At the Break: The Milwaukee Brewers

The plot thickens.  Two days past the All Star break and in short order the Brewers have dropped from 1st to 3rd place.  Considering Atlanta is 6.5 games ahead of the Brewers in the wild card race, Milwaukee must focus all of their attention on winning the division.  Can the Crew do it?  Do they have the tools in the toolbox to answer the hopes of many a loyal fan?

Before we jump into a discussion of the first half of the season we must consider the addition of Francisco Rodriguez.  K-Rod is sitting on 291 saves over his career and yet he is only 29 years old.  So far, in 2011, Francisco has a 3.16 ERA, 23 saves out of 26 chances and he has struck out 46 while allowing only 16 walks.  His career averages are a 2.35 ERA with 35 saves so he is in the ballpark for both again this year.  He is quite an addition to a bullpen that already has a few strong options.  Let’s take a look at how the Brewers stack up and see if we can discover their strengths and weaknesses.

Batting

The Brewers do pack a punch.  They lead the National League in HRs powered by All Stars Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, and Rickie Weeks.  They are 5th in Runs scored, 2nd in Slugging Percentage, surprisingly 3rd in Triples and only 12th in Strike Outs.  They do have holes in their lineup though.  The most embarrassing one is the fact that Brewer pitchers have a .193 batting average just a mere 10 points worse than the abysmal production at 3rd base.  Reds fans have been screaming over the lack of production in Left Field and at Shortstop, imagine the wailing in the streets if the batting average at either of these positions dropped another 20 points to .203.  It would be an ugly scene.  My impression is the Brewers may have needed a 3rd baseman more than they needed a second closer, but that is just my opinion.

Fielding

Tony LaRussa, the Cardinals manager, is occasionally ridiculed for ignoring defense in deference to a solid bat.  Dusty Baker has been accused of relying too much on Paul Janish’s glove and his weak offensive ability.

Ron Roenicke takes a different approach.  He plays Casey McGehee at third base who so far this season is not hitting AND has the worst fielding percentage on the team at .938.  His 13 errors predictably lead the team.  McGehee did have 23 HRs last year giving Roenicke a flimsy excuse for keeping him in the lineup.  The rest of the team has relatively pedestrian numbers with a major exception.  The 3 outfielders with the most playing time: Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, and Carlos Gomez, have not committed a single error in 441 defensive chances.  Impressive by any standard.  As a team the Brewers are 5th in the league with 63 errors, a number quite similar to the Pirates and Cardinals.

Starting Pitching

The Brewers made two big moves in the off season to improve their starting pitching by securing the services of Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke to aid Yovani Gallardo to subdue the rest of the division.  Considering this triumvirate is 24-12 I think these personnel moves were a resounding success.  The face that Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson are both breaking even at 6-6 apiece the Brewers must be extremely satisfied with the job these men have done up till now.  The only wrinkle is they don’t get quite as deep into games (5.93 Innings/start) as I am sure Roenicke would like but that is where the addition of K-Rod makes sense.

Bullpen

Milwaukee Brewers Relievers

Pitcher

RA

QRO

FRO

ND

QAR

FAR

John Axford

42

32

9

1

76%

21%

Zach Braddock

24

12

10

2

50%

42%

Mark DiFelice

3

1

2

0

33%

67%

Tim Dillard

15

8

7

0

53%

47%

Marco Estrada

22

12

9

1

55%

41%

Sean Green

14

7

4

3

50%

29%

LaTroy Hawkins

27

18

4

5

67%

15%

Danny Herrera

2

0

2

0

0%

100%

Brandon Kintzler

9

5

4

0

56%

44%

Kameron Loe

46

31

14

1

67%

30%

Mike McClendon

9

7

2

0

78%

22%

Sergio Mitre

22

12

9

1

55%

41%

Takashi Saito

5

4

1

0

80%

20%

Mitch Stetter

16

8

7

1

50%

44%

Brewers Staff Totals

256

157

84

15

61%

33%

Data through 7/10/2011

The Brewers pen is ok but nothing to get excited about.  The problem is the depth.  They have only 3 relievers offering even a moderate amount of consistency and availability but at some point they are going to wear out and break down unless addition help is introduced.  Enter Rodriguez.  This really will give needed depth to the bullpen for the stretch run.  Is it the best use of resources?  From my perspective I would say yes because it only cost money.  Money that isn’t mine; so I feel no loss in the expenditure.  It did not cost the team resources or prospects that will cause further damage in the short time.  When you look at the Brewers pen and only see success from Axford, Loe and Hawkins with any kind of regularity you realize help is desperately needed.

Prognosis

I simply see too many holes in this lineup for long term success.  There are simply too many easy outs that provide respite to a pitcher abused by Fielder, Braun or Weeks.  This is a good team but I do not believe it is a championship team.  Rodriguez is a quality addition but as I alluded to earlier, a third basemen would have helped far more.  At the end of the season I will be surprised not to see the Brewers resting in 4th place and facing the imminent departure of All Star game MVP Prince Fielder to the lure of a lucrative free agency contract.  It should be a record breaking pile of money.  Marcum will also need to be resigned and it will be tough to return to the position they are in today in years to come.

Follow me on Twitter @JohnHeitz

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Tags: Francisco Rodriguez Milwaukee Brewers Prince Fielder Rickie Weeks Ron Roenicke Ryan Braun Yovani Gallardo

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