What’s going on with Mat Gamel?


How could a guy with a mustache NOT make the team?

This is a question that my Father posed to me the other day.  “What’s going on with Mat Gamel?’, he asked.  A terrific question.  Unless you are completely engrossed in every aspect of this organization, it would be impossible for you to know.  So, I went out and did some home work.  Below you should find some of my own personal thoughts/opinions as well as some very specific statistics and numbers.  You have been warned, so if this does not sound interesting to you…turn back now.  But, if you want to know what the future may hold for the once promising prospect…read on.

Mat started off the spring as a prime candidate to land a bench spot for the upcoming 2011 season.  Then he caught that pesky oblique strain that seemed to wreak havoc on the Brewers month of March.  Once he was put on the DL, his hopes of making the opening day roster where worse than the reviews for ‘The Hangover II’.  He tried to come back, but he was almost immediately sent to Nashville to prepare for the Triple-A season.  The only good news to come out of this, he would be the starting first baseman for the Sounds.
You may be wondering, “How is that good news?”.  Well, when Prince Fielder leaves the team this upcoming fall we are going to need someone to play first base, right?.  Hence, by sending Gamel down to Nashville and giving him a seasons worth of reps at first base, we now have a back-up plan.  Now the team could surprise all of us and grab another first baseman in FA, but the odds are much higher that they will try to fill that enormous hole (get it, it’s a fat joke) from within.  So, in my humble opinion, it is not such a bad thing that he is spending another season down in Triple-A.  Now when Fielder leaves, the team has a plan in place to plug another player in there. 
That is all well and good, but how is he doing so far down in Nashville?  Let’s start with his fielding.  In order to truly understand how much better he is doing at first base, we must first understand his natural position, third base.  In two season of starting at 3rd base in the minor leagues, Gamel committed 114 errors.  If that sounds like alot…that’s because it is.  This is what Gamel had to say to Jerome Boetther of The City Paper about his new position and previous trouble:

"My footwork was always the issue.  I would get lazy with my feet and throw a ball away.  It is less stressful at at first.  I don’t have to worry about throwing it anywhere.  It has to be less stressful for everybody."

This indicates, to me anyway, that Gamel is more comfortable at first base.  Which is great news for the Brewers organization.  If only we had a similar situation at shortstop.  Anyway, in his 42 games starting at first base with the Sounds he has only committed 5 errors.  For a guy who is learning a brand new position, I would say five errors is nothing to scoff at. 
Gamel has always been able to hit, just not at the major league level.  The minor league numbers are hard to ignore; .303 BA, 82 HR’s, 432 RBI’s, 173 doubles, .377 on-base percentage, and 759 hits.  I look at that and just shake my head, like a father who just watched his son put on a dress and dance around to Stevie Nicks songs.  Where has this production been in his few opportunities with the big league club?  In his few stints with the Brewers, Mat has almost twice as many K’s as hits (63 K’s and 35 hits).  His 2009 MLB campaign gave us all kinds of hope, he mashed 5 HR’s and 20 RBI’s in his limited work. 
Let’s talk about something more positive, like what he is doing right now at the Triple-A level.  As of this afternoon, he has 5 HR’s, 25 RBI’s, and a .305 batting average.  Not too shabby…until I looked deeper.  Four of his five homers came in a five game stretch at the start of May.  Since May 11th, he has 1 HR and 6 RBI’s.  So it is quite clear that next season we may have to put up with a first baseman only hitting 15-20 HR’s, which will be a major drop off for us as fans.  Gord Ash did give Gamel’s bat this ringing endorsement back in spring training:

"He is going to hit.  We’ve always thought he is going to hit.  It is just a matter of where we can get his bat in the lineup."

Well then Gordo, let’s play the “What Could Be” game.  Here is a very very rough projection of what the lineup might look like (in no particular order, I can not stress that enough):
Jonathan Lucroy, Mat Gamel, Rickie Weeks, a SS to be named later, Casey McGehee, Ryan Braun, Nyjer Morgan, and Corey Hart. 
Here is what I would like to see:
1) Morgan
2) Weeks
3) Hart
4) Braun
5) McGehee
6) Lucroy
7) Gamel
8) SS to be named later
There you go Gordy, I found him a spot in the lineup. 
Mat Gamel has all of the potential in the world, the problem is that this team does not need that right now.  Next year though, Gamel is going to be thrust into the spotlight.  There will be tons of pressure associated with being, “The guy who replaced Prince Fielder”.  If he can’t handle it, there will always be 50-year old veterans that I am sure Attanasio will be foaming at the mouth to acquire.  Maybe Rafael Palmero will be available, who knows?  What I do know, is that we will probably not see Gamel in the big leagues this season.  But you can bet the farm on the fact that he will be our starting first baseman come April 2012. 

  • The Brewers completed their sweep of the Nationals today, final score was 6-4.  Greinke got the win and hit his first home run in a Brewers uniform.  The Crew has now won 6 straight and have completed two consecutive sweeps.  Tomorrow they get the day off.  Friday night we will host the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.  Let’s see if we can pull off three straight sweeps!!!