Sports Outside the Beltway

Brewers’ season ending press conference recap

Doug Melvin’s end of season press conference recap…my observations in bold:

Team always reports early to spring training, and gets off to a good start. Have to work on maintaining that. Many of the playoff teams got off to slow starts and finished strong. It’s a marathon not a sprint.

Bullpen took a lot of criticism, and not all of it was warranted. Cordero was 2nd in saves, Turnbow and Shouse were 2nd in holds, Shouse was in 60 games and never gave up a HR. Those 3 gave up one HR all year at home, until the last game, when Frankie allowed 2. Bullpen was the reason the team started strong, and had to pick up a lot of work because of the starters. In 2006, the starters went 7 or more innings 62 times, in 2007, only 33. The relievers were asked to pick up that extra work, and it showed.

If those numbers are correct, it is astounding. The toughest part of managing a ‘pen is getting to your best pitchers, and not overworking them. That’s a huge amount of pivotal frames the bullpen had to fill, and as pointed out, it showed.

Offense was a HR hitting team, Miller Park is a HR park, made for fly ball hitters, and the team was built that way. 15th in the NL in walks, need a couple of “professional” hitters, work the count, or pick up a walk before a HR. Hoping to add a guy or two like that. When the team blew an early 4-0 lead, many blamed the bullpen, but it can also be traced to not adding on a run or two by not taking a walk. Team has great speed, and used it well, except for Hall, who did not utilize his much.

Hall hardly ran at all, and did not go 1B-3B much, because he only got on 31% of the time.

Ned and the staff did an admirable job, Ned has strengths and weaknesses just like anyone else. Ned was told to develop players a few years ago and did just what he was asked. Many managers would not have done that like Ned. He agreed Lyle should be moved so Prince could play, JJ and Rickie were put in there every day despite struggles in the past. Those guys were ready because Ned stuck with them, many managers would not have done that. Ned is a fine manager of the entire organization. Areas he needs to improve on, as does everyone.

As for game management, everyone is a manager when something does not work. Even the teams in the postseason have been second guessed, should Peavy have pitched so long the other night? Who knows?

It’s an easy call when you read the last page first. Most folks have no clue how to decide earlier, however. That’s why they don’t bother explaining the mistake until 12 hours later.

Told Mark A not to expect Braun and Fielder types every 5 years, those guys are Yount and Molitor types, or Trammel and Whitaker, once every 20 years or so. Prince was the youngest to ever hit 50 home runs, those guys don’t come along every few years.

Know they have a lot to do…not going to be like hair conditioner, “just sit there and think I’m working”, got a lot to do.

That’s a great line.

Wants expectations to be high, wants people to pick the Crew to win, because of where the the team is now and where it’s going.

Would describe the season as disappointing, yet one of great progress. Scouts said Fielder might hit 50 homers someday, had no idea it would be now. No clue Braun would be up so soon and be so good right away.

One area of weakness was the rotation, thought it would be better. Ben being healthy would have helped, only made 4 starts in 2nd half that he did not have to leave early. That alone was a big difference, if he had got a dozen more starts. Thought they had good SP depth, but maybe needed more. Need 100 starts and 600 innings from your 3 main guys, did not get that. That said, we have 8 potential starters, and teams already are calling asking if SP’s are available, so apparently, despite wanting more, still have more than many other teams.

4 SP’s are a lock it would seem, but given how much Doug talked about it, adding another “innings eater” type, either for the bullpen or as the #5 guy, is possible. The fact teams are already calling would seemingly make fans who said Capuano and Vargas has no value look as stupid as I thought.

Home/road splits are an oddity, some attribute it to youth, but Arizona did fine and they are younger. Stat guys don’t have an explanation for it. Veterans might be the key to pulling you through tough times, and road trips.

Maybe need to get off to a slow start and finish strong. (tongue in cheek)

Discussed how he saw an article that listed nine managers that were in trouble, and all nine had winning marks. All four that got extensions were on losing teams…figure that one out.

Heh. It’s always the manager’s fault when the pitching goes south (like with the Mets) or when the ace gets hurt. Personally, I feel it’s intellectual fatigue, no one wants to analyze like Doug does, so they blame the manager and order up another beer.

Ned said he made some mistakes, especially with his bullpen usage. He’s still learning, he’s a huge part of the reason the team is where they are at. He’ll be back next year. Bullpens are never consistent from year-to-year, it’s just the way it is. Linebrink was one of the best set-up men in the game for years, and who replaced him? A kid that was in AAA for the Mets last year, and he was just outstanding.

He never used the words “small sample”, but basically, he described it perfectly. Over 200 frames, Suppan is pretty steady, if you split it up into 3 “seasons”, he is not. That’s exactly what a reliever’s numbers are.

Turnbow had some bad outings, but only gave up a run in 4 of his last 32 outings. Now, in the games he gave up runs, he may have given up 2 or 3, and the team lost some of those games, but overall, he was fine. Guys get booed. Saw John Wetteland booed in Texas, and he was an all-time great. When Derrick blows up, he blows up, and he’ll admit that. Many fans are short-sighted, they only recall the last game or two. Cordero never gets all those saves without Derrick’s holds.

Tried to patch up the ‘pen, brought in Linebrink, and tried to get Eric Gagne, sure glad they were not successful, backed off a bit at the end.

Surprised to hear Doug be so forthright here, basically implying how much Gagne sucked.

Will talk to Ned Monday about the coaching staff.

Needs, the SP’s need to go deeper to save the bullpen. Need to improve team OBP, by at least a few notches. Would like to add a couple hitters, improve rotation innings total, either in-house or or otherwise, and add some bullpen help.

Almost exactly what I expected, though it sure doesn’t sound like C & LF will be solved by in-house options. Thrilled he mentioned OBP and walks many times.

As of today, Hall is the CF. Guys like Andruw Jones and Torri Hunter are available, but may not be willing to go anywhere except a list of 3-4 teams. Stay away from low BB/high K guys.

Did not throw out runners like they had hoped. Estrada was fine offensively, about average for the position.

Catching is a black hole, as Doug pointed out, Johnny was right in the middle of the pack, despite less than hoped for numbers.

Would love to follow the Cleveland model of signing guys long-term and taking a year or two of free agency, but will have to see.

Farm system weaker, because so many have been added. Still plenty of talent, mentioned Alcides Escobar and Mat Gamel.

Payroll will be discussed, but Mark A has said he plows money back into the team, one way or another. Ticket sales were 12th, so payroll could move up. Not going to spend it just to spend it. Talk to Mark A almost daily, he is up to date on everything, and makes final decisions. Never held Doug back from making a move yet due to financials.

Weak free agent class. More trades than big signings expected. Probably because of teams focusing on developing their own young players and then keeping them.

Cordero will probably file, but he and his agent will say they will consider Milwaukee.

Team has many untouchables, a bit more limited than some others.

To get to the postseason, need to stay healthy, and get a career year out of a player or two you did not expect.

Very little mention of the weak defense…I’m sure the braintrust looks at it as just a work in progress…22 year-olds rarely play defense as well as when they are 27. You can’t accept Braun’s incredible hitting, literally a once every 10-15 years debut, and expect him to field like Wade Boggs did at his peak.

Here is Adam’s recap at the team site.

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  • Games  linked with  Brewers’ season ending press conference recap

Brewers have two spots open

I do find it remarkably comforting to see the participants in what appears to be the last two spots on the Crew’s 25 man roster. The battles appear to be between Tony Gwynn Jr. and Vinny Rottino for the final position player spot, and Jose Capellan and Greg Aquino for the last spot in the bullpen, assuming there are not any trades or waiver pickups…and with 5 empty spots on the 40 man, I expect to see a couple players claimed, though they may well be Marino Salas types, not major league ready.

If you take a glance at Rotoworld, or other similar sites, you’ll see names mentioned for the 5th starter, and even starting spots that are, to be kind, weak. As long as it is true that both Aquino and Capellan have options left, regardless of who makes the team, they will have the loser of that battle and Dennis Sarfate at AAA Nashville, two players that would probably have made the 25 man roster of over half the teams in the bigs, and probably two of the hardest throwers in AAA that can actually find the plate. My only fear is that Jose is not at full strength and hiding an injury of some sort, suffered in winter ball, as he’s not even been hitting 90.

On the same line of thinking, I think Tony will hit the majors and stay next year, but would prefer he spend ’07 getting 500 PA’s and hopefully, dominating the AAA level, making him at least a platoon option in CF for someone. I do think his overall package is tempting (though as Robert often points out, the 25th man makes little difference), as he would be used as a PR, early innings PH, leadoff PH late, and possible defensive replacement (probably just for Kevin Mench). Rottino is a nice utility guy, as he’s played all 8 spots off the mound, and is decent at 5 of them (all but 2B, SS, CF). He is a nice 3rd catcher, if you’d like to use Johnny Estrada as a PH when Damian Miller is catching, or use a PR for one of them. He’s also a RH bat, he’d actually be the only one on the bench (other than Miller or the switch-hitting Estrada) when a lefty starts. I would go with Vinny myself, but understand that Gwynn may well see more time if he is chosen.

There are probably players that will hit waivers that will tempt the braintrust as well, a RH slugger that could backup 1B/3B is one thing that comes to my mind, as well as that elusive loogy, although I would expect that piece to be added before the deadline in July, and not be a loogy by definition, but rather a solid reliever who happens to throw LH. Regardless, the quality of the 26th and 27th men make me feel pretty good about the strength of the depth that we’ve been hearing about all offseason.


Brewers Roster Projection

Since we’re halfway through March, I thought I would take a minute to project the Opening Day roster for the Brewers, for both MLB fans and fantasy players alike.

All But Locks (22)

    Ben Sheets
    Chris Capuano
    Jeff Suppan
    David Bush
    Claudio Vargas
    Francisco Cordero
    Derrick Turnbow
    Matt Wise
    Jose Capellan
    Brian Shouse

    Johnny Estrada
    Damian Miller

    Prince Fielder
    Rickie Weeks
    JJ Hardy
    Tony Graffy
    Craig Counsell

    Geoff Jenkins
    Bill Hall
    Corey Hart
    Kevin Mench/Brady Clark
    Gabe Gross

I still feel very strongly Mench will be traded before April 1st, as the need for RH power is a common one. I took a glance at AL rosters looking for something else the other day, and Mench would be an upgrade on the 25 man roster for almost every one of them. His salary is not prohibitive either, especially in today’s market, though teams like MIN may hesitate to add a $3M reserve/platoon player. If he is not, and there are no injuries, I suppose the possibility exists that Gross could be sent down for a while (as the only reserve with options left), but I doubt it.

Near locks (1)

    Greg Aquino

Hope you didn’t stop after the “all but locks” and go make a sandwich, thinking the next section would be lengthy. Greg’s a solid middle man, and fits the Melvin mold as hard throwing and inexpensive relief help. No options left for Greg, so he’s close to a lock.

Favored (2)

    Carlos Villanueva
    Vinny Rottino

Carlos seems to be the braintrust’s choice to take the final pitching spot. Honestly, he probably deserves it, though I’d prefer he start every 5th day in Nashville, at least until someone falters or is banged up.

Vinny is a near perfect choice for the 25th man, he hits decently, can (and has) play anywhere on the diamond, and let’s face it, he’s scrappy, an undrafted free agent signed after a tryout or a tryout camp, who has had to prove himself at every level.

{Quite refreshing actually, especially when you consider guys like Dave Krynzel get every opportunity and still can’t figure out how not to suck at AAA.}

Unless the team chooses to go with Braun as the starting 3B (extremely unlikely), or 6 OF’s, the in-house choice right now would be Rottino.


    Ryan Braun
    Mike Rivera
    JD Closser

    Ben Hendrickson
    Grant Balfour
    Dennis Sarfate
    Chris Spurling

Spurling is the only one who has pitched well enough to be considered, granted, in a tiny sample. Both veteran catchers, Balfour, and Ben H are out of options. If an OF is dealt, look for one of these to be packaged with them. Closser could make it through, and Balfour could, especially if he’s not ready to pitch. Rivera would almost surely be claimed, as would Hendrickson.


GM Doug Melvin interviewed, recap

From Doug Melvin’s interview on Milwaukee radio station WSSP, and my comments follow:

—Very happy to get Suppan, added depth, sold him on the city, park, and team. Created a comfort level with the meeting in LA, decided to give him a 4th year because of this, gave them a “soft” deadline, but needed to know an answer. Because of the Dave Roberts thing, told them the team needed to know. $2M buyout and option year sealed the deal.

I’m surprised the Crew was thinking of going with “just” a 3 year offer in this environment. I also fail to see how the $2M buyout is much of an incentive when you’re signing a contract worth $40M.

—”Stretched” on payroll to make this happen. OF’s will probably be reduced at some point, but not because of the payroll.

Doug walking the line beautifully, basically saying they can’t add much payroll, but that at some point, Mench or Jenkins will be gone, so they do have some wiggle room.

—Worked out very well to have meeting at Mark A’s house, showed him video of young players, even dug out a DVD of Suppan as a HS pitcher from scouting video that Jack Z found. Doug said it’s hard to believe that you have to recruit players with the money involved, but you do. Jeff wanted to call some teammates and others and let them know before the announcement was made.

It’s just like college football and basketball, sometimes decisions are made because of seemingly absurd reasons. You can either play the game, or you can lose.

Jeff said he learned more from Mike Maddux as a teammate than anyone else in his career.

If they knew this before, I think Maddux would have been in LA as well.

—Rickie Weeks will be the 2B. Looks like Billy Hall will be the CF, no CF’s left that will keep Hall from being the CF. Hart will be an everyday player for the most part, so the other guys will have to work themselves out. Will probably happen when someone gets hurt or isn’t looking good in spring training.

Between the lines, it is apparent Doug really liked Dave Roberts for his speed and defense.

—Feels Hall and Weeks will be above average at CF and 2B offensively, just hope to be average at each spot, and above that at a few spots.

By the sounds of it, Doug hopes to be 8th or 9th in offense, or maybe a tad higher.

—Trying to add another LH reliever and a long reliever, a Rick Helling veteran type, in case a starter goes down. Carlos V is probably the 6th starter, and it will be tough to keep him off the 25 man roster. Always looking for more pitching, to add a pitcher that’s a little better than a guy you have. Yo Gallardo may be up sometime in ’07, he’ll get a look in the Spring, but he won’t make the team in April. Huge talent, led all of minor league baseball in K’s last year.

Surprised to hear him mention Carlos V as a bullpen possibility, as I would think he’d go down to AAA and throw 90 pitches every 5th day. Inconsistent innings may keep Carlos from developing as much…but maybe all that is secondary. Yo, Carlos, and Zach Jackson is a fine trio to have at Nashville in reserve, that’s for sure. I would imagine a veteran or two will be signed to fill out the AAA rotation.

Suppan gives the rotation depth, keeps them from knocking on wood that everyone stays healthy.

That’s exactly what I’ve been saying.

Interview with Adam McCalvy, beat writer for the Brewers’ site on WSSP radio:

—Adam was in church Xmas Eve when he heard of the Suppan signing, missed the conference call, had to hurry up and put it together for the site.

Adam sounded rather unhappy with the timing.

—Feels the team looks at Suppan as that one missing piece, a durable SP that will take the ball every 5th day. Brewers look like the only team in division with 5 starters written in ink, most clubs are counting on prospects and the like.

Yep, the Crew and San Diego, and maybe LA.

—Carlos V and the others will be there if needed, but not counted on to win 10-12 games. Needed that depth last year, and this year, they look to have it. Stretched out the bullpen as well, they had to pitch more than usual, because the replacements for Ohka and Sheets were not only weak, but they didn’t go more than a few innings.

Over .500 in games started by the Opening Day rotation, 83-78 won the division for the Cardinals. A 6th starter in ’06 might have won the division for the Crew.

—Not many holes on team right now, need to get OF figured out, maybe who is the last reliever. Plenty of people will be picking the Brewers to win, and more will make them a “sleeper” pick.

As of this second, SL has 3 starting pitchers, and I think the Cubs have 2 SP’s that would make the Brewers’ top 5…I think many will pick the Brewers based on that rotation alone.

—Jenkins or Mench will probably be traded, as they look to have the most value, based on the winter meetings. Nix is intriguing, if he could stay healthy, and Gross is a nice reserve, hits some, plays all 3 spots. Gwynn looks to be back to AAA. Feels it would be difficult for Geoff to come back after last season ended.

With Gross as one reserve, I don’t see Nix making the 25 man. I think a platoon of Jenkins and Clark would be the best bet to begin the year in LF, with Hart settling into RF everyday.

Cross posted at Al’s Ramblings

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Jeff Suppan added to Brewers…best NL rotation?

As Jonathan Mitchell reported a couple days ago, the Brewers signed veteran starting pitcher Jeff Suppan to a 4 year, $42M contract, pending a physical.

This got me to wondering, could this move give the Crew the best rotation in the National League? I looked up the Brewers’ expected starters ERA’s in the past three seasons, and here’s what I came up with.

Ben Sheets, 3.13
Chris Capuano, 4.17
Jeff Suppan, 3.95
Dave Bush, 4.18
Claudio Vargas, 5.08 (4.37 ERA in his “away” games, which may be a more accurate representation, as Vargas pitched a lot of innings in the offensive confines of Arizona)

That’s mighty solid from top to bottom, to be sure. In an age where several teams are unashamedly going after Joel Pineiro, who was last remotely effective in 2004, it is unusual for clubs to have five decent options in the rotation.

Other starting staffs of note? I would probably say San Diego would be my choice as the top challenger for this mythical crown. Let’s look at their numbers.

Jake Peavy, 3.13
Clay Hensley, 3.51
Chris Young, 3.93
Greg Maddux, 4.16
Mike Thompson, 5.14
Chan Ho Park, 5.32

I listed both Thompson and Park because I do not know who is expected to be the 5th starter, or even if Park is expected back, though he was offered arbitration. Regardless, since both have similar numbers, it barely matters. I would normally argue that Petco Park may hold down the Padres’ ERA’s a bit, but their splits do not show that.

I would have to give a slight edge to the Padres, though if you use Vargas’ road numbers only, the small advantage could easily shift back to the Brewers. However, it would seem that with the addition of Suppan, the Brewers rotation can now easily be included when you discuss the best in the National League.


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