Results tagged ‘ NL ’

Is It Time To Consider Expansion?

This article was originally published on FanRagSports.com and republished here with permission.

(Though it certainly helps that I’m the author.)

You can view the original here if you’re so inclined.

St. Louis Cardinals v Milwaukee Brewers

I hate seeing injuries befall athletes, especially those competing at the highest level of their sport. These physically gifted gladiators who are putting on a show for our entertainment have earned the opportunity to do so after years and years of training, improvement, and sacrificing. They’ve dedicated their lives to the pursuit of athletic excellence. That any of them should suffer an injury that prevents that excellence is awful.

Recently a pair of ace pitchers suffered injuries while taking their turns in the National League’s batter’s box. Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer (jammed thumb) and Adam Wainwright (ruptured Achilles tendon) of the St. Louis Cardinals will both miss time after participating in an activity which some baseball fans see and pointless — and that’s putting it mildly. Granted, Wainwright will miss far more time and there’s a chance he’ll never be the same pitcher again. Scherzer, a former American League Cy Young Award winner, and a man who is on record as appreciating the challenge of hitting, was asked about these injuries and conceded that it may be time for Major League Baseball to adopt the Designated Hitter in the National League. ***UPDATE: Scherzer now claims he was joking when he said these comments.*** Naturally this response sent a wave throughout the circles covering the league. Everybody and their cousin has seemingly weighed in on whether adding the DH to the NL should be numero uno on Rob Manfred’s hit list.

There are plenty of columns out there touting the merits of the DH. Many of them are true. There’s statistical proof that the American League tends to score more runs. There’s statistical proof that pitchers, as a group, are awful at hitting. Someone went so far as to try to show that games with the DH are actually faster on average than those without one.

There are some intelligent pieces written in the last 72 as well debunking some of the go-to arguments of the pro-DH crowd. I am on this side, for the record. I love the strategy and decision-making that goes into the NL game, both in-game and before the game even starts. I would miss it if it were gone and while virtually nobody actually wants to see pitchers flailing wildly at the plate with a less than 15% chance (collectively) of reaching base, I’m willing to deal with those plate appearances to get the other juicy stuff that goes along with them.

But I’m not writing to argue against the DH in the NL — well, not directly anyway. And while I think that the offense in today’s game is actually fine enough, I understand the desire some feel in wanting more. As Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine once epically pointed out after all, “Chicks dig the long ball”. Substitute “fans” as the subject and I think you’ll find the reason that they finally began returning to the game following the players strike that once cost the league a World Series.

Offense sells tickets to many fans. My argument today is that while the DH may have added nominal offense to the American League over time, it is hardly the only way to do so. For your consideration I offer up the idea of expansion.

At its core, expansion increases the number of jobs at the MLB level allowing more players to realize their dream of being big leaguers. When you expand the number of top tier positions what you also accomplish is a diluting of the talent pool. Without as much worthy pitching to go around — and let’s be honest, the last couple of years have more or less been a haven for pitchers — the effectiveness of those doing the job will decrease. It’s been a proven fact throughout MLB history that offense goes up following expansion.

The most recent example, when the Milwaukee Brewers switched leagues as the Tampa Bay (then Devil) Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks came into existence in 1998 saw the resulted in a jump in total league-wide runs scored of nearly 1700 runs. When the Colorado Rockies and (then) Florida Marlins joined in 1993 a similar effect happened but that jump was over 3500 runs (runs total statistics courtesy of Baseball-Almanc.com). League batting average jumped eight points between 1992 and 1993 as another example. League batting averages in both the AL & NL have been declining each year since 2007 as pitchers become more specialized and dominant.

Expansion isn’t the end all, be all silver bullet of offense, but it helps. It’s also not just about the offense either.

One of the arguments in support of adding the DH to the NL is that with as much interleague play as happens in today’s game, there should be one universal set of rules governing all teams. Well, adding two teams would even the leagues back out to even numbers (at 16 apiece) and would allow for the end of Interleague Play nearly every single day of the MLB calendar. It’s fun to see different teams every now and then, but the Leagues in MLB were never intended to behave as conferences do in the NFL or NBA. If you even the leagues back out at 16 there’s no reason to continue the Interleague clutter currently happening. It would allow teams to face more of the team they’re directly competing against for the right to appear in the World Series. There have been examples of egregious disparities over the last couple of year in certain cases to which NL division-mates are facing which AL teams. There also isn’t much cause in having, for instance, San Diego face San Francisco 19 times while only facing Houston 16 times. There should be more schedule equality and putting league membership at even numbers would allow for that to happen far more easily.

Lest I forget, there is an insane amount of money in the game of baseball right now. I know that there was brief talk of contraction not all that long ago, but with how the sport has grown, there’s ample resources available to support two new franchises and all the minor league teams, scouting departments, front office staffs, and even beer vendors that come along with them. MLB is also not lacking for markets who would welcome an MLB team with open arms. Stadium deals can get messy, but the promise of 81 home dates each summer tend to get those things done. (And have I mentioned that Montreal already has a mostly-ready stadium?)

If those that claim MLB is dying because of a lack of national numbers are to be believed (and they’re not), wouldn’t adding to more local markets help from a national average? Plus the added revenue of two more localized, rabid, and supportive fan bases couldn’t be denied.

MLB can handle it. Fans are ready. I think hitters wouldn’t complain. Even the incredibly underpaid minor leaguers would see their opportunities increase, but that’s another argument, as is roster expansion itself.

Look, the bottom line is that the Designated Hitter isn’t coming to the National League anytime soon anyway so we may as well look for other ideas. This has been one of mine.

It’s time.

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.

Brewers Move Up In the Latest All-Star Balloting Update

NLASGUpdate4

You’re not seeing things. Aramis Ramirez has taken over the top spot in the  latest National League All-Star balloting update provided by Major League Baseball. Carlos Gomez has also moved back into starting position and Jonathan Lucroy has passed Buster Posey for second place among NL backstops!

Oh, and how about Jean Segura in second among shortstops and Mark Reynolds and Rickie Weeks both getting on the board at their respective positions in 4th place?

Keep on Voting Brewers!!!

http://brewers.com/vote

NL MVP Results: Carlos Gomez Finished…

Carlos Gomez

The National League Most Valuable Player voting results were revealed just now, live, on MLB Network.

Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen was the winner, and deservedly so, but he plays for Pittsburgh.

The top three finishers (or “finalists” as they’re ridiculously called) were announced last week as (in alphabetical order by last name): Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen, and Yadier Molina. Full results below.

This is a Milwaukee Brewers blog and, as such, let’s talk about who was honored with votes by the 30 members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who work in cities that are home to one of the NL ballclubs. That’s two voters per city, in case you didn’t know. This is the first time in quite a while (20 years, in fact) that the National League had only 15 teams and therefore only 30 voters.

Ballots allow for the inclusion of 10 names per voter. Votes are then tabulated and scored on a tiered value system where first place votes are worth 14 points with the rest following a reverse order from 9-1 respectively.

So, to brass tax.

With a total score of 43, Milwaukee Brewers centerfielder and 2013 NL Gold Glove award winner Carlos Gomez finished 9th overall in the National League.

Gomez received a total of 15 votes. Here’s how the individual votes breakdown:

1st Place Votes: 0 – 0 points
2nd Place Votes: 0 – 0 points
3rd: 0 – o points
4th: 0 – 0 points
5th: 1 – 6 points (Bill Brink – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
6th: 0 – 0 points
7th: 3 – 12 points
8th: 6 – 18 points
9th: 2 – 4 points
10th: 3 – 3 points

For the record, Milwaukee’s own Todd Rosiak and Tom Haudricourt voted the following ballots:

Rosiak: McCutchen, Goldschmidt, Carpenter, Molina, Freeman, Votto, Kershaw, Kimbrel, Bruce, Gomez
Haudricourt: McCutchen, Carpenter, Molina, Freeman, Goldschmidt, Bruce, Votto, Gonzalez, Kimbrel, Werth

Full results, voting breakdown, and voter’s ballots are available at the BBWAA’s official website page: http://bbwaa.com/13-nl-mvp/

Braun Finishes 2nd in NL MVP Voting, Ramirez Finishes in Top 10

Okay. I’m calm.

I ranted hard in this space not that long ago about how I’d feel if Ryan Braun were somehow voted outside of the Top 3 by anyone entrusted with submitting a ballot. (Four out of the 32 writers who voted on the award this year did position Braun fourth, but more on that later.)

In the end, logic and reason appear to have won the day over vengeance and retribution…at least on the surface they did.

Full voting and point total breakdown.

The final and official results of the voting for the Most Valuable Player in the National League for the 2012 season found 27 first-place votes for the winner, San Francisco’s Buster Posey. Braun received three first-place votes, 15 second-place votes, 10 third-place votes and four fourth-place votes. That quick math adds up to 32 votes which means Braun did appear on all ballots cast. That’s a good thing for my sanity.

Unfortunately, the writers had a perfect foil to Braun’s candidacy.

Buster Posey led the San Francisco Giants to a NL West Division championship. He performed incredibly well down the stretch in pressure-filled games. He soldiered on after his teammate quite unceremoniously dropped the mantle of “best hitter” on the team when Melky Cabrera was suspended halfway through the season. Posey plays a defensive position which is normally considered more valuable than left field. 2010: Healthy Buster Posey, Giants win World Series. 2011: Injured Buster Posey, Giants miss playoffs. 2012: Healthy Buster Posey, Giants win division (by the time the ballots were due), Posey “wins” batting title.

When the Brewers fell short in their crusade to reach the postseason, it truly was a perfect storm against Braun.

But, like I’ve said many times throughout this off-season, I can understand a vote for Posey. It would have really tanned my hide had Braun not finished at least second. I’m quite pleased, though hardly happy or satisfied, that the majority of voters showed integrity in the ballots.

Do I think that some voters who supported Posey would have voted for Braun instead had these exact same seasons happened two years ago? I do. It would have been a much closer race without everything that happened last off-season. There is no question.

But again, other than trying to understand how you can vote Andrew McCutchen second and Ryan Braun fourth (as Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review did) as an example, I can’t muster the vitriol nor do I feel it necessary to organize an angry mob based on these results.

Ryan Braun has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. His was a fantastic season, one which should have earned him the Hank Aaron Award, but also one which can be argued he finished appropriately in the vote measuring the subjective description of “value”.

Congratulations to Buster Posey. Congratulations to AL MVP Miguel Cabrera.

That said, 2013 is an entirely new campaign, one which will hopefully see Ryan Braun get even better.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t make mention of the face that Aramis Ramirez received enough votes to finish 9th overall in total points. Ramirez got one fifth-place vote, one sixth-place vote, four seventh-place, six eighths, and one ninth.

Congrats to Aramis Ramirez!

Of note, the Brewers were the only team to have two players finish in the Top 10 of voting.

Brian Kenney Supports Ryan Braun as NL MVP

If you follow me on Twitter this isn’t exactly breaking news. You’ll know that a few days ago, when Brian Kenney analyzed the “finalists” for the Most Valuable Player award in the National League, I tweeted that Kenney stated the metrics support Ryan Braun’s candidacy to repeat as NL MVP.

(Brian Kenney, of course, is the well-respected host of the fantastic show Clubhouse Confidential on MLB Network.)

He does that that he can see voting for Buster Posey or Yadier Molina for MVP, and could even understand a vote for Andrew McCutchen.

But if he actually had to vote, he would go with the guy who was the best power hitter, a plus base-runner, and a plus-defender.

Here are Kenney’s full comments and breakdown:

All that said, I still don’t expect Ryan Braun to be named as MVP tomorrow evening. Humans love narrative, they hate being embarrassed, and they love revenge. In this way, many baseball writers over the years have proven to be about as human as you can get.

Did Aoki, Fiers Place in NL Rookie of the Year Results?

The Baseball Writers Association of America revealed their first two awards today. Mike Trout was the deservedly unanimous Rookie of the Year in the American League, but the NL MVP had a bit more intrigue with multiple worthy candidates.

Bryce Harper won it, but this isn’t a blog about the Washington Nationals. This is a blog for the Milwaukee Brewers so I want to discuss where the top rookies on the Milwaukee Brewers finished in the voting.

First of all, as I expected, Mike Fiers did not receive any consideration for the award. Look, there are only three slots on each ballot and while Fiers had a phenomenal first part to his year (and a solid campaign overall), there were more than three rookies better than he was in 2012 in my opinion.

Obviously the BBWAA members in NL chapters agreed with that assessment.

The assessment that we disagree on is Norichika Aoki.

Aoki came to MLB without much fanfare, significantly less than one might think given his accolades in NPB in Japan. All he did after being put into the daily lineup was produce, leading to several hitting streaks of at least 10 games. His defense was just fine in right field too.

His final numbers, mostly out of the lead off spot, were:

151 G, .288/.355/.433, 588 PA, 520 AB, 81 R, 150 H, 37 2B, 4 3B, 10 HR, 50 RBI, 30 SB, 43 BB, 55 K, 110 OPS+

Ultimately, Aoki finished in fifth place receiving two second-place votes and five third-place votes for a total of 11 points in the scoring system. In all, eight different players received votes for the award. Harper was first with 112 points, Wade Miley finished second with 105 points, Todd Frazier was third with 45 points, and Wilin Rosario of the Rockies finished with 12 points because of (in part) one first-place vote he somehow received.

Regardless of his final position, Aoki becomes just the 20th Milwaukee Brewers player in history to garner votes for Rookie of the Year and that is to be commended and applauded on its own merit.

Congratulations Nori!

For the record, Dennis Semrau of the Wisconsin State Journal (MIL Chapter) and Paul White of USA Today (WAS Chapter) gave Aoki his second-place votes. The third-place votes were cast for Aoki by Ken Davidoff of the New York Post (NY Chapter), Keith Law of ESPN.com (AZ Chapter), Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle (HOU Chapter), Hideki Okuda of the Sports Nippon Newspaper (LA Chapter), and El Nuevo Herald’s Luis E. Rangel.

Ryan Braun Starts Fourth All-Star Game, Records First Hit

Manager Ron Roenicke and left fielder Ryan Braun (8) represented the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2012 MLB All-Star Game in Kansas City.

Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun has been elected to Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game in each of his five full seasons in the big leagues.

The first three games saw Braun reach base exactly zero times in seven at-bats. He struck out three times to boot. (Braun’s fourth election resulted in him not playing in the game due to injury.)

Earlier tonight though, Braun started his fourth Midsummer Classic for the National League, playing left field, and hitting third in manager Tony La Russa’s lineup. Following a one-out single by San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera, Braun dug into the right-handed batter’s box.

On a 2-1 count, Braun took a 98-MPH fastball from American League starting pitcher Justin Verlander over the head of starting right fielder Jose Bautista for an RBI double, giving the National League a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Braun would later score from third base on Pablo Sandoval’s bases-clearing triple, but the run he drove in held up the entire way as the National League shut out the American League be a final score of 8-0!

In the fourth inning, with two outs, Ryan Braun then tripled into the right field corner. (He was stranded there when Joey Votto grounded out to end the inning.) That second hit was the first time a Milwaukee Brewer has ever recorded two hits in the same All-Star Game. A little piece of history is always a good thing.

Braun contributed on defense as well during his four innings in the field, tracking down two deep fly balls on the warning track and catching another in much shallower left. But the crowning moment was a leaping catch while running at full sprint to take away a double from Home Run Derby champion Prince Fielder to end both the fourth inning and Braun’s night of work.

Offensively, Braun finished 2-for-3 with a double, triple, RBI and run scored. Without a tremendous diving catch by Jose Bautista, Braun could have been 3-for-3 and again, his RBI was the game-winning RBI! Ryan Braun is the also only the fifth player to hit a double and triple in the same All-Star Game. He joins Earl Averill, Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt, and George Brett.

All things considered, it was an extremely positive All-Star break for the reigning National League Most Valuable Player.

Congratulations to Ryan!

Congratulations are also in order to Brewers manager Ron Roenicke who was named to Tony La Russa’s staff after the Brewers made it to the National League Championship Series in 2011.

2012 National League All-Star Starting Lineup

*image courtesy Major League Baseball Public Relations

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