You Know, And That

8.19.11//09:00

What is a prospect?

For some reason the topic of “what is a prospect?” has come up in a few of my conversations recently, so here’s my take.

I define a prospect as someone, who without any significant MLB playing time at present, could impact an MLB team in the future.

Minor leaguers who project as, or could potentially be, competent players have a lot of value. They don’t need to have impact potential to make an impact. Projectable competence is a good thing, and turns a guy into a prospect for me.

A prospect doesn’t need to be a guy who could potentially hit .300/.400/.500 or throw 95 MPH on the black. Lots of guys in MLB do neither of those things, though I will concede that it is easier to project a guy with good tools than one without. But neither tools nor production are make or break in terms of what makes a prospect.


8.12.11//10:29

A few quick Brewers draft notes

While I have a minute, a few Brewers draft notes…

  • The signing deadline for the June draft picks, as you probably know, is the end of the day on Monday.
  • If I had to put a probability on the Brewers signing both of their 1st round picks (Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley), I’d say 98%.
  • If I had to guess which one of those two is more likely to not sign, I’d say Jungmann. The Brewers have to sign Bradley. He was picked as compensation for not signing first round pick Dylan Covey last year. If they don’t sign Bradley, they lose the pick and receive no further draft compensation.
  • I’m not trying to say I don’t think Jungmann won’t sign, although I would be much less heartbroken if the Brewers failed to sign him as opposed to Bradley. If Jungmann didn’t sign, the Brewers would get the 13th overall pick next year.
  • Unsigned 12th round pick Andrew Cain, a corner OF from UNC-Wilmington, should have been a relatively easy sign for the Brewers, but that never happened and he’s been absent from the summer baseball circuit. Don’t know what’s going on there.
  • Unsigned 13th round pick Mallex Smith, a center fielder from Rickards HS in Tallahassee, FL, has passed over an offer from Florida State to commit to Sante Fe JC (located in Gainsville, not New Mexico). Playing at Santa Fe makes him eligible for the 2012 draft if he doesn’t sign with the Brewers by Monday night. It’s been said that Smith is “dead set” on going pro, and I think the Brewers have a decent chance to sign him.
  • Unsigned 16th and 18th round picks, LHP Carlos Rodon and SS Chris McFarland, are both exciting high school talents that will command a price well over the recommended slot value to sign. Both are still in play for the Brewers and both would be huge gets for the system. Rodon hails from North Carolina and is a big recruit for North Carolina State. McFarland is from Texas has a strong commitment to Rice. Both of their decisions will come down to the wire on Monday.
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8.11.11//10:38

The Keepers of the Lighting

The Cardinals may be the keepers of the etiquette of baseball, the bastions of how the game should be played, and they sure are sensitive to even the tiniest changes in light. They are truly the low-light hawks of baseball. They demand excellence in all areas, including bulb wattage. LaRussa says that when his sunglasses are on, he better be God-damned able to see everything, hammered or not.

Good thing Brewers fans exist. We do the dirty work. We check your lighting. We go to your games. We watch our team beat your team.


8.02.11//14:54

A Brief Brewers Baserunning Update

If you recall, I made my initial foray into Brewers blogging way back when (er, in late May) with a piece on baserunning. I promised I’d update it later in the season. It’s later. Let’s update it.

UBR, as you will recall, is FanGraphs’ way of measuring the effect of the running game sans stolen base data. RAR stands for “runs above replacement” and 10 RAR is equal to 1 extra win above replacement, or WAR.

  • In May, the Brewers’ UBR was -2.8 RAR. Fifth worst in MLB, third worst in the NL.
  • Now, the Brewers’ UBR is -4.9 RAR. That’s sixth worst in MLB, still third worst in the NL.

The running game (again, sans stolen base stuff) has basically treaded water in the depths of majors.

On to stolen bases.

  • In May, the Brewers’ stolen base success rate was 80% and worth about 2 RAR.
  • Now, the Brewers’ stolen base success rate is 74% and worth about 1.7 RAR.

Adding them together:

  • In May, the Brewers’ UBR+SB was -0.8 RAR, a loss of a little less than a tenth of a win.
  • Now, the Brewers’ UBR+SB is -3.2 RAR, about a third of a loss.

Small ball, right?

As was the case in May, the two people primarily responsible for the team’s poor showing in UBR are Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee. Back then their UBRs were worth -6 RAR, and now they’ve slipped to -9.6 RAR, almost a full win below replacement. Add in McGehee’s two caught stealings (Fielder has not attempted a stolen base this year), and the RAR between those two slips to -10.5, more than a win below replacement.

The good news you can take out of that is the rest of the team has been pretty successful in the baserunning department, with an aggregate UBR+SB of 7.3 RAR. That would be good enough to land in the top five teams in MLB.

As I mentioned, baserunning is not a huge component of value in baseball. Where its marginal difference can matter is in tight races, where one team strongly outperforms the other. It’s unlikely, though possible, that baserunning will tip the balance in the NL Central this year.

  • The Cardinals’ UBR+SB is currently -1.3 RAR. It is negative due to a poor stolen base success rate. A little less than 2 runs better than the Brewers, a fifth of a win. They have a 3.9 RAR in UBR alone.
  • The Reds’ UBR+SB is currently 7.2 RAR, which is 10.4 RAR better than the Brewers. A full win and then some. The Reds, like the Cardinals, have their UBR dragged down by a poor showing in the stolen base department. They have a 11.6 RAR in UBR alone.
  • The Pirates’ UBR+SB is currently -6.7 RAR, a third of a win worse than the Brewers. They have both negative UBR and stolen base value.

If you’re interested, the Brewers’ team sorted by UBR (called Bsr for some reason on the chart) for everyone that has a UBR value:

Two last things I want to point out. When I say “x has 3.4 RAR” that these are all best guesses by the people who put the statistic together. It’s impossible to know the true value of these things. This is just the best (public) stuff we have to work with.

Finally, the stolen base RAR calculation I used (.19 runs for a SB, -.46 runs for a CS) is from Tom Tango, but using data from the 1999-2002 seasons. The data may well be different for 2011 baseball, so those run values may be slightly off. I doubt the RAR calculations are way off, but if they are, mea culpa.


7.22.11//15:31

Plush makes it rain

We went to the Brewers-Twins game at Target Field three weeks ago today, and naturally I haven’t put up any photos yet. No, I did not do the economy 3-week development service at Walgreens. Yes, I only took a few because my phone was dying. But as long as I have a blog, might as well photoblog my photos.

Pre-game (that’s me, or is it Tony???)

PLUSH

A few hours later, still pre-game:

RAIN

And finally… game, not too long before Prince had that ball go through his legs:

GAME

Two second movie!


7.21.11//11:10

About Carlos Gomez’ broken clavicle

Just a few brief words on broken clavicles to maybe clear up a little confusion, and I preface these words by admitting that I have a degree in accounting, not medicine.

Carlos Gomez’ broken left clavicle will keep him out of action from anywhere between 4 weeks and 12 or more weeks, depending on the nature and severity of the break. The clavicle, also known as the collar bone, connects the shoulder blade to the chest, pivoting on either end. It is more commonly regarded as a shoulder injury due to the much more active nature of the shoulder as opposed to the chest.

Some trivia: the clavicle is the only horizontal bone in the body. You owe me $1 if this comes up at a bar.

Most clavicle injuries are treated by putting the arm/shoulder in a sling to allow the bone to heal naturally. Clavicle surgery is very rare (though slightly more common in athletes), and is primarily used to re-set the bone when there is a severe or compound break. Surgery increases recovery time. If Gomez needs surgery, he’s almost certainly done for the year.

As many of you know, Charles Woodson broke his left clavicle during the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV win. He did not require surgery.

If Gomez is a Pujolsian healer, his broken clavicle could heal within four weeks and after going on a rehab assignment, could conceivably be back by very late August. What’s more likely is that the Brewers will hope Gomez returns sometime in September, or for the playoffs.

Gomez will likely not be placed on the 60-day DL. While that would not end his season, there’s a possibility he could be ready before 60 days are up. He will go on the 15-day DL if there’s any chance of a 2011 return. The Brewers will only put him on the 60-day DL if they think he’s done for the year.


7.13.11//16:42

Why the bleep is Khris Davis still in Brevard County?

I’ll make this pretty short. Khris Davis should be in Huntsville.

Here are the total number of qualified batters in the high-A Florida State League with an OPS of greater than 900:

FSL Leaders in OPS

That’s one… two… three guys and the third guy, Brewers farmhand Brock Kjeldgaard, is no longer in the league. He was promoted to the AA club in Huntsville a few weeks ago.

Which means that Khris Davis’ 990 OPS is more than 100 points higher than all but one other qualified batter in the league. He is decimating the baseball in a league where it’s pretty tough to decimate the baseball. The Florida State League is really, really tough on batters. Especially right-handed batters. Khris Davis is right-handed.

Why is he still in Brevard County? I have no idea. Scouts like his bat, even though he’s a little old for the league (he’s 23) to be a true prospect. He doesn’t have a great arm in left field, but he plays there competently. If he was moved to first base (the Brewers already have someone in left field for the foreseeable future), he could probably develop into an above average defender there.

Davis isn’t blocked by anyone in Huntsville. He’s a much better big league hitting prospect than either current Huntsville first bagger Sean Halton or either of the guys (Lee Haydel & Kjeldgaard) that regularly play left field for the Stars.

A common rule of thumb is that it should take college players 1500 minor league plate appearances to get ready for the big leagues, if they’re ever going to get ready and contribute much. Most of those plate appearances should be in AA and AAA. Davis now has 932 collectively dominant pro plate appearances below AA under his belt. He’s well past due for a promotion.

Promote the guy already. Move him to first base. Do something, Reid Nichols. Please?


6.30.11//10:21

The Hours; Or, the Brewers screw with me on Father’s Day

As you may or may not know, I don’t live in Milwaukee. I am a Brewers fan stranded in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, getting hit by the same rain drops that hit the Target Field turf and postpone Twins losses for another day. I make the trip down to Milwaukee a few times a year. The trip usually has something to do with the family I have that lives in southern Wisconsin. I actually haven’t been to a game at Miller Park since the Brewers’ one playoff win in 2008. C’est la vie.

When I do make it down to Milwaukee, I like to stop by Miller Park. If nothing else, to just look at it. To have my daughter and son look at it. (“This is where daddy’s team plays baseball.”) Ideally, the team store will be open and I can usually coax my wife into letting us stop and buy something. I lose hats all the time. Miller Park is a good excuse to buy a hat.

And there we were a week and a half ago, in Milwaukee. On Father’s Day. Perfect storm for a stop by Miller Park. I wonder what hats they have? I check out the Brewers’ website, and I find this:

The Hours

Sunday, 11 to 4. We’re past March, right? In luck!

No such luck.

We arrived at Miller Park around noon. There was a pretty decent line at the ticket window, but when we went to the doors for the Team Store by Majestic - locked. Lights off. I called the number for “more information” and was informed via recorded voice that the store was closed on Sundays.

Closed just for Father’s Day, I thought? Odd that they’d close on the one day a year that a dad can pretty much do what he wants, which may well include some baseball shopping. Did I not listen to the recording right? Called again. Yep… no, just closed on Sundays.

Who goes shopping on Sundays, anyway?

Called again just now to make 3x sure. Yep.

Might want to fix the website, guys. Happy Father’s Day.


6.27.11//09:24

A few thoughts from last night’s Sounds game

I watched most of the Nashville Sounds game last night. Thoughts:

  • I haven’t been overly impressed with Amaury Rivas’ change-up the half-dozen or so times I’ve seen him pitch this year. Don’t get me wrong… it’s a good pitch for him, just nothing that will strike batters out in the big leagues (or in AAA, for that matter). His arm action for it is good. It’s possible tinkering with the grip this offseason could yield some extra movement that results in more swings and misses. And maybe he’s just been off with it when I’ve seen him. I’ve heard glowing reviews about it in the past.

    He was throwing many more curves/sliders, and (I think) 4-seam fastballs last night. A lot is made of the desire for pitchers to induce ground balls, and his 2-seamer does have pretty good dip when it’s on. However, he seems to locate his 4-seamer a lot better and especially when the 4-seam is paired with his changeup, it’s the better fastball. Trying to get Rivas to be a ground ball pitcher when he has more of fly ball pitcher skill set, is, well, you know the peg and hole adage. I’d like to see him spot up the 4-seam a little more and work off of the change-up. His breaking stuff is ok, occasionally has depth, and are serviceable big league pitches. They could be more effective, again, off the harder fastball.

    And all yielding fewer ground balls. The horror! But better results.

  • Eric Farris still has a bad arm for shortstop, but his throwing motion was somewhat better last night than I’ve seen previously. Although he had a few double-pumps, he mostly got the ball off quickly, which he needs to do to have any shot at an even average runner. There’s an outside chance he can turn into a Ryan Theriot-ish shortstop that has to play in because of his arm. I’d still like to see the Brewers give Farris the chance to play center field and third base to really improve his versatility.

  • Mat Gamel looked better at first base, and even made a nice pick on a ball low and to his right (thrown by Farris). I’ve said it time and time again - he has the tools to be a plus first baseman on defense. Maybe he’s truly bought into the position switch and has gotten the reps to start to feel comfortable there.

    And yes, he hit his 18th home run last night. Dude can hit. At this point, the Brewers would be nuts not to give him an inside shot at the first base job next year.

  • Saito looked good. Bring him up.

6.22.11//21:04

One more thing about Greinke’s ERA and K rate

Perhaps you read my story last weekend over at Disciples of Uecker on big strikeout pitchers and their ERAs.

That story was based on a reply of mine in a thread at Brewerfan, linked right there, about whether or not we should be worried about Greinke’s lofty ERA (which is a little less lofty after his last start).

A couple people pointed out to me that I should have used K/PA rather than K/9 for the exercise, as K/9 inflates the K rate if a pitcher faces a lot of batters (i.e., has more than his fair share of long innings.) He’ll have more chances at a strikeout.

Here were the ERA results from K/9:

Mean=3.36; Mid=3.41; Max=4.66; Min=2.48; Standard deviation=+/- .54

And now the ERA results using K/PA:

Mean=3.25; Mid=3.25; Max=4.66; Min=2.16; Standard deviation=+/- .57

In other words, about the same thing, or even more rosy.

Look, if Greinke keeps striking out guys at the rate he is, the likelihood of him finishing with an ERA even close to what it is now is very low.

That’s why I’m not worried.


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