Thursday, May 20, 2010
This Brew is Skunked
The cold weather and long underwear are long gone and that means you can no longer say it's early in the baseball season. With that said there are some surprises in the National League. The biggest is in the Central Division. What the hell has happened to the Brewers?
For starters the Brewers can't seem to get anything going. Originally the problem centered around the offense, like in April when the Crew managed just four runs in a three game series against the Cubs. Then came the four game debacle in San Diego: two runs in 36 innings. But immediately after that the Brewers scored 11 runs in consecutive games, pounded the Diamondbacks and put up 11 runs in the first two games most recently against Philadelphia. The Brewers have been all over the place this season. The are showing no signs of the playoff team of 2008.
Then there's the bullpen. Forget about the four blown saves in April, Trevor Hoffman is starting to settle in but he hasn't had a save opportunity since May 7. The real issue is starting to come from the other relievers, blowing open close games like on Saturday against the Phillies or Monday night against the Reds. It's hard to put it all on the bullpen though as the relievers have been used heavily lately.
And that brings us, as always, to starting pitching. Yovani Gallardo has back-to-back quality starts to go with a 2.89 ERA. That's what you want from an ace, right? Well that doesn't tell the whole story. Gallardo has gone more than six innings only twice and there are times when you need your number one guy to go eight or even get you a complete game to save the bullpen. Gallardo hasn't done this but it's not all on him. Randy Wolf was brought in to stabilize the top of the rotation but it hasn't happened yet. Wolf sports a 4.66 ERA and has yet to go seven innings. From there you have a trickle down effect. Since the top two guys can't eat up innings the bullpen gets strained. As the bullpen gets worn out more production is needed from your offense.
So now that it's well past early, is it hopeless for the Brewers? Well, not quite. First, just look at the rest of the National League. Cincinnati, San Diego, Florida and Washington are all playing superb baseball, but can they keep playing at that level? The usual heavyweights like the Cubs and Mets have also sputtered. The NL is going to be one big mess with the lone exception of Philadelphia, who is once again making themselves the team to beat. Bad luck has played a role in this too as the Brewers hit the buzz saw with San Diego, Philadelphia and now facing Cincinnati as the Reds are, well, red hot. The Brewers don't need every starter to put up quality starts but Gallardo and Wolf to give more innings. The bullpen needs a break and Hoffman needs a save opportunity more than once a week.