The Milwaukee Brewers began a critical 26 game stretch yesterday that will largely determine their fate in the NL Central this season.  As early as my NL Preview edition , I have been talking about this stretch of games that started on Monday and continues until next month’s All Star Game.  There are three results that will have occurred by the Home Run Derby on July 11. I would like to take a few moments to lay out the various scenarios and then examine the schedule in further depth.

Result A Leading the division on July 11.

This is the dream outcome to this whole event.  If the Brewers head into the All Star break with a lead in the division, things look pretty darn rosy for the team.  This is due in part to most of the division dregs that will be seeing plenty of Milwaukee in the second half.  As a result, the team will cruise to a division title, and in all probability home field advantage for some, if not all of the playoffs.  This home field advantage could be significant for the Brewers given their tremendous home record and raucous crowd thus far in 2011.

Result B Within 6 games of the division lead on July 11.

This is probably where the smart money lies.  Being within striking distance is all I can ask after this brutal stretch of games.   Whether the magic number is 5, 6, or 7 games back, I am confident the team can again crawl out of a big hole to win the division.  In essence, I would feel comfortable up to 6 games back by the All Star break.

Result C Out of the division race by more than 6 games on July 11.

This is the scenario I fear, but is probably the least likely to occur.  Given the team’s lack of depth at several key positions, any injuries could make this scenario much closer to occurring than most of us would like to admit.  We have already seen the offense turn off the spigot and go completely cold.  I’ll admit it, getting swept in New York and Boston is a possibility if the offense is scuffling.  It doesn’t take much for an offensive swoon to infect players and cascade throughout the clubhouse.

Now that we have established where the Brewers need to be by July 11 th , let’s take a look at exactly who the team is playing in the next month.  The following is the schedule before All Star break:

 

June 13 th : 4 games @ Chicago Cubs- 26-39 overall record, with a home record of 13-20. Yeah, the Cubs suck, but Wrigley Field is still a place that has provided many nightmares over the years.  If the wind is blowing out,  a guy like Narveson tends to suffer and take a beating.  Due to substandard Chicago starting pitching, this series isn’t as imposing as years past, but could still provide a split or worse right out of the gate.

June 17 th : 3 games @ Boston Red Sox.  39-26 (best record in AL), with a home record of 20-13. The Sox have the best record in the AL for good reason.  They have good starting pitching depth and a terrific high octane offense.  Considering that this series will be played in Boston with the DH, it obviously gives the Red Sox a huge advantage.  Some people will say that Mat Gamel will be fine as the DH.  I would argue that the Brewers have tried that the last couple of seasons and it hasn’t worked so well.

June 20 th : 3 games vs. Tampa Bay Rays. 35-31 overall record, with a road record of 21-15. This is a sneaky scary series for Milwaukee.  Thanks to fantasy baseball, I pay close attention to the Rays.  They have solid starting pitching, a decent bullpen, and just enough offense to win more then they lose.  I think Milwaukee is a more complete team than Tampa Bay, but if the starting pitching doesn’t bring their A game, the team could lose two of three here.

June 24 rd : 3 games vs. Minnesota Twins 26-39 overall record with a road record of 17-23. I am not backing down from my prediction that the Twins will win the division.  Certainly, the Twins have been very un-Twin-like to start the season.  The team has played terrible and has struggled to overcome an injured Mauer and a struggling Morneau.  Anyone that is not scared to death of a Minnesota resurgence in late June or early July either doesn’t understand Brewers/ Twins baseball history, or doesn’t understand the game.  This series is a chance for Milwaukee to win a couple of games at home before heading out on a big road trip.

June 28 th : 3 games @ New York Yankees. 36-28 overall record, with a home record of 20-17. I hate the Yankees.  I hate everything they stand for.  I hate that they always spend the most money, and then brag about how they are committed to winning, while selling $9 hot dogs and $14 beers. Good, you have money…Now go to hell.  At any cost, the Brewers must destroy all things Yankees in this series.  If Ron Roenicke starts Kotsay in centerfield in one of these games, I might be blogging from Rikers Island in the near future. I wonder if Zach Greinke wants to show NY they made a mistake passing on him during last season’s trade deadline?

July 1 st 3 games @ Minnesota Twins 26-39 overall record, with a home record of 9-16. See above.

July 4 th 3 games vs. Arizona Diamondbacks.  37-30 overall record with a road record of 17-17. This is a series Milwaukee must win.  Sure the Diamondbacks have a record above .500 currently, but they are at least the third best team in that division.  They should return to Earth soon and hopefully Milwaukee will be the team to escort them back to mediocrity.

July 7 th 4 games vs. Cincinnati Reds. 35-33 overall record, with a road record of 15-18. The defending division champs could be right there in the thick of it when they visit to Miller Park.  Ultimately, I believe that Cincinnati has fewer flaws than St Louis and that this will become evident as the season nears the halfway point.  This four game series could be the defining series of the season and could determine who the winner of the NL Central is in October.

As you can see, each series features a team that is above .500 and playing well, or features a team that Milwaukee has struggled with historically, especially in that armpit called Wrigley Field.  In addition, I should also note that after the All Star game, the Brewers immediately head out on an eleven game West Coast swing.  I suppose some could say this stretch is critical as well.  However, I would point out that every team in the NL will play out West this season.  What every team in the NL doesn’t do this season is play at New York and at Boston.  This stretch of ridiculousness created by MLB will likely determine the viability of a Milwaukee playoff run.  If Milwaukee can survive this grueling stretch within six games of the division lead, it is my prediction that they will win the NL Central.  If they cannot keep pace in the division, this season will be filled with what-ifs that will likely carry on for decades to come.

 

Yuni Watch

Is Yuni even the everyday starting SS any longer?  Are the Brewers now relegated to a soft platoon at the SS position?  No wonder there are questions, as Yuni continues to stink.  This week he went 3 x 17 and has an unsightly slash line of .228/.253/.340.  Indeed, Craig Counsell got a couple of starts and even Josh Wilson had a pinch hit HR last week.  Clearly the Brewers have to be looking at other options available and, of course, any waiver wire action at the SS position.  In an attempt to go to any length bring you the Yuni Betancourt news other blogs will not, I am happy to report that Rickie Weeks and Yuni have a new handshake between them.  I suppose I would just like to see a handshake that ends with Rickie waving goodbye to Yuni.

 

Throwback Jersey of the Week

This week is the last edition before Father’s Day.  I have been counting down from 10 with the best throwback jerseys not related to the Milwaukee Brewers.  This week I reveal my top three and I give a multitude of teams and prices in which to choose.

3. Pete Rose. There was nobody better than Pete Rose.  He would run over his own mother (ask Ray Fosse ) to tie the family softball game after Thanksgiving dinner.  Charlie Hustle did everything as it fundamentally should be done.  He played good defense at multiple positions and he was as good of a situational hitter as there was to ever play the game.  Make no mistake, I believe he should be in the Hall of Fame.  His accomplishments as the Hit King should be recognized, as should his banishment from the game for gambling.  Please put Pete in the Hall of Fame where he belongs.  His Cincinnati Reds home white jersey is always the Gold standard for throwbacks, but he also has a tight Phillies look , and a decent Expos throwback as well. Anytime I can work in a defunct franchise’s throwback jersey, I certainly will do so with enthusiasm.  The smaller Montreal gets in the rear view mirror, the better their jerseys get for geeks like me.

2. Bo Jackson. Bo was a complete freak of an athlete.  Who could possibly forget an Oakland Raider Bo Jackson running up the tunnel after scoring on a long run against the Seahawks?  Do you remember him also running over Brian Bosworth ?  How about a Kansas City Royals Bo Jackson hitting a homerun in the All Star Game off of Rick Rueschel ?  Finally, do you remember when Bo broke a baseball bat over his head?  Yep, he was one of a kind.  There many different types of Bo Jackson jerseys out there.  In baseball, none are better than his powder blue Royals throwback .  As far as football throwbacks, of course you have to go with Raider black , and for under $40 you can also get this look .

1. Nolan Ryan. The Man.  I learned a lot about baseball watching Ryan pitch, including how to play the game the old school way.  I certainly learned when not to bunt for a base hit against Nolan Ryan and also to take pitch counts with a grain of salt.  One of my favorite moments in baseball history occurred when Robin Ventura learned to respect The Man.  I really like several editions of Nolan Ryan throwbacks, so here is an assortment of Mets , Angels , Astros , and under $50 Texas Rangers versions to choose from.

 

In Case You Missed It.

Despite the reemergence of Nyjer Morgan, Mark Kotsay has been sneaking into the lineup and stealing at bats from The Plushed One .  It seems as if Runnin’ Ron Roenicke really likes to look at old statistics to make judgments on the lineup.  In case you missed it, from 2001-2004, Mark Kotsay accumulated the 34 th highest offensive WAR in baseball.  He was pretty good during his heyday.  In fact during this 3 year stretch, Kotsay ranked among all outfielders in the following stats: WAR (19 th ), hits (25 th ), AVG (23 rd ), OBP (30 th ).  He also showed some defensive chops by ranking 6 th in fielding with a 33.0 UZR.

There is no disputing that Kotsay has acquired some of these offensive statistics against pitchers that are still playing.  In fact, in many cases the pitchers in question were young pitchers, just establishing themselves.  Now seven years later these pitchers are in their prime and Kotsay is a blown hamstring from being done for good.  My point is that the matchup statistics Roenicke is using to determine lineups is antiquated because almost all of the at bats are no longer relevant.  I cannot understand how Roenicke can’t see that both Kotsay and the opposing pitcher are different players than they were seven years ago.

 

Shameless Self Promotion

Please don’t forget to follow my Twitter account, @simplekindoffan.    If you aren’t following me, then you are missing out on useless tweets such as this .

Are you traveling or will you miss an upcoming Brewers game because of a MLB black- out?  No worries, the Pocketdoppler is here for you.  Brian has you covered with a nightly ‘250 words or less’ summary of what happened for the Brewers.  It is a quick and convenient way to stay on top of the team when the social calendar fills up in the summer.

 

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  • Joshua

    Good stuff as usual! I think you should replace the yuni watch with the casey closeup so everyone can see how great he is playing!!

    • BrewTownBoozer

      Since Josh makes out the lineup in softball and I want to remain the clean up hitter: Coming next week, The Casey Closeup!

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  • http://www.MilwaukeeBrianSports.com Brian

    To echo Joshua, you always bring the best in the ASKOF. Great breakdown of the next month. Heard Homer and Thunder on 540 ESPN predict a ~.500 record during this next stretch. If the Brewers are still 8, 9, 10 games over .500 come All-Star break, they’ll be set.

    • BrewTownBoozer

      No way they win 1/2 of these games. If they do, nobody is touching them. We will learn about this team in the next month.

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  • Chris

    Yuni still merits the watch. History shows he’s pathetic. History on Casey paints a much more hopeful picture.

    I can’t see MKE breaking .500 during this stretch. The key is to stay in contact with the NLC leaders. Six back would make me uncomfortable, but four back at the All Star Break would be good from my perspective.

    I would note, however, that a sweep in BOS would not be fatal. The ’08 club got blanked there and recovered just fine. The key in my view is to take care of business in CHI. That job just got tougher with the painful loss last night.

    • BrewTownBoozer

      Agreed. I guess I will take a split in the series, but with Gallardo, Narveson, and Greinke going a split seems likely at least. They need to jump on Wells early tonight. Thanks for the insight, as usual C.

      • Chris

        Happy to chime in as long as you keep doing what you’re doing. Your work is appreciated.

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  • http://Pocketdoppler Shane

    Simplekindoffan, nice article. While I defend the Brewer Nation at the Border to the Twin Cities, let me tell you, the people up here know baseball. They also think the Twins are going to Roll the Brewers as they believe we have already played our best and they in turn have played their worse.

    Either way I managed too bet two seperate people a 12 pack on each game this season. Here’s hoping to a free stock of my favorite beverage heading into the 4th of July and dog days of summer.

    Now go cub hunting tonight Crew, have you not learned from the Packers bear hunting?…it pays off in the end!!!

    • BrewTownBoozer

      That series at Target Field might the toughest of the entire month. Good Luck on the beer, that is a risky bet. What is the beverage of choice these days?

  • http://Pocketdoppler Shane

    also simplekindoffan, never received my coffee mug for fan of the week….

    • http://pocketdoppler.com/ Wally

      Just sent you an email Shane.

  • http://www.pocketdoppler.com BigSnakeMan

    Your ‘throwback section’ brought back a couple of fond baseball memories.

    Bo Jackson ranging into the deep leftfield corner to field a hit, come up throwing and cut down a runner at home ON THE FLY!…Magnificent!

    Also reminded me of one time when I saw Nolan Ryan brush back Robin Yount. Yount calmly dusted himself off, got back in the box…and ripped the next pitch to right field for a base hit. It was beautiful.

    Think it might be optimistic to expect the Twins to take the AL Central this year. Injuries to Mauer and Morneau have put them behind the 8-ball and Detroit looks pretty strong right now. But that doesn’t mean they won’t give the Brewers fits; always seem to have their number.

    • Chris

      Bo Jackson was, simply, the most exciting baseball player I ever saw — period.

  • Jeff

    I believe i heard that Yuni has the lowest on base % of all 75 players in the NL that qualify for batting stats, and Casey not too far behind…YIKES!!