Results tagged ‘ Milwaukee Brewers ’

Official: Darnell Coles Named Nashville Sounds Manager

DARNELL COLES NAMED MANAGER AT TRIPLE-A NASHVILLE

Remainder of Nashville’s Coaching Staff to Return in 2014

The Milwaukee Brewers announced today that Darnell Coles has been named manager at Triple-A Nashville. He fills the managerial role vacated by Mike Guerrero, who was promoted to the Brewers’ Major League coaching staff on September 28.

imageColes joined the organization in 2010 and spent his first two seasons as minor-league hitting coordinator (2010-11). He spent the past two seasons as manager at Double-A Huntsville (2012-13). Prior to joining the Brewers, Coles spent four seasons in the Washington Nationals organization, including two seasons as manager with Class-A Vermont (2007) and Class-A Hagerstown (2008). He served as Washington’s roving hitting instructor in 2006 and as hitting coach at Triple-A Syracuse in 2009.

The former utility player had a 14-year Major League career with Seattle (1983-85, 1988-90), Detroit (1986-87, 1990), Pittsburgh (1988), San Francisco (1991), Cincinnati (1992), Toronto (1993-94), St. Louis (1995) and Colorado (1997). He was a member of the 1993 World Series champion Blue Jays.

Selected by Seattle in the first round of the 1980 draft, Coles went on to become one of only 14 players, including Babe Ruth, to hit three home runs in a single game in both the American League and National League. He also worked as an ESPN baseball analyst from 2001-06.

The remainder of Nashville’s coaching and training staff will return for the 2014 season. They include: Pitching Coach Fred Dabney (third season), Coach Bob Skube (second season), Athletic Trainer Aaron Hoback (second season) and Strength and Conditioning Specialist Andrew Emmick (fifth season).

Individual and Franchise Milestones (Mostly) Attainable in 2013

STATISTICS CURRENT THROUGH COMPLETION OF PLAY ON: 4/19/2013

This column will first be publicized automatically via my 30,000th tweet on Twitter. Even though I had begun compiling this information a couple of weeks ago, I was going to wait until closer to the regular season to post these numbers. This was in an effort to not waste time or column space on players who ended up not being with the Brewers come the start of Spring Training.

But with the aforementioned milestone tweet bearing down on me, I felt it appropriate to make this post coincide.

I will keep this space updated* throughout the season with current 2013 totals as the players listed work toward the attainable milestones. Should a player achieve a milestone, I will list it and the date it was achieved and (if appropriate) list the next milestone on the statistical path which the player could achieve.

So bookmark this one folks and refer back to it as often as necessary throughout 2013. This information will appear on the individuals’ “Brewers By the Jersey Numbers” previews as well.

Without further adieu, here are the major players on the Brewers who have milestones in front of them which should be attainable in the 2013 regular season.

Ryan Braun

Perennial all-star Ryan Braun achieved his first two milestones of the season on Friday, April 19th against the Chicago Cubs. He collected the 2000th base of his career on a first inning home run. The three RBI from that homer also moved him into a sixth-place tie on the all-time list with former Brewer Prince Fielder.

Stat Next Personal Milestone Career thru 2012 2013 Total Needed to Achieve Best Season
R 700 614 7 79 113
H 1250 1089 12 149 203
TB 2250 1976 27 247 356
2B 250 223 3 24 45
3B 30 29 0 1 7
HR 250 202 4 44 41
RBI 750 643 13 94 114
SB 150 126 1 23 33
BB 350 305 9 36 63
Stat Next Team Top 50 Milestone Career Total as a Brewer thru 2012 Needed to Achieve Next Team Top 50 Milestone Holder Current Holder’s All-Time Position
R 661 614 40 Geoff Jenkins 5
H 1144 1089 43 Ben Oglivie 7
TB 2175 1976 172 Jim Gantner 5
2B 262 223 36 Jim Gantner 5
3B 30 29 1 Rickie Weeks 7
HR 208 202 2 Gorman Thomas 4
RBI 685 643 29 Ben Oglivie 5
SB 136 126 9 Tommy Harper 4
BB 320 305 6 Dave Nilsson 17

Aramis Ramirez

Stat Next Personal Milestone Career thru 2012 2013 Total Needed to Achieve Best Season
R 1000 965 1 34 99
H 2000 1959 5 36 181
TB 3500 3452 8 40 333
2B 450 423 3 24 50
3B 25 22 0 3 4
HR 350 342 0 8 38
RBI 1250 1227 2 21 119
SB 30 25 0 5 9
BB 550 545 2 3 74
Stat Next Team Top 50 Milestone Career Total as a Brewer thru 2012 Needed to Achieve Next Team Top 50 Milestone Holder Current Holder’s All-Time Position
R 175 92 82 Matt Mieske 50
H 331 171 155 Scott Podsednik 50
TB 518 308 202 3-way tie 49
2B 61 50 8 2-way tie 50
3B 9 3 6 4-way tie 50
HR 34 27 7 3-way tie 48
RBI 159 105 52 Lyle Overbay 50
SB 25 9 16 2-way tie 49
BB 126 44 80 Glenn Braggs 50

Corey Hart

Stat Next Personal Milestone Career thru 2012 2013 Total Needed to Achieve Player’s Best Season
R 550 529 0 21 91
H 1000 950 0 50 164
TB 1750 1689 0 61 293
2B 250 211 0 39 45
3B 35 33 0 2 9
HR 175 154 0 21 31
RBI 550 508 0 42 102
SB 100 83 0 17 23
BB 300 269 0 31 51
Stat Next Team Top 50 Milestone Career Total as a Brewer thru 2012 Needed to Achieve Next Team Top 50 Milestone Holder Current Holder’s All-Time Position
R 567 529 38 Ben Oglivie 10
H 996 950 46 Prince Fielder 12
TB 1825 1689 136 Don Money 9
2B 215 211 4 Don Money 8
3B 38 33 5 Jim Gantner 4
HR 160 154 6 Paul Molitor 10
RBI 524 508 16 B.J. Surhoff 13
SB 102 83 19 B.J. Surhoff 11
BB 290 269 21 John Jaha 22

Jonathan Lucroy

Stat Next Personal Milestone Career thru 2012 2013 Total Needed to Achieve Player’s Best Season
R 150 115 5 30 46
H 300 285 13 2 114
TB 500 421 21 58 168
2B 50 42 0 8 17
3B 10 5 1 4 4
HR 50 28 2 20 12
RBI 150 143 9 2 59
SB 15 10 0 5 4
BB 100 69 4 27 29
Stat Next Team Top 50 Milestone Career Total as a Brewer thru 2012 Needed to Achieve Next Team Top 50 Milestone Holder Current Holder’s All-Time Position
R 175 115 55 Matt Mieske 50
H 331 285 33 Scott Podsednik 50
TB 518 421 76 3-way tie 49
2B 61 42 19 2-way tie 50
3B 9 5 3 4-way tie 50
HR 34 28 4 3-way tie 48
RBI 159 143 7 Lyle Overbay 50
SB 25 10 15 2-way tie 49
BB 126 69 54 Glenn Braggs 50

Rickie Weeks

So far this season, Rickie Weeks has surpassed Greg Vaughn for 12th place in total bases in Brewers history. Next up on the list is Gorman Thomas.

Weeks has also tied Ben Oglivie for 6th place on the all-time franchise list for Walks with 432.

Weeks collected the 1500th total base in his MLB career with a double on Friday, April 19th against the Cubs at Miller Park.

Stat Next Personal Milestone Career thru 2012 2013 Total Needed to Achieve Player’s Best Season
R 650 608 9 33 112
H 1000 867 12 121 175
TB 1500 1481 15 0 302
2B 175 164 4 7 32
3B 40 30 0 10 7
HR 150 130 1 19 29
RBI 400 377 3 20 83
SB 125 116 2 7 25
BB 450 427 6 17 78
Stat Next Team Top 50 Milestone Career Total as a Brewer thru 2012 Needed to Achieve Next Team Top 50 Milestone Holder Current Holder’s All-Time Position
R 621 608 4 Ryan Braun 6
H 950 867 71 Corey Hart 13
TB 1635 1481 135 Gorman Thomas 11
2B 172 164 5 Gorman Thomas 15
3B 33 30 3 2-way tie 5
HR 133 130 2 Richie Sexson 14
RBI 385 377 5 Rob Deer 21
SB 126 116 8 Ryan Braun 5
BB 440 427 7 Don Money 5

Norichika Aoki

Aoki began the season tied for 41st place in stolen bases with Craig Counsell, but has surpassed Geoff Jenkins, Rob Deer and Dante Bichette in the team’s all-time rankings, and is currently tied in 35th place with Pedro Garcia and John Jaha. Next up, Sixto Lezcano who has 34 steals as a Brewer.

Stat Next Personal Milestone Career thru 2012 2013 Total Needed to Achieve Player’s Best Season
R 100 81 9 10 81
H 200 150 18 32 150
TB 500 225 28 247 225
2B 50 37 4 9 37
3B 10 4 0 6 4
HR 25 10 2 13 10
RBI 100 50 5 45 50
SB 50 30 3 17 30
BB 100 43 7 50 43
Stat Next Team Top 50 Milestone Career Total as a Brewer thru 2012 Needed to Achieve Next Team Top 50 Milestone Holder Current Holder’s All-Time Position
R 175 81 85 Matt Mieske 50
H 331 150 163 Scott Podsednik 50
TB 518 225 265 3-way tie 49
2B 61 37 20 2-way tie 50
3B 9 4 5 4-way tie 50
HR 34 10 22 3-way tie 48
RBI 159 50 104 Lyle Overbay 50
SB 34 30 1 Sixto Lezcano 34
BB 126 43 76 Glenn Braggs 50

Martin Maldonado

Martin Maldonado collected the 100th base of his career on Monday, April 8th with a 5th inning single off of Edwin Jackson.

Stat Next Personal Milestone Career thru 2012 2013 Total Needed to Achieve Player’s Best Season
R 50 22 1 27 22
H 100 62 4 34 62
TB 100 95 6 0 95
2B 25 9 2 14 9
3B 5 0 0 5 0
HR 25 8 0 17 8
RBI 50 30 3 17 30
SB 5 1 0 4 1
BB 25 17 0 8 17
Stat Next Team Top 50 Milestone Career Total as a Brewer thru 2012 Needed to Achieve Next Team Top 50 Milestone Holder Current Holder’s All-Time Position
R 175 22 152 Matt Mieske 50
H 331 62 265 Scott Podsednik 50
TB 518 95 417 3-way tie 49
2B 61 9 50 2-way tie 50
3B 9 0 9 4-way tie 50
HR 34 8 26 3-way tie 48
RBI 159 30 126 Lyle Overbay 50
SB 25 1 24 2-way tie 49
BB 126 17 109 Glenn Braggs 50

Carlos Gomez

Gomez drove in the 200th run of his career on Sunday, April 7th.

A solo home run on April 19th moved Gomez into a four-way tie at 48th all time in Brewers history.

Stat Next Personal Milestone Career thru 2012 2013 Total Needed to Achieve Player’s Best Season
R 300 291 8 1 79
H 500 482 17 1 149
TB 1000 741 27 232 208
2B 100 83 2 15 24
3B 25 22 1 2 7
HR 50 44 2 4 19
RBI 250 198 5 47 59
SB 150 130 1 19 37
BB 125 107 1 17 25
Stat Next Team Top 50 Milestone Career Total as a Brewer thru 2012 Needed to Achieve Next Team Top 50 Milestone Holder Current Holder’s All-Time Position
R 175 147 20 Matt Mieske 50
H 331 232 82 Scott Podsednik 50
TB 518 389 102 3-way tie 49
2B 61 41 18 2-way tie 50
3B 11 10 0 4-way tie 40
HR 34 32 0 3-way tie 48
RBI 159 99 55 Lyle Overbay 50
SB 77 71 5 Cecil Cooper 14
BB 126 52 73 Glenn Braggs 50

Yovani Gallardo

With his first appearance this season, Gallardo tied Dave Bush for appearances as a Brewer. With his third, Gallardo tied Dan Kolb at 154 games with Milwaukee. Up next, is Scott Karl at 155 games.

***Gallardo’s made the 150th of his career on Sunday, April 7, 2013.***

Stat Next Personal Milestone Career thru 2012 2013 Total Needed to Achieve Player’s Best Season
W 75 69 1 5 17
G 175 151 4 20 33
GS 150 148 4 0 33
CG 5 4 0 1 2
SHO 5 3 0 2 2
IP 1000.0 916.1 22.1 61.1 207.1
K 1000 936 15 49 207
Stat Next Team Top 50 Milestone Career Total as a Brewer thru 2012 Needed to Achieve Next Team Top 50 Milestone Holder Current Holder’s All-Time Position
W 81 69 11 Bill Wegman 6
G 155 151 0 Scott Karl 39
GS 156 148 4 Jaime Navarro 10
CG 5 4 1 4-way tie 37
SHO 4 3 1 2-way tie 15
IP 944.0 916.1 5.1 Jerry Augustine 12
K 1081 936 130 Teddy Higuera 2

John Axford

John Axford’s first three strikeouts in 2013 pushed him ahead of Pete Vukovich on the all-time list in Brewers history. Axford has since broken a three-way tie in 36th place with Bob Wickman and Shaun Marcum. In 35th place is Bill Parsons with 280 K.

Axford’s eight games played in 2013 have now moved him all the way up to 18th on the all-time Brewers list of games played. This year he has broken his tie with Ray King (206), and surpassed both Chris Bosio (212) and Teddy Higuera (213).

Stat Next Personal Milestone Career thru 2012 2013 Total Needed to Achieve Player’s Best Season
W 25 15 0 10 8
G 250 206 8 36 75
SV 125 106 0 19 46
IP 250.0 208.2 7.1 34.0 73.2
K 300 264 9 27 93
Stat Next Team Top 50 Milestone Career Total as a Brewer thru 2012 Needed to Achieve Next Team Top 50 Milestone Holder Current Holder’s All-Time Position
W 17 15 2 2-way tie 50
G 212 206 4 Derrick Turnbow 17
SV 133 106 27 Dan Plesac 1
IP 331.0 208.2 115.0 Gene Brabender 50
K 280 264 7 Bill Parsons 35

Chris Narveson

Stat Next Personal Milestone Career thru 2012 2013 Total Needed to Achieve Player’s Best Season
W 50 26 0 24 12
G 100 95 2 3 37
GS 75 63 0 12 28
CG 5 0 0 5 0
SHO 5 0 0 5 0
SV 5 0 0 5 0
IP 500.0 394.2 2.0 103.1 167.2
K 400 326 0 74 137
Stat Next Team Top 50 Milestone Career Total as a Brewer thru 2012 Needed to Achieve Next Team Top 50 Milestone Holder Current Holder’s All-Time Position
W 28 26 2 Skip Lockwood 32
G 132 90 40 2-way tie 50
GS 70 62 8 Don August 33
CG 3 0 3 11-way tie 45
SHO 1 0 1 28-way tie 36
SV 4 0 4 2-way tie 49
IP 396.1 385.1 9.0 Lew Krause 41
K 321 314 7 Ricky Bones 29

Marco Estrada

In his first start of the season, Estrada struck out eight hitters. Those sent him flying past Mike Fetters and then Chuck Crim into a tie at 41st on the Brewers’ all-time list with Lary Sorensen. With his next 13 strikeouts over two starts, Estrada overtook Ben McDonald (256) and sits one shy of Pete Vukovich in 39th place.

Estrada’s four strikeouts on April 19th against the Cubs moved him ahead of Vukovich in 39th place, and past the tied Shaun Marcum and Bob Wickman, into sole possession of 37th place on the all-time list.

Estrada picked up his 10th career Win on Monday, April 8th against the Chicago Cubs.

Stat Next Personal Milestone Career thru 2012 2013 Total Needed to Achieve Player’s Best Season
W 15 9 2 4 5
G 100 94 4 2 43
GS 50 32 4 14 23
CG 5 0 0 5 0
SHO 5 0 0 5 0
SV 5 0 0 5 0
IP 500.0 262.1 24.0 213.2 138.1
K 300 263 25 12 143
Stat Next Team Top 50 Milestone Career Total as a Brewer thru 2012 Needed to Achieve Next Team Top 50 Milestone Holder Current Holder’s All-Time Position
W 17 9 6 2-way tie 50
G 132 79 49 2-way tie 50
GS 43 31 8 3-way tie 48
CG 3 0 3 11-way tie 45
SHO 1 0 1 28-way tie 36
SV 4 0 4 2-way tie 49
IP 331.0 242.1 64.2 Gene Brabender 50
K 273 244 4 John Axford 36

Mike Fiers

Stat Next Personal Milestone Career thru 2012 2013 Total Needed to Achieve Player’s Best Season
W 10 9 0 1 9
G 50 25 3 22 23
GS 25 22 1 2 22
CG 5 0 0 5 0
SHO 5 0 0 5 0
SV 5 0 0 5 0
IP 150 129.2 7.1 14.1 127.2
K 150 137 1 12 135
Stat Next Team Top 50 Milestone Career Total as a Brewer thru 2012 Needed to Achieve Next Team Top 50 Milestone Holder Current Holder’s All-Time Position
W 17 9 8 2-way tie 50
G 132 25 104 2-way tie 50
GS 43 22 20 3-way tie 48
CG 3 0 3 11-way tie 45
SHO 1 0 1 28-way tie 36
SV 4 0 4 2-way tie 49
IP 331 129.2 194.0 Gene Brabender 50
K 215 137 77 Gene Brabender 50

Burke Badenhop

Stat Next Personal Milestone Career thru 2012 2013 Total Needed to Achieve Player’s Best Season
W 20 16 0 4 7
G 250 217 8 25 66
SV 5 2 1 2 1
IP 350.0 313.0 5.0 32.0 72.0
K 250 232 6 12 57

Tom Gorzelanny

Gorzelanny appeared in his 200th MLB game on Sunday, April 14th.

Stat Next Personal Milestone Career thru 2012 2013 Total Needed to Achieve Player’s Best Season
W 50 44 0 6 14
G 250 193 9 48 45
SV 5 2 0 3 1
IP 750.0 735.0 7.2 7.1 201.2
K 600 568 6 26 135

Mike Gonzalez

Stat Next Personal Milestone Career thru 2012 2013 Total Needed to Achieve Player’s Best Season
W 20 17 0 3 5
G 450 434 8 8 80
SV 75 56 0 19 24
IP 400.0 394.1 3.2 2.0 74.1
K 500 451 5 44 90

Okay then. Is there anybody else you’d like to know more about? Leave their name in the comments!

* – If a milestone is achieved on a given day I’ll update ASAP but if not then I can’t guarantee updating every day.

What The Heck Happened There? (Thoughts on the Hank Aaron Award)

The Hank Aaron Awards were given out recently. One winner from each league is chosen and, prior to Game 3 of the World Series, the respective American and National League winners of the award were honored in an on-field ceremony at Detroit’s Comerica Park.

Fittingly enough, the home team’s third baseman, Miguel Cabrera, was selected as the winner in the American League. He earned the Triple Crown in the AL which no doubt factored in heavily.

The winner in the National League was also present, of course, but because he was set to play in the game that evening as well. Buster Posey of the NL Champion San Francisco Giants was named as the winner for the senior circuit, much to the confusion of yours truly.

Don’t get it twisted, Buster Posey had a fine year. A year which arguably saw him as the most valuable player in his league. But “value”, as it is argued in baseball circles, is not the goal of the Hank Aaron Award. The Hank Aaron Award is described thusly, as lifted from MLB.com:

“This coveted honor is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in both the American League and National League. Originally introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years.”

Did you catch that part about the “best overall offensive performer”? It’s right there in the first sentence. If you missed it, go ahead back and read it again.

Buster Posey, ladies and gentlemen, was not the National League’s best overall offensive performer in the 2012 regular season. He “won” the batting title after his teammate Melky Cabrera asked to be made an exception to the qualifications of the title, this is true, but as we all know from 2011 simply winning the batting title doesn’t garner you the Hank Aaron Award. Otherwise Jose Reyes would have been shaking hands with Hank Aaron instead of Matt Kemp.

So how exactly does one get selected as the “best overall offensive performer” anyway? Well, part of the problem is that there isn’t anything “exact” about it.

As currently constructed, fan voting counts for 50% of the vote while a five-man panel that consisted of Aaron, and fellow Hall of Fame members Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Joe Morgan and Robin Yount make up the other half.

We all know after the debacle that was the All-Star Game voting this year that Giants fans know how to stuff a ballot box, but the fact that the fans can even influence this award at all is ridiculous. Fans are biased.

“But aren’t you just being a biased Brewer fan by writing this in the first place?”

Fair question, but that helps make my point. In it being a necessity to have evidentiary support for my point as to maintain some semblance of neutrality in this matter, the statistics do all the backing up needed.

Here are the full-season stat lines for both Braun and Posey. See if you can guess which line was produced by which player.

Player A: .336/.408/.549, 178 H, 24 HR, 103 RBI, 39 2B, 1 3B, 69 BB, 96 K, 172 OPS+, 1 SB, 78 R
Player B: .319/.391/.595, 191 H, 41 HR, 112 RBI, 36 2B, 3 3B, 63 BB, 128 K, 159 OPS+, 30 SB, 108 R

Again I’ll state that Posey, Player A above, had a terrific offensive season. He really did. However, when comparing Posey’s line to that of Braun’s (yes, Player B), how can you argue superiority for the Giants’ catcher?

The biggest issue is that we’ll never know how close it was nor how the voting played out among the five-man panel, but in the opinion of this avid baseball fan, there are shenanigans afoot.

It seems obvious that the collective consciousness of certain individuals is still flawed as it is at best heavily influenced by a scientifically-invalid urine sample from 12 months ago.

That’s a shame and those men who have allowed it to cloud their judgment, influence their analysis, and apparently ultimately impact their award voting should be so ashamed.

Those last two sentences apply even more so to the BBWAA members charged with honoring a player as most valuable.

We’ll just have to see where the winter takes us and when another year of excellence is produced by a certain Brewers superstar, perhaps the fog of confusion can begin to dissipate.

For now, the results of the 2012 Hank Aaron Award voting has left me under that same fog’s veil.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #16 Aramis Ramirez

We’re just over two weeks away from Opening Day.

Despite being a first-year Milwaukee Brewer, today’s subject is well-known to Brewers fans already by virtue of having spent his entire career in the National League Central.

The 33-year-old’s career began with the Pittsburgh Pirates the same year that the Brewers made the move to the senior circuit from the American League. That was 1998, of course.

Also, of course, the person that I’m talking about is:

Aramis Ramirez.

Coming to Milwaukee from Pittsburgh by way of Chicago for parts of nine seasons, Aramis Nin Ramirez was brought in to do two things. Both of those things are offense-related.

Before we get into that, I wanted to relate a quick story.

So many of these players are simply assigned a number when they’re first called up to the big leagues. They become a part of their identity, but they aren’t always their own choosing.

Ramirez is different.

When he came to Milwaukee the number he had worn his entire career (#16) was owned by backup catcher George Kottaras.

Former all-stars usually get what they want when pitted against a backup catcher, but this wasn’t a simple exchange of something for a number. Ramirez wanted to wear 16 not simply because he always had.

Instead, Ramirez first wore 16 when he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates at the behest of his father. Mr. Ramirez never told his son why he wanted him to wear the number, and unfortunately passed away a few years ago.

But the ballplayer honored his father’s request and continues to do so to this day.

No matter what you may think of the stories of Ramirez’ lackadaisical attitude or perceived laziness at times on the diamond…

That’s a pretty cool reason to prefer a number. Kudos to Mr. Kottaras for not standing in the way of Mr. Ramirez or his son.

Anyway, it’s no secret that Ramirez is an average-on-his-best-days defender at this stage of his career. He doesn’t have great range, even for the hot corner, and his while his throwing arm is still plenty strong enough, his throwing accuracy is at times found to be wanting.

Despite popular belief to the contrary, the starting third baseman last year wasn’t bad defensively. Casey McGehee had solid footwork, accuracy and got to his share of balls. Ramirez should handle the routine play fine, but it is likely that there will be plays this year which Ramirez won’t make that Brewers fans will be wondering “why not?” because last year they’d have been converted into outs.

And defensively, the most important thing you can do is to convert outs into outs.

That brings us back to the plate which is where Ramirez will look to earn the $36 million guaranteed over the life of the contract which he signed with Milwaukee this past December.

Ramirez is a notoriously slow starter at the plate, and he contributes a good portion of that to the weather he dealt with while playing his home games outside in the usually cold Aprils at Wrigley Field these last several years.

Hopefully the climate controlled environment of Miller Park will help to alleviate some of that and Ramirez will start off like he tends to finish seasons.

Regardless of his start, he stands to finish much better than Brewers third basemen did at the plate last year.

McGehee in 2011: 155 G, 546 AB, 46 R, 122 H, 24 doubles, 13 HR, 67 RBI, 45 BB, 104 K, .223/.280/.346, .626 OPS

Ramirez in 2011: 149 G, 565 AB, 80 R, 173 H, 35 doubles, 26 HR, 93 RBI, 43 BB, 69 K, .306/.361/.510, .871 OPS

Now, for the record, I fully believe that 2012 McGehee will also outperform 2011 McGehee, but I don’t think he’ll reach the numbers Ramirez has averaged over the course of this career.

But that’s how Ramirez compares to third base. McGehee batted fifth or lower in the lineup for manager Ron Roenicke last year. I mention that because the other thing Ramirez was brought here to do was to fill the cleanup spot in the lineup vacated by the departed Prince Fielder.

There are many analytical types who will tell you that lineup protection is a myth and that there is absolutely nothing that has been able to quantify the effect one player hitting behind another has on that first player.

Much the same, there are many baseball people who continually bring it up as a matter of fact.

Regardless to which side of that fence you’re on, it can be argued that a superstar player finds himself pitched around in certain situations when there isn’t somebody behind him that can make the opposing team pay for that tactic.

Let me put it this way, when Roenicke, principal owner Mark Attanasio and general manager Doug Melvin met this off-season to discuss Roenicke’s wants, several positions were presented as needs by Melvin.

Roenicke’s simple response: “Cleanup hitter.”

He didn’t know which position on the diamond that would necessarily come from at that point, but Roenicke was clear in his desire for someone to bat in the lineup behind Ryan Braun. There’s something to that.

I offer now a profile that was written by my Brewer Nation Podcast co-host, Cary Kostka.

This was originally posted at his Sport Profiles blog: http://sportprofiles.wordpress.com.

Career to Date

Aramis Ramirez, born on June 25th, 1978 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates on November 7, 1994 and made his major league debut on May 26th, 1998 with the Pirates. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs (with Kenny Lofton) on July 23rd, 2003, where he remained until he opted out of his contract with the Cubs and signed a three year, $36 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers in December 2011.

Ramirez played in his first full season in 2001, finishing with a .300 BAV, 34 HR, 112 RBI. Over his major league career (6 years with the Pirates, 9 years with the Cubs) Ramirez has averaged .284-30-108. Ramirez was an All-Star in 2005 and 2008 and won the N.L. Silver Slugger award at third base in 2011. He has only once finished in the top 10 for MVP voting (2004) despite have 6-100 RBI seasons, 4-30 home run seasons, and 9-20 home run seasons. Although healthy for most of his career, Ramirez missed a large portion of the 2009 due to a dislocated shoulder suffered against his current team (Brewers) on May 8th. He has also suffered a number of calf and hamstring injuries that has led to him only being able to play 140 games twice since 2006, and only once (2011) since 2008.

At The Plate

Ramirez had a TPR (total player rating) of 77.2 in the hitting department during the 2011 campaign. As the numbers above show, he can flat out rake when at the plate.

Ramirez’s’ batting stance allows him to generate power by moving his back hip into the pitch. When he swings, his hips rotate ahead of his hands to give strength to his core muscles, increasing bat speed. The back shoulder rotates with the back leg and hips which increases the leverage of his swing.

He is able to keep his swing short by keeping his front knee bent forward when his back toes comes down, then straightening the front knee as he moves closer to the contact point of the bat with the incoming pitch. This has the added effect of increased bat control, allowing him to easily adjust in mid swing.

Base Running/Speed

Ramirez’s running TPR comes in at -12.2. He has below average speed and is not a base stealing or base running threat when he is out there. He is not very aggressive on the base paths, which while minimizing base running mistakes has drawn some frustration of both the organizations he has played for and the hometown fans when he fails to take an easy extra base.

Fielding

Defense is definitely Ramirez’s weak point, checking in with a fielding TPR of -35.2. As his career has progressed the number of mental mistakes he makes on the field have come down to almost zero which has improved his defense overall, according to the SABR zone rating. His biggest asset on the field is his arm; it is both strong and accurate.

He has an overall lack of range and seems out of position at times. The lack of range has led to speculation that the Brewers, should Mat Gamel fail at first and Taylor Green show he is ready for third, would entertain shifting Ramirez to first. The cause for Ramirez to appear of position could be more of a coaching/managerial call than Ramirez himself. I feel this will be proven this season, as Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke loves positioning his fielders to give them better chances of being successful with the glove.

Concerns

Early in his career Ramirez was seen as being a lazy, immature player but has worked his way towards shedding those early career observations, becoming a more humble, but competitive player. While he is not a gym rat, he has put forth more effort in recent years as he struggled with a number of injuries since 2008. The only incident I could find was a dugout fight with Cubs teammate Carlos Silva, during a spring training game on March 2nd, 2011 after Silva started blaming his teammates for their lack of defense.

As mentioned earlier, Ramirez has only once appeared in 140 games since 2008, making his recent injury history concern #1 for not only himself, but for his new team, Brewers fans, and fantasy baseball players.

Community

Most of Aramis Ramirez’s community works comes as a part of MLB-DDA (MLB Dominican Development Alliance) and USAID (United States Agency for International Development), which provides and supports for a number of programs, including “The Bank Of Hope”, “There Is Power In Learning”, Hope and Life”, and “Spaces To Grow”.

Baseball Outlook

Ramirez’s hitting method should allow him to remain a productive hitter into his 40’s, with an expected slow slippage of power. His defense at 3B will eventually make it necessary for him to move to first, or will send him to the A.L. as a DH. He will continue to be an above average player if he stays healthy.

Bottom line for Ramirez in 2012 is that he’ll hit cleanup, man the hot corner, and hopefully drive in plenty of runs.

The Brewers need his bat to perform to successfully defend their National League Central Division championship.

After spending his entire 14-year career in that same division, Ramirez has only been a part of three such teams (all with Chicago in 2003, 2007, 2008) but without a World Series appearance to show for it, let alone a ring.

He wants that chance and the Milwaukee Brewers would be more than happy to give it to him.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #18 Shaun Marcum

It’s been a long off-season for baseball fans, made to feel somewhat longer here in the Midwest by mild temperatures that we normally don’t feel until the regular season is well underway.

The Brewers made their first League Championship Series since appearing in American League’s version back in the 1980s. That means the off-season is officially shorter for Brewers fans and players, but after falling two wins shy of the National League pennant and an appearance in the World Series it’s been a painful shortened time.

There isn’t anyone among us in Brewer Nation who can claim a longer or more painful off-season than that of Brewers starting pitcher, and subject of today’s profile:

Shaun Marcum.

Acquired during the preceding off-season for top prospect Brett Lawrie, plenty was expected of Shaun Michal Marcum before he ever put on a Milwaukee Brewers jersey.

After missing the entire 2009 season while a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, Marcum rebounded in 2010 and seemed healthy and effective enough in doing so.

Milwaukee was in desperate need of an upgrade to its rotation after suffering for years with the likes of Jeff Suppan, Braden Looper, Dave Bush and even a stunted comeback attempt by Doug Davis. Sure, Yovani Gallardo was doing well and free-agent pickup Randy Wolf was fine enough, though overmatched by trying to be the number two, but they needed more front-end talent.

The Toronto Blue Jays made Marcum available and Doug Melvin pulled the trigger on the straight-up swap. The reason for the cost was because Marcum is talented and showed himself to be healthy. This is the same guy that pitched Opening Day for the Blue Jays in 2010.

It was immediately apparent that the Brewers had acquired a new number two…well, at least until the Zack Greinke deal went down.

Marcum’s 2011 campaign almost didn’t start off with the team. He suffered through a bout of shoulder stiffness (the same as he’s going through right now in 2012) that nearly took him to the disabled list. He was able to get up to enough of a pitch count to be deemed ready-to-go out of the gate. With fellow import Greinke on the DL with a cracked rib, Marcum was even more necessary to start the season on the right foot.

He began the year with very good results and was arguably the team’s best pitcher for the first two months of the season. Who knows how long that level of play would have kept up and what kind of season numbers he could have posted if not for a hip injury suffered during interleague play prior to a start at Fenway Park on June 17.

It’s my opinion that Marcum wasn’t the same all season after that injury.

His numbers prior to the injury look like this:

14 GS, 7-2 record, 90.2 IP, 69 H, 29 R (27 ER), 2.68 ERA, 23 BB, 83 K, 7 HR, 1.02 WHIP

And his number post-injury (regular season only) were:

19 GS, 6-5 record, 110.0 IP, 106 H, 55 R (52 ER), 4.26 ERA, 34 BB, 75 K, 15 HR, 1.27 WHIP

Still, Marcum managed to start 33 games in 2011 (winning 13 of them), but the season caught up to him eventually.

Despite all his overtures to the contrary, it was pretty apparent that something was wrong with Shaun Marcum this past October. He says he wasn’t injured, and while that must be true, he certainly wasn’t effective.

Now, all players go through certain periods of worse success than “usual”. Marcum is no exception and he and his coaches claim that all the 2011 postseason struggles were a result of one of those periods of ineffectiveness.

Those postseason numbers were:

3 GS, 0-3 record, 9.2 IP, 17 H, 16 R (all earned), 14.90 ERA, 5 BB, 5 K, 3 HR, 2.28 WHIP

Yikes.

I’m no pro scout or manager or baseball coach, but my educated eye saw some things that just lended themselves to the idea that Marcum was worn down. It wasn’t like the if the season lasted another two months that Marcum was going to pull out of that funk along the way.

His innings total (200.2) in just the regular season was the highest of his career. He had pitched through a couple of injuries during the regular season, not to mention the shoulder stiffness that he opened the spring with. The aforementioned hip injury was bad enough, but exactly one month late, on July 17, during a spectacular defensive play on a ball bunted to his right, Marcum bounded off the mound and spun while underhanding a throw to first base. That resulted in an official neck strain and likely an unofficial sore shoulder.

All of those things added up to a pitcher being put through a lot over 33 starts. To me, all signs pointed to physical exhaustion which coupled with a resultant mental exhaustion in the playoffs leading to the results on the field which we all remember far too vividly.

Much of that will fade with time, helped especially by Opening Day which of course is 18 days away from the day I’m writing this.

What will really help Brewers fans get over it, though, would be a duplication of last year’s early success out of Marcum.

As of this writing, that’s currently in mild jeopardy as Marcum has not yet appeared in a Cactus League game. There is still enough time to get him a handful of starts, but he needs to be to a certain pitch-count-based level of endurance before being ready to pitch in a regular season game.

That notwithstanding, the path in 2012 for the 6’0”, 195 pound, 30-year-old right-hander from Kansas City, Missouri is a relatively clear one. When healthy, be that on Opening Day or shortly at a point thereafter, he’ll be in the starting rotation. He’ll look to make 30+ starts and help lead the Milwaukee Brewers on a successful defense of their National League Central Division title, complete with a return trip to the postseason. It’s just that when Marcum last takes the mound in 2012, he’ll be anticipating much different results.

Let’s hope that by then, as fans, we’ll be able to anticipate a positive outcome as well instead of being haunted by the memories of opportunities squandered.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #20 Jonathan Lucroy

Today is St. Patrick’s Day in the United States of America, but at least as important, if not more so, is the fact that today is 20 days away from Opening Day!

You read that correctly. There are less than three weeks to go, Brewer Nation!

Today while you’re likely out partaking in some adult beverages and/or watching the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament’s Round of 32, be safe. Getting hurt (or God forbid worse) simply isn’t worth missing out of Opening Day.

But sometimes playing it safe can’t keep you injury free and you might miss Opening Day after all.

Such was the case last spring with today’s subject:

Jonathan Lucroy.

During a normal drill during Spring Training last year, Jonathan Charles Lucroy broke the pinkie finger on his throwing hand. (Lucroy bats and throws right-handed.) It caused Lucroy to begin the year on the disabled list as Wil Nieves and George Kottaras began the season as the two catchers on the 25-man roster.

Lucroy was reinstated to the active roster on April 10th and immediately worked back into the starting role. He had a nine-game hitting streak to begin the season once he got back to Milwaukee and was named the team’s Player of the Month for May.

Overall for the year, Lucroy batted .265/.313/.391, in 430 at-bats over 136 games (114 starts). He scored 45 runs, drove in 59, and totaled 114 hits (16 doubles, 1 triple, 12 home runs) while striking out 99 times and only walking 29 times.

More important for a catcher though is how he performs defensively. In that regard, the Brewers had a 3.63 ERA when he caught (1043.2 innings, 421 earned runs) and went 68-46 when he started. Lucroy threw out 21 of 98 runners attempting to steal, good for a 21.4% rate.

What’s more is that there have been more than a couple of articles written over the winter about Lucroy’s ability to frame pitches and help get borderline strike calls for his pitchers.

He was also inserted late in games which he did not start to pair up with the late-inning relievers. He is much more defensively sound than George Kottaras and those late changes helped evidence that.

Lucroy joked at one point during the season that he was the closer off the bench for the closers in the bullpen.

Back to the bat, Lucroy is having by far the best Spring Training of his career. Coming into today, Lucroy is batting .571 (12-of-21) and slugging .857 by way of three doubles and a home run. He’s also recorded his first Cactus League stolen base.

It’s been related by the beat writers that Lucroy has really taken well to the instruction from first year Brewers hitting coach Johnny Narron. If the results in the regular season and over the course of the long summer reflect the improvements he’s made so far, it’ll be a banner year for third year big-leaguer at the plate.

If there is any knock on the way Lucroy has performed to this point in his career, it’s in the fact that he is only the starting catcher 80% of the time. He might get more days off than that of course with day games following night games, or the occasional double-header, but he’s only the #1 option for four of the five starting pitchers in Milwaukee’s rotation.

That’s not entirely Lucroy’s fault, of course, but the face remains that he and left-handed starter Randy Wolf have been unable to get on the same page. Wolf likes to pitch a game a certain way. He has a very specific game plan and knows what he wants to throw in any situation. Lucroy hasn’t gotten it yet. He needs to work harder to be able to catch Wolf and not force manager Ron Roenicke into having to catch Kottaras  (or more accurately “not Lucroy”) against tough left-handed pitchers.

Lucroy and Wolf have been paired together this spring and it seems to be working well enough so far. Having said all that, every catcher not named Jason Kendall needs some days off and catching Kottaras every fifth day all the time at least helps keeps Lucroy fresher.

As for being on the club on Opening Day, things are looking good for Lucroy there as well. Getting the start on the mound on Opening Day will likely be Yovani Gallardo, one of the four that Lucroy catches.

What all that means is that when Miller Park announcer Rob Edwards is rattling off the members of the Milwaukee Brewers prior to first pitch 20 days from now, it’ll be Lucroy’s name he calls out in the batting order as “in the bullpen” while he’s warming up Gallardo.

It may be a small thing, but making your first Opening Day roster means something to a ballplayer. But there’s something special about Opening Day.

For Jonathan Lucroy, it doesn’t signifying anything that we don’t already know. He’s the starting catcher and will be so for the majority of 2012.

But you just never know what it might mean to the individual. Hopefully in 20 days, we’ll find out what it means for Lucroy together.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #21 Zach Braddock

Three weeks!

We’re a mere 21 days away from Opening Day! Two more weekends without regular-season baseball!

It’s warming up throughout the country and people are dreaming of summer nights spent at the ballpark.

No pun intended, but one man who spent a little too much time dreaming last season which cost him his job in the bullpen is today’s profile subject:

Zach Braddock.

There is no guarantee that William Zachary Braddock makes the 25-man roster this year.

That’s a common statement around the game of baseball in Spring Training, one which wouldn’t apply to Braddock if he had a season in 2011 like he did in 2010.

In 2010, Braddock threw 33.2 major league innings over 46 appearances. His ERA was 2.94 with an opponent batting average of .228 and 41 strikeouts. In short, he was an effective reliever both in LOOGy situations and when working more than just a single out.

During the course of the entire season, he only had two appearances where he allowed more than a single run. It was a good year.

Heading into 2011, Braddock seemed destined for another quality year. Young, left-handed with quality stuff and the ability to get both left- and right-handed hitters out… It appeared that everything was going swimmingly.

It ended up not being the case.

Braddock went north with the team and made 25 appearances through the 14th of July. The results weren’t good enough.

Over his final three appearances, Braddock only recorded two outs and allowed seven earned runs on five hits and three walks.

There was talk that Braddock had been showing up to the ballpark late, which is kind of a trick when you consider that most games are played in the evening.

Eventually, Braddock was placed on the disabled list with a sleep disorder. He was unable to get proper rest and, as such, wasn’t able to perform when on the mound.

He was sent on a rehab assignment but wasn’t ever able to get himself back to the majors last season. It cost the team down the stretch as they didn’t have a left-handed pitcher in the bullpen. Manny Parra missed the entire season as did Mitch Stetter.

Reports began to come out during the winter that Braddock finally had gotten his issues under control and was looking forward to being a healthy contributor in 2012.

A blister issue slowed him down this spring, and so far the results have been mixed but it is Spring Training. Results don’t mean as much right now, especially when coming off such a long break as Braddock has. His most recent outing saw him pitch a full inning, recording two strikeouts while allowing one hit and one walk. He allowed no runs though.

There appears to be an opening or two in the bullpen right now, but like I said at the top there is no guarantee that one of them will belong to Braddock. In fact, I’ll guess that Braddock will begin the season with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds to round himself back into form.

As far as left-handed pitchers go, Manny Parra is healthy and throwing well and non-roster invitee Juan Perez has impressed, though he is currently recovering from a partially-collapsed lung.

Braddock could still make the team by default, especially depending on the rest of the bullpen options.

Bottom line, though, is that even if he doesn’t make the 25-man roster on April 6th, chances are good that we’ll see Braddock contributing at the Major League level before the season is through.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #22 Logan Schafer

We’re nearing the three week mark of our countdown to Opening Day. Today is a mere 22 days away from April 6th.

It’s a major sports day on the calendar this year also. The first day of the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament, NBA trade deadline, NFL free agency is in full swing (Mario Williams and Calvin Johnson got HOW much??). Yeah…there’s a lot going on.

But it is today which brings the focus of “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” to an outfield prospect that finally saw time at the big league level this past September:

Logan Schafer.

I interview Logan Edward Schafer for the blog last year, right around this time in fact. Here is a link to that interview. It gives some insights into him, including a self-scouting report and also talks about how he was drafted in three separate years before finally agreeing to a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.

I suggest that you click the link above, read that and then come right back here to finish up this post. It’ll be here when you get back.

I want you to read that because I don’t want to spend time rehashing his injury history and whatnot.

In case you didn’t click, Schafer has been stricken with the injury bug a few times in his minor league career, including suffering a broken thumb last spring.

Once the thumb injury healed, Schafer went on to in play at three levels of the minor leagues, though his nine games at High-A Brevard County would be best described as a rehab assignment. Still, he hit .306 there over 36 at-bats.

In Double-A at Huntsville he posted a .302/.368/.392 line in 189 at-bats over 50 games. At Triple-A for the Nashville Sounds, Schafer put up a .331/.401/.521 line in 169 at-bats spanning 40 games. It was at the Triple-A level where Schafer found his power as well, totaling 20 extra-base hits including hitting five home runs.

As his bat continues to blossom, it’s his defense which (as he told you himself in that interview) has always been his best tool.

In 96 games defensively (all as a center fielder) in 2011, Schafer logged 812.0 innings, and had 241 total chances. He recorded 227 putouts and had 11 assists, including three double plays. Schafer was also involved in a triple play which got him some airtime on the four-letter network’s highlight show. His Range Factor was also the best of his career and clocked in at 2.48.

Schafer uses his 6’1”, 180 pound frame to glide through the outfield with tremendous ease. He is currently 25 years old which means that his peak is definitely right in front of him.

Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin realizes this as well, saying that despite the fact that the Brewers currently have great depth at the centerfield position, he is not going to be trading Schafer. That’s music to the ears of many Brewers fans. It’s also nice to hear that despite having to trade away Lorenzo Cain in the Zack Greinke deal, the team still has a young option that might be able to play every day in the near future.

What’s more, Schafer is hungry to succeed. He played in the Arizona Fall League for the Brewers and hit over .300 again with an OPS of .812 in the desert. He works hard and will continue doing so in order to realize his dream.

As for the beginning of 2012, unless Corey Hart’s surgically-repaired meniscus forces him to begin the season on the disabled list, chances are good the Schafer will head to Nashville to once again fill the starting centerfielder role in order to play every day and stay ready. If Hart doesn’t miss any regular season time, there simply isn’t any room in Milwaukee’s outfield as currently constructed.

Ryan Braun, and the platoon of Nyjer Morgan and Carlos Gomez will start in the outfield alongside Hart, with Norichika Aoki likely being the primary backup at all spots (assuming the Japanese import’s bat gets going by the end of Spring Training).

Schafer, on the other hand, is having a tremendous Spring Training, for what it’s worth. In 18 at-bats prior to today, Schafer has 10 hits including three doubles and two triples. He has scored three runs and driven in three more. He’s also swiped one base while being caught once.

Yes, the future is bright for the native Californian product from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. It just seems that he’s currently in a bit of the situation Mat Gamel has been dealing with for years: no spot to play yet on the 25-man roster.

But as in Gamel’s case, for Schafer it only seems to be a matter of when an opening presents itself as opposed to if it will.

One thing which you can be sure of is that when opportunity comes knocking, Logan Schafer will be ready to walk through the door.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #23 Rickie Weeks

When you have your brain tuned to sports and you hear the number 23, what’s the first thing or whose is the first name that comes to mind?

I think for the majority of people in the Midwest, and perhaps still around the country, the first thought is one of long-time NBA superstar (and short-time MLB minor-leaguer) Michael Jordan.

Jordan wore the number 45 during his brief time with the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, but he is certainly remembered more vividly for his time in the red and black with the 23 on his back.

I only bring this up to illustrate that I was the same way for a long time. I’ve never been a fan of the Chicago Bulls, but 23 was always Michael Jordan.

Until about seven years ago.

With all due respect to Andrew Lorraine and Mark Leiter before him, it was in the 2005 season that I first started to really notice that the Brewers had this dynamite prospect who wore 23 in a short September call up in 2003.

Perhaps it was the high profile of said prospect, and perhaps it was also due to the building injury history or the talk about his hands being as soft as concrete that helped him stick in my mind. Positives and negatives are all a part of the first and lasting impression of someone who we meet.

The offensive talent was undeniable though, and you could sense that the defense would come around with repetitions and practice. It has, and the man who I now think of first and foremost when hearing “23” is:

Rickie Weeks.

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I could regale you with stories of how Rickie Darnell Weeks led the NCAA in batting average in 2002 and 2003 (.495 and .479 respectively) which helped him set the NCAA record for career batting average (.473) and helped him win the Golden Spikes Award, the Dick Howser Trophy, and two-time recognition as his conference’s Player of the Year and Most Outstanding Hitter of the Year.

I could tell you that Weeks was a finalist in 2003 for the Sullivan Award which is given to the top amateur athlete in the country, regardless of sport.

But I won’t do that because this is more about how Weeks fared in 2011 and his outlook for 2012.

Anybody that sees Weeks up close and in person is amazed at his physical condition. At 5’10” and 220 pounds, most people guess he’s an NFL strong safety rather than an MLB second baseman. He is physically impressive if not imposing.

Owner of some of the quickest hands on the team, Weeks had to overcome being too quick at times early in his career. His bat was getting in and out of the hitting zone too fast and it was resulting in worse contact than he should’ve been getting.

Watching him progress on the field has been a true delight for this baseball fan. His quiet confidence and professionalism have been hallmarks of his time as a Brewer and his consistent production when he’s been healthy has been a source of pride when discussing the Brewers with fans of rival teams.

It’s that “when he’s been healthy” part that has kept Weeks from becoming one of the game’s elite to this point.

Weeks’ has had surgery on both of his wrists on separate occasions. That’s a physical ailment which has been corrected. A freak injury took him out of the lineup during the summer of 2011 though, a year which finally saw him getting the national recognition for which fans in Milwaukee have been clamoring.

The “first half” of the season saw Weeks put up a line of .278/.351/.486, 67 runs, 103 hits, 22 doubles, 2 triples, 17 home runs, and walk 40 times in 370 at-bats over 91 games. (The first of those home runs was the first time a Milwaukee Brewer had ever opened a season with a home run.) Weeks was rewarded with not only a trip to his first All-Star Game, but he was elected the starting second baseman which is reliant on popular fan voting.

Weeks participated in the Home Run Derby as a member of captain (and teammate) Prince Fielder’s National League squad. He hit three home runs on the day which wasn’t nearly enough to win, but he finally got to bask in a bit of that national spotlight.

A couple of personal milestones were reached during the 2011 season as well. Weeks hit his 100th career home run on June 5 against the (now Miami) Marlins. He also notched his 100th career stolen base in a game against the Giants on July 23.

All of this came prior to the freak injury I made reference to a few paragraphs ago.

In a game against the Chicago Cubs, while trying to beat out an infield ground ball, Weeks stretched for the first base bag as he had done many times before while busting it down the line. His foot hit the bag in a way that caused his ankle to bend with such severity and due to such force that when he instantly tumbled to the ground the majority of fans assumed the ankle was broken.

Fortunately, in a manner of speaking, Weeks only had severely sprained the ankle. He ended up missing a total of 39 games and came back before his ankle was ready because the team’s offense was struggling so badly without him.

At the time of the injury, Weeks was second in the National League in runs scored, tied for fifth in total bases, tied for sixth in extra base hits, tenth in total hits and tied for tenth in doubles. He went only 9-for-37 (.243) in the 14 regular season games he played in after returning and only hit .146 (6-for-41) in 11 games in the playoffs.

When he reported for Spring Training last month, Weeks stated that his ankle still wasn’t 100% healed from the injury at that time. He expected it to be 100% for Opening Day 2012, however, which we are rapidly approaching.

As the only returning member of the infield from Opening Day 2011, Weeks’ veteran presence in and quiet leadership of the Milwaukee clubhouse will be a very welcome and necessary thing.

The other thing that Weeks needs because everybody else is new is plays on defense. His own defensive timing will be important, but his timing with Alex Gonzalez will be especially so. Gonzalez is Weeks’ new double-play partner and the fourth new primary shortstop Weeks will play with in four years. After a year of dealing with the shortcomings of Yuniesky Betancourt, Weeks will welcome a return to defensive prowess in the man to his right.

As far as offensively, Weeks looks to return to the leadoff spot in Ron Roenicke’s lineup. After Corey Hart found success leading off following Weeks’ ankle injury last season, Roenicke left Hart atop the batting order for the balance of the year. Weeks never liked hitting fifth and said so publicly this spring. Hart has been on the record as saying he didn’t like hitting fifth either, but clarified his comments by saying this spring that he only didn’t like hitting fifth because he was hitting behind Fielder.

With that combination of preferences, and as evidenced by many games throughout the spring so far, it is safe to assume that Weeks will have the opportunity to lead off another season with a home run on April 6 at Miller Park.

It’s an opportunity which is 23 days hence, and one that for Weeks and fans alike can’t come soon enough.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #24 Mat Gamel

Welcome back. Today begins a stretch of five consecutive days with new profiles for your reading pleasure. That streak will end courtesy of the greatest Milwaukee Brewer of all time, #19 Robin Yount.

Today, however, we’re at 24 in our countdown to Opening Day 2012.

The man who wears 24 is trying to make his first ever career Major League Opening Day 25-man roster at the age of 26.

He is the likely starting first baseman:

Mat Gamel.

Mathew Lawrence Gamel has been waiting for the day when he’d break camp and head north with the Brewers for years.

Originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Gamel has been as highly-touted as anyone not named Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder as far as potential and tools and the ability to make an impact at the Major League Level.

This hasn’t happened yet for Gamel for a variety of reasons.

First of all is the fact that Gamel has been blocked a bit by players at third base during his time in the organization. First was when Ryan Braun was drafted and kept at the hot corner initially, but then afterward when the team acquired Casey McGehee.

In part because of Gamel’s inability to throw consistently enough while at third, and partly as a hedge against the likelihood of Prince Fielder’s foray into free agency, Gamel switched positions while at Triple-A Nashville.

While still only occasionally playing third base, especially when McGehee was virtually useless on offense throughout the majority of the 2011 season, Gamel focused on learning first base.

He’s done well enough by most accounts at learning the fundamentals, and despite his early assertions that he didn’t like the position when the change was first made, Gamel now seems to like it fine.

Still, many fans would continually bemoan Fielder’s departure and bring up names of veterans at the position who the Brewers should bring in to man the position instead until perhaps a Hunter Morris or Nick Ramirez (first baseman prospects in the Brewers minor leagues) would be ready for the job. They didn’t seem content to let the to-this-point-underwhelming Gamel try to fill some of the offensive void created.

I’ve been on record all off-season as saying that Gamel needs to get a legitimate chance at first base and it’s encouraging to see that all signs point to Ron Roenicke giving him that opportunity. It wouldn’t be enough to platoon him right away or have him be a bat off the bench. I’ve long been of the opinion that Gamel’s best (and perhaps only) chance to succeed at the big league level is to give him both a job and the consistent at-bats that come along with it.

The team seemed ready to do just that, but Gamel was unable to stay healthy. That brings me to my other point.

The reason that I chose to lead with the words that Gamel “has been waiting” to make an Opening Day roster is because up until this season it never seemed like Gamel was trying to make an Opening Day roster. It’s like he just figured that his natural ability would be enough to get him to The Show.

While it has gotten him there a couple of times as a short-term fill-in during Interleague play, it’s never been enough on its own to keep him in Milwaukee or even to perform well while he was up.

Gamel has torn up minor league hitting long enough that he should have been in Milwaukee sooner but his health and questionable conditioning, drive and determination have let him down and caused him to fall short of his goals. If you read the Manny Parra profile two days ago, you’ll know that sometimes those things are a necessity to succeed. Parra has demonstrated them for years. Gamel, not so much through the 2011 season.

In fact, it got to the point where despite his very good offensive season at Triple-A, Gamel was publicly blasted by Brewers minor league coach Don Money in comments to members of the media. Many fans have used that as fodder for tearing Gamel’s chances down.

Gamel used that as fodder for getting his ass in gear.

One of the most exciting moments of the spring was when we began to hear that Gamel had finally gotten the message that he needed to put in that extra work. He said he was in the “best shape of his life” and while that’s a cliché amongst sportswriters, it truly seemed to true in Gamel’s case.

He dropped some unnecessary weight by hiring a personal trainer for the first time. He worked hard to avoid the nagging and, quite frankly, annoying injuries of years past. He admitted that he hadn’t come to camp before in good enough shape to win a job. Muscle pulls and the like haven’t hampered Gamel at all this year.

Gamel has finally had a healthy Spring Training and the results of being up to speed on offense and in the field have begun to show themselves. He had a stretch recently where he hit a home run in three consecutive games, after the second of which Roenicke stated that he absolutely thinks that Gamel is capable of hitting 20+ home runs during the 2012 season.

It’s a far cry from Money’s comments last September.

As someone who has always believed in Gamel, perhaps I’m invested in his personal success more than most. Some only care about the Wins and Losses and don’t care how they are achieved. That’s fine, but that’s not me. I pay attention to the individual performances, trends, etc. That’s probably mostly caused by of my line of work, but so be it.

The bottom line is that I truly believe he’s capable of helping this team win, which is the most important thing after all.

You can follow Mat and his wife Julianne on Twitter: @JMGamel

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