One week left, cats and kittens, and the writing is clearly on the wall for the beleaguered manager of YOUR Milwaukee Brewers. It's impressive* that Ken Macha's lasted this long -- and, in my humble opinion, it's equally impressive that we've conned @notkenmacha into answering our hare-brained questions for almost three months. How'd we do it? I'll never tell.**
* Or it's an indictment of Willie Randolph and Dale Sveum, depending on your point of view: the fact that Macha's still around isn't good news for those who want to see Willie or Dale hired as manager next year.
** It involved pancakes, a Parcheesi set, and a copy of the January 18, 1983 episode of "The Price Is Right," but you probably knew that already.
Sadly, @notkenmacha's busy packing up his meager belongings right now, and he sent me a two-sentence missive on Monday letting me know that he'd "finally figured out what you've been trying to do all this time" and accusing me of being "a Hungarian operative, and a shitty Hungarian operative, at that." And, with 11 games left in the year, there's not much use in looking forward anymore, so I've decided to look back at Ken Macha's brief tenure at the helm.
As I reviewed the schedule and results for the last two seasons, it dawned on me that each of the last two years can be broken down into four parts, which I've dubbed "Macha Epochs" -- or, if you like, "MACHAPOCHS!" Once I'd broken out those MachaPochs, I ran the splits to see if my grossly-oversimplified belief about the last two years -- we're OK when the pitching is OK, and we're crap when the pitching is crap -- holds any water.
Tom Haudricourt is fond of calling the 2010 Brewers "Team Freak" -- and he's doing his damndest to get that moniker to stick, mentioning it (and getting li'l buddy Tony to mention it, too) whenever he can -- based on their erratic play and the up-and-down nature of the season. Really, though, the roller coaster ride in 2010 hasn't been that different than the high-and-low 2009 season: in both years, the team played .500 ball over the first month, and then things got a little haywire.
Don't believe me? Then let's jump.2009 MACHAPOCHS
The Initial Awkwardness
April 7, 2009 to May 2, 2009
Record: 13-12 Series won: 3 Series lost: 4 Series split: 1
Batting splits: .248 / .337 / .424
Pitching splits: 4.14 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 26 HR allowed
Like a 14-year-old playing "Seven Minutes in Heaven" for the first time, the 2009 Brewers groped blindly and often ineffectively to begin the 2009 campaign: the Crew dropped its first four series, eventually falling to 4-8 after losing two of three to the Fightin's in Philly. Then things started to improve, as the Brewers won three series in a row and split with the Diamondbacks, finishing the first 25 games of the season at 13-12.
May 3, 2009 to July 1, 2009
Record: 29-24 Series won: 10 Series lost: 7 Series split: 1
Batting splits: .256 / .339 / .421
Pitching splits: 4.55 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 68 HR allowed
You've probably forgotten by now (at least, I had), but the Crew played some inspired baseball in May and June '09. Starting with the last game in the Arizona series, the Brewers claimed four wins in a row, and then, following a loss to the Cubs on May 10, ripped off seven straight wins. From there, things got herky-jerky, as the Crew alternated sweeps (@STL, vs. CIN, @ CLE) with losing series (@ MIN, home vs. STL, @ FLA, @ COL). When the dust cleared at the beginning of July, the Brewers stood at 42-36, one game up in the Central division ...
July 2, 2009 to September 9, 2009
Record: 24-37 Series won: 4 Series lost: 13 Series split: 2
Batting splits: .263 / .336 / .423
Pitching splits: 5.28 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 93 HR allowed
... and then things went to shit, as the Brewers played their worst stretch of baseball since Davey Lopes and Jerry Royster were calling the shots from the dugout. You'll notice, of course, that the offense maintained its previous pace during this putrid stretch, while the pitching staff cratered. Amazingly, a team that was in first place on July 1 didn't win a single series in July, dropping five series and splitting two. This is making me nauseous, so I'm going to move on.
Making It Real Respectable-Like
September 11, 2009 to October 4, 2009
Record: 14-9 Series won: 3 Series lost: 2 Series split: 2
Batting splits: .290 / .361 / .449
Pitching splits: 5.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 20 HR allowed
The pitching was a bit better in the last month of the season, but the offense did the hefty lifting as the Brewers scrapped to an 80-win finish.
The Initial Awkwardness, Redux
April 5, 2010 to May 9, 2010
Record: 15-16 Series won: 4 Series lost: 6 Series split: 0
Batting splits: .275 / .357 / .455
Pitching splits: 4.76 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 39 HR allowed
Not bad, right? The OBP is shiny, the SLG numbers are Prince's-waistline fat (even though I'm apparently supposed to eliminate the 20-0 drubbing of the Pirates on April 22 in calculating them), and, while the ERA isn't sterling, it's certainly enough to keep a team competitive.
ICEBERG HO! a.k.a. The Machapocalypse (h/t ecocd)
May 10, 2010 to June 20, 2010
Record: 14-24 Series won: 4 Series lost: 8 Series split: 1
Batting splits: .246 / .318 / .408
Pitching splits: 5.30 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 35 HR allowed
Right about here is where the facade of my "the offense has never been the problem for the Brewers in the last two years" theory begins to crack. These numbers aren't pretty -- and, incredibly, they'd be even worse if Corey Hart hadn't gone supernova in May and June (his numbers over this stretch: .271 / .333 /. 660). And, as I said at the outset, it's astounding that Ken Macha was able to keep his job after this 40-game cluster**** of disaster starts, blown saves, and free swingin'.
The Last Gasp (or, if you like: Treading Water, Inc.)
June 22, 2010 to August 22, 2010
Record: 30-25 Series won: 8 Series lost: 6 Series split: 3
Batting splits: .272 / .339 / .439
Pitching splits: 4.73 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 64 HR allowed
The staff ERA drops back to a respectable level, the offense comes back, and whaddya know? Five games over .500 in this stretch, with the Crew climbing within five games of .500 on August 21.
The Death Rattle
August 24, 2010 to present
Record: 11-16 Series won: 3 Series lost: 6 Series split: 0
Batting splits: .244 / .309 / .381
Pitching splits: 3.61 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 27 HR allowed
... but it doesn't look like there's going to be a silver lining to this raincloud, as the finishing kick that was present in 2009 hasn't -- to this point -- happened. Don't look at the pitchers, though; led by a rejuvenated Randy Wolf, the group has put together its best stretch of pitching since Macha took over. The offense hasn't held up its end of the donkey, as Al Escobar and Rickie Weeks have scuffled badly and Ryan Braun (.352 / .412 / .593 over this 27-game stretch) has been left to do the heavy lifting on his own.