A Simple Kind of Fan 1.18.11 Edition
I have a 3 yr old daughter. My wife had let it slip that the local Parks & Rec Department has a Tee Ball League for 3 year olds. I am skeptical on many levels. Are these going to be afternoon games during Nap time? What are the rules on plastic vs. steel cleats? Is the playing field going to be a butterfly free environment? Do I really have to attempt to purchase a pink glove? The only things I am not skeptical of are that she will be wearing eye black and she will be a gamer. However, even a 3 year old knows that you are giving Dean Taylor too much scoff and not enough love.
Dean Taylor Demands More of Your Respect!
I know I could have picked an easier argument. This week alone, I have had friends allege the possibility of a secret ‘more than friends’ relationship between Dean Taylor and myself. I have had another say he couldn’t wait to read the “train wreck defending that zero”. I am going to freely admit that Taylor did a poor job on the major league level. For those that need a visual cue to remember Dean Taylor, this isn’t it.
Look no further than here for a reminder. He was the General Manager of the Brewers before Doug Melvin from 2000-2002. This was back when Melvin had a dark, less commanding mustache. To analyze the situation Milwaukee was in as an organization when Taylor was hired, I feel we have to start by looking at where the organization is currently situated.
Now that Melvin’s magical mustache has matured into its full grey plumage, he has started swindling rival GM’s of proven pitching talent. It has taken time to build up the advanced prospects that have been traded this off season. It also takes time to change the culture of a losing organization. Milwaukee had arrived at the point that it could trade away top minor league talent and also have a realistic chance to pop the bubbly in November. How did we get to this point? In part, thanks to Dean Taylor. He deserves more of your respect than you are currently giving him.
Dean Taylor made many mistakes as a General Manager. Most I cannot defend. He made some very poor trades and he also signed some awful free agents. Whether it was trading away Cal Eldred and Jose Valentin for essentially nothing, or signing Jeffrey Hammonds to a 3 year, $21M deal, Taylor made several missteps along the way. These missteps have stuck in the minds of many Brewer fans as the calling card of the Taylor Era. However, Taylor also made some smart and savvy moves during his tenure. These type of moves often need a few years of patience to see the full fruition.
What did Taylor do right? Plenty! He hired Jack Zduriencik as the team’s Scouting Director. Zduriencik, of course, became the first non- general manager winner of Baseball America’s Executive of the Year in 2007. This hire alone helped change the culture of the Milwaukee Brewers minor league system. The system steadily improved under Zduriencik and was ranked #1 by Baseball America in 2004. Clearly, Taylor was instrumental in getting the right people in the right places to rebuild a farm system. The impact Zduriencik had on the organization was felt long after Taylor’s departure in 2002. Taylor also was in charge when the team drafted Prince Fielder and John Hart, aka Corey Hart. He also drafted JJ Hardy, which turned into Carlos Gomez. That is three position starters that have come from a draft in which Dean Taylor was in charge.
While I come up for air, I should mention that Dean Taylor had several challenges when becoming the GM in 2000. First, he had to work for Wendy Selig Prieb, a legendary destroyer of all things good. Secondly, Taylor was confined within a limited payroll and was saddled with a stingy owner. Also, the major league roster was missing much of one necessary ingredient: talent. Finally, he inherited a minor league system in shambles and void of advanced talent, with the exception of Ben Sheets. Quite simply, Taylor was asked to turn a steaming pile of chicken manure into a delicious chicken salad.
Dean Taylor didn’t always make a disastrous trade in his years commanding the mothership. For example, the three team trade of Burnitz and D’Amico (with others) for Glendon Rusch, Alex Ochoa, and Lenny Harris was much ado about nothing for all parties involved. The Rockies and Mets also saw no real upside to the trade. Here is a nice look at the trade 5 years later. Taylor was out rubbing elbows, pressing the flesh, and making deals. He did not sit on the sidelines and hope things got better, he tried to make them better with a flurry of activity. Unfortunately, most did not amount to much of an impact on the major league level.
Taylor, however, did make one very successful trade in his tenure as Brewers GM. He traded for Richie Sexson, and others, in return for pitchers Jason Bere, Bob Wickman, and Steve Woodard. Of course, Sexson had many productive years as a Brewer and was ultimately spun for Junior Spivey, Craig Counsell, Lyle Overbay, Chad Moeller, Chris Capuano, and Jorge de la Rosa. All of those players had an impact on the major league level. That trade was not possible without the groundwork laid by Dean Taylor in 2000.
Despite many shaky moves, Taylor rebuilt the entire farm system highlighted by the Zduriencik hire and the fact that he drafted impact starters on the major league level. He also traded for Richie Sexson, which the Brewers turned into one of the best trades in recent memory. Dean Taylor was not perfect, in fact, far from it. Yet, he did lay the groundwork for the Brewers to be in the position to deal their advanced prospects for Grienke and Marcum. The next time Dean Taylor’s name comes up, do not scoff. Instead, give him some love and think about the positive contributions he made to the organization, some of which were felt for as long as a decade after his hire.
The “What the f*&# does that stat mean” stat of the week.
We are going to continue to keep things basic. Last week we discussed Slash Line and OPS. Those are terms thrown around freely in the Statistical Analysis world of MLB. It’s not complicated and each is really quite simple really once they are broken down. Today we discuss the Holy Grail of baseball statistics. Today I will be discussing WAR, or Wins Above Replacement. In the most basic sense possible, WAR is a number used to determine the value of a player to a team. The player’s entire contribution (statistics, position, playing time, and a few other things) over the course of a full season is calculated into a number. The baseline number of 0 represents a replacement player. Consider a replacement player someone that is picked up from the minors, or someone that could be easily replaced. This type of player would add zero wins over the course of a year to the overall team.
If you have a number calculated for every player, then you can begin to compare players and the traits each of these players bring. There are variations to determine WAR and it is complicated. However, if you trust me that the math is sound, you can ultimately begin to see how TRULY valuable a player is, especially down the road when taking his salary and position into account. In 2010, the Brewer with the top WAR value was Rickie Weeks with a 6.1 WAR. For some perspective, Zach Grienke had a 9.4 WAR in his epic 2009 season.
You can really delve into the numbers and draw some conclusions. For some extremely simplified analysis on the Fangraphs site, last year the Brewers had a WAR value of roughly 40.0 WAR. Grienke (5.2 WAR) and Marcum (3.5 WAR) last year alone were worth 8.7 WAR, or over 20% of the 2010 Brewers value. The Brewers are losing Dave Bush (.1 WAR), Chris Capunano (.5 WAR) and Doug Davis (.0 WAR). The reasons for optimism in 2011 are obvious from these statistics alone. The amount of innings Grienke and Marcum should provide (415 IP in 2010) will have an anticipated trickle down effect felt throughout the rotation and certainly in the bullpen.
Sadly, there are clouds on the horizon. Next week we shall discuss some defensive statistics. Frankly, the numbers are bleak. The Brewers are going to be awful defensively in 2011 and that is putting it kindly.
Throwback of the week.
Last week, The Doorman was addressed and dutifully recognized. We can now move forward and discuss jerseys you will need for this upcoming season. There is only one “Kid” in Milwaukee, and this Yount throwback is a must for any self respecting Brewers fan that dares call Milwaukee his or her team. I own this one and so should you. Anyone that knows me knows that I like to kick it old school every now and again. Here is the epitome of old school from Nolan Ryan, the man that persuaded Robin Ventura to respect his elders. The Houston jerseys from back in the day were hilarious.
Dates Appearing Closer on the Horizon
Sunday, January 30. Brewers On Deck. 10AM- 5PM. $15 advance and $20 at the door.
Thursday, February 17. Pitchers and Catchers report.
I think this week I will let the Happy Schnapps Combo take us out…