Monday, October 5, 2009

An Entreaty To The Powers-That-Be.

I don't like to beg. I'd much rather come at ya with an argument backed up by statistics and reason, and eventually wear you down to the point that you're compelled to agree with me. In this case, however, it's no holds barred; I will resort to whatever means necessary to make my point.

So, Mssrs. Attanasio, Melvin, Macha, and anyone else who's got a vote in this (potential) decision:


Now, it's possible that my pleading is being influenced by the results of yesterday's season-ender vs. The Upright Citizens Brigade in St. Louis, when the big man capped off a preposterous individual season with a two-homer, three-RBI day. In the process, Prince jacked his OPS to a new single-season high (1.014), both for him and the Milwaukee Brewers franchise.

The way I see it, next season is going to play out one of two ways, and, whatever path the 2010 season takes, I want Prince around. Here's why:

(1) For reasons I'm still not able to fully comprehend, the 2009 Milwaukee Brewers went 80-82 while running out two starting pitchers who posted below-replacement level numbers while making 30+ starts. According to FanGraphs, Jeff Suppan's WAR for the season was (-0.5), and, not to be outdone, Braden "B.P." Looper came up with a WAR of (-0.7). These are stunningly bad numbers for a team that came within a game of .500.

Just for comparison's sake, consider a couple of other teams who finished around .500: the White Sox and Reds. Here's the Sox rotation:
  • Mark Buehrle: 3.4 WAR
  • John Danks: 2.9 WAR
  • Gavin Floyd: 4.6 WAR
  • Jose Contreras (before being dealt to the Rockies): 2.3 WAR
  • Clayton Richard (before being dealt to the Padres): 1.3 WAR
And here's the Reds:
  • Johnny Cueto: 1.4 WAR
  • Aaron Harang: 2.3 WAR
  • Bronson Arroyo: 1.6 WAR
  • Homer Bailey: 1.3 WAR
  • Micah Owings (in 20 starts): (-0.4) WAR
  • Justin Lehr (11 starts): (-0.5) WAR
And, just for more context: the only rotation as bad as Milwaukee's, at least in terms of ERA, was Baltimore's. The Orioles won 64 games. The Indians' starters, collectively, had an ERA 0.07 lower than the Brewers' starters. The Indians won 65 games.

This is all a long way of saying: the Brewers came within a whisker of .500 while two of the mainstays of the rotation were having historically-awful seasons. If Soup and Loop can come anywhere near their career averages next year, and if Manny Parra can get his head screwed on straight, and if Yo Gallardo continues to develop, and if Bushie's boo-boo gets better ... I'm not sayin' it's a lock, but stranger things have happened. And if we're going to make any noise next year, we need the big man anchoring the middle of the line-up.

(2) Of course, it's much more likely that we'll see more of the same next year. Odds are: Soup continues his death spiral; Looper gives you (approximately) replacement-level pitching; Manny is Manny; and Yo remains solid to very good. There's not going to be much pitching available via the free agent market, and teams will be lining up to overpay the few serviceable pitchers who are out there.

If that's the case, we're looking at near-.500 ball again next year. And if that's the case, I'm gonna need a reason to tune in every night.

(Anthony Witrado-style one-sentence paragraph comin' up!)

Prince Fielder is that reason.

The guy is a force of nature. Before the season started, I wrote that Prince had established his high water mark in '07, and that it was silly to expect him to put up comparable numbers -- and then he went out and compiled a .299/.412/.602 line, with 46 bombs and 141 driven in. He's put up two of the four 1.000+ OPS seasons in Brewers' history (Braun's got one [in '07, too], and Molitor had the other in 1987). Prince has the franchise record for homers in a year (and now he's got the No. 2 slot, as well) and for RsBI.

This is purely selfish, I know, but I want to see what Prince can do over the next two years. Can he hit 55 homers? Can he out-OPS Pujols for a year? Can he drive in 150? After this year, who knows? I thought I knew what his ceiling was. Now, I'm not so sure.

Point is: if your team isn't going to be in contention, you need to have a once-in-a-generation player to put butts in the seats and eyes on the TV. Prince did that this season, and he can do it again next year. Please give him the chance. Please, please, please, please, please.


Sheets' Va Jay Jay said...

They still control Prince for two more seasons. He has a nice contract for one of those. If we deal him this off-season we are officialy the dumbest team in baseball. Unless you get two number one starters for him. Legit number ones. That won't happen so I'm not worried. Now I'm all worked up. How can I teach the kids now?

Please tell me they aren't that dumb.

Softball's Tony Gwynn said...

can i get an amen...amen!

well said rubie!!!!!!

Charlie Weis's Gunt said...

I agree with you....but I can also see the other point of view.

Prince's value (with the Brewers) will never be higher then it is right now. He's coming off his best season, with 2 years left on his contract. That's very attractive and could command a lot young talent in return. If I were the Brewers I would only trade Prince for a true #2 pitcher and the other teams top two prospects (at least one being another MLB ready pitcher).

Does anyone know what the Brewers are thinking for spending this offseason? How much money do they have - what free agent pitchers are available. If they keep Prince and add one #2 starter and a solid #4 the Brewers could be in the mix next year.

Rubie Q said...

A couple of responses:

(1) I don't know that Prince's value will never be higher than it is right now. That's what I thought after '07 -- and then he put up these absurd numbers this year. Who knows what he could do next year?

(2) I've seen calculations that the Brewers are at about $80 - $85 million (in terms of contracts and anticipated arbitration numbers). Now we've re-signed The Hoff for $8 million. I expect Melvin will pick up Looper's option, which is another $6 million (approximately). So: it's getting tight already.

As for who's available, pitching-wise: there's not much. Lackey is going to get big money somewhere, Bedard is always beat up ... I guess Doug Davis is out there. There's not much, though.

If you're the ChiSox, do you consider trading for Prince? And, if so, what would you offer?

Charlie Weis's Gunt said...

The reason I say his value won't get higher is because of the 2 years on his contract....which is more valuable to a club vs. 1 year left and no guarantee he'll resign.

If I was Kenny Williams - I would show some interest in Prince, but I think the asking price would be too high. They would make him or Konerko the DH - which the Sox could use. My guess is that the Brewers will be asking for pitching - with the Sox rotation pretty set: Buerhle, Peavy, Danks, Floyd, Garcia - I would probably consider giving up Danks or Floyd, and one top pitching prospect....but I wouldn't go beyond that.

Sheets' Va Jay Jay said...

He only has one contract year and then one year of arbitration left. Not two years under contract remaining.

Rubie Q said...

Well, two years of control -- so, six of one, half-a-dozen of the other.

EMoney said...

I wanted to make this replay before I even finished your post Rubs. Regarding point #1....I understand that we were 1 win away from a 0.500 record (which I must say is surprising considering the atrocity that is our pitching staff from top to bootom). However, that sentence that you had with "if this", "if that",......SQUASH!!!! WE WILL NOT WIN WITH THIS STARTING STAFF!!! I don't care how you slice it. Okay, now I'm going to read the rest.

EMoney said...

Now that I've read the rest here is my officialy comment/question:

I guess in response to your sell, I ask you this question. What is your goal as the GM of the Milwaukee Brewers (put yourself in Melvin's shoes)? Is it simply to entertain your fans and keep butts in the seats? Or is it to Win? Afterall, winning will put butts in the seats regardless of who is out there imo. I understand Prince is a fan favorite....people will go just to see him swing the bat. However, if I'm the GM, my goal is to try and put the best team on the field this year and for years to come. Sure Prince could continue to get better, but I think there's more room to go down than go up. Also, as we all know we have a horrible starting staff. Aside from Gallardo, there isn't any substance, and our farm system doesn't appear to have anything near big league talent at this time. Further, the insane spending for quality starters in the free agent market essentially makes all of them out of reach for Milwaukee. That being said, I think the only way for this team to get "better", that being win more games, is to trade away talent (or prospects) for pitching. I do like Prince, but I think he is our only real bargaining chip at this point. And can we honestly afford him in 2 years anyways?

HHHTheGame said...

Stay away from free agent pitchers. Even the lower end will command $10MM a year for three or four years. Just when we get out of the Suppan disaster we could be saddled with another one. A trade for a legit #3 needs to be made with Hart, JJ, and Weeks to dangle out there. With all three of those guys going into their second arb year (third of four for JJ), their trade "value" is at it's best now. Getting a #3 gives you Gallardo, Parra, #3, Looper, Bush. Still not sure that's a winner though....

Sheets' Va Jay Jay said...

I want to win as well and I think we need Prince to do that next year. At least keep him through next year and take it from there. I agree that we should get a good #2 or #3 for some guys we don't really "need".

Baseball is over for one day (I know it's been over longer than that for the brewers) and I'm already excited for next year.

HHHTheGame said...

Suppan, Prince, Hoffman, Looper, Riske, Catalanatto's buyout, and Braun make up for $47MM next year. Then DM still needs to see about Cameron and Kendall. Bush, JJ, Hart, and Weeks are all in arbitration. If Cameron accepted $8MM and Kendall accepted $4MM, the number is now up to $59MM... for 8 players. Bush will probably get $6MM to take it up to $65MM. Hart will probably get $5MM to take it to $70MM. Weeks probably somewhere around $3.5MM to take it to $73.5MM.... for just about half the team. Villanueva and Rivera will hit arbitration and Coffey will be in his second year of arbitration. Those three could bump it up another $6MM and look....$79.5MM and that's not including the other 11 players you need to pay.

Rubie Q said...

Well, that's happy news.