Changes needed in Milwaukee

10 05 2008

I am not one for knee-jerk reactions. Everyone says that when they are about to call for a change in the ranks on the team, but you have to realize that I have defended everyone on the Brewers for the past month plus. Today’s loss finally broke me, however. Things need to change. Let me outline them for you:

  • Eric Gagne needs to be replaced. He has proven that he does not have what it takes to be the closer for the Milwaukee Brewers. This afternoon, Gagne showed me that he cannot pitch in important situations with effectiveness.

    It all comes down to the first pitch for Eric. If he throws a strike to the batter, he will get them out more often than not. It’s that simple. If the first pitch is a strike, the opposing hitter has an average of .161 with 11 strikeouts. Gagne has not walked a batter this season after getting ahead 0-1 in the count.

    How about if the pitch is a ball? The opponent’s batting average jumps to .417. Gagne has walked 10 batters after falling behind 1-0 in the count. He has struck out 6 batters as well, but the sharp contrast between the levels of success is astounding. One would think Eric could adjust fairly easily, even after throwing one ball, but apparently not. His command has been spotty all season. It is time for Eric to find his groove elsewhere in the bullpen. There are pitchers who can get the job done.

    Who do I mean? Try Guillermo Mota. The Milwaukee Brewers and New York Mets essentially swapped contracts in the off-season when the Johnny Estrada trade was made. Mota faced a lot of opposition before he even threw a pitch in a Brewers uniform.

    A simple change in his mechanics appears to have changed his success. He now stands much taller on the mound to get a much more downward plane to the plate.It has done wonders for Guillermo. He has a 2.40 ERA with 18 strikeouts. The 10 walks leave much to be desired, but the damage has not been too severe. Mota has not given up run in the past six innings he has pitched, and opposing hitters have managed to hit a measly .241 against him for the year. Even more impressively, Guillermo has yet to give up a run on the road. He has pitched 8 scoreless innings away from Miller Park.

    It is clearly time to move Eric from the closer’s role. Guillermo Mota has proven that he deserves a shot. I am not claiming that he will get 25 saves this season, but I believe he has a better chance to succeed in the role.

  • After being shuffled around from position-to-position in the past few years, Bill Hall has found a home defensively at third base. The switch has been amazingly smooth for the former infielder, and he has shown a penchant for making the spectacular play. I have been pleasantly surprised with the switch for Billy.

    Offensively, however, Bill has had his ups and downs. His power stroke, which was notably absent last season, has returned. Through May 10, he already has 7 home runs and 19 RBI. Some have attributed this success to his contact lenses. Some have wondered whether or not Billy has more energy to hit since he’s not running all over the place in center. Whatever the reason, Bill has become a power threat for the Brewers once again.

    The problem is that his average is pitiful. After struggling again today, Bill is now hitting .206 on the 2008 season, with an astounding 37 strikeouts. That is a lot of strike outs. Left-handed pitchers have not been the issue. Billy is mashing lefties, to the tune of a .333 batting average.

    Righties are a different story. The power-hitting third baseman has only managed to hit .163 against right-handers. He has struck out 30 times against righties, while only whiffing 7 times against southpaws. Bill Hall has also shown Brewers fans that he is not productive against right-handed pitching. It may not be a popular move, but a platoon could be extremely beneficial for the Brewers offense.

    Enter Russell Branyan. Russell is mashing pitchers in Triple-A Nashville. He has matched Hall’s 7 home runs thus far and has plated 23 runners. The power is clearly there. The important thing is that Russell would need to be able to hit righties to make the platoon beneficial.

    Trust me, Russell Branyan has noooo problems hitting right-handed pitching. In the 2008 season, the veteran has hit .405/.479/.750 against righties, and all seven home runs have come against them. These numbers have come after 84 at-bats, so the sample size is large enough to prove convincing. I am sure that Branyan is not as good defensively as is Billy, but those gaudy numbers outweigh the defensive difficulties (which are not all that great). The offense needs a boost right now, and it is foolish to not reward Russell for mashing in the minors. That is what Doug Melvin brought him in for, after all. A Hall/Branyan platoon could be a huge spark for a struggling offense.

  • As much as I do not want to endorse a managerial change mid-season, The Ned Yost Experiment has run its course. Ned no longer has the excuse that he is still learning on the job. Brewers teams under his tutelage have notoriously collapsed, or at lease swooned, after the All-Star break. That would spell disaster for this Brewers team after its slow start.

    Ned has traditionally handled the bullpen very poorly as well. I am not naive enough to blame Eric Gagne‘s struggles on the skipper, but it is something to be concerned about. He has also managed the pitch counts of starting pitchers poorly, which has been well-chronicled during the off-season. I do not feel the 2008 Brewers can afford to wait until July or August to realize that Ned is doing the same thing again. I would give Ned another week or so to turn things around. If he cannot, a change may be in order. Perhaps Ted Simmons can light a fire under this team. Someone has to do it.

These changes could help the Brewers get back to their winning ways, and it could help them immediately. None of these would create a championship-caliber team instantly. I admit that. The starting rotation still has issues. Manny Parra and Carlos Villanueva need to step up. Jeff Suppan must be the innings-eater that the Brewers are paying him to be. Hopefully Dave Bush will be able to find his command consistently. Brewers starters need to fix their problems in the fifth inning!

All in all, Gagne must go, Russell Branyan should get a call-up to platoon with Bill Hall, and Ned Yost should have a very short leash. The 2008 Milwaukee Brewers have serious issues that need to be addressed. The “It’s still early” excuse is no longer relevant. Doug Melvin needs to make some moves to help the team succeed. That is what he is paid for, after all.

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4 responses

11 05 2008
bernie carbo

Excellent suggestions especially the platoon scenario at third…..Shake it up like Ric Ocasek and the Cars were singing about back in the Doc Medich daze….

And Gagne needs to be replaces if only temporarily and your suggestion of Mota is also a good one..

I appreciate the fact that you offer up suggstions without making as you say…knee jerk reactions….

11 05 2008
Dan

Sounds good to me.

12 05 2008
Adam

I disagree with the platoon idea with Branyan. Russell has continuously had his shots in the majors to prove he can hit. He can get hot in streaks, but when it comes down to it, he just doesn’t have the ability to be counted on in a major league setting.

Branyan’s swing just takes too long, he has a long looping swing that takes a long time. If he guesses fastball right, its gone, but if pitchers can stay ahead of him and keep him guessing, get ready for a ridiculous amount of strikeouts.

What needs to happen is the hitting coach needs to sit Hall down, and tell him that the power is nice and we appreciate the occasional home run, but we need more average from him. If Hall was hitting fifth still and had Hart backing him up, he would be able to swing for the fences and let Hart clean up his mess. Instead, Hall has Hardy following, and Hardy is hitting just about as bad as Hall is. Hall needs to advance and drive in the runners with hits to opposite field and the gaps. There are too many outs coming from the sixth spot when the pitcher hits eighth.

15 08 2008
Right Field Bleachers » Blog Archive » In the News (5/11)

[…] BrewersNation calls for some changes: Gagne out as closer, a Hall/Branyan platoon at third and Simmons replacing Yost as manager. The […]

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