The Weekend Mug: Why I Still Have Hope

As I am writing this, the Brewers are 33-41 and sitting 8.5 games out of first place and 9.0 games out of the wild card.  With 88 games left to play (including today's game against the Mariners), I know that most people have probably given up on the 2010 season and are now looking towards a possible run next year or in 2012. 

I, however, still believe that the Brewers have a chance to make a run towards the playoffs this season.  I'm not overly hopeful, but I can still see a possibility.  I admit that, with baseball at least, I am generally full of unbridled optimism and refuse to give up on the Brewers until it's 100% clear that they have absolutely no chance of doing anything in their season.

There is precedent for runs like this before, though.  For instance, the 2007 NL Champion Rockies.  That year Colorado won 21 of it's final 22 games and forced a playoff with the San Diego Padres to determine who would make the playoffs out of the NL West (which the Rockies obviously won).  And, in our own division, the Houston Astros were 15 games below .500 on May 27, 2005.  That season, they ended up winning 89 games, won the wild card, and went to the World Series.  There is evidence that a team can make a miracle run to the playoffs when so far behind, so why can't the Brewers do it?  I think there are a couple of reasons why the Brewers have the potential to be a team that can make that kind of run. 

One large reason (literally and figuratively) that Milwaukee could come back is Prince Fielder.  Though he hasn't been having a bad year, by his standards he isn't having a good year, either.  Currently, the man has 15 HR and 31 RBI.  Through 74 games last year, he had 19 HR and 73 RBI.  He had 42 more RBI last year than he does this year.  I know that RBI isn't a good stat, but with that big of a difference, I think it's safe to say that Prince just isn't driving in the runs like he was last year.  Just look:  With runners in scoring position last year, he hit .296/.427/.612 en route to leading the league in RBI.  Thus far this year he is hitting a dreadful .164/.365/.233 with RISP.  It might just be an off year for Prince, but I would expect him to regress back to the mean this season yet. This is in addition to his fledgling power numbers.  Though he has hit a good amount of HR, his slugging percentage right now stands at .473, down from last seasons .602 and his career .542.

In fact, there is evidence right now that Fielder is heating up.  In June, Prince has hit .244/.375/.593 with 8 homers and 12 RBI.  Though he hasn't quite gotten on base as prolifically this month, it's a good sign to see the SLG% moving back up.  And while his RBI numbers aren't quite up there yet, he has had an RBI in the last three games (four counting today).  If Prince starts hitting like we all know he can hit, and the rest of the lineup keeps hitting like they have been, the offense should continue to be one of the best in the league.

The second reason is the thing that has plagued the Brewers the last two seasons:  The pitching (other than Yovani Gallardo).  The same pitching staff that currently has a 4.91 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP, amongst the worst in the MLB.  So why am I so optimistic that Milwaukee's pitching will help with a run?  Basically, because it can't get much worse. Thereby, in my mind, it has to start improving.  Particularly when the Brewers pitchers are underperforming compared to their career norms.

For instance, our $30MM number two pitcher Randy Wolf.  He has sucked this year, no matter how you look at it.  He's got a 4.92 ERA (bad) and a 6.04 FIP (worse).  However, it's unlikely that a pitcher would, from one year to the next, go from being a very good pitcher to being one of the worst pitchers in the league.  At least, not when he has had several years of being a very good pitcher.  At some point, you would have to think that he will revert back to the mean and start pitching well again.  Right now he's giving up half a homerun, striking out 2 less and walking 1.3 more batters per game than his career numbers. 

The only pitcher that is possibly pitching slightly better than his career norms has been Doug Davis, who is striking out two batters more per game than his career average.  Davis has been somewhat unlucky this season, as his FIP (4.67) is much lower than his ERA (7.56) which means he should definitely be in line to see his results improve. 

If the starting pitching works it's way toward getting even close to league average, while being couple with the juggernaut that our offense would be with Prince Fielder finding his stroke, I feel as though the Brewers are the best candidate in the league this year to make a "miracle run" toward the playoffs.  Do I think there is a good chance of this happening?  Not really.  But even with a small chance of it happening, I can still keep hoping that this season might just turn around. 

So what do you think?  Are you keeping hope like me or have you completely given up on the season?  Am I completely off my rocker?

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