Friday, November 30, 2012

Bye-bye, Manny Parra

The Brewers non-tendered LHP Manny Parra today, bringing an end to a long, frustrating, and painful relationship. Parra was once a big deal as a prospect, possessing the swing-and-miss stuff that makes scouts drool (and even throwing a perfect game in AAA). Once expected to anchor the rotation along with Yovani Gallardo, Parra flamed out as a starter and didn't fare much better in 2012 as a reliever. While inconsistency isn't uncommon amongst relievers, Parra took it to new levels. This five-game sequence pretty much says it all:

Good luck Manny, wherever you end up.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Best FA Starting Pitcher Options

Hi there, readers and welcome to my first Book of Gorman post.  At this time of year, news in MLB is pretty scarce, aside from yet another signing of a relief pitcher to a 3 year deal that is bound to blow up in some team's face.  The worst consequence of this scarcity of news is that bloggers and "journalists" like "Baloney Oyster" start writing pretty much the same story.

Unfortunately, for you, dear reader, this is...pretty much the same story.  But writing this post was inspired by Andrew Vrchota on Wisconsin Sports Blog, where he advocates that Kyle Lohse is the Brewers best and most realistic free agent option.  I don't agree, for many of the same reasons Jerry wrote about earlier on this blog, but it's worth repeating the most important reason is he's a...wait.  Tom did say we try to be civil here.  Ah well, let's just say I don't like Kyle Lohse very much.  Here are what I see as the best non-Lohse SP options.  

1.  Ryan Dempster  He turns 36 about a month into the 2013 season, but that's not a concern in my view, as long as he's signed to a 2 year deal (or at best, a 2 year deal with an option).  Despite his age, he's had at least 30 starts a year from 2008 to 2011.  He had 28 starts last season, but there's no historical reason to expect anything other than natural decline in stamina in starts or innings pitched.  And aside from his sub-par 2nd half after his trade to Texas, there's nothing alarming beyond it being an anomaly or adaptation to a new league.  His 2.71 BB/9 is pretty so-so, but his 7.96 K/9 was Top 30.  His 3.3 fWAR and 3.69 FIP was very solid, in my view.  He should be signable to a 2 yr/$24 million deal (with a 3rd year option with 175 IP or similar threshold if necessary).  Just to briefly touch on the Lohse issue, the positives of his favorable HR/9 is unduly influenced by a favorable home park.  Plus, his very strong season last year statistically (and being represented by Scott Boras) don't bode well for an affordable contract.

2.  Brandon McCarthy  McCarthy's season ended after a very scary injury when he was struck in the head by a line drive on September 5th.  He suffered a fractured skull and needed emergency surgery.  By all accounts, he has fully recovered and the injury should not affect his pitching.  In that shortened season, he was 8-6 with a 3.24 ERA, 3.76 FIP and a 123 ERA+.  He had a great HR/9 of 0.81, but it was probably affected by pitching at home in a huge park.  Bill James projects a 2013 of 11-9, with 182 IP, a 3.46 ERA, a 1.73 BB/9 and a 0.89 HR/9 (but it's unclear to me whether he makes that projection on the assumption he comes back to Oakland).

3.  Dallas Braden  This one is a bit of a flyer.  He's coming off 2 shoulder surgeries since 2010, but when healthy, he's proven to be effective.  Plus, he's left-handed and is only 29.  Given the history, he's a prime candidate for a low-risk, 1 year incentive-driven contract.  With incentives for GS and/or IP, the Brewers could easily tie their cost for Braden to actually getting production out of him.  That said, I don't think he should be actively pursued unless McCarthy or another reasonable low-cost option can be found.

The Brewers certainly need 1 of the available free agent options.  Doug Melvin has to avoid a Jeff Suppan mistake, but also face the fact the market is going to make him pay more than he'd probably like for what's really going to be a mid-tier starter, at best.  There's only one true top-line guy available (you know who) and he's about as likely to be part of the Brewers as Josh Hamilton.  The upside of all this is the Brewers have a good number of options available to fill out the rest of the rotation.  Could Mike Fiers be "figured out" by the league and ineffective next year?  Sure.  Could the wild Wily Peralta appear?  Sure.  But risks have to be taken and those risks are better taken with low-cost in-system guys than dead-weight debilitating contracts.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Positive Perspective on Josh Hamilton

Another day, another Josh Hamilton rumor. Seems like it will never end, right? The report itself suggests that if the bidding reached the $215 million mark, which Fielder was awarded this past season, the Brewers will bow out.

Since this blog is mostly civil, we'll refrain from using real names and just accredit that expert analysis to "Baloney Oyster".

But really, after reading that, the word "duh" comes to mind. That's not even really a rumor; it's common sense. The Brewers aren't going to spend $200 million on Hamilton. But apparently, nobody else wants to either. As stated in the link:
"Some agents think offering four years could help get a deal done. 'Nobody is giving him more than four years,' one agent told (Oyster)."
"Some speculate Hamilton could cost more than $25MM per season on a relatively short-term deal."
It's easy to see a lot of downside to signing Josh Hamilton, and most of the points are perfectly justified. But this one got me thinking a little. Would 4-years, $100 million really be the worst thing for a talent like Josh Hamilton? Consider the following...
  • From 2008-2012, Hamilton is 4th amongst OF in fWAR with 22.4, trailing only Ryan Braun, Matt Holliday, and Ben Zobrist (who is totally underrated). Amongst all position players in that span, he is inside the top 20, despite all the time he missed.
  • During that same stretch, he has averaged a .386 wOBA; good for top 10 amongst position players. His lowest wOBA during that time was .321 in 2009, when he missed almost half the season. It hasn't been below .369 since.
  • A lot of elite players have been playing baseball at a high level for the past 5 years.
  • Hamilton is probably best utilized in RF, where his career 6.0 UZR/150 along with the eye test would tell you he'd likely be an above average defender there.
  • Hamilton has averaged 134 games over the past 3 years. Corey Hart has averaged just 141 games during that same time. Of course, Hamilton will also probably be making double what Hart was during that time.
  • Still, Hamilton is a better all around player than Hart.
  • 75 of Hamilton's career 161 HRs have gone out to right field. Cesar Izturis and Craig Counsell have hit homeruns at Miller Park.
  • He has a career .808 OPS against LHP.

So what have we learned? There's a lot of things to like there, and the theoretical price is not as awful as it could be. Were the Brewers to somehow land Hamilton on a 4-year deal, they would get him through his age 35 season, which would likely be one of his last truly productive years as a player.

The obvious question becomes "how many games will he actually play over that span"? 134 games a year is low by "elite player" standards. But considering how much 1B/DHs make for how limited they are outside of hitting, there are worse things in life. That, and you also have two more than capable backups in Nori Aoki and Carlos Gomez, who I hate to say, seem very unlikely to replicate their stellar 2012 campaigns (but that's for another post).

For now, I'm giving you slim optimism for a move that's already unlikely to ever occur. And by unlikely to occur, I'm thinking the odds are more around one in a million. Still, the rumors will keep coming, and until he's signed, we'll keep our collective breath held while we wait and see if Jerry Narron adopts him, or whatever the reason he keeps getting mentioned is.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

News and notes; awards awarded, players acquired, rumors, and new contributors

Happy holidays, everyone. It's that magical time of year when fake Cesar Izturis twitter accounts are created and signings like Johnny Gomes are big news. Hopefully you have something like football or basketball to keep you entertained and don't have to sit at your computer and refresh every few seconds.

New faces
It's my pleasure to announce a pair additions to the Book of Gorman staff, Tom Stadler and Corey Heim. They will be assisting me in making this site much more awesome and less like it sucks so bad. Tom is a UW alum, bacon lover, all-around cool cat, and also a master of karate and friendship for everyone. His first post  for TBOG is here (spoiler: it kicks ass) and his previous work can be found here (also kicks ass). Corey is very passionate and intelligent, and one HELL of a model American. I highly recommend his personal blog and I'm excited for his contributions in the future.

Awards happened
I truly care about the awards handed out at the end of the Major League Baseball season, which is unfortunate because it makes me a crazy person. I won't get into stuff like snubs (BRENDAN RYAN) or injustice (MIKE TROUT), but I will mention that our boy Ryan Braun finished second in NL MVP voting to Buster Posey. While the gap in voting isn't reflective on how close the two players were in actual value, it's still somewhat encouraging as far as the voting process is concerned that Braun was on every ballot and got a few first place votes (if only the AL MVP were as rational). I've been trumpeting Braun as the MVP all season, and while I still believe him to be the most valuable, Posey had a great season of his own and is very deserving (even if he didn't carpet bomb the likes of Petco Park and Target Field with homers like Braun did). Aramis Ramirez finished 9th in the voting, which is cool.

Some guys were signed
The Brewers made some minor moves, signing catcher Blake Lalli and pitchers Zach Kroenke and Frankie De La Cruz to minor league deals with invites to Spring Training. De La Cruz pitched briefly for the Brewers in 2011, and pitched reasonably well at that. Kroenke is a former Yankees and Diamondbacks farmhand that also has a smidge of major league experience and a last name that sounds like something the Crocodile Hunter would yell in a moment of excitement. Lalli is a run-of-the-mill depth guy who had 16 plate appearances with the Cubs last season and not much else. He isn't Will Nieves, so there's that.

Dumb rumors
The Josh Hamilton rumors involving the Brewers just won't die, which is unfortunate because they should die. Aside from the facts that Hamilton is expensive, doesn't fill a need, and is a huge injury/off-field risk, all of the "interest" the Brewers have supposedly shown is nothing but pure speculation on the part of bored baseball writers trying to make a connection because Hamilton and Brewers hitting coach Jerry Narron are buds. Nevermind that the team already has a top offense, is trying to ease back on the payroll, and has needs on the pitching staff. Unless Narron feels like donating a few hundred million to the cause, Josh Hamilton will not be a Brewer.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

5 for 5: Five "Rule 5" Eligible Brewers Added to 40-Man Roster

Well, fancy seeing all you here! Welcome to my first post for "The Book of Gorman". I'll be your guide for your jaunt today into Jerry World.

The Brewers announced that five of their minor leaguers have been added to the 40-man roster. They are: RHP Nick Bucci, RHP Hiram Burgos, OF Khris Davis, 2B Scooter Gennett, and OF Josh Prince. The reason this is significant, of course, is because all of those players would have been eligible for the Rule V draft. Adding them to the 40-man now protects them from becoming part of another team, and from the ever-grubby hands of former Brewers scouting director, Jack Zduriencik.

Milwaukee certainly wasn't short on talented individuals who could be exposed to this draft, so let's break down what made this fab five special enough to warrant such protection...

Burgos is coming off a stellar season; good enough to earn him the Brewers' minor league "Pitcher of the Year" honor. He pitched 171 innings this past season across three levels, spending the majority of it at AA Huntsville, and finished the year at AAA Nashville with an accumulated 1.95 ERA. Burgos' aggressive pitching style plays well against less-refined minor league hitters, making up for what he lacks in pure stuff. That's not say he couldn't get major league hitters out with what he has in his arsenal, but it will likely limit his role at the big league level to a 5th starter/swingman role; one he could find himself in as soon as opening day.

Khris Davis bounced right back after a lackluster finish at AA Huntsville last year, hitting a ridiculous .350/.451/.604 between the previously mentioned Huntsville and AAA Nashville this season (albeit, he only accumulated 241 ABs between them due to injury). Davis is your prototypical power-hitter: double-digit HR power, takes a walk, but also swings and misses a lot. Lack of a defensive position has put his prospect status in check a bit, as his best position in left field is currently locked down at the big league level for the better part of the next decade. Still, a bat with some pop is one with value, and Davis could earn his way into a bench role at some point this coming year.

Ryan "Scooter" Gennett is more than just an awesome name; he's arguably the best player on this list. For Gennett, his 2012 stint at AA Huntsville was more of the same: hitting, and more hitting. It's his best and only tool. In many ways, Gennett is a lot like Jose Altuve in that he plays second base, squares up on the ball consistently (and with some surprising pop), and has not cracked 6 foot. However, Gennett is more "small for his position" than "oompa loompa" like Altuve. Oh, and he's also left handed, which I hear is pretty valuable in baseball. Gennett has been reportedly getting better every year defensively, and as a 22-year old at AAA, he'll be in no rush to be perfect there right now. He'll be a nice asset to have, though, should any of Rickie Week's old injuries start to crop up.

Prince would likely have been a surprise addition to this list if this happened, say, 2 months ago. "New Outfielder In Town" Josh Prince finished the 2012 regular season at AA Huntsville hitting .251/.346/.360 with 41 stolen bases. Not very good for someone not playing shortstop full time. However, "Heir to the Throne" Josh Prince went off recently in the Arizona Fall League, managing a 1.064 OPS in 89 ABs, and getting lauded for his great range at multiple positions with plus speed. The latter point I think is what sold the Brewers into adding them, as they likely see potential now for him to become a super-utility player. Whether he'll realize it is yet to be seen, but those types of players can be really valuable (See: Jerry Hairston Jr's career). And besides, his name is Prince; the Brewers collect those guys. I predict that in 2 years, they will draft a Josh Fielder, then proceed to refer to him as "Prince" for the remainder of his career, garnering many a lawsuit from "The Artist Formally Known As, But Who Now Is Known As Again".

The final add was Nick Bucci, a bit of an interesting one, actually. Bucci spent most of the 2012 campaign injured, but finished strong on the year pitching 32 innings for Adv. A Brevard County, where he struck out 37 batters against walking 15, and compiled a 1.99 ERA. Like many of the Brewers prospects not named Josh Prince or Johnny Hellweg, his stint with the Arizona Fall League didn't go so great, but still showed the ability to consistently miss bats. It's an interesting move too because former first rounder Kyle Heckathorn is also Rule 5 eligible, and now as a reliever, is probably closer to the big leagues than Bucci. Heckathorn also struggled a little in the AFL, but showed good enough peripherals as a reliever in AA that I wonder if teams would have been more willing to go after him than Bucci if they were given the option. After all, who could have predicted Lucas Luetge would go off the way he did in making the Mariners 25-man roster this past season after an alright year in AA (held lefties to.186 average in 2012)?

Considering the remaining options and their current progression points, it does appear the Brewers made the most logical choices here. It will be interesting to see if any team takes a chance on Heckathorn, although it would seem unlikely that lightning would strike twice like that (I'm looking at you, Jack Z).

That's all for now. Looking forward to contributing more here at "The Book of Gorman", and I wish you all a Happy Hot Stove Season. The Winter Meetings are just around the corner...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Call for contributors

When I started this blog, I had hoped to be able to write something every day and keep the blog as current as possible. Sadly, with a full-time job and two small humans to care for, I just don't have the time to do everything I set out to do. Which is why I'm opening up this blog to anyone who wants to write Brewers.

While any type of article is welcome, I'm specifically looking for help with:
       game/series recaps
       player profiles
       acquisitions/free agency stuff
       the occasional opinion piece
The free agency and game recaps are the areas I would most like to improve seeing as I'm often at work when news breaks and during most weeknight games. Player capsules and other stuff can be done at any time, but help with those would also be welcome.

So if any of this interests you, please contact me by email at or on twitter @jheldred.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Player Capsules - Jairo Asencio

The Brewers have made four player acquisitions so far this offseason, and three of them happen to be relievers (SHOCKER). Asencio is the only one with any Major League experience, but none of it could be quantified as a "good" experience, as his numbers are pretty awful. The Brewers signed him to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training, but due to his experience will have as decent chance to make the Major League roster. Maybe Kranitz can teach him a cutter....

Name: Jairo M. Asencio (a.k.a. Luis Valdez)
Birthdate: May 5, 1984 (age 28)
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height/Weight: 6'2, 180
Position: RP
Looks like:

A native of the Dominican Republic, Asencio was originally signed as an amateur free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates in February of 2001 and as a starting pitcher reached Class A in 2006. Granted free agency in '07, Asencio was signed by the Braves with the false name of Luis Valdez and eventually made his major league debut in July of 2009. He spent most of 2010 on the restricted list due to visa problems (not the credit card), and in 2011 had another cup of coffee with the Braves under his rightful identity before being traded to the Cleveland Indians for legal tender. He made 18 fairly nondescript appearances for the Indians in 2012 before being DFA'd and subsequently claimed by the crappy Cubs, making 12 more nondescript appearances.

Asencio's pitching profile is not an encouraging one. While he put up some decent strikeout numbers in the minors, he hasn't been able to replicate those numbers (just 6.24 K/9) in the majors, an issue compounded by control problems (4.24 BB/9) and a penchant for giving up fly balls. While 53 Major League innings might not be a fair sample to judge, Asencio doesn't appear to have the velocity or the go-to pitch to consistently get major league hitters out.

Speaking of pitches, Jairo possesses four of them. A pair of fastballs (four-seamer and two-seamer) that hover in the low 90's, a decent changeup in the mid-80's, and a slider in the low 80's. He throws the change (his best pitch) almost as much as the fastball, but doesn't have enough velocity differential between the two to fool hitters and his slider isn't anything special.

It's hard to imagine Asencio making an impact for the Brewers in 2013, and if he somehow ends up pitching many leverage innings, the Brewers are probably in big trouble. Considering the team needs depth, this was a worthwhile pickup and if nothing else provides competition in Spring Training and a live arm for AAA Nashville. But as a flyball pitcher with control issues who can't get strikeouts, even in the best-case scenario I can't see him as anything more than the last man out of the bullpen.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Player Capsules - Michael Olmsted

I've stirred from my offseason laziness/procrastination to cover the Brewers' acquisitions so far, partially out of boredom and partially out of guilt for being a lazy procrastinating blogger. All three of the team's claims are interesting, and all for different reasons. Arcenio Leon is notable for having a cool name, Jairo Asencio is notable because I've heard of him, and Michael Olmsted is notable because he is a large human and he might actually have some talent. I'll start by looking at Olmsted, as he is the most intriguing pickup. The Brewers signed him as a minor league free agent, and instantly added him to the 40-man roster, protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft and making it likely that we'll see him at some point in 2013.

Name: Michael Olmsted
Birthdate: May 2, 1987 (age 25)
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height/Weight: 6-6, 245
Position: RP
Looks like:

Drafted by the Mets in the 9th round of the 2007 draft out of Cypress College in California, Michael Olmsted began his minor league career as a starting pitcher in the Mets system before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2008. Prior to the surgery, Olmsted put up some nice numbers in '07 and '08 but never pitched above Class A. The Mets cut ties with him during 2009 and he spent 2010 pitching briefly in Japan (for Kam Loe's old team, coincidentally) and in independent ball before signing with the Red Sox in 2011.

Olmsted was outstanding while pitching in the Sox's system, making a combined 68 appearances (all in relief) in 2011 and 2012 while sporting a 1.47 ERA with 140 strikeouts (!) in 91.2 innings. In addition to the ridiculous number of whiffs, he kept butts off the bases to the tune of a 0.86 WHIP with a solid 2.45 BB/9. Only 14 of Olmsted's appearances were above Class A, but his AA numbers were still impressive, allowing just 18 baserunners in 20 innings while punching out 31.

As far as his stuff, Olmsted features a fastball that varies anywhere from 90-97 with a tight slider that he controls really well. The fastball velocity is easy due to his large frame and he can get good plane due to his height, but has trouble keeping velocity from game to game and sometimes the pitch doesn't have a whole lot of life. The slider is lethal and can be used to hitters from both sides of the plate, and his lack of significant platoon splits is a testament to how well he uses both pitches.

Considering Boston's bullpen woes and that Olmsted projects as a major-league reliever, it's surprising he never got a chance above AA, or a spot on their 40-man roster to prevent him from reaching free agency. This has all the makings of another one of Doug Melvin's sneaky pickups, something he seems to have a real knack for. If Olmsted has a strong camp and/or good start to the minor league season, he could be a significant factor in the Brewers' bullpen next season and beyond.