I must be getting old. Five or six years ago, I used to make an event out of each and every west coast Brewers game, finding books to read or lining up food and beer for every pitch into the wee hours of the morning. Since east coast time should simply call west coast first pitch “bedtime;” needless to say that last two mornings I’ve been especially pleased upon waking. Checking the Brewers scores recreates a Christmas-morning atmosphere, an unintended benefit of falling asleep before the ballgame starts.
Lucroy and Harassment
One might say this doesn’t need more press than it’s getting, but I think Brewers fans should be outraged about fans harassing Jonathan Lucroy‘s wife via Facebook.
What on earth is wrong with people? Even assuming that each and every person that harassed Mrs. Lucroy has a perfect matrimonial record without any mistakes or freak occurrences (ever), there’s that issue of respecting others’ privacy and staying out of business that has nothing to do with you.
This interconnected web of computers is a wonderful thing — for instance, it allows me to have employment while moving around these great states, and it provides excellent opportunities for learning about and experiencing culture, knowledge, and entertainment. Goodness, though, people really do get nastier when they can hide behind their own screen.
Furthermore, if you’re so invested in the Brewers that you feel like going after players’ spouses after freak accidents, you should really reconsider your priorities. This is entertainment, dude. Nothing more, nothing less. When it stops being fun, or takes over your personal life, or causes you to act poorly to others, you should really find a new hobby. Go collect stamps or POG or something less stressful.
Brewers Winning Streak
I’ve been going on and on about balance for a month now, so needless to say, I’m especially thrilled about the Brewers’ winning streak. The Brewers’ current streak features victories while scoring 3 runs, 2 runs, and 6 runs, respectively.
The first two victories against the Dodgers went 3-2 and 2-1, which are the Brewers’ first two victories with fewer than 6 runs in the entire month of May. Winning with 2 runs scored is something that should be wildly celebrated whenever it happens, simply because it’s so unlikely. Furthermore, in a league where 4-runs-per-game is pretty much average, those runs scored totals between 3 and 5 runs become more significant; 5 runs because the team provides an opportunity to win with an average pitching performance, 3-and-4 runs because the team’s ability to win in close contests is tested.
By the time the Brewers get to 6-runs, as they did last night against ace southpaw Clayton Kershaw, they’re entering territory where a victory should be obvious. Perhaps that’s the most frustrating thing about May 2012 — the Brewers have not lost when they scored 6-or-more runs. Each and every time they reached that threshold, they won. While it’s good to get those surefire victories, too, the problem is that the Brewers did not win a single game while scoring 3-to-5 runs in the month of May (they were 0-8 in those games entering the Dodgers series).
I dare say that this Dodgers series is the most balanced of any series the Brewers played thus far. It’s great to see the team get on the same page and win three games while firing on all cylinders.
Carlos Gomez looked like his old self upon returning from the disabled list, batting .158/.200/.211 in his first 20 PA off the DL. Last night, he broke out against the Dodgers, batting 4-for-5 with a double and 2 RBI, 1 R. This performance should help to remind us that Gomez is quietly having a solid season at the plate, and last night’s production helped him to get back to his pre-injury production level.
Since Gomez has yet to reach 100 PA (and is a platoon player), his batting line will fluctuate a lot, but overall, Gomez is exhibiting a few promising traits during his 2012 campaign. Although one might look at his strikeout-to-walk ratio and conclude that Gomez is having another undisciplined season, there are two reasons to be optimistic that his plate discipline is improving:
(1) Although Gomez is seeing fewer pitches in the strike zone this season, he is swinging at significantly fewer pitches outside of the zone. Last year (and pretty much for his career), Gomez swung at 35% of pitches outside of the zone (more than 48% of his pitches were in the zone). Thus far in 2012, Gomez received 44.5% of his pitches in the strike zone, but he swung at 29.2% of pitches outside of the zone. So far, that’s a promising improvement from his 2011 campaign — even though Gomez is receiving fewer strikes, he is decreasing his percentage of swings outside the zone.
(2) Gomez’s overall strikeout rate is under 16% of his PA. This is probably linked to point (1), but it’s still worth stating. For a batter that strikes out in 22% of career PA, that moderate strike out rate of 16% looks strong.
By this point in his career, Gomez is what he is — a serviceable platoon player with excellent defense. However, if he ever pushes beyond that status, he will need improved offensive performance. So far, he’s giving Brewers fans a reason to be optimistic.
It’s a handful of games, so take these remarks in context: Rickie Weeks is putting together tenacious plate appearances and improving his batting performance during this roadtrip. Beyond his .167 batting average over the roadtrip, Weeks is getting on base in 36% of his plate appearances, and slugging .389. That contact approach remains extreme — with 6 strike outs, 6 walks, and 1 home run in 25 PA, Weeks is only putting the ball in play 48% of his plate appearances.
What’s tenacious about that? Weeks saw 116 pitches in those 25 PA, including 34 sliders. Approximately 62 of those pitches were strikes. Of approximately 54 pitches outside the zone, Weeks swung at 8. Clearly, Weeks is not going to simply swing his way out of this extended slump; while we might all be clamoring for Weeks to pick up more hits, we should also continue to note that he continues to execute his strike zone. Since Weeks moved beyond the issue with earlier stretches of the slump, which included extremely high strike outs with few walks or hits, he can offer more useful traits at the plate.
If he continues to get on base at an extremely high rate, Weeks should be moved to the lead off spot to maximize the value of that performance. Afterall, if he’s not collecting lots of hits or batting the ball in play frequently, there are not many good reasons to bat him after the 3-4-5 hitters.
Clayton Kershaw / Yovani Gallardo
I know I write about this all the time, but I swear, for every article that features Clayton Kershaw humbly stating that he’s not as good as Sandy Koufax, he deserves an opinionated piece about how much more valuable he is at Koufax at this point and time in his career.
Koufax, of course, sets the standard for Kershaw because of his exceptional run of seasons from 1961 to 1966 (age 25-through-age 30). But, Kershaw has been more valuable than Koufax in each and every one of his seasons in his young career, and he’s on pace to produce yet another strong season in his age 24 season (which, of course, would give him yet another season more valuable than Koufax).
If this seems like piling on, it is, but it’s fun. We should all be thrilled that we are getting a chance to watch a pitcher that has a legitimate shot at being one of the greatest lefties ever. Of course, some will always say Koufax is better until Kershaw wins a World Series or matches Koufax’s age 25-through-30 production. But, the simple fact is, Kershaw is building himself an early career with great potential to become the Dodgers’ greatest lefthander.
Last night, neither Yovani Gallardo nor Kershaw pitched particularly great games, although Gallardo’s outing was stronger than that of Kershaw. Interestingly enough, Gallardo is the tenth most similar pitcher to Kershaw, using Baseball-Reference’s similarity scores. Now, that doesn’t mean too much, as Gallardo’s score of 932 means that he’s similar, but not THAT similar to Kershaw. Just for kicks, here is the progressive list of tenth-most similar pitchers, starting with Yovani Gallardo to Clayton Kershaw.
(1) Yovani Gallardo (932)
(2) Matt Garza (946 to Gallardo)
(3) Johnny Kucks (955 to Garza)
(4) Jackie Brown (961 to Kucks)
(5) Nick Strincevich (965 to Brown)
(6) Zeke Wilson (962 to Strincevich)
(7) Johnny Kucks (953 to Wilson)
Whoops! We found a similarity score feedback loop. So, who’s this Johnny Kucks that keeps showing up? Mr. Kucks was a righty that worked in the big leagues with the New York Yankees and Kansas City Athletics from 1955-1960. He stormed onto the scene as an average starter for the mid-1950s Yankees, working 530.3 innings before his age 24 season (he also won Game 7 of the 1956 World Series with a shutout!). After going 8-8 in 1958, Kucks didn’t get much of a chance to work in the Yankees’ rotation in 1959, and off to Kansas City he went. He performed well for the Athletics in 1959, but his 1960 campaign was forgettable, and the Baltimore Orioles purchased him in 1961. Kucks proceeded to work more than 570 innings for the Orioles’ and Cardinals’ farms, boasting a 3.58 ERA and a 38-30 record in the International League.
Where else on the internet can you find a Jonathan Lucroy rant and a professional summary for Johnny Kucks?
Baseball-Reference (2000-2012 Sports Reference, LLC), FanGraphs, and TexasLeaguers (2009-2012, Trip Somers)
Strike Zone Image from TexasLeaguers, copyrgiht Trip Somers, 2009-2012.