Milwaukee Brewers: 10 Questions
This three-game set in Milwaukee is a huge series for both the Mets and the Brewers, as each team holds similarly slim leads over their respective divisions. While both teams remain in first, each have changed a bit since their last meeting in May.
We called on David Hannes of Brewers Bar to help get reacquainted with the Brew Crew.
1. Not long ago, the Brewers had the best record in MLB. Now they have their eye on the rearview mirror with the surging Cubs gaining quickly. What must the Brew Crew do to fend off the Cubs?
Well, the short answer is to start winning on the road…which means they need to start playing better on the road. While most of the hitters have struggled on the road, it’s been the pitching that has really struggled away from Miller Park. Jeff Suppan, Tuesday night’s starter and the starter with the most starts for the Brewers, is 5-2, 4.23 at home, but 3-7, 5.80 on the road; Chris Capuano is 3-2, 4.13 at home, but 2-5, 5.40 on the road; and, of course, Francisco Cordero’s ERA at home is 0.33 over 28 games, but is a whopping 8.62 in 17 games on the road. The second thing is to get Ben Sheets back before the end of the month and have the rest of the players stay healthy. They need to get a few of their big bats going, too; Prince Fielder has only had 1 HR and 5 RBI’s since the All-Star break, and J.J. Hardy’s production has dropped off as well–he had 18 HR’s and 54 RBI’s before the All-Star break; he’s had 0 HR’s after the break…and his BA dropped from .325 in May to .220 in June and .241 in July.
2. The acquisitions of Seth McClung and Scott Linebrink should bolster the bullpen. Any other additions on the way before the 4pm deadline (or after)?
I don’t think so…the Madison ESPN Radio affiliate has a sports show during drive-time, and both guys were quite adamant that the Brewers needed to make a trade and would do so. But I think Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin won’t trade anyone from the current roster, as they’ve done pretty well together for the most part. Anyone they add would mean releasing, trading, or demoting an existing player, which I think could send the wrong message to the rest of the team and potentially disrupt the chemistry they have. Plus, the cupboard is rather bare in AAA Nashville right now; SP’s Tim Dillard (4-4, 4.67) and Zack Jackson (9-7, 4.69) have only so-so numbers, while Adam Pettyjohn (8-2, 3.33) is just showing signs of greatness. Infielder Joe Dillon is hitting over .300, but turns 32 on Thursday, while Andy Abad turns 35 at the end of August. OF’s Gabe Gross (.318) and Laynce Nix (.241) aren’t necessarily an upgrade for most starting OF’s. Tony Gwynn, Jr., then, is probably the most coveted player at Nashville, but I don’t think Doug Melvin would consider trading him unless it meant a Carl Crawford type that would be under contract for ’08, too. They have prospects at AA Huntsville, but it seems that most teams want someone that is a year or two away…and with all the injuries in the infield last season, and an outfield that may lose both Jenkins and Mench after this season, Melvin won’t mortgage anymore of the future for an ’07 run.
3. Speaking of the Linebrink deal, do you think he was worth the price of Will Inman, Steve Garrison, and Joe Thatcher — especially considering he’s likely a 3-4-month rental?
I admit that when I first heard of the trade, I thought it was a huge coup; then I looked at Linebrink’s numbers for this year, and then found out that he’s an unrestricted free agent after this year, and thought it might have been a bit much. That said, Doug Melvin knows that southern Wisconsin is hungry for a winner, and a competitive team for the rest of ’07 not only means bigger gate revenues, but makes Milwaukee a little bit more attractive to free agents next year. I think the Brewers would have really benefitted from Thatcher come September, but their main lefty in the pen–Brian Shouse–has only allowed 1 ER in 21 games since the beginning of June, and with Manny Parra now up in Milwaukee, they could spare Thatcher. The loss of Inman could come back to bite them, but with Yovani Gallardo, Manny Parra, Carlos Villanueva and even Zach Jackson and Tim Dillard ahead of Inman currently, Inman had–at best–a 50/50 shot to be the #5 starter in ’09. Adding Linebrink serves as insurance in negotiating with Francisco Cordero, too–if Cordero signs elsewhere, at least Linebrink will have a sense of whether or not he likes Milwaukee or not…and might want to stay if he’d be in line for the closer role.
4. Is Manny Parra the real deal? Will he get another start, or be more valuable out of the ‘pen?
I think Parra is the real deal; I just hope they don’t rush him up. With Yovani Gallardo filling in at starter until Ben Sheets returns, Parra will be in the bullpen; but Parra will be a long-inning option, or a fill-in in case someone gets hurt. If one of the starters continues to struggle, I think Yost will bump Parra into the rotation…but I think it would take 3-4 really bad, consecutive starts by one of the starters for that to happen.
5. How about Yovani Gallardo? Can he pick up the slack left by Ben Sheets for the time being?
Boy, Gallardo has been another pleasant surprise. So far, he hasn’t been bothered by the pressure. I think he’s honestly their second-best starter right now (behind Sheets). His two stints as a reliever may also help him last through September. If he continues to dominate, I sure hope Ned Yost makes the difficult call and leaves him in the rotation. To do so, he’d have to bump one of the current starters, and that could be problematic. Dave Bush was the #5 starter at the beginning of the season, but has done fairly well of late. The Brewers always seem to win games that Claudio Vargas starts, and it would be hard to imagine that they’d bump Jeff Suppan to the pen with the money that they are paying him, plus his phenomenal second-half last year. Chris Capuano is the only lefty in the starting rotation, and was the #2 starter at the beginning of the year.
6. Ryan Braun has been everything as advertised, and then some. Is it safe to say he’s the Brewers third baseman for years to come?
Well, his early call up means he’ll be a Super Two, which means he’ll be eligible for arbitration in 2010, I believe, so he’d be under the Brewers’ control through 2012. Right now, I think Doug Melvin would like to see him in a Brewers’ uniform for the next 12-15 years. If he has another good year next year, I think Doug Melvin would prioritize signing Braun over guys like Rickie Weeks and even Chris Capuano.
7. J.J. Hardy had 15 homers in the first two months of the season, but only three since. What happened?
Good question. One factor might be a bit of fatigue–Hardy only played in 35 games last season, so it’s been two years since he’s played this many games. I’m sure that opposing pitchers have adjusted, as well. He’s probably over-thinking things, too–in other words, once you get into a slump, you start changing your stance, your swing, and second-guessing pitches that you shouldn’t.
8. How is the outfield rotation working now that Bill Hall has returned?
With Corey Hart in a slump, and Tony Gwynn, Jr., back in Nashville, Hall has a lock on the CF job until he slumps; Hall had a great second-half in both ’05 and ’06, and has hit .292 since the All-Star break. Geoff Jenkins has been in his usual mid-season slump, and, until he breaks out of hit it, Kevin Mench will get a lot of time in LF. Hart is still the everyday starting right-fielder. Ned Yost is carrying only these four outfielders on the 25-man right now, using Tony Graffanino out there on occasion. I’m not sure that this can last, though. If Hart, Jenkins, and Graffanino struggle at the plate for the next week or two, I think that they are going to have to bring Tony Gwynn, Jr. back before September; they might want to anyway, so they have his speed available should they make the playoffs.
9. Tie game, ninth inning, two outs, winning run on third. What Brewer do you want at the plate?
Ryan Braun, right now. He strikes out a lot, but he’s hitting .500 against lefties, and .294 against righties…and .350 with runners in scoring position. Like Gallardo, he has ice water in his veins. Everyone else is just too inconsistent of late to count on.
10. Same situation, but Mets are hitting. Which Met would you least like to see up?
David Wright would be my answer, if we don’t have Brian Shouse or Manny Parra left. Wright’s .328 BA vs. righties with RISP becomes even more problematic when you see his OBP in the same situation is .451, meaning he knows how to get on base in those situations, which means you need to pitch to him. We’d likely have a righty on the mound, and Jose Reyes .279 BA vs. righties with RISP makes him a little less risky.
Thanks again to David for filling us in on the Brewers. Be sure to check out Brewers Bar for the daily scoop on Milwaukee’s nine.