May 13, 2008

Ace showcase in Beantown would pay dividends

Category: Brewers — Patrick Stumpf @ 4:18 pm

With the Brewers long-awaited series at Fenway just a few days away, die-hard fans have already booked their flights. And what Milwaukee fan wouldn’t want to go catch this series? It’s not every year the team gets out to Beantown, in fact, it’s become a rarity. The last time the Brewers were fortunate to play the Red Sox in Boston was way back in 1997. Consequently, that year the two played each other six games in just over a week.  But due to the aforementioned fact, it would not only be a treat for traveling fans, but also wise for the front-office to make a minor personnel move. My proposal is this: push every starter back one day, to allow Ben Sheets to start Friday in the opener against Dice-K Matsuzaka, then subsequently recall Jeff Weaver from AAA to take Sheets’ spot Thursday (send down a reliever). Now this kind of move obviously isn’t plausible on a regular basis, but if there was ever a time to do it, this would be it. Why? Sheets, who is scheduled to pitch Thursday’s finale against the Dodgers, has posted a 4-0 record with a 2.53 ERA in 7 starts thus far. One day extra-rest would not only be advantageous for Sheets, it would be an opportunity for the Brewers to showcase Big-Ben on a national stage. And for all of you missing the point I’m getting at, Sheets’ contract is due up at the end of next season. While it’s always possible they could just resign him, they have a number of young stars entering arbitration in the upcoming years, and in order to retain them a chunk of change will have to be dished out. Allowing Sheets to start healthy, in Boston, against Dice-K, with six days rest, could be the last chance for the front-office to maximize his value before year’s end. It’s pure speculation, but if pulled off it would be a smart move looking down the road.

Fun Fact: Of the six games the Brewers played the Bo-Sox in ’97, the lone game they won was against none other than Jeff Suppan, who was chased from the game after surrendering 6 runs in 1 1/3 innings. Suppan was originally drafted by the Red Sox in the second round of the 1993 Draft (Courtesy of BaseballReference.com).

April 28, 2008

Slugging outfielder LaPorta on fast track to majors

Category: Brewers — Patrick Stumpf @ 10:03 pm

It’s just 25 games into the season, but already the Brewers’ Double-A Affiliate, the Huntsville Stars, have gotten off to a hot start (17-8). One of the key contributors to their early success: Matt LaPorta. LaPorta, the club’s 7th overall selection in the 2007 MLB Amateur League Draft, was a first-baseman by trade at the University of Florida, but with Prince Fielder anchoring the position for the immediate and hopefully extended future, LaPorta was forced to make a position switch. That position was left fielder; where GM Doug Melvin saw him as the best fit. The best fit, huh? Well looking at it long term, left field was the lone position the Brewers had yet to shore up. That was until, of course, Ryan Braun made the switch there before this season. Nevertheless, since settling in his new home in the outfield, the young man hasn’t been phased one bit. Like Braun, LaPorta has been on an accelerated path to the majors, not because the team’s rushing him, but because he’s crushing his opposition. Just to give you an idea, in his first major league at-bat in Rookie-Ball, LaPorta launched a home run. Since then, LaPorta made a short stop in West Virginia (Single-A), and then played in the Arizona Fall League, one of the most prestigious leagues at the minor league level, after being selected by the club to represent them. Braun was also chosen in 2006. In 30 games for the Mesa Solar Sox (a Fall League team), LaPorta socked 6 dingers, tied for the league lead over that span. LaPorta has since then opened the ’08 campaign in Double-A Huntsville, where he has picked up where he left off–raking. Through 24 games (82 at-bats), LaPorta has blasted 6 bombs, with 22 RBIs (both tops in the league). And if that’s not convincing enough, he also ranks 4th in runs scored (18), 2nd in total bases (behind only teammate Mat Gamel), 4th in slugging percentage (.602- tied with Gamel), and 7th in on-base slugging percentage. Hopefully that’s enough to convince you. I wouldn’t be surprised to see LaPorta reach Triple-A Nashville in the next few months, and possibly be called up as soon as September 1st, when the active rosters expand to 40. LaPorta ranks as the Brewers #1 prospect, as well as the #23 ranked player in all of baseball by Baseball America. As far his position once he reaches the big league club? Don’t be surprised if he ends up in right, with Corey Hart sliding to center after Mike Cameron leaves (Cameron signed a 1-year deal).

April 3, 2008

No sweep, but Brewers eager to begin home-cooking

Category: Brewers — Patrick Stumpf @ 8:23 pm

Content after a strong opening series with the rival Cubs in the Windy City, the Brewers will travel home tonight to get set to play the San Francisco Giants on Opening Day in Milwaukee. The Brewers were able to take two of three from Lou Pinella’s club, chosen by some prognosticators as the early favorites to reach the World Series. Recapping the three-game set, Ben Sheets wielded a gem in the soggy opener, much like his showing to kick off the 2007 campaign against the Dodgers. Sheets went 6 1/3 innings pitching two-hit ball, both hits coming off the bat of new Cubs sensation, outfielder Kosuke Fukudome.  Unfortunately for Sheets, Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano was pitching equally strongly. Sheets didn’t last long enough to notch his first victory of 2008, but a great start nonetheless. Jeff Suppan, although he didn’t quite outperform Sheets, also pitched solid in the second game of the series (6 1/3 IP, 2 ER, 2 K), good enough to propel the Brewer offense to a 8-2 win. And going for the sweep this afternoon, Dave Bush struggled mightily with his command, walking five batters through 5 1/3 innings. Bush was tagged with all six earned runs, and due to the Brewer offense’s inability to figure out Ryan Dempster, the Cubs won the finale, 6-3. In all, it was a great series to get the ball rolling. The one thing that irks me is the fact that Dave Bush was sent out by Ned [Yost] to start the sixth after giving up four in the previous inning. Hopefully this kind of start sends a message to Bush that he won’t be able to stay in the rotation consistently having poor starts this year, especially if Carlos Villanueva, Manny Parra and Yovani Gallardo (when he comes back) all show they are clearly superior. The formula for the Brewers, despite a bit clique, lies in this sentence: play .500 baseball on the road, play great baseball at home, and if you do that, the rest will take of itself. Tomorrow, the Brewers will begin a six-game home-stand with series against the Giants and Reds, before heading out east to take on the Mets. Let’s take a look at the pitching matchups for the Friday-Saturday-Sunday series with San Fran:

Game 1: Jonathan Sanchez (1-5, 5.88 ERA) vs. Carlos Villanueva (8-5, 3.94 ERA)
Game 2: Kevin Correia (4-7, 3.45 ERA) vs. Manny Parra (0-1, 3.76 ERA)
Game 3: Barry Zito (0-1, 7.20 ERA) vs. Ben Sheets (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
———————-
*Note: Game 1 & 2 statistics from 2007. Game 3 stats from 2008. Game times are 1:05, 12:05, and 1:05, respectively (all Central Time).

January 11, 2008

Cameron shores up defense in more ways than one

Category: Brewers — Patrick Stumpf @ 10:19 pm

Doug Melvin is finally showing the rest of the league the Brewers aren’t messing around anymore.  They are ready to contend, and after off-season signings of veterans Jason Kendall, Eric Gagne, Salomon Torres, David Riske and now perennial Gold Glove center-fielder Mike Cameron, the mix of youth and vets is approaching the break even point.  Cameron, 35, will allow Ryan Braun to move to left field, shifting Bill Hall back to third base.  This signing could be the move that puts the Brewers over the top, and a low risk one at that, because the duration of the deal is one-year.  Although he didn’t come cheap at $6 million (with bonuses), Cameron will provide defensive stability around the horn, the Achilles-heal of the team last year.  Braun, although deemed with NL Rookie of the Year honors, committed 26 errors at the hot corner last year, with Hall, new to his position as well, committing nine.  The only negative I see in this deal, for the time being, is it blocks the slot saved for 1st baseman converted left-fielder Matt LaPorta.  LaPorta, who will start the season in A, probably won’t be recalled for at least a year and a half, which probably rectifies Melvin’s thinking with Cameron signed for a maximum of two years (2009 option).  Cameron also provides a bit of pop, as he launched 21 homers along with 78 RBIs for the San Diego Padres last year.  One would expect those numbers to rise playing in the hitter friendly confines of Miller Park compared to PETCO, which is scorned by all major-league sluggers.  A large incentive to play in Milwaukee perhaps?  I’m sure the money was the most enticing, but the idea of “padded” stats should be reassuring to Cameron that he made the right choice.

Now, with the Ned’s card essentially set, let’s take a quick look at the projected 2007-2008 lineup:

C: Jason Kendall (signed from Cubs)
1B: Prince Fielder
2B: Rickie Weeks
SS: J.J. Hardy
3B: Bill Hall (move from CF to 3B)
LF: Ryan Braun (move from 3B to LF)
CF: Mike Cameron (signed from Padres)
RF: Corey Hart

I like what I see, but let’s not get our undies in a bundle until they have gelled together and produce on the field.  Remember, this team always trends toward starting fast, so unless they can limit the prolonged losing streaks, fans will most likely witness another slow, painful downgrade in the second-half. 

December 11, 2007

Gagne, Torres join bulked up relieving corps

Category: Brewers — Patrick Stumpf @ 3:41 am

Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt has reported that closer Eric Gagne (left) passed his physical today officially making him a Brewer. He added that Gagne looked in excellent shape, alot slimmer that his listed 240-pound frame. Another piece of great news for Brewers fans is that Salomon Torres (right), who the Brewers received last week for a couple of minor league prospects, informed GM Doug Melvin he would report to camp. Torres was a bit flustered after being traded away from Pittsburgh and was pondering retirement. So what does all this mean? Well, two more solid arms have been added to Doug Melvin’s arsenal, along with the additional two relievers, David Riske and Guillermo Mota, already in the fold for 2008. I feel the Brewers have definitely upgraded their pen, for a price less than what they would have had to pay Cordero for four years (44 million) and Scott Linebrink for another four (19 million). And you know the bullpen is improved when Gagne comments on the Brewers having “the deepest bullpen he’s ever seen.” Let’s just hope Melvin’s spending binge pays off.

Rumor Mill:  Another rumbling out of Brew City is that the Crew is actively trying to acquire either a LF or 3B. Names such as Andy LaRoche and of course Scott Rolen have come up, but another name who has jumped into that mix is Ranger 3B Hank Blalock. The Brewers probably wouldn’t have to give up a ton to get Hank, possibly Dave Bush or Chris Capuano and a minor leaguer, and he would allow ROY Ryan Braun to move to a position where Ned Yost and all of Brewers management can feel comfortable. It also would make sense to add a big bat, particularly a lefty, to the lineup, with veteran Geoff Jenkins leaving the club.

December 5, 2007

Melvin walking tightrope with anxious fans

Category: Brewers — Patrick Stumpf @ 10:09 pm

With the Winter Meetings coming to a close tomorrow, many Brewers’ fans are becoming angered over Doug Melvin’s lack of movement. Thusfar, Melvin has only made one signing, reliever David Riske, to a 3-year $13 million dollar contract. Rumors has floated endlessly around Nashville of possible trades, of which only a misnicule amount of them actually come to fruition. Ben Sheets, Bill Hall, and Chris Capuano have namely floated across the trade airways, with numerous teams supposedly showing interest in them. One deal I would love to see happen is Ben Sheets and Bill Hall to the LA Dogers for third baseman Andy LaRoche and outfielder Matt Kemp. This would help both teams, as the Dodgers need an answer to their injury-riddled rotation (Sheets would seem right at home with Schmidt, Lowe, and Penny) and the Brewers would like to get a third baseman to allow them to move slugger Ryan Braun to the outfield. The move would slide Corey Hart to center, with Braun going to left, and Kemp to right. The rotation would take a hit but the Crew would have most likely lost Big Ben at the end of 2008 eitherway, so you might as well get some value for him. Now remember, this is pure speculation, but the bottom line is Doug Melvin has to make some moves. Your team is not going to get better by doing nothing. Losing Cordero and Linebrink really hurts, and while Riske will help, the bullpen still needs serious work. Infielder Tadahito Iguchi may be a Brewer before its all said and done, but what does that fix? Doug please make this aforementioned deal (or a modified version with Broxton in it) happen. It would help put both you and the Brewers back on track.

December 1, 2007

Brewers’ front office gearing up for Winter Meetings

Category: Brewers — Patrick Stumpf @ 7:38 pm

It’s that time of year again, when rumors of deals circulate throughout cities, most them without substance. The Milwaukee Brewers have already made a number of moves so far after the conclusion of the season, and it’s starting to become clear that ownership doesn’t want to wait around anymore. After essentially cutting Geoff Jenkins, trading Johnny Estrada, and allowing Francisco Cordero and Scott Linebrink to walk, Doug Melvin is set to begin re-shapping the team for 2008. There have already been numerous reports that the Brewers will sign reliever David Riske to a three-year contract, and also that the team is pushing for third-baseman Scott Rolen. The addition of Rolen would create a log-jam at third, sending Ryan Braun to left-field. There have been other reports that Ben Sheets and possibly Bill Hall might move, as the Crew looks to acquire another starter or closer. Joe Nathan has been a rumored name, but don’t count out Oakland, as they have Huston Street and Dan Haren on the block. The club has already made a couple of aquisitions, getting Guillermo Mota in the Estrada deal and signing catcher Jason Kendall away from the Cubs. It’s obvious the club isn’t finished, with all the freed up money after Coco and Linebrink left. What remains to be seen to how agressive Doug Melvin will be at the upcoming Winter Meetings, starting Monday. Right now, however, the #1 priority should be shoring up an extremely thin bullpen. Stay tuned…

September 19, 2007

Front office faces big decision on Sheets

Category: Brewers — Patrick Stumpf @ 10:16 pm

When Doug Melvin signed Big Ben to a contract extension back in 2005, he would have never guessed that his new #1 horse would have so many freak injuries. Not just one or two, but it’s gotten to the point where you are just waiting for Sheets to go down with an unprecendented leg, arm, or leg injury. Sheets is no doubt one of the top pitchers in baseball when healthy, but how long can a small-market team like Milwaukee afford to pay their $10 million player for half a season of production? Well GM Doug Melvin and Owner Mark Attanasio will let fans know soon enough, Sheets is under contract for one more season following 2007, and then will most likely test the FA market, looking to reel in the final lucrative contract of his career. Whether or not the Brewers would pay $15 million plus for their plagued ace is yet to be seen. If Sheets was willing to take a hometown discount, I’d say go for it. But seeing that is not going to be the case, chew on this scenario. The New York Yankees’ rotation is not getting any younger, and would welcome Big Ben to the Bronx. One player that intrigues me on the Bombers is reliever Joba Chamberlain. If I was Melvin, and Sheets didn’t want to return to the Brew Can, maximize his value and deal him for your future closer. The addition of Chamberlain would allow the Brewers to let Francisco Cordero walk, freeing up a substantial chunk of dough, and along with Geoff Jenkins’ dump, the Brewers would have an extra 10 or so million to pursue a big name pitcher. It may sound crazy, but Johan Santana anyone? He will be asking for top dollar, $25 million plus, but with the young nucleus of talent the Crew has, Santana may feel obligated to take a chance, and become the Brewers bonafide ace. If this pipe dream were to somehow come true, the Brewers rotation would look someone like: Santana, Gallardo, Suppan, Villanueva, Bush/Cappy. Not only that, but your bullpen would be set for the future with Chamberlain, and you’d be also be able to lock up Linebrink for an extra couple years. Crazy? Maybe. Make sense? I think so.

August 1, 2007

Brewers deny record setting for another day

Category: Brewers — Patrick Stumpf @ 4:51 am

Tom Glavine deserved better. The southpaw threw 6-quality innings against the Brewers Tuesday, allowing just two hits and one run to cross the plate. Glavine, 41, was pushing for his 300th win, a milestone that only 22 other pitchers in MLB history have successfully accomplished. The Brewers wouldn’t have any of it, as Bill Hall scorched a double off reliver Guillermo Mota in the 8th, scoring J.J. Hardy, and Geoff Jenkins hit a two-run laser in the 13th to end it. This was the second time in consecutive home series that the Brewers have stalled a milestone, the other being of course holding Barry Bonds homerless during the Giants’ series last week. What made both occurences even more ironic was the fact that in both series, the anniversary’s of Hank Aaron’s record setting homer and Nolan Ryan’s 300th win were celebrated in Milwaukee. Glavine, who ended up with a no-decision, will try to obtain the milestone in his next start against the Cubs Sunday.

With the victory, the Crew remains a game up on the trailing Cubs, who defeated the Phillies 7-3 behind a strong outing from Jason Marquis. Dave Bush, who picked up the win for the Brewers after throwing a scoreless 13th, was scheduled to make tomorrow’s start. Look for the Brewers to move Claudio Vargas up a start, as he got the scheduled days’ rest, due to the off day yesterday. As far as Thursday’s starter, Manny Parra will probably be the Brewers’ best option given the circumstances. The club also announced after the game that infielder Joe Dillon will be called up prior to Wednesday’s game. The corresponding roster move has not been announced yet, but the move could signal a rest day for Ryan Braun.

July 28, 2007

Silver Lining: Linebrink shines in debut

Category: Brewers — Patrick Stumpf @ 5:20 am

After acquring highly-tauted reliever Scott Linebrink Wednesday, the Brewers and their respective fans were just waiting to find out how their newest addition would fit into the bullpen. He seems just fine. Linebrink made his first apperance as a Brewer against the Cardinals last night, going an inning, consisting of a strikeout, a walk, and a groundball, in which outfielder Skip Schumaker was doubled up to end it. Linebrink’s presence should take some pressure off Derrick Turnbow, Matt Wise, and Francisco Cordero’s shoulders, and solidify the Brewers’ pen for a stretch run. Although I didn’t like the fact Doug [Melvin] had to give up Will Inman, the best farm-prospect the Crew had left, I think the Brewers’ will win this trade bigtime, assuming management can resign Scott to a long-term deal this upcoming offseason. Linebrink current numbers (3-3, 3.80 ERA) shouldn’t dictate his affectiveness, as he has just gone through a rough month with the Padres. Hopefully the change of scenery, like Francisco Cordero’s, can get Linebrink back on track.

The Brewers made another move late Friday, acquiring reliever Seth McClung from the Devil Rays for pitcher Grant Balfour. Balfour, who coined the nickname “Ball Four” due to his inability to throw strikes, had three consecutive terrible outings, forcing his departure. McClung, 26, will likely report to AAA-Nashville to fill the void left by Balfour. McClung has the versatility to either start or pitch out of the pen, making him a possible late season addition to the picthing staff.