Wednesday, December 21, 2011

VFBC Podcast Episode 35 "Bill Castro Edition"

Breakdown of The Show:

Latest on Braun Drug Test Situation :00-21:00
ARam Signing/McGehee Trade 22:03-41:21
Winning Bid for Aoki 42:22-54:11
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.


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!


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.


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.


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


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


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%