From Robin To Rickie

March 30, 2006

AL Predictions

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jamie Herbst @ 2:43 pm

John and I have had a tradition the last several years of making predictions about the upcoming season and seeing how we come out in the end. Like a lot of other people, we don't usually end up being too accurate. With that said, it's just one of those things you have to do. I'll be doing the American League today, with the National League coming tomorrow. I would certainly think we'll see John's pop up here soon as well. So, without further ado, here we go.

AL EAST: 1. Boston, 2. New York, 3. Toronto, 4. Tampa Bay, 5. Baltimore

Contrary to much of the media's opinion, I think the Red Sox stand to actually improve, based upon their addition of Josh Becket to the rotation, the possible addition of a healthy Curt Schilling, and two smart platoons at first base and right field. Plus, they arguably lost nothing except a lot of money to pay in letting Johnny Damon go to the Yankees and installing Coco Crisp in center. Similarly, they replaced a pretty awful Edgar Renteria at short with an equally awful Alex Gonzalez (which is at least a defensive upgrade), and replaced Mark Bellhorn at 2nd with former Brewer Mark Loretta (another nice upgrade). The bullpen figures to be better, and they return two of the most feared hitters in baseball in David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Obviously, the Yankees lineup is also quite good, but I just don't buy the starting rotation they're planning to use. Guys like Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright either figure to decline (in Mussina's case) or get hurt, and I just don't see any depth there to fill in when the inevitable happens. Granted, there's enough talent in the lineup to carry this team a long way, I just don't see them being able to muster enough to hold off Boston. I'm pretty neutral on Toronto- I don't think the offseason moves were that bad, but I also don't think they make them a playoff team. I think Baltimore stinks, and Tampa Bay's exciting young lineup (once they figure it out) should be enough to garner a 4th place finish.

AL CENTRAL: 1. Chicago, 2. Minnesota, 3. Detroit, 4. Cleveland, 5. Kansas City

I agree with Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus when I say I'm not impressed with what the Indians have done since 2005. I just don't see them having enough to make a run at Chicago again, and while I'm not impressed with the Twins either, I see Minnesota as having just enough pitching to compete for the Wild Card. The White Sox got better this offseason, and I particularly like the addition of Javier Vazquez to an already tremendous rotation. I don't think they can count on a rapidly aging Jim Thome for much, but they look to have enough to get by without him. The pitching in this division is tremendous, so much that young studs like Francisco Liriano, Brandon McCarthy and Joel Zumaya will be beginning the season in their respective teams' bullpens. I'd put a divisional rotation of Johan Santana, Mark Buehrle, C.C. Sabathia, Jeremy Bonderman and Javier Vazquez up against any other division's in baseball, although I may be a little biased, having 4 of the 5 in one of my fantasy leagues this year. Notice there are no Royals on that list- Kansas City looks on paper to be one of the most pathetic teams we've seen in a while. I say even Florida in the NL puts up a better record than them easily.

AL WEST: 1. Oakland, 2. Los Angeles, 3. Texas, 4. Seattle

This was by far the toughest division to predict. Everyone seems to love Oakland this year, so it may seem like I'm just following the crowd. Again though, their rotation goes six deep (seven if you include newly acquired Brad Halsey), and their lineup, while not packed with stars, has great depth. Depth is the reason I chose them over Los Angeles. The Angels also look strong, but an injury here or there and suddenly they're not as hot. Plus, if you look at their lineup top to bottom, they just have more question marks than Oakland. I really like Texas, but I don't think they've improved their pitching staff enough to hang with the big boys. With the addition of Brad Wilkerson, they may end up scoring the most runs in the AL, but they may also end up giving up the most. I like many parts of Seattle's team and I figure they'll improve substantially, but at this point I don't see them finishing better than .500.

So, to add to the division winners (Boston, Chicago and Oakland), it's a very tough call for the Wild Card between New York, Minnesota and Los Angeles. I'll eliminate Minnesota, even though they get to beat up Kansas City on a regular basis to pad their record. I'll give the final nod to the Yankees, if for no other reason than they always seem to find a way.

Boston will beat Chicago in the first round, along with Oakland beating the Yankees in an epic Divisional Round series. In the ALCS, I'll go with Boston over Oakland in 7.

I'll give the American League MVP to David Ortiz of Boston, with the Cy Young award finally returning to Johan Santana where it belongs. For Rookie of the Year, I'll go with Justin Verlander of the Tigers, edging Kenji Johjima of the Mariners.

There, it's all there in print for me to be embarrassed by in September. Tomorrow I'll be back with the NL.

March 28, 2006

Sad Day in Brewer Nation

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Schmid @ 7:33 pm

Marquis Grissom retired from baseball today.

Grissom came to the Brewers in an infamous trade on December 8, 1997. The Brewers traded Ben McDonald, Mike Fetters, and Ron Villone to Cleveland for Grissom and Jeff Juden. Grissom was coming as the MVP of the 1997 AL Championship Series. At the time, I remember there were rumors the Brewers were going hard after free agent Kenny Lofton, but those possibilities were dashed when Milwaukee acquired Grissom. In hindsight, the Brewers really did not give up anything for him and Grissom actually played decent defense in center for those three losing seasons.

While his OBP was never anything to brag about, Grissom was a very nice player early in his career. His power/speed combination (296.9 – 18th all-time) made him unique and Marquis actually finished in the top-10 in MVP voting in 1992 and 1993. However, his career OBP of .318 is terrible.

Grissom’s was a shadow of himself when he arrived in Milwaukee. By the time the Brewers traded him to Los Angeles for Devon White in 2001, he was a wreck. His OBP in 2000 was .288 and he had a sore buttocks (yes, you all remember) which caused him problems throughout the year. It is amazing to me that Grissom hung around MLB for five more seasons. I remember Jamie and I just shaking our heads during each Grissom at bat.

Was the $15 million the Brewers paid to Grissom between 1998 and 2000 a good investment? Hard to say, but at the time, for the production he gave, you could say he was well overpaid.

Let us hear about your Grissom memories.

Brewers Lineup

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jamie Herbst @ 9:00 am

It really doesn't matter a lot because a) it changes so much during the season and b) it's debatable if it actually makes much difference, but the Brewers ran out what will quite possibly be their opening day lineup last night.  I can confirm that Jim Powell said as much on air before the game on the radio. 

1. CF Brady Clark, 2. SS J.J. Hardy, 3. RF Geoff Jenkins, 4. LF Carlos Lee, 5. 1B Prince Fielder, 6. 2B Rickie Weeks, 7. 3B Bill Hall, 8. C Damian Miller

I'm really glad Hardy's in the #2 slot.  I think last year's early struggles could've had a lot to do with him not seeing very good pitches with the Brewers' abysmal pitchers "hitting" behind him.  He should see plenty of fastballs hitting 2nd in this lineup.  Plus, the guy does what a 2 hitter is supposed to do- he makes contact and he gets on base.

Wow, does this lineup look good.  You've got Clark and Hardy setting the table, and then it never lets up until the 8th slot.  I don't recall a Brewers lineup that looked this good, short of the early 80's glory years.

Just for kicks, I inputted this lineup into the awesome Lineup Analysis tool at baseballmusings.com using the 2006 PECOTA projections for the Brewers.  The lineup projected to produce the most runs (4.782 per game, to be precise) is:

1. Rickie Weeks, 2. Prince Fielder, 3. J.J. Hardy, 4. Carlos Lee, 5. Geoff Jenkins, 6. Bill Hall, 7. Damian Miller, 8. Pitcher, 9. Brady Clark.

Maybe there was something to Tony LaRussa hitting his pitcher 8th after all.  Without spending too much time on this, I'm assuming hitting Clark 9th would serve to better set up the top of the order.  Weeks would probably see a lot more RBI opportunities as well.  What's even more interesting is J.J. Hardy hitting 3rd.  I also think Fielder hitting 2nd would prevent Ned Yost from bunting Weeks over in the first inning, but that's just a hunch.

Anyway, speaking of lineups, do you remember that Sunday afternoon game back during the Tom Trebelhorn era when he literally picked that day's lineup out of a hat?  Good times.  I'm guessing Yost won't be doing that this season.

Brewers get it right

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jamie Herbst @ 8:34 am

From today's Journal/Sentinel

On Monday the Brewers announced that, for the first time in team history, the franchise will offer every fan coming to every home game a free game program.

The publication will be called "Brewers Gameday," and will be filled with player features, historical and opponent information, and team rosters.

The programs will be available during every home game from kiosks at entry gates throughout the ballpark.

The Brewers have definitely gotten it right on this one.  I've often wondered why the Brewers didn't at least just offer a scorecard for a buck like other teams.  Instead you have to buy this program that is mostly advertising and, other than an updated insert in the middle, doesn't change its content.  Fans who are paying money to come to a game should be given an updated roster and a scorecard at no charge.  Yes, I can print out the rosters and stats before I come to the game, but should I really have to?  I'm glad the Brewers have finally realized that, and this could quite possibly serve to better educate the casual fan, as well as satisfying a basic need of the diehard.

March 26, 2006

Cheap Bullpen?

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Schmid @ 11:02 am
  • After yesterday's ball game, the Brewers demoted 9 guys to the minors. Our friend Jeff at Brew Crew Ball has a good post
    this morning on each of the players. While none of them was a true surprise, there is still a battle for a couple bullpen spots.
  • It looks like Jared Fernandez has made the club. He is a 34-year-old
    non-roster invitee who has some major league experience. Being a knuckleball pitcher, Ned Yost states that he likes having a durable pitcher who can pitch multiple days in a row. Obviously, Fernandez is just a stop-gap option until other issues with the pitching staff can be ironed out.
    Also, I don't know about you, but if Fernandez is pitching multiple
    days in a row, there are other problems with the pitching staff that need to be
    addressed. Do you want a knuckleballer to stop the bleeding?
  • Doug Melvin proves year-after-year that you can have a decent
    bullpen without breaking the bank. You don't need multi-million dollar
    closers and setup men. This year, our highest paid relief pitcher will probably be
    Dan Kolb. Last year, the bullpen as a whole only made a few million
    dollars. The highest was Ricky Bottalico, who was cut pretty quickly when it was
    apparent he couldn't get guys out anymore. In fact, Wes Helms made more than the entire bullpen. Now, this year, the cost of the bullpen will be greater with the
    contracts of Kolb and Wise. Plus, the Brewers are trying to sign Turnbow to a
    multi-year deal. However, I will speculate that it is still going to be cheaper and more effective than most other teams.
  • Just a reminder: The Brewers will be facing the Colorado Rockies on
    Fox Sports North Monday night at 7:00 P.M. There is also a season
    preview show prior to the game at 6:30 P.M.
  • UPDATE: Jared Fernandez will be starting tomorrow night's
    game.  Us here in the frozen north will be able to see how he's
    secured a roster spot.

March 24, 2006

Fantasy League Reminder

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jamie Herbst @ 3:19 pm

Remember everyone, we have a draft for an AL-only Yahoo free league tomorrow at 1:30 CST. Feel free to sign up- the more Brewers fans the better! There’s also an NL-only draft coming up next Sunday.

See this post for full info:

https://fromrobintorickie.wordpress.com/2006/03/21/frtr-fantasy-leagues/

Brewers Outlook: Rickie Weeks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jamie Herbst @ 11:13 am

Weeks1

So much has been written about Rickie Weeks over the last few years that it’s easy lose sight of what we actually have. Is he destined to fall short of his full potential because of a move to an outfield position? Or do we have a star on our hands, someone who can carry our franchise for years to come? I fall on the side of viewing Rickie as a franchise player, someone the Brewers can build around as they move from perennial doormats to, hopefully, perennial contenders. As John can attest, I’ve been very outspoken in my view of Rickie as a star, especially after I had the opportunity to watch him play in his first big-league games in 2003. Assuming the Brewers can keep him when his free agency eventually comes up, I think we’ll someday be mentioning him in the same breath as Molitor and Yount (hence the name of this blog).

Strengths: When I watch Weeks hit, the first thing that jumps out at me is the way he absolutely hammers the ball. I’ve seen hundreds of Brewers games live over the years, but very few times have I seen someone who made such an immediate impression on me. Last season, during one of the first games I saw him live, I turned to John and asked “do you see the way the ball just jumps off his bat”? The way Weeks wags his bat before the pitch arrives immediately reminds one of Gary Sheffield, and the speed at which he whips his bat through the zone and stings the ball does nothing to diminish that impression. Don’t be deceived by Weeks’ low 2005 batting average. His decline coincided with a torn ligament in his thumb that he played through (also a good sign). He looks to be full strength for 2006, so we’ll hopefully see what he can really do over the course of a full season. Judging by the home run power he showed early on, I think we can expect Weeks to hit at least 20 homers a year, with that number possibly growing as he nears his prime. Right now one of the main reasons Weeks is so valuable is the position he plays. Second basemen who can put up the numbers Weeks potentially can don’t come along very often. Having a second baseman with corner outfielder hitting production is a tremendous asset for the Brewers. Also, an overlooked talent of Rickie’s is his speed and baserunning ability. He stole 15 bases in 2005, while only being caught twice. Expect the Brewers to ask him to run even more in 2006. Put this all together and we have a potential 30/30 guy on our hands who we’ll be seeing in many All-Star games in the years to come.

Weaknesses: Much has also been made of Weeks’ defensive deficiencies at second base. Statistically speaking and by just eyeballing him, you can see he’s probably got a below average glove. Weeks can make the big dazzling play, but as we all know he can also boot the routine grounder. I would expect this to get better over time, but even if his defense remains the same, he’s not even close to the worst second baseman in the game (as I’ve pointed out here before), even with Alfonso Soriano now playing the outfield in Washington. I’m glad the Brewers have decided to stick with him, and when asked, Doug Melvin usually defends Weeks’ glove. That said, an improvement- even if just to league average- would be very nice.

Outlook: As you can tell, I like Weeks’ future in a Brewers uniform. I know that we as Brewers fans can often get starstruck and overestimate our players’ abilities, given that we haven’t seen too many stars come through town. And I also remember guys like Glenn Braggs, who was an incredible minor league prospect who completely fizzled out at the major league level. But Rickie Weeks’ potential is great, and I’m excited to see what he can do. Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA system gives him a modest 2006 projection at 18 homers, 64 RBI, 14 steals and .267/.361/.462 in 562 plate appearances. I’m going to lean more towards their 75th percentile projection for him in my prediction:

.275 BA/.372 OBP/.470 SLG, 20 HR, 78 RBI, 22 SB, with improved defense.

I’m also going to predict serious All-Star consideration for him this year, with him being challenged by only Chase Utley and Marcus Giles for an NL slot. Ok, let the “you’re a homer” accusations commence…..

March 23, 2006

What Bugs You About The Brewers?

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Schmid @ 9:01 pm

We all know that the Brewers have done some very good things, both on the field and off.  The level of effort has since waned, but just a few years ago, the Brewers asked their fans how they wanted to see the organization improve the fan experience at Miller Park.  Management even held question/answer sessions with the fans.  This resulted in improvements such as more replays on the scoreboard, more interaction with the players, additional food offerings at the concession stands, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, the Brewers have made vast improvements since the Bando and Taylor eras.  While the experience at Miller Park was recently voted the most fan-friendly, there are still many things that bother Jamie and me about the Brewers organization and Miller Park.  We will be sharing those ideas with you periodically and we hope you will share you thoughts and ideas with us.

Here are just a couple issues off the top of my head:

  • When you buy nachos at the concession stand, you will get a full amount of nachos and cheese only about 20% of the time.  I guess those savings are directed toward other parts of the organization.
  • When they show fans “bad dancing” on the scoreboard, why do we see the same guy dancing under the railing game, after game, after game?  Isn’t digital video wonderful?
  • What is the problem with the Miller Park sound system?  After five years, the team and Stadium Board are still struggling to find a decent balance.  Jamie and I have sat in every level, behind the plate, and down the lines, yet the sound is very inconsistent.  Sometimes you cannot hear anything but a mumble and other times, the music is cranked so loud you cannot hear the person next to you.  One sound system feature Jamie and I love is the radio broadcast throughout the concourses and rest rooms.  Please, can we finally get the sound in the seating bowl corrected?
  • Jamie and I were at Miller Park a few Sundays ago.  Last year, they briefly had Prince Fielder jersey shirts.  We stopped at the Fan Zone and saw jersey shirts for Jenkins, Lee, Weeks, Hardy, Miller, etc.  I asked one of the employees if they had any Prince Fielder versions.  She said “no” and I asked when they would be getting them in.  She said “well, they usually don’t make them until the player becomes popular.”  What?

Anyway, let us know what bugs you about the Brewers!

March 22, 2006

Brewers Outlook: Carlos Lee

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jamie Herbst @ 2:34 pm

Carlos Lee 1

Despite the incessant postseason hype of all things Scott Podsednik in 2005, the Brewers really got a steal in nabbing Carlos Lee from the White Sox for him. Ironically, though, while the trade is often underrated from the Brewers’ side, Lee the player has been a little overrated both by media and fans. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate all that “El Caballo” brings to the table. It’s just that what superficially looks like a career year fell a little short of what many thought he was capable of.

Strengths: Lee set career highs in home runs, runs batted in and doubles. His 34.3 VORP was solid, placing him 13th among all major league leftfielders. Although his batting average dropped in 2005, taking his on-base percentage with it, Lee usually makes up for low walk totals with a good average. Carlos supplied much needed power to the middle of the Brewers’ order, while providing solid baserunning for such a big guy (13 steals). He had a huge first half of the season and was named to the NL All-Star team, before unfortunately tailing off as the season progressed. Usually Lee is just the opposite; he’s normally known to have slow starts and get hot along with the weather. There were times in the first half when Lee carried the Brewers (remember, Jenkins was stone-cold in the first half), and the rumors that came with him about being some sort of clubhouse cancer seemed to be unfounded. Overall, he had a good Brewers debut and- along with Brady Clark- made Brewers fans forget about Podsednik.

Weaknesses: The problem with Lee is that while his numbers look fine on the surface, they can often make him look like more of a star than he actually is. 32 homers and 114 RBI look nice on the scoreboard, but Lee also saw his on-base percentage dip to .324, his lowest since 2001. His batting average and slugging percentage also dipped to their lowest points since 2002. Throw in his horrific -9 FRAA in left field, and we see that Lee either had a down year, or his 2004 with the White Sox was somewhat of a fluke. 2004 saw him bat .305 with a nice .366 OBP, along with a career-high .525 slugging percentage and +14 FRAA. Problem is, there was never really any precedent of that kind of performance from earlier in his career. If you throw out 2004 and look at his career as 1999-2003, followed by 2005, you can see the possibility exists that we may have seen the best he has to offer. Those years are remarkably similar, and while all are very solid, they aren’t representative of an All-Star caliber player. However, despite my tone, I’m really not knocking El Caballo. Like I said, there were times he carried the Brewers offense and yes, he was an absolute steal for Scott Podsednik. He’s yet another shining example of Doug Melvin’s terrific moves as Brewers GM. With his free agency looming, though, and his price tag going nowhere but up, the Brewers would be prudent to take a look at the other options in their system for 2007 and beyond.

Outlook: Fortunately, it seems that the organization is doing just that. Any offseason contract extension talks were cursory at most, and all indications are that the Brewers will let Lee walk in free agency after 2006. This of course brings up the question that always follows- should the Brewers be trying to trade him before the 2006 deadline? I would answer with an emphatic “yes”. Players like Carlos are perfect for deadline deals. Contenders are seemingly always looking for more power in the order, often in the form of an outfielder or (in the AL) just a big bat they can throw in the DH slot. I don’t think Lee will fall below his 2005 numbers in ’06, and what do you think the Crew could get for a left-fielder hitting .275 with 20 homers at the All-Star break? Plus, we have Corey Hart waiting in the wings to probably duplicate anything Lee can currently do, not to mention Nelson Cruz having nowhere to play. My projection for Carlos Lee in 2006:

30 homers, 86 RBI, 10 steals, .269/.330/.482.

I’ll also predict that he will be traded before the July trade deadline, regardless of whether the Brewers seem to be contending or not. A deal will be easily justified considering the return the Brewers would receive and the readiness of Corey Hart or Nelson Cruz to take over in left.

March 21, 2006

Tuesday Thoughts

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Schmid @ 7:46 pm

A few thoughts from today…

Alfonso Soriano – Well, what can be said about this situation? This has been building all spring and it is finally coming to a head. If you haven’t heard, the Washington Nationals’ Alfonso Soriano, who, other than a few games at short and third, has played second base throughout his major league career, has been asked to play left field. Link

    Washington has said this violates Soriano’s contract and have threatened to place Soriano on the “disqualified list.” This would prevent Soriano from getting a pay check and accruing service time.

    Soriano has no leverage here unless he’s thinking his statistics look a whole lot better as a second baseman than an outfielder as he becomes a free agent after this season. However, if he is not gaining service time and sits out the season, he will remain Washington’s property. There are very few players in sports who can dictate decisions with their team. If you owned a business, how would you feel if you had such an uncooperative employee?

    Soriano’s statistics have done a nose-dive the last three seasons a well. His batting average, along with his onbase percentage, are going into the tank. What’s even more disturbing is that this has happened in offensive haven Texas. Now he is the death valley of RFK stadium. Yes, he hit homeruns, but a lot come from pitches at his shoetops. His defense is horrible (hense one of the main reasons for the position move). He rarely walks and baseballpropectus.com has his value to his team decreasing over the next five years.

    Suffice it to say, I am behind the Nationals in this situation. I hope Washington sticks to their guns, but with paying $10 million to a guy they traded Brad Wilkerson for (who is pretty good), can they afford to do it? Probably not.

    Today, Ned Yost named Doug Davis as the Opening Day starter. I have absolutely no problem with this decision. You could even have made a case for Davis over Ben Sheets if Ben had been healthy for the start of the season. Doug Davis had a great year in 2005 and has probably been the greatest jewel and success story in Doug Melvin’s tenure. Anybody agree/disagree with me?

        I was very happy to see J.J. Hardy back in the lineup today. As I’ve said before, I’m looking forward to what J.J.’s going to do this season. I know Bill Hall has to get his PA’s, but I believe if everything falls right, J.J. will be an all-star at some point in the next five years.

        Let me know your thoughts.

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