One of the new age measures of a good pitch is something called “expected weighted on-base average allowed.” By that measure, former Mississippi State star Brandon Woodruff’s four-seam fastball was among the best in the game in 2019, his .264 mark ranking behind only Gerrit Cole’s, according to the good folks at mlb.com. Woodruff’s four-seamer made their list of the top five “nastiest” in MLB, joining those of Cole, Josh Hader, Yu Darvish and Jordan Hicks. Woodruff was pretty good by the old-fashioned measures, as well, posting an 11-3 record and a 3.62 ERA in 121 2/3 innings for Milwaukee, with 143 strikeouts, 30 walks and a .240 batting average against. The big right-hander’s average velocity on his four-seamer, per mlb.com, was 96.3 in 2019, his third season with the Brewers and first as a full-time starter. Woodruff’s stuff has garnered attention since his days at Wheeler High, where, as a senior in 2011, he punched out 100 batters in 49 1/3 innings and was drafted in the fifth round by Texas. He chose to go to State, where he had trouble harnessing his stuff during an underwhelming three-year career. As a junior in 2014, he made 15 appearances, posting a 6.75 ERA with 29 strikeouts, 25 walks (plus four hit batsmen) in 37 1/3 innings. But the stuff was still good enough for the Brewers to pluck Woodruff in the 11th round, and in 2016, things started to click. Woodruff went 14-9, 2.68 at two minor league levels that season; at Double-A Biloxi, he struck out 124 in 113 2/3 innings with just 30 walks. After his “nasty” big league breakthrough last season, he may well have a Cy Young Award in his future.
Joe Gray, the ex-Hattiesburg High star, made his first appearance in an MLB spring training game on Monday and showed out. Gray, inserted mid-game as the DH for Milwaukee, went 2-for-2 with a double, an RBI and a run in the Brewers’ Cactus League loss to Oakland at Mesa, Ariz. Gray, a second-round pick by the Brewers in 2018, has labored rather quietly through two pro seasons at the lowest levels of the Brewers’ system. A 6-foot-1, 195-pound outfielder, he hit .182 with two homers in 24 games in the rookie Arizona League in 2018 and .164 with three homers in 31 games in the advanced rookie Pioneer League last season. He remains a highly rated prospect – MLB Pipeline has him at No. 9 in the Milwaukee system – based on his power potential and defensive abilities, most notably his arm. Gray, still only 19, has struck out 61 times in 187 at-bats, so more consistent contact is likely key to his advancement. He is probably a couple of years away from reaching Double-A Biloxi. P.S. Also making their big league spring debut on Monday at Mesa were Ethan Small, the Mississippi State product who was the Brewers’ first-round pick last summer, and Ole Miss alum Thomas Dillard, Milwaukee’s fifth-round selection in 2019. Left-hander Small worked a scoreless inning with a punchout and a walk, while Dillard, playing right field, went 0-for-1. … In the Brewers’ other split-squad game on Monday, a win against the Los Angeles Angels in Phoenix, former MSU star Brandon Woodruff, the staff ace, threw a scoreless first inning, opening some eyes when his first pitch hit 98 mph. “So, I needed to tone it down just a hair,” Woodruff told mlb.com.
Drew Pomeranz, the former Ole Miss standout, celebrates his 31st birthday today. Soon, he’ll be celebrating a sweet free-agent contract. Coming off a bounce-back finish to his 2019 season, left-hander Pomeranz is considered one of the top relief pitchers currently on the market. As a starter in San Francisco last season, Pomeranz was mostly awful. The Giants moved him to the bullpen, where something clicked. Milwaukee traded for him, and Pomeranz became one of the key pieces in the Brewers’ drive to the postseason. In 26 1/3 innings down the stretch, Pomeranz posted a 2.39 ERA and, suddenly throwing much harder, fanned 45 batters. He made $1.5 million last year on a free agent deal he signed with the Giants after a bad 2018 season in Boston, where he made $8M in the final year of his three with the Red Sox. … Pomeranz leads a long list of Mississippians on the free agent market: Corey Dickerson, Brian Dozier, Jarrod Dyson, Billy Hamilton, Mitch Moreland, Kendall Graveman, Tony Sipp … . Petal High product Demarcus Evans (see previous post) was placed on Texas’ 40-man roster this week, and the big right-hander reportedly will compete for a big league bullpen job in the spring. … The Atlanta Braves have added outfielder Cristian Pache, catcher William Contreras, right-hander Jasseel De La Cruz and lefties Tucker Davidson and Phil Pfeifer – all Mississippi Braves alumni – to their 40-man roster. (Outfielder Drew Waters, the Southern League MVP with the M-Braves last season, does not yet have to be protected on the 40-man.) … The Detroit Tigers re-signed former Southwest Mississippi Community College (and M-Braves) catcher Kade Scivicque to a minor league deal. He played at the Double-A and Triple-A levels in 2019. … In case you missed it, Hattiesburg-based Rodney Richardson of RARE Design handled the rebranding of the Brewers’ logo and uniforms for 2020, when the club will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its move to Milwaukee. Richardson told mlb.com at Monday’s unveiling: “We want them to love it because we’ve fallen in love with their story, with their team, with what’s happening here. It’s not following any design trends or anything like that. It’s about representing this team and this place and their love for this game. We want to see that resonate.”
The Washington Nationals may have had a little karma working for them in Tuesday night’s game. Aaron Barrett, the former Ole Miss standout who completed a courageous comeback this season, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park before the National League Wild Card Game. Several hours later, the Nationals pulled off a dramatic comeback of their own to beat Milwaukee 4-3. According to reports – and the highlights on TBS – Barrett’s animated appearance on the mound stirred the crowd into a frenzy, a precursor to what happened during the Nats’ stunning eighth-inning rally. Barrett, who was not on the active roster for Tuesday’s game, made it back to the big leagues this season after missing most of the previous three years following Tommy John surgery and a career-threatening broken arm. Nationals owner Mark Lerner suggested having Barrett throw out the first pitch. “I’m pretty humbled by it. … There are so many people that are deserving to do this,” Barrett said in a story on nbcsports.com. P.S. In defeat, the Brewers certainly got what they hoped for from Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff (four innings, one run) and UM product Drew Pomeranz (two shutout innings). … Ex-Southern Miss standout Brian Dozier made a pinch-hit appearance for the Nationals and reached on an error.
In identifying an X-factor for each of the current playoff teams, mlb.com’s Richard Justice pegged Drew Pomeranz, the former Ole Miss standout, as that player for Milwaukee. The veteran left-hander has a 2.39 ERA in 25 appearances for the Brewers with 45 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings. “Pomeranz has been reborn as a dominant late-inning reliever since the Brewers acquired him from the Giants at the Trade Deadline,” Justice wrote. It’s been a long, strange trip for Pomeranz, not only this season but over his entire MLB career. He has been an All-Star and won a World Series ring. He also has been traded four times and pitched in seven different organizations since Cleveland drafted him fifth overall out of Oxford in 2010. After winning a ring with Boston last fall, he signed as a free agent with San Francisco. Through 17 starts with the Giants, he was 2-9 with a 6.10 ERA. They moved him to bullpen, where he had worked in the past – and suddenly everything changed. Pomeranz made four scoreless appearances in late July and impressed the Brewers enough that they traded a top prospect to get him. He has been everything they could have hoped for. Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff will start tonight’s National League Wild Card Game at Washington but expect to see Pomeranz – the X-factor — before it’s over. P.S. Woodruff is one of four Biloxi Shuckers alums projected to be in Milwaukee’s lineup. The others are second baseman Keston Hiura, shortstop Orlando Arcia and right fielder Trent Grisham. Ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier, who played sparingly down the stretch, isn’t likely to start at second base for Washington.
With its season down to one game, Milwaukee will hand the ball to Brandon Woodruff to start Tuesday’s National League Wild Card Game at Washington. The former Wheeler High and Mississippi State star went 11-3 with a 3.62 ERA in 2019 and threw four scoreless innings in his last two starts after a long stint on the injured list. He put up a 1.46 ERA in 12 1/3 postseason innings a year ago. “Obviously, I probably won’t be able to go six, seven innings,” Woodruff told mlb.com, “but I’ll be ready to go as long as I can until they take me out.” … Tampa Bay will throw ex-Mississippi Braves right-hander Charlie Morton (16-6, 3.05) in Wednesday’s American League Wild Card Game at Oakland. … East Central Community College alumnus Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox won the AL batting title with a .335 average, which also led all of MLB. The last Mississippian (native or college alum) to win a batting title was Grenada native Dave Parker, who took the National League crown in 1978 with Pittsburgh. … A pair of former M-Braves swept the stolen base crowns in the majors: Ronald Acuna of Atlanta led the NL with 37 bags and Seattle’s Mallex Smith topped the AL with 46. For the record, Jackson Generals product Brian Hunter twice won the AL title – in 1999 with Detroit and Seattle and in 1997 with Detroit – and Chuck Carr, a Jackson Mets alum, won the NL title in 1993 with Florida. The only Mississippi native to lead a league in steals is Ellisville’s Buddy Myer, who bagged 30 for Boston in the AL in 1928. … Former Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull, who yielded three runs in 5 1/3 innings for Detroit against the White Sox on Sunday, absorbed his 17th loss of the season, most by a Tigers pitcher in 11 years. But he has good company: Justin Verlander dropped 17 in 2008. … Former JaxMets skipper Clint Hurdle was fired as Pittsburgh manager prior to Sunday’s finale, which he did not work. Hurdle went 735-720 with three playoff teams in nine seasons with the Pirates, who finished 69-93 this season.
Given a chance for a do-over, Dakota Hudson gets the ball tonight for St. Louis in a crucial game against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium. Former Mississippi State star Hudson (16-7, 3.45 ERA) was off his game against the Cubs last Saturday at Wrigley Field, giving up three runs (all in the first inning) on three hits and four walks in three innings. (St. Louis did rally to win the game.) With the Cardinals clinging to a 1-game lead over Milwaukee in the National League Central, Hudson starts Game 1 of the three-game set against the reeling Cubs. The Brewers are at Colorado for three. Both St. Louis and Milwaukee have clinched at least a wild card berth but would much prefer to enter the postseason as a division champ. Based on what he said in a TV interview following his last start against the Cubs, Hudson must be champing at the bit for this second shot. “It’s all about what I was doing out there,” he said of the brutal first inning. “I can fix that.” It was his shortest outing since June 29 at San Diego, when he lasted just 1 2/3. He is 6-2 in 10 starts the last two months.
That was quite a 1-2 punch Milwaukee threw at San Diego on Tuesday night. Brandon Woodruff, the former Mississippi State standout, started and Drew Pomeranz, the ex-Ole Miss star, finished as the red-hot Brewers won 3-1 at Miller Park and moved into a tie with Chicago for second in the National League Central and wild card races. Between them, Woodruff and Pomeranz pitched four hitless innings with eight strikeouts. Woodruff, coming off the injured list, threw 37 pitches – hitting 99 mph – in two innings in his first appearance since July 21. “It feels, in a way, like a brand new season, the butterflies and stuff,” Woodruff told mlb.com. Pomeranz, the veteran lefty acquired from San Francisco at the trade deadline, has been a revelation working out of the Brewers’ bullpen. He has a 2.53 ERA, two saves and nine holds in 20 games, 19 in relief. He has punched out 36 batters in 21 1/3 innings, four in two innings Tuesday when he averaged 95 with his fastball. He had a 5.68 ERA in 21 games (17 starts) for the Giants. “I think, from Drew’s perspective, it’s ‘I can let it fly.’ That’s what he’s doing,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said in an mlb.com story. … The Padres’ run came on a homer by State product Hunter Renfroe, playing his first game in 10 days because of nagging injuries. His 32nd bomb was his first since Aug. 10. And, yes, he struck out against both Woodruff and Pomeranz.
Another day, another former Bulldog in the MLB spotlight. Tonight, ex-Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff will return from nearly two months on the injured list to start for Milwaukee against San Diego at Miller Park. On Monday, Dakota Hudson pitched seven strong innings for St. Louis in a big victory – his 16th — against Washington. Woodruff and the Brewers are chasing the first-place Cardinals in the National League Central and the Nationals in the wild card race. Milwaukee has won 13 of its last 16, keeping its surge alive despite the loss of MVP candidate Christian Yelich. The Brewers hope to get a lift from Woodruff, who is 11-3 with a 3.75 ERA and made the All-Star Game back in July. The 26-year-old right-hander last pitched on July 21, when he suffered an oblique strain. He told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel it was a long, slow process getting back to form. “We’re playing some good baseball right now,” he said. “I want to be part of it and I want to contribute any way I can.” Woodruff reportedly threw no more than 45 pitches in his tuneup sessions, so three innings might be all the Brewers can expect from him tonight. P.S. Gulfport native Bobby Bradley and the Columbus Clippers take on the Sacramento River Cats in tonight’s Triple-A National Championship Game at Memphis’ AutoZone Park. FS1 will televise the game at 7 p.m. Bradley, an International League All-Star, hit .264 with 33 homers for the Clippers and also did a 15-game stint with Cleveland. Sacramento is a San Francisco affiliate.
The South Bend Cubs got to use a “ringer” as their starting pitcher in Game 1 of the Midwest League Championship Series, and former Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman gave them the type of performance they might have expected. Veteran big leaguer Graveman, on an injury rehab assignment for the Class A Cubs, worked 3 2/3 innings, allowing a run on three hits, and South Bend beat Clinton 3-1 on Wednesday night. Graveman, 28, made his fourth rehab start – each one at a different minor league level — as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery last summer. In 13 1/3 innings, the right-hander has a 2.03 ERA and 16 strikeouts. Graveman signed with Chicago as a free agent after being a fixture in Oakland’s rotation for most of the previous four seasons. P.S. Hot-hitting Corey Dickerson left Philadelphia’s game – a 3-1 loss — against Atlanta on Wednesday with a sore left foot that the Meridian Community College alum described as “pretty painful.” … Ex-State star Brandon Woodruff threw live batting practice for Milwaukee on Wednesday and the All-Star righty appears close to returning to the club’s rotation. The Brewers, smarting from the loss of MVP candidate Christian Yelich, won their sixth straight Wednesday to move into a tie with the fading Cubs for the second wild card spot in the National League.