May: The month of repeated groin punches

Posted by Steve

Wow.

It’s hard to imagine this getting much worse. The injuries have reached a comedic point, with whatever broke Jonathan Lucroy’s hand taking the cake. It’s actually fun to imagine the possibilities, assuming the story is true. What was in his suitcase? Was he using an aluminum metal case? Was it full of unmarked bills? Did it contain the nuclear football?

The injuries are just piling up. They’ve used their fourth shortstop of the year, which really doesn’t matter because all of them suck other than the one they started the year with. They’ve also lost their catcher, two first basemen, a center fielder, a starting pitcher, that starting pitcher’s replacement, and a closer’s facial hair. That’s all in one month. Oh, and they’ve also gone 9-15 over that span.

After such a terrible month, it is difficult to see this ending well. Plenty of people seem to have given up on the season. Although the Brewers have made it much tougher than they’d like, it’s too early to give up on the season. Baseball Prospectus still gives the Brewers an 18.1% chance of reaching the playoffs, believe it or not.

Even with all the injuries, I don’t think the Brewers are as bad as they’ve played. Obviously, Baseball Prospectus thinks that way too, as they give the fifth place Brewers the third-best chance in the division of reaching the playoffs.

I still have some hope. For one thing, the starting pitching has been much better lately. Their starting rotation is 13th in the NL in ERA, but 8th in FIP and xFIP. First, that’s much better than what it was three weeks ago. Secondly, this, just like last year, shows us that the Brewers starters are better than their ERA implies. Some of this can be blamed on defense (again, like last year), but they have also been fairly unlucky–their allowed batting average on balls in play is .307, which is the third-highest in the NL. Save for the random Arizona debacle, Greinke has been lights out lately. Marcum has been very good, and Gallardo and Wolf have been better too. It will be interesting to see if Mike Fiers can hold down a spot with Marco Estrada out.

I also think the loss of Jonathan Lucroy could be overstated. I recently made a post at Reviewing the Brew explaining why we should have expected Lucroy’s numbers to come way down the rest of the season. People were too caught up in how he’s done this year and expecting that all season, when in actuality, it’s entirely possible that George Kottaras outperforms what Lucroy would have done over the next 4-6 weeks. Just as big of a loss from Lucroy to Kottaras will be from Kottaras to Martin Maldonado as the backup catcher. Maldonado has a good defensive reputation, but he’ll be close to an automatic out.

I still maintain the only injury that is possibly fatal at this point is at shortstop. Alex Gonzalez is a solid player, and any of the three guys they’ve used to fill in all suck. They’re in a catch 22 right now. They need a shortstop and better fifth starter to reach the playoffs, but to get in position to make trades for those players, they need to first play better.

The next 3-4 weeks are critical. If they’re ten games out of a playoff spot by July, I’m probably ready to call it a season. At that point, it’s likely goodbye to Zack Greinke. Marcum, K-Rod and Wolf would probably all be gone, too. As much as I’d like to see Greinke sign, the Brewers could get a great haul for him if they’re out of the running.

The one thing that could be devastating for the Brewers is if they stay under .500 but still close enough that management (okay, Mark Attanasio) doesn’t want to sell. If they finish near or below .500 without trading off any players, someone deserves to be fired. With the haul they could get for Greinke, Marcum, Wolf, and K-Rod, they could contend again fairly soon.

Still, it isn’t yet time to fully have that conversation. The schedule looks favorable as soon as the team returns home, and the Brewers will have one other thing going for them: I’ve been so busy that I’ve hardly posted this month, which is clearly why they’ve struggled. I’ll be posting more going forward, which can only help, right?

Or are you telling me that you’re doubting a team that will feature a batter of Mike Fiers and Martin Maldonado, Cody Ransom at shortstop and three other players with negative WARs on the season. Is that what you’re telling me?

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