Brewers pitcher Mike Fiers doesn't throw any harder than we thought he did, but he's succeeding despite his limitations.
You know what to expect when Mike Fiers is pitching. You expect a lot of puns about his name, which is pronounced “Fires.” First inning: “Mike Fiers on the mound and he is setting the mound on Fire recently.” Second inning: “He is heating up.” Third inning: “A perfect name for a day like this. Mike Fiers.” Actual puns from his actual last start. It was 101 degrees in Milwaukee.
You don’t really know what else to expect, because wait who? Mike Fiers, a guy taken in the 22nd round during his age-24 season. The day he made his pro debut, in short-season ball, he was the same age Clayton Kershaw is now. Three years later, Mike Fiers is in the majors, and in seven starts he has struck out 48 batters and walked nine, in 46 innings. He has a 2.31 ERA and some guy in your fantasy league keeps offering him to you for Adrian Gonzalez. And he is the latest fun story of a guy who did more than he was supposed to do.
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The return of Prince Fielder is crucial, since the Brewers don't have a rich farm system
Kiss 'Em Goodbye is a series focusing on MLB teams as their postseason dreams fade—whether in October (or before), the league division series, league championship series or World Series. It combines a broad overview from Baseball Prospectus, a front-office take from former MLB GM Jim Bowden, a best- and worst-case scenario ZiPS projection for 2012 from Dan Szymborski, and Kevin Goldstein's farm-system overview.
If Prince Fielder departs this offseason, what should the Brewers do with the savings?
All is well in Milwaukee, where the Brewers are on the verge of clinching both a 95-win season and a division title in the NL Central, but the team’s run to October has assumed an air of added urgency in light of Prince Fielder’s impending free agency. Fielder—who leads the NL with 155 games played and has produced rate stats (including a sterling .294/.409/.547 triple-slash line) and counting stats (34 homers, 112 RBI) capable of making adherents of both advanced and traditional statistics swoon—is both the second-longest-tenured and the highest-profile player on the roster, which has led many observers to conclude that the big first baseman’s uniform would be difficult to fill (in more ways than one) if he were to depart this winter.
Although some Brewers fans might have managed to delude themselves into believing that Fielder’s services could be retained even after he reportedly declined a five-year, $100 million offer last season, his acknowledgement last week that “being real about it,  is probably the last year” in which he’ll call Miller Park home forces us to consider whether the Brew Crew would be best-served by digging deep and overspending in an all-out effort to re-sign him or letting him leave and investing the savings elsewhere.
The Milwaukee Brewers' hot streak can be attributed to multiple factors.
On the morning of July 26, the Milwaukee Brewers awoke after a day off to find they had slipped out of first place. The Pirates and Cardinals, with whom they had been tied with the night before, had each won their games while the Brewers sat idle, slipping Milwaukee a half-game behind.
One month later, the Brewers awoke on the morning of August 26, again after a night off, alone in first place. The second-place Cardinals had taken advantage of the Brew Crew’s idleness, beating the Pirates. This moved St. Louis to 9.5 games back of Milwaukee. The Pirates had fallen even further, sitting in fourth place and 16 games back. This drastic change in the structure of the National League Central was due almost entirely to the Brewers' stellar month-long run, in which they went 24-5 in 29 games. That .828 winning percentage was just too much for any team to compete with.
The Pirates' continuing struggles at Miller Park might help make the Brewers' season.
On Sunday, the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates for their 70th win of the season. The game dropped the formerly feisty Pirates to 56-63, thirteen games behind the division-leading Brewers. Charlie Morton, Pittsburgh's biggest success story of the season, started the game on Sunday and seemed to have the win in the bank. After extending his scoreless inning streak to 24 with 7.1 innings of four-hit, no-run ball, Morton left the game with a runner on second, one out, and a one-run lead. After Jose Veras got the second out in the inning, closer Joel Hanrahan came in for the four-out save. Hanrahan struck out Nyjer Morgan to end the eighth, but the ball got away from catcher Michael McKenry, and Morgan streaked to first. Ryan Braun made good on the free opportunity two pitches later, and the game was tied. Milwaukee would go on to win it in the tenth inning on a sacrifice fly from Morgan, wasting the great start from Morton and securing the sweep.
The game also marked Pittsburgh's 34th loss in 36 games at Miller Park, a streak dating back to May 2007. At that time, Jason Bay was hitting cleanup in a lineup that featured Jose Bautista as the starting third baseman and a right-field platoon of Xavier Nady and Ryan Doumit. The Pirates had come into Milwaukee for a four-game series sitting on a 12-14 record. Tom Gorzelanny earned the win in the first game, when Bay, Bautista, and others combined for a four-run seventh-inning en route to a 4-2 victory. The next night, the Brewers pounded Pittsburgh's pitching by scoring one run in four of the first five innings before erupting for six more in the sixth and seventh innings. The 10-0 loss was harsh, but no one knew it meant anything more than that. Milwaukee finished out that early-May series with a convincing 6-3 victory on Saturday and a tight 6-4 victory on Sunday, when Pittsburgh tied it up at four in the seventh before giving it up again in the eighth.
Craig Counsell has been in a bit of a slump lately. Okay, maybe that undersells it a little. Counsell is 0 for his last 45 at-bats. His last hit came a couple months back, on June 10. Another hitless at-bat will tie him with Bill Bergen of the 1909 Brooklyn Superbas for the longestknown streak of hitless at-bats by a position player.
Doug Melvin's willingness to make bold moves to acquire aces continues to serve the Brew Crew well.
NEW YORK—Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin cut his teeth as an executive years ago with the Baltimore Orioles, where he served as an assistant under former GM Roland Hemond. Melvin still considers the longtime executive a mentor who has taught him valuable lessons, including the one that has allowed him to pull off his most daring trades.
“Roland always taught me to always be ready and available to do anything and to adjust,” Melvin said. “You have to have a game plan. But the game plan's not as important. Your ‘A’ game plan isn't as important as the ability to adjust from your game plan if you have to, to go to Plan B or Plan C.”
Milwaukee got off to a slow start, but with some Princely additions in the offseason, they may still be able to salvage a spot in the playoffs.
If this is Prince Fielder's last go-round in Milwaukee, he's doing his best to make it memorable. Over the weekend, Fielder led the Brewers to a three-game sweep of the Cardinals, homering on Saturday and Sunday, with his mammoth 440-foot two-run blast on the latter day giving the Brewers a lead they wouldn't relinquish. A free agent-to-be at the end of the season, Fielder is making a strong case for a contract along the lines of Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez, having hit eight homers in a 10-game span to climb to second in the league with 19. With his help, the Brewers are the senior circuit's hottest team.
Six studs form the backbone of the first-place Brewers, but valuable contributors round out the roster of the streaking team.
After an offseason spent fostering optimism through action, the Brewers emerged as one of the darling picks for prognosticators in the early spring. The sins of yesteryear were shed along the way, as Milwaukee picked up two new starters, a role player or two, and a new manager who was cut from the same cloth as those who helmed winners with the Angels, Rays, and Padres. The roster appeared well-rounded, and the club’s chances of taking home a division crown—and perhaps more—seemed strong.
Then camp started, and suddenly clouds began to gather. Team doctors diagnosed Zack Greinke, acquired to front the rotation, with a broken rib. He was expected to miss weeks and wound up returning in the first week of May. Shaun Marcum, the organization’s other big off-season injection of talent, suffered from shoulder tightness but would persevere and open the season without issue.
No analysis of a major move is complete without some consideration of what it might mean for the fanbase.
Why would a team sign a 27-year-old Ryan Braun to a five-year, $105 million contract extension when the extension is still five years from kicking in, as the Brewers did last week? There are certainly practical reasons, but one overriding one that rarely receives its full due from analysts is fan service. The small market curse—that teams can develop superstars, but cannot afford to retain them—is very much alive in Milwaukee, and fans are keenly aware of it. The Prince Fielder situation is a perfect example of this.
In Prince Fielder's final plate appearance at Miller Park in the 2010 season, the 30,000 fans in attendance gave him a rousing ovation. Later, after Fielder walked and was replaced by a pinch-runner, the ovation was louder and longer, forcing a curtain call from the slugger. It wasn't because Fielder had just hit a walk-off home run or knocked in the winning run. It was because not a single person in the stadium believed that the power-hitting first baseman, who had finished third in MVP voting in 2007 and fourth in 2009, would ever play a game in a Brewers uniform in Miller Park again. The fans wanted to make sure that he knew how much he was appreciated.
Pegging BP's favorites in both leagues, both in the standings and for the major awards.
Today we reveal the Baseball Prospectus staff predictions for the division standings and the major player awards (MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year) in the American and National Leagues. Each staff member's division standings predictions may be found later in the article. Here, we present a wisdom-of-the-crowds summary of the results. In each table you'll find the average rank of each team in their division with first-place votes in parentheses, plus the results of our pre-season MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year voting.
For the MVP voting, we've slightly amended the traditional points system in place that has been used elsewhere, dropping fourth- and fifth-place votes to make it 10-7-5 for the MVP Award, and the regular 5-3-1 for the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Awards (that's 5 points for a first-place vote, 3 points for a second-place vote, etc.). Next to each of these selections we've listed the total number of ballots, followed by the total number of points, and then the number of first-place votes in parentheses, if any were received.