The powerful, yet dysfunctional, Brewers lineup

23 Comments

In trading last year’s leadoff man, Norichika Aoki, and failing to add the quality left-handed-hitting first baseman they wanted, the Brewers have left themselves with the most unbalanced lineup in baseball.

Here are the likely starters, along with my projection for each:

C: Jonathan Lucroy (R) – .283/.337/.443
1B: Mark Reynolds (R) – .231/.328/.455
2B: Scooter Gennett (L) – .270/.311/.382
3B: Aramis Ramirez (R) – .277/.350/.470
SS: Jean Segura (R) – .283/.336/.379
LF: Khris Davis (R) – .231/.315/.428
CF: Carlos Gomez (R) – .250/.306/.444
RF: Ryan Braun (R) – .297/.376/.525

From a production standpoint, that’s not bad at all. A Braun-Ramirez-Lucroy middle-of-the-order should work out fine. Figuring out what to do with the rest of the group is the tough call. It’s clear that Segura is going to get a look as a leadoff man. There’s only the one lefty in Gennett, and he projects as the worst hitter in the group. In fact, Rickie Weeks may still be a better player than Gennett, though if he starts, that leaves the Brewers without any lefties at all, unless maybe Reynolds misses out on the first base job.

Ignoring handedness, Gennett would probably hit eighth, with Segura and Gomez occupying the top two spots in the lineup. But seven righties in a row would be tough. My thought would be to hit Gennett eighth anyway, simply because I don’t think either Davis or Reynolds would do well there. Those two would see oodles of breaking balls out of the zone while hitting ahead of the pitcher.

If Davis and Reynolds both produce well enough to get 450-500 at-bats, the Brewers have a great shot of leading the league in homers. I’m not sure that would put them into the top five in runs scored, though. That will hinge more on Segura, who tapered off badly as last year went along, and Gomez, who had a lifetime .294 OBP and .673 OPS before busting out with a .338 OBP and an .843 OPS last year.

Astros owner Jim Crane says MLB ‘explicitly exonerated’ him

Jim Crane
Michael Reaves/Getty Images
5 Comments

Even during a pandemic, the Astros can’t seem to avoid putting their foot in their mouth. Per The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan, Astros owner Jim Crane claimed in a legal filing on Monday that Major League Baseball “explicitly exonerated” him in the club’s 2017 sign-stealing scandal that resulted in a now-tainted championship.

Crane is named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by former pitcher Mike Bolsinger, whose last appearance in the majors was on August 4, 2017 against the Astros. He faced eight batters, allowing four runs on four hits and three walks in one-third of an inning. Bolsinger accused the Astros of unfair business practices, negligence, and intentional interference with contractual and economic relations arising out of the sign-stealing scandal. Bolsinger is seeking damages for himself as well as for the Astros to forfeit the nearly $31 million in bonuses earned from winning the championship in 2017, asking for the money to be reallocated to children’s charities and retired players in need of financial assistance.

Commissioner Rob Manfred did not use the word “exonerated” in his report on the league’s investigation into the Astros’ cheating scheme. Manfred did, however, write, “At the outset, I also can say our investigation revealed absolutely no evidence that Jim Crane, the owner of the Astros, was aware of any of the conduct described in this report. Crane is extraordinarily troubled and upset by the conduct of members of his organization, fully supported my investigation, and provided unfettered access to any and all information requested.”

Saying that the league found “no evidence” that Crane was involved and patting Crane on the back for not obstructing the investigation is not the same was “explicitly exonerating” him. The Athletic asked MLB if it agreed with Crane’s characterization of the report. Rather than agreeing with Crane, the league simply said, “All of our comments about the investigation are included in the report.”

This isn’t the first legal filing in which the Astros made a questionable claim. Recently, Astros lawyers claimed the organization expressed “sincere apologies and remorse for the events described in the report by the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.”

In Monday’s filing, Astros lawyers swung at Bolsinger, citing his poor pitching performance overall in 2017. They wrote, “Plaintiff wants to have a California judge and jury literally call ball and strikes, and award him money damages based on rank conjecture about what might have happened to him in Houston on August 4, 2017 due to alleged rules violations he speculates may have occurred that day.”

Astros lawyers also questioned the frequency of the club’s cheating and its impact, writing, “Major League Baseball (‘MLB’) investigated alleged rule violations by the Astros related to sign-stealing, resulting in a January 13, 2020 report in which the Commissioner of Baseball expressly found that ‘it is impossible to determine whether the (Astros’) conduct actually impacted the results on the field. The MLB did not conclude that sign-stealing violations occurred in every game or even most at-bats in the 2017 season.”

Astros fan Tony Adams, who analyzed every home game during the 2017 regular season and posted the results on SignStealingScandal.com, found that there were 54 “bangs” on August 4 when Bolsinger pitched against the Astros. That was the highest total among all Astros home games that season. Bolsinger entered in the middle of the fourth inning, first facing Yuli Gurriel. Adams found three bangs — all on curve balls — in a plate appearance that ended in a walk. Adams found four more bangs — all on breaking balls — in a Brian McCann at-bat later that inning that also ended in a walk. Bolsinger then gave up a single to Tyler White, with trash can banging on a cut fastball and a curve. The next batter, Jake Marisnick, singled as well, hearing bangs on a cutter and a curve. Bolsinger finally got out of the inning when Bregman swung at a first-pitch curve (yes, there was a trash can bang for that) and flied out.

Importantly, Bolsinger’s lawyer notes that Crane’s motion makes MLB eligible for discovery. It is already eligible for discovery in New York federal court where the league is a defendant in a lawsuit brought by daily fantasy sports contestants. Bolsinger’s lawsuit is brought out of California state court. The Astros want Bolsinger’s lawsuit dismissed or at least moved to Texas.

Because the Astros can’t seem to stop making headlines for all the wrong reasons, this whole situation figures to get even more wild as time goes on. Due to discovery, we may end up learning even more about the Astros’ cheating ways than the league may have let on in their report on their investigation.