What Milwaukee’s Brewing: Sudsy Bubbles to All-Star Break

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By Melissa S. Wollering

Either you drink through the foam head barrier or remain parched until the suds settle.  There’s no way around it; the Milwaukee Brewers must drink in the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers until their All-Star break reprieve. Speaking of which, we also let our readers weigh-in as we evaluate the Crew’s representation on the All-Star roster in this edition of What Milwaukee’s Brewing.

St. Louis leads the division and got an A from your third-grade English teacher when she assigned a compare/contrast assignment. A depleted starting rotation for Milwaukee combined with a less-than-stellar starting pitching rotation IS IN CONTRAST TO a roster that includes Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols and the newly-acquired Mark DeRosa.

Gaining momentum going into the second-half of the season is important, but the Brewers have been putting their stationary bikes on the “hills course” and heading both directions over the past month. The Crew went 5-10 in interleague play, with the only source of pride being the three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians. The Brewers then took a red-hot poker from Colorado as they were swept at home. They went on to take 2 of 3 from each of the Giants and Mets only to get clubbed over the head by the Cubs. Freakin’ awesome.

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Which brings us to the Mark Cavendish or Lance Armstrong of your stationary bike. Since they’re team racing the Tour de France, can we get some rhythm-setters up in this starting rotation so the sprinter can finish her off?

Our consistently outspoken Ryan Braun had no problem saying Seth McClung and Mike Burns aren’t getting the job done. He knows Doug Melvin is trying to acquire the answer to everyone’s prayers, but Braun clearly felt his words might serve to light a fire under Mr. Mustache’s rear-end.

With two games up for grabs (meaning Gallardo, Suppan and Looper will handle the rest) before the All Star break, Ken Macha/Doug Melvin’s choice to pitch those two games could have a hefty effect on the Tour de’ Milwaukee (this next homestand) and the momentum going into the Hunt For Ken’s Machtober (post All-Star break).

I wrote that I believed the first target date by which Melvin wanted to acquire a starting pitcher was July 2nd. I believe the second target date is July 9th. I’m not saying there isn’t plenty of time before July 31st, but the timing of the acquisition at this point in the season is paramount. We knew our starting pitching rotation was going to be thin and bald.  We didn’t know it was also going to be fat and ugly. Not that there’s anything wrong with thin, bald, fat or ugly!  They are all wonderful attributes!

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What attributes do you need to have to make this year’s All-Star team? Whatever they are, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder had them. Brauny is the first Milwaukee Brewer to make the roster two years in-a-row since Robin Yount. Fielder was the manager’s choice, which is satisfying. Fielder is also competing for the crown in this year’s Home Run Derby as one of 4 first basemen in it.

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I wanted to know what you think, so here are a few responses from avid readers:

“Let’s be honest–if Hoffman were doing the same job for the Cubs, Yanks, Cards, etc. he would have been selected. Voters see MIL next to his name and forget his accomplishments because they have been trained to accept the premise that Milwaukee has no pitching this season. Gallardo I’m less distressed about because he’s been good, but not great. Certainly above average, and noteworthy, but not an All-Star. My 2 centavos.”  -Justin Cleveland

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“It’s no snub…just ran out of room for both guys. Look at the closers on the NL team…Bell, Broxton, Cordero, Franklin and K-Rod…all solid choices. The starters are all solid as well, and you also have to remember the rule of getting at least one guy on from every team, but still, starters on that roster deserve to be there. Trevor has been lights out but so have all the other guys. And Gallardo has been the ace of this staff, but others are matching him for their clubs. My two cents…but so have all the other guys. And Gallardo has been the ace of his staff, but others are matching for their clubs.” –Bob Brainerd

As a former FS Wisconsin reporter/host, we love Bob Brainerd. Bob knows baseball. Thank you, Bob.  Your thoughts are always appreciated and may we share with you, we love your reporting from those stands. One more:

“Apparently the sound system in St. Louis isn’t equipped to play Hell’s Bells loud enough, so Trevor declined. I would say that I hate “one player from each team rule”…but then the Crew would’ve had a ten year drought of representation!” –Nic Kulinski

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Examining the rosters, I will not argue any of the NL closers are less worty.  Only that Yovani got a raw deal if you even want to bring up the names Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis.  Don’t even.  I’m serious. The only justification I provide is the one player minimum per organization.  Could we do a little “Chart Magnificence”? Marlins’ starter Josh Johnson and Dodgers’ starter Chad Billingsley could be compared to Yovani in terms of numbers so here it is folks.  Johnson deserved it, Billingsley no way. The West Coast hollas loudly I suppose. Then again, there’s always next year!

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What Milwaukee’s Brewing: Streaky Shine & Return to Wrigley

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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What Milwaukee’s Brewing: 30 in 50, Raw Relief & Fountain vs. Fist

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By: Melissa S. Wollering

Thirty W’s in 50 games—the Milwaukee Brewers make club history with that number.  It’s also just the second time the Crew has won 30 prior to June 1.  Unfortunately, the next day, Jorge Julio throws raw steak at the Fish, single-handedly loses a game and prompts Ken Macha to rethink his entire bullpen. Now that’s more like the Brewers we know and love. Ugh.
 
The bright side: the Milwaukee Brewers swept the Reds after an interleague interruption to the Twins and losses to the red birds. Also good: Trevor Hoffman is 13 for 13 in saves.  But the rest of the Milwaukee Brewers’ bullpen is now valued beneath Milli Vanilli’s Grammy award at any local pawn shop near you.

 

The Brewers were on top of the Florida Marlins 4-2 Monday, when Jorge Julio entered in the 6th inning to give up five runs, four earned. Coffey stepped in that inning because after all that, Julio still couldn’t record ONE OUT. If Julio were the piece of raw meat I saw travel towards the plate Monday night, I’d feed him to Siegfried & Roy’s tiger. I’d also make sure that tiger lived a happy, fulfilling life in the Brewers bullpen reminding relievers not to THROW CRAP.

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Ken Macha just might tear apart his bullpen. He released Julio 14 hours later and called up AAA Nashville’s Mike Burns. Burns has pitched for the Sounds, recording a 6-2 record, 2.98 ERA in 10 starts and one shutout game. He’s pitched in the majors for Houston, Cincinnati and Boston and will serve a middle-reliever role.

If Macha had wanted David Riske, forget it. On Tuesday, Brewers Asst. GM Gord Ash announced Riske will undergo elbow surgery immediately and it could be as serious as Tommy John’s. He’s done for the year after just one outing.

Mark DeFelice has recently been held out of games due to his ailing elbow and could be placed on the DL any day. The Crew has R.J. Swindle but kicks itself every time it calls the LHP up because he gives up runs every time he enters a game.

In the event Macha needs someone else who can cover several innings, he could call up Nick Green or Chase Wright. Seth McClung and Mitch Stetter were so overworked by Monday, they were unavailable. Coffey and Villaneuva aren’t seeing much rest lately either. Tim Dillard would have been another decent choice to bring up Tuesday, except he pitched 7 innings on Sunday for Nashville and needs rest. Dillard has transitioned from reliever to starter.

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Mike Cameron left Monday’s game with knee irritation and Ryan Braun was part of that double-switch because he fouled a ball into one of his shins. Maybe if Braun wasn’t so busy throwing Remetee promotions parties on Milwaukee’s northside, he wouldn’t foul the ball in that direction.  Nothing is said to be serious with either player. Braun’s back in the lineup Tuesday.  Cameron is not. Jody Gerut is in.

Can we talk about the positive? May showered the Milwaukee Brewers’ with 18 victories and the wins are saving fans money.  A line formed at Miller Park Monday morning as people purchased discounted tickets to the Rockies’ series next week. The team offered a dollar off of loge level seats for every victory in May. $28 seats became $10 seats. Windell Middlebrooks calls them ‘good seats at an honest price’.

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Contributors worth recognizing include Prince ‘Month of May’ Fielder. His OBP of .450 gives statisticians chills; he whacked 9 homers, 31 RBI’s and 20 runs; AND his reflective shades complement his .305 average for the month. That’s not bad considering he lost your friend and mine, Rickie Weeks.

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Craig Counsell’s performance has exceeded the worth of his contract and it’s only June. Yovani Gallardo is finally showing signs of Ace potential. And Trevor Hoffman is playing paramedic, performing CPR on the bullpen even though he was out the first month of the season.  He is already approaching the top of the list in saves in the NL. He also converted his 13th save on the day the Milwaukee Brewers released his first bobblehead figure.  Remember when the Derrick Turnbow bobblehead release signaled his demise? Oh, Turnblow.

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I understand Miller Park finally got it right for Hoffy on Friday, playing AC/DC’s ‘Hells Bells’ the correct way. As the Brewers secured the final out in the 8th, all graphics on the video board went out, cameras and lights went dark and music stopped. Then, Hoffman opened the door and BONG! As he started jogging, music blared and video of ‘Trevor Time’ appeared.  Someone from San Diego must have faxed a step-by-step procedure manual to Milwaukee.  Thanks, San Diego.

I’m glad they got it right just in time to welcome Francisco Cordero back to Milwaukee.  Are you still celebrating your dollar figure or scratching your head about last season’s record under .500? We’re over you like cheekless chaps on Cher, Coco.

As for the offense, Ken Macha is now making it clear that if you were waiting for the Brewers to play small ball, even during the hitting funk prior to the Reds’ series, you wasted your time. Macha still subscribes to the idea that home runs and walks win games; stolen bases and sac bunts do not. Macha also insists this philosophy isn’t a product of his time with the Oakland A’s.

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During spring training, batting coach Dale Sveum spoke extensively about shifting offensive reliance on homers towards more of a manufacturing-friendly attitude. Macha just chucked that idea to the wolves this week.  He says that prior to sweeping the Reds, the Brewers’ only problem was passivity at the plate.  What is Macha’s solution should home-run bats become silent? Encourage hitters to be more aggressive on first-pitch strikes a.k.a. earlier in the count. I wonder if Sveum and Macha are clashing on philosophies this season.  It would appear they, are but no one’s talking about it.

In June, watch out for Corey Hart and Manny Parra. Hart has hit around .306 (20 points higher than his monthly average) and slugs .583 (100 point difference) in the month of June. Parra also loves the start to summer. He went 5-0 with a 2.59 ERA last June. However, Alcides Escobar will not start at second for the Brewers any time soon.  He’s back to shortshop down in Nashville.

In “Just a Bit Outside,” if the fan next to you at Miller Park is ticking you off, you can now text park personnel for someone to monitor and investigate the situation. As part of the organizations’ “Play Nice – Be a Friendly Fan”, you can now report misconduct by texting BREWERS, followed by a space and their seat or ballpark location to 41513. If a player punches a Gatorade dispenser, that’s a separate issue.

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In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” I’m sure you’re shocked that I would take this opportunity to deluge Mr. Ryan Dempster and Mr. Carlos Zambrano for their two separate attacks on a defenseless hydration device. Dempster’s new book (to be released in the off-season), “Speaking With Your Fist”, recounts Ryan’s experience after walking in two runs in the 2nd inning to the Pirates on Memorial Day.  That’s when he ran into the dugout and punched the soda fountain to pieces. But friends, it lived on.

You see, the Cubs’ soda fountain for Gatorade is one you’d see at Hardees or the BK, with approximately six varieties of pressurized beverage for players’ electrolyte pleasure. Great Zeus’ beard—who would put this in their dugout?  It was only a matter of time before the oversized, bulky monstrosity, which splashed sticky liquid in players’ faces, would get on someone’s nerves.  Its refrigerated cooling device hums like a kazoo, driving men bonkers. zambrano

The dispenser’s epic tale ended once Los named his Nueva amiga Fontana de’ Gatora.  Unlike a nice, garden-variety wooden beverage barrel from the 50’s, this dispenser could not withstand such a blow.

Typical dispensers require service calls for maintenance if they happen to be blasted with 35 ounces of maple. Alas, in this economy, the Cubs decided they didn’t want to keep calling the repairman to put the thing back together every time Zambrano attacked it.  So it has been placed on waivers. Bless you, Gatorade dispenser. You aren’t the first victim of Z’s angry demeanor and you won’t be the last.