The Brewers and Cubs were expected to fight with the Cardinals for the NL Central crown this season, but when the two teams meet in Milwaukee tonight to start a three game series, they’ll be battling for the right to stay ahead of the Pirates.
The Cubs have dominated the series as of late, especially at Miller Park, going 17-8 in Milwaukee since 2007 while outscoring the Brewers 125-90 in that span. This season, the Cubs have won five of the first six meetings against the Brewers, including a sweep early in April.
But a month and a half later, the Cubs (26-31) and the Brewers (23-34) are struggling to stay in contention and could very easily become sellers by this year’s trade deadline.
When the Brewers signed free agent pitchers Randy Wolf and Doug Davis, it was expected that their rotation, which ranked worst in the National League last season, would be good enough for their offense to take care of the rest. Two months later, Wolf and Davis have combined to go 5-8 and have a combined ERA of 5.57, helping the Brewers to the 29th ranked team ERA and 30th ranked WHIP.
Even if Yovani Gallardo and the Brewers sweep the Cubs this week, they'll still be at least seven games out of first.
Yovani Gallardo, who will take the hill tonight against left-hander Ted Lilly, has kept the Brewers out of the cellar by going 6-2 with an ERA of 2.64. The ace has won his last six decisions and has given up more than two earned runs just one time since April 16. The Cubs have avoided Gallardo during the first two series but will face him for the fifth time in his career, where he is 1-1 with a 5.64 ERA.
The Cubs had high hopes on the season after they brought back basically the same team with the addition of Marlon Byrd and the subtraction of hothead Milton Bradley. However, inconsistency has plagued the North Siders, who have had multiple winning streaks of four and multiple losing streaks of the same number.
Aramis Ramirez is batting a measly .168 with just five home runs, Derrek Lee is averaging just .237, and the lack of a leadoff man has made the offense a mystery every game. Byrd and Alfonso Soriano have enjoyed good seasons at the plate, but there has been little balance in a lineup that was expected to help Chicago contend. On the mound, Carlos Silva has found resurgence with the Cubs and is 8-0 with a 2.93 ERA, but the rest of the rotation has failed to follow Silva’s suit.
With both team’s struggling to get to .500, the series just doesn’t have the same flair as it usually does. Both teams come in with roadtrip losing streaks (Cubs: 2-4, Brewers: 2-5) and will look to turn things around, but whoever wins the series won’t really have momentum to build off. Yes, it’s a rivalry series because of the proximity, but until either team starts making some noise in the Central, this week’s series is just another set of games in June.
1. Brandon Jennings is going to be one heck of a talent when he hones in all his skills
After only catching a couple of box scores to start the year, I was able to catch my first Milwaukee Bucks game of the season. While they handed the game away after blowing an 18-point lead in the third quarter to the Chicago Bulls, one guy stood out amongst the rest. Brandon Jennings. Wow, this kid is going to be one special talent. Because there are only a few I’ll start off with the negatives that include a little too much dribbling and some lazy defense that has him trailing off screens.
Now on to the fun stuff. Jennings’ jab shot might not look pretty but he has shot lights out with it. He works so well off the screen and his quickness makes it impossible to guard. I’m going to throw out some big superlatives in the form of players in the NBA, but this is just what his game reminds me off.
His passes have a little bit of Steve Nash to them as he loves to fit the ball in tight spaces. His drive to the lane reminds me of Chris Paul’s: a lot of dribbling and making something out of it at the end. When it comes to his jumper, Allen Iverson comparisons are the first thing that comes to mind. His size is small but his quickness is second to none, and I believe he is already one of the fastest players in the league.
He still acts like a rookie at times and gives the ball away at times, but let’s remember he has played three games in the NBA. The good has outdone the bad tenfold, and for a rookie that’s more than you can ask for. Look out for Jennings in about two or three years when he is able to hit the weight room, adjust to the offense more, and receive more coaching. A spot in the “top five point guards club” might not be too far away.
2. The Packers defense needs to shut their mouth and go play football
Rarely do I ever step out of the Green Bay Packers’ corner, but for the life of me I can not figure out why three well-respected defensive players are freaking out. Charles Woodson, Cullen Jenkins, and Aaron Kampman have all expressed displeasure with the 3-4 defense and feel “handcuffed” by it.
I realize it can be hard to enter a defense where one knows they are not going to be the focal point. In Jenkins’ defense, he would be a stud at the 4-3 defensive end spot and would have many more sacks. Same with Kampman. But Jenkins’ job is to eat up linemen and let linebackers flow in, while Kampman now has some responsibility in pass coverage.
Look, neither are going to go the Pro Bowl even though both have the talent to do so. But when everything is broken down, wins are the most important thing at the end of the day. It’s an extremely humble thing to accept and easy for me to type it out here, but it’s true.
Cullen Jenkins needs to accept his role, whatever that may be, and just play football.
Everything is for the greater cause and in the 3-4 defense there are many spots on the field that are important but will not show up in the box score. What will show up in the box score is the final score. Those defenders need to realize that and shut their anger up.
If they think the defense is the problem and something better could be done, keep it in house and talk to defensive coordinator Dom Capers about it. Don’t cry to the media about how coaches won’t let you loose. That’s not who the Packers are.
3. The Brewers should not trade either Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder
Rumors have swirled, more about Fielder, that one of the Brewers’ 3-4 hitters could be on the move this off-season or in the near future. I can’t believe I am hearing this and hope that it does not come true. Fielder would be more acceptable a loss because he would garner more trade value and his contract is soon up, but the Brewers need to work on an extension.
Breaking the bank for a stud pitcher will be hard to do given the Brewers’ financial restraints, but moving one of your foundation pieces surely isn’t the answer. Fielder is hitting the prime of career and Braun is right on the brink of it as well. It’s the best 3-4 in baseball and kept the Brewers in countless games all year.
Unless they can get a top five pitcher in all of baseball in return, losing Braun or Fielder makes little sense right now. In a year, if Fielder has signaled he will not re-sign then try to go get something. But right now these two players are putting fans in the seats and handing out free baseballs to those in the outfield seats.
Sucks to think that J.J. Hardy more than likely could have been had for someone like Clay Buchholz.
Take a look at Braden Looper’s record this season and you will see 13 wins and just seven losses. The wins constitute a career high for the 12-year veteran and also put him 12th in the National League. But to say that Looper has had a career year or even that he is in the top 20 National League pitchers this season would be misleading. In fact, it would be historically misleading.
Dig a little deeper into Looper’s 2009 campaign and you will find that his ERA sits at 5.12, he has walked 61 batters, given up a league high 37 h0me runs, and his BAA is the worst it has been his entire career. He has struggled mightily to get batters out and has had a less than stellar season. Because of the Brewers’ shallow pitching rotation, they are expected to pick up Looper’s option next season that will keep him in Milwaukee for another season.
You might be asking yourself right now, how in the world has Looper won 13 games, lost just seven, and still been able to have an ERA over 5.00?
Well, Looper leads all of baseball in run support, receiving an average of 7.05 runs in games he pitches in. The next closest in the National League is Jorge de la Rosa at just 6.39. The outburst of run support for Looper this season has included seven or more runs 12 different times.
It's been a very odd statistical year for Braden Looper.
So just how weird can Looper’s season get? Well, he is scheduled to make two more starts for the Brewers this season, coming against the Philadelphia Phillies and Colorado Rockies. Both teams are in line to make the playoffs and rank in the top six in runs scored this season. Looper will have his work cut out for him in both games, but it’s a safe bet that his ERA of 5.12 is likely to increase or at least stay above 5.00.
If that occurs and Looper finishes the season with 13, 14, or 15 wins and less than nine losses and his ERA stays above 5.00, he will become just the third pitcher since 1937 to do so. In 1998, James Baldwin went 13-6 for the Chicago White Sox and posted an ERA of 5.32.
Back in 1937, Roxie Lawson pitched his way to an 18-7 record for the Detroit Tigers while sporting an ERA of 5.26. The Tigers’ offense scored 935 runs that season as Lawson benefited greatly from that run support.
Since 1937, many pitchers have won 13 or more games and recorded an ERA worse than 5.00, but the vast majority (all but two) have had nine or more losses.
If Looper loses both games against the Rockies and Phillies and his ERA is above the 5.00 mark, he will be just the tenth pitcher in the last 40 years to win 13 games and lose nine or less games while having that high of an ERA.
Run support has been an amazing gift for Looper this season, but it has not hid the disappointing statistics outside of wins and losses. Looper will face the Phillies at Miller Park, where he actually pitched six shutout innings last time the two teams met. He will end his season in Colorado, where the home runs are sure to flying in every direction.
Looper has been able to produce victories for the Brewers this season and the Brewers are a respectable 18-13 when he takes the hill, but his season could put him in the record books if he is not able to get his ERA below 5.00.
The year was 2006 and Ryan Howard had just been awarded the National League Most Valuable Player Award. His unbelievable breakout season made him a household name for baseball fans and he has been tearing up the league ever since.
He also watched the playoffs from his couch.
The season in which Howard crushed an astonishing 58 home runs and drove in 142 runners, the Phillies won 85 games but missed out on baseball’s second season. They finished in second place in the National League East by 12 games and missed the Wildcard by just three games. Despite all this, Howard still finished first in the MVP voting and took home the award.
Finishing in second place, and not too happy about it, was Albert Pujols. The Cardinals won just 83 games during the regular season, but it was enough to bring home the National League Central Division Championship. The Cardinals would go on to win the World Series that year, but Pujols was left without the other piece of hardware he felt he deserved.
Last season, Pujols won the National League MVP despite his team finishing in fourth place in the division with a record of 86-76. Pujols hit .357 on the year with 37 home runs and 116 RBI’s, while Ryan Howard finished as the runner-up with 48 home runs and 146 RBI’s. Howard’s Phillies would win 92 games during the regular season and end up winning the World Series.
Prince Fielder's outstanding and powerful year has gone somewhat unnoticed.
Fast forward to this year and there seems to be another question as to who will take home the MVP trophy this season. Without question, Albert Pujols is the front-runner for the award as he has smashed 39 home runs already and has drawn 91 walks compared to just 50 strike outs. His .318 batting average and .441 on-base percentage are excellent and many of his numbers match his outstanding 2006 season.
Trailing him in most hitting categories but closing fast, is Prince Fielder. With his home run in last night’s contest, he now has six long balls in his last eight contests. In that span, Fielder is 10-31 with nine RBI’s.
It seems to be perfect timing for Fielder, who is poised to make a run at the MVP if he can finish August strong and make it through a tough September. The Brewers are fading fast in the standings, and if it weren’t for Fielder it would be going even faster.
However, if the Brewers can get back within shouting distance of the Cardinals for the Central Division and enter relevancy (say, five or six games back), then Fielder talks might begin to heat up. Looking back to 2006 this far into the season, Fielder is having a better season this year than Howard was then in all categories but homers (42 compared to 33) and slugging percentage.
Pujols has posted very similar numbers up to this point in the season as he did in 2006, and if Fielder continues this tear he could give the Cardinals first baseman a run for his money. Right now, no one can stop Fielder and he is doing all he can to help get the Brewers back to where they need to be.
Pujols has Matt Holliday waiting in the on-deck circle when he bats, meaning teams are now being forced to pitch to him instead of pitching around him. For Fielder, a mix of Casey McGehee, Mike Cameron, and Corey Hart has been the answer in the five spot, meaning teams are more reluctant to give Fielder good pitches to hit.
While it will be no easy task to pass Pujols in the MVP standings, the Milwaukee slugger’s recent surge at the plate has made it a competition. Combine that with Pujols’ average second half (.280, seven home runs), and Fielder could make some noise in the race if the Brewers can string together a few wins.
For the last three years, Alcides Escobar has waited in the shadows of minor league ball as he waited for his chance to shine on the big stage. In AAA Nashville this season, he hit for a .298 average while stealing 42 bases and scoring 76 runs in 109 games for the Sounds.
When J.J. Hardy was designated for assignment on Wednesday of this week, Escobar was given his chance to sign with a call-up from the Brewers. Hardy struggled throughout the majoirty of the year and could not break out a slump that saw him hit just .229 with 11 home runs.
Escobar did not make it to Miller Park in time for the start of the Brewers’ contest against the San Diego Padres Wednesday night, but once he got there he made his presence felt.
With his team down by one in the bottom half of the ninth inning, Escobar pinch-ran for Prince Fielder after the first baseman shot a single into right field.
With the Crew down to their last out, Escobar got a great jump off Heath Bell and swiped second base. Mike Cameron would foul out to end the game, but it was great to see Escobar get acclimated to the game so quickly.
In his first career start, Escobar and the Brewers got off to a quick start offensively and ended up hitting five home runs on the afternoon in a 12-9 victory.
Escobar had just one hit in four at-bats, but scorched the ball to left field on one occasion and made the Padres hustle on a routine ground out. His one hit was an infield hit and was a sneak preview of the speed Escobar will bring to the top of the Brewers lineup for years to come.
In his second start, the Brewers’ offense continued to stay hot as they crushed ace Wandy Rodriguez for eight runs in the first inning of an 11-2 victory at Miller Park.
Escobar reached base twice on the night with a walk and a single and showed more patience at the plate.
Tonight, Escobar stayed on the breaking ball extremely well that resulted in two hits. He also went from first to third on a single from Felipe Lopez in the second inning. Running on the play and never slowing down, Escobar did not even draw a throw from Carlos Lee.
He scored twice on the night, and the little plays that Escobar has produced has made things exciting in Milwaukee again. Many have said he will be a future gold glover, and he has made good on all seven chances he has had in the field.
Alcides Escobar has finally arrived and is showing why he is destined to be a star.
While it will take a small miracle to get the Brewers to the playoffs this season, the whole atmosphere at Miller Park has seemed different over the last three games.
Not surprisingly, Escobar has started all three games.
Destined for the lead off spot, Escobar has hit in the nine hole during his first three starts on the team. There, he has reached base in five of 12 plate appearances, good for a .417 OBP. He has done everything right in this small sampling of game time.
While I wouldn’t have called Escobar a bust had he performed poorly in his first three games (and pinch running performance), I won’t dub him ready for Cooperstown just yet. However, it is nice to see the top prospect in the organization play well in his first starts.
Last season, he was a September call-up and had two hits in four at-bats for the Brewers. He seems much more relaxed and patient this season, as seen by his stats.
When looking at Escobar, he looks like a ballplayer that knows what he is doing out there. He has been highly touted his whole career and is now making good on all those scouting reports.
The real question is what general manager Doug Melvin will do with former shortstop J.J. Hardy next season. He will not be a free agent until 2011 because of his demotion this season, and many believe Melvin will look to trade him this off season.
One has to wonder how far Hardy’s stock has fallen with his poor season, but with Escobar taking over, getting something is better than nothing. If Escobar can keep hitting like he has and continues his perfect glove in the field, there’s no reason to believe the Brewers will have to worry about who is starting at shortstop for at least the next five years.
After another embarassing loss to the San Diego Padres, this time in the form of a 13-6 loss in Miller Park, general manager Doug Melvin made a couple of drastic moves in hopes of turning things around.
Pitching coach Bill Castro was fired and replaced with AAA Nashville pitching coach Chris Bosio while the struggling J.J. Hardy was optioned to AAA Nashville and replaced by stud shortstop Alcides Escobar.
For Castro, it was the end of an 18-year run with the Brewers that saw him as the bullpen coach for the first 17 seasons with the club. Unfortunately for Castro, he bit the bullet for a pitching staff that ranks second to last in the National League in ERA, OPS, WHIP, and the number of quality starts.
Things were not made easy for Castro as the Brewers went into the season with an average staff at best and have recently been riddled with injuries to Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan. When players like Carlos Villanueva, Mike Burns, and Seth McClung are making starts for your team, it never makes it easy on the pitching staff.
Melvin is hoping that the move can be a wake up call to the pitching staff that their play has been horrendous this year and that is has hardly gone unnoticed.
Castro’s replacement, Bosio, will have his hands full but also has some experience with the position at the big league level. In 2003, he was the pitching coach of Lou Piniella’s Tampa Bay Rays squad. In 2001, he served as the pitching coach for Triple-A Tacoma (Seattle) and in 2008 was the pitching coach with Double-A Chattanooga (Cincinnati).
It remains to be seen whether he is the long term solution as the pitching coach, but the other move that the Brewers made could very well be long-term.
For as long as he has been on the scene, Alcides Escobar has produced and flashed an outstanding glove. This season in Nashville, he was hitting .298 with with four home runs and 34 RBI’s in 109 games for the Sounds. He also has 42 stolen bases, six triples, and is getting on base at a .353 clip.
Alcides Escobar will finally get his chance to show the Brewers what he can do at shortstop.
As good as his offensive numbers have been this season, Escobar is known more for his glove at shortstop. A potential Gold Glove candidate in the future, Escobar may have just unseated J.J. Hardy for good.
Hardy, who will turn 29 in a week, struggled mightily all season with a .229 batting average and just 11 home runs. He was enjoying his best season in the field, but it wasn’t enough to overlook the struggles at the plate. He was still able to be optioned to AAA, and with the third base situation still a mystery for next year, Hardy’s days at Miller Park might not be over.
The last of the Brewers’ three moves today involved sending Bill Hall down to AAA Nashville and calling up 27-year-old outfielder Jason Bourgeios.
Hall has struggled mightily ever since being awarded a huge salary extension following his 2006 campaign, hitting just .201 in 214 at-bats this season. He homered in last night’s game but it was apparent the Brewers just did not have a spot for him. Having moved from center field to third base and then back to stints in right field, it was time to move on.
Bourgeios has done very well in Nashville this season, posting a .316 batting average with two homers, 41 RBI’s, and a .354 OBP. Known more for his speed, Bourgeios should see some spot starts in right field over the course of the season.
The moves for the Brewers will completely shake the clubhouse and hopefully be a wake up call to the whole team. Hardy was a fan favorite to many and well liked in the clubhouse, while Castro had the longest tenure with the Brewers of anyone in the organization.
More than anything, these moves are a step towards 2010 when the Brewers feel they can start over and try to compete once again. Going back to my article from yesterday, Bourgeios has the potential to start in center field in 2010 if he makes a good showing the rest of the season.
Hall has probably seen his last days in Milwaukee, which is tough to deal with when you consider the money he is set to make for the Brewers this season and next. But a new leaf needed to be turned over, and whenever your top prospect enters the organizaton it definitely says something. Welcome to the Alcides Escobar era, everyone.
I haven’t completely thrown in the towel on the Milwaukee Brewers 2009 season, but it would be put nicely to say things are not looking up. At 55-56, the Brewers are 6.5 games out of both the National League Central and Wildcard and would have to leapfrog multiple teams to accomplish either feat.
No, it seems as though the season is all but over, and anything accomplished from here on out will be an extra bonus. Looking forward to 2010, the Brewers will have a lot of flexibility due to expiring contracts and the development of farm system players.
Mike Cameron’s $10 million salary will be off the books in 2010, as well as Trevor Hoffman’s $6 million and Jason Kendall’s $5 million. This $21 million will surely help the Brewers come closer to locking up two cogs to their future in Prince Fielder and Yovani Gallardo, but it will also let them look at replacements for next season as well.
It’s hard to see the Brewers being in a situation to bring back Mike Cameron next season, leaving a void in center field. Some believe Rickie Weeks might make the transition to the middle outfield spot, but I believe his true position is at second base, despite his less than stellar defense there.
Jody Gerut has turned out to be nothing more than a below-average bat on the bench despite his good defensive play and Frank Catalanotto can not play every day in right field if Corey Hart was to make the move to center.
Tony Gwynn Jr. is looking good right about now, but the fact of the matter remains the Brewers must look elsewhere to fill the need. Prospect Lorenzo Cain has struggled over the last two years in AA Huntsville and is probably another good season away from being called up to take over the reigns.
Blessed with tons of speed and a cannon for an arm, the Brewers could sign a veteran to a one-year contract if they feel Cain will be ready for 2010. One option that the Brewers should look to is veteran center fielder Randy Winn, currently of the San Francisco Giants.
In 2006, Winn was given a three year extension that paid him $23 million over the course of the contract. With his contract expiring after this year, the Giants might be looking to go in a different direction depending on how they fare this season.
Eugenio Velez and Nate Schierholtz are the future of the Giants’ outfield and, at 25 and 27, are relatively young compared to Winn (35). While the Giants’ farm system does not boast many outfield prospects, the Giants have invested big-time money in Aaron Rowand over the next three years and Fred Lewis will come very cheap over the next three years.
Winn has played 15 games in center field this year, but as said before Corey Hart is probably capable of making the transition to center if needed. He is a switch hitter that can bat anywhere in the Brewers lineup and would provide speed to a team ranked at the bottom of the league in stolen bases. Even at 35, Winn has stolen ten bases this season and has been caught just once.
He has seen a drop in his numbers this season, but a new team and an easier ballpark to hit in could do a lot for Winn, who I believe has a lot left in the tank. He would be cheaper than Mike Cameron and would give more offense to a team that has struggled to rally around Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder this season.
If the Brewers are looking for a longer-term solution and do not want to bank on Cain being the go-to guy any time soon, two names to look for are Rocco Baldelli and Marlon Byrd.
Baldelli, 27, has never caught a break in his major league career but has a ton of potential if he can stay healthy. Medical testing in the spring before the 2008 season showed that Baldelli had a disease that gave him muscle fatigue even after the smallest workouts.
Knee injuries and hamstring pulls have hurt Baldelli over the course of his six year career, but most of his issues seem to be behind him now. In the star-studded outfield in Boston, Baldelli has appeared in just 44 games, starting 27 of them. He is batting .261 on the year with five home runs and 17 RBI’s, and would come very cheap to the Brewers next year.
In Milwaukee, he could start in center field and see consistent playing time that would surely make his numbers increase. He would also come at a very cheap price and could have many games played-incentives in his contract.
The case for Byrd would be a more expensive option but would also give the Brewers a powerful threat in the outfield and a great glove in center field.
For the Rangers this season, Byrd is batting .285 with 12 home runs and 56 runs batted in. He also has 34 doubles, which ranks fifth in the American League. At just 31, Byrd still has some good years left in him and if given the right offer, might part with Texas.
The Rangers are pretty much set in center and right field with Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz, and David Murphy is capable of playing left field but projects as a designated hitter. However, the future of Chris Davis might lie in the same position. The Rangers still have two very solid young prospects in Engel Beltre and Julio Borbon, who are both far from the majors but are interesting prospects.
Obviously Mike Cameron is still an option next year, but the Brewers will not pay him even close to the $10 million he is receiving this year. His best years are clearly behind him and it looks like all of his good years are behind him as well.
The farthest position from Cameron on the baseball field, catcher, is another position that the Brewers will need to address next year. Jason Kendall has done an outstanding job calling games for Brewers pitchers and the intangibles he has brought to the team were second to none, but his time in Milwaukee is done.
He will be a free agent next year and, at 35 years old for a catcher, he isn’t likely to see too many offers from teams. Unlike the outfield situation, the Brewers have a few options to fix the void behind the plate from within the organization.
Mike Rivera is the front-runner for the position next year if the Brewers stay within, and would make a fine starter. He has seen his workload increase this season, already passing his games played total (24) from last year (21). As hard as it is for a player to make starts off the bench once every five or six games, it’s twice as hard at the catcher position.
If Rivera is given a full year behind the plate, he will see his offensive numbers increase as well as his decent play behind the plate. He isn’t going to make anyone forget about Yadier Molina, but he is a huge upgrade from Kendall.
Waiting in the shadows of Nashville is current Sounds catcher Angel Salome. Standing at just 5’7″, the 23-year-old power hitter is the best prospect the Brewers have behind the plate and could make a case for starting in 2010. He is still very raw in all aspects of the game, especially behind the plate, and there are question marks over whether he can handle a pitching staff for a whole year.
Jonathon Lucroy is still a couple of years away, but he could battle Salome for the future backstop position. He has shown more talent than expected and is more disciplined as a catcher.
If the Brewers feel their two prospects are not ready and do not think Rivera can handle the responsibilities all year, there are a few options for the Brewers in free agency.
Bengie Molina is the biggest name in free agency, but looking at what he has done with the Giants pitching staff and bullpen leads me to believe he will cash in on a huge payday from San Francisco.
Other options include Rod Barajas, Jason LaRue, Jose Molina, and Greg Zaun. Those four options would come cheap, but the reality of it is that they are all suited better as back-ups. It is not easy to come by a good catcher in the Majors these days, which is why the Brewers will be hoping Salome will be ready to go on Opening Day in 2010.
The Brewers will probably have to part ways with the two veterans in Kendall and Cameron but can make the team both cheaper and better by important signings this offseason. My pipedream would be for Salome to come out of the gates firing and bringing in Byrd to play center field and bat sixth.
Heading into tonight’s action in the National Leauge, it has become apparent that just six teams are left in the league that have a shot at competing for the playoffs, and ultimately the NL pennant.
The Pirates, Reds, Brewers, and Astros really have no shot at winning the Central this year. The Astros and Brewers are within reaching distance but trends say they are out of it.
In the East, the Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves are both inside seven games of the Philadelphia Phillies, but with the acquisition of Cliff Lee to the pitching staff, I will go ahead and say the Phillies are rolling to the playoffs.
In the West, the Diamondbacks are too far out of it and the Padres have officially begun to rebuild and stand no chance in what is easily the toughest division in the National League.
With those ten teams all but out of any race heading into the stretch run of the season, six teams remain that include the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Philadelphia Phillies, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs, the San Francisco Giants, and the Colorado Rockies.
To get the easy stuff out of the way that really does not even need to be broken down, the Dodgers will win the division because they are the deepest team in the league and have one of the best managers in the game.
Joe Torre has his team absolutely rolling on all cylinders and the team is taking care of both the weak competition and the tough. What’s amazing about the Dodgers best record in baseball is that they also have had the toughest schedule to date in the National League, with an opponent’s win percentage of .510.
Against teams with a winning record, the Dodgers are are an NL-leading 34-26 in those games. They have scored the second most runs in the NL, behind just the Phillies, and have the second best team ERA in all of baseball. The bullpen has been shaky and is the one question mark that the team has, but the trade deadline acquisition of George Sherill looks to be huge for them.
They showed no signs of slowing down even when Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games and his presence back on the team has brought them together even more. He has struggled as of late but the young stars in James Loney, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier have picked up the slack.
The other ballclub that has won their division by default (at least in this article) is the Philadelphia Phillies. They have won 20 of their last 28 games and have opened up a safe cushion on both the Braves and Marlins. Even more importantly, they made the trade of the year in acquiring starting pitcher and reigning Cy Young winner Cliff Lee from the Indians.
They gave up a decent amount of minor league prospects but this year’s team was left completley alone. He joins what now looks to be the best starting rotation in all of baseball that is poised for another run deep into the playoffs.
The Phillies have a pretty average looking schedule the rest of the way compared to the other contenders, with 25 games left against teams with winning records and 32 left against losing records.
The Phillies rank fifth in runs and sixth in slugging percentage this year, which is always a good thing when playing in the ballpark they play in. Combined with a now excellent pitching staff and the potential of Pedro Martinez, and the Phillies have great pitching that will get plenty of run support every time one of them takes the mound.
The one division that has not been decided and likely will not be decided until the last week of the year is the National League Central. Going into tonight’s play, the Cardinals and Cubs were tied for the best record in the division. Based on percentage points, the Cubs held a slight advantage over St. Louis.
Looking at the stretch run for both teams, the schedule seems to favor the Cardinals moreso than the Cubbies. Both teams will play 38 games against teams with losing records, but the Cubs will play four more games (19 compared to 15 for the Cards) against teams with a winning record.
Making it even more difficult for the Cubs, 15 of those games against teams with winning records will come away from Wrigley Field, where the Cubs are 24-29. The Cardinals will play nine games at home against +.500 teams and just six on the road.
My money is on the Cards taking the division, and no it has nothing to do with my staunch Brewers homerism. The Cardinals have added their pieces in Mark Derosa and Matt Holliday, and Albert Pujols is more than capable of taking them to the top. They have an easier stretch than the Cubs and overall play better ball.
The Cubs will have a tough time competing just because of their struggles on the road. The stat of having 15 of 19 road games against winning-record teams is a huge disadvantage, but what’s worse is that they play almost half of their remaining games on the road (28 of 57).
As of right now, the National League Wildcard seems as if it will be a three team race, with the San Francisco Giants leading the way, followed by the Colorado Rockies and the loser of the National League Central.
Numbers point to the Giants being the front-runners for a few reasons, with the main one being their unbelievable pitching. They have the best team ERA in the Majors and have two bonafide aces in Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. They are pretty much guarenteed two quality starts every five days.
The Giants finish their season with 28 games against teams with winning records and 26 games against teams with losing records. The majority (16) of their winning-record opponents will have to come to San Francisco to play them.
With the addition of Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Garko to a less than stellar lineup, the Giants look to be in good position to take home the Wildcard.
What will be important is not getting into a slugfest with the Colorado Rockies so that the Cubs or Cardinals sneak right in and both are left out. The Rockies and Giants will meet ten more times before the year is over, and the odds are that whoever comes out on top in that span of games will also meet up with the Phillies in the first round.
The races in the National League, while not featuring the best teams in the world, will be exciting and should come down to the final games of the year.
The always interesting Major League Baseball trade deadline came and went at 3 p.m. central time today as some big names were added to contenders and stellar prospects will now call someplace else home. Since the Matt Holliday trade between the St. Louis Cardinals and Oakland Athletics, there have been ___ trades. While some of these deals can not fully be evaluated until it is seen how prospects pan out, we’ll go ahead and try to do it anyways.
Trade: (July 27th) Cleveland Indians trade Ryan Garko to the San Francisco Giants for Scott Barnes
Who Wins: The Indians officially began their firesale by shipping away their starting first baseman to the Giants who were in much need of a replacement for Travis Ishikawa. Garko gives the Giants a solid fifth hitter in the lineup as they make a run at the NL Wildcard this season. His contract is up at the end of the year but the Giants are expected to at least make an offer to him.
Barnes was 12-3 with a 2.85 ERA for Class A San Jose and was ranked by Baseball America as the Giants’ ninth best prospect in 2009. The lefty has an excellent changeup and projects to be a number three starter in the big leagues.
If Garko re-signs with the Giants it would be a great deal for the them but I believe Barnes can be something special. Still, the Giants got what they needed and take this deal by a small margin. WINNER: GIANTS
Trade: (July 28th) Boston Red Sox trade Mark Kotsay to the Chicago White Sox for Brian Anderson
Who Wins: It was clear that Brian Anderson’s time in Chicago was up as he had been optioned to Triple A and was not in the plans for the future of the White Sox.
He demanded a trade and was given his wish by trading places with the veteran Kotsay. Clearly the Red Sox felt as though they had enough outfield depth on the team and could spare Kotsay to pick up a potential player in Anderson.
Kotsay will be great off the bench for the White Sox as they make a run at the AL Central this year. WINNER: WHITE SOX
Trade: (July 29th) Seattle Mariners trade Wladimir Balentein to the Cincinnati Reds for Robert Manuel
Who Wins: Neither of these players project as much in the big leagues but give both teams some added depth at a few spots. Balentein has more Major League experience and has a better shot at contributing in the near future. WINNER: REDS
Trade: (July 29th) Seattle Mariners trade shortstop Ronny Cedeno, Jeff Clement, Ben Prebanic, Brett Lorin, and Nathan Adcock to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jack Wilson and Ian Snell
Who Wins: This is a very interesting trade for both squads because the Pirates were in a no-win situation with the two players they gave away. Wilson had already denied a contract extension with the team and Snell was very unhappy with his situation in Pittsburgh.
What they got in return was about as much as they could have asked for, including slugger Jeff Clement.
Cedeno was thrown in the deal because the Pirates will need to fill a void at shortstop but is hardly the long-term solution. Clement has a great bat but does not have a true position, seeing time at catcher and first base. He projected as a designated hitter but now will not have that chance in the National League. Pitcher Nathan Adcock sports a great curveball and could be a starter in the future.
Seattle is buying for the future and got one of the best defensive gloves in the game in Wilson, as well as a pitcher with a ton of skill in Snell. While the results have not been there, Snell has potential if he can stay focused and work on his problems.
It’s tough to say that the Pirates could have won this deal because they were dealing with two disgruntled players, so I’ll give this one to the M’s. WINNER: MARINERS
Trade: (July 29th) Pittsburgh Pirates trade Freddy Sanchez to the San Francisco Giants for Tim Alderson
Who Wins: Sanchez adds another much needed bat to the lineup and puts the Giants in great shape to find a spot in the National League playoffs. Along with Garko, Sanchez improves the offense with a .300+ batting average and some power to go around.
However, Alderson is showing a ton of potential and could be an outstanding pitcher in the near future. In three seasons of professional ball, he is 20-6 with an ERA just over three. He sports an excellent curveball and was projected to be a back-end starter in the outstanding Giants’ rotation that includes Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and number one prospect Madison Bumgarner.
Sanchez is a great hitter and an average fielder that puts the Giants in contention. The Pirates were in a no-win situation with Sanchez who, like Wilson, refused to sign a contract extension. What they got is a 20-year-old starter with a ton of potential. WINNER: PIRATES
Trade: (July 29th) Cleveland Indians trade Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, and Lou Marson
Who Wins: The Indians are clearly in selling mode and traded away their second straight Cy Young Award winner to the Philadelphia Phillies who are all of a sudden huge contenders in the National League.
What they got in exchange was a ton of young and talented players that are sure to make a splash in The Bigs in the future.
For the Phillies, they filled up their starting rotation by adding Lee, who is 9-7 this year with an even 3.00 ERA. He will go to a staff that was desparately looking for good pitching and becomes the ace.
They did not have to give up their two best pitching prospects in Kyle Drabek and J.A. Happ, which they would have if they had gone after Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay.
For the Indians, they get two very solid pitchers in Knapp and Corrasco as well as good position players in Donald and Marson. Baseball America ranked the Indians’ return players as the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 10th best players in the Phillies’ farm system.
Still, the Phillies become legitimate contenders with this move and win the deal as well. WINNER: PHILLIES
Trade: (July 30th) Baltimore Orioles trade George Sherill to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Josh Bell and Steve Johnson
Who Wins: The one knock on the team with the best record in baseball was that the bullpen was extremely shaky. Outside of Jonathon Broxton, no one really had the makings up someone you’d like to rely on late in games. Enter George Sherill and that is no longer the case.
Sherill gives the Dodgers a great 1-2 punch in the bullpen and they did not have to give up much to get it. Bell is a solid prospect at third base and projects to be a starter in the big leagues one day, but the Dodgers are completely in win-now mode and were going to do anything possible to pick up a reliever. WINNER: DODGERS
Trade: (July 30th) Pittsburgh Pirates trade Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow to the Chicago Cubs for Kevin Hart, Jose Ascanio, and Josh Harrison
Who Wins: This trade was probably one of the fairest deals of the deadline and it is hard to pick a winner.
For the Cubs’ sake, they received a much needed lefty arm out of the bullpen in Grabow. Gorzelanny had a great 2007 but has not showed much since and is pretty comparable to Hart.
The Pirates free up more cap room and get a decent young pitcher in Kevin Hart. Time is against him as he is already 26 years old, but if he can keep up his solid numbers he will be a steal.
Ascanio still has a lot to prove and Harrison was stuck behind Josh Vitters at third base in the minors so it isn’t a huge loss for the Cubs.
I’ll give the Cubs the win on the trade because it helps them right now (Grabow) and potentially in the future (Gorzelanny) but both sides come out on top here. WINNER: CUBS
Trade: (July 30th) Detroit Tigers trade Josh Anderson to the Kansas City Royals for cash considerations.
Who Wins: No, cash considerations is not a player on the Royals. This trade occurred to shore up a little bit of money before trading for pitcher Jarrod Washburn, so the Tigers make out well here.
The Royals get an average prospect in the outfield that has seen some at bats in the big leagues. For a team to not get a player in a trade makes it hard for them to win the trade, so the Royals get the nod here. WINNER: ROYALS
Trade: (July 31st) Seattle Mariners trade Jarrod Washburn to the Detroit Tigers for Luke French and Mauricio Robles
Who Wins: Both of the prospects that the Mariners received in return have pretty low ceilings and do not project as much in the future.
French is 23 years old and has not produced much, with a 35-43 record as a pro. Robles has more upside than French but is still a pretty big project as he is just in Single A.
Many Tigers fans seemed to be upset to have to part way with Robles, especially with Washburn being a three month rental. Washburn’s contract is up after this season so the Tigers are clearly making their run at the division right now.
If Robles becomes something big, the Mariners will have the advantage but for now it looks as though the Tigers came out on top. WINNER: TIGERS
Trade: (July 31st) Oakland Athletics trade Orlando Cabrera to the Minnesota Twins for Tyler Ladendorf
Who Wins: The Twins must feel that they are contenders in the AL Central by trading for a rental at shortstop in Cabrera. Batting .280 and playing solid defense, Cabrera will help the Twins fight for the top spot.
They gave up very little in Ladendorf who has potential but is struggling in Low A ball. I have always thought that Cabrera was underrated and believe the Twins come out big winners here, especially if they can pull off the upset of winning the Central. WINNER: TWINS
Trade: (July 31st) Milwaukee Brewers trade Vinny Rottino to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Claudio Vargas
Who Wins: Vargas was seeing very little action with the Dodgers but will now be thrown into a Brewers starting rotation that is badly looking for starters who can throw a lot of innings.
His second stint with the Brewers will hopefully see him throw those much-needed innings and keep the Brewers in contention in the NL Central.
Rottino was the starting catcher on Italy’s team in the World Baseball Classic, but at 29 years old was stuck in Double A. With Angel Solome considered to be the future of the Brewers behind the plate, Rottino was expendable.
Both teams made out well on this trade but it will definitely help the Brewers more. WINNER: BREWERS
Trade: Boston Red Sox trade Justin Masterson to the Cleveland Indians for Justin Masterson, Bryan Price, and Nick Hagadone
Who Wins: Martinez is a huge addition to the already powerful Red Sox and probably put them as the front-runners to win it all. He will play first base and enter a very dangerous lineup.
Martinez is signed for this year and has a club option for next year that will most surely be picked up. After that, the Red Sox will obviously have enough money to re-sign him and he should be the first baseman of the future.
He did not come cheap, however. Masterson is already Major League-ready and the other two prospects have a ton of upside.
Hagadone, when healthy, has great stuff and should see the Majors sometime soon. The one question mark is that he is coming off of Tommy John surgery and, as is always the case, he might not stay healthy.
Price is further away in terms of progress but is also younger.
Martinez was sad to leave Cleveland but all the wins he will soon rack up in Boston should put a smile back on his face. Huge win for the Bo Sox. WINNER: RED SOX
Trade: (July 31st) Cincinnati Reds trade Jerry Hairston Jr. to the New York Yankees for Chase Weems
Who Wins: I researched Weems and he does not seem to be a huge talent and Hairston Jr. will provide some good outfield depth and is a good bat off the bench.
He has never been much in the field but has a little bit of pop in his bat. For the Reds, they get rid of some cap room and have a young catcher in the minors potentially for the future. WINNER: YANKEES
Trade: (July 31st) Boston Red Sox trade Adam LaRoche to the Atlanta Braves for Casey Kotchman
Who Wins: I am having trouble figuring out why the Braves would want any piece of this deal. Kotchman is four years younger than LaRoche and has a ton more upside. Past that, he is playing better baseball at this point and is the better player.
The Red Sox somehow dumped a player and got better. For the Braves, they get LaRoche for the second time and now have a decent glove and a power bat to compliment Chipper Jones.
In the end, Kotchman has a ton of upside and is only getting better. WINNER: RED SOX
Trade: (July 31st) Washington Nationals Joe Beimel to the Colorado Rockies for Ryan Matheus and Robinson Fabian
Who Wins: Beimel will help the bullpen out for a Rockies team that feels as though they have a legitimate shot at winning the wild card this season.
For the Nats, it’s more prospects that are more than likely going to fade out. Neither have a ton of upside and do not project as big leaguers. WINNER: ROCKIES
Trade: (July 31st) Cincinnati Reds trade Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart to the Toronto Blue Jays for Scott Rolen
Who Wins: I am a little confused by this deal as Encarnacion is really coming into his own as a big leaguer right now. His stats do not really tell the story, but he is batting .276 in July after coming back from injury.
The Reds are not contenders for anything this year and would have been wise to keep Encarnacion around for a while.
Rolen is having a pretty good year both with the bat and, as always, in the field.
The two prospects that the Reds gave up are both big league material, so this trade is a tad bit confusing. WINNER: BLUE JAYS
Trade: (July 31st) San Diego Padres trade Jake Peavy to the Chicago White Sox for Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard, Adam Russell, and Dexter Carter
Who Wins: Poreda and Richard are two very highly-rated prospects and Richard has already burst on to the scene. Both are young and talented and should be in the Padres’ rotation for quite some time.
Russell and Carter also have some upside, so it was a lot to give up for the White Sox.
However, if they truly believe that they received one of the best five pitchers in the game today (which I do), then it was the right trade to make.
Peavy will be making boatloads of money over the next five years but the White Sox have a lot of money to spend. He will anchor the rotation and move Mark Buehrle back to the number two spot, with Gavin Floyd going third.
Kenny Williams always seems to be making deals, and this one is a huge one, but I believe he made out good on this deal. Peavy had been stuck with a terrible offense for so long but will now get the chance to truly shine.
Poreda and Richard have superstar potential, but any time a talent like Peavy is being dangled in front of you, it’s hard to pass up on it. WINNER: WHITE SOX
Following a pathetic and embarrassing loss for the second consecutive night to the worst team in the Majors before edging one out tonight, it has become quite evident that the Milwaukee Brewers are no longer contenders in this year’s National League Pennant race.
The Brewers have still been outscored in the first three games of their series against the Washington Nationals by a total of 27-16. That’s 27 runs given up to a team with 32 wins this season. The offense has been fine for whatever that is worth and Ryan Braun is starting to heat up in a massive way. Hitting in front of Prince Fielder, Braun had slowed down but now has his batting average up over the .315 mark and has joined Fielder at the 20 home run mark.
Outside of the 3-4 combo of Braun and Fielder, the Brew Crew simply can’t find anyone that wants to drive in runs. J.J. Hardy and Mike Cameron represent the only other Brewers that have driven in over 40 runs this season, but neither of them are batting over .250.
Casey McGehee has been a splendid surprise this year and is a big reason why Mat Gamel will get continued looks in Triple A and be able to improve his overall game instead of struggling in the Majors day in and day out. Craig Counsell has done a great job as the second part of the platoon and has done so much more than has been asked of him.
Corey Hart is as confusing a ballplayer as you are going to find. He has the biggest ups of anyone in the lineup but can disappear for weeks on end. While he is definitely part of the near future (which we will get to in a second), with the Brewers struggling so much it’s hard to watch Hart go about his game.
The offense has not been the problem for the Brewers, however. Fourth in runs scored and eighth in batting average in the National League, combined with two of the best hitters in the league means the Brewers’ offense will keep them in most games. Their home-run hitting “style” means a comeback could be just around the corner at any moment and, as shown by the surplus of come from behind wins, it usually is.
No, the problem this year is clearly in the starting pitching and unfortunately for the Brewers, can not be fixed this year. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Jarrod Washburn, Erik Bedard, and even Doug Davis would be huge upgrades for the pitching staff and might even put them back in the division race.
But my message to Doug Melvin is this: the 2009 season did not go the way that you planned for it to go, but ruining the future for a chance to get your butt kicked by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the playoffs is not the way to fix it.
Let me explain why.
It is obvious that if Melvin were to pull the trigger on a deal, it would be for a starting pitcher. His thought process would have to be that he believes the Brewers are just one pitcher away from being able to contend in the National League Central.
This is hardly the case. Let’s say the Brewers make a deal for Roy Halladay or even Jarrod Washburn and trade only minor leaguers in the process. The newly acquired pitcher would shoot up to the top of the rotation as the team’s ace and be followed by Yovani Gallardo. That one-two punch would be pretty good and definitely be capable of winning the division. Unfortuantely, those two only make up 40 percent of a Milwaukee Brewers rotation that is otherwise incapable of winning anything.
With Jeff Suppan hitting the DL any one of these days and Dave Bush already there, Braden Looper would move into the third spot in the rotation. Following him would have to be Manny Parra and then a combination of Carlos Villanueva/Seth McClung/Mike Burns/Tim Dillard.
Basically, the Brewers are not one pitcher away from becoming a staff worthy of a division crown. While one of those pitchers able to be acquired would help out a ton, throwing three starters with ERA’s over 4.50 and WHIP’s over 1.30 is not going to get it done.
Do the Brewers really trust Braden Looper to win a crucial game three in the playoffs?
The inconsistency of the pitching staff has made it so that not even an ace coming on to the staff would made a big enough difference.
Known for one of the best minor league systems in all of baseball, it’s no secret that the Brewers are loaded with young talent. As can be seen, the talent has transitioned into wins over the last couple of years. The top two players in the organization, Alcides Escobar and Mat Gamel, have shown significant improvements in recent times and are knocking on the Major League door.
In any trade for an ace, one of the two would have to be involved as well as other potential pieces to the future. By forgetting about this season and letting it play out, Melvin will save the future left side of the infield and let the farm system continue to flourish.
J.J. Hardy’s contract will be up at the end of the 2010 season and, as sad as it is for the ladies to see him go, Escobar has not only been waiting in the shadows for his chance to shine, but he has been dominating the minors in that same shadow.
If the Brewers feel Escobar is ready to come up and start at shortstop next year, trading Hardy is an option as a few teams have shown interest this year and that would seem to carry over. As for right now, the general consensus is that Escobar is not quite seasoned enough to take over the reigns of an infield mid-season. What that means is Hardy is unlikely to be dealt before this year’s trade deadline.
While that might not matter if Melvin is considering bagging the season, Escobar’s progress could be messed up if he is thrown into the situation too early, much like a rookie quarterback who starts from day one.
At the hot corner, Mat Gamel is the future and has the potential to hit thirty home runs and drive in 100 runs batting behind the likes of Braun and Fielder. Too many fans expected him to light up the world and become an instant five hitter that would send the Brew Crew offense to the top of the rankings.
While he had his ups and downs, the Brewers’ management saw enough in him to keep him in the big leagues even when he was not starting every day. He batted .239 with four home runs and 16 RBI’s and was getting on base at a .336 clip.
In the field, it became clear that Gamel will not be in the running for any Gold Gloves, but he has an absolute cannon attached to his arm that resulted in some pretty darn good plays.
As we have seen with Rickie Weeks, being patient with Gamel will be key to success in the future, and an impatient move like trading the young third baseman is not the answer this year.
Speaking of Rickie Weeks, it is extremely important that everyone remembers just how big of a season he was having before going down with a season-ending wrist injury. His on-base percentage of .342 in the leadoff spot was outstanding and his nine home runs through 36 games had the Brewers rolling.
The injury could not have been worse for Weeks, who was finally breaking out after some polishing from coach Willie Randolph. The occasional head scratcher error was there but his play in the field was much improved and he showed signs of a young Alfonso Soriano in the lead off spot.
Give him time Brewers fans: Mat Gamel is going to be the real deal.
It’s tough to win a division when your third best hitter (at that point in the season) goes down with an injury that affects the whole team. The trickle effect was seen clearly as Craig Counsell was asked to play much more game after game, Casey McGehee was somewhat discovered but still used more than Macha would have liked. Subsequently, Bill Hall had to play more and Mat Gamel saw inconsistent playing time because of it.
Going back to the farm system, the acqusition of Felipe Lopez meant two minor leaguers in Cole Gillespie and Roque Mercedes left the system for yet another three month rental who will not be back next April.
Next season, a healthy Weeks will be back in the lead off spot and pounding away at the baseball.
Finally, the number one reason why Doug Melvin needs to let the Brewers’ 2009 campaign go already is because it is not neccesarily over. Amazing as it sounds, the Brewers are just four and a half games back of the division leading St. Louis Cardinals.
Winning the division will not be easy by any stretch, but if it is not expected then it becomes a win-win situation. Think about it this way: the Boston Red Sox are three and a half games back in the American League East and nobody is counting them out, right?
Yes, I understand the Red Sox would trounce the Brewers any day of the week, but proportionally the analogy is pretty much spot on.
The Cardinals have traded away young prospects to get much needed offense behind slugger Albert Pujols, but if they can not stay healthy then they are not a lock to take home the division.
The Cubs have been pitching outstanding all year but it still remains to be seen whether or not their offense can stay with them for the stretch run.
The Astros always hang in it but find a way to screw things up with managament and injuries.
The Brewers have the third best shot to win the NL Central behind the Cardinals and Cubs, but it isn’t out of the question to think they can do it. With such a powerful offense that is trying to break the “streaky” tag associated with them and a starting pitcher that does everything he can to get a win every fifth day, they could be one great stretch away from winning it.
If they go ahead and win the division with the team they have right now, then that’s great and they accomplished a whole lot with not a lot of pitching. But Doug Melvin needs to let the weak Brewers try to compete in the weak NL Central.
With the wild card probably coming from the National League West, the winner of the National League Central will more likely than not have a five game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers that should not take five games to determine.
If Melvin is serious about winning a championship, he will not go for it this year because it just isn’t there. If he wants to win a division, then go get Roy Halladay and win 85 games to top the Central. Something special could be brewing (no pun intended) in the near future, and Melvin would be foolish to screw things up on such a weak and unmeaningful season.
While today’s date of July 21st means that there are over ten weeks left in baseball’s regular season and that division races will not heat up for about another two months, the Milwaukee Brewers’ most important stretch of the summer is starting right now. Over the course of the next five weeks, the Brewers will face the Pirates nine times, the Nationals eight times, the Braves three times, the Padres six times, the Astros six times, the Reds three times, and the Dodgers three times.
Do you know what the similarity between all those teams is, outside of the Dodgers?
As of last night, none of them had a record over .500.
It’s an outstanding chance for the Brewers, who have the easiest schedule of any National League team, to gain ground on the rest of the division and have a solid cushion come September.
Over this span of a month and a week, the Brewers’ lackluster pitching staff will have a chance to dominate against some of the worst offenses in the National League. The best offense they will face is the Atlanta Braves, who rank just seventh in the National League in runs scored.
The Brewers’ offense will need to come around and give the pitching staff extra run support if they want to succeed in this stretch. In that span, they will face four pitching staffs in the top ten in ERA in the National League, but also face the Padres (15th) and the Nationals (16th). Let’s take a look at each of the matchups the Brewers will be taking on and how they can fare.
Pittsburgh Pirates: 41-51
The Brewers lost last night’s game to the Pirates, which ended a drought of over a year that the Bucs had not come out on top. In the remaining eight games, five will be played at PNC Park and the other three will be at Miller Park. I believe the Brewers should be able to take three of five on the road from the struggling Pirates and should be able to sweep one of the worst road teams in baseball at Miller Park. Six out of eight wins is easily doable for a Brewers team that has had the Pirates’ number for quite some time.
Washington Nationals: 26-66
The Brewers will play a pair of four-game series against the worst team in baseball in this span and I do not think it is a stretch to say the Brewers can take seven of these games. There is nothing positive going for this ballclub right now and they do not do anything well. The Brewers will send their top four in the rotation at the Nationals when the two teams meet at Miller Park. Washington has been swept an unbelievable ten times this year and has won a series just six times all year. Seven out of eight wins might sound crazy for the Brewers right now, but it could happen pretty easily.
Atlanta Braves: 47-46
The Braves are playing very well right now and are trying to catch up to the red-hot Phillies in the NL East. Unfortuantely for the Brewers, the Braves will send their three best pitchers to the hill in Miller Park next week in Tommy Hanson, Derek Lowe, and Javier Vazquez.. Atlanta has been decent on the road this year and they are a team the Brewers have had trouble with this year. I’d like to see two wins here but think the Brewers will come out with just one.
San Diego Padres: 37-56
Had it not been for the Nationals’ historically bad season, the San Diego Padres would be the laughing stock of the National League. They currently sit 22 games out of first place and, despite playing average baseball at home, can not do anything on the road. For the three games at Miller Park, look for the Brewers to come out playing great baseball against one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball. Four of six games going to the Brewers looks to be a good estimate against a pretty bad Padres team.
Houston Astros: 47-46
The Astros are playing very good baseball right now and are tied with the Brewers in third place as it stands right now. After taking four out of six games in Houston, the Brewers will play the Astros three times at Miller Park and go back to Minute Maid Park again for three. With the ‘Stros playing good ball right now, I could see a split coming in the six games these two teams will play. Houston pitching has been picking it up lately and will keep them in close games.
Cincinnati Reds: 44-48
The three games the Brewers play against the Reds in this span will all come at home, which should bode well for the hometown Brewers. Milwaukee was 4-2 against the Reds at Miller Park and should be able to take two of three from the Reds when they come to town.
Assuming the Brewers are able to take one game from the Dodgers in their three game set, I can see the Brewers going 24-13 in this span, give or take a game. Just because the talent level is down does not mean the Brewers will be able to sit back and relax. They are playing terrible baseball at the moment and will need to pick things up if they want to have a chance. However, when they play their brand of baseball and are on, runs like these are more than capable of happening. 24 wins over this five week span would put the Brewers at 71-59 and likely in first place.
The Cubs will play the Phillies six times, the Dodgers four times, the Rockies four times, and the (hopefully healthy) Mets three times before September. The Cardinals will play the Phillies three times and the Dodgers seven times in that span as well.
The race should be tight because it seems like none of the three teams wants to gain any ground on the other. But the Brewers need to strike now while the competition is not hot because in September, things heat up quickly. In the season’s last month, Milwaukee will play 29 of their last 32 games against teams with a record currently over .500.
If the Brewers are not up at least two games by the end of August, there will be no point in watching in September.
Call me crazy or call me in a bad mood, but the Milwaukee Brewers are not contenders this year. I’m not talking about being a contender for the World Series or even the National League pennant. No, I am talking about being in the race to even come close to winning the National League Central.
You might be asking why so let me tell you.
The Brewers have the worst starting pitching in the National League Central and I really do not even think it is close. First off, we do not have an ace on our staff (Wainwright, Lilly, Oswalt, Cueto, Duke) and at best have a number two pitcher (Gallardo), a number three pitcher (Looper), a number four pitcher (Suppan), a number five pitcher (Parra) and a pitcher that has no place in a major leauge rotation (Burns). If you look at it that way, each one of those pitchers is being asked to bump up a spot and act as something more than they are. Maybe that’s the reason all but Gallardo are having awful years.
Here’s another reason why we have no shot. Outside of Felipe Lopez, Ryan Braun, and Prince Fielder, our offense is as worthless as a toothbrush to a guy with no teeth. J.J. Hardy has one good week for every five weeks of pathetic late swings and misses. Mike Cameron started red-hot then went absolutely ice cold, picked it up recently and is now back to earth. Corey Hart really hasn’t been as good as people are saying and Casey McGehee is more than likely a flash in the pan.
Craig Counsell has been asked to play every day since Rickie Weeks went down and his production has gone way down. It’s been great that he has filled in during such an important time for the Brewers but it’s really starting to fade on me. Jason Kendall has actually been OK but I have more power than he does.
In the bullpen, someone needs to let Seth McClung know that any time he would like to get his head out of his rear end would be fine with me. The 10.13 ERA and 0-2 record in July has been great, pal. And getting a pitch off before Ken Macha could take you out of a game that you completely blew was real classy. Then not looking at him when he took you out of the game? Nice.
Look, we have a shot to win this division because the Cubs use whiffle bats on offense and the Cardinals are using kids off the street to bat behind Albert Pujols. But when I take off the homer goggles that every sports fan in America has for their respective team, the Brewers have A TON of holes that does not add up to a division championship.
Hopefully the arrival of Felipe Lopez (four hits and a walk tonight) and a potential trade of Roy Halladay will change things, but wow do the Brewers look bad as of late. Done with the rant, have a good one Milwaukee.
After splitting a four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds to open up the second half of the season, Doug Melvin and the Milwaukee Brewers made a splash in the National League Central race as they traded for second baseman Felipe Lopez from the Diamondbacks.
Lopez, 29, will be placed in the leadoff spot in the batting order right away to give the Brewers an outstanding bat at the top of the order. With a batting average of .301 and an on-base percentage of .364, the move will allow Jason Kendall to move back down to the eight spot in the batting order. Corey Hart, who also saw at-bats in the leadoff spot, will move back down to the six or seven spot that should give more consistency to the lineup.
Hart batted .250 in the nine games he led off, Kendall was batting .242 there, and Craig Counsell hit .267 batting first. Lopez will give the Brewers an every day player that can lead off and get on for sluggers Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.
Another plus in the trade is that utility man Craig Counsell will go back to his “fill-in” role where he can get more days off and stay fresher in the second half of the season. Casey McGehee will take over responsibilities at third base as prospect Mat Gamel is expected to be sent back to Nashville.
Lopez is able to play second base, shortstop, or third base and was a reason that general manager Doug Melvin pulled the trigger on the trade.
“Felipe is an accomplished veteran player who gives us versatility at three infield positions,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. “He has been a very productive player at the top of the order with respect to both batting average and on-base percentage.”
Felipe Lopez is an excellent addition to the top of the Brewers' lineup.
The trade marks the second season in a row that Melvin has traded prospects for a one-year rental. Last year, C.C. Sabathia came over to the Brew Crew in a trade that sent Matt LaPorta, among others, to Cleveland. With just one year left on his contract and a surplus of middle infielders on the roster, Lopez will more than likely walk away after this year.
This year’s prospects traded to the Diamondbacks included AAA outfielder Cole Gillespie and Class A RHP Roque Mercedes.
Gillespie, 25, has spent four years in the Brewers minor league system and was ranked as high as ninth by Baseball America on the Brewers’ prospects list. In his career, he has a .281 average with 42 home runs and 208 RBI’s in the 398 games he has appeared him. He was struggling this year in AAA Nashville, hitting just .242 with seven home runs and 25 runs batted in.
Mercedes holds a career record of 20-22 with nine saves and a 4.50 ERA, but at just 22 still has a decent amount of potential in him. He has pitched well this year with a 1-1 record and 1.08 ERA in 29 appearances for Class A Brevard County.
The Brewers currently stand in third place in their division, three games behind the St. Louis Cardinals. In a division that is completely up for grabs, any move could be a difference maker and general manager Doug Melvin is hoping this will be it.
Over the next three days, Busch Stadium in St. Louis will be called home to the best of the best as players take part in the Futures Game, the Home Run Derby, and the 80th All Star Game. In years past, one or two Milwaukee Brewers would make the trip to the Midsummer Classic while the rest of the team took their extended vacation while watching the game on the television.
This year, the Brewers will be one of eight teams to have a participant in all three of the events.
On Sunday, AAA-Nashville shortstop Alcides Escobar and A-Wisconsin second baseman Brett Lawrie will participate in the Futures Game to show off their talent and give Brewers fans a taste of what is to come in both the near future and distant future.
Escobar was called up last September when the Brewers’ roster moved to 40 and went one for two with a double. In AAA Nashville this year, he has seen his hitting vastly improve as he enters the game with a .296 batting average with three home runs and 28 RBI’s. He has also contributed 61 runs and 30 stolen bases in the 87 games he has played in this year. Known for his outstanding glove in the field, Escobar is waiting quietly in the wings behind J.J. Hardy at shortstop.
Lawrie is farther away from The Bigs than Escobar but is showing signs that he could get there soon enough. Playing for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers this year, he is batting .269 with nine home runs and 44 RBI’s. Considering he is just 19 years old and was moved from catcher to second base in the middle of the year, Lawrie has done pretty well for himself.
Escobar, from Venezuela, and Lawrie, from Canada, will play on the World Roster against the U.S. Roster in the matchup Sunday. The Brewers have had a very good history with players that have appeared in the Futures Game that includes Ryan Braun (2006), Prince Fielder (2004), Rickie Weeks (2004), Corey Hart (2002), J.J. Hardy (2003), and Yovani Gallardo (2006).
The next night, the fireworks will fly as the Home Run Derby takes place. Contestants in this year’s derby include Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon Inge, Joe Mauer, Carlos Pena, Nelson Cruz, and Milwaukee’s own Prince Fielder.
Hopefully Prince Fielder will fare better in this year's Home Run Derby.
This year, Fielder has torched opposing pitchers for 22 home runs and 78 RBI’s. His slugging percentage is a gaudy .616 and he is getting on base at a .438 mark. This year’s derby will be Fielder’s second of his career. Back in 2006, Fielder hit three home runs in the first round but did not advance.
This will be the third straight year that a Brewer will take place in the Home Run Derby, as last year Ryan Braun advanced to the semi-finals hitting 14 home runs in the two rounds he participated in.
Some skeptics believe that participants in the derby mess up their swing after participating, which has led some of the bigger names to pass on the competition. Braun, who had hit 23 home runs before the All Star Break, hit just 14 after the break in 2008. In 2007, Fielder hit 29 home runs before the derby, but connected on just 21 after.
Either way, Fielder has found a new stroke to his swing that has his right elbow lower, and the benefits have been easily seen.
Tuesday, Fielder will join fellow teammates Ryan Braun and Trevor Hoffman in the 80th All Star Game. Braun will start in left field after receiving the most votes in the National League outfield and Fielder will be a reserve behind slugger Albert Pujols.
Hoffman was added to the roster yesterday after Dodgers closer Jonathon Broxton was ruled out of the game due to a toe injury. It will be Hoffman’s seventh appearance as Fielder and Braun make their second appearances.
Even Rollie Fingers, who played four years in a Brewers jersey, will be participating in the always entertaining Celebrity Softball Game.
All things combined, the Milwaukee Brewers will be represented very well and will look to bring home some hardware as well as a good representation of the ballclub and organization.
After the Brewers suffered their third defeat of a four-game series to the rival Cubs, All-Star left fielder Ryan Braun had seen enough.
In his post-game interview, he expressed his concerns with the starting pitching, the lack of changes made, and the overall direction of the team.
“We need to find a way to throw the ball a little better to have success,” Braun said Sunday. “When you’re constantly behind in games, it’s not easy. It’s not fun. [The Cubs'] starting pitching was clearly a lot better than ours this series…We’re at the point right now where it would be important for us to go out there and acquire somebody.”
My original thoughts after hearing the comments by Braun were fully positive. It’s no secret that the Brewers’ starting pitching, and team for that matter, are starting to struggle mightily, and if nothing changes then it is going to stay that way.
Unfortunately, Mike Burns and Seth McClung are not going to carry any ball club through October and outside of Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers have very little talent on the hill every night.
After all, the Brewers made the biggest move at the trade deadline acquiring C.C. Sabathia from the Yankees and it brought them to the post-season for the first time in 26 years.
While there is no starting pitcher that could match what Sabathia did last year, the Brewers’ bullpen is 180 degrees different and the offense is a year more mature.
Apparently general manager Doug Melvin did not agree with myself or Ryan Braun. The day after Braun’s comments, Melvin fired back with a response to Braun’s requests.
“It was inappropriate for him to say what he said, and I’m not happy about it,” Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Monday. “To make the statements he made and also get on his teammates like that, it was irresponsible on his part. It just ticked me off.”
After hearing Melvin’s comments and thinking more about the situation and how Braun said things, I switched my stance into the general manager’s corner on the issue.
First and foremost, issues regarding the team’s progress and future should be kept out of the media and behind closed doors.
Braun probably meant no harm by the comments and was looking to jump start his team, but calling out any player in the media is not the right way to go.
Anyone who heard Braun’s comments already knew that Milwaukee’s starting pitching was struggling and that Melvin should be trying to acquire someone for the stretch run.
Did Braun need to play Captain Obvious and let everyone know this was the case?
Doug Melvin was smart to shoot down Ryan Braun's comments.
If Braun means what he said, that he meant no harm by the quote, then he should have kept his mouth shut instead of giving his two cents on an issue everyone already knew about.
I also don’t believe we heard Jeff Suppan complaining about the lack of offense in the Cubs’ 2-1 victory over the Brewers or Yovani Gallardo asking for one simple run against the Mets. Granted, Braun has a little more power to say what he wants, but it’s still not enough.
However, Braun DID go to the media and so that stance needs to be addressed as well. The first thing that Braun did wrong was try to one-up the general manager and start calling the shots.
Fans in Milwaukee and Wisconsin know how ugly that can turn (Green Bay, anyone?) When a player starts getting comfortable with the thinking that they are bigger than the team and franchise, things go bad real quick and the general manager is left out to dry.
Melvin did the right thing by taking a stand against Braun and making sure he knew that Braun can hit in the three spot and play left field, and Melvin will take care of who suits up around him.
Calling Braun out also saved Melvin’s rear from having to make a move. To the average Brewers fan that doesn’t understand the ins and outs of managing a team from the front office, when Ryan Braun speaks, everyone listens.
Those fans that heard Braun send out a verbal S.O.S for starting pitching would have started calling for Melvin’s head had he not have put down Braun’s talk.
Think about it: you can just picture the guy behind you in the stands at Miller Park going absolutely bonkers when Jeff Suppan is pulled in the sixth inning after allowing four runs. “Come on Melvin, you heard what Braun wants! Get it done!”
Speaking of trying to get a deal done, Melvin is not playing MLB Baseball 2009 for the XBox 360.
He isn’t plugging in Jarrod Washburn into a deal and re-arranging players until the Mariners’ interest is high enough where he can press the “A” button and Washburn is magically sent to the Brew Crew.
Melvin has a million different factors to take into consideration when trying to get a deal done for the Brewers. Who’s to say he hasn’t been on the phone 24/7 trying to get a deal done with “Team X” but can’t find the right fit for the ball club.
Melvin has to take into account the future of the Milwaukee Brewers and is not willing to give up the heart of it just to make the wild card this year. He has already talked about last year’s trade and how giving up Matt LaPorta was a huge deal to the organization.
Ryan Braun should just let his hitting do the talking.
While Milwaukee’s scouts seem to churn out talent, he can’t keep giving it away at any cost for a year or two of a “difference maker.”
Mat Gamel and Alcides Esocbar seem to be the future of the left side of the infield for the Brewers and Melvin is intent on keeping that intact.
What that means is a top-of-the-line trade deadline pitcher is probably not going to happen and that the Brewers will have to deal with that.
While some argue that this year is different in that the Brewers would not be using their acquired pitcher as a “rental” like Sabathia last year, in a sense it still is.
Cleveland’s Cliff Lee is signed through 2010 and Jake Peavy is signed through 2013, but if Melvin gives up a player like Gamel or Escobar, there’s a good chance they outplay whichever pitcher is acquired.
Even if you look past Lee and Peavy (not really an option, but was earlier), Doug Davis, Jarrod Washburn, and Eric Bedard, all who have been associated with the Brewers in a trade, are done after this year.
While Davis might not require a top-of-the-line prospect, it goes back to the whole rental style of trading that Melvin just doesn’t want to deal with this year.
If Doug Melvin does not believe the Brewers have a legitimate shot at winning the World Series this year, or even the National League Central. there is no reason to throw away a key cog of the future in Gamel or Escobar.
It might be the fun thing to see a new starter in a Brewers’ uniform taking the hill after the All-Star Break, but be patient and watch how fun it will be to see Gamel hit 30 home runs and Escobar to play Gold Glove defense for the next eight years.
Overall, the media outbursts of Melvin and Braun went on the back burner after both made up through the same outlet and things seem to have cooled over. Melvin is looking forward and Braun says the two are “cool”.
A deal may or may not get done, but one thing is for sure: Ryan Braun is sure to think twice before opening his mouth to the media in the future.