Wednesday, December 21, 2011

VFBC Podcast Episode 35 "Bill Castro Edition"



Breakdown of The Show:

Latest on Braun Drug Test Situation :00-21:00
Break
ARam Signing/McGehee Trade 22:03-41:21
Break
Winning Bid for Aoki 42:22-54:11
Break
News & Notes 55:18- 1:10:14

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Stand By Your Man

I will never forget my close friend Aaron's 30th birthday party. Not just because it was landmark birthday for a dear friend of 10 years but because it was the night I felt like a kid again, when I learned their was no Santa Claus. That was my initial feeling and thought when a little before 7pm I seen the crawl at the bottom of ESPN on the muted TV flashed the breaking news. "Ryan Braun tested positive for PED's (of course ESPN called it PED's when in fact it was synthetic testosterone which is just a prohibited substance) in October and faces a 50 game suspension under the MLB drug testing policy." As people at the party were chatting and enjoying drinks and various hors d'oeuvres we quickly un-muted the TV to hear the horrible news. We were all in shock to say the least.

It wasn't long after that when the text messages and calls starting rolling in on my phone. Like I said, I was in shock, I felt like I just found out an awful secret that I never wanted to know. I felt, angry, mad, sad and almost betrayed all at once. But then I took a step back and thought about it. No way in hell Ryan Braun would do this. It's not possible. He is too smart, too good a guy and he would never let his family, friends, fans or the Milwaukee Brewers down like this. And I don't believe he did. Because something just is not right about this entire situation. And I plan to stand by Braun and feel he is innocent. I am fully in the #FreeRyanBraun movement that Vince at Miller Park Drunk has started. Even bought the shirt to prove it!

While Braun has not had a chance to speak publicly in a press conference yet because of the ongoing appeal, he has told people through text messages that it is "BS and he is 100% innocent." Various handlers of Braun have said the same. Saying things like "there has never been a case like this" and his positive test had very "unusual circumstances."

Another thing fishy about the test is that it found an insanely high level of testosterone, like too much for any human to have in their system. So it seems to be the entire situation is just not right. He did test positive, but the positive test seems to have a lot of oddness around it. And as soon as Braun was notified of the positive test, he asked for a retest. Sources close to Braun said the retest came back negative. However it is not clear if the retest was of the "B" sample of the original or a new sample that Braun gave at a later date. This is why people should not be jumping to conclusions that Braun is guilty. There is way to much stuff out there that points to his innocence and all the facts do not seem to be in yet. Not to mention the fact that Braun has undergone testing since he was drafted in 2005 and never once had a positive test. And that includes at least two tests during the 2011 regular season. So if you are one of the people calling for Braun to be stripped of his NL MVP award, just knock it off and come down from Mt. Pius. That is not happening nor should it.

Look, I might just be ignorant to the entire thing and I sure am a little biased. But I am going to stand by Ryan Braun through this ordeal and I do believe he is 100% innocent. Nothing he has done or said in his entire career point to him doing something like this. It's just not him. Everything he does he thinks about before he does it and is as smart and savvy as any athlete I have ever seen. So why would he take anything illegal or banned by MLB? And come on, Ryan even said it himself a few years back. If he took any PED's or steroids, he would hit 60 or 70 HR's. Last time I checked he never hit more than 37 in a season. Oh and one more thing, when Ryan is found innocent, I want those hacks at ESPN to issue public apologies and kiss Braun's ass. Fact is, none of us should know about this right now. Privacy was breached before this whole ordeal was wrapped up. It's bullshit. And expect Braun to play with a MASSIVE chip on his shoulder in 2012, monster year coming up and another division title for the Crew.

-Jason

Say Car RamRod

Casey McGehee was dealt yesterday for Pittsburgh reliever Jose Veras, a move that no Brewers fan worth their salt didn't see coming. With the signing of Chicago's Aramis Ramirez Milwaukee found themselves without need of the 3rd baseman's services. Not only do I love this move, but Melvin proves me wrong again by pulling some great deals off these past couple days. After giving K-Rod his money, and signing mediocre shortstop Alex Gonzalez, I was worried that other areas, such as additional bullpen arms and the absence of a true clean-up hitter, would suffer. Now we made a 3 year $34-$37 million contract offer to Ramirez, and added much needed depth to our bullpen.

Jose Veras may not be a household name, but what he does do for the club is add another hard throwing righty into our pen. By adding Veras the Brewers now have 2 bullpen arms that can consistently hit 95 mph or better on the gun. Over the last two years Veras has also posted a positive WAR, had a K/9 of more than 10, and had a ground ball ratio hovering around 40%. Every indicator on paper says that this trade was a straight up steal by Milwaukee who only lost a backup third baseman at best. But, while Brewer Nation may be happy trolling through the Bucs forums is a different story. Most Pirates fans are not happy with this deal, but it was justified on their end as well, and they got more seasoned help for young corners Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones who struggled mightily last season.

I personally am slightly sad to see McGehee go. Not really for what his bat brought to the team, or his defensive prowess at third, but because I have loved this guys story from day one. Unknown infielder comes over to the Crew after being released by the Cubs, plays out of his mind, and becomes cemented into our hearts and the Milwaukee lineup after just killing Chicago every chance he got. Baseball activities aside McGehee was also a great person, donating time and money to charities close to his heart due to his son's condition. Even in June 2011 when Casey was batting .177 I defended him, and tried to make a case for Casey to rebound, sadly, as we all watched, that didn't pan out.

I guess the Brewers, and the resident's of the great state of Wisconsin, can say we took two good third baseman out of the quicksand of Wrigley Field with the inevitable signing of Aramis Ramirez to a 3 year deal. At first this is going to be a little strange for me, kinda like if we would have signed Jim Edmonds 4-5 years ago, but no one can deny that his bat is legit. We get about a match on the defense with McGehee, but his offensive numbers he puts up every year are on par with Casey's memorable 2010 season. Last season in 149 games the slugger batted .306 with 26 home runs and 93 RBIs. He has had four season in which he has hit over 31 home runs, but those days may be a thing of the past since he hasn't hit 30+ since 2006.

A-Ram serves two purposes since he not only fills a questionable position both in the lineup and in the field, but he also makes a weak and slowly sinking Cubs team that much weaker, and no matter what Epstein does this year I think it may be another 3-4 years before the the northsiders will be relevant again. Will A-Ram give us the power we lose from Fielder? No, but it's as close as we are going to get, and with Mat Gamel set to go at first we could see even better power numbers than last season with Prince if he can match even 2/3 of what he did in the minors. A-Ram also has a bit of an injury history to keep track of that may cause problems down the line.

So, Melvin appears to have done it again, and Milwaukee is setting up for a bright season. Hopefully it is not darkened by the cloud of PEDs and tarnished reputations. But, no need to dwell on the drakside since after the signings of both K-Rod and A-Ram, not to mention getting a mid tier reliever with a great breaking ball for next to nothing, Brewers fans have a lot on their plate this season, and we will see what RRR has up his sleeve. Now say car RamRod!

-Alex

Monday, December 12, 2011

Listener/Reader Poll Results

"Would you approve of the Brewers signing Aramis Ramirez to a 3 year deal?"

Yes: 66%

No: 33%

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Double Vision

Doug "The Wizard" Melvin has been hard at work in these dark days of December. It's just too bad that his magic seems to have weakened this off season. With the signings of Alex Gonzalez and K-Rod fresh in my head I have to ask...why? Granted nothing could match the fireworks we got last year as word traveled around about lucrative pick ups, and head scratches, and long shot payoffs, but are the Brewers grasping at straws to try and hold on to a contending team after the loss of Prince? Straw number one for me would be the signing of Yuni's more agile, and older, brother Alex Gonzalez.

Gonzalez has had a spotty history at best with most of his employment coming because of his glove, not his bat. In 13 seasons Gonzalez has a batting average of .247, and even Kotsay is laughing at that number. But, the story gets deeper when you take into account the fact that he has a steadily rising K%, up 6% since 2009, the inability to take any walks, career average 4.8%, and a propensity to swing at outside pitches. Really stacked up back to back Yuni would be his offensive peer, and if we want to get really real historically Yuni and Gonzalez are only separated by .002 in career fielding percentage (FP).

I wanted someone other than the Cuban Ballerina too, but that doesn't mean that we just go and sign his doppelganger. Granted it is obvious that Gonzalez saves a ton more runs when we look at the vast expanse between Gonzalez and Yuni's UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating). UZR is compiled differently than FP in that it takes into account variables that get left out since FP is a simple formula, putouts and assists divided by putouts + assists + errors, while UZR will tell you how efficient the player is at turning 2, saving runs with their arm, and comparative stats against league averages. Yuni carries a -48.8 career UZR, and Gonzalez owns a career 44.3...only a small difference.

So, Gonzalez has at least proven to me on paper that we can expect the same level of production with better defense and I am OK, but not happy with this move. I am a lot happier with this than the handcuff/blessing K-Rod may or may not be. If Milwaukee brass finds a way to land a big hitter like Aramis Ramirez than my jets may be cooled, but for now I am simmering for a take off. With a group around the horn with not too much depth I worry that we are slowly turning into Oakland; great pitching, mid tier offense. We will see after the frozen tundra thaws if Melvin has a couple more tricks up his sleeve, that or Mr. Attanasio is gonna have to bring all his suits in to get the pockets let out.

-Alex

Monday, December 5, 2011

Scrap Heap Relievers To Mend The Brewers Woes

The bullpen is dismantled after the departure of LaTroy Hawkins, Takashi Saito and Francisco Rodriguez. The Brewers still have stud closer John Axford, Kameron Loe and Marco Estrada, but outside of those key players from 2011, the Brewers do not have a good fix inside their system. A few remaining players that could star in the back end of the bullpen seem to be set to start in Nashville. Melvin prides himself in signing a diamond in the rough, so could he find a couple cheap fixes for the bullpen? Here are a list of injury plagued players and players who hit rough patches who many don’t expect the Crew to go after. Most of them are cheap options that can easily fill the big holes left.

1. David Aardsma- Aardsma, just 29, was a stud closer in Seattle whenever he could stay on the field. Despite much success, injuries plagued the young player and kept him from defining himself. Although he missed all of 2011, Aardsma had a great amount of success in 2009 and 2010. In ’09 Aardsma had 38 saves despite taking over for Seattle prospect Brandon Morrow part way through the season. In 2010, in just 41 innings before suffering his injury, Aardsma saved 31 games. The closer is not in the market to be the leader of a bullpen, but has proved he is very capable of being a setup specialists during his time backing up Morrow. With his recent injury history Aardsma could come in on a small incentive based contract and could fill the role K-Rod left at the end of 2011.

2. Joel Zumaya- Zumaya was once the closer to be prospect of the Tigers system. The flamethrower consistently hit triple digits and blazed away competition. He was always successful, with a career 3.05 ERA, Zumaya is another strong bullpen candidate that missed all of 2011. Zumaya is ready to throw, as he showed execs the other day during his personal demonstration, and strikes out major league hitters with the best of them. Zumaya is another player who would come in on an incentive based, maybe even minor league contract. Contention may drive up his price, but the Brewers chance at contention could make Zumaya attracted to Milwaukee. Plus, he’s only 27.

3. Pat Neshek- Neshek was once THE setup man of the American League. Setting up Joe Nathan, Neshek had two complete seasons with an ERA under 3.00 and striking out 9 or more per 9. Neshek then went through surgery, but could not return to form. Neshek hasn’t surpassed 25 innings in the last three years he’s pitched, and missed one year all together. However, the ability is still there, but control isn’t. Neshek does not seemed primed to get a major league contract, and coming in a spring training invite could prove impressive enough to make the bullpen.

4. Kerry Wood-Wood is one of THE bullpen FA’s going into 2011. The reason he is under the radar? Everyone expects Wood to go to the Cubs or retire, however, Wood just wants to stay somewhere, where his family is comfortable. Milwaukee’s close proximity to Chicago would not require him to take his family away from their comfort. They would also get someone who struck out 10/9 IP and walked 3/9. Wood is a great late inning reliever, and would cost some money, but may be willing to part with the Cubs if he stayed close enough.

5. Brad Lidge- If you could get as high profile a closer as they come, with as much explosion and injury risk as you could ask for Brad Lidge would be your man. I don’t know Lidge could be pulled away from closing duties, but he will most certainly be reliable if healthy. Lidge, pulled himself together in Philly, could he do the same in Milwaukee? The next best benefit of Lidge? He probably only wants a one year deal, if he is doing his normal performance come July, you could flip him to a contender if the Crew can’t compete.

6. Mike Gonzalez- Gonzalez was primed to be a closer. He was one of the top bullpen players, posting a 2.42 ERA in 70+innings for Atlanta. Gonzalez is a hard throwing lefty, who just lost his stuff. Location wasn’t a problem as much as he lost his ability to strike people out last season. Also, Gonzalez, allowing 1.8 HR’s per game last season was hurt by letting the ball out of the park. The Brewers need a lefty in the bullpen. Gonzalez can pitch against lefties, allowing a .217 career BA against them. Maybe a LOOGY role might be his best role, and the Brewers would be smart to buy when his stock is low. If he gets his pitches back together, Gonzalez could even pitch full innings, as righties never faired that well against him either… until 2010. In 2011 though righties hit .287 against him while lefties still only managed a .214 BA.

-Brad

Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Hope/Realistic 25 Man Roster Prediction For 2012

I have been contemplating posting a 25 man roster prediction for sometime now. Obviously, this early into the offseason it is hard to really pin down a good projection of what the club will look like. I mean hell, we have not even got to the Winter Meetings in Dallas yet. But with some recent rumors on players the Brewers are "in on" I have decided to come up with what I hope the roster looks like on Opening Day 2012. I like to think this is also a realistic option.

I see no way or no how that the Brewers re-sign Prince Fielder. It is a pipe dream and I wish they would just totally move on from him. In his place I think the best option is a Gamel/McGehee platoon at 1B. It is really now or never for Gamel and I think he deserves a shot. I go with McGehee in the platoon with Mat because I have the Brewers signing Aramis Ramirez to play 3B on hopefully no more than a 3 year deal. Aramis would slide right into the cleanup spot behind 2011 MVP Ryan Braun. At SS, the Brewers do not seem to want to give the amount of years Rafael Furcal or Jimmy Rollins seek or the amount of money Jose Reyes wants. With Clint Barmes already signed to the Pirates that leaves bringing back Betancourt or signing his offensive clone but much better glove man Alex Gonzalez. That seems like an easy choice, A-Gon all the way. On the bench I see them going with a younger better defensive backup Catcher in Martin Maldonado and resigning Jerry Hairston to serve as the #1 bat off the bench and a super sub that can play all over the OF and IF.

The starting rotation should be the exact same as it was in 2011 unless Doug Melvin has some kind of sneaky tricky trade up his sleeve. In that case the most likely arms to slide into the rotation would be either Michael Fiers or Wily Peralta. As for the bullpen I think the re-sign Saito over Hawkins and then go with all players that are already in house. I would not mind a trade for the White Sox Matt Thornton or signing someone like Frank Francisco, but assuming all the arms I listed below are healthy I think it is a damn good bullpen. Most of what I have heard is Braddock is recovered from whatever personal/mental issues he had and will be ready for Spring Training and same goes for Manny Parra and Brandon Kintzler and their physical injuries.

Of course a lot can happen between now and the start of Spring Training in Maryvale, AZ in February. But right now I think this would be a very good playoff contending club and it could be a realistic one based on the players, money and contracts.

Starting Lineup:

1. Corey Hart - RF
2. Nyjer Morgan - CF
3. Ryan Braun - LF
4. Aramis Ramirez - 3B
5. Rickie Weeks - 2B
6. Mat Gamel - 1B
7. Alex Gonzalez - SS
8. Jonathan Lucroy - C

Bench:

Martin Maldonado - C
Jerry Hairston - IF/OF
Casey McGehee - IF
Taylor Green - IF
Carlos Gomez - OF

Starting Rotation:

Yovani Gallardo
Zack Greinke
Shaun Marcum
Randy Wolf
Chris Narveson

Bullpen:

John Axford
Takashi Saito
Kameron Loe
Zach Braddock
Manny Parra
Brandon Kintzler
Marco Estrada

Listener/Reader Poll Results

"Who should be the Brewers #1 contract extension candidate?"

Zack Greinke: 71%

Shaun Marcum: 14%

John Axford: 14%

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

VFBC Podcast Episode 34 "Rollie Fingers Edition"



Breakdown of The Show:

Ryan Braun, NL MVP! :00-18:59
Break
SS Search Update 19:54-37:19
Break
Greinke & Marcum Extension Talk 38:11-56:13
Break
News & Notes (40 Man Roster, Sveum, Melvin, Kotsay) 57:15-1:16:51

Monday, November 21, 2011

Listener/Reader Poll Results

"What uniform do you think Prince Fielder will be wearing in 2012?"

Brewers: 0%

Cubs: 10%

Rangers: 50%

Nationals: 0%

Orioles: 20%

Angels: 0%

Somewhere Else: 20%

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Where The Brewers Real Focus Should Be

So we are to a point where the Milwaukee Brewers have done their usual nothing in free agency, much like many other teams, and as big offers go out to big free agents we have to wonder if the Crew will make a big move. If they do, fantastic, but it’s time to stop writing about the hopeful prospects of signing someone like Reyes and talk about what I believe the Brewers should focus on during this offseason.

For starters, the bullpen. One of the big reasons the Brewers were considered such a strong team in the playoffs was their shut down bullpen that ranked 5th in the MLB with a 3.32 ERA, that was much stronger in the second half. Right now the bullpen is a major factor, and can be fixed with a few pieces reassembled. Adding Saito or Hawkins will make for a strong 6th/7th swing man and then finding a power arm by trade, free agency or within the system will help. Still the bullpen could be even stronger with a few more pieces, and Melvin has always been very good at piecing these things together.

Plugging the holes is the next important thing. The obvious ones are there, SS, 1B but then the bench needs to be filled with some experienced starters. Melvin seems stuck on getting Hairston back into the lineup and I have no problem with that. I think 1B will be filled by Gamel and then sign an incentive contract for a 1B who is slightly past their prime, much to the history of Melvin. I think the outfield spot missing on the bench will be filled inside the system, and would love to see a cheap alternative come in at short for Yuni, most likely being Clint Barmes. As far as McGehee’s weak season goes, I think Green on the bench with a possibility of replacing or platooning with Casey would be a cheap resolution and there is your answer with the bench, filling all open spots.

Finally, and I consider this most important, resign at least ONE key starter. I think it is very important to extend this staff beyond the years it is together for. Marcum, Greinke and Wolf are free agents after the year. I think it is easy to let Wolf go, but Greinke and Marcum may leave in free agency. Yovani Gallardo will also leave the team in 2013, completely destroying the staff. I think the Brewers expect to lose two of the aforementioned pitchers internally. It appears they have a desire to get Fiers or Peralta into the rotation and condition them to be a successful part of the 2013 staff. The Brewers also have two first round college picks and Cody Scarpetta. The Brewers don’t have a great history in developing their own pitching talent, especially for the rotation. In fact the only strong success stories come from Gallardo and Sheets.

From my point of view, in order to remain competitive, the Brewers are obligated to resign one of Marcum, Gallardo and Greinke. I think the biggest deal comes in signing Gallardo. It seems like Yo only gets better and better, even though he doesn’t have much to improve. It looks like his value will only increase throughout the years. I would go into finer details, quoting WAR and ERA and wins, but any Brewer fan has noticed Gallardo’s increased dominance inside 4-6 shaky performances a year. If he can limit those big mistake games, Gallardo is going to be poised to make major money. Right now it appears he’s very under the radar and can probably be put on a 5 year contract for $80 MM or less, which is a deal for elite pitching.

Marcum and Greinke then would depart next year. I think Greinke’s comfort level will be increased if the team can compete again, but first the Brewers would need to have another good season, maybe even make the playoffs. Greinke appears ready to stay for comfort, but also wants money. Another playoff run could set the Brewers up for just that. In the coming years the only major piece outside of pitching the Crew will need to replace is Cory Hart, which appears to be easy with the depth of outfield depth in the system. The money can be placed into pitching without large concern in the future, and pitching provides ability to compete for years to come. Marcum will also be considered midmarket when he departs, so if Greinke were to depart, Marcum could probably still be locked in for a similar contract to Gallardo.

This is what I think the team should focus on over the next few months. Signing a few more players for the bullpen, filling the empty roles on the bench and finding a shortstop (everything else seems to be an inside job) and resigning at least one of the star pitchers on the team. Got any disagreements? Challenge me with a comment, and I will get back to you and tell you if you changed my mind or made me more passionate to my plan.

-Brad

Thursday, November 3, 2011

VFBC Podcast Episode 33 "Bobby Hughes Edition"



Breakdown of The Show:

BBWAA and Blogger Awards Recap 00-17:06
Break
Minor Moves (Options/Outrights) 18:08-26:51
Break
Brad's Top 50 Free Agent Prediction List 28:19-48:08
Break
News & Notes 49:10-1:07:58

Listener/Reader Poll Results

"Realistically, who is the best option at SS in 2012?"

Yuniesky Betancourt: 0%

Clint Barmes: 77%

Rafael Furcal: 0%

Jose Reyes: 11%

Jimmy Rollins: 0%

Jamey Carroll: 11%

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Top 50 Free Agent Predictions

Using the top 50 list from MLB Trade Rumors here is where I think the top 50 MLB Free Agents will land this offseason. Enjoy!

1.Albert Pujols-St. Louis Cardinals
I cannot imagine the Cardinals not shelling out the money to retain their franchise star. Pujols is the St. Louis Cardinals and much like Dan Marino or John Elway it’s hard to imagine him in any jersey but the one he started in. Along with that, I am not sure there is a need for him on any team that can spare the money.

2.Prince Fielder-Boston Red Sox
On the other hand, Fielder will need to go somewhere where his career will be long. Even though he wants to stay a defender as well, no general manager can place him there. The Red Sox can let long time DH, David Ortiz walk and sign a better one in Prince Fielder, who will give the Red Sox a new Big Papi and Manny when he combines with Adrian Gonzalez. It will be the best 3 and 4 combo the MLB has seen in nearly 50 years.

3.Jose Reyes-Milwaukee Brewers
To site the reason for this please see the 2012 wish list. Doug Melvin and Mark Antanasio are willing to spend money and will want to keep the offense competitive. There is nothing that would make a bigger impact out of resigning Fielder.

4.CJ Wilson-Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays want to compete and are doing so by having an amazing rotation. Wilson, although not a star, can back up the amazing talent coming from Toronto’s farm system. If he joins their staff they can make a mark on the east much like the Rays have the past few years.

5.Yu Darvish-Japan
Darvish doesn’t seem to want to come to America quite yet. I’m guessing this year will end the same as last, with Darvish in Japan, teasing MLB execs for one more year.

6.Edwin Jackson-Washington Nationals
Jackson is looking for somewhere that won’t trade him. He has had 6 teams in 8 years of his Major League career and I am sure wants to save some of his paycheck for himself rather than paying the movers. Washington is much like Toronto but not quite as competitive. They have proved they want to spend money on Free Agents and Jackson will love the guarantee to stay in one town.

7.Jimmy Rollins-Philadelphia Phillies
Rollins is frequently injured, aging, decreasing in ability and wants too much money. No one needs a shortstops that bad to take these risks, so I think Philly will get a discounted gift in retaining their long time shortstop.

8.Aramis Ramirez- Cincinnati Reds
Ramirez is still potentially an elite Third Baseman offensively. The Reds need offense at the hot corner. Collecting around 30 RBI’s off Rolen’s injury replacements last year and not able to rely on Rolen to be healthy year in and year out. Ramirez could be a big gain to the Reds and with a gain in the rotation could be a top competitor in the NL Central again.

9.Carlos Beltran- San Francisco Giants
The Giants need someone like Beltran, a leader and someone solid in the field and at the plate, Beltran can still play well in the corners in the outfield and well at the plate. He won’t be the MVP candidate again, but certainly can help the Giants get the few runs they need to win with their amazing staff.

10.Jonathon Papelbon- Boston Red Sox
Where else would Papelbon go? He is no longer one of the best closers, but is still good. The market isn’t that thick and Bell and Rodriguez might be the next best things, but cost more to bring into Boston. Heath Bell seems reluctant to leave San Diego and K-Rod will be looking to snag another record deal, but it won’t happen. Boston most likely need Pap to stay and close the door in the East.

11.Michael Cuddyer-Minnesota Twins
Cuddyer seems content to finish his career where he started it and the Twins should get a hometown discount at that. But Cuddyer could seek somewhere new with plenty of room in Right Field and at First Base, Cuddyer will have his pick after Pujols and Fielder sign.

12.Mark Buerhle-Florida Marlins
Buerhle the last few years has always spoken highly of comfort. He said he wanted to remain in Chicago, but Ozzie Guillen may draw him down south with him. This is a rough prediction since Buerhle seems to think that his family is best in the Midwest. I think he rather follow his manager and play with the always nagging Marlins.

13.David Ortiz-Seattle Mariners
The Mariners need to make a move, with the GM on the hot seat and the team sinking faster than the Titanic they might need to make a big move. I cannot see them grabbing a big name like Fielder, but Ortiz will be useful enough and cheaper so he can assist the Mariners in some way and probably finish his career in the West Coast.

14.Ryan Madson-Phillies
Again, the Phillies would be crazy to let this one go. Plus where else can Madson run off to? What other team will continually get him in the playoffs.

15.Hiroki Kuroda-Oakland Athletics
Kuroda will only survive in the DH role. The Athletics seem content to pay him decent money to sit there. He won’t go anywhere and I don’t think he wants to.

16.Carlos Pena-Chicago Cubs
Even with Theo in the front desk, I cannot see the Cubs snagging a top Free Agent. With Fielder and Pujols going somewhere else, Pena will stay in Chicago for a slightly cheaper fee than last year.

17.Francisco Rodriguez-Florida Marlins
The Marlins need a big name, and K-Rod will be that name. He wants to close, the Marlins have the opening and Guillen plans to make an impact.

18.Roy Oswalt-Texas Rangers
The Rangers lose one ace in CJ Wilson and sign an old Texas ace in Oswalt. Everything makes sense here.

19.Javier Vazquez-Retirement
Vazquez has clearly wanted to turn it in. Strong pushes show his cap will be hung up and he will no longer play anywhere.

20.Heath Bell-San Diego Padres
Bell wants to stay in San Diego. San Diego needs a closer, another thing that just makes sense.

21.Coco Crisp-Washington Nationals
The Nationals need speed and lots of it. Crisp can do that, and sometimes more.

22.Hisashi Iwakuma-Minnesota Twins
The Twins made an investment on Iwakuma and will want a return. For that they will need to bring back the middle infielder and hope he turns out to help them return to the playoffs.

23.Kelly Johnson-Detroit Tigers
Tigers need a little bit more power in their lineup. Johnson is a big time power middle infielder and may be what the Tigers were missing when the Rangers trounced them in the ALCS. I could see Johnson being what the Tigers think they are missing.

24.Josh Willingham-Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates almost had a winning season. In fact, for a while they even had a fan base. Willingham will help the offense, but the pitching still needs big time help. It doesn’t seem like the Pirates know that.

25.Paul Maholm-Seattle Mariners
As I said, most of the Mariners staff is feeling the heat. They will be drawn to Maholm’s big year, pay too much and get little reward. Maholm will fail in the AL, unless the Mariners strong defense can back up Maholm sinkerball performance.

26.Grady Sizemore-Tampa Bay Rays
I see the Rays making a big risk move here. I can see them sending Upton out of Centerfield over to another team and take in some strong prospect. Then they can sign a gold glove discounted centerfielder. It’s a high risk/high reward type of move, and the Rays could pay for it long term, but it could be the move of the year.

27.Bartolo Colon-Retirement
It always seems Colon will have a home somewhere, but I can’t see anyone biting on a small role pitcher like Colon. As useful as he can be filling in for an injured starter he is no longer full time, and will either get a minor league incentive contract or be done all together.

28.Erik Bedard-Boston Red Sox
Bedard is coming into the offseason uninjured which is amazing considering his history. I think the Red Sox loved what they got last year and want more of it. They will sign Bedard for a decent deal, and maybe for a few extra years.

29.David DeJesus-Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers will need some help in the corners. DeJesus can help and will keep the Dodgers offence at par with last year.

30.Jason Kuebel-Chicago Cubs
I can see the Cubs adding some proven outfield help after unsuccessful attempts with minor leaguers and bad contracts. Kuebel will add power in the hitter friendly ball park and could provide much more value than this.

31.Ramon Hernandez-Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates have no more catching staff, they will need someone. Who better than Hernandez who proved to be a valuable fill in and can be a great starter. He will give the Pirates some much better veteran leadership that the young team needs.

32.Jeff Francis-Kansas City Royals
Francis found success in Kansas City, why not stay there and see where things go.

33.Chris Capuano-New York Mets
Same thing for Capuano. Sure the Mets are looking what they have in youth but with the comeback season Cappy had they might be foolish to not give him a second look at a bit more money this time.

34.Tsuyoshi Wada-Baltimore Orioles
It gets harder and harder every year to predict who is willing to take the huge risk of a Japanese prospect. The Orioles have nothing to lose by bringing in an unknown and maybe pulling away big in the process.

35.Clint Barmes-Houston Astros
The Astros may be starting over, but they will need something to make them a little secure somewhere. Barmes could be used a lot of places, but the Astors may need him more just for some security in their lineup.

36.Casey Kotchman-Milwaukee Brewers
With Milwaukee picking up Reyes, they will have enough offense, but Kotchman can provide decent power and a good average along with stellar first base defense. He will fill in for Fielder well if the Brewer do not go on with Mat Gamel at first.

37.Freddy Garcia-New York Yankees
Garcia proved very serviceable in New York. He is a solid starter and very valuable as a long reliever. The Yankees need one more person than Sabathia to be reliable. Garcia can do that, just not nearly as well.

38.Aaron Hill-Arizona Diamondbacks
If the Diamondbacks plan on repeating their success they will need Hill. A surprising contributor down the stretch he can play everywhere and the Diamondbacks still have question marks Hill can answer.

39.Johnny Damon-Tampa Bay Rays
Damon is almost done, but still has something left in the tank. He can still play a little left field and can be a solid DH for the Rays. They are very young, a little experience won’t do any wrong in their lineup.

40.Aaron Harang-Los Angeles Angels
The Angels have a good staff. Harang can make it great. He had a good year in San Diego, although a pitcher’s park Harang was once an ace, and we know he can be again. Having something to compete for in LA may give him the boost he needs to make the rotation the Angels have the edge they need to win the West again.

41.Jamey Carroll- Minnesota Twins
The Twins do need middle infield help. Carroll can give them one good year of service. Why not take him up on it?

42.Rafael Furcal-St. Louis Cardinals
I think the Cardinals consider Furcal to be the change they needed to move towards the World Series. If that is their belief that will make them stupid to not bring him back.

43.Juan Pierre- Oakland Athletics
What will the A’s do without something from the scrap heap. Pierre has some life in his speed and Oakland has always liked someone who can create runs. Pierre will do just that and help keep Oakland at nothing above average.

44.Frank Francisco-Milwaukee Brewers
Francisco has been known to give up a lot of home runs. He was also once a very valuable reliever. The Brewers need something that can replace K-Rod. Francisco is certainly no Rodriguez but he is a power pitcher and can help if he can limit the long ball.

45.Jason Marquis-San Diego Padres
San Diego may have an obsession with trying to return life to lost players. Marquis is just that. Maybe the playoff magic will return and the run the Padres made 2 years ago will be successful.

46.Joel Pineiro-Pittsburgh Pirates
He could compete in the Central in the ’09 but not in a system without Dave Duncan. The Pirates are looking for anything that will bring them a winning team.

47.Jonathon Broxton-Los Angeles Dodgers
Broxton had surgery, but before that was damn good. Why not let him stick around and be as big a contributor as he was in 2010.

48.Joe Nathan-New York Mets
The Mets love big names. Nathan would be the biggest name on the market two years ago in pitching this season. If he can bounce back from Tommy John surgery the Mets will be very happy with their non-aggressive but big return closer.

49.Kerry Wood-Retirement
The Cubs should bring him back, but I believe they are sick of the year in year out game. Wood was good, but I think it’s done.

50.Bruce Chen-Houston Astros
The Astros don’t have the prospects to fill a rotation without forcing someone into the bigs too soon. Chen is good, he won’t turn the Astros into winners, but maybe he will make them at least less bad.

-Brad

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Listener/Reader Poll Results

"What grade do you give Ron Roenicke for 2011?"

A: 37%

B: 31%

C: 12%

D: 6%

F: 12%

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My 2012 Milwaukee Brewers Christmas Wish List

So with the Brewers’ season over and the World Series at most a week from being completed, I am getting anxious for free agency to begin. I am constantly looking at the roster and areas for improvement, especially a few ways I think the team can make up for one big loss in Prince Fielder.

At this point I believe it is safe to say Prince Fielder is gone. I know management say they can make him a competitive offer, but there are teams with bigger budgets that will certainly be bidding the Brewers into a hole they cannot get out of financially. However the Brewers do have some pocket depth to deal with and may be able to make a bang financially in the market.

Now let’s stop with the introduction and get to the roster I would WANT to see in 2012 and the reasons I would love it. Below this is a more reasonable wish list.

1B: Mat Gamel
2B: Rickie Weeks
SS: Jose Reyes
3B: Taylor Green
C: Jonathan Lucroy
LF: Ryan Braun
CF: Nyjer Morgan/Carlos Gomez
RF: Corey Hart
UTL: Casey McGehee, Jerry Hairston Jr., Logan Schafer, Martin Maldonado
SP: Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf, Wily Peralta
BP: Kameron Loe, LaTroy Hawkins, Marco Estrada, Chris Narveson, Mitch Stetter,
SU: Frank Francisco
CL: John Axford

Now, this is clearly a dream team and a lot of hope. The budget you save by having two non-arbitration players starting on your roster can open a lot up in your budget, including a star like Jose Reyes. If the Brewers can’t get Fielder, I think Reyes is an amazing second candidate to bring a star onto this offense. I think it’s safe to assume that Taylor Green can be as much an asset at third as McGehee was in 2011. His bat is electric, with great power and contact, and his defense is better than McGehee’s which will help. Reyes and Gamel will certainly be better than Betancourt and Fielder, not that either can replace Fielder, but Gamel can be a 20 HR player and a very good #5 hitter on a team while Reyes will be a ++++ replacement to Betancourt. If Peralta is at least a shimmer as good as he was in AAA he can already bolster a fantastic pitching staff. I see him as being comparable to Alexi Ogando and moves a versatile full inning lefty in Chris Narveson into the pen.

The oddest choice I see here was Frank Francisco as a set up man. My opinion here is formed from K-Rod as set-up last year. It’s nice to have a power closer as the 8th inning pitcher, but Francisco has shown some rust, but can still be an electric player. There are plenty of closers on the market that can fill a closers spot on another team, I see Francisco getting left aside and being a very cheap sign. He’s a good risk pick with high reward that and probably be easily replaceable. Otherwise I could see a AAA player replacing Francisco on the Bullpen roster with a trade off at the 8th inning much like the first portion of 2011. I see something like this being more successful and providing some insurance should Axford need time off.
That was my all time high for pickups in getting an all-star MVP candidate in Reyes, it would make the Brewers offense nearly as good as 2011 if not better depending on the performance of the Rookies at the corners, but I have strong belief that they could fulfill most of their expectations.

Here is my realistic hopes for the 2012 season:

C: Jonathan Lucroy
1B: Michael Cuddyer
2B: Rickie Weeks
SS: Clint Barmes
3B: Casey McGehee
LF: Ryan Braun
CF: Nyjer Morgan/Carlos Gomez
RF: Corey Hart
Bench: Jerry Hairston Jr., Taylor Green, Logan Schafer, Martin Maldonado
SP: Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf, Chris Narveson
BP: Kameron Loe, LaTroy Hawkins, Marco Estrada, Mike McClendon, Mitch Stetter, Cody Scarpetta
CL: John Axford

So this is what I think can happen. Barmes is a cheap available starter that does not bring star power, but can easily replace Betancourt and be much better both offensively and defensively (then again so is anyone in the Majors you put at SS, including bat boys). Cuddyer is someone who can bring in a great bat that would put a dent offensively at the corner where Prince once sat. Cuddyer can hit near .300 and 20 bombs supporting a strong offense, and with the power that he’ll be around in Milwaukee could see large increase in RBI’s and runs scored.

I think the above roster is a decline in bull pen from last year, but otherwise just as formidable if not more than the 2011 Brewers roster, it may not have two MVPs but it certainly has a lot of boom for the buck, and Cuddyer will probably come cheap with the bidding war some teams may get in over Pujols and Fielder, where the Brewers can sneak in and get Cuddyer cheaply if the Twins don’t lock him down first.

It would be nice to have the first roster since on paper it looks a little better but the second roster is probably just as good and could still win a division and go far in the playoffs.

-Brad

Thursday, October 20, 2011

VFBC Podcast Episode 32 "LaTroy Hawkins Edition"



Breakdown of The Show:

Review of All Things NLCS :00-35:30
Break
Very Early Look at 2012 Team 36:20-58:49
Break
Preview/Around NL Central/Final Chalet Award Winner 59:50-1:10:49

Monday, October 17, 2011

And Suddenly It Was Over

As I watched the last few innings of game 6 last night with no real hope of a Brewers comeback in sight I was upset. I wasn't quite fuming with rage, but I was about as pissed off as I could be without screaming expletives and throwing things at my TV. I would say it was more like bottled up rage. I was trying to play it cool and keep it inside as I was watching the game with my wife, who hates when I yell and scream at the game and my friend, who always plays it cool. The NLCS started with an exciting game 1 that the Brewers won at Miller Park and I felt about as high and confident in the team as I had all season, and that is saying something. But that high and confidence did not last long as the team played pretty awful the rest of the series save for Randy Wolf's outstanding game 4 performance at Busch Stadium.

Then Mark Kotsay was called upon one more time by Ron Roenicke to pinch hit in the 9th inning of game 6 and as I watched him strike out to end the game I came to the realization that I had watched the last out the Brewers would make in 2011 and it was going to be a long winter thinking about what happened in this series and what could have been. But maybe more importantly it was going to be another long, cold and snowy Wisconsin winter before I get to see the Brewers play baseball again. And that might be more depressing than losing the NLCS in 6 games at home to the hated St. Louis Cardinals.

When I went to bed after the game I figured I would wake up today still feeling angry about the way things ended. Specifically the starting pitching, the defense, Braun & Fielder's lack of hitting vs the Cardinals and of course Ron Roenicke's decision to start Shaun Marcum for a third time after he had been destroyed his previous two starts and clearly had NOTHING left. But to my surprise I woke up with a different outlook. I felt much more sad and disappointed in the way the season ended, but joy over the thought of the journey. The biggest reason is I remembered all the awesome things that happened to the Brewers in 2011. Of course years down the road when Brewers Nation talks about the 2011 team it will always be brought up how they lost the NLCS to the Cardinals.

But Brewers Nation will also talk about clinching the NL Central Division title at home, I was there and it was amazing. Brewers Nation will also talk about the thrilling game 5 victory in the NLDS, I was also at that game and it was an absolutely insane moment I won't ever forget. Sharing that with my wife our friends and a bunch of random strangers was incredible. Brewers Nation will also talk about the franchise record 96 wins, Braun and Fielder's MVP caliber seasons, all the great pitching performances from Gallardo/Greinke/Marcum/Wolf/Narveson, Fielder's All-Star MVP, Axford's amazing season, the K-Rod trade, the SI cover, all the highlight reel catches in CF from Gomez, Jerry Hairston's hot postseason, everything Nyjer Morgan/Tony Plush did, all the beast mode stuff and so many more things I can't think of now but when I hear them I will say "oh yeah! That was awesome!"

So while the ultimate goal for the Brewers was not reached, that should not take away from what was one of the best seasons in franchise history. It was an incredible ride and with Mark Attanasio, Doug Melvin, Gord Ash and even Ron Roenicke leading the charge I like the clubs chances of sustaining success and making more trips to the playoffs in the upcoming years.

-Jason

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

NLCS Game 4 Preview UPDATED

Who: Brewers (Randy Wolf) vs Cardinals (Kyle Lohse)
When: Thursday October 13th at 7:05 pm CST
Where: Busch Stadium St. Louis, MO
TV: TBS
Radio: 620 AM WTMJ/540 AM ESPN

Must win. Well, technically game 4 is not a must win for the Brewers in that if they don't, they won't be eliminated. However, if the Brewers can't pull out a game 4 win over the Cardinals they will find themselves down 3-1 and would have to win 3 in a row over a very hot Cardinals team to win this series. It wouldn't be impossible, but it sure is not something they would want to have to try. This series becomes a series again if they can pull it to 2-2 because it would guarantee that the series would head back to Miller Park for game 6 and possibly a game 7.

Randy Wolf pitched awful in his NLDS start vs the Dbacks. His start was on par with the two awful starts by Shaun Marcum in these playoffs. However, Wolf did have some pretty good success vs the Cardinals this season going 2-0 with a 1.12 ERA. Something positive the Brewers can hang their hats on going into game 4. I know it is a simple formula, but I think the two biggest keys to tonight's game, besides NOT starting Mark Kotsay in CF, is to score early vs Kyle Lohse. Get a lead and get some confidence going. Couple that with Wolf tossing a scoreless 1st inning. That has been hard for Brewers starters this postseason. If Randy can do that, maybe string together a few scoreless to start the game I think the Brewers will be in a great position to win tonight.

Roenicke rolled the dice on Wednesday night by making the ridiculous decision to start Mark Kotsay in CF. Now in fairness, Mark did walk twice and hit a solo HR. But his base running mistake and two misplayed balls in the 1st inning were unforgivable. Kotsay was not alone in misplaying a ball in the outfield though, Corey Hart misplayed a ball hit by David Freese that looked like a routine fly out. Hart is not playing well in the field, not hitting and he just looks very slow in everything he does. My hope is that if Roenicke was willing to put Kotsay in CF last night that he will be willing to bench Hart tonight in favor of Kotsay or play Gomez in CF and Morgan in RF. It at least makes the defense better and who knows, maybe brings more offense as neither of those three can hit any worse then Hart is right now.

Just get the series back to Miller Park and good things can and will happen.

-Jason

UPDATE: Just tweeted what I found on Baseball Reference, in Randy Wolf's last two starts at Busch Stadium: 2-0, 16 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 6 K, 2 BB, 0 HR. Comforting. Here is to another stellar outing at Busch for Randy!

NLCS Game 3 Preview

Who: Brewers (Yovani Gallardo) vs Cardinals (Chris Carpenter)
When: Wednesday October 12th at 7:05 pm CST
Where: Busch Stadium St. Louis, MO
TV: TBS
Radio: 620 AM WTMJ/540 AM ESPN

So we have it. The Brewers and Cardinals are split 1-1 going into the game tonight, just like how they split the season. The story today? Aces take the mound and try and get a huge advantage.

This game could not be more important for the Brewers after getting bowled over by St. Louis on Monday. Milwaukee has gotten beaten up on in the playoffs, even under the normally steady hands of the Shawn Marcum. It cannot help their confidence to lose as handedly as they did at home. The only good outcome from game 2 was that the Brewers didn’t give up a Grand Slam.

Now it is up to Yovani Gallardo, who has been outstanding so far in the post-season. However, much like how the Diamondbacks were a team the Yo saw his best success; the Cardinals are a team that has shown Gallardo the worst. In 11 starts, Yovani is 1-7 with a 5.66 ERA. Very uncharacteristic of the pitcher that led the team in wins. This year held true to form for Yovani as he went 1-4, getting his very first win against the Cards and a 5.70 ERA.

Yovani can succeed however. The pitcher is known to rise to the occasion in times of need, as proven when Yo has a 2.06 ERA during August, possibly the biggest month of the Brewers stretch and ended the season on an incredibly good note. Yovani showed against the D-Backs that even when he doesn’t have his best stuff he can succeed when the Brewers need him. (Oh and in 21 Post-Season Innings, Gallardo has a 0.86 ERA.)

On the other side we see Chris Carpenter. Carpenter’s numbers regressed this season but that does not make him any less dangerous as he proved in the NLDS. Carpenter had a very rough Game 1, where the Phillies were able to overcome a very early 3 run deficit in the first inning against the Cardinals ace. However, in Citizens Bank Park, facing the best team in the NL against a former Cy Young winner and strong candidate this year, Carpenter rose to the occasion throwing a shut out to lock the Cardinals in for a series against the Brewers.

Carpenter, life time has put up decent, but not ace like numbers against the Brewers since his major league debut. In 15 starts he has gone 6-6 with a 4.58 ERA. This year’s number was a little better, going .500 again with an ERA under 4.

The key to the Brewers winning? Score early. Gallardo works very well with a lead, as do most pitchers, but Gallardo will need everything he has to win this game. Time and time again St. Louis has proved it can handle what the Milwaukee Ace is delivering. If the Brewers can get to Carpenter, they can really do damage to a weak Cards bullpen.

Yovani will need to watch Pujols. It seems the normally dangerous Alberta has turned on his post-season magic yet again and is twice as dangerous as normal. Walk Pujols, or limit him with runners on.

This series is not over, and I suspect it to be an intense tug of war type of match up. As proven during the series, these teams can win against each other, any time, any place, any way.

-Brad

Monday, October 10, 2011

NLCS Game 2 Preview

Who: Cardinals (Edwin Jackson) vs Brewers (Shaun Marcum)
When: Monday October 10th at 7:05 pm CST
Where: Miller Park Milwaukee, WI
TV: TBS
Radio: 620 AM WTMJ/540 AM ESPN

The guy who makes those terrible wigs La Russa calls hair must be working overtime after last nights blowup by the Brewers in the 5th in game one of the NLCS. Total team effort and home runs from Fielder and Yuni B. gave the Crew the lead after being down 2 against Jaime Garcia. Greinke scuffled to gain control of the game until he got the lead, then settled in enough to get the job done in the end, and pulling out yet another win at home backed by huge run support. The real key to this game and it's impact on Game 2 will be the Cardinals use, or over use, of their bullpen, which seemed to have someone new warming up every inning.

It took the Cardinals six pitchers to get through the game after Garcia was chased after not recording an out in the 5th. In comparison the Brewers where able to use just 4 pitchers, and keep their bullpen ready for today's game. This mismanagement of pitching, and the fact that none of their relievers got through clean innings save Rzepczynski, gives Milwaukee the edge in a game that features a pitcher in Edwin jackson that has a history of being on or very off. While his last start against Milwaukee went well, only giving up 1 run in 7 innings, this is the post season. Jackson got into a groove getting to face .500 or below teams, and now he has serious pressure to perform at a high level that he may be uncapable of.

In almost 200 innings between STL and TOR, Jackson has senn his K/9 dip from previous years to 6.67, which, given he is in essence a power pitcher, seems odd. He has posted up his best WAR over the past two seasons, each time it was 3.8, so Jackson may finally have found his style of pitching and is working hitters more than just trying to wildly strike someone out. Paralleling him is Marcum, who after a very successful season is trying to win his 1st post season game.

Marcum is as solid as you can ask for. Up until September Shaun was the go to guy to get a win on the road, but his recent scuffles coming into the post season have left a bad taste in some Brewers fans mouths. But, how can you be nervous of an alrady established pitcher who has beat his career averages in BB/9 (2.56), HR/9 (0.99), ERA (3.54), and FIP (3.73) as well as finally breaking the 200 inning plateau. The two guys pitching tonight are a wash almost with the slight edge given to Marcum. The only way Jackson will find a win tonight is if he gets Milwaukee to hit a lot of ground balls (43.8 GB%) and keeps them off balance enough to be able to eat innings.

With a righty on the mound we should see Morgan back in the two hole, and with the way Hairston is swinging the bat the bottom of the order will be happy to have him slide into 6th. The key to the Brewers winning today will be to get after Jackson early and throw him off his game. Patient eyes will be a huge factor since Jackson can put some serious movement on some of his pitches. If they get to him early La Russa will have no choice but to dip into that pen again, which will set up a great opportunity Game 3 against their best pitcher. The pressure is on the Cardinals to win, but beast mode may have to pop their bubble and send them on packing to St. Louis.

-Alex

Saturday, October 8, 2011

NLCS Game 1 Preview

Who: Cardinals (Jaime Garcia) vs Brewers (Zack Greinke)
When: Sunday October 9th at 3:05 pm CST
Where: Miller Park Milwaukee, WI
TV: TBS
Radio: 620 AM WTMJ/540 AM ESPN

"Shit just got real". That is what I tweeted after the Cardinals defeated the Phillies last night to set up this epic rematch of the 1982 "Suds" Series. 29 years after the Cardinals defeated the Brewers in 7 games to win the World Series the two teams will meet in the NLCS for the right to represent the National League in the World Series. While this matchup is certainly not what Yankees vs Red Sox is on a national level, it is a very heated rivalry that could produce the type of intensity and drama that those two teams have brought to numerous ALCS'.

These teams do not like each other. It is clear. LaRussa and the Cards have had issues with the Brewers pretty much since the Braun/Fielder era began. The Cardinals do not like swagger. They consider themselves the police of baseball, the keepers of the unwritten rules and are to "classy" to actually enjoy the game and have fun, much like their fans. They hated the Brewers "untucking" after wins 2008 and 2009 and things have only gotten worse with the Brewers adding Nyjer Morgan this season the whole "beast mode" celebrations. The rivalry came to a boiling point in their final regular season meeting when Morgan and Chris Carpenter exchanged "fuck yous" and Albert Pujols decided to run in and start shit, the benches cleared but no physical altercations occurred.

When the playoffs started many people could see this matchup happening and hoped for it. Two very good teams who don't like each other meeting in a 7 game series for the NL pennant. It has classic written all over it. As Bart Scott of the Jets would say: "CAN'T WAIT."

Since both teams had to use their aces (Gallardo and Carpenter) in game 5 of their NLDS games they will not be available in game 1 of the NLCS. Instead Roenicke and LaRussa have to go to their number 2's, Zack Greinke will toe the rubber for the Crew and Jamie Garcia for the Red Birds. Greinke has been incredible at Miller Park for the Brewers. They did not lose a single start he made their all season. On the year Greinke was 16-6 with a 3.83 ERA in 28 starts, 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA vs the Cardinals. The most impressive stat for Zack was his 10.5 SO/9 that led the NL. Jamie Garcia like Greinke had a very good 2011 campaign. He went 13-7 with a 3.56 ERA in 32 starts, 1-0 with a 1.96 ERA vs the Brewers. The Brewers the past two years have struggled to hit and score runs vs Garcia, it will be important to score early and get to him before he settles in. Unlike Zack, Jaime is more of a pitch to contact pitcher.

The season series between these two teams was split at 9 games a piece. They are about as evenly matched as two teams can be and they obviously know each other very well. I expect a grind it out series that will go the full 7 games. With the home field advantage I have full confidence that the Brewers will pull it out and advance to the World Series.

-Jason

Thursday, October 6, 2011

VFBC Podcast Episode 31 "Dave Bush Edition"



Breakdown of The Show:

NLDS vs Dbacks "Good, Bad & Ugly" :00-19:51
Break
Prospects At Arizona Fall League 21:09-30:18
BReak
NLCS/ALCS Previews/Predictions 31:11-44:36
Break
Preview/Chalet Award Winner 45:27-56:54

Friday, September 30, 2011

VFBC Staff 2011 NL Award Ballots

Jason

NL MVP:
1. Ryan Braun
2. Matt Kemp
3. Justin Upton
4. Prince Fielder
5. Joey Votto
6. Troy Tulowitzki
7. Clayton Kershaw
8. Albert Pujols
9. Roy Halladay
10. Jose Reyes

NL Cy Coung:
1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Roy Halladay
3. Cliff Lee
4. Cole Hamels
5. John Axford

NL ROY:
1. Craig Kimbrel
2. Freddie Freeman
3. Wilson Ramos

Alex

NL MVP:
1. Ryan Braun
2. Matt Kemp
3. Prince Fielder
4. Clayon Kershaw
5. Albert Pujols
6. Roy Halladay
7. Joey Votto
8. Cliff Lee
9. Justin Upton
10. Craig Kimbrel

NL Cy Young:
1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Roy Halladay
3. Cliff Lee
4. Ian Kennedy
5. Cole Hamels

NL ROY:
1. Craig Kimbrel
2. Freddie Freeman
3. Brandon Beachy

Brad

NL MVP:
1. Ryan Braun
2. Matt Kemp
3. Prince Fielder
4. Lance Berkman
5. Troy Tulowitzki
6. Albert Pujols
7. Justin Upton
8. Joey Votto
9. Shane Victorino
10. Clayton Kershaw

NL Cy Young:
1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Roy Halladay
3. Cliff Lee
4. Ian Kennedy
5. John Axford

NL ROY:
1. Craig Kimbrel
2. Freddie Freeman
3. Vance Worley

Thursday, September 29, 2011

VFBC Podcast Episode 30 "Matt Mieske Edition"

This was recorded Thursday night. Should have been up for all to enjoy on Friday morning. Unfortunately we had some technical difficulties with the file, but it is all fixed and ready to play here or download on iTunes. Thanks again for the support. Go Brewers!




Breakdown of The Show:

Division Champs! :00-20:54
Break
ALDS Preview/Predictions 22:05-45:20
Break
NLDS Preview/Predictions 46:40-1:09:49
Break
Preview/Chalet Award Winner 1:10:44-1:18:56

Sunday, September 25, 2011

25 Man NLDS Roster Prediction

Because I just love predicting rosters so much, here it is. To me the only two hard decisions are the last bench spot which I think comes down to Josh Wilson or Taylor Green and could go either way but I think you go with another lefty bat, specifically one with some power. Second hard decision is the final bullpen spot, which probably comes down to Estrada, Dillard or De La Cruz. I think Marco gets the nod there because of the experience factor. Of course they could end up only keeping 6 pitchers in the pen and going with an extra bench player which would probably mean both Wilson and Green make the roster. Interesting decisions for the brain trust.



Starting Lineup:

1. Corey Hart - RF
2. Nyjer Morgan - CF
3. Ryan Braun - LF
4. Prince Fielder - 1B
5. Rickie Weeks - 2B
6. Casey McGehee - 3B
7. Yuniesky Betancourt - SS
8. Jonathan Lucroy - C

Bench:

George Kottaras - C
Jerry Hairston - IF/OF
Craig Counsell - IF
Taylor Green - IF
Mark Kotsay - OF
Carlos Gomez - OF

Starting Rotation:

Yovani Gallardo
Zack Greinke
Shaun Marcum
Randy Wolf

Bullpen:

John Axford
Francisco Rodriguez
Takashi Saito
Kameron Loe
LaTroy Hawkins
Chris Narveson
Marco Estrada


-Jason

Episode 30 Coming Thursday Night

We will not be recording episode 30 on our normal Monday or Tuesday night schedule. Going to wait till Thursday night when we know all the playoff details, should be up late that night or early Friday morning. Will have a full playoff preview on the agenda and of course our reaction to the thrilling division clinching win on Friday night which yours truly attended. As you can imagine, it was one of the most amazing nights of my 29 year lifetime. In the meantime I will have my 25 man NLDS roster prediction up on Monday sometime, so look for that if you so choose. Thanks again from Alex, Brad and myself for listening/reading. We appreciate it. Go Brewers!

-Jason

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

VFBC Podcast Episode 29 "Chris Bosio Edition"



Breakdown of The Show:

Braun joins 30/30 Club, Batting Title/MVP Ahead? :00-16:17
Break
Lining Up Playoff Rotation 17:32-31:46
Break
Minor League Wrap 32:33-49:40
Break
Preview/Around NL Central/Chalet Award Winner 50:39-1:03:33

Thursday, September 15, 2011

VFBC Podcast Episode 28 "Prince Fielder Edition"



Breakdown of The Show:

K-Rod and Fielder Stir Pot With Comments:00-16:14
Break
Rickie Weeks Returns To Lineup/Impact 17:25-30:02
Break
Casey McGehee, Human Rally Killer, Time To Bench? 31:34-45:08
Break
Preview/Chalet Award Winner 46:44-56:24

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Pregame Speech The Brewers Need

Last night Brewers.com writer Adam McCalvy tweeted something about this coming weeks season finale of "Curb Your Enthusiasm", the greatest comedy on TV. I tweeted him back that perhaps the Brewers brass should bring Yari in from "Curb" to give a pregame speech much like the one below from last weeks episode. Maybe this motivation could get the Brewers to string some wins together and clinch this damn division. Got to keep this nice in lose when the team goes through a rough patch like they are right now. Larry David definitely knows how to keep it loose. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Milwaukee's Survivorman

Les Stroud could learn a thing or two from Milwaukee's talented young backstop Jonathan Lucroy. Not only has he found success this year in the big leagues, but he has survived hitting in the virtual wasteland that has been the bottom of the Brewers order at times. Production has been scarce being surrounded by the likes of Mark Kotsay, Carlos Gomez, Yuni B, and a strewn field of other pinch hitters, pitchers, and wayward bats. But, through it all Lucroy has managed a very productive season, making the times the other hitters find water in the desert that more effective.

Starting with McGehee the bottom of the order has been trying to find it's way this year. Some bats like Casey (.237) and Yuni (.252) have had success in small doses, each contributing 121 RBIs to the Brewers game. Each have been efficient at times, but each have still gone on long slumps where it seems that each at bat is another out, or more. Mark Kotsay (.260) has been the marginal hitter we all knew he would be, and Carlos Gomez's .215 average isn't helping anybody out. The only bat that has had success around Lucroy is Nyjer Morgan, but now he has cemented a spot in the two hole, and Lucroy is once again left to tow the line.

Through all the roster tweaks, and player shuffles Lucroy has still managed a .278 average, and 56 RBIs, over 381 at bats in 2011. Much of his production is due to a very healthy line drive rate (24.4%) and a very luck driven swing with his BABIP sitting at an unholy .335. This is nothing new though. Lucroy has posted BABIPs and averages higher than he has this season in the minors while striking out less. The sharp rise in K% from 14.8% in his first big league season in 2010 to 21.5% this year may have everything to do with it being his first full season of work at starting catcher. He is handling a top level pitching staff, and is playing one of the most physically demanding positions in baseball. But, Lucroy may just be pressing at times because of the hitters around him, and the opportunities he has.

This should be the beginning of a long illustrious career for the Brewers catcher. With 11 home runs this season so far he could be a possible 15-20 guy next year. What he will have to work on is his eye and taking more walks, but that will come with maturity. Because Lucroy has always maintained a good batting average when given regular time he won't hurt the Crew there as long as his contact rates don't continue a downward trend. With steady rises in OBP, and maintaining an edge of power, Lucroy should continue to find success in Milwaukee. So, the next time you think we are stuck in the desert remember that Luke will lead us to water, even if we are far from home.

-Alex

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

VFBC Podcast Episode 27 "Brady Clark Edition"



Breakdown of The Show:

Road Woes Gone :00-12:49
Break
11' Brewers Similar to 04' Red Sox 14:01-29:53
Break
Starting 5 all 10+ Wins 31:10-42:58
Break
Preview/Around NL Central/Chalet Award Winner 44:15-56:22

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Milwaukee's Four Aces

At the beginning of the MLB season, there were rants and raves around the baseball world about the pitching staff in Philadelphia. After all the Phillies had a formidable staff starting with one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last 20 years in Roy Halladay and followed it with Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Phillies’ homegrown ace Cole Hamels. It’s hard to argue against the idea that this set of pitchers is one of the most complete staffs that has been seen in baseball. The Phillies have three legitimate Cy Young candidates and are currently the best team in MLB as far as wins go.

The Brewers were considered the second best staff but were a staff of more than capable two slot starters. And Milwaukee and Philly both filled those roles well heading into the All-Star break, but something happened to Milwaukee that changed the shape of pitching in the NL around the break, the addition of Francisco Rodriguez. Since that point it seems that the Brewers starters have a new determination to pitch above their ability on paper and carry leads into late innings where a fierce Brewer bullpen has made it near impossible for teams to put a dent into the Brewers team ERA past inning 6.

Since the All-Star break, the Brewers actually have the best team ERA in the MLB at 2.89, where Philly sits at 3.27. Granted the dominate bullpen has assisted that ERA to become the best in baseball since the middle of July, but the Brewers staff has certainly assisted that mark helping the team go 32-11 in that mark (6 wins better than Philadelphia).

Possibly the only thing making the Brewers better than K-Rod could have done, is the absolute dominance by ace Zack Greinke. Greinke’s second half numbers have been past astounding, with a 6-2 record and a 2.35 ERA despite a 7 run outing, he has been the Major League’s best pitcher during that time, making it feel like a second coming of CC Sabathia in Milwaukee, carrying the Brewers down the stretch into the best playoff run in franchise history. Greinke’s absolute destruction of oppositions can be shown at his impressive 1.01 WHIP and .208 Opponents BA.

Greinke has even been better than the ungodly destructive Roy Halladay. Halladay, although nearly as good carries a 4-2 record with a 2.91 ERA, .6 points above Greinke’s in that same time span. Halladay has been a bit more touchable during that time with a 1.17 WHIP and a .271 opponent batting average. Halladay is a notorious inning eater as a pitcher, but has 20 innings less than Greinke since the break in one less start.

The rest of Milwaukee’s staff has been fantastic in the same period. Yovani Gallardo has carried a dominant line of 5-3 with a 2.59 ERA, 54 K’s in 59 IP and a WHIP of 1.02, marking his territory as the second ace in the Brewers’ staff. Randy Wolf has carried a stunning line of 5-2 with a 2.77 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in 55.1 innings. While Shawn Marcum, the hero of the first half for Milwaukee has a pedestrian (in comparison) stat line of 4-1 with a 3.38 ERA and a WHIP of 1.13 in just 50.2 IP.

When you compare this to the Phillies, the Brewers’ staff lines up just a tad better. Cliff Lee has actually been the Phillie closest to Greinke with a 5-1 record and a 2.40 ERA, Hamels follows very close to Marcum at a 2-3 record but a 3.60 ERA (with some time on the DL) and the winning edge comes in when Oswalt starts going 2-2 with a 3.71 ERA.

Looking at this, should the NL come down to a fight between the Phillies and Brewers in a 7 game CS series you would feel great. Especially with Milwaukee’s unbeatable home record, the Phillies seemed backed against a wall.

It’s time to stop giving the Phillies national recognition and realize, the Brewers over the last 43 games are the best team in baseball, and lined up to be the best team in the MLB playoffs. It’s time for Milwaukee to get optimistic of their baseball team.

-Brad

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

VFBC Podcast Episode 26 "Jeff Cirillo Edition"



Breakdown of The Show:

Taylor Green Freed! :00-18:32
Break
Narveson To The Pen 19:25-29:27
Break
Wily Peralta Dealing 30:36-43:15
Break
Preview/Around NL Central/Chalet Award Winner 44:32-57:37

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cy Axford

The NL has a very strong unit of pitchers. From the three qualified CY Young candidates in Philly to the two phenoms on the bay, the NL league’s choice for the pitching MVP is wide indeed. The last place most voters will look for is the bullpen, but maybe they should adjust their eyes to Milwaukee’s ‘pen and stare down the mustachioed phenomenon, John Axford.

Axford is baseball’s leading closer in saves at 40. He is also entering baseball history in consecutive save marks with 37 astounding chances converted. The bullpen savior from last year is also leading Major Leaguer's in games finished. Already having worked 62.2 innings and striking out 73 in that time he has the makings to be the first CY Young reliever since Eric Gagne did it while taking a needle in the ass. Looking at comparable closers who have won the CY Young, if Axford keeps us the work, he could have a good chance.

Looking at a few outstanding CY Young winning closers, Axford has the makings. The last one was Eric Gagne. Gagne’s season is historic with 55 saves in 82.1 IP the only thing Gagne did that year that Axford can’t touch was the remarkable 137 K’s Gagne was able to obtain. Gagne also did not have the same competition in the NL, as Axford is competing with several starters with ERA’s below 2.5 and records approaching 18 wins.

The most comparable is Mark Davis who won the award while pitching for the Padres. Like Axford, Davis had many logged innings beyond his save mark. Davis finished the season with 44 saves, a very reachable goal for the Axe-man, but had an ERA under 2. That is a goal I think Axford needs to obtain to have any hope to win the CY Young.

With one month to go, Axford still has a great chance to become a valid CY Young candidate compared to the pitching company he would be competing with. In order to have a viable chance, he needs to continue his streak of consecutive saves, lower is ERA and continue to strike out batters at a phenomenal rate. The Brewers closer is by far the best closer in baseball this year and deserves to be in talks for a national award outside of the Rolaids’s Relief Pitcher. He has been one the NL’s most dominant pitchers and very much so deserves to be recognized. Unfortunately the climb to a CY Young will be a very steep hill for the Axe Man, but nothing a closer who is constantly faced with adversity cannot handle.

-Brad