Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Brewers' Surplus of Pitching Candidates

Again, by Bill Batterman~

After a busy off-season that saw closer Dan Kolb and setup man Luis Vizcaino depart in high-profile trades, the Brewers enter Spring Training with an abundance of pitchers competing for a limited number of spots on the club's Opening Day roster. In addition to past track record and performance during the Cactus League season, General Manager Doug Melvin and the rest of Milwaukee's front office will need to take into consideration each player's option status.

From's Frequently Asked Questions:

Generally, after 3 pro seasons, a player must be protected on a club?s 40-man roster or he becomes eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Once a player is added to a club?s 40-man roster, the club then [has] 3 available option years during which they can place him on "optional assignment" to a minor league club. A player can be sent up and down as many times as the club so chooses within those three seasons. Once a player is "out of options", he must clear "waivers" in order to be sent down again.

The Brewers have a number of players whose option status may impact their placement at the conclusion of Spring Training. The following table lists each pitcher in Milwaukee's camp along with their 2005 age, 40-man roster status (on the 40-man or non-roster invitee), and number of remaining options (if on the 40-man roster).

Player Age 40-man Options
Mike Adams 27 40-man 2
Rigo Beltran 35 NRI --
Jeff Bennett 25 40-man 3
Ricky Bottalico 36 40-man 0
Jose Capellan 24 40-man 2
Chris Capuano 27 40-man 2
Doug Davis 29 40-man 0
Jorge De La Rosa 24 40-man 0
Ben Diggins 26 40-man 1
Gary Glover 28 40-man 0
Rick Helling 34 NRI --
Ben Hendrickson 24 40-man 2
Jeff Housman 24 40-man 3
Mike Jones 22 40-man 3
Brooks Kieschnick 33 40-man 0
Justin Lehr 28 40-man 2
Sam Narron 24 40-man 2
Wes Obermueller 28 40-man 2
Luis Pena 22 40-man 3
Tommy Phelps 31 NRI --
Andy Pratt 26 40-man 0
Chris Saenz 23 NRI --
Julio Santana 32 NRI --
Victor Santos 28 40-man 0
Dennis Sarfate 24 40-man 2
Ben Sheets 27 40-man 2
Derrick Turnbow 27 40-man 0
Matt Wise 29 40-man 0

If the Brewers choose not to add them to the Opening Day 25-man roster, the following pitchers will be exposed to waivers and the club will risk losing them.

Doug Davis
Jorge De La Rosa
Gary Glover
Brooks Kieschnick
Andy Pratt
Victor Santos
Derrick Turnbow
Matt Wise

Of that group, only Davis is assured of a spot on the Opening Day staff while Santos and Kieschnick appear to be early favorites. The Brewers will face tough decisions with the rest of their out-of-options hurlers and it is likely that Melvin will attempt to reduce the surplus by dealing a few of those on the outside looking in (as he did a year ago with right-hander Leo Estrella and left-hander Wayne Franklin). Failing that, several pitchers will likely suffer the same fate as Mike Crudale, released and looking to latch on with another team.

In any case, it will be a competitive month on the mounds of Maryvale's baseball complex. Excluding Mike Jones and Chris Saenz, each of whom is expected to be out for the season with an injury, 26 pitchers will battle it out for only twelve or thirteen spots on the flight to Pittsburgh.

Damian Miller Bio

Damian Miller (Newcomer Breakdown)

By Bill Batterman

Published 2/23/2005

Spring Training is just beginning and the Brewers have no shortage of fresh faces at their Arizona compound. To help fans get acclimated with this year's crop of newcomers to the organization, the Daily Brew has been publishing a series of player profiles over the past several weeks. This is the eighth installment in the Newcomer Breakdown series, which covers major leaguers as well as selected minor leaguers; the first seven profiles covered Jerome Gamble, Derrick Turnbow, Justin Lehr, Julio Santana, Jose Capellan, Sam Narron, and Nelson Cruz.


In 1999, Dave Nilsson batted .309 for Milwaukee with a .400 on-base average and .554 slugging average. At 29, the Australian-native earned a spot on the National League All-Star team and finished the season with 21 homers, 19 doubles, and 62 RBI. The Brewers declined to offer him arbitration, however, and Nilsson opted to spend the 2000 campaign in Japan so that he could play for Australia in the Olympics.

To fill the vacated catcher's spot, the Brewers acquired good-glove, no-stick Henry Blanco and he hit .236/.318/.394 in 2000. The switch-hitting Raul Casanova split time with Blanco and batted .247/.331/.407, better than Blanco but more than 200 OPS points below Nilsson's production from the previous season.

Since then, offensive futility has been the name of the game for the Brewers' catching corps. Blanco and Casanova continued their mediocre performance in 2001, Paul Bako and Robert Machado reached new lows in 2002, Eddie Perez and Keith Osik clung to mediocrity through 2003, and Chad Moeller and Gary Bennett challenged the 2002 fivesome for worst of the bunch in 2004.

In total, the Brewers have pencilled 14 backstops into their lineup card since Nilsson last wore the tools of ignorance in 2000. Of those, only six have posted a better-than-700 OPS and only three have topped 750, one of whom (Tyler Houston in 2000) played only 20 games at the position and another of whom (Kevin Brown in 2001) received just 46 plate appearances. That leaves Casanova's 2001 OPS of 787 as the best of the entire group, but it came in just 208 plate appearances. Not surprisingly, Casanova's 2001 campaign is also the best Value Over Replacement Player (a measure of a player's total offensive contributions developed by Baseball Prospectus) for a Brewers' catcher in the post-Nilsson era. Besides Casanova, the only backstop to accumulate double digits in VORP was Perez, who batted .271 with a 724 OPS in 2003.

Year  Catchers                 PA     AVG   OBA   SLG   OPS   VORP
2000  Henry Blanco            324    .236  .318  .394   712    4.2
      Tyler Houston*          305    .250  .292  .493   785    ---
      Raul Casanova           265    .247  .331  .407   738    6.5
      Kevin Brown              18    .235  .278  .412   690    0.0
2001  Henry Blanco            357    .210  .290  .344   634    0.0
      Raul Casanova           208    .260  .303  .484   787   12.6
      Kevin Brown              46    .209  .261  .535   796    2.0
      Jesse Levis              36    .242  .306  .303   609   -0.2
2002  Paul Bako               257    .235  .295  .329   624   -0.1
      Robert Machado          169    .255  .310  .373   682    4.4
      Raul Casanova            99    .184  .273  .230   503   -3.9
      Jorge Fabregas           73    .164  .178  .343   521   -3.6
      Marcus Jensen            40    .114  .200  .200   400   -3.5
2003  Eddie Perez             375    .271  .304  .420   724   11.0
      Keith Osik              275    .249  .342  .324   665    3.4
2004  Chad Moeller            349    .208  .265  .303   568  -10.7
      Gary Bennett            246    .224  .297  .329   626   -0.3
      Mark Johnson             15    .091  .267  .091   358   -1.4
      * Note: Houston primarily played 1B/3B and so is not listed
        as a catcher for the purpose of calculating his VORP.

Combining the offensive contributions of all 14 of the Brewers' catchers (with the exception of Houston), Milwaukee can boast 20.4 more runs for their club from 2000-to-2004 than a replacement player would have contributed. To put that number into context, it is less than half of Nilsson's contribution in 1999 alone (44.7).

Year     Catcher VORP
2000           + 10.7
2001           + 14.4
2002           -  6.7
2003           + 14.4
2004           - 12.4
Total          + 20.4

When you look up "futility" in the American Heritage Dictionary, you'll find "the quality of having no useful result; uselessness." For a representative example, the folks at Houghton Mifflin need look no further than the Brewers' catchers in the opening decade of the 21st century. While a handful of the Brewers' appointed signal callers can rightfully lay claim to outstanding defensive reputations and clubhouse personalities, their collective inability to succeed in the batter's box is staggering.

Fortunately, Brewers' General Manager Doug Melvin addressed this most pressing need by inking 35-year old Damian Miller to a three-year contract in late November. For the first time in six seasons, Milwaukee will enter 2005 with an everyday catcher who can contribute not only behind the plate but also while standing beside it with a bat in his hands.

A Wisconsin native, Miller graduated from West Salem High School in 1986 and attended nearby Viterbo University in La Crosse. Selected in the 20th round of the 1990 June Amateur Draft by the Twins, Miller made his professional debut with Elizabethton in the Appalachian League, the Twins' Rookie-Level affiliate since 1974. Miller appeared in just 14 games and batted .222 but Minnesota promoted him to Kenosha of the Single-A Midwest League in 1991. He hit .232 with a 612 OPS in 80 games on a team that included two of the League's top hitters: Major League veteran journeyman Midre Cummings led the MWL with a .321 average and Paul Russo, now the Baseball Coach at the University of Tampa, topped the charts in home runs (20) and RBI (100).

A second taste of the Midwest League was much more palatable for Miller, who saw his playing time increase in 1992 thanks to his .292 average and 799 OPS. He earned All-Star honors along with Brewers' prospect Tyrone Hill and future-Brewer Alex Ochoa (among others) in Kenosha's penultimate season in the Midwest League, leading his club in hits, RBI, and batting average.

While Kenosha's franchise moved to Fort Wayne, Miller moved up the Twins' ladder and landed in the High-A Florida State League to open 1993. After being invited to Minnesota's Spring Training for the first time (albeit as a warm body to catch pitchers' mound sessions), the 23-year old regressed mightily and batted just .212 in 87 games with the Fort Myers Miracle. The Twins also gave Miller a handful of at-bats with the Nashville Xpress, then a member of the Double-A Southern League and co-occupant of Greer Stadium with the current Brewers' Triple-A affiliate, the Nashville Sounds. After his second Spring Training with the Twins, Miller spent the entire 1994 campaign with the Xpress. In 103 games, he hit .268 with ten doubles, eight homers, and a 708 OPS.

With the big leaguers on strike, Miller joined the Twins' minor league camp in 1995 where one of the most important events of his career took place. After being requested to do so by the organization so that they could field enough players for split squad games, Miller appeared in a game at the Major League camp featuring "replacement players." Along with two of his teammates, Miller's participation put him on the union's blacklist and he was excluded from participation in baseball's union beginning the following season.

"There were a couple of higher officials with the Twins who told us it wouldn't be a problem," Miller explained. "They said it would be good for us to get some extra at-bats. Now I totally regret it. It weighs heavy on my conscience. At the time I knew it wasn't the right decision, but I didn't think it was a bad decision. Now I do."

"We've run spring training the same way here since I've been here. When we need extra players, we get them from the minor league camp, just like we did last year," General Manager Terry Ryan said, defending Miller's conduct. "These players are paying a price when they didn't do anything wrong."

The firestorm over Miller's decision to play in the replacement game didn't crop up until the following season, however, and he spent 1995 with Triple-A Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League. Splitting time behind the plate with Mike Durant, whom the Twins considered a superior prospect, Miller hit .285 with a 724 OPS in 83 games for the Buzz.

Back at the Twins' Major League Spring Training for real in 1996, Miller competed against Durant for the backup catcher's job behind Greg Myers. Durant, a second round pick of the Twins in 1991, beat him out and appeared in 40 games, hitting .210 with a 540 OPS and five errors behind the plate. Miller, meanwhile, returned to Salt Lake City where he became the Buzz' everyday backstop and flourished in his second stint in the PCL. In 104 games, he batted .286/.336/.416 with 27 doubles and seven homers, at one point piecing together a 15-game hitting streak.

"This is my second year at Salt Lake, but this time around I'm catching every day instead of splitting time," Miller told his home-state Wisconsin State Journal. "That's helped me get into a good rhythm both at the plate and behind the plate."

Eligible to become a six-year minor league free agent after the season, Miller instead opted to re-sign a minor league contract with the Twins. Invited to Spring Training for the fourth time, Miller was sent back to Salt Lake City where he was to backup Durant. That arrangement didn't last long, however, as Miller outplayed the starter in every facet of the game until the former second round pick was released in July. Miller took over his starting role and played brilliantly, batting .338 with a 917 OPS and a career-high eleven homers in just 85 games.

When Myers went down with an ankle injury, Miller finally got his first taste of the big leagues. Added to the Twins' 40-man roster for the first time, Miller made his Major League debut on August 10th at the Metrodome against the Yankees. Inserted in the ninth inning with New York up 9-to-6 for left-handed hitting Scott Stahoviak, Miller was slated to face southpaw Mike Stanton. Instead, the Yankees brought in closer Mariano Rivera, who went on to save 43 games with a 1.88 ERA that season, and the Sandman got Miller to fly-out to right.

Miller remained with the Twins for the rest of the season and appeared in 25 games. With the team out of the race, Minnesota gave several of their young players increased opportunities late in the year and Miller didn't embarrass himself, batting .273 with a 660 OPS. He took on the role of Brewers'-killer in a late-season series, combining for four hits in nine at-bats including a grand slam against Jeff D'Amico, his second career home run (the first came off Willie Blair of the Tigers).

Slotted to take over the backup catching duties for the Twins in 1998, Miller was left unprotected in the Expansion Draft with the hope that he would slip by unclaimed. The Diamondbacks scooped him up with the 19th pick in the second round, however, and gave him the opportunity to compete with Kelly Stinnett for a backup job in Spring Training. Arizona opted for Stinnett to open the season and assigned Miller to Triple-A Tuscon, where the 28-year old hit .349/.434/.492 in 18 games. He was recalled early in May and spent the rest of the season with the Diamondbacks. When Jorge Fabregas, the club's starting signal caller, was dealt to the Mets in a deadline deal, Miller saw his playing time increase and eventually settled into a platoon with Stinnett. In 57 games, he hit .286/.337/.446, a healthy increase in all three categories compared to his rookie season, with 14 doubles and three home runs.

Happy with the production they received from their catching duo, the Diamondbacks maintained the Stinnett/Miller platoon in 1999. While the two split catching duties for most of Arizona's starting pitchers, Miller developed a good relationship with newcomer Randy Johnson and caught most all of the Big Unit's 35 starts. His hitting numbers declined slightly but the 29-year old Miller hit .270 with a 762 OPS. Together, the two D-backs catchers combined for 32 doubles, 25 homers, and a .252 average.

Miller suffered a broken thumb during the last week of the season that threatened to keep him out of the playoffs. Arizona added him to their playoff roster but he didn't make an appearance in their division series loss to the Mets.

Back in a platoon for the 2000 season, Miller got off to a good start and eventually won the starter's job when Stinnett struggled. On a disappointing Diamondbacks team that finished third in the NL West, Miller remained steady behind the plate and with the bat. Reaching 100 games for the first time in his big league career, he hit .275/.347/.441 with 24 doubles and ten homers. And in an embarrassment of riches, Miller got the opportunity to catch not only Johnson but also Curt Schilling, who came over in a July deal with the Phillies.

Arbitration eligible for the first time after the season, Miller and the Diamondbacks could not come to terms on a contract. Offered $875,000 by the team, Miller and his agent countered with a figure of $1.25 million and the issue eventually required an arbitration hearing to resolve. Miller won his case but both sides remained on good terms despite the adversarial process.

Slotted as the full-time starter for the first time as a Major Leaguer, Miller entered 2001 with something to prove.

"I know what I can do," he said during Spring Training. "People have been telling me I can't do things for a long time. I've been able to prove them wrong so far. [Manager Bob Brenly] showed confidence in me by saying I was going to catch around 130 games. I'm going to prove Bob right. I'll just keep busting my tail and do my job. I don't care what anyone else says about me."

He got off to a poor start at the plate but turned things around as the summer progressed. A number of nagging injuries slowed him down, particularly a partially torn achilles tendon, but Miller was as steady as a rock for the front-running Diamondbacks. He tore the rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder in Milwaukee late in September, however, and was on the brink of seeing his season come to a premature end.

"We talked at length all summer about what he's meant to this pitching staff, his ability to call a game, do things defensively, such as block balls, throw out runners," manager Bob Brenly said, assessing the potential loss of Miller. "He's been the manager on the field. He eliminates a lot of things I have to do because of the way he handles the game."

He played through the injury, however, and started all five games of the team's Division Series against the Cardinals and Championship Series against the Braves, resting for the only time in the postseason in Game Five of the World Series against the Yankees. When Craig Counsell scored the winning run on a Luis Gonzalez base hit off Mariano Rivera in Game Seven, Miller was rewarded for his toughness with a World Series ring.

"I'd go grocery shopping and it would take an hour longer than it took before. I'd be buying milk and people would pull me over and want to talk," said Miller, who batted .208 during the playoffs. "I went to Home Depot once and practically the entire staff wanted their picture taken with me. ... In Wisconsin, Home Depot is a happening place."

Because of his run-in with the union several years earlier, however, Miller's name was not found on any officially-licensed World Series merchandise.

"It does sting, but it's sort of a joke," Miller said. "There's not much I can do. I'm not going to sit here and bad-mouth the union. If I don't have my name on stuff, I don't. I think some of the fans get more upset about this than I do. I'm still like everyone else on the team; I still get a ring."

The Diamondbacks re-signed Miller to a one-year, $2.65 million contract and he spent Spring Training building up his arm strength after taking it easy on his injured shoulder during the off-season. He got off to a hot start, hitting .280 with a 970 OPS in April, and finished the first half with a .263/.355/.469 line, 19 doubles, and nine homers. He was named to the National League All-Star team along with five of his teammates, a dream come true for the man from self-described "Mayberry USA".

"One thing I will never do is take this stuff for granted," said Miller, who did not commit an error during the first half and threw out 42.2% of would-be base stealers. "I never thought of myself at an All-Star level, but I never stopped believing in myself, and that's a key to succeeding in this game. Obviously, I would have loved to have gotten to the big leagues quicker, but I wouldn't change a thing that's happened to me."

Back in Wisconsin for the All-Star Game, Miller admitted to remaining a fan of the team from Milwaukee.

"I grew up a Milwaukee Brewers fan and am still a Brewers fan," he said proudly. "These are still my Brewers. My dad and my brother still listen to Bob Uecker every night and I check the box score every morning to see how the Brewers did the night before."

Miller made the most of his opportunity and went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles after replacing Mike Piazza in the fifth.

"It was great timing, getting a hit in my first at-bat with a lot of family and friends watching," Miller said after the game. "I just wish the outcome would have been different."

Back with the Diamondbacks, Miller cooled off in the second half and missed time with a lower back strain. He slumped to .143 in July and .190 in August and lost playing time to a hot Chad Moeller, his future teammate in Milwaukee. After posting an 824 OPS in the first half, Miller hit just .205 with a 622 OPS after the All-Star break. By the time the playoffs rolled around, Miller was splitting time with Moeller, who caught Randy Johnson, and Rod Barajas, who caught Miguel Batista.

"With Randy, I'm thinking it must've been a superstitious thing," said Miller about the breakup. "But of course, it's frustrating for me. I caught him for three years, and he won three Cy Youngs."

The Diamondbacks were swept by the Cardinals in the NL Division Series and Miller went 1-for-2 with a double and a pair of walks in his only appearance.

It was only three months since Miller was on top of the world. Now, he was wondering what happened.

"That seems like a million years ago," he shrugged. "Maybe more."

Looking to cut payroll, Arizona put Miller on the trading block and dealt him to the Cubs for left-hander David Noyce and outfielder Gary Johnson, both minor leaguers.

"We're happy to have him. He's a quality guy and player and we wanted to address the catching situation," Chicago GM Jim Hendry said. "He's a good handler of pitchers and has done a good job for a long time."

The Cubs pencilled Miller in as their starting catcher and signed him to a two-year, $5.7 million contract to buy out his final year of arbitration and first year of free agency.

"I think it's a fair deal," Hendry said. "It certainly gives us the ability to have a quality catcher ready to play. It gives Damian some security in this point in his career. He made it real clear that he wanted to play here."

For Arizona's part, Noyce was diagnosed with a torn labrum and hasn't pitched since the trade. The Cubs sent left-hander Mark Freed to make up for the injury and the Diamondbacks converted him to a reliever, a role he's fulfilled well at Double-A El Paso and Triple-A Tucson. In 2004, the 26-year old went 3-2 with a 4.35 ERA in 57 games with the Sidewinders. Johnson, on the other hand, was not offered a contract and instead signed with the Angels. He made his Major League debut in 2003 in a brief cup of coffee and hit .253/.346/.388 in 91 games with Triple-A Salt Lake in 2004.

After spending the previous five seasons catching the likes of Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, and Miguel Batista, Miller joined a Cubs' team staffed with young fireballers Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Matt Clement, and Carlos Zambrano. Acquired to help nurture this young quartet into stardom, Miller again got off to a solid start at the plate, batting .274 with an 891 OPS in April. He slumped to well below his career norms, however, and finished the season with a 680 OPS, his worst since appearing in just 25 games during his rookie season.

Still, Miller's handling of the Cubs' young pitching staff was outstanding. He made just three errors, gunned down 39.1% of potential base stealers, and helped his pitchers post a 3.88 ERA with him behind the plate.

"I've been lucky," Miller said humbly. "That's all it is. Good pitchers like that make catchers look good. I've been fortunate to be able to handle those guys and get some respect from them."

With Miller's help (defensively more than offensively), the Cubs won the NL Central with an 88-74 record and beat the Braves three-games-to-two in the Division Series. The Marlins bested them in the Championship Series, however, in a memorable seven game contest. Miller was just 3-for-21 in the postseason and appeared in only eight of the Cubs' twelve games.

"I was trying too hard to hit home runs," Miller said about his poor offensive showing in 2003. "I got away from the success I'd had in the past hitting the ball the other way. I thought (at Wrigley) I'd hit 20 home runs for sure, and I got into a home-run groove. I'd tell myself not to, and I'd still do it anyway."

Looking to acquire long-sought-after Michael Barrett and upgrade their offense behind the plate, the Cubs took part in a complicated three-team series of deals during the off-season that sent Miller to the Athletics, Barrett to the Cubs, and left-hander Brett Price to the Expos. The A's also received $800,000 from Chicago to help defray the cost of Miller's $3 million contract.

"One of our greatest assets, if not our greatest asset, is our pitching staff," A's GM Billy Beane said about the move. "We had some options offensively, but once again we wanted to make sure defense and the ability to handle a talented pitching staff was the number one priority when acquiring a guy."

Oakland's gain was Chicago's loss.

"I was disappointed that he got traded," said Mark Prior, who went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA under Miller's care. "He had a big impact on what I did last year. He had a big impact on our entire staff. I was upset and disappointed. I didn't see it coming. It wasn't something I was expecting when the season was over. We were pretty good friends. All of us starters were good friends with him."

Remarkably, though, Miller joined a pitching staff with talent to rival even the Cubs and Diamondbacks. After catching Johnson, Schilling, Wood, and Prior, the 34-year old joined an Oakland staff that included Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, and Mark Mulder.

"I go home at night thankful that I get to work with such great pitchers and take pride that I busted my tail for them," Miller said about his good fortune. "You earn their trust by sticking your fingers down with conviction. It would be nice to stay in one place, but it's also great to know that teams get you to work with those pitchers. All those guys are special, and I'm looking forward to catching the great pitching staff here."

Offensively, Miller rebounded from a disappointing 2003 to post a .272 average and 742 OPS, closer to his production in Arizona than Chicago. He hit a career-high 25 doubles and drove in a career-high 58 runs while playing stellar defense. In 109 games, he committed only one error and threw out 35 of 46 potential base stealers, a ratio of 43.2%, second in the American League.

Miller expressed interest in returning to Oakland for 2005, but Beane and the A's chose to pursue other options (eventually settling on Jason Kendall, whom they acquired in a trade with the Pirates). The Red Sox pursued Miller vigorously as a "Plan B" in case they were unable to re-sign free agent Jason Varitek and the Dodgers also expressed interest. It was the Brewers, however, that came out on top with a three-year, $8.75 million contract. The 35-year old will earn $3.25 million in 2005 and 2006; in 2007, the Brewers can exercise a $3.75 million option or Miller can exercise a $2.25 million option with $750,000 in performance incentives if the club declines.

The deal was almost sunk when concerns arose over an MRI of Miller's throwing shoulder. GM Doug Melvin consulted with Team Physician William Raasch and noted orthopedic surgeon Lewis Yocum and the group concluded that Miller's injury will not prevent him from remaining effective.

And with that, the Brewers finally filled their persistent hole behind the plate.

"In seven years at Texas, I never had to worry about a catcher," Melvin said. "I had Pudge Rodriguez all the time. Here in Milwaukee, it seems like each year we were trying to find someone to go back there and be identified as a No. 1 catcher. With Damian, that puts a worry behind us for a few years."

"He can take that experience and knowledge he's had with all those great pitchers and bring it to our ball club. His experience and leadership is important with a club like ours that is going to have a lot of younger players over the next few years."

Over his eight-year career, Miller has compiled a .264/.331/.419 batting line with 143 doubles and 68 homers in 716 games. After a sub-par offensive season in 2003, he rebounded nicely in 2004 and has posted a double digit Value Over Replacement Player in all but two of his big league campaigns. His VORP rate didn't return to the form Miller showed in his final three years in Arizona, but at .168 in 2004 Miller was slightly better at his position than Geoff Jenkins (.164) was at his.

Year    PA    AVG   OBA   SLG   VORPr   VORP
1997    71   .273  .282  .379   .013     0.2
1998   183   .286  .333  .446   .252    11.0
1999   320   .270  .316  .446   .188    13.6
2000   364   .275  .346  .441   .201    17.1
2001   424   .272  .335  .425   .209    20.4
2002   340   .249  .338  .434   .214    16.8
2003   400   .233  .305  .369   .059     5.5
2004   442   .272  .337  .403   .168    16.8

Over the last three seasons, Miller has hit .252/.330/.401 and has consistently worn down in the second half. Prior to the All-Star Break, Miller's OPS over that span is 779; after it, his total drops to 645. September has been particularly tough, with Miller hitting just .201 with a 580 OPS during the month.

Defensively, the signal caller has improved his fielding percentage every year from 1998-2004 and has consistently gunned down more than 35 percent of opposing base stealers. A modified version of Baseball Prospectus' Stolen Base Runs Prevented metric ([.49xCS]-[.16xSB]) indicates that Miller's value as a thrower reached an all-time high in 2004 when he saved the Athletics nearly ten runs with his arm.

Year   INN   FPCT   PB   SB   CS    SB%   CERA   SBRP
1997   135  1.000    3    4    3   42.9   4.06   0.83
1998   388   .986    6   23   12   34.3   4.22   2.20
1999   715   .991   11   67   36   35.0   3.67   6.92
2000   805   .992    3   50   33   39.8   3.92   8.17
2001   978   .993    3   68   39   36.4   3.53   8.23
2002   763   .997    8   41   25   37.9   4.12   5.69
2003   929   .997    8   42   27   39.1   3.88   6.51
2004   963   .999    9   46   35   43.2   4.24   9.79

"My heart was always here," Miller said about his move to Milwaukee. "I was hoping the Brewers could work something out because I really wanted to be part of something good that was going to happen here. I think it's just a matter of time."

The Brewers are hoping that Miller's arrival will speed up that process.

Somewhere, Dave Nilsson should be smiling.

I came across this nice little rant about the Cubs and their inept manager, Dusty Baker by Tim Marchmant of the New York Sun. Thank God I'm a Brew Crew fan! The last sentence made my day.
There isn't much to like about blowhard Cubs manager Dusty Baker; when not waxing racist, overusing his pitchers, running good players and great broadcast teams out of town, or starring in obnoxious television ads, Baker is busy ruining young players' careers.

Witness the left-field situation for the Cubs. With incumbent Moises Alou gone, Baker must choose between starting pinch-hitter Todd Hollandsworth, second baseman Jerry Hairston, or Jason Dubois, who smacked 57 extra-base hits in Triple-A last year in only 386 at bats. Given that in a month on the big-league roster last year, Dubois was given only 23 at-bats (in which he hit .217), and that Baker has gone on at length about how "Holly" will be given every chance to win the job, it's clear that the manager's veteran fetish will prevail over the needs of his team.

Even more hilariously, Baker, who lacks an established closer, is using the spring to choose between LaTroy Hawkins, who blew the team's playoff chances with his inability to close out games, and Joe Borowski, who sported an 8.02 ERA last year. Veteran starter Ryan Dempster, who showed promise in a relief role last year, will be kept in the back of the skipper's mind despite the stated preference of GM Jim Hendry that Dempster be given a clear shot to try out his electric stuff in the ninth inning. Anyone who wants to watch a multiple-time Manager of the Year do a worse job of running a team than a random Azerbaijani should pay close attention to the words and wisdom of Dusty.

Bucks Trades

The Milwaukee Bucks made a couple of trades today that can be seen as an attempt to free up payroll to make a run at resigning Michael Redd at season's end. First, they shipped combo guard Mike James and reserve center Zendon Hamilton off to Houston in exchange for Madison, WI native Reece Gaines and two additional second round draft picks. Gaines will see his playing time dramatically increase with the Bucks. The other key trade orchestrated was that of Keith Van Horn being sent to Dallas for center Calvin Booth, from Penn State, and the old, broken down body of what used to be Alan Henderson of Indiana University fame, and an undisclosed amount of cash. Neither of these two players are expected to contribute much of anything, simply, they are there to take up space.

These two trades will now put Milwaukee roughly $20 million underneath next year's salary cap, meaning they can now afford to go after Redd in the offseason. Personally, I could care less what they decide to do. He really isn't a max contract player, so if they do resign him, here's hoping it isn't for an astronomical amount.