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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bill Madden: An Old Brew GM

Melvin’s: With Yo’ Eyes, Not Yo’ Stats. (King Buzzkill)

For a guy whose team has just had the best first-half in the 45-year history of the franchise, Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin is sounding pretty grumpy about the state of baseball these days. Maybe it’s because the 62-year-old Melvin, an old school GM who values scouts over Ivy League whiz kid stat geeks, thinks his NL Central-leading Brewers deserve a little more respect from the Sabermetrics crowd. “There’s this one guy,” Melvin was saying by phone Friday, “who rates the prospects in every organization, and last year labeled (Brewer second baseman) Scooter Gennett ‘just a backup utility player.’ Well, Scooter’s only hit nothing but .300 since last year and been one of our most important players this year and yet, when the guy was asked about him again last week, he repeated the same thing; that he thought he was nothing more than a ‘backup utility player.’ Why can’t these (stat) guys ever admit they’re wrong? A lot of them don’t even watch the games. But then everything has changed so much in baseball. Everything now has to be immediate. We live in a world of Instagrams when, more than any other sport, the most important thing in baseball is that you’ve got to be patient.”

Melvin cited his left fielder, Khris Davis, currently leading the Brewers with 14 homers and 42 RBI, as perhaps the best example of that. It took Davis five years to win himself a regular job with the Brewers, partly because of his below-average arm, even for left field. “This winter I traded (outfielder) Norichika Aoki, who was one of our most popular players, to Kansas City for (lefty reliever) Will Smith, whose been a key guy (1.36 ERA, 49 Ks in 39.2 IP) in our bullpen,” Melvin said. “I couldn’t have done that if I didn’t think Davis was ready to be an everyday productive player for us.”

So the Sabermetric set aside, how does Melvin assess his Brewers, who, going into the weekend, had the largest lead of any of the first-place teams? “We’re not great, but we’re not bad either,” he said. “What we are is very balanced in the four important areas — offense, where we’re second (in the NL) in runs, starting pitching, bullpen and defense, where we’re considerably improved from last year when we had 24 errors alone at first base.”

Repoz Posted: June 29, 2014 at 04:01 PM | 23 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: brewers, sabermetrics

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   1. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: June 29, 2014 at 04:28 PM (#4739060)
Everything now has to be immediate. We live in a world of Instagrams when, more than any other sport, the most important thing in baseball is that you’ve got to be patient.


So much bullshit in the excerpt I'm not going to waste my time. I think this piece though is 100% right. It can be tough to be patient but it is absolutely necessary.
   2. Walt Davis Posted: June 29, 2014 at 05:11 PM (#4739103)
On Gennett:

"backup utility player" isn't necessarily an insult ... depends on context. "Super" utility guys are incredibly valuable in today's game. Secondly, the Brewers have given Gennett only 59 starts in 83 games -- more than a bench player but "just a platoon guy." Third, I don't know who the spreadsheet lover is but I can't blame him for "pessimism." In the minors, Gennett hit a bit under 300 with an ISO of about 110 -- in the majors so far, he's hit 317 with a 165 ISO. That's unusual to say the least. FWIW, ZiPS RoS puts him at 284/318/409 -- which would be about league average and fine for a 2B.

ZiPS projected Davis to hit 250/330/450 for a 340 wOBA, 109 OPS+. He's at 260/305/490, 118 OPS+ so well within confidence limits. The main issue is that ZiPS guessed -3 on defense while he's been +5 so far by Rfield.

By the way, I'm really happy to see ARam smacking the ball again. Remarkable consistency too. Other than his poor (for him) 2010, his OPS+ has been between 126 and 139 since 2004.

Anyway, the offense is really hitting on all cylinders but it's a really good lineup. Certainly not many teams with a guy as good as Rickie Weeks on the bench most days. I still await ARam's shift to 1B/DH (in terms of his future career) but not a good idea to try that mid-season. Rotation is probably pitching in a bit of "luck" but it's solid and has some depth with Duke/Gorz and others around.
   3. JE (Jason) Posted: June 29, 2014 at 07:17 PM (#4739301)
I guarantee everyone that, prior to about a week and a half ago, Bill Madden was totally downplaying the awesomeness of Carlos Gomez, a (gasp!) sabermetric darling.
   4. Leroy Kincaid Posted: June 29, 2014 at 09:06 PM (#4739344)
"Super" utility guys are incredibly valuable in today's game.

Silly geek grand proclamation.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: June 29, 2014 at 09:07 PM (#4739345)
I'm not sure he was such a sabermetric darling until he started hitting well last year. I don't think he was viewed as more than a 4th OF who wouldn't kill you if you had to start him. Certainly it was pretty common to think how poorly Minn did in their trade of Santana.

I peeked at the 2012 ZiPS which projected Gomez to an 80 OPS+ with EX defense. His top comps were Jason Repko, Herm Willingham and Tim Raines (jr?) with a 67% chance of being below-average. He ended up average that year but still projected to a 90 OPS+ and average overall for 2013 (and Tim Raines again).

Also this interesting bit brought to us by the Wayback machine. In fairness, if he knew the trade for Segura was coming, he'd have probably written something different.

I'm not too thrilled with the way the whole Aramis Ramirez thing worked out. Aramis is probably a better player than Taylor Green in 2012 and I think the Brewers would have been better served going after a shortstop, a position which is a real mess organizationally and was horrific last year thanks to He Who Will Be Not Named Except on a Royals Contract. I've got some more Yuni-bashing ($2 million?) but I'll save that for the Royals thing. Even if you assume that Reyes was too expensive *and* Rollins and Furcal were destined to return to their teams, the team should've probably at least tried to outbid the Phillies or Cardinals. Clint Barmes isn't a great player, but he's solid defensively and I really think he would've been a good fit if the team wasn't confident about landing one of the other shortstops. I don't think Gamel-Weeks-Barmes-Green is a worse infield than Gamel-Weeks-Gonzalez-Ramirez and it would've left an additional chunk of money to go after Roy Oswalt for a very lucrative 1-year deal (a playoff competitive team adding a good player to fill a hole should find it almost impossible to overpay in a 1-year contract because the long tail on the bad side is almost impossible to cripple long-term).

Not a zero-sum game but ARam 7.5 WAR in 1200 PA so far for $32 M and a mutual option. Reyes 6.9 WAR in 1450 PA for $36 M with 2 years remaining. Rollins 3.8 WAR in 1700 PA and $33 M and a vesting option that will exercise in 94 PA. Furcal 1.1 WAR, injured, $17 M and quite possibly finished. And as it happened, Oswalt gave Texas 59 IP of 76 ERA+ in 2012 ... I think he was hurt and that was a mid-season contract so Dan must not have known yet that he was hurt. Or had the new FA QO rules taken effect by 2012?
   6. The_Ex Posted: June 29, 2014 at 09:53 PM (#4739362)
So who is this prospect rating guy Melvin is ticked off about?
   7. McCoy Posted: June 29, 2014 at 10:46 PM (#4739390)
By the way, I'm really happy to see ARam smacking the ball again. Remarkable consistency too. Other than his poor (for him) 2010, his OPS+ has been between 126 and 139 since 2004.

Yes pretty much all the cheap short term FA that a lot of people said the Cubs shouldn't have gone after have given a great return on investment, Aramis included. Though I will say that happily Theo hasn't seemed to have made a bad trade yet. Granted he was playing with house money and it was pretty crappy house money but give credit where credit is due. We'll have to see how he handles his own guys that he and his system developed and hopefully he doesn't screw that up.
   8. Pleasant Nate (Upgraded from 'Nate') Posted: June 29, 2014 at 11:48 PM (#4739437)
So who is this prospect rating guy Melvin is ticked off about?


Most likely Keith Law. I found in two chats last year that Law said he was a Utility Infielder and that he shouldn't be called up to replace Weeks. I couldn't find him reaffirming that recently, but I didn't find any of the other big analysts with a similar background and it certainly fits KLaw's typical pattern to hold out longer than most.

Also, while KLaw is certainly a stats guy, he was also a scout. Not really a fair classification to label him solely a 'stats guy', not that that's surprising.


   9. Barnaby Jones Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:10 AM (#4739446)
Pretty sure KLAW was never a scout, though he did learn a lot about the trade when he was with the Jays.
   10. Barnaby Jones Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:15 AM (#4739450)
I guarantee everyone that, prior to about a week and a half ago, Bill Madden was totally downplaying the awesomeness of Carlos Gomez, a (gasp!) sabermetric darling.

Is this a joke? Carlos Gomez was exactly the type of prospect this article is talking about. He was a tools guy that stats guys crapped all over, but a scouty team was patient with him and he put it together. Any sabr dude trying to "claim" him now is about 6 years too late.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:27 AM (#4739452)
I found in two chats last year that Law said he was a Utility Infielder and that he shouldn't be called up to replace Weeks.

This seems odd. Weeks was hurt early in Aug last year. The Brewers were over 20 games back at that point so no reason to go out and get somebody to replace Weeks. The best ML option was probably Jeff Bianchi who, looking at his record, had a decent minor-league performance including 2012 at AAA. But he was also 26 and has stunk in his ML performance. And looking at his game log, I see that at that time, he was the starting 3B with ARam out and Yuni/Gonzalez sucking.

Maybe the Brewers had somebody better at AAA but they can't have had many choices and this is the sort of opportunity a team is supposed to use to take a look at a borderline prospect. Looking at Nashville's roster, the options would seem to have been 31-year-old Eugenio Velez (who was tearing it up but was 31) or SS Blake Davis or 3B Stephen Parker who were hitting even worse than Gennett.

I think it's reasonable to still think in pre-season 2014 that Gennett shouldn't have a major role, but in Aug 2013 to claim that Gennett shouldn't come up just seems strange to me. I certainly don't see any stats reason to think he didn't deserve the shot as much as anybody else. Given Law's "conversion" to pro-scout, I wonder if he wasn't in fact relying on information that Davis or Parker were much better prospects?

Hey, I see there's a Joey Paciorek in the Brewers system ... boy did I pick the wrong last name.
   12. Pleasant Nate (Upgraded from 'Nate') Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:35 AM (#4739454)
Pretty sure KLAW was never a scout, though he did learn a lot about the trade when he was with the Jays.



From wikipedia:

In 2002, Law was hired by the Toronto Blue Jays as a "Consultant to Baseball Operations" after impressing Blue Jays' general manager J. P. Ricciardi during the offseason winter meetings.[4] Paul DePodesta had recommended Law to him and Ricciardi asked Law's opinions regarding the approaching Rule 5 draft of that year, and, impressed with Law's answers and explanations, offered him a position with the team.[5] During his time with the Blue Jays, he acted as a major league and minor league scout, contract negotiator, and provided assistance to the team's marketing and sales staffs
   13. Pleasant Nate (Upgraded from 'Nate') Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:44 AM (#4739459)
Is this a joke? Carlos Gomez was exactly the type of prospect this article is talking about. He was a tools guy that stats guys crapped all over, but a scouty team was patient with him and he put it together. Any sabr dude trying to "claim" him now is about 6 years too late.


It is accurate to say stats-centric prospect analysis hated on Gomez.

However, the reference here is that Gomez started to get SABR hype in 2012 given his fantastic defense. He was then considered a legit All-Star last year, putting up 7.6 fWAR -- even if you regress the defense to +10, you're still looking at a 6 WAR player. And now Gomez is a world beater given his position/defensive strength in addition to his growth as a hitter, on pace to beat his WAR from last year despite average defensive value. And since defense is now, via the Trout/Cabrera debate, somehow a SABR thing to embrace fully, I suspect that the SABR guys appreciate Gomez more than the mainstream types.
   14. Walt Davis Posted: June 30, 2014 at 02:43 AM (#4739483)
on pace to beat his WAR from last year despite average defensive value.

Huh? We're halfway through and he's got 3.2 WAR compared to 8.9 WAR last year. He is on pace to beat his oWAR and has tied his Rbat (25 points of BA and nearly 40 points of OBP will do that for ya). That's bWAR ... fWAR was less impressed with his defense last year but he's still behind last year's pace despite more playing time.

Not that there's anything wrong with being on a 6-7 WAR pace but it's not a 9 WAR pace (first world problem).

EDIT: And to the extent we appreciate him now more than the mainstream it's only because our spreadsheets ignore the unwritten macros.
   15. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: June 30, 2014 at 08:03 AM (#4739494)
he acted as a major league and minor league scout

Not unless that word has been rendered completely meaningless. He suggested players based on statistics via his much-ballyhooed laptop.
   16. JE (Jason) Posted: June 30, 2014 at 08:20 AM (#4739497)
However, the reference here is that Gomez started to get SABR hype in 2012 given his fantastic defense.

This.
   17. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: June 30, 2014 at 08:32 AM (#4739499)
i have held off writing on gennett, because there is a lot to write about

but doug shouldn't be patting himself on the back that much given that the organization really didn't believe in gennett as anything more than 'not rickie'. because rickie's defense has really cratered (he's blowing at least a play a game when on defense be it an actual error, a routine double play not turned or some other fumble) and scooter is better than THAT

what scooter cannot do: cannot hit lefties even if jesus was sitting on his shoulder. struggles on turning the double play

what scooter can do: all other.

scooter hit .297/.337/.409 in the minors and the brewers minor league teams play in fair stadiums

in the majors in almost 500 plate appearances he's at .317/.353/.482

i don't have the splits, but i suspect if you take out his at bats against lefties in the minors scooter is doing about what he did in the minors.

scooter is a pretty strong kid for his size. i have seen him hit multiple 400 plus foot homers mostly on down and in fastballs which is scooter's liftoff zone.

his footwork on the double play is slowly improving but he needs to pick up hte pace. still too much thinking. but the rest of his defense is solid. gennett is a sharp kid and those tend to show defensive improvement in the majors because pitchers pitch to the plan so a guy who relies on positioning can trust he is in the right spot and will have a chance on a ball when struck. that and the infields are true so he can anticipate hops, etc. gennett is not a 'reaction' guy. he's a planner. getting to the majors plays to his strengths.

give the brewers manager credit for not only giving gennett a chance but convincing a vet (weeks) to settle for a platoon. not an easy thing to manage.

anway, good for gennett. he's 24 so who knows where the ceiling may be on his play
   18. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: June 30, 2014 at 08:42 AM (#4739503)
khris davis hit .288/.392/.506 in the minors

davis has mastered his swing a bit since the first two weeks but he is clearly working to stay in the lineup by hitting the ball. i want to think his plate control will come around wiht a bit more success.

the power is real though. it baffles people because davis is not a big guy. but he has forearms and wrists like popeye and the bat snap through the zone is impressive. davis is hitting everywhere so he's not some miller park creation. while scooter has surprised with some 400 foot shots davis has launched some 430 foot shots.

the arm ain't getting better though. his range is ok but he's the rainbow coalition of tosses from left. he gets it to the cutoff man on plays at home on 2 hops and that's being kind.

but he can hit.
   19. Barnaby Jones Posted: June 30, 2014 at 08:43 AM (#4739505)
From wikipedia:


From the actual article wikipedia is citing, Law himself says:

I report to J.P. Ricciardi, the general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. I'm responsible for statistical evaluation, as well as ongoing market analysis and basic information-gathering for the team. Since starting this job in 2001, I've gained several informal responsibilities, including selected scouting work, contract negotiations (actual negotiations, plus support for our assistant general manager, who handles the major negotiations), and providing support to the marketing and sales groups.

So, he was a stats guy with informal "selected scouting work." So, I was right; he wasn't a scout, but he did get some experience with the field.
   20. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: June 30, 2014 at 08:47 AM (#4739508)
i will say that melvin has a right to be feeling good though. he's on quite on the streak of moves. he looks to have flimflammed the royals on teh aoki/smith trade. signing lohse and then garza has stabilized the rotation. lohse has done more pitching coach work with the staff in a month than the guy with the title has done in his tenure with the brewers. segura is just fine at short and maybe his offense comes back so the greinke trade is ok even if you include what was traded to the royals to get the quirky one. the overbay/reynolds combo at first doesn't get style points but it's a net positive to the team. the worst farm system in baseball has contributed the guys above and fireballer jimmy nelson is ready to step in if estrada has to be relieved of duty for an extended time.

that's a lot of good maneuverin' there tex.
   21. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: June 30, 2014 at 09:04 AM (#4739513)
So, he was a stats guy with informal "selected scouting work." So, I was right; he wasn't a scout, but he did get some experience with the field.


IIRC, at a minimum he filed cards on guys in the Cape Cod League one year. He was the Jays' sole scout there, and they used his recommendations to help make their draft board, so that sure sounds like scouting to me.

Whether he was a good scout is, of course, a separate question. But he did the job.
   22. bobm Posted: June 30, 2014 at 10:09 AM (#4739552)
[3] Madden on Carlos Gomez:


Picking up the pieces
BILL MADDEN
DAILY NEWS SPORTS COLUMNIST
2007, 27 May [...]

On the international front, where it takes only money and not the luck of the draft, Cashman needs his scouts to find him a hitter or two who can be here in a couple of years. You know, someone like Carlos Gomez. Or are the Yankees now destined to forever be second to Omar Minaya in Latin America?


Debt-free NY Mets must be prudent in next year’s outfield free agent market, which will include players like Jacoby Ellsbury, Corey Hart and Shin-Soo Choo
BILL MADDEN
2013, 16 Feb [...]

CARLOS GOMEZ

Before you say “been there, done that” the onetime top Met prospect, whom they traded to the Twins in the Johan Santana deal, might actually be the best bet for them in this free agent outfield class. Scouts say he’s finally matured in Milwaukee after Ron Gardenhire tired of his brain lapses and ran him out of Minnesota. Had his best season last year with sudden power (career high 19 homers and 37 stolen bases, only caught stealing six times). Could be finally coming into his own at age 27, but makeup could still be an issue, especially after he gets the money.
   23. Walt Davis Posted: June 30, 2014 at 06:02 PM (#4740241)
Wow ... b-r has some minor-league splits now.

Certainly some truth to your speculation HW. In 2013, he hit 330/375/456 vs. RHP ... much better BA but still not very much power. Just 235/262/330 vs LHP. 2012 was pretty similar except he showed even less power (90 ISO).

But in the majors so far he has hit 349/386/542 vs RHP. There's nothing in his minor-league performance to suggest that.

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