Grading on the Eyeball Test: Your 2013 Milwaukee Brewers
It is the season for grading baseball teams and instead of doing research I’m going against the grain and have put together purely subjective, eyeball-test grades for the 2013 Brewers. None of this is backed up by stats or much other than recollections and perceptions. These are simply my personal impressions from watching a lot of Brewers baseball this year. I may not have watched each game all the way through (thank you, DVR technology), because I wasn’t that interested in self-punishment but I did tune in nearly every day and gave the team a chance to show me something. If shit hit the fan, then often I found something else to do.
Without further exposition, here are my grades for each Brewers player, the staff and each overall unit of the team, based on a simple A-F scale.
A=Excellent, grand, above expectations
B=Very good, solid, slightly above expectations
C=Fine, nothing spectacular, met expectations
D=Poor, needs improvement, missed expectations
F=Ghastly, hideous, expectations were far above and beyond apparent capability
1B Corey Hart: D
Hart didn’t play at all, very disappointing. I hope he can repay the Brewers somehow by taking a MASSIVE pay cut next year. Hahahahaha.
1B Mat Gamel: D
We never really got to see what Gamel could do. Hopefully we won’t regret that.
1B Sean Halton: A-
Considering the Brewers apparently have already decided this guy will never be a regular, or at least they figure they aren’t desperate enough right now to take a serious look at him for first base, he played very well. Halton was a grizzled grinder of a player and he hit four home runs while striking out 31 times in 101 at-bats. He had double the amount of hits (24) that Gallardo had this season… I don’t know, Halton appears to be a replacement-level first baseman in the majors but considering the garbage the Brewers were going with at the position, it was pleasant to have a guy who had experience at first base play the first base bag, and Halton had so little fanfare it was easy to root for him as the underdog.
1B Juan Francisco: D
I wanted to like Francisco, and it was encouraging at first to see him belt some homers, but the dude cannot hit with any kind of consistency. He got 240 at-bats and hit some homers but is pretty awful otherwise. I don’t think the Brewers will be competitive when they’re giving time to guys like this in the vain hope that they turn into stars. ‘Fat Juan’ got more AB’s this year than he had in any previous year, and while his hits, runs and RBI numbers were up higher than ever, his K’s were also way up and he can’t hit for average or for the situation. He may be OK as a DH in the American League; I just don’t like him for the Brewers. Heck, maybe he’d put up record home runs numbers in Japan. Even at first base, he’s a liability on a NL club; Francisco’s out of options, too, so the Brewers have to make up their minds about him, hopefully sooner rather than later.
IF Yuni Betancourt: D
I’m tempted to give Yuni an ‘F’ but considering he had a good April and made some plays in the field, I’m going to raise it to a ‘D’. Betancourt’s failings on both sides of the ball and presence on the roster are really the fault of management, so I’m going to go ahead and say this is what I expected of Yuni B, except I was hoping he’d hit a few more dingers out to left-center in over 390 at-bats.
2B Rickie Weeks: F
Nothing against Rickie as a human being, but his season was terrible, no good and just downright awful. He had a few good weeks perhaps when you smash everything together, but a veteran guy like Weeks, who has shown brilliance in the past, cannot allow things to sink this low. In the past I would curse his errors and big strikeouts and such, but this year it really became irritating and hard to stomach when he couldn’t make plays in the field, which then allowed innings to continue and opponents’ runs to score. The Brewers need to place a higher value on getting outs, because missed opportunities lead to the pitchers throwing more pitches. Weeks also couldn’t balance anything out with his offense, so much so that I really think it’s best for both sides that Rickie is sent elsewhere, even if the Brewers have to eat the entire contract. It’s just reached a plateau and something’s gotta give here.
2B Scooter Gennett: C
Gennett was decent at second base, and made some plays in the field we hadn’t seen a second baseman make in a while. He also punted a number of opportunities. He seems to be a grinder type of player, and that is magnetic. His nickname is endearing; he sounds like a go-getter. Perhaps he overachieved on offense but considering the other options, I like Gennett as the starting second baseman in April next year.
SS Jean Segura: A
Total no-brainer. Segura was electric; he was a stud on my fantasy team, which was doing well until Braun got thrown out for his malfeasances. I could’ve drafted Miguel Cabrera (dammit!!) but the homer in me chose Braun and I paid the price for it. Anyway, yeah, killer trade by Doug, hopefully Segura will sign a reasonably priced extension and kick ass for years to come. Where would this team be without Segura? It would suck to have to look for a shortstop this winter.
IF Jeff Bianchi: B-
I wasn’t sold on Bianchi after last year but I really liked him this year. He can fill in around the diamond and is quite serviceable as a bench player. He makes most of the plays in the field (mostly at short and third base) and even comes up clutch with the bat sometimes. I think Bianchi makes for a great utility player for the Brewers. They need to keep Bianchi over Yuni B or Francisco, certainly.
3B Aramis Ramirez: D
I know he was injured, but Ramirez just didn’t have any effect or presence on the team this year. They signed him to a pretty hefty contract, and the team sincerely needs him to carry a load next year if the Brewers are to have any chance at contending in a fierce division. Ideally this is the basement for Ramirez during his time with the Brewers and he can come back and ‘put up big numbers’ in 2014. Like Hart, Ramirez had serious injuries, yes, but was nearly AWOL the whole season, which leaves the team in a really bad spot.
3B Taylor Green: N/A, Injured
Green might have been useful at times this year but wouldn’t have been a difference-maker this or any other year.
C Jonathan Lucroy: A
Lucroy’s bat became more important than ever with the absences of Braun, Hart and Ramirez and it got to the point where Roenicke put him out there at catcher and first base and batted him 3rd or 4th in the lineup. Lucroy’s year was pretty fantastic as he showed solid play at catcher and first base, again showed his knack for getting hits in clutch situations, having good control of the bat overall, and coming up with a solid batting average along with 18 homers. Lucroy is the man. He’s the heart and soul of this team, and he proved it this year with a lot of big-name guys missing large chunks of the season. Plus, there were no suitcase mishaps this season.
C Martin Maldonado: B-
After at least a B-grade 2012, I was looking for a little more from Maldonado this year. I will say he did a great job with the pitchers (particularly Wily Peralta), and I know he didn’t get very consistent playing time but I was looking for much more at the plate from Maldy. Perhaps that’s unfair, I dunno. He’s a great catcher and maybe deserves a more stable role behind the plate, but if he can’t hit, it ain’t going to work.
IF Alex ‘Sea Bass’ Gonzalez: D
Too bad things went south so quickly.
1B/C Blake Lalli: No Comment, No Real Playing Time
Overall Infield Grade: D
Let’s face it, the Brewers’ infield in 2013 was about as bad as it gets. Perilous injuries, players missing huge swaths of time and then a disaster of a season from Rickie Weeks make for a nasty combination. First base and third base were black holes for much of the year. The one beacon was Segura at short and Bianchi filling in. Scooter was OK. Everything else (aside from the catchers’ play) was downright revolting. They need to improve all around, especially with the defense, which is still spotty and sometimes embarrassingly bad for a major league club. Roenicke needs to find some new ways to teach defense, because he hasn’t been able to elevate this team out of its defensive dregs (which has been an institutional problem with the Brew Crew).
LF Ryan Braun: F
Bang, bang: Braunie needs to bring the Hebrew Hammer down on his own head. Utter disaster here, of course. I choose Braun first overall for my fantasy team and he left something wanting even when he was in the lineup. Then when he was banished for 65 games my once-proud fantasy team started its decline that left me out of the playoffs. In the real world, Braun getting busted and suspended was one of the worst conceivable things that could happen to a lowly franchise like Milwaukee’s, and I can only pray to Bog in his Heaven that Braun will come back next year and play well. Otherwise, we’re all in a lot of trouble.
OF Caleb Gindl: C+
I enjoyed seeing Gindl hit a couple homers, including one game-ender. I liked it when he hit the ball hard. He’s got the girth and power. But my lasting memories of him in the outfield will be badly misplaying several balls in left field in the same game. I’m not sure he can hack it in the majors, even as a 4th outfielder.
OF Logan Schafer: B
Schafer got a lot of playing time and the general consensus is that his defense is pretty spot-on but his stick is a limp noodle. Early in the season it looked like Schafer might hit a little bit but then it went south from there. I do like him a lot in the outfield, though, where he made highlight-reel catches in center and left. During the last series of the season, the Mets broadcasters praised Schafer for his defense, leading me to wonder if another team might be interested in trading for him. I like him on the Brewers as the 4th outfielder for defense purposes, unless he can start hitting and then maybe he’s trade bait or plugged in somewhere should Aoki be traded and Davis not be with the major league club.
LF Khris Davis: B+
Davis struggled in April but then was a major catalyst later on, causing all kinds of damage with the bat. It was great to see him make such solid contact at the plate, especially because his helmet is pulled down so low, it’s amazing he can even see out of it. Davis started to cool down toward the end of the year, partly due to injuries. It’s worth a shot to see if the Brewers can stick him in left and Braun in right. If Davis can only play left, hopefully the Brewers will at least give it a try before trading him away. Braun’s in no position to complain. We may be overvaluing and overhyping Davis, though. He could still be a flop in the bigs.
CF Carlos Gomez: A-
Gomez was such a huge part of the team this year. His first few months at the plate were stellar, and he brings so much energy to the club. His defense was spectacular as usual and hopefully will net him (and the long-snubbed Brewers franchise) a Gold Glove award this year. I dock Gomey only a half-grade for his tendency to screw himself into the ground on outta-control swings at the plate as he tries to hit the longest homer ever, and also for losing his cool like in that Braves game. Brian McCann sucks and so do the Braves in general, but Gomez should never have allowed that to reach the point it did.
RF Norichika Aoki: B-
I still like Nori, but there were fewer times this season when I was literally ecstatic and telling people how happy I was we’d nabbed this guy. He didn’t impress as much with the bat or the stolen base in 2013. There were times when he missed a fly ball that would’ve been a big out. Oh well, I still really like Aoki as the right fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers. I just don’t know if he really fits on this team anymore. He’s a good leadoff hitter, but the Brewers have all kinds of outfielders and maybe they could not only move the 31-year-old Aoki to a team with a better chance at the playoffs but also plug a hole in the process. Back when it appeared the Brewers controlled his rights for the next four years or so, I was all about keeping him. But now it seems like Doug should pull the trigger on a trade this winter and get what he can.
OF Josh Prince: No Comment, Not Much Playing Time
I think I missed the games when Prince played. Or at least I don’t recall much of it.
Overall Outfield Grade: B
The outfield was very good for the Brewers on the whole. Gomez, Schafer and Aoki played well. Gindl was OK-ish, Davis was scorching hot at the plate and passable in left, Braun was out of whack and then suspended. It seems few teams had as many good outfielders ready to go as the Brewers did in 2013. Too bad the outfielders couldn’t carry the rest of the team. I expect the Brewers to have a good outfield corps again next year, both offensively and defensively. This is one area Doug Melvin seems to shore up with ease.
SP Yovani Gallardo: D
The Brewers really needed Yo to step it up this year. Instead he took a few steps back and tripped over his own feet. Brewers fans have probably accepted that Gallardo will never be a Greinke or a Wainwright, but they should be able to reasonably expect an ERA under 5.00 and a pitcher who can get through five or six innings regularly. I still believe Gallardo, with some work, could be more efficient with his pitches. He had a better showing toward the end of the year, but Yo really needs to put his focus on being consistent as well as being a guy that doesn’t depend on the bullpen to keep the team in the game.
SP Kyle Lohse: B+
Lohse had his bumps and bruises but overall he was the team’s most effective and consistent starter, and his contract looks reasonable at this point. Unfortunately the Crew had to give up a draft pick to sign him, but as long has he doesn’t fall off a cliff performance-wise, he’s a guy that should anchor the rotation for the next couple years or provide the team with a trade chip. Considering how difficult it will be to find quality starters on the market this winter or in trade, Lohse is a valuable guy to have right now. I like the notion that he can teach the young players as well.
SP Wily Peralta: B
Peralta looked timid, inexperienced and clueless at times, but overall he managed to pitch well. He kept the team in games and though his rough patches sometimes lasted a while, I always felt the Crew had a chance when he took the hill. In any case, 2013 should be a great learning experience for Peralta, and maybe he can come back stronger next year, with a little less fear of the major leagues. A down year for the team at least meant that Peralta stayed in the rotation and got a lot of starts. I like what I’m seeing from the kid right now.
SP Marco Estrada: C-
I like Marco Estrada, he’s a fun pitcher to watch; he looks cool with his Brewers hat slightly to the side and down over his eyes. I like his wind-up and the way he brings his glove over his face when he’s staring in at the batter/catcher. I just wish the guy could stay on the field. Estrada was injured and missed significant time again this year, and while the Brewers aren’t paying him much yet, he is getting more expensive to keep on the roster. Estrada’s a good number-five starter, but he hasn’t shown the ability to be much more than that. He’ll have a streak of quality, efficient starts (often not more than six innings, however), and then just get rocked for three weeks. I dunno. If the Brewers are serious about contending, I don’t know that Estrada really makes sense for this team in the long run. Maybe he could be used in relief, but a contending team probably doesn’t give this guy a long leash next year.
SP/RP Tyler Thornburg: B+
I definitely dig Thornburg, he shows some moxie and fight on the mound, and though he doesn’t appear well suited for the bullpen, he has the X-factor as a starter. A string of good outings toward the end of the year has him positioned for a rotation spot in 2014 perhaps, but if I were the Brewers, I’d pencil him in as purely a backup option for the rotation for Milwaukee. Even if he comes into spring training and mows them down, I’d be wary to assure him a rotation spot simply because young guys can rarely be counted upon to hold the fort all year. Maybe he fits as the number-five starter, but I am loath to depend on him for anything as he learns how to survive in the big leagues. This isn’t St. Louis, where the rookies and young guns seem to know exactly how to handle the major leagues from the get-go.
SP Hiram Burgos: D
When I saw this kid in the WBC, I thought the Brewers might have something special. He looked overmatched in the majors, though, and then got hurt; maybe he could be of use down the road.
RP/SP Tom Gorzelanny: B
When the Brewers signed Gorzo, I was a bit apprehensive because he seemed like a useful pitcher for other teams and I thought he might come to MKE and just regress, regress, regress. Happily, he was pretty effective, even as a spot starter for a time. I’m glad his ‘audition’ for the rotation blew up, however, because I don’t think it’d be good for ol’ Tom or the Crew to cement his place in the rotation. They need to aim higher in 2014. Shoot for the stars; try to nab someone with real upside for the rotation. They could always turn back to Gorzelanny later on. Nice lefty.
RP John Axford: D
I like Axford, but he coughed it up again this year and then has posted good numbers for St. Louis after being traded. I wasn’t too keen on his discovery of the ‘Cardinal Way’…c’mon.
RP Donovan Hand: C+
This guy came out of nowhere, made some mediocre starts, and then mostly filled in with mop-up and middle relief. Totally inoffensive, really; he has a shaggy beard kinda like Halton. A burly dude with a funky delivery, Hand seems like a good secondary relief option for next year.
RP Frankie Rodriguez (K-Rod): A
Signed on the cheap and then pitched very well for the Crew in 2013. I really enjoyed watching him this year, maybe because the team was already well out of it and it didn’t matter so much whether his shenanigans paid off or not. But K-Rod was a masterful bargain for Melvin this year, flipped to the O’s for Nicky Delmonico.
RP Brandon Kintzler: A
A nice ‘coming out’ party for Kintzler this year; dude finally stayed healthy and pitched with the big league club. I was really happy to see that we had a guy in Kintzler who was eager to deal with high-leverage, dangerous situations. Kintzler excelled in troubled times for the Brewers, bravo.
RP/SP Johnny Hellweg: C
Hellweg’s young and he’s been a little rushed to the majors, possibly. He supposedly has great stuff, he’s really tall, and Roenicke thinks if he can only figure it out….
I hope he does. If he can get it together the Crew would have something good, but not impressed with him so far.
RP Burke Badenhop: C-
When the Crew acquired the Hopper, my expectations were possibly a little too high. When the season started and his funny low-ball delivery didn’t seem to be working, I was bummed. I like him as a short-stint specialist type of reliever, but unless his ball is sinking or moving, he can get hammered and the situation can get bleak really quickly.
RP Michael Blazek: B+
This guy impressed me in his outings. He seems to attack hitters aggressively and I like his no-nonsense approach. He appears to have the velocity and mojo to get some outs for the 2014 Brewers. A nice Melvin flip to get this useful arm from the Cards for the Ax-Man.
RP Michael Gonzalez: C
I don’t know, I had mixed feelings on Gonzalez. Mostly remembered for his bad outings, he also had plenty when he came in and shut down the opposition. Roenicke used him a ton, and maybe that had an effect. His lefty arm and different look gave opposing hitters something to think about, but sometimes the ball was too straight or there wasn’t enough deception and he just got smacked. Probably a goner.
RP Jim Henderson: A
Thank goodness we have Big Jim, eh? I wouldn’t want to try to find a closer right now, if I were Melvin, what with all the other issues for the club. Henderson can handle it for now, and that has to be a big relief to the front office. The closer shuffle continues, but at least the Brewers had Henderson in house already to make for a smooth transition. He’s very much like Axford, except the bearded Canadian named Jim seems to have a better idea where the ball’s going.
RP Rob Wooten: C+
Minor leaguer makes good in the big leagues: sort of. I don’t like this guy’s weighty goatee. Other than that, Wooten came off as rather mediocre and it seemed like Roenicke was bringing this guy in EVERY GAME for a while there in the last couple months, often in big situations. He has some experience in those pressure moments but I had the impression he was being called upon too often. Maybe it was just Roenicke, or maybe it was me, I don’t know. Wooten is another decent backup option for next year’s pen.
RP Alfredo Figaro: C+
Considering Doug Melvin found this guy in Japan, and he was still under contract until being released by the kindly Orix Buffaloes, Figaro did OK. The Brewers used him a good amount, over 70 innings, and he responded with a 4.14 ERA with 15 walks and 54 punchouts. He was kind of a wash overall, which is to say he wasn’t a detriment or an incredibly valuable asset. They got innings out of Figaro, and he wasn’t responsible for too many losses, so whatever. It’ll be interesting to see whether he’s back next year. When the Brewers first signed him, I was hoping very unreasonably that somehow they’d found a very good starter that everyone in MLB had somehow forgotten about. After 2013, I can see why he was pitching in Japan. He can be effective but his stuff is rather straight and it doesn’t seem to trick major league hitters too often.
Pitchers Jimmy Nelson, Mike Fiers, Chris Narveson: No Comment
Overall Starters Grade: D
Overall Bullpen Grade: B
Overall Pitchers Grade: C-
The bullpen was pretty good overall; Axford and K-Rod were traded for good future pieces and there were no catastrophic meltdowns a la 2012 wherein a blown save happened nearly every night, sometimes multiple times in the same game, leading to strings of horrifying losses. No, in 2013 it was the starting pitching which faltered. It was mediocre-to-bad starting pitching most of the year and that doesn’t get it done in the big leagues, especially when the offense has a down year. The rotation should be Doug Melvin’s number-one priority this winter.
Coaching Grade: D
I’m not a Ron Roenicke-hater, but I was frustrated with the man for much of this season and on many occasions I let the expletives fly. Often the bullpen pitchers he brought in appeared to be bad choices that then blew up in his face, or the contact play was run (once again) leading to terrible, obscene outs that could easily have been runs. I got really annoyed with the different lineups everyday and playing guys like Francisco and Betancourt against all logical thought. Everything was kind of out of whack and flailing this year. Roenicke and Co. appeared one or two steps behind other teams a lot of the time.
I love Roenicke’s aggression on the base paths from first to second, though. I love that so many guys can and do steal the second-base bag. But once you’re on second, you’ve got to be a lot more aware and careful about how to reach third base, and for god’s sake you can’t run on just any contact from third to home. If you’re going to squeeze, get the signs right. If not, the runner should wait a tic until he can get an idea of whether he can score or not. Otherwise you’re usually a dead duck there and it was painful to see that fail over and over again. Roenicke got the team to play respectably well after his team’s hideous start to the season. Next year will be a big test for RRR and all the coaches because they need to get a good start, which means April AND May. If they have another mess like 2013, I can see them all getting the boot, and Doug Melvin too, probably. Milwaukee can’t afford to entertain failure for long, especially if the team is indeed losing money during bad seasons.
For good measure, here are my awards aping the BBWAA ones:
MVP: Jean Segura
(BBWAA named Gomez)
MVP Pitcher: Kyle Lohse
Top Newcomer: Scooter Gennett
Unsung Hero: Jim Henderson
Good Guy: Jonathan Lucroy