An up, down, and up week saw the Brewers finish Saturday with a 3-3 mark and trailing the Cubs by three games. Against the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs they were 3-0. Against the Cincinnati Reds they were 0-3. In a statistical lie, Milwaukee averaged 5.3 runs per game for the week, but seven last Sunday and fifteen yesterday hide the ineptitude during the week.
By the time we look back at Week 24, the team could easily be all but mathematically eliminated. Or threatening the Cubs with not even making the playoffs the season after their once-a-century World Series win. Which would be sweet.
TOP PITCHING STORY: Jimmy Nelson is done for the year. His promising performance as the ace of the staff (or Ace #2, or Ace #3) was cut short by a shoulder injury. Here’s hoping for a complete recovery going into next season; the smallest of weakness in the pitching shoulder can really hinder a power pitcher. Or any pitcher, for that matter. Jimmy’s lone start on the week was a 2-0 win in game one against the Cubs. He worked five innings, including one after he injured the shoulder diving back into first base in the top of the fifth. He allowed no runs in his last two starts, against the Nationals and the Cubs. His loss makes a post season possibility much more difficult.
(Dis)Honorable Mention: Even with Nelson’s injury, it is hard to imagine the Brewers giving Matt Garza another start this season. He lasted just 2 2⁄3 innings on Wednesday against the Reds, allowing six hits and five runs (earned) while walking two. For the second half, in nine starts, he has a 1.84 WHIP and 7.03 ERA. He may very well have pitched himself out of the final, team option, season on his Brewers’ contract, and into a buy-out and onto the free agent market.
TOP HITTING STORY: Ryan Braun reached a milestone number this week when his two run, first inning homer off of John Lackey moved him to 300. He’s the first Brewer to reach that number. It also provided the only runs on the night for either team, and was a monster shot to center into a really stiff wind. On the week, Braunie slashed .333/.440/.667, with an OPS of 1.107. He had a double and two homers, scored five times and drove in 3. Braun had a down week last week; nice to see him bounce back.
Honorable Mention: Much to my dismay, the Brewers’ pitchers have not had a homerun this season. I briefly thought that Jimmy Nelson might have corrected that oversight, but his fifth inning drive bounced off the wall and firmly to John Jay, whose throw to second sent Nelson lumbering back to first and into an awkward dive into the bag. That dive injured Jimmy’s shoulder and ended his season. However, for the week Jimmy and Chase Anderson combined slashed .429/.429/.429, OPS .858, with an RBI. Anderson had a very nice squeeze bunt in Saturday’s romp. Just twenty games to get that tater, men!
IMHO: I’ll just say right now, no matter what happens today or the rest of the way, I have found this Brewers’ season to be one of the most entertaining I’ve ever had as a baseball fan. Leading the Central for most of the first half was a blast, and the team’s resiliency in the second half while struggling mightily at the plate has been both frustrating and satisfying.
The team is building for the future, but the players have matured rapidly into a strong group, with high upside. There are still strong prospects in the minor league system, and the pitching is showing so much more promise than previously that it seems reasonable to look forward to strong contention for several years.
Nobody in the organization should be, or will be, complacent, though. That development and contention is not a guarantee. Management needs to continue to build the roster through moves as well as through development; players need to continue to work on their growth, and younger players need to prepare themselves for that opportunity that will come - often when least expected.
The hitting woes of the second half are hard to explain, and require an in-depth evaluation by the organization as to why, and what can be done. They can’t take the strong starting pitching of the second half as a given for next year.
The final piece of the puzzle is further development, organization wide, on the defensive side of the ball. Is it possible to have an off-season program for the likes of Domingo Santana, to develop his recognition and ball tracking skills? His bat holds such promise that making himself a more complete player could move him into perennial All Star contention.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK: The Brewers strike out a lot. Kyle pointed this out in an article earlier this week, and the gist of things is that we shouldn’t expect anything different in the near - or far - future. Milwaukee set a major league record for strikeouts last year, and will most likely break that record next year. On top of that, their top minor league prospects are the same type of boom or bust, homerun centric type of hitters. Some are fine with that; some aren’t:
Whenever the opponent strings together some groundball/bloop hits,
people dismiss it as "luck" or "burned by BABIP". Well, that’s what real offenses do. The Brewers are pathetic with bats in their hands. Santana, Thames, and Sogard are the only guys who take enough damn walks. LF/CF/2B/1B have been real sore spots this season.
After today’s crucial series finale against the Cubs, the Brewers return to Miller Park for a quick three game set against the Pirates. One would hope that the Brewers can play some good ball against a team below them in the standings. After an off day Thursday, the Brewers have a three game set scheduled in Miami against the Marlins, and the status of that series is in question due to Hurricane Irma.