Monthly Archives: June 2015

Grade the game (June 30, 2015)

After each (most, at least) game, I’ll write a short but of course exciting recap of said game. Then, you the reader, will have the opportunity to give the Brewers a grade based on their performance. Simple enough, right?

Taylor Jungmann (2.74 ERA/3.19 FIP) squared off against soon-to-be-traded (?) Cole Hamels (3.26 ERA/3.58FIP) Tuesday, as the Brewers looked to at least split the series against the Phillies. Jungmann did his job and kept his ERA low, giving up two earned runs in six innings. He did, however, allow a home run to Carlos Ruiz (48 wRC+) who came into the game with zero to his name. Hamels was brilliant, striking out seven while only allowing two earned runs. Ryan Braun (.356 wOBA) continued his dominance at Citizens Bank Park. Through the first two games, he’s racked up seven hits in 10 at-bats. I mean, that’s good, right? The Brewers squeaked out a 4-3 victory, but not before Francisco Rodriguez made it interesting in the ninth.

The play that made the game worth watching: Aramis Ramirez stole a base. Seriously.

Stat of the day: Hernan Perez is in the midst of a nine-game hitting streak. He has a 129 wRC+ since joining the Brewers on June 2.

My grade: B

Defense again plagued the Brewers, but a solid start from Jungmann and great work from Jeremy Jeffress sealed the victory.

 

 

Grades so far (beginning on June 29)

A: 0

B: 1

C: 0

D: 0

F: 0

Grade the game (June 29, 2015)

This is the inaugural article of “Grade the Game.” After each (most, at least) game, I’ll write a short but of course exciting recap of said game. Then, you the reader, will have the opportunity to give the Brewers a grade based on their performance. Simple enough, right?

Jimmy Nelson (4.34 ERA/4.33 FIP/) took on the Phillies’ Sean O’Sullivan (5.34 ERA/6.28 FIP) in a battle of Major League Baseball’s worst teams. Nelson lasted just five innings (77 pitches), giving up four runs on six hits. He struck out three and walked two. O’Sullivan gave up a whopping 12 hits and six earned runs. The Brewers somehow racked up 16 hits on their way to a 7-4 victory. Adam Lind (133 wRC+) drove in two runs, Jonathan Lucroy had four hits and Cesar Hernandez (.325 wOBA) collected two hits for the Phillies. Oh, and Hernan Perez continued his hot streak at the plate. Some sloppy defense from Milwaukee led to two Phillies runs in the first inning.

The play that made the game worth watching: A first-pitch two-RBI double by pinch hitter Aramis Ramirez to give the Brewers a 5-4 lead. The Brewers never looked back.

My grade: B

The defense wasn’t stellar and neither was Nelson. But the offense did everything it could with closer to 30 hits than 0.

An update on Kyle Lohse’s changeup

Back in February, I took a look at Kyle Lohse‘s changeup usage in individual games and attempted to figure out whether it, in some way, correlated with success. I discovered that since 2013, whenever Lohse threw his changeup 20 or more times, his Earned Run Average was significantly lower than when he didn’t. Here’s the chart that illustrates what I’m talking about.

Changeups Starts ERA
0-10 27 3.83
11-19 28 3.42
20+ 8 2.73

Like I said back then, two years of data is still a somewhat small sample size, but from what I gathered, the more changeups Lohse throws, the more success he will have.

Still, I was curious to see if that holds true so far in 2015. Lohse is having a horrific and catastrophic season, so much so that at least one MLB executive thinks there’s no way the Milwaukee Brewers will be able to trade him. He has the worst ERA among qualified starters, has the 12th-highest home-run-to-fly-ball ratio and is inducing the fewest amount of ground balls since 2007. By those numbers, it’s probably easy to guess that even if Lohse has used his changeup more this season (he’s actually thrown it at the highest rate of his career), the results won’t be pretty.

Let’s take a look, anyway. First, however, we need to understand how hitters are faring against his change. There’s no place better than Brooks Baseball to find that out.

Count K XBH Batting Average ISO
261 14 5 .247 .117

Lohse’s changeup isn’t nearly as effective as it was a year ago. In 2014, hitters batted .143 with an isolated power of .095. He threw it at just a 12.7% clip then, which has since risen to 19.5% this season. Is it possible he’s throwing it too much now?

I broke down each of Lohse’s starts in 2015 the same way I did from 2013-14 in the first table I showed you, and here’s what I found:

Changeups Starts ERA
0-10 2 5.54
11-19 7 9.76
20+ 6 5.22

Once again, Lohse has had the most success when he throws his slow pitch 20 or more times. It’s nowhere near the same kind of success he’s had in the past, but nonetheless, it’s still something. What’s interesting is how much he’s getting crushed when he throws it 11-19 times. His ERA has ballooned from what it was in 2013-14, so maybe Lohse’s change can only be dominant when he uses it on a somewhat rare basis. Maybe throwing it 19% of the time is too much. Maybe it’s about pitch location.

Lohse

Nope, it’s not pitch location.

You know what it probably is? Lohse is just not a good pitcher anymore. His age is catching up to him and his time as an effective pitcher is over. His changeup is still his best pitch in terms of changeup runs above average, but because his other pitches have become so hittable, the value of his change has dropped dramatically (even though it has had the most vertical movement in 2015 of Lohse’s career).

My Twitter exchange with ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick

On Tuesday night I saw a tweet from ESPN’s and Baseball America’s Jerry Crasnick from a few days earlier. I thought the content of the tweet was ridiculous, so I responded. Thus began a healthy dialogue between the two of us.

Twitter 1

Apparently, a Major League Baseball executive is of the opinion that Milwaukee Brewers’ pitchers Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza will not be moved because no team will want to take them on. I vehemently disagreed with that thought.

Twitter 2

He clearly was fascinated by my “giggle” comment which is probably the main reason he responded. If I would have tweeted “This makes me laugh,” odds are this article would not be in existence.

Twitter 3

The only thing Mr. Crasnick and I disagreed about was whether or not Lohse and Garza could be moved. We both agreed that, as of now, they have very limited value and that Milwaukee’s potential return on them would be small. But that’s not what I was arguing about. I wholeheartedly believe that both of them can and will be moved this season. He sided with the executive, by making the strong argument that the market is bare for “aging pitchers with big contracts and bad numbers.” This makes sense, but the MLB executive could easily be attempting to manipulate the trade market. It happens all the time.

Look, I don’t care if Lohse has a 10.00 ERA. I still think the Brewers could move him. At 36 years old, he still has upside. He’s posted an ERA under 3.60 in four consecutive seasons, so what contending team wouldn’t want to take a chance on him? Sure, he has the worst ERA among qualified starters in 2015 and his FIP is almost just as bad, but like I said, there’s still plenty of time for him to turn it around. He’s getting hit for a .311 BABIP, the highest since 2010. He’s also not walking more batters than usual and he’s actually striking out more. Lohse clearly has had a decent amount of bad luck this season. Home runs are an issue, yes, but maybe he needs to go to a more pitcher-friendly park. Safeco? The thought that no team wants to take on some of his $11 million contract is ludicrous. Odds are the Brewers will pay most of it, anyway.

Finding a trade partner for Garza might be a bit more difficult, but it’s still very possible. He still has three years left on his deal after 2015, and is owed a lot of money. But he has even more upside than Lohse as he is just 31. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in a Brewers’ uniform in 2016, but that would probably be the last of him in Milwaukee. If the Brewers want to rebuild, they can’t do it with his contract.

I’m fairly certain Lohse will be traded this season, and I have to think there’s at least a handful of teams already calling general manager Doug Melvin. If he doesn’t get traded, I’ll be surprised, but I’ll make sure to tweet Crasnick and admit he and his source were correct.

There is a market for Lohse and Garza. It’s just up to the Brewers to find it.

Who are the Brewers getting in Matt Dominguez?

The Milwaukee Brewers nabbed Aramis Ramirez‘s replacement Tuesday as they acquired former Houston Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez off waivers. Dominguez was outrighted to Triple-A, but odds are, he’ll be on Milwaukee’s 25-man roster before long.

But who is Matt Dominguez?

Dominguez, 25, was the 12th overall pick in the 2007 draft by the Florida Marlins; however, he never lived up to his billing. Over 357 major-league games and 1357 plate appearances, Dominguez owns a .285 wOBA and a 78 wRC+. His on-base percentage also sits below the .300 mark. He’s suffered from an unusually low BABIP throughout his short career and doesn’t walk (2.1 BB% in AAA this season). The only positive offensive aspect of his game going for Dominguez is his power. He has 42 career home runs and an isolated power of .141, including a .162 ISO in 2013.

There was, at one point, a rumor of Dominguez signing a five-year extension with Houston, but obviously that never came to fruition. To get a better picture of how far he’s fallen, Dominguez has spent the entire season in the minors where he’s been — surprise — a below-average hitter.

Dominguez is actually OK at third base. In 2013, he saved eight defensive runs above average, which was almost worth one win. His defense wasn’t nearly as dominant the following season, but the evidence is there that he can be at least solid.

This signing was a no-brainer for the Brewers. Ramirez will most likely be gone at some point this season, but for certain in 2016 when he retires. There are signs that Dominguez could still turn his career around. If you look at his batted ball velocity, you can see that he hits the ball with a good deal of velocity more often than not. Dominguez has a career 53.3 Med% (percentage of balls in play that were classified as hit with medium speed). While that still isn’t considered great and his hard-hit rate isn’t anything special either, it’s better than hitting the ball softly.

Dominguez is a low-risk/high-reward player, and someone who will fill in while Milwaukee rebuilds their brand.

The time to trade Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy is now

In order to understand the premise of this article, you first need to comprehend that the Milwaukee Brewers will not be a good team for at least four years. They are about to go into full rebuilding mode, and that’s a very long and difficult process. The Brewers are a small market team and can’t Yankee up after every bad season and throw large sums of cash at highly coveted free agents. Instead, they have to build through the draft, find underrated and undervalued players and start thinking outside of the box in terms of evaluating talent. Milwaukee’s prospect cupboard is bare aside from a few names like Orlando Arcia, Clint Coulter and Tyrone Taylor (don’t give up on him yet), but even they are not ready for the big stage. The Brewers need to start over.

The next few years will be anything but fun if you call yourself a Brewers’ fan, and it will be even worse when Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy get traded. You may not want this to happen as Gomez is one of the most exciting players in baseball and Lucroy has transformed into the face of Milwaukee’s franchise, but the trade of both of them absolutely needs to happen now.

Neither Gomez or Lucroy are duplicating the All-Star seasons they put together in 2014. Gomez has created just 1% more runs than league average (101 wRC+) while Lucroy, even though he missed a significant chunk of time with a broken toe, has somehow managed a -0.2 WAR. His offense has been nonexistent; just two of his 20 base hits have gone for extra bases. Nonetheless, they were both MVP candidates a year ago and a few lousy months isn’t going to change a team’s perception of them. They are still Milwaukee’s hottest trade chips.

They both turned 29 which is generally considered right in the midst of a player’s prime. Now, Lucroy will be valuable for a longer period of time solely because of his pitch framing abilities. Look at Jose Molina. The guy has never hit in the major leagues, but at age 40, he’s still on a major-league roster. The Tampa Bay Rays handed him a two-year contract extension in his 38-age season all because of how he catches balls behind the plate. The same will probably be the case for Lucroy. His value will exceed his prime years, but that’s why the Brewers would be wise to get rid of him now, when he has both his bat and his catching skills still intact. Gomez, however, will falter sooner. He will lose his impressive speed with age and his defense will decline. His prime years are happening now.

There is no reason for a ball club to have two MVP-caliber players who are in the prime of their careers if said ball club has no shot in competing. Absolutely no reason. You can tell me that they will sell tickets and that they will sell merchandise, but in the end, the value the Brewers would get back from them would trump all that by a long shot.

Besides, Gomez is not going to re-sign with Milwaukee after next season. The $8 million the Brewers are paying him now and the $9 million they’re paying him next season is a steal, and Gomez knows that. Plus, he’s a Scott Boras client. Do you really think Scott Boras is going to let Gomez re-sign for less money than his market value?

As for Lucroy, he’s eligible to be a free agent after the 2017 season (unless Milwaukee buys him out, which definitely won’t happen). He’s on a very team-friendly contract so it might make some sense to keep him around for another season. But after the year he just came off of, his value is at its peak. If the Brewers want to get the biggest return, they need to trade him now.

The main argument I’ve seen on Twitter against trading Lucroy is the lack of catching depth in Milwaukee’s organization. This is true. Other than Martin Maldonado, the Brewers have literally no one who has the skill or who is ready to be a big-league catcher. But my response to this is, who cares? They can sign a cheap free agent catcher. They can trade worthless prospects to acquire a somewhat OK catcher. The Brewers aren’t going to be a competitive team for years to come, so having a well-rounded catcher isn’t exactly a necessity.

I would hate to see Gomez or Lucroy get shipped off to another team, but because of what Milwaukee’s roster looks like now, it needs to happen. As does the Brewers rebuilding process.

Writer wanted

The First Out At Third is in the market for a new, sabermetric savy writer.

I’m looking for someone who is well-versed in the advanced analytics world, but at the same time, someone who won’t overwhelm the audience with math equations that the normal-brained person will find confusing. Because that’s not what The First Out At Third is about. We simply use sabermetrics in order to better analyze and judge players and situations. We want to inform the public, but not befuddle them.

You don’t necessarily need to be a Milwaukee Brewers’ fan to write here, but you must be well-educated about the organization. (P.S. if you have a great love for Rickie Weeks, you’re already ahead of the game).

This isn’t a paid position, because let’s face it, I lose money by running this site. I’ve said no to advertisers because I am not interested in ads popping up and ruining the experience for my readers. I don’t write about the Brewers to get rich, and neither should you. Do it because you have a voice to offer.

I will also not require an article quota. I’ve written for multiple sites that have required me to write a certain amount of articles per week/month, and sometimes I felt I was BSing a piece just to meet the requirement. That won’t happen here. Write as much or as little as you want; however, if I feel you aren’t invested in the success of this site as much as you should be, I will make the necessary move.

A few requirements for this position: You need to be good at answering emails, and you need to conduct yourself in a professional way on any social media sites you may use. That’s not asking much, but it is very important.

I honestly have no idea how much traction this will get as The First Out At Third is still a relatively new and unknown website, but if you’re interested, please send writing samples and a few reasons why you’d make a good fit to TheFirstOutAtThird@gmail.com. But I will warn you, if you cite batting average in any one of your articles, I will laugh and disregard your submission