Results tagged ‘ Prince Fielder ’

Blogging from "On Deck"

Thousands of Brewers fans lined up early this morning at Milwaukee’s downtown Midwest Airlines Center for “Brewers On Deck,” a day-long fanfest that features autographs, photo sessions, memorabilia booths and a big corner stage for question and answer sessions and other events. 

Here are the updates as they appeared throughout the day:
5:31 p.m. CT — Attendance figures are in, and 10,638 fans attended Brewers On Deck on Sunday. That’s 227 more than attended last year, when the team was coming off a playoff appearance. 
5:05 p.m. CT – Ryan Braun is rooting for Prince Fielder to sign a longterm extension with the Brewers. Braun, after all, is under contract through 2015 and has the luxury of hitting in front of Fielder in the lineup. But Braun is not holding his breath.
“He’s going to do whatever is in his best interests, whatever is best for his family,” Braun said. “He’s earned the opportunity to go out there and see what free agency is like, see who’s interested and how much they are willing to pay.
“Obviously, I want him here. But it’s a business and I just want what’s best for him. I think everybody recognizes the circumstances and the situation that he’s in and that the team is in. To me, it’s going to come down to what’s best for his family. He’s close enough to free agency that it doesn’t make a lot of sense for him to sign a deal at this point. You have to be [realistic].”
3:36 p.m. CT — On Monday, David Riske will be just eight months removed from Tommy John surgery, a procedure that can require 12 months of rehabilitation. Still, the reliever is hoping to be active for the Brewers on Opening Day. 
“I’d say it’s a long shot, but it’s a possibility,” Riske said. “It just all depends on how fast it responds, and then when I can face hitters and how fast it responds after that.”
Riske has been rehabbing at home in Las Vegas and began throwing off a mound two weeks ago. That’s a significant milestone.
The Brewers would love to get some production from Riske this season because so far his three-year contract has not paid off. Riske says his troubles began during his first Spring Training with the Brewers in 2007, when then-pitching coach Mike Maddux tried to introduce a curveball to his repertoire. 
“I wish I would have never, ever tried to learn those breaking balls because that’s really what triggered it,” Riske said. “What do you do? You want to do what they want, and it gradually got worse and worse. … My whole career, I threw 95 percent fastballs, and I’ve had a pretty good career up until last year. I wish I would have just said no.”
Riske said he objected, but tried to pitch through the pain. He posted a 5.31 ERA in 45 appearances in 2008 and was shut down after Sept. 7. 
Riske is due $4.5 million in 2010 and his contract calls for a $4.75 million option for 2011 or a $250,000 buyout. 
He expects to be limited at the start of Spring Training and will follow a program prescribed by Brewers’ doctors. Pitchers and catchers will participate in their first formal workout on Feb. 22. 
“I miss competition,” Riske said. “I’ve been competing with my boys at home, and that’s just not the same. I want that back. I just want to go pitch without hurting.”

2:25 p.m. CT – Jeff Cirillo is staying busy these days. He’s an active investor in the Walla Walla Sweets, a newly-formed baseball team in the West Coast League, a summer wood bat league for collegiate prospects. Cirillo produced his cell phone and showed off the club’s logo, a proud father showing a photo of his kids. The club is named for one of Walla Walla, Wash.’s chief exports, the sweet onion.
Cirillo is involved in everything from player procurement to business operations. He’s also a Major League scout for the D-backs and said he’ll also be involved in some on-field instruction this year. 
1:27 p.m. CT — Prince Fielder Fielder moved into a new house this winter in Windermere, Fla., the upscale hamlet near Orlando made infamous in recent months because it’s also the home of Tiger Woods. With all of the commotion, Fielder has mostly stayed in, playing with young sons Jaden and Haven and staying in shape. Fielder’s new home is outfitted with a pool, a gym — “A little miniature-Ballys,” he said — and an indoor batting cage. He’s working to maintain his playing weight from last season, “or maybe to get a little better.” 
“I have to work out or I’d be huge,” Fielder said. “That’s not an option for me. … I don’t want to turn into an obese person, because I can.” 
He likes the Brewers’ offseason moves to far, and Sunday’s “On Deck” event gave Fielder a chance to catch up with newcomers like Randy Wolf, LaTroy Hawkins and Gregg Zaun. His contract could be a major issue swirling around the Brewers as they gather at Maryvale Baseball Park for Spring Training, but Fielder is much more interested to focus on baseball. 
“I’m just looking forward to having a better year as far as the team,” he said. “Whatever happens after that is cool. As long as we improve, I’m happy.”
12:56 p.m. CT – Fielder isn’t sweating his contract situation, unlike so many of the Brewers fans who asked for his autograph at the Brewers’ annual fan fest on Sunday. 
Fielder is two seasons shy of free agency, and the Brewers are already engaging agent Scott Boras in some casual conversations about a long-term extension. Trouble is, there is little or no precedent for a Boras client of Fielder’s star caliber accepting such a deal over the riches available on the open market, and many Milwaukee fans are already counting down the days to Fielder’s inevitable departure.
Not so fast, he said. 
“In the end, it’s my decision,” Fielder said. “But as my agent, he’s going to make sure that I have the most information possible about what’s going to benefit me and my family. That’s what it’s about first. My family has to be happy, and then I go from there.
“There’s no urgency right now as far as that.”
Asked whether he was worried about the fact that fellow star first basemen Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard and Adrian Gonzalez are all lined up to reach free agency at the same time as Fielder, he responded with a smile, “I’m younger than all of them, and I’m pretty good.”
Fielder said he won’t set a deadline for talks, though he said he “could tell [Boras], ‘Beat it,'” at some point if he doesn’t want to talk business any more. If the negotiations don’t progress, Fielder would earn his $10.5 million in 2010 and be eligible for salary arbitration one more time this winter. If he has a season like the one he enjoyed in 2009, when Fielder belted 46 homers and tied for the Major League lead with 141 RBIs, it could be a record-breaking case. 
The Brewers took a chance on Fielder in 2002, when they made him the seventh overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft and were skewered by some Draft analysts who were already expressing concern about Fielder’s weight. Instead, Fielder charged through Milwaukee’s Minor League system and took over first base at Miller Park for good in 2006. He set a franchise record 50 home runs in 2007, teamed with left fielder Ryan Braun to lead the Brewers
to their first postseason appearance in a generation in 2008, then set club marks for RBIs and walks in 2009.
That history matters, according to Fielder. 
“I came up here and I love it here,” he said. “My thing is I want to stay here as long as possible. For now, I’m here for two more years anyway. All that other stuff, hopefully, will work out.”
Even though it’s a major long shot, Brewers fans sure hope so. 
11:56 a.m. CT – Brewers bench coach Willie Randolph will begin the season on the disabled list.
Randolph underwent surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his elbow and attended “Brewers On Deck” with his right arm in a brace. Randolph said the injury was the result of wear and tear from throwing so much batting practice in 2009 — coaches throw hundreds of pitches every day — and decided recently that he had to have the problem fixed. 
Ben Sheets, of course, underwent flexor tendon surgery a year ago and missed the entire 2009 season. Randolph expects to be back earlier; he said he hopes to be back on the mound in May. 
11:30 a.m. CT -- Manager Ken Macha and pitching coach Rick Peterson were first up on the main stage and answered questions from reporters and from fans. Most of the discussion, perhaps since Peterson was present and perhaps because it was such a disaster last season, was the pitching. 
“It will all come down to the pitching,” Macha predicted. 
Before he met them in person on Sunday, Peterson had already reached out to many of the team’s pitchers via telephone. Those conversations were mostly about building relationships, Peterson said, though he’s also spent time breaking down video and data and jotting down ideas about improvements.
Those nuts and bolts discussions will begin in Arizona, Peterson said. 
“I want them to understand first that I’m an asset for them,” Peterson said. “Right now I’m doing my homework.”
So far, he likes what he sees. 
“I think this could be a really special year,” Peterson said. “You think about winning 80 games last year and having the worst starting pitching in baseball. If we can make some incremental differences … I think that we can go into Spring Training with the hope of playing in October.”
Other highlights from the session:
- Macha again endorsed Rickie Weeks for the top spot in the lineup. “If I was to write a lineup today, he would be the leadoff hitter,” Macha said. 
- Peterson said the team is in “wait and see right” mode with left-hander Mark Mulder. The sides have discussed a Minor League contract, and Peterson indicated that the ball was in Mulder’s court at this point. 

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Fielder next on agenda?

prince-fielder-2009-9-6-18-40-29.jpgThe Brewers are expected to re-introduce Doug Davis at Miller Park on Friday, a signing that could cap GM Doug Melvin’s major offseason maneuverings. Now that the rotation has a dose of healthy competition, and the bullpen and the lineup are set for 2010, it could be time to return to the topic Melvin mentioned way back in October — an extension for first baseman Prince Fielder.

Easier said than done, considering that Scott Boras is Fielder’s agent and that the player himself is two years removed from free agent riches. Assuming the Brewers will give it a try, I laid out some of the issues both sides will be considering in a story that went live on Brewers.com Thursday night.

Melvin, for his part, plans to keep things under wraps if talks indeed progress.

“It’s a big one,” he said this week, “and if we have any kind of conversations it wouldn’t be for publication. You don’t want to be asked about it every 24 hours. I’m not going to get into that sort of thing.

“But at some point, we said we want to get together. It has to be the right time. Is it the right time now? I don’t know the answer to that.”

A discussion of Fielder’s future requires this disclaimer up front: He’s already under contract for 2010, then is under club control for one more year of arbitration eligibility in 2011. That means the Brewers own Fielder’s rights for two more seasons, and, as Melvin has pointed out in the past, means that there is no sense of urgency to strike a deal or else.

On the other hand, it’s understandable that Melvin would seek a sense of whether Fielder (and Boras) are open to the idea of an extension or whether they intend to test the free agent waters two years from now.

Do you think the Brewers and Fielder will be able to strike a deal?

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Braun, Fielder on list to attend "On Deck"

From the Brewers’ PR department: 

Twenty-nine current Milwaukee Brewers players plus a host of alumni, coaches, front office executives and broadcasters are scheduled to participate in Brewers On Deck, set to take place Sunday, January 31, 2010 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Midwest Airlines Center.
Brewers On Deck is the annual Fan Fest that bridges the gap between winter and Spring Training.
Players, coaches and alumni scheduled to attend include:
PLAYERS
John Axford                
Ryan Braun
Josh Butler
Dave Bush
Todd Coffey
Tim Dillard
Alcides Escobar
Prince Fielder
Yovani Gallardo
Mat Gamel
Jody Gerut
Carlos Gomez
Corey Hart
LaTroy Hawkins
Trevor Hoffman
Hernan Iribarren
George Kottaras
Casey McGehee
Chris Narveson
Manny Parra
David Riske
Chris Smith
Mitch Stetter
Jeff Suppan
Claudio Vargas
Carlos Villanueva
Rickie Weeks
Randy Wolf
Gregg Zaun
COACHES
Ken Macha
Brad Fischer
Stan Kyles
Rick Peterson
Willie Randolph
Ed Sedar
Dale Sveum
ALUMNI
Jeff Cirillo
Jim Gantner
Gorman Thomas
Greg Vaughn
Robin Yount
Tickets for Brewers On Deck are on sale now. Adult tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door while tickets for children ages 14 and under are $9 in advance and $15 at the door. Tickets may be purchased online at brewers.com/ondeck.
Brewers On Deck will feature a number of activities for the entire family.  Autographs and photos from Brewers players and coaches, “Game Shows” featuring Brewers players, interactive games, Q&A sessions with players and staff, vendor booths with baseball memorabilia, the Brewers Charities Rummage Sale and many other activities will all be a part of Brewers On Deck.
                                                                                              
Autograph sessions will be staggered during the event, and autograph tickets — ranging from free to $25 each — will be available on the day of the event only.  There will be 250 autograph coupons available for each player and coach at the event.  Cash will be the only form of payment accepted at the pay stations in the autograph area.  Additional details regarding the autograph schedules will be available at a later date.
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Fielder fourth in MVP vote

fantasy_a_braun_fielder_300.jpgAlbert Pujols was the unanimous winner of the National League MVP Award on Tuesday. The Brewers’ top contender was Prince Fielder, who finished fourth.

Pujols received all 32 first-place votes for 448 points. Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins was second with 233 points, Ryan Howard of the Phillies was third with 217 points and Fielder garnered 203 points. Fielder received five second-place votes, nine third place votes, seven fourth place votes, three fifth place votes, one sixth place vote, three eighth place votes, one ninth place vote and three 10th place votes.

Ryan Braun was 11th in the balloting, with 43 points.

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Brewers eye free agent pitching market

Surprise, surprise. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin spent his time at this week’s General Managers Meetings in Chicago focused on pitching.

Melvin spoke this week with agent Arn Tellem, who represents free agent left-hander Randy Wolf, and Steve Canter, the agent for free-agent left-hander Doug Davis, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. At some point he also expressed interest in left-hander Jarrod Washburn, Washburn’s agent Scott Boras told the newspaper.

According to a Major League source, Melvin also met with Steve Hilliard, who represents righty John Lackey, the top available pitcher. In a chat with the Journal Sentinel before heading home to Milwaukee, Melvin downplayed the Brewers’ chances of landing Lackey. 

“It depends what they’re asking for,” Melvin said. “I don’t know if it could fit or not. I might have to make some other moves to make it fit.” 

The Brewers may have jumped to the top of the list of teams expected to pursue Lackey last week, when Melvin brought up Lackey’s name in a discussion of his plan to bolster a pitching staff that ranked next-to-last in the National League in 2009. 

Melvin said he would have to focus on bounce-back candidates coming off poor- or injury-plagued seasons, and indeed he has already checked in with the agent for Mark Mulder, who missed all of 2009 with shoulder woes. At some point Milwaukee could also check in with former Brewer Ben Sheets, who never pitched in 2009 after undergoing elbow surgery.

But at the same time, Melvin would not rule out a look at the top shelf of free agents. 

“There’s one guy that stands out and it’s John Lackey,” Melvin told reporters on a conference call last Friday. “He’s head and shoulders above the others. … You look at the consistency of pitchers who are out there and John Lackey is a great competitor, but we’ll have to take a look at that and see.” 

Since Melvin raised Lackey’s name without being asked, he was pressed on the matter. Is he a free agent of interest to the Brewers? 

“We’ll leave that discussion internally for ourselves,” Melvin said. “When you get involved in free agency and you talk about people, then all you’re doing is letting people know you’re interested and it drives the prices up. So I’m not going to say who we’re interested in or who we’re not.” 

It’s a two-way street, said Melvin, who believes most free agents enter the market with a short list of teams they prefer. 

“It’s our job to find out if we’re on that list of teams,” Melvin said.  

If the Brewers are on Lackey’s list, then Melvin might have to move some more payroll, as he suggested to the Journal Sentinel on Wednesday. 

Melvin has already said he won’t pursue center fielder Mike Cameron, who earned $10 million last year, and has hinted that Jason Kendall’s $5 million salary might not fit next year, either. His highest-paid returning players are starter Jeff Suppan (due $12.5 million in 2010, the final year of his four-year contract), first baseman Prince Fielder ($10.5 million), closer Trevor Hoffman ($7.5 million) and reliever David Riske ($4.5 million in the final year of his three-year deal). 

More decisions are coming. The Brewers have until Saturday to exercise their half of starter Braden Looper’s $6.5 million mutual option, and pitcher Dave Bush (who made $4 million in 2009), outfielder Corey Hart ($3.25 million) and second baseman Rickie Weeks ($2.45 million) head the list of arbitration-eligible players whose salaries could jump again. 

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Brewers addressing glare at Miller Park

Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder didn’t expect Brewers officials to respond to their concerns about the daytime hitting conditions at Miller Park. They’ll be surprised when they return next April.

Crews began a project Tuesday to respond to complaints lodged principally by the Brewers’ middle of the order sluggers, who were vocal about how difficult it was to see the baseball on sunny days. Workers removed the ivy that had been growing beyond the center field wall and painted the formerly green batters’ eye with glare-resistant black paint. Black mesh will then be installed below the scoreboard to further limit glare.

shadow.jpgThe project won’t eliminate the shadows that contribute to the hitters’ woes — at right is Minnesota’s Scott Baker throwing a pitch at Miller Park in June — but it’s a start.  

“I  think it’s Step 1,” Brewers vice president of communications Tyler Barnes said. “Hopefully, that will make a difference, and we’ll see how that goes.”

Barnes said that the Brewers looked at a number of different ways to improve hitting conditions at Miller Park but discovered “significant logistical issues” with a number of them.  Braun has said he wants the huge banks of windows that tower over the grandstands to be tinted, lessening the effect of the shadows that creep across the infield during day games. But that project could cost millions and would further cast Miller Park into darkness.

Players also have talked about the lighting at Miller Park during night games. But the Brewers studied the issue and found that the system meets Major League Baseball’s standards, so no upgrades are planned for 2010.

Braun was especially adamant in June that something needed to be done, arguing that the combination of glare and shadows constituted a safety hazard.

“We want to talk about it,” Braun said then. “We’ve made it very clear [to club officials] how we feel about it. It’s miserable playing day games here. That’s why Prince and I continue to talk about it. We’ve told everybody, and they haven’t done anything about it. It gets to the point where nobody enjoys playing day games here. It’s good for pitchers, but you can’t see the ball. It’s, by far, worse than any other park in Major League Baseball.”

Barnes said that club officials sought input from certain players during the season, but late in the year Fielder was still skeptical that his concerns would be addressed.

“They’ve said this and that,” he said, “but I’m going to take it as it’s never going to change. Sometimes it’s like, ‘Help me out.'”

Now it appears the team is trying to do just that.

The Brewers will announce a number of other minor Miller Park upgrades next week, Barnes said.

CFwide.jpg
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HomePlate1.jpg[Thanks to the Brewers’ John Steinmiller for the photos.]

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Awards season is here

fielder-braun.jpgIt’s awards season in Major League Baseball. Will any Brewers walk the red carpet?

The announcement of American League Gold Glove Award winners on Tuesday kick-starts a two-week run of honors that culminates Nov. 24 with the National League MVP. Here’s a rundown, and where the Brewers might fit:

Tuesday, Nov. 10 – AL Gold Gloves
Wednesday, Nov. 11 – NL Gold Gloves

The Brewers haven’t had a Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner since Robin Yount won as a shortstop in 1982, but left fielder Ryan Braun figures to win a few before his career is over. Braun certainly made some mistakes in his second season as an outfielder but was charged with only two errors — his first two in two seasons since a move off third base. Braun rates low in the defensive statistical metrics, but because Gold Gloves almost always go to very good offensive players who happen to play solid defense — and not necessarily the game’s best defensive players — he’s got a chance.

Mike Cameron should also be in the mix after another season running down baseballs in center field. Cameron is a three-time Gold Glover, last in 2006 with the Padres.

I think Fielder deserves a mention here as well, because he made tremendous strides in 2009 while working endlessly with infield coach Willie Randolph. He still doesn’t have the reach of, say, Chicago’s Derrek Lee or reigning NL Gold Glove first baseman Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres, but Fielder improved dramatically at picking balls out of the dirt this season. Give Fielder credit for wanting to be an all-around player.

Thursday, Nov. 12 – Silver Sluggers
The award, given to a player at each position in each league, was first presented in 1980 and is determined by a vote of baseball’s managers and coaches. Winners will be announced at 5 p.m. CT on MLB Network.

Prince Fielder
was the last to win a Silver Slugger Award, for his 50-homer season in 2007. Fielder put together an even better year in 2009, batting a career-best .299 with 46 home runs and 141 RBIs while playing all 162 games. He tied Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard for the NL RBI crown, but Howard is also a first baseman and will draw notice. So will Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, who led baseball with 47 homers and a 1.101 OPS.

Braun probably has a better chance to win among NL left fielders. He ranked second to Marlins rookie Chris Coghlan with a .320 batting average, second to the Phillies’ Raul Ibanez with 32 RBIs and a .551 slugging percentage and led NL left fielders with 114 RBIs.

Monday, Nov. 16 – Rookie of the Year
Both the AL winner and the NL winner will be announced this day, at 1 p.m. CT. The Brewers pushed hard for third baseman Casey McGehee, who emerged from the waiver wire to be a major contributor to the team in 2009. McGehee started only one of the Brewers’ first 38 games, but finished with a .301 average, 16 home runs and 66 RBIs in 116 games. He led all Major League rookies in RBIs, including 27 over the final 31 games.

Unfortunately for McGehee, the NL had a number of impressive rookies in 2009. Florida’s Coghlan, Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen or utility man Garrett Jones, Philadelphia pitcher J.A. Happ and Atlanta pitcher Tommy Hanson are among them.

Tuesday, Nov. 17 – AL Cy Young Award

Wednesday, Nov. 18 – Manager of the Year
Like the rookie honor, a manager from each league will be honored at 1 p.m. CT. Brewers skipper Ken Macha isn’t a candidate after his team went 80-82 and finished third in the NL Central. Macha will have to settle to returning to the manager’s office for a second season.

Thursday, Nov.19 – NL Cy Young Award
Pitchers from non-playoff teams who tied for the worst starters’ ERA in baseball don’t win Cy Youngs, so Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo is out. He did have a nice bounce-back year after missing most of 2008 with a knee injury, becoming the fourth Brewers pitcher ever to cross the 200-strikeout plateau. Catcher Jason Kendall predicted that Gallardo will win multiple Cy Young Awards before his career is over.

Monday, Nov. 23 – AL MVP

Tuesday, Nov. 24 – NL MVP
Minus Pujols’ season for the ages, Fielder would be a strong candidate to be the Brewers’ first league MVP since Yount in 1989. But with Pujols considered the clear frontrunner for the award, Fielder may have to settle for a runner-up finish. Fielder finished third in MVP balloting in 2007. Braun, who finished third in MVP balloting in 2008, will once again place in 2009.

Who are your picks for the major postseason awards? You can post your predictions in the comments.

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Bill James sees solid season for Gamel

Just got an e-mail from stat guru Bill James‘ publisher and thought I would pass it along. It includes a positive prognostication for Mat Gamel — if he plays — but not so much for Rickie Weeks. Another 200-strikeout season for right-hander Yovani Gallardo but only 12 wins, and another struggle for lefty Manny Parra.

They key “if” in these projections is playing time. For example, the release offers projections for Gamel, Weeks and Casey McGehee assuming at least 425 at-bats for each, but it’s difficult to envision that scenario. James explains in his quote below.

Here’s the text:

In the recently-released Bill James Handbook 2010, baseball guru Bill James projects the 2010 seasons for players on the Milwaukee Brewers — and predicts a potentially solid year from third baseman Mat Gamel.

“In any season, the vast majority of players play in a manner that seems a natural extension of what they had done before,” James says in his new book. “When that happens, our projection should be reasonably accurate.”

Although he’s been in the projection business for almost twenty years, one thing James has no control over is playing time. “It is always my argument that we have no chance of figuring out, in October 2009, who will get playing time in 2010,” James says. “But what we should do is try to answer this question: If this player plays, how will he play?”

With this in mind, here are the five key Milwaukee hitters for 2010, according to the new Bill James Handbook 2010:

Key Brewers Hitters (by OPS)
Player                   At-bats     R     HR    RBI     SB     Avg.    OPS
Ryan Braun             615     112     39    119      17     .315    .972
Prince Fielder          601     103     44    124       3      .286    .967
Mat Gamel              455      65      17     73       3      .277    .817
Rickie Weeks          425      80      16     48      14     .259    .807
Casey McGehee      492      63      15     76       0      .272    .757

Projecting stats for pitchers is very different from projecting offensive stats for hitters. “We used to believe that pitching performance was much, much less predictable than batter performance,” James says. “This is probably still true…due to injuries and other factors. Sometimes a pitcher gets hurt, and when that happens our projections for him are knocked into a cocked hat.”

Here are the three key Milwaukee pitchers for 2010, according to the new Bill James Handbook 2010:

Key Brewers Pitchers (by ERA)
Player                       IP     W    L     K      SV    ERA
Trevor Hoffman         63     4     3     57     39     2.43
Yovani Gallardo       186    12    8     205     0     3.53
Manny Parra           147     7     9     130     0     4.59

The complete projections for the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers can be found in the Bill James Handbook 2010.

For further information on the Bill James Handbook 2010 go to www.actasports.com.

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Melvin: Trading Fielder, Braun would be 'tough one'

Detail05 copy.jpgBrewers general manager Doug Melvin said he may need to sacrifice some of the team’s offense this winter to improve the pitching staff, so he was asked the obvious follow-up. Is he willing to trade Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder

“Wow. That would be a tough one,” Melvin said. “I didn’t mean it that way. I don’t see that happening.” 

The comment came Wednesday during Melvin’s annual year-end meeting with local reporters at Miller Park. Both Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash said what they have been saying for weeks, that in order to improve a team that finished 80-82 they will have to bolster a pitching staff that finished next-to-last in the National League with a 4.87 ERA, including dead last with a 5.37 starters’ ERA. Melvin said he wants to add at least two established starters.

Thumbnail image for fantasy_a_braun_fielder_300.jpgThe team’s most valuable pieces at the moment are Braun and Fielder, who combined in 2009 for more RBIs (255) than any duo in the Majors this season. Braun hit 32 home runs, joining Albert Pujols as the only players in history to belt at least 30 homers in each of their first three seasons. Fielder finished second in the NL with 46 home runs and tied Howard for the Major League lead with 141 RBIs. 

“But it’s a 25-man — and, really, a 30-35 man — team,” Melvin said. “In fantasy baseball, you can dream about what you could get back for Prince or Ryan Braun. In reality, there’s not too many teams that can give up the package that we would really want that would guarantee you to be competitive.” 

Ash said there have been spirited internal debates on the topic. Is there more value in a bona fide No. 1 starter who makes 30-plus starts and affects perhaps 20 other games by leaving the bullpen fresh? Or in an MVP candidate like Fielder who plays every inning of every game and has the potential to affect all 162? 

“I’m going with the hitter,” Ash said.  

In fact, Brewers officials have had internal discussions about whether Fielder could be locked into a longer-term deal, according to Melvin. He’s entering the second season of two-year contract through 2010 that buys out the first of Fielder’s three arbitration years. He will still be under Brewers control in 2011 but would hit the free agent market following that season. 

Compare that to Braun, whose contract runs through 2015. If the Brewers could convince Fielder and agent Scott Boras to take an extension, it would give the Brewers a larger window in which to put the right pieces around their slugging duo. 

“That’s something we have talked about with Mark [Attanasio, the team’s principal owner],” Melvin said. “We don’t have a plan for doing that at this time. You can say it’s in the back of your mind or whatever, but it’s coming more forward as a decision we have to make in two years’ time. …

“Mark, from an ownership standpoint, knows that’s a major decision that’s down the pike. It’s not next week, it’s not next month, but it probably comes up in our conversation every time we get together.”

In the short-term, the Brewers’ focus is on the pitching. Melvin knows that it won’t be easy to find solutions. 

“There’s not any downtime this offseason, but I’m looking forward to it,” Melvin said. “It’s a challenge. I’ve got a lot of energy and I’m ready to improve the ballclub.” 

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Ash01 copy.jpgAll photos courtesy of Scott Paulus/Brewers

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Brewers doomed to sub-.500 season

AP091001046787.jpgAfter Colorado reliever Franklin Morales struck out Alcides Escobar to end Thursday’s 9-2 Brewers loss, slugger Prince Fielder sat on the dugout and watched the Rockies celebrate their ticket to the postseason.

“I didn’t mind watching,” Fielder said. “It reminds you of what you’re missing.”

The dogpile on the pitcher’s mound came 369 days after Fielder and the Brewers celebrated their own Wild Card clinch last season. Now, with 82 losses and three games to play, the Brewers are guaranteed a losing record.

Manny Parra, who endured an awful final start, saw the last out on a clubhouse television. He immediately turned it off.

“That’s the last thing I want to watch,” he said.

The Brewers aren’t the first team to follow a playoff appearance with a losing season. Since the Wild Card era began in 1995, 21 teams have endured such a slip, plus two more — the 2008 Indians and the 1996 Reds — who came close but finished 81-81. 

Three of those 21 teams had a fall more devastating than Milwaukee’s. The 1998 Marlins, the 2003 Angels and the 2007 Cardinals followed World Championships with losing seasons.

Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio watched Thursday’s final innings in frustration and vowed offseason changes. Among the team’s pressing question marks is Parra, a 26-year-old with loads of talent who has been slow to put it to consistent use.

That was the case again against the Rockies, when Parra recorded five of his eight outs via strikeouts but also walked five — one was intentional — and surrendered five runs. He issued two of the Brewers’ three bases loaded walks. Two of them inexplicably went to Colorado pitcher Aaron Cook, a .116 hitter entering the game.

“I have games like the last game [a win against the Phillies] when I’m able to stick to the plan and execute,” Parra said “Today, I was trying to stick to the plan but I just wasn’t able to accomplish what I wanted to do.

“I just have to forget about it. I know I have the ability. It comes down to fastball command. That’s what it’s all about. I understand that and know that’s what I have to work on.”

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