I maintain that they cannot.  Before the season started, Ron Roenicke was fond of saying that the Milwaukee defense could be improved by better pre-pitch positioning.  To his credit, he has been consistent with this approach to each individual hitter in the early part of the season.  He says he uses hitting spray charts to determine the positioning of the defense.  Considering that Roenicke did the same task for the Angels as a bench coach, it is of little surprise that he brought the practice to Milwaukee.  Tom Haudricourt has a great explanation of what exactly the manager is trying to do with his defensive alignments.  To this Simple Kind of Fan, it seems perfectly reasonable to play the percentages and I support this strategy over the long term.

However, there are also going to be times when the shift will hurt a defense.  We need to look no further than the second inning of Friday night’s game against the Nationals as a prime example of a defensive shift hurting the Brewers in the short term.  After Narveson surrendered a lead- off walk, Roenicke ordered the defense to play a shift towards the left side of the infield, which essentially means that Weeks was playing closer towards second base.  With a pair of right-handed hitters due to hit, it was seemingly a sound strategy for both upcoming at bats.  There was one problem with this strategy:  it didn’t work.  Of course, both players banged balls through the right side of the infield.  In fact, one hit was a sure double play ball if the defense was in normal positioning.  Fittingly, Narveson proceeded to walk the next two hitters with the bases loaded and promptly put the team behind early.  Capping off the inning was Ryan Braun making an absolutely terrible throw from left field on a sacrifice fly.  An accurate throw would have easily gotten the runner, but Braun’s throw was up the first base line.  Despite making a proper defensive adjustment, Ron Roenicke could not prevent three runs from scoring on weakly hit balls, due to bad luck and poor defense.  The team lost the game 4-3 in ten innings.

Another example of Roenicke not being able to help the defense occurred in the deciding 10 th inning of Friday night’s game.  After getting the first out, Zach Braddock induced Jason Werth to bounce out weakly to shortstop Yuni Betancourt.  Yuni had a lapse in concentration (I say he had a lapse because there is no other explanation for not executing a simple throw)  and made a poor throw to Fielder.  As a result, Werth ended up on second base with one out.  Once on second base, the defense completely failed to keep the runner close to the bag.  Of course, Werth immediately stole third base, without a throw, in what was a complete breakdown in fundamentals.  At this point Roenicke brought in Braun from left field to play as a fifth infielder, in hopes of a play at the plate on a ground ball. This time the strategy worked and Prince got a ground ball hit right at him.  Fielder bobbled the ball and then threw high, wide, and late to the catcher.  The Brewers lost the game to the Nationals, who won in spite of not hitting one ball hard all night.  Sadly, Roenicke could not prevent poor execution with his pre-pitch approach.

In the end, Ron Roenicke made the right defensive call in the 10 th inning and the defense failed to execute the play.  I believe Roenicke has overestimated the coaching staff’s ability to help this team play better defense.  The defense lacks the basic core fundamentals that good defenses rely upon.  As James from the Brewers Bar says, it was a collective failure on defense Friday night.  In conclusion, no amount of defensive shifting is going to change the fact that Ryan Braun and Yuniesky Betancourt are terrible defensive players.  Ron Roenicke can shift his defense all that he wants, but improving the defense needs to start with preventing mental lapses and playing the best defensive players possible in the late innings of close games.

 

Yuni Watch

Yuni had a down week at the SS position.  Despite his heroics Monday night, for the week he hit 3 for 20 with 2 runs and 5 RBIs.  He also had 1 strikeout and 1 costly error Friday night.  The fact that Yuni made an error is not a big deal, as physical errors will happen throughout the season.  The fact that it was simply a lapse in concentration that caused the error is the part that is frustrating.  For the season, the numbers for Betancourt also are not good .  He currently sports a slash line of .189/.224/.245, which adds up to a .469 OPS.  More alarming is the 3 extra base hits (all doubles) in 53 plate appearances.  We have also discussed before that having Yuni hitting sixth means that he will have ample RBI opportunities.  So far he has failed miserably with a paltry 6 RBIs.  In Betancourt’s defense, he did drive in two HUGE runs Monday night when given ample opportunities throughout the game.

To make matters worse, the Brewers are extremely thin at the shortstop position.  Before the season started, key back up Luis Cruz bolted for Texas after not making the opening roster.  Barring some sort of trade, Craig Counsell and Yuni Betancourt are the only realistic options at shortstop for the Brewers in 2011.  That alone is a fact that should sadden you.  However, Ryan Braun says he can play shortstop , so I guess that we are good in case of an emergency.

 

Throwback of the Week

Wearing a throwback isn’t always about having the freshest jersey that people haven’t seen before.  It can also be about educating people.  For instance, if you were to look at this old school San Diego Padres jersey the first thing you would notice is the brown and yellow working in tandem for the greater good.  If you are like me, the second thing you said was, “Huh, I didn’t know Fingers played for the Padres.”  Exactly.  Think of it as your way of giving back to the community.  This week’s ‘Father’s Day Special’ comes in at $18.50.

I can understand the cynic that would look at that Fingers jersey and say that it’s of cheap quality.  Indeed, the Father’s Day special does come in at less than $20.  It’s also true that it likely won’t be a top throwback in your closet.  However, it’s better than an ugly tie, or whatever other half- assed gift your family is bound to slap together at the last minute two months from now.  For a front of the closet selection, look no further than this sweet old school Milwaukee Home style jersey from the 70’s.  The block letters was the last home jersey the Brewers wore before I started watching them in 1981.

A Season You Have Probably Forgotten About By Now

Today I am going to look at the season of 1911.  In the peak of the dead ball era (and Wally’s graduating class), this season was anchored by greats such as Shoeless Joe Jackson, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson.  While each are great players and had fine seasons exactly one century ago, none can compare to the MVP season Ty Cobb had that year.  When taking a closer look at the numbers from The Georgia Peach , the results are stunning.  In many ways, the numbers mirror a dominance displayed by only Babe Ruth.  In 1911, Cobb led all of baseball in batting average (.420), slugging (.621), OPS (1.088), hits (248), runs (147), RBIs (127), SBs (83), doubles (47), and WAR (11.6).  Can you imagine a modern day player leading his peers in batting average, slugging, and steals?  Cobb is still one of the five greatest players to ever play the game and his complete mastery of the game in 1911 is a great example of why that is not likely to change anytime soon.

 

Dates Appearing Closer on the Horizon

April 25, 2011. The rematch with the Cincinnati Reds is looming large after the third longest road trip of the season.

May 4. Is this the return date of Greinke ?  This is Atlanta on the schedule and this is where a Greinke start would fall.

 

Shameless Self Promotion

Please don’t forget to follow my Twitter account, @simplekindoffan.    If you aren’t following me, then you are missing out on useless tweets such as this .

Are you traveling or will you miss an upcoming Brewers game?  No worries, the Pocketdoppler is here for you.  Brian has you covered with a nightly ‘250 words or less’ summary of what happened for the Brewers.  It is a quick and convenient way to stay on top of the team when things get busy.  Brian really knows his stuff and here is an example of his fine work.

Would you like to hang out with the PocketDoppler at Miller Park?  Well, here is your chance.  On May 14th, the PD will be participating in an event sponsored by Big League Tours.  The event includes a Q & A session with Brewers Asst GM Gord Ash as well as the chance to mingle with WTMJ Radio Personality Trenni Kusnierek, SI.com writer Will Carroll, & other Brewers’ Bloggers.  Click on the link here for more details.  I hope to see you there!

Finally, I would also like to see one of my readers get a chance to be the Friday Fan of the Week. Click on the link to review how you can win. It takes just a few moments, yet the recognition will last a lifetime.

 

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  • Shane Kilpin

    No one, and I mean no one can coach Rickie Weeks to be a solid defender. It’s just not in his make up. He’s on pace for 40 errors. 40 errors, wow.

    You should probably include him in your Yuni watch as a comparison truly showing how piss poor our middle infield is.

  • http://www.MilwaukeeBrianSports.com Brian

    You are too kind.

    Any discussion about Braun getting moved out of left field? I always saw him as a right field kind of guy.

  • BrewTownBoozer

    Yes Shane, it has been a rough start defensively for Rickie with a -35.5 UZR/150. The error last night was simply moving before he had the ball when trying to turn two. I am not trying to diminish it, but I will take errors if my 2B can have a .500 SLG% all year.

    It appears that the Brewers are far below average at every spot in the infield and at the corners when Hart gets back. Ugghh.

    Brian, I am very disappointed with Ryan Braun’s defense. He is a good athlete (just ask him) and he should be able to put it together in his 4th season out there. I have not heard anything about moving him out of left field.

  • http://www.pocketdoppler.com BigSnakeMan

    The Brewers are obviously relying on a number of regulars who are deficient in the field. That’s the tradeoff they’ve made for the offensive team that Doug Melvin wants. Roenicke is trying to make the best of the hand he’s been dealt but it’s tough to make a silk purse out of sow’s ear.

    The disappointing thing about Braun is that he has yet to develop any instincts for playing in the outfield. More often than not, he relies on his athletic ability, which sometimes results in above average plays but also manifests itself in mistakes like last night.

  • http://www.retaggr.com/Page/crichar3 Chris

    Braun made a very nice running catch in Game 2 v. PHL on Tuesday night. But no one should be fooled: He’s a butcher in the field (wherever he is). If he is a good athlete (as he has said), his poor defensive play must be because of indifference to the task at hand. I hope that is not the case, but after failing at both 3b and LF, there aren’t a lot of other alternatives.

    As for Rickie Weeks, he’s not off to a great start in the field. But in recent years he has improved his defense significantly and has proven to be a competent 2b. Comparing him to Yuni is, I think, unfair to Weeks.

  • BrewTownBoozer

    You two gents make good points on Braun. If it wasn’t for Gamel lurking, I would suggest a move to 1B for Braun. The only concern you really ever have about a first basemen is if he will hit enough to stick there. He’ll hit enough and can’t be any worse than Price defensively.

    Also, I am not worried about Rickie. he will be fine. If Hart comes back right, Rickie will see more strikes in the coming months.

  • Shane

    If Tim Kurkijan says Prince is a beast defensively it must be true.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?columnist=kurkjian_tim&id=6389680

    I am really going to miss having him on the Crew. He has been a good person in the community, his teamates love him and so do the coaches.

    Let’s win it all, break attendance records and perhaps we MIGHT be able to afford him.

    He is going to get the second largest free agent contract this winter from someone. I don’t see the Crew doing it and I believe Braun moreso than anyone will suffer.

  • BrewTownBoozer

    I have been thinking about this most of the day and I will say this about Kurkijan. Clearly the man knows more than me about the game of baseball. He has scouts and GM’s at his disposal to get opinions and ideas.

    That being said, I don’t think he has actually watched as much Brewer baseball as I have, either on TV, or in person. It doesn’t it takes a genius to see that Prince struggles with balls in the dirt (he could have saved at least two errors I know of with a good scoop) and he struggles with balls he has to display some lateral movement (Yuni’s error in Philly last Friday night.) Finally, his 5-11″ height hurts him on balls that are off target high as well. It’s great he could dunk a volleyball 9 years ago. Can he now? Of course not.

    The phrase above average is the key 2 words and he is simply incorrect. Of course, I don’t have multiple relationship and financial conflicts as I write this, so I can just tell the truth.

    I am going to miss Price too.

  • http://www.nikeshoxairmaxmall.com/ nike shoes

    Any discussion about Braun getting moved out of left field? I always saw him as a right field kind of guy.

    • BrewTownBoozer

      It is a good question. I guess it depends on who plays first. Although, I can’t see Braun moving any time soon. Thanks for the comment.