Milwaukee is the surprise of the spring. A look at what has made them interesting.
Among the surprise teams in the early going, the Brewers have a case for most shocking. Milwaukee entered the season pegged for fourth place in the division by the Baseball Prospectus staff, but has raced to a major-league best 15-5 start. Of course it is early and any team can look brilliant over a 20-game sample—even last season's Astros managed a 12-8 run in late May and early June—yet the Brewers deserve some attention for their hot start, which gave them higher playoff odds through Tuesday than all but five teams in the majors. Rather than harp about their inability to play this well all summer long, let's focus on some of the intriguing developments surrounding the team.
Tyson Ross baffles the Giants, the benches clear at PNC Park, plus other recaps from the weekend and previews of today's action.
In the past, Tyson Ross has been viewed as a player with the raw talent to be a successful big-league pitcher, but one unable to put his skills toward sustainable success at the big-league level.
However, after an excellent outing on Friday against the Giants, Ross looks like a very good big-league pitcher. He completed eight innings with nine strikeouts, four hits, one walk, and no runs. This comes directly after another strong showing against the Tigers, in which he threw seven innings with seven strikeouts, six hits, one walk, and one run. Obviously, a two-game sample does not define the greatness of a big-league pitcher, but it is certainly a promising start. On the season, he owns a 2.13 ERA, a 2.95 FIP, and 25 strikeouts. Considering that he had a very solid second half of last season as well (2.93 ERA, 85 K in 80 IP), he may be hitting his stride.
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Dissecting a new wrinkle in the rules that's causing confusion, plus the highlights from Tuesday and what to watch for on Wednesday.
The Tuesday Takeaway
A second baseman or shortstop fields a ground ball and throws it to his double-play partner at the keystone. The other middle infielder catches it with his foot on the bag. As he begins to remove the ball from his glove with his bare hand, the ball squirts away. The runner going to second is out. The batter is safe at first. And life goes on.
Bret makes sure to get his top-ranked backstop to cement an offense led by Ryan Braun's power and Billy Hamilton's steals.
On Friday, March 21, Mike Gianella released Version Four of his mixed league Bid Limits, which spurred an idea from Bret Sayre called Model Portfolios, wherein the fantasy staff (and anyone else on the BP roster who wants to participate) will create their own team within the confines of a standard 23-man, $260 budget. The roster being constructed includes: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CI, MI, OFx5, UTx2, and Px9 along with the following standards issued by Sayre:
The fantasy crew tries to peg the top 15 picks and predict breakouts from later picks.
We know from Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster that since 2004, there is a 36 percent success rate in the ADP projecting the top 15. The most in any one year is seven of 15; the least is four. With that in mind, I challenged the fantasy team to try to guess the top 15. In addition to their stab at the top 15, I had them give their answers on the following:
The Brew Crew might be a flawed club, but it also has plenty of excellent fantasy assets.
There is a lot of fantasy talent on the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers roster. Their tumultuous 2013 season and consensus ranking of “fringe contender” for next season have made the Brewers somewhat anonymous nationally, but that shouldn’t be the case. They have batters who can hit for power and run. They have pitchers who are better than you think. And even their bullpen has a few high-strikeout options of note. It’s a flawed team, to be sure, but one that could produce some fantasy steals this year.
In what must have felt like a rehab assignment to a man of his powers, Clayton Kershaw traveled to Florida and eviscerated a bunch of—you know what? Kershaw is good. You know this. Let’s do something else…
Braun Comes Clean
Last night, disgraced Brewers slugger Ryan Braunreleased a statement admitting he’d taken performance-enhancing drugs and apologizing for having done so. It wasn’t the apology we’re used to—a vague, cryptic, “I’m sorry for things in my past,” like someone talking to his grandchildren from his deathbed—and it includes the uncomfortably identifiable psychological process wherein he convinces himself he’d done nothing wrong.
Lessons learned over the season's first three-and-a-half months, and a look ahead to the first round of 2014 drafts.
It was almost a month ago now that I began looking at some of what we learned and how it applies to the 2014 season. I’ve wanted to get part two out, but I had a few other topics that I thought were more helpful for the here and now, so I gave them precedence ahead of this piece. Of course, with an extra month, we’ve seen that much more action and things have evolved even more now. Monday’s bombshell about Ryan Braun mixes things up a bit, too. Let’s cover a few more areas of what we’ve learned before I unveil my first crack at a top 12 for next year.
Shortstop Remains a Wasteland
The top two shortstops by ESPN’s Player Rater have been revelations this year, as San Diego’s Everth Cabrera has utilized his speed and plate discipline to turn himself into a premier asset. He drastically upped his contact rate, garnering even more use of his speed en route to a .289 AVG and .386 OBP, which have subsequently yielded 34 stolen bases. That puts him on pace to lead the NL again. And yet he’s nowhere near a first-rounder, as he remains a complete non-factor in home runs and RBI while the ineptitude of his teammates has left his 39 percent on-base rate underused, as he paces toward just 75 runs scored.
Why Ryan Braun's suspension isn't bad news, and other reflections on the latest in the Biogenesis saga.
Baseball Prospectus has no house style on performance-enhancing drugs, the way we do about, say, punctuation (unspaced em-dash only, please). We haven’t taken an internal poll and decided to condone or condemn PEDs, and we don’t issue an official stance on steroids as part of the author orientation process. But a site devoted to the pursuit of objective knowledge about baseball tends to attract a group of authors who’ve independently developed similar feelings about certain subjects—from batting order to the sacrifice bunt—and so much of our coverage of baseball’s PED problem over the years has held true to a few first principles:
Some 20 players could be suspended for ties to Biogenesis, as the league seeks testimony from Tony Bosch in a case that could have far-reaching financial implications.
Major League Baseball may seek to suspend as many as 20 players, including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, as part of the investigation into the Miami-area Biogenesis anti-aging clinic, according to a report by ESPN. The league has been pursuing legal avenues, including a lawsuit against Biogenesis, Biokem, Tony Bosch of Biogenesis, and others, seeking damages. That and other pressure may have finally taken a toll on Bosch as, according to the ESPN report, he is ready to cooperate with MLB investigators in exchange for their dropping the case. With Bosch testifying against players, the league could begin the suspension process “within the next few weeks.”
Should all the players be suspended, it would mark the largest number of suspensions for performance-enhancing substances in the history of professional sports. In 2005, the first year of mandatory drug testing, MLB suspended 12 players between April and November of the year, the largest amount of suspensions at the major-league level to date. At the time, first-time suspensions against the joint drug agreement between MLB and the players’ union were only for 10 games. Since then, the number of games a player can be suspended for has increased dramatically to 50 for a first violation, 100 for a second, and a potential permanent suspension from both MLB and minor-league baseball for a third.
The Brewers star is one of the best in the game by nearly any measure. What does the rest of his career promise?
Ryan Braun is a future Hall of Famer. That was the consensus I arrived at after polling a few BP staffers last week. It’s a sensible position. Braun is one of the best players in the game by any measure. His power-speed combination might be the truest in the league. Since 2010, Braun ranks seventh in homers and 15th in steals. No player with more steals than Braun is within 30 home runs, and only Matt Kemp is within 10 tallies in both categories.
The Milwaukee outfielder isn’t merely a two-dimensional player, either. His True Average over the past three seasons ranks fourth among batters with 1,000 or more plate appearances (Miguel Cabrera,Jose Bautista, and Joey Votto sit ahead). Even Braun’s defense, maligned during his early days as a third baseman, is passable nowadays, according to those who watch him the most, like Jack Moore of Disciples of Uecker. Moore broke down Braun like this: decent range, iffy routes, and a strong arm, albeit with a slow and deliberate crow hop and accuracy issues.