Milwaukee Brewers: Overachievers
On Sunday, the
Nashville Sounds Milwaukee Brewers dropped the rubber match of a three-game set to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6–5. Forced to field a lineup without their banged-up three-hole and cleanup hitters, six starters were not fixtures in Milwaukee until the recent onslaught of injuries (Aoki, Green, Ransom, Conrad, Maldonado, Fiers) and only two (Weeks and Hart) are legitimate every day big league starters.
Yet the Sou—er, Brewers—lost by but one run to the offensively challenged Pirates. Sunday’s game featured seven home runs between both teams, with all but one (Andrew McCutchen’s) being of the solo variety, and for the Brewers, all coming from unexpected sources. Brooks Conrad emerged from his much-maligned slump in a big way with bombs on consecutive days. Nyjer Morgan, who entered the weekend with zero RBIs, also homered on both days to end his MLB-record streak of at-bats without driving in a run. Even Martin Maldonado, known as a defensive stud coming up through the minors, got in on the action Sunday with his first big league blast.
While they boast perhaps the worst offense in the major leagues, Pittsburgh put up 15 runs this weekend. Randy Wolf’s 2012 struggles continued on Friday (6 IP, 6 ER on 8 hits) and Mike Fiers couldn’t keep the ball in the park Sunday, despite a 0.8 HR/9 rate throughout the minors. After an impressive first career start at Dodger Stadium last week, Fiers may have better results in coming starts (NL teams have seen very little of him yet—this is the same reason why Milwaukee sometimes struggles vs. rookie pitchers), but Wolf’s recent pattern of poor starts may put rotation spot—and place on the team—in question.
All things considered, fans have to feel somewhat good about the team’s play recently. The impressive 4-game sweep of the NL’s best team in their home park may well have saved the season after the team sunk to nine games under .500. A previously porous defense has shored as of late, committing just one error over the past 13 games and converting 10 double plays. This may be the biggest reason why the team has risen out of the NL Central’s basement.
But look at this team. Injuries have resulted in a 25-man roster filled with AAA and so-called AAAA players (read: not legitimate major leaguers). While Conrad is very unlikely to go 0 for 27 again, guys like him and Cody Ransom are known commodities: veterans who aren’t good enough to stick with big league clubs and catch on during situations like the Brewers are in. It’s unreasonable to expect them to offer much more than a healthy bat and glove. Unfortunately, neither Conrad nor Ransom have much to offer in either of those areas.
For this team, in its current composition, sweeping the Dodgers in four games was a wonderful surprise. Conversely, dropping two of three to Pittsburgh at home was also somewhat of a surprise, given their woes at Miller Park over the last several seasons. Milwaukee has won 6 of its last 10 and will be playing the lowly Cubs, Padres, Royals, and Twins. While that certainly doesn’t look like a threatening schedule, I wonder if these Brewers, without a healthy Braun and Ramirez, are really that much better than these last-place teams. When a team’s lineup features seven players who began the season in AAA, can one ask much more out of them than 6–5 loss to a middling team?
To me, the Dodgers aren’t nearly as good as their record suggests, were without their superstar Matt Kemp, and playing the reanimated corpse of Bobby Abreu in left field and also batting third. Even so, it is remarkable that the Brewers found ways to beat them. Perhaps Conrad will stay hot, and Morgan and Weeks are indeed breaking out of their slumps. But when offenses suddenly “click” all at once, they also become prone to collectively slumping. Perhaps the defense can keep up their current sterling play, to make up for other inconsistencies.
Most of these replacement players are just that: inconsistent. Why else have they not stuck with a team? With this many borderline major leaguers receiving significant playing time, my expectations for the Brewers have lowered accordingly. Though it has been nice to see the team exceed them lately.
Kevan Feyzi blogs on the Brewers for PocketDoppler.com. He enjoys kayaking, encased meats, and the musical stylings of Cowboy Joe West. He can be followed on Twitter @fevankeyzi.