Friday's Frosty Mug

Some things to read while reserving a campsite near the half-pipe.

Yes, this morning's Mug is late again - my apologies. Here's a quick microcosm of what this week has been like for me: At one point while gathering links this morning, I woke up at my desk, holding the dog. I have no idea how long I was asleep. I don't remember picking up the dog. Let's see what I found to write about:

Apparently the list of people who stopped by for a Molson while Doug Melvin was at the GM meetings also includes Steve Hilliard, who represents John Lackey. It's hard to tell if it was a serious conversation or just an effort to "check in," but one can safely say the Brewers have expressed interest.

Here's a stat that's not very encouraging: Fungoes has a graph ranking free agent pitchers by the difference between their FIP and ERA, which is largely attributed to their team's defensive ability and/or luck. Randy Wolf, Doug Davis, Jon Garland and John Lackey were among the six luckiest. You know what else they all have in common? The Brewers are rumored to have shown interest in them.

Technically, we're still in the "exclusive negotiation period" of free agency, where teams are not allowed to negotiate contracts with other teams' free agents. With that said, the OC Register has a deeper look at those rules, and they're pretty loose. For example, a conversation like this one, reconstructed in yesterday's Mug comments by TheJay, TSSC and Yar Nivek, could probably happen:
I don't think you can offer specific amounts, but you can say, "Hey, it just so happens we need someone at your position [wink wink]" and hear back, "I don’t want to play for Mudville [glare glare]."

"You know, the other day, I was so hungry I thought I could eat 20 MILLION HAMBURGERS an HOUR for 4 HOURS. That's 80 MILLION HAMBURGERS."

"I’m looking for my friend BILL. Have you seen any BILLS around here?"
The Brewers have until sometime tomorrow to make a decision on Braden Looper for next season. They can either agree to pay him $6.5 million to return, or pay him $1 million to leave. After having conversation with the agents of at least four free agent pitchers, Doug Melvin probably has a pretty good idea of what the market will look like this offseason, and I wouldn't be surprised if a decision is announced today.

Jonathan Lucroy continues to draw positive reviews in the Arizona Fall League (FanShot), but another possibility has popped up for next season's catching vacancy, as Indians catcher Kelly Shoppach showed up in Rumorville yesterday. I've got a big post on catchers scheduled for later today: stop by around noon to check it out.

Here's a rather odd situation: Ben Sheets, who presumably has some interest in marketing himself to teams this offseason, is nowhere to be found, and at least one pundit is wondering if he may not come back after all. No one has heard from Sheets since his agent said he was throwing off flat ground several weeks ago. Jack Moore of FanGraphs says not to forget about him, though.

If you're feeling nostalgic and don't have anything else going on tomorrow, MLB Network is replaying Sheets' classic 2004 performance, when he struck out eighteen Braves in arguably the best outing of his career.

Larry Stone of The Seattle Times has the full list of arbitration eligible major leaguers for this offseason, so we can once and for all confirm that Carlos Gomez is on it. He qualifies as a Super Two this offseason by two days.

Beyond the Box Score has several visual aids ranking the free agent second basemen this offseason, and of the three graphs, Felipe Lopez leads two (WAR and wOBA), and Craig Counsell leads the other (UZR). Baseball Beat ranked Lopez as the fourth best free agent second baseman. They also rank Mike Cameron as the best center fielder, and Counsell as the fourth best shortstop.

Ryan Braun became just the third Brewer ever and the first since Paul Molitor in the 80s to take home back-to-back Silver Slugger Awards. Prince Fielder and Braun have combined to win the award three times in the last three seasons: Before that, the Brewers had only won one (Carlos Lee in 2005) since 1990.

There's a bunch of stuff in the minors today:
  • As Dan Walsh mentioned in yesterday's Mug comments, there's a rumor floating around that disappointing prospect Brent Brewer is considering quitting baseball to play college football. Brewer is reportedly planning a recruiting visit to Oklahoma State in the near future. Joshua Kusnick, who represents Brewer, said the report is just a rumor.
  • Brewer ranked fourth in Wisconsin Sports Tap's look at shortstop prospects in the organization. A 2006 draft pick, Brewer was ranked behind Josh Prince and Scooter Gennett. Both are 2009 draft picks, and Gennett has yet to make his pro debut.
  • Speaking of shortstops, Alcides Escobar was the shortstop on Topps' AAA All Star Team.
  • As the AFL season winds down, the Brewer who has gained the most in Arizona is almost certainly Zach Braddock, who has an ERA below 1 and hasn't allowed a hit in his last five innings of work. Braddock also shows up among the leaders in a couple of PitchF/x categories: getting called strikes and getting batters to swing and miss.
  • The Timber Rattlers have moved on to second base in the voting for their 15th Anniversary Team. Click here to read more about the nominees, including 2009 Rattler Brett Lawrie.
  • Baseball Intellect gave me a sneak peek behind their pay wall this week so I could take a look at some video and a nice scouting report on the delivery of Eric Arnett. They have a few paragraphs with some notes on Arnett's mechanics and velocity, along with a condensed video showing dozens of pitches from one of Arnett's recent outings. They also have a similar report on Jake Odorizzi. They're brief scouting reports and videos, but if you'd like to see these guys pitch for yourself, there are worse ways to spend $3.
I only have one transaction to note today:

Royals: Signed infielder Wilson Betemit to a minor league deal.

As I mentioned before, I've got a lot more on catchers later today, but here's a link to consider before then: Circling the Bases has a preview of the free agent market for backstops. With the exception of Bengie Molina, every catcher on the market is projected to make the same or less as what Jason Kendall made last season.

The Hardball Times has a look at the successes of the high, inside fastball. There's a lot of graphs, stats and considerations in there, but it seems like they're missing a bigger point: If a pitcher has the control to consistently throw a fastball over ANY corner of the strike zone, they're going to be successful.

I've heard others complain about this, and yesterday it happened to me: After checking the results on yesterday's Thinker, I blew an hour at Sporcle taking other quizzes. My favorites from the last 24 hours:
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