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The Mustache

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I donít like Braden Looper.

Itís not so much his numbers that bother me, itís that stupid smile he always flashes before each pitch. And itís not even a smile, more like a teeth-clenching, lips pulled back, toothy snapshot that just annoys me. The guy gives up 6 runs in the first and heís flashing teeth like Eric Estrada just walked in the room.

His numbers on the other hand are nothing to smile about. Looper led the league in both earned runs and homers allowed. His 39 home runs allowed was accomplished in just 34 starts, or more than a home run given up in every start plus a few extraís sprinkled in for flavor. He also finished the year with an unimpressive 5.22 ERA. For the most part, Ken Macha himself could have driven in a run off Looper in 2009.

However, when the Brewers GM Doug Melvin declined to pick up Looperís $6.5 million option for 2010 and instead paid Looper a $1 million buyout, I was kind of disappointed. And although my Brewer friends were happy as seagulls in a McDonalds parking lot, I canít help but disagree with this move.

Donít get me wrong, I can see why Melvin declined the option. First, his 5.22 ERA is unacceptable, even on a high scoring club like the Brewers. And all those home runs allowed makes for an early exit. In fact, Looper only pitched through 7 innings 4 times, and never went past the 7th inning. For the most part, Looper is a 5-inning pitcher, which is maybe the reason Melvin sent him on his way, especially since the Milwaukee rotation is stacked with 5-inning guys-Suppan, Bush and Parra come to mind.

However, his 14-7 record was almost worth the $6.5 million option. His 14 wins is the most for a Brewers starter since Chris Capuanoís 18 wins in 2005. Plus, he had 14 starts of 6 innings or more with 3 runs or less given up. Not bad for a number four starter.

In todayís world, $6.5 million a season is chicken scratch, for most teams. Even for the small-market, cash-strapped Milwaukee Brewers, that kind of money isnít too much of a burden for a number four starter. Who could they possible sign as a number four starter who can perform at the same level for less money? Doug Davis? Been there, done that! Jarrod Washburn? Unless heís taking a paycut.

They sure canít promote anyone from the minors either. For as solid as the Brewers minor league system has been the past 10 years, theyíve struggled recently with drafting pitching help. For the most part, their best 2 pitching prospects are unavailable. Mark Rogers, the fifth pick in the 2004 draft, has spent more time in an the emergency room than on the baseball diamond and looks to be useless overall and Jeremy Jeffress, the Brewers best pitcher in the minors, who according to reports is a 100MPH pitcher, is at least a year or two away from the majors, if he can ever learn control.

Which leads us back to Looper. They have no other options. Gallardo will be the number one starter, no questions asked, but after that the picture remains muddy. Will David Bush be healthy and stay healthy in 2010? Which Manny Parra will show up to spring training? Can we send Jeff Suppan back to St. Louis (weíll take the batboy so the trade is fair)? Either way, we need two starts for 2010.

So what does Melvin do? We all know John Lackey isnít coming to Milwaukee, no matter what the Brewers offer. Besides Lackey, the gem of the 2010 pitching free agents, weíre left with a pile of has-beens and injury-riddled pitchers to choose from. Wolf. Garland. Pavano. Yadda yadda yadda. The list goes on and on. So for $6.5 million, Looper seemed like the most reasonable option, financially anyways. Plus, if anything, Looper is a viable option for the bullpen, where he spent the first 6 years of his career.

I donít like Looper but I also donít like the move Melvin made by declining his option. Itíll be interesting to see what The Mustache does over the winter. If the past is an indication, heíll let us all down again by signing one of St. Louisí scrap-heap pitchers that no one wants. Unfortunately, signing former Cardinals players is no indication that the team will play like the Cardinals.
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