With Ned Yost, Mike Maddux and Jim Skaalen gone, Dale Sveum and Bill Castro returning in new roles, and the additions of Ken Macha, Willie Randolph, Brad Fischer and a bullpen coach to be named later, the Brewers are about as close as you can get to a coaching clean slate in 2009. And while the 2009 Brewers will still play their home games in the same venue, hang out in the same clubhouse and play next to a lot of the same teammates, this full coaching staff switch probably feels like a change of scenery for several of them. Let's take a look at some Brewers who could perform differently with a new hand at the controls:
Consider these numbers, from 2007 and 2008:
First half: .218/.326/.377
Second half: .254/.404/.467
Weeks' first half performances would have ranked him 12th in OPS of the 15 NL second basemen with 300 PA's in 2008. His second half performances would rank third, behind only Chase Utley and Dan Uggla.
Also worth noting, for contrast: In the first half of the last two seasons, Weeks hit one home run every 40.2 at bats. In the second halves, he's hit a home run every 21.3 at bats.
We now have two seasons of evidence to suggest that Rickie Weeks is not the same player in the first half of seasons as he is in the second half. The potential for big things is obviously there. We've all seen flashes of greatness from Weeks. But we've also seen him sneak most of the way through May with a batting average under .200, striking out in almost 25% of his at bats.
So what's to blame for such a lapse in performance? Will a change in coaching philosophy help Weeks get ready to live up to his potential in the first half of 2009? Can Willie Randolph, a former All Star second baseman, help him clean up his footwork defensively and learn to turn the double play? Has my entire paragraph of questions gotten you thinking about the subject?
I think we've all bounced back and forth with opinions on the value of Dave Bush over the last few years. Through August and September of 2008, Bush may have been the Crew's most reliable starter not named CC Sabathia. In his last 11 appearances (10 starts), Bush went 4-1 with a 3.27 ERA in 66 innings. He went 4-0 and had a 2.12 ERA in August.
But as good as Good Bush can be, Bad Bush is worse. He lost five of his first eight starts in 2008, had an ERA over 6.50 almost all of the way through May, and if not for Yovani Gallardo's knee injury, Bush may have spent a fair amount of 2008 in AAA.
There has been a lot of talk on this site over the last couple of years about Dave Bush as one of Ned Yost's favorites. There have been an awful lot of "Well, Bushie really battled today" quotes from Yost after Bush got shelled in the sixth inning for the fifth straight start. There's an argument to be made that Dave Bush is the greatest example of Yost's inability to manage a pitching staff.
So, does a new coaching staff change the way Dave Bush is handled? Will he still get the ball every fifth day if he looks lost for a month at a time? Will a new management team have a quicker hook and get him out of games before the wheels come off? Will Ken Macha come up with a more creative nickname than 'Bushie?'
Obviously, there's not much wrong with Ryan Braun. When the NL MVP award is announced, I fully expect to see him somewhere between 8th and 10th in the balloting. He's quickly turned from a bad defensive third baseman into a very good/elite defensive corner outfielder. He's got massive power, good speed, and the ladies seem to like most, if not all, of his physical features.
But, there's one big, notable difference between a hitter like Ryan Braun and the best of the best, like Albert Pujols: plate discipline.
Braun has drawn just 73 walks over his first two seasons in the majors. His 2007 OBP was a respectable .370, fueled largely by his .324 batting average. In fact, in 2007 he had more home runs (34) than walks (29). In 2008, his OBP dropped to .335, and he walked about once every 14.5 plate appearances.
Obviously Braun isn't the only Brewer with plate discipline problems, as the 2008 Brewers had six regulars with 100 strikeouts (and J.J. Hardy with 98) and only two with 60 walks. The team OBP was .325, 10th in the NL. On a team that could bring back five hitters who hit 20 home runs, a little improvement in OBP could go a long way.
Willie Randolph finished with a career OBP over .370, and Ken Macha managed in Oakland under Billy Beane, where the A's finished fourth, third, third again and second in the AL in walks over his four seasons.
Can these two guys with a history of encouraging the walk get the Brewers to take one?
What do you think? Who else might experience a change under new management?