Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The State of the Brewers (May 4th Edition)

Record: 10-15 (T-4th NL Central, 7.5 games back)

Runs Scored: 128 (5.1 per game)

Runs Against: 138 (5.5 per game)

Run Differential: -10

Pythagorean Record: 12-13

One of the biggest worries I had about this team in 2010 was the offense that was lost. After not resigning Mike Cameron and trading J.J. Hardy, it was tough to think this team could match it's offensive prowess. However, through 25 games, the Brewers are averaging better than five runs per game. They have a team OBP of .353 (4th in MLB). They OPS stands at a very solid .795.

So why is this team not better? Well, there's two easy answers to that. They can't play the Pittsburgh Pirates every game and they can't keep the other team off the scoreboard.

One thing I have noticed about baseball over the past couple of seasons is how quick fans can jump to conclusions. If you team goes into a slump, they suck. If a player goes 4-5 on opening day, he has superstar potential. Right now, the Brewers' pythagorean (run adjusted) record is 12-13. Usually, that is a decent way of determining how good a baseball team is. Problem is, it doesn't always work. You can fool the pythagorean record by having a great back end of the bullpen and winning close game. Or, you can fool it 2010 Milwauakee Brewers style.

This season, despite going only 4-2 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Milwaukee Brewers have outscored the Pirates 61-17. That means that nearly half of the Brewers 128 runs this season have come at the expense of Pirates' pitching. That also means that just 17 runs have scored in those games against the Brewers.

Let's have some fun and take away the Brewers games against the Pirates this season.

Record: 6-13

Runs Scored: 67

Runs Against: 121

Differential: -54

In the 19 games the Brewers have played this season versus opponent other than the Pittsburgh Pirates, they have been absolutely dominated. They are scoring just 3.5 runs per game, while allowing 6.4. Those numbers are not only alarming, they are unheard of. If it wasn't for back to back blown saves by Trevor Hoffman, half of the Brewers 2010 wins would have come against the Pirates.

After 2009, the main focus of the Brewers front office became pitching. Immediately they did whatever they could to address a glaring hole. Randy Wolf was signed to a healthy contract. Doug Davis was added for stability. LaTroy Hawkins was signed to lessen the blow dealt after the Mark DeFilice injury.

About a month into the season, it seems the Brewers didn't do enough to address the problem. The team ERA stands at 5.09, which is 26th out of 30 major league teams. The Brewers setup man and closer have combined to give up more runs than innings they've pitched. Trevor Hoffman currently leads the majors in blown saves with four (in those games, the Brewers have lost three). Oh yeah, and Jeff Suppan still wears a Brewers uniform.

Either way you look at it, it hasn't been pretty.

Believe it or not, pitching is not a huge concern for me about this team. As a staff, the Brewers have struck out 194 batters, while walking 90 in 223 innings. Brewers pitching has had awful luck this season. Opponents have a BABIP of .366 against Milwaukee pitching. No matter how you look at it, this is not one of the worst staffs in all of baseball.

Where the Brewers go from here is the important question.

I think it is very apparent the Brewers cannot compete with the St. Louis Cardinals this season. The are giving up only 3.0 runs per game, while scoring 4.7. They have the most wins in the National League with 18. They already have a 7.5 games lead over this Milwaukee team.

Does that mean this team can't make a run at the wildcard? Absolutely not. The wildcard is pretty much up for grabs this season in the National League, but common sense has to take over in Milwaukee. While a run at the wildcard is possible, it's not probable. Anytime you are already looking at the wildcard standings less than a month into the season, it's time to reevaluate your goals.

First things first, release Jeff Suppan and Claudio Vargas. Obviously the Jeff Suppan decision seems obvious, but with Vargas it's not so straight forward.

After watching this team, it's became very obvious they are in need to two things: a right handed bat off the bench and a lefty in the bullpen. There has been so many instances this season where the Brewers have been forced to stay with a player when they shouldn't have had to because no righties were on the bench. Adam Heether, who is in AAA, remains the best internal option for this need. Sure he's hitting just above .200, but still has shown high walk and power totals this season. He also has shown the ability to play multiple positions. He might not play them all well, but that has never stopped Ken Macha before (i.e. Jim Edmonds in CF).

For the much needed lefty out of the 'pen, there is no reason Mitch Stetter, or Zach Braddock shouldn't be in Milwaukee right now. Through his first seven appearances, Braddock has logged 11.1 innings. In that span, Braddock has struck out 22 batters and walked just four. That means he has struck out 55% of the batters who have stepped to the dish. Not surprisingly, he is yet to allow and run and has only given up three hits. Incredible. Mitch Stetter has gone down and thrown 7.2 innings and struck out eight, while walking two. He has allowed two runs. Also impressive, but Braddock is on another level.

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