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BCB Mailbag 60: The Shaw-Hiura conundrum

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Answering the burning questions from you, the reader.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Mother’s Day! I’m sure they won’t be reading this, but I want to take a second to appreciate my mom for being awesome, and also my wife for being such an amazing mother to our kids. Thank you for everything that you do!

Now, on to those questions...

Secret Stadium Sauce asks:

Can I really make $5000 per week working from home?

No, but you can get close...

Spaul149 asks:

When do you consider moving Shaw to AAA to figure things out at the plate?

Not quite yet, but if things don’t get headed in the right direction before long, we’ll need to start thinking about something drastic. Hopefully this weekend’s reset on the bench against the Cubs will help Shaw get something figured out, because it seems pretty clear that he just isn’t seeing the ball well at all right now. His swinging-strike rate is nearly double what it was last season (14.2% from 8.2%). His overall contact rate is down 14%, and more specifically, his contact rate on pitches in the strike zone is down from 87.9% to 70.3%. That is the worst zone contact rate in the big leagues. Someone seems to have drilled some rather sizable holes into Shaw’s bat, which he needs to fix soon, because...

Robin’s Home Town asks:

Should the Brewers bring up Hiura for the weekend against the Cubs LHPs?

The team obviously did not choose to go that route and I think it’s a little early for that still, but he’s certainly doing all that he can to force the issue in Triple-A San Antonio. It was a bit of a slow start to the season, but lately, Hiura has been absolutely torching Pacific Coast League pitching. He’s up to .336/.406/.721 with 11 homers in 35 games so far for a 167 wRC+, seventh-highest among PCL hitters. After beginning the year with 11 strikeouts in his first 17 plate appearances, he has adjusted to post a more palatable 21.5% strikeout rate along with a 10.7% walk rate in the 121 trips to the plate he’s taken since. If Shaw continues to struggle, it isn’t hard to envision a scenario in which Hiura comes up to play at the keystone, Mike Moustakas moves over to third, and Shaw is relegated to the bench or banished to the minors. I don’t think that happens until at least after Memorial Day, giving Shaw a bit more time to figure things out (which he’s earned based off his 2017-18 track record) and buying more time against the Super Two cut-off date.

CrushCrew asks:

Developing the ‘Pen

It seems like we’ve got some youth in the pen that can’t take the next step from mop-up to leverage like Knebel and Hader have. For example: Jacob Barnes and Taylor Williams have shown the ‘stuff’. Besides input from their pitching coach, what tools do these guy have to keep improving? Technology? It just hurts a slight bit when the bullpen is getting beat up, and some of these raw-talent guys can’t get the job done. What gets in the way?

The Brewers do have plenty of different technologies and data points that the players can get access to when they want additional insight as to how to improve their performance. The slow-motion Rapsodo camera to capture spin rates and biomechanical movements, all the spin rate and exit velocity data generated by Trackman, the different, proprietary analytical measurements each org develops similar to what the public might find on sites like Fangraphs or Baseball Prospectus, and surely there’s even more beyond that at a given player’s fingertips.

What guys like Jacob Barnes and Taylor Williams need to do in order to take that next step, though, is more than just utilizing those different informational tools. They need to take the data and coaching tips and mechanical adjustments and implement them in game situations, executing on a consistent basis. That’s been the trouble for those two guys — the consistency factor. Those guys have shown flashes of what they can be at their best against MLB hitters, but all the technology in the world cannot force them to execute as consistently as we want them to. Something just needs to ‘click’ for the player. That has happened for guys like Hader and Knebel. Maybe it can still happen for Barnes and/or Williams. Sometimes, though, it just doesn’t.

nanook1207 asks:

So far this year...

Who has been the biggest surprise and disappointment from your preseason impressions?

I think it’s pretty easy to say Shaw has been the biggest disappointment, but the slow starts at the plate by Jesus Aguilar (who is at least showing life lately) and Lorenzo Cain are certainly a little concerning. Cain’s slump hasn’t gotten much attention, but his hard contact rates have cratered this year and he’s not drawing near as many walks, though his underlying plate discipline numbers haven’t changed drastically. These are all veterans who have experienced plenty of big league success, so hopefully they pull out of it. We’ll see, though.

As far as biggest surprise, I’ve been extremely pleased by what Mike Moustakas has provided so far. His .257/.322/.529 slash translates to a 123 wRC+ that currently rates as the best among regular National League second-sackers. He’s looked downright passable on defense at the keystone to this point, too, with his -2 DRS and -0.6 UZR hardly killing the team in the field. Then there’s Zach Davies and his MLB-leading 1.54 ERA, and of course, Our Hero Junior Guerra transforming himself into the most valuable member (by RA9-WAR) of the bullpen.

dsid asks:

Options

Where do I find out how many minor league options a player has remaining?

Can a player who had options remaining but is released to pursue opportunities over sea (Japan or Korea) have those options remaining when he comes back? Jay Jackson didn’t have an option remaining…was that because they were all used already or his status as a free agent?

There are two crucial resources that I take advantage of when looking into minor league option info. The first is the 40 man roster page at Brewerfan.net. The other is the depth chart at Roster Resource. A player who does have options remaining and gets released to go overseas will still have those options intact upon his return to MLB in the United States...and example of this would be Jay Jackson, who did actually have options left when the Brewers signed him this offseason. He was actually optioned back to the minors earlier this month after his brief stay on the big league roster, that was simply before his DFA when a 40 man roster spot was needed for Burch Smith.

Titletown8 asks:

Any new updates on the “Brett Lawrie Project”?

As of late-April, Lawrie had started participating in actual baseball activities down at the team’s Spring Training complex in Maryvale. He’s started with taking swings in the cage before eventually moving on to playing in extended Spring Training games and then an assingment to an affiliate. David Stearns has said that the hope is for him to get to a minor league affiliate sometime this summer, but there is still not a firm timeline on when that’ll happen. It sounds like things are at least headed in the right direction with Lawrie.


Thanks for the great questions this time around, everyone! Here’s wishing a great day to you if you’re a mother, and to all the moms and mother figures in the lives of our readers.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus