Back From the Dead

Alright, well a lots happened since my last post, so let’s get knee deep in this thing.

Carlos "I love Milwaukee, but not in that way" Lee is gone to Texas in return for Outfielders Kevin Mench and Lance Nix and closer-turned releiver Francisco Cordero. Jorge de La Rosa went, thankfully, to Kansas City for Tony Graffanio and a minor league pitcher was sent to Phillidelphia for David Bell.

Minutes after hearing of the Lee trade I was somewhere between irate and flabbergasted, positive that we could have gotten more for Lee and couldn’t believe that our Crew would let him go. This of course gave way to a more logical and cooler head once I had to time to go over it and then find out more information once I got home. Almost a month later, there is no doubt in my mind that this trade paid off, both for the interim and in the long run. Cordero, in my mind, was a god send. He’s saved nine games so far and looks to have exercised any demons he had as a closer back in April. And I like the promise for next year of having, hopefully, a mentally healed Turnbow as a setup man for Cordero. Mench and especially Nix, were for all intense and purposes, throw-ins. We needed another outfielder who was major league ready and got that in the oversized Mench. He’s handled the bat well on the season but has been spotty since his arrival in Milwaukee. Much of that, however, can be attributed to his switching leagues. He’s, no doubt, a better outfielder then Lee, but obviously doesn’t provide the same pop with his bat. Nix has shown great promise in AAA Nashville and went 1 for 4 today in his first game with the Brewers, and against Roger Clemens, no less. His offense was supposed to be his question mark so if he can continue to improve that, there’s another outfield spot covered.

Graffanino and Bell were basically washouts, I think. We gave up little to get them so anything they provide will be gravy…and gravy they’ve been. Graffanino’s hitting .333 since joining the Crew, plus 11 doubles (which I believe is tops on the club in that span) and a solid 2B. Bell on the other hand has only provided a nominal bat, aside from a few outstanding games, but his defense has been very impressive. Both were huge additions for the club after losing Weeks for the season and we might as well cross Koskie off the list too. It is at this point that I have vested full faith into Doug Melvin (when was the last time he made a trade that didn’t pay dividends in one way or another).

As a team we, as No. 3 put it, "Find some traction." Like the Brewers of old, we can’t seem to find a way to bring our pitching and hitting together for any length of time. Our bullpen is second in the National League in ERA, but our bats have been dead. And I don’t think we can completely attribute that to the loss of Lee because he was cold when he left. We’ve yet to go on a real run at all this season and we’re usually good for one 7 or 8 game winning streak a season, so hopefully that’ll happen soon. Five games out from the Wild Card in mid-August, isn’t a bad place to be. It could be worse; we could still be in the AL East.

In the end, I think the trades made this year at the deadline were all good ones. True, we don’t have the explosive bat of Lee anymore, but we don’t have his below average glove either. No one would plays that poor of defense and lack of hustle, regardless of his offensive numbers, is worth 70 mil. It’d be great if we were in in the AL, but alas, we aren’t so it’s good we dealt him. Now, not only does that free up money, but now we don’t have to worry about that all-important lynch pin. If Lee would have gotten hurt or got into another second half long slump, we’d be screwed. At least this way, we have a couple of other good players to rely on instead of just one. It’s how Oakland and Minnesota built up they’re playoff-caliber teams and it’s the way we’re going to have to do it as well.

I hate hearing "next year" as much as any other Brewer fan, but I sincerely believe that next year could be the year we make a run at a playoff spot. We’re not completely out of it yet this year, but with a healthy Hardy and Weeks and if Hall can manage his strikeouts more we’ll have a very good infield. And if we can send off Jenkins or Clark for pitching, we’ll have a good pool to pull from for the outfield with Cory Hart, Tony Gywnn Jr., Gross, Mench and Nix (if we do decide to keep the latter two). And if we do keep Jenkins, hopefully he can get over his leg kick and fix his swing for good. I think it’s going to be tough to find someone that’s willing to take over his salary though, other than Boston or the Yankees.

So with an eye to the future and a ear on the present, hopefully we can take a good run into September and at least get close to the Wild Card race and have some good momentum to build on for next year. I’ll be on here for the rest of the season and can’t wait for ’07.


More Trade Talk

Ok, final one for sure…

Another thing the guys on the post game show brought was the fact that GM Doug Melvin said in the paper today something to the effect of needing to figure what needs we had and where they were. They thought this was a joke of a statement and I kind of have to agree with them. I think it’s pretty obvious where our weakness are. We need an outfielder; Clark has to go. Don’t get me wrong, I like Clark and was really behind the idea that he could turn this season around in April and May, but enough is enough. We also need an outfielder to put in right that can even moderately hit lefties to complement Jenkins. We need infielders to add back to our depth. The Brewers have they’re infield of the future and I’m completely behind them but they need someone to use in a part-time role to give time off for Hall and Weeks, now with Hardy’s chances not so good. And then finally the most obvious is pitching. Pitching, pitching, pitching. Some seem to think that our pitching is coming around and we’ll be getting Sheets and Ohka back and we’ll be alright if they can return to old and, in the case of Sheets, healthy form. This is true, Sheets and Ohka will make an impact, I think, in the second half. But the old adage holds true that you can never have too much pitching (see: May/June/July ’06). Imagine if you will : No. 2 – Capuano, No. 3 – Sheets No. 4 – Ohka, No. 5 – Bush. No.1? No one is going to trade away an ace without severe compensation and I don’t think we can compete with that regardless of how deep our farm system is. But two pitchers that I really like that will more than likely be available in the off-season are Jason Shimdt of the Giants and Oakland’s Barry Zito. Now I’m partial to Zito because I’ve always liked him and I’ve also been an A’s fan since I was a kid. But can you imagine that rotation? Zito/Shimdt. Capuano. Sheets. Ohka. Bush. Game-set-match. 2007, here we come. No lead is safe. You can even switch Cappy and Sheets if you want. Either way it’s a winner. Pitching wins you championships. The ’05 White Sox and ’04 Red Sox proved that.

A Turn Around and another Rumor

Alright, this is going to be my last post today, I swear to God…

First up, the Crew pulled together a 10-5 victory over the Diamondbacks. Things started to come apart just a little bit in the middle, but overall a win is a win and after losing five straight any win is like winning the pennant. Ok, maybe not that much, but it was still big. There’s plenty to be positive about. Dave Bush hit yet another double (3 on the year) and this one scored a runner. Jenkins hit his second homerun since late May and Corey Hart hit his first of the season. Prince Fielder hit a first pitch knock 420 feet to straightaway center to tie Greg Vaughn’s (another personal favorite) record of most homeruns in a year by a rookie with 17. So some positive things happened. They still gave up 5 runs, but the dormant offense finally awoke like a beast and hopefully they won’t look back.

The rumor concerns CF Juan Pierre of the Cubs. Now this isn’t really a rumor, per se, because I haven’t heard any word from anywhere that the Brewers showed any interest picking up Pierre or that the Cubs were interested in shopping him. During the post-game on AM 1250 WSSP in Milwaukee, the guys on the Tim Allen show brought up the idea of who we could get from the Cubs. They deemed only two players untouchable : Carlos Zambrano and Derek Lee. The other two, Aramis Rameriez and Juan Pierre, could be had for the right price. One of them (I don’t know who’s who because I don’t listen too often) proposed that if we would propose a trade for Pierre, who would we put up and would the Cubs go for it? They offered Brady Clark, Corey Hart and Ben Hendrickson/other minor league pitcher. I think this could work. Last season and the first half of this season aside, Pierre is an excellent baserunner with speed to burn and a very good contact leader and run scorer. He also is solid in the outfield as he has yet to commit a single error this year in 197 chances. The cubs would get a climbing Brady Clark who himself is a solid defender, a hot rookie with plenty of potential in Hart and a pitcher who has put up solid minor league numbers and could turn into a good major league pitcher given the right guidance. Pierre would be a good addition for us and would easily solve the lead off problem in the long term. Put Rickie or J.J. (next year by the looks of it) behind him and you’ve got a pretty good 1-2 punch to set up Jenkins, Lee and Fielder. I think this would actually work out better than Maddux. Even better would be the two of them. Then of course, being who it is, I hope we pull of a deal for Maddux and Pierre and Clark, Hendrickson, Eveland, whoever we give them completely flops and crushes their feeble spirits again.

Speaking of Cubbie torture, the small bears took a 5-2 lead into the top of the sixth only to see it cut up, gutted and thrown back in their face as the Mighty Mets put up an 11 spot (no that’s not a misprint) in the sixth on the strength of two, yes two, grand slams by Cliff Floyd and Carlos Beltran. The last time two grand slams were hit in the same game was by Fernando Tatis for the Cardinals in 1999. Floyd also had another shot in the fourth and Wright added to his total with a two-run shot of his own, also in the sixth. Here’s to all the failure in the world to the team we love to hate.

Notes of the Day

This is something that I’d like to start doing. Just a few tidbits here and there that wouldn’t necessarily make up an entire post….

–   Hardy_1Bob Uecker just was talking about SS J.J. Hardy and it sounds like the future is bleak for our young Robin Yount-reincarnate. He’s still having problems with the tendon in his ankle popping out and is going to Los Angeles for a second opinion. It sounds like he’s gonna need surgery sooner than later and will probably be lost for the rest of the season. If that’s the case, we’re in dire straits because we really could use his defense. The Crew’s defense has gotten markedly better in the past month or so, especially that of Rickie Weeks, but any day you can have Hardy’s glove on the left side is a good day. Hopefully the surgery can correct the problem and he’ll be 100 percent for next year.

Uecker Speaking of Mr. Baseball; is it just me or does it sounds like Uecker might suffer from a split-personality? They say there’s someone named "Jim Powell" on the show with him but they sound so damned similar, I have to wonder if Bob is just talking to himself. Maybe this is just his way of using a pseudonym so he can get all the air time…

Jenkins For those critcs of Jenks that are more than willing to point out his power shortage and underscore his third place ranking in the NL in strikeouts, chew on this for a second (team ranking in parentheses) : he’s hitting .318 (2), 7 doubles (1), 3 homeruns (3) and 44 RBI (2) and .517 SLG (3) with runners in scoring position. With just runners on he’s hitting .287 (5)/ 8 (3)/ 5 (3)/ 48 (2) /.488 (4). He’s also in first for all of these categories with RISP and 2 outs with a line of .375/4/2/20/.688. He’s also hitting .309/19/7/45/.473 against righties. I happen to be a stats man, so these a pretty big numbers in my eyes and show his presence on the team. I think the bigger question isn’t whether or not he’s earning his keep, but more whether or not Yost is using him in the best of situations. Jenkins is hitting a miserable .123 against lefties. Solution? Sit him against left handed starters and pray against relievers. Put Hart in RF. He’s hitting .286 against southpaws. While this isn’t great, it’s the best we’ve got. And that’s in only 28 AB. Gross has yet to get a hit in 15 AB and the other than Lee no other outfielder is doing any better unless you count Hall who did a good job in center eariler in the season.

– C Chad Moeller caught the combined no-hitter at AAA-Nashville Saturday night. While this isn’t that big of a surprise because he was always known for his solid defense then his Mendoza-line chasing offense, it will hopefully be the beginning of good things for him as we could use his glove down the stretch. Hopefully his added AB’s will stregthen his confidence and batting average and can come up later in the year if the race is tight.

– I think I just threw up a little bit. Going through the strikeout leaders in the NL I’ve found that 3 Brewers (Jenks, Hall and Weeks) are in the top 10 for strikeouts and Fielder is 13th. That’s somewhat unsettling, I think. True Adam "K Machine" Dunn, Ryan "HR Derby Champ" Howard and Alfonso "LF works" Soriano are also in the top 10, but when you’re hitting or at least close to 30 long balls, I think you’re given a little leeway. This is definately something that these guys need to work on….

Abreu with Brew Crew?’s Rumor Central reports that the Brewers organization has inquired the Phillies about what it would take to obtain RF Bobby Abreu. If you suspend reality for just a second and convince yourself that Abreu would actually lift his no-trade clause becuase he’s been overwhelmed by a sudden affliction for Mil-Town, Bobby would be an interesting fit in RF. Personally it would mean seeing Geoff Jenkins (a pesonal favorite) take a permanent squat on the bench. And, honestly, I don’t think it would help all that much. His numbers haven’t completely overshadowed those of Jenkins for one. Abreu is hitting better by around 20 points and has (as of 3:52 CST) one less homerun and only seven more RBI. Plus, I think Jenkins is a better outfielder by comparison. True, Abreu hit a record 26 homeruns in the first round of the derby last year, but has done squat since. At this point, this year, the Crew would be buying more of a name than an actual run producer. That aside we’d never be able to compete, financially, with the likes of the Mets and Tigers. And I don’t think God himself could out-bid George Inc. We’d be better off going for someone like Greg Maddux, who has been the subject of more serious trade rumors for the Crew. While he hasn’t been exactly blowing batters away this season, he has never faired very well in Chicago and the change of scenery might do him some good. We could use his vetern, gold-glove, playoff/world series leadership and it doesn’t hurt that his brother happens to be our pitching coach. As long as we don’t give up Carlos Lee in order to get him, I think he’d be worth taking a serious run at. In any case, the Abreu rumor at least shows that the GM Doug Melvin is serious about trying to keep this team in the thick of the Wild Card race.

Stumbling Out of the Gate

If there were ever a time when the Brewers needed to prove to the rest of the division they were serious about contending for the wild card, this is the trip to do it. They had the opportunity to turn around their horrid luck on the road and failed miserabley.

Only two games into the second half, questions are already starting to pop up about the validity of this team. First of all, what in God’s name did Derrick Turnbow eat, drink, step in, go, or do to completely lose any semblence of the all-star caliber performance he put on in April. In his past five games T-Bow has blown three saves and posted an ERA somewhere north of the Yukon (34.71). Just as distrubing is the fact that he’s gotten only one – count ’em : one – strike out during that time.

"Major-league hitters can hit a 98-mph fastball if it’s up and over the plate," Manager Ned Yost said in the Journal-Sentinel today. "They do try to ambush it. When you ambush and you get pitches right down the middle, over the plate, you’re going to hit them."

This becomes quite the problem considering the fastball used to be not only his trademark pitch, but also the most often one that he relied on. Now that hitters and scouting reports begin to adjust to his heat, Turnbow has had to work more on controlling his slider. This has turned into a large X-Factor due to the fact that whene he has it working, hitters chase it out of the zone when used after his fastball. But when it’s not on, he’s getting burned. He seriously needs to pull his head out of whatever dark and damp area he’s shoved it in.

Another continuing problem is getting the pitching and hitting to go on good streaks at the same time. Earlier in the season the Crew were demolishing long balls and over all had a very good team batting average. The pitching was horrid, in large part due to the inconsistency and loss of Ben Sheets and loss of Tomo Ohka, but the bats were able to keep them in games. Then in June Prince Fielder started cooling off, Bill Hall began striking out more, Jenkins was Jenkins and the meltdown began. The bullpen improved but not nearly enough to keep the team in games.

And now with the second half in full swing, we’re seeing more of the same thing. Turnbow blew yet another save Friday night and the D-Backs blew Cappuano, one of our few success stories of the year, clear out of the water. If the Brewers can win this afternoon and avoid the sweep the team’s entire first half will have been symoblized in one series. Blown save, blown away, win.

We need Sheets. We need Ohka. We really need J.J. And we need them more than Aaron Rowand needs a padded wall.

Can We Get a Hand?

For the first time in (my) recent memory, July 31 will actually mean something to the Brewers and their fans.  They’re in contention in the NL Central and Wild Card races and can be on the buying side instead of the selling side for a change. The big wild card is, of course, slugger Carlos Lee sitting on the final year of a two year contract. Brewers management have been saying all season that if the Brewers are sill in contention once the deadline approaches, they’ll have no reason to trade Lee. Owner Mark Attanasio has also reportedly said that cost will not be an issue in trade negotiations this summer. He is willing to spend the money on starting pitching  should the ability arise. The Catch-22 is that the only teams that have any quality pitchers are those already in a race for their respective leagues, so they have no need to trade them away. Even if they did, the would command such huge compensation that it wouldn’t be worth the effort. The only pitchers I could see us getting, with money not being an option, are Barry Zito and Dontrelle Willis. Zito is also in the final year of his contract and A’s GM Billy Beane has said that they don’t want to renew his contract at the end of the year so they’re looking to get compensation for him now instead of simply losing him to free agency later on. I say that this is a possiblity for the Brewers because the Beane isn’t interested in high priced players (which is why they’re letting go of Zito in the first place). His Moneyball philosophy of building up younger players through the farm system with prospects can be beneficial to the Brewers since we have so many in the works. We might be able to get away with dealing someone like Corey Hart or Tony Gwynn Jr. and still keep Lee. I haven’t heard anything confirming this though and trade rumors have begun to die down since Zito’s been performing better as of late.

Willis could also be a possibility since the Marlins, with the exception of their recent surge, are well out of any playoff race. The trouble though is that their roster is already chock full of young players and I’d doubt that they’d be willing to take anymore from us. Plus, I don’t think a straight Lee for Willis trade would be worth it.

The latest trade rumor is a trade for Greg Maddux of the Cubs. While this would be good for us, it depends on what they ask for him. Maddux is a future Hall of Famer, and has vetern know-how in the playoffs, but is having a bad first half after starting 5-0. It’s not just a lack of run support either as his ERA is a very non-Hall-of-Famer-like 4.89. It’s widely known that the Cubs hold Lee in high regard because of the way he dominates Wrigley Field. The problem for them is that they don’t have anyone worth giving up of the caliber of Lee except Derek Lee, but that would basically be a washout so that wouldn’t make sense. I’d be willing to part with someone like Brady Clark or Gabe Gross and Zach Jackson for Maddux (or some variation of), but Carlos can’t be anyway involved in the decision.