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Milwaukee Brewers: Grading the Brewers 2012 Season

The Milwaukee Brewers failed in 2012.

There’s no need to sugarcoat it or try to make light of a dark season.

The fact is—the Brewers underachieved.

Coming off a trip to the National League Championship Series in 2011, expectations soared even higher entering this season. Those expectations were quickly put to bed.

With injuries stacking up, as well as blown saves and losses, the Brewers shipped Zack Greinke to Los Angeles for highly touted shortstop Jean Segura. Milwaukee started winning shortly after and eventually became in contention for the second wild card spot.

They came up short and finished the season with a 83-79 record, good enough for third in the N.L. Central. Without the injuries and the lack of a solid bullpen, Milwaukee’s season might have ended on a different path.

Here are my grades of the Milwaukee Brewers offense, starting pitching and bullpen in 2012.

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Mat Gamel: Why the Brewers First Baseman Could Be Traded

Mat Gamel has fallen upon some bad luck this season.

A torn ACL ended his highly-coveted 2012 campaign, and the emergence of Corey Hart at first has all but assured Gamel’s departure.

Although the 27-year-old was batting a mere .246 before his injury, Gamel is still an interesting trade candidate. He has considerable power and is capable of hitting 20-25 home runs in a full season.

He can also hit for a decent average with consistent playing time. In 2011 with Triple-A Nashville, the left-handed hitter posted a .310 average. His success hasn’t translated over to the majors, but he has hardly had the chance to prove himself. He only saw action in 21 games before he tore his knee up.

I fully believe Gamel can be an All-Star in the big leagues if given the chance to play every day, and if his knee is fully healed. However, it might not be with the Crew.

The Brewers have found their future first baseman in Hart—depending on if they sign him to an extension. The brass will need to make that decision soon, as his contract is up at the end of the 2013 season.

Moving Gamel to the outfield is an option for Milwaukee, but their depth is already overwhelming. With Logan Schafer and Khris Davis making waves in the minors, there simply isn’t any room for the once-promising prospect.

After Aramis Ramirez’s contract expires, replacing him with Gamel could be a possibility. But he would almost be 30 by then, and his shoddy defense makes him more suited for first base.

Placing him on the bench and using him in spot starts and as a pinch-hitter isn’t among consideration. Gamel would be less than thrilled, and his poor attitude would affect his performance. The Brewers would trade him before making him a bench player.

Besides Gamel, Milwaukee doesn’t have much else to offer teams. He has become their greatest trade bait.

The Philadelphia Phillies may be interested in Gamel. If Ryan Howard’s demise continues, the Phillies may be forced to give up on him, despite paying him a fortune. Gamel could be the next Howard with a little less power.

In return, Milwaukee may be asking for a third base prospect, as the Brewers have none in their minor-league system.

Through almost no fault of his own, Mat Gamel’s time in Milwaukee may be over. His season-ending injury cost him his job.

Hopefully, Milwaukee can get someone promising in return for Gamel’s service.

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MLB Free Agency 2013: Why Milwaukee Should Go After Michael Bourn

Michael Bourn is a prototypical leadoff hitter. If a world-class architect were to create the perfect leadoff man, Bourn would be the finished product.

The Milwaukee Brewers are in desperate need of a true leadoff hitter, and Bourn would be the perfect pick.

In January of this year, Bourn signed a one-year, $6.85 million contract with the Atlanta Braves. After the 2012 season concludes, he will be a hot commodity among free agents.

With Scott Boras as his agent, Bourn will most likely look for a five- or six-year contract. Dealing with Boras is never easy, but Milwaukee has a history with the powerful and greedy Boras—they drafted his son last year.

Besides being a tremendous leadoff hitter, Bourn is an elite center fielder with top-notch speed. He has swiped 37 bags as of August 31.

Bourn would give the Brewers even more speed on the basepaths. With Bourn joining the likes of Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez, catchers would forever be on their toes.

The 29-year-old is batting .285 with nine home runs and 55 driven in. His 154 base hits rank third in the National League. He is the leadoff hitter the Brewers have been dying for. Plus, he is already comfortable with the National League Central, after having played with the Houston Astros for three-and-a-half years.

Milwaukee’s leadoff hitters in 2011 have been shameful.

The “Rickie Weeks leadoff hitter experiment” has failed miserably, and Corey Hart is best suited for the middle of the order. Norichika Aoki has performed very well in the role, but he only has one more year left on his contract, and I doubt Milwaukee views him as a long-term option.

Milwaukee should open its checkbooks and do whatever it takes to sign Bourn. With Bourn, Braun and Gomez patrolling the outfield, the Brewers would have no trouble tracking down fly balls.

The chances of the speedy Bourn coming to Milwaukee are slim. As insane as it is, the Brewers still believe Weeks can command the leadoff spot and may not want to spend the dollars it’ll take to woo Bourn.

Still, the acquisition of Bourn would make the Brewers instant contenders.

Losing Prince Fielder was a big blow for Milwaukee’s offense, but inserting Bourn would relieve some of that damage.

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Milwaukee Brewers: Why Jean Segura Will Be a Future All-Star for the Brewers

When the Milwaukee Brewers offered Zack Greinke to the highest bidder, they were looking for a shortstop for the future. Since J.J. Hardy and Alcides Escobar were sent away, shortstop has been a gaping hole for the Crew.

By acquiring Jean Segura, the Brewers found their man.

Before the 2012 season started, Segura was ranked as the 55th-best prospect in baseball by Baseball America and was the Angels‘ No. 2 prospect behind Mike Trout. With the Brewers, he has easily become the top prospect.

Segura, 22, has all the tools to be the next great thing to come through the Brew City. Even though Ryan Braun owns Milwaukee, Segura has a chance to become a fast fan favorite. With time and development, he will be an All-Star for years to come.

The former Angel is very skilled defensively. In 30 chances, Segura has yet to commit an error in the major leagues. Many believe he is more fitted for second base, but with Rickie Weeks manning the position for the Brewers, Segura will remain at short.

Segura is most known for his bat. He has impractical power for being as undersized as he is. He hit seven home runs for the Angels’ Double-A squad before being promoted and then traded. The Brewers aren’t looking for long balls out of him, though. They are hoping that their young phenom reaches base with abundance and unleashes his speed.

With above-average speed, Segura stole 33 bases in the minors. He was caught 13 times. Milwaukee is not know for its base-stealing, but maybe with him in the lineup, things will change.

After hitting .433 in eight games with Double-A Huntsville, the Brewers promoted Segura to the majors, waiving Cesar Izturis. His two-month audition will show the Brewers if he’s truly ready for the next step. 

During his limited time with Milwaukee, Segura has shown signs of greatness. In six games, Segura has managed a .286 average and has driven in three runs. His range at shortstop has been impeccable and even better than advertised.

Plagued by a hamstring injury in 2011, Segura still needs some time to develop. Considering that the Brewers’ playoff hopes have been flushed away, there’s no better way to develop Segura than now with the big league club.

With Segura’s rare arsenal of speed, bat strength and defensive skills, he will finally be what the Brewers need: a dominant all-star shortstop. At only 22 years old, the young man can only improve to what is already an extraordinary set of skills.

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Milwaukee Brewers: Who Should Close for the Brewers for the Remainder of 2012?

John Axford recorded 46 saves in 2011, which began a streak of 49 in a row—second most all-time. Axford’s magical run ended this year and it has been a struggle for him to even record a save. Axford has done so poorly that he even cut off all his hair to remove the jinx on his performance.

It didn’t work.

Eventually, manager Ron Roenicke removed Axford from the closing role and replaced him with former closer Francisco Rodriguez. That move ended up being disastrous for the Brewers. Rodriguez blew two of his three save opportunities and failed to record a full inning in three straight appearances.

Because of the underwhelming performance by his late-inning men, Roenicke announced a closer-by-committee routine. Save opportunities now vary from Axford to Rodriguez, though neither of them really deserve the chance.

Axford has blown seven saves while Rodriguez has blown six. They both have ERAs above 5.00 and have a hard time finding the strike zone. In a combined 94 innings, they have issued 52 free passes.

Roenicke must determine who his closer is going forward. Using a different closer every night breaks up players’ routines and uncomfortableness sets in. Being uncomfortable while playing baseball is almost guaranteed failure. Taking away the closing role from Axford and Rodriguez has surely stung their confidence, which has contributed to their late-inning failure.

The question is, who should close for Milwaukee for the remainder of the season?

Axford and Rodriguez have had their shot. It’s time for new blood to taste the most thrilling inning in baseball. For the rest of the season, Jim Henderson should command the closing role.

After posting a 1.69 ERA in 48 innings, striking out 56, and closing out 15 games for Triple-A Nashville, Henderson was promoted to the Majors. His 10 years spent in the minors seems to have finally paid off. Although he has only pitched six innings for Milwaukee, his lights-out stuff has transferred from the minors to the bigs and it is apparent that he belongs.

In his six innings of work, Henderson has struck out eight while just allowing one earned run. His confidence is uncanny—a trait that Axford and Rodriguez have lost. 

His above-average fastball is complemented by his swooping breaking stuff. If Henderson locates his breaking pitches as he’s done so far (zero walks), success should come with it.

In all likelihood, Rodriguez will be gone after the season and Axford will be placed back in the closer role to start 2013. But for now, Henderson has been the only bright spot in Milwaukee’s subpar bullpen and deserves the nod.

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MLB Trade Rumors: 3 Prospects Who Could Make Impact If Brewers Sell

If the Milwaukee Brewers decide to sell before the trade deadline, they will call upon their young prospects to replace the departed.

The Brewers may decide to call up their young talent, even if they aren’t active in the trade market. Their farm system, however, is relatively thin. They traded their top prospects, Brett Lawrie and Alcides Escobar, in return for Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke.

Still, the Crew has a handful of up-and-comers. Mat Gamel was one of the few thought to explode with the Brewers in 2012, but a knee injury destroyed that. Most of their prospects have had a taste of the major leagues but haven’t stayed long enough to make an impact, and some are already making an impact this year.

But if the Brewers want to be competitive for years to come, trading for high-level talent will be the priority. Until then, they will have to make do with the talent they have.

Here are three prospects that could make an impact in the second half.

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Milwaukee Brewers: The Hit a Brewer Fan Will Never Forget

It’s been hard to be a Milwaukee Brewer fan for the last 25 years or so. Only a handful of memories stick out.

But then 2011 came along.

One of the most memorable seasons started when the Brewers acquired Nyjer Morgan from the Washington Nationals.

Nyjer Morgan was the Brewers fans favorite player in 2011. The eccentric “T-Plush” brought enthusiasm and energy night in and night out.

Morgan, mainly known for his off-the-field antics, had a very solid season for the Brew Crew a year ago. He hit .304 in a platoon role in center field.

Most call him “T-Plush,” but Ryan Braun calls him “T-Clutch” and for good reason.

Here is the play a Milwaukee Brewer fan will never forget.

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Milwaukee Brewers: Was Trading Casey McGehee a Mistake?

Casey McGehee, a dead fastball hitter, had the best season of his career in 2010.

The former Cub hit .285 with 23 home runs and 104 RBI in his first full season as a starter. Batting behind Prince Fielder, McGehee was a dangerous hitter. The Milwaukee Brewers thought they had struck gold by acquiring the third basemen from their bitter rivals, the Chicago Cubs. A year later, however, their thoughts had changed.

The then-28-year-old was mired in a season-long slump in 2011. His .223 batting average was the worst among starters in the National League. His power numbers decreased dramatically and no longer had the knack to drive in base-runners.

McGehee’s on base percentage dropped over 50 points. Pitchers were figuring out that McGehee had trouble hitting breaking balls and started avoiding giving him fastballs. The Brewers once-dangerous five-hole hitter was becoming a liability.

As the playoffs came around, manager Ron Roenicke had a decision to make. Should he stay with the struggling McGehee at third, or should he replace him with veteran utility player Jerry Hairston? Roenicke went with the latter, which turned out to be crucial to Milwaukee’s postseason success.

A little over a month after the 2011 season ended, the Brewers signed the 33-year-old and former rival Aramis Ramirez to a three year deal. Three days later, Milwaukee shipped McGehee off to Pittsburgh and acquired hard-throwing reliever Jose Veras.

Aramis Ramirez seems to be a home wrecker for Casey McGehee. The reason the Chicago Cubs placed McGehee on waivers was because they had no spot for him, as Ramirez was their third basemen. Now Ramirez comes to Milwaukee and kicks McGehee out once again.

After three seasons in Milwaukee, two of them as a starter, McGehee was given up on by the Brewers organization.

Although it is very early, people—myself included—are beginning to wonder if sending McGehee away will come back to haunt the Brewers.

Ramirez is a better third basemen and a more proven hitter then McGehee, yet he is four years older at the age of 33. After a dreadful season in 2010, he hit .306 with 26 home runs and batted in 93 in 2011, winning him the silver slugger award.

However, 2012 seems to be on it’s way to be a repeat of Ramirez’s 2010 season: He is in a 4-for-35 slump to begin his Brewers career, his on-base percentage is a pathetic .179 and opposing pitchers are no longer afraid to face him.

Granted, Ramirez is a notoriously slow starter. He is only a .250 hitter in the month of April. Still, his batting average is well behind that of.McGehee, who is hitting .308 to begin the new campaign. After striking out over 100 times a year ago, McGehee has only struck out twice in 26 at bats.

McGehee’s main focus during the offseason was to try not to do so much at the plate. “I think I’ve got plenty of baseball left in me to where I’m not ready to take on a coaching role,” he told the Bradenton Herald in late February.      

Milwaukee is paying Ramirez $6 million this year, and will eventually be paying him $16 million in 2014. If the Brewers had kept McGehee, they would be paying him a little over two million. If they had put more faith in McGehee, they would have had more money to try and sign Jose Reyes or make a bigger offer to Jimmy Rollins.

As Ramirez gets older, his productivity will decline, which is becoming more evident this year. The Brewers gave up on McGehee too soon and they very may well regret it in years to come. It will be interesting to compare Ramirez and McGehee’s stats as the season progresses.

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MLB: Ten Players Who Need to Retire Now

It’s hard for major league baseball players, as well as any athlete, to realize their career is over. They’ve worked every day of their lives to make it to the big leagues, but when their career comes creeping to an end, they refuse to admit it.

Hardly any player retires on his own terms anymore. They leave the game when no team wants them anymore, basically forcing them to retire. Some teams, however, are foolish enough to sign these decaying players.

Here is my list for 10 major league baseball players who need to hang up their cleats.

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Brewers’ Ryan Braun Is Proving Doubters Wrong

After a tumultuous offseason, Ryan Braun is shutting up his critics so far in 2012.

In early October, Braun tested positive for a banned substance. He appealed the findings and was eventually exonerated due to a chain of custody issue. Because of this, the majority of fans believe that Braun got off on a technicality and have labeled him a cheater.

Many thought that the hatred from the fans during road games would distract Braun and his level of play would decrease. Critics of Braun also pointed out that, with Prince Fielder’s departure, teams would pitch around Braun more often, and he wouldn’t see as many good pitches as he did with Fielder behind him.

Braun claims that he tunes out opposing fans and doesn’t let it affect his play. He must be telling the truth.

For the season, Braun is hitting .357 with one home run and four runs batted in. In four games on the road, Braun is hitting .375 with three RBI. This includes three games at Wrigley Field, where Cubs fans loudly booed him every time he stepped to the plate. If Braun doesn’t let the wild fans in Chicago faze him, I don’t see what will.

Aramis Ramirez is no Prince Fielder, and Ramirez will be the first to admit that. Since Ramirez is no Fielder, many people thought Braun would struggle without someone like Prince behind him. Although Ramirez is struggling mightily, batting .111, Braun has still been able to deliver. It doesn’t seem to matter who’s hitting behind Braun, because he is just that talented. When Ramirez starts hitting like he has his whole career, the Brewers will be extremely dangerous.

Say what you want about Ryan Braun. He may very well be a cheater who got off on a technicality. Or, he could be telling the truth. Personally, I’d rather believe that Braun is clean and has done things in the most professional manner. It’s better for baseball if people believe in him.

We may never know the absolute truth, but what we do know is that not many things affect Braun, as he’s proving. Braun is a once-in-a-lifetime player, and he will contend for the NL MVP once again.

If Braun continues to perform in MVP style in 2012, there will still be critics, but not as many.

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