DON’T TANK!*

This post is slightly incoherent, and it’s your fault. All of you people talking about rebuilding, about selling off players, about magically becoming the Rays, stop it.

Start here.

Good. Now let’s move on.

Part I – We Didn’t Sign Ryan Demptser! Quick, sell off everyone! We’re doomed!

In the NBA tanking is rampant. There’s a good reason for this, as one superstar can basically turn any team into contender for years. The value of draft pick 1 is vastly superior to the value of draft pick 6 or 12 or 20.  MLB is not like this at all, and not just because high draft picks are less important.  Way too many of you are panicking and calling for the Brewers to dismantle the ship and it’s weird.  It’s especially weird because the cause of this concern seems to be the lack of action in free agency.  I would like to remind all of you that:

  1. Most free agents aren’t worth the price you pay.
  2. Especially this offseason.

Moreover, I’d like to remind all of you that this Brewer team isn’t that bad as currently constituted, and the only thing I’ve heard in response is, quite frankly, nothing more than whiny pessimism. The fact is that the Brewers boast one of the top 5 offenses in the NL. Last year it was the best offense in the league.  It may not be the best again, but it is highly unlikely to be anything other than really good.

Part II – It’s the bullpen.  Stupid.

The Brewer bullpen was terrible last year largely because of bad luck. John Axford used to be really good.  I know sometimes closers flame out, but since his stuff still appears to be there, he’ll probably rebound.  Even if the Brewers go with Axford and a bunch of AAA guys they’ll still likely improve over last year.  Seriously.  Kam Loe had a 0.0 fWAR last year. He was LITERALLY replacement level.  He can be replaced by replacement level. Livan Hernandez was way below. Axford and K-Rod were barely positive (and both had lower than a -1 WPA). Veras led the pen at .5.  Bullpen arms are notoriously unpredictable and there basically are no sure things.  The Brewers got hit by a huge shitstorm last season, and that is extremely unlikely to occur again.  If they literally put out a team of replacement relievers it’s entirely possible that they would have a better season just based on regression to the mean, and of course they won’t do that. They have seven potential starters and 2 of those guys will probably end up in the pen with Axford and some filler, and be fine.

III. But, but the offense will regress too!

The Brewers are very likely to have a similar offense, and no, the Brewer offense will not regress into nothingness, they’ve been good for many years and we have a good basis for judging their true talent.  Last year they were first in the NL. In 2011 they were 5th. In  2010 they were fourth.  In 2009 they were 3rd. The mean is probably right around there. 

IV. Let’s talk about the rotation since you’re all experts on our pitching prospects.

So then we get to the starting rotation, which is our only area of concern really, and the starting rotation isn’t BAD. It’s unproven, but unproven and bad are not the same things.  See that article up above? AK pointed me to this comment:

“Bingo! The 08 Rockies at 74-88 added Jason Marquis, Jorge DeLaRosa and Jason Hammel for 09 all three had 5+ ERAs over the 3 years prior, all three were 3-4 win pitchers for Colorado that year. None were big acquisitions but all were added to a upgrade the Mark Redman/Elmer Dessen/Josh Fogg rotation filler of previous years.

Won 92 games the next year.”

Now you shouldn’t count on Jason Marquis  being good, but that’s not even what the Brewers are doing. Wily Peralta might be good.  Yo is good. Marco Estrada, despite some of your objections, appears to be pretty solid.**  Fiers is not Roy Halladay, but he is also more than he showed at the end of the season.  We have not even discussed Thornburg.  We drafted these guys exactly for this scenario and until they actually go out and play, none of you have any idea if they’ll be a disaster, so stop acting like they will be.  Fortunately the Brewer bats do not even demand that the staff be good, just average.

V. Tanking sucks. 

Here are a bunch of other reasons not to do it.

  1.  If you go 82-82 you still get a useful draft pick in baseball.   It is much more like football in this respect. 
  2. The Brewers have a bad TV deal. It helps them to have butts in the seats.
  3. The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals went 83-78 and won the World Series. Assholes.
  4. The Brewers pay most of their money to Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, Jonathan Lucroy, and Aramis Ramirez.  Those players are all worth having for what they’re paid.
  5. The Brewers have largely avoided the free agent disaster, the occasional Suppan notwithstanding. Please remember this when bashing them for their lack of FA activity.
  6. If you are the Cubs or the Astros, rebuilding is fine, but their baselines are pretty low. It would take a colossal amount of luck for them to be good. The current Brewer baseline, in my opinion. Is roughly .500.  That’s a team that can still contend.  You tear down when rich 40-year-old Carlos Lee is your best, most expensive player.  You do not tear down when Ryan Braun is your best player. 
  7. The Brewers still play in a bad division in which Dusty Baker has pledged to make a starter of Aroldis Chapman.
  8. It’s fine to do a teardown for prospects at some point, but what is your rush? Outside of Hart, you still have a bunch of relatively cheap good players for a while longer, and due to the outlandish TV deals in other markets, you now have buyers for high salary good players.  There is no reason to bail too early. 

VI. Let’s wrap up.

I’m honestly shocked by the pessimism.  Bullpens go to pot sometimes. It happens. It’s nothing to panic about.  It sucks to lose Greinke and to a much, much lesser extent, Marcum, but it is entirely possible that the kids will not be a huge downgrade, and that the pen will make up for some of it.

The Brewers were 83-79 last year. They’re Pythagorean record was 85-77, and their bullpen made both of those artificially worse in my opinion.  I think their true talent level is about .500, and with only a small amount of luck they can still contend for another year, and probably more.

*Yes, those are large, friendly letters.

**Twice yesterday someone told me that Marco was “the new Dave Bush”. First of all, that wouldn’t even be a bad thing, and second of all, Marco strikes out way more people, gives up fewer home runs, misses more bats, and throws harder. And he’s not a converted catcher.  So where is this coming from?