Does the Brewers’ interest in Lyle Overbay affect Mat Gamel?


One has to wonder when the Milwaukee Brewers’ interest in certain players conflict with their philosophy to work from within the organization. Sure, Lyle Overbay is a left-handed batter, but is signing the aged veteran the best possible choice for this team? The advantage Overbay has over most free-agents is that he has previously played for the Brewers before, so perhaps re-signing him is a good idea.

If the Brewers do end up landing Overbay, then not only does Mat Gamel feel a ripple from the potential signing, but his ability to define where he is as a player is now on display. Can Gamel live up to the expectations with Corey Hart out? 

Lyle Overbay, while not a household name, has had a solid career. . Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

So, looking at Overbay’s numbers, he’s honestly not a bad choice to consider. He’s a career .270/.353/.438 hitter with some decent pop in his bat. Going on his now 13th season of Major League Baseball, Overbay hasn’t had any career defining moments that will stand the test of time, but he’s a pretty solid batter. He has 133 career home runs alongside 581 RBIs, a BABIP of .314 and an average ISO rating of .168. He’s also quite a durable player at 36 as he played in 121 games in 2011 and 65 (between two teams) in 2012.

Are there downsides to Overbay? Yes. In the past few seasons, Overbay’s seen a fluctuation of his strikeout rate:

  • 2009: 19%
  • 2010: 21.5%
  • 2011: 20%
  • 2012: 26%

Now obviously we know Overbay, like every other player in the MLB, is not perfect and is going to strike out. What he isn’t though however is Rickie Weeks and that’s a good thing. Weeks, whose strikeout rate just skyrocketed in 2012 hopefully hasn’t spread that throughout the ball club and potential guys that may be coming in soon. The other negative about Overbay is his career -2.4 UZR rating at first base. He does have a career .995 fielding percentage and a career DRS of 31, so perhaps those can outweigh the bad.

Mat Gamel has a lot to do to try and secure his job until Hart’s return. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

What Overbay presents is an exact threat to Gamel. Clearly Gamel had a shot last year to prove himself but his ACL had other plans. Fortunately, Gamel is back and ready to prove once again that he is ready to be the everyday first baseman. If not, guys like Overbay and even Taylor Green can pose to overtake Gamel’s job.

Gamel being at first is no assured thing if Overbay signs. As our own Colin Bennett pointed out earlier, Brewers’ fans have recognized what Overbay can do in the field, but the same cannot be said for Gamel’s small sample size.

If we take into consideration Gamel’s 2009, we’ll see he played in 61 games, the most he’s played in one season so far. Overbay by far has Gamel outplayed tremendously. Even taking that season into account, Gamel really didn’t do anything to blow anybody away, and his defense which was at third, was atrocious (.885 fielding percentage).

However, I am not knocking on Gamel. I believe he, like any other player, has their fair shot at being the starter. Heck, the Brewers haven’t even signed Overbay yet, so Gamel is still the go to guy, but that does not mean he should be lax. Gamel has a job to do and to keep that job, he’s going to have to seriously impress everyone or potentially lose it once again.