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.


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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