The Brewers need to continue to search for bullpen pieces

The Milwaukee Brewers have reportedly signed relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen to a minor league deal after he was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Wilhelmsen was previously drafted by the Brewers but injuries and drug issues derailed his time with the organization. He did have some solid seasons with the Seattle Mariners, where he saved 53 games between 2012-2013.  The Diamondbacks are paying most of his contract for the remaining of his season with the Brewers. If he doesn’t work out, it wont really affect the Brewers payroll. This isn’t a big-time move, but it’s the type of move the Brewers need to continue to make.

The organization’s rebuild is obviously ahead of schedule. The Brewers shouldn’t be going “all-in” on this season just because they are contending in the National League Central. They shouldn’t be selling off big name prospects in order to land a solid pitcher. Being a “buyer” at the deadline to try to make a playoff push could compromise the farm system. It’s a top-rated farm system that  David Stearns  has worked hard to bolster the past two seasons. That doesn’t mean that Stearns shouldn’t continue to make moves or small-time deals to try to improve the current team. He should continue to search free agency as well as the waiver wire to try to find serviceable arms for the Brewers bullpen.

Recent Moves

Former Brewers general manager Doug Melvin as well as Stearns have already shown that they can find players to help the team win. Lots of players currently on the Brewers roster have been waiver wire, minor league, or small signing deals. Some of the players who have been claimed off of waivers by the Brewers in the past few years are, Hernan Perez, Junior Guerra, Jesus Aguilar, Nick Franklin, and Oliver Drake. Other small signings that have occurred the last couple years are Eric Sogard, Jared Hughes, and Paolo Espino. Obviously not all of the moves the Brewers have made have worked out, but the majority has.

(AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Neftali Feliz definitely didn’t work out for the Brewers and was designated for assignment and ultimately released by the team. The team has also gotten rid of Rob Scahill, Jhan Marinez, and Tommy Milone, all of who weren’t able to get the job done this season.  If I was in the Brewers front office I would definitely be designating a few more relievers for assignment (DFA).

Proposed Moves

The first guy I’d have to start with is Wily Peralta. At the beginning of the season, I was all for giving him as many opportunities as possible. I was just hoping he could get back to his 2014 form.  After watching the Pirates game on Monday night, I’ve seen enough. He needs to go. Another reliever that needs to be DFA’d would be Oliver Drake. He was a veteran given another chance to potentially make the team, but in my opinion hasn’t done enough to deserve a spot in the bullpen. I may be in the minority on this one, but I’d be willing to give Carlos Torres a little more leash after the success he showed last season. The Brewers should continue to give veteran pitchers like Wilhelmsen, who have had success at the major league level a chance.

 

The absolute worst case scenario would be that the Brewers never end up finding any guys that can really come in and anchor down the bullpen, but that would leave them back to square one.  The Brewers already have the lowest payroll in baseball, so the addition of minimal salaries shouldn’t greatly affect it or their willingness to sign players. And we all know how bad Brewers owner Mark Anttanasio wants to win. I think he would be for whatever move may help the Brewers contend now and in the future. Going after more low-risk relief pitchers  would be the best way for the organization to go about trying to win now as well as keep the farm system in tact and not derail the future.

The Brewers need to continue to search for bullpen pieces

The Milwaukee Brewers have reportedly signed relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen to a minor league deal after he was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Wilhelmsen was previously drafted by the Brewers but injuries and drug issues derailed his time with the organization. He did have some solid seasons with the Seattle Mariners, where he saved 53 […]

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Davies struggles, offense sputters in 7-3 loss to Pirates

MILWAUKEE — The Pittsburgh Pirates jumped out to a 6-0 lead and ultimately hung on for a 7-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers Tuesday night. Brewers starter Zach Davies was tagged for all seven runs scored by the Pirates, allowing 10 hits in the process. He left after five innings of work, having yet to make […]

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Brewers pitching falls apart in 8-1 loss to Pirates

MILWAUKEE — An area of weakness reared its ugly head as the Milwaukee Brewers fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-1 Monday night. That weakness was relief pitching. Wily Peralta took over for Matt Garza in the sixth inning only to leave an inning later after allowing four runs to score on five hits. But by the […]

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Starting Pitchers need to be going deeper into games

Jimmy Nelson threw a complete game for the Brewers Sunday afternoon in a 2-1 win over the San Diego Padres. It took Nelson 118 pitches to record the 27th and final out in a game the Brewers desperately needed to rest its weary bullpen. Believe it or not, this was the first complete game thrown by a Milwaukee pitcher since Taylor Jungmann did it in 2015. If you listened to the telecast with Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder on FSN Wisconsin, you would have picked up on how Schroeder continued to make comments about how hard of a decision this must have been for manager Craig Counsell.

The Number 100

The reasoning behind this was because of Nelson’s high pitch count. The Brewers bullpen has been used quite a bit and has been awful this season. Nelson was in uncharted territory for him. He has averaged 93.5 pitchers per start this season, and was already over 100 pitches after he finished his eighth inning of work. Counsell believed in his pitcher and Jimmy came threw for the Crew as he finished off the Padres in the ninth, and gave the Brewers a series win. Nelson struck out 10 batters, while only surrendering one run on six hits and two walks in his complete game.

When I was a kid a don’t ever really remember hearing much about pitch counts for Major League pitchers. I can still remember my junior high days when CC Sabathia was grabbing the ball every third day and throwing complete games like it was nothing. It feels like all of a sudden Major League Organizations decided on the number 100 for when to go out and pull your starting pitcher. 100 is a nice round number to wrap your brain around, but shouldn’t be the factor that ultimately ends a pitcher’s start.

Going Deeper into Games

There is no perfect time to know when to remove a pitcher from the game. To me it should come down to feel. The manager should have a feel for when his pitcher is at the end of this rope. I applaud Counsell for staying with Nelson in yesterday’s game. Nelson was rolling along. He was pitching well and was emotionally invested in the game. You could tell he didn’t want to come out of the game in that spot. If the pitcher is still pitching well and feels good, why not leave him in?

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Brewers fans know how bad the bullpen has been this season. The bullpen has already blown 19 of the teams 33 losses. That leads the Major Leagues in games blown by a bullpen. I don’t care if the bullpen has been heavily worked or not. I’m not confident in handing the ball to any of the relievers not named Barnes or Knebel! The Brewers are winning and leading the National League Central and should be able to lean on their starters for more innings. It would be easier to put more on the starters plates, than to revamp the bullpen at this point in the season.

Today’s Game

I’m sick of hearing how they need to protect young arms. These guys aren’t “young” anymore. Outside of Zach Davies, all of the Brewers starters are in they’re late 20’s or early 30’s. This should be a time in their careers where you can stretch out their innings. Allowing for these pitchers to work through tough situations should make them better pitchers in the long run. When pitchers are tired and don’t have the same velocity as they did in the earlier innings, this is where they learn how to pitch. It will make them have to rely on their location, develop new pitches and tricks to get batters out, etc.

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Some may argue that more innings and pitches equals more injuries. I think that’s true to a point. Yes, more pitches and innings allows for more opportunity for injuries. But in today’s baseball, guys are throwing harder than ever before and surgeries are becoming common practice. Arm injuries no longer end guys careers, and in some cases allow them to come back stronger. It’s not if your starting pitcher is going to have arm surgery, it’s when. Injuries are a part of the game, but shouldn’t deter managers from allowing pitchers to go longer in games to help the team win.

 

Santana, Arcia help Milwaukee to a 4-3 win against Pittsburgh

Timely hitting from Domingo Santana and a brilliant play from shortstop Orlando Arcia helped Milwaukee get past Pittsburgh 4-3 Wednesday night at Miller Park. The Brewers never led in the game until the bottom of the seventh. That’s when Santana stepped up to the plate with two outs and drilled what proved to be the […]

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The Brewers need to continue to search for bullpen pieces

The Milwaukee Brewers have reportedly signed relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen to a minor league deal after he was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Wilhelmsen was previously drafted by the Brewers but injuries and drug issues derailed his time with the organization. He did have some solid seasons with the Seattle Mariners, where he saved 53 […]

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Davies struggles, offense sputters in 7-3 loss to Pirates

MILWAUKEE — The Pittsburgh Pirates jumped out to a 6-0 lead and ultimately hung on for a 7-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers Tuesday night. Brewers starter Zach Davies was tagged for all seven runs scored by the Pirates, allowing 10 hits in the process. He left after five innings of work, having yet to make […]

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Jake’s Take: Eric Sogard Cult Hero

In this week’s Jake’s Take, sports director Jake Zimmermann says Brewers second baseman Eric Sogard is quickly becoming a cult hero and for good reason. Jake says the nerdy looking guy seems to get it done each and every game. Last Monday he became just the 6th player in Brewers history to homer in his first two starts. He had a career-high four hits the next night. Two days later, on Thursday May 18th, Sogard followed it up with another 4 hit game.

Click on the link below to hear this week’s Jake’s Take.

Jake’s Take – Nigel Hayes will be missed

In this week’s edition of Jake’s Take, sports director Jake Zimmermann says Badger men’s basketball player Nigel Hayes will be missed for a variety of reasons. Jake says the former Badger, who’s taking part in the NBA combine in Chicago this week, will go down in school history as one of the best Badgers on the court and one of the most influential off the court.

This week Hayes wrote what he called a commencement address on the Players Tribune titled “Don’t Just Shut Up and Play.” The forward gave a couple of final messages.. his biggest? Telling his class to never stay in your lanes. In other words, just because they are athletes doesn’t mean they get to talk about sports. Hayes argues he has the right to speak his mind about a variety of issues. Jake Zimmermann agrees.

To listen to this week’s Jake’s Take, click the link below.

 

 

Jake’s Take: Packers should trade first pick in 2nd round

PHILADELPHIA | I’m at the site of the NFL Draft in Philadelphia getting set for rounds two and three tonight. If tonight is anything like last night, it should be another wild evening of trades and surprises.

In this week’s edition of Jake’s Take, I argue that Packers General Manager Ted Thompson made the right move in trading down last night. In fact I say he should do the same tonight! Click on the audio link below to hear this week’s Jake’s Take.

Wisconsin Spring Game: Defense 20, Offense 17

MADISON — In a spring game missing nearly every marquee player on Wisconsin’s roster, the defense prevailed over the offense 20-17 Friday night at Camp Randall Stadium.

Playing the game under the lights for the first time, a crowd of 8,095 were treated to a practice segment followed by an hour-long game with a running clock, played mostly by backups, including at quarterback where freshmen Jack Coan and Kare Lyles got all the snaps with sophomore Alex Hornibrook looking on.

The defense, which could rack up points through sacks, three-and-outs and forcing turnovers, held the offense out of the end zone until the final play from scrimmage, as Coan found tight end Zander Neuville for an 8-yard touchdown.

Though it was difficult to take much of anything from the game itself, it was the culmination of 15 practices, all of which were open to the media.

Here, then, are some of our thoughts on what we saw over the last month.

1) Backup quarterback is a concern

Wisconsin returns 15 starters from last year’s 11-3 squad that won the Big Ten West, and many are picking the Badgers to do it again. And while we’ll acknowledge it’s only April, the chances of them repeating would likely be derailed if there’s an injury at the quarterback spot.

Hornibrook had a solid spring and is the unquestioned leader of the offense. But not since Russell Wilson took every meaningful snap in 2011 has Wisconsin not needed their backup quarterback at some point.

Coan, who should still be a senior in high school right now, looked solid on Friday and generally outperformed Kare Lyles this spring, especially during the scrimmage portions. That bodes well for him, but it also came mostly against the second- and third-team defense. Both guys need to take a big jump this summer to be ready if Hornibrook were to go down.

2) Finding a left tackle

The offensive line has a chance to be as good as its been since 2014, but the Badgers need to solidify the left tackle spot vacated by All-American Ryan Ramczyk. Sophomore David Edwards, who started eight games at right tackle last year, moved to the left side this spring and was OK. An ankle injury sidelined him late, and it led the Badgers to move junior Michael Deiter into his spot. Deiter has started games at center and guard during his career, and coach Paul Chryst said it’s entirely possible he could add tackle to the list when the season starts.

“Whatever we have to do to get the best five on the field,” Chryst said of their mindset. “The more guys can do, play different spots, whether it be right side, left side, center, guard or tackle, it’s helpful.”

Depending on how the summer goes, it would not be a surprise to see Deiter at left tackle, with sophomore Jon Dietzen at left guard, highly regarded redshirt freshman Tyler Biadasz at center, junior Beau Benzschawel at right guard and Edwards back at right tackle, and then having experienced backups in juniors Micah Kapoi and Jake Maxwell, and up-and-coming freshmen Cole Van Lanen and Patrick Kasl.

3) The defensive line is stacked

No position group on the team has more experience than the defensive line where they return their top six players from last season and are even deeper this time around.

Redshirt freshman Isaiahh Loudermilk spent most of the spring in the offensive backfield, and sophomore Garrett Rand got a ton of reps and found a home at defensive end. Both guys are going to push seniors Alec James, Conor Sheehy and Chikwe Obasih for playing time this fall and be the face of the defensive line once those guys exhaust their eligibility.

4) Expectations haven’t changed on defense

Despite losing All-Big Ten players like T.J. Watt, Vince Biegel and Sojourn Shelton, along with Team MVP Leo Musso, the Wisconsin defense isn’t expecting any kind of drop off from what it accomplished last year, or for that matter, the last four seasons when the Badgers have become one of the elite units in the country.

“None of us are going to have that diminish on our watch,” senior linebacker Jack Cichy said of the defense’s almost unparalleled success in Wisconsin history. “I guess if you want to say it would tarnish our legacy, it would. But we don’t really think about it like that. We’re better than that. This program can’t have any fall off just because how far it has come. I just don’t think we as a defense would allow (it).”

Wisconsin came into the spring needing to find four new starters and it appears they have. Hawaii transfer Nick Nelson has stepped into Shelton’s cornerback spot, while senior Natrell Jamerson made the move from cornerback to safety and worked with the No. 1 unit all spring in the place occupied by Musso a year ago. Instead of Watt and Biegel at outside linebacker, it’s seniors Garrett Dooley and Leon Jacobs, both of whom had very good springs, while sophomore Zack Baun and junior college transfer Andrew Van Ginkel will see time as well.

As for other key spots, a battle for the third cornerback job will play itself out in fall camp with the favorites being redshirt freshman Dontye Carriere-Williams and senior Lubern Figaro. The Badgers also need to figure out how to best use their ridiculous depth at inside linebacker where Cichy and sophomore Chris Orr return from injuries to battle two-year starter T.J. Edwards and superb fill-in Ryan Connelly.

When everything is said and done, it’s possible that the 2017 defense could match or even surpass what the 2016 group did.

5) Just fine at running back

Wisconsin lost a lot of production with Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale moving on to the next phase of their careers, but it appears they won’t hurt for options to fill the void.

Sophomore Bradrick Shaw isn’t overly flashy, but his one cut and go style is perfect for the offense. Then you’ve got junior Chris James, who is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, and will be big in the passing game and on third down. Add in what the Badgers hope is a healthy Taiwan Deal this fall, along with incoming freshman Jonathan Taylor, and things are looking just fine in the backfield.

A somewhat informed guess at Wisconsin’s depth chart:

  First-team Second-team
OFFENSE
QB Alex Hornibrook (RS SO) Jack Coan (FR) OR Kare Lyles (RS FR)
RB Bradrick Shaw (RS SO) OR Chris James (JR) Taiwan Deal (JR)
FB Alec Ingold (JR) Austin Ramesh (SR)
WR Jazz Peavy (SR) A.J. Taylor (SO)
WR Quintez Cephus (SO) Kendric Pryor (SO) OR George Rushing (SR)
TE Troy Fumagalli (SR) Zander Neuville (JR)
TE Kyle Penniston (RS SO) Luke Benzschawel (RS FR)
LT David Edwards (RS SO) Cole Van Lanen (RS FR)
LG Jon Dietzen (RS SO) Micah Kapoi (JR)
C Michael Deiter (JR) Tyler Biadasz (RS FR)
RG Beau Benzschawel (JR) Micah Kapoi (JR)
RT Patrick Kasl (RS FR) OR Jake Maxwell (JR) David Moorman (RS SO)
 
DEFENSE
DE Chikwe Obasih (SR) OR Alec James (SR) Garrett Rand (SO)
NT Olive Sagapolu (JR) Billy Hirschfeld (JR)
DE Conor Sheehy (SR) Isaiahh Loudermilk (RS FR)
OLB Garrett Dooley (SR) Andrew Van Ginkel (JR)
ILB Jack Cichy (SR) Chris Orr (RS SO)
ILB T.J. Edwards (JR) Ryan Connelly (JR)
OLB Leon Jacobs (SR) Zack Baun (RS SO)
CB Derrick Tindal (SR) Lubern Figaro (SR)
S D’Cota Dixon (SR) Joe Ferguson (SR)
S Natrell Jamerson (SR) Patrick Johnson (SO)
CB Nick Nelson (JR) Dontye Carriere-Williams (RS FR)
     
Kicker Rafael Gaglianone (JR) Zach Hintze (RS SO)
Punter Anthony Lotti (SO) P.J. Rosowski (JR)

 

Final stats:

Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ earns AP All-American honors

MADISON — For just the sixth time in school history, the Wisconsin basketball team has produced an Associated Press All-American.

Sophomore forward Ethan Happ was named a third-team All-American by the AP after helping the Badgers to a fourth straight Sweet Sixteen.

“It is definitely an honor to receive such a prestigious award,” Happ said in a release by the school. “No individual award comes without the help of others though. I want to thank my teammates, coaches and all the support I’ve gotten that has helped me get to this point.”

Happ finish second on the team in scoring at 14.0 points per game, while leading Wisconsin in rebounds (9.0), assists (2.8), blocks (1.2) and steals (1.8) on his way to earning first-team All-Big Ten honors and a second straight year of being named to the conference’s all-defensive team.

The Illinois native joins Frank Kaminsky (2015), Jordan Taylor (2011), Alando Tucker (2007), Devin Harris (2004) and Don Rehfeldt (1950) as Wisconsin players that have earned some form of recognition from the Associated Press since they first started naming All-American teams in 1948.

Wisconsin confirms the hiring of former OL coach Bob Bostad as its ILB coach.

MADISON — Wisconsin confirmed late Friday morning that it has hired former offensive line coach Bob Bostad as the team’s inside linebackers coach.

“I’ve had the privilege to work with Bob for a number of years. I know who he is as a coach (and) a person. I think it’s a great fit,” coach Paul Chryst told UWBadgers.com. “He’s been here. He knows the type of kids that have success at Wisconsin. Couldn’t really be more excited to have Bob here.”

Bostad is filling the void left by Justin Wilcox leaving to take the head coaching job at California. It will be Bostad’s first time on the defensive side of the ball in his 27-year career, though he did play linebacker in college at UW-Stevens Point in the late 1980s.

“Defensively, a lot of the conversations are about how to stop the run game, how to beat protections. As an offensive line coach, he’s been looking at defenses, specifically the front seven,” Chryst said. “I know he can teach. I know he can coach. I think it’s a great tool, especially for our veteran linebackers, to keep expanding their growth. I think they get to see the game through a little different lens.”

Bostad is more well known as an offensive line coach, serving in that post at Wisconsin from 2008 to 2011 after spending his first two seasons coaching the tight ends and serving as running game coordinator. Over his six years in Madison, Bostad coached 11 players that went on to get drafted in the NFL, including three first-round picks.

“There will be a learning curve and all that,” Bostad told UWBadgers.com of the move to defense. “I hope to take the edge off in the spring and all that stuff. Get to know the base defense and the calls and the fits and coverages and all those things. But after that, I think it’s going to come down to, like any other position, it’s going to come down to the details.”

Bostad went with Chryst when he got the Pittsburgh head coaching job in 2012 but never coached a game, instead being tabbed to coach the line with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL. He was there for two years before taking the same position with the Tennessee Titans. He spent last season coaching the tight ends and fullbacks at Northern Illinois.

The group Bostad inherits is among the more talented on the Wisconsin roster. The Badgers return their top six inside linebackers from 2016, including juniors T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly, while senior Jack Cichy and sophomore Chris Orr will be back on the field after injuries end their seasons early last fall.

“It seems like a really blue collar group. Tough guys, finish guys,” Bostad said. “I like that mentality and what they’re going to bring to the table.”

Wisconsin falls in both national polls

MADISON — Despite a week in which it beat No. 23 Maryland, the Wisconsin basketball team tumbled in both national polls released on Monday.

The Badgers dropped five spots in the AP Top 25 to No. 16 and from No. 10 to No. 15 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

It was a mixed bag for coach Greg Gard and his club last week. After losing to Northwestern on Jan. 12, the Badgers went on the road and fell at Michigan last Thursday — their first back-to-back losses of the season. They regained some semblance of stability on Sunday in a win over the Terrapins, but it wasn’t enough to sway voters.

Wisconsin was one of three Big Ten teams in both polls, with Purdue at No. 16 and Maryland at No. 24 in each survey.

The Badgers will hit the road twice this week, with a visit to Ohio State on Thursday, followed by a date with Michigan State on Sunday.

You can find both polls here.