When the Long Leash Turns Into a Choke Chain | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

Earlier today, Journal Sentinal beat writer Tom Haudricourt tweeted:

If you want to know why Green hasn’t been called up to replace McGehee, it’s because [the Brewers] aren’t giving up on McGehee.

At what point should a team “give up” on a player, and would summoning Taylor Green from Nashville really be giving up on Casey McGehee?

As the Brewers start a weekend series with the Astros today, we find McGehee hitting .228/.280/.317, a 597 OPS. He hasn’t really hit well for any length of time since April. His monthly splits bear that out, with OPS totals of 593, 422 and 647 in May, June and July respectively.

McGehee’s struggles have stuck the Brewers with the second worst offensive production at third base in baseball, according to FanGraphs’ wOBA. After factoring in defense and baserunning, the Brewers’ third baseman have accumulated… the second worst WAR in baseball at that position. Only the Mariners and Chone Figgins‘ disastrous season have kept Milwaukee from MLB-bottom feeder status at third.

So why has McGehee been allowed to founder at the position for so much of this season? The Brewers’ long leash more than likely has to do with McGehee’s past, if short-term, success with the team. He’s coming off a breakout season in 2009 that saw him put up an 859 OPS in two-thirds of a season. McGehee followed that up with a solid 2010 campaign that saw a modest drop in OPS, to 801.

Should less than two big league seasons worth of success guarantee playing time when the bat goes cold? Over the very short-term – weeks to perhaps a month or two – yes, it probably should.

When the slump persists for half a season or more, you have to start to wonder if the slump is part of his true talent level coming through. McGehee’s 407 largely poor plate appearances in 2011 are 27.2% of the plate appearances he’s had in the big leagues, a significant chunk of his career. That should be impetus enough to think about making a change, even if it is just a partial change.

Before McGehee’s 2011 OPS bottomed out at the end of June, I suggested here that if the Brewers were to call up Taylor Green that McGehee shouldn’t lose all his playing time. Green hits right handed pitcher very well, and would seem to be a natural platoon mate for the right-handed hitting McGehee.

I still believe that to be the case. Green’s OPS was 970 when I wrote that article and in the 6 weeks hence, his OPS in Nashville has risen to 994. He is completely demolishing right-handed AAA pitchers, to the tune of a 1063 OPS.

Nine days ago, Milwaukee Manager Ron Roenicke was asked about Taylor Green’s success in Nashville, and why he hadn’t been brought up to the big league roster. His response:

[AAA is] completely different. Look at what Gamel did in the minors, and is still doing in the minors, and what he did here [.115 in 10 games]. I know people get impatient but it’s not the same.

If I understand Roenicke correctly, the reason that the Brewers aren’t calling up Green to play any kind of role in MLB is because Mat Gamel failed this year in MLB over 27 plate appearances. Because X failed recently in a short trial, and unrelated Y is in the same position that X was before failure, Y will fail.

Absurd.

Truthfully, I don’t trust that what Roenicke said there is what he, or the Brewers’ front office, truly believes. To some degree, Roenicke must feel the need to protect his player, and the convenient (if almost completely unsupported) excuse that AAA success means squat in MLB is a perfectly nice way to play the protection game.

Unfortunately, the Brewers can’t afford to play the character soother much longer. With Rickie Weeks out for as long as six weeks, the team needs to squeeze all the offense they can out the lineup, especially after Hart, Morgan, Braun and Fielder have batted. By not being open to try Green at third base, even in just a soft platoon, they are entrusting McGehee to snap out of a near-season long skid at the plate, under increasing pressure. That’s a very easy position to choke in, yet the Brewers keep pulling on the collar.

I’m not asking the Brewers to give up on McGehee. I don’t want him demoted to Nashville and have Green installed as the guy. I don’t believe McGehee is as bad a hitter as he’s been this year. However, the Brewers have a division that is theirs for the taking. Leaving McGehee in the lineup to take a chance on a late season resurgence is at best foolish, and in actuality is something closer to poor management.

The foolishness is compounded by Taylor Green’s monster season in AAA. It’s not like Green is some 30 year old AAA vet – he’s 24, and just now healthy after a broken wrist. He is a legit prospect, and by my mind a legitimate weapon in MLB right now. He might fail. But Gamel’s brief failure this season seems to have Brewers management convinced that Green isn’t likely to succeed, especially in a playoff race. Green is not a wilting lily and that logic is crap.

They need to get over their idea that a young player isn’t likely to do well in this position, get over McGehee’s 1000 plate appearances before this year, get over themselves, and try something simple to improve the team.

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Comments

Tell us what do you think.

  1. trasher says: July 29, 2011

    Some have speculated that Green is on the PTBNL list compiled by the Mets in the Frankie Rodriguez trade, making a call-up an impossibility. If not, then indeed call him up. He can only help at 3B.

    I agree about installing him in a soft platoon, just to see how that works over the course of a couple weeks. Maybe it would be a win-win for both Green and McGehee.

    As far as comparing Green’s potential output to Gamel’s earlier numbers last month, that is completely unfair. Gamel played at 1B, 3B, LF, and at DH. How Roenicke could expect “Mat the Bat” to get comfortable is beyond me. Had he been given a shot at one position, he likely would have fared much better than he did.

    Bring Green up, let he get a fair shot at 3B, and see what happens. It certainly can’t hurt…

  2. Toby Harrmann says: July 29, 2011

    It is extremely doubtful that Green is on the PTBNL list, so I didn’t mention it. The speculation about that obtained a mind of its own.

  3. Big Al says: July 29, 2011

    Any thoughts on the rumor that Green is on the list given to the Mets to complete the K-Rod trade and he can not be called up?

  4. Toby Harrmann says: July 29, 2011

    I don’t believe that he’s on the list because a)Haudricourt tweeted a few hours ago that he “asked someone who should know and he said he didn’t think so” and b)Melvin has talked specifically about calling Green up – if he could be dealt, I really doubt Melvin would have said that. He hides the truth a lot, but he’s not a liar.

  5. trasher says: July 29, 2011

    Based on the comments above, there is no reason NOT to call him up.

  6. Eugene Mannarino says: July 29, 2011

    I agree i think we see Green as a soft Platoon but that will come in September. They will stay with Casey thru September and if they can’t get Furcal we see YB for the rest of the season.

  7. stabby says: July 29, 2011

    i dont see how green can be kept at AAA when the brewers need his good bat so badly…i agree that holding him back is purely bad management.

  8. thermal says: July 30, 2011

    Wait, even if he is on the Mets list, why would that preclude the Brewers from calling him up? Is that part of the agreement(?)– ptbn must not have ever played in major leagues or we get K-Rod and 4 million back.

  9. Bryan Peake says: July 30, 2011

    We saw what happened to Gamel when he was brought up in 2009 and didn’t get consistent playing time at 3rd. Green wouldn’t get consistent time either in a platoon of sorts with McGehee. They say people learn from their mistakes, and bringing up Green to be a platoon player would be a mistake when it comes to his production. The bringing in of veteran Jerry Hairston Jr probably ends this argument, which makes me happy because Green could be a huge plus next season if he wins the job at 3B

  10. Jack Moore says: July 30, 2011

    Thermal – a PTBNL can’t play in the same league as the team he’s going to. Not sure why that’s a rule, but it is.

  11. marty says: July 30, 2011

    despite green’s success in the minors, there is one main reason why he is not in the majors right now, and it’s the exact same reason why gamel hasn’t had a major role on the big league club… the organization would rather have them taking every day at-bats in the minors than getting spot starts and pinch hits in the majors… i think everyone wants to see green and gamel get their shots eventually, but to ask one rookie and a player with limited major league experience to take over defensively in the midst of a playoff race might not be the answer. instead, we’ve replaced brett carroll with jerry hairston jr. and eric farris with felipe lopez… the only difference is that these are major league players we’ve acquired for not too much… I also don’t believe that green is involved in the PTBNL list, roenicke and melvin had both stated that their top prospects were not involved… i think gamel and green both make the september callups, but no move before then… josh wilson’s days could be numbered…

  12. Cory Casper says: August 1, 2011

    How many players out there are the exception to the minor league rule? What I mean is that there have been numerous players who just seem to excel at the major league level when given the chance, even though their numbers at AAA haven’t been all that impressive. Green’s numbers HAVE been impressive, so a call-up right now can only do good for this team. I’m sick and tired of McGehee coming up to bat with runners in scoring position and watching him fail time after time after time. Sure, he’s been getting some hits here and there, but the vast majority of them are with the bases empty, or a runner on first and 2 outs. He is useless with RISP. Do you really think Green could possibly do worse? And please ditch the Mat Gamel argument. Those 27 at bats this season are not all Gamel has seen at the major league level. He’s been up numerous times, and has pretty much failed each time. How do they just assume Green would fail up here without giving him a shot? Are they afraid they’ll hurt Counsell’s/Wilson’s feelings?

  13. Wisco32 says: August 3, 2011

    Today’s game change anything for ya? I believe McGehee will come around and this could be the start of it. Look for a strong second half from him.

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