Tag: Jim Henderson

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2015 Preview: Milwaukee Brewers


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 2015 season. Next up: The Milwaukee Brewers.

The Big Question: Are they good enough?

It is an overly straightforward question — one you’d be asking about any team in any division this time of year. But it’s also the only thing worth asking about a club that spent 153 days in first place last summer and then wound up eight games back of the division-champion Cardinals with a final record of 82-80.

Jonathan Lucroy earned his first All-Star nod and finished fourth in the 2014 National League MVP balloting after producing a .301/.373/.465 slash line in 153 games (including 133 starts behind the plate). He’s only 28 years old, so there may be even better production ahead. Carlos Gomez, who’s 29 years old, boasts an .838 OPS, 47 home runs, and 74 stolen bases in 295 games over the last two seasons and plays great defense in center field. Ryan Braun is no longer a perennial MVP candidate, but offseason cryotherapy seems to have solved his chronic right thumb discomfort and he should be capable of a bounceback at age 31. That’s an ultra-talented core of relatively young stars, and they’re the first three hitters (Gomez, then Lucroy, then Braun) in the Brewers’ batting order.

But as you move down the lineup, the player snapshots get less and less impressive.

Aramis Ramirez has watched his OPS drop from .901 to .831 to .757 over the last three seasons and he turns 37 years old in June. He’s owed $14 million in the final year of a four-year, $46 million deal. Adam Lind had a productive final two summers in Toronto, but consistency and health have both been big issues. His defense at first base is dreadful. Khris Davis possesses good raw power and Miller Park is a power-friendly place, but the 27-year-old outfielder delivered a rough .299 on-base percentage in 549 total plate appearances last season and he batted .186/.253/.314 with two home runs over his final 30 games as the Brewers completed their late collapse. Those are the next three hitters in Milwaukee’s batting order, and it’s rounded out by Scooter Gennett (who has regressed in predictable fashion) and Jean Segura (who we’ll talk more about below).

This was a top-heavy group last year and it killed them down the stretch. It’s top-heavy again in 2015.

What else is going on?

  • The starting rotation is a mixed bag — lacking a true ace but potentially pretty good if everything goes right. Matt Garza had a 3.64 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 163 1/3 innings last year. He needs to log his first 200-inning season since 2010. Kyle Lohse is 36 years old and doesn’t miss many bats, but it feels like we can pencil him in for another sub-3.50 ERA, 30-start campaign. That is what he’s done for four years straight. Wily Peralta has the arsenal of a front-line starter and greatly improved his control in 2014. It’ll be huge for the Brewers if he takes another step forward at age 26. Mike Fiers has teased this club before, but it’s hard to argue with the excitement over his 2014 numbers: a 2.13 ERA, 0.879 WHIP, and 76/17 K/BB ratio in 71 2/3 frames. Jimmy Nelson carries quite a bit of promise after dominating Triple-A.
  • It’s rare that a team will make it through a full season needing only five starters, and the Brewers are severely lacking in organizational rotation depth. Yovani Gallardo was entering his contract year, so Milwaukee’s cost-conscious front office shipped him off to the Rangers this winter in exchange for three minor leaguers. The Brewers don’t have any prospects in Baseball America’s Top 50 and the two guys that cracked the Top 100 are position players — outfielder Tyrone Taylor (ranked 93rd) and middle infielder Orlando Arcia (ranked 94th). An injury or two in the rotation will be very problematic.
  • Back to shortstop Jean Segura. He made the National League All-Star team in 2013 and boasted a .325/.363/.487 slash line with 11 home runs, 27 stolen bases, and 54 runs scored in 92 games at the break. But his production fell off a cliff in the second half of the 2013 season and he was a mess throughout 2014. Personal tragedy struck last July when Segura lost his nine-month-old son to a sudden illness. Segura is still young and remains the crown jewel of the Zack Greinke trade, but right now he looks like nothing more than a base-stealer — and his success rate in that department hasn’t been all that great.
  • After an entire offseason of dancing, the Brewers finally re-signed closer Francisco Rodriguez to a two-year, $13 million free agent contract on February 26. K-Rod converted 44 saves last season and should have plenty left in the tank at age 33. But, again, there’s an issue of depth in the Milwaukee bullpen. Jonathan Broxton seems to alternate good years and bad years, left-hander Will Smith struggles mightily against righties, and Jim Henderson is still trying to regain his form following right shoulder surgery.

Prediction: If the Brewers have good luck with the health of their rotation and get something unexpected from a down-lineup hitter, they can hold relevance all year in the National League Wild Card race. But it’s hard to see them challenging for the National League Central championship when the division houses four other good teams. I don’t think enough will go right for Milwaukee in 2015. Fourth place, NL Central.

Jim Henderson undergoes shoulder “clean up” surgery

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Milwaukee had already shut down Jim Henderson for the season with shoulder problems and now the Brewers announced that the 31-year-old reliever will undergo a “clean up” surgery on his labrum and rotator cuff.

Adam McCalvy of MLB.com reports that the recovery timetable is four months, which gives Henderson enough time to be ready for spring training, but obviously he’ll head into 2015 as a major question.

After saving 28 games with a 2.70 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 60 innings last season Henderson began this year as the Brewers’ closer, but he quickly lost that job to Francisco Rodriguez on the way to posting a 7.15 ERA before being shut down in early May.

Brewers lose Tyler Thornburg and Jim Henderson for the season

Jim Henderson

The Brewers will have to attempt to win the NL Central without relievers Tyler Thornburg and Jim Henderson. MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports that both are done for the season: Thornburg with a right elbow injury, and Henderson with a right shoulder injury. McCalvy adds that Thornburg had a platelet-rich plasma injection in his elbow, and that Henderson may need to undergo surgery on his shoulder.

Per McCalvy, neither player suffered a setback; they simply weren’t making any progress coming back from their injuries.

Thornburg put up mediocre numbers before landing on the disabled list in June, compiling a 4.25 ERA and a 28/21 K/BB ratio in 29 2/3 innings. Henderson was worse, posting a 7.15 ERA with a 17/4 K/BB ratio in 11 1/3 innings prior to being put on the DL in early May.

Jim Henderson is nearing a minor league rehab assignment

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Joe Morgan of MLB.com reports that Brewers reliever Jim Henderson is scheduled to throw a bullpen session tomorrow, which will likely be the final hurdle before he’s cleared for a minor league rehab assignment.

Henderson has been sidelined since May 2 due to right shoulder inflammation, but he made it through a bullpen session Saturday without any issues and played catch today. He might only need a couple of appearances in the minors before coming off the disabled list.

Francisco Rodriguez has had a couple of hiccups recently, but he’s still 17-for-18 in save chances and owns an excellent 1.57 ERA and 28/4 K/BB ratio over 23 innings. Henderson likely won’t get his old closer gig back anytime soon, but he could still be a valuable late-inning arm if healthy.

Brewers shut down Jim Henderson with shoulder injury

Jim Henderson

Jim Henderson had been pitching pretty well since being demoted from closer to setup man by the Brewers and came into yesterday’s game with a 3.38 ERA on the season. He exited the game with a 7.15 ERA (and a loss), allowing five runs while recording two outs against the Reds.

And now Milwaukee has placed Henderson on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.

Henderson has had some issues maintaining peak velocity, but that wasn’t really a huge problem yesterday as he averaged 93.6 miles per hour with his fastball and topped out at 95 mph. That’s a slight dip from his peak levels, but hardly enough of a drop to scream injury.

Francisco Rodriguez has been flawless in the closer role, converting a league-leading 13 saves with a 0.00 ERA and 23/4 K/BB ratio in 16 innings, so Henderson wasn’t going to get his job back anytime soon anyway. And the Brewers’ bullpen has been so ridiculously good as a whole that moving everyone up one notch on the relief hierarchy may work out just fine in Henderson’s absence.