So, we have now hit June Brewers fans. The team is still in first and has not let it go since the 20-8 start. We are slightly over 1/3 of the season and for all the complaints, the Brewers did an average month of May. Here are my grades from my 5 trends in the month of May:
1) Injuries/health. Can’t really grade this. For the most part the Brewers pitching has stayed relatively healthy outside of Jim Henderson. Since he was struggling we now know why. His shoulder injury is a concern, however the bullpen is so good that it has not really showed.
As for the offense, we have yet to see the full healthy Brewers lineup most of May and a tweak to the lineup has worked wonders. Once Aramis Ramirez returns, can you believe the Brewers have a problem of where they place him? He might bat 5th or 6th which is a great problem to have. Keep this lineup please Ron Roenicke!
Davis/Ramirez (once he returns)
2) Matt Garza Grade: C
Garza actually has not pitched really bad and has been better as of late. His problem now is that he is rolling and then ends up hitting a wall around the 6th or 7th inning. This is going to have to change if the Brewers continue to contend. However with other pitchers pitching very well, it is a concern but not hurting the team. As I still believe, Garza in the end will be fine. He has shown signs of coming around.
3) Losing Streaks: Grade B-
The reason why the Brewers have been successful this year is simple. They limit the amount of losing streaks. So far the teams behind them including 2nd place St. Louis can’t do that. Currently the Cardinals after heating up have lost 5 of the last 7 at home! They are also under .500 on the road. The Brewers have only lost 4 in a row once, and their worst stretch was May 17-24 losing 6 out of 8. They followed that up by finishing the month going 5-2, negating that week and as of June 2nd are 11 games over .500 (34-23). They ended April 12 games over .500. Can’t complain. Good teams figure out how to negate times when they struggle.
4) Short Term memory loss: Grade A
I wanted the Brewers to forget about May 2013. The fans certainly did not and when they started struggling and losing series to last place teams like the Cubs and D-Backs, some fans were talking like the sky is falling and that will be the start of their downfall.
I am not naive to think that some fans that follow the Brewers are not true die-hard baseball fans like myself. Let me say this to some Brewers fans. Please stop using NFL (football) logic and apply it to baseball. If the Brewers lose 3-4 games in a row, it is not the end of the world or the beginning of them tanking. 3-4 game losing streaks have much more of an impact to a NFL team that plays 16 games. 2 months should be a good sample that this team will be in the race all season.
ALL MLB teams struggle. It is part of the highs and lows of a long 162 game season. Look at the Red Sox. In the month of May they lost 10 in a row and have followed that by currently (June 2) being the hottest team in baseball winning 7 in a row. Now that may not be the best example but you get my point.
5) WCWW (Wei-Chung Wang Wednesdays) Grade: F
What started out as a great side note to the Brewers season became a major concern as the Brewers started losing some games. Especially after the May 19th meltdown in Atlanta.
This is one of the issues that the Brewers will eventually have to face. Wei-Chung Wang is holding a roster spot and I get that he has great 90+ mph stuff and is a southpaw which is valuable in baseball. I think he will be good, however when the Brewers took him in the Rule 5 draft in December, the priorities then were different. Now to many people’s surprise including myself, the team has gone from the conversation of just being competitive to the conversation of actually winning the NL Central. The problem is you have to keep Wang on your MLB roster even though he never pitched above Rookie baseball. I really hope the Brewers eventually don’t sacrifice making a trade or getting a more reliable proven arm for the sake of keeping Wang. You might have to return him back to the Pirates and worry about if it will hurt you later.
Now here are my trends for June to keep an eye on:
1) MLB Draft/Kendrys Morales
The first week of June will be interesting for Brewers fans. We get to keep our great and high draft pick because the team did not sign Kendrys Morales (who has the same contract status as Kyle Lohse last year where you lose a draft pick if you sign him). Actually this is why nobody has signed Morales yet. I don’t think that type of contract is fair to the players by I digress.
Once the draft is over, many people will be asking what is the likely hood of a Morales signing. Lyle Overbay is doing a serviceable job at 1st base in the meantime, however the major weakness of the team is the Brewers bench. Also Overbay is not hitting as well in the twilight of his career and the Brewers at times have even moved Jonathon Lucroy to first on days he does not catch since he is among the best hitters in baseball.
Signing the switch hitting power hitter Morales to play 1st base immediately makes the lineup scary (they are currently warming up) and instantly makes the bench better. The question will be who is expendable. I am sure the Brewers would love to shop around Rickie Weeks however his terrible contract might have the Brewers release him rather then get him traded. This will be the top story as we head into the summer for this team. Stay tuned…..
2) Pitching depth
If you remember my blog on Matt Garza, I said he adds depth to a growing area of pitching.
When Gallardo had to miss a start the Brewers sent up Jimmy Nelson who went 5 2/3 gave up 5 hits, no runs, 3 walks, and 6 K’s. Not too shabby for a guy who had at most a couple day’s notice that he was needed to help the big league team.
It is great to see to how much pitching depth we have. I do admit I just get giddy that in the next few years we could have a top of the rotation of Wily Peralta and Jimmy Nelson, two guys that bring it every time they are on the mound!
3) Jonathon Lucroy
Carlos Gomez is definitely the Brewers MVP. MLB Network interviewed him last week and it was a great interview. They mentioned he is definitely an MVP candidate this year and debated if he is on the verge of being a superstar. Here is the interview below:
Jonathon Lucroy is quickly becoming one of the most underrated catchers in the game. He is currently 6th in the league with a .317 average and has been so good that he was moved to 3rd in the lineup while Braun who was a mainstay there moved to 2nd. It has made the offense much more potent.
Now Buster Posey and Yadier Molina are two of the best catchers in the NL however I hope Lucroy gets some love. I wish Brewers fans vote to get him in the starting lineup for the All-Star game. He deserves it as one of those solid players that may get overlooked.
P.S. It’s a travesty that he is 4th in the voting for catcher!
I mentioned this earlier. Ron Roenicke please don’t completely change this lineup once Ramirez returns. If he has to bat 5th or even 6th for the betterment of the team, then so be it!
Here is a quote from Jeff Sarmardzija (one of this year’s best pitchers) after he had his worst outing of the year against the recently improved Brewers lineup.
“When you face a team that has a plan, you can definitely tell,” Samardzija said. “They’re not only feeling good but going up with a lineup plan. They jumped on my fastballs, and that was their plan today.”
Signs of respect from a pitcher that has not had the best of luck this season getting wins.
5) Kyle Lohse
To say he is not a major part of the Brewers resurgence would be plain wrong! Another brilliant signing by Mark A. and Doug Melvin! He is as of June 1st, 7-1 in 12 starts with a 2.60 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Gallardo may be the defacto ace of the Brewers, however Lohse is the true ace. He is pitching like a veteran does and when the team is struggling, you are beginning to have the confidence that he can get you a W. While the Brewers were struggling on their 10 game road trip, the highlight was his strong outing shutting down the Braves.
Yes, Adam Wainwright will most likely be the Cy Young for the NL, however Kyle Lohse is on pace to be a 20 game winner and after this gem, perhaps he begins entering the conversation of Cy Young. He also is not a bad hitter for a pitcher either. Let’s hope he keeps it up!
Bonus: Mark Reynolds
For a vet that was signed for a minor league contract (with the agreement he would make the team) his defense has been much better than advertised. He has played great defense while Ramirez has been on the DL. He is what he is on offense. Will give you the occassional HR but will strikeout alot. Still, if the Brewers are looking for a 3rd basemen bridge to developing a player in the minors, if Ramirez does not resign, Reynolds is your guy and will probably be a bargain to resign.
June 2-5 vs Twins (Home/Away border battle that is always exciting)
June 6-8 @ Pirates (Big Series if the Pirates want to still contend. Teams won’t play again til late August)
June 13-15 vs Reds
June 23-25 vs Nationals
Side note: I really love the way Interleague has been woven into the season instead of happening over 3 weeks. All the games the Brewers have played vs the AL East reminds me of their old AL days and have all been very competitive on both sides.
It looks to be a great summer of Brewers baseball and as the weather warms up, so will the talk about how this could be a great season!