The Week In Review: April 18 – April 24

Each Sunday night throughout the season I’ll be looking back at the previous week – who performed well, who wasn’t so good, what to look for next week and other points of interest from the week.

An old rich guy, a new rich(er) guy, and a bad suit.

The Brewers’ biggest newsday this week came on a day when they did not play. Amid a flurry of roster moves on Thursday, the Brewers drew everyone’s attention away by signing Ryan Braun to a 5 year, 105 million dollar extension, keeping him with the Brewers through 2020. It’s a very exciting contract, the fanbase seems happy about it (see all the standing ovations on Friday night) and Milwaukee appears to have their first franchise player since Robin Yount skipped town. Unless, of course, you count Geoff Jenkins.

Meanwhile, George Kottaras is gone, Nyjer Morgan is on the DL, Mike McClendon has ben all over the place, and Corey Hart is on the brink of returning.

Oh, the team also played a few games this week.

Who’s Hot?

I mentioned the contract above, but Ryan Braun is committing battery on baseballs right now, folks. So, we could say Braun is doubly hot – not only is he now, according to Prince Fielder “super rich,” but he is also one of the hottest hitters in all of baseball. For the week, Braun batted .480/.533/.840 with three home runs and nine (!) RBIs. Braun is now tied for the NL lead in home runs and third in RBIs.

Braun’s batting-order-follower, Prince Fielder, also raked this week. Braun and Fielder had a couple special moments, especially in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday night, when they seemed to single handedly get the team back in the game. After watching these two guys for the last couple weeks, it really makes you sad that Fielder probably won’t be around after this season. In total, Fielder was 11-for-24 (.458) with seven runs scored and six runs batted in this week.

After a bit of a slow start, Randy Wolf has really turned it around lately. Wolf was stellar on Tuesday in Philadelphia, going six shutout innings while giving up only two hits, beating Roy Halladay. He followed that up with eight innings this afternoon, giving up only four hits – two of which were by opposing pitcher Wandy Rodriguez. Wolf worked his scoreless innings streak up to 20.1 innings before it was snapped in the eighth inning today by a J.R. Towles solo home run.

Also worth mentioning is catcher Jonathan Lucroy – in addition to doing well with the pitching staff and playing solid defense, Lucroy had seven hits in seventeen at bats (.412) with his first home run and three RBIs in his first full week since returning from a broken pinkie. Casey McGehee also continued to turn around his early struggles, and finished the week 8-for-25 with a homer and six runs batted in.

Who’s Not?

Filed under the “slightly disturbing” news file, Yovani Gallardo continued to struggle. Gallardo pitched on Friday, and gave up four runs in six innings on eight hits. His strikeouts were up a bit (seven), but labored – his 113 pitches were the most he’s thrown in a start all season. He only allowed one walk, which is encouraging, but Houston seemed to be hitting everything Gallardo threw, and for the third straight game he had below average stuff. Gallardo, in three starts since his complete shutout on April 5th, is sporting an 8.27 ERA, and his opponent batting average sits at .368. Hopefully he is just working out kinks, but I know I would feel much better if Gallardo just looked more like Gallardo next time out.

I’m also going to call out the bullpen a bit for their performance on Saturday night. It was a game that Milwaukee could have, and should have, won. Indeed, at many times late in that game, it really felt like Milwaukee was going to pull it back, but time after time the bullpen folded, and the wind came out of the Brewers’ sails one time too many. Shaun Marcum, who was fine but not great, left after six innings, with the Brewers trailing 4 to 3. Brandon Kintzler entered, and gave up two runs in the seventh. Zach Braddock started the eighth, and failed to record an out before being pulled for Kameron Loe, who thankfully bailed out Braddock. Milwaukee scored two in the bottom of the seventh, making it 6-5, and then scored again in the bottom of the ninth (after John Axford did look very good) to tie the game and send it to extras. Just when the Brewers seemed to have all of the momentum (the bottom of the ninth was electric), Sean Green immediately gave it back, failing to finish the top of the tenth, while giving up three runs – the difference in the end.

The bullpen was an area of concern for many experts this spring, and it looks like they may have been right. LaTroy Hawkins returned this week, and we can hope that he’ll pitch like he did in 2009. Manny Parra will be back soon, but it’s unclear if either of those guys will make a huge difference. Luckily Axford appears to be turning it around, and Kameron Loe has been outstanding. But a bullpen needs more than one reliable middle reliever to function properly. Hopefully someone will step up.

Injury Report:

Finally, the lingering injuries from spring training appear to be clearing themselves. LaTroy Hawkins made his 2011 debut on Friday night, and showed a little rust but hopefully will be good to go from here on out. Corey Hart could be back with the team on Tuesday. Manny Parra remains in the minors on a rehab assignment, but should be back with the team soon. Zack Greinke, who started today for triple A Nashville, wasn’t particularly sharp but suffered no physical setbacks. He’s scheduled to start again for Nashville on Friday, and could make the start after that in a Brewer uniform.

Meanwhile, Rickie Weeks sprained a pinkie on Friday night while sliding headfirst, and took a day off on Saturday night. He returned to play on Sunday, and showed no ill effects, going 2-for-4 with a solo home run and a stolen base – for which he slid feet first.

Roster Shuffle Special:

The Milwaukee roster looks a little different since Thursday. Thursday was a big day in Milwaukee, mainly due to the previously mentioned Ryan Braun news. But the roster has changed shape a bit as well. I mentioned that LaTroy Hawkins was activated – in addition, Brandon Boggs was called up to the big league roster. Mike McClendon had a busy week – he was called up on Tuesday, as the Brewers placed Shaun Marcum on the bereavement list so he could tend to his recently surgerized father – and also because the bullpen was shallow. McClendon was only in the bigs for two days, as he was sent down with the activation of Hawkins. Nyjer Morgan was also placed on the DL Thursday, which freed up the roster spot for Boggs.

The odd man out in all of this was former backup catcher candidate George Kottaras. Marcum needed to be reinstated from the bereavement list, and the Brewers elected to take Wil Nieves as their full-time backup catcher over Kottaras. Personally, I was hoping to see Kottaras get the job – Nieves is a bit of a black hole offensively, whereas Kottaras shows some pop, and Kottaras also appeared to have improved his defense this offseason. Kottaras is now in a crowded catcher scene at triple A Nashville, so if anything happens to Nieves or Lucroy, he’ll be back up.

What to watch for:

The Brewers welcome Cincinnati to Miller Park starting tomorrow, and you can bet that they’ll be trying as hard as they can to avenge the three game sweep that the Reds laid on Milwaukee to start the season. The series will certainly have a pretty large effect on the early NL Central standings, where the Brewers currently sit a half game back of St. Louis and a half game ahead of Cincinnati.


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3 Responses

  1. will sean green be around next week? i say no. i don’t know who they will bring up from aaa, but he has not looked good this year. something about submariners/sidwinders has always turned me off, and green is no exception. correct me if i’m wrong, but his velocity isn’t more that 80. and he appears not to have much movement on his pitches.

  2. Like your style of writing and I agree with your conclusions. I hope Kottaras will keep hitting at AAA and maybe gets the call if Nieves continues to struggle offensively and – as last night – defensively.

    Let’s hope Narveson stays decent, Greinke will be the ace we are hoping for and Gallardo can turn his game around.

    Yuni B. is better than expected IMHO.

  3. I don’t know about Sean Green – he was great in spring training, but so was Erick Almonte.

    Loeffle, thanks for your compliments. I agree with you that Yuni has been better than expected – he’s been hitting better since his cold start, and he hasn’t been terrible on defense either. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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