An okay week of 4-2 ball leaves the Brewers a half-game behind the Cardinals in the NL Central, but ahead of the Cubs by two full games. After the last shutout loss to Chicago to complete their lost weekend at Wrigley, they swept the hapless Reds and have split the first two with the surprising Pirates after returning home.
Milwaukee is now in the midst of a tough part of their schedule, but speaking of hapless the Brewers get to play their interleague games against the AL Central this year. Of course, so does the rest of the division. Going into last night, the AL Central was a combined 34 games below .500 outside their division (thanks to Logan Schafer’s Lumber Yard for posting that during Saturday night’s game).
TOP HITTING STORY: Domingo Santana is finally heating up. His two doubles and a homer last week represent 60% of his total estra base production this season, and he slashed .412/.412/.706 with an OPS of 1.118. Yay! Four RBI is nice, but he still had seven strikeouts in his seventeen plate appearances with no walks. Even better, though, he was taking outside pitches into the hole created by defensive shifting on the right side, and driving the ball to left on pitches more inside.
Honorable Mention: Let’s stay positive. Below you will find a “study” of the futility of Milwaukee’s second base, shortstop, and catcher positions at the plate. But this week Orlando Arcia was at .333/.368/.389...one double. He still scored only once (that happens when nobody else is hitting at the bottom of the order) and drove in only one (that happens when nobody else is getting on base at the bottom of the order), but any improvement is most welcome.
TOP PITCHING STORY: It would be criminal to not give this to Josh Hader, who had the first less than three inning appearance with eight strikeouts in baseball history. Josh’s dominant performance in Cincinnati on Monday night earned a save (he did walk one so it wasn’t a perfect performance, and his pitches were fooling the umpire as much as the hitters as he got several calls off the plate, but he was virtually unhittable). And in his only other appearance he earned his first win of the season (to use the word “earned’ loosely), but did so because he allowed a two run homer to erase a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth. Still, when the Brewers scored twice in the bottom half of the inning, he shut down the Pirates in the top of the ninth and finished with four strikeouts in his two innings of work. The major league record for strikeouts in a nine inning game is 20; Hader is AVERAGING just under that number per nine innings.
Honorable Mention: Man, Jeremy Jeffress has been great this year. He had three appearances and two saves, going 4.2 innings with no runs allowed (and no inherited runs allowed) and a WHIP of 0.64. The Brewer bullpen is pretty darn good.
IMHO: XKCD’s Friday edition contained the disturbing information that a majority of folks think that IMHO means “In My Honest Opinion”, and not “In My Humble Opinion”. At least to Buzzfeed readers.
Well, in the context of Sunday Sundries, it means “In My Humble Opinion”. My opinions are generally honest, and probably aren’t very humble, but self-deprecation can be disarming so that’s what it means and I don’t care if you interpret it as “honest”. You have the right to be wrong.
Anyways, IMHO the Brewers could score more runs if they started getting more production from the six, seven, and eight spots in the lineup. Those spots have largely been manned by the positions of second base, shortstop, and catcher. There have been a few at bats in other spots in the order (mostly Jonathan Villar moving around a bit - he has 19 plate appearances as a leadoff hitter), but we can largely look at these positions when assessing the effectiveness of the offense at that spot in the order.
So those positions have slashed.203/.252/.306; OPS of .558. Pitchers are at .130/.145/.167, OPS of .312. 44% of the lineup is slashing .194/.239/.247, OPS of .486. I know that all teams rely on the top of their lineup to produce most of their runs. But still, the Crew will need four runs per game from positions one through five if this level of production remains the same.
Brewer pinch-hitters have slashed .279/.367/.395 for an OPS of .763 (third in the NL). That does alleviated some of the ineffectiveness of the rest of the latter part of the lineup. And the Brewers are first (tied) in the NL for homers in the ninth inning or later, and are at sixth in OPS for that period.
Eric Sogard hasn’t hit this season at all, of course, but when he starts at short he is 0-31. He has four walks, though! - with three coming Saturday night.
So while Brad’s article on the second base conundrum shines the spotlight specifically there, the Brewers’ offensive issues could logically be spread a bit more broadly. It’s easy to give Orlando Arcia and Manny Pina passes for their defense, and both seem to be getting a little better lately, but still...
Comment of the Week: The aforementioned article on what the heck to do at second base for the Brewers generated lots (and lots) of discussion, with internal options dominating the conversation and icelandreliant discussed the alternatives:
But I’d honestly rather see Orf up than Dubon. DFA Sogard and add Orf to the 40 man. He’s had a bazillion at bats in AA and AAA, and while he wouldn’t do anything spectacular in the big leagues, I’m confident he’d get on base. And he can cover more positions than Sogard as he has played a lot of outfield. I’d much rather see him pinch hitting than Sogard. Sure, Sogard is a magical lefty, but we’ll have another one soon with Vogt.
We shall see what is happening with Vogt after he left last night’s game with an apparent injury while throwing last night.
I’m in favor of an external addition myself, and would prefer that the Twins bequest Brian Dozier to the Brewers for the remainder of his free agent season. And maybe provide a magical healing of Keston Hiura’s elbow while they’re at it.
A final contest against the Pirates today is followed by an off day and two with the Cleveland Indians at Miller Park (no DH for you!). Then it’s on the road for a four game set at altitude against the Rockies. Maybe Milwaukee will bring up several Sky Sox as they will be pre-acclimated to the altitude.
Have a wonderful week, all!
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference