Brewers Lose Gonzalez to Injured Knee

The Milwaukee Brewers have not met their lofty expectations thus far in 2012, and a recent spat of injuries could make that an even more arduous task.

Left-hander Chris Narveson was lost to season-ending shoulder surgery a couple of weeks back. First baseman Mat Gamel tore his ACL and is likely to be sidelined for the remainder of the season. Center fielder Carlos Gomez just hit the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring injury. Finally, over the weekend against the San Francisco Giants, shortstop Alex Gonzalez landed on the disabled list with what appears to be a very serious leg injury.

Gonzalez will undergo an MRI on Monday, when the team returns to Milwaukee to begin their homestand against the Cincinnati Reds, but quotations from teammates that all reference Gonzalez in the past tense are an ominous sign for his chances of returning anytime soon. After the game on Saturday, manager Ron Roenicke said:

“He’s been a great player for us this far. We all were really happy and looking forward to seeing what he was going to do this year.”

Reading between the lines, it is not difficult to ascertain that Milwaukee does not expect Gonzalez to return in a timely fashion, if at all, this year.

This infortunate injury highlights the lack of depth the Brewers had up the middle of the infield coming into the season. To replace Gonzalez in the starting lineup, the organization turned to veteran Cesar Izturis, who has not been a one-win player since 2008 and has not posted a wOBA above .300 since the 2004 season with the Dodgers.

The Brewers will not lose much defensively with Izturis receiving the vast majority of the playing time at shortstop, but the offensive decline will be significant. Although Alex Gonzalez will never feature a patient approach at the plate, he is a double-digit home run threat who is one year removed from a 23 home run season with a .319 wOBA and +3.4 WAR. Izturis, on the other hand, just had elbow surgery last year and has never hit more than four home runs in a single season. In fact, he has only hit seven home runs in his last 2,460 plate appearances.

The impact of the cavernous gulf in production at the plate between Gonzalez and Izturis becomes much more salient once realizing that Gonzalez has been nothing more than fringe-average at the plate as a major league shortstop throughout his career. The league-average wOBA for shortstops between 1998 and 2012 (the years Gonzalez has played in the big leagues) has ranged from .296 (2012) to .322 (2007). Gonzalez has a career .297 wOBA.

Milwaukee also called up Edwin Maysonet from Triple-A Nashville to add middle-infield depth to the bench. He was hitting .214/.309/.286 in 25 games to begin the season and had not played a big league inning since 2009 before being called up on Sunday. Expecting much from Maysonet at the plate would be foolish — the fact that he cannot start over Izturis and his career .273 wOBA says enough — though the 30-year-old shortstop from Puerto Rico does feature a solid glove and should provide significant positional flexibility for the club.

It is possible that the organization looks elsewhere via the trade market for a more definitive option at shortstop. Jason Bartlett has reportedly worn out his welcome in San Diego and could even be released in the near future. Jamey Carroll should be available from the Twins, and a two-year deal should not scare off Doug Melvin due to the lack of shortstop depth both on the bench and in the minors through the 2013 season. Ronny Cedeno could draw some interest from the Mets, though his career .278 wOBA is only slightly better than that of Cesar Izturis and may not be that much of an upgrade.

On the bright side, the Milwaukee Brewers won 96 games and the NL Central last season with Yuniesky Betancourt and his +0.5 WAR at shortstop for 152 games. It is difficult to imagine that Izturis and Maysonet could be too much worse than that this year.

The injuries have been numerous, but they have yet to strike down an elite player on the roster. A talented core still exists in Milwaukee this season. The key for the Brewers will be finding consistency from their starting rotation and turning around Rickie Weeks and Aramis Ramirez at the plate. If those things can happen this year, the Brewers will once again compete for a postseason berth.

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J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).

20 Responses to “Brewers Lose Gonzalez to Injured Knee”

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  1. Garry says:

    Brewers can’t catch a break!

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  2. funketown says:

    Zips projects both Maysonet and Izturis at around a ~.260 wOBA. I’ll take the under on Izturis. I now find myself coveting Yuniesky Betancourt.

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  3. chuckb says:

    Why would the Twins trade Jamey Carroll? He just signed a 2 year deal and has been with them a month. Since this scenario demonstrates exactly how important the SS position is, I fail to see why the Twins are just going to trade away their SS (who, by the way, isn’t really a SS but is playing there b/c of the dearth of shortstops) after only 116 PAs with the team.

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    • Justin says:

      The Twinkies announced yesterday that Brian Dozier is going to be the starting SS going forward. This relegates Carroll to the utility role, which he is probably best suited for.

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    • mike says:

      carroll is 32 and the twins are rebuilding. they signed him as a stop-gap. they would look to trade him to any kind of needy contender merely BECAUSE of how much value he has for just being a SS who can actually handle a bat decently as well as a glove. the GM of the twins probably signed him in hopes of trading him this year to get a little talent from a needy, border-line playoff team who needs some veteran help in the IF… can you say San Francisco Giants? or how about Philadelphia Phillies? Both those teams have depth problems with their Middle infield and could use a back up like carroll.

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  4. Big Jgke says:

    There were lofty expectations for this team? Man, as a Jays fan, I would love to see a year where we could put a team as mediocre as the ’12 Brewers on the field and have them be expected to contend for the playoffs.

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    • Illinois' top oil producer says:

      The Brewers won 96 games last year, and their only losses were Fielder, 20ish innings of Takashi Saito, 40ish innings of Hawkins, and luckily McGehee and Betancourt. They now have K-rod for the entire year, and added Aramis Ramirez and Alex Gonzalez to replace the terrible 2011 left side of the infield. So how was the 2012 Brewers gonna suck again?

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      • mike says:

        no offense… aramis ramirez and alex gonzalez were over the hill to begin with. you guys were at best the 3rd team in this division before stepping on the field. Add the fact you have a light hitting 1b replacing your second best player. There wasn’t enough done to replace him and your pitching’s not good enough to sustain. Especially not at miller park. Also there is no one on your bench who can pinch hit all that well. blue jays have a way better team overall, and would probably win the NL central if they were in that division.

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      • adohaj says:

        ^lol i see what you did there

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  5. Johnny Come Lately says:

    I was watching the game Alex Gonzalez hurt his knee. It was a late slide into 2nd base on a stolen base attempt, where his foot stopped at the bag and his upper leg kept moving creating a bend in the knee to the side, in a direction it’s definitely not supposed to go. I could only watch the replay one time. It was really ugly. I’d be surprised if he played again this year.

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  6. JSprech says:

    He is confirmed to have torn his ACL. Major bummer.

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  7. Matty Brown says:

    oh, to be in the NL and have high expectations with 3 starters, 3 relievers, and 3 hitters

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  8. Wyoming Superstar says:

    So here we are on fangraphs, and nobody can explain why the Brewers suck with any statistics to back it up.

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  9. Ben says:

    What is it going to take for Melvin and Roenicke to get Taylor Green in the lineup every day? Or Eric Farris? Using guys like Alex Gonzalez, Cesar Izturis, and Travis Ishikawa on a daily basis is not going to help put them in the win column much more than with replacements they can find in their own system. The only issue I see here is that neither Green nor Farris can play shortstop.

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