Friday Morning Coffee: Spoiler Alert, Davis, Minors, Draft | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

If you grew up with the 2006-2014 Brewers as your favorite club, chances are you’re too young to remember a time when the Brewers were playing meaningless baseball in August; in that case, the San Diego Padres series introduced you to one of the (arguably) best elements of watching a team in a rebuilding phase: the Brewers played complete “spoilers” to the Padres’ playoff chances. I don’t want to go off the ledge and claim that the Brewers completely destroyed San Diego’s chances of making the playoffs — a wicked hot stretch for the Padres could change that — but our beloved Milwaukee Nine certainly put a dent in those aspirations.

After play on Sunday, August 2, the Padres were 51-54 and 6.5 games out of the second wild card spot (and nine games back in the NL West). The club needed a Wild Card berth to make the postseason, so beating the Brewers was a bigtime priority (especially since the San Diego club faces their division-contending foes 13 times in September and October). Milwaukee knocked the Padres to 52-57, 10.5 back in the NL West and eight full games behind the Wild Card. At times when the Nationals and Giants briefly scuffled, and Arizona surged ahead, San Diego lost their opportunity to steal wins against a club deflated by the trade deadline.

Spoiling baseball: this is one of the most fun aspects of watching a bad ballclub, and if you’re now worried that the Brewers will again play themselves out of a great draft spot, remember that recent 2-11 stretch and 29 remaining games against playoff contenders. Milwaukee will face a long series of difficult opponents to close the season, and while they will lose their fair share of games, the team can also revel in the opportunity to spoil some clubs’ playoff hopes. While it will be difficult to knock teams like the Cardinals out (currently six games up in the NL Central, and therefore nearly ten games up in the Wild Card, by default), the Brewers can try to give the Chicago Cubs or Pittsburgh Pirates a tougher time (of course, the recent four game sweep of the Brewers by the Cubs might make that seem less plausible).

Khris Davis Breaks Out
I don’t like the “small sample size” talk about baseball players and statistics. It’s an unwieldy term: baseball players are humans approaching a game, not subjects controlled by research methodology in a closed study. There is nothing to “sample;” there is only the sum of approach, strategy, and mechanics.

That said, it is easy to argue that Brewers leftfielder Khris Davis had yet to find his balance between mechanics, approach, and strategy in 2015: the 27-year-old batter lost more than a month to injury, and broadcaster Joe Block has reminded listeners that Davis and the Brewers are still working on areas of his swing throughout the season. This leads one to wonder what Davis could do in August and September if he stabilizes his swing and approach, for Davis is already reducing his swings on pitches outside the zone. His main project, which Block emphasized during recent broadcasts, is to maximize contact in the strike zone (indeed, his contact rate on swings within the zone has dropped from 81.7% to 75.7%, according to FanGraphs). Davis made huge strides in that department on Thursday afternoon, knocking a single and making Earl Weaver smile twice with two 3-run homers (those homers helped Davis increase his run production by approximately 20% in one afternoon).

Ignore the excellent results of the hits for a moment, and take a look at Davis’s approach yesterday. While he did swing at two-of-five pitches outside the zone according to TexasLeaguers, he used plate discipline to maximum success during three plate appearances yesterday:

There are several things to like about Davis’s approach throughout these plate appearances:

  • He lays off both strikes and balls that are away-and-middle/low in the strike zone.
  • He swings at high pitches.
  • He makes contact on a variety of pitches and velocities (sinker, fastball, curve; 92-93 MPH and 79 MPH pitches).

All things considered, Thursday afternoon was an excellent day at the plate for Davis, who can hang his hat on his process and approach as much as his exceptional results.

Minor League & Draft Sushi
Why not have a look at some happenings around the Brewers’ system?

  • The Brewers are easing LHP Nathan Kirby back to the mound, opting to develop his arm strength instead of building innings after his injury-shortened college campaign. The southpaw has worked 3.0 IP in relief thus far, preventing runs with an 8 groundball / 2 flyball / 1 line drive / 1 pop-up ratio.
  • RHP Cody Ponce is absolutely unconscious since moving to A Wisconsin, and the prospect is preventing runs by working around a relatively high line drive rate lately. However, Ponce has also stabilized his groundball:flyball ratio, and he’s boasting a strong 15 K / 5 BB / 1 HR performance overall (5 K / 3 BB / 0 HR since his rough July 17 outing). The righty is scheduled to start on Saturday against Great Lakes.
  • IF Blake Allemand is following a cool July with a strong .267 / .313 / .333 mark to open August.
  • SS Gilbert Lara has gone cold after his blistering hot rookie ball start, which will give the youngster a new professional challenge, and a chance to apply his work ethic and mission.
  • Who’s your favorite Arizona Rookie bat from the 2015 draft? Trent Clark, Demi Orimoloye, and Tyrone Perry are absolutely raking. It’s hard not to gawk at Orimoloye’s power/speed potential, as those loud tools are coming through in games with 17 XBH and 16/18 SB in 120 PA. Clark is showcasing his polished bat with strong discipline (24 K / 14 BB in 128 PA), batting average (.318), balanced extra base hits (5 2B, 5 3B, 1 HR), and speed (11/14 SB). Meanwhile, Perry is like a “mini-Prince Fielder,” boasting 24 K / 19 BB and 10 XBH in 118 PA.
  • Worried about “slumping” June and July performances from top prospect Orlando Arcia? The star youngster is raging in August, with four doubles, three stolen bases, and 2 K / 2 BB in 25 PA.
  • I really like CF Tyrone Taylor‘s discipline throughout a somewhat tough year. The righty bat has 39 K / 23 BB in 395 PA at AA Biloxi.
  • Every prospect acquired in July trades has now played for a Brewers affiliate: Malik Collymore is .333 / .400 / .444 at R Helena; Brett Philips has 6 K / 6 BB in 27 AA Biloxi PA thus far; LHP Josh Hader and RHP Adrian Houser have both worked one start each for AA Biloxi; RHP Zach Davies just worked his first start at AAA Colorado Springs; Domingo Santana is shredding the altitude at AAA Colorado Springs (.409 AVG!!!); and, at AA Biloxi, RHP Yhonathan Barrios is showing a strong K/BB and high flyball:groundball ratio.

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