Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How To Succeed In The NL Central Without Really Trying

We all knew going into this stretch of games what the Brewers had to do. With the best win percentage at home in baseball, and a three team nine game homestand against the NL Central, the Crew needed to protect their slim lead on the division. Two series against the offensive juggernauts that are Chicago and Houston where the tasty looking ones in this stretch, and with St. Louis to wrap it up the Brewers could find themselves in great position going into August. So far in 7 of 9 games the Brewers have had 7 wins, including a classic last night when Milwaukee took on the Cardinals for the first game in the series. So how have the Brewers done it? To answer that lets delve into the stats sandwich that is this weeks box scores.

Take a look at the stats and you would see a lot of close games, small scores, and a lot of boxed zeros, so hitting must not have been that great right? The exact opposite seems to be true when the stats are stretched out over the span of those seven wins. Using batters with a minimum of 15 ABs over the past week as a guide Brewers hitters have a .328 average. They have also smashed the ball collecting 14 doubles and 30 RBIs in the process. The Brewers were also aggressive on the bases, not with stealing bases, but with forcing the opposing defense to be uncomfortable whenever guys got on. The "Roenicke Effect" seems to be working and other teams are trying to anticipate what the runner is doing even when they aren't doing anything. With everybody contributing, most on different days, the pitching staff had it's work cut out for it, but did they ever deliver.

The starting pitching has an ERA of 1.66 during the current 7 game win streak including two shut outs thrown by Wolf and Gallardo. But, it doesn't stop with the starting five because the bullpen, since the acquisition of K-Rod, seems to be a whole different animal and I am beginning to wonder if we even need a lefty in the pen. Batters who have had the unfortunate luck to face this staff over the past week are batting just .218 against starting pitching, and a meager .125 against the bullpen. K-Rod and Estrada are the only two bullpen pitchers to give up any runs since the beginning of the homestand, 1 apiece. Starting pitching has been economical as well, averaging 104 pitches a game, mostly due to the stellar work of our bullpen arms.

The one thing that the Crew still doesn't have is a semi reliable bench, with Kottaras' RBI and Run being the most stats produced from the dugout. With the addition of Hairston the bench should improve. Hairston should not only be a boost since he can play any position except pitcher and catcher, but he is a good influence in the clubhouse. Reading through Nationals blogs and posts after the trade there wasn't a bad thing said about him. The guy is a perfect fit that I for one didn't see coming here. While Hairston isn't known for power, he is a good defender and a reliable bat. This season his batting average (.266) is almost 100 points lower than his OBP (.340) so he should be a good play when we face lefties to platoon with Morgan, and have some chances to get on in front of the big boys.

My favorite moment this week was that we finally got to Ryan Dempster with some great pitching from Loe and a hot bat from Braun who went 3-4, a double for Hart, and a surprising 2 run triple from Casey. If we played the Cubs every week Casey McGehee would be MVP of the NL, maybe the training staff should work out some Waterboy type situation and make him picture every team as the Cubs. Didn't take much to beat Chicago in the second game as Greinke had a very Greinke-like performance and pitched 6 2/3 scoreless, and a Fielder home run was the difference. Biggest loss of the season as Weeks went down with a bad sprain that will take him out of play for 2-6 weeks. Luckily Melvin brought in Felipe Lopez for next to nothing and should be a serviceable option at second. Good outing by Marcum, and Braun hitting a triple short of the cycle, beat the Cubs and completed the sweep of the baby bears.
*Any stats from here on out mentioned in games played against the Houston Astros will be taken lightly, just as their offense will be the rest of the season. Crew sweeps away the garbage and heads to St. Louis to complete the NL Central trifecta.

In a great pitching matchup with Carpenter and Greinke on the mound the Brewers came out on top to snag the first win from under the Cards and put themselves up 3.5 games in 1st place heading into August. I'm no doctor, but people are not supposed to sweat like that Carpenter. Am I the only one who didn't need to see that in super slow mo? Now, the first two series are should wins while the Cardinals series is a must win, but even with the lack of completion this week these are all divisional games. Everyone of these series counts no matter what the teams record is we face. Complacency has been a trademark of this team in recent memory, so here's to hoping they keep having fun in 2011. Let's keep it rolling Crew so we can see more interviews from the professional, Tony Gumbel.


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