As the season creeps closer to the 1/3 mark, there are some definite conclusions we can draw about the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers.  For instance, this team has proven it has the starting pitching capable of competing with any staff in baseball.  The scary thing for NL offenses is the prospect that Milwaukee pitching can indeed get better.  Once the dog days of summer take hold, and Greinke gets in some sort of rhythm, I anticipate him being the top of the rotation force that was promised this off-season. The question for Greinke hasn’t been whether or not he can dominate, as he has already done so over short stretches this season. His challenge has been maintaining this dominance deep into the game. I associate these struggles on bad luck (.370 BABIP) and a lack of conditioning as he progresses further into ballgames.  Moving forward, it is easy to forecast an improvement in all phases from the true Brewers ace.  Adding an electric Greinke to an already solid rotation allows the Brewers to have the confidence that they can compete with any team in the National League.

Another definite conclusion you can draw is that the defense is going to be abysmal all season.  Across the diamond, the Brewers have a collection of average to sub-par defense players at every position except centerfield. The worst defensive spot on the field clearly has to be the space between Betancourt and McGehee.  Both players are extremely limited in their range and balls hit to this area have gotten past them consistently all season.  As long as both players are on the left side, Milwaukee pitching will suffer.

A third definite conclusion that can be drawn is that the Brewer offense will get better, as evidenced by Corey Hart’s three home run performance Monday night.  If it were not for the superb pitching effort being given nightly, the offense would be under an incredible amount of heat.  The two largest reasons for the offensive struggles would clearly have to be Carlos Gomez and Yuni Betancourt.  I feel this problem is amplified when the two players are separated in the order.  Teams seem to work around the other hitters just to get to Gomez and Yuni in high leverage situations.  These two players are clearly the weak links in what is otherwise an above average chain of offensive players.

The final conclusion that I feel can clearly be drawn is that the Brewers were right about extending Rickie Weeks.  I suppose Rickie could get hurt right away tonight after the release of this blog and I would feel justifiably terrible.  However, the fact remains that Rickie has continued to rake in the first portion of the season and has risen to be the best 2B in the National League.  The numbers clearly back this up. At of the start of play this week, Rickie currently leads all NL second basemen in the following statistics:  WAR (1.8), Hits (54), HR (7), SB (6), Slugging percentage (.479), and OPS (.836).  He is also second in Runs (28), and ISO (.191).

Certainly the numbers back up my claim that Rickie is the currently best second baseman in the National League.  I suppose some may say that Brandon Phillips is better than Weeks.  It is true that Phillips has more RBIs, a higher batting average, and is a better defensive player.  However, Phillips is also blessed to be able to pad his offensive statistics hitting between Joey Votto and Jay Bruce in the order.  Rickie has done most of his work between a pitcher and Carlos Gomez.  Who do you think is seeing more strikes and has the tougher job?

You may recall that before the season started I examined the Weeks contract, and compared it to the contracts of other premier second basemen in the game.  I mentioned Dan Uggla ( 5yrs- $62M ), Chase Utley ( 7 yrs- $85M ), Brian Roberts ( 4 yrs- $40M ), and Robinson Cano ( 6 yrs- 57M ) in that edition.  Uggla, Utley, and Roberts have combined for a -.2 WAR thus far in 2011.  That is pathetic and a terrible return on investment at the second base position.  The two players that have actually performed up to expectations are Weeks and Cano.  Even Kelly Johnson, who clubbed 26 homers while racking up a 6.0 WAR in 2010, has been scuffling all season.

Regardless of whether Rickie stays healthy all year, he has proven that 2010 was not a fluke.  He has continued to improve his defense while having an impressive combination of power and speed.  I truly believe Rickie is a middle of the order hitter who happens to be miscast as a lead-off hitter for the Brewers.  Anytime in baseball that you can lock up a middle of the order type hitter just entering his prime, you do so.  Seeing many of his peers struggle this season only strengthens my belief that the Milwaukee Brewers absolutely made the right decision to extend Weeks.  I look forward to seeing just how good Weeks can be in a Brewers uniform in the coming years.

 

Yuni Watch

It was yet another underwhelming performance from Yuni this week.  His best game was the 14 inning barn burner on Friday night against the Rockies, where he collected three hits in six at bats.  However, the one statistic that you may have missed was that in those six at bats, Yuni managed to only see 16 pitches.  For some comparison, Ryan Braun saw 27 pitches Friday night.

Defensively, he has been underwhelming as well.  For instance, Monday night against the Nationals he was charged with 2 errors.  Perhaps this will quiet down Bill Schroeder and his ridiculous talk about how well the defense has played, in particular Yuni Betancourt .  I know Rock gets paid to discuss the team, but he doesn’t have to tell blatant lies to accomplish this goal.

As I have mentioned countless times, the complete lack of purpose displayed by Yuni at the plate is alarming.  He seems to lack a goal for every at bat, and doesn’t appear to understand that there is such a thing as productive outs.  Productive outs are still outs, yet they manage to help the team in the process.  Not only does Yuni not do this, he even fails to properly work the count.  Betancourt also doesn’t go to the right side, nor does he show any sense of urgency.  In short, he is about as robotic as they come.  His slash line of .231/.260/.344 makes me throw up a bit in my mouth.  Allow me to be the first to speculate as to whether Yuni Betancourt is indeed hitting his weight.

 

Throwback Jersey of the Week

I never saw Harmon Killebrew play. Yet, I have read and heard many stories.  For example, one of my high school English teachers was also a baseball coach.  He managed to have a cup of coffee in the big show, yet was too modest to talk much about it.  The one time he did say something about playing in the big leagues, he said the hardest ball he ever saw hit in his life was off of the bat of Harmon Killebrew.  I would like to honor his memory with a sweet jersey such as this .

Father’s Day is right around the corner.  I have highlighted jerseys of different prices and ranges over the last few weeks.  This week I will once again have one suggestion and one offering.  For an old school pick, I would suggest something signed by Ben Oglivie.  Heck, I would suggest a throwback jersey for Ben, but one doesn’t exist.  Trust me, I have wasted hours looking for one.  Many people forget that Benji made quite an impact as an offensive player.  In 1979, he managed to club 41 homers while hitting .304.  I remember spending many hours trying to replicate the upright batting stance of Ben Oglivie.

There will be many years to attain a Prince Fielder throwback jersey after he leaves.  Personally, this jersey might be my favorite of them all.  It features the sweet powder blue road jersey, but with Prince’s name and number.  It is well done and could be a perfect addition to your closet as Prince’s last season continues.

 

A Season You Have Probably Forgotten About By Now

It is a double dip for Harmon Killebrew this week.  “Killer” was one of the legendary power hitters of his era.  When it came to home runs, Harmon had eight seasons of 40+ HR and led the league six times.  If you were talking RBIs, Killebrew had nine seasons of 100+ RBIs and also led the league three times.  However, what separated the eleven- time All Star was his ability to get on base by drawing a walk.  Killebrew had seven seasons of 100 walks, and ten seasons of 90 walks.  To put this in perspective, Prince Fielder set a career high in walks last season with 114.  Killebrew achieved this mark four times in his career.

Killer’s finest season came in 1969.  He won the MVP award and was regarded as the premier power hitter in all of baseball.  Killebrew led the league in games (162), home runs (49), RBIs (140), walks (145), and on base percentage (.427).  Heck, it is no wonder he was walked intentionally a league leading 20 times.  It was an incredible year by an incredible player.  However, it could have been even better.

Killebrew was also considered a decent contact hitter, as evidenced by his 1.73 BB/K ratio in 1969.  This number was good for second place overall in the AL.  I mention this because Killebrew was extremely unlucky in 1969, as evidenced by his obscenely low BABIP of .244.  In my opinion, this low BABIP is why Harmon Killebrew was only fifth in the AL in WAR that year with an 8.2 mark, despite leading the league in several offensive statistics.

 

Dates Appearing Closer on the Horizon

May 27. The Giants are coming to town and the rumor has Marcum and Lincecum squaring off.  This should be a beauty.

June 13 .  Starting with a 4 game set in Wrigley, the schedule get ridiculously difficult until the All- Star break.  I have already detailed my prediction that the team will be in big hole after this crucial stretch.  Staying healthy will determine exactly how deep the hole will become.

 

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 because of a moronic MLB black- out?  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.

 

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  • Cory

    I remember watching Weeks in Nashville. He definately showed the stuff than. Awesome to see him staying a Brewer

  • Shane

    Great article. For the $ Weeks is a deal but only if he plays more than 150games. His runs scored are that high because of Braun, Fielder and to an extent Casey.

    Let’s keep this winning streak going. Sweep the Nats and go from there.

    St. Louis here we come!

  • http://www.pocketdoppler.com BigSnakeMan

    On the other hand, Weeks first has to BE on base in order to be driven in by Braun, Fielder, and to an extent, Casey. Just sayin’.

  • BrewTownBoozer

    Rickie currently has a .365 OBP, which is good for 20th in the NL overall and is second among NL second basemen. He is tied currently with Jose Reyes, who is a pretty good as a lead off hitter. Yeah, he is on base more than enough.

    Thanks for the comments guys.

  • http://www.pocketdoppler.com BigSnakeMan

    I agree with you that Weeks is more suited to hit in the middle of the order and will be more so as he matures. I think that will happen once Fielder departs. Of course, that’s also predicated on them finding a more stereotypical leadoff hitter.