Brewers and the Lefties

Being a lefty in politics carries with it a load of stigma from certain circles, but in baseball it’s worth millions and likely an extended career far past the prime of most righties if you’re a pitcher.

We all know lefties are the sought-after commodity among pitching crews in numbers that belie the general population. In baseball, lefties account for 30% of the pitchers, while in the real world there are about 10% southpaws walking around.

So as we rounded the corner on the new year, Brewers faithful were wondering when the lefties were going to show up.

The team has historically been lean on the left-handed relief arms,

(aka LOOGYs- Lefty One-Out GuY) and Manger Ron Roenicke has spent a career dealing with that dearth. In 2011, Roenicke used lefties the least of any in the Major Leagues and went into the play-offs with starter Chris Narveson as the only lefty reliever on the roster.

Turns out Roenicke’s coaching career is riddled with lack of lefty usage, including his 2004 Anaheim Angels, which used a lefty in two innings all season. In his first two seasons, GM Doug Melvin left Roenicke with one--and mostly none--to choose from when it came time to face the likes of Ryan Howard or Joey Vato. Despite that, Baseball America chose Melvin GM of the year in 2011. It must have been those other moves, like getting Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke.

In Melvin’s second season as Brewers’ GM in 2004, then-Manager Ned Yost set the all-time MLB record for using left-handed relievers, a grand total of zero times.

We could assume Melvin’s hesitance to pull the trigger could be some sort of GM trait, like Ted Thompson’s perennial loatheness picking up free agents to help the Green Bay Packers, but Melvin has actually gone off the deep-end at times in a quest for left-handed relief help. While heading the Texas Rangers, Melvin once signed a lefty who had not pitched in the majors for two years and another who had the most recent experience of pitching in Italy two years before. So we know Melvin can get the lefty itch.

Perhaps he’s gotten a bit more sanguine about the lefty drought in recent years, letting his manager float without relief help from the left side. Last year’s dismal relief pitching wasn’t due to the lack of lefties. But it also cost them a spot in the playoffs and Melvin gutted the staff after the regular season. The coffee has apparently been smelled.

This year’s Brewers model now features two southpaws with decent records at their trait-- Mike Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny—both from the Washington Nationals and that team’s breakout season last year. Gorzelanny got a two-year deal worth $6 million while Gonzalez has a one-year contract at $2.25 million. Both have serviceable stats and were pretty good at times.

Now that fans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing there is some relief coming from the left side, the attention can turn towards the fact that the Brewers have only two lefty batters that may be in the starting line-up come April—first baseman Matt Gamel and right-fielder Norishika Aoki. Gamel will be there only until Corey Hart returns from knee surgery in May or so.

The lack of lefties at the bat seemed to always be overshadowed by the presence of Prince Fielder.

This year the Brewers are going into the season with four left-handed hitters on the projected Opening Day lineup, the lowest in Melvin’s helm here. Of course that means the team won’t be seeing too many LOOGYs in the regular season.

Leering in at Leaur Deal

Just call him Luxury Tax Leuer. Former University of Wisconsin star forward Jon Leuer was spending time on the bench in Cleveland when he got word Jan. 22 he was heading to Memphis in exchange for four players, including a future first-round pick.

On paper it’s a huge price tag for a second round pick who was waived this summer by Houston and picked up by Cleveland, only to play a grand total of 91 minutes this season.

The Grizzlies get Leuer--who was underperforming defensively, sent to D-League, and then sat--and give up forward Marresse Speights, guards Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby, and a top 5 protected first round pick in 2015.

Memphis needed to dump salary to get under the luxury tax and the Grizzlies GM was rather high on the Badger. Leuer’s known as a big guy that can shoot threes.

He’s now shooting for a contender with Memphis sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference while Cleveland has the third-worst record in the league. In his first game with Memphis, he played two minutes, missed a field goal and two free throws and got a rebound.

Leuer was a second-round pick of the Milwaukee Bucks last year and had some decent games, starting a few, and ending with 4.7 points and 2.6 rebounds a game. He was thrown in as a salary stabilizer in the Houston deal for Samuel Dalembert. The Rockets waived him last summer.

In eight D-League games this year, he put up 19.5 points and 12.3 rebounds a game