Monday, August 27, 2007

32 Games Left

Holy crap.

That's really all you can say about that disaster of a weekend in San Francisco. Luckily, real life interfered with my ability to watch much of the series, so I only got to catch a little on the radio on Friday night, but it appeared to be more of the same recipe for this Brewers team lately. When they lose, they lose pretty spectacularly, and it usually has to do with the starting pitchers putting the team in an early hole.

You've all heard the numbers lately - not pretty. 9 wins in their last 30 games. 14 games under .500 since just before the All Star break. Back to .500 after winning 24 of their first 34 games.

But I'm not going to concentrate on that. The reality is, I thought this would be an 84 win team this year. They're on pace to be a little worse than that, but there's still more than a month left. I never thought they would be as spectacularly good as they were for stretches this year. And I didn't think they'd be as spectacularly bad as they were in other parts of the season (we're going through a spectacularly bad stretch right now). What I'm going to try to figure out is what might happen for this team to right the ship over the last month. Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe there is no more fight in this group. But I kind of think they have one last run in them.

Here are the keys:

1. Starting Pitching/ Ben Sheets. Fair or not, this free-fall that the starting staff has experienced directly coincides with Sheeter's injury in mid-July. This isn't surprising - when he went down, everybody else had to step up, and some of these guys either could not or would not do it. Gallardo has been up and down, as you thought he might being a young guy getting his first taste of the bigs. If Sheets can come back healthy (and that's still an if), perhaps everyone will feel more comfortable moving back a slot on the staff. And he should be fresh - it would be like picking up another quality arm for the stretch drive. It sounds like Vargas is hurt now - that may or may not be a bad thing. [By the way - after the Suppan start tomorrow, the next three starters are named "to be announced", according to the Brewers website. I don't know who that is, but I hope he carries a sub 5 ERA.]

2. Some Veteran Help. It would really be nice if somebody like Johnny Estrada, Geoff Jenkins or somebody like that would get smoking hot over the next few weeks. The Glue is known for having flammable Septembers, but that's usually when the team is 15 to 20 games out in the standings. Prince, JJ and Braun have all carried the team for certain stretches - it would be nice if somebody else could step up too.

3. September Call-ups. The rosters expand on September 1. In years past, this meant pulling up all the kids on a team way out of contention to see what kind of players might be contributing in a couple of years. This year, it might be that one or more of these guys becomes big contributors for a playoff push. The Brewers still have major league talent at AAA, including Gwynn, Nix, Villanueva, Aquino, etc. The fresh energy and new faces might shake up the locker room.

4. Remaining Schedule. The Brewers have 32 games left - 16 at home and 16 on the road. They play the Cubs (3), Pittsburgh (6), Houston (6), Cincinnati (6), Atlanta (4), St. Louis (3) and San Diego (4). The Cubs are on the road, they have home and away series with the Pirates, Astros and Reds, Atlanta is on the road and St. Louis and the Padres are at home. Not an easy schedule, not a brutal one - a lot of games in the division, which until recently would have been a good thing. It's certainly a schedule that they could run through for a stretch.

5. Just Have Fun. We've been through a lot as Brewers fans - this is just another step in a journey to respectability. It's been frustrating as hell watching this team for much of the season, but maybe they have one more special run in them this year. Recent performance would suggest it's unlikely, but I still have hope. There are likely to be changes this off-season regardless of what happens. Maybe Yost goes, maybe Maddux does, maybe they both go. The only sure things on the coaching staff is that Billy Castro is going to be the bullpen coach and Marcus Hanel will be the bullpen catcher. Since many of us have given up on this team a couple of times this season, only to have the sheer crappiness of this division pull us back in, I've decided I might as well enjoy it.

That's my 2 cents, as I sit here in my retro Brewers pullover that I wore on Opening Day, when the Brewers were undefeated and all was right in the world. Maybe we can feel like we did walking out of Miller Park after watching Sheets spin that 2-hour gem just one more time this season.

Or perhaps we'll have to wait until next year. But at least next year doesn't look as hopeless as a lot of the recent "next years" have looked...


woziszeus said...

Good work Matt, the part about Ben Sheets was right on. He needs to step up THIS WEEK. The Brewers are a different team with him pitching every 5th day.

Goldy said...

Excellent write up, Matt. It has been an interesting season to say the least. So many highs, and lately, plenty of lows. Lets hope they can play good ball over this last month and give us something to be excited about.

Anonymous said...

Might have to make a trip down to Atlanta to go catch that series, Woz you in? Leave Thurs or Fri, come back sun or mon. Ben is looking at going b/c Jake just moved down there. Figuring we can crash at Jake's or else I have a ton of free hotel shit and flights are pretty cheap.

Tony said...

Well Done sir!

Now let's get some wins.

Brad said...

Nice work. The schedule might actually be tougher than you give it credit for.

The Cubs, Cards, and Pads are better teams than Milwaukee. The 3 at Pittsburgh are always tough (for whatever reason). And Cinci is on fire. The only "easy" games look to be home vs Houston and home vs Pitt.

It doesn't take a genius to know starting pitching is crucial come September/October. And, as you said, the next 3 starters are TBD...not a good sign. I understand your theory that the team started hot, now sucks, and hopefully they play somewhere inbetween the last month. Thats not out of the question offensivly...bats seem to get hot and cold with some regularity. But pitching?? It would take a small miracle for all these 5.00 ERA pitchers (Soup, Vargas, Cappy) to just all of a sudden pitch 3.00 ERA ball. I don't know what to say about Sheets. How many innings before he gets another blister? Villanueva could provide a spark from AAA, I guess. Even if the pitchers suddenly regain their form, will the offense score any runs?

It truly has been quite the frustrating season. Swept at the shitty Giants?

Anonymous said...

Woz, I think you may have driven off AP!

woziszeus said...

He is probably on vacation. I don't think he could keep himself away from this free fall.

Anonymous said...

face reality...crew is TOAST!!!

Anonymous said...

"Everything's easy when you have no chance. When you're close, it's tough."

--Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder
Welcome to the big leagues Prince.

Anonymous said...

If i was a brewers fan I would want to kill myself after this season. I feel bad for you guys.

Anonymous said...

Add Fire Ned Yost. He sucks. Why is Jenkins on the bench against Howry in the 8th last night with 2 on and 2 out when Eyre was not even warming up at the time? Why save Jenkins for the 9th when you have the game on the line right then?