be successful in 2018.

Don’t forget players safety, no pitches over 90 mph- We can’t forget about the gem in players safety. Pitching over 90 mph puts the batter at extreme risk of getting severely injured if they get hit. Any pitch over 90 mph will result in an automatic walk.

Just a couple after thoughts to go along with the new rules of baseball are, shrinking the strike zone, instituting a computerized Ump instead of a human (eliminate the human error).  What about going from 3 outs an inning to 5 outs?

Obviously this is just poking fun of the discussions of limiting the shift. Although it is something that could severely hurt the Brewers. They use so much strategy every game to cover up the fact that they don’t have the money to go out and get nine studs to fill a lineup like the Yankees. As said before, the beauty in baseball is the chess game and taking the chess away to result in more offense may indeed create more offense. However, let’s be honest, will adding a couple more runs a game really increase viewership or would it just take away some of the fun of baseball for hardcore fans?

Brewers Bolster ‘Pen with Acquisition of Alex Claudio

David Stearns and the Milwaukee Brewers struck a deal on the final day of the Winter Meetings, acquiring left-handed reliever Alex Claudio from the Texas Rangers in exchange for the Brewers’ competitive balance pick in the 2019 draft. The trade fills the need of having a second left-handed reliever behind Josh Hader, as the Brewers failed to tender contracts to both Dan Jennings and Xavier Cedeño at the outset of the offseason.

Claudio comes to Milwaukee with a history of solid on-field performance during his time in Texas. He owns a career ERA of 3.20 spread over 230 innings of work, appearing in 208 games in that span. The lefty saw his best success during 2017, when he hurled 82.2 innings over 70 games, racking up 11 saves and a 2.50 ERA. He experienced somewhat of a step back in 2018, as he saw his ERA rise to 4.48, but many of his peripherals stayed essentially the same.

Claudio fits the profile of being an extreme ground ball pitcher. In 2018, he induced a ground ball on 61% of balls put into play against him, and that number was even higher in 2017 at 67%. This is the type of pitcher that could see great success in Milwaukee, where the Brewers’ aggressive defensive shifting tends to allow ground ball pitchers to see great success. That should allow him to return to sporting an ERA in the low-3.00 range, which will make him a welcome addition to the middle of the Brewers’ bullpen.

One area in which Claudio does struggle is striking hitters out. For his career, he holds a K/9 rate of 6.16, and logged a rate of 5.4 K/9 in 2018. This is certainly not ideal for a relief pitcher, with many of the most successful ones in the game today being strikeout artists. However, Claudio makes up for his strikeout deficiencies by greatly limiting the number of batters he walks. Last year, he only walked 1.71 hitters per nine innings, which is an excellent mark. Pairing this with his ground ball prowess is what makes him effective.

The return to the Rangers is somewhat surprising on the surface, as the Brewers will give up the 39th overall selection in this year’s MLB Draft. Given all of the deadline deals that sent Brewers’ prospects packing in 2018, that 39th selection could have immediately jumped into the Brewers’ organization top-10, and perhaps the top-5 even. However, Stearns seems to be going for the “win-now” mode of operating, as that draft pick likely would have arrived in the major leagues in 2021 at the earliest, and more likely in 2022 or 2023. By then, Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain would have been nearing the end of their contracts, and the team perhaps could be falling out of contention. There is a lot of uncertainty involved with trying to look at what the Brewers’ competitive scenario will be 4 years into the future. Given that Claudio has three years of controllability remaining, this deal makes perfect sense given the current outlook of the team and their “win-now” mentality.

Claudio will join a bullpen that is led by the trio of Josh Hader, Corey Knebel, and Jeremy Jeffress. Given the acquisition of Claudio, it is likely that Stearns will not go for any of the big names on the relief market, and will fill out the rest of his bullpen with either low cost or internal options.

Brewers Potential Trade Targets: Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner

   It has been over a month since the Brewers’ deep and thrilling playoff run ended at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers in game seven of the NLCS. Now that the 2018 season is in the rearview, it is time for David Stearns & co. to explore their options to reload the team to ensure last season’s contention was not an aberration.

Something Milwaukee lacked in 2018 and has lacked for quite some time is a bona fide, all-star level starting pitcher. While it is true that manager Craig Counsell’s philosophy values relief pitching to an extreme degree, that style of management isn’t sustainable throughout the course of a 162-game regular season like it is over a playoff run where every single pitch is critical. That said, there are some intriguing starting pitchers potentially on the market for the Brewers to use their deep farm system to trade for. Two names stick out in particular, Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner. Let’s explore these possibilities and what it will take to pull them off.

 

Noah Syndergaard:

The 26-year-old, flame-throwing right hander is one of baseball’s top pitchers when healthy. Combine his talent with the fact that he does not hit free agency until 2022, and you’re looking at one of the most attractive potential trade targets in baseball. On Wednesday, Andy Martino of SNY singled out the Brewers and the Rockies as two teams expressing interest in trading for Syndergaard. The Brewers’ front office has showed reluctance in giving up the organization’s top prospect, Keston Hiura, so with that in mind, my potential package will not include him. With Orlando Arcia showing this postseason that he is capable of being the shortstop of the future and Hiura looking like the second baseman of the future, infield prospect Mauricio Dubon makes sense as a part of this potential trade. All in all, I believe the Brewers would have to give up Corey Ray, Mauricio Dubon, and Zack Brown to get the Mets to bite on a deal.

 

Madison Bumgarner:

Another ace-level hurler Milwaukee may be considering making a move for is 2014 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner. This potential deal is a bit risky, given that Bumgarner only has one season of team control and he hasn’t been his normal dominant self the last two seasons due in large part to injury. However, his services might be worth the risk because the Crew could re-sign him once his contract expires, and he could be the missing piece to the elusive World Series title. He has already won three commissioner’s trophies with the San Francisco Giants, and has proven he brings his best stuff to the table in the biggest of games. The asking price for Bumgarner would certainly be lower than Syndergaard, so with that being said I think the Brewers could entice the Giants with an offer of fourth-ranked organizational prospect Tristen Lutz, and RHP Cody Ponce as a complimentary piece.

 

As is abundantly clear from last season, The Milwaukee Brewers bullpen does not need improvement. Led by Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress, the Brewers pen was the consensus best in the National League. Also of note is that some Brewers starters, namely Wade Miley and Gio Gonzalez are free agents and could very well be pitching elsewhere next season. This offseason has already seen a large-scale trade involving a starting pitcher, or should I say, “initial out-getter”, with James Paxton getting moved to the New York Yankees. Clearly the Brewers aren’t on the Yankees’ level in terms of market size, but who says they can’t follow suit and snag a big time starter of their own?

 

Brewers Offseason Outlook: Free Agency

With a farm system that doesn’t provide many opening-day ready solutions at the moment, the Brewers will likely look to free agency to fill the holes that their current roster has. Given the likely non-tender of Jonathan Schoop, second base looks to be a position of need, and you can assume that the Brewers would welcome upgrades at catcher and to their rotation, if reasonable. The Brewers also will give bullpen pieces a look, but those are expected to be complimentary pieces rather than the elite options the market may have. Let’s take a look at some potential targets at each of those positions:

(Note: the options listed are not exhaustive lists of free agents at that position)

Second Base

Top of the Market Options: Asdrubal Cabrera, Marwin Gonzalez, DJ Lemahieu

Middle Tier Options: Ian Kinsler, Jed Lowrie

Cost-Conscious Options: Derek Dietrich, Daniel Descalso

Notes: The Brewers are likely not looking for long-term fix due to presence of Keston Hiura and Mauricio Dubon in minors. Josh Harrison could come on a one-year deal after a down 2018 season, but it remains to be seen whether he is an upgrade over an in-house option like Hernan Perez. The Brewers have had reported interest in Kinsler in the past, which could make him a target… Given that Cabrera, Gonzalez, and Lemahieu sit atop the market and will command longer term deals, the Brewers are likely out on them. The Brewers have previously had interest in Dietrich, and he fits their model of having versatile players (has experience at 1B, 2B, 3B, and LF). However, he plays none of those positions particularly well and has only logged 77 innings at second base since 2016. Descalso is another option, and has extensive experience at second base.

Starting Pitching

Top of the Market Options: Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel

Middle Tier Options: Nathan Eovaldi, J.A. Happ, Yusei Kikuchi, Anibal Sanchez

Cost-Conscious Options: Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, Ervin Santana

Although the Brewers have a plethora of rotation options already on the roster, if David Stearns finds the right fit at the right price he will pull the trigger. The Brewers probably will not be able to compete financially for Patrick Corbin, so he is likely out. Keuchel will also likely command too high of a salary. Happ and Eovaldi could each make sense at their price points (about $15 million annually), and the Brewers have been linked to Happ in the past. Eovaldi could also appeal to the front office given their emphasis on taking an analytical approach, as Eovaldi possesses some great peripherals.

Anibal Sanchez is an option the Brewers have been loosely connected to as well. Sanchez is coming off a phenomenal season that saw him post a 2.83 ERA and 8.89 K/9 over 24 games started for the Atlanta Braves. He developed a lethal cutter this season as his new go-to pitch while allowing the lowest rate of hard contact of any pitcher. Both of those are legitimate improvements, and should translate over to 2019. Sanchez will likely command a multi-year deal, but it could be a risk the Brewers are willing to take if they believe his 2018 successes were not a fluke

Of the cost-conscious options, Miley is the most likely option given the organization’s familiarity with him. Miley will likely seek a multi-year contract, so it is up in the air if the Brewers are willing to do that based on 80 innings pitched in 2018. Although he was successful in preventing runs (2.57 ERA), some of the peripherals point towards regression in 2019, such as a career low 5.58 strikeout rate and HR/FB (home run to fly ball) ratio of 5.2% that is sure to increase. Cahill fits the same profile as Miley, being a veteran option coming off a successful season but having somewhat hazy projections for how he will perform in 2019. The Brewers could also take a flier on a rebound candidate like Chris Tillman or Marco Estrada, much like they did with Miley last season.

Catcher

Top of the Market Options: Yasmani Grandal, Wilson Ramos

Middle Tier Options: Martin Maldonado

Cost-Conscious Options: AJ Ellis, Nick Hundley, Jonathan Lucroy

Other than Grandal and Ramos, the catching market is not very inspiring. I cannot think Grandal has left a good impression on the Brewers following his lackluster performance in the NLCS, and he likely is out of their price range anyways. Ramos could be an intriguing fit, as he would be a great offensive upgrade (.845 OPS in 2018) while not sacrificing much defensively from the current combination of Piña/Kratz. He will command a 3-4 year deal in the range of $10-12 million annually, so as with every other player, it depends on if the Brewers are willing to commit that much payroll space, especially to an older player with an injury history like Ramos.

Maldonado could be a fit, as he is still an outstanding defender but leaves much to be desired with the bat. He may not be a large enough upgrade over Kratz/Pina for the Brewers to make the move.

AJ Ellis could be an under-the-radar target, and he would likely welcome an opportunity to play in Wisconsin, where he trains during the offseason. He is coming off a surprising 2018 that saw him post strong numbers offensively. He recorded a 14.2% walk rate and a .378 on-base percentage en route to a 105 wRC+, which signifies that he was 5% better than the league average hitter. That’s quite the mark for a catcher in today’s game, where catchers that offer meaningful offensive contributions are hard to come by.

Relief Pitcher

Top of the Market Options: Zach Britton, Jeurys Familia, Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Miller, Adam Ottavino

Middle Tier Options: Cody Allen, Brad Brach, Joakim Soria

Cost-Conscious: Ryan Madson, Adam Warren

Given the bullpen’s already-strong core of Josh Hader, Corey Knebel, and Jeremy Jeffress, the Brewers are unlikely to look at the top of the market. All three options in the middle tier could be interesting. Allen may be the most interesting of all, as he is formerly an elite closer but experienced some troubles in 2018 en route to posting a 4.70 ERA. If the Brewers sign him and can iron out whatever issues exist, he could be a high-impact add.

With bullpen pieces, you really never know what the Brewers are going to do. They will likely take some fliers by signing players to minor league contracts to invites with spring training, much like they did with J.J. Hoover in 2018.

Brewers Offseason Outlook: Top 10 Prospects

The MLB offseason brings all kinds of speculation for Brewers fans. Who will be signed? Will any significant trades be made? How is the minor-league pipeline looking, and can any prospects fill holes on the roster? In this three-piece “Brewers Offseason Outlook” series, I will examine each of those three areas and try to provide answers and context.

First off, we will focus on the prospects. I am offering my personal organizational top-10, and will highlight the chances each has at contributing to the big-league club in 2019. Here we go:

  1. Marcos Diplan, RHP

A 22-year-old right hander from the Dominican Republic, Diplan has the potential to be a mid-rotation arm. His fastball and slider both flash plus potential, but “flash” is the key word there. He has battled inconsistency throughout the past two years, as his below average control had led him astray at times. He walked nearly six batters per nine innings in 2018, but was able to maintain a solid ERA of 4.03 while spending time in both Class A-Advanced and Double A. Diplan still has some ways to go before being major-league ready, but he has the chance to be a valuable piece to either the Brewers’ rotation or bullpen in the future. If we see him in 2019, it will almost certainly be in the bullpen.

2019 Contribution Potential: Low

  1. Jacob Nottingham, C

Nottingham came to the Brewers in David Stearns’ first offseason as the key prospect in the return for Khris Davis. Nottingham has evolved quite a bit as a prospect since then. His power bat was originally supposed to be his calling card to a big-league future, but he has now transformed into an all-around catcher that is more solid defensively than offensively. He has an above average arm that should help him adequately control potential base-stealers. At the plate, his power has yet to fully materialize, but he should be able to sustain a reasonable slash line for a catcher. With Erik Kratz hitting free agency, Nottingham could have an opportunity to step into a large role in 2019 should the Brewers not seek any outside catching help.

2019 Contribution Potential: High

  1. Joe Gray, OF

Gray was the Brewers’ second-round draft pick this past June. He carries a lot of similar traits to former Brewers prospect Monte Harrison, in that both were extremely raw skill-wise and athletically gifted upon being drafted. Gray had a tough time adjusting in rookie-ball after signing, hitting .182/.347/.325 in 24 games for the Arizona League Brewers. However, he possesses all the tools necessary to become a dynamic player at the big-league level. Gray’s development will certainly take time, but if all goes right he could be an athletic, middle-of-the-order outfielder.

2019 Contribution Potential: None

  1. Mauricio Dubon, SS/2B

Dubon was primed for a call-up in May of this year to help fix the Brewers’ middle infield struggles after he started the season hot in Triple A, hitting .343/.348/.574 through his first 27 games. Fate would have it differently, however, as Dubon suffered a season ending ACL tear that removed him from the Brewers’ immediate plans. Dubon offers versatility as a player that has the defensive skills to succeed at either second base or shortstop, while also providing a solid bat and above-average speed. Barring another injury, Dubon should be in Milwaukee at some point in 2019 as either a platoon infielder or bench piece, and could potentially make the Opening Day roster if he stands out in Spring Training.

2019 Contribution Potential: High

  1. Lucas Erceg, 3B

As the Brewers’ second-round draft pick in 2016, Erceg immediately impressed with his abilities at the plate, hitting .327/.376/.518 in his first professional season. His performance has been less impressive since, as he most recently produced a slash line of .248/.306/.382 with the Double A Biloxi Shuckers. Erceg offers potential above average power, and has an absolute cannon for an arm at third base. He also is fairly good at managing the strike zone, as he achieved a solid strikeout rate of 16%. Erceg will likely not be a significant contributor in 2019 due to Travis Shaw’s presence at third base, but could be added as a bench bat down the stretch if he heats up in the minors, or if an injury bug hits the Brewers’ infielder core.

2019 Contribution Potential: Medium

  1. Tristen Lutz, OF

After being a supplemental first-round pick for the Brewers in 2017, Lutz impressed in his first full season in 2018. After a slow start, Lutz went on to hit .263/.346/.456 in the second half, performing especially well in the month of July when he posted a .967 OPS. Lutz profiles as a prototypical power-hitting right fielder, where he can utilize his plus arm strength in the field and slot in as a middle-of-the-order bat. Lutz is a prospect that could potentially take off in 2019 if everything comes together, and he possesses one of the highest ceilings in the system. Lutz doesn’t look to have a chance to factor in for the Crew in 2019 given the amount of development still needed, with the most likely way he contributes being as a trade chip.

2019 Contribution Potential: None

  1. Zack Brown, RHP

After quietly putting up two nice campaigns following being drafted as a fifth-rounder in 2016, Brown burst onto the scene in 2018 with his elite performance, pitching to a 2.44 ERA and a 9-1 record in 21 games started. Brown relies on an above-average fastball/curveball combo, with his changeup acting a reliable third offering. Brown has at times been marked down for having inconsistent command, but that did not appear to be too large of an issue in 2018 as he posted a 2.58 BB/9 ratio. Brown strikes out hitters enough to be an effective starter at the next level (8.31 K/9), and profiles as a mid-rotation workhorse at the next level. Brown could potentially contribute in the rotation in 2019 if his performance or an injury to a starter warrants it, but he is more likely to play a role as a high leverage middle reliever like Corbin Burnes did this year. If he performs well in Triple-A, expect him to be available for a call-up sometime in June.

2019 Contribution Potential: High

  1. Brice Turang, SS

After being lauded as the potential first overall pick in the 2018 draft for multiple years, scouts cooled off somewhat on Turang as a high school senior, causing him to fall to the Brewers’ first round selection at number 21. Turang grades out as at least above-average across the board in every category except for his power, which is currently below-average but could improve as he fills out his frame. Turang is extremely fluid in the field, making the likelihood he sticks at shortstop long-term very high. He certainly could also play second base if needed, and could even make a shift to centerfield given his arm strength and speed. Turang displayed an advanced hitting approach in his first taste of professional baseball, walking 16% of the time and keeping his strikeout rate below 20%. While his slash line of .283/.396/.352 shows the lack of power currently present, it should be viewed with optimism that he possesses such solid on-base skills, with increases in the power department serving merely as complements to this already considerable strength of his. Turang will not contribute in 2019, but could be a special player for the Crew in the future.

2019 Contribution Potential: None

  1. Corey Ray, OF

Ray came to Milwaukee with sky-high expectations as the fifth overall selection in the 2016 draft. As an athletic outfielder with great physical tools, Ray was expected to be a potential franchise cornerstone that could move quickly through the minor leagues. Two uninspiring seasons in the minors put some of that hype to rest, but a resurgent 2018 campaign added some fuel back to the fire. Ray greatly increased his power output, hitting 27 home runs and posting a .477 slugging percentage. He also proved his value as a threat on the bases, stealing 37 of them. However, he did display some swing and miss concerns, striking out nearly 30% of the time and hitting for an overall average of .239. Those numbers will need to improve for Ray to reach his ceiling, but he is an exciting prospect that could definitely provide value as a fourth outfielder or bench bat in 2019.

2019 Contribution Potential: Medium

  1. Keston Hiura, 2B

Regarded by all as the jewel of the Brewers system, Hiura offers an offensive ceiling that is among the best in all of baseball. It is topped amongst prospects perhaps only by Vlad Guerrero Jr., who has been dubbed as a generational hitting talent. Hiura put his offensive chops on full display in 2017 following his selection as the Brewers’ first round pick, hitting .371/.422/.611 across two levels of the minor leagues. He followed that up with a strong 2018 campaign in which he hit .293/.357/.464, and augmented this success by winning the MVP in the Arizona Fall League with a .323/.371/.563 slash that included 5 home runs and 33 RBI in just 23 games. This is a huge accomplishment, as most teams send their top prospects to the Arizona Fall League. While Hiura is considered elite at the plate, he still has some work to do on his second base defense, but this was to be expected considering the arm issues he had experienced in the past. With a second base hole looming on the major-league roster right now, many Brewers fan will be clamoring for Hiura to start the season in the lineup. Due to the Brewers wanting to delay the start of his major-league service time clock, and not to mention wanting to give him extra seasoning before facing major league pitching, Hiura will likely start the season in the minor leagues, but it would not be a surprise if he takes over the second base job at some point during the 2019 campaign.

2019 Contribution Potential: High

The Brewers Won the Christian Yelich Trade Before the Season Started

The name of the game for small market teams like Milwaukee and Miami, is to build a team with young controllable talent. The Brewers have had success with that strategy with guys like Orlando Arcia, Corbin Burnes, and Josh Hader.

They also found it with a small trade you might of heard of, The trade for then Miami outfielder Christian Yelich in January. This isn’t going to be an article saying “We all saw this MVP year coming.” Truth is no one saw a season like this coming. When you look at his stat progression over the years however, the Marlins blundered in a HUGE way!

My first confusion with this trade is from the Marlins side. Why didn’t they build the team around Yelich? Like I said before, small market teams are built around young controllable talent. Yelich, at the time, was a 26 year old up and coming outfielder who was controllable for many years, on a team friendly contract. WHY DIDN’T THEY BUILD THEIR TEAM AROUND HIM?

I really don’t understand the thought process. From trades of Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, they received a boatload of talented prospects with bright futures. The idea of using Yelich as a backbone, with players like that progressing in the minors, is a scary thought. Think of how the Brewers used Braun as a backbone as they progressed through a rebuild. That one kind of worked out for the Brewers.

The second and most prominent point is Yelich’s stat progression. Since he has come up to the big leagues his linear progression is very impressive. Down below are graphs representing his growth over the years. These graphs do not include this past season for further proof that Yelich was progressing to be a star before his MVP season. In both wOBA and WAR he has a steep slope going in the right direction. I won’t go into the math and process behind it, mostly because I don’t want to bore you. However, using this gives you a great look visually on a players progression.

                               

This first set of graphs are representing Yelich’s War (wins above replacement) from the ages of 21-25. The first graph is year by year plotted out. You can see that there is quite a few ups and downs and doesn’t give you a full picture. This is where the second graph comes into play. Think of it as averaging the ups and downs to a straight line. As you can see this line goes by a steep positive slope, which shows rapid improvement overall, year by year.

             

The next graphs show wOBA (weighted on base average- similar to OPS but OBP is worth 1.8 times more than SLG). wOBA is one of my favorite stats and I think can be the most telling. Like before the first graph shows the raw plotted out data, while the second shows the average line. The second line may not be the most exciting to look at or as visually appealing as the first data set, however, it is just as good. Since wOBA is a decimal stat, the values aren’t as big as WAR. When you zoom in you can see that it is another flourishing positive incline.

Although using graphs may tap into my baseball geekiness, they are still a great representation of a players progression. Using graphs in the argument  proves that Yelich was growing into star potential. Even though no one saw it coming this quick, it was to be expected at some point. David Stearns has mentioned that Yelich is a player that he  kept his eye on since taking over the GM position. Even without a breakout season like 2018, Yelich proved to be an impact player, and explains why Stearns kept his eye on him.

Again bringing us back to the initial point of this piece. Why did the Marlins trade away a gem in Yelich? Maybe it was the intriguing prospect haul that was given in return, which is another story in itself. Anyways, it is crystal clear that Yelich would have been an impact player anywhere. I still don’t quite understand why he wasn’t a base for a rebuild, being the type of player with his contract. Yet, I think Brewers’ fans are happy it happened the way it did. As Billy Beane would say, “When your enemy’s making a mistake, don’t interrupt them.”

The Brewers Should Trade For J.T. Realmuto

J.T. Realmuto was the best catcher in the MLB last season. He was one of the only bright spots on a horrible Miami Marlins team. Last year, Realmuto played in 125 games and had a .277 batting average with 21 homers. Also, he had a .340 on-base percentage, a .484 slugging percentage, 74 runs batted in, 30 doubles, and 3 triples. Another remarkable stat was that J.T. had an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .825 while the league average for catchers was .678. His great year at the plate allowed him to lead all catchers in wins above replacement with the second place guy over a game behind him. Realmuto is just entering his prime as he will be turning 28 years old next season and is coming off his first All-Star game. It has been publicly known that J.T. wants out of Miami and his agent has made it clear, he will not sign an extension after the next 2 years of his contract are up.

(Photo via Eric Espada, Getty Images)

The Milwaukee Brewers had a stellar 2018 campaign but a team can always get better. Adding Realmuto behind the plate would be an upgrade from last year’s Manny Pina and Erik Kratz. Together Pina and Kratz combined for 165 game appearances, a .244 batting average, and a .294 on-base percentage. They also combined for a .375 slugging percentage with 15 homers, 51 runs batted in, 19 doubles, and 2 triples. These numbers are fine but Realmuto eclipsed them by himself in less games. Sure, Kratz became a fan-favorite and Pina has a rocket for an arm but there is no denying J.T. can add another dynamic element to Milwaukee’s lineup. Barstool Sports baseball analyst, Jared Carrabis, believes the Brewers should have Realmuto as one of their number one targets this off-season. I agree, J.T. Realmuto is a great catcher entering his prime, there is no reason the Brewers should not make an offer

After an outstanding season where the Brewers made the National League Championship, they only have one place to go. The World Series. Of course, the Brewers would have to get rid of a few top prospects in order to land Realmuto. However, the window for championships are small and the Brewers are just entering theirs. Now is the time to capitalize. Other teams like the Phillies, Braves, Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers have been thrown into the Realmuto mix so Milwaukee will have to make a tantalizing offer. Top prospects like Keston Hiura, Marcos Diplan, Peyton Henry, Zack Brown, and Jacob Nottingham are a few of the names people can expect to hear if the Brewers are going to go after the All-Star catcher. Any package would have to definitely include Hiura and one of the pitchers like Diplan or Brown. Milwaukee hasn’t had a dynamic player behind the dish since Jonathan Lucroy in 2014 and adding Realmuto would make the Brewers favorites in the National League. So please David Stearns, work your magic and go after J.T. Realmuto.

The Voices of Wisconsin Sports: Dario Melendez

He may be the “new guy on the block” but Dario Melendez has already become a fan favorite. Dario joined Fox Sports Wisconsin in March of this year. His coverage of the Milwaukee Brewers has been nothing short of fantastic. Alongside Jerry Augustine, Brewers Live quickly became one of the more entertaining parts of the Brewers broadcasts.

He joined the Fox Sports Wisconsin team at the right time. 2018 was one of, if not the best, seasons ever for a Milwaukee Brewers team. Now, he gets to cover the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks have been on the rise for the last couple of seasons as we all know, and now, Dario Melendez will bring Bucks coverage to Wisconsin sports fans on Fox Sports Wisconsin as well.

I was fortunate enough to sit down with Dario.

Kyle Hoffenbecker: How did you get involved in journalism and ultimately sports journalism?

Dario Melendez: I was always involved in sports. I was blessed to receive a scholarship from Sacred Heart University to play football. I always had aspirations to play in the NFL but once I realized that wasn’t going to happen, I wanted to find a career where I could still be active in sports. I ultimately channeled my energy into journalism. This career is not for someone who won’t work hard. Participating in sports helped give me that work ethic to succeed in this business.

KH: What led you to work for Fox Sports Wisconsin?

DM: After I graduated from Sacred Heart, I traveled down to Fort Myers, Florida to be a part-time producer for a TV station. From there I’ve worked for ESPN, Fox Sports Radio in the Fort Myers area, WISN in Milwaukee, and New York 1 News. I came back to work for Fox Sports Wisconsin because I was familiar with the area after working for WISN.

KH: What is your favorite part about your job? Also, what is your favorite memory from the business?

DM:  I loved working in Fort Myers right after I got out of college. After working all day, everyone would go out and party at night. I was making about $13,000 at the time, so I was living off of 7-11 and Little Caesar’s pizza too. It wasn’t glamorous but it was definitely a fun time.

KH: You interact with fans a lot on social media. Is that something you have always done in your career? Or is that something you have started to do recently?

DM: I’ve always interacted with fans throughout my career. Social media has allowed me to do it more often than ever before, but I’ve always done it. I’m fascinated by how curious fans are in the information I give them. I’m always interested in what fans have to say as well. One thing I have to watch out for is internet trolls, though. I’ve encountered my fair share of them over the years.

KH: What is the coolest sports event you’ve ever been able to cover?

DM: When I was working for WISN, I was able to cover the Packers 2010 Super Bowl run. I was fortunate enough to travel with the team to Dallas to watch them win the Super Bowl. In Fort Myers, I covered the Super Bowl when it was in Miami and Tampa Bay, but I never covered a specific team in the Super Bowl.

KH: You mentioned earlier that you worked for ESPN. What was it like working there?

DM: ESPN was a huge part in my career. I met my wife at ESPN. One of the coolest things ESPN does for its on-air talent is provide classes that help you improve as a broadcaster. I took advantage of those optional classes and use the advice I learned in my work today.

KH: One of my favorite moments from the Milwaukee Brewers season was the 12-game win streak. For those who may not know, you wore zip-tie cufflinks for every game during that stretch. How did that all start?

DM: It was actually a brain fart on my end. I normally don’t wear cuffed shirts, but I decided to wear a one for a Brewers/Pirates game one day. I forgot cufflinks for the shirt, so I had to scrounge around the Fox Sports Wisconsin studios looking for something that I could use instead of cufflinks. I tried paper clips, but those didn’t work. I eventually found some zip-ties and they just happened to work.

KH: What made you keep wearing them? I’m sure the zip-ties weren’t the most comfortable thing to have on.

DM: The Brewers were going through a rough stretch at the time. They were five games or so back in the NL Central race and they were barely hanging onto a wild card spot, after they won that game, the inner athlete came out in me. I was superstitious as an athlete and I became superstitious with the zip-ties. I didn’t mention it to anyone until the Brewers swept the Cardinals to earn a playoff berth for the first time since 2011. The Brewers kept winning, so I kept wearing them!

Why Keeping Josh Hader in the Bullpen Makes Perfect Sense

Another offseason, another six months of controversy surrounding the Brewers’ usage of Josh Hader. It has pretty much become tradition at this point, right?

Although Craig Counsell seemingly put the issue to rest in his post-season press conference, I anticipate that Twitter and the Brewers’ Facebook comments thread will be filled with fans vouching for Hader to be inserted into the starting rotation. Hopefully, this article changes their minds and illustrates the vital impact that Hader has as an elite “fireman” out of the bullpen.

What is a “fireman”, you may ask? A fireman is a reliever utilized in high leverage situations regardless of the inning, often pitching multiple innings if needed. I was introduced to the concept in Brian Kenny’s book “Ahead of the Curve”, and it fits Josh Hader’s role perfectly.

The Brewers typically save Hader for situations with the Brewers holding a close lead, and insert Hader to shut down the opposing team’s lineup. This could occur in the 5th inning, or the 9th inning, or the 3rd inning as we saw in the NLCS. The point is, Hader pitches when it matters most, allowing the Brewers to maximize on his utilization. He is a true fireman, getting the Brewers out of the most desperate of situations.

Using Hader in this manner has allowed him to significantly impact the Brewers’ chances of winning in nearly every appearance. Fangraphs tracks a statistic called “Win Probability Added”, which is described as follows:

“WPA captures the change in Win Expectancy from one plate appearance to the next and credits or debits the player based on how much their action increased their team’s odds of winning.” (link for further reading, if interested).

One important take away from this definition is that the statistic is not context neutral. With ERA, all runs are created equal. A run given up in the 9th inning of a tie game is counted in the exact same way as a run given up in the 5th inning of a blowout. WPA, however, tracks the change in win probability which resulted from that run being given up, which would be a large decrease in the case of a 9th inning tie and only a marginal one in the case of a 5th inning blowout. This makes success in high leverage situations much more valuable, which better reflects the realities of player performance.

So, how does this relate to Hader? Well, as a relief pitcher, Josh Hader achieved the 13th best WPA of all pitchers in 2018 (for those wondering, Jeremy Jeffress finished 5th).  In fact, Hader finished ahead of elite starters such as Gerrit Cole, Mike Foltynewicz, Patrick Corbin, Zack Greinke, and many, many more. Of the 12 names ahead of Hader, 9 are starting pitchers. To emphasize: only 9 starting pitchers impacted their team’s chances of winning as much as Hader did for the Brewers.

By performing at the level that he does in the situations the Brewers place him, Hader affects the Brewers chances of winning much more as a reliever than he could as a starter. As big of a Hader fan as I am, I do not think that he would perform well enough in a starting role to place him in a WPA position that is better than all but 9 starters in the league. While he certainly would be an effective and valuable starter, he would not provide the same high leverage utility that he does in his current fireman role.

The beauty of Hader as a fireman is that the Brewers get to pick the spots where he can most impact their chances of winning. Should he be a starter, the Brewers could essentially waste his shutdown innings if they take a large early lead, say 6-0 after 2 innings. While Hader would still be providing value in the form of putting zeroes on the board, he would not be changing the Brewers’ probabilistic outcome of a victory as much as if they saved him for a one-run game in the 8th inning the next day.

The Brewers’ usage of Hader is not “traditional”. It is not how the game is “supposed to be played”, at least according to several analysts (looking at you David Ortiz, John Smoltz, and Alex Rodriguez). However, there should be no arguing with its effectiveness, and all of Brewers’ Nation should applaud Craig Counsell’s willingness to adapt cutting edge, analytical strategies like this one that put the team in the best position to succeed.

Hey Brewer Fans, Settle Down with your Jeremy Jeffress Takes

Oct 5, 2018; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Jeremy Jeffress (32) celebrates after defeating the Colorado Rockies in game two of the 2018 NLDS playoff baseball series at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Last Saturday night, the Milwaukee Brewers lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 of the NLCS, 5-1. In the 6th inning Brewer reliever, Jeremy Jeffress, came into the game when the Brewers were down, 2-1. With 2 runner on, Jeffress delivered a pitch to Yasiel Puig that was hit over the fence in deep center field. This homer gave the Dodgers the 5-1 lead they used to close out the game. After this 6th inning and days after, many Brewer fans have been unfairly critical of Jeffress after he had a rough postseason. People have been saying he should have never been in Game 7, and are saying he should be released or traded. Seriously, I have seen these kind of takes all over social media.

Do these fans not realize how GREAT Jeffress was this year? Do these fans understand baseball at all?

Jeremy Jeffress was the Crew’s number one option out of the bullpen for the entire regular season. He was tied for 11th in the league in games appeared in for a relief pitcher (only 2 of the pitchers that appeared in more games, had more innings pitched than Jeffress). He was 8-1 with a 1.29 ERA in 76.2 innings. He only gave up 11 earned runs all year. I REPEAT, 11! The only reliever that played the whole season who had a better ERA than Jeffress was Oakland’s, Blake Treinen, who pitched 80.1 innings and had a 0.78 ERA. Jeremy Jeffress also added 89 strikeouts (10.4 strikeouts per 9) with only 27 walks throughout the entire season. These stats combined to give Jeffress an outstanding 3.4 WAR. He was always there for the Brew Crew to shut the door on opposing teams. He ended up with 24 games finished and 15 saves.

Jeremy Jeffress celebrating in his usual way. (Photo via Benny Sieu, USA Today)

Jeffress made the All-Star game this year along with teammates Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Jesus Aguilar, and Josh Hader. Speaking of Hader, Jeffress had a better win percentage, more games pitched in, and a better ERA than him. However, it is usually Hader who Brewer fans think of instead of Jeffress when talking about the bullpen. After the All-Star game, when the division race was getting closer, Jeffress performed at his best. He had a 1.21 ERA in 29.2 innings and even converted 12/14 saves.

A reliever hasn’t had a better season for the Brewers since John Axford in 2011. Without Jeremy Jeffress the Brewers would not have been in a position to win the division and make a deep run in the playoffs. So calm down angry Brewer fans, the Crew will be back next year and fans should consider themselves lucky to watch a dominant player like Jeffress.

 

 

*All stats according to baseball-reference.com*

*Featured Image via Benny Sieu, USA Today*