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Doug Melvin: Let the Milwaukee Brewers’ Season Go Already

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?

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.

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.


July 28, 2009 - Posted by | Baseball, Milwaukee Brewers, MLB | , , ,

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