2015 Season Previews: Milwaukee Brewers

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks! 

Milwaukee Brewers

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 80-82 (4th in NL Central, 20th in MLB)

Manager: Ron Roenicke (335-313 in four seasons with Milwaukee)

Top Three Players: OF Carlos Gomez (4.4), C Jonathan Lucroy (3.3), OF Ryan Braun 2.5

Bounce-back Player: SS Jean Segura

In the first half of the 2013 season Segura hit .325/.363/.487 with 11 doubles, eight triples, 11 home runs, and 27 stolen bases in 397 plate appearances. Since then, Segura has hit .244/.283/.322 with 23 doubles, eight triples, six home runs, and 37 stolen bases in 783 plate appearances. Who is Jean Segura? Well, in 2014, Segura dealt with personal tragedy, which could have been a leading culprit in his ineptitude. He was always a good contact hitter, but, suddenly, he was posting a .275 BABIP and his entire game fell off – even his defense wasn’t as good in 2014. While it’s fair to wonder what was going on in the second half of 2013, the chances are high that this 25-year-old gets things rolling again, becoming a very valuable shortstop for the Brewers and a favorite of fantasy nerds.

Courtesy: naciondeportiva.com
Courtesy: naciondeportiva.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Mike Fiers

I loathed Fiers because he almost cost me a title last season. When his fastball smacked Giancarlo Stanton and ended the big slugger’s season, that was the only time that I remember seeing Fiers name in the national sports headlines in 2014. It won’t be the same in 2015. Fiers, 29, posted a 2.13 ERA and 0.88 WHIP over 71.2 innings and 14 games (ten starts), while posting an impressive 9.5 K:9 and 4.47 K:BB. In 2013, Fiers had his forearm broken by a batted ball. Outside of that miserable season, which lasted all of 22.1 major league innings, Fiers is 15-15 with a 3.16 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over his 199.2 innings in 2012 and 2014, striking out 9.5 batters per nine. He may be a late bloomer, he may not have an electric fastball (89.6 mph), but Mike Fiers can pitch. He has a rotation spot locked up, and he is an excellent, cheap target.

Offseason Overview: The Brewers let Mark Reynolds leave via free agency and brought in Adam Lind to man first base. Lind had his most productive season since his impressive 2009, posting an .860 OPS and 141 wRC+ over just 318 plate appearances, and, if healthy (which has been his problem due to back issues), he could be the solid, left-handed bat the Brewers have needed since Prince Fielder left. Milwaukee lost Zach Duke to the White Sox, but they added an impressive lefty of their own in his place, Neal Cotts. They traded their “ace”, Yovani Gallardo, to Texas for some solid young pieces, sliding Fiers and Jimmy Nelson into the rotation to replace the overrated Mexican right-hander, whose inability to miss bats increased while his salary inflated. While there wasn’t a true splash by the Brewers this winter, they have the core of this group together for another couple of seasons, replacing pieces as they go to remain competitive.

The Verdict: Milwaukee remains one of those teams that battle and are a nuisance to their counterparts, though they don’t seem to create headlines. They collect talent and find ways to keep it around. Lucroy is one of the top offensive catchers in baseball, Gomez has the best power/speed combo this side of Mike Trout, and Ryan Braun will be improved with the ability to use his thumb in 2015, something he wasn’t able to do for several months in 2014. There are several question marks when it comes to health, but the Brewers may be able to hold onto the lead in the NL Central if they have things go right. A return to form by Braun and Segura, some improvement by Khris Davis and Scooter Gennett, and typical production from Aramis Ramirez, Gomez, and Lucroy, and the offense is scary. A little luck with Jimmy Nelson on the back-end of the rotation and consistency from Matt Garza, Kyle Lohse, Wily Peralta, and Fiers, and they are contenders. They’ll be much better than 4th in the NL Central in 2015.

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Brewing Something Sneaky-Good in Milwaukee

Braun1
Brewers’ RF Ryan Braun

When you look at a team that is coming off of a 74-88 season, you typically see several holes that need to be filled, and, potentially, a team that could be headed towards a rebuild. However, when you look deeper at the Milwaukee Brewers, you can see that they are a team that isn’t too far away from actually contending, and it could happen in 2014.

Sure, the farm system doesn’t appear to have anything of immediate value, featuring a big, fat zero prospects within the Baseball Prospectus Top 101 and just one (Jimmy Nelson, No. 83) in the MLB.com Top 100, but IF the 25-man roster can maintain health and production, there is a tremendous chance that they could look a lot like the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates – minus the youth.

This is a club that won 96 games in 2011, and while they did lose Prince Fielder to free agency, they still managed to finish with 83 wins in 2012. In 2013, a lot of things went wrong:

  • Ryan Braun was injured and suspended for his PED use
  • Rickie Weeks had another unproductive season
  • Yuniesky Betancourt received over 400 plate appearances – something that should never be forced upon the eyes of fans or the other 24 men of any Major League Baseball roster EVER AGAIN!

Fortunately for Milwaukee and their fans, there were several things that went right, which is why this team will improve in 2014…dramatically.

Gallardo
Brewers’ RHP Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo suffered from another drop in velocity in 2013, and he had a very difficult time adjusting to that, posting a 4.83 ERA and 1.43 WHIP over his 20 first half starts; however, the second half brought much better results, as Gallardo managed a 3.09 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 11 starts. There should still be some concern over his velocity issues and his drop in strikeout rates (7.17 in 2013 is, by far, the lowest of his career – 8.24 in his rookie 2007 season is the next lowest), but if Gallardo has learned to pitch with what he has, he could find the same success that he had in the latter part of the 2013 season going forward. Keep in mind, he is turning just 28 years old later this month.

"Brewers'

On the surface, going 11-15 with a 4.37 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 32 starts and 183.1 innings isn’t all that impressive, but, at 24, Wily Peralta was actually much better than those numbers. From June 21 to September 22 (17 starts), Peralta posted a 3.05 ERA and 1.23 WHIP over 103.1 innings, going 7-7 during that time. Peralta doesn’t strike out 10 batters per nine, posting just a 7.3 K/9 over this impressive 17-start span, but he does possess solid stuff (his fastball averaged 94.8 mph in 2013) and he keeps the ball in the park, even when pitching half of his games in Miller Park (19 home runs allowed in 2013). If Peralta can improve his 9.2 percent career walk-rate, he’s going to be capable of an All-Star season. He’ll turn just 25 in May of 2014, giving the Brewers a piece to continue to build around.

"Brewers'

Jean Segura was a piece received from the Los Angeles Angels in the Zack Greinke deal, and while Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena may not do much of anything for the Brewers after coming over in the deal with Segura, the Brewers clearly won the trade when Greinke signed with the Dodgers last winter, gaining several years of control of the Dominican shortstop. Segura, then, had a huge 2013 season, posting a 3.9 WAR (Baseball Reference) and earning a spot on the National League All-Star team. He became a fantasy baseball darling, amassing 20 doubles, 10 triples, 12 home runs, and 44 stolen bases. His second half was not good (.241/.268/.315), but if he can get somewhere between those numbers and his breakout first half (.325/.363/.487), he’ll continue to be an asset for the Brewers and fantasy geeks alike.

Jonathan Lucroy became a near-elite offensive catcher in an injury-shortened 2012 and he continued that trend in 2013, posting a .795 OPS to go along with his 18 home runs and 82 RBI. Those 82 RBI led all catchers in the majors and his nine stolen bases were a nice addition, as well. At 28, Lucroy is in his prime and could post more impressive numbers in 2014 with a healthy and present Ryan Braun protecting him in the Milwaukee lineup.

"Brewers'

Carlos Gomez posted an 8.4 WAR in 2013 (Baseball Reference) and went nuts, posting an .843 OPS along with his 27 doubles, 10 triples, 24 home runs, 73 RBI, and 40 stolen bases. He made his first All-Star game and won a Gold Glove for his tremendous defensive prowess, even earning a 10 percent share in the NL MVP voting by finishing 9th for the award. It is fair to wonder if this type of success can hold up from Gomez, considering his past and his continued plate discipline issues (146:37 K:BB in 590 plate appearances), but the potential was always there, and despite being around since 2007, he’ll be just 28 in 2014.

Khris Davis made his debut for Milwaukee on April 1st as a pinch-hitter. He then rotted on the bench collecting all of two starts and 18 plate appearances before being sent to the minors, where he would get regular playing time. Davis then returned to the majors to sit on the bench for part of July before taking over left field full-time on July 30. Over the next 36 games and 129 plate appearances, Davis posted a .287/.357/.617 triple-slash, blasting 10 home runs and driving in 26 runs. Over 162 games, that is a 32 home run player. I’m not saying that Khris Davis is going to do that, but he has posted an .898 OPS over his 1,705 minor league plate appearances prior to this big league outburst. The guy can hit, and while he’s already 26 years old (he was a college senior draftee out of Cal-State Fullerton, while missing most of 2012 due to a leg injury), he has pushed Braun to right field and cleared a path to become a producer.

Aramis Ramirez is still the third baseman, and while that may be an issue defensively, his bat is still useful. Another issue still remains that ARam will be limited by some sort of ailment that will keep him off of the field. At 36, it could be enhanced, but if he gives the Brewers 145 games, you’re going to see 25 home runs and 90-plus RBI with something close to his career .285/.345/.501 triple-slash.

First base has been an issue in Milwaukee since Fielder bolted for Detroit after the 2011 season, but there could be an interesting platoon. Juan Francisco posted his typically horrific strikeout totals and low average in 2013, but he did hit 13 home runs in 270 plate appearances for Milwaukee. He couldn’t hit a left-hander if the pitcher actually put it on a tee for him, but with the addition of Mark Reynolds (.852 career OPS vs. left-handers), the two could combine to post 40 home runs while striking out nearly 300 times – the power is an asset, though. If the Brewers choose to scrap Francisco, who turns just 27 in 2014, they did sign Lyle Overbay to a minor league deal, and he could also platoon with Reynolds.

"Brewers'

The list seems to go on and on, but it doesn’t stop here. Kyle Lohse is a solid innings-eater and effective weapon in the rotation, Marco Estrada is a fine back-end of the rotation option, Jim Henderson established himself as a shutdown reliever, Brandon Kintzler and Francisco Rodriguez will be very good setup men (if they don’t steal some saves),  Tom Gorzelanny is a solid left-handed option out of the bullpen, and Logan Schafer makes for a respectable fourth outfielder. Add in the depth at starting pitcher with Jimmy Nelson, Hiram Burgos, and Mike Fiers as possible rotation fillers (in the event of an injury), and you have a group that has enough depth to withstand the grind of a 162-game season.

With the addition of Matt Garza, the Brewers have built an above-average rotation that could stand toe-to-toe with most teams in baseball. If Garza, Lohse, and Gallardo stay healthy and the Brewers get steady production out of Peralta and Estrada, this could easily be an 85 to 90-win team. Offensively, if Davis and Segura produce, and Braun, Gomez, and Ramirez stay healthy, the offense is legitimately scary.

The national media will clamor over the St. Louis Cardinals, due to their long-term success, and the Pittsburgh Pirates will be the darlings after reaching the playoffs for the first time in 20 years, but there isn’t any reason to think that the Brewers can’t become contenders again in 2014. While the farm system leaves a lot to be desired, there is talent at the major league level, and it is enough to be taken seriously.

How the Cincinnati Reds Ruined Their Window

Over the last nine games of the season, the Cincinnati Reds were 2-7, including their National League Wild Card loss in Pittsburgh, which would be their fifth loss against the Pirates in the nine game span. Needless to say, after a disappointing collapse in the 2012 National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants, the collapse at the end of the 2013 season wasn’t pleasing to the fans, or the front office. Dusty Baker was canned shortly thereafter, replaced by pitching coach Bryan Price, who, in his first year as manager, has been dealt with the task of rebuilding a roster with a lot of question marks into a perennial power, all the while continuing to look up at the St. Louis Cardinals, who have built a system of winning from within.

Now, the Reds must replace their lead-off hitter, Shin-Soo Choo, who only managed a .423 on-base percentage and 107 runs scored while reaching base 305 times by hit, walk, or hit-by-pitch, after watching Choo run to the Texas Rangers in free agency for seven-years, $130 million.

BruceCertainly, it wasn’t within the budget to re-up with Choo at $18.7 million per year, not with Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips combining to make $33 million in 2014, $38 million in 2015, and $45.5 million in 2016, that is, of course, if one of them isn’t traded. The Reds have long had a payroll between $80 and $100 million under current owner Bob Castellini, but is it time to start questioning what the long-term goal of the franchise is, after sputtering around the free agent market while trying to replace their best lead-off hitter since Joe Morgan and Pete Rose were flapping and flopping around Riverfront Stadium. Whether television contracts and Major League Baseball Advanced Media revenue will allow the “small-market” Reds to increase their payroll further is a valid question, but with Matt Latos, Johnny Cueto, and Mike Leake under team-control through 2015, and Homer Bailey headed towards free agency after the 2014 season, how else can the team remain contenders, especially with St. Louis constantly reloading and the Chicago Cubs reaching their contention window, just as the Reds is becoming questionable?

This offseason was difficult, clearly. The Reds couldn’t be in on Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, or any other big-name free agent, but with very little money to spend, GM Walt Jocketty could have been more active in the trade market, or at least the minor league free agent route. Dick Williams, the VP of Baseball Operations, told me during the Reds’ caravan that the club lost out on Grady Sizemore due to his relationship with one of Boston’s trainers, who had been with Cleveland during his time there. While Sizemore wasn’t a lock to produce, or stay healthy, he fit the bill as a low-cost centerfield option. He wasn’t a leadoff hitter, though, at least he hadn’t shown those skills since his last somewhat healthy season, 2009. Which left the club with little choice but to give their in-house candidate, Billy Hamilton, the job.

The issue with Hamilton, though, is that, though he has otherworldly speed, is he capable of thriving long-term in center, a position that he has been playing since the start of the 2012 season. His experience in Triple-A left a lot to be desired, as he posted a .256/.308/.343 triple-slash, stealing 75 bases and scoring 75 runs in 123 games for Louisville. We all know about his brief September audition, when Dusty Baker allowed him to receive all of 22 plate appearances, while Baker pinch-ran him often to allow the speedy Mississippian to accumulate 13 stolen bases in 14 tries.

In addition to plugging Hamilton into center, here is the laundry list of exciting moves that the Reds have made this winter:

October: Signed LHP Trevor Reckling and RHP Timothy Adleman to minor league contracts; signed OF Jason Bourgeois to a minor league contract and invited him to Spring Training;

November: Signed LHP Manny Parra, 2B Skip Schumaker, and C Brayan Pena to major league contracts; Signed OF Mike Wilson, LHP Nick Schmidt, and RHP Ross Ismail to minor league contracts; Signed C Max Ramirez, LHP Lee Hyde, and 3B Rey Navarro to minor league contracts and invited them to Spring Training;

December: Signed 3B Ruben Gotay and RHP Trevor Bell to minor league contracts; Invited non-roster RHP Jose Diaz and 2B Kristopher Negron to Spring Training; Signed RHP Chien-Ming Wang, C Corky Miller, and SS Argenis Diaz to minor league contracts and invited them to Spring Training; Acquired LHP David Holmberg from Arizona for Ryan Hanigan;

January: Sign RHP Bob Keppel, RHP Sean Black, OF Thomas Neal, LHP Jeff Francis, 2B John Tolisano, and 2B Hernan Iribarren to minor league contracts and invited them to Spring Training;

So, the club lost Shin-Soo Choo, Xavier Paul, and Derrick Robinson from last season’s 90-72 squad, so why should fans feel like this offseason is a failure?

Well, Choo’s production won’t be replaced by Hamilton, speed or no speed. Even if Hamilton increases his on-base percentage to .340 over 600 plate appearances, he doesn’t have the patient approach that Choo had, and, while he can move himself from base to base with his wheels, he just won’t be on as often. If Choo’s production is a clear downgrade, where are they upgrading?

Mesoraco1Is Devin Mesoraco set for a breakout season, replacing the putrid production that Ryan Hanigan provided in 2013? Is Todd Frazier going to post an .829 OPS, as he did in 2012, or something similar to his .721 OPS from 2013? Is Zack Cozart even worth starting anymore, given his career .680 OPS over 1,256 plate appearances? Ryan Ludwick had a nice 2012 and his 2013 was ruined due to his Opening Day shoulder injury, but was he ever worth a two-year, $15 million extension, especially when you consider it was back-loaded with an option for 2015, making him guaranteed $13 million, including his 2015 buyout? Brandon Phillips, 103 RBI or not, saw his OPS fall to .705 in 2013. Joey Votto and Jay Bruce seem like locks for success, but Bruce continues to be one of the streakiest players in all of baseball, while Votto’s patience seems to have overtaken his ability to actually produce at his 2010 MVP level ever again.

As far as the rotation, it remains pretty deep, but once you get past the top five, there are question marks. While that wouldn’t be a huge deal for most clubs, you have to remember that Johnny Cueto only had one full season and he immediately got hurt in the first game of the 2012 playoffs. Bailey, Latos, and Leake are very good options, and Tony Cingrani was impressive, even with just one good pitch, but having Wang, Francis, and nothing else as fallback options is rough, which may lead to the club rushing top prospect Robert Stephenson if there was an injury in 2014, not to mention how the rotation is going to function if Bailey leaves via free agency or Cueto’s 2015 option isn’t picked up. Who will be starting games and why don’t the Reds have options waiting like the Cardinals?

The bullpen is still built to dominate, as Aroldis Chapman is as shutdown as it gets. A full season of Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton, a former closer in his own right, serving as a setup man, and J.J. Hoover, Sam LeCure, Manny Parra, and Alfredo Simon rounding out the group helps the Reds bullpen look tremendous for another season…but a bullpen doesn’t have a lot of value if they aren’t protecting more leads than deficits.

The Reds haven’t been active enough. The Reds haven’t drafted enough high-ceiling talent. The Reds haven’t had enough success on the international market.

Braun1The Reds are a lot like the Milwaukee Brewers, locking up talent for just a little while, and then watching that talent and the contention window fly way in the breeze. You see, the Brewers were a competitive team until Prince Fielder left. They traded a lot of good, young talent to acquire Zack Greinke and CC Sabathia to help them contend. They bought in to that window and went for it. It is hard for a small-market to commit a lot of money to talent like Greinke and Sabathia, only to watch them leave for big-markets once they hit free agency, but the revenue that comes with a playoff run or a World Series title would alleviate a lot of those dollars. The Brewers, then, went into quite a funk the last several seasons, and they have yet to recover, but the worst part is that their farm system is terrible. If Ryan Braun doesn’t rebound, the club still has Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura, but the rest of the organization is quite barren.

The Reds are a lot like the Brewers because they haven’t had many successful recent drafts. While a lot of the key names on the major league roster are homegrown, there isn’t a whole lot of depth currently in the minor league system. The Reds did trade a couple of solid young players (Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, and Brad Boxberger) to acquire Mat Latos and Choo (Didi Gregorius and Drew Stubbs), but outside of Stephenson and Hamilton, much of the high-level talent was in Low-A or the Rookie levels last season, specifically Phillip Ervin, Jesse Winker, and Nick Travieso.

So, what will happen when 2015 rolls around without an Oscar Taveras waiting to take over left field for Ludwick? Who fills the rotation without a Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon ready to step in for A.J. Burnett? Who will push Todd Frazier at third base without a Kris Bryant or Javier Baez?

While the Reds and Brewers have weaker farm systems and question marks at several spots, the Cubs, Cardinals, and Pirates have done it right. They have managed to stay active and have taken risks with draft picks to make sure that they are getting the talent necessary to maintain solid depth within their organization. Sure, the Pirates and Cubs have had higher picks due to their lack of success over the years, but the Cardinals have a lot of talent and they haven’t had a season below .500 since 2007, while making the playoffs in 11 of the last 18 seasons, including four World Series and two titles.

PujolsThe conservative nature of the current regime in Cincinnati may not look awful as the Reds compete in 2014, but when Chicago, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis have their high-level minor league talent stepping in within the next two to three seasons, Reds fans will forget about the nightmares that Albert Pujols used to bring, and will instead be kept awake by Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, Gregory Polanco, Oscar Taveras, and others who will make their names in the depths of the thriving systems in the rest of the National League Central. Meanwhile, the Brewers and Reds will continue to cry small-market when they have, instead, chosen to be smarter at the right times.

There are still names on the free agent market that can help the Reds contend, but none of them will make them as good as they were last season, in 2012, or in 2010, when Cincinnati has reached the playoffs. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at this point to scrap what has been built. Instead, run out there with what you have and hope for the best, which, apparently, was Walt Jocketty and Bob Castellini’s plan all offseason.

What If: ARod Ruined MLB’s 2013 Season?

This.

Alex  RodriguezSure, it’s a home run in a game that may appear meaningless, but every game that Alex Rodriguez plays in 2013 that helps the New York Yankees in any way could destroy the integrity of the entire 2013 Major League Baseball season.

After Rodriguez broke Gehrig’s grand slam record, the Yankees went on to beat the San Francisco Giants and Tim Lincecum 5-1 on Friday night in New York. The Bronx Bombers are now 22-18 (.550) with Alex Rodriguez after going 59-55 (.518) without him, and depending on the results of the Cleveland Indians, Tampa Bay Rays, and Texas Rangers games tonight, the Yankees could be just 2.5 games out of the Wild Card after tonight.

Of course, the Yankees have had a little help late this season, getting solid production from Alfonso Soriano and Robinson Cano in the second half, but Rodriguez and his seven home runs, 18 RBI, and 126 wRC+ shouldn’t be ignored, it is certainly more productivity than they were getting from their other third basemen, who combined to post a gross .208/.251/.283 line over 453 at-bats while compiling just 128 total bases in 114 games. Rodriguez has 56 total bases in 40 games and 142 at-bats.

The Yankees have a lot of teams to catch and with two games against the Giants, three against the Rays, and three against the Houston Astros, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that they could make a last minute push to playoff pay dirt.

But should Alex Rodriguez have been responsible for any of those wins, which he clearly has been, then how can Major League Baseball and Bud Selig sleep at night?

The information that the league apparently has against Rodriguez and the BioGenesis investigation was enough to suspend him through the 2014 season, but after allowing an appeal, which was necessary with the league’s collective bargaining agreement, the league was forced to allow him to play until the appeal could be heard. Considering the resources that are available to the league, contacting and solidifying an arbitrator for a hearing was within reason well before today…hell, the league should have been on the phone and had a hearing set roughly ten minutes after the suspension was handed out on August 5.

After watching Matt Kemp lose out on the NL MVP in 2011 due to another BioGenesis product, Ryan Braun, and all of the hoopla surrounding Braun’s bastardizing of the entire process and system that goes along with testing and collection, MLB can’t afford another player impacting the validity of a 162-game marathon due to their impression on the outcome of 40 to 50 games that they shouldn’t have been a part of to begin with…not when it is a single player, who could have easily just been suspended.

SeligAlex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds have tarnished the record books with their use of performance-enhancing drugs, but the players who don’t have enough personal worth to be successful with their own god-given gifts don’t have to be capable of making it all about them forever. Selig should have manned up weeks ago for the integrity of the game. Alex Rodriguez shouldn’t play another game in 2013 and his suspension should be upheld immediately because you can’t go back in time to fix something that has already happened. Winning 22 games with Alex Rodriguez in the lineup or acknowledging any of the 21 runs that he has scored this season are already examples of opposing teams being wronged by a policy, a policy maker,  and a player that don’t have the testicular fortitude to do what is right for the game that they are there to serve, protect, and love.

Either be consistent by upholding a policy that was put in place to protect the integrity of the game or allow the league to be pushed over by the strongest players union in professional sports. You can’t really have it both ways. If Selig wants to change things, he needs to get Rodriguez off the field immediately.

When Fantasy Baseball Goes Wrong

FernandezRemember when you gambled on Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez in your starting rotation earlier this spring? Well, congratulations to you and your number one seed in the fantasy baseball playoffs, and I hope you enjoyed your first round exit against the lowest seeded team in the playoffs.

It seems like every year that the top teams are taken out by the lower seeds, just like catching the yearly No.12 seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament taking out the No.5 seed. Even teams that were riding another near-Triple Crown season out of Miguel Cabrera are now probably thinking about who they are going to be keeping this winter after the Detroit Tigers’ slugger has battled an abdominal strain while missing 11 games since late July, costing his owners victories and a title.

Whether you play in a one-year league, a dynasty league, a points league, or a standard roto-league, you’ve probably been the recipient of the late season luck or the suffering owner of another 2011-Boston Red Sox-esque collapse for your fake team.

It truly isn’t an avoidable situation.

How were you supposed to know that Brewers shortstop Jean Segura was going to crash so hard that owning Ronny Cedeno may have been a better option? Seriously…the last 28 days:

Segura:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip sOPS+
2013 Totals 145 619 584 74 173 20 10 12 49 44 12 25 83 .296 .331 .426 .757 249 .328 111
Last 28 days 22 94 88 7 21 2 1 0 5 7 5 5 11 .239 .280 .284 .564 25 .273 59
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/19/2013.

Cedeno:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip sOPS+
2013 Totals 84 269 247 24 64 8 3 3 21 4 4 13 68 .259 .300 .352 .653 87 .345 83
Last 28 days 22 82 75 10 26 2 1 2 9 1 3 6 15 .347 .395 .480 .875 36 .414 144
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/19/2013.

It doesn’t stop there, however.

Allen Craig‘s injuries have limited him to a .738 OPS in the second half when he has been on the field, while Brandon Belt (.922) and Brandon Moss (.989) have not only outproduced Craig, but they’ve bettered Chris Davis (.871), Prince Fielder (.840), and Joey Votto (.908) since the All-Star break.

PhillipsKhris Davis, the 25-year-old rookie outfielder for the Brewers who took the spot of Ryan Braun after his suspension, is just as likely to be carrying a team running towards a championship as Pirates’ superstar, and possible NL MVP, Andrew McCutchen. Will Venable has outproduced Jose Bautista, Kole Calhoun and Junior Lake have provided more punch than Jacoby Ellsbury and Alex Rios, and Billy Hamilton may be stealing a title right now while Brandon Phillips takes a face to the sphincter and a slump to the playoffs (a .421 OPS over the last two weeks).

It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Fantasy baseball is a long season, just like the real thing. One can never truly prepare for the out-of-nowhere injuries, but if you thought that Harvey, Fernandez, or any other innings-limit candidate pitchers were going to help you, Bill Engvall has a sign for you on his redneck comedy tour.

What can you do to overcome these situations next season?

Assume that the solid young arm won’t help you in September and sell him off early?

Puig2Any small sample size that seems unreasonable probably is, so don’t assume that Yasiel Puig is a better player than Mike Trout.

Rely on veterans who have been through 162-game seasons before, who may be less likely to break down after August.

Have enough depth to cope with injuries and slumps – don’t deal it for spare parts near the trade deadline to get you over the proverbial “hump”.

Know that no matter what you do…it’s probably wrong. Luck plays a huge role in the No.8 seed knocking off the No.1 seed, and even if it isn’t every season that the upset occurs, it is just as likely to happen than not. If your league doesn’t give point values to the No.1 seed as a “home-field advantage” concept, they start off with the same likelihood of winning in the first round as the team that just snuck in.

Fair or not, you’re probably screwed. Just move on to fantasy football and figure out that Dolphins’ running back Lamar Miller and Bengals’ running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis will probably be defeating your Adrian Peterson and Tom Brady-stacked lineup next weekend. You’re living a fantasy. Deal with it.

Braun’s Statement and a Blogger’s Reaction

Braun1On Thursday night, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun broke his month-long silence after being suspended for the remainder of the season on July 22 for violating MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program when he released this statement:

Now that the initial MLB investigation is over, I want to apologize for my actions and provide a more specific account of what I did and why I deserved to be suspended. I have no one to blame but myself. I know that over the last year and a half I made some serious mistakes, both in the information I failed to share during my arbitration hearing and the comments I made to the press afterwards.

I have disappointed the people closest to me — the ones who fought for me because they truly believed me all along. I kept the truth from everyone. For a long time, I was in denial and convinced myself that I had not done anything wrong.

It is important that people understand that I did not share details of what happened with anyone until recently. My family, my teammates, the Brewers organization, my friends, agents and advisors had no knowledge of these facts, and no one should be blamed but me. Those who put their necks out for me have been embarrassed by my behavior. I don’t have the words to express how sorry I am for that.

Here is what happened. During the latter part of the 2011 season, I was dealing with a nagging injury and I turned to products for a short period of time that I shouldn’t have used. The products were a cream and a lozenge which I was told could help expedite my rehabilitation. It was a huge mistake for which I am deeply ashamed and I compounded the situation by not admitting my mistakes immediately.

I deeply regret many of the things I said at the press conference after the arbitrator’s decision in February 2012. At that time, I still didn’t want to believe that I had used a banned substance. I think a combination of feeling self righteous and having a lot of unjustified anger led me to react the way I did. I felt wronged and attacked, but looking back now, I was the one who was wrong. I am beyond embarrassed that I said what I thought I needed to say to defend my clouded vision of reality. I am just starting the process of trying to understand why I responded the way I did, which I continue to regret. There is no excuse for any of this.

For too long during this process, I convinced myself that I had not done anything wrong. After my interview with MLB in late June of this year, I came to the realization that it was time to come to grips with the truth. I was never presented with baseball’s evidence against me, but I didn’t need to be, because I knew what I had done. I realized the magnitude of my poor decisions and finally focused on dealing with the realities of-and the punishment for-my actions.

I requested a second meeting with (MLB) to acknowledge my violation of the drug policy and to engage in discussions about appropriate punishment for my actions. By coming forward when I did and waiving my right to appeal any sanctions that were going to be imposed, I knew I was making the correct decision and taking the first step in the right direction. It was important to me to begin my suspension immediately to minimize the burden on everyone I had so negatively affected — my teammates, the entire Brewers organization, the fans and all of MLB. There has been plenty of rumor and speculation about my situation, and I am aware that my admission may result in additional attacks and accusations from others.

I love the great game of baseball and I am very sorry for any damage done to the game. I have privately expressed my apologies to Commissioner Selig and Rob Manfred of MLB and to Michael Weiner and his staff at the Players’ Association. I’m very grateful for the support I’ve received from them. I sincerely apologize to everybody involved in the arbitration process, including the collector, Dino Laurenzi, Jr. I feel terrible that I put my teammates in a position where they were asked some very difficult and uncomfortable questions. One of my primary goals is to make amends with them.

I understand it’s a blessing and a tremendous honor to play this game at the major league level. I also understand the intensity of the disappointment from teammates, fans, and other players. When it comes to both my actions and my words, I made some very serious mistakes and I can only ask for the forgiveness of everyone I let down. I will never make the same errors again and I intend to share the lessons I learned with others so they don’t repeat my mistakes. Moving forward, I want to be part of the solution and no longer part of the problem.

I support baseball’s Joint Drug Treatment and Prevention Program and the importance of cleaning up the game. What I did goes against everything I have always valued — achieving through hard work and dedication, and being honest both on and off the field. I also understand that I will now have to work very, very hard to begin to earn back people’s trust and support. I am dedicated to making amends and to earning back the trust of my teammates, the fans, the entire Brewers’ organization, my sponsors, advisors and from MLB. I am hopeful that I can earn back the trust from those who I have disappointed and those who are willing to give me the opportunity. I am deeply sorry for my actions, and I apologize to everyone who has been adversely affected by them.

Braun2Holy cow! Could he have said more to say the few words that he needed to say: “I made a mistake. I regret the decisions that I have made, the people who were affected by my actions, and I am deeply sorry for all of the lies that impacted the lives of fans, teammates, my family, friends, the organization, and the league.” Even taking the machismo way out and, as my friend Sid said, state: “I’m sorry. I lied. None of my handlers knew I lied. I did it again. Forgive me. Pete Rose Gambled. Dock Ellis pitched on acid. Ty Cobb was a racist. And Mickey Mantle was a drunk. All I wanted to do is play.”

Here’s the thing…missing a month of anything that you love can make you reflective, but has it changed Ryan Braun? Is he going to be more humble, more honest, and a harder worker, or is he the monster that attacked the integrity and livelihood of Dino Laurenzi, Jr., a lowly urine collector? Can Ryan Braun repair the damage that he has done to the Brewers organization, who have another $133 million (including the $20 million option in 2021) remaining in their investment?

The continuation of Braun’s unwillingness to accept his guilt until the realization of his pending suspension speaks volumes to the self-righteousness, which he refers to, within sports. In baseball, we see players assume that they are above the law while using steroids. In other sports, we see players conducting murders, drug deals, beating their wives and girlfriends, and raping women, which makes the problems that continue within baseball seem minuscule, but all of these things are still bad for the individuals sports, but, in particular, society.

Athletes are given money  and fame that they just can’t seem to handle. Look at what Johnny Manziel is going through from his monster freshman season in college football last year, capped by winning the Heisman Trophy – Manziel signing autographs and partying is now followed by ESPN and TMZ like the paparazzi follows Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian. The spotlight is overwhelming and the desire to fulfill expectations as a leader and elite member of society is more valuable than leading a normal, happy life. Why settle for being a solid major league regular when you can have a cream or a lozenge to get you an MVP award and a nine-figure extension?

Braun fell into the trap, where the long-term goal of banking was more important than doing the right thing. The money involved in sports is asinine. No human being is worth $20 million per season, especially to play a game, and while there are revenue streams and billionaires who are capable of paying their players these types of exorbitant contracts, does that make it right?

HernandezI feel like sports are full of people like Braun, who will do whatever they need to do to get to the top, at any cost (including their own body), to reach their full earning potential during their brief careers. This redundant rhetoric seems all too common in our current elitism society. This apology will satisfy some, but to me, it is just more B.S. from another scumbag who was willing to throw anyone under the bus but himself for his actions.

While I am not against voting in players from the steroid era into the Hall of Fame, I also feel like that era is over with, as it wasn’t being policed during Barry Bonds‘ hey-day. Braun, to me, cheated when he knew that testing was on-going, and, while I feel that MLB is to blame for the rampant use in the 1990’s and early-2000’s in an effort to draw more fans after the 1994 strike, the blame now lies on the players for making the choice to cheat.

Starting to Feel Bad for ARod

ARod3Alex Rodriguez is a monster! Alex Rodriguez needs to disappear! Alex Rodriguez is what is wrong with baseball! Alex Rodriguez had a painting commissioned of him as a centaur! Alex Rodriguez is a whiny baby! Alex Rodriguez is overpaid!

You know, Alex Rodriguez has really messed up, and he appears to have done so several times in his career. His entire career has been under a microscope as the heir-apparent in Seattle to the great Ken Griffey, Jr., and it has only taken off with his exorbitant contracts that he has been given by the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees during his career.

Sure, what he has done with performance-enhancing drugs is an absolute atrocity to baseball, and his persona and character should be questioned for his apparent tampering with evidence and bribes that he has been linked to within the Biogenesis case, but does he deserve as much scrutiny as he is receiving?

ARod2With Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds no longer on the field, Alex Rodriguez is the face of the steroid era and all of the nastiness that it has brought to Major League Baseball. Alex Rodriguez appears to have purchased and injected steroids into all of the aforementioned superstars behinds, while helping to create the disgusting lies that led to Ryan Braun‘s successful appeal of his first failed test and his subsequent Anti-Semite comments that were directed towards the urine collector. Alex Rodriguez cheated baseball so badly over the last 20 years that he is the asterisk that is going to be next to Barry Bonds in the record book and he will become the definition and the first image that appears when you Google cheaters in baseball.

I understand that Alex Rodriguez did something terribly wrong. I understand that Alex Rodriguez wasn’t a gentleman in a game that is painted as poetic by the brilliant mind of so many writers. I understand that Alex Rodriguez is a liar, he’s flawed, he’s horrible, he’s appalling, he’s demonic, and he’s human, and while others have tried to out so many others for their mistakes, especially the 2011 NL MVP, Braun, Rodriguez is attacking his issues in the court room, or at least face-to-face with Major League Baseball, instead of lying to his teammates, slandering those around him (including a urine specimen collector), and  taking to the media to ridicule the processes.

Certainly, he isn’t innocent, but neither were all of those who came before him and along with him in the unreleased positive tests that sit in the hands of Bud Selig in the New York offices of Major League Baseball. To be labeled as the poster-child of an entire failed era of a sport…he is totally unworthy of that.

Major League Baseball turned a blind eye for so long on this issue that they are and will continue to be the group or persons who need to take the blame. There is no committee in Congress, no bottle in a locker, no investigative report by the mainstream media, and no amount of paperwork that the commissioner’s office can make public that will change the fact that owners and the league didn’t think that steroids were a problem when the gates were flooding with fans after the 1994 strike and the massively muscled power-hitters made baseball interesting again.

ARod1Alex Rodriguez is no saint, he is no victim, but he definitely isn’t the only problem, and he should not be getting attacked in the manner that he has been for the failings of those who were in charge of the game before and during his soon-to-be asterisk-ridden career.