A Simple Kind of Fan. What is the Identity of the Brewers? – 4.12.11
Perhaps what we have with the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers is the classic square peg in a round hole exercise, but on a larger scale. I think the approach Brewers manager Ron Roenicke would like to take is being affected by the configuration of the roster. Clearly the Brewers are bunting more this year. Roenicke has also been assertive that the team will be much more aggressive on the bases. This small ball approach is great in theory, but only if applied with the proper tools. Sunday’s game is a great example of this observation. Throughout the game there was a bunch of bunting and Roenicke sent a couple of runners in motion. Of course, none of this mattered in the end because all six runs were scored off of two run homers from Braun, Prince, and McGehee.
How effective has the small ball approach been? Nicholas Zettel from Bernie’s Crew (who I enjoy from a number analysis perspective) makes a great case that the small ball approach hasn’t worked thus far. Sure it is a small sample size of ten games, but I think it speaks volumes about the approach being a work in progress. In the interests of full disclosure, there is one aspect thus far I do not like about Roenicke’s small ball tactics. When a Brewer batter gets a leadoff double, I do not think it is wise to bunt the runner over to third. When having such a weak bottom of the order, this strategy is not working and is, in fact, taking away one opportunity to drive that runner in from second base. The bottom of the order is killing Milwaukee’s potent offense thus far in the young season.
It is not all doom and gloom in regards to the small ball style of play. One area I feel that has been grossly underutilized in the past is team speed. I welcome an aggressive approach on the bases and I have enjoyed seeing Nyjer Morgan take advantage of his opportunities to pressure opposing defenses. Perhaps Morgan could finally be the team’s solution to the lead off conundrum that has plagued the Brewers for years? He seems reborn and has played good defense (gotta love early season hyperbole) thus far. Add the speed of Weeks, Gomez, Braun, and Hart and it has the potential to be a different type of season on the bases.
Ultimately, while Ron Roenicke would like to make the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers a small ball team, I truly feel the team is constructed as a ‘sit back and wait for the three run homer’ type of team. Sure there are some pieces in place that can bunt effectively, can go the other way, and can execute a hit and run, but not enough to make an impact on the game itself. It seems as if this team is spinning its wheels trying to play an approach that may not suit them. Hopefully Roenicke will find some happy medium, quit wasting opportunities to drive in runs, and cease attempting to pound that square peg into a round hole.
The “What the F*&# Does That Stat Mean” Stat of the Week.
Last week against the Atlanta Braves, Yovani Gallardo was special. He may have had the best game of his career. He threw a 2 hit shutout and scored the only run in a 1-0 Brewers win. One blog I try to read as much as possible is Disciples of Uecker. Jack talked about this and pointed out just how special of an effort it was. He uses the stat WPA (Win Probability Added) to prove his point, so I thought I would discuss it. What WPA does is calculate how much of an impact a player had on a particular game. WPA is the difference in win expectancy (WE) between the start of the play and the end of the play. This total is added up over the course of a game, and ultimately, over the length of a season.
Fangraphs summarizes nicely why I like the statistic. WPA takes into account the importance of each situation in the game. A walk off home run is going to be weighted more than a home run in a game that has already gotten out of hand. This makes it a great tool for determining how valuable a player was to his team’s win total. There is also a great way to see the impact each individual play has on the team’s probability of winning. It is called the Win Expectancy Graph. Here is the graph from Sunday’s game we have been discussing throughout this blog. Obviously, McGehee’s pinch hit home run was the most impactful play of the game.
I am Calling You Out!
The last thing I want to do is call out Ron Roenicke every week. Obviously, there is going to be a learning curve for fans with any new manager. For instance, a new manager may have a different method to setting up a bullpen or rotating his bench players throughout the season. I can accept that, yet I am calling out Ron Roenicke this week for the pathetic lineup he trotted out in the series finale against the Cubs. It had Gomez, Kotsay, and Counsell all playing, yet not Morgan against the Cubs righty Coleman. Roenicke refuses to accept that Gomez will not produce enough offensively in the second spot in the order. He also refuses to accept that Mark Kotsay is a defensive liability in RF and an offensive liability at the plate.
I understand everyone needs a day off and that players need to remain fresh throughout the season. However, if Roenicke is going to sit McGehee, he sure as heck can’t start Kotsay in RF as well. Nyjer Morgan has been a spark plug and should be in the lineup every day the Brewers face a righthander. When taking into account this lineup omission, starting Kotsay and Counsell together, and the excessive bunting after lead off doubles that I have already discussed earlier, I feel I am completely justified in calling out Ron Roenicke. Sure it all out worked on Sunday, but it was due to the heroics of McGehee and not because of the weak sauce lineup Roenicke trotted out.
After Sunday’s game, Betancourt is still only hitting .212/.257/.273. That is certainly not good. Personally, I hate being down a run in the late innings and watching Yuni hacking on the first pitch. This goes against any lesson I learned growing up. He needs to stop swinging at low and away off speed pitches, and start laying off the first pitch he sees when the team is down late in the game.
On the bright side, Yuni actually wasn’t bad on the homestand. He hit .318/.375/.409 over six games with a pair of doubles and even drew two walks (h/t Brew Crew Ball). Defensively, he actually went all week without an error and made some decent plays over the weekend. All in all, if the current Yuniesky Betancourt continues to show up on a consistent basis, I suppose I can live with it.
Throwback of the Week
This week in the throwback of the week I am going to start with a jersey you should definitely have in your collection. This sweet Bo Jackson jersey highlights the powder blue like the kind the Royals were rocking during the Opening Week. For a Father’s Day special, I have found a pretty sweet Mitchell and Ness jersey for Brewer killer Kirby Puckett. Mitchell and Ness is a top of the line jersey and you can have this for a very reasonable $55. Finally, I really like this Tommy Harper jersey from the Seattle Pilots. Harper still has the second highest productive season ever for the Brewers with a 7.7 WAR in 1970.
Dates Appearing Closer on the Horizon
April 25. The rematch with the Cincinnati Reds is looming large after the third longest road trip of the season.
May 1. Is this the return date of Greinke? Rumors say he could be back sooner and my fantasy baseball teams couldn’t be happier.
Shameless Self Promotion
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