The Brewers: A Major League Preview

Doug Melvin: Well if Ron’s gone, and I’m still the GM, who were you thinking about for manager?

Mark A: I was thinking about Lou Brown.


Spring Training

Lou: These guys hit a ton, how come nobody else picked up on them?

Doug: Duke, throw Juan a curveball.

Zach Duke: (Nods)


Lou Brown concerned.

Lou: I see.

Doug: Kyle, throw Mark a fastball.

Kyle: OK then.

Mark Reynolds:


Lou: Oooooooohkay. Son, why did you try to swing at that and not just get out of the way?

Mark: It looked like a strike.

Doug: And he’s probably the better hitter.

Lou: What about Davis here.

Doug: Oh, he can hit. No issues there.

Lou: So what’s his problem?

Doug: Khris! Hit the cutoff man!

Khris Davis: (Throws ball)

Ball: (flutter flutter flutter…bounce…………bounce……..bounce…..bounce…bounce..bounce.bounce.bounce)

Lou Brown concerned.

Khris Davis: (Runs up to ball, picks it up, throws again.)

Lou Brown: Can he play first base?

Doug Melvin: He cannot.

Lou Brown: Can he play left field?

Doug Melvin: Well, sort of.

Locker Room

Braun Locker

Brandon Kintzler: Ryan, what’s all that shit in your locker?

Ryan Braun: Antler powder, Vagisil, Oxygenated blood, any one of them will…

Brandon Kintzler: Wait, Vagisil?

Ryan Braun: …give you 5-10 more MPH off the bat. Got them from my buddy in Miami…

Brandon Kintzler:  But Vagi….

Ryan Braun: They’re doctors and everything.

Brandon Kintzler: Ryan, I think someone might be having some fun with you.

Ryan Braun: We’re not all young kids Brandon. When you get to be my age you need to use any edge you can get. Some day you will too.

Brandon: Yeah, probably not on the Vagisil.

Back Outside

Rickie Weeks: Lou, I want to talk to you. My contract specifically says I do not have to do any calisthenics I feel are unnecessary.

Rickie-Lou-BrownLou: And by the looks of things you’ve been diligent about exercising that clause.

Rickie: (Speechless)

Lou: Look Rickie, if you don’t start getting to more balls or at least hitting, I’m going to have to go another direction. Kid, get Rickie a bat.

Scooter Gennett: I’m not a bat boy sir.


Lou: Sure kid, what’s your name?

Scooter Gennett: Scooter.

Lou: Can we get this kid a jersey with “Scooter” on the back? We got one for that dog. I like this kid.

Scooter: I already have a jersey with my last name on it. I play 2nd base! I’m competing with Rickie.

Lou: Kid, I hope Rickie plays another ten years so that when you’re twenty-one you can realize that dream.

Pitching Practice


Johnny Hellweg



Lou Brown concerned.

Lou: Where have you been pitching?


K-rod: Florida penal league.

Doug: So, can you work with this?


Lou: My kind of team Dougie.  My kind of team

May 15th, 2014


Uecker: Just a reminder, fans, comin’ up is our “Die-hard Night” here at the stadium. Free admission to anyone who was actually alive the last time the Brewers won a pennant.

Pitching for the Brewers is their #5 starter, his name is…uh, looking…ah Christ I can’t find it. To hell with it.

How much do teams cost in Baseball Reference Sponsorship Money

Here at Ron Roenicke Stole My Baseball we use a ton, for everything from looking up stats about Yuni Betancourt, to looking up stats about sacrifices, to looking up stats about attempted sacrifices, to scowling at Scooter Gennett’s page. Since we make such great use of this incredible free service we decide to give back a little every year by sponsoring a page. This year we got this guy.

Anyway, every player on B-Ref has a price for sponsorship. I’m fairly sure the price is based solely on the web traffic a player sees, and so it’s not really predictive of much besides popularity, but I thought I’d take a look at the 40-man rosters of everyone in the NL Central to see how much it would cost to sponsor the whole lot of them. One caveat – if a player is already sponsored I can’t tell how much he cost, I will instead note how many players are taken for each team, and you can adjust how you see fit.

First, here are the NL Central rankings by B-Ref money:

Cardinals – $4425, 7 sponsorships taken

Pirates – $3290, 2 sponsorships taken

Reds – $2470, 2 sponsorships taken

Cubs – $2055, 2 sponsorships taken

Brewers – 1900, 0 sponsorships taken

The Cardinals are far and away the most expensive B-Ref team in the division, and those 7 guys would probably push them well above $6000 and possibly even $7000 if they were available. I was surprised to find the Pirates 2nd just because of market size, but Andrew McCutchen is enough of a star to draw national attention and provides a solid $680 base. I was likewise surprised that the Cubs fared so poorly. Sure they’re bad, but they’re in the biggest market in the division, they have a pitcher who played football at Notre Dame, and I figured people would be visiting Starlin Castro’s page just to examine the high-profile train wreck. The Brewers are just sad.  In theory Braun should provide a McCutchen-like base but (I suspect) due to his suspension and subsequent inactivity last year he fell out of consciousness a bit. Taking a closer look:


Taken players:  Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Pete Kozma, Shane Robinson, Allen Craig.

Top 10:

  1. Jhonny Peralta – $650
  2. Yadi Molina – $535
  3. Matt Holliday – $505
  4. Matt Carpenter – $425
  5. Peter Bourjos – $390
  6. Matt Adams – $275
  7. Shelby Miller – $240
  8. Lance Lynn – $200
  9. Kolten Wong – $190
  10. Mark Ellis – $175

The best team in the division is not shockingly filled with high-profile talent, bolstered by the additions of Peralta and Bourjos. If not for Andrew McCutchen, Jhonny would be the most expensive player in the division.

Worst bargain – Probably Jon Jay at $170.

Best bargain – Jaime Garcia at $60.

Grinder watch – Pete Kozma is sponsored because of course he is.



Taken players:  Jeff Locke, Jordy Mercer?

Top 10

  1. Andrew McCutchen – $680
  2. Francisco Liriano – $310
  3. Pedro Alvarez – $255
  4. Russell Martin – $235
  5. Gerrit Cole – $230
  6. Edinson Volquez – $155
  7. Starling Marte – $140
  8. Neil Walker – $115
  9. Mark Melancon – $100
  10. Charlie Morton – $90

A solid group of 3-digit players, but you can see the stark drop-off from the Cardinals. I suspect Martin gets a boost from his stints with big-market teams.

Worst bargain – Clint Barmes at $80. Yeesh. You can get Grilli for 5 bucks more.

Best bargain – Wandy at $70. People notice Wandy. His name is Wandy. Wandy.

Best names – Andrew Lambo, Stolmy Pimentel

Worst name, possibly ever – Brandon Cumpton



Taken Players: Billy Hamilton, Skip Schumaker. It is worth noting that Skip’s sponsorship was paid for by the same org that sponsors Pete Kozma, and is therefore a grinder-appreciating bunch of Cards fans.

Top 10

  1. Joey Votto – $475
  2. Brandon Phillips – $355
  3. Aroldis Chapman – $185
  4. Jay Bruce – $175
  5. Homer Bailey – $130
  6. Mat Latos – $120
  7. Brayan Pena – $110
  8. Johnny Cueto – $100
  9. Ryan Ludwick – $95
  10. Todd Frazier – $85

I actually feel like this is a microcosm of the actual Reds. The perceived gap between the super-valuable Votto and the hugely overrated Phillips should be much greater. Aroldis is probably overrated compared to the starters and position players beneath him, Bruce looks too low, Brayan Pena is a career .258/.292/.359 hitting catcher so what the hell is he even doing here, and Ludwick is pretty high for missing most of last year.  Like the Pirates they have a very solid group of triple-digit talent anchored by the uber-talented Votto, but nothing compared to the Cards.

Worst bargain – Phillips and Ludwick are a close second/third to Brayan Pena. C’mon.  Manny Parra and Jonathan Broxton both will cost you $40, which I found interesting. I figured Broxton’s name would have him higher. 

Best bargain – Probably Votto, a relatively cheap superstar. Bruce is also reasonable, but the biggest bargain is probably Tony Cingrani at $75.



Taken Players:  Travis Wood, Hector Rondon…Ooooooookay.

Top 10

  1. Jeff Samardzija – $230
  2. Starlin Castro – $210
  3. Anthony Rizzo – $190
  4. Junior Lake – $135
  5. Edwin Jackson – $120
  6. Nate Schierholtz – $110
  7. Jake Arrieta – $105
  8. Donnie Murphy – $95
  9. Jose Veras – $90
  10. Darwin Barney – $85

The Cubs lack star power more than anyone else in the division. Castro and Rizzo haven’t developed as hoped (yet) and former Brewer Jose Veras is gracing their top 10. That said, lurking on the 40-man there are a few guys not yet eligible for sponsorships (Jorge Soler, Mike Olt, Brett Jackson, Arismendy Alcantara) who could shoot up the charts with even a little success. I was pleased to see Darwin Barney not only not sponsored but also not terribly expensive.   It’s scary to think what this would look like had Samardzija not played football at ND.

Worst bargain – Edwin Jackson at $120. Boooooring. You’re boring. Stop being boring. Why do you have to be so boring?

Best bargain – Getting in on the ground floor of their minor leaguers is probably the way to go. There aren’t any huge bargains really. Maybe Castro if he can turn it around, maybe Junior Lake if you believe in him more than I do.

Former Brewers: Jose Veras at $90, George Kottaras at $75, and Carlos Villanueva at $35.



Taken: None. That’s right, not a single player on the Brewer 40-man roster is sponsored by anyone.

Top 10

  1. Carlos Gomez – $255
  2. Ryan Braun – $230
  3. Aramis Ramirez – $150
  4. Jean Segura – $135
  5. Kyle Lohse – $125
  6. Khris Davis – $110
  7. Scooter Gennett – $95
  8. Rickie Weeks – $80
  9. Yovani Gallardo – $75
  10. Juan Francisco – $65

Well that’s just stupid. First of all, the biggest bargain should be readily apparent.  Brayan Pena costs $110 bucks and Jonathan Lucroy can be had for a mere $60? Sign me up. It’s safe to say that if you have two 2nd basemen in your top ten, or Juan Francisco in your top ten, or some late-season SSS heroes in Davis and Gennett in your top ten, that maybe you have some trouble.  And even the Cubs had 7 triple digit players.  Braun will probably climb higher as he sees more time, so at least the star will (probably) be there, but man, Juan Francisco…

Worst bargain – Obviously it’s Juan Francisco, which is good because it saves me from having to mention Rickie. Hell, our searches are probably the reason he’s at 80.

Best Bargain – Braun is criminally underpriced for his talent and uhm, search-ability, but there’s a good reason for it. Lucroy though, I mean:

NL Central Catchers:

Yadi – $535

Pena – $110

Martin – $235

Wellington Castillo – $65

George Kottaras – $75

Lucroy – $60

Come. On.

Bargain Shopping – Some guys aren’t available for sponsorship if they haven’t played a big league game yet, but for those who have, the Brewers have the most players who cost under $25 in the division by a good margin. They have 16. The Reds are the next highest with 10. So if you have a spare 25 bucks lying around (or in many cases less) you can sponsor anyone of the following:  Jimmy Nelson, Jose de La Torre, Jim Henderson (closer!), Caleb Gindl, Will Smith (name recognition!), Sean Halton, Logan Schafer, Elian Herrera, Donovan Hand, Rob Wooten, Mike Fiers (bounceback potential!), Brandon Kintzler (closer potential!), Alfredo Figaro, Jeff Bianchi, Martin Maldonado, and for only 10 bucks you can have Hiram Burgos.

Finally, I will leave you with the horrifying fact that Yuniesky Betancourt, at $60, costs the same as Jonathan Lucroy.

And now what you all came to see, LEN and Savage Garden!




Quick and Dirty Analysis of Will Smith

I was in favor of trading Aoki. He’s popular and still provides some value at a reasonable cost, but he’s older, his skills are unusual for a corner outfielder, and they are likely to degrade sooner rather than later. Since he didn’t display the same power in 2013 as in 2012, you could make a decent argument that this was already happening to some extent.

I’m not here to talk about Aoki. I’m here to talk about Will Smith. I’m not a fan of Will Smith. I actually watch a fair number of Royals games. For various reasons they sort of became my AL team of choice. Part of this is reading a lot of Joe Posnanski and Rany Jazayerli. Part of it is their similarity to the Brewers. Part of it, more recently, is the number of former Brewers they employ. Anyway, I’ve seen Will Smith pitch a bunch.

What I’m worried about here is the Brewers not seeing through the superficial improvement that Smith showed last year moving to the bullpen. First let’s establish what smith is. Here’s his player comment from the BP annual last year:

In the move to the majors, Smith left his pinpoint control in Triple-A. While trying to adjust, he started leaving too many pitches in the middle of the zone. He comes by that BABIP honestly: 23 percent of all balls in play were classified as line drives. Control will continue to be key to any success as his fastball struggles to hit 90 mph and he lacks a plus pitch that can cause hitters to swing and miss. If he eventually sticks in the majors, it will be in the back of the rotation, although he could be used out of the bullpen as a long reliever and emergency starter.

So many red flags. Lots of hard contact, no strikeout pitch, average-at-best velocity, low ceiling. All of these strike me as pretty dead on.

The thing is, Smith pitched out of the bullpen last year and his superficial stat-line looked pretty good. He put up a 3.24 ERA in 33 and a third innings. Perhaps most impressively, he struck out 43 batters in just 33 innings while walking just 7. For a guy who has struggled to miss bats consistently that’s impressive. It was also a bit of a sham.

Smith was doing mostly LOOGY work last year, and while he did have 43 Ks in 33 innings, 27 of those came against lefties. He undeniably dominated southpaws, striking out exactly half of the lefties he faced. He had a 13.5 K/BB ratio against them. He managed to keep righties in check (they hit .235/.273/.412 against him), but there’s definitely some luck in those numbers. Righties his liners off Smith 18% of the time (13% for lefties) but his BABIP still stuck at a low .245 against them. That low BABIP kept his BA and OBP artificially low against righties, though you can still see that hard contact in the .412 SLG.

It is entirely possible that the Brewers see something here that they can develop and this will work out fine. I am, after all, just some guy on the internet. But what I see is a lefty with bad stuff who currently looks better than he actually is because he got to dominate lefties out of the pen over a very small sample size. I don’t think he’ll make it as a starter.

I didn’t expect to get a top-tier prospect for Aoki. I did expect them to get more than a low-ceiling LOOGY.

Who Does Number Two Work For?

What is Yovani Gallardo worth? Is he a “#2 starter?”

By most accounts Yovani Gallardo is having a bad year. It’s hard to dispute that opinion except to say that some of his peripherals aren’t as bad as the results have been.  Gallardo has been a divisive figure his entire time as a Brewer. In his younger days he teased everyone with ace potential, but his inability to put guys away consistently basically cemented him as a solid 2nd tier pitcher who would still occasionally flash brilliance, but who, more often than not, would be exiting having pitched about five and two thirds innings.

Gallardo has been, without question, a valuable asset and I’m not sure it was ever fair to hold him to such lofty expectations.   The fact is that since 2009 he has never thrown fewer than 180 innings in a season, and he’s very likely to exceed that total again. It is, in fact, very likely that he will exceed 200 IP for the third straight year. In addition to being quite durable outside of a freak Reed Johnson-related injury, he is also just 27 and under contract for one more year for $11.25 million with a team option in 2015 for $13 million. While he’s not super cheap, getting 200 innings of above average starting pitching on the open market isn’t cheap either.

If you’re another team looking at Yo, what do you see? Well, you probably see the troubling things first. Yo’s strikeout rate is a career low 7.2/9. You all already knew that.

Behind the strikeouts I suspect we have a guy who has actually adjusted pretty well to diminishing skills, but who has been victimized by bad defense.  For instance:

  1. We know the Brewers are the worst team in baseball at turning ground balls into outs. Yay.
  2. Yovani has a career high GB rate at 49.9%, and a 1.87 GB/FB ratio.
  3. His LD% is up a bit, but not catastrophically so. It was worse in 2010. And in any case,
  4. He has a career low FB% and
  5. Only 12.1% of those are leaving the yard, his lowest since 2010’s freakishly low 7.1%
  6. And if you’re looking for another indictment of his infield defense, his bunt hit % is also at a career high.

Anyway, while Gallardo is allowing more balls in play than he ever has before, the quality of a lot of those balls isn’t actually that great, and a more competent defense might have saved his ERA from looking like such a disaster. You can see this in his 3.80 xFIP.  Last year it was 3.55. Not a huge difference. Back in 2009 it was 3.71. I think Yovani Gallardo can still be an effective pitcher. The biggest problem with him is that even at his best, he’s really never been a top-flight trade candidate for a contender.  Here’s why.

So what’s a #1 starter (or a #2 starter, or 3 or whatever)?  We can debate this endlessly, but it’s definitely not as simple as #1= top 30, #2 = 30-60, especially for pitchers, and especially for pitchers you may trade.

The reason for this is simple: a team like the Tigers has 3 of the best ten pitchers in baseball this year by WAR, and none of those is Justin Verlander. Yo may be a “#2” pitcher in the abstract, but on the Tigers, a team that is contending and therefore more likely to buy at the deadline, he’s no better than a #5, if even that.  Contending teams, by their nature, employ good pitchers already.  It’s easy to have a hole in your offense. When the Brewers had Casey McGehee and upgraded to Aramis Ramirez, the upgrade was enormous. For a starting pitching staff though, adding any given pitcher displaces the #5 starter.

Gallardo’s career high ERA+ for a season is 112. On the Red Sox that makes him a #3. On Tampa this year that would squeak in as a #3 just ahead of Matt Moore, but really, c’mon.  He’s a 3 on the Braves with that number. Cards? 5. Pirates? 5.  Reds? 6. Maybe 7. Texas? 5. Arizona? 3. The Dodgers? 4.

See any 2s on that list?

ERA+ isn’t the best stat, but keep in mind that:

  1. 112 is Yo’s BEST EVER outside of an awesome rookie season where he only threw 110 IP, and
  2. He’s only at 86 this year, and
  3. His skills have been noticeably eroding, so
  4. It’s unlikely that he will be that good again.

Yo’s career FIP is 3.66. That makes him a 4 on the Cardinals, a 4 on the Reds, a 3-ish on the Braves, a 3 or 4 on the Red Sox, a 4 on the Rays, a 5 or 6 on the Tigers, a 3 on the Indians, and a 3 on the Dodgers.  Again, see any 2s on that list?

So Yo is a #2, probably for some teams. Some teams that have failed to develop starting pitching for a while. Some rebuilding teams.  Maybe a team filled with aging veterans.  But if you think you have a #2 pitcher who you can trade to a contending team, think again. They’ve almost certainly already got that guy. Consider further that in the playoffs your rotation is shortened. Does Yo make the Tiger’s post-season roster at all?

Yo can still be valuable to a contender, but he’s not jumping to the front of a rotation for a contender, he’s bumping the last guy out, and there are a ton of guys who are capable of doing that.

If the Brewer front office is going to be waiting for #2 offers to come in for Yo, they’re going to be waiting a long time.

Braun, Due Process, Etc.

But it’s better for us not to know the kinds of sacrifices the professional-grade athlete has made to get so very good at one particular thing. Oh, we’ll invoke lush clichés about the lonely heroism of Olympic athletes, the pain and analgesia of football, the early rising and hours of practice and restricted diets, the preflight celibacy, et cetera. But the actual facts of the sacrifices repel us when we see them: basketball geniuses who cannot read, sprinters who dope themselves, defensive tackles who shoot up with bovine hormones until they collapse or explode. We prefer not to consider closely the shockingly vapid and primitive comments uttered by athletes in postcontest interviews or to consider what impoverishments in one’s mental life would allow people actually to think the way great athletes seem to think. Note the way “up close and personal” profiles of professional athletes strain so hard to find evidence of a rounded human life — outside interests and activities, values beyond the sport. We ignore what’s obvious, that most of this straining is farce. It’s farce because the realities of top-level athletics today require an early and total commitment to one area of excellence. An ascetic focus. A subsumption of almost all other features of human life to one chosen talent and pursuit. A consent to live in a world that, like a child’s world, is very small. – David Foster Wallace, The String Theory

Due Process

One thing that lawyers are good at, as a rule, is separating process from results. We have to because in the law if you screw up the process you will more often than not end with the wrong result.

We also (usually) understand why processes exist. Sometimes that reason is evil (to protect a business or a cartel from competition because they lobbied hard for it), but sometimes, and probably not often enough, that process is there to protect the little guy.  This is why I’d caution all of the players out there celebrating this suspension. I understand wanting clean game. I understand wanting to escape the pressure of using potentially dangerous drugs to compete. The fact remains, the way that MLB went about this was amazingly shady, and that the players have sacrificed a good chunk of their power by not backing up their cheating brethren with regard to the process.

Braun is guilty. I think at this point everyone knows it. You should have known it earlier. I knew it for sure (basically) when reports surfaced that he tested positive for synthetic testosterone. It’s easy to see poor storage causing a false positive. It’s much more difficult to see poor storage causing a foreign substance to appear. But frankly, none of that should matter to the players because whatever benefits they’ve gained from this minor victory in “cleaning up the game” is going to end up costing them.

Major League Baseball is not the government. The government is limited by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  It can’t try you twice for the same crime. It is subject to a series of rules governing how it collects and presents evidence. Think about what baseball did in this case.

  1. They lost using their own “due process”, but no problem, they just decided to punish Braun again.
  2. They did so by buying evidence and bribing bankrupt criminals.
  3. They fired their impartial “judge.”
  4. MLB broke the JDA by leaking  Braun’s failed test.
  5. They continue to lie about this.

I would actually very much like to know if any major leaguer has beaten a positive test before. Remember, we were not supposed to know about Braun.  Tests like this are absolutely not perfect and given the number of tests administered by MLB, if no one has ever won an appeal, than too many players have been suspended. If no one ever wins except you, you’re not really playing fair, and you’re definitely rigging something.

If you’re a player today, the game may be marginally cleaner than it was yesterday. You are also in more peril from your boss. If you fail a test, whether it’s a true positive or not, MLB can slander you with impunity. They can suspend you, and suspend you again. The can rig their process the whole way through with nothing but Hosannas from the media.  And it won’t even take a failed test, by the way. A piece of paper is sufficient. How many people will end up thinking Gio Gonzales is dirty after this for precisely that reason.

You think it can’t happen to you? You think that MLB wouldn’t want to gain sway over the players active in the union? You think they’d never do anything so dirty? Yeah, OK, keep telling yourself that.

Yesterday the MLB players union granted their bargaining opponents the ability to turn any player they choose into a pariah, and to make the union turn on them at any time and for any reason they choose. The process matters.

In the US criminal justice system we set up the default as innocent, until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We put safeguards into place to keep this presumption intact. They don’t always work, they’ve been attacked, and they’ve been muted thanks to a more vocal “law and order” voting block, but they’re still there. MLB was only kept in check by the union. At this point they are, for all intents and purposes, a dictatorship.


Players are not heroes. They are not inherently good people. Everyone who writes on this blog knows that, but way too many people seem to forget repeatedly even though we’ve been through Favre. Even though Michael Jordan is a complete douche nozzle. This message just never sinks in for some people.

I absolutely don’t care about Braun’s personal life. I don’t know him and never will. He’s always struck me a guy who is probably a jerk. He has an edge to him. I don’t know him and could be wrong. Maybe he’s the nicest guy in the world. But I don’t care because he makes my baseball team more likely to win a championship. That’s really all I care about. I do not understand seriously caring about anything else. Packer Fans who continued to cheer for Favre after he left make my brain hurt.  People still love their kings, apparently.

Finally, regarding all of Braun’s lying, lying is bad, m’kay. But if you happen to be in a protracted legal battle, a lot of what you say or do not say publicly is out of your hands. I hope none of you ever finds yourself in such a situation. Everything Braun said wrong may very well be completely on him, however it is absolutely impossible for any of us to tell what he could and could not say, and what he was ordered to say by his people.