Current Record- 74-69
Third Place- NL Central
.5 GB- Second NL Wild Card
Single- Analyzing the current state of this Brewers baseball club is a task that I admittedly put off and outright attempted to skip this week. After some careful thought, however, I realized that I owed it to everyone who has loyally followed my ramblings this season to cover the Crew in good times and in bad. Let’s start with the defense: the Brewers have committed a staggering 13 errors over their last twelve games. Teams commit errors on the regular, but lately the fielding miscues have sparked some big innings from the opposing lineups. Yesterday Jimmy Nelson was cruising along until the top of the 4th, when the first of the Brewers three errors led to a four-run inning by the Cardinals. Almost the exact same scenario sparked a four run inning against the Cubs on Wednesday. Here’s the difference between a team that’s riding high on confidence and a team that can’t seem to do anything right: the Cardinals collected just four hits on Saturday night, committed three errors, and finished the game 17 up 17 down, and yet they still beat the Brewers 5-3. The old saying that “when it rains, it pours” is defining this Brewers team right now. There’s nothing anyone can do when a team is struggling defensively but sit back and hope they play through it.
Double- The typically reliable Brewers starting rotation has been the backbone of this team the entire year, but even they can’t seem to get out of the recent funk that has dropped the Crew from first place in the NL Central to .5 games out of a wild card spot. Over the past twelve games, the starting pitchers are 1-9 with a whopping 6.64 ERA, and that is after getting both Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse back from injury. While they have not had anything to work with along the lines of run support, they do deserve their fair share of blame for allowing the Brewers to fall behind early and often. In nine of their last twelve games, the Brewers have trailed by three of more runs in the first four innings, and when the bats have been unable to put anything together, three runs is a seemingly impossible margin to overcome. Credit the bullpen, which had to step in early to a number of these games, for not giving up a single run last week; it would be nice to see them get back to work in some close games.
Triple- It’s hard to put the lack of hitting above both the defensive mistakes and the recent pitching woes, but I think the Brewer’s inability to score runs has had an effect on this team far beyond what the slash lines will tell you. The offense has averaged just 2.3 runs over the last 12 games, down from 4.5 runs in the 12 games prior to that stretch. What you can’t truly capture in these numbers is the effect that a lack of run production has on the entire mindset of the team. The Brewers have struggled to manufacture runs by stringing together consecutive hits all year. As a hitter on a slumping team, are you going to sit back and try to get base hits when you have no confidence that you’ll be batted in? My guess is no- I know I’d be swinging for the fences. The inability to score runs leads to increased pressure on starting pitchers to churn out those complete game shutouts. It leads to an “every out matters or else…” mentality on defense, and those routine double play balls get a bit tougher to field when there is so much pressure to get every out. When you can’t trust a lineup to manufacture runs, baseball becomes a mentally grueling game, and seemingly good ball clubs can implode.This has been the story of the Milwaukee Brewers the past two weeks, and it has likely cost them a chance at a division title.
Home Run- After an embarrassing 9-0 loss yesterday, the Brewers held a closed door players only meeting during which Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, Aramis Ramirez, Kyle Lohse, and Carlos Gomez spoke to the team about their recent struggles. They came out of that meeting saying all the right things, however with just 19 games left, one has to wonder if this meeting has come too late. A change of mindset is one thing, it’s another thing to suddenly flip the switch from the off to on position in every facet of the game and start putting together a string of wins. With each additional loss, it becomes increasingly possible that the Brewers may miss the playoffs after being in first place for 150+ consecutive days. Back in July, sports talk radio was flooded with callers claiming that the Brewers losing the division would be the “biggest disappointment in franchise history,” and yet now the Brewers are fighting for their playoff lives. While you’ll find me watching the games up to the very end, I’m not foolish enough to claim that the team that the Brewers have become the past two weeks is capable of winning a playoff series, let alone a pennant. Something has to change, and it has to change immediately. If the Crew is unable to turn it around this week vs the Marlins, the Brewers will be watching the playoffs at home, thinking about what could have been. Rest assured that missing the playoffs will cost many on this coaching staff their jobs. It’s quite sad, really.