Posted by Steve
This is hands down the strangest Brewers season in my lifetime. Nearly everything about it is bizarre in some way. Prince Fielder can’t hit. Casey McGehee is a top 30 player. Trevor Hoffman is terrible. And it’s certainly not just individual performances that are strange. Let’s look at some team stats.
- The Brewers have scored eight or more runs ten times already in 34 games.
- They have scored less than three runs 11 times.
- The Brewers’ run differential is -2, giving them a pythagorean record of 17-17. Eliminate games against the Pirates, and their run differential is -46. That’s right; in six games they outscored the Pirates by 44 runs–and they lost two of those games!
- They have six players who have been below replacement level to this point (Alcides Escobar, Todd Coffey, Jeff Suppan, Claudio Vargas, Dave Bush, and Trevor Hoffman) yet they have three players who are already more than one win above replacement (Ryan Braun, Casey McGehee, Rickie Weeks, and Yovani Gallardo).
In short, it’s either been really good or really bad, without much in-between.
Braun and Gallardo
Yo’s numbers are quite strong this season: 3.06 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 47 innings. Yet, he continues to be the most frustrating player on the Brewers roster for me.
The situation reminds me a lot of Ryan Braun’s a few years ago. Braun had just completed an amazing offensive rookie year and everyone had him elevated to stardom. I couldn’t stand watching him flail away though, because I knew how much better he could be if he just developed some plate discipline.
It’s the same with Yo. His arsenal is so good, yet he could be great if he became more efficient with his pitches. He nibbles way too much, which results in too many walks. This prevents him from going deep into games–he’s averaging less than six innings per start.
Sure enough, Braun developed plate discipline and took off into super-duper stardom since the second half of 2008. Yo is very good right now, but if he stopped nibbling so much and was more efficient with his pitches, he could be a top 10-15 starter in the game rather than a top 30-40.
While Rick Peterson has made no discernible impact on the pitching stats (it’s almost as if the impact of coaching is overblown!), I will give him props in one major area: he is a firm believer in following pitch counts. Last season I was screaming about pitch counts, particularly Gallardo’s.
This year, they’ve done a much better job eliminating the pointless inning (you know the one—where Yo finishes an inning at 106 pitches, was showing signs of fatigue, hadn’t been that great anyway, and still got sent out for one more inning). As a result, no Brewers are in the top 20 in pitcher abuse points. Incidentally, when Ubaldo Jimenez’s arm flies out of his socket during a pitch sometime in September, you can probably blame Jim Tracy/the Rockies braintrust.
What was I wrong about?
Since I throw out opinions all willy nilly on this blog, it’s only fair that I point out the ones I had wrong. 35 games or so into the season is enough to see where I was on the right or wrong track.
I wanted the Brewers to sign Ben Sheets instead of handing out long-term deals to someone like Randy Wolf. Who knows if Wolf will work out, but the early signs on Big Ben are, sad to say, not good at all. His strikeouts are down, and strangely, his walks are way, way up. In 36.2 innings this season, Sheets has 19 walks. To put that in perspective, Sheets threw 106 innings in 2006 and had just 11(!) walks. And he didn’t come as cheaply as I figured, either. It’s still plenty early enough for him to turn it around, but the early signs indicate he may not be able to recover from his injury.
I could not have been more wrong about something baseball-wise than I’ve been about Casey McGehee to this point. Dan made a funny comment to me a few weeks ago: What if Casey McGehee is actually good? My company line has been that he hasn’t proven it over a large enough sample size. He still hasn’t, but he’s getting there, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. He’s a huge reason the Brewers haven’t completely tanked this season from Fielder’s struggles.
I wasn’t a fan of the Edmonds signing at all. Granted, it was mainly because I could never stand him, but I also figured it would take playing time away from a superior Jody Gerut. Well it has, but Edmonds has produced while Gerut has struggled mightily. It still doesn’t mean I have to like him, though.
What was I right about?
Okay, now I get to brag.
Why again did J.J. Hardy need to be traded? Escobar was never a good hitter in the minors. It would have been one thing if he was banging down the door, but he was just decent offensively last year. Sure enough, he’s dreadful now at the big league level. I haven’t been very impressed with his acclaimed defense, either. Hardy isn’t a world beater, but at this point he’s better than Escobar–offensively and defensively. When you consider the poor return they got for Hardy, this trade was a bad move all the way around. It lowered the shortstop production, started Escobar’s service clock earlier than necessary, and brought back a less than desirable return in Carlos Gomez.
I posted immediately after the Davis signing that I didn’t like it at all, and he’s only made me look smart (this time, anyway). He’s like Gallardo with the nibbling, except without any upside whatsoever.
I suggested the Brewers sign him before he shockingly accepted the Twins’ arbitration offer. I love Pavano. He’s the anti-Yo: While Yo has great stuff but shaky command, Pavano has great success with only decent stuff because he has excellent command. He only has seven walks in 46.1 innings, and he has a 4.86 k/bb ratio. I actually got made fun of for taking him in my fantasy draft, but he’s been outstanding.
Yes, Rickie Weeks is as dreamy as ever. Offer this man an extension plz.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some amazing, mind-blowing news: Ned Yost is once again an MLB manager! The Royals fired Trey Hillman and tabbed Ned as the guy to turn it around. It’s too bad Ned wasn’t given a team with any talent, because we won’t really get to see reminders of how awful he is. Anyone can lose with a bad team. It takes a special manager, one like Ned, to lose with a talented team. Regardless, here’s hoping we get to see more stubborn defense of bad players and 360-degree F-bombs.
I’m tailgating tomorrow for the first time in a few years, and I couldn’t be more pumped. Say hi if you see me–I’ll be the guy in the Mark DiFelice t-shirt jersey telling a girl, “Look at it this way. You only get 27 outs. A hitter’s priority is to not use up one of the outs…”