A Simple Kind of Fan. A Platoon is Needed– 5.3.11
The platoon in baseball is often discussed as an effective way to manage a team that has some parts, but not a complete player, at one defensive position. Factors such as defensive excellence, health, speed, and experience can all determine how a platoon is managed. Often times, but not always, one player is right-handed and one is left-handed. In this scenario, the at bats are then based on who is scheduled to be the opposing pitcher that day.
I believe that Milwaukee has a platoon situation about to be presented to management upon the return of Nyjer Morgan. There are several reasons I feel this way. First, the Brewer lineup is top heavy and unbalanced. A large portion of the run production is generated by Braun and Fielder. Being unbalanced means that a manager should look closely at taking every offensive advantage presented to him. Currently the CF position features only defensive ability. Maximizing the offensive potential at this position will strengthen the team.
Secondly, one of the primary arguments to keeping Gomez in the starting lineup is his defense. He truly is having a terrific defensive season and is preventing extra base hits and runs on practically a nightly basis. Fortunately for the Brewers, Nyjer Morgan is also a solid defensive player with a career 21.1 UZR/150. What this means is that any platoon involving Gomez and Morgan will not cause a severe drop off in defensive aptitude.
Finally, the splits will give us the true evidence that a platoon is needed. For Carlos Gomez, the splits really do not reveal much over the length of his career. In over 1000 at bats versus RHP, Gomez has a .249/.294/.342 slash line. In comparison to 480 career at bats versus LHP, GoGo has a .241/.291/.359 slash line. These numbers are essentially the same. However, this has all changed in 2011, and the splits have become much more pronounced. So far in 2011, Gomez is hitting LHP to the tune of a .346 batting average and a wonderful .393 on base percentage. Regardless of sample size, Gomez does not handle right handed pitching effectively and is hurting the team on a nightly basis offensively.
The reason I have proposed a platoon has much more to do with what the career numbers of Nyjer Morgan reveal. Morgan has a weak career batting average of .201 versus LHP. Against right handers, where Gomez struggles, he dominates to the tune of a .311 batting average in over 1000 career at bats. He also has a .364 career on base percentage against righties. This .364 mark perfectly fits the job description for a #2 hitter in front of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.
To be clear, I don’t blame Roenicke for trying to stick with Gomez, as Macha did the same thing last season. The fact of the matter is that the desired Carlos Gomez does not match the reality Carlos Gomez. If GoGo could cash in on his potential, he would be a perfect #2 hitter, if not lead- off hitter. Instead, he is a player who seems to have below average baseball knowledge and poor decision making abilities. He is hurting this baseball team and creating fewer opportunities for Braun and Fielder to get plate appearance in high leverage situations. For lack of a better phrase, he is what he is. The quicker Ron Roenicke decides it is time to insert Tony Plush into the lineup on a platoon basis versus RHP, the quicker the offense will begin to produce more consistently. Mark my words.
Finally, He is Back.
No not Manny Parra, although he may soon set a record for the longest rehab assignment ever experienced. Of course, I am speaking of Zach Greinke. The Brewers managed to hold it together during his absence. The true Brewers Ace is back, and now it’s time to perform and be the gold standard at the top of the rotation. As a primer for his appearance on Wednesday, I thought I would review his assorted pitches and give you an idea of what to expect.
Zach Greinke is a fun pitcher to observe while he works. I particularly like to try to figure out from pitch to pitch what he throwing. I also look forward to Bill Schroeder completely butchering the pitch call in even greater frequency. Lucas Apostaloleris from Beyond the Box Score does a fantastic job of breaking down his arsenal (h/t Brew Crew Ball.) He throws a variety of pitches from the same release point and does a great job of mixing speeds as well. Greinke throws a four seam fastball, a two seam fastball, a slider, a change-up, and a curveball. In fact, Greinke even throws 3 different types of curveballs at assorted speeds. What is important to know is that he has good location with a mid 90’s fastball, a devastating slider, and good command of his off speed pitches.
Many haters have pointed to 2010 as a regression year towards the mean with Greinke. I cannot state clearly enough that these people are simple wrong. Greinke indeed had an off year in 2010, by Greinke standards. However, it has been well documented that Zach quit throwing his slider last season, almost entirely out of spite for a Royals organization that was not committed to winning, at least not while Greinke was there. He was simply saving his arm for a team that is committed to winning. Look no further than the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers. Much like Shaun Marcum, Greinke’s move to the NL Central will result in dominating numbers and long, inning- eating outings. This alone will make the bullpen better and keep it as fresh as possible. Greinke will have something to prove in 2011, and he should find the sledding better with a potent offense providing him adequate protection.
I have previously discussed the absolutely brutal schedule that will commence in six weeks. Having this pitching staff come together and create some regularity will do wonders for a stretch of tough baseball. This critical time before the all star break could make or break the Brewers this season. As it looks right now the rotation is nearly set with Greinke/Marcum/Wolf/Gallardo/Narveson. I am excited to face the AL East with this rotation and I think the Brewers will be able compete quite well with anyone in baseball very soon.
This week in the Yuni Watch, we see that Yuni had another good stretch. For the week he was 7 x 20 with 2 runs and 3 RBIs. There are several bright spots to discuss. Yuni managed to get some extra base hits this week, including his first triple and home run on the season. Combine this development with two walks, and things are improving. For the season, he has a triple slash line of .265/.299/.378. These numbers are improving and if they continue to improve there might be some light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, since the Brewers do not have any depth at SS, it doesn’t matter anyway. The starting shortstop for the Milwaukee Brewers is about as safe a job as there is in sports right now.
Defensively, it continues to be a clear case of what Yuni can get to, he successfully fields. Mark down another error-free effort for Betancourt this past week. Of course, the main issue with Yuni is that his range is terrible and he seems to struggle to get to anything not hit directly at him. It is unfair of the baseball gods to bestow Brewer fans with Yuni Betancourt and his lack of range, one year after seeing an entire season of Escobar’s wondrous range. To see such a clash in ability is truly shocking and educational for a fan of any level.
Throwback Jersey of the Week
When you talk Milwaukee Braves pitching, the first name that always comes up is Warren Spahn. The legendary Spahn ranks fifth on the all time wins list, and first for left handers. Here is a sweet Spahn jersey from the Milwaukee Braves days. I have been seeing more Braves jerseys at the park, but almost exclusively Matthews or Aaron. This will give you an opportunity to shine and educate your friends on the greatest left handed pitcher to ever play the game.
Bon- fire season is just around the corner. Most fathers will choose to use kindling to get the blaze started. For your Father’s Day Special this week, I have a different idea for kindling. For under $20, your family could buy you a Gary Sheffield throwback jersey. Imagine your warmth cuddling next to an open fire ignited by the awfulness that is Gray Sheffield. A loyal Milwaukee Brewer fan should consider the flames surrounding a Sheffield jersey a fitting description of his time in Milwaukee. What a quitter and what a bum. I suppose I should get to Cooperstown soon, at least before Sheffield gets there and tarnishes the place with his selfishness.
A Season You Have Probably Forgotten About By Now
For a change of pace, I am going to go a bit more modern this week. The 1983 Phillies are an interesting case study. Offensively, “The Wheeze Kids” were a veteran laden team that featured prominent names such as Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, and Joe Morgan. On the pitching side, John Denny paced the Phillies with a 19-6 record, but only 139 strikeouts in 242 innings (5.16 K/9). He also recorded an ERA of 2.37 and a FIP of 2.80. The stat sheets will show that John Denny was Philadelphia’s best pitcher this season. I, however, would like to bring your attention to the hard luck season suffered by Steve Carlton in 1983, which is probably a season you have forgotten about by now.
Steve Carlton was beginning to wind down his career during the 1983 season. He could dominate from time to time which was demonstrated by his league leading 282 innings pitched, 275 strikeouts, and a 7.7 WAR. Amazingly, Carlton led the National League with 8.7 strikeouts per 9 innings at the age of 38! If you consider the fact that Carlton also had a 3.11 ERA, he should have had another dominating year in what was a career of dominating years. Yet, “Lefty” was only able to tally a losing record of 15-16. What happened?
A closer examination of the numbers might reveal an answer. Carlton had a 2.65 FIP. This means that the Philadelphia defense was costing him a ½ run per nine innings (Sound familiar?). Also, Carlton led all of baseball with a .321 BABIP, which indicates that he was very unlucky when the ball was put into play. If you combine bad defense with incredibly bad luck, the result is a pitcher that had a losing record, despite leading the National League in several statistical categories. As always, the main statistics only tell part of the story. Despite Carlton’s best efforts, the Phillies eventually lost to Cal Ripken and the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series that season. It was the last season the Hall of Famer was truly effective and signaled the end of an era in the National League.
Dates Appearing Closer on the Horizon
May 4. The return of Zach Greinke. Atlanta on the schedule and the team needs him in a bad way.
May 14. Come party with PocketDoppler and Big League Tours at Miller Park. Wally, Brian, and I will be in attendance. Oh yeah, Gord Ash, Trenni, and Will Carroll from Sports illustrated will be there too. $40 for a luncheon and a game is a great deal. So is $25 for the luncheon only. I will tailgate easily more than 10 times this year at Brewer games, yet this is a unique experience prior to a ballgame. I hope to see you there and if you mention to me that this WILL be the Year of the Narv Dog, I will buy you a beer.
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 has a nightly Brewer correspondent. Brian has you covered with a ‘250 words or less’ summary after each game of what happened for the Brewers. It is a quick and convenient way to stay on top of the team when things get busy.
Finally, I would also like to see one of my readers get a chance to be the PocketDoppler 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.