Category Archives: Short and Sweet

Eric Sogard is having some kind of season

When I was a kid, I always knew that one day I would be writing about Eric Sogard. In fact, it was a dream of mine. Those two sentences are a lie. I never wanted to write about him, and I don’t really want to write about him right now, because what I’m about to write doesn’t show him in a positive light, and I’m not really a big fan of writing negative pieces.

Yet here I am, and there is Sogard, currently sitting with a .114/.222/.152 slash line. Or if you’d prefer (I prefer), a 3 wRC+. You absolutely read that right. He is producing 97 percent fewer runs than the league average batter. If you think that must be the worst mark in baseball, well, you’re darn close. Of players with at least 90 MLB plate appearances in 2018, only Byron Buxton (-3 wRC+) and Trayce Thompson (2 wRC+) have been more useless at the plate. Since 1990, there have been only 21 players who have finished a season with a lower wRC+ than 3 (minimum 90 plate appearances). The record for the lowest wRC+ during that span goes to Felix Martinez of the 1998 Mariners with a -12 wRC+. Sogard probably won’t match that, but the fact remains he’s having one of the worst seasons at the plate in the last 30 years.

Sogard was a surprising bright spot on a surprising Brewers team last season. He set career highs in almost every offensive category, and finished the year with a mountain-high .390 on-base percentage. Regression was in his future, and while Sogard has never even been a league-average hitter, I don’t think anyone saw this type of regression coming.

The 32-year-old infielder has appeared in 38 games. He has one game with multiple hits, and that came on April 9. Also on April 9, he hit two doubles, which accounted for 66 percent of his extra-base hits this season. That would seem odd until you realize he has just nine total hits on the season. And if I have use the 90 plate appearance threshold once again, Sogard’s nine hits are the fewest in baseball.

Sogard was aided by a career-high .311 batting average on balls in play in 2017, despite having a rather paltry exit velocity. Take a look at this chart.

Avg Exit Velocity BABIP
2017 83.5 .311
2018 83.6 .153

He’s hitting the ball with almost the exact same force as he did a year ago, but the outcomes have been much different. Hitting the ball at a speed of 83 mph is not good. His exit velocity last season ranked 260th. This year it ranks 335th. His .311 BABIP was unbelievably lucky. Above everything else, Sogard’s struggles — not only now, but for his career — can be blamed on his inability to generate hard contact.

The Milwaukee Brewers just traded for infielder Brad Miller, a move that should ultimately end Sogard’s time on the 25-man roster. It should end his time in Milwaukee’s organization, but I’m sure David Stearns would have no problem sending him to the minors to try and get him right. Sogard would have to accept the assignment, but he’s already done it once before this season.

Sogard was fun last season. Sogard was a good player last season. But good things always come to an end, and in Sogard’s case, it came quick.

Quick take: Jimmy Nelson is in trouble

By ERA, Jimmy Nelson is the best starting pitcher on the Milwaukee Brewers. By almost every other metric, Jimmy Nelson is in trouble. Let’s quickly examine, shall we.

As of the second I’m writing this, as Nelson is pitching in the sixth inning against the Mets, he has a 3.43 ERA in 13 outings, which is 70-some points lower than his 2015 ERA. Now, Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder would have you believe that he’s pitching like an All-Star, but in the world of reality, that really couldn’t be farther from the truth. Nelson ranks 85th of 98 qualified starting pitchers in FIP with a mark of 4.88. To put it delicately…well I can’t. That sucks. His ERA minus FIP is -1.48, meaning he’s drastically and unbelievably out-pitching himself so far. He’s also started a disturbing trend.

nelson

Nelson’s strikeouts are down a touch from last year, and he’s walking batters at a career-high 9.9% clip. My projections had him giving up 20 home runs this season, but he’s past halfway there as he allowed No. 12 tonight.

His ERA ranks him as a top pitcher in baseball, but his peripherals, the stats that matter more, tell us he’s in trouble and it tells us we should should expect an ERA regression soon.

Appreciating Adam Lind

When the Milwaukee Brewers acquired Adam Lind from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Marco Estrada (a trade I still believe Milwaukee won), the Brewers were hoping for two things:

1. That Lind’s power would come back after a poor showing in 2014

2. That he would provide at the very least average defense at first base

Lind matched those expectations and even soared above them, like Michael Scott’s heart with the eagle’s nest. (If you don’t get this reference, then turn on Netflix and watch The Office.) Lind whopped 20 home runs and posted 5 Defensive Runs Saved, the latter was surprising as most consider Lind a below-average defensive first baseman. The Brewers got exactly what they wanted and more out of the 32 year old, and now, because of his success, Lind is donning a Seattle Mariners uniform.

If nothing else, Lind brought stability to the dire first base situation in Milwaukee. Ever since Prince Fielder jettisoned his talents to Detroit, a revolving door of terrible players have manned first base for the Brewers. These players included Alex Gonzalez, Yuniesky Betancourt and Juan Francisco. Fielder left a void the Brewers were incapable of filling, so instead, they shoved replacement player after replacement player out there hoping for a miracle. And ds a toddler could have predicted, no miracle came. From 2012, the first year in the Post Fielder Era, to 2014, Brewers’ first basemen have been worth -2.4 WAR, the third-lowest mark in Major League Baseball.

So after three years of incompetence, Doug Melvin went out and traded for Lind. In 2015, there was no platoon situation at first base, there was eye rolling because of a colossal failure to make a play (I’m looking at you, Juan Francisco). Finally, the Brewers had their man at first.

Thank you for that, Adam.

Unfortunately, the Brewers are back at square one, and are again without a first baseman. Signing a filler and drafting a high-profile one should definitely be on the to-do list soon.

A quick look at Mike Fiers’ BABIP

If you’re a regular reader of this site, you know I have an unhealthy obsession with Mike Fiers. And you probably know that even though his season didn’t start off overly well with his high ERA and all, I maintained my position; Mike Fiers is quite good.

Much of Fiers’ poor performances had to do with his bad luck. Yes, I’m blaming luck. The guy is a strikeout pitcher, meaning he should generate weaker contact than a pitcher who doesn’t rack up the punch-outs. Weaker contact means less base hits. But up until his last handful of starts, hitters were finding holes everywhere, and Fiers’ BABIP was through the roof. Now, however, it’s starting to normalize, and his stats are starting to take notice.

Capture

His bad luck wasn’t going to last forever, but if there’s still doubters out there who refuse to jump on my Fiers’ bandwagon, I’ll leave you with this.

What went wrong in Matt Garza’s start?

Matt Garza followed Kyle Lohse‘s poor start on Opening Day with one of his own, managing just five innings and allowing four runs on eight hits. The Colorado Rockies hit Garza so hard, that he and Jonathan Lucroy switched up their signs midway through the game in case he was tipping his pitches.

So what went wrong?

Throughout spring training, Garza boasted that he rediscovered his slider. Here’s what he told MLB.com after his final spring training start:

“Losing that last year, it taught me how to pitch. When I didn’t have my slider — I was a fastball/slider guy — now I had to learn how to pitch. I have a curveball, I developed a changeup. Yeah, it was a terrible year without strikeouts, but I was able to get through it and make pitches and get out of stuff. I still don’t forget that, and now I have my slider. It’s like, ‘Yay, new toy!’ I feel confident with my stuff right now, and I want to keep it going.”

Despite his confidence, Garza only threw his slider nine times. That doesn’t sound like much of a new toy, nor does it sound like it’s very fun to play with (three of the four sliders that were put in play went for base hits). The truth is, however, that Garza needs his slider to be successful, and from his comments above, he’s well aware of that fact. He threw it 21.7% of the time in 2014, the lowest rate since 2010, and that needs to change this season. Increased slider usage should create an uptick in strikeouts (he had just two on Tuesday) and take pressure off his fourseam fastball of which he threw 43 times out of 81 pitches.

In addition to his limited slider use, Garza had a difficult time locating his pitches.

Capture

He spent a lot of time in the middle portion of the zone, which is where the majority of Colorado’s hits came from. Garza rarely challenged hitters up in the zone, and when he did, they fouled him off. Garza was actually pretty lucky he allowed just five runs considering the Rockies posted a .381 BABIP that included more doubles than I could count. Fortunately, he kept the ball in Miller Park and Garza allowed just one free pass.

Going forward, Garza needs to work the corners more. He also can’t be afraid of utilizing his slider more or going up in the strike zone with his 93 mph fastball.

 

Let’s laugh at Kyle Lohse’s stats

Opening Day didn’t exactly go the Milwaukee Brewers way, as they were rocked 10-0 by the Colorado Rockies. I attended the game, and let me tell you, it was no fun. Sure, the couple of beers I had helped quell the pain, but it wasn’t enough. Luckily, today’s game was just 0.6% of the season, so let’s forget about it.

Instead, let’s make light of the situation and laugh at what Kyle Lohse‘s statistics look like.

ERA: 21.60

FIP: 10.26

BABIP: .471

HR/9: 5.40

HR/FB: 28.6%

LOB%: 27.8%

His xFIP sits at 2.46, so I guess we can expect his home runs to normalize. If not, he’ll be a Marco Estrada clone, and none of us want that.

The Seattle Mariners stole Rickie Weeks

The Seattle Mariners committed theft when they stole Rickie Weeks from the rest of Major League Baseball. Weeks is worth more than $2 million, and I welcome a discussion with anyone who says otherwise. Even as a platoon player, as he was in 2014 and will likely be this season, Weeks is undervalued at that price. But, I guess Weeks needs to prove his worth; at least that’s what his one-year deal screams.

In the middle of the 2014 season, the Brewers asked Weeks to try the outfield. He refused. But, when looking at the Mariners depth chart, it lists Weeks as an outfielder/infielder. Why the change of heart? What made Weeks willing to make the switch from ground balls to fly balls? For starters, Weeks was of belief (and so am I) that he was a better second baseman than Gennett. He also knows he’s nowhere near Robinson Cano‘s skill level. He wants to play baseball in 2015, and if that means lacing it up in the outfield, so be it. He’ll have the entire spring to hone his outfield expertise, something he didn’t have when the Brewers approached him. Playing positions other than second base will up Weeks’ future value, so there’s really no reason why Weeks would decline the Mariners this time around.

To the dismay of many Brewers fans, Weeks was a better hitter than Scooter Gennett in 2014. The platoon worked wonders for Weeks’ offensive game, as he posted a career-high 127 wRC+ and reached based just under a 36% clip. Against just southpaws, though, his wRC+ shot up to 142 with a weighted on-base average of .381. And while Weeks feasted on left-handed pitchers, he still managed to have success during the rare times in which he saw an at-bat versus a righty.

The Mariners plan to platoon Weeks with Dustin Ackley in left field, with the occasional start at second. This is the best possible situation for Weeks. He needs another solid season of hitting to show his true capabilities. Last season was a good start.

Weeks’ defense is something that continues to plague him. Over the last three seasons, Weeks has a DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) of -62. That ranks dead last among second basemen who have played at least 2500 innings at second base since 2012. Maybe moving to the grass is exactly what Weeks needs.

I still believe Weeks is more than a platoon player, but MLB teams don’t seem to agree. The Brewers will surely miss Weeks providing Gennett relief from left-handed pitching, and their unwillingness to re-sign him or find another righty second baseman will prove costly in the end. I mean, $2 million for a player like Weeks is like paying $10 for a PlayStation 4; it’s a steal.