Lester Munson probably thinks you can escape the sheriff by making it over the county line.

Let me start by saying upfront that I do not do a ton (by which I mean ANY) federal criminal law.* Including this sentence automatically makes me in a better position to discuss things than Lester Munson, ESPN’s legal analyst who, as far as I can tell, doesn’t know a damn thing.

He discussed the Cardinal situation in a fun little Q&A format and proceeds to make everyone involved stupider/more criminal. He uses breathtakingly ridiculous analogies and seems to have no understanding about how the feds operate, or the seriousness of stealing trade secrets. He is in bold and an idiot. I am not.

*Seriously, nothing I say here should be construed as legal advice and I may get things wrong, but I will be more correct than he is.

Federal agents and prosecutors are investigating whether St. Louis Cardinals officials hacked into a Houston Astros database that included secret information about trades, player statistics and prospect evaluations. The investigation raises questions about the possibility of criminal charges.

Q: Is it actually a crime to hack into the data and the files of a Major League Baseball team?

We should first mention that this is a stupid question. Some say there are no stupid questions, but here we are.

The reason this is a stupid question is that the law does not specifically say anything about major league baseball teams or “hacking into the data”. Laws are general, and cover everyone. But let’s not jump to conclusions, let’s see what Lester says…

A: It’s certainly ethically questionable, but whether it is a crime is far less certain.

No. Nooooope. Nuh uh. It is absolutely 100% a crime. It’s probably a bunch of crimes. But the one I’d be concerned about if I were the Cardinals is the one that comes up first if you google “theft of trade secrets”, specifically 18 U.S. Code § 1832

“(a) Whoever, with intent to convert a trade secret, that is related to a product or service used in or intended for use in interstate or foreign commerce, to the economic benefit of anyone other than the owner thereof, and intending or knowing that the offense will, injure any owner of that trade secret, knowingly—

(1) steals, or without authorization appropriates, takes, carries away, or conceals, or by fraud, artifice, or deception obtains such information;

(2) without authorization copies, duplicates, sketches, draws, photographs, downloads, uploads, alters, destroys, photocopies, replicates, transmits, delivers, sends, mails, communicates, or conveys such information;

(3) receives, buys, or possesses such information, knowing the same to have been stolen or appropriated, obtained, or converted without authorization;

(4) attempts to commit any offense described in paragraphs (1) through (3); or

(5) conspires with one or more other persons to commit any offense described in paragraphs (1) through (3), and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy,

shall, except as provided in subsection (b), be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.

(b) Any organization that commits any offense described in subsection (a) shall be fined not more than $5,000,000.”

The Cardinals (allegedly) improperly gained access to a proprietary database containing all of the stored secret knowledge of the Astros and copied them for their own use in order to gain a competitive advantage. So, in short, the answer to the question of  “Is it actually a crime to hack into the data and the files of a Major League Baseball team?” is “Who the fuck cares, you moron.” And by the way, yes, that is also illegal.

Very, very illegal, based on at the very least 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(2), which is a misdemeanor, but still very much a crime.

If you decide later today to hack into the database of a Major League Baseball team, you can expect the feds to show up on your doorstep.

It appears that Cardinals’ front office officials succeeded in obtaining information on Astros prospects and trade strategies. But for a federal prosecutor to charge Cardinals executives with “unauthorized access” to computer information or theft of proprietary, non-public information, the prosecutor must be able to show that the information was the work product of significant efforts by Astros officials and, more importantly, was not available elsewhere.

Here Munson fails as both a lawyer and baseball analyst. He’s a double non-threat. Nothing in this paragraph is true, legally speaking.  Orink Kerr is a professor of law at George Washington University who contributes to the Washington Post legal blog “The Volokh Conspiracy”. He writes:

“There is no requirement that the information be “proprietary, non-public” information, or that it is “the work product of significant efforts by Astros officials . . . not available elsewhere.” The statute is clear: The information just needs to be, well, “information.” Any information of any kind will do. Yes, the information has to be from a “protected computer.” But pretty much everything with a microchip is a “protected computer,” and obviously a computer connected to the Internet counts as one.”

You should read the whole thing as Professor Kerr actually knows what he is talking about.

But even if this was true (which again, it 100% is not), the proprietary nature of the information is not in doubt. The Astros analytics have been covered in depth and the database that was captured would clearly fit Munson’s nonsensical factors.

In addition to showing that the stolen information was not otherwise available, the prosecutor must be able to show that Cardinals executives knew they were committing a crime.

God no. That such a sentence came out of the mouth (we assume) of a famous legal analyst and not Barry Zuckerkorn or Lionel Hutz is incredible. No one has to show anything of the kind, and if you tell the FBI agents that you didn’t know you were committing a crime as they’re hauling you away, they’ll laugh as hard at you as I do at Barry Zuckerkorn or Lionel Hutz. This advice isn’t just wrong, it’s dangerous. Some idiot might read this and decide he can commit some kind of crime if he just remains unaware. If you told this to a client it would be malpractice 100% of the time.

Hutz

If the Cardinals’ activity was just a dirty trick or an attempt at getting even with a former colleague, the hacking might not qualify as a crime.

Yes, the feds are famous for their love of humorous hi-jinks. They’re happy to let an investigation go if it happens to be boys being boys. That’s why Federal prisons are empty and we have almost no one in prison who doesn’t belong there for seemingly minor offenses.

The prosecutors will face a difficult decision when they decide whether to file charges or, instead, decline to prosecute. It is easy to envision a federal prosecutor deciding that there are more important cases to prosecute.

This is Munson’s first and last coherent point. It is entirely possible that they will show some prosecutorial discretion and not waste time on this, but it by no means certain, and deciding not to prosecute does not mean the underlying acts were legal.

Q: Doesn’t the FBI have responsibilities that are more important than policing the actions of rival baseball teams?

This isn’t a legal question or a baseball question, it’s a pointless JSComment-level question that adds nothing to the discussion. Maybe they do, but the FBI works in mysterious ways,and they are not immune from pursuing the occasional high-profile target simply because of the profile.

A: Yes. It is difficult to imagine that FBI agents charged with the duty to investigate terrorists, syndicate hoodlums and corporate pirates would invest significant time in analyzing the activities of MLB executives and their evaluations of draft picks, prospects and opposing players.

The FBI will not be pouring over the Astros’ scouting reports and critically assessing them. They will simply be collecting evidence about a data breach, and the types of information that were compromised. Baseball is a billion-dollar business and the government is very concerned with corporate espionage among billion-dollar businesses.

It has long been a part of baseball that general managers try to outmaneuver each other in the draft, in trades and in the signing of free agents.

This is just boring nonsense that doesn’t pertain to anything, which ironically makes it one of the best parts of the piece, but the next sentence…I mean, you might want to sit down if you’re at one of those standing desks or if you’re reading this on your phone.

Hacking into the Astros’ files is only the latest technique in the battles that help make the MLB fascinating.

First off, this sentence is just a mess. I would argue, as a fan of baseball, that baseball games are the battles that help make “the major league baseball” fascinating. Second, does Munson walk around the ESPN offices saying things like “I think Mike Trout is the best player in the MLB”? Because that should be one of those humorous ESPN commercials if he does.

And finally, hacking into an opponent’s database is just the latest technique to MAKE BASEBALL INTERESTING.  League’s LOVE fighting about scandal. It wasn’t the home-run chase that drove baseball ratings to their peak, it was the PED fallout afterward that got fans so excited. This is a TECHNIQUE.  The latest modern technique to drive fans back to the game! Come for the Cracker Jack, stay for the cyber-espionage!

During the steroids investigations and prosecutions, it became apparent that the federal courts were not interested in what many in MLB thought was serious cheating.

Because cheating at baseball isn’t actually against the law, unlike corporate espionage, but maybe you’re going somewhere with this.

After he was convicted for lying about his use of performance-enhancing drugs, Barry Bonds was sentenced to 30 days of home confinement in his Los Angeles mansion. It was a clear signal from a federal judge that cheating in baseball was not as important as many thought it to be.

“Attorneys, members of the press, and all gathered here today…I sentence the accused to 30 days of home confinement because really, is cheating in baseball that important? There are gangs and stuff out there. For too long we have sentenced those convicted of boring perjury too harshly. That ends now. I mean, sure, there are excellent legal reasons for this ruling, but what I really want to emphasize in my role as a member of the Federal Judiciary is that lawsuits over sports are not important, you guys.”

The conviction was later reversed, yet another indication that the courts did not want to be involved in these situations.

“These situations.” As if lying to the feds about an ultimately legal act is on par with illegally entering another company’s private database and stealing their trade secrets. They’re exactly alike because BASEBALL! WOOOO!

If steroids were not important enough to capture the attention of the court system, then hacking into personnel files might not qualify for federal prosecution.

Does Lester know the Chewbacca Defense isn’t a real thing?

Q: What will happen to the Cardinals’ executives who hacked into the Astros’ database?

A: If the feds pass on a case, then the only discipline they will face will come either from Cardinals ownership or from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. The conduct of the executives would certainly be unseemly, if it is proven. It might be a good idea for Cardinals ownership to suspend anyone involved for a month to show that they are embarrassed about what appears to border on unethical behavior.

Federal crimes now “border on unethical behavior.” Lester Munson could not in writing commit to the idea that federal crimes are unethical.

Manfred might want to issue some discipline to avoid any copycat efforts by other teams. Overall, the circumstances are unique: The Cardinals might have used a list of passwords former Cardinals executive Jeff Luhnow brought with him to the Astros. It is a situation that is not likely to be repeated.

It’s not like data breaches are big news right now. Everyone probably just forgets about this.

Look, idiots like Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd get ratings by being idiots. They basically know what they’re doing and they’re wrong about trivial things that ultimately don’t matter much. Your chief legal expert is called upon to explain complicated legalese to ESPN viewers, and to do so correctly and quickly. Lester Munson is not paid to have hot takes.

Munson has never been good at this. He doesn’t serve his most basic function, and it’s a mystery as to why he still gets to be on TV.

My work here is done.

My work here is done.

Ron is Gone

I know that we ostensibly call for this moment every day we keep the site up. And occasionally, like when he started Mark Kotsay in center field in a playoff game, or when he forgot to tell Will Smith to start warming up, that drive would become stronger…

But it’s gauche to celebrate a man losing his job, and really, we pride ourselves on a certain intellectual consistency, and the reason Ron Roenicke was just fired has little or nothing to do with Ron Roenicke. Those moments happened long ago. Ron is playing this season with a bad hand. I won’t tell you he’s played it particularly well. He doesn’t HAVE to have K-Rod closing after all. But this team has been bad for 2 months (counting last September) primarily because of Doug Melvin and Ryan Braun.  Ron has many cards, but most of them say things like “Jason Rogers”.

I’m sure well write posts cataloging his greatest hits, I’m sure we’ll all have a good ol’ time reminiscing. But, I think Ron Roenicke became a better manager over time. I think he WAS quite bad, but I think he grew up with his personnel, and was by and large above average when it was all said and done. It would not be entirely inaccurate to label him a scapegoat, though I suspect the actual goat won’t be far behind as the team rebuilds.

Adios Ron. We’ll miss having you as a muse. Hopefully you land the Royals job in a few years.

ron-roenicke-philadelphia-phillies-1987-topps-baseball-card

Your Pessimistic Brewer Preview

So Your Team Is Ass: A Statistical Look At Terrible Baseball

Fry: “I heard one time you single-handedly defeated a horde of rampaging somethings in the something something system”

Brannigan: “Killbots? A trifle. It was simply a matter of outsmarting them.”

Fry: “Wow, I never would’ve thought of that.”

Brannigan: “You see, killbots have a preset kill limit. Knowing their weakness, I sent wave after wave of my own men at them until they reached their limit and shut down. – Incompetent 25-Star General Zap Brannigan, Futurama

 

“In terms of finding a right-handed platoon partner for Lind, he’s gotta prove he can’t hit lefties first. He had a bad year last year against lefties, but he didn’t get a chance to face lefties. If he sees a lot of lefties and then shows he’s hapless, they need to find a right-handed stick, but I foresee Lind playing a good portion of the games over there and maybe Lucroy sprinkles in here and there at first.” – Joe Block on Effectively Wild

Oh, so you thought the Brewers were going to win a bunch of games this year, did you? Well it’s just not happening. You’ve probably heard of Occam’s Razor, the famous, pithy bit of wisdom that states that the simplest answer is often the correct one? Well, Occam’s Razor isn’t just folksy common sense, it’s actually quite mathematical.

The Cardinals are the favorites to win the division. For them to do so, basically, everything just needs to go as planned. For the Brewers to be better than the Cardinals though, you need a whole bunch of stuff to go better than expected. You need Braun’s thumb to heal. You need Kyle Lohse, who will turn 37 this year, to not decline. You need Jimmy Nelson to improve. You need Adam Lind to maintain his career best production of the past two years while playing a defensive position regularly. You need Aramis Ramirez to stave off age for one more year and buck a trend of steady decline. You need the bullpen to have a good season.The Cardinals need:

x(CardinalsGonnaCardinal) to be good.

The Brewers need:

t(thumb)+u(OldKyle)+v(Jimmy)+w(Lind)+y(Ram)+z(bullpen) > x(CardinalsGonnaCardinal).

It’s not a simple thing.

And if completely and totally rigorous math doesn’t convince you, keep in mind that this understates the challenges facing the Brewers. The Cub prospects all appear to be super awesome at baseball. The Pirates are still a force to be reckoned with.  “If everything goes right” is something that fans say when their team is garbage, or about to be, and they secretly know it. This looks to be an “if everything goes right” kind of year, where everything has already gone terribly wrong.

Loony Platoon

Now let’s deal with the quotes at the top of this piece. The Brewers have two left-handed regular starters in Adam Lind and Scooter Gennett, and at various times during spring training Ron Roenicke stated that both will face left-handed pitching and that he likes for guys to “hit their way into a platoon”. Now, Scooter Gennett is still young and there’s a good argument to be made that he can still learn to hit left-handed pitching, but even if he does, the position as a whole is still going to decline. Rickie Weeks hit .256/.361/.504 against LHP last year in 155 PAs.

Adam Lind is a different story altogether. I think you can make a good argument that Lind has thrived specifically because he’s been protected from same-side pitching. Lind’s career OPS against same side pitching is .588. It’s .860 against opposite side pitching. That’s a big split over 3726 total PAs. For his career Lind has faced lefties in 24% of his PAs, but in 2013 that number was just 19%, and in 2014, just 12%. There’s really no reason to let Adam Lind hit himself into a platoon. He is one of the platooniest players out there. Don’t be Zap Brannigan. That’s no way to beat the Killbots.

K-Rod, A-Ram, Lohse, and Old People In General

K-Rod had 44 saves, a WHIP under 1, and a 3.08 ERA last year. He was also terrifying and awful. It was possible, I suppose, that K-Rod would remain effective going forward, as it’s conceivable for almost any relief pitcher. They live in a world of small sample sizes, and perhaps the most random variable of any baseball season is bullpen performance. This fact of baseball life should lead teams to not invest heavily in their pens (with rare exceptions), but Doug Melvin has never been able to resist the stench of a proven closer.

Who would have thought an expensive player no longer on steroids could blow up in your face like this?

Who would have thought an expensive player no longer on steroids could blow up in your face like this?

Good pitchers will still succeed more often than they will fail, even when hit hard by small sample randomness, but for the filler in the middle of any given bullpen, AAA arms will fare as well, if not better than established veterans the vast majority of the time. Signing Neal Cotts is an annoyance, and in my humble opinion, the sign of an organization that doesn’t understand their weaknesses. Signing K-Rod is basically everything that could possibly be wrong with baseball.

Francisco Rodriguez is NOT a horrible pitcher, but he is a pitcher with substandard stuff, he is extremely homer prone, and his main draw seems to be “proven closer” status, which as we often say around here, is not a thing. He’s also a dirtball criminal, but we’ll stick to baseball. He’s a 33-year-old nibbler with a high FIP. Every day that Francisco Rodriguez pitches is likely to be worse than the previous day, and that will never change. Giving him a very expensive 2-year contract is inexcusable. You can get better production than this in a more likable package, and often for free.

And to make matters even worse, Rodriguez, despite a 4.50 FIP, despite allowing an almost comical 14 home runs, was actually pretty effective at saving games in 2014. He was one lucky SOB. In other words, even if his stuff were to stay about the same, odds are he would not be as effective at converting saves as he was last year. We’ve already seen some of this in 2015.

Aramis Ramirez is another piece likely to fall off a cliff. Ramirez took a pretty big step back last year, but it was masked somewhat by the putrid league-wide play at 3rd base. His arm can still play the hot corner, but his arm is the only thing on him that differentiates him from the best guy in beer league softball. He’s struggled mightily in the early going of this, his final year, and that lame duck status probably isn’t helping either. Ramirez was a good, and often great player, but he now exists basically because there are no 3rd basemen to speak of in the farm system.

Which brings us to Kyle Lohse. Lohse will turn 37 in October. He has been a very good pitcher throughout his career, excelling as a crafty sinkerballer who can mix in any one of four additional pitches. Lohse is a flyball pitcher, adept at keeping everything in the yard, and consistently defying his FIP. All of that said, guys like this often can’t afford to decline very much. If you’re off-speed stuff starts to close the gap on your fastball, or if your sinker doesn’t sink quite as reliably, or if those flyballs start leaving the yard just a little bit more, everything can go south in a hurry.

After struggling mightily to start the season Lohse did turn it around in his last start, but like K-Rod, he’s not going to get  any better than he is right now. And with the departed Yovani Gallardo, the starting pitching depth of the team is not nearly what it was. If Lohse and Mike Fiers were to both become unplayable, things would get very dicey for the team, very quickly. Jimmy Nelson has been nothing short of brilliant, but basically everyone else has struggled. And the pitching, as bad as it has been, is nothing compared to the offense.

Falling Stars

The Brewers are a team built around three all-star caliber talents. Carlos Gomez is coming off of a career year offensively and continues to excel on defense. Jonathan Lucroy was on the short list for best players in all of baseball last year given his framing skills and offense. And Ryan Braun is a former MVP who actually played pretty well last year until teams figured out that his thumb injury prevented him from pulling the ball.

The Brewers added Adam Lind to bolster first base, and feature the slugging  Khris Davis and grindy bat-to-ball skills of Scooter Gennett to round out the lineup. In theory, a hot start by Lind should have had the offense humming. In theory, an unexpected leap in production from Jean Segura, one of the worst offensive players in MLB last year, should have elevated them to holy terrors of the National League. Instead Jonathan Lucroy struggled mightily and broke his foot, Carlo Gomez ended up on the DL with a hamstring injury, and Ryan Braun has been nothing short of awful. Reports were positive surrounding the experimental thumb surgery Braun underwent in the offseason, and his spring training performance led to even more optimism, but thus far in the young season Braun has accumulated only one extra-base hit. He’s struck out 12 times in 61 PAs while walking just twice. He looks very much like a player still being impacted by a thumb injury.

Khris Davis’s slow start and Scooter Gennett’s showering issues have compounded all of the other problems to make the Brewers the worst team in baseball. In order to realistically compete the Brewers need Lucroy, Gomez, and especially Braun to carry the team. If Braun is finished as an MVP-level talent, the Brewers realistically cannot compete. Lucroy is the youngest of the three and he will turn 29 before the end of the season, and while the Brewers have been adept at getting major league contributors out of their much-derided farm system, there aren’t any stars on the horizon to replace any of these three. To the extent the Brewers have any high-ceiling  minor league talent it’s years away from being relevant. It’s in A-ball or lower. Any future home-grown Brewer star is unlikely to ever share a field with Lucroy or Gomez, and is only likely to play with Braun because his contract and level of play make him untradeable.

It saddens me to say that this is probably going to be rough for many years. It’s not just that the Brewers are bad. It’s not just that their farm system is bad. They also play in what is likely to be the best division in baseball for years. The Cardinals are always NL powers and this is unlikely to change anytime soon. The Cubs have done a remarkable job rebuilding. They have good, home-grown talent at basically every important position, often two or three players deep. They also have huge financial resources to fill in any gaps. They will be NL powers for at least a decade. The Pirates still have a good core, and the Reds are no slouches either. You won’t find many 4th best teams in a division this good.

It’s possible I’m just overreacting to small sample early season struggles, but I don’t think so. Not this time. It probably won’t be THIS bad all season long, but with the hole they’ve dug themselves, even if they play .500 ball the rest of the way they’ll still finish last, and I’ve seen no indication they can even pull that off. My advice is to buy some good beer and get ready for the long haul.

Your Optimistic Brewer Preview!

Hi everyone, and welcome back to another season of Ron Roenicke Stole My Baseball. 2014 was a fun year of manager nitpicking*, meme development, and corporate branding, and we expect to have more of the same in 2015.

*Note: Not nitpicking. I mean, that whole sequence was insane and I can’t believe it happened to a professional baseball team.

The Brewers aren’t exactly favorites this year, and many don’t see them as serious competitors, but this is the optimistic preview, so we’ll be looking at everything that has to go right for the Brewers to build off of 2014. Let’s start with the big one:

Ryan Braun’s thumb must heal.

Braun was hot garbage last year, especially in the second half where he hit a Yunieskian .226/.295/.374. Braun started out hot enough, but the thumb would eventually reduce his bat speed to the point where he actually changed his approach to exclusively take outside pitches to the opposite field. This worked for a time, but pitchers eventually realized he couldn’t get around on inside pitches, the thumb problem started to worsened, and he became essentially worthless. He is as responsible for the late-season collapse as anyone.*

The reason they didn’t do thumb surgery in-season is partially because they were contending, but also partially because was HIGHLY experimental. There was no guaranty that the surgery will actually work. By most accounts it’s been a success, and if the Brewers are to have any chance at all of contending they need a healthy Braun. We here at RRSMB knew the surgery went well because, well, he managed to track down Ryan Braun while he was rehabbing at his palatial estate, paparazzi-style. We evaded guard dogs, scaled a large, barbed-wire fence, all while trucking a comically large camera lens just so we could get a picture.

We caught a glimpse of him relaxing on his veranda with a few friends. We’d come this far; there was no going back now.

We yelled:

“Ryan, how’s the thumb?!”

And in return he lowered his glasses, glanced off into the distance, and gave us this gesture.

Is that a bionic thumb Ryan? It sure is other Ryan, it sure is.

Is that a bionic thumb Ryan? It sure is other Ryan, it sure is.

And we knew everything would be alright.

*If you’re going to talk optimism, we need to talk about just how smart of a player Ryan Braun is. I think it’s supremely difficult for baseball players to change their approach at the plate. This is why extreme shifts against left-handed hitters often work. It’s hard to take a pitch the other way, especially if the pitcher knows you’re trying to. Last year when Braun realized he couldn’t get around on pitches, he altered his game to focus on hitting to the opposite field, and he was great at it. It’s one thing to make that change, and quite another to make that change and continue to excel.

While last season ended in disappointment, it’s possible that Braun added a new weapon to his arsenal. If his thumb really is fixed and he is once again able to pull the ball with power, he may also be able to integrate his newfound ability to pound outside pitches. It’s possible that he won’t just be as good as he used to be. It’s possible that he’ll be better. 

Jimmy Nelson must adequately replace Yovani Gallardo

Many scouts like Nelson better than Peralta long term. The weird thing about Nelson is that he tends to struggle for a season when he moves up, and then adjust and dominate. I have no idea if this will repeat itself at the MLB level, or if his 69.1 innings with the big league club last year “count” in this equation, but if Nelson can adjust and be at least a league average pitcher (or better!) then the Brewers should be just fine. And really, Gallardo was just a 1.7 WAR pitcher last year. Fiers was a 1.6 WAR pitcher in less than half of the number of innings. It’s not like he has to replace Clayton Kershaw. Jimmy Nelson is completely capable of being league average, with upside to boot.

Adam Lind

Dear Milwaukee,  You're going to love this guy.

Dear Milwaukee,
You’re going to love this guy.

Adam Lind is kind of a one trick pony, but oh, what a trick it is. He destroys righties. Last year he hit .345/.409/.533 against righties. In 2013 he his .309/.385/.539 against righties. He hasn’t been that good his entire career, but his career line is still an impressive .293/.349/.510. Lind is not without his flaws to be sure, but as a replacement for Lyle Overbay in the long half of the platoon, he is a gigantic upgrade. With the right platoon partner the Brewers may see above average play at first base for the first time since Corey Hart, and no matter what, they’ll have some good, bearded fun.

Stars!

To be competitive you need a few star-level players, and the Brewers have three! Which is pretty good! Ryan Braun and his new mega thumb can still be a huge star. In fact, his new-found ability to destroy pitches to the opposite field could make him even more dangerous this year if everything is right. Jonathan Lucroy is debatably one of the five most valuable players in baseball depending on how you feel about framing. Carlos Gomez is still an elite center fielder with a very good bat. All of these players will be around for at least two more years (unless they’re traded), and all should still be very good players for at least two more years.

Filler!

The Brewer farm system may be terrible (but improving!), but it’s cranked out some nice secondary players lately. Scooter Gennett is much better than I thought he’d be and provides needed balance from the left side of the plate. Khris Davis isn’t anything special but his power has at least kept him hovering around average.

Not every position will be manned by an all-star, but it’s important to avoid having to throw in the Yuni Betancourt’s of the world as much as possible, and the Brewer farm system will actually allow for that this season. It’s hard to remember the last time the Brewers didn’t have an obvious replacement-level player at some position, but this year looks pretty good in that regard. If Jean Segura were to regress on defense and not improve on offense he might fit the bill, but he’s still young and his defense should keep him solidly above replacement level even if he continues to be deplorable on offense. Aramis Ramirez may never be his old self again, but the third base position is weak across the league, and in his final season hopefully he can grit out one more good one.

The starting pitching has the potential to be better than last year.

Really! Look, I know it’s hard to replace 200 innings of league average starting pitching, but it’s worth noting that Marco Estrada threw 150.2 inning last year too, and they also get to replace that. Kyle Lohse is still a solid pitcher. Matt Garza is still a solid pitcher. Everyone is impressed by Wily Peralta as he has already met or exceeded expectations. Mike Fiers is an enigma, but I still believe that his bad season was primarily due to his mother’s failing health. I suspect that real Mike Fiers is what we saw last year, and still very good. Lohse+Garza+Peralta+newly adjusted Nelson + Good Fiers = winning.

Creativity!

Lucroy is a catcher, and a great one, but Martin Maldonado may be his defensive superior. Catching is also hard on a player and requires more rest than other positions, but resting Lucroy takes his bat out of the lineup. So what do you do? Well, the Brewers have already said he’ll get some time at first base, and as the short end of a platoon with Adam Lind, this is a great idea to keep Lucroy fresh, keep his bat in the lineup, and bolster the right-handed lineup. Speaking of which…

Balance!

Since Prince Fielder left the Brewers have been extremely right-handed, and while that deficiency is sometimes overstated, it left them vulnerable to late-inning hard-throwing righty relievers, and made it easier on opposing managers. While they’re not the most balanced team ever, simply having Lind, Gennett, and Parra is a huge improvement over any recent Brewer lineup. The picnic area on Miller Park was basically made for Fielder, and they finally have a few guys who can capitalize on it.

Conclusion

The team is secretly well-designed. It’s almost clever. They addressed major holes in the off-season. They addressed balance. They dealt from a position of strength to help the farm system. I even like how they drafted. Most criticism’s of the Brewer farm system recently have focused on the lack of high ceiling talent. The criticism of this current class is that they focused too much on high-ceiling talent. That’s silly. If you need to crank out some stars three or four years from now, that’s what you have to do.

The bullpen looks, on its face, basically the same, perhaps a little worse, but bullpens are basically crap shoot anyway. Ryan Braun was only a 1.2 WAR player last year and the 1st base tandem was only a positive if you believe Mark Reynolds had absurd defensive value. Contending again is as simple as Braun and Lind just being what they should be. If the underlying talent performs like it should, this should be a very good team.

Optimistic Prediction: 92-70.

Coming soon: The Pessimistic Preview! I mean, The Pessimistic Preview. : (

Brewers Offense, an Examination

The offense responded to the Brewers sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers in mid-August by doing this:

  • Lucroy – .298/.380/.397, 0 HRs
  • Reynolds – .133/.220/.222, 1 HR
  • Scoots – .235/.257/.324, 1 HR
  • Segura – .273/.356/.286, 0 HR
  • Aramis – .265/.323/.376, 2 HR
  • Khris Davis – .213/.289/.350 2 HR
  • Gomez – .269/.375/.387, 2 HR
  • Braun – .255/.311/.391, 4 HR
  • Parra – .318/.355/.443 2 HR

All pretty bad. Bad enough that Parra and Lucroy’s numbers look great, and they both had a sub .800 OPS.

There was one bright spot in the Brewers lineup:

Rickie Weeks: .324/.381/.595 with 2 HRs.

One logical conclusion

:  RICKIE2

The Brewers and Strength of Schedule

In an attempt to determine the difficulty of the remaining schedule I took all remaining Brewer games and dumped them into a spreadsheet, looked up the run differential of the opponent (because we all know that run differential tells you more about the quality of the team than wins and losses, right?) and popped that number in the next column. Then I added those up, and took an average.* Not really sure what to call this “metric” or how useful it is, but I found it illuminating. So here goes:

*For example, the Brewers play the Dodgers 6 more times and the Dodgers have a +58 run differential, so they count for +348 of the total. Make sense? Good.

Brewers

Remaining opponents have scored 93 more runs than they have allowed, an average of +1.75 per game. Tough opponents include the Dodgers (six games, +58), Blue Jays (two games, +38) and Giants (six games, +19), but what really hurts them is the lack of awful teams. They have a bunch of games against the Cubs (-46) but so does everyone else. They have three against the Padres (-39) but the Cards have five. The only negatives on the Brewers schedule are the Cubs, Padres, and Marlins. Maybe in a vacuum +93 doesn’t sound like a lot to you. Well…

Cardinals

Remaining opponents have scored 816 fewer runs than they have allowed, an average of -14.57 per game.

The Cardinal schedule is just littered with awfulness. Three games with Boston (-50), five more with the Padres (-39), three with the Phillies (-59), three with the Rockies (-54), and three with the D-backs (-73…Gritty!). The toughest task ahead for them is a three-game series with the Orioles (+30) and after that the best team they have is the Brewers (+24 as I write this). If the Cardinals don’t make the playoffs they have no one to blame but themselves.

Pirates

Remaining opponents have scored 322 fewer runs than they have allowed, an average of -5.75 per game.

The ease of the Pirates schedule is bolstered by a stretch in September where they will play thirteen consecutive games against teams at -46 or lower (Cubs, Phillies, Cubs, Red Sox), but at least there are a few challenges out there. They still have a four-game series with the Tigers (+36), a three-game series with the Nationals (+71) and seven against the Braves (+22). They also face the Diamondbacks and the Padres, so it’s really all over the map.

Reds

Remaining opponents have scored 295 fewer runs than they’ve allowed, an average of -5.27 per game.

Similar to the Pirates but not as extreme. They get two against Boston (-50) and four against the Rockies (-54), but everyone else is middling. They face Cleveland (+3), Miami (-17), and have three at Baltimore (+30).


The Cardinals have a much easier schedule down the stretch, there’s no getting around it. The Brewers will probably have to win the head-to-head battle by a decent margin to hold them off. Hopefully they get started this weekend.

Ralph Sasson, The Gift That Keeps On Giving

One would think that if you had your case dismissed for not adhering to a judge’s instructions about keeping things under seal that you would MAYBE think twice about publicly posting a copy of your own deposition on Youtube. And also, cutting your own “best of” version of said deposition.

But the one thing we know about Ralph Sasson is that he seemingly doesn’t ever think once, let alone twice. In any case…

Here’s the long version.

A couple of things in case you ever end up deposed:

1. You may not want to wear a Miami hoodie. Typically you should dress up for a deposition.

2. “You heard of money ball? this is dummy ball.” Don’t make deposition jokes. It never goes well. (Around 1:17:00)

3. Don’t call the attorneys questioning you “retards”. (Also around 1:17:00)

4. Don’t claim you don’t know what your lawyer is thinking if you are your lawyer. (In the “best of” cut)

5. Don’t invent your own legal theory called “fraudulent impression.” (1:22:30)

6. “You are attempting to sue CAA (Braun’s agent), yes or no?”

“I don’t know” (near the end)
I don’t either Ralph. I don’t either.