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.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

VFBC Podcast Episode 32 "LaTroy Hawkins Edition"

Breakdown of The Show:

Review of All Things NLCS :00-35:30
Very Early Look at 2012 Team 36:20-58:49
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.


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
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.


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
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.


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
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.


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
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.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

VFBC Podcast Episode 31 "Dave Bush Edition"

Breakdown of The Show:

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