As I checked the MLB leaderboards this afternoon on my lunchbreak, the Brewers players (or lack thereof) listed got me thinking about a lot of things. Take a look at some of these numbers and you’ll see what I mean.
MLB Batting Leaders
Prince Fielder – 31 (4th)
Ryan Braun – 26 (Tied, 13th)
Prince Fielder – 107 (1st)
Ryan Braun – 86 (Tied, 6th)
Ryan Braun – .314 (Tied, 15th)
Felipe Lopez – .313 (Tied, 18th)
On Base Percentage
Prince Fielder – .420 (4th)
Prince Fielder – .600 (4th)
Ryan Braun – .568 (9th)
Ryan Braun – 143 (11th)
Felipe Lopez – 140 (Tied, 13th)
Ryan Braun – 85 (6th)
Yovani Gallardo – 11 (Tied, 17th)
Yovani Gallardo – 165 (6th)
Trevor Hoffman – 26 (Tied, 10th)
Mitch Stetter – 57 (Tied, 11th)
Todd Coffey – 56 (Tied, 12th)
I’d say it’s pretty apparent what the problems are here. It’s a major, major issue when only 2 players show up consistently on the batting leaderboards. Admittedly, it’s nice when players hit hot streaks, like Fielder’s current tear. And, of course, not every position player on a team will get hot at the same time. And true, the Brewers have logged double digits in the hits column for what? The last 7 games? But when the one pitcher you see on the boards only takes the mound once every 5 games, things aren’t going to sync up as often as they need to. And even when Gallardo does pitch, the Brewers have trouble giving him ample run support.
It’s no secret that Milwaukee’s pitching staff has taken a perpetual beating this season. Currently, the starting rotation has given up both Jeff Suppan and Dave Bush to the DL, Braden Looper gives up homerun after homerun (to be fair, the entire staff has given up 159 longballs – the most in the majors. Ouch.), Manny Parra spent a few weeks in the minors only to come back and be crazy-consistent, Gallardo is the ace in the making and then there’s Mike Burns, reliever on loan. Even when the starters manage to go the distance, the distance is generally somewhere around 6 innings – definitely not enough.
Which leads me to the bullpen. It’s no wonder the Brewers have 2 relievers showing up as having pitched in the most games. The bullpen works far too often because the rotation can’t get it done. Adding a few new arms out there have so far not paid off. The only thing Jesus Colome, David Weathers and Claudio Vargas have in common with the rest of Milwaukee’s pitching staff? The ability to give up runs in great numbers.
There are only 44 games left for the Brewers this season. If the pitching doesn’t match up with the offense soon, the team will be in serious jeopardy of falling further out of contention. (Despite what it may sound like so far, I do still have faith in my boys.) It’s just really hard to fathom a big comback in either the NL Central or Wildcard races if batting and pitching coming together is about as rare an occurence as a solar eclipse.
Including wrapping up this current series in Pittsburgh, there are 14 match-ups left in 2009. Only 6 of those series will the Brewers face teams lower in the standings than they are. Also looming for Milwaukee are 3 series against the Cardinals, 2 versus the Cubs and 1 against the Wildcard-leading Rockies. If the Brewers are hoping to take any or all of those series, they had better start by winning more against the teams that, on paper, they’re capable of beating.
And at the risk of sounding selfish, I have at least 6 more games to attend this year, including 2 in St. Louis at the end of the season. I’d like very much to see a major turnaround from my team by then. Well, in addition, I’d like to see the Cubs and Cards take a nosedive, but beggars can’t be choosers. And don’t get me wrong, I know enough about baseball to understand it’s full of ups and downs and I can’t expect the world all the time. But come on, Brewers. I’m really sick of the downs.
Okay, so in other news, Bill Hall’s future will be decided by Friday. It’s entirely possible that Doug Melvin will use Hall as a trading chip. Quite honestly, I hope that he does. Obviously, Hall’s career is far from over and there’s got to be at least a few teams interested in picking him up. The Brewers, if I haven’t made it clear enough yet, need another starter. I’ve been reading the Reds are interested in Billy and, well, they’ve got a couple arms they’re willing to part ways with. And I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing Bronson Arroyo or Aaran Harang put on a Brewers uni. But the decision on Hall still has a few more days to be made, so don’t worry – I won’t hold my breath.
Anyway, the Crew is at PNC Park again tonight to try and restore some dignity and stop the downward spiral. Manny Parra (8-8, 6.44 ERA) matches up with Ross Ohlendorf (10-8, 4.30 ERA). Parra’s been nothing short of spectacular since returning from Triple-A just a few weeks ago and since the last time the Brewers saw the Pirates, they’ve gotten rid of the majority of their team. Hopefully, this will bode well for Parra and he’ll be on point again tonight. Hopefully.
Obviously, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. I was waiting for something really super-awesomely spectacular to happen before I wrote anything else, but since the Brewers have failed to do anything super, awesome or spectacular for quite some time, I suppose I have to comment on today’s actions within the ballclub.
First, dismissing pitching coach Bill Castro isn’t going to change the fact that the rotation is struggling and the bullpen can’t seem to salvage the myriad of situations they’ve been put into. Jeff Suppan and Dave Bush are out– let’s not forget that’s still a factor. Carlos Villanueva is par, at best, as a starter, Braden Looper can’t seem to work 2 quality starts in a row and Yovani Gallardo pitches well, but the offense rarely supports him. Since coming back from his latest stint in the minors, Manny Parra has been the only pitcher to garner both quality starts and wins. The marred rotation, coupled with the wishy-washy bullpen (including the recent acquisitions of Jesus Colome and 2 former Brewers, David Weathers and Claudio Vargas) are never going to be enough to consistently win games.
Castro’s replacement, Chris Boscio, has big league experience both as a pitcher (with Milwaukee and Seattle) and as a coach (with the Tampa Bay Rays). The Triple-A Nashville Sounds, whom Boscio is leaving behind for this interim position, have a team ERA of 4.05, which is good enough for 2nd in the league. Hopefully whatever he’s doing with the Sounds will translate to the Brewers and he can help whip the pitching staff into shape.
The second move Doug Melvin and Co. made today was to send shortstop JJ Hardy to Triple-A for the first time in over 2 seasons. Alcides Escobar has yo-yo’d between Nashville and Milwaukee over the past season and a half as has gotten the call as Hardy’s replacement. Escobar is batting .298 in the minors while Hardy has been struggling to make it out of the .220 range all season. The plan for JJ is similar to the one Manny Parra had– regroup, start producing and get his head on straight. Hopefully, it’ll work to his advantage the way it worked for Manny.
Lastly, Bill Hall, the oft-slumping infielder turned outfielder turned infielder turned outfielder, was designated for assignment. Hall was sent to Nashville just a few weeks ago but was quickly recalled after Corey Hart had to undergo an emergency appendectomy. Nevermind that he hit a 2-run homer last night, Hall has been platooned for the past 2 seasons and has been unable to match or exceed career-high numbers in the past 3 seasons. Hall’s replacement is a virtually unknown Jason Bourgeois, who missed most of the year so far due to a thumb injury. The Brewers now have 10 days to decide Bill Hall’s future with the team.
So what do I think about all this? I think the shake-ups are good. I think the majority of the players on this team will look at what was decided today and will realize their fates may not be secure if the team can’t turn it around. However, I don’t think this is going to be enough to pull out of the middle of the NL Central.
The Brewers are in desperate need of consistent, quality starts, something the rotation has been lacking in all season. The addition of 3 pitchers to the bullpen is like putting a bandage on a bullet wound. Milwaukee’s starting rotation is suffering and will continue to suffer if a new arm isn’t added soon. And the bullpen is exhausted because they’re constantly expected to clean up the mess. A number of pitchers have recently cleared waivers that are worth taking a long, hard look at, despite what it may cost to finish out the season with them. Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang of the Reds are options. So is John Smoltz, despite a poor showing in 8 starts with the Red Sox. All I’m saying, is anyone is better than what the Brewers have going on right now. The rotation has been in constant flux since April and I think consistency will be key, if the organization decides to add an arm and once everyone is healthy and back with the club.
One can only hope these moves are just minor stepping stones to something bigger. But until then, the Brewers need to figure out how to turn themselves around and start winning again. I will not be looking forward to St. Louis in October if those last 3 games mean nothing.
Tonight, the Crew looks for some sweet redemption from last night’s embarassing showing against the Padres. Carlos Villanueva (2-9, 6.05 ERA) is on the mound against Kevin Correia (7-9, 4.51 ERA).