Thursday, December 27, 2012

Joel Hanrahan And The Case For Trading Axford

Another year, another team trades a closer. And once again, it's the Red Sox doing the buying. The Pittsburgh Pirates dealt their closer, Joel Hanrahan, along with infielder Brock Holt to Boston for 1B/OF Jerry Sands, RP Mark Melancon, INF Ivan DeJesus Jr., and P Stolmy Pimentel.

On the surface, this isn't as bad of a trade as their last two, where Boston gave up breakout star Josh Reddick for Andrew Bailey, and a promising, but oft injured asset in Jed Lowrie for Melancon. Still, Pittsburgh probably isn't going to be complaining too much about a return that could potentially provide more upside than what they already had.

Hanrahan was effectively wild this past year, still striking out better than a fourth of the batters he was facing, but gave up walks and homeruns at an alarming rate, with major spikes in his BB/9 and HR/FB% compared to his stellar 2011 campaign. The saving grace for him this past season was a career-low BABIP (.225), which lead to a career-high Left On-Base Percentage (89.7%) that allowed him to come out unscathed on many an occasion. Simply put, Hanrahan was very lucky, just as the Pirates are now to get something of value for him. That's not to say Hanrahan's numbers won't come back down a little, but pitching in a hitter-friendly ballpark like Fenway...against a hitter-heavy division like the AL East...let's just say the forecast is awful cloudy for him this coming season.

So where does Axford fit into all this? After all, coming off of a poor season, his value is definitely lower right now. However, all hope for him is not lost.

Axford suffered from similar ailments that Hanrahan did this past season, seeing both his walk and homerun rates spike, only in his case getting no love from BABIP. To say he was unlucky wouldn't be telling the whole story, as his .307 BABIP was right in line with his .308 BABIP from 2010, and he was producing groundballs at a rate similar to what he had been doing in the past. Much of Axford's struggles came from his command of the strike zone, where he was unable to get ahead in the count as much as he was in the past, which put opposing batters into a lot of hitter's counts and allowed them to square up more easily on his big fastball, as evidenced by his 24% line drive rate this past season (a 10% increase from 2011).

Should Axford find the ability to get his walk rate back down, I think it's sensible to expect him to revert back a little more to form in 2013. Maybe not another consecutive save streak with a 1.95 ERA, but maybe somewhere in between these past two seasons, which would actually reflect his 2010 peripherals quite a bit. Were this to be the case, his value would increase once more, making him an intriguing trade target for other teams in need of bullpen help. Teams right now are not afraid to deal talent for a "proven" closer, especially with pitching becoming an increasingly more prioritized asset. Not that this should be news to anybody, as we all just watched the Giants just win two World Series in the last three years behind an a stellar pitching staff. So in this market, a pitcher who has found a lot of recent success is going to command quite a bit in return.

Talking theoretical success can be a bit transparent, though, so perhaps it's best to look at what sort of value Axford has right now. As it stands, Axford is pre-arb eligible and isn't due to become a free agent until 2017, at the earliest. That would give the team acquiring him four years of control before having to shell out any sort of big payday. That in itself is a valuable asset, especially considering what he was able to accomplish in his two seasons prior to this past one, where he posted a combined 4 WAR, which is pretty darn good for a relief pitcher. However, comparing his up and down seasons should be one of the major motivating factors in trading a high-profile reliever: unpredictability.

Baseball is a tough game to predict without even looking deeper at one specific part of it. That's why there's an entire site devoted to it, appropriately titled "You Can't Predict Baseball". A 10-game slump for an everyday outfielder is a small bump in the road; one that they can easily smooth it out over the next 40 or 50 games. For a reliever though? A 10-game slump can directly affect their use in the long run and limit their opportunities to snap out of that funk, which could really make or break their season because of how large a part of it that stretch is. This is also why it's ill advised for teams to offer long, multi-year deals to relievers, simply because the team may only be getting a couple truly good years out of them. Knowing all this though, why would any team give up something of value then?

It has been less about teams giving up something truly "valuable" as much as they've been giving up "potential". For the Twins in acquiring Matt Capps, they had to surrender a promising catching prospect in Wilson Ramos. The tricky thing about prospects is they're yet unproven at the major league level, and Ramos was in a place where he looked to be blocked for a long time by then reigning AL MVP, Joe Mauer. Ramos, of course, then had himself a good 2011 where he was worth 3.3 WAR, and despite missing most of 2012, he appears to be a solid backstop for the Nationals for years to come. Then there was that one Reddick guy the A's got for Bailey, but it's not like he turned out to be good or anything...

Teams may be wising up on what they want to to give away for a closer, though. This could be evidenced by the recent Hanrahan trade. But there's also the fact that the Red Sox are getting just one season of Hanrahan, whereas the previously mentioned relievers all had more years of control left on them when they were traded. With the returns based on a lot more promise, there's obviously a bit of a gamble involved, but it's not as though there isn't already a gamble in trusting a closer to remain consistently good year in and year out. If the right situation arises, it could be a wise move for the Brewers to strike while the iron is hot. The odds Axford gets traded this offseason seem extremely slim, but should he have himself a very solid bounceback season, this could be a storyline to keep in mind for the near future.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Analysis of an at-bat: Braun vs. Liriano, 6/15/12

It's easy for sports fans to take a star player for granted. Since they are stars, they are expected to be awesome pretty much all of the time. After awhile, some of the awesome things they do get overlooked. For example, Ryan Braun did something pretty amazing in a forgotten game mid-way through June of this year. Let's set up the scenario.

The game in question was the first of a three-game set in Minneapolis against the crappy Twins. The Twins had their "ace" on the mound, Francisco Liriano. Coming into the sixth inning, Liriano was throwing a no-hitter, albeit a fairly messy one (two walks and a hit batter allowed to that point). Liriano has done this kind of thing before, and the Brewers offense had already taken part in a lengthy no-hit bid by Luis Mendoza and would take part in another bid from Bronson Arroyo before the end of the month. It was setting up to be another frustrating offensive performance, at least until Liriano did two very silly things and Ryan Braun did one very great thing.

With a 2-0 lead, Liriano started off the sixth inning by walking #9 hitter Edwin Maysonet (rofl), getting Nori Aoki to fly out after a lengthy at-bat, then walking #2 hitter Carlos Gomez (ROFL). Up comes Braun, who had walked and struck out in his prior plate appearances. Liriano starts him off with a slider low and out of the strike zone which Braun goes after and fouls off.

Then Liriano throws a changeup, even lower out of the zone. Braun once again goes after it, and once again fouls it off.

Ahead in the count 0-2, Liriano then does what any intelligent pitcher would do, and throws another slider out of the zone.

Braun swings.

And hits a no-doubter home run to center field (highlight found here). The Brewers have a 3-2 lead, on their first hit of the ballgame no less. Now Liriano is sad. 


Here are the list of things going against Braun prior to the home run:
 - He was down 0-2 in the count. He's a career .219 hitter when down 0-2.
 - Target Field is a pitcher's park.
 - For all his faults, Liriano possesses very good off-speed and breaking pitches. Once again, he had not given up a hit to that point. 
 - Liriano did not throw a strike 0-2. Physicists theorize that balls are harder to hit than strikes.
 - Hitting home runs is really hard.
 - He was behind in the count 0-2. Liriano could have thrown a pitch into the upper deck and it would have been the right thing to do. I cannot stress enough how hard it is to hit in that situation, much less hit the ball hard.

Here are the things that were in Braun's favor.
 - He's Ryan Braun.
 - That's pretty much it.

Funny thing is, it's arguable that it wasn't even the most memorable moment in the game, much less the series. The Twins would tie the game in the bottom of the inning, and catcher Martin Maldonado would break the tie with what would be the game-winning two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning. The next day, Braun clobbered two home runs to back a strong pitching performance from Mike Fiers (a game I attended). The third game of the series went 15 innings. As soon as the series was over, Braun's incredible at-bat was forgotten, just another home run among the 41 he ended up hitting. Which is a shame because it was a truly remarkable moment for a truly remarkable player. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Brewers Have Done Something!!

Ahem.  Ok, so maybe that was a little dramatic.  But, I think a lot of Brewers fans have been going a little stir-crazy over the team making only very minor moves this off-season and many are concerned about the team's pitching.  So today's reported signing of Tom Gorzelanny brought more attention that he probably deserves.  The deal is pretty widely-reported, but isn't official until he completes a physical and is officially announced by the team.  It's reported to be a 2-year deal worth approximately $6 million.  It's a deal on-par with Jason Grilli's, but far less costly than one given to Mike Adams or certainly, the truly goofy deals for Brandon League or Jeremy Affeldt.

At first blush, it's easy to conclude Gorzelanny fills that LOOGY spot in the bullpen the team was missing.  But until last season, Gorzelanny had been largely a starter.  (In 2006, 2007 and 2008, he exclusively started).  In 2012, he made only 1 start--as a spot fill-in.  In my view, if the team is set on using the "young guys" to fill out the rotation, there's nothing to indicate Gorzelanny would be a starter.  He provides a lot to the Brewers, however, because he can be the one LHP in the 'pen but will be there to step into the rotation if someone falters or is injured.  Additionally, his splits don't show any distinct advantage vs LHB, except in OBP.  (In 2012, he allowed an OBP of .343 to RHB, but .289 to LHB; the oppSLG was nearly identical, as was oppBA).  He should really be viewed as a reliever, not a LOOGY.

In 72 IP last year, he posted a 2.88 ERA and a 1.319 WHIP.  His career HR/9 of 1.0 should work well in Miller Park but I'd prefer his 2012 K/9 of 7.8 (his career K/9 is only 7.0) be higher, especially for a guy in relief.  His ERA+ of 138 showed he provided truly solid value.  Grozelanny is only 30 and last year was the first year he was used exclusively in relief, so it's difficult for me to discern if his performance last year was maturation or succeeding in the right environment or a pure anomaly.  In 2007, he threw 201 innings, had a 3.88 ERA, a 1.398 WHIP, 0.8 HR/9 and 6.0 K/9.  That correlates fairly well with his 2012 work, particularly with keeping the ball on the ground and in play.

Given the way the market moved this off-season, Gorzelanny is a solid signing.  He fills out a badly needed spot in the bullpen and provides a good back-up option for the rotation (or an actual option in the rotation if someone falters in the spring).  He comes at a reasonable cost, without having to go the 3 years many other relievers have obtained and is far from a fringe guy.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Players capsules: Murphy, Webb, Jakubauskas

The Brewers actually did something today, signing utility infielder Donnie Murphy to a minor-league deal. Since players of his ilk have a tendency to end up on the Brewers major league team at some point, I figured he was worth writing about, in conjunction with a couple other mildly interesting minor deals they've consummated.

Name: Donald "Donnie" Murphy
Birthdate: March 10, 1983 (age 29)
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height/Weight: 5'10, 190
Position: 2B, SS, 3B
Looks like: 

Originally a 5th-round pick by the Royals in the 2002 MLB draft, Murphy has done a fair share of bouncing around in his career. He spent 2004-2006 with Kansas City, '07-'08 with the A's, '09 in the Orioles' organization, and most recently was a member of the Florida/Miami Marlins. Offensively, Murphy looks like the stereotypical "quad A" player, someone who hit fine in the minors (.279/.347/.461) but cannot translate it to the majors (.205/.270/.373). He has a bit of power (18 home runs in 640 career MLB at-bats) but strikes out a ton, basically making him a younger version of Cody Ransom, just without the walks.

Like Ransom, his saving grace is his glove and versatility. He can play all the infield positions (aside from 1B), and plays them pretty well. His range isn't spectacular, but he has soft hands and a good arm.

If he were to make the team, his role would be similar to the role Craig Counsell held in past seasons, a defensive replacement type who can occasionally start. If Murphy were to receive substantial playing time, it would either mean he achieved a late-career Justin Ruggiano-type offensive breakout or that something terrible has happened. Let's hope something terrible doesn't happen.

Oh yeah, and his middle name is Rex.

Name: Christopher Jakubauskas
Birthdate: December 22, 1978 (age 33)
Bats/Throws: L/R (?!)
Height/Weight: 6'2, 215
Position: SP/RP
Looks like: 
Chris Jakubauskas has a pretty incredible backstory. He's Lithuanian-American, and was a first baseman at the University of Oklahoma who didn't convert to pitching until after he graduated. Jaku (as I'll now call him to avoid carpal tunnel) pitched in independent league ball for a few years before the Seattle Mariners took notice and signed him to a minor league deal. After toiling in the minors for two years, Jaku finally made the Mariners' opening day roster in 2009. He appeared in 35 games that season split between starting and relief and even tossed a complete game, albeit in a loss. He would spend 2010 in the Pirates' organization, 2011 with the Orioles, and 2012 split between the Blue Jays' and Diamondbacks' minor league systems. Jaku sustained a scary head injury with pitching with the Pirates, taking a Lance Berkman line drive off his head during a start against the Houston Astros that left him with a concussion. Sadly, that's probably his most significant major league moment.

As far as stuff, Jaku throws four pitches; a fastball that sits 88-92, a curveball in the mid-70s, and will occasionally use a low-80s changeup and a high-80s cutter. His curve is probably his best pitch, but I use the word "best" liberally. He tends to pitch to contact, and while his groundball rate isn't shabby, he has a pretty serious homer problem (career 1.41 HR/9). His career .307/.375/.531 line against lefties is fairly problematic as well.

Considering the team's depth at starting pitching, it's hard to see Jakubauskas making any real impact on the Brewers next year. If things work out just right for him, he could carve out a role as a long man, but it's more likely he's just an arm for AAA.

Name: Travis Webb
Birthdate: August 2, 1984
Bats/Throws: L/L
Height/Weight: 6'4, 205
Position: SP/RP
Looks like:
A former 8th-round pick in the 2006 draft, Webb spent seven years in the Reds' minor league system, making 95 starts among 172 appearances. He was used primarily as a reliever the last two seasons, which is probably his role long-term.

He uses four pitches; a fastball that sits 86-90 and has a little cut to it, a slider that sits around 80, a changeup in the high 70s, and a seldom used curveball in the low 70s. His arm angle and rough walk numbers (career 4.7 BB/9) will keep him in the relief role, and his arm angle will likely limit him to a lefty-specialist role. Aside from his shaky control, he's a flyball pitcher who has experienced some home run issues in the past. Since he's transitioned to the bullpen, however, his strikeout rate has spiked (10.9 K/9 in 2011-12) and he boasts a 2.72 FIP against lefties.

Even if the Brewers add a couple more relief arms in free agency, Webb probably has a shot at making the team as a lefty specialist if he can tighten up his control a little. The team hasn't had a decent lefty since Mitch Stetter's last good year in 2009, and Webb could end that string of futility. If nothing else, he can at least provide minor league depth and give the team an option should a need arise.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Bargain Hunting with the Brewers

The 2012 MLB offseason has had its fair share of fireworks so far. Not only have top free agents Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton been signed already, but there's also been some monster trades that could shift the landscape of each league for the following year.

Of course, for those who follow the Brewers, this offseason hasn't been as much fireworks as it has been watching paint dry. Aside from the Badenhop deal, there's been little mention of the Brewers involvement in anything other than some off-kilter rumors involving Josh Hamilton. Let me give a quick reaction to that now that it's over...

Do I think that the Brewers were ever really interested in Josh Hamilton? Yes. Was there ever a realistic chance they would get him? No. The situation would have had to made sense not just for the Brewers, but for Hamilton as well, and the circumstances surrounding such a situation would likely not have been isolated to Milwaukee alone. It was fun while it lasted (sort of), but the possibility of it happening had a snowman's chance in hell to begin with, and at the end of the day, it just wasn't meant to be. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

In lieu of all the madness following the Greinke and Hamilton signings, Doug Melvin told reporters that he would likely not pursue any other top free agent starting pitchers. The Brewers did make an offer of two-years to Ryan Dempster, who they had reportedly been in contact with for a while, but inevitably lost out to the Red Sox on what we can assume was a more lucrative offer. Melvin also stated that the team would likely not be pursuing recently departed starting pitcher, Shaun Marcum, whom they had acquired just two years prior for the hefty price of former top prospect, Brett Lawrie.

The lack of movement from the front office has left many Brewers fans wondering what exactly their plan is this offseason, as the team currently has holes in both the rotation as well as the bullpen. My thought all along, which appears to be the case to date, is that Melvin is simply waiting out a heavily inflated free agent market in hopes of landing some better players later on for cheap. But after all this chaos to date, including even more activity as of right now, what's left?

Here are a couple pretty decent players that could be targeted in some bargain hunting:

1. RHP Tim Stauffer: You might recognize this name, though don't blame yourself if you don't. Stauffer has has been with the Padres since 2005, bouncing back and forth between AAA and the majors for performance and health-related reasons. Recently though, Stauffer had found some success both in the bullpen as well as the rotation, combining for 2.4 WAR in 2010-11. Woo. Stauffer generally sat 90-91 with his fastball, and induced groundballs at a good rate for a starter, which really helped him succeed outside the friendly confines of Petco Park.

This past year, however, Stauffer spent most of the season on the DL with an elbow injury. He had surgery on it in August (not Tommy John), and will hopefully be healthy just in time for Spring Training. This signing wouldn't exactly blow anybody away, but on the cheap, he could be a solid Marco Estrada-type guy who could turn in a better-than-expected year.

2. LHP Francisco Liriano: I can hear your reaction now, and I believe it sounds something like this.
But come on, is it really that bad? Well...maybe. But then again, maybe not.

Liriano was once a big up and comer way back in 2006. Then the following year, he had Tommy John surgery, developed some bad control issues, and he's never really been the same. Or has he? Did you know he was worth 6 WAR in 2010? He threw 191 innings that year, recorded a 3.62 ERA, 2.66 FIP, and a 3:1 K to BB. However, the following season he was plagued by shoulder issues and his K to BB went haywire (an atrocious 1.5:1). This past season, he started striking more people out again, but the walks remained an issue. So why should the Brewers have an interest in him?

Talent. The Brewers are on this kick where they're trying to pick up every pitcher with control issues and hope to either help them figure things out, or catch lightning in a bottle. An effective idea with relievers; far tougher with starters. The medicals should be enough to scare one off, although he hasn't experienced any injury issues in over a year. He's 29, still throwing 93 mph on average with his fastball, and striking folks out. On a one-year deal, I say why the hell not. If he stinks or gets hurt, they have other options. If things suddenly click again like they did in 2010, oh baby...

3. RHP Jon Rauch: I did two starters, now for a couple relievers. The reliever market has been a little emptied out, but it's far from barren. Rauch isn't a guy who will really blow any batters away, but he's got a good slider to keep hitters off balance, as well as experience in the late-inning role. Sort of Villanueva-y, in a really poor comparison kind of way. In actuality, he's probably a little closer to K-Rod, but don't let that scare you. Rauch is what he is. He has a healthy career 7.16 K/9, but also won't walk many. Hooray for no leadoff walks in late innings!

On the whole, this isn't as much of a steal as it is a guy still hovering out there who could be a solid addition for the 7th or 8th inning. The thing that attracts me most is that he'd also likely accept a one-year offer, which are my favorite kinds of offers to relievers. Melvin should probably look into doing soon.

4. LHP Tom Gorzellany: Tom Haudricourt gets credit for mentioning this one a week or so back. I had to chuckle a little bit at it because I have some fond memories of the Brewers demolishing Gorzellany back when he was with the Pirates (Remember that "rotation of the future" Pittsburgh had in '07? Good times).

After a bit of research though, this doesn't seem like all that terrible of an idea. The thought is that he could be affective against both sides, but I think that's a bit of a stretch with RHH slugging .435 off of him in his career. As a lefty specialist though, he gets the job done, holding lefties to a career .227 opp. avg. and .291 wOBA. He might not be the LOOGY Milwaukee deserves, but he's the one they need right now.

5. 2B Kelly Johnson: Last but not least, I thought I'd toss in a position player. Surprised? Confused? I kind of am, too, but bear with me here. We're going to travel through my thought process, together.

Johnson was once a good player, then an underrated player, then a rated player, and now kind of 'eh'. That's not to say he's a BAD player now, but he just posted his lowest career wOBA (.299) and his 2nd lowest wRC+ (86). Not good. At 30-years old and seemingly without a home, you have to wonder if Johnson is still an everyday player. There isn't a great need for 2B from anyone right now, and even then, Johnson's defense has kind of tailed off. If he were willing to do so, Johnson would be a mighty fine bench player. He has experience playing OF, and he might even be able to play some 3B. His greatest assets, though, are in his offensive game. Johnson gets on base (career .338 OBP), is a lefty, and has 20-homerun power. Pretty valuable things all on their own.

I fully expect Johnson to land somewhere as a starter, and it will likely be with someone random like the Orioles or Marlins. Still, were he to settle for a reduced role, he would definitely be a pretty desirable target that could offer some solid help to the bench.

Well, that's all I have for you today, everyone. Hopefully the Brewers decide to do SOMETHING to improve these areas before the start of the season, because there is a real fear that the team will go into the season without ever doing anything again. Ever. They won't draft anyone, sign anyone, or even play. They'll just become stagnate and waste away like a retired salesman on Waikiki Beach. RIP Milwaukee Brewers, you masters of inactivity.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Book of Gorman Podcast

That's right! Jerry, Corey, and myself are coming to you using our wonderful voices in a new podcast. Naturally, it will also be dedicated to the Brewers, and discuss all sorts of fun things related to them.

Check out the first episode in which we discuss the Winter Meetings and their effect on the Brewers' offseason plans:

Chapter One - "Winter Meetings"

Monday, December 3, 2012

The bullpen problem

It's not a news flash that the Milwaukee Brewers possessed a pretty terrible bullpen in 2012, and the performance of the relief pitching was probably the biggest reason the Brewers missed the postseason. I'm not going to focus on the numbers, because they're bad. Pretty much every Brewers reliever had their worst season. Understandably, Doug Melvin has already started a massive overhaul, parting ways with Kameron Loe, Jose Veras, and Manny Parra. Set-up man Francisco Rodriguez is a free agent and is unlikely to return under any circumstance. Burke Badenhop was acquired in a trade, and Melvin has already added five other relievers on minor-league deals. Next up is lefty relievers. That all sounds reasonable, right?

Sort of. The minor league deals are all fine moves, and Melvin has a history of finding treasure among other people's trash (John Axford, Marco Estrada, Jim Henderson, and Jeff Bianchi to name a few). Pursuing a lefty makes tons of sense, the team has had to make do without a decent one for a couple of years now. Parra needed to go. But the rest of the moves are murky at best.

Veras has an annoying skill set and is often difficult to watch, but pitched much better in the second half and has been a decent reliever throughout his career. He may not have been worth what he would have been paid, but his strikeout ability is nice to have around. The Loe and Badenhop moves are far more puzzling. Loe might cause Brewers fans to roll their eyes, but he was a perfectly fine middle reliever for most of his time in Milwaukee. Injuries and a lack of better options briefly forced Loe into a setup role in 2011, a role he is not designed for and some blown saves soured fans' opinion of him. A plethora of short outings by the starting rotation led to him being overworked early in 2012, and he never seemed to recover. The team decided to try to do trading for his twin in Burke Badenhop. While Badenhop had a better 2012 (and is a little cheaper), his performance in prior seasons suggest that he's no better than Loe overall. Basically, they're buying Badenhop's career year combined with Loe's worst year over the larger sample of their respective careers.

This is where an interesting problem arises; we watched Loe and Veras fail repeatedly last year, which makes us want to be done with them even though we'd look at them as good buy-low candidates if the pitched somewhere else in 2012 (to give another example, when Dan Haren was cut loose by the Angels, every other team's fanbase looked at him as a great bounced-back option, while Angels fans viewed him as an aging starting pitcher with back problems and velocity issues). The recency effect also helps is forget how good guys like Loe and Axford (now viewed as a shaky and unreliable closer) were previously. This also shows us the volatility of relief pitchers; 60 innings is a small sample size for any pitcher, yet for a reliever that's an entire season, and a slump or random bad luck is all it takes to taint the perception of said reliever. Paying these guys lots of money is an enormous risk, and dismissing them because of one bad year is also a risk.

So with all of this in mind, what's the correct way to rebuild a bullpen? The old-school approach suggests finding seasoned veterans (including a "proven closer"), an approach that worked pretty well for teams like the Orioles, Rangers, and Yankees in 2012, but on the other hand failed horribly for the Mets, Red Sox, and Marlins. The new school approach is to go cheap, buying low-cost veterans and trusting unproven youngsters. Worked great for the Rays, A's, and Nationals, not so much for the Cubs, Rockies, and Astros. This leaves us at something of an impasse; putting faith in Brandon Kintzler and Tyler Thornburg sounds cool, but could backfire just as easily as signing Sean Burnett and Jason Grilli to hefty deals.

The best solution to this problem is simple, but not easy; depth. It's what the good teams have and the bad teams don't. Bullpen depth is something the team did not have last year, having to bring up guys like Vinnie Chulk, Juan Perez, and Mike McClendon when injuries and ineptness happened, and unsurprisingly it led to more ineptness. In a vacuum, there was nothing wrong with the relief core that broke camp this last season, and there was no way anyone could have predicted that every pitcher would have a terrible year. But that's no excuse for having someone like Chulk as next best option in AAA. Whether it's through trades, free agency, or continued development of the youngsters, Melvin's primary concern should not just be quality, but quantity as well.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Brand New Brewer, Burke Badenhop

The Milwaukee Brewers have made their first official trade of the offseason, and unsurprisingly, it was for a reliever. The Brewers have acquired RP Burke Badenhop from the Tampa Bay Rays for minor league OF Raul Mondesi Jr.

In 62 innings for the Rays this past season, Badenhop recorded a 3.03 ERA, striking out 42 batters against walking just 12. Though he recorded a career low in his K/9 (6.06), he also recorded a career low in BB/9 (1.73), which in addition to a very solid 76.9 LOB% would help explain the over half-run differential between his ERA and his FIP (3.65 for 2012). Badenhop's tendency to induce groundballs has definitely been a major asset to his major league success, and will likely remain so in the friendlier confines of Miller Park. In essence, he is a doppleganger of former-Brewer, Kameron Loe, but will cost less than Loe would have and is two years younger.

In exchange for Badenhop, the Brewers parted with Raul Mondesi Jr., who signed with them as an undrafted free agent back in 2010 at the tender age of 17. Mondesi Jr. wasn't exactly jumping off the page with his stats to date, sporting just a .231/.282/.374 in 273 ABs with the Rookie League Helena Brewers. However, having just recently turned 20, Mondesi Jr. could still grow and improve his game with some more seasoning. His tools won't blow anyone away, but he's a fantastic athlete with a good knack for the game.

Overall, this appears to be a fine trade for the Brewers. After a disastrous performance by their relief corps in 2012, the team simply had to address the bullpen in one form or another this Winter. This one may cost them a potentially promising player down the line, but that's the way of the game, and potential is really just potential until it becomes something more. Badenhop is Super 2 eligible, and isn't due to become a free agent until 2015, so the Brewers will be getting at least 2 years of service time from him, which is pretty nice for a fairly solid middle-reliever. I imagine this will be the first of several moves to help improve the bullpen, so think of this as the first step in a multiple step process.