Visiting Writer: This Week’s Ramblings

9 05 2008
Once again, Daniel is gracious enough to write another article for BrewersNation.  Please give him your responses to his article by commenting at the bottom.  If all goes well, I would like to introduce Dan as a regular contributor to BrewersNation.  Comment away!

The Journal-Sentinel’s Michael Hunt and I must be separated at birth or something.  As I was putting together my column this week what pops up on the pages of Friday’s JS, but an article on impatience with Brewers manager Ned Yost.  Since the twin disasters of the Houston and Florida road series sweeps I’ve been slowly forming the exact same thoughts as Mr. Hunt, and by virtue of his interview, Ryan Braun.
For the better part of this season I’ve been reading Yost’s comments in the newspaper, over and over again, that his young guns’ bats are about to heat up.  “Its only a matter of time until they break out,” he has said on numerous occasions.  The post-game Q & A sessions between Ned and the media are predictable.
Question: Are you concerned about the lack of offense.
Yost:  No, not at all.  Every team goes through these ups and downs.  Its just a matter of time.
The Brewers announcers are starting to sound desperate on TV.  “I’d hate to be the team that is on the receiving end of the Brewers’ bats when they break out of this slump,” the Rock has said at least once every game this season.  There’s a bit of hope in his voice each time he says that; hoping that it will be the last time he has to, but there he is again the next game…. hoping.
Of all the things to be worried about: Eric Gange’s blown saves, low-inning starting pitching, the exhausted bullpen, and the anemic offense; I’ll take the last one.  In these last two road series, the starting pitching has assembled several qualities starts (Sheets, Suppan have produced a few solid 6 innings, 3 runs or less performances) despite terrible outings by , the bullpen has several consistent pitchers (Stetter, Shouse, Mota, Torres, even McClung of late) despite near manic levels of usage, and Gagne’s more rested and certainly not in use. 
But those damn bats!  No regular Brewer is hitting over .300 (Hart comes close at .295) and power numbers from last season’s power plants Braun, Hardy, and Fielder are disappointing.  Certainly last season’s home run total was for (pun intended) “out of the park” and the Crew relied too heavily on the long ball, but with just over 20% of the Brewers runs coming off of home runs this year (the majority of those from surprising HR hitters: Weeks, Kapler, Cameron, and Hall), I’m sure any fans would ask for a few more.  Our sluggers are not slugging (speaking of SLG %): Braun sits at .443, Hall .425, and Fielder at .410.  The team, as a whole, is hitting only .239 good for 27th place in all of Major League Baseball.
Even when the Brewers pound out hits they are often lonley on the base paths.  Thursday night, against the Marlins, your Milwaukee Brewers managed to slap out nine hits.  On a normal night that would be a cause to celebrate given the two-hit shutout the night before and the struggles in the last two Houston games, but those nine hits only translated to a measly two runs.  In contrast, the Marlins had 11 hits and brought seven around to score.
Runners in scoring position are not scoring.  The Brewers have had enough trouble of late getting men on base let alone getting them home.  Earlier in the season the bats still weren’t producing, but the offense was getting runners home when the chances came.  Now nothing is working on the base paths.  I heard the number last week that the Brewers were hitting .224 with RISP.  Since the decent start to the season (which I’ll cut off at the first Florida series) the RISP average has been bad.  Thursday at Florida was about as typical as it has gotten for the Brewers as they left six runners in scoring position. 
All of this information is a no brainer.  The larger point is that something is missing or gone wrong for the Brewers Baseball Club.  I’ve been playing particularly close attention to the dugout shots during the TV broadcasts and it doesn’t look like anyone is excited.  Even Weeks’ two run bomb from Wednesday or Cameron’s blast in Houston was met with indifference from their teammates.  Obviously the losing has taken a toll, but the excitement of close game combat (combined with victories) has worn off and the Brewers look worn out in this early season.
In Hunt’s article he quoted Braun’s frustrations about the hitting.  He said, “You can only say that for so long.”  He was responding to the typical reporter’s questioning of the lack of bats.  Yost asks for more time while Braun demands that the Brewers “start swinging the bats like were capable of.”
I’m usually the last person to call for a manager’s head.  While many have want Yost toast since last year’s meltdown, I gave him the benefit of the doubt (as I believe most of the Milwaukee print and TV media has too) that a series of unfortunate events have put him in a bind.  Injuries, other hot teams, etc have all scuttled Brewers momentum, but I think Yost is getting to the bottom of the barrel when it comes to chances.
At some point one has to ask why a manager can’t get a clearly talented team to hit the ball.  Blame missing staff aces, blame a tired bullpen, blame Gange, but if Jeff Suppan can go out, pitch a solid game and the Brewers lose 3-0 who do you blame.  Three runs is not insurmountable.  In fact, its down right sad how many times that a pitcher has to march out to that mound and just try to keep the game close only for no one to back him up.  No wonder after countless games of pitching four or five decent innings our pitching has blown up.  They see on the other side of the ball that the offense is putting up goose eggs.
Yost clearly is not getting the most out of his players.  The old stand-by for Brewers fans is 1982 when the talented Brewers were floundering and an inspirational Harvey Kuenn brought the Crew back from the brink and to an AL crown.  Whether or not a turn-around can happen is one thing, but that dugout looks sorry and something has to change.
The Brewers are a capable side and while our starting pitching is troubling, the bullpen is tired, and Gange is erratic a few less zeroes and a few more runs on the scoreboard would relieve a lot of pressure on all three.  Just think of the perfect scenario: Parra pitches and gives up two or threeruns in five innings, the bullpen adds one or two, but if the team bats the way they should their offense could easily put enough up to be competitive.  Final score Brewers 8, whoever 4.  No starting pitching needed tonight, bullpen survives, and Gange doesn’t need to pitch.  Is this an every night situation? Of course not.  But certainly games become more comfortable and competitive when two teams are playing instead of one.


By: Daniel Wiersema




One response

18 05 2008
Big Bats Can’t Save Brewers « BrewersNation

[…] be a big part of the team’s future not only on the field, but off of it.  This continues to reinforce my arguement from last week that Ned Yost is not getting the most out of his players and the frustration is clearly showing for […]

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