We now bring you part two of our e-mail conversation with Al of Al's Ramblings for The Miller Park Drunk E-Mail Show. Part two is a bit longer than part 1 as we get into Rickie Weeks, Mike Cameron, post-2009, potential trades, JJ Hardy, Manny Parra and the future of the team. We started to hit a groove towards the end there and we're happy with the results. This is probably the most actual analysis you'll ever see us do, so enjoy it while you can.
MPD: Bill Hall is a great example of casual fans not thinking things through. Bill Hall was beloved for hitting those 35 home runs, then was considered an overpaid let down (both with the bat and the glove) as a center fielder. Last season he was routinely booed, the fans wanted Branyan and his numbers didn't do much to prove anyone wrong. Now here we are in 2009 and he's the same player he was last year, but now he should be the starting second baseman. How does that make sense?
One of my best friends knows a lot about baseball and has had season tickets with his dad for most of his life. He's not the kind to boo and is respectful in the stands. The best way I can explain his Brewers fandom is to tell you that he was conceived the night the Brewers made the World Series. He's been watching baseball his entire life, but he just doesn't get it. We argue forever and ever about Mike Cameron's strikeouts, Tony LaRussa and Lou Piniella's five pitchers to get through one inning strategy, Rickie Weeks incredible value despite his batting average, Corey Hart's bad month destroying his best season and the forever classic argument of sacrifice bunting. He's my friend and I enjoy the discussion, but he is pretty much wrong about everything. You know what though? It's okay. His knowledge of the team and baseball in general is derived 100% from watching games on TV, reading the newspaper and playing little league. Maybe one day he'll read my copy of Moneyball and become a better person for it, but if he doesn't I know I don't have to worry about him booing people and acting like a jackass. He's still an actual fan of the team that cares about the outcome of the games and is aware of the things happening in the game, which is all you can really ask for from most of the population.
Anyways, enough about that. Let's talk about Rickie Weeks since you brought him up. He was ripped forever despite his only sin being merely average most of the time and having some of the best second halves of anyone on the team (in 2007 it was north of 900 and last year it was over 800). This season it seemed he was finally putting it together and then he got hurt. Heartbroken I was. Anyways since that time I've seen fans return him to the Suppan Zone (hating a player regardless of his results) while Corey Hart remains unscathed. I see the same thing with Mike Cameron a lot as well where people just don't like him which to me is just plain crazy. It's like saying you hate The Fonz. It seems to me that some players get a longer leash than others. I'm not implying anything sinister here, but it's odd to me that Corey Hart can almost single-handedly derail the team's playoff chances last year with a terrible September and gets away with it while Mike Cameron misplays one ball (that most players wouldn't have even gotten to) in the playoffs and be hated for it. Is this just a money thing where Corey Hart is homegrown, but Mike Cameron makes $10 million dollars? Or Rickie Weeks was a first round pick so he "should" be better? Or is it something else?
Al: It's probably as simple as this...Cameron and Weeks both work the count, take walks, and strikeout more than average. They also have much better OBP than they do BA. Hart has had some good seasons, or at least parts of seasons. His slump last September was barely noticed...after all, the Packers were playing too. When he gets out, it's often a first pitch 6-3 groundout or routine fly ball to CF. That's far less painful to most casuals than a K, even if it allows the pitcher to easily get an out on a single pitch, making it very easy for a SP to go 7-8 frames.
Also, most folks have no idea that a CF and a 2B do not need to hit as much as others to be as important. A catcher who puts together a line of .350/.400 is worth his weight in gold, a RF that does that is in line to be replaced. This is why people want to move JJ Hardy and want to pay him $10M a year to play 3B...never realizing he'd be way overpaid from the get go.
MPD: That makes a lot more sense than "Brewers fans only liking pretty young white men". At the same time time you have to admit that 99% of the people screaming for JJ Hardy are teenage girls, overweight or both. He's like a cross between Jonathan Taylor Thomas, New Kids on the Block and Frankie Avalon (had to work in a reference you'd get Al.) I think the Brewers should sign him for $10 million and play him at 3B just to continue attracting screaming girls with disposable income, but I supposed the Leif Garrett risk is always there.
What to do with Hart, Hardy, Weeks and everyone else is something that isn't really talked about much right now because people are still enjoying the season (and enjoy it they should), but there is a pretty good chance that the 2010 team will look completely different. It's easy to see Escobar and Gamel moving into starting roles and Mike Cameron saying goodbye to Milwaukee. Everyone is due for a raise at the same time and there is seemingly no way the team can keep everyone. Then after 2010, Prince is likely gone (personally, I think he's destined to be overpaid by the Yankees). How do you think the fanbase will be able to handle the turn around? I don't see this team ever going 62-100 again the way it's currently constructed, but you'd have to think there'd be a dropoff and the fans might not react well after being a contender for the past few years. I trust in Mark A to keep the stands full and players like Cameron and Hoffman have made Milwaukee seem like a nice destination for free agents, but the question remains: where do we go from here? Is the the peak or just the tip of the iceberg?
Al: I think Doug knows that for a small market team, the sign of a well built team is 5-7 years of contention. Yes, Gamel and Escobar are both very likely to be in the '10 lineup. Hardy is very unlikely to be in it. If JJ is dealt, the return for him will probably lead to other decisions being made. I can also see Salome splitting time as soon as next year. Unless Alcides hits more than expected, a bottom of the lineup with Escobar, Kendall, and the pitcher is not a very impressive bottom third. Hence, I see the addition of Angel to be important as well. The continued influx of cheap, young talent is the key. I love the way the bullpen is constructed, you can imagine most of those guys, along with Dillard and Swindle, making up the core for the next few seasons. The fan base will be fine, as long as they win. Mark A will do what it takes to cut prices enough to continue having 2.5M or so attend even if the team has to rebuild...which will happen eventually, without a doubt. I do see a possible wave of success, however, lasting for a while. This year's draft and last years will be key, especially Lawrie, who may be the last "top guy" they get in the draft for a while.
MPD: Which is kind of sad when you think about it because Lawrie is Canadian and everyone knows Canadians are afraid of the dark. I'm not trying to say the team will never struggle, but I just don't see complete ineptness taking over this team again. We'll leave that to the Royals.
Alright, let's wrap this thing up Al. Barring injury where do you see this team ending up this season? There is constant trade speculation, but I honestly don't see it. The Brewers are involved in rumors of basically every starting pitcher in the league, but who would they get rid of if they got one? Suppan isn't going anywhere and the statistical "worst" pitcher, Manny Parra, is one of the cheapest and has some of the best stuff. I just don't see Erik Bedard coming here (and I say Erik Bedard because like you've said Jake Peavy would be a franchise KILLER and a huge mistake. Period.) Depending on what the team decides to do with Mat Gamel third base could be an option and someone like Adrian Beltre or Garrett Atkins look more attractive to me than Mark Derosa because you are buying low from a team that is selling. What do you see them doing Al? Or more succinctly, what would you do?
Al: I think they may add a SP, as an injury could easily occur, and Parra was effective out of the 'pen last year.Manny has more talent than anyone except Yo, and just appears lost. He gives up almost every hit he allows on fastballs right down the middle...he seems to be an idiot. How exactly he escapes scrutiny, while Suppan is picked on, is beyond me. Manny has more talent in his little finger than Soup does in his entire body, but is a chronic underachiever. I think it'll be a rental though, a guy whose contract expires after this year. A relief pitcher is possible, if they come cheap, both in terms of talent to acquire them and salary added. I think they're pretty happy with the backup OF's now, so that leaves the INF. I think Doug will watch for a 2B (or 3B, if Gamel does not improve), again, one without a long-term commitment. I think he'll be hard pressed to do better than Craig/Casey or Bill/Matt, barring further injury, of course.
Could Beltre (or even Branyan) be a minute improvement...yes, but at the price of what? It isn't worth a pair of good prospects to improve 5-10 runs.
MPD: In a division (or wild card) race that is likely to be decided by 1-2 games 5-10 runs is huge. As for what we'd give up to acquire it, that's something I'll let Doug Melvin handle. However, a starting pitcher is suddenly starting to make a lot more sense to me (as I type this email Parra has given up 10 runs in 4 IP), maybe Manny Parra is simply destined for the bullpen. It's hard to give up on someone who once pitched a perfect game in the minors, but you do have to wonder if he'll ever "get it" because he sure doesn't now.
Al: I have little doubt Parra will be an effective SP in the bigs, and he'd probably work his way out of it. However, this isn't a team that can allow him to have multiple bad outings...heck, he already has. Soup is outpitching him by a substantial margin, and he's been just decent, with 3 terrible starts out of 10. Right now though, Parra not sucking 7 of 10 times would be a dandy improvement.You can only watch Kendall set up on the outside corner and reach back over the plate so many times.
MPD: Well thanks a lot Al. If everyone's not reading your blog I will sure try to continue to get them to as it's nice to find someone who hates the Happy Youngster as much as I do. What a creep, he reminds me of this guy I once knew who collected pro wrestling title belts. If you think a guy who collects pro wrestling title belts doesn't have a few skeletons in his closet, I have some GM stock I'd like to sell you.
And that just about wraps it up, what did you guys think?