A Simple Kind of Fan. My Roenicke Grievances – 7.5.11
Runnin’ Ron Roenicke has had a rough first half as a rookie big league manager. He has had bullpen hunches go awry and he has watched his preferred veterans fail in disappointing fashion. One of the main problems with the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers offense is that many of the trusted veterans just have not performed as expected thus far. Roenicke has butchered the handling of many of these tricky situations, and in my opinion, has exacerbated many of the problems. Beginning with a failed execution of a double switch on Opening Day, RRR has consistently taken missteps that have hurt the team in numerous situations. I would like to examine a few of these instances and look at a few possible solutions to these festering problems.
A great place to start this indictment would be Sunday afternoon in Minnesota when Mat Gamel started at third base. I don’t understand how Roenicke can have Gamel play a position he was moved from playing, precisely because he wasn’t very good at it. You don’t just take early fielding practice with a round of fungos and then start a young player at a position he hasn’t played all year, yet that is exactly what happened this past weekend. This sends mixed signals that management doesn’t know what they are doing and it looks like a sloppy, half assed effort at the end of a disastrous road trip. The players surely noticed this and sensed a lack of confidence from the manager because I know I sure did. I just want one manger to quit screwing with Gamel. I like the guy and I think the only thing wrong with his career is that he hasn’t been given a chance to play every day on the major league level. I am confident if given 500 at bats he would produce a season that would look like a season from Lyle Overbay. If Gamel isn’t going to be playing daily, then he needs to be left in AAA. While there, perhaps having the kid make a start at third base once a week wouldn’t hurt either!
Secondly, I find RRR’s appeasement of Randy Wolf to be a terrible ailment that is harming the overall health of the team. If you recall, Randy Wolf won’t pitch to Jonathan Lucroy. Apparently Lucroy is competent to catch the other eleven pitchers, yet he hasn’t done enough to earn the receiving trust of Randy Wolf. I have said the entire time that this spat is foolish and does nothing but separate players and create division. One of Ron Roenicke’s primary duties is to bring the team together and appeasing Wolf’s demands is counter-intuitive to that goal.
That being said, the situation hadn’t hurt the team specifically until last week against CC Sabathia. Because of a potential Wolf tantrum, left handed hitting George Kottaras was pressed into a tough assignment against the former Brewer. Of course, the Greek backstop was 0×3 with 2Ks and allowed four steals. What draws my ire is that Roenicke has been nearly exclusive with his platoons at several positions all season. As a result, Nyjer Morgan never see the field when there is a left handed starter, yet Kottaras suddenly earns a start because Randy Wolf says so? I believe that Carlos Gomez and Morgan certainly noticed that perhaps mixed signals are being sent from management that some players matter more than others.
To illustrate Roenicke’s hypocrisy, Zach Braddock was banished to AAA, and called out for having a sleeping disorder. Rumor has it that he couldn’t show up on time to Miller Park for the games. Roenicke sent Braddock down because he couldn’t conform to what was best for the team. Braddock was made an example of the philosophy that no individual player is above the team. Yet RRR contradicted himself in the case of Randy Wolf, where Wolf’s wishes were placed above what is best for the team. What was best for the team was having the righty Lucroy hit against the tough lefty Sabathia. This conflicting message sends mixed signals to a team and completely undermines the team first philosophy Roenicke has been working hard to establish.
Third, it is clear that Ron Roenicke has a soft spot in his heart for Mark Kotsay. I guess I just don’t see what benefit Kotsay brings to the team. His slash line is .248/.314/.324 and comes with the added benefit of poor defense, in comparison to the other outfielders. I suppose I could see keeping him around if he was displaying any sort of power, but he has struggled to get that going as well. Kotsay is a bad option off the bench late in the game because of his lack of power, speed, and defensive range. He is also a terrible option early in the game as a starter in CF. Essentially, he is just a bad option period. Continuing to spot start Kotsay because he had a good game against a starting pitcher five years ago is a terrible manner in which to manage a team. Treating veterans differently when the pennant races heat up will definitely send mixed signals to a team that only wants to win. I truly believe pride is the only thing standing between Brandon Boggs and a spot on the bench for the Brewers.
Fourth, the most important spot in the entire batting order is fifth behind Prince. McGehee has hit fifth for the better part of two seasons, but clearly he is scuffling. In my opinion, the lack of action by RRR to maintain protection for Prince in the order has caused the offense to sputter on many occasions this season. Leaving McGehee in the fifth spot in the order sends mixed signals to the team that Roenicke’s loyalty to a player is more important than the team winning (see Kameron Loe). I’ve been saying for many weeks that if the team wants to get Casey going, he has to be inserted into the spot between Weeks and Braun in the order. This spot sees a high quantity of quality pitches that can help turn around any hitter’s season. Personally, I find it hard to believe that Taylor Green wouldn’t be an upgrade against right handed starters and I advocate an immediate call up of the young left handed hitting third baseman.
Finally, the lack of more high leverage situations for LaTroy Hawkins might be the most obvious indication of Ron Roenicke’s penchant for sending mixed signals. Until Monday against the Diamondbacks, Hawkins had a streak of twenty consecutive innings of scoreless relief this season for the Brewers. I don’t care what part of the game someone is pitching, that is impressive in the major leagues. Kotsay has routinely gotten starts all season because of past achievements, yet Hawkins can’t get into some high leverage situations with a decent history as a reliever? His Fangraphs page shows that he has a track record of being a solid reliever for a good portion of his career. I would suggest using Hawkins in a consistent seventh and eighth inning role and quit saving a reliever with an ERA under 1.00 as a mop up player. Certainly Hawkins couldn’t do any worse than Kameron Loe?
This consistent behavior of inconsistency is a pattern that is developing with RRR. Clearly he likes to project an image of rigidity, as evidenced by his inflexible bullpen roles and strict platoon uses. Yet RRR undermines his own credibility when he sends mixed signals to the team and acts against those principles. This allows individual players like Randy Wolf to become bigger than the team and also allows these other egregious examples to take place. Roenicke’s inability to maintain a consistent approach that is focused on nothing else but what is best for the team (winning) has become my primary concern heading into the second half of the season.
It was a rare occurrence, as Yuni played in all seven games this week for the Brewers. Craig Counsell has been scuffling and Josh Wilson is evidently in RRR’s doghouse, so Yuni got a full week of at bats. It was such a rare week in fact, that Yuni actually hit fifth in the lineup on Monday. I guess RRR wasn’t looking at the past week Yuni was having when he made this decision. Sure Yuni was 6 x 23 over the last seven games and scored three runs. However, Yuni only had two RBIs playing in seven games last week. That alone should tell any rational human being that Yuni shouldn’t be providing protection for Prince in the lineup. As a result, Yuni was 0×4 on Monday and withered in two at bats with Prince on base. His offensive stats are just an empty mirage that doesn’t help the offense score runs over the long term.
Poor defense accompanying poor offense will often lead to a demotion or being designated for assignment. One can only hope the latter will occur soon for the Milwaukee Brewers. His slash line is an overpaid .243/.263/.349. As I have said all year, Yuni’s biggest fault is his inability to work the count. I truly believe he doesn’t have a goal each time he steps to the plate. The mental approach of Yuni appears to be one of indifference. I suppose this question needs to be asked: “Could Yuni be the worst player in all of baseball?” Of course, if one asks that question, someone is bound to say Yuni is getting a bad rap.
However, there is another issue that has been developing this season that is growing more of a concern by the day. The imaginary space between Betancourt and McGehee is growing while they are on the field. The complete lack of range for both players has caused numerous balls to leak into Braun’s glove in left field. These ‘Seeing Eye’ singles have resulted in more pitches for the starting staff and drawn out, extended innings that drain veteran pitchers. These long innings are exactly the type of scenario that breaks fragile pitchers such as Marcum and Greinke.
Betancourt and McGehee are obviously killing the team offensively. But, it is the not so obvious things that have me worried, such as elevated pitch counts due to a lack of range on the left side of the infield. The Brewers are good enough to go to the playoffs. However, winning once they get there seems more and more unlikely unless these huge, but correctable, flaws are repaired.
Something You Might Have Missed
By now, everyone knows that the season is at the halfway point. However, what you might not know is that Weeks, Braun, and Fielder had a cumulative WAR of 11.0 in the first half. Extrapolated over a full season gives a very solid total of 22.0. How solid? Only three clubs have had three teammates achieve a 22.0 WAR since 1996. St. Louis has done it twice, both in 2004 (Rolen, Pujols, and Edmonds) and 2003 (Pujols, Renteria, Rolen). Who was the other team? The 1996 Seattle Mariners had a pretty good trio themselves in Griffey Jr, Alex Rodriguez, and Edgar Martinez. This tells me that we should appreciate the rare trio we have in Milwaukee because soon it will likely be gone, much to the delight of Scott Boras.
A Season You Have Probably Forgotten About By Now
Over the course of the year, we have discussed many aspects of the statistic WAR. I like this statistic when looking at the total worth of a player from all aspects of contribution. I thought it might be fun to take a look at the highest season of WAR all time. This honor belongs to Old Hoss Radbourn back in 1884. Yes, before he was a Twitter sensation, Old Hoss was an epic ballplayer back in the day. Since only BigSnakeMan was around back then, I will recap this historic season for the rest of us who might have forgotten about it by now.
Old Hoss Rabourn is a Hall of Famer both in the sense of a baseball player and of a character. “The King of Pitchers” had the single greatest season of all time with a 20.3 WAR. Of course, baseball in 1884 was much different than it is today, but when taken into context the numbers are still staggering. Old Hoss started and finished 73 games and pitched an incredible 678.2 innings for the ‘World Champion’ Providence Grays. Radbourn had a record of 59-12 (Some historians say 60-12) with a 1.38 ERA in the team’s 112 games that season. If we peer closer, the numbers are eye boggling. Old Hoss faced 2,672 batters that season, struck out 441 of them, and allowed less than one baserunner per inning with a WHIP of .922.
For some modern day perspective, the surly righthander had a WAR higher than all but four pitching staffs in 2010. In fact, his 11 shutouts were more than any single team since the Atlanta Braves in 1998. In addition, people often forget that Old Hoss could hit too, as evidenced by his slash line of .230/.282/.263. For more on this Hall of Fame legend, Brian McKenna of SABR does a terrific job of summarizing the life and times of Radbourn. It is a great read and goes into tremendous depth. I suppose the only comparison I can think of for Old Hoss Radbourn’s one man dominance is the legendary softball pitcher Eddie Feiner, and his team, The King and His Court. Despite playing in a completely different era, Old Hoss Radbourn has earned the respect of all knowledgeable baseball fans for his incredible season in 1884.
Dates Appearing Closer on the Horizon
July 10, 2011. This is the end of the first half. Milwaukee hosts the Cincinnati Reds for a huge four game series. I have declared that if the Brewers are within six games of the division lead by this date, they will win the division. So far the team is 7-13 since June 13th and are one game back of the Cardinals.
July 14, 2011. The tough portion of the schedule before the All Star break may be over, but the difficult tests continue for the Brewers. They head out West to play grueling back to back four game marathons in Colorado and Arizona before finishing up with an easy 3 game set against the World Champs, in their yard. Yikes.
Shameless Self Promotion
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