Jeff Suppan, a veteran of seven teams but best known for his 2006 NLCS MVP award with the St. Louis Cardinals, announced his retirement yesterday.
A second round pick of the Boston Red Sox in the 1993 draft, Suppan pitched in the bigs for 17 seasons, amassing a record of 140-146 with a 4.70 ERA, 1,390 strikeouts and 871 walks in 2542.2 innings. All but 31 of his 448 career games came as a starter. After spending the early part of his career in Boston he made stops in Arizona, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, another brief stop in Boston, St. Louis, Milwaukee, back to St. Louis and finishing his career in 2012 with the Padres.
Suppan gave a statement yesterday:
“After 17 Major League seasons, I’ve squeezed everything out of my ability,” Suppan said. “I am both honored and blessed to have played the game with some of the greatest teammates and coaches. Baseball will always hold a special place in my heart and I am looking forward to the next chapter of my life.”
To his credit, he probably squeezed more out of his ability than most guys of similar ability do, as his 17 years in the majors attest.
Josh R. forwards me this bit of political news. Out in California, there is jockeying for a congressional seat, with Republicans looking to challenge freshman Democrat Julia Brownley, who represents the Ventura County/Oxnard/Thousand Oaks area. Possibilities:
Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann is likely to challenge Rep. John Garamendi in the Sacramento-area 3rd District. Former state Sen. Tony Strickland is expected to run again, most likely forging a rematch with freshman Rep. Julia Brownley in the Ventura County-based 26th District.
There’s some talk that Strickland would take a look at the neighboring 25th District if GOP Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon opts for retirement. One plugged-in GOP source said another person looking at a challenge to Brownley is baseball pitcher Jeff Suppan, who may run if he doesn’t make a Major League roster this season.
Let’s see: Suppan got knocked around for six starts with the Padres last season, knocked around while down in Tucson, and was knocked around in a full season in Omaha in 2011. I’m guessing the 38 year-old is free to run for Congress if he feels like it.
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Up next: The Milwaukee Brew Crew.
The Big Question: Do the Brewers have enough pitching to contend for a playoff spot in 2013?
The offense isn’t a problem. Ryan Braun slugged a career-high 41 home runs and registered a National League-high .987 OPS in 154 games last season, finishing second only to Giants catcher Buster Posey in the MVP balloting. Aramis Ramirez exceeded even the loftiest of expectations in the first chapter of his three-year, $36 million free agent deal, leading the NL with 50 doubles and posting his best set of power numbers (27 homers, 105 RBI, .540 SLG) since 2008. Norichika Aoki was another good newcomer, hitting .288/.355/.433 with 10 homers and 30 stolen bases in 151 games as a rookie. Carlos Gomez took a big step forward and Rickie Weeks had a promising second half after initially stumbling out of the gate.
The Brewers produced the third-most runs in the major leagues last season — despite losing Prince Fielder to the Tigers over the winter — and the starting lineup looks plenty-stacked heading into the 2013 campaign.
But Milwaukee had a 4.22 staff ERA in 2012 — which ranked 22nd out of 30 — and didn’t make the kind of improvements this offseason that would justify a better finish in the National League Central standings.
Yovani Gallardo is rock solid and Marco Estrada has made significant strides over the past two seasons, but Michael Fiers is probably due for some regression and left-hander Chris Narveson owns a 4.67 career ERA and 1.37 career WHIP in over 394 major league frames. Wily Peralta looked great in his cup of coffee last year, but he had an underwhelming 4.66 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in 146 2/3 innings at Triple-A Nashville before his call-up. And it’s not like this club has a crop of electric young starters on the way.
The Brewers boast a strong starting lineup that probably ranks third in the NL Central behind the Cardinals and Reds. Their rotation, however, sits dead last in the division. And it’s going to kill them yet again.
What Else Is Going On?
- Help for the rotation is one call away in free agent right-hander Kyle Lohse, but the Brewers haven’t had much luck handing out multi-year deals to veteran starters (see: Jeff Suppan, Randy Wolf) and would have to forfeit the 17th overall pick in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft in order to add the 34-year-old Lohse. Giving up a first-round selection doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for an organization that lacks high-impact talent on the farm. Even if Lohse opens himself up to one-year offers, a marriage seems unlikely.
- The Brewers’ bullpen also needs some upgrades. John Axford was a menace to opposing teams in 2010 and 2011, but he posted a 4.67 ERA and 1.44 WHIP across 75 appearances last season while blowing nine saves. And there are no dominant arms accompanying him. Jim Henderson, who finally made his major league debut last year at the age of 29, is penciled in right now as the primary setup man.
- Corey Hart underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee on January 25 and is not expected to be ready to play in major league games until mid-to-late May. The Brewers were hoping to start Mat Gamel at first base in Hart’s absence, but Gamel required surgery two weeks ago for a re-torn right ACL and has already been ruled out for the entire 2013 season. Which leaves Alex Gonzalez — that’s right, the veteran shortstop — as Milwaukee’s Opening Day starter at first.
- There’s a lot to like about 23-year-old shortstop Jean Segura, who was the centerpiece in last summer’s trade that sent Zack Greinke to the Angels. Segura batted .304/.358/.413 with seven home runs and 37 steals in 102 games at the Double-A level in 2012 and has been hitting everything in sight this spring in the Cactus League. He shows good range defensively and has a strong, accurate throwing arm.
Prediction: Fourth place in the National League Central.
Here’s Tom Haudricourt, beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
You understand the reservations the Brewers have about Lohse. He is 34 and wants at least a three-year deal, and the Brewers were burned in the past by committing to Jeff Suppan and Randy Wolf with multiyear deals in their 30s.
But [Brewers owner Mark Attanasio] likes to win, and his club returns the highest-scoring offense in the NL from a year ago. [Scott] Boras has told him that it would be a shame to waste such an attack with a substandard starting rotation.
So, all things considered, I’ll believe the Brewers aren’t going to sign Lohse when he signs with another club.
The Brewers would also have to forfeit the 17th overall pick in this year’s draft, which might be the biggest deterrent. But Haudricourt says that Boras has spoken to Attanasio “more than once” this winter about the free agent right-hander, who had a 2.86 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 211 innings with the Cardinals in 2012.
Opening Day is exactly two weeks away and Lohse remains without a team. It’s pretty incredible.
San Diego’s rotation depth is so lacking that they replaced Jeff Suppan with Jason Marquis and now with Eric Stults headed to the disabled list with a strained lat muscle the Padres are turning to flame-throwing setup man Andrew Cashner to make Saturday’s start.
Corey Brock of MLB.com reports that Cashner will likely be limited to three innings, which makes sense considering he’s thrown more than 30 pitches in a game just once all season.
Cashner was a starter in the minors before the Cubs moved his high-90s fastball to the bullpen, but his control and off-speed stuff are both iffy enough that sticking in the rotation long term seems unlikely. He’s racked up 87 strikeouts in 91 career innings, but he’s also walked 50 and served up 12 homers while relying on his fastball-slider combination 90 percent of the time.