BREWERS: What We’ve Learned So Far
News Flash: The Brewers will go as far as their pitching will take them.
Not surprisingly, a sustained period of solid pitching can do wonders for a team’s record. Yovanni Gallardo is providing a glimpse of what the team missed last year when he was injured for most of the season. YoGa is becoming a cost effective version of CC Sabathia. Plus, he can hit. The rest of the starters have also been steady over the last couple of weeks. And with the return of closer Trevor Hoffman from the disabled list, manager Ken Macha can finally set up his bullpen the way he intended. Hoffman may not be the lights out pitcher he once was but he still possesses a ‘closer’s mentality’; something his fill-ins struggled with in his absence. Theoretically, the entire relief corps should be better with a return to the roles more in keeping with their comfort zone. History suggests that this staff, like water, will find it’s own level but if they can maintain the roll they’re on the prognosis for this team looks a whole lot better.
Bill Hall is Pedro Feliz.
Not flashy or spectacular at the plate or in the field (though he has had his moments), but solid and steady at the hot corner, which is light years ahead of last year. Hall’s play to this point in the season has allowed Macha to abandon thoughts of a platoon at third base.
Mike Cameron has something left in the tank.
Widely speculated to be traded to the Yankees before the season (a position advocated in this space by yours truly), General Manager Doug Melvin got tired of the Yankees ‘feet dragging’ and pulled Cameron off the block; a move that New York probably now regrets. Cameron is hitting over .300 and currently leads the team in home runs, providing protection in the 5th spot in the batting order for cleanup hitter Prince Fielder. And the old man can still cover some ground in center field. Clearly he looks more at home in Miller Park this year after having some shaky moments in his first season in Milwaukee. By all accounts, Cameron is also a strong presence in the locker room; no small thing on a ballclub that still has young players in key positions. Cameron is the latest example that sometimes the best trades are the ones that aren’t made.
Ryan Braun is the real deal.
As if there was any doubt after a slow start, Braun has come on like gangbusters beginning on the team’s last road trip and continuing on this homestand. Braun gave Brewers fans a scare in the spring while still suffering from a rib injury sustained toward the end of last season but he shows no ill effects of that now. Still could use a little more plate discipline but that will get better with time.
Rickie Weeks is starting to look like a leadoff hitter.
Weeks still has a way to go in realizing his considerable potential but the Brewers can live with where he’s at now. Batting average, on-base and slugging percentages are all up from last year. Still strikes out too much but that seems to be standard operating procedure for Brewers hitters. He’ll likely never be a plus fielder and his fielding percentage is actually down from last season, but he appears more comfortable in the field.
The ‘real’ Corey Hart is back.
Hart seems to have exorcised the demons that plagued him in the second half of last season and returned more to his all-star form of the first half. Maybe it’s his insertion in the second spot of the batting order or just the jet-black hair dye job. Whatever the reason, the Brewers need Hart to keep his focus for the entire season.
For all their faults, the Brewers do seem to have a good mix of young and veteran talent. Obviously, there’s still a long way to go and there’s a good chance their deficiencies will be exposed over the course of the season. But if the pitching holds up, a return to the playoffs looks a great deal more plausible than it did a month or even two weeks ago.