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.
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.
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.
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.
As the Brewers head out to Wrigley Field to begin a four-game series tomorrow, glaring holes on each team will match up against each other and more than likely decide the outcome of the series.
Sitting 3.5 games back of the Brewers in the standings, the Cubs will look to pick up some ground in the NL Central race before the All Star Break hits and, more importantly, get their star slugger back in Aramis Ramirez.
Until the third base slugger comes back on Monday, the day after the Brewers series ends, it looks as though the Cubs’ offensive struggles will continue.
The Cubs will enter the series batting .244 as a team, ranking 28th in all of the the major leagues. Ryan Theriot leads the team with a .286 batting average on a team that has struggled with consistency all year.
Despite one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball in terms of ERA this year, the Cubs still sport a record under .500 at 37-38.
When trying to break down the team’s issue, all problems seem to lead back to leadoff man Alfonso Soriano. With a batting average of .230 and an on-base percentage under .300, his stats are less than stellar for the top spot in the batting order.
While he has only had eight at-bats away from the leadoff spot (1-8 as the three hitter), his struggles at the plate warrant a drop in the order that everyone but manager Lou Piniella seems to agree with.
Milton Bradley and Kosuke Fukudome are probably the most expensive .239 and .260 hitters in all of baseball but are heading in directions as we enter the month of July.
Fukudome, who ended April with a .338 average, has seen his average dip all the way down almost 80 points, including a .169 average in July.
For what it’s worth, Bradley hit .273 in June but still has less RBI (17) than Bill Hall, Casey McGehee, and Jason Kendall. To put his year in perspective, Aramis Ramirez had 16 RBI in his first 18 games before injuring himself.
As a team, the Cubs are batting .216 with runners in scoring position which is easily dead last in the MLB, but also rank just 23rd in at bats with RISP.
For a team that has struck out 580 times this year, the Cubs also have the worst batting average in the league when behind in the count (.173).
The woes of the offense have been exposed this year and because of financial restrictions, benching or sending down everyday players just isn’t an option.
Players like Micah Hauffpauir and Jake Fox have seen inconsistent at bats because of it and their progress has been flawed some because of it.
For as much as the North Siders have struggled on offense, the Brewers’ starting pitching has been almost as bad. When C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets bolted for free agency, the one unit that needed to step up was the starters.
Yovani Gallardo’s time has arrived and can now be considered the ace of the staff as he sports an 8-5 record with a 2.75 ERA, 114 strikeouts, and a .193 BAA.
Unfortunately for the Brewers, Gallardo will not face the Cubs after going up against the Mets on Wednesday.
On the year, Brewers starting pitching ranks 25th in all of baseball with a 4.88 ERA and has walked 183 batters, fourth most in the majors.
After a stellar month of April and half of May that saw the starters lead the league in quality starts, Manny Parra has been sent down, Dave Bush is now on the DL and the pitching is in shambles.
Seth McClung, set to pitch the opener of the series, will make his second start since coming out of the bullpen to take Bush’s place in the rotation.
McClung was on a 75-80 pitch count in his first start this year (he ended up throwing 77 in four innings) as he works to stretch his arm out as a starter.
He has been one of the better pitchers in the bullpen this year, but questions arise whether moving him to the rotation will throw off his rhythm.
He will make his first career start against the Cubs, where as a reliever he is 1-0 with a 2.55 ERA in 10 appearances against Chicago.
While McClung has not contributed to the starting rotation’s poor stats this year, Braden Looper sure has. Looper has been extremely inconsistent this year but has found himself pitching well against poor offensive teams.
However, Looper has struggled mightily on the road with a 2-3 record and a 6.67 ERA, compared to a 4-1 record and 4.03 ERA at Miller Park.
In his first start of the year, Looper pitched five innings of one-run ball against the Cubs in a game the Brewers would win 4-3.
It will be evident very early which Looper Brewers’ fans are going to see and, with a 6.06 ERA in June, it might not be the one they want.
Jeff Suppan showed signs of a turnaround early in June with four straight starts pitching five or more innings and giving up less than three runs.
However, his last three starts have been just as bad, giving up 12 runs in 16.2 innings, going 0-2. One thing going for the Brewers is that Suppan is 4-1 away from Miller Park, but is 0-2 against the Cubbies this year with a 7.45 ERA.
The Brewers are really counting on Suppan to turn things around as a second workhorse will be necessary as August and September come upon us.
The struggles for each team will collide starting tomorrow, and something is going to give for one of them. The Brewers will look for more consistency from their pitching while the Cubs continue to try to get on the right track from the plate.
Odds say the Brewers’ pitching is more likely to come around because it has been there.
Aramis Ramirez will be a huge lift for the Cubs’ lineup, but until he comes back it will be more of the same in Wrigley. However, if there was a series for the North Siders to get back on track, this would be it.
Catcher: Bengie Molina, San Francisco Giants
Molina leads all catchers in the National League with ten home runs and 36 RBI’s and is one of the best defensive catchers in the game. He has commanded a great pitching staff to go along with his offensive numbers and has the Giants flying under the radar.
First Base: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
This is about as big of a no-brainer as you can have here in taking Pujols. While there are other first basemen having great years, Pujols gets the job done everywhere and is putting up ridiculous numbers with 23 home runs and 58 runs driven in, all while batting .323.
Surprise, Surprise: Albert Pujols will be starting at first base for the NL All Stars.
Second Base: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
Utley is also a pretty easy choice here at second base as no one can match his power numbers on offense (15 home runs) and amazing on-base percentage (.490). He does a little bit of everything on offense but has been a little shaky on defense this year with five errors.
Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins
While the popularity contest is holding strong with Jimmy Rollins leading the votes here, Ramirez is putting together a great year that can not go unnoticed. I have seen him play two series against the Brewers this year and he has been unbeatable.
Third Base: David Wright, New York Mets
While his power numbers are down (just four home runs), Wright is batting .357 and has stolen a ridiculous 18 bases this year. He has been keeping the up-and-down Mets afloat so far and, in my book, slightly edges out Ryan Zimmerman for the starting nod.
Outfield: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Braun is quietly putting up outstanding numbers that have been overshadowed by Prince Fielder’s MVP-type first half. For the year, Braun has hit 14 home runs and 46 RBI’s while batting .318.
Outfield: Raul Ibanez, Philadelphia Phillies
PED accusations or not, Ibanez has put up monster numbers and, despite going on the DL today, is a sure-fire starter in this year’s All-Star Game. The Phillies’ fans crazy voting numbers and Ibanez’s 21 home runs and 57 RBI’s are a pretty good combo to get a starting nod.
Outfield: Carlos Beltran, New York Mets
After Braun and Ibanez, the third spot in the outfield is up in the air. In the actual fan voting, Philadelphia’s Shane Victorino and even Manny Ramirez are keeping pace with Beltran, but it’s hard to argue against what Beltran has done this year. As always, the five tool center fielder is putting up great numbers and should start in the Midsummer Classic.
Starting Pitcher: Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants
Cain has been dominating this year with a 9-1 record and a 2.39 ERA. While his strikeout numbers aren’t great and he walks a fair amount of batters, he finds ways to get outs and win ballgames. In his starts this year, the Giants are 10-3.
Pitcher: Chad Billingsley, Los Angeles Dodgers
Billingsley has struggled as of late but still continues to be the workhorse for the Dodgers pitching staff. He has posted a 9-3 record with an ERA under three and also struck out over a batter per inning.
Pitcher: Dan Haren, Arizona Diamondbacks
Haren might be the best pitcher with a 5-4 record on the planet, as he boasts a 2.20 ERA and has walked 13 batters in 90 innings. His WHIP stands at 0.81 (no one in the NL has a WHIP under 1.00) and in his four losses, his offense has scored two runs while Haren has given up seven.
Absolutely no one has stopped Matt Cain this year, making him the starting pitcher for the NL.
Pitcher: Johan Santana, New York Mets
As bad as his last outing was against the Yankees, Santana is still a sure-fire all star this year. He has struck out 94 batters in just 82 innings while winning eight games already. I’ve mentioned this stat before, but in Santana’s first two losses, he gave up a combined zero earned runs.
Pitcher: Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers
Gallardo has really stepped up his game this year and has become the ace of the first place Brewers. He sports a 7-3 record with a 2.93 ERA and opponents are batting just .193 against him, good for fourth in the National League. Command has been an issue as of late but he has also struck out 85 batters this year.
Relief Pitcher: Francisco Rodriguez, New York Mets
K-Rod has been just as good this year as he was last year and, outside of the number of saves, one could argue he has been better. He has 17 saves on the year with just one blown and sports a 0.56 ERA in 32.1 innings.
Relief Pitcher: Heath Bell, San Diego Padres
When Trevor Hoffman bolted to Milwaukee in the off-season, the biggest question was how the Padres would replace the all-times saves leader. Well, Bell has been every bet as good as Hoffman was and earns his first All Star appearance because of it. He leads the NL with 18 saves and a 1.56 ERA.
Relief Pitcher: Trevor Hoffman, Milwaukee Brewers
Despite missing the first month of the season with a rib injury, Hoffman is still at the top of the leaderboard with 17 saves and a 1.31 ERA. Despite being shaky as of late (a loss and a blown save in his last two appearances), Hoffman has walked just three batters in 20.1 innings and has blown just the one save.
Backup Catcher: Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves
McCann leads all National League catchers with a .325 batting average and has six homers on the year to go with 25 RBI’s. These numbers are even more impressive considering he has missed a decent amount of time with injury this year.
Backup First Baseman: Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers
An easy choice here as Fielder is as close to a starting nod over Pujols as anyone ever has been. He leads the Major Leagues with 64 RBI’s and is batting over .300 with 16 home runs. After Ibanez, Fielder is next in line in the MVP talks.
Backup Second Baseman: Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds
Phillips is enjoying a nice year just as long as he keeps his mouth closed (stated the Reds were better than the Brewers after being swept by them…) and is a solid choice as a reserve. He is batting .280 this year with ten home runs, 43 RBI’s and eight stolen bases.
Backup Shortstop: Miguel Tejada, Houston Astros
Where is this Miguel Tejada coming from? On the year, the 35-year-old veteran is batting .342 with six home runs and an NL shortstop-leading 37 RBI’s. His defense is down but his bat has all but mad up for it this year.
Backup Third Baseman: Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
It would be an understatement to say Zimmerman is the bright spot on a rather dark season for the Nats. Zimmerman has hit 12 home runs this year and leads all third basemen with 42 RBI’s. Zimmerman will easily be the lone rep for Washington.
Backup Outfielder: Nate McClouth, Atlanta Braves
While he is not getting much love from the fan vote, McClouth is putting together an outstanding year. For some reason, the Pirates did not want his ten home runs, 36 RBI’s, nine stolen bases, and gold glove defense. The All-Star roster should suit him just fine this year.
Backup Outfielder: Brad Hawpe, Colorado Rockies
Say what you will about Coors Field, Hawpe is having a fantastic year and deserves to play in the All-Star Game. At .343, Hawpe leads the National League in batting and also has nine home runs and 47 RBI’s to go with it. His 23 doubles also lead the National League.
Everyone talks about Manny in LA's outfield, but Matt Kemp is putting together a great year.
Backup Outfielder: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers
Somewhat of a sleeper pick here, but I love Kemp’s game and believe that he is an All Star this year. He has put his whole repertoire in front of the national spotlight and the results have been eight home runs, 37 RBI’s, 16 stolen bases and a .316 batting average. Kemp ranks first or second in all of those categories for center fielders.
Best of the Rest: Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
Apologies to Adrian Gonzalez, but I give the nod to Howard in this case. Maybe it’s that he got hot too early in the voting or that he plays on the west coast, but I like Howard’s game more and think he deserves this spot. Howard has 19 home runs and 51 RBI’s on the year, so this selection isn’t terribly biased.
Best of the Rest: Freddy Sanchez, Pittsburgh Pirates
Every team must be represented in the All Star Game, and since Nate McClouth no longer sports the black and gold, Sanchez gets in as the lone representative. On the year, Sanchez is hitting his usual .314 with an on-base percentage of .355 with 36 runs scored.
Best of the Rest: Orlando Hudson, Los Angeles Dodgers
While Hudson has cooled off somewhat, his statline this year has been very solid and has earned himself a spot on the roster. His .310 batting average to go along with a .388 on-base percentage has kept the Dodgers offense rolling without Manny Ramirez. He also sports a .987 fielding percentage, good for third in the NL.
Best of the Rest: Ted Lilly, Chicago Cubs
I have become a huge fan of the North Sider southpaw and he is deserving of an all-star spot this year. At 7-4, he has led one of the best rotations in baseball with a 2.94 ERA and just 20 walks in 85.2 innings.
Best of the Rest: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
Although he has been overshadowed by Cain’s dominating stuff this year, Lincecum has done more than hold his own with a 6-2 record and 112 strikeouts in 96 innings to lead the National League.
Adrian Gonzalez might make the All Star team, but is he really better than Ryan Howard?
Best of the Rest: Jason Marquis, Colorado Rockies
Pitching in Colorado is never easy but Marquis has stepped up to the challenge and done an excellent job. While his numbers are better away from Coors Field, he still has eight wins on the year with an ERA under four.
Best of the Rest: Josh Johnson, Florida Marlins
Johnson might be one of the best pitchers that no one talks about, sporting a 6-1 record with an impressive 2.76 ERA. The Marlins are 11-3 when Johnson takes the hill, and the tall right hander owns a 2.02 ERA at home.
Best of the Rest: Jonathon Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers
Broxton has been crazy good this year with a 6-0 record to go along with 16 saves. The flame thrower has struck out 53 batters in 33 innings, meaning that over half of his outs recorded come by strikeouts.
Fan Vote-In: Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks
Upton, May’s Player of the Month, has been very good this year on an average D-Backs squad. The 21-year-old is batting .308 with 12 home runs and 38 RBI’s and has scored 40 times on the year. He also has four triples and an on-base percentage close to .400 (.391).
Apologies To: Juan Pierre (LAD), Pablo Sandoval (SF), Shane Victorino (PHI), Adrian Gonzalez (SD), Zach Duke (PIT), Johnny Cueto (CIN), Adam Wainwright (STL), Wandy Rodriguez (HOU)
Just feeling a quick blog tonight after coming out of my state of shock that Trevor Hoffman is indeed human. Here’s my current power rankings for the MLB as of tonight with a sentence on each squad.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (42-22): Unbelievably, this team has not missed a step after losing slugger Manny Ramirez and is easily the best team in baseball right now.
2. Boston Red Sox (38-25): Their dominance over the Yankees has pushed them into first place in the AL East and David Ortiz is slowly coming around.
3. New York Yankees (36-27): Mark Tiexiera and C.C. Sabathia are finally making good on the huge contracts they signed last off-season.
4. Philadelphia Phillies (36-25): Raul Ibanez has been fantastic and their 23-9 record away from home is unbelievable.
5. Texas Rangers (35-27): Nelson Cruz has been fantastic this year and the Rangers are more than staying alive without Josh Hamilton…so far.
6. Detroit Tigers (34-29): Edwin Jackson looks like the real deal and the Tigers are atop the competitive AL Central.
7. St. Louis Cardinals (34-30): When their rotation is pitching well, they are the best team in the NL Central.
8. Milwaukee Brewers (34-29): Their current rotation is not going to do enough damage to win the division and the bullpen is starting to come back down to earth.
9. San Francisco Giants (34-28): If it weren’t for the Dodgers, we would be talking about the Giants much more.
10. Tampa Bay Rays (34-31): Evan Longoria is keeping the Rays alive but they need to start playing better in close games.
When Rickie Weeks suffered a torn tendon in his wrist, the Milwaukee Brewers knew that their offense would suffer. But not this much.
Since Weeks went down on May 17th against the Cardinals, the Brewers have batted .240 as a team and their offense has looked completely out of sync.
Craig Counsell, slated as a back-up spot starter at the beginning of the year, has played 11 of the last 12 games and has seen his batting average drop 26 points to .312.
No one expects him to keep up that pace and more are concerned about how long his knees will hold up being an everyday starter. He has played picture perfect defense on the other side of the ball and is the closest thing the Brewers have to a lead off man on offense, but with 110 games left in the season, only time will tell if he can keep this up.
J.J. Hardy rebounded from an awful April with a .313 batting average in May and already has two hits in June. He has walked 19 times on the year and has a .398 on-base percentage since May 1st.
Hardy’s best bet to get on base this year has been in the two hole, making sense considering sluggers Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder await after him. There is no reason Hardy would be taken out of the lineup but moving him in the lineup might make sense.
Ken Macha recently said that he saw some mechanical tweaks in Corey Hart’s swing that leads him to believe he is ready to break out. Since Macha’s prediction, the right fielder is 6-14 (.428) with just one strikeout in 15 plate appearances.
Hart raised his batting average 14 points in that span and has looked a lot better at the plate. Hart has some experience batting in the lead off spot, stemming from last year, but has seen no success (5-22, 5 K) this year.
What happens at third base is anybody’s guess but my gut feeling says the fact that Mat Gamel is still with the team in between interleague series means that he will still be there after. He has not had that many plays at third base but still has just one error in 36 innings.
In comparison, Bill Hall had three errors in 115 innings, good for an error every 38.1 innings. Hall batted .136 in May and had an on-base percentage of just .197. While Gamel struggled at times last month, he came up with a couple very clutch hits and had an on-base percentage of .333.
For whatever it’s worth, Gamel’s best stats have come batting in the seven spot which is where I would project him to play on an every-day basis.
Two wildcard bench players that could also affect decisions are Casey McGehee and Jody Gerut. I am not a huge fan of giving McGehee any time at third base and it looks like that experiment is over, but I do think he is capable of playing more good innings at second then he has been given.
As for Gerut, he has come in as a decent pinch hitter and defensive replacement, but if Hart were to be traded, I really do not think he is good enough to platoon with Frank Catalanotto.
As for Catalanotto, he has really proved to be a decent option that can give good innings and spot starts in right field. His average stands at just .231 but is two for six when he starts a game. At 35 years old, playing every day is probably out of the question but he will continue to be a solid bench player.
So what to do? The Brewers have had five different lineups the last five days and, to put it nicely, it has been ugly to watch. The batting order has not been smooth and it seems that instead of putting runs together in an inning, it’s home run or bust.
Starting top to bottom, Hardy should be inserted into the lead off spot. Take a second and breathe before you jump to the comments section and tell me why I’m wrong. Hardy has showed very good patience and is hitting for better average than any other Brewer is right now.
Yes, he strikes out more than Counsell but also draws more walks than he does. Weeks struck out 39 times in 37 games before his injury but was a power threat and drew walks because of it.
In the two spot, Counsell would fit perfectly. He is batting .395 batting in the second spot this year and is getting on base almost half the time there (.478). Counsell gives the Brewers options to bunt, hit the ball to the right side, or hit and run with Hardy on base. He has struck out just 15 times this year and likes to pull the ball on the ground, perfect for a two hitter.
Braun, Fielder, and Cameron have been the constants in the Brewers lineup and will continue in those spots.
In the six spot, Corey Hart makes the most sense considering who is left in the lineup. For as much heat as he has taken this year, his .258 batting average is not terrible and hopefully he is turning the corner. Unless Jake Peavy is in the deal, dealing Hart would be a mistake for the Brewers.
Mat Gamel would see his production at the plate increase...if he got the opportunity.
After Hart, (hopefully) Mat Gamel gets enough at-bats that we can call him the starting third baseman for the Brewers. This has nothing to do with wanting the future now or any vendetta I have against Hall.
Gamel has fared quite well on the defensive side of things and it’s not like Hall was Mike Schmidt at the hot corner. Giving Gamel consistent at bats is going to improve his rhythm at the plate and his production should directly see improvement with it.
The ageless wonder Jason Kendall will stay in the eight spot, floating above the Mendoza Line while still being outstanding calling games defensively.
On off days for Counsell, McGehee can either be inserted into the two spot or moved to the seven spot while Hart moves to second and Gamel moves to sixth. Catalanotto, Gerut, and Hall are all interchangable batting sixth or seventh, and I would even trust Catalanotto to bat second on a given day.
Maybe I just hate change, but I think finding a consistent lineup goes a long way to keeping player production steady. The Brewers are hardly fading as they were not going to reel off 22-5 spurts the rest of the year.
However, there is room for concern if they continue to regress on offense. Their pitching has struggled and, as good as the bullpen has been this year, it means nothing if they are losing late in the ballgame.
A shakeup in Milwaukee’s lineup was inevitable when Weeks went down, but it can not happen every day. Macha is going to need to find something that works soon if the Brewers do not want to fade from contention in the NL Central.
Hardy is not the conventional lead off man, but neither was Weeks. Everyone knows the Brewers are not going to run much so having Hardy there is not a huge drop off. It might seem rash, but something’s gotta give.
The Milwaukee Brewers were not expected to repeat last year’s success that culminated in a 90-72 record and a Wild Card berth. However, 45 games into the 2009 season, the Brewers are clicking and hold a one game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. I am running short on time, so in 25 questions (=25 roster players) let’s take a look at what the Brewers have done this year and what lies ahead.
Craig Counsell has filled in nicely as a utility player for Ken Macha’s squad this year, but how many good innings can he play on those knees?
After trade rumors swirled in the off-season, Mike Cameron is enjoying his best year by far with the Brewers, but will his hot start hold up?
J.J. Hardy has been stellar in the field this year, but will his bat pick up enough to keep Alcides Escobar down?
It seems as though Yovani Gallardo is quickly becoming an ace for the Brew Crew as he holds a 4-2 record with a 3.32 ERA, but will he be up to the challenge of throwing countless innings into October?
Jorge Julio has eaten good innings for the Brewers, but will he ever be good enough to be used in a non-blowout role?
When Rickie Weeks went down for the year, Casey McGehee stepped in and has played very well as a stopgap at second base, but how long will his run last?
Trevor Hoffman has been as good as he can be, but will he wear down over the course of the year?
The new-comer Jody Gerut gives the Brewers a good glove in the field and a lefty bat off the bench, but can he give Ken Macha a good start every now and then?
Prince Fielder is having an outstanding year for the Brew Crew. Can he keep it up?
Prince Fielder has trimmed down his weight but beefed up his numbers as he is second in the National League in RBI’s and walks, but will his average be good enough all year to warrant the walks?
Braden Looper started off the year blazing hot but should we believe his April (2-0, 2.46 ERA) or May (2-3, 6.04 ERA) stats?
Last year’s All Star Corey Hart has really struggled at the plate this year, but will he regain his plate discipline he had at the beginning of the year?
Dave Bush has been the second best pitcher for the Brewers and ranks 10th in the National League with a 1.11 WHIP, but will he ever pick up his performance on the road?
No one calls a better game than Jason Kendall, but is he going to be an automatic out all year?
Mark DiFelice is one of the main reasons why the Brewers have the third best bullpen ERA in the majors (3.51) as he sports a 1.31 ERA in 20.2 innings, but can he keep it up?
Recently called up veteran Frank Catalanotto will add good veteran depth to a young Brewers ballclub, but how much use will he actually get?
Ryan Braun has done everything asked of him and more and is the main key to the Brewers’ success at the plate this year, but will his continued antics get him a fastball to the noggin?
Carlos Villanueva has a rough start to the year in the closer’s role but has settled down since, sporting a 1.63 ERA in the month of May, but will he ever pitch in the clutch?
Breaking out of a 1-28 slump with a game-winning RBI single today, Bill Hall will hopefully rebound from a terrible start thus far, but how close is Mat Gamel to starting?
Todd Coffey is still mowing down hitters with a 2.95 ERA, but did he lose most of his value when Trevor Hoffman came back?
Manny Parra‘s stats do not completely do him justice as he has had five quality starts this year, but will those bad starts go away?
Mat Gamel has the bat to be the future five-hitter for the Brewers, but will his glove always be an issue?
No one seems to be talking about Milwaukee's Mitch Stetter as a great lefty-killer.
Very quietly, Mitch Stetter is killing lefties (.115 BAA), but can he control the amount of walks he gives up?
Seth McClung has given good innings for the Brewers, but will he succeed if called upon for a spot start?
Jeff Suppan has been more consistent of late, but is his age starting to catch up to him?
Dubbed Dave Bush’s personal catcher, will Mike Rivera ever be more than a back-up?
Alright everyone, get your payroll jokes and your “Where’s your World Series Championship trophy?” jokes out of your system before you start reading. Yes, since the Milwaukee Brewers came to be in 1969, they have not won a World Series and have won just a single pennant in that span. And of course, living north of Chicago, we all know the Cubs are the greatest thing since sliced bread. “Wrigley North” is a cute little joke for Cubbies fans who drive up to Miller Park to watch the Cubs play, even though they are jealous that we have a giant “TV” in center field that most 21st century stadiums call a jumbo-tron. But enough on that and the jokes that Brewers fans take when they talk to Cubs fans. My question is this: are the Brewers quickly closing the gap on Chicago’s loveable losers?
The Cubs opened the 2009 season with the third highest payroll in baseball at $134,809,000, good for second in the National League behind the New York Mets. The Brewers on the other hand, began the year with a payroll of $80,182,502, good for 8th in the National League and 16th in the Majors. So much does does $54,626,498 buy? Apparently not a whole lot. I went ahead and broke down each position from both teams to see where this $54 million is being spent.
Cubs: Geovany Soto, .188 BA, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 0-5 SB, 4.84 CERA, $575,000
Brewers: Jason Kendall, .222 BA, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 4-17 SB, 4.19 CERA, $5,000,000
Geovany Soto is by far the better catcher than Jason Kendall and comes at a cheaper price. The reigning NL Rookie of the Year has not done much at the plate this year and has failed to throw out a baserunner, but odds say that he will come around as the season progresses. Behind the plate, Kendall gets the easy nod. Talked about as one of the best catchers to pitch for in the league, Kendall calls a great game and has really improved his defense. Still, based on the belief that Soto will turn things around, he gets the easy nod over Kendall. *CERA = Catcher’s ERA
Cubs: Derek Lee, .194 BA, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 0 E, 2.948 ZR, $13, 250,000
Brewers: Prince Fielder, .273 BA, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 0 E, 2.957 ZR, $7,000,000
Prince Fielder has become a much more complete player this year.
I know Cubs fans love their man Derek Lee, but the fact of the matter is Prince Fielder has overtaken him in line behind Albert Pujols for the next best first baseman in the Central. Lee has been awful at the plate this year and, at 34 years of age, this might be a sign more than a slump. As for Fielder, he is finally putting some batting average to add to his early season RBI total. He ranks third in the National League in RBI’s and, surprisingly enough, has had better range than Lee in the field. Fielder has trimmed some weight down and become much faster as well, and the results have showed. *ZR = Zone Rating, (The percentage of balls fielded by a player in his typical defensive “zone,” as measured by STATS, Inc., via ESPN.com)
Cubs: Mike Fontenot/Bobby Scales: .252 BA, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 2 E, 4.16 RF, $430,000
Brewers: Rickie Weeks: .282, 9 HR, 24 RBI, 6 E, 4.77 RF, $2,450,000
A no-brainer here as Rickie Weeks has finally broken out this year for the Brew Crew. After five years of mediocre play, Weeks has finally defined himself at the plate thanks to hitting coach Dale Sveum and Willie Randolph. Fontenot has been cold as of late and Scales is more of a fill-in than anything else. One of the two will be optioned to AAA when Aramis Ramirez comes back, but either way Weeks is the easy choice here. His defense is still shaky at times but he has made more great plays in the field and has covered a lot more ground then he did in the past. *RF = Range Factor, ((PO + A) * 9 divided by innings)
Cubs: Ryan Theriot: .297 BA, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 4 E, 3,32 RF, $500,000
Brewers: J.J. Hardy: .224 BA, 5 HR, 19 RBI, 3 E, 4.02 RF, $4,650,000
Ryan Theriot might be the most important player in the Cubs' lineup.
Theriot is probably having a career year right now, while Hardy is breaking out of an early season slump (to put it nicely). If Lou Piniella had a brain, Alfonso Soriano would be batting third and Theriot would be on base for him, rather than the other way around. Theriot is a great slap hitter and while his defense is shaky and he doesn’t have a huge arm, it gets the job done. Hardy is batting .359 in the month of May after a .156 April and has started to turn things around. Both of these players are perfect for their lineups and I give this matchup a push due to Theriot’s numbers at the plate and Hardy’s performance in the field.
Cubs: Aramis Ramirez: .364 BA, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 1 E, 9.279 ZR, $16,650,000
Brewers: Bill Hall: .278 BA, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 3 E, 8.0 ZR, $6,925,000
While Bill Hall is having one of the best years of his career both in the field and at the plate, it’s hard to deny the best all around player on the Cubs the win here. Ramirez, on the DL currently, was playing great baseball for the Cubbies and was keeping them afloat in the NL Central. The loss of his bat in the lineup has been huge, but hopefully they can regain it sooner rather than later. Willie Randolph has worked with Bill Hall in the field and it has really paid off for him.
Cubs: Alfonso Soriano, .271 BA, 11 HR, 23 RBI, 4 A, 13.862 ZR, $17,000,000
Brewers: Ryan Braun, .322, 8 HR, 28 RBI, 1 A, 14.228 ZR, $1,032,500
Sorry Cubs fans, Braun is becoming one of the best left fielders in the game and it has showed this year. It’s hardly a knock on Soriano who has had a great year thus far, but it’s hard to argue the numbers against Braun. Both are pretty good in the field, with Soriano having more assists and a better arm but Braun having better range getting to balls.
Cubs: Kosuke Fukudome, .340 BA, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 2 A, 2.58 RF, $12,500,000
Brewers: Mike Cameron, .304 BA, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 2 A, 3.13 RF, $10,000,000
If I am going to give Geovany Soto the benefit of the doubt on improving, I have to do the opposite with Fukudome. We have all seen this story before: Fukudome comes out on a tear and hits everything in sight. If Fukudome keeps this up, I will retract my statements but I just don’t see it happening. As for Cameron, he is having a career year at the plate and has played Gold Glove defense. Cameron takes Fukudome in every stat but batting average, but Cameron’s .303 average is pretty good. Advantage goes to Cameron here.
Mike Cameron is having a career year for the Brewers.
Cubs: Milton Bradley, .194 BA, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 1 A, 14.594 ZR, $7,000,000
Brewers: Corey Hart, .264 BA, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 0 A, 14.293 ZR, $3,250,000
Something that wasn’t put in the stats was the fact that Hart is sixth in the National League with 27 runs scored. Hart played 156 games last year and has only missed one game this year, due to rest. Bradley has had a terrible start to the year and has already missed 14 games this year. While he is currently riding a seven game hitting streak, Hart has done just fine and is playing better than Bradley. Even if Bradley picks up his game, Hart will put up similar numbers.
Cubs: Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, Rich Harden, Sean Marshall, $48,200,000
Brewers: Yovani Gallardo, Jeff Suppan, Manny Parra, Dave Bush, Braden Looper, $22,340,000
Cubs: 16-8, 4.13 ERA, 188 SO, 73 BB, 1.29 WHIP
Brewers: 13-10, 4.24 ERA, 166 SO, 79 BB, 1.31 WHIP
There’s no question that the Cubs have the better starting rotation and it is the Cubs best argument to why they are better than the Brewers. Gallardo is pitching the best of the ten starters mentioned above, but after that the Cubs probably take the next three or four starters before mentioning Dave Bush. The Brewers lead the league in quality starts, and by no means have the Brewers starters been bad, but rather that the Cubs live and die by their starters.
Ted Lilly is enjoying an excellent start on the mound this year.
Cubs: Neal Cotts, Carlos Marmol, David Patton, Angel Guzman, Aaron Heilman, Kevin Gregg
Brewers: Mark DiFelice, Todd Coffey, Jorge Julio, Mitch Stetter, Carlos Villanueva, Trevor Hoffman
Cubs: 4-6, 5.21 ERA, 97 SO, 67 BB, 1.58 WHIP
Brewers: 8-4, 3.87 ERA, 87 SO, 46 BB, 1.31 WHIP
As good as the Cubs starters are compared to the Brewers, the opposite can be said when it comes to relief pitching. Part of the reason the Brewers have been so good this year has been the work of the bullpen. Mark DiFelice has been unhittable and Trevor Hoffman has eight saves on the year with a 0.00 ERA. On the other hand, the Cubs two main bullpen pitchers have been less than stellar. Carlos Marmol has a 4.24 ERA and has 17 walks in as many innings. Kevin Gregg, the team’s closer, has been average with a 3.86 ERA and just six saves.
What It All Means
As much smack talk as Cubs fans would like to talk about the Brewers and how they will never compete, the fact of the matter is that Doug Melvin has assembled a team that is full of young, talented, and experienced players that are ready for the long haul this year. The Cubs have a shot to win the NL Central, just as the Cardinals, Reds, and Brewers do. They are still one of the most talented teams and have one of the best rotation in the National League. But the Brewers are putting the pieces together and seem to have finally arrived, and if they can stay healthy, a Division Championship is not out of the question.