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Lineups, power, and speed

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Every year, the beginning of the exhibition season feels anticlimactic to me.  We've been waiting all winter for some baseball, then the games start, and...they're not televised.  The ones that are, the announcers don't care enough to call the games because special guest Jeff Huson is in the booth.  And by the 5th inning, it's not really a major league game anyway.

That's my long way of saying it still feels like the offseason, so I wanted to continue the discussion of Brewers power projections,what that suggests about how Yost should strategize, and how he should set the lineup.

At the very bottom of this J-S article, we learn that Clark is apparently sticking in the leadoff spot.  Good.  Until J.J. Hardy proves he's as good as we think he is, and as long as Yost isn't going to try some radical approach, this is the best we can do.  And for better or worse, Brady wants to improve on that horrid 10/23 SB success rate:

Leadoff hitter Brady Clark, who was caught stealing 13 times in 23 attempts in an otherwise brilliant 2005 season, has been working with coaches Davey Nelson and Gary Pettis to get better jumps and therefore cut down his times to second base.

Clark was picked off first base by Oakland lefty Barry Zito when he broke too soon in the first inning but swiped third base in the third inning and second base in the fourth.

"I've already knocked three-tenths of a second off my starts, which is a lot," said Clark.

I suppose it's possible that his jumps were the problem all along.  If so, if this means we now have a leadoff guy capable of swiping, say, 25 of 30 attempted bags, that'd be great.  I just hope that Ned doesn't take that as an indication that Brady should be running all the time, or that the team should risk many hit & runs with Brady on first.

(Allow me a digression, speaking of hit & runs: in Buzz Bissinger's execrable book, Three Nights in August, he always referred to the hit & run in italics, like this: hit-and-run, as if it was some sort of exotic religious practice favored by mystical baseball guru Tony LaRussa.  Every time!  Given that there are several hundred good baseball books in the world, I hope no one else wastes their time with that one.)

It's important to remember that Brady isn't the only basestealer on the club.  We know Rickie can run; that's why Ned was considering him for the leadoff spot in the first place.  And there's been talk this spring about Corey Hart serving as the tallest regular pinch-runner in the history of baseball.  Here are the 2006 Brewers who attempted 10 or more swipes last year, with SB/attempts:

  • Corey Hart: 31/38 (82%)
  • Rickie Weeks 25/28 (89%)
  • Bill Hall: 18/24 (75%)
  • Brady Clark: 10/23 (43%)
  • Carlos Lee: 13/17 (76%)

Besides Brady, this is a very skilled bunch.  I was surprised to see that Hardy didn't attempt a single steal last year.  In his two full seasons in the minors, he ran some, but without great success: he was 6/10 in 2003, and 10/15 in 2002.  I would be surprised if he doesn't rack up 8-10 attempts this year.  I suppose part of the reason he didn't run much in '05 was his low OBP, as well as his frequently batting 8th, and Yost not wanting to end an inning on the basepaths with the pitcher at the plate.  If JJ hits second, for better or worse, that could change dramatically.  I'm just surprised it hasn't been discussed more.

As much as statheads tend to discount the stolen base, it's generally accepted that above some percent success rate (different studies put the number between 70% and ~75%) the stolen base is beneficial, though probably not as much as the conventional wisdom has it.  And if Brady improves his stolen base rate, this team could easily be in the top third of NL base stealing teams, both in number of steals and SB%.  

In the spirit of Friday and Saturday's great discussion of 2006 Home Run predictions, I'm curious what you think about the Crew's basestealing this year.  Last year Milwaukee combined for 79 steals in 113 attempts (70%).  How do you think the team will do this year?  What about Clark, Weeks, Hall, and El Caballo?