Monday, July 27, 2009

Brewers Backsliding

This is now my 6th week in Iowa, and it pains me to see how poorly the Brewers are doing, even from a distance. Since taking 2 out of 3 from the Mets in late June, the Brewers have not won a series and have not won consecutive games. They are 4-6 since the All-Star break, and an abyssmal ten games under .500 since May 17th, the day it was announced that Rickie Weeks would be out for the season. They have an NL-worst 11 total wins and .224 batting average during day games and have not won a matinee since May 31st. After leading the majors in quality starts through May, the Crew now seems lucky to get 5 innings out of a starter. Dave Bush is still on the DL, as is his replacement Seth McClung, and Manny Parra spent most of June in the minor leagues. They have the 3rd worst pinch-hitter average in the NL. The Brewers are simply reeling in all facets of the game right now, and it is not pretty to watch.

The only reason the Brewers are still in the race right now is because the Cardinals and Cubs are allowing us to be. But, with the resurgence of the Astros, and the Cardinals' trade for Matt Holliday, things will not be easy down the stretch. If the Brewers have any chance to get back in this thing, it needs to be now - they have the easiest NL August schedule in which they play only one team with an above-.500 record (Dodgers), including 8 games against the 30-win Nationals. I think our troubles started with Weeks' injury and have just continued to spiral. His loss at the top of the lineup sent the batting order into disarray, which caused slumps to players like Hart, Cameron, and Hardy. Our slugging percentage became the only thing keeping us in games, because with Weeks out Macha refused to put runners in motion. This curtailed into Braun's power numbers diminishing, since he felt the burden to drive in runs himself with nobody in front of him getting on. Macha then responded by playing 38-year old Craig Counsell nearly every day, which reduced the playing time for our bench. All of this combined into a lot of pressure on the pitching staff to continue to overachieve, which it could not, thus in the end resulting in a wearing-out of our bullpen.

Today, the team finds itself tired, without any answers, and few options. Where does the team go from here? I'm not so sure one trade will do it this time. Last year, they just needed that one piece to bring things all together, and they got it in CC. The recent Felipe Lopez trade was a good start, he should solidify the top of the order. At the minimum, the Brewers need another lefty reliever, a 7th-inning guy, and at least one starter, and one more outfield bat would be nice. Bush is out until mid-August, and Manny Parra returned to his usual self on Friday after a couple of good outings, which leaves us with Braden Looper leading the team in innings, a #3 starter we paid #1 starter money to, and a 23-year old ace with about 30 career starts under his belt. The Brewers may have enough positional prospects to trade for pitching, but I just don't know if it will be enough. If the Brewers make any trades, it should be to release dead weight or to clear room for next year's roster, such as a Hardy/Escobar or Gamel/McGehee/Hall trade, or even a Mike Cameron trade. What I would most like to see happen is a Hardy trade for Jarrod Washburn plus a reliever. Jack Zduriencik knows our farm system well after working with the Brewers so long and any trade with Seattle would get us the most value. What I don't want to see happen is draining our farm system for a front-line pitcher that we lose in a year that probably won't stay with the team or help us get to the playoffs.

Hopefully, the Brewers can start restocking the farm system with pitchers in future drafts so that we aren't in this predicament again for awhile, although nobody could have predicted what was to happen with Jeffress and Rogers. It's disappointing to see the Brewers playing so badly, but at the same time, with the Brewers going into the season with Jeff Suppan as your #2 starter, under a new manager and pitching coach, I think that the Brewers are doing the best they can do. I mean, where would they be without Looper and Hoffman right now? They've single-handedly accounted for at least 20 of our wins, and it's these diamond-in-the-rough deals that Melvin pulls off that make me believe that maybe, just maybe, we could have a shot to win the Central this season. This next week is the most important week of the season - if they can swing a deal and sweep the Nationals, they're right back in it.

Brewers 49-49, -3.0 (4 v. Nationals, 3 @ Padres)
Reds 44-53, -7.5 (4 v. Padres, 3 v. Rockies)
Twins 49
-50, -4.0 (3 v. White Sox, 3 v. Angels)

Erik - 35 (+14 worked)
Peter - 44

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