Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Closing Up Shop

Good morning every one. I thought I was done with my stint over at Bernie's Crew, but after a week of work, Jim was very pleased and made me an offer to join him. Considering the traffic over at SportsBubbler, and at Jim's blog specifically, it was an offer I could not refuse. So while the Brew Crew Pub is closed, it sort of remains open over at Bernie's Crew.

But don't fret, I have been given liberties to continue and write my ridiculous stat head articles often enough to keep me plenty satisfied. On a good note, I won't have to put all the work into game recaps, as Jim and I will be splitting those duties. That is an immense relief considering the amount of work that is put into each and every one of those posts.

Thank you to every one who has read and supported this blog. It was a pleasure entertaining you at this site, and I hope to hear from all of you over at SportsBubbler, which I am learning day by day is a fantastic site for all Wisconsin sports.

Slainte! Go Crew!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Check Me Out at Bernie's

With Jim taking the week off over at Bernie's Crew, my recaps and analysis can be found there until Sunday. Should be a nice upgrade in the reading audience for a few days and perhaps will toss me a few extra hits. I'd love to hear from any and all of you over at the best blog in the Brewers Nation. Jim does great work, and I hope I can keep him afloat while he's gone.

Just for fun...

There's a lot of people calling for Rickie's head, and it may be because of the media or because no matter what Rickie does the rest of the season, his numbers are going to look pretty rough. Nevertheless, I just wanted to compare Rickie's starts to Ray Durham's since his arrival, and here we go.

Ray Durham: 7 GS, .259/.333/.519, 1 HR, 4 2B, 3 BB, 4 K, 6 R, CS
Brewers record in those starts: 4-3
Rickie Weeks: 14 GS, .310/.388/.517, 2 HR, 2 3B, 2 2B, 7 BB, 1 HBP, 15 K, 10 R, SB, CS
Brewers record in those starts: 9-5

Rickie has had two fielding mistakes in those games which go unnoted here, but his production has been unbelievable. I'm beating a dead horse here as I always do, but it's hard to argue taking out Rickie when he's clearly producing at a very high level. Both of these guys have had a hard time getting around the bases, though, because JJ Hardy is slumping big time. Durham benefited from some Craig Counsell productive groundballs and scored three of those runs in one game. Rickie's scoring percentage isn't nearly as high as it was to start the year, which I would suggest is a direct result of a lack of aggressiveness on the base paths. Sad thing is, when he is aggressive, he gets burned, which hasn't been the case until the second half. Hopefully he can remedy that down the stretch.

Monday, August 11, 2008

6/11 Brewers Nationals Series Recap

The Scores:
Milwaukee Brewers 5 Washington Nationals 0
Milwaukee Brewers 6 Washington Nationals 0
Milwaukee Brewers 5 Washington Nationals 4
Milwaukee Brewers 7 Washington Nationals 1

MVPs of the Series:
Brewers Starting Rotation: 31.1 IP, 21 H, 3 BB, 30 K, 2 ER, 3 Ws
Lastings Milledge: 7/17; HR, 2 RBIs, 2 SBs, R

The Brewers rotation took advantage of a powerless team that was aggressive early in the count. The results were astounding. Back to back complete game shutouts by the pocket aces, a seven inning one run performance by Manny Parra and a six and a third, one run performance from back end starter, Dave Bush. And the best part of it all is what these performances did for the bullpen. After a day off on Thursday last week, the Brewers started a 13 day 13 game stretch, where starting at home for three, then six on the west coast and three more back at home. The three days of rest for the bullpen via the off day and the two CGs, allows quite a bit of flexibility. Big nod to the rotation for taking advantage of a bad team.

Milledge continued his recent hot streak this week with a solid performance all around. The unfortunate thing for him is that it offered little to no production, as the rest of his teammates couldn't get a hit if their pay check was on the line. Milledge is hitting .409/.469/.795 in his eleven games in August. While this production is obviously going to come down quite a bit, this is the guy the Mets thought they had before he was traded. Unfortunately his character issues combined with disappointing performances pushed him out. Perhaps Lastings has found himself a little bit, and that could pay off for the Nationals as they try to produce a winning team after getting a new ballpark.

What was the Difference?:
In such a dominating performance, it's almost impossible to pin point one thing, but the Brewers long ball paid dividends yet again. Eight launches led to nine of the Brewers runs, all of which seemed to have come in pivotal situations. Gabe Kapler hit a walk off solo shot on Sunday. Rickie Weeks hit a solo shot to tie the game on Monday afternoon. Corey Hart hit a two-run go ahead blast to lead the Brewers to victory on the same day. The Nationals, on the other hand, did their best to use the long ball, but came up short with their two blasts on Sunday.

Causes for Concern:
That Nationals are just bad. Poor defense, no power, no bullpen and one solid starting pitcher. I understand the revenue boosts that come with new stadiums, and perhaps the team is simply building that revenue so they can build a team, but right now things in DC look pretty bleak with almost no light at the end of the tunnel. It may perhaps be a stretch to think of it them like the Brewers organization before they built Miller Park. But I've seen the type of people and the amount of hard work it takes to make a contender out of garbage, and I believe there's a rare breed of people that can make it happen. Unfortunately, I have trouble believing the Nats front office is that breed considering they've brought in guys like Dmitri Young, Ronnie Belliard and Cristian Guzman.

If there's anything the Brewers should have fear about, it's the fact that they continue to rely way way too much on the long ball. This weekend they were able to accumulate a ridiculous amount of walks, 30, in just four games. But this season has proven that we cannot rely on these to get us through, one because the Brewers will be facing better pitching and two because the Brewers offense does not really have the plate discipline they showed this weekend. It's a sick feeling to see a team that's so good, have a big Achilles' heel. You just have to hope that when the weakness exposes itself, the strengths of this team can overcome it, which for much of the season it has.

Causes for Excitement:
I tell you what, I've seen John Lannan pitch twice now, and I really like what he's brought to the table. While his walk total is still a red flag, Lannan has the composure on the mound to be a solid pitcher in this league for quite a long time. He's got a solid and deceiving change with great action and fastball that's just good enough to sneak by most hitters. Toss in Milledge perhaps living up to his offensive potential, and the Nationals have at least a few pieces in place. It may not be much, but it's a start.

Did I mention the Brewers took THIRTY walks this weekend? God that just makes me drool. The thing that befuddles me is that only one of those walks scored via the homeruns the Brewers smoked. Nevertheless, the Brewers anemic offense did show up this weekend, but the 30 walks allowed them to push through the top of their order over and over again. Eventually lightning struck. As a result, the Brewers picked up four wins, 1.5 games on the Cubs and two games on the Cardinals. Even better, the Brewers head to the west coast this week to take on another last place squad in the San Diego Padres. The Cubs have an excellent record, but don't forget they have played ten extra games against the weak NL West. It's about time the Brewers get their own piece.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Where are they now?

I've been noticing something interesting lately. Former Brewers pitchers are turning into good pitchers. Here's some names you may have forgotten that once were in the farm system or in Brewers blue.

Grant Balfour (TB): 32.1 IP, 1.39 ERA, 49 K, 14 BB
Mike Adams (SD): 40.2 IP, 2.21 ERA, 46 K, 12 BB
Dennis Sarfate (BAL): 57.0 IP, 4.58 ERA, 58 K, 45 BB
Will Inman (AA-SD): 118.1 IP, 3.12 ERA, 126 K, 61 BB
Joe Thatcher (AAA-SD): 27.2 IP, 1.63 ERA, 30 K, 8 BB
Joe Thatcher (SD): 25.2 IP, 8.42 ERA, 17 K, 13 BB
Robert Allen Dickey (SEA): 88.2 IP, 4.36 ERA, 48 K, 38 BB
Greg Aquino (AAA-BAL): 25.2 IP, 2.45 ERA, 29 K, 6 BB
Greg Aquino (BAL): 9.1 IP, 12.54 ERA, 9 K, 9 BB

I wanted to see this basically because of Mike Adams, who I remember from about three years ago. He had two solid years in 2004 and 2005 and was traded to the Mets for Geremi Gonzalez. That one almost worked out. Now look at the kid.

Then there's Grant Balfour, who the Brewers fans couldn't stand, but good lord did that guy have nasty stuff. Nothing has changed since Balfour has left except for the shell shock of the big leagues is gone. Now he's a future elite closer in TB. If Percival wasn't there, his save numbers would be ridiculous.

Inman has changed his entire delivery, and has had success. Thatcher had it going in 2007, but just can't put it together in the bigs again. He's a straight up LOOGY and needs to be treated as such. Aquino = AAAA and RA Dickey has been waiting to show off his knuckleball on a regular basis for years. He is a poor man's Tim Wakefield, but hey, Wakefield has a ton of wins over the year for being just above average his entire career. And Sarfate is just a filler right now for the Orioles. Far, far too many walks.

Any one have any others?

8/8 Brewers Nationals Series Preview

The Series:
Washington Nationals (44-71) @ Milwaukee Brewers (64-51)

Who's on Tap?:
August 8th: Collin Balester (2-3, 4.55 ERA) vs. CC Sabathia (11-8, 3.28 ERA)
August 9th: Tim Redding (8-6, 4.44 ERA) vs. Ben Sheets (10-5, 3.14 ERA)
August 10th: John Lannan (6-11, 3.55 ERA) vs. Manny Parra (9-5, 4.18 ERA)
August 11th: Garrett Mock (0-2, 5.27 ERA) vs. Dave Bush (6-9, 4.50 ERA)

Who Should You Watch?:
The Nationals come to town on one of their hottest streaks of the season, having swept Cincinnati at home and taking three of four from the Colorado Rockies in Denver. But don't be fooled. Prior to that the Nationals had lost nine straight and were looking like one of the worst teams in the league. But the addition of second baseman Emillo Bonifacio has been a blessing and his lit a fire under this team. Since arriving on August 1st, Bonifacio has hit .375 in his seven games. However, the biggest change this month has been Lastings Milledge, who has hit .407/.484/.926 in the month of August with four bombs already. This is a big jump from his season numbers of .254/.321/.405. On the mound, it's clear that John Lannan has gone overlooked as far as the league's concerned, but on the Nationals, he's clearly the best pitcher. In his last start against the Brewrs, the 23 year old Lannan tossed five innings of three run baseball with a solid 7-3 groundball rate. Six of his last seven starts have been solid ones, so look for him to be pretty good this weekend.

The Brewers are coming off a fight, an anemic offensive week and a 4-2 road trip. But the Brewers offensive woes may have been cured by some mediocre pitching in Cincy, where the bottom half of the order stopped being a black hole for production and is turning into a mediocre group, which is all this team really needs right now. But the two big producers this weekend are expected to be Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks. After watching Rickie's approach on Wednesday, he may have found a way to eliminate that vicious black hole on the outside of the plate that was a guaranteed ground out to the left side. Prince has been looking like a beast lately, which can be attributed to his willingness to trust his hands and stay balanced at the plate. On the mound, look for Manny Parra to bounce back from the face smash this past week. Parra will have to make an adjustment to correct his command issues though. But there's not a better confidence booster than playing a team with a struggling offense.

Keys to Victory:
The Nationals need to keep hitting because their pitching staff has been known to have hiccups. Unfortunately for the Nats, they carry the NL's worst batting average (.245) and the third to worst OBP (.318). With only 83 HRs on the books, the Nationals can't afford to let this series become a pitchers duel, especially with Sabathia and Sheets on the mound. If they plan to take any games this weekend, it will have to be on the shoulders of Milledge and Cristian Guzman. If they don't show up, their offense will lull you to sleep.

The Brewers need to just play their game. I don't like saying this, but the Nationals give up a TON of HRs and the Brewers hit even more than that. While I would like to see some patience this weekend, I fully expect to see a barrage of power, that will only be overcome by a bad start by a Brewers pitcher. Look for the free swinging aggressors we've seen all season to rear their ugly faces. But let's hope they calm down a bit when they head to San Diego.

Predictions and Notes:
- Four game sweeps are a rarity, but I do believe the Brewers have the ability to take all four. Will they? I doubt it, but I fully expect three of four, with the only loss coming on Sunday's day game, when Yost will run out his 'B' squad to take on Lannan, including Jason Kendall on a day game after a night game. It's just a feeling that the Brewers will get 'Yosted' at least once this weekend, which I'm okay with because it would probably only be the third time all year. Look for Sabathia and Sheets to be lights out, and the offense to break out on Friday and Saturday in support of their pocket aces.

- Rickie Weeks hits two opposite field hits in three games he's played. Since arriving with the Brewers Ray Durham is hitting .185/.267/.296. Tom Haudricourt says, "BENCH RICKIE WEEKS." And Ned Yost responds, "There's a reason I'm so testy with the media. Tom, there's a reason you're a beat writer and not a coach."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

8/6 Brewers Reds Series Recap

The Scores:
Milwaukee Brewers 3 Cincinnati Reds 6
Milwaukee Brewers 8 Cincinnati Reds 1
Milwaukee Brewers 6 Cincinnati Reds 3

MVPs of the Series:
Corey Hart: 6/11; 2B, 3B, SB, 2 Rs, 4 RBIs
Jay Bruce: 4/10; 2 HRs, 2B, BB, 3 Rs, 5 RBIs

Corey Hart busted out of his slump to lead the bottom of the lineup out of mediocrity, at least for two games, and did it in almost every way possible. From sliding catches to a ton of bullets right up the chute and to the left center gap. That was probably the most interesting thing about Corey's week is that he didn't have a single one of those lean out over the plate fliners that lands short in right. Instead, Rickie Weeks took that opportunity and went opposite field for three of his four hits today.

In the home dugout, Jay Bruce has quietly continue to produce as a rookie. Adam Dunn did little to nothing, which was a surprise, but even if he did, Bruce easily would have outshined him. He did it in every way, just as Corey did, except he was able to show off an absolute cannon, resulting in two outfield assists this afternoon and holding runners at bay when turning bases. On top of that, Bruce handled the bat magnificently, going dead center for a game-tying two run shot in this afternoon's game and fighting off a Brewers rally in the sixth inning on Monday with another two run bomb to help the Reds pull away. To say the least, Brewers fans cannot be happy they'll be seeing him for at least four more seasons in a Cincy uniform.

What was the Difference?:
Nothing sticks out heavily in this series, except for the offense. The Brewers racked up a ton of hits, but the Reds only managed 17 hits in the three games, and won the first game of the series despite only throwing up four hits. The Brewers, on the other hand, batted a solid .312 (34/109) in the series. That'll do against the Reds, but you can't expect that to happen all the time, especially when facing good pitching. It's amazing what a good offense can do for the Brewers' starters.

Causes for Concern:
Inconsistency continues to plague the Brewers in ways unimaginable. Their approach is inconsistent, their defense is inconsistent and worst of all, their confidence is inconsistent. It just seems that the Brewers have very little ability to start from scratch, but when they get a little wave of momentum going, they can ride it into a huge stretch and look like a playoff team. This leads to ridiculous swings in their game and in their record. Other than that, I have a few concerns about Manny struggling down the stretch. Jim over at Bernie's Crew and I disagree over the fatigue of Manny down the stretch. He believes that because Manny's age, the risk of fatigue isn't all the big, but I disagree. Manny pitched 139 innings in 2003, but only reached 132 last season after coming off the DL from an elbow injury. Manny's command has been rough around the edges all season, and was particularly frayed late in the pitch count on Monday. I'm not terribly worried yet, but want to monitor it closely. If he's really struggling, give DiFelice a spot start in September to catch him a breather if needed.

As for the Reds, defense is always a big concern. The only two guys I trust out there are Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce (okay, maybe Joey Votto). The biggest problem is definitely the left side of the infield, though I don't know a whole lot about Jolbert Cabrera. Other than that, there's a big problem in the bottom half of the order with Corey Patterson, Edwin Encarnacion and David Ross in the lineup. It's like a black hole that the power of the top half just can't make up for. It sounds a lot like the Brewers to be honest, but the Brewers make up a bit with pitching and a solid bullpen.

Causes for Excitement:
First of all, little things always go unnoticed, so I'm going to throw a few things out there that are worth keeping an eye on or just plain great for this team. Bullpen: 6 IP 0 ER, including two good looking performances from Eric Gagne and a much improved sinker by Salomon Torres, who has looked shaky since the break. Rickie Weeks went opposite field three times this afternoon and was rewarded all three times. God, imagine what this kid could do if he used the whole field. That will improve his BABIP immensely. Jason Kendall and Mike Cameron both had significantly better weeks considering their struggles, but you have to remember who was pitching. If they repeat these performances on the upcoming west coast road trip, excitement will be bellowing through me. And finally, Dave Bush had a solid performance on Tuesday, despite being on the road. Guess how. No home runs. Bush has given up 20 this year and in his last four victories, has given up not a one big ball. It's amazing how the numbers make sense doesn't it?

Yes, the Reds' manager is Dusty Baker, and somehow Corey Patterson still has a regular playing gig, but you have to be pleased with the direction the Reds are headed. There's a solid base there that oddly resembles the preamble the Brewers brought along four or five years ago. Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Edinson Volquez offer hope to an organization that has had trouble obtaining success in recent years. But with a few prospects floating over via the trade of Ken Griffey Jr. and possibly one or two more in the likely trade of Adam Dunn, there's at least some light at the end of the tunnel. Jay Bruce looked phenomenal this weekend and Joey Votto is just solid over at first. Whether or not he offers up enough offense for his position remains to be seen, but at this point, I would be pleased with what he's offered in his first full time playing gig. Look for the Reds to keep gaining momentum from year to year, especially if they can grab some pitching on the way.