Kyle Heckathorn Is In The Future (And Willing To Share Sports Outcomes)

Heckathorn Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 2010

Brewers pitching prospect Kyle Heckathorn is spending time in the Australian League this off-season. As such, when it’s early evening here in Wisconsin, it’s already the following morning down under.

As such, I asked Kyle about the outcome of Game 1 of the 2014 World Series. He responded with extreme accuracy.

He was then asked about, presumably, the “over/under” on the game of 6.5 runs scored. Again, Mr. Heckathorn was willing to help out.

My point here is that if you want to know who’s going to win tonight, you can just ask Kyle Heckathorn. But do it right and at least follow the guy on Twitter before asking.

Why I’m Rooting For the American League

Let’s get this out of the way at the top. Thank you, San Francisco Giants! Thank you, NLCS MVP Madison Bumgarner. Thank you, Hunter Pence. Thank you, Santiago Casilla. Thank you, Pablo Sandoval. Thank you, Yusmeiro Petit. Thank you (and congrats), Tim Hudson. Thank you even to Buster Posey.

Thank you, Michael Morse for tying that one game.

Thank you, Travis Ishikawa for walking the birds off the field.

I wouldn’t be as happy as I am today without the efforts and success of the San Francisco Giants. You can drop the #EvenYear hashtag on social media. You can thank a blossomed ace in Bumgarner. You can shower praise on Bruce Bochy and his coaching staff. It’s all deserved. It’s all warranted. “THE GIANTS (WON) THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS (WON) THE PENNANT!”

And as happy as I am today that the senior circuit representative in this year’s Fall Classic plays its home games outside the state of Missouri, my desire for Giant victories ended when that ball left Ishikawa’s bat.

So why am I rooting against them starting tonight? I like the Giants just fine. I like most of their players. Only Angel Pagan really gets my dander up, and he’ll miss this series with injury anyway. So this isn’t about the Giants.

As far as leagues go, I absolutely prefer the National League game to that of its younger brother. The Designated Hitter should be done away with (though I realize it never will be). The strategy and timing of the NL game makes for a beautiful, and sometimes sickening, dance where decisions feel like they loom larger. You can’t always just pitch a guy until he’s done. Maybe you have to lift a pitcher early because of a key offensive spot. Maybe you try to stretch a guy farther because his spot is due up next half inning. Et cetera. There is so much more that goes into it. It’s more interesting and more fun, in my ever so humble opinion.

I’m a stump for the NL way of life. My team plays in the National League, for what that’s worth.

So, again, I ask: Why am I rooting against the Giants?

Well, to be fair it’s about rooting for Kansas City more than it is about rooting against San Francisco.

Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Norichika Aoki. All former Brewers. All good guys who I enjoy watching succeed. But pulling for the Royals is deeper than just that connection. Doug Henry and Dale Sveum. Both former Brewers. Both members of KC’s coaching staff. I like that, and personally like Sveum as a coach, but certainly wouldn’t use that as a reason to cheer for one team over another. Ned? Not even a little bit.

So instead of continuing to tell you why I’m not rooting for them, even though they are fine reasons should you choose to use them, here’s why I am.

I look at the 2014 Kansas City Royals and I see the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers.

It’s not a perfect 1:1 on the field, of course, but the similarities even at that micro level are interesting. It’s more about how they go about their business on the field, the lights out bullpen, trading away young and controllable talent for a shot at the brass ring, the payoff of a long-term plan. You can take it one step farther and compare to 2008 in Milwaukee where the Brewers faltered down the stretch while trying to hold off other teams for the Wild Card. In 2008 there was only the one Wild Card spot available, but the Brewers held off the Mets to win it by just one game. In 2014, Kansas City got the home game by just one game over Oakland (who held off Seattle by just one game).

Kansas City rode years of awfulness to amass a bunch of young talent in their system. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon (drafted the same year as, and ahead of, Ryan Braun, by the way), Wil Myers, the list goes on. In fact, you could almost mark the 2005 draft which got the Brewers the final “homegrown” piece to their playoff runs in Braun as the start of the Royals turnaround. In that way, they’ve been a few years behind the Brewers’ blueprint. Get a bunch of young, talented guys in the system with a goal to hit the Majors at roughly the same time, supplement with free agents, and when the moment is right, make a big trade (or two) at the big league level by sending out minor leaguers to go for it.

Let’s break that down, in case you aren’t agreeing with me.

Milwaukee: Drafted Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, J.J. Hardy, Yovani Gallardo, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun. Traded away Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley (and more)) for CC Sabathia in 2008. Traded away Cain, Escobar, Jake Odorizzi (and more) for Zack Greinke in 2011. Traded Brett Lawrie for Shaun Marcum in 2011. Supplemented with veterans: 2011 -Mark Kotsay, Craig Counsell, Jerry Hairston, Takashi Saito. 2008 – Gabe Kapler, Mike Cameron, Jason Kendall, Ray Durham, (ironically) Counsell.

Kansas City: Drafted Gordon, Hosmer, Moustakas, Billy Butler, Greg Holland. They scouted international amateurs like Salvador Perez, Kelvin Herrera, Yordano Ventura. Traded away Zack Greinke to acquire several young pieces. Flipped Odorizzi with Wil Myers to acquire James Shields and Wade Davis. Supplemented with veterans like Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie, Josh Willingham, and Jason Frasor.

I think I’ve made my point.

Their offensive games differ, to be sure, as the Brewers hit home runs at a great pace in 2011 and the Royals are more about speed and getting hits that raise the ol’ BABIP. But the rotations were similarly solid from top to bottom, but the real crux of what sent me down this comparison exercise are the late inning relievers.

2011 Brewers:

  • Closer: John Axford (1.95 ERA / 2.41 FIP / 46 saves / 1.140 WHIP / 10.5 K/9)
  • Setup man: Francisco Rodriguez (1.86 ERA / 2.23 FIP / 1.138 WHIP / 10.2 K/9)
  • “7th inning guy”: LaTroy Hawkins / Takashi Saito (Combined: 2.28 ERA / 1.200 WHIP / 6.1 K/9)
    • (the Brewers used two veterans so as to keep them fresh)

2014 Royals:

  • Closer: Greg Holland (1.44 ERA / 1.83 FIP / 46 saves / 0.914 WHIP / 13.0 K/9)
  • Setup man: Wade Davis (1.00 ERA / 1.19 FIP / 0.847 WHIP / 13.6 K/9)
  • “7th inning guy”: Kelvin Herrera (1.41 ERA / 2.69 FIP / 1.143 WHIP / 7.6 K/9)

Six inning games are easier to win than nine inning games. Both of these teams had/have that game-shortening bullpen that general managers are yearning to cobble together each and every off-season.

I won’t lie to you though. The former Brewers being on the Royals certainly helps me root for them. In fact, it led to a series of tweets (@BrewerNation) with commentary how the team with the most former Brewers on it was winning every series (and even every game for a while) in the 2014 Postseason.

Market size, payroll relative to MLB’s elite, a fan base desperate for a winner after more than 25 years of missing the playoffs, that their last pennant was won in the 1980’s — these are all comparisons between the two franchises that help me see them in such a similar light.

But when it comes down to it, when all the dust has settled, at the end of the day, when all the clichés have been dropped…

I’m rooting for the 2014 Kansas City Royals because I see the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers and what might have been.

The comparisons can stop there, though, because this Kansas City team won the two games which that Milwaukee team didn’t. The Royals won their pennant and now have a chance to win another World Series, while the Brewers still seek their first championship.

But if these Royals can get the job done, it offers renewed hope that my team can one day get back and accomplish the same.

And that’s worth rooting for more than anything.

Legends of the Field Off-Season Giveaway Number 1

LOTF

We may be in the throes of the 2014 Postseason with a decided lack of Brewers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still give away autographed Brewers memorabilia!

Check it out. Signed 11×14 photos of Jimmy Nelson & Wily Peralta (click to see them) are available for the winning in this, my current giveaway.

So how do you enter?

First, you must be either be following both me and Legends of the Field on Twitter. Just follow @BrewerNation & @lotfautographs and you’re halfway there. Likewise (see what I did there?), if you Like both my page and the Legends of the Field page on Facebook, you’re also halfway to qualifying for a chance to win.

And yes, if you follow/like all four profiles, you can be entered to win twice, but I’m not guaranteeing a winner from each forum. Instead, it’ll all be random so getting in on all four increases your odds of being selected.

For a third chance at winning, click on this link and send me a message (via Tweet, Facebook message, or comment here on the blog) with your thoughts about it because I’m honestly curious.

I’ll choose my winner(s) on the evening on October 16, 2014.

***UPDATE*** 9:04pm CT
FIRST WINNER CONFIRMED: Pamela Rucker (@PamelaRucker2) won thanks to her following the necessary accounts on Twitter.

BREAKING: Roenicke Decision Announced

Roenicke at the 2010 MLB Winter Meetings. (Photo by Danny Wild/MLB.com)

Roenicke at the 2010 MLB Winter Meetings. (Photo by Danny Wild/MLB.com)

The Milwaukee Brewers today announced that Ron Roenicke will be the team’s manager for the 2015 season.

Roenicke, who has compiled a career 335-313 record as manager since taking over for Ken Macha following the 2010 season, was already under contract for the 2015 season but speculation was rampant over the final month of this past regular season and the days since that his position was in doubt. That was fueled by the Brewers historic collapse over the final six weeks of the season, one which saw Roenicke’s team topple from 16 games over .500 on August 20th to a mere two games north of even at the end.

From 71-55 to 82-80. That’s 11-25 during that stretch including a nine-game losing streak that kicked off a stretch of 13 losses in 14 games. After a small rebound at home in mid-September, one which left the team still capable of controlling whether they got into the playoffs, they slammed back down off their bounce with a thud during the season’s final road trip, a brutal three-city, nine-game NL Central tour.

Apparently the Brewers’ brass felt that enough of the blame did not lie with Roenicke. As the players would (and did after the final game) tell you, the fault lies in their own physical and mental failures. Those that spoke about the season’s shortcomings said that they needed to play better and more consistently. Only so much of that is on the manager in any case. They often get too much credit for success and too much blame for failure.

Despite Roenicke’s staying in town, hitting coach Johnny Narron’s contract will not be extended beyond it’s October 31, 2014 expiration date. Too many hitters performed too poorly for too long for a change there to be avoided. The rest of the dugout staff felt more secure (more on that in a different column as time allows), though it was also revealed that Garth Iorg will not be offered a new contract for 2015 with the organization. If you have a grievance with one of the coaches that you feel deserves having him replaced, please share your thoughts in the comments.

The bottom line on this one feels as though the Brewers value stability at their managerial position and likely believe that making a change in what could be the final year of the current window of contention would cause more tumult than it’s worth. The Brewers won the 2008 NL Wild Card, and were viewed as likely to contend in 2009 & 2010. However, after the Brewers fired Ned Yost at the end of 2008 and gave the reins to Macha for two seasons, they slogged through back-to-back losing campaigns. Roenicke took over in 2011 and won the division by winning 96 games. Much of that is the imported pitching talent that arrived over the preceding winter, but some of the credit does go to the different voice in the locker room. These players respect and like Ron Roenicke. Contrary to some opinions out there, Roenicke has not “lost the locker room” at all.

Sometimes you need to change the voice. That’s an adage probably as old as baseball itself. This isn’t that time for the Brewers in the case of Ron Roenicke.


UPDATE: Here is the Brewers press release on the topic.

The Milwaukee Brewers announced today that the team will not be offering 2015 contracts to hitting coach Johnny Narron and first base/infield coach Garth Iorg.

Manager Ron Roenicke, whose 2015 club option was exercised this past Spring Training, and the rest of the coaching staff will return next season.

The announcement was made by President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Doug Melvin. “Over the course of the last few weeks, we have evaluated the work of Ron and his coaches and believe that this is the best course of action to take,” said Melvin. “We appreciate the work that Johnny and Garth did for us through the years, and moves like these are never easy to make. We have already started reviewing our player personnel and will continue to address the factors that led to our disappointing finish to the season.”

Narron served three seasons as hitting coach. He was named to his position on November 28, 2011, replacing Dale Sveum, who was named manager of the Chicago Cubs. Iorg served four seasons as first base coach. He was named to his position on November 15, 2010.

Returning to the coaching staff for the 2015 season will be coach Mike Guerrero (2nd season), pitching coach Rick Kranitz (5th season), bench coach Jerry Narron (5th season), third base coach Ed Sedar (9th season, 5th as 3B coach), outfield coach John Shelby (5th season) and bullpen coach Lee Tunnell (4th season).

Ryan Braun Cleared to Swing

RyanBraunSwing

In a late Tuesday post, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel confirmed that Ryan Braun had a good follow-up visit with Dr. Vernon Williams on Monday, October 6.

Here is the link to Haudricourt’s original post: http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports/278468981.html

Here are the pertinent points:

  • Ryan Braun had his follow-up visit with Vernon Williams, the doctor who performed a cryotherapy procedure on Braun’s injured thumb.
  • “He was given the go-ahead to swing but I don’t think he is scheduled to hit until later in the week,” according to Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash.
  • When Braun does swing a bat again, he hopes the pain will have lessened a significant amount.

Haudricourt’s post goes on to provide additional detail about the procedure itself as well as the goal of what Braun and everyone involved are hoping will be the results.

This is a major step on the road to what Braun himself hoped to be at least an 80%-to-90% recovery. His activity will, of course, be closely monitored and detailed as he works to return to his pre-injury levels of production.

With all of the other storylines that will fire up in earnest following the completion of the World Series, not to mention the pending decision regarding the team’s field manager Ron Roenicke within the next few days, this procedure and resultant impact on Ryan Braun may carry with it the most weight of them all.

Milwaukee BBWAA Chapter Team Awards

PRESS RELEASE

The Milwaukee Brewers announced their postseason award winners today as voted by members of the Milwaukee Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). A total of seven ballots were cast for each award, assigning five points for first place, three for second and one for third.

Catcher Jonathan Lucroy earned Brewers Most Valuable Player with all seven first-place votes (35 points).  Lucroy was followed by center fielder Carlos Gomez, who received all of the second-place votes (21 points). Also receiving consideration was pitcher Francisco Rodriguez (3 points), pitcher Wily Peralta (2 points), right fielder Ryan Braun (1 point) and third baseman Aramis Ramirez (1 point).

Lucroy, a first-time All-Star selection this season, batted .301 with 13 HR and 69 RBI in 153 games. He led the team in games played (153), at-bats (585), batting average (.301), hits (176), extra-base hits (68), doubles (53), walks (66), on-base percentage (.373) and OPS (.837). With his franchise-record-tying 53 doubles, he became the first primary catcher to lead his league in that category. His 46 doubles as a catcher set a Major League record.

Jonathan Lucroy (28 points) also earned the Good Guy Award for the second straight season. He received five first-place votes. The other first-place votes went to pitcher Kyle Lohse (13 points). A total of seven players received votes.

Wily Peralta was voted Brewers Most Valuable Pitcher as he received six first-place votes (33 points). He was followed by Francisco Rodriguez (17 points). The other first-place vote went to Mike Fiers (5 points). Also receiving votes were Kyle Lohse (7 points), Will Smith (2 points) and Zach Duke (1 point).

Peralta went 17-11 with a 3.53 ERA in 32 starts. He led the team in wins (17), innings pitched (198.2), quality starts (22) and strikeouts (154). His 17 wins tied for fifth in the National League. Peralta had a pair of career-high five-game winning streaks this season, coming from June 5-26 and July 13 to August 7.

Pitcher Zach Duke (17 points) earned Brewers Top Newcomer ahead of Francisco Rodriguez (15 points). Duke received just one first-place vote, but was named on every ballot. Rodriguez received three first-place votes. The remaining first-place votes went to pitchers Matt Garza (14 points), Will Smith (9 points) and Jeremy Jeffress (6 points).

Duke went 5-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 74 relief appearances. He recorded 74 strikeouts in just 58.2 innings pitched.  Duke was the only non-roster pitcher to make the Opening Day roster. From April 12 to May 10, he made 14 consecutive scoreless appearances (13.1ip). From June 22 to July 30, he had 16 consecutive scoreless appearances (14.2ip).

Zach Duke also earned Brewers Unsung Hero honors with four first-place votes (25 points). Also receiving first-place votes were pitchers Mike Fiers (17 points) and Will Smith (11 points)  and second baseman Scooter Gennett (6 points). Also named on ballots were pitchers Jeremy Jeffress (3 points) and Yovani Gallardo (1 point).

Watch the Brewers/Sky Sox Affiliation Signing Press Conference

Breaking Brewers News: Braun Update, Roster Moves

Braunwalkoff

The Milwaukee Brewers announced today via press release and on Twitter that Ryan Braun underwent his thumb procedure today as scheduled.

OFFICIAL RELEASE:

Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun underwent a cryotherapy procedure today on his right thumb. The procedure was performed by Dr. Vernon Williams at the Kerlan Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles. Braun will meet again with Dr. Williams on Monday, October 6. If there is no adverse reaction to the treatment, Braun will begin swinging a bat to determine the effect of the procedure on his swing along with this pain tolerance.

Braun batted .266 with 19 HR, 81 RBI and 11 stolen bases in 135 games this season.

The other breaking news of the mid-afternoon comes in the form of a pair of roster moves.

Relief pitcher Alfredo Figaro was claimed off waivers by the Texas Rangers. Figaro, 30, spent parts of the past two seasons in the Brewers organization, compiling a 3-4 record and 4.46 ERA, in 82.2 innings pitched across 39 games, five of which were starts.

Catcher Matt Pagnozzi cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Colorado Springs. Pagnozzi, who turns 32 in November, joined the Brewers organization as a minor league free agent in December of 2013. Pagnozzi was added to the 40-man roster as a September call-up in 2014, appearing defensively in just one game without recording a plate appearance.

As a result of the two roster moves, the Brewers’ 40-man roster stands at 38. This number looks to fluctuate quite a bit this off-season as some pending free agents aren’t resigned and as the injured players currently on the 60-day disabled list are activated from the same.

2014 AL Wild Card Game Poll

Curious minds want to know…

Lucroy Nominated For Hank Aaron Award

Fans Can Vote Through October 5th at MLB.com

Award Recognizes Most Outstanding Offensive Performers in Each League

Hall of Fame Panel Led by Hank Aaron Includes Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray, Frank Thomas and Robin Yount

Major League Baseball and MLB Advanced Media announced that Jonathan Lucroy was named the Brewers nominee for the 2014 Hank Aaron Award.

Fans can vote exclusively online at MLB.com and the 30 Club sites. For the fifth straight year, a special panel of Hall of Fame players led by Hank Aaron will join fans in voting for the award, which is officially sanctioned by Major League Baseball and has recognized the most outstanding offensive performer in each League since it was established in 1999.

Lucroy is coming off the best year in his career as he batted .301 with 13 home runs and 69 RBI. The five-year veteran set career-highs in games played (153), hits (176), runs (73), doubles (53) and walks (66). He appeared in his first All-Star Game, becoming just the second Brewer in franchise history to start behind the plate in the game. Lucroy went 2-for-2 with two RBI doubles in the Midsummer Classic. The Brewers’ backstop collected 53 doubles to become the first primary catcher in modern MLB history (since 1900) to lead the Major Leagues in doubles. Lucroy’s 53 doubles also tied Lyle Overbay (2004) for the franchise single-season record. In addition, the Florida native ranked among the National League leaders in multi-hit games (3rd, 53), extra-base hits (T3rd, 68), hits (T5th, 176), batting average (7th, .301) and on-base percentage (8th, .373).

The Hall of Fame panel led by Aaron includes some of the greatest offensive players of all-time –Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray, Frank Thomas and Robin Yount.  These Hall of Famers – who combined for 16,956 hits, 8,844 RBI and 2,109 home runs – have all been personally selected by Aaron to lend their expertise to select the best offensive performer in each League.

Through October 5, fans will have the opportunity to select one American League and one National League winner from a list comprising of one finalist per Club. The winners of the 2014 Hank Aaron Award will be announced during the 2014 World Series.

The finalists for the 2014 Hank Aaron Award are:

American League

Baltimore Orioles – Nelson Cruz

Boston Red Sox – David Ortiz

Chicago White Sox – Jose Abreu

Cleveland Indians – Michael Brantley

Detroit Tigers – Victor Martinez

Houston Astros – Jose Altuve

Kansas City Royals – Alex Gordon

LA Angels of Anaheim – Mike Trout

Minnesota Twins – Trevor Plouffe

New York Yankees – Brett Gardner

Oakland Athletics – Josh Donaldson

Seattle Mariners – Robinson Cano

Tampa Bay Rays – Evan Longoria

Texas Rangers – Adrian Beltre

Toronto Blue Jays – Jose Bautista

 

National League

Arizona Diamondbacks – Paul Goldschmidt

Atlanta Braves – Justin Upton

Chicago Cubs – Anthony Rizzo

Cincinnati Reds – Devin Mesoraco

Colorado Rockies – Justin Morneau

Los Angeles Dodgers – Adrian Gonzalez

Miami Marlins – Giancarlo Stanton

Milwaukee Brewers – Jonathan Lucroy

New York Mets – Daniel Murphy

Philadelphia Phillies – Marlon Byrd

Pittsburgh Pirates – Andrew McCutchen

St. Louis Cardinals – Matt Carpenter

San Diego Padres – Seth Smith

San Francisco Giants – Hunter Pence

Washington Nationals – Anthony Rendon

Past winners of the Hank Aaron Award include: Miguel Cabrera  and Paul Goldschmidt (2013); Cabrera and Buster Posey (2012); Jose Bautista and Matt Kemp (2011); Bautista and Joey Votto (2010); Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols (2009); Aramis Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis (2008); Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder (2007); Jeter and Ryan Howard (2006); David Ortiz and Andruw Jones (2005); Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds (2004); Rodriguez and Pujols (2003); Rodriguez and Bonds (2001-02); Carlos Delgado and Todd Helton (2000) and Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa (1999).

The Hank Aaron Award was introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th Anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, and, at that time, was the first major award introduced by Major League Baseball in more than 25 years.

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