A Simple Kind of Fan. It is a Long, Long Season – 4.5.11
It has been an ugly and disturbing start to the season. My friend Shane even told me that none of the past 40 playoffs teams have started 0-4. The pitching has struggled to take control of games and the offense has been marred by inconsistency. I am confident these two factors will improve as the season wears on. What I am not confident about is improvements from a defense that has been nothing short of putrid thus far. Anyone that reads this blog will not be surprised by the defense because I have gone to great lengths to emphasize how bad it is going to be. Unfortunately, it has not disappointed. Sunday’s overwhelming beatdown at the hands of the Reds gave us all a glimpse of how the defense is going to be a liability all season.
As I have stated in the past, I believe Casey McGehee is a fine fielder on balls hit directly at him. His defensive ability starts to decline once he has to use his limited mobility. Due to his lack of range, many plays are not being made when the ball is hit to third base. For instance, on Sunday, Casey failed to make a simple play on ball he had to charge in the second inning. He was playing so far back that he could not get to the ball quickly enough. The box score will show a single, but it was clearly due to a complete lack of mobility from McGehee. Remember Opening Day when he fielded a ground ball in the 9th inning, tried to tag the runner, and didn’t get any outs? Sure Axford gave up the three run homer, but you can chalk up the extended inning to McGehee. To make up for his defensive struggles, Casey must continue to produce above average offensively. The moment he does not perform offensively, he ceases to help this team and is, in fact, hurting the team.
Regardless, Simple Kind of Fan favorite Yuni Betancourt was guilty of a far more heinous crime last Sunday. As the whipping was occurring, there was a ball hit to the backhand side of Betancourt. Yuni was lazy and attempted a half-assed backhand. The result was an error. I can live with that in a blowout loss I suppose. Later, there was a ball hit up the middle. Unbelievably, Yuni just quit on the ball and left it to Rickie Weeks to field. It was clearly the shortstop’s ball and Betancourt quit on it. It is this indifferent, quitter’s attitude that has drawn the rage of fans wherever Yuni Betancourt has attempted to play baseball. See below for my weekly, “Yuni Watch” feature, where we take a closer look at the play of Yuni each week and try to figure out why everyone hates a guy that had more RBIs than Hanley Ramirez last year.
Finally, in regards to defense, I cannot end this rant without discussing Ryan Braun. In the fourth inning of Sunday’s game, Braun was not able to get to a ball hit by Paul Janish. Braun’s poor jump, in concert with the awful angle he took, resulted in the ball falling for a double. The box score will show that play as a double and most fans will never be the wiser. In fact, most fans only look at defense and of course how many errors a player makes. However, loyal readers to this blog will understand that if Braun gets a good jump and takes a proper angle, the inning would have been set up as only a runner on first base and two outs. Instead, runners were at second and third with one out. Of course, the Reds ended up scoring FOUR runs that inning. The subsequent three run homer by Brandon Phillips essentially ended the game and should rest squarely on the shoulders of Ryan Braun.
The defense is going to destroy this team if it does not start to execute the simple fundamentals of the game such as taking proper angles on fly balls and getting in front of ground balls, rather than attempting lazy backhands.
Something You Might Have Missed
One moment I would like to focus on happened during Opening Day against the Reds. I maintain that Ron Roenicke made a mistake in his first game as Brewers Manager. The situation I am referring to occurred in the top of the 7th inning. Milwaukee was leading 6-2, with runners on first and third and two outs. Mark Kotsay was lifted for pinch hitter Erick Almonte, who popped out and was subsequently replaced with Nyjer Morgan in right field. When up 4 runs in the late innings, I ALWAYS advocate putting your best defensive team on the field and forcing the opposing team to earn their runs to beat you. Morgan certainly fits the bill as a good defensive player. The last mitigating factor in Roenicke’s blunder was Kameron Loe then coming into the game to pitch for Yovani Gallardo.
Since the pitcher’s spot would be coming up in the next inning, NL protocol dictates that the new fielder and the new pitcher would make the double switch. I had assumed just this very thing occurred during the game. Then the Brewers came up in the top of the 8th, and instead of Nyjer Morgan coming up with two outs and nobody on, the Brewers brought up pinch hitter Jeremy Reed. I was stunned.
Roenicke did not perform the double switch. Why? I suppose he could’ve felt like Reed was a better option to hit than Morgan in the 8th inning and didn’t perform the double switch for this reason. However, if RR likes Reed’s bat so much, why would he waste him with 2 outs and nobody on? It doesn’t make any sense.
I maintain it was an error in judgment. Having to bring in Reed as a pinch hitter for the pitcher in the 8th meant that the Brewers were left with Craig Counsell as the only eligible pinch hitter remaining (I am not counting the back- up catcher Kottaras). Why is this significant? Because Counsell should have been playing SS and providing a better defensive option than Betancourt when protecting a lead. If Reed was saved and the double switch was made properly, Counsell could have been in the game. If the double switch was made properly, the Brewers would have had more options on the bench if the game went into the extra innings. I understand it did not, but failing to make the move had little upside and damaging consequences had the game gone in a different direction. The correct call in this situation is to put your best defensive team on the field, make the double switch, and play with a 4 run lead.
I am Calling You Out!
Cincinnati Baseball Fans These phonies need to be called out. I watched the game on Sunday and it appeared to be a sunny day with temperatures in the mid 50’s. Given that it is the Opening Weekend of the season, it should be expected that the defending Division Champions should have no problems selling out the first Sunday afternoon game of the season. Yet, it was evident that there were empty seats everywhere at The Great American Ballpark. That is embarrassing to baseball and to the city of Cincinnati itself.
Ron Roenicke I have already highlighted RR’s double switch blunder on Opening Day. In the Home Opener on Monday, Takashi Saito pitch count was 32 pitches, matching the second-most he’s ever thrown in an outing (h/t Adam McCalvey). Overusing Saito will lead to injury. Everyone knows he has to be fresh to be effective. Roenicke must do a better job of managing the relievers. Finally, I am confused by the pinch hitting set up and rotation. In particular I am concerned because Roenicke can’t pinch hit Counsell, unless it is part of a double switch. If Counsell is not part of a double switch to replace Betancourt, than Yuni is then the shortstop for the rest of the game. This hurts the team both offensively and defensively, and cripples the team’s chances in extra innings this season.
If you recall, the purpose of this feature is to delve deep into just what kind of player Yuni is. So far, YIKES. Until Monday (2×4 with a double), he didn’t have a hit and he had already made one error on a lazy backhand. As I stated above, his lack of hustle on a ball hit up the middle was atrocious. Betancourt and Kotsay back to back in the order is a recipe for disaster to a thriving offense. Betancourt has not shown the ability to stay away from the off-speed pitch down and away. It makes no sense for any opposing pitcher to throw a fastball for a strike to Yuni. It certainly has not been a good week for the Yuni Watch, and please don’t even get me started on his lack of hustle on the bases. If Travis Wood from the Reds can bust it down the line while mowing down opposing Brewer hitters, so can Yuni, everytime. I can live with some of the mistakes; I can’t live with laziness and lack of hustle.
Throwback of the Week
One of the things this feature hopes to do besides link cool jerseys is to eliminate you, the loyal reader, from receiving any crappy Father’s Day gifts ever again. Of course, I will continue to highlight cool jerseys from old school Brewer cats like this sweet George “Boomer” Scott jersey. I would also never forget to make sure you know where to go for fresh duds like this Brooklyn Duke Snider jersey. However, up until Father’s Day, I will highlight some of the best jerseys I can for the lowest prices. This way, you can show your wife/significant other how thoughtful you have been to save the family money and find a meaningful gift at a low cost. EVERYBODY WINS! This week, why not start out by owning a double feature. That’s right, 2 jerseys for $25. Charlie Hustle himself, Pete Rose is coupled with Johnny Bench.
You can then take those classy jerseys you got for a steal, and you can burn those f*#^ing jerseys in a huge f*#^ing fire because after this weekend I want to destroy anything associated with the Cincinnati F*#^ing Reds.
A Season You Have Probably Forgotten About By Now.
After the 1919 season, Babe Ruth was traded from the Red Sox to the Yankees. Many people may not be aware that Ruth hit 29 homers as a member of the Red Sox that season before being traded. To give some perspective of how dominant he already was, there were four people that were tied for second with 10 each. Of course, ‘The Bambino’ proceeded to hit 54 home runs for the Yankees in 1920 and the rest is history. Despite the great year by Ruth, there was another player that had an incredible year that season.
‘Gorgeous’ George Sisler did indeed have a year for the ages in 1920. Some people may remember that in 1920, Sisler set a major league record (that was broken by Ichiro) for hits in a season with 257. In fact, here are some statistics and Sisler’s rank in baseball that year: Hits(1st), 19 HRs(2nd), 137 Runs(2nd), 122 RBIs(2nd), 42 steals(3rd), .407/.449/.632 (1st/3rd/2nd) and 11.2 WAR (2nd). Sisler not only set the record for hits, but was also a major power hitter. If it wasn’t for Babe Ruth, George Sisler would be much more famously known as one of the premier power hitters that led baseball out of the Dead Ball era.
Dates Appearing Closer on the Horizon
April 8-10. Cubs vs. Brewers, Act One.
May 1. Is this the return date of Greinke?
Shameless Self Promotion
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