Sunday, July 8, 2012

First half grades - hitters

After a disappointing first half, the Brewers enter the All-Star break with a 40-45 record, 8 games behind first place Pittsburgh. Injuries and poor relief pitching have taken their toll, shadowing an above-average offense and solid starting pitching. As the article's title suggests, I will delve more into the individual performances of everyone who has donned a Brewer uniform this season. Today I focused on the offense, sometime later this week I'll look at the pitchers. wRC+ and WAR stats are accurate through Saturday's games, while the other numbers are accurate through Sunday (Fangraphs doesn't update during the day, ESPN does).


Jonathan Lucroy - .345/.387/.583 (AVG/OBP/SLG), 5 HR, 17 R, 30 RBI, 2 SB, 163 wRC+, 1.8 WAR
After a solid sophomore campaign in 2011, Lucroy came roaring out of the gates in 2012, establishing himself as one of the best catchers in the National League before breaking his hand in a freak hotel room accident. A few aspects of Lucroy's start are unsustainable (including a .519 average with RISP and a .381 BABIP), but his HR/FB and LD rates are consistent with last year's and he's cut down on his strikeouts considerably. As far as defense goes, he's good at blocking pitches in the dirt as well as pitch-framing, but his throwing arm comes and goes. He should be back shortly after the All-Star break. Grade: A

George Kottaras - .228/.430/392, 3 HR, 10 R, 12 RBI, 0 SB, 138 wRC+, 0.9 WAR
At this point, most Brewer fans know what Kottaras is; good backup catcher. He walks a lot, has some power, is a decent pinch-hitter, and has a questionable glove. He has improved defensively since joining the Brewers in 2010, but other than blocking pitches, is below average in every other defensive category (his arm sucks). But as far as backups go, he's an extremely valuable asset. He was very hot at the plate to start the season, but has pretty much done George Kottaras things ever since. Grade: C+

Martin Maldonado - .245/.303/.391, 5 HR, 11 R, 17 RBI, 0 SB, 97 wRC+, 0.7 WAR
Maldonado was called up when Lucroy went down, and has not disappointed. He's an elite defensive catcher with a little pop, and despite uninspiring minor league numbers, hasn't appeared overmatched at the plate. It doesn't hurt that he's come up with some big hits late in games. He's made a good case for keeping three catchers when Lucroy returns. Grade: B-

First Base

Matt Gamel - .246/.293/.348, 1 HR, 10 R, 6 RBI, 3 SB, 80 wRC+, 0.0 WAR
Gamel was the starting first baseman to begin the season, but only made 21 starts before succumbing to a torn ACL. His numbers look unimpressive, but are a little deceiving and reek of small sample size. He looked comfortable at the plate, showed good baserunning skills and handled the move to first base reasonably well. It'll be interesting to see what the team does with him next year. Grade: Incomplete

Corey Hart - .254/.316/.498, 16 HR, 50 R, 38 RBI, 2 SB, 120 wRC+, 1.5 WAR
Corey Hart is constantly underrated by everybody. He has flaws, such as striking out a lot and possessing a walk rate that comes and goes with the wind, but he's an extra-base machine that has been a steady force in the lineup and a surprisingly good defender at first base. Hart started the year in his usual position at right field, but moved to first to replace the injured Gamel and Ishikawa as well as open up an outfield spot for Nori Aoki. The move helps his grade, as his defense in RF left something to be desired and the willingness to change positions reflects a selfless team-first approach. Grade: B-

Travis Ishikawa - .243/.313/.473, 4 HR, 9 R, 17 RBI, 0 SB, 102 wRC+, 0.2 WAR
Ishikawa was a surprise inclusion on the opening-day roster, but he's proved that he's worth a roster spot. He's an acceptable pinch-hitter and can field and play the outfield a little. He was briefly a starter after Gamel's injury but he belongs on the bench. Grade: C-

Brooks Conrad - .075/.136/.225, 2 HR, 2 R, 6 RBI, 0 SB, -8 wRC+, -0.4 WAR
No player with an at-bat had a worst WAR than Brooks Conrad amongst Brewers players (including pitchers). He was horrible in every sense, and was released after 44 mind-blowingly bad plate appearances. Typing out his numbers may have made me bleed internally. At least his two home runs happened. Grade: F

Second Base

Rickie Weeks - .199/.314/.343, 8 HR, 34 R, 29 RBI, 6 SB, 82 wRC+, -0.2 WAR
One of the Brewers' best players when healthy, Weeks has strangely been pretty terrible all season. He's been one of the worst defenders in all of baseball (after being decent the last two years), strikes out at an epic clip (29% of plate appearances), and has experienced a downturn in power (.137 ISO compared to .175 career). Weeks has looked more like himself over the last month or so, and how he performs in the second half plays a big part in what the Brewers do from here on out. Grade: D-


Alex Gonzalez - .259/.326/.457, 4 HR, 8 R, 15 RBI, 1 SB, 112 wRC+, 0.3 WAR
Like Gamel, Gonzalez was lost for the season thanks to a torn ACL. He was a solid addition both offensively and defensively before going down. The injury was devastating for the Brewers, as they had no one in the system worthy of starting. Grade: Incomplete

Cesar Izturis - .212/.231/.271, 1 HR, 4 R, 8 RBI, 1 SB, 30 wRC+, -0.4 WAR
There's no mincing words here, Izturis is a terrible baseball player. His one calling card, defense, hasn't even been that impressive. His range has faded and his arm is weak, and considering his offensive contributions the Brewers are almost better off batting another pitcher 8th. Grade: F

Cody Ransom - .188/.299/.317, 3 HR, 12 R, 18 RBI, 0 SB, 70 wRC+, 0.6 WAR
Claimed on waivers from Arizona (only his Brewers numbers are displayed above), Ransom plays good defense, has a little power, walks a lot, and strikes out a TON (40.7% as a Brewer). But, he's better than Izturis, so there's that. Grade: D

Edwin Maysonet - .250/.297/.317, 1 HR, 7 R, 4 RBI, 1 SB, 79 wRC+, 0.0 WAR
Maysonet made a name for himself with a Grand Slam against the Cubs on May 12th, but hasn't done much since (that home run represents all four of his RBI's). He provided a decent glove and some contact with the bat, but it wasn't enough to keep him in the majors over Izturis. Currently in AAA. Grade: D

Third Base

Aramis Ramirez - .272/.345/.475, 10 HR, 47 R, 52 RBI, 2 SB, 123 wRC+, 2.3 WAR
Ramirez has done Aramis Ramirez things with the bat. He started slow and still swings at pitches he shouldn't, but enjoyed his annual June revival and is still the good hitter he's always been. His glove has been a pleasant surprise. Once nicknamed "E5" (Edwin Encarnacion has since assumed that mantle), Ramirez has shown some nice playmaking ability and an accurate arm as well as turning in some tremendous barehand plays. His range is pretty awful, that's something that hasn't changed. Grade: B

Taylor Green - .198/.287/.358, 2 HR, 7 R, 10 RBI, 0 SB, 73 wRC+, 0.2 WAR
A fan favorite since last year, Green has seen fairly sparse playing time since his May call-up. He's played some third, second, and first, and shown better fielding ability than expected. He hasn't really gotten it going with the bat, and his only path to consistent playing time is at second base, where Weeks seems to be turning it around. Both of his home runs came as a pinch-hitter, which might be his primary role barring an injury. Grade: D+


Ryan Braun (LF) - .306/.391/.599, 24 HR, 56 R, 61 RBI, 15 SB, 164 wRC+, 4.1 WAR
Ryan Braun rocks balls. I said everything I need to say here. Grade: A

Norichika Aoki (RF) - .301/.369/.450, 5 HR, 36 R, 20 RBI, 11 SB, 126 wRC+, 1.4 WAR
No one really knew what the Brewers had when they signed Aoki from Japan in the offseason. Most saw him as a platoon player, but he's been sooooo much more. He's been equally effective from both sides of the plate, shown surprising pull-side power, and his speed on the bases has been a tremendous boost for the offense. Defensively, he has solid range and instincts, but has a weak arm, which is why he had trouble squeezing into the center field rotation. Gamel's injury gave him an opportunity, and he's taken advantage of it. Grade: B+

Carlos Gomez (CF) - .233/.280/.423, 5 HR, 26 R, 18 RBI, 11 SB, 94 wRC+, 0.4 WAR
I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying that Gomez is probably the most polarizing Brewer. His defense is outstanding, but he tends to take too many risks, leading to extra bases for opponents. He has a bit of power in his bat, and unfortunately he knows it, swinging for the fences far too often and exacerbating his contact issues. And while he's used as the right-handed version of a center field platoon, he's actually worse against left-handed pitchers for his career, and only better against them this season by the slightest of margins. But there's no denying the excitement that ensues when he gets on base, and he goes through stretches where he shows the patience that makes you think he might have some OBP skills someday.  His baserunning and defense are game changers, and if he ever cleans it up at the plate, he'll be a great player. We're still waiting. Grade: C-

Nyjer Morgan (CF) - .230/.298/.281, 2 HR, 30 R, 5 RBI, 8 SB, 64 wRC+, 0.0 WAR
A huge fan favorite last year, Morgan brought terrific outfield defense and a contact-oriented approach to a team that desperately needed it. He kept the clubhouse loose and entertained both his teammates and Brewers fans alike with his gregarious personality, and he was a huge part of a Brewers team that won a playoff series for the first time since 1982. This year could not be more different. He's constantly made bonehead plays in the outfield and on the bases, bunts too much, and has been pretty much useless while trying to hit the baseball with the baseball bat. The only reason he continues to play is the fact that his platoon partner Carlos Gomez isn't exactly dripping with baseball IQ either. On the plus side, he still seems to be a favorite in the clubhouse and he hasn't tried to fight an opposing player yet. And frankly, he's had some rotten luck this year, as his BABIP is about 50 points lower than his career average. He should play better in the second half, but so far, he's been dreadful. Grade: D-

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