Answering this week’s questions for the weekly mailbag
Happy Friday, everyone, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Brew Crew Ball mailbag!
The trade deadline is approaching in just a few days, so let’s kick things off with some trade-related questions.
No generalities, Jack. A prediction of an exact trade by the Slinger.
I believe that predicting exact trades is a futile exercise. It doesn’t just require an in-depth understanding of your team’s status, direction, and trade chips. It also requires the same level of knowledge about other organizations. Then comes the fact that two clubs may evaluate certain players differently. The Brewers could have minor-league talent whom they regard as significant trade pieces, but other organizations may not view those players as highly.
Front offices have entire teams of scouts and analysts dedicated to answering these questions. It’s not easy for an individual outsider to do it himself!
You want a trade prediction, though, so I’ll throw a crazy one out there: Athletics reliever Lou Trivino for Keston Hiura.
OK, this is your last chance, Jack, before the trade deadline, to predict and recommend. SO:
1. What is the BIGGEST trade (including named players) that the Brewers SHOULD make before August 2?
2. What is the BIGGEST trade that the Brewers WILL make before August 2?
3. Finally, with Cousins, Topa, and Luis Perdoma all making rehab appearances, and with Houser and Peralta coming back soon, and (maybe) given the recent signing of McGee, will the Brewers focus just on a hitting upgrade?
Every contending team should try their hardest to acquire Juan Soto, and the Brewers are no different. Anyone and everyone should be on the table. Soto is that good. I would offer Jackson Chourio, Tyler Black, Ethan Small, Sal Frelick, and one of Garrett Mitchell or Joey Wiemer, but that probably isn’t enough. None of those position players are big-league ready, and three are outfielders. Washington probably wants a better pitching talent than Small as well.
The more I look at bats on the trading block, the less I believe any of them are likely to become Brewers. Ramon Laureano and Michael A. Taylor seem like possibilities, but I’m not sure either moves the needle enough over the incumbent Tyrone Taylor to justify giving up players for them. Josh Bell would be a nice addition, but I don’t think the Brewers will get into a bidding war over a big bat.
I think Milwaukee’s most significant trade could end up being for a reliever, probably along the lines of the Drew Pomeranz and Daniel Norris deals. The relief unit will undoubtedly get a boost from Cousins, Topa, and Perdomo returning, but adding another arm is never a bad idea. All three have options left, so it would not surprise me if the Brewers make an external addition to their bullpen and take advantage of their ability to send some of their existing relievers to Triple-A.
Why would Hader ever throw a 1 – 0 slider with two runners on base?
Because almost every hitter is sitting on a fastball in that count.
What happened to the philosophy of maximizing pitchers rest? Burnes is on pace for 200 innings and has now started on four days rest 7 times this year compared to just 2 times in 2021.
I think the Brewers had two reasons for maximizing rest with a six-man rotation and shorter starts last year.
First, they wanted to ease their starting pitchers into a heavier workload. 2021 was Burnes’ first season as a full-time starting pitcher in the big leagues, and it came on the heels of a shortened 2020 season, so it made sense to be cautious.
Second, they had the pitching depth to make it work. Burnes, Woodruff, Peralta, Houser, and Lauer were all highly-effective starters last year. Brett Anderson managed to be a solid sixth starter despite questionable peripherals, and Aaron Ashby was available to make some spot starts after graduating from Triple-A.
Improving on a 1.63 FIP is all but impossible, so the only area left for Burnes to conquer was volume. Not only did he make it through 2021 healthy, but injuries to the starting staff have left the Brewers without enough quality arms to fill a six-man rotation.
Burnes is now in his fifth major-league season and wasn’t overworked early in his career, so I don’t think there’s any reason to worry about the increased innings. He’s handled it exceptionally well so far.
Hunter Renfroe has played well so far for the Brewers this season. Would you extend him, and what would a palatable contract look like?
Renfroe is the kind of player I would avoid extending. He is already 30 years old and has always been a one-dimensional hitter whose offensive game is based on power. His on-base percentage this year is just .301, which is right in line with his career .297 mark.
That doesn’t mean Renfroe is not a valuable offensive player. He possesses incredible raw power, and when he goes on the kind of home run binge we’re seeing right now, he looks unstoppable. However, he has no other skills to fall back on when the power is not there, meaning he could be in for a swift decline when he reaches his mid-30s.
The Brewers have Renfroe under club control through next season, so they’ll have him for what will most likely be the final two best years of his career. There’s no need to change that.
My questions relates to robot umpires and catching.
First, how much credence is there to the theory that catching on one knee is being done primarily to better frame pitches? Will catching on one knee vanish in the age of robot umps? That should result in fewer passed balls of the “tried to frame it too quickly” variety. Clearly, a traditional squat should also reduce the number of wild pitches. A catcher just can’t move sideways as well on one knee.
Secondly, we should see fewer pitches in the strike zone called balls because the pitcher missed his spot and the catcher had to reach for it. Is that noticable in the minors? Seems like it happens frequently enough to be a factor.
With robot umps being tested in the minors, maybe there’s some data that might shed light on these issues?
Thanks for your thoughts.
I think you’re pretty spot-on with most of this.
For many catchers, receiving on one knee makes it easier to frame pitches at the bottom of the strike zone. While such a stance can make it harder to move behind the plate and block pitches, most teams value pitch framing over other elements of catching because there are more opportunities to frame pitches than to block pitches or throw out runners.
An electronic strike zone would end pitch framing as a difference-making skill, so it wouldn’t shock me to see more catchers return to a traditional stance that makes them more mobile behind the plate. The system only cares about where the ball crossed the plate, not how it was caught or where it was when it hit the mitt. That means poor receiving or cross-ups shouldn’t take away strikes. There have also been examples of breaking balls caught a couple of inches off the ground being called strikes because they clipped the edge of the zone when they crossed the plate.
Rob Manfred has said that he hopes baseball can implement the new system in 2024, so we’ll likely see the effects of it sooner than later.
Thanks for your questions this week! The roster could look a little different when we talk again next week. I’m expecting a pretty subdued trade deadline for the Brewers, but we’ll see what David Stearns and Matt Arnold have in store.