If the 2012 Brewers are not treating fans to a repeat of their 2011 division title, or fighting for playoff baseball in Milwaukee for consecutive seasons, they are giving fans glimpses into the future pitching rotation. Last night, Wily Peralta made his first MLB start against the Miami Marlins. The righty worked into the 7th inning, allowing 3 runs thanks to some shaky bullpen work with inherited runners. Overall, the righty boasted a 6 IP, 3 R line, striking out 3 against 4 walks.
Peralta is highly regarded as one of the Brewers’ top young arms, and the righty topped several rankings of the Brewers’ farm system entering 2012. Perhaps a quality start with 3 strike outs is not the triumphant debut some Brewers fans expect of Peralta, but the start itself is a welcome step for the right-hander. Peralta ran into some rough stretches during his 2012 campaign in Nashville, after coming on strong during the 2011 season. Peralta’s 2011 push helped him leap onto the radar of serious prospect consideration, although some questions about endurance, stuff, and future role remained.
Last night, Peralta went to his fastball early and often, selecting the pitch approximately 68 times (or, nearly 74% of his 92 offerings). According to MLB GameDay, Peralta threw three distinct off-speed pitches, including approximately 14 sliders, 9 change ups, and 1 curveball. Velocity might not always be the best sign of maintaining strength deep into games — that is, pitchers might also maintain late velocity by over-throwing or changing mechanics — but Peralta maintained a strong fastball into the 7th inning. Six of ten 7th inning fastballs hit 95 or 96, according to MLB GameDay. Peralta’s velocity peaked in the middle innings, as the righty threw several fastballs in the range of 97 and 98 MPH in the middle of his start.
September offers some promise for the Brewers’ 2013 rotation. Even as Mark Rogers rests and waits for 2013 (and some speculate Fastballer Mike Fiers might be shut down, too), a gang of new pitchers arrived in Milwaukee with a chance to state their case for the Brewers’ 2013 rotation. As it stands, the Brewers reserve the rights to Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, and Chris Narveson heading into 2013. Fiers, Peralta, Rogers, and Tyler Thornburg are also options for the 2013 pitching staff, and the Brewers can renew the contracts of those pitchers. Yet another (perhaps more controversial option) exists, too, as the Brewers could offer salary arbitration to veteran Shaun Marcum, which would provide the Brewers another rotational option for more than $12 million.
Perhaps the most interesting element to these rotation options is that they could also help to solve bullpen problems. For instance, if youngsters Peralta, Rogers, and Thornburg make the starting rotation, Estrada and Narveson (depending on his health) could work in the bullpen. On the other hand, some of those youngsters could serve as options to improve the Brewers’ bullpen. This could especially be the case with pitchers such as Rogers and Thornburg, who provide potentially strong profiles for bullpen work. One way or the other, the Brewers have a gang of options for their 2013 rotation, and the decisions the club makes about the rotation can also allow them to improve the bullpen, too. If the Brewers’ rotation looks unassuming or young for 2013, it is also flexible and affordable, providing the club a sizable amount of flexibility while assembling their roster for next year.
The Great Stadium Swindle
While reviewing photos of last night’s game, I found a fitting photo of the Marlins’ 2012 attendance woes. The Marlins have few strong attendance seasons in their franchise history, and I gather that many baseball fans watched with interest to see how the club’s offseason spending spree would translate on the field and in the stands.
One of the most prevalent campaigns of the 1990s was the Great Stadium Swindle. After the success of the “back-to-the-city” Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the general idea in baseball was clear: build a new stadium, collect the massive revenue, and build a competitive club to go with it. All owners of franchises in a multi-billion dollar entertainment industry had to do was to hide their wallets, turn their pockets inside-out, threaten to move to Charlotte or Portland, in order to land a new ballpark. Of course, one of the unfortunate aspects of a construction boom is that if each of the MLB clubs opens a new ballpark, well, 30 teams cannot be competitive at the same time. By the turn of the 21st century, it became clear that a new ballpark by itself would not guarantee success at the gate.
Looking over the 2012 Marlins’ attendance, this stadium trend seems especially troubling. Despite a grand free agency push, new uniforms, and a new stadium, the Miami Marlins are struggling to fill 3/4 of the bright seats at futuristic Marlins Park. Of course, the Marlins are on pace to draw approximately one million more fans in 2012 than in 2011; that’s not insignificant. However, one must ask, given the public funds spent on the Marlins’ stadium, is 75% attendance acceptable? According to Ballparks of Baseball, the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County spent approximately $370 million on Marlins Park.
When it comes time to fund new ballparks for MLB clubs, the “grand civic duty” arguments tend to pour from the mouths of owners, club officials, and perhaps some politicians. That is, hosting a baseball club becomes a privilege for a city; in order to continue to enjoy that privilege, the municipality should work to fund the workplace for the ballclub. I fail to see the benefit of these types of arguments any longer; certainly attendance in new ballparks does not suggest that the privilege of a ballclub is a civic duty. Rather, attending a ballgame is simply one way to spend one’s entertainment dollar; one can easily weigh a ballgame against other forms of entertainment before marching to the box office and purchasing a bleacher seat. It seems troubling that, in the case of most new MLB ballparks, municipalities were duped into spending hundreds of millions of dollars on facilities for privately owned businesses. Fortunately for MLB owners, the bulk of MLB franchises have new ballparks, and only a few clubs are actively fighting for new parks (Oakland’s case is perhaps the most interesting; the stadium argument rages on for other sports, most-interestngly in the case of the Atlanta Falcons).
Civic pride obviously cannot work both ways when it is fabricated. This is especially clear in the case of the Miami Marlins, where public interest in the club will not fill a new stadium despite the club’s makeover and acquisitions. I don’t think this should surprise anyone, and yet the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County remain on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars to support the Marlins’ new stadium. Ironically, the City and County contributed more than 70% of the funds for a stadium that no more than 28,000 of their residents can fill on a regular basis.
Here’s a glimpse at first-year attendance figures for the brand new MLB ballparks over the last 20+ years:
Marlins Park (2012; 37,000): 1,880,436 (thus far; 74.7%)
Target Field (2010; 39,504): 3,223,640 (100.7%)
CitiField (2009; 42,000): 3,168,571 (93.1%)
Yankee Stadium (2009; 52,325): 3,719,358 (87.8%)
Nationals Park (2008; 41,506): 2,320,400 (69.0%)
Busch Stadium (2006; 46,700): 3,407,104 (91.2%)
CitizensBank Park (2004; 43,647): 3,250,092 (91.9%)
PetCo Park (2004; 42,500): 3,016,752 (87.6%)
Great American Ballpark (2003; 42,271): 2,355,259 (68.8%)
PNC Park (2001; 38,362): 2,464,870 (79.3%)
Miller Park (2001; 41,900): 2,811,041 (82.8%)
Minute Maid Park (2000; 40,963): 3,056,139 (92.1%)
Comerica Park (2000; 40,120): 2,438,617 (75.0%)
AT&T Park (2000; 41,600): 3,318,800 (98.5%)
SafeCo Field (1999; 47,447): 2,916,346 (Kingdome/SafeCo)
Chase Field (1998; 49,033): 3,610,290 (90.9%)
Turner Field (1997; 50,096): 3,464,488 (85.4%)
Coors Field (1995; 50,000): 3,390,037 (94.2%; 72 games)
Ballpark in Arlington (1994; 49,170): 2,503,198 (80.8%; 63 games)
Progressive Field (1994; 43,405): 1,995,174 (90.1%; 51 games)
Oriole Park (1992; 45,971): 3,567,819 (95.8%)
U.S. Cellular Field (1991; 44,000 original): 2,934,154 (82.3%)
Peralta (AP / Wilfredo Lee): http://www.ctpost.com/sports/article/Weeks-hits-2-homers-to-lead-Brewers-over-Marlins-3843089.php
Marlins Park: http://www.rantsports.com/miami-marlins/2012/09/06/three-things-prospect-wily-peralta-gets-best-of-miami-marlins/