Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Brewers are Terrible

I may have spoken too soon last week when I wrote a post about the Indians being the laughing stock of the league. Maybe Bruce Drennan can do piece on the Brewers, because they are playing the worst baseball I've seen them play in over 5 years. I vividly remember the 2003 season when the Tigers lost 119 games, and the Crew is not far off that pace right now. They are 15-25 and have lost 9 straight games as of this post. Even as I type this right now, they are already down 3-0 in the 1st inning, so it does not look like the end is near for their losing ways.

Everyone always loves to blame the manager when a team goes into a prolonged funk, and for good reason: the manager's job is more psychological than anything else. This is precisely why Ken Macha's lack of emotion makes him such an easy target. In-game strategy and filling out the lineup is only a small part of the job, things that I think Macha does really well. But his lack of intensity, stubbornness, and the day-to-day inconsistency of the team are big red flags that he is not the man for the job any more. Despite that, the only real reason to fire a manager mid-season is to appease the fans, and that may be enough for Melvin to send Macha packing this year, since the Brewers rely on so much of their revenue from attendance. Whether it's this year or next, the Brewers need a new manager.

Fixing the manager situation is only half the battle. That might help our feast-or-famine offense, or team morale, or even our crummy home record. It's pretty obvious to even the casual fan that the team's biggest problem the past couple seasons is pitching. Granted, Macha only has so much to work with, but this team won 80 games last year with an atrocious pitching staff, and you would figure with the signings of LaTroy Hawkins, Doug Davis, and Randy Wolf - albeit they're not all-stars - that the staff would improve. That has not been the case, as the Crew is 29th in bullpen ERA, and 28th in team ERA. It seems like the Brewers haven't had a clean game from the bullpen all season, and the entire staff is dragging like it's mid-September. Todd Coffey has 20 appearances and Trevor Hoffman has 5 blown saves, and it's not even Memorial Day.

I'm really angry with the team's play, but the worst part is there's no quick fix. Removing Hoffman as closer, for instance, is only a knee-jerk reaction to a more glaring problem: lack of young pitching talent. Thus, my main proposal for the Brewers would be to trade Prince Fielder in the offseason, regardless of how we end up in the standings. It would alienate the fan base less after the season than if this trade occurred at the break. It just makes me really uncomfortable that the Brewers have gotten away from building their farm system in the last few years, and that's something that needs to be addressed if they want to remain competitive. You might struggle for a little bit as players develop, but stocking a farm system perennially helps you avoid situations like we're in now. Yes, Ken Macha has been terrible, but he also came into this job in the midst of our poorest minor league talent pool of the Melvin-Attansio era. We've had to overpay free agents and hodgepodge together a bullpen for a couple seasons now because there is almost no talent at the AAA level. The Brewers need to get younger, and trading Prince and perhaps other sluggers for blue-chip prospects is the way to go. If we can get some major-league ready prospects for next season, combined with the pitching talent we have coming at the lower ranks, the Brewers can both rebuild and compete simultaneously, while leaving themselves cap room to go make that blockbuster deal at the deadline, a la Sabathia in 2008. I haven't checked out on this season yet, but I am very excited for what is certain to be a busy trade deadline and winter.

Brewers 15-25, -8.0 (3 @ Twins, 3 v. Astros)
Reds 23-18, -0.5 (3 @ Indians, 4 v. Pirates)
Twins 24-16,
+0.5 (3 v. Brewers, 3 v. Yankees)

Erik - 10
Peter - 9

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