Poor play against the Phillies and Cardinals caused many fans to get out on the ledge and begin to panic.  In general, there was an increasingly large faction proclaiming that the 2011 Brewers were done.  These fans say that the Brewers peaked too early, and that while they still might make the playoffs, the team won’t win anything once they get there.  This pessimistic group of fans has always been a fickle bunch and loyalty isn’t a trait they seem to possess.  While I disagree with their overall assumption that the team is done, I can certainly understand where they are coming from and share their frustrations.

The expectations of the team have probably never been higher in history.  This is unchartered territory and has led inexperienced fans to assume that the first sign of trouble spells impending doom associated with a certain collapse.  Why?  Because Milwaukee fans have never been in first place with a comfortable lead heading into September.  Expectations have gotten so high that the only place to go is down it seems.  But how did things get this way?  Let’s take a look at the season month by month from the fan’s perspective and examine how they had no choice but to be disappointed in poor September play.

 

March:  0-1.   As we found out, John Axford sucks and the team still doesn’t have enough pitching to compete with the Reds in the NL Central.

April:  13-12.   The team was treading water and expectations were low. This Greinke guy was a waste and the trade appeared to be a disaster. He didn’t made any starts and he wasn’t the anchor everyone predicted he would be.  Finally, we were told that Kameron Loe was the type of pitcher that needed to pitch everyday to be effective.  We bought it.

May: 17-12.   Greinke was OK, but his ERA was terrible.  The team had an ugly stretch of 11 games with only three wins.  The offense was lifeless and fans were wondering if this was a case of the ‘Same Old Brewers’.  This was the low point of the season and had the haters out in force.  The Brewers then started a stretch of games that would span into June. The team went 18-5 and many people were beginning to wonder if this was the team we all hoped it would be back in December.

June:  14-13.    The good feelings of the 18-5 stretch were wiped out when the incredibly difficult interleague schedule began against the AL East.  The team was just hoping to be within striking distance of the division lead after the All Star break.  The expectations were mediocre, but the general feeling was one of ‘win 1/2 of the games and tread water until the schedule gets easier’.  This was also the first time that we all began to hear whispers that the Brewers couldn’t beat good teams.

July:  16-11.    The team finished the interleague schedule still in first place and looking to start out fast after the All Star break.  Unfortunately, this was also when the longest, and most difficult, road trip of the team occurred.  Every fan hoped that the team wouldn’t begin a free fall during this road trip and dig a hole that would be impossible to overcome.  A 5-6 trip gave every fan realistic hope of a division title and signified the turning point of the season.  After this road trip, the Brewers started a long and historic run of games that would lead the team to run away with the NL Central division.

August:  21-7.  What a month!  The Brewers went on an insane run of games to seal the division.  In fact, the team managed to win 27 of 32 games at one point.  This is very good, but how good?  Some of the best teams in MLB history such as the ’27 Yankees, the ’61 Yankees, and the ’75 Cincinnati Big Red Machine didn’t win games at that pace.  It’ s very difficult to manage expectations as a fan when your team is putting together a stretch of games in historic fashion.  The pitching was absolutely incredible and the offense was doing just enough, despite calls for improvements to the left side of the infield from smart fans everywhere.

September:  9-8.  Since fans of the Brewers have never had a team dominate the league in such an impressive fashion, they have never experienced the inevitable cool down that always happens after the fact.  No team can win games at a .850 winning percentage forever and the team started to struggle with a suddenly hot St. Louis Cardinals.  Since fans have never seen their team get incredibly hot before, the common belief was that the team peaked too early and couldn’t possible get as torrid as they were in August.  Pessimism began to become commonplace and panic begin to reign.  This stretch of games made expectations nearly impossible to go anywhere but down and enabled panic to be the common emotion expressed throughout Brewer nation.

In truth, almost all fan rage has been centered on the underachieving left side of the Milwaukee infield.  Despite the team’s success, Yuni and McGehee continue to struggle nightly both offensively and defensively. However, they continue to get almost all of the innings for the team.  Sadly, it appears that production doesn’t necessarily equal playing time for a team that will be in the playoffs in less than two weeks.  This is a recipe for disaster.

In my opinion, a tremendous pitching staff and the best offensive tandem all of baseball has masked a great deal of inexperience and incompetence on the part of Ron Roenicke.  Some say the team’s record indicates his level of skill as a manager.  I say that his stubbornness to play two guys that aren’t producing night after night indicates his level of skill as a manager.  While I am optimistic about the team’s playoff prospects, I will end this week with a prediction:

 

The Milwaukee Brewers will NOT win a playoff game in 2011 that has Yuni Betancourt and Casey McGehee in the starting lineup.

 

A Season You Have Probably Forgotten About by Now  

This week’s feature is not so much about a season you may have forgotten about, as much as it is about a season that the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers could use going into the playoffs.  While true that this season happened five years ago, it is significant because the current squad lacks everything this season brought.  In my opinion, this current Brewers team is like a super hot girl that turns crazy after three beers and has black teeth because she’s a crack whore.  Sure, she’s smoking hot and there is a great deal to like, but the drawbacks she brings are almost always a deal breaker.  These Brewers have their own version of a crack whore and a crazy drunk all in one playing shortstop.  Yes, Yuni’s offense is like a growler of Lowenbrau and his defense is a funny joke that makes the team smile. In an instant, Yuni’s faults can turn a hot team into something of an undesirable mess.

Almost everyone reading this piece remembers Bill Hall.  He had a 2006 season that rivals any a Milwaukee shortstop has had since a guy named Yount was playing there 30 years ago.  Of course, the one stat everyone remembers is Hall’s 35 HRs.  It was a break out year and was a precursor to the big contract extension he received after the season.  While the homers are nice, Hall excelled at several areas of need at the shortstop position.  Looking at Hall’s season side by side next to Betancourt’s reveals several fixes to problems I’ve been complaining about since March.

 

Hall Betancourt
Plate Appearances 608 552
Hits 145 131
HRs 35 12
Runs 101 48
RBIs 85 62
BB/K 63/162  15/58
ISO .283 .126
Slash .270/.345/.533/.899 .250/.268/.375/.643
WAR 5.2 0.3
Xtra Base Hits 78 39
Pitches Seen 2527 1757

 

Getting on base.   One thing I have harped on all season is Yuni’s inability to consistently get on base.  His .268 OBP is horrendous and is often attributed to his poor plate approach.  In fact, Yuni’s 15 walks are probably the biggest reason why he struggles to get on base.  One little talked about aspect of Hall’s season was his ability to find his way on base, even when he wasn’t hitting homers.  Hall tallied 63 walks and had an acceptable .345 OBP.  Yuni’s inability to get on base consistently puts the team at a disadvantage during the playoffs in 2011.

Work the Count.   Hall was able to do the little things Yuni can’t seem to do to help his team when he wasn’t getting base hits.  For example, Bill Hall was able to see 2527 total pitches throughout the season as compared to Yuni’s 1757 total pitches in 2011.  That is a difference of almost 800 pitches, and shows why I have been harping on short pitch counts per at bat for Yuni all season.  In the playoffs, getting into an opposing team’s bullpen is often the difference between winning and losing.  Yuni’s inability to work the count puts the team at a disadvantage during the playoffs in 2011.

Defensive Impotence.   Despite being a terrible offensive player who lacks a solid approach at the plate, Yuni’s true fault is the terrible defense he plays nightly.  A comparison next to Hall reveals that Billy was a much better defensive player than most of us remember.

 

Hall Betancourt
Games at SS 126 141
Innings Played 1090 1207
Errors 17 20
UZR 5.2 -6.8
UZR/150 7 -8.1

 

Hall actually was sixth in UZR and 5 th in UZR/150 among all NL Shortstops in 2006.  Certainly, this is a far cry from Yuni’s defensive ineptitude, which is currently only better than Starlin Castro of the Cubs.  Mark my words, a Yuni defensive miscue will cost this team a game in the playoffs.

Bill Hall had a breakout 2006 season.  His ability to get on base, work the count, and play solid defense is what highlighted an underrated career year.  The Milwaukee Brewers are an average shortstop away from being a smoking hot blonde with little discernible flaws.  The Brewers could use exactly what Hall brought to the 2006 team.  His season will go down as one that you may have forgotten about how well rounded it was by now.

 

Yuni Watch

A wicked combination of computer challenges, vacation, and beers after softball have conspired against a separate Yuni Watch this week (along with lousy proofreading).  However, there are a couple of points I would like to make clear about the worst shortstop I’ve EVER seen play on a consistent basis for the Brewers.

Jerry Hairston started SS on Monday night and played great.  This should end any thoughts of Yuni playing any longer on a consistent basis.  In fact, Yuni was 4 x 20 on the week.  His week can be summed up in one game Saturday night against the Reds.  In this one game he scored 2 runs, hit a home run, and tallied 2 RBIs.  There is no denying that this was a great game and a wonderful use of four at bats. So, what’s the problem?  The problem is that this was his entire week.  With the exception  of a couple of meaningless singles, he managed to produce nothing the rest of the week.  The fact remains that outside of a good game during a 10-1 blowout, Yuni had about as empty of a stat line as possible.  Does this sound familiar?

In summary, JHJ is a better offensive and defensive option moving forward and I hope RRR has finally come to his senses and rewards production over loyalty.  If RRR continues to be stubborn and play Yuni moving in a couple of weeks, I will ultimately hold him responsible for butchering the playoff chances of the entire team.

 

Dates Appearing Closer on the Horizon

October 1, 2011.  Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

 

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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