A Simple Kind of Fan. The Shine of Two MVPs. – 10.4.11
Miller Park was rocking all weekend thanks to the performance of the best twosome in baseball, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Both players have been carrying the offense and have proven why they were considered dual MVP candidates all season long. To say they have been anything short of spectacular would be an understatement. Together they are 9x 16 in the series with a pair of two run homers. They have also scored six runs and also have six RBIs in the series, which isn’t too bad considering the team has scored 13 total runs in two games. In short, they have done a tremendous job of doing the heavy lifting for an offense not short on contributors.
Given how hot Braun and Fielder have been, I really have to question the strategy of pitching to Prince with a base open. In Game 1, Prince burned the Diamondbacks for a huge two run home run that essentially decided the game. The Diamondbacks are clearly slow learners because they did the same thing in the third inning of Game 2. After a Braun double with two outs, Prince promptly made Arizona pay with single to give the Brewers a 3-1 lead. If Kirk Gibson continues to pitch to Prince Fielder in this series with a base open, he will have all off season to wonder why he didn’t just give the big man the free base.
If you are going to beat the Brewers in a series, you don’t do it by coming right at a red hot Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. This is a flawed strategy and shows that some people in the Diamondbacks organization haven’t been paying attention. To beat the Brewers you must do three things.
1) Pitch around Braun and Fielder to make the other players beat you. This means that the Diamondbacks should be focused on staying out of situations where they are forced to throw fastballs for strikes to both players. To get by Braun, you can’t let him extend his hands and drive the ball. Arizona has baffled me thus far with their lack of fastballs inside to Braun. He is the key to the entire Brewers offense. If you can get Braun out, then you can just simply walk Prince. If Braun gets a double, or steals a base, you just walk Prince. It is a simple strategy that the Cardinals have executed for the last few years.
2) Get a lead. Obviously to get a victory a lead is needed. However, this is applicable because of the effectiveness of the bullpen. If the Brewers get a lead on you, you are in big trouble. The bullpen is lights out and goes four deep with solid reliable arms capable of going multiple innings. However, if you can get lead on them, you have a much better chance of seeing the weakness of all teams, middle and long relief. I’d much rather be facing Narveson, Loe, or Estrada with one run lead than attempt to run the Hawkins, Saito, KRod, Axford gamut.
3) Frustrate the offense. Diamondback pitchers are catching WAY too much of the plate and are getting beat because of it. A team like Milwaukee, on the whole, is not prone to be patient and wait for something good to hit. The hitters will extend their zone to try to make contact. Yuni is a great example of this principle in action. In the ’08 playoffs, Milwaukee hitters were flailing at baseballs that were rarely strikes the entire sordid series with the Phillies. If you can get the Milwaukee hitters to extend their hitting zones, you have a good shot of silencing much of the offense.
Changing gears, is it me or does the Diamondback’s logo look more like a set of lips and less like a forked tongue? Honestly, what kind of mascot has a big plush set of lips as part of the logo? Almost as shameful as that putrid mascot is the fact that billboards have been taken out in Phoenix to try to sell $12 seats. I would stab each of my readers in the eye with a pencil for the opportunity to buy $12 playoff tickets and this group of terrible fans can’t even sell out their home stadium? What an embarrassment for MLB, the city of Phoenix, and the state of Arizona.
Now that I have begun to crack on the mascot and the city, I’m sure many fans have assumed that this series is over and have started to look past the Dbacks. I would caution in making that hasty mistake. The Brewers could end the series Tuesday if the offense stays hot. However, we all know that the offense come and goes with this team, so if Arizona were to somehow win Game 3, who the heck is confident with Randy Wolf going in a Game 4? Yes, I know Wolf has good numbers versus Arizona for his career, but career numbers mean very little in a one game start. Before we know it, we could be preparing ourselves for a one game take all Game 5 Friday afternoon. I’m confident this scenario won’t happen, but I would urge humility and appreciation for how hard the next 9 wins will be to achieve.
I’d like to give Runnin’ Ron Roenicke some credit after the first couple of games. Gibson has pushed every conceivable wrong button in the series and RRR has done everything right. I’d like to highlight three situations where Roenicke made a good decision and helped alter the course of the game.
First, RRR has been very, very smart to ride the hot hand of Hairston at third base. JHJ has done everything asked of him since his arrival in Milwaukee. He has significantly more range than McGehee and is an overall better defensive player. Offensively, despite McGehee being 5 x 5 in his career against Hudson, RR correctly made the right call and started Hairston. Hence, he was rewarded with a Game 2 victory.
Secondly, RRR made a perfect call at the perfect time with the squeeze play in Game 2. He caught the Diamondbacks napping and it was a momentum changer in a tight game up to that point. While I don’t think he needed to try the squeeze nightly during the regular season, it certainly shows that sometimes luck is simply preparation meeting opportunity. Having many players on the team involved in past squeeze attempts does indeed make it a viable option at many points moving forward and something other teams will have consider in the late innings of any game.
Finally, one little talked about aspect of Game 2 was when RRR mixed up the bullpen alignment and used Saito in the sixth inning instead of Hawkins. While Hawkins is having a terrific season, it is obvious Saito is the better option between the two pitchers. Thus, in a tie game with a great deal of leverage, RRR made a perfect call to bring in Saito to keep the game tied. Saito was successful and the Brewers literally blew the roof off of Miller Park in the bottom of the inning. I’ve been critical of RRR all season, but he deserves some credit for making the right call on several pivotal decisions in the first two games.
Dates Appearing Closer on the Horizon
October 9, 2011. Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
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