I wrote the Baseball Prospectus Brewers Notebook for today (it's not posted yet) and took a good hard look at what isn't working for this team. As TrueBlueBrewCrew pointed out a week ago, the Crew's run differential (runs scored minus runs allowed) is among the worst in baseball. In general, that means you're going to lose a lot of games. Obviously, those of us who predicted the Brewers for anywhere between 84 and 90 wins expected them to score and allow runs accordingly.
Nate Silver ran a PECOTA projection for the season back in March and predicted the Brewers would win 84 games. Not as optimistic as some, but it gives us a starting point. Those 84 wins came from 742 runs scored and 713 allowed. Both are in the vicinity of last year's totals (726/697). Given that the team's current run differential is -74, you'd expect we were underperforming on both ends, especially given Doug's comments today:
..."Prince has to get going again and Geoff has to get going again," Melvin said. "Guys have to be more consistent. That's the problem.
"I'd like to see us score more runs early in the game. We've got a lot of comeback victories but we need to start jumping out on clubs earlier with some runs."
That's part of it, of course. But ever since Ben Sheets went down, that's been the numero uno excuse, to the point that some of us have convinced ourselves that when Ben and Tomo Ohka come back, all will be well. Not so.
Again relying on PECOTA, Ben and Tomo should've given us above 34 runs above replacement level so far this year. And the guys who replaced them have been worth 10 runs below replacement so, hypothetically, if Ben and Tomo were pitching to their abilities, our runs allowed should be at 440.
411 runs scored, 440 allowed--that's a pythagorean winning percentage of .466, which is worth 42 wins right now. Uhh...we've gotten lucky and we're better than that as is. We can't expect to keep getting lucky, and we can't legitimately expect any more than that from Ben or Tomo when they come backs, so what's wrong?
Some of that gap (between the 440 runs we would've allowed with Ben and Tomo around and the 396 PECOTA expected us to allow) is attributable to Doug Davis; some can be charged to the bullpen. But I suspect that still more of it ought to point to the defense.
I didn't mean to rewrite my Baseball Prospectus piece, but I just did. Less long-windedly, the point here is that, for the most part, the Brewers are scoring close to enough runs. Runs allowed are the problem, even if Ben and Tomo come back at full-strength. I'm not going to question Doug Melvin's intelligence here, because I know that he plays his cards close to his vest, and that Tom Haudricourt massages these interviews into whatever point he wants to make. But looking at the numbers, it's pretty darn clear what needs to change.