Well, the “first half” is officially over, and the Brewers limp in with a 45-43 record after losing eight of their last eleven games during the month of July. This puts them 2.5 games behind the Cardinals in the National League Central. The Brewers had a three-game lead in the division on May 19 when they were 11 games over .500, and even had a two-game lead as late as June 6.
My pre-season prediction for this team was 85 wins, and that’s looking to be right on the money so far.
For those interested, here’s my mid-season TG,LF Report from last year.
Prince Fielder–Without a doubt, the Brewers first half MVP. The big guy has improved in every area of his game. He has displayed impressive patience as teams have started pitching around him more and more. And as we saw in Monday night’s Home Run Derby, he can still hit the longball. What has been just as impressive is his devotion to driving in runs. He’s doing whatever it takes, even if it’s lifting the ball for a sac fly or making solid contact to score runs on RBI ground-outs. With all that said, perhaps the biggest improvement he’s shown this year has been in his defense. It seems that is where his off-season weight loss has paid the biggest dividends.
Ryan Braun–He is showing the leadership you’d expect from “the guy”. His comments regarding the pitching were spot on, and Melvin was an idiot to react the way he did. And of course his play on the field has been spectacular as well. You would expect his power numbers would pick up a little, but his overall game has been outstanding. His defense continues to improve, and I think he’s showing the potential to be a near Gold Glove-caliber defender.
Trevor Hoffman–He’s struggled in the last few weeks, but when looking at the entire body of work you have to be happy with the return on the Brewers’ investment. He needs to locate his pitches, especially his fastball, like he did early in the year to continue to be effective.
Casey McGehee–Where would the Brewers be without this guy? He’s filled in at second and third, and just kept producing once he got regular playing time. You’d love to see his run continue, but he may fall back just a bit. If he can at least be a threat and drive in runs when they walk Prince, it will be huge.
Craig Counsell–I’m not a fan of running him out there as much as the Brewers have, but Counsell has way out-produced what I and most others would expect from him. He’s been a solid replacement at second and in the leadoff spot for the injured Rickie Weeks, and has done what you want from a guy like that, played solid defense and got on base.
Yovanni Gallardo–A lot has been asked of Yo at a very young age, and he’s responded about as well as could be expected. There’s been a number of games where he looks like a legitimate ace, but unfortunately he’s been the recipient of some very bad run support. Lately though, it seems as though he may be tiring after not building up that stamina in the last two injury-shortened seasons. His walks are way up, and he’s lost three in a row with some short, un-spectacular outings in there.
Todd Coffey–Started out hot, struggled a bit, but has picked it up lately. Macha uses him when he really needs to get out of binds, and Coffey has responded pretty well. It’s nice for the Brewers to have a hard sinker/slider guy, something they’ve been in fairly short supply of in their bullpen in the past.
Mitch Stetter–Things were a little dicey early on when he had a few control issues, but he has been one of the best relievers in all of baseball over the last month and a half or so. At one point he recorded 15 consecutive outs via strikeout. One thing he has done better than his predecessor (Brian Shouse) is contain righties, who sport just a .205 average against him. Of course lefties remain his bread and butter, with lefties hitting just .117 with a .421 OPS.
Mark DiFelice–A very pleasant surprise down in the bullpen. His 82 mile per hour cutter has mostly baffled NL batters. Another guy that you wouldn’t expect to keep up his current pace, but something close to it would be fine. I am a bit unsure why Macha doesn’t seem to trust him in key situations and instead has run Villanueva out there.
Wow, kind of sad that those are the only guys to make the Tastes Great list.
Kind of warm and flat, but still drinkable:
Corey Hart–He really looked like he was going the Bill Hall route for a while, but a little bit of a hot streak in June pulled him up a bit. It is still looking right now like he is lost on outside pitches, especially sliders a lot of the time. And the last few weeks he had a few mistakes in the outfield after playing pretty solid all year. The jury is still out on him, and this second half could make or break millions of dollars for him depending on if he gets a long-term deal or not.
Braden Looper–He’s been mostly what you expected, maybe a bit less at times. He’s been helped by some ridiculously high run support. His ERA is 4.94, but his peripherals (WHIP, walk rate, etc.) suggest it should be lower than that. If he can get that ERA down in the 4.35 range by the end of the year, I’d be fine with his production.
Mike Cameron–Hey, look at that, he’s doing exactly what you’d expect from him. Cameron is one of the most predictable players in the league, going to hit somewhere around .250 with 25 homers and 75 RBI while playing solid defense and striking out a lot. And within that he will go on prolonged hot and cold streaks. Stay tuned to Who’s In Right Field? as I am the official barometer and predictor of Cameron’s hot streaks (which he will go on in the next week or so, and kind of started to show signs of in the last week or so).
J.J. Hardy–I know, he’s hit under .240 most of the year and some people foolishly want to trade him. But he will/is getting hot and will bring that average up to .260 or so by the end of the year and will be a key player for the Brewers in the second half. Add to it his oustanding defense, and I still have plenty of faith in him as an everyday shortstop and one that will be among the best in the league in the second half.
Mat Gamel–Just give him the damned third base job already and let him do his thing. He’s really struggled when given sporadic time, and the Brewers really mis-handled his first half of the year. He definitely needs to limit the strikeouts, but hopefully regular time can help him out with that.
Frank Catalanotto–After spending much of his time early in the year on the bench and losing at-bats to duds, Frankie has….surprise….done solid when gotten decent at-bats. He should be the primary pinch-hitter and the choice when an outfielder needs a day off.
Seth McClung–I’m not sure how his ERA is just 4.17. He was terrible the first few weeks of the season, then settled down and was solid in a middle relief/long relief role. The decision to stretch him out and move him to the rotation was ridiculous, and not in his or the Brewers best interest. Hopefully he can get back to being just a middle relief guy, nothing more, nothing less.
Ken Macha–If you had asked me to rate this in May I probably would have said Tastes Great for Kenny. But his recent complete mis-management of the bullpen and poor in-game decisions in general have been killers for this team with a relatively low margin for error. I like the atmosphere of accountability he has brought in, and th
e team seems less frazzled than during Nervous Ned’s tenure. But if he keeps ruining the bullpen and mis-managing game situations, he will cost this team as many games as Ned did. He seemed to be a strong second half manager in Oakland, so hopefully that will rub off on this group. Otherwise he’ll be squarely on the hot seat very early in his Brewers tenure.
Wow, that’s it for the lukewarm group too? Ouch.
This could get ugly.
Manny Parra–I’ve said it for a while now, his stuff is overrated and the matter between his ears will limit reaching whatever potential he has anyway. His stuff is #3 pitcher at best, with a fairly straight fastball and an inconsistent and non-overwhelming breaking ball. His slider and splitter are slightly above average. But that doesn’t matter if you can’t throw strikes, can’t pitch under pressure, and have zero heart.
Carlos Villanueva–See Parra above. Never even had stuff as good as Parra, and flamed out in the rotation last year. Seemed to find a niche as a middle/long relief guy, but apparently Macha thought 88-90 per hour straight fastballs make great set-up guys. His other pitches are slightly above average, but doesn’t have enough of an out pitch nor throws enough ground balls. And he has blown up this year, with one good month and three terrible months.
Doug Melvin–He made a nice move in signing Hoffman and bringing in McGehee, but when it is all said and done, the team regressed both in talent and results this year. He failed to address the over-reliance on right-handed hitters with high strikeout and high inconsistency rates, left the rotation with no legitimate #2 (or even #3) pitcher, built no starting pitching depth in the minors, and over-paid for a few veterans (Cameron, Kendall). The topper of course was his ridiculous overreaction to Braun’s up-front and honest comments regarding the pitching staff and perhaps getting another pitcher. I think Melvin is starting to feel the heat now that his security blanket (Jack Z., who drafted the players Melvin is living off of) and the big move (C.C.) aren’t around anymore. People are seeing he has left this team short and starting to criticize, and Melvin saw Braun’s comments as a preventative strike against any critics.
Jeff Suppan–He’s been better lately, but still sporting a 4.70 ERA and more worrisome, a 1.68 WHIP, meaning it could be a lot worse. Would it be so terrible to get us at least one sub-4.25 ERA for our $42 million?
Dave Bush–He displayed some promise at the end of last year, and had things going good early this year as well, then things fell apart and he landed on the DL. He’ll need another storng second half to save his season, and potentially save the Brewers’ season.
Jason Kendall–Yeah, I’m putting him here. His defense is overrated and he’s basically a zero at the plate. He had two months (April and June) where he had just one extra-base hit. That is embarrassing and contributes to the .597 OPS he’s sporting. Plus he’s got 4 errors and 3 passed balls already, in addition to throwing out an anemic 20% of would-be base-stealers. And his handling of the pitching staff is so overrated it’s funny. Hmm….Manny came back from his demotion and pitched seven innings with no runs? Who was his catcher? Not Kendall. He keeps calling pitches that don’t put the pitchers in the best spot to make a quality pitch. And of course he’s played just as much this year as he did last year, despite being one of the worst hitters in all of baseball. At this point he needs to play about half the time, or less.
The Nobodies–Brad Nelson, Jody Gerut, Chris Duffy, Chris Narveson, Mike Burns, Chris Smith, Jorge Julio. All have been bad to downright terrible. Some have already been shipped out, and some should be. Having these guys on your roster is not a good thing.
Bill Castro/Dale Sveum–Didn’t like the hire of either of these guys, and as the year goes on they’re both proving me correct. The pitching staff has been worse than even expected, and the hitters have been the same as always, inconsistent and strikeout prone. I do give credit to Sveum for bringing a higher emphasis on working the counts and taking walks. But both have been sub-par and should be moved back to their old roles.
Brian Anderson–He is getting so difficult to listen to, pointing out stupid things like “The Brewers are only three baserunners away from bringing the tying run to the on-deck circle” and other idiocy.
Damnit, Someone Knocked Over My Beer and Ruined It:
Rickie Weeks–Just when he was starting to realize his potential, he suffers yet another set-back injury. The big question will be how he’ll recover from this latest set-back.
David Riske–Wasn’t doing much when he was healthy, and now it looks like the Brewers will lose two whole years from the $13 million contract they signed him to. The way he was going, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
God, This Is The Worst Beer I’ve Ever Had:
Bill Hall–I hate him, I hate him, I hate him. His reluctance to make any effort to change despite some of the most atrocious results ever posted is nothing short of astounding. The Brewers need to cut their losses with this guy, and eat the remaining salary and just cut him. He serves no purpose, has no trade value, and is simply taking a roster spot from someone that could potentially help the team. Get rid of him now and move on.