What Life Is Like Out Of The Race

I was born May 25, 1986, four years after the Milwaukee Brewers had come within a game of winning a World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.  The 80’s were good to the Crew, with a playoff appearance in 1981, an Americal League Pennant in 1982, and “Team Streak” in 1987.  For the decade, the franchise went 804-760, a .514 winning percentage.  Those are pretty good numbers for a franchise with an all-time winning percentage of just .474.

But growing up, I was raised a Brewers and Cubs fan (blasphemy in today’s world), but at the time, they played in opposite leagues, there was no interleague play, and they were never going to play each other in the World Series.  When interleague play began, it still only gave the two teams a few opportunities to play each other, so I was able to manage.  Then came 1998 and the Brewers switched leagues and were now all of the sudden battling the Cubs in the same division.

I still attempted to stay a fan of both teams up until 2005.  Through the Crew’s first seven seasons in the National League, they had zero winning seasons, while the Cubs had made a couple of postseason appearances (1998, 2003).  Since they were never both good at the same time, it made it somewhat manageable to root for them both.  In 2005, the Brewers finally broke their string of losing seasons, posting an 81-81 record.  With the improvement of the Brewers, I had a choice to make.  Being from Wisconsin, it was an easy pick to go with the Brewers for good and completely abandon the Cubs.

I’ve seen a 106-loss season, 12-straight losing seasons and 14 without a winning one.  Second half collapses and an unusually exciting race to a .500 year.  In 2007, I got my first real taste of a playoff chase (I hate it when analysts and others call it a pennant race, because it’s not), but alas a second half collapse left the Brewers two games behind the dreaded Cubs in the division and on the outside looking in.  Then came 2008.

2008 is the season I’ll always talk about.  Where I watched those games the final week of the season, where I watched the NLDS, the phone calls I made, the feelings I felt.  For the rest of my life, I can watch (or listen to Uecker’s call) of Ryan Braun’s 8th-inning home run against the Cubs on the final day of the season.  It gives me goosebumps whenever I think about it.  The tension when the playoffs started, and how fast those four games went (were they even played?) It seemed like Game 1 began and a few hours later Game 4 was ending.  I want those feelings back.  I got that taste of playoff fever, and now having to live without it this year is torture.

This year the Brewers had too many questions, too many key injuries, too many holes in their staff and lineup.  Losing two staff aces was too much to overcome, and key players like JJ Hardy and Corey Hart took steps back.  Rickie Weeks finally began to develop into the player people thought he could be, and then another injury ended his season.

Now it’s September, the Crew is sitting at 75-77 and are eliminated from postseason contention (they were mathematically eliminated Tuesday night), but in all actuality, they’ve been out of the race for a month.  I still watched, but sometimes it was too much.  Their starting pitching so regularly left the team down five, six, even seven runs down to start games and even with a potent offense they still could not make it a game.  I don’t want to become a spoiled fan, because I realize the difficulty the organization has to compete year in and year out.  We’re not the Yankees, Red Sox, or Cubs.  But that run last year has shown me what life was like in the race, what it felt like to clinch on the final day of the year, and with that missing this year it’s become tough to watch the team play.

I still follow the team, albeit nowhere near as close as last year or earlier in the season.  But now I pay more attention to what individual players are doing, not the team.  I want Ryan Braun to get 200 hits (185 and counting), I want Prince Fielder to lead the league in RBI’s (currently up by two), and I’m still attending one more game this year (my fifth) and I want to get to hear “Hell’s Bells”.  That’s how I’m coping, how I’m trying to fill the hole.  It’s a sufficient replacement, something that will get me through, and I’ll never abandon the team, but it hurts watching these final weeks with nothing to look forward to but next year’s Spring Training.

Goals For The Rest Of 2009

At 70-75 and a mere 14.0 games out of the division lead and 12.0 games out of the Wild Card, the Brewers’ postseason hopes are all but mathematically gone.  The Crew has seven games remaining on the road with a ten-game homestand mixed in as well to close out the season. 

So what is there to really root for these final three weeks?  A few players have some individual accomplishments they can reach, and the team can still shoot for a non-losing season if they can finish 11-6 or better.  Their goal should be to finish 4-3 on the road and 7-3 on their final homestand which would be enough to get their record to 81-81.

As for the players themselves, here are some things fans can watch for players to reach through the final seventeen games.

For pitchers, Yovani Gallardo can look to finish the year over .500.  He’s currently 12-12, and after last night’s win, is now second on the team in wins.  Along with trying to pick up a couple more wins, Gallardo is now also just three strikeouts away from 200 this season.  Respectable goals for his first season as an ace.

As for the hitters, Prince Fielder is currently tied with Cecil Cooper for the most RBI’s in a season with 126.  Fielder is also just two walks away from 100 for the year, a stat that shows just how much of a feared hitter he has become.  Prince sits at 39 home runs, so a 40-homer season is all but a foregone conclusion.  Fielder also sits at 157 hits, and I would say his individual goal would be to get to 175 this year.  That’s just 18 hits over the final 17 games, and 175 hits plus 100 walks is quite an accomplishment for the big fella.

Ryan Braun leads the team in hits, batting average, at bats, runs scored, stolen bases, and doubles as well as second in home runs, RBI’s, and triples.  He currently sits at 173 hits and for a while it looked like Braun might have been able to reach 200, a feat that has only been accomplished six times in Brewers history.  He’s cooled off a bit as of late, but he still can reach 190-195 hits with a strong finish.  He also has 29 home runs, so the goal of 30 is very feasible.

A few players are just about to the 100 hit plateau for the year in Jason Kendall (97), Corey Hart (99), and Casey McGehee (92).

It’s been a lost season, and this time of year is now a bit tougher to watch after last year’s exciting run to the playoffs.  But we as fans must push on.  This is our team and we should support them through thick and thin.  Even though their magic number to be eliminated has now dwindled to three for the division and five for the Wild Card, this team is still capable of excitement.

Coming next week: An early look at the possible 2010 Brewers.

The 2009 Brewers Marathon

I’m sure most people familiar with baseball have heard the expression, “The season is a marathon, not a sprint.”  In 2008, the Brewers successfully finished their marathon in 4th place in the National League, clinching the Wild Card and qualifying for the postseason for just the third time in franchise history.  If you take the Major League Baseball season (162 games) and divide it by 26 (miles in a marathon), one mile equals about six games. 

Currently we’re in the middle of mile 23, and the Crew has faded fast from the front of the pack.  So let’s look back to how the were after each mile of the season.

(Mile – Games – Brewers Record – Place in NL)

Mile 1 – (1-6) – [2-4] – T-12th:  They must have tripped in the pack at the start, as the Crew struggled out of the gate, taking one of three from both the Giants and Cubs.  The season got off to a rocky start when Ken Macha named Jeff Suppan his Opening Day starter and the Brewers proceeded to lose 10-6.  The only bright spot was Yovani Gallardo’s first start of the season, a 4-2 win in which he hit the go-ahead 3-run homer off of Randy Johnson.

Mile 2 – (7-12) – [4-8] – T-12th:  Six more games and another 2-4 stretch, this time against the Reds and Mets.  After a lackluster series against Cincinnati, the Crew played well in New York despite winning just one game.  In a trend that would become all too familiar, Gallardo pitched brilliantly against the Mets, yet the team lost 1-0.

Mile 3 – (13-18) – [8-10] – T-11th:  The Phillies and Astros got the Brewers going for their first winning mile of the season, posting a 4-2 record.  This is the point of the marathon season that the Crew began to get into a groove, and started making their push towards the front of the pack.

Mile 4 – (19-25) – [13-12] – T-7th:  A 5-2 mark made the Crew 9-4 over their last two miles, and helped them jump from tied for 12th in the NL into a tie for 7th.  A visit from the Pirates is what really got the Brewers going, as they swept the Bucs to run their winning streak over Pittsburgh to 15.  Not trying to be redundant, but the 15th win came once again in 1-0 game with Gallardo pitching, and this time, he hit a solo home run in the 7th for the only run of the game.

Mile 5 – (26-31) – [18-13] – 3rd:  Once again, playing the Pirates seems to be the best diet for a successful Brewers season.  After a two-game sweep in Pittsburgh (running the streak to 17!), the Crew split a two-gamer in Cincy and took the first two games in Chicago against the Cubs.  Currently at this point, the Brewers were in one of the four playoff positions.

Mile 6 – (32-37) – [23-14] – 2nd:  For the first time in the 2009 season, the Brewers were atop the NL Central, and just two games behind the Dodgers for the best record in the National League.  However, as we would learn, there were still twenty miles to go, plenty of time for the Brewers to falter.

Mile 7 – (38-43) – [26-17] – T-2nd:  After this mile, the Cardinals had caught the Brewers and were now tied with identical 26-17 records atop the division.  After a 4 mile stretch in which the Brewers posted a 19-6 record, they went just a mediocre 3-3 in Mile 7.

Mile 8 – (44-50) – [30-20] – 2nd:  Over the past few seasons, the Brewers have become known for starting out fast to begin the season before struggling in the second half.  Over the past two miles, I had begun to get a sense of the Brewers just treading along trying to stay afloat above everyone else in the National League.  They were just 7-6 in their past 13 games, and we’re clinging to a one game lead in the division.

Mile 9 – (51-56) – [33-23] – T-2nd:  This time when another team caught the Brewers for second place, it was the Phillies out of the East.  Despite going just 3-3 again, the Brewers expanded their lead in the division to two games. 

Mile 10 – (57-62) – [34-28] – 3rd:  With 100 games remaining in the season, and coming off a 1-5 mile, the Brewers still held a 0.5 game lead in the division.  But ever since the Twins series in Mile 7 the Crew just didn’t seem to be the same, and their play began to suffer.  There wouldn’t be many more highlights this season.

Mile 11 – (63-68) – [37-31] – T-3rd:  The highlight of this mile was the three-game sweep of the Indians in which the offense put up 30 runs, including winning the opener by a softball score of 14-12.  Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun combined to drive in 11 of the 14 runs in that game.  The scary thing about that series however was the fact the pitchers allowed 25 runs to the Indians. 

Mile 12 – (69-75) – [40-35] – T-3rd:  In a interesting switch, the Brewers went from tied for third with Philly, to tied for third with Philly, St. Louis, and Colorado, and a half game back of 2nd place and San Francisco.  When currently watching the Brewers and thinking about how disappointing this season has become, I’m surprised to see that they were still in first in the division after 75 games.  Just under halfway through the year, and they were in the thick of it.  The fall would begin soon, and it was a steep one.

Mile 13 – (76-81) – [43-38] – T-3rd:  The halfway mark of the year came on the Fourth of July, and the Brewers still remained in first in the division, tied with St. Louis.  But after starting the season 23-14, the Brewers were a pedestrian 20-24 since then.

Mile 14 – (82-87) – [45-42] – 6th:  Here is where the fall began, and look how quickly it happened.  After being in either 2nd or 3rd place for the past nine miles, the Crew quickly dropped to 6th, and was now on the outside looking in at the playoffs. However the All-Star break was coming soon, and the Brewers had one of the easiest schedules ever put together after, so a run towards the top was sure to come, right?

Mile 15 – (88-93) – [47-46] – T-7th:  The drop continues, as the Crew was now tied with Atlanta and Houston for 7th in the NL.  But now instead of fighting for the division lead, the Brewers were struggling just to stay above .500.

Mile 16 – (94-100) – [49-51] – 10th:  Oh how the mighty have fallen.  The final two games of this mile were lowlighted by being outscored by the Nationals 22-9 in the first two games of a four-game series.  The fans were starting to get cranky, as the Brewers were failing to take advantage of a cupcake schedule.

Mile 17 – (101-106) – [53-53] – T-8th:  A glimmer of hope?  More like false hope.  The Crew did manage to come back and take the final two games from Washington, but it was too little too late.  This team was doomed.

Mile 18 – (107-112) – [55-57] – 9th:  Finally it appeared the Brewers had settled into the spot they would hang around in for the rest of the year.  Also the taste of winning baseball was just about over, as the Brewers would be under .500 for the rest of the year (to-date).

Mile 19 – (113-118) – [58-60] – 9th:  Honestly, what is there to talk about?  This team gave up 28 runs to the Padres (the worst offensive team in the NL) in at three game series.  The end of this mile was the beginning of a three-game sweep at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the same team the Brewers had a 17-game win streak against.

Mile 20 – (119-125) – [61-64] – T-9th:  Over the next few weeks (miles) the Brewers and Astros will engage in a battle of back-and-f
orth for the coveted 3rd place in the NL Central.  The Brewers days as a serious contender for the postseason in 2009 are over.

Mile 21 – (126-131) – [64-67] – 9th:  For the fourth mile in a row the Brewers remain in 9th place.  There were no trade deadline moves to help jump start this team, and the fans as well as the rest of the players seemed to be beginning to prepare for next year already.  JJ Hardy did make his return to the game after his 20-day stint in the minors to push his free agency year back to 2011 and make him more appealing for a trade this winter.

Mile 22 – (132-137) – [66-71] – 10th:  We’re just about caught up to where this season currently stands, and the Brewers once again appear to be dropping a bit in the race.  Have the officially been eliminated?  No, but they are creeping closer every day. 

Mile 23 – (138-143) – [66-73*] – 10th*:  Here is the mile we’re currently running.  The Crew have dropped the first two games to drop a season low seven games under .500.  They’re now two games behind Houston for 9th, and the schedule is now beginning to get tough again.  I am seriously questioning whether this team will win 75 games this year.

The Brewers have been anywhere this year from 2nd to a tie for 12th.  But currently sitting in 10th makes those days in 2nd or 3rd feel light years away.  The playoffs appear to be just a pipe dream this year, so here’s to hoping the team can catch fire to end the year and maybe make a push for a winning season.

Brewers Among League Leaders

Time for a quick look at where Brewers players rank among the league leaders in the all-important Triple Crown categories.

(All rankings are NL-only)

Batting Average
(7) Ryan Braun – .319
(16) Prince Fielder – .302
(16) Felipe Lopez – .302
(24) Craig Counsell – .293

Home Runs
(5) Prince Fielder – 26
(10) Ryan Braun – 22
(29) Mike Cameron – 15
(43) JJ Hardy – 11
(43) Corey Hart – 11

Runs Batted In
(2) Prince Fielder – 95
(5) Ryan Braun – 76
(48) Mike Cameron – 45
(48) JJ Hardy – 45

(9) Yovani Gallardo – 10
(9) Braden Looper – 10
(45) Manny Parra – 6

(3) Yovani Gallardo – 154
(38) Manny Parra – 82
(45) Braden Looper – 73

Earned Run Average
(19) Yovani Gallardo – 3.59
(43) Braden Looper – 4.84
(47) Jeff Suppan – 5.27

It’s obvious that Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are the two best hitters on the team, in fact, they may form the best 1-2 bunch in a lineup in all of baseball.  (Shouldn’t it really be called a 3-4 punch?)  After that, there are a couple of players at the top of the lineup that are bringing high averages, in Lopez and Counsell. 

The pitching is nowhere near where it was last year, but once again, Manny Parra is somewhat of a surprise at where he ranks among the league leaders.  If he had Mike Rivera as his catcher for all of his starts this season, who knows what his stats would look like.  Since returning from AAA, Parra has had Rivera as his catcher for four of his five starts since returning to the bigs, and he’s 3-0 with a 3.94 ERA and 27 K’s.

If Yo can work on becoming a little more consistent, and Looper continues to pitch as well as he has, and Parra continues to get Rivera catching him, the Brewers have a good enough 1-2-3 in the rotation to make a push towards the postseason.  It’s the 4 and 5 spots in the rotation that need to improve, as they are almost a guaranteed loss these days.

Standings Check

Chicago – 57-49
St. Louis – 59-51
Milwaukee – 54-54
Houston – 53-55

Time for the Crew to keep clawing and scratching at trying to keep up with the top two teams in the division.  They’re 3-3 on the current road trip, heading to Houston for an important series over the weekend. 

My Brewers Hall Of Fame

Ricky Henderson and Jim Rice were elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday.  This got me to thinking, who are my Brewers Hall of Famers?  The players I’ve watched and cheered for, that are the tops in the organization.  At first I thought of having a list of 25, but in all actuality, I grew up during the times of twelve straight losing seasons, and fourteen straight without a winning one.  Needless to say, the players weren’t baseball’s all-time greats during that stretch, but I was able to come up with 15 players I feel are the best I’ve seen put on a Milwaukee uniform.

(Years in parentheses are years when I was alive they played in Milwaukee)

15.  Paul Moiltor (1986-1992):  I very faintly remember Molly playing for the Brewers.  Most of my memories of him are on the Twins and Blue Jays, but I do remember him wearing his true jersey, that blue and yellow.  His final two seasons in Brew City he batted .325 and .320, and made the All-Star Game both seasons.  If I were older, he’d be higher.

14.  John Jaha (1992-1998):  Here is one of the players I grew up with.  I was 6 when he first played in Milwaukee, and 12 when he was finished.  Sporting one of the best names for a ballplayer, Jaha was one of the first Brewers’ power hitters I can remember.  In 1996, he smacked 34 home runs, while batting .300 and driving in 118.  He will forever be one of my childhood favorites.

13.  BJ Surhoff (1987-1995):  I remember him as the first utility player the Brewers had.  For being a catcher, he had a decent amount of speed, stealing 102 bases while in a Brewer uniform.  He did have his best seasons while he was in Baltimore, but he was a solid player for the Brewers in some lean years.

12.  Dave Nilsson (1992-1999):  The best catcher the Brewers have had in my lifetime.  He made it to an All-Star Game in his final season in the bigs, before heading back to his native Australia.  His career average of .284 is one of the best the Brewers will ever see from behind the dish.

11.  Mark Loretta (1995-2002):  The first player on this list to break into the 2000s, Loretta teamed with another player on this list to form potent duo.  He was the perfect utility infielder, similar to what Craig Counsell is for the Brewers now.  He’s traveled around the league quite a bit since leaving Milwaukee, but to me, he’ll always be remembered as a Brewer.

10.  Carlos Lee (2005-2006):  He only played a season and a half in Milwaukee, but boy did he put up some gaudy numbers.  He was an All-Star both seasons in Milwaukee, he won a Silver Slugger award in 2005, and finished 17th in MVP voting that season.  He even had a knack for stealing bases, he was 25/31 in his two seasons, despite his size.

9.  Richie Sexson (2000-2003):  Lee was brought in basically to be a replacement to the power the Brewers lost when they got rid of Sexson.  Sexson was a back-to-back All-Star, along with finishing 12th in MVP voting in 2003.  In his three and a half years in Milwaukee, he cranked out 133 home runs (12th all-time), including two seasons of 45 a piece.  He is also responsible for what is probably the longest double in Brewers’ history, hitting close to a 500-ft double off the flag pole in Houston.

8.  Greg Vaughn (1989-1996):  My absolute favorite player growing up.  He was the first big Brewers’ power hitter that I knew.  He stands 6th all-time in home runs for the Crew with 169, and made it to two All-Star Games.  I watched him as a kid hit many a home runs to the gap between the grandstands and bleachers at County Stadium.

7.  Robin Yount (1986-1993):  I can remember watching him get his 3,000th hit on TV in September of 1992.  The greatest player to ever wear a Brewers uniform, he would easily sit at #1 if I wasn’t so young.  He is tops for the Brewers in games played, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI’s, total bases, and walks.  He is Mr. Brewer.

6.  Jeff Cirillo (1994-1999, 2005-2006):  One of the biggest fan favorites, Cirillo is the Brewers all-time leader in batting average at .307.  He twice just missed out on 200 hit season with the Crew, hitting 194 and 198 in ’98-’99.  He also finished his Brewers career with exactly 1,000 hits.  The best contact hitter I’ve seen.

5.  Ben Sheets (2001-2008):  He would be the top pitcher I’ve known in Brewers history if not for the next guy.  He was a four-time All-Star and finished 8th in Cy Young voting in 2004.  Last year, he finally got his chance to be on a contender, but battled injuries the entire year.  Despite him starting his career on some pretty awful Brewers teams, he has a career record over .500 of 86-83.  There is still a chance his playing days in Milwaukee aren’t done, but only time will tell.

4.  CC Sabathia (2008):  And the one year he was in Milwaukee wasn’t even a full season.  But what Sabathia did in the second half of 2008 will forever cement him in my Brewers Hall of Fame.  He went old school on folks, pitching 7 complete games in 17 starts.  He was on the Brewers for only half a season, yet led the NL in complete games and shut outs.  He finished with an 11-2 record and a 1.65 ERA, and finished 5th in Cy Young voting and 6th in MVP voting.  The absolute mania that took over Milwaukee when he came may never be duplicated.

3.  Prince Fielder (2005-2009):  One of two main reasons the Brewers made the playoffs a year ago and turned around their franchise.  He’s already a two-time All-Star, Silver Slugger, and finished 3rd in MVP voting in 2007, the year he set the Brewers single-season record for home runs with 50.  So far this season, he has a .306 batting average and is second in the NL in RBI’s with 87.  He may very well be the Brewers all-time home run king one day (albeit for who knows how long) as he is already 9th on the list with 138.

2.  Ryan Braun (2007-2009):  Give him a couple more years and he’ll be #1 on the list without a doubt.  He’s already won the Rookie of the Year award in 2007, a Silver Slugger in 2008, and was a back-to-back All-Star starter in 2008 and 2009.  He finished 24th in MVP voting his rookie year, and 3rd a season ago.  When all is said and done, he will be a legit threat to Robin Yount as the Brewers greatest player of all-time.

1.  Geoff Jenkins (1998-2007):  For now, Jenks holds the top spot on my list.  He was there through everything, a 106 loss season, the remarkable run to 81-81, and the first winning season in 14 years in 2007.  He was not brought back a year ago, and thus signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, which allowed him to play in his first postseason and win his first World Series.  He is second all-time to Robin Yount for home runs with 212, and will forever be loved in Milwaukee for his loyalty and 100% effort he played with.

So there it is.  Please feel free to debate, tell me how bad my list is, or just make your own and share.  We all love different players for different reasons, and that is just one thing that makes baseball great.

Fielder Was All-Star Break MVP

So Carl Crawford won the All-Star Game MVP award Tuesday night thanks in part to his robbery of Brad Hawpe’s home run attempt in the bottom of the seventh Tuesday night.  But when taking the entire week into account (basically the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game) the real MVP was Prince Fielder.

First, on Monday night Fielder put on a show for the St. Louis crowd.  With all the media focusing on Albert Pujols and hometown kid Ryan Howard, Fielder batted second in the derby, and, following Nelson Cruz’s astonishing 11 home runs, smacked 11 of his own, including a 497-foot bomb, taking top spots for longest home run (at the time).  Tied for first and then having to wait through nine more batters before getting to hit again, Prince did not disappoint, adding six more for a total of 17 through the first two rounds and a spot in the Finals. 

In that second round, Prince topped himself, blasting one 503-feet to right center, clinching the longest homer of the night.  All in all, Fielder hit the four longest home runs, and eight of the top ten, owning the derby in terms of distance like no one has before.  In the Final, Cruz (a former Brewers prospect) and Fielder (a two-time Brewers All-Star) matched wits, with Fielder coming out on top, 6-5, to become the first Brewer ever to win the Home Run Derby.

Carrying that momentum to Tuesday night, Fielder got his opportunity in the All-Star Game in the bottom of the second inning when he pinch-hit for Tim Lincecum.  With two outs and a runner on second, Fielder hit an opposite field ground-rule double to drive in Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and give the NL a 3-2 lead.  With that, Fielder’s night was done, and what a success it had been.

The double was Fielder’s first All-Star Game hit, something even Ryan Braun doesn’t have (he’s 0-5 in two games).  So Crawford can have his ASG MVP, but to us Brewer fans, and to most people who take the Home Run Derby just as serious as the game itself (the fact it decides home field advantage has not increased my interest in the game one bit), the real MVP was Prince Fielder.

No Run Support For Yo?

In what seems to be a disturbing trend for the ace of the Brewers pitching staff, Yovani Gallardo lost a 1-0 decision yesterday against the Mets.  It was the second time this season he’s lost a game by a 1-0 score, and, coupling that with two 1-0 wins when he’s on the bump, and the runs just don’t seem to be coming when it’s his day to pitch.

In this day in age, where new statistics are being created overnight to try and help GM’s and managers determine who the best players are (OPS, Quality Starts, etc.), Gallardo seems to be engaging in quite a bit of pitcher’s duels.  My definition of a pitcher’s duel is one where the winning team scores three runs or less.  So basically, a game in which both pitcher’s produce a quality start (6+ innings, 3 or less earned runs). 

Gallardo has had five such games this year, along with two games just on the outskirts (4-2 and 4-0 wins).  He’s split his four 1-0 games, and took a tough loss in Detroit 3-2.  That’s six of his sixteen starts right there.

Today I thought I would look at the run support that has been provided for each Brewers starter this season (with exceptions for Mike Burns – 2 starts – and Seth McClung – 1 start).  The stats didn’t lie.  It’s easy to see who the ace of the staff was, but breaking down the other four starters provided some slightly astonishing information.

Gallardo, Jeff Suppan, and Braden Looper have all made 16 starts this season, while Dave Bush has 14 and Manny Parra 13. 

The pitcher who receives the most run support is Looper, who’s been given 86 runs in his starts for an average of 5.4 a game.  Dave Bush is in second, with 73 runs in 14 starts, a 5.2 average.  Suppan is third, with 70 runs in 16 starts, a 4.4 average.  And Parra (55 in 13) and Gallardo (67 in 16) each get about 4.2 runs a game.

On the flipside, while Gallardo is last in run support, he is first in runs allowed, as opponents average just 2.8 runs a game in his starts.  Second is Looper (4.6), then Bush (4.8), Suppan (5.0), and Parra (6.1).

Gallardo does lead the team in wins (8), and has the best winning percentage with a 8-5 record, but the team’s overall record in his starts is 10-6.  That’s the same as Looper, and just a game better than Suppan (9-7).  That’s where the lack of run support starts to come in.  If an opponent averages just 2.8 runs a game, over the course of 16 starts, that record should be closer to 13-3, not 10-6. 

Now, in the beauty of the National League, a pitcher can help out his own cause by swining the bat and helping to produce runs.  When looking at this, it makes the Brewers lack of run support for Gallardo even more frightening.  In two of his eight wins, he has driven in enough runs to win the game for the Crew.  His first start (a 4-2 win) he hit a 3-run home run, and later in the year, he won a 1-0 game on a solo home run.  In two starts in which he went 2-0, he provided four of the five runs the Brewers scored in those games.

At the time when Yo won that 1-0 game, his record was 3-1.  He hasn’t had a hit since, and his overall pitching record is 5-4.  And even though Brian Anderson continues to talk about how good of a hitter Yovani is, his numbers this season show otherwise.

Only Manny Parra has a lower batting average now than Gallardo does.  Here are the numbers for Brewers starters this season.

1. Jeff Suppan (5-23, 3 RBI) – .217
2. Braden Looper (4-27, 4 RBI) – .148
3. Dave Bush (3-21) – .143
4. Yovani Gallardo (4-31, 4 RBI) – .129
5. Manny Parra (2-18, 2 RBI) – .111

Maybe it’s time Gallardo takes a few more swings in the cage before the game, as it doesn’t appear the other eight guys in the lineup are going to put up runs for him.

Why We Love Braun

Not since October 3, 1993, the date of Robin Yount’s final game as a Milwaukee Brewer, has the franchise had a player with the leadership qualities of Yount that could take this team to the postseason.

And then, on May 25, 2007 (my 21st birthday), that player emerged.  His name was Ryan Braun, and he played third base (one spot left of Yount at SS).  Then, due to his defensive struggles, he moved to Left Field (one spot left of Yount in CF). 

There have been other players who have had the chance to be the leader of the Crew, Richie Sexson, Carlos Lee, Prince Fielder, and Ben Sheets, but none of them have resonated with the fanbase quite like Braun.  He’s young, brash, and damn good.  He’ll speak out when the team isn’t performing, and he’ll forever live in Brewers lore for his two home runs in the final week of the 2008 season, including the home run that got the Brewers to the playoffs in the 8th inning against the dreaded Cubs.

These are the things that make a leader.  He’s confident, and borderline cocky.  He’s got that swagger when he hits a big home run, and that look that the ladies love.  From the inception of the franchise, through right about when the team changed their logo for the first time, Robin Yount was the face of the franchise.

But if you were to look at the Brewers in two fases, the pinstripe/powder blue years, and the current logo, you’ve got two faces of the franchise.  Yount in the early years, and Braun in the current.  Let’s compare the two in terms of stats and awards.

This is no knock on Robin Yount, who was starting at short at the age of 18, but it wasn’t until 1980 when he was 24 before he registered in the MVP voting, finishing 17th.  Seven times he recieved MVP votes, finishing 17th again in 1981, winning the award in ’82, 18th in ’83, 18th in ’87, 11th in ’88, and winning it again in 1989.  A somewhat shocking statistic for Yount is that he was named an All-Star just three times, in 1980, 1982, and 1983.  He won three Silver Slugger awards, in 1980, 1982, and 1989.  And finally, he won a Gold Glove in 1982.

He is a member of the 3,000 hit club, totaling 3,142 hits in his career.  He is also the Brewers all-time leader in home runs with 251. 

That brings us to Braun.  He was brought up at the age of 23, and in his first two seasons in the majors, finished 24th and 3rd in MVP voting.  He started in his first All-Star game a year ago, and is a lock to be heading to his second this year.  And while he doesn’t have any MVP’s, yet, he does have a Rookie of the Year award, something Yount does not have, and Braun also won his first Silver Slugger award last year.

Both players led their teams to the postseason, Yount twice (1981 and 1982) and Braun once (2008).  In 17 career playoff games, Yount batted .344, including a stunning .414 in the 1982 World Series.  Braun has four career playoff games, with a batting average of .313 in the 2008 NLDS. 

Braun will eventually pass Yount in a number of categories on the Brewers all-time lists, this is inevitable.  The enjoyment fans will have over the next number of years is watching Ryan work his way up those lists (he currently sits 43rd in hits, and is already 19th in home runs).  What may eventually help Braun possibly pass Yount in terms of the franchises all-time greatest player is his chance at both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.  If Braun continues at his current pace, he’ll be a first ballot Hall of Famer without a doubt.

Thanks to my father, I was born and raised a Brewer fan.  My dad was 16 years old when Yount debuted, and he grew up watching his amazing career.  I was 21 (to the day even!) when Ryan Braun made his debut, and I’ll get to watch his amazing career.  And as I speak for all Brewers fans, we can’t wait!

Softball Night In Cleveland

I got back from my slowpitch softball game Monday night (a game we won 14-6), to turn the Brewer game on to see they were up 3-2 in the top of the 3rd inning.  By the time I got situated, the Crew was down 4-3, and on their way to one of those games you’ll always remember watching (and keeping you up WAY too late). 

I was a finger twitch away from turning the game off twice, once at 8-3 Indians, and once again when it wa 12-7.  Each time however, I ignored the itch, and forced myself to stay awake to see the rest of this game. 

After falling behind 8-3, Milwaukee tacked on three in the 5th and another in the 6th to close to within 8-7.  But with the momentum swinging their way, when Mike Rivera got thrown out on the bases because of a poor baserunning decision, and the Indians then tacked on four runs in the bottom of the frame, I thought it was the knockout punch.  After six innings it was 12-7, and the feeling was the offense would slow down eventually.

Boy, was I wrong.  By tacking on another run in the 7th, it closed the Brewers to the point where if they could load the bases, a long ball could tie the game.  And did their lineup get the job done in the 8th.  With the bases loaded, Ryan Braun infield singled to drive in a run and get it to 12-9.  Then after making a pitching change, Prince Fielder deposited the first pitch he saw into the right-center bleachers for his first career Grand Slam and give the Brewers their first lead since 3-2 and 13-12.  One more insurance run was scored, and the bullpen finally pitched the way it’s capable of and shut the door for a 14-12 victory.  (Six more runs than my softball game!)

The scary thing about this game was the fact Braun and Fielder drove in 11 of the 14 runs.  When they both are hot, which they appear to be approaching, those two can score enough runs by themselves to win ballgames for the Crew.

A Look At The Longball Standings

Bambi’s Bombers, Harvey’s Wallbangers, and whatever the current batch of Brewers get nicknamed, are known for their reliance on the home run, and the rate at which they hit them.  Despite how often the team hits them, Robin Yount still leads the all-time franchise standings with just 251.  Geoff Jenkins (had he been able to stick around a couple more years) may have had a shot at passing him, but alas, Jenks finished his career in Milwaukee in second with 212.  Two other players in Brewers history have hit at least 200 home runs in the blue and gold, Gorman Thomas (208) and Cecil Cooper (201).

But the beauty of the current crop of Brewer Bombers is that it is just a matter of time before Prince Fielder or Ryan Braun take the top spot in Milwaukee history.  Fielder is just outside the top 10, sitting in 12th place with 129 home runs, four behind Richie Sexson for 11th, and five behind Don Money for 10th.  Bill Hall ranks next at 17th with 100 on the nose, but the pace at which he’s been hitting his has been decreased rapidly over the past few seasons.

Ryan Braun is already 19th with 84, JJ Hardy is 22nd with 69 and Corey Hart is 25th with 61.  That’s 1/5 of the top 25 in the franchise’s history on the current roster.  Throw in Rickie Weeks, who is just outside the top 25, and that’s six solid bats in the lineup that can hit the ball out of the ballpark regularly.

Let’s Take This Thing American

The Crew is now entering a stretch of 12 straight games against the American League Central.  It starts at Miller Park, taking on the White Sox, then it’s off to Cleveland and Detroit, and then back home to finish up with the Twins.

It’s a fun stretch of interleague play, in which the Brewers sort of revert back to their AL days in the Central division by taking on four of the five teams from it (Kansas City being the exception).  It will also be a tough stretch, as the AL Central is one of the best divisions in baseball.  The Crew enter in first place, let’s see if they can leave in first as well.