So it has been awhile since I did a baseball blog, and today is June 1st and already 1/3 of the season is over.
At the beginning of the season while I thought this Brewers team is not going to be a playoff team, I thought they would be better than many people think. I was not buying that this is instantly a 100 loss team.
The defense and fundamentals are much better than last year’s debacle. And they still (while not playoff contending) do have talent on this team.
I challenge each and every Brewers fan to just enjoy each game. Don’t worry about Wins or Losses and how many games this team is back out of a playoff spot. One thing I notice is this team puts bad (and yes there have been some stinkers) losses behind them and always competes each and every game. That is all you can hope as year one of the rebuild is underway.
Here are some good observations about this team I have notice in April and May:
Defense is much better. While they sometimes make boneheaded mistakes and bad decisions (which I admit does get to me), there are not the worst defensive team in the majors. Surprisingly their rival The St. Louis Cardinals earn that distinction and which is probably why A: They hover near .500 and B: Are and probably will be the best 3rd place team in baseball.
Who is this guy we got from Houston? Apparently one of the top 5 Shortstops via his stats in the MLB. There is becoming talk that this guy should be placed in the All-Star game. With his batting average a little over .300 at .308, his OBP at .412 and 19 stolen bases, we may have found our new lead off hitter. This also gives time for Orlando Arcia, the highly touted and long awaited SS to get some seasoning in AAA before being brought up. If Villar can figure out how to play 3B or 2B, then we may have a surprising IF piece in the start of our rebuild.
After a year of figuring things out in the majors, Jimmy Nelson already looks like a solid #2 or #3 piece that you can build the rotation around. One important thing that I notice about Nelson is whenever he gets into trouble, he has figured out how to limit and even in some cases eliminate the damage. I do think the guy has an outside chance of being a potential Ace in the making.
Have you heard of him? If you don’t keep up with the minors, you probably have not. I suggest you keep an eye on the minor league teams. This is one of the reasons why I don’t think this rebuild will take as long as many think.
Hader is one of the pieces we got back in return from the Gomez and Fiers trade. This guy is legit and he is a southpaw. In AA this year he is 1-1 with a 0.88 ERA in 10 starts. Hader is the one to watch out for. While he still is probably 1-2 seasons away, if Hader keeps this up, we could have a nice 1-2 combo with him and Nelson.
Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy, Aaron Hill, and Chris Carter:
The Brewers have leaned on these guys for a couple of reasons:
- Good clubhouse guys who can teach the young players how to play.
- Great possible trade chips.
Who would have ever thought tons of teams would show interest in Ryan Braun. While people still don’t forget his PED suspension, he is batting an incredible .348 and showing good hitters can always figure out a way to hit.
Jonathan Lucroy is starting to heat up. After a quiet early start to the season he is now up to .299 and has a .355 OBP. Lucroy is one of the biggest trade pieces for the Brewers as his contract is very friendly through next season.
Aaron Hill has also showed signs he can still hit. Additionally his defense has been better than advertised. His batting average is up to .275.
During the Cubs-Brewers game that last 13 innings I got really upset at Perez for his poor at bat with the bases loaded and nobody out. Maybe he heard me. Lately he is showing Detroit made a mistake letting him go through waivers. He recently is starting to draw more walks and additionally is showing signs of power. This could be the future 3B if or when Aaron Hill gets traded.
Here are some not so good observations during April and May:
Inconsistent. With any rebuild you will notice a team will show signs that in some games they can be really good and other games not so good.
The pitching was all over the place in April and has since showed signs that they can compete. Now recently the offense seems to be struggling. Big innings are few and far away. While this can be maddening sometimes, I have had to learn to let it go just like the team is showing a good example of doing.
It was not too long ago that Peralta was close to a 20 game winner. Now, who knows what we have. I can’t figure out the issue and neither can Craig Counsell or the Brewers coaching staff. He has shown times that he could turn the corner but the minute you think he will, there is a major setback. Peralta has been a disappointment this season. While fans talk about moving him to the bullpen, the best you can do right now is keep him in the rotation. If he still can’t figure it out by July, then it might be time to make changes or even think about if he needs a change of scenery through a trade.
Minus Braun and Domingo Santana, the Brewers Outfield situation looks like a work in progress. Guys like Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Keon Broxton, and Ramon Flores bring good things to the table, however nobody has been solid enough in hitting and fielding to take over the position of CF. Alex Pressley has been nice however he is much suited as a bench player. This will remain a work in progress.
Overall, if you are a fan of baseball, you always want your team to compete every day. And Craig Counsell has this team fighting and playing hard. They are also quite fun to watch if you can let the bad play go. It’s all you can ask for a team in year 1 of their rebuild.
North of the Border baseball:
In April I was in Toronto and was able to see Rogers Centre for the first time in my life! What a cool stadium and atmosphere. It reminded me a little bit of how Miller Park is structured. If you love baseball like me and have a bucket list of visiting every stadium during your lifetime, I suggest if you find good airfare, update your passport if needed, and take a trip there.
The 2015 Postseason which has been the best top to bottom in years heads to the League Championship Series. Tomorrow I will preview the NLCS.
Toronto Blue Jays vs Kansas City Royals Fox/FS1
The Toronto Blue Jays are coming off one of the craziest 7th innings to decide a game ever. I wrote enough about that in my last blog. For the Blue Jays, they are probably from April to October, have the best offense and power as ranked #1 during the season at 5.49 per game.
As we saw on many occasions with the ALDS, they are always in the game with that offense. Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Bautista is as formidable as any team left.
Pitching wise, while David Price did not have as good of a game in the start he had, I think at times his trade in July overshadows the fact that Marco Estrada, RA Dickey, and Marcus Stroman have been effective as well.
The Blue Jays will win if: Josh Donaldson proves again why he is in the running for AL MVP, David Price pitches like he did during the 2nd half of the season, and the Blue Jays offense top to bottom get in a hitting zone.
The Blue Jays will lose if: The score stays low due to good pitching from the Royals, the hitters stop hitting, and they can’t emotionally move past their crazy come from behind ALDS game 5.
Can you believe that if anyone told you in 2013 that the Kansas City Royals would be the big team at the top of the AL defending its turf, I am sure many would laugh. In game 4 of the ALDS, I think Kansas City proved itself that they are good, 2014 was no fluke, and they will be a tough out because they do not quit. While many will argue the decisions of its manager Ned Yost at times, this team has a balanced attack. Oh and Monday during their comeback 8th inning they did it without hitting a home run.
That’s not to say that they can’t. Eric Hosmer can be as clutch as the best of them with his insurance HR in the 9th inning of the game 4 ALDS.
Their balance attack of speed and power also includes Ben Zobrist, Alex Gordan, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, and Jarrod Dyson to name a few.
And let’s not forget a veteran like Kendrys Morales. You could tell the ALDS Game 5 was over once he hit that HR.
The Royals will win this series if: Their balance attack keeps hitting, they don’t get into a slugfest, and Johnny Cueto and the Royals pitching staff can limit how many times the ball does not leave the ballpark.
The Royals will lose this series if: They simply try to outslug Toronto. While Kansas City can hit home runs, they are better suited at playing small ball. Also the Royals bullpen has to step up and play better than it played at times during the 2nd half of the season.
Verdict: If you thought the Rangers-Blue Jays series was intense, you have not seen anything yet. Much will be said of the NLCS series due to the Chicago Cubs (rightfully so), however this series has all the makings of being epic and a classic. Look at what happened in a regular season game August 2nd:
The Royals claim they will not shy away from pitching inside, and the Blue Jays as seen on Wednesday will let them know they do not like it. While I will never advocate for benches to clear especially in the playoffs, it will not be surprising if it happens a few times in this series.
For me, this series has to go 7 games. It was exactly 30 years ago in 1985 these teams both met for a trip to the World Series, and this could be another major chapter in both teams playoff history. Still, I slightly like the Toronto Blue Jays offense a little bit more than the Kansas City pitching. I think that will be the difference since Toronto is never completely out of a game.
Blue Jays in 7.
Texas Rangers vs Toronto Blue Jays FS1 & MLB Network
Rangers: Around July 30th when it was announced that the Rangers acquired Cole Hamels through a trade, many people including me were scratching their heads. The Rangers were 49-52 and 8 games out of first place. Many people thought this trade was for next year.
Quietly the Rangers got the last laugh as Hamels helped the team surge to not only make the playoffs but win he AL West title.
This year has also be a year of revivals for the Rangers. Prince Fielder returned to form after being injured for the first time in his career last season. Also kudos to Josh Hamilton being given another shot with his former team after moving on from his personal issues.
Yovanni Gallardo also was a under the radar trade that worked for the Rangers. He will pitch in game 1.
Blue Jays: There is so much to say about this team. They are the most dangerous offensive team in baseball led by possible MVP candidate Josh Donaldson.
And if you pitch around Donaldson, you have to deal with Edwin Encarnacion. And if you pitch around him, here’s Jose Bautista, and if you pitch around him, there’s Troy Tulowitzki who may fully return from injury.
That’s not all. Through some trades that reminded me of the Brewers in 2011, they went all in acquiring David Price who goes on the mound in game 1.
Edge: You can argue that either team has better pitching. However for offense, there is nobody in this playoffs that has a deeper 1-9 lineup than the Blue Jays. Honestly there might not be any team this half decade. Good pitching does beat good hitting in the playoffs, but for the Rangers to win this series, they are going to need better than good pitching to really have a chance.
Blue Jays in 4
Houston Astros vs Kansas City Royals FS1 & MLB Network
If anyone would have told you in 2013 they knew that Houston and Kansas City would be in the playoffs today, they must be lying.
This series is why pure baseball fans love this sport. This series will be exciting on so many levels.
Houston: The Astros have a great core of young players (Correa, Altuve) and some veteran guys like Mike Fiers and Carlos Gomez who were acquired from Milwaukee. Also you can’t forget Scott Kazmir who was acquired from Oakland who will pitch in game 3. One thing that the Astros proved back on Tuesday is that this team is not afraid of the big stage. They appeared to easily outplay the Yankees to move on to this series.
Kansas City: As a Brewers fan, I know Ned Yost very well from his days managing the team. He will drive you nuts with his (at times) stubborn baseball decisions, however you can’t doubt his players always wanting to play hard for him. Side note: Can you believe that in 2015, we are talking about a Kansas City Royals team that actually might be favored??
This team has a balance offensive attack that includes speed and power from Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas. Johnny Cueto acquired at the deadline will need to pitch like he did earlier in the season. The Royals got him for the big stage so he will need to step it up.
Edge: Like I said with the Cubs and Pirates, the Astros and Royals are very even. Both have good pitching and timely hitting. The only difference is that Kansas City has the veteran experience now. They went through the AL playing in one of the most amazing playoff game in recent memory last year, and now have had a taste of the World Series.
They will be eager to return or this will be a disappointing season. The Astros were probably never expected by anyone to get this far, let alone a ALDS. I think this series is the most intriguing from a pure baseball fan perspective and proves that smaller payroll market teams can succeed in baseball unlike some of the other professional sports. I see this series going the max.
Royals in 5
Coming up tomorrow: The NLDS Preview.