Some things to read while Tom Cruise ruins your life.
I did a radio interview late Thursday night where I all but said I wasn't expecting much from the Brewers this weekend. They were in the middle of a long stretch without a day off, playing in New York and probably a threat to be emotionally exhausted following the end of a long winning streak. I could not have been more wrong.
The Brewers bounced back off the canvas two different times this weekend and pounded the Mets en route to a three game sweep in New York for the first time in franchise history. The Cardinals won last night (which you already know if you've read Around the NL Central) but the Brewers remain 8.5 games ahead, tying the largest division lead in franchise history.
John Axford recorded two saves this weekend, his 37th and 38th of the season and 34th and 35th in a row. His streak is now tied for the eighth longest in NL history:
Meanwhile, Axford spent the night last night checking out the set for the new Batman movie in Pittsburgh.
After the game, the Brewers announced a roster move: They've designated Felipe Lopez for assignment to make room on the roster for Chris Narveson, who will start the first game today (FanShot). Lopez hit .182/.245/.182 over 51 plate appearances in his second tour of duty in Milwaukee and had pretty clearly fallen behind the likes of Josh Wilson and Craig Counsell on the depth chart. If he clears waivers the Brewers will likely release him instead of attempting to send him to AAA.
Other notes from the field:
- The Brewers are now 20 wins away from setting a franchise record with 96 victories.
- Prince Fielder drove in his 97th and 98th runs yesterday, retaking the NL lead.
- Craig Counsell even had a pinch hit yesterday on his 41st birthday.
- There are six active major leaguers who are 41 or older. The Brewers have two of them. (Takashi Saito is the other.)
- Prince Fielder reports that Counsell is "the oldest man on Earth."
- Ryan Braun, Jerry Hairston Jr and Lucas Duda are leading FanGraphs' Star of the Game voting.
- Since Friday's game was rain delayed nearly three hours, the Mets are letting fans exchange tickets for that game for admission to a September series against the Nationals. Shaun Marcum had warmed up and was ready to go when the decision was finally made to delay the game.
- Benches cleared briefly on Friday after a minor confrontation involving Fielder and Mets reliever Tim Byrdak, but it appeared to be a misunderstanding.
- Saturday's game was played without delay despite a massive fire that started at a junkyard beyond Citi Field's outfield wall. @AndrewHensch says it's about time the Brewers found another job for bench coach Jerry Narron.
The Brewers jump right back into the action today, opening a four game series in Pittsburgh with a doubleheader this afternoon. Joey Nowak of MLB.com has the preview. Chris Narveson is ready to come off the DL and will face Jeff Karstens in game one while Zack Greinke, our defending Brewer of the Week, will face Brad Lincoln in game two.
The Pirates are in an interesting situation regarding pitching today. They're starting two pitchers who may not pitch deep into the game and likely only have five available bullpen arms: Relievers Jose Veras and Joel Hanrahan have both pitched in three straight games and likely won't be used. I'd be surprised if they don't have a pitcher on hand in case they need to make a roster move between games.
The Bucs are also short a starting pitcher as Paul Maholm was placed on the DL this weekend with a sore shoulder and has been sent to visit Dr. James Andrews. Maholm last pitched on Wednesday and would have been on normal rest today.
The Brewers could also make a roster move between games today if they need to summon a pitcher, but it won't be Wily Peralta and it's also unlikely to be Michael Fiers. Fiers has another year before he needs to be added to the 40 man roster to be protected from the Rule 5 draft, and the team will likely save any vacant spots that come available for players that need protection.
The last time the Brewers and Pirates met they played a pretty exciting contest: Sam Hendrickson of The Hardball Times gave the game from eight days ago two stars and listed it as the third best contest of the week.
Ryan Braun ran wild on the basepaths this weekend, stealing three bases in three days (including twice yesterday). He entered the day with an NL-best .581 slugging percentage, leading @paapfly, @giantsnirvana and I to compile this (potentially incomplete) list of players with more than 25 steals who led their league in slugging:
|Barry Bonds||3 times|
|Ty Cobb||7 times|
Even without the steals it would've been an eventful weekend for Braun, who was ejected from a game Friday night for the second time this season and third in his career.
Despite one early exit Braun had four hits, two walks and scored six times in the Mets series. One of those runs was scored on Saturday when he took Chris Capuano deep. Braun has only homered off lefties five times this season, but each of his last three have come against one. He's scored 19 runs in 18 games in August. Adam McCalvy has a note on his quest for the batting title. Jon Heyman has Braun and Fielder #1 and 2 on his NL MVP ballot.
Elsewhere in good hitting: Brewer pitchers are in rare company this season. At Disciples of Uecker Jordan notes that the starting pitchers have been worth 2 WAR offensively, and Arizona is the only contender getting a larger contribution.
Yovani Gallardo didn't help that number yesterday, going 0-for-2. He did, however, have a pretty good start: seven innings, six hits, two runs on a walk and six strikeouts. Both runs scored on a homer during Gallardo's final inning. Gallardo is arguably the Brewer ace (and the Bull of the Wisconsin Woods), but you might be surprised to learn that he's also one of just 33 pitchers this season to post eight or more starts with a game score under 25. He has nine.
Nyjer Morgan was held hitless yesterday, but drew a rare walk and managed to score a run. Danny Knobler of CBS Sports says Morgan is a perfect fit for the Brewers.
The Brewers' recent performance is once again raising the stock of rookie manager Ron Roenicke. Jon Heyman mentioned him in pretty glowing terms this weekend alongside fellow former Mike Scioscia assistants Bud Black and Joe Maddon. Adam McCalvy talked to Roenicke about his learning curve as manager, and got this pretty fascinating quote:
"I don't want to get negative on someone else, because I trust our coaches," Roenicke said. "But there is a time when I need to override, maybe, what they are thinking or suggesting. That's the part sometimes that I've hesitated on, maybe because it's my first year managing."
Of course, Roenicke isn't always right: Rob Neyer caught a quote of him talking up the bullpen before they melted down on Saturday. Roenicke also says the team is doing just fine without a situational lefty.
Another day, another set of notes on Prince Fielder and his impending free agency:
- Ken Rosenthal of Fox talked to Craig Counsell and Mark Kotsay about Fielder following Saturday's win.
- Pro Ball NW, who had a post last week making a case against the Mariners signing Fielder, has an opposing view today.
- Phil Wood of The Washington Examiner says Fielder should not be the Nationals' top priority.
The Brewers might have a little more money to throw at Fielder if things keep going the way they have. Don Walker of the Journal Sentinel notes that the Brewers will exceed 3 million tickets sold this season, merchandise revenue is up 12% and in the top third of all of baseball, and the team is on pace to set a sponsorship revenue record.
We've already discussed Narveson, but here are the rest of today's injury notes: Adam McCalvy talked to Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez about what they've done during their time on the DL. Both players are along on the road trip this week.
Dear sabermetric community: Luck as a concept is something we'll always have to deal with, but it's not an appropriate catch-all for everything you can't explain. Today, Beyond the Box Score has a post listing Shaun Marcum's cutter and Randy Wolf's curve among baseball's "luckiest" pitches.
In the minors:
- Things have gone from bad to worse for Mark Rogers, who has been suspended for 25 games after testing positive for a stimulant (FanShot). Rogers was already out for the rest of 2011 after undergoing carpal tunnel surgery, but now he'll miss the first couple of weeks of 2012 as well.
- Elsewhere in former first round picks who are unlikely to become major leaguers, Adam McCalvy has a story on Eric Arnett.
- The Nashville Sounds turned a bizarre triple play Saturday night when Logan Schafer caught a ball that had deflected off his head and doubled off runners on first and second. You can see the video here. (h/t @TimberRattlers)
- The Dominican Summer League Brewers will likely be the organization's only minor league affiliate to make the playoffs.
In power rankings: Tom Haudricourt has the Brewers holding steady at third.
If this was a power ranking, it'd be a pretty high one: Jaymes Langrehr of The Brewers Bar compares the Brewers to Happy Gilmore.
Angels: Signed pitcher Jered Weaver to a five year, $85 million contract extension.
Blue Jays: Signed pitcher Kyle Davies to a minor league deal.
Cardinals: Pitching coach Dave Duncan has taken a leave of absence from the team for "personal reasons."
Cubs: Fired GM Jim Hendry (FanShot).
Giants: Placed closer Brian Wilson (elbow inflammation) and catcher Eli Whiteside (concussion symptoms) on the DL.
Indians: Placed infielder Jason Kipnis on the DL with a hamstring strain.
Mariners: Placed shortstop Jack Wilson on the DL with a bruised heel.
Padres: Designated pitcher Pat Neshek for assignment.
Phillies: Released pitcher Aaron Heilman and first baseman/outfielder Jack Cust.
Pirates: Signed outfielder Jose Tabata to a five year contract extension with a guaranteed value of $15 million and club options for 2017, 2018 and 2019 and signed pitcher Aaron Heilman to a minor league deal.
Reds: Released pitcher Philippe Valiquette.
White Sox: Placed pitcher Phil Humber on the DL with a facial contusion.
Yankees: Placed pitcher Freddy Garcia on the DL with a cut on his index finger and claimed pitcher Aaron Laffey off waivers from the Mariners.
As Ryan Topp of Bernie's Crew points out, Jered Weaver is an interesting comp for Zack Greinke. He has a look at what Weaver's new deal might mean for the team's ability to keep Greinke in Milwaukee long term.
Jim Hendry's replacement with the Cubs will get to decide what to do with its manager, and that probably doesn't bode well for first year skipper Mike Quade. Even his former college coach thinks he's likely toast.
Elsewhere in the Central, Astros rookie second baseman Jose Altuve led off a game with an inside-the-park home run this weekend, becoming the first player to do it since Rickie Weeks against the Astros on August 7, 2010.
In former Brewers:
- Jim Breen of Bernie's Crew has a look at the performance of players sent to Kansas City in the Zack Greinke trade.
- ESPN has a recap of the events as the Padres retired Trevor Hoffman's number this weekend. Rollie Fingers and Mike Cameron were among the former Brewers in attendance.
- The B-Ref Blog has a list sorting catchers (minimum 1000 games) by WAR per game, and Darrell Porter (17th) and Ted Simmons (20th) made the top 25.
- Brewers in 11 has a list of things Ken Macha might be doing with his spare time.
I've already mentioned Braun's ejection today, but he wasn't the only person to have a problem with the umpires this weekend. Home plate umpire Brian Knight displayed some thin skin by ejecting Pirates manager Clint Hurdle from the dugout on Friday, then tossed him again after a controversial call Sunday.
Noted disgrace Bob Davidson was also in action this weekend: He ejected Reds bench coach Chris Speier from the dugout yesterday.
You can add John Feinstein to the list of people calling for baseball to do something about its umpiring issues. Meanwhile, Ben Badler of Baseball America points out that volunteer umpires in the Little League World Series are able to use instant replay without issue. The lack of replay is only part of the problem, though, as Tom Haudricourt points out:
No matter how much instant replay they put in baseball, they won't be able to fix erratic strike zones of umps who don't belong in majors.
Today in baseball economics:
- The Angels won yesterday to improve to 69-59, but are still four games back in the AL West and likely to miss the playoffs for the second straight year. They're also likely to lose a large chunk of their season ticket base since they're moving up the deadline for renewals from January to October.
- By drawing nearly 30,000 fans yesterday the Pirates moved over 10,000 fans past their season total from all of 2010.
Now, if you'll excuse me, it's my turn.