The Cardinals are Morons

Well, all in one night, the Cardinals firmly placed themselves in first as the team that Brewer fans most hate.

Public Enemy No. 1?

Maybe I don’t pay attention to the team enough.  I know that Tony La Russa has a reputation as a jerk, and I’ve seen (and been annoyed by) his antics – from complaining about every aspect of games his team loses, to being paranoid about sign-stealing and other things that probably aren’t happening, to being an apparent steroid enabler (or, at least, one who looks the other way), getting arrested for drunk driving, and suing twitter.  However, the last two days have been so, so irritating, I’ve become the latest member of the Shut-the-hell-up-Tony-La-Russa Club.

So what has happened?  Well, there was the whole debacle with La Russa forcing a trade of one of his best assets, Colby Rasmus.  But that doesn’t affect the Brewers – if anything, we should all be thanking La Russa for being an idiot and getting rid of Rasmus, who could very well be a star.

Yesterday, the Brewers, who were being completely shut down by Chris Carpenter through 4 innings, hung a 5 spot in the fifth.  There were whispers that the Brewers and sign-stealing master Ron Roenicke were onto Carpenter and Molina.  What bothers me more about yesterday, though, were La Russa’s assertions that Miller Park Staff were making the ribbon board around Miller Park’s club level brighter while the Brewers were hitting.  Essentially, the article goes on to say, they were wondering how a below-average road team could also be the best home team in baseball without cheating.

Fast forward to tonight.  In the 7th inning, Takashi Saito hits Albert Pujols on his left hand with a fastball that was near his head.  However, there was no reason the Brewers would be throwing at Pujols at the time, as they were trying to protect a one-run lead.  Perhaps La Russa was mad that Pujols was hit near his recently injured left wrist (which, of course, Milwaukee had nothing to do with – not to mention, can you imagine how impossible it would be to aim a 91 mph fastball at someone’s hand?), or maybe La Russa just thinks Pujols is too good to get hit by a pitch, but whatever the reason was, he came out in the bottom of the inning and had Jason Motte throw a fastball at Ryan Braun.  He missed, so he did it again.  He didn’t miss.  Motte was somehow not ejected, but La Russa took him out.  Of a 7-7 game with playoff implications and nobody out.  The Brewers went on to load the bases with nobody out, and much to my chagrin, were unable to score.  Nothing would have made me happier than La Russa’s moronic behavior backfiring.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case.

Anyway, it appears that La Russa’s stupidity is spreading to his players.  In the top of the 10th inning, Yadier Molina struck out looking.  On a strike, mind you.  For some unfathomable reason, Molina flipped his lid, bumped the home plate umpire twice, and spat all over his face.  I would be amazed if Molina is suspended for less than 5 games.  That’s right – an all-star catcher, during a pennant race, freaking out about a good pitch.  Getting himself suspended for a long time.

With the Cubs totally irrelevant this year, and the Reds struggling, it is easy for fans to shift their dislike solely on the Cardinals.  I respect that the Cardinals have a loyal, supportive, informed fanbase (much better than the Cubs), but their support of La Russa SHOULD be waning.  He’s been toying with them for ages, and now he’s shipped out one of their future stars and made himself look like a horrible person (which, I guess, he is) in front of thousands of Brewers fans.  In the eyes of this Brewer fan, the Brewers definitely have a new, indisputable nemesis – the St. Louis Cardinals.

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Let’s hear it for Rickie Weeks

The Brewers have turned it around, and the praise for their staggering results over the last three weeks has rightfully been poured upon a pitching staff that has been superb and the prodigious talents of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.

Let’s not forget, however, that Rickie Weeks is absolutely tearing it up this year.

Through 60 team games, Weeks has played in 59 of them. With Weeks, that’s a significant amount of the battle. Last season, when Weeks played in 160 games, people were pulling out the “see what he can do when he plays a full season” language, and rightfully so. Weeks batted .269/.366/.464, hit 29 home runs and had a fantastic 83 RBIs out of the leadoff spot, and scored 112 runs. Continue reading

Can we talk about Zack Greinke’s homer for a minute?


Seriously, what a nice stroke. The follow through on that swing just looks beautiful to me. Greinke has been saying all along how excited he is to hit – and lucky for us Brewer fans, it’s something he appears perfectly capable of doing.  (Watch It Here.)

I’ll be honest with you, having a quintet of capable hitting pitchers is one of my favorite things about this Brewer team. Despite the fact that we have to put up with what seems like pitching-level offensive production from Yuni Betancourt and Carlos Gomez, we don’t have to watch Doug Davis swing a bat anymore – the Brewers have five pitchers who are athletic, and can swing it, and have got some pop.

Anyway, I’m excited for Greinke. You know that this is just the kind of thing that gets him fired up. I would say that we could hope that Greinke’s offense will catapult his pitching – but I’m still not really worried about Greinke the pitcher. He was again very, very good today with just one mistake. It continues a wild trend for Greinke on the season. Greinke’s K/BB ratio is 13:1. What? Yeah. He has 39 strikeouts and 3 walks. His WHIP is very good, and his FIP was three and a half runs below his ERA before today’s game. His xFIP was a run and a half below THAT. In other words, Greinke’s stuff has been far better than his ERA lets on. So I’m not worried about him.

Once the balls do start finding gloves, and Greinke’s luck turns a little bit, sheesh. We’ll be looking at a serious rotation – one that is already achieving beyond what many of us expected. For right now, however, let’s skip all of the pitching talk and just marvel in one of my favorite swings, since, perhaps, this one:

The Week In Review: May 16 – May 22

Okay, the review was missed last week and late today – my apologies, things got pretty crazy with the end of school and such. But no excuses. Onto the previous week…

Shaun Marcum - focused on tearing up the National League.

The Brewers finished the week with a pretty big sense of accomplishment and optimism. Milwaukee had a pretty strange trip out to the West Coast, playing Monday and Tuesday in Los Angeles against the Dodgers and Wednesday and Thursday in San Diego. After splitting each of those series, the Crew returned home and swept a dangerous Colorado team, highlighted by a thrilling 14 inning victory on Friday night. Back above .500, here’s to hoping it keeps improving…

Who’s Hot?

NL co-Pitcher of the week Shaun Marcum. At this point, Marcum has to be considered among the candidates for NL Cy Young Award winner. As evidenced by Ubaldo Jimenez last year, part of the year is not the whole year. However, Marcum has been incredible for the Brewers, and they have needed it all year. For a guy who many expected to be the third best pitcher on the team, not bad. In the NL this year, there are eight pitchers with a higher WAR than Marcum. He is tied for the NL lead in wins (yes, I know wins don’t matter much), sixth in ERA, and eighth in FIP. In two starts this week, Marcum was 2-0 with 12 strikeouts, 3 walks, and just two earned runs in 15 innings.

Speaking of FIP, guess who is second on the team in that category? If you said Chris Narveson, you would be correct. Narveson took a tough no decision on Thursday, and the team lost, but you couldn’t blame him. 7.1 shutout innings for Narveson, with just one walk and four hits. On the season thus far, Narveson has been spectacular out of the fifth spot in the rotation: just a 2-3 record, but he is sporting a 3.44 ERA and a 2.92 FIP.

The Brewer bats have still been having their problems on the road, but they did enough this week to go 5-2. Kudos to Prince Fielder for the huge walkoff homer on Friday night. Continue reading

The Week In Review: May 2 – May 8

That seems about right.

What. A. Horrible. Week. Seriously. To be honest, the Brewers offense looked like it would get mowed down by Victor Santos, the way they were playing this week. Even in the one game the Brewers won, they had trouble scoring until the ninth inning on a fly ball that pretty much any outfielder in baseball other than Lance Berkman would have caught. Just… bad.

Now, I’m not going to throw in the towel on the season or anything, and I don’t want to get too down on the team. There is a homestand coming up, and maybe the Brewers can turn things around. In the meantime, someone not named Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder sorely needs to step up on offense.

Who’s Hot?

Uh…

That at bat by Craig Counsell in the ninth today was pretty awesome.

Yovani Gallardo, I guess. Yo finally pitched the game that we’ve all been yearning for – 8 innings of one-hit, shutout baseball. In fact, Gallardo did not allow a hit until the 8th inning. It was a wonderful, refreshing outing. Unfortunately, for a long time it felt like Gallardo, despite pitching a near no-no, might still lose the game.

Truth be told, the pitching wasn’t all that bad for the Brewers this week. Shaun Marcum pitched very well on Thursday, he just didn’t get any run support. Chris Narveson wasn’t too bad this afternoon. There was just a common theme of badness from…

Who’s Not?

The entire offense.

Quite simply, not a single player on the Brewers really had any real contribution offensively this week. Ryan Braun was 3-for-26. Prince Fielder was 2-for-24. Casey McGehee was 5-for-22. Corey Hart? 2-for-16. Yuni Betancourt? 3-for-19. Rickie Weeks was a tiny bit better – 7-for-27 – but he went 0-for-5 today and struck out with the bases loaded and two out in the ninth. The Brewers haven’t hit a home run as a team since Prince Fielder’s solo shot in game one on Wednesday.

Injury Update:

Nyjer Morgan, you heartbreaker. Just when we thought that we would get Nyjer back and get less Carlos Gomez (although, sidenote, kudos for your game on Saturday, Carlos), Morgan breaks his finger just two games into his return. Morgan will be out 2-4 weeks.

Zack Greinke is back! If, you know, you hadn’t heard.

Manny Parra, meanwhile, is not. Parra was diagnosed with a strained ligament in his elbow, and was shut down. There is no timetable for his return.

Zach Braddock was placed on the DL to make room for Nyjer Morgan. Braddock’s official ailment is a sleep disorder. He could return by the end of May, but it seems to me like you just never know with things like this.

Takashi Saito remains out, and could possibly return mid-June.

Erick Almonte hasn’t been heard from for a few days. No word on when he might be able to return.

What to watch for:

Hopefully, a return of the offense. It seems pretty clear at this point that the team is relying heavily on Braun and Fielder, and with both of them struggling, you’ve seen what happened. This shouldn’t be the case, but right now it is. Thankfully, the schedule lightens up a little bit. The Brewers play all six of their games at home this week, starting with Zack Greinke’s home debut tomorrow night against the San Diego Padres. With any luck, it will go more smoothly than his season debut was in Atlanta. After 3 gams vs. the Padres, the Pirates come to town on Friday for the weekend series. The Brewers have Thursday off.

The Week In Review: April 25 – May 1

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.

The day is finally here (almost).

Sorry guys – the review is a little late today – but here it goes.

Milwaukee had a somewhat rough week – after failing to capitalize on an opportunity to avenge their season-opening sweep at the hands of the Reds, the Brewers then went on the road and dropped two out of three to the NL Central caboose, the Houston Astros.

Who’s Hot?

Randy Wolf pitched his fourth straight excellent game on Saturday. He struggled in the first inning, but escaped after giving up only one run – after that, he was lights out. Wolf finished the game with 7 innings pitched, four hits, two walks, four strikeouts, and one run. Unfortunately, the Brewer offense was nonexistent. Wolf took a no-decision in 2-1 loss. Over his last four outings, Wolf is 3-0 with a 0.65 ERA and a 3.29 K:BB ratio.

Ryan Braun continued to have his home run stroke. Braun added three more homers to his 2011 total, and now has an MLB leading (with Alfonso Soriano) 10 home runs and 23 RBIs on the season. Additionally, he kept his streak of reaching base in every game this year going – Braun’s new franchise record is at 27 and counting. Braun hit .292/.346/.750 this week.

Milwaukee has been getting a bit of an offensive spark from an unlikely source: after hitting .313/.421/.375 this week, Jonathan Lucroy is doing what he’s been saying all offseason – contributing more on offense. Lucroy is now hitting .340 on the season.

The last guy I’ll mention is John Axford. Axford pitched only twice this week, but has looked very good his last four outings. In those outings, Axford has pitched four scoreless innings with five strikeouts, one hit, and most importantly, no walks. His command has looked like the command that earned him 24 saves in his rookie season.

Who’s Not?

With Nyjer Morgan returning to the Brewers on Tuesday, Carlos Gomez will, hopefully, see a pretty sharp decline in playing time. Gomez has played good defense this year, for the most part, but his hitting has shown very little improvement. Gomez finished the week with a .182/.240/.227 line, and is hitting just .233/.277/.311 on the season. With Corey Hart back in the fold, it will be interesting to see how the Brewers handle the situation with Gomez and Morgan.

Casey McGehee is having a bit of a rough time at the plate this season. He’s shown flashes, but in the last week McGehee went just 4-for-21 (.190) with no RBIs. His line for the season still sits at a reasonably effective .267/.324/.386.

We are still waiting for Yovani Gallardo to get out of his funk. In Gallardo’s last start, he gave up six runs and three walks in five innings. Milwaukee came back to force extra innings, so Gallardo didn’t factor into the decision, but Gallardo has been pretty bad for four consecutive starts since pitching a complete game shutout April 5th. Gallardo pitches Monday in Atlanta, so here’s to hoping he turns it around.

After suffering an oblique injury while trying to work his way back from a hamstring injury, Takashi Saito is looking like the next in a recent trend of injured free agent relievers for Milwaukee. David Riske and LaTroy Hawkins both missed serious time due to injury after signing free agent contracts with the Brewers, and now it looks like Saito is going to do the same. The early reports are saying 4-6 weeks before Saito will be back.

Injury Update:

Greinke! He’s back. Well, almost. Greinke will make his season debut on Wednesday in Atlanta. Brewer nation is excited.

Corey Hart also returned to active duty this week. Hart came in as a pinch hitter on Tuesday, and then started Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Ron Roenicke has said he will give him more frequent days off for a little while, as Hart is still basically in spring training mode. In perhaps a week, however, expect Hart to see almost all of the playing time in right field.

Erick Almonte became the first player in MLB history to be placed on the 7 day DL for concussions. He was hit in the head by a throw from Craig Counsell in batting practice on Tuesday, and Corey Hart was activated before Tuesday’s game. Almonte should be back soon – but he also might find that he no longer has a place on the 25 man roster.

Nyjer Morgan, as mentioned before, has rejoined the team after doing a short rehab assignment after suffering a deep thigh bruise. He will be activated Tuesday.

You’ve already read about Takashi Saito.

Manny Parra remains in Triple A building up arm strength. It’s unclear how soon Parra will be back with the team.

What to watch for:

All eyes are on Greinke, Wednesday at 6:10 pm central time, as he faces off against Tim Hudson.

Also look for the Brewers to rebound from a disappointing week that saw their record drop below .500. It won’t be an easy week, as the Brewers first play a four game set in Atlanta and then play the weekend series in St. Louis against the division rival (and NL Central leading) Cardinals.


The Brewer bullpen makes me nervous

So, we’re a few weeks into the season now – the Brewers sit even at 12-12, 1 game out of first place in the NL Central. Considering that five players projected to be on the opening day roster have missed time, and the player expected to lead their pitching staff has yet to throw a pitch in the majors this season, that can’t be considered failure.

This guy can't pitch every day...can he?

But before the season started, the Brewers weren’t getting a whole lot of love from a lot of “the experts.” That’s cool, I guess – Wisconsin sports teams (except perhaps the Packers) rarely get any love from national media. It’s to be expected. However, the issue that many of those aforementioned experts brought up when talking about Milwaukee’s shortcomings was the bullpen.  No one considered it a position of strength, and most people predicted it to be below average.  At first, I shrugged these people off.  After all, most of the bullpen’s major contributors last year were either rookies (Braddock, Axford, even Mike McClendon) or failed starters (Kameron Loe, Manny Parra).  This year, LaTroy Hawkins was coming back, we’d picked up Takashi Saito, and all those other guys, minus a below average Trevor Hoffman, would be back.

Unfortunately, at this point in the season, it looks like they might be right. Interestingly enough, there isn’t really one guy to point the finger at. The bullpen, as a whole, has just made me uneasy.  First, it was John Axford – he had a disastrous opening day, and then a few subpar outings after that.  Luckily for all of us in Brewer Nation, Axford has looked like a different pitcher his last four outings, much more like the excellent pitcher from last year than the unsure pitcher from the first week. Additionally, Kameron Loe has been outstanding. Continue reading