Breakdown of The Show:
Hot Stove/Winter Meetings (0:00-38:00)
Compared to last week the standings are going to change a bit. It’s power rankings and with another week of games in the book some of these have changed quite a bit. I imagine they will become more stable soon enough but for now here they are.
1. Texas Rangers (4)- The second best record in baseball and the best standing in this Power Ranking. The Rangers have it figured out. It’s early but this group can make it a three peat… they just need a title.
2. Detroit Tigers (2)- They don’t have the best record in baseball but with Justin Verlander throwing complete games and strike out after strike out, he can carry this team all the way. Even with a series loss to the White Sox.
3. St. Louis Cardinals (3)- Whatever high they hit last year, they are still on it. They keep rolling, winning every series of the year. It seems that they have found more than enough to replace what they lost over the winter.
4. Washington Nationals (8)- The Nats are dealing, hitting and pitching. We all knew that this would come soon enough just did not know it was coming so soon. It’s early, but they look like they have it all together and a big arsenal waiting to help lower in the system.
5. New York Mets (10)- The Mets could be the surprise team of the year. Right now they are just a team that’s lucky to be doing so well.
6. Los Angeles Dodgers (13)- The Dodgers are playing above themselves. They host the best record in the MLB but are one of the worst. I fully expect them to come crumbling down.
7. Tampa Bay Rays(1)- After a strong start they started getting beaten up by division rivals. They still own the best staff in the majors and a great manager. They should gain some ground pretty quickly.
8. Toronto Blue Jays (7)- They still hold the best record in the AL East but the big dogs are catching up quick. The Blue Jays could see the cellar again soon but their staff could keep them in it for a while.
9. Arizona Diamondbacks (3)- The Diamondbacks are still competing but after losing a series in Colorado they took a small set back. They should pass the Dodgers soon if through nothing other than their bats.
10. New York Yankees (12)- The Yankees are rebounding from their horrible starts. They are coming on strong. The Yanks have all the power to be at number one in their division.
11. Cincinnati Reds (9)- Sharing the same record as Houston has to hurt. Their losses are coming to hot teams right now and because of bad back end pitching.
12. Los Angeles Angels (6)- The Angels added a lot and are falling like their National League counter parts. I think Pujols and their pitching staff will pull them out of it but it will take a lot of work.
13. Seattle Mariners (15)- One of the few winning record teams lest and one of the least deserving. Really they are just beating up on the A’s.
14. Atlanta Braves (20)- They beat up the Brewers and won 5 straight. Their last series showed off their pitching and offense and most of all that bullpen. That pen can keep them in anything.
15. Chicago White Sox (30)- Even though I am upset with confusion you can’t deny their winning style. Beating Detroit may say more than their record. Without Ozzie they could be good.
16. Philadelphia Phillies (11)- Injuries are taking their toll on the Phillies. They can’t even win at home let alone on the road. Something needs to change, mostly someone getting healthy would make a world of difference.
17. Baltimore Orioles (19)- They are the worst team in first. And they will show it soon enough. You can only get so far with Jake Arrieta as your ace.
18. Colorado Rockies (22)- The Rockies beat the D-backs and they haven’t been swept. That’s a lot for a team that doesn’t have a lot.
19. San Francisco Giants (16)- The only thing the Giants have going for them is Matt Capps. Tim Lincecum needs to figure his problems out quickly and they need to replace Brain Wilson. The Giants are in a real bad place, real early.
20. Milwaukee Brewers (14)- The Brewers proved they won’t stand down with a big comeback against the Braves. And then they proved they can’t finish it. The Crew better hope they only play like this is Turner Field.
21. Boston Red Sox (18)- Manager troubles and only one good series. At least the home opener went well.
22. Houston Astros (24)- They’re doing as well as you can ask for a team that has nothing. I’m just surprised they aren’t the worst team in baseball.
23. Kansas City Royals (23)- I really thought they’d play better than this. They are the Nationals of the American League. Just their offense is better than their pitching.
24. Pittsburgh Pirates (17)- They are sinking back down to reality. The Pirates are a bad team because they keep getting rid of everything good with the team.
25. Cleaveland Indians (27)- Going .500 might be a good enough goal for the other Ohio team.
26. Oakland Athletics (28)- They just keep getting beaten up by the Mariners but being above the Angels is something.
27. Chicago Cubs (25)- They haven’t been swept. And I think they think they’re better. Dale deserves better.
28. Minnesota Twins (29)- They aren’t getting better. The other teams are just getting worse.
29. San Diego Padres (26)- The only way they can score runs? Walking them in. No one hits and all the pitches get hit.
30. Miami Marlins (21)- Not winning, no manager, lots of controversy and a crappy stadium. Not much to be happy about.
They changed that Monday by locking up home grown prospect Jonathon Lucroy for 5 years/$11 MM (depending on Super Two status), buying out all of his arbitration years and a club option for a 6th year (first free agency year). And giving the Brewers someone better than Johnny Estrada for at least half a decade.
It’s true Lucroy has not been the Brewers starter on Opening Day for either of his two years of starting, but he was been the Brewers regular catcher. Gregg Zaun only started for a few weeks, Wil Nieves will holding a spot while Lucroy came back from injury.
Since coming into the Major League’s Lucroy has given the Brewers’ something they haven’t had in over a decade. They’ve had their ace, their home run hitter, their MVP candidates but not a young every day starter behind home plate.
Luc definitely has to guarantee some important attributes for the Brew Crew as an organization. While Lucroy’s bat still may be developing, he is an amazingly good defensively. His ability to frame pitches has been very well publicized. Rough statistics on the run saving abilities of framing pitches showed Lucroy was THE BEST catcher the last two years at getting extra outs. Luc’s ability to get the extra outs on the edge of the strike zone is just as important as having a Short Stop with range and defensive ability. After all where does the battle to get on base start? Home plate, and Lucroy’s goal is to leave them there.
Aside from his ability to frame pitches, he has also been one of the best in the normal defensive metric scales. He allowed the least passed balls last year, allowed the 5th least stolen bases and was in the top 10 at successfully catching those base runners. Lucroy does exactly what you want, calls a clean game and doesn’t let runners get the extra bases other catchers may let them steal through extra balls and stolen bases. The difference between an out and a runner in scoring position can mean the game at the end of the day. All those attributes combined leave Luc with the 4th best cERA in 2011.
While it’s true that Luc has not been the bat we expected while he was in the minors, he is still only two seasons in. Despite small drops in average and on base percentage, he has shown long streaks where he was producing at that top notch that turned him into the Brewer’s top prospect behind the plate and first long term option behind the plate in over a decade. It’s still a young career and more patience when batting should turn Luc into the bat we saw in the minors.
Knowing you have a catcher that will probably always have a positive WAR, the same person learning how the same pitchers operate off the mound, and defending the bases almost as well as anyone else, Lucroy will give the Brewers at least 4 more years of reliability behind the plate. Something they haven’t had for over a decade. I guarantee one thing and one thing only… he will be better than Johnny Estrada was for the Brewers.