Thursday, December 20, 2012

Badgers Hire Gary Andersen as Head Football Coach

When it was announced on December 4th that Bret Bielema would be leaving the University of Wisconsin to take the head coaching job at Arkansas there was a mixed reaction from the Badger football faithful. Among the many different reactions to the news was one main concern: Who will Barry Alvarez bring in that can continue the success the team has seen under Bielema in recent years. After winning the first two Big Ten Championship games ever to be played and earning three straight Rose Bowl berths, the Wisconsin football program is at an all-time high. While some fans believed that Bielema’s departure wasn’t as bad as it looked on paper, I believe all were concerned with the future of their beloved Badger program.

Speculation ran wild for the two week period before Andersen’s hiring was announced. Many different names were thrown around but never was Andersen mentioned as much as others such as Chris Pedersen and Mel Tucker. Andersen was a very under the radar hiring, but certainly a good one.

Most Wisconsin fans will remember Andersen for the game against Utah State at Camp Randall on September 15th, 2012. The Badgers snuck out with a 16-14 victory after Aggie placekicker Josh Thompson missed a potential game winning field goal in the game’s closing minutes. Afterwards, Andersen stated that Badger junior Chris Borland was the best linebacker he’d ever seen on a football field. One can’t help but smile looking back at as comment such as that.

Andersen began his coaching career at Southeastern Louisiana before working his way up through the ranks to earn his first head coaching job at Southern Utah in 2003. After a short stint there, he moved on to Utah where he coached under current Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer. He served as the defensive coordinator for the Utes in 2008 when the team finished 13-0 and stood at #2 in the final polls. From there he moved on to take the head coaching job at Utah State University. Before Andersen’s arrival, the Aggie program was one of the worst in the FBS, winning just 9 games in the previous four seasons. Andersen quickly turned the program around, winning 26 games in his four seasons and leading the Aggies to an 11-2 record and a victory over Toledo in the 2012 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, being named the WAC Coach of the Year and earning a spot as a finalist for the 2012 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award along the way. 2012 was Utah State’s first outright WAC title since 1936 and their first ever appearance in the BCS standings.

Andersen is most revered for his defensive prowess, as were Alvarez and Bielema. Prior to his arrival at Utah State, the Aggies ranked outside the top 100 in overall defense. In 2012, the team ranked 15th in overall defense and 8th in scoring defense, allowing just over 322 yards and 15 points per game. Besides his reputation for defensive excellence, Andersen is revered as one of the better recruiters in all of college football, having been named one of the nation’s top non-BCS recruiters while at Utah. He has made a name for himself in turning average recruits into great college football players and getting the most out of what he is given. One can only imagine what he can do with improved facilities, funding, coaching staff, and administrative support.

When asked about the hiring on Thursday, Wisconsin Athletic Director and Interim Head Coach Barry Alvarez talked about Andersen as a perfect fit for the Badger program and mentioned a conversation he had with Urban Meyer during the hiring process:

“(Meyer has) had some very good assistants,” he said. “Urban told me that Gary is in the top five of all of them; he’s the real deal. I said, ‘Would he fit here? Would he fit in the Big Ten?’ He said, ‘Absolutely.’”

If you don’t want to take it from me, and you don’t want to take if from Alvarez, take if from Urban Meyer - easily one of the top coaches in the country. In regards to Meyer, we must remember that Andersen coached under him and will have a great advantage when playing against Meyer’s spread offense when the Badgers take on the Buckeye’s each year.

The biggest concerns will be Andersen’s offensive scheme and how he does with recruiting in the Midwest. He ran a spread offense at Utah State in 2012, something we know Alvarez doesn’t want to see at UW. He will have to make some adjustments in that department, but that’s what good coaches do. This roster is built around a power running game and that will continue. In regards to recruiting, we have to wait and see how well he can sell his program in the Midwest and Florida – the two major hotbeds for Badger recruiting. He has coached his entire career west of Madison and doesn’t have much experience recruiting in the areas that have treated Bielema so well over the past seven years. I think it is imperative that Andersen retain Thomas Hammock (RB) and Bart Miller (OL) and as many other current Badger assistants as possible in order to ensure some degree of continuity and retain a tie to Midwest recruiting.

Finally, if you’re still not sold on Andersen as a coach or a recruiter, hop on twitter and see what some of his former players and beat writers that covered him at USU are saying about his departure. After accepting Alvarez’s offer, Andersen made personal phone calls to each member of the Utah State team to tell them the news. The man is highly regarded and we are lucky to have him donning the red and white.

Overall, I am pleased with the hiring and happy that this whole ordeal is finally coming to an end. We knew it was best to trust Alvarez in the hiring process and he went out and got us a great ball coach. I think it’s best if we reserve our judgments at this point and see how Andersen fills out his staff and manages recruiting in a new area. For now, let’s just enjoy this Rose Bowl and savor every moment of having Alvarez back on the sidelines for the next couple of weeks!

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

- Joe Norton (@JoeP_Norton)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @Brandon_BFP, @SMahon2Go. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Top 10 Wisconsin Sports Moments of 2012

I got the idea of doing this blog this past December when ESPN showed a Top 10 of sporting moments of the year. So, giving it a little twist, I've compiled 14 or so moments over the year and will list what I feel are the Top 10. I challenged my Twitter followers to select one of their own, which would be featured on the list as well. But first, let's start with a few honorable mentions.

Honorable Mention - Brewers' Mike Fiers near Perfect Game vs. Cincinnati Reds. Mike Fiers took a perfect game into the seventh inning to lead the Brewers to a 3-1 win over the Reds. Fiers retired the first 18 batters until Zack Cozart doubled to left-center leading off the 7th inning. The only other hits Fiers gave up were 8th inning singles to Xavier Paul and Ryan Hanigan. I remember being at Quaker Steak and Lube in New Berlin, WI for this game because none of us were exactly into the game that much. We were more focused on the All-You-Can-Eat wings at that moment. It wasn't until we all got ESPN Mobile updates alerting us of Fiers perfect game where we started to really pay attention. It was a fantastic moment for the Brewers, and for their fans. It's reassuring when a young guy can do that early in their careers. Make you appreciate the work and players we have in our minor league system. (Source: AP)

Honorable Mention - Rob Wilson scores 30 vs. Indiana Hoosiers in Big Ten Tournament. Rob Wilson, 6'4" senior guard from Cleveland, Ohio, had been averaging 3.1 points per game and had made just 15 of 43 three-pointers on the season. Wilson hit 7 of 10 three-pointers to tie the school record for threes made in a game and hit 11 of 16 shots overall en route to a college career-high of 30 points. To break up his performance, Wilson scored 10 points, on 4-of-7 shooting, in 14 minutes to help the Badgers build a 36-31 halftime lead. He hit 5 of 7 three-pointers and 7 of 9 shots overall in the second half to frustrate the Hoosiers, who trailed for the final 35:07, after Wilson buried a three-pointer to give the Badgers a 14-13 lead. The Badgers went on to lose in the next round vs. Michigan State. MSU defeated Ohio State in the championship game 68-64. (Source: JS Online)

Honorable Mention - The Green Bay Packers sign free agent running back Cedric Benson. Before signing with the Packers, Benson, a 5'11", 227-pound eighth-year player out of Texas, spent the past four seasons (2008-11) with Cincinnati, where he led the Bengals in rushing each season. The Packers got almost 2 months out of him before he suffered a Lisfranc injury to his foot, which ended his 2012 season. (Source:

Honorable Mention - Milwaukee Bucks trade Bogut, Jackson for Ellis, Udoh, and Brown. The biggest shock of this trade was the Bucks parting ways with Andrew Bogut, who was their #1 overall pick in 2005. Bogut was claimed by injuries year after year, and the Bucks were finally tired of it and moved onto greener pastures. The lesser surprise was the Bucks sending Stephen Jackson with Bogut. Bringing in Jackson during the 2011 offseason was a huge move fore Milwaukee, but it quickly became apparent that this potential "match made in heaven" was on a quick path to divorce. In return, the Bucks got two really good players. each of which excel at their specific trade. Ellis is a scoring machine, which was something the Bucks had lacked since the likes of Ray Allen and Michael Redd departed. Udoh gave us some height on defense which we also lacked. I remember being very optimistic about this trade saying it was a good move and I was into a very heated debate with one gentleman in particular. To sum it up, he thought trading Bogut was an awful move and the Bucks management of the team was at a new low. Present day, Bogut is out for the rest of the season for the Warriors.

Those were all great moments, but I just didn't see them as Top 10 material. Below is the Top 10 moments from this past year of Wisconsin sports.

Number 10 - Aaron Rodgers throws 6 touchdowns vs. Houston Texans. Rodgers completed 24 of 37 passes for 338 yards. He tied Matt Flynn's game record for TD passes, set in last year's regular-season finale against Detroit with Rodgers resting on the sideline in advance of the playoffs. Jordy Nelson caught three touchdown passes and James Jones had two, including a diving one-handed catch in the fourth quarter for the Packer. Tom Crabtree caught the other, which was a 48 yard pass play. Coming into the game, the Packers were 3-3 on the season and were looking for go for 2 wins in a row for the first time of the season. No one was really giving Green Bay a chance to win the game, but as we all know, that's when we play at our best. And boy did it show. (Source: Fox Sports)

Number 9 - Ryan Braun's 4-5, 3 HR night vs. Padres.

Number 8 - Larry Sanders' Triple-Double vs. Minnesota Timberwolves. Even though the numbers don't seem to be that impressive, the way Sanders got his triple-double was the impressive part. Sanders finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and a team-record 10 blocks. This was Sanders' first career triple-double. In doing so he tied the team record for blocks in a game, a record held by Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. That is a pretty elite name to be associated with, which is why this moment is monumental and special. Joking after the game, Sanders said his most impressive stat was his 2 personal fouls, as he is otherwise in foul trouble late in games. (Source: Fox Sports)

Number 7 - Barry Alvarez will coach the Rose Bowl in place of the departed Bret Bielema. [Submitted by follower Adam Bayer (@ABayer2)] When Bret Bielema left the football program just hours after winning the Big Ten Championship game against Nebraska, a decision had to be made on who would wear the headset for the Badgers for the Rose Bowl. Before the decision was made, however, Wisconsin fans started buzzing about the possibility. The Badgers' team captains had the same thought. After the team captains asked Alvarez to come back for the Rose Bowl, Alvarez said he would and would be honored to do so, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. Alvarez knew the program he built needed him back, if just for one big game. He was never going to turn his back on that call for help. As for the money he will/could make for this game, I really think Barry is the kind of guy that would donate his bowl winnings to charity. At least, I hope so. (Source: Yahoo Sports)

Number 6 - Brewers trade Zack Greinke to the Angels. The Brewers traded Greinke to the Angels for a trio of prospects. They acquired shortstop Jean Segura, and right-handers John Hellweg and Ariel Pena. The move was all but expected, just because the Brewers figured they weren't going to have a chance to sign him in the off season because of the amount of money Greinke eventually signed for. Also, there was little hope at the time that the Brewers would make the postseason. Although it was a short-lived tenure, having Zack Greinke in our organization was a true blessing, as I see him as one of the, if not the smartest pitcher in the game. (Source: McCalvy)

Number 5 - Montee Ball breaks the NCAA touchdown record vs. Penn State. Montee Ball broke the all-time career touchdown record in FBS college football. Ball rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown in Wisconsin’s 24-21 overtime loss to the Penn State Nittany Lions. Ball’s 17-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was the 79th of his career, breaking the 13-year-old record set by Miami (Ohio) running back Travis Prentice in 1999. On his way into the record books Ball passed former All-American running backs like Marshall Faulk, Ron Dayne, Cedric Benson and Ricky Williams. Ball would go on to win the Doak Walker Award at the College Football Awards Ceremony.

Number 4 - The Immaculate Touchception.

Number 3 - Wisconsin Badgers rout #12 Nebraska Cornhuskers in Big Ten Championship game. The Badgers went into this game with a lackluster 7-5 record, and many didn't even give the Badgers a chance to even make this a game. In the defense of the Badgers, grouping the 5 losses together, the Badgers lost by a combined 19 points and 3 of the 5 losses came in overtime. In the game, the Badgers stuck to what has lead them to their success in the past. The Badgers ran the ball for 539 yards on 50 attempts. The Badgers only passed the ball 10 times, completing 8 of the passes, which all came in the 1st half. The Badgers had a 14-0 lead 3 minutes into the game, and never really looked back. The Badgers won 70-31, sending them to Pasadena for their third Rose Bowl appearance in as many years. (Source: ESPN)

Number 2 - The Green Bay Packers win the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers connected with James Jones on all three touchdowns, Clay Matthews continued his dominance of Jay Cutler with two more sacks and Green Bay clinched its second consecutive NFC North title with a 21-13 victory over the archrival Chicago Bears on Sunday. After starting the season 2-3, the Packers are showing signs they might have a run in them like the one that carried them to the Super Bowl title two years ago. They have assured themselves of a home playoff game and, at 10-4, are still in the running for the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Needless to say, the Packers have sure come a long way this year, between all the controversy to start the season as well as the injuries the team has endured throughout. (Source:

Number 1 - Exonerated: February 23rd, 2012. This day from now on will be referred to as "Braunukah", as fellow follower @Enrico_Palazzo_ suggested I call it. He named the holiday, so I came up with the rules. Every February 23rd, you exchange gifts with your favorite Brewers fans and the gifts have to be wrapped in a FedEx box. Anyways, we all know the importance of this day, so I will leave you the speech that Ryan delivered during Spring Training.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota (@AndrewVrchota)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @Brandon_BFP, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Quiet Offseason for the Brewers

The Brewers managed to turn a lost season into a postseason race when they caught fire at the end of the year. Instead of needing to rebuild after a losing season, the Brewers are in position to merely retool on a team that almost made the playoffs. This has led to the Crew having a pretty quiet offseason so far.

Young Arms
I think the main reason for both the exciting end of the 2012 season and the slow off season, is the quality work of the young starting pitchers. Those young pitchers are going to be key to both the immediate and long term success of the team. We saw Oakland win a division with a young starting rotation, why not the Brewers? Barring any other moves made by Doug Melvin, this is how I could see the rotation lining up.

Yovani Gallardo - At this point we all know what Yo is. He's a fringe ace who as the ability to dominate like a #1, but will occasionally throw up a clunker of a start. Fortunately for the Brewers, Gallardo has consistently improved is consistency over the years and should provide a stabilizing force in front of the young hurlers.

Mike Fiers - What do we make of Mike? He absolutely dominated the National League after his call up, striking out a ton of hitters despite his below average fastball. Then, in his last few starts, Fiers got rocked (though still put up solid strikeout numbers). So did Fiers run out of gas at the end of a season that saw him throw a career high in innings, or did the league catch up to him? The answer to that question will likely shape how good this rotation can be. As a 27 year old pitcher who relies on deception through a funky delivery and pin point command, I would feel much more comfortable relying on Fiers near the bottom of my rotation and hoping his performance can be somewhere in the middle.

Marco Estrada - Marco proved last season that he deserves a spot in the rotation, posting big strikeout numbers without the benefit of great stuff. We either saw the pitcher Estrada is when given the chance, or we saw a guy have his career year. Even if 2012 was a career year, Estrada can still be a useful part at the lower end of the rotation  while providing the upside of a good #3.

Wily Peralta - For me, Wily is the x-factor for the Brewers 2013 season. He has the potential to be a very good #2 for a good rotation. He has the frame of a workhorse starter who should be able to handle 200 innings and his pure stuff is better than Gallardo's right now. Peralta's command and control are both below average at this point in his career. We've seen Gallardo improve his control at the big league level and if Peralta can do the same, sooner rather than later, he could be a beast at the top of the rotation. Given his lack of track record, Wily will likely open the season in the third or forth spot in the rotation, but I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up being the second best starter on the team. 

Mark Rogers - Rogers is going to be a wild card for the Brewers. Everyone knows his story and despite all of the injuries, Rogers still has dominate stuff. More so than Peralta, Rogers has the stuff to blow hitters away, as long as he actually knows where the ball is going. I think Rogers opens the season as the #5 starter for a few reason. Firstly, he is out of options and would assuredly be claimed by another team if we tried to take him of the active roster. Secondly, given his injury history, I don't trust Rogers' arm to hold up in a bullpen role he has never had before, he's a starter or nothing at this point. Lastly, having Rogers in the 5th spot allows the Brewers to try and manage his innings a little better. Ultimately Rogers will be shut down at some point during the season as the Brewers are going to be very cautious with his arm, especially if he has success at the major league level. They will need to fill his spot with some one from the next list. Rogers is an exceptional talent and we can only hope that he has finally put the injuries behind so that he can finally become an above average Major League pitcher.

These are the next pitchers who could fill in should someone go with injury, or to take over for Rogers. I have them listed in the order I think they would've used.

Tyler Thornburg - With a good spring training, Thorny (I hope he doesn't mind me calling him that) could actually open the season in the Brewers bullpen. Combining the stuff to dominate in short stints, his history of losing velocity later in starts, and giving up fly balls, Thornburg could ultimately he a reliever anyways. The Brewers will give him every opportunity to be a starter for the long term, so I think he starts the season and the Brewers 6th starter either at Triple A or in the Big league bullpen.

Hiram Burgos - Burgos had a monster season across three levels in the minors winning the Brewers Minor League Pitcher of the year award. His stuff is average and he needs to rely on command to get hitters out. Burgos is probably ready to be a 5th starter or swing man at the big league level right now, but I think he opens the season at Triple A to maintain organizational depth.

I put Johnny Hellweg, Ariel Peña, and Jimmy Nelson all in the same category, high ceiling pitching prospects (I personally like Nelson the best) that are likely to spend the year between Double and Triple A. They all have to stuff to succeed in the majors if called upon to make an emergency start.  

Chris Narveson and Josh Stinson both, to me, should be in the pen where they could be multi inning guys who could make an spot start if needed. Add in prospects  

Taylor Jungmann, Jed Bradley, Nick Bucci, Drew Gagnon, and others, the Brewers have a decent stockpile of young arms.

Now the question is, should the Brewers be relying on these young arms? Some people would rather that we were more active in the veteran free agent market. While that idea does have some merit, it is easier to project a veteran pitchers performance then a young one's, I don't think now is the right time for that. The Brewers haven't had much success recently with free agent pitchers, this offseason's crop likely wouldn't do us much better. We are not an organization flush with cash to spend, so the top tier arms are going to be out of our price range, and the guys that are in our price range, don't inspire much confidence. As we have seen in the trade market, the prospect price for good players has been very high. It would likely take quite a few of our good young pitchers to bring anything of value back, an idea I'm not very fond of. Lastly, building a team around these young arms frees up some money to address the real weaknesses of this Brewers team; the bullpen and the bench.

The Bullpen
The only hold overs from last years comedy of a bullpen are John Axford, Jim Henderson, and Brandon Kintzler. When these guys are in their game, they have the ability to lock down and dominate the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings. The problem, however, is that there is a severe lack of track record with these pitchers. I think Ax-man will be fine, but Henderson was a 30 year old Rookie who saw his first major league action, and Kintzler is a former independent league pitcher coming off an elbow injury. Here's to hoping that these guys can be as good as they were in 2012.

Barring any more moves made (which would be a tough pill to swallow considering the deals signed by Sean Burnett and Jason Grilli) the rest of the pen would look something like this, depending n the number of pitchers we carry.

4th spot - Narveson, Josh Stinson, or Burgos as the long man.

5th spot - Miguel De Los Santos, Travis Webb, or Narveson as the lefty.

6th spot - Fautino De Los Santos or Thornburg, with a good spring either of these guys could lock up spot.

If we carry 7 relievers, the last guy could be a pick of guys like Burke Bedanhop, Arcenio Leon, Michael Olmsted, or Jesus Sanchez.

The Bench
The Brewers starters are strong, so it would be nice to surround them with stood supporting cast. Again, if we do not make any other moves, the bench could look something like,

Martin Maldonado -  Maldy will be a strong back up catcher who forms a nice 1 2 punch behind the dish with Lucroy.

Jeff Bianchi - Bianchi provides a solid glove at short, 2nd, and 3rd base though his bat leaves a little to be desired. 

Logan Schafer - Schafer is ready to be our 4th outfielder, playing good defense at all three spots, and providing good speed and solid contact off the bench.

Mat Gamel - Gamel will likely end up the back up corner guy, both outfield and infield. A lot will depend on whether the Brewers think that Schafer and Gamel will be enough for the outfield. If not...

Caleb Gindl or Khris Davis could turns hot spring into a spot on the bench. If not, Taylor Green could be the primary pinch hitter off the bench while also backing up 3rd and 1st base.

Doing nothing with bullpen or bench would be a shame and handicap an otherwise strong team. Here's to hoping Doug makes a move or two.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships. (Thanks for reading, and go Crew!)

-Ryan Garcia (@ryan_937)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @Brandon_BFP, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Packers Reportedly Will Cut Jermichael Finley

A report came out this evening regarding a pretty strong rumor that the Packers will likely cut Jermichael Finley at the end of this season. To be honest, this potential move does not surprise me in the least.

It doesn't surprise me because of what we already know. Finley repeatedly ran his mouth all season about how the chemistry between him and Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers was not at a sufficient level this season as we saw last year. And, he continues to run his mouth. Most recently he made comments about the Bears that put the spot light on him. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a little trash talking between rival teams, but when you do it make sure you don't sound like a complete imbecile in the process. His trash talking turned a complete one-hundred and eighty degrees on him and made him totally contradict his words. For those who weren't following the bickering between teams this past week, Finley made the comment of saying the Bears are "better off without a slow Urlacher". Urlacher responded later in the week by saying the Packers were "just fine without Finley when they won the Super Bowl". But, let's get one thing straight right off the bat. This is not a move just to get rid of someone that is a poisonous cancer to a locker room.

Let's look at this from a general manager's standpoint. So, here you have a guy who you just signed last year for fourteen million dollars. Since he signed, his production has dwindled to next to nothing. He doesn't drop the ball as much as he did last year, only because Aaron Rodgers doesn't really make him an option or even a threat in games anymore. In 2011, Finley caught 55 passes for 767 yards and 8 touchdowns. Through 13 games this season, Finley has only caught 43 passes for 464 yards and 2 touchdowns. To put that into perspective for you, when he got injured in 2010, through 5 games Finley had 21 catches for 301 yards and scored 1 touchdown. Tom Crabtree has more touchdown receptions than Finley. Get my drift? Sure, he's a huge threat down the middle of the field and a huge mismatch to many teams, but how often have we seen that this year? He's had 2 "big games" this year. And when I say big, I mean he scored a touchdown. The first game of the season versus the 49ers and the other game against the Lions a few weeks back. Other then that, he's been awfully quiet on the field and very loud off of it.

Going back to the money side of it, the Packers are in position to have a very different offense next year. Greg Jennings could be lost to free agency, Donald Driver is likely to hang up his jersey, we potentially could be without Finley, and who knows what our running game will look like next season? Personally, I think cutting Finley has to do with making room on our salary cap. I'm not sure exactly how much it would free up (we'd still pay part of his yearly salary and his signing bonus if there was one), but I'm confident when I say they want to keep Jennings in town and want to offer him something he can't refuse before other teams have a chance to get him.

So, what does Finley do if he is released? One team that sticks out like a sore thumb is only 92 miles away from Milwaukee. Here's why: A.) The Chicago Bears are in dire need of a tight end. B.) They haven't had a legit tight end since Greg Olsen in 2010. C.) Kellen Davis is not a threat down field at all. And, with just how Jermichael conducts himself, him moving to Chicago and playing for them would be something I could see him carrying out and doing.

The one thing I will say that does surprise me about this whole ordeal is the fact that it was actually leaked through the organization and into the piranha tank that is the social media network. Usually, the Packers are a very "hush-hush" group that doesn't come out and say things like this until after the fact. It's just a very uncharacteristic occurrence by the team. That being said, if Finley is released, he can be a huge threat no matter what team he signs for. All he has to do is wake up, get his head on straight, and catch the football and he is right back to where he was in 2011. He'd be back to being one of the most dynamic, deadly options any quarterback could ask for.  

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota (@AndrewVrchota)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @Brandon_BFP, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bielema Trades In His Cardinal and White for.... Cardinal and White?

I would just like to take a moment to thank everyone who is going to be reading this. This is my first blog, and I hope you all have as much fun reading as I did writing it. Now without further adieu...

By now we all know that Bret Bielema has left Wisconsin to become the head coach of Arkansas. I think many of us still don't really know how to feel about it. The facts that Bielema never seemed to be on Arkansas radar, and that Bielema had one of the more secure jobs in the country, made the move feel like a punch in the gut. Bielema drew a lot of criticism for his clock management, some of his in game tactics, and his inability to win the big game. There is not doubt however, that Bret Bielema was a very successful head coach and I think he will be missed. The Badgers had a regular season of 68-24 (including 37-19 in the conference), including four 10-win seasons. His teams established Camp Randall as a place that's very hard for opposing teams to come and play. And this season he led his team to its third straight Big 10 title, second straight (and second overall) Big 10 Championship Game victory, and third straight Rose Bowl appearance. His inability to win those Rose Bowls and overall 2-4 bowl record left a lot to be desired, but there is no denying his success. Good luck in the SEC Bret, you'll need it.

So, what's next for Bucky?

This is the question I would much rather focus on. For the immediate future, I love the fact that Barry Alvarez is going to coach the Rose Bowl for a few reason. In terms of the game itself, it allows the coordinators and position coached to focus on their game plans and getting their players ready. Barry will handle the media and be a motivating presence on the field. That, and I get to watch Barry Alvarez coach again, who doesn't want that?

The long term future of the Wisconsin football program is what becomes a little tricky to figure out. I'm sure nobody at Wisconsin was thinking about how they would have to find a new head coach in the middle of this successful run they have been on. Now we have to hope the coaching change doesn't have an ill effect on recruiting or the continuity of the program. The good news is that for the most part,our current recruits still seem committed to Wisconsin, some even saying Alvarez is a bigger influence than Bielema. As for who the next head coach should be, I think there are two trains a thought that can
be used.

The first is to target a "big name", established, successful head coach, such has Boise States Chris Peterson, or former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel. The "big name" coach would come with a lot of positives to the program. They could keep the fan base excited, be a recognizable name in the recruiting front, and would be more likely to have successful assistants to bring with them. The only real downside to bringing in the "big name" is that sometimes it takes awhile for that coaches style to mesh with the programs. This could lead to clashes between leadership and take the focus off the field. If this were to happen, there could be a few tough years when expectations are high which is never a good thing.

The second way the program could go in finding their next head coach, is to look for a "prospect" head coach. It's could be a guy that has little experience coaching at the Division 1 level, a hot coordinator from another school, a successful small school coach, or a fan favorite "home town" guy, such as Paul Chryst, Darrel Bevell, or Dave Doeren. This would be someone who you think is going to be a successful head coach and who you want to groom into the face of your schools program. The draw back to the "prospect" coach is that it may take a few seasons for him to get established, with the fan base, in the recruiting front or to even get his feet under him.

Wisconsin, in my opinion, is in a position to continue being competitive right now and for the future. To me, this means that the better option would be to find that "big name" head coach that can come in and continue the successful run that this programs on, maybe even elevate this team. As for who specifically I want as the next head coach of Wisconsin? I'll wait to see what names pop up on the radar after watching Barry coach the Rose Bowl.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

- Ryan Garcia (@ryan_937)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @Brandon_BFP, @SMahon2Go, @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

My Take on the Badgers Head Coaching Vacancy

Alright, so everyone has had a few days to process the departure of Bret Bielema and give their take on whether this is good for the program and who should be the replacement. Surprisingly, many Badger fans voiced their excitement over the news that Bielema was taking his services south to take over the reigns at the University of Arkansas. Many others, however, are spending their days saddened over the loss of one of the winningest coaches in the NCAA over the past 7 years. While Bielema’s in-game coaching moves and clock management have certainly been grounds for speculation at times the past several seasons, one cannot deny his ability to bring in high caliber recruits and win football games. One can say what they want about this season’s “asterisk” around the Big Ten championship, but at the end of the day, Bielema coached the team to three in a row. Yes, he failed to win the Rose Bowl the past two seasons, but he was darn close both times – despite the Badgers being rather large underdogs in both contests.

I admit that I myself have criticized the coach’s clock management on more than one occasion, as well as much of his in-game decision making, however, averaging ten wins a season is something no one can ignore. I think the man is a phenomenal recruiter and a good football mind and the Badgers are losing a great coach.

That being said, I don’t think it is unreasonable to believe that Athletic Director Barry Alvarez can go out and get a replacement that will be just as good or better than Bielema to lead the Badgers into the future. There are several men who would be glad to have this job that I am sure are more than capable of continuing the tradition of success at Wisconsin. Many names have been thrown around but I will address the few that I have heard the most.

Paul Chryst. Chryst is obviously a popular choice to take the job, and the man that I believe sits atop Alvarez’s list of possible Bielema replacements. He coached the team’s tight ends under Alvarez in 2002 and spent six years as the Badgers’ offensive coordinator before leaving to take the head coaching job at Pitt prior to the 2012 season. He had a solid season with the Panthers, coaching them to a 6-6 record and a bid to the BBVA compass bowl. The highlight of his season may have actually come in a loss, as his Panthers took undefeated Notre Dame to overtime in South Bend just a few weeks ago. I think that Chryst is the best choice for the Badgers, assuming they can pry him away from his new home – and afford a rather large buyout of his current contract. He knows the system, he knows the recruiting area, and he has proven that he can be a successful  head coach. He grew up in Madison, played quarterback for the Badgers, and would be adored by Badger fans everywhere. (Update: 12/6/12 at 10:00am Wisconsin A.D. Barry Alvarez announced that team will not pursue Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst, according to Adam Rittenberg.)

Darrell Bevell. Bevell was a four year starter at quarterback under Barry Alvarez and led the Badgers to a 10-1-1 season, a Big Ten championship, and their first ever Rose Bowl victory over UCLA in 1994. He left Wisconsin as the all-time passing leader before graduating to the coaching ranks. After a few years coaching with a handful of schools in the NCAA, Bevell took a job with the Green Bay Packers and served as the quarterback’s coach during the middle years of the Brett Favre era. He has since moved on to serve as the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings and is currently coaching badger alum Russell Wilson as the offensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks. Bevell has gone on record in the past to say that he would love to return to Madison one day. I think he would be a good choice to succeed Bielema. He has a great deal of coaching experience at the highest level and an obvious allegiance to the Badgers and to Alvarez. My only concern would be in recruiting, as he obviously hasn’t had experience in that area in his 12 years in the NFL.

Dave Doeren. Doeren served as the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin for three seasons and spent a total of five years on Bielema’s staff. He left Madison took the head coaching job at Northern Illinois University prior to the 2011 season and led the Huskies to a BCS bowl in just his second season at the helm. He recently took the head coaching position at North Carolina State and will not be coaching NIU in that Orange Bowl game against Florida State. There is no doubt that Doeren is a proven winner. On top of his achievements at the head of the Huskie program, he has proven to be successful in Madison and someone that would most likely stick with the style of play the Badgers have used under Alvarez and Bielema – a plus for fans of the program. However, I just don’t see Alvarez prying him away from a place he has been for less than a month. One also must consider the rumors that Alvarez isn’t a big Doeren fan to begin with.

Jim Tressel. Okay, don’t hit me – I know it’s a sin to even consider this. Tressel served as the head football coach at Ohio State University for ten seasons before resigning in 2011 in the midst of an NCAA investigation into rules violations during his tenure. There is no doubt that the man is a winning football coach. He won four NCAA Division I-AA championships at Youngstown State University before taking over at Ohio State where he won six Big Ten championships and coached in three BCS National Championship games - including a victory over Miami in 2003 to cap off a perfect 14-0 season. Tressel may be just what the doctor ordered if the Badgers hope to keep pace with Ohio State and Michigan after their recent changes to Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke, respectively. He is a proven winner and an excellent recruiter. However, he would bring NCAA sanctions with him that would make the Badgers ineligible to play in a bowl game during his first season. I know this may intrigue many Badgers fans while sending others sprinting for the toilet, holding back their vomit – but it remains nothing short of intriguing and certainly worth mentioning. This all being said, I simply don’t see Alvarez even considering Tressel as an option even if he were to show interest in the job. I feel that there is way too much of a history there that Barry won’t be willing to overlook.

The next Badger football coach could be any of the four men listed above, or someone completely off the radar, but I think there is one thing we know for sure as Badger fans – Barry Alvarez will do his due diligence and he will find the right man for the job. Here’s to hoping Chryst’s statements on Tuesday night that he remains fully committed to the Pitt Panther program weren’t his last in regards to the recent Badgerland shakeup. I don’t think I’m alone in hoping Alvarez can bring him back where he belongs – inside the walls of the great Camp Randall Stadium.

Oh, and as far as Barry coaching the Rose Bowl – #LoveIt. The coaching legend will wear the headset as the touchdown legend, Montee Ball, rides off into the sunset – hopefully in a Badger win! What a way to cap a season that has seen so many ups and downs.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

- Joe Norton (@JoeP_Norton)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @Brandon_BFP, @SMahon2Go. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Top 5 Realistic Free Agents the Brewers Should Pursue

That's right, realistic! You won't find any Josh Hamiltons, Zack Greinkes, or Dan Harens in here, people. This is all dedicated to the real side of what the Brewers can look at with the money they have available to use. Going into this offseason, it is well known the Brewers look to revive the bullpen they once had, as well as inject a new starting arm into the rotation. Finally, though our offense is set quite well, they will need to look at establishing a decent bench to back up our "don't fix what isn't broken" lineup. With the Winter Meeting approaching, the rumor mill is going to heat up and the Brewers will be a team in the center of it.

1. RHP Kyle Lohse

Kyle Lohse is coming off arguably his best season of his major league career. He set career highs in almost all categories, ranging from innings pitched, wins, strike outs, earned run average, and batting average against. Lohse was able to make up for not having Chris Carpenter in the Cardinals rotation all of last year, which led to the success of St. Louis. Lohse finished 2012 with a record of 16-3 (8-1 at home), with a 2.86 ERA and 143 strike outs.

A few key stats to look at for Lohse's 2012 season are as follows. He only surrendered 39 walks (38 BB, 1 IBB) to the 864 batters he faced last year, which calculates out to be about 1.5 walks per 9 innings. Comparing to current Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo, who gave up 84 walks (81 BB, 3 IBB) to the 860 batters he faced, the difference is quite large. Lohse gave up 0.8 HR/9IP in 2012 (19 total homeruns given up), which is also important considering the playing field of pitching at Miller Park where our stadium surrenders quite a few every year. Lohse has pitched 7 years in the National League, and 6 years in the American League. Besides a few minor, uncontrollable stats here and there, Lohse's stats as a National League pitcher are extremely better top to bottom.

Although his stats while pitching at home were fantastic in 2012, Lohse has a few setbacks. One being his age. Lohse turned 34 last month. Though its not considered "old", it's definitely a fragile age to be as a pitcher in the MLB. However, with the system Milwaukee has for it's starting pitchers, I am not concerned in the least about the handling he would receive from our pitching coaches. Also, Lohse hasn't really put up great numbers when pitching in Miller Park. He did not face Milwaukee in 2012 at The Keg, however in his career he holds a 2-3 record with a 6.95 ERA at Miller Park. Overall, Lohse does not pitch well indoors whatsoever. Lohse has started exactly 100 games indoors, and has only walked away with 32 victories (28 losses, 40 no decision).

Minus the few things mentioned in the previous paragraph, I think for what Milwaukee is looking for, Lohse is a perfect candidate for the Brewers' rotation. The big thing will be money, like everything in free agency. Lohse finished 7th in Cy Young voting, and with the year he had last year he won't be cheap, but he also won't be making Sabathia money. Definitely affordable for sure. I think the Brewers could go 3 years, 42MM and it would be a done deal. Let's just hope it won't haunt us in the end like another FA Cardinals pitcher we signed after a great previous season. (See: Jeff Suppan)

2. RHP Brandon McCarthy

Brandon McCarthy is an interesting candidate for a few reasons. One being that he would only be considered if we can't sign a guy like Kyle Lohse or Ryan Dempster. It will be interesting to see how McCarthy comes back next season, as his 2012 was ended on a terrifying injury. On September 5th 2012, McCarthy took a line drive to the head off the bat of Erick Aybar of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim but managed to get back on to his feet. He underwent surgery for 2 hours to relieve cranial pressure after CT scans revealed McCarthy had suffered an epidural hemorrhage, a brain contusion, and a skull fracture.

Quickly going over McCarthy's repertoire, he has made some changes over the years that have made his numbers improve greatly. He replaced his 4-seam fastball with a cut fastball which proved to be a great decision as his homeruns per 9 innings pitched go from 1.3 to 0.7. This change also turned him into a fascinating ground ball pitcher. Besides his specialty fastball, he also mixes in a curveball and occasional change-up. He doesn't by any means have an arsenal like Zack Greinke (said to pitch 6 or 7 different pitches every game), but the mix he does produce gets the job done. It's simple and effective.

McCarthy after being struck in the head with a line drive.
McCarthy will turn just 30 years of age this coming July. So, essentially he still has a very decent arm. The biggest thing will be if he can come back and not be afraid of being struck again by a ball. The problem with McCarthy also is that it is hard to evaluate him properly. He played only 2 seasons with Oakland. His first year there, the team itself was terrible. His decent numbers were overshadowed by how awful they were. Then last season, as previously noted, his season was cut short by a head injury. Any team that pursues McCarthy will be taking a risk. However, it's a low risk that could turn out to be a high reward. McCarthy won't require a huge amount of money to sign. I expect him to sign a deal where he could make between 11 to 12 million annually. That price range is something that could interest the Brewers, however that price could go up depending on how the market shapes up for other pitchers.

3. RHP LaTroy Hawkins

The Brewers not only need a new bullpen, but they also need someone who is a veteran of the league in there as well. As of right now, the Brewers bullpen only consists of John Axford, Jim Henderson, and Brandon Kintzler. Without a veteran guy like Hawkins in the pen, the bullpen itself would not be able to handle a collapse much like the one we witnessed last season. That being said, hopefully Axford has worked out all of his issues and can bounce back with a year similar to 2011.

Speaking of 2011, that was also the year LaTroy Hawkins pitched for us. Hawkins, along with almost everyone out of our bullpen, was lights out 2 seasons ago. Hawkins is now 39 going on 40 years old in December, but still manages to bring the heat. Last year he was with the Angels and wasn't really able to shine like he did with the Brewers. Hawkins suffered a broken pinky finger which put him out of action for a while. When he was able to pitch, Hawkins did quite alright. Hawkins, for the most part, was able to keep his 2012 numbers below his career averages, which is a good sign considering his age.

Last week it was reported that the Brewers did make a call to the agent of LaTroy Hawkins to inquire on any interest with returning to the team. As of now, that's as far as the conversation went. We will likely know more during or after the Winter Meetings on his interest level. The most intriguing aspect about Hawkins is how inexpensive he can be. Last year me made just 3 million dollars. The Brewers could easily bring him back for about half of that, maybe 2 million at most. His age will factor into the money offered.

4. 2B/3B Orlando Hudson

So here is my choice for a utility player that will offer the pop it will so much desire in 2013. As of right now our bench consists of Mat Gamel, Martin Maldenado, and Logan Schafer. We will likely add another infielder to that mix, such as Taylor Green or someone of that nature. The problem the Brewers will have in signing this utility guy is that they will have to convince a guy to come in knowing he will not be a starter unless there is injury or a substitution for a slumping player or a day off. That is a very difficult thing to do because any free agent is looking to sign with a team looking to fill a starting role.

However, I think Hudson is one of the very few free agents out there that would be just fine with that kind of direction moving forward. Hudson will be turning 35 in a few weeks and is likely looking for one last turn around before he calls it a career. Hudson struggled in his final days as a Padre, as he eventually was released by the team after he was benched for his production. He was quickly signed by the White Sox and finished the 2012 season there. Although his batting average didn't show improvement, his overall production increased with his new setting in Chicago. In 35 games with the Padres, Hudson batted .211 with 0 doubles, 5 triples, 1 homerun, 11 RBI and 8 walks while striking out 27 times. In 52 games with Chicago, Hudson batted .197 with 3 doubles, 3 triples, 2 home runs, 17 RBI and 12 walks while striking out 24 times. This isn't a ground breaking difference by any means, believe me. However, I think there is an upside in Hudson that I think the Brewers could benefit from. He's a veteran, and he would be a good locker room presence.

Hudson is a career .273 hitter, so it's unlikely he has a worse season then he had last year. Furthermore, I believe Hudson can still play a great game of baseball. Through 2011, he had the second-highest career range factor (calculated by dividing putouts and assists by the number of innings or games played at a given defense position) per game of all active major league second basemen, behind Ian Kinsler. Also, Hudson could come as a cheap pick up, too. 2 seasons ago, Hudson signed with San Diego for 2 years, 11 million. Brewers could go and offer that same contract, and I would be okay with it.

5. LHP Mike Gonzalez

Much like bringing in Hawkins, the same mindset goes for bringing in Mike Gonzalez. As much as it is appealing to have an all "young gun" pitching rotation and bullpen, much like what we've seen from teams like Tampa Bay, Oakland, Cleveland, and Cincinnati, I just don't see it being successful for the Brewers. Sure, we has oodles and oodles of pitching on our minor league teams that seem very appealing to call up. However, you have to be reasonable and realistic at the same time. When you have a guy in a bullpen that is struggling, having the veteran in there goes a long way. In a somewhat decent example, look at when Hoffman's arm died. He was able to mentor John Axford into a top closer in the MLB.

Getting back on track, the Brewers decided to part ways with Manny Parra on November 30th when they decided to not tender his contract, thus making him a free agent (which I don't have any problems with). Thus, Mike Gonzalez would be the guy I would replace him with. Let's take a look at the split stats over both Manny and Mike's careers.

Manny Parra vs. LHB: .267 BA, 2.55 SO/BB, .349 OBP, .417 SLG, .766 OPS

Mike Gonzalez vs. LHB: .209 BA, 3.63 SO/BB, .278 OBP, .327 SLG, .605 OPS

Manny Parra vs. RHB: .290 BA, 1.61 SO/BB, .371 OBP, .438 SLG, .809 OPS

Mike Gonzalez vs. RHB: .222 BA, 2.10 SO/BB, .325 OBP, .349 SLG, .674 OPS

One final stat to look at for both of these guys will hit home with many Brewers fans is this...

Career HR given up:

Manny Parra: 59 in 513 innings pitched. (3.5 major league years as a starter, 1.5 as a relief pitcher)

Mike Gonzalez 32 in 394.1 innings pitched. (10 major league years as a relief pitcher)

From top to bottom, Gonzalez is a better situational pitcher that the Brewers lacked so much in 2012. Gonzalez is a Scott Boras client, and the last known amount of money that I know he made a year was 6 million dollars. For what Mike has to offer, I think he would be a good investment to make if I were Doug Melvin. In other words, money well spent.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota (@AndrewVrchota)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @Brandon_BFP, @SMahon2Go. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Should the Brewers Sign Josh Hamilton?

Recently, speculation has begun to surface on the topic of whether or not the Brewers will sign Josh Hamilton. A lot of people have different feelings on the situation but I feel there is a more important question to ask: SHOULD the Brewers sign Josh Hamilton? I feel that the answer to this question is a very simple:

Yes, a Brewers lineup with Hamilton hitting between Braun and Ramirez could be deadly, and yes the crew could use his left handed power bat. There are a lot of good arguments one can make for why it would be valuable to have Hamilton on the team. I don’t think anyone could logically argue that Milwaukee wouldn’t be a better team offensively with him on the roster. However, one must consider the financial situation that a Hamilton signing would put the team in. We are greatly in need of a number 2 starter. Yes, I realize that I have myself argued that Brewers fans should appreciate what they have in Mike Fiers, but that still doesn’t make him a number 2 starter in my eyes. I see Fiers as a number 3 at best. This means that the Brewers need to go out and get a quality starting pitcher to pair with Yovani Gallardo atop the rotation.

Doug Melvin has already stated that the team plans to add starting pitching in the offseason and most believe that this will come via free agency given the team’s upcoming flexibility with payroll with the salaries of Zack Greinke, Shawn Marcum, and Francisco Rodriguez, among others, coming off the roster.

So one might ask, what do I think the Brewers should do with any free agency dollars that they have to spend? In looking at this question I can come up with the following: Go for Greinke. Go all in for Greinke. The guys is an ace. We have all seen first-hand what Zack can do as a starting pitcher and, even better, we have all seen that he can do it in Milwaukee. I think that adding a guy like Greinke to the rotation will do more for the team than adding a bat like Hamilton to the lineup.

Hamilton’s primary position is center field. This would pose a problem as Carlos Gomez has just recently started to show why many regarded him as a future star early on in his career. After hitting .260 with 37 stolen bases, 19 home runs and 51 RBI in just 137 games, Gomez is finally proving he can be a the team’s regular center fielder going forward. On top of his progress at the plate, Gomez also remains one of the top defensive center fielders in the game. I simply don’t see much value in “upgrading” from Gomez to Hamilton considering what is certain to be a considerable price difference between the two.

Some have argued that Hamilton could play in right field, allowing Gomez to remain the everyday center fielder. This poses a problem as well, however, as Norichika Aoki is on a very team friendly deal, making just $1.25M in 2013 with an option for the following season. Aoki surprised many in 2012, batting .288 with 10 home runs, 30 stolen bases, and 50 RBI while also playing above average defense in right field. I make the same argument here: I don’t see much value in upgrading from Aoki to Hamilton considering the payout needed to bring Hamilton to Milwaukee.

When looking at the rotation, the Brewers are in a great place in terms of quality young arms in the system. Guys like Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers, Chris Narveson, and Tyler Thornburg could all reasonably command at least a decent look at a rotation spot next season with budding stars Hiram Burgos and Jimmy Nelson arguably not far behind. While it is certainly comforting to have so many quality young arms in the organization, I really believe that the Brewers need to add a top of the rotation starter if they want to contend in 2013.

The reality of the situation is that if the Brewers are able to sign Josh Hamilton, there will be little to no money left over with which to acquire a top flight starting pitcher (unless Mark Attanasio were to give Doug Melvin the green light to significantly add to the payroll – an unlikely scenario). I simply believe that the upgrade from Mike Fiers to a guy like Greinke atop the rotation is greater than what the team would get in upgrading from Gomez/Aoki to Hamilton in the outfield.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

- Joe Norton (@JoeP_Norton)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @Brandon_BFP, @SMahon2Go. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Is the Pack, Back?

Packers fans were down after their team’s 30-27 loss to the Colts in week 5. Really down. And heading into Houston, the home of the 5-0 Texans, and without Greg Jennings for a second straight week, things weren’t looking much better.

Injuries to other key players including Cedric Benson and B.J Raji were sure to limit the Packers and hinder their chances of beating arguably the NFL’s most complete team. An offensive line that gave up 8 first half sacks to the Seattle Seahawks was sure to struggle in protecting their star quarterback from J.J Watt, the league’s top pass rushing defensive end.

Factor all of this into the equation and most folks probably didn’t expect the Packers to escape Houston with a win on Sunday night, but there is one thing that many probably did not put enough faith into – Aaron Rodgers. A healthy Aaron Rodgers is a very dangerous quarterback no matter who he is throwing the ball to, but a healthy, angry Aaron Rodgers is a scary, scary man.

Rodgers did what Rodgers does best in carving up the Texans defense in throwing for 338 yards and tying a franchise record with 6 touchdown passes while not throwing an interception on the night. Jordy Nelson stepped up in a big way, hauling in 3 touchdown passes and role players James Jones and Randall Cobb filled in nicely to ease the pain of an absent Greg Jennings. Alex Green filled in admirable for the ailing Benson and the line managed to contain Watt enough to allow Rodgers to do his thing from inside the pocket most of the night. Arguably most promising was job of the the Raji-less defense in holding the league’s most dangerous running back in Arian Foster to a lowly 29 yards on 17 carries.

All things considered, Packers fans have to be happy with the 42-24 victory and the promise of the Packers getting back on track heading into a pair of more than winnable games against the Rams and Jaguars.

The question we must ask is: Is the Pack back?

My answer to this is to wait and see. While last week’s performance was certainly a promising one, let’s see how the team responds against a Rams team that could be the league’s worst. Jody Nelson needs to emerge as an elite wide receiver, especially if the team is going to let Jennings walk in the offseason. Randall Cobb needs to continue to prove himself as a legitimate threat out of the slot and Jermichael Finley needs to be a lot more consistent that he has over the last year and a half.

On the defensive side, Jerel Worthy needs to be a consistent presence against both the run and the pass and Dom Capers needs to fill the void left by an injured Nick Perry, whose status going forward is still uncertain.
Everyone knows the Packers are a good team, but whether or not they can overcome the adversity of a couple heartbreaking losses on top of several injured starters, as they did in 2010, remains to be seen.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

- Joe Norton (@JoeP_Norton)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @Brandon_BFP, @SMahon2Go. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Wrongful Booing of Mike Fiers

Amidst the overshadowing issue of the Brewers elimination from the playoffs last Sunday was an instance that possibly saddened me even more. Not to downplay the disappointment in missing the postseason, but something else coming from that game irritated me more than the thought of no Brewers baseball beyond game #162. Mike Fiers, after tossing six innings and ten strikeouts, was booed by the home crowd at Miller Park. Mike Fiers, after tremendously exceeding expectations as a rookie to post a sub 4 ERA in 25 appearances, was booed at Miller Park. Mike Fiers, a 22nd round draft pick who forced himself into talks for the National League rookie of the year for much of the season, was booed at Miller Park. Yes, he got hammered on Sunday. And yes, he has gotten hammered a lot in his last ten starts. But let’s not forget the guy that posted a 1.80 ERA in his first 13 appearances on the year.

For much of the season, Brewers fans were up in arms about Mike Fiers when it came to discussions for the league’s Rookie of the Year award. “Look at his ERA,” “Look at his strikeout rate,” “Look at his home runs allowed and walk rates,” etc. The list goes on and on as far as the arguments Brewers fans were making in their backing of Fiers for the Rookie of the Year award. But oh how the tables have turned. In his last ten starts, Fiers’ ERA has blossomed to a 3.68. A 3.68. Not a 4.68, and not even a 4.0. A 3.68. In his rookie season. And after allowing six hits and five runs over six innings in his final start of the season on Sunday, Fiers was booed, at home.

Let’s take a moment to compare Fiers’ season to others around baseball. Fiers went 9-10 over 22 starts, posting a 9.51 K/9, 2.71 BB/9, and 0.83 HR/9 to go along with his 3.68 ERA, 3.11 FIP and, in today’s WAR loving world, a 3.0 WAR. Homer Bailey, who is currently being revered for his “breakout” season, has gone 13-10 in 32 starts with the Reds, putting up a 7.15 K/9, 2.29 BB/9, 1.15 HR/9 and a 3.75 ERA to go along with a 4.06 FIP and 2.7 WAR. I don’t think I have to argue much to make the point that Fiers’ season looks pretty good when compared to Bailey’s. But for further measurement, let’s take a look at Tim Hudson, a pitcher I consider to be very similar to Fiers in terms of “stuff.” Hudson pitched to a 16-7 record over 28 starts, posting 6.04 K/9, 2.72 BB/9, 0.70 HR/9, a 3.42 ERA, 3.78 FIP and a 2.7 WAR. Now I know that Fiers upped Brewers’ fans expectations of him with his terrific start to the season, but I will be the first to say that if he ends up with a career anywhere close to what Tim Hudson has done, I will be one happy camper.

Dan Haren pitching for the Angels.
In all the talk about the Brewers needing to find a #2 starter in free agency, two names that have come up recently are Dan Haren and Anibal Sanchez. I thought we should take a look at the season lines thus far for these two guys in comparison to Fiers. First, Haren has posted a 12-12 record in 29 starts with 7.07 K/9, 2.00 BB/9, 1.42 HR/9 and a 4.32 ERA to accompany his 4.30 FIP and a WAR of 1.7. Sanchez, splitting his season between the Marlins and Tigers, has posted a 9-13 record in 31 starts, a 7.68 K/9, 2.21 BB/9, 0.82 HR/9 and a 3.75 ERA, 3.80 FIP, and a 3.8 WAR. Now I am not by any means arguing against the Brewers adding a starting pitcher like Haren or Sanchez, however, let’s not get carried away in assuming that these guys have been that much better than the rookie pitcher that our home crowd is booing.

Okay, Haren and Sanchez are better pitchers than Mike Fiers, I cannot argue that, but how about a little appreciation for the outstanding year that Fiers has put up, all while tremendously exceeding expectations along the way. I for one, am looking forward to seeing Mike Fiers in the rotation again in 2013 and building on a very good rookie season.
Oh, and one last thing… #TEHFIERS!!!!!

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

- Joe Norton (@JoeP_Norton)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @Brandon_BFP, @SMahon2Go. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)