Free falling might be a bit strong, as 2-4 weeks happen, and with a timely hit here or there the Brewers would be back in first. But the week had some really, really bad stuff (mostly, in a nine inning span the Brewers allowed the Washington Nationals to score 22 runs...that’s demoralizing to fans, if not the players), and a couple of missed opportunities for wins that hurt when contention feels so agonizingly close.
But since the All Star break, the Brewers have not played like contenders (they’ve played more like the 1899 Cleveland Spiders). The addition of Anthony Swarzak to the bullpen might help, but there are so many leaks out there that there aren’t enough fingers to fill all of the leaks in the dam. (Damn?)
TOP PITCHING STORY: I’m going off script today; my player over-views will be of performance since the All Star break. Since the break, Brewers relief pitchers have made 53 appearances in 15 games (Milwaukee is 5-10 in those games). Relief pitchers not named Hernan Perez have worked 481⁄3 innings, with a WHIP of 1.84 and an ERA of 6.70. They have won 2 games and lost 6 (Jacob Barnes has given up two leads and drawn wins for his efforts, with only one loss), saved four of five (oh, those blown saves), and generally acted as a very leaky gas can. The numbers are even more alarming if you remove Josh Hader and Corey Knebel from the equation. Perhaps today’s addition of lefty Wei-Chung Wang will give the squad a boost, but that is partly in response to Hader going three innings yesterday - he will be unavailable for at the next two, and probably more, games.
Those numbers don’t include the start against the Nationals that Michael Blazek made in place of an injured Matt Garza. His 21⁄3 innings, 7 hit and 1 walk, 4 strikeout, and 6 (SIX!) homers allowed get lumped into the starters stats. I was very excited about Blazek helping the pen this season, and couldn’t figure out why manager Craig Counsell wasn’t using him more. Now I know. Even with that start included, the Milwaukee rotation came in with a 3.87 ERA and 1.34 WHIP.
TOP HITTING STORY: The Brewers haven’t hit since the break. I mean that literally. In center field alone, the three players (Keon Broxton, Brett Phillips, Lewis Brinson) have combined for twenty strikeouts in sixty plate appearances - they have fanned 33.3% of the time. This was actually better than I expected; it has felt much worse.
But wait! There’s more! Four other regular players (I’m counting Jonathan Villar as a regular here, as he has played in thirteen of the fifteen games so far; the other three are Travis Shaw, Eric Thames, and Domingo Santana) have combined to fan 75 times in 219 plate appearances...34.2%. The (kinda) old saw that a strikeout is just an out still masks the fact that, in general, a strikeout doesn’t: drive in runs with an out, advance runners, or give the opposition a chance to make an error. To be fair, Shaw, Thames, and Santana have produced at acceptable to good levels since the break, but the Brewers have been out scored 74-54 (they have been out-scored 57-23 in their ten losses, which doesn’t say much besides they only averaged 2.3 runs in those games). Milwaukee has been out-homered 22-17. They haven’t had a triple.
IMHO: So, does all of this mean that all is lost? Fangraphs thinks so. They give the Brewers an 8.8% chance of making the play-offs right now. Behind the Cardinals! Sure, things can turn around in a heartbeat - they sure did for the negative side; after all, they actually WON their first two games after the break.
But it doesn’t feel that way. Chase Anderson is at best two weeks away from returning to the rotation, and how he performs after a tough injury and a long lay-off is a question. Matt Garza has pitched well this year, but has been on the DL twice and will be coming back soon for his first start in ten days. Jimmy Nelson has allowed three homers in his 182⁄3 post-break starts. Zach Davies keeps winning games somehow, and Brent Suter has pitched well. The chances appear remote that a starting pitcher that could make a difference will be coming to Milwaukee prior to the trade deadline.
Can I find solace in the fact that the Brewers weren’t supposed to contend this year, anyways? Nope. I’m still hoping for that turnaround. Hang around for a few weeks, wait for the Cubs to get over-confident again, and sneak into the play-offs with healthy pitchers...ya never know!
COMMENT OF THE WEEK: For a terrifying instant during the Brewers’ 2-1 win over the Cubs Friday night, they were linked to acquiring Phillies’ starter Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson has been having a bad year, and it made absolutely no sense to just about any BCB Brewer fan. AKBrewfan caught the general consensus:
Absolutely, positively do not want.
The Mayor of Ding Dong City has my vote for re-election.
I think that national scribes just link the Brewers to every pitcher that is remotely thought of as available. Guess that will continue for a couple of more days. It appears that Sonny Gray will be a Yankee. There aren’t any other starting pitchers that I’d want the Brewers to give up prospects for, and any pitcher that wouldn’t require good prospects ain’t worth havin’. I’m lookin’ at you, Dan Straily.
Milwaukee looks to take the series from the Cubs today, and then it’s on to August with the Cardinals coming to Miller Park for three games, Tuesday through Thursday. A trip down to Tampa for a weekend series with the contending Rays caps the week.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.com and mlb.com