Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Deep Breath, Brewers Fans

Tuesdays loss was the seventh out of the last eight, two of which being back to back at home, an unsettling sign for Brewers fans.  After reading a lot of comments across social media, Brewers fans are ready to jump ship.  But really, hold on guys, we'll get through this.

The Brewers currently sit at 45-42, third place in the NL Central, two games behind St. Louis and half a game behind Pittsburgh (yes, that Pittsburgh).  Over the last week they have seen their three game Central lead turn into a two game deficit.  Much thanks to some horrible starting pitching (0-5, 6+ ERA), an inconsistent bullpen, and the left calf of Ryan Braun.

Lets highlight the last few starts by Brewers pitchers:

Tuesday, June 28 vs. Yankees
Greinke:  2IP, 5H, 7ER, 3BB, 0K

Greinke has shown signs of great command, walking only 14 so far this year in 12 starts, but come low walks, comes always being around the plate... Maybe too much of it.  Greinke lasted only two innings against New York last Tuesday, he went on to say "It was just a real bad game, I wasn't executing anything, and when I did just a couple of times, they took some good pitches, and I wasn't able to make another good pitch after that. I couldn't pitch any worse than I did.".

It really comes without saying that Greinke's 5.66 ERA is nothing the Brewers expected when they sent Cain, Escobar, and some young arms to Kansas City this winter, but nearing the All Star break, the second half could render different results.

Wednesday, June 29 vs. Yankees
Marcum:  5IP, 5H, 4ER, 3BB, 6K

One of the Brewer starters better outings of the last week, which was still highlighted by four earned runs allowed, including a big three-run home run by the Yankees Russel Martin.  The only 'close' game of the Yankees series which still saw the Crew lose by a final of 5-2.

Thursday, June 30 vs. Yankees
Wolf:  7IP, 7H, 4ER, 3BB, 3K

The Yankees grabbed runs in the first and third, riding a 4-0 lead behind the arm of CC Sabathia to a series sweep over the Brewers.  Wolf struggled all day, though he managed to scratch out seven innings. He gave up seven hits and four runs, hit a batter with a pitch and even dropped the ball on the mound once while trying to transfer it from his glove hand.  It was Wolfs first loss in his last eight starts.

Friday, July 1 vs. Twins
Gallardo:  7IP, 5H, 4ER, 4BB, 4K

Like a few of the previous games, Gallardo fell victim to the first inning bug, allowing three in the first.  Gallardo blamed the rain delay as a bit of a distraction going into his start, saying "You have a mindset for a certain time, and the delay comes in and you get off your routine a little bit, You have the adrenaline for a certain time of day and the next thing you know it's raining. You've just got to figure out how to stay relaxed."

Saturday, July 2 vs. Twins
Narveson: 4.2IP, 14H, 7ER, 2BB, 1K

That is not a typo, Narveson allowed 14 hits across 4 and 2/3 innings Saturday, easily one of his worst outings of the season.  In retrospect the Brewers scored four runs in the ninth to rip this one out of the chest of the Twins, a much needed win as it's the only one in the last eight.

Sunday, July 3 vs. Twins
Greinke:  6IP, 5H, 4ER, 2BB, 9K

What appeared to be cruise control to an easy win Sunday disappeared after Braddock allowed two runs and Loe one earned.  The Twins scored four in the seventh to take the series, and season finale against the Brewers 9-7.  Greinke, who gave up seven earned runs in two innings at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, allowed four earned runs on five hits in six innings. He struck out nine.

Monday, July 4 vs. Diamondbacks
Marcum:  6IP, 7H, 4ER, 2BB, 5K

Marcum didn't have his best stuff on Monday, but when he left after the sixth he had a 6-4 lead over the Diamondbacks.  A lead that he saw disappear after the Dbacks scored one off of Hawkins in the seventh, one off of Low in the eighth, and two off of Axford in the ninth, leading to a 8-6 Dbacks win.

Tuesday, July 5 vs. Diamondbacks
Wolf: 6IP, 10H, 7ER, 4BB, 4K

Wolf struggled right out of the gates, allowing four runs in the top of the first and three more in the top of the third.  He settled down for the most part the rest of the way, getting out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth. 

As you can see by the lines listed above, none of these starts are quality starts, the best being last Friday when Gallardo went 7IP, 5H, 4ER, 4BB, 4K.  A game that still ended in a Brewers loss.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Though the starters are struggling, lets take a look at their season numbers just as a refresher. 

July 6, 2011
Gallardo:  9-5, 3.92 ERA, 98/43 K/BB
Marcum:  7-3, 3.32 ERA, 97/30 K/BB
Wolf:  6-6, 3.72 ERA, 80/37 K/BB
Narveson:  5-5. 4.86 ERA, 84/38 K/BB
Greinke:   7-3, 5.66 ERA, 89/14 K/BB

For reference, lets compare to how our starters were sitting July 6th of 2010.

July 6, 2010
Gallardo:  8-4, 2.58 ERA
Wolf:  6-8, 4.49 ERA
Bush:  3-5, 4.23 ERA
Parra:  3-6, 4.65 ERA
Narveson:  7-6, 6.02 ERA

With the top three in your rotation providing a less than four ERA and the bottom of your rotation posting .500 or above winning percentages, you can't be that angry.  Having a number five starter in Narveson, though his recent struggles, still has an ERA under five.  Point being, they've done it all year, lets not crash the bandwagon over one tough week.

Another crippling blow has been the absence of Ryan Braun over the last three and the continued struggles from Third base.  McGehee has seen his spot in the batting order drop from fifth to seventh and with the absence of Braun, Hart has moved into the three hole.  So who does that leave backing up Prince Fielder?  Yuniesky Betancourt.  Nothing screams "Intentional Walk!" more than a guy hitting .240 with little to no pop and an over-aggressive bat behind one of the NL best hitters in Fielder. 

Lets check out the last weeks worth of games and the 5 hole production.

Tuesday, June 28 vs. Yankees
McGehee:  1-4, 2K

Wednesday, June 29 vs. Yankees
Hart: 1-4, 1K

Thursday, June 30 vs. Yankees
Hart: 0-3, BB, 1K

Friday, July 1 vs. Twins
Hart:  0-4

Saturday, July 2 vs. Twins
Gamel:  0-3

Sunday, July 3 vs. Twins
Gamel: 1-4, RBI

Monday, July 4 vs. Dbacks
Betancourt:  0-4

Tuesday, July 4 vs. Dbacks
Betancourt:  0-3.

Brewers 5 spot hitter totals:  3-29, 4K, 1BB, 1RBI

Clearly the lack of production is there, making Fielder a lot easier to work around, virtually taking the best two hitters out of your lineup with Braun currently down with an injury.  McGehee's scuffles don't seem to be coming to any near end, but with Roenicke and his man crush (see Kotsay) McGehee doesn't seem to be going anywhere, which doesn't help this team at all.  It's easy to say how bad the Brewers need a healthy Braun back, so I won't say it, but beside Braun, the Brewers need to rework more than just their 3B production and five hole hitter.

Brewers Bench:

Mark Kotsay:  .252 AVG, 1HR, 12RBI
Craig Counsell:  .181 AVG, 0HR, 3RBI
Josh Wilson:  .241 AVG, 2HR, 3RBI
George Kottaras:  .256 AVG, 2HR, 8RBI
Carlos Gomez:  .224 AVG, 6HR, 17RBI
Mat Gamel:  .143 AVG, 0HR, 2RBI (7 games)

It's pretty clear there is no real power threat coming off of the bench, hell there is no actual player that should be in the Major Leagues (exception Kottaras, Gamel) on the Brewers bench.  With the recent injuries, these players are forced into an already shotty lineup.

If Roenicke or Melvin doesn't go out and get a solid power threat, or call up a few Nashville possibilities, these struggles will continue.  Brandon Boggs had some success in Milwaukee on a short clip.  Taylor Green continues to play well and awaits a possible call up.  And Betancourt just gets worse and worse every time I see him play.  The trade deadline is looming, I'll get into that in an article next week.

To start wrapping up a hodgepodge of numbers, the Brewers starters will be fine.  A few recent woes do not take away from what they have done all season.  But the Brewers bench will continue to be a weakness.  Here are some possible moves:

DFA Betancourt, add bullpen arm
DFA Kotsay, Call up Boggs
Option McGehee, Call up Taylor Green

The Brewers would then see a lineup of


Bench of:  Morgan/Gomez, Boggs, Gamel, Kottaras, Wilson/Counsell.

Boggs and Gamel would provide some power off of the bench with Taylor Green getting a look in the Majors.  Green currently in Triple A Nashville has a line of .309/12 HR/42 RBI and is another lefty to add to the lineup.  He has some struggles against left handed pitching, but how worse could he do than McGehee?  This would also give the Brewers a chance to add an extra arm to the bullpen in the likes of Dillard, McClendon, or DiFelice.

To finish, Brewers fans, just relax.  It's so easy to get down on your team after some early struggles, hell we started the year 0-4.  We got to taste sweetness with a three game lead, and now its turned bitter sitting 2 games back.  Think back to 2010 at this time and you would see the Brewers 10.5 games back of first place.  The Crew clearly need to add some pieces/shift some current pieces around to lock down the top spot as the Cardinals play a much more consistent brand of baseball.  Once Braun is back and healthy and the starting pitching gets back into form the bandwagon will once again re-open for all you current haters.

Questions, Comments, Concerns?  Twitter is the Answer @JamesSmizek


Anonymous said...

great read... keep up the good work!

James said...

And we've won two straight. We Back!

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