Welcome back to Rolling Out the Barrel, Brewers fans, and a happy Labor Day weekend to you all. I sincerely hope that each of you gets to experience a little bit of great baseball over the weekend, and I’d really appreciate it if a couple of you would take in a couple of extra innings for me, as I’ll be spending the weekend at a wedding in the baseball hell of Iowa, where as of the last count, just over a third of every MLB game this season has been blacked out by MLB.tv:
Running count: Over the weekend, 18/45 games were blacked out on http://t.co/X8EDXXybgB in Iowa. Overall, 660/1955 (33.76%) on the year.
— Mike Bates (@MikeBatesSBN) August 31, 2015
The Hardball Times || The Birth Pangs of Bernie Brewer (August 28, 2015)
Frank Johnson shares the origin story of Bernie Brewer, the Brewers’ mascot since nearly their inauguration in April of 1969. Milt Mason spent 40 days in a trailer on top of the Brewers scoreboard, refusing the come down until Miliwaukee sold out their new baseball team. He was forced to modify his demands when it became apparent that waiting for a sellout might leave Milt spending a cold Milwaukee winter in a trailer perched 200 feet off the ground. After his death in 1973, the Brewers debuted the Bernie Brewer mascot, clad in Mason’s traditional Bavarian garb.
FanGraphs || Scooter Gennett: A Brewer’s Quest for Discipline (September 3, 2015)
David Laurila (@DavidLaurilaQA) shares a Q-and-A with Brewers’ second baseman Scooter Gennett, who has endured a very up-and-down year in 2015. After a barren beginning to the year at the plate, the Brewers shipped him down the Triple A for three weeks, yet Gennett has rebounded to post a very-nearly-acceptable .263/.298/.400 slash line for the year. Laurila asks Gennett about his approach at the plate, how he was able to transition from his rough start, and his strategy against the best pitchers in the league. Well worth the short read.
Brew Crew Ball || Brewers’ Arizona Fall League Participants Announced (September 1, 2015)
The Arizona Fall League, a yearly gathering of many top prospects, starts in October and the Brewers’ contingent was announced on Tuesday. Milwaukee will send RHPs Adrian Houser, Jacob Barnes and Damien Magnifico; LHP Josh Hader; OFs Brett Phillips and Michael Reed; and SS Yadiel Rivera to team up with prospects from the Royals, Rangers, Yankees and Cardinals (yuck). Barnes, Magnifico, Hader, Houser and Phillips are all with Double-A Biloxi right now, and the latter three were part of the trade that sent Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to Houston. Rivera and Reed are both Brewers’ draft picks and are finishing up their seasons with the Sky Sox.
A number of things play into how players are chosen for the AFL, and I’m sure the limited amount of time spent with the organization played into the decision to send all of three players received from the Astros. Another thing to watch is that four of these players – Reed, Barnes, Houser and Magnifico – are not yet on the 40-man roster but will need to be added to protect them from next year’s Rule 5 draft. Of those, all but Barnes are probably locks to be added. Notably absent from the Brewers’ AFL contingent is right-handed Johnny Hellweg, who has struggled mightily this year while splitting time between Biloxi and High-A Brevard County. Hellweg is likely a candidate to lose his roster spot to make way for one of those four players.
FanGraphs || Projecting the First Wave of September Call-Ups (September 2, 2015)
Chris Mitchell (@_chris_mitchell) used his KOTAH projection system, which projects major-league production based on minor-league statistics, to predict the long-term impact of a few of the more intriguing pitching prospects that were called up around league this week, including Wednesday night’s starter for the Brewers, Zach Davies. Mitchell notes Davies had a nice year at Triple-A this season, while dismissing his poor stats during his brief time in Colorado Springs for small sample size (but not, oddly, for the thin Colorado air).
Some of Davies’ closest comparisons based on the KATOH model were Ivan Nova, Gavin Floyd and Scott Baker, so we’re not looking at a potential ace; however, he’s still a nice return for Gerardo Parra, who was an impending free agent and offered little value to a non-contending team. If Davies can stick as a back-of-the-rotation starter, then the Brewers traded Anthony Banda and Mitch Haniger, both of whom are years away from contributing and hanging out in the bottom third of Arizona’s top prospect list, for a career year from Parra (split over two half-seasons) and six years of a solid major league starting pitcher. That’s not a bad swap.
Disciples of Uecker || Meet Zach Davies (September 1, 2015)
Sticking with Davies, Nicholas Zettel (@SpectiveWax) presents an overview of the scouting report for the 22-year-old right-hander on the eve of his major-league debut. Davies is very small, especially for a pitcher, at 6’0” and 160 lbs, and he’s certainly no power pitcher, with a fastball that tops out in the high 80s. What he can do is change levels on hitters with a savvy mix of his fastball, change up and curveball, and fool them with a speed difference of up to 10 MPH between his pitches. Zettel makes a comparison to Jamie Moyer, who was able to turn his mid-80s fastball into a successful 25 year career. Others have made comparisons to recently departed Mike Fiers, who also generally falls short of the 90 MPH mark – this comparison is less fitting, as Fiers is a high strikeout pitcher while Davies pitches more to contact. Fiers has a career 9.1 K/9 ratio at the MLB level, while Davies’ carries a 7.8 K/9 through his minor-league career, and an even lower 6.2 mark through his first 4.1 big-league innings (you guys I’m just kidding that doesn’t matter). Moyer’s career K/9 of 5.4, and his accompanying K:BB ratio of 2.11, are more reasonable expectations for Davies.
Grantland || Blowing Up Baseball’s Most Dangerous Stat (April 6, 2012)
This is an oldie-but-a-goodie from Johan Keri (@jonahkeri) about the adverse effect the adoption of the save stat in 1969 has had on the game of baseball. On Tuesday, Brewers’ “closer” Francisco Rodriguez tied the record held by many when he notched a one-pitch save in Milwaukee’s 7-4 win over Pittsburgh. This wasn’t necessarily an instance of Craig Counsell feeling beholden to the save’s arbitrary rules per se as David Goforth, after retiring the first two batters he faced, had surrendered back-to-back home runs followed by a double to give the Brewers a scare. It’s entirely possible that Counsell really believed it was necessary to use his best reliever with the tying run still in the on deck circle and two outs.
Nationals manager Matt Williams has come under fire this week for his refusal to use Jonathan Papelbon, acquired at the deadline from Philadelphia, more often as Washington has watched its lead in the NL East evaporate and turn into a nigh-insurmountable deficit. Papelbon has thrown just 12 innings since his acquisition on July 29th, including a span of 18 days in mid-August during which he was used only three times. Williams has maintained a strict adherence to the closer role as prescribed by the made-up save stat, and it bit him again on Tuesday when the Cardinals walked off against Casey Janssen as Papelbon sat in the bullpen during the ninth inning of a tied game.