By: Melissa S. Wollering
Generic Windex has nothing on the absurd streaks of the Milwaukee Brewers. Dave Bush fill-in Mike Burns says Cy Young means squat after outpitching Johan Santana, former Cub Casey McGehee gets his first Grand Slam in the majors and Fielder and Braun give us a glimpse of what the Home Run Derby could look like—all in one week. Plus, the prime window to acquire another starting pitcher narrows as the Milwaukee Brewers head south to play the Chicago Cubs this Independence Day weekend.
The phrase ‘atop the NL Central’ still baffles me, but several solid performances, including games on Saturday and Wednesday, restored a bit of the confidence the Milwaukee Brewers lost last week.
Imagine making 48 appearances for four different teams in the majors before collecting one W for your record. Enter Mike Burns. He has to pitch against Johan Santana then watch David Wright smack a two-run homer in his first inning out. That smells of the same fear gatorade dispensers have for Carlos Zambrano. So how, or better yet, who gives Mike the confidence he needs to last through six-plus innings?
Ryan Braun. This question-answer game should start to look familiar by now, o-wise-avid team leadership-tidbit-seekers. Ryan Braun produces 3 hits for 4 runs and pretends third base is a slip-n-slide during a Santana error that allows him to score. Back from that early deficit, Burns goes onto last longer than Doublemint gum. Corey Hart had 3 hits, Prince Fielder goes yard in the 7th for insurance and his 20th homer of the season, Johan sprinkles in some walks, too and there’s your shocking Mike Burns win.
Burns is the Dave Bush replacement until that minor tear in Bush’s arm heals. He has a tendency to walk the first hitter, then settles down and starts throwing first-pitch strikes. Burns threw 66 strikes, 29 balls and 16 first-pitch strikes.
Shall we do the math? Throwing first-pitch strikes forces more swinging of the bat, equating to 10 outs in three pitches or less. More than half of Burns’ curve balls, fastballs, sliders and change-ups are all strikes. Is he working for the Milwaukee Brewers right now? You bet he is.
Nevertheless, we’re approaching July 3rd. In my opinion, this was a target date for Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio to tell us they’ve acquired a new starting pitcher. Think about it. We’re about to head south on I-94 to play the Cubs, we’re minus Dave Bush and Manny Parra in our rotation. There’s plenty of time to find one, but this would’ve been my first “date-to-watch-for” on the calendar. Names still popping up: Erik Bedard, Jarrod Washburn and Doug Davis. Yes, former Brewer Doug Davis. I don’t know about that.
Did you know Jarrod Washburn is from La Crosse and went to UW-Oshkosh? Erik Bedard is from Canada, so a July 1st acquisition would be easy to remember along with his national holiday.
Can we please talk Casey McGehee? His bat is so hot the Kool-Aid Man suffered heatstroke. Wisconsin’s dairy farmers say McGehee’s so hot that their cows have only produced evaporated milk in June.
In more than 115 plate appearances this season, McGehee is hitting .325 with a .388 OBP and .544 slugging (.931 OPS). He’s not the Savior, but he might be contributing more than anyone in the lineup since the departure of Rickie Weeks. His defense is solid, too, considering he played exactly 7 games at second base in the minors and zero in the majors before this season.
More fun with production numbers: 73/274. That’s the combined home runs and RBI’s Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are on pace for this season. Can you say the new Brewers’ pet dinosaur is the Thatsalottorunsasaurus? The homer record for teammates is 115 set by Maris & Mantle in 1961. Oh, I love history.
History also proves though that if you want to beat the Brewers, just debut a new pitcher against them. The Brewers have lost all 4 of the last 4 games facing a newbie including Sadowski on Sunday, Figaro on June 20, Hanson (no decision, but Atlanta won June 7) and Swarzak on May 23. Yep, that’s right Peter and Palmer.
In “Just a Bit Outside,” Miller Park isn’t perfect as a full-fledged shadow investigation is underway. No lie. During a day game, shadows are distracting players by the 4th inning. It happens during evening games to a lesser extent as well. Last Thursday against the Twins, Prince Fielder was asked what kind of pitch he homered off of. Turns out he hit the ball blind, didn’t even know if he’d make contact. When asked what should be done about the lighting situation, Prince responded, “I don’t know. I just work here.”
In “Down on the Farm,” my 25-man fantasy roster, complete with minor-league player Jeremy Jeffress, continues to produce pigs for slaughtering. Jeffress was handed a 100-game suspension for testing positive for a “drug of abuse.” He wasn’t doing well anyway and was demoted earlier in the season. Once thought of as a potential legacy pitcher, his problem with Mary Jane appears to be giving Tom Petty a better shot of pitching for the Crew in the coming years.
Speaking of the farm, don’t expect Manny Parra to return to the big leagues any time soon. He took a huge step back Sunday giving up 5 hits, 5 BB’s and 7 runs (6 earned) in less than 5 innings. Gross.
In “Around the NL Central,” dang you St. Louis for getting Mark DeRosa. I love DeRosa and believe he would’ve been a solid veteran investment. I’ve been saying it all season. At least Doug Melvin went after him. The bad news is Cleveland wanted young pitching prospects, which by reading above you can see WE DON’T FRIGGIN HAVE.
In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” whenever I’m feeling down, at least I’m not feeling Cubbie Blue over Milton Bradley. Consider this when you need a pick-me-up: this season Milt has been ejected, ticked-off an ump for a suspension, decided to flush his productivity down a toilet, threw a ball into the stand with two outs, blew up at his manager and prompted Pinella to ask Milt to physically remove his jersey. Feeling better? Wait…Bradley isn’t likely to go anywhere for two more years. Oh, now you feel on the northside.
And finally in “Chart Magnificence,” I started watching the Live Win Probability Charts change before my eyes each inning on Fan Graphs. I’m told that by taking the MLB data and plugging into some crazy html algorithms, you get auto-refresh graphs like this one. When they change before your eyes, you just FEEL smarter.