ST. LOUIS, MO -SEPTEMBER 7: Rafael Furcal #15 of the St. Louis Cardinals fields a line drive against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium on September 7, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Brewers 2-0. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
I'm still on deadline through the end of September—incoming notes column/day thread:
- Chris Carpenter has already pitched 200 innings, and we've already forgotten how weird this is. He's 36-years-old. In 2009 he was the ace-made-of-glass; in 2008 and 2007 he just didn't pitch, thanks to debilitating after-30 shoulder and elbow problems. His ERA is finally approaching league average, but his peripherals are already much better than they were in 2010, when we weren't having the "is-he-done?" conversation quite so frequently.
- Jaime Garcia, too—for all his failure to turn into a super-ace he's successfully cut a full walk from his walk rate, held his strikeout rate steady, and increased his innings pitched per game despite getting creamed on balls in play. This is an exciting sophomore season, and his second half doesn't portend future collapse so much as exemplify what can happen to your apparent gains in efficiency when players are threatening Ty Cobb's all-time batting average record whenever they avoid striking out.
- And Kyle Lohse—he's also a pitcher! I'm not sure whether this says more about how desperate the 2008 Cardinals were for a rotation savior or how over- or underrated Lohse has been at various points in his career, but the season he's put together is not very far removed from the season that earned him his big contract in the first place. It doesn't make up for his strange interlude in the middle of all that, but as a Mystery Pitcher signed for one year and $12 million the Cardinals could do worse.
- Rafael Furcal has six home runs in 133 at-bats, and five doubles, and 19 singles. In 137 at-bats with Los Angeles he had four doubles, one home run, and 22 singles. He's striking out half as frequently and hitting for far more power; I can intellectually understand the appeals to his low BAbip, but it's the return of all his other skills that has me optimistic about his ability to eventually hit yet more squib singles. As much as I'd like the Cardinals to have a young sure-thing to stick at shortstop for the foreseeable future he doesn't exist yet; if they like what they see with Furcal's defense and can get him on a one-year deal he makes sense. (Given Furcal's fragility it's not like Greene wouldn't see significant playing time in any scenario that has him on the roster.)
Bonus Larry King ellipsis note—... If you were to rank these four players by fastball velocity, who would finish third?
Additional bonus: After the jump, a belated question-exchange with Nicole Haase of Brew Crew Ball. See me explain the art of settling at BCB over here.
It looks like the Brewers' decision to win now was the right one, with a division championship in sight and a great playoff rotation in place. How long do you think this core's window will stay open?
Nicole: That's difficult to say. There's no way the Brewers will be able to replace the offensive output of Prince Fielder. Two years ago, we would have said Mat Gamel was our newest, biggest hope to bring another big bat to the Brewers. However, he's struggled the few times he's had a cup of coffee in Milwaukee. His numbers are still good in AAA, so all hope is not totally lost, but Brewers fans aren't holding their breath that Gamel's bat is going to have the major league impact we had once hoped for.
That being said, we have Marcum and Greinke through next year. Rickie Weeks and Yovani Gallardo are signed through 2014 with an option for 2015. Corey Hart is signed through 2013. And Ryan Braun is signed through 2020. I'm not certain that the loss of Fielder is the complete end for this core of young players.
Prince Fielder is a free agent after this season, and Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum could be free agents after 2012. How do you think the Brewers will address those possible losses? Is there anyone in the system who could fill the gap?
The Brewers will have to make a token offer to Fielder - I imagine it will be similar to the four-five year, $100 million dollar deal they offered C.C. Sabathia. I guess there's always a chance Fielder would take it, but it's unlikely.
I can't imagine there's a situation where the Brewers don't make offers for both Greinke and Marcum. Greinke's offer will depend on how he performs in the post-season and in 2012. I don't think 2011 has been the amazing year he or the Brewers were hoping for, so the value isn't as high as it might be. Shaun Marcum's numbers have been great and I can see Doug Melvin making a run for him, but I'd be wary of giving him any kind of long term contract because everyone talks about how poor his mechanics are and I'd be worried about injuries.
I must add that most of us know better than to try to predict what Doug Melvin will do. No one had any idea that the Brewers were interested in, much less able to land, Zach Greinke. We didn't think we'd have Braun signed until 2020. So I never underestimate Doug Melvin.
If Fielder signs elsewhere, do you expect the team to make any other moves in free agency?
Since it's expected that Gamel will take over at first, the Brewers don't actually have a lot of holes to fill.
I mentioned some of the long-term signees before. Casey McGehee is currently in a one-year contract at third base. His stats last year and this year have been wildly different, so fans are wary of a long-term contract extension for him. Minor-leaguer Taylor Green has been up with the team for a few weeks and is hitting well. It's possible the Brewers will choose to go with the the minor-leaguer instead of re-signing McGehee.
Nyjer Morgan is on a one-year deal and I'm certainly not the only person who hopes the Brewers give him a new contract for at least next year. He's been playing in a center-field platoon with Carlos Gomez for most of the year. I'm not sure if the team will commit to a platoon for another season. But we love his personality, he's hitting well and his defense is above-average.
I know most fans hope that the Brewers will make a move for a short stop because we're pretty fed up with both the offensive and defensive inefficiencies of Yuniesky Betancourt.
Did you guys enjoy Ryan Braun's mad dash and the subsequent crime scene investigation as much we did?
Absolutely! As far as I know there was no bad blood about the lost run or the consequent out. The whole thing was comedic gold, especially when they replayed it in slow-motion. The murder-scene constructed by Gallardo and Marcum the next day was inspiried and genius. I was especially a fan of the outline on the screen depicting the airborne flail that preceded the tumble.
My apologies to Nicole, who got me her answers back when they were still relevant. Am I wrong, or is it weirdly refreshing to hear from someone who trusts her team's general manager and coaching staff? I felt like I was asking questions of myself, circa 2004.