Anyone who has a grasp on the Milwaukee Brewers must think of hot soup as a finger food. The Brewers began this week’s west coast road trip by dropping 3 games of a 4 game series in San Diego while scoring all of two runs in the process. Since then, they’ve won 5 of 6 games against Los Angeles and Arizona, three in which they scored double digit runs. The most recent was last night when they put up 17 runs against the Diamondbacks. That game was encouraging because they faced Arizona starter Cesar Valdez, the kind of pitcher against whom they normally struggle; that is, an off-speed pitcher you’ve never heard of.

Outfielder Jody Gerut came off the bench to lead the Crew by hitting for the cycle. With centerfielder Carlos Gomez hurt right now, Gerut should probably see more playing time as the Brewers can’t rely on aging Jim Edmonds to man centerfield every day. Before his last season in San Diego, Gerut was a capable hitter with some power and is a decent defensive outfielder who can play all three spots. Gerut certainly isn’t going to carry the load offensively, but he did hit better last season once he saw more regular playing time. At this point, he’s probably at least as good an option as Corey Hart.

Much has been written and discussed lately regarding the frequency of the Brewers run production as it relates to their record. While some may quibble with the methodology used in arriving at such figures, there is no denying that the Brewers’ ‘feast or famine’ offensive approach has affected their winning percentage. With the way that their pitching staff is comprised, Milwaukee would do better to err on the feast side of that balance. Either way you look at it, the key lies at the top of the order. The Brewers are 12-4 in games when leadoff hitter Rickie Weeks scores at least one run. Last year, the Brewers had the look of a playoff contender before Weeks was lost to wrist surgery a few weeks into the season. It’s important that Weeks stay healthy and productive if the team expects to climb back into this year’s playoff hunt.

If you’re looking for a distinction between the NL Central Division leading St. Louis Cardinals and the Brewers, consider this. The Cardinals recently completed a stretch of 21 consecutive games in which their pitching staff did not allow a home run. That contrasts with Milwaukee, which began the season with 12 straight games allowing the opposing team at least one long ball and is once again at the top of the National League in the undesirable statistic of home runs allowed.

Apparently it’s not only the offense that’s prone to the feast or famine mentality. Unfortunately for the Brewers, the pitching more often falls on the lean side of that equation. Yovani Gallardo did win his 4th straight decision this week but his continuing high pitch counts threaten to derail his season and burn out the bullpen as they did last year. With as many runs as the team has scored this year, you’d think it would afford manager Ken Macha the opportunity to allow his starters to go deeper into games but the Brewers have yet to have any starter complete a game.

I wonder if General Manager Doug Melvin has learned his lesson about signing middle relief pitchers to premium value multi-year contracts. If he didn’t figure it out with the mistake that was David Riske, the point should be driven home this year with what’s happened to LaTroy Hawkins. After a promising start in which Hawkins was their most effective reliever, he basically fell apart until yesterday when he was placed on the Disabled List with shoulder weakness. The last thing the Brewers need is the prospect of paying out more ‘dead’ contract money, but that is a very real possibility with the 38 year old Hawkins. At least the rest of the bullpen seems to be stabilizing itself. Closer Trevor Hoffman converted his last two save chances and even Jeff Suppan had consecutive scoreless appearances this past week. The way the starters are perfoming, they’re going to need everyone out there.

Despite all the angst among the fans (including myself), the Brewers are now only 2 games below .500 and only 4.5 out of first place. If they can get some momentum this week back at Miller Park, there remains plenty of time this season for hope.
Earlier this week, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that the Milwaukee Bucks have begun negotiations with guard John Salmons about a contract extension. Salmons surprised most observers this year by doing a terrific job for the Bucks after he was acquired from the Chicago Bulls, but Bucks’ GM John Hammond may want to exercise some restraint in discussing his future in Milwaukee. Salmons clearly filled a void for the Bucks this past season, but had a somewhat disappointing playoff series against Atlanta and, at 30 years old, isn’t likely to get much better. Perhaps the best thing for the Bucks would be to have Salmons invoke his $5.6 million player option for next year though it’s doubtful he’d pass up his chance at free agency after such a successful season.
The University of Wisconsin basketball program has found a potential replacment for departing senior guard Jason Bohannon. Last week in this space, I detailed the situation with recruit Ben Brust from Illinois and this week it became official that he would join coach Bo Ryan’s program. At the very least, Brust should help provide some depth to what was looking to be a thin guard corps.
Finally, best wishes to Milwaukee Brewers icon (and Pocket Doppler patron saint) Bob Uecker. Uecker was released from the hospital this past week after undergoing successful heart surgery in Milwaukee. Get well soon, Bob. Summer in Wisconsin just wouldn’t be the same without “Mr. Baseball”.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of the (snow-free) weekend.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Chris

    While I don’t disagree about Gerut getting more PT, I am not sure it should be at the expense of Corey Hart–I’d take Hart’s .337 OBP over Gerut’s .263.

    But here’s something we can agree completely on: Summer just won’t seem right without Bob Uecker behind the mic. Ueck can’t get back soon enough.

  • http://mike BigSnakeMan

    F.Y.I.-Gerut’s career OBP is is .327, almost exactly the same as Hart’s. And I would expect that to improve with more ABs.