Results tagged ‘ Milwaukee Brewers ’
Carlos Gomez has been a key part of the Brewers’ success this season. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
No one expected much of the Brewers this season, but they got off to the fastest start in baseball and haven’t looked back. Coming into this series with the Cubs, Milwaukee has the second-best record in the National League (a half game behind the Giants), and they are five games up on St. Louis in what was supposed to be a very competitive NL Central. The Brewers stayed relatively quiet for most of the offseason, but made a splash late in January when they signed former Cubs pitcher Matt Garza to a four-year, $52 million deal. The addition of Garza, who adds some upside to a solid rotation, makes Milwaukee an intriguing team in an already deep NL Central. While there is certainly potential in both the staff and the offense, the Brewers have little depth. They’ll also need several players who had surprising seasons in 2013 to continue to progress this year if they hope to remain in contention all season long. Ryan Braun, returning from a 62-game PED suspension and a load of bad publicity, has continued to crush the ball.
PITCHING (3.6 Runs Allowed Per Game, 6th in NL)
Garza has remained healthy, but his ERA is nearing 5.00, and his production isn’t quite what the organization had in mind when they signed him to the big-money deal. The good news for the Brewers is that Kyle Lohse has continued to be solid as the club’s ace. He has a 4-1 record, a 2.75 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP through eight starts. While Yovani Gallardo may never live up to the promise he displayed early in his career, he gives Milwaukee a third known commodity. He’s throwing better than he has in a while, with a 3.07 ERA in nine starts. Marco Estrada looks to be coming into his own a little later in his career. The 30-year-old righty, who has posted back-to-back seasons with a sub-4.00 ERA, has taken another step forward this year, posting a 3.28 ERA in eight starts. Veteran Francisco Rodriguez has been huge in the back end of ballgames, leading the league in saves while keeping base runners to a minimum.
HITTING (3.9 Runs Scored Per Game, 5th in NL)
The offense has a chance to continue it’s high-octane output, but the Brew Crew needs several players to build off breakout 2013 seasons. Carlos Gomez has continued his 2013 power surge, ranking toward the top of the NL in home runs while still possessing game-changing speed. Braun has picked up right where he left off, hitting .316 with six homers through the first quarter of the season. The only major stumble has come from shortstop Jean Segura, who’s hitting .248 on the year and has gotten caught stealing a league-best five times already. The unheralded Jonathan Lucroy has been a key to the offense, batting .304/.377/.437 (AVG/OBP/SLG), exceptional numbers from a backstop. Though Mark Reynolds doesn’t get on base a ton, his eight homers negate a lot of his statistical weaknesses.
Carlos Gomez has filled the void for an underachieving Brewers offense. (By Tom Lyons/Getty Images)
The Cubs’ September schedule is brutal, with 16 games against likely playoff-bound teams. But this upcoming four-game set against the Brewers features a team similarly struggling at the big league level. It also represents an opportunity for the Cubs to leap the Brewers for fourth place in the NL Central, with 2.5 games separating them prior to tonight’s game. Milwaukee’s lack of depth has been tested this year, with the team’s few breakout performances obscured by the suspension of 2011 MVP Ryan Braun to a violation of the league’s drug policy, the regression of pitcher Yovani Gallardo, and the inability for 24-year-old starter Wily Peralta to meet his potential. The late-spring signing of Kyle Lohse has looked good on its own but insufficient in context. That could be said about the entire squad: There are some solid pieces, but none that can carry the team.
HITTING: 3.9 Runs Scored/Game (8th in NL)
With Prince Fielder long gone, Braun suspended, outfielder Corey Hart missing the season, and second baseman Rickie Weeks out the last two months, the Brewers’ offense is no longer a lineup with crooked-number potential. Center fielder Carlos Gomez has taken over as the team’s best position player, not only powering the offense with a mix of speed and pop but also stealing no fewer than five home runs this year from opposing hitters. The four-year, $28 million deal GM Doug Melvin inked Gomez to before the season may turn out to be an excellent play, as it buys out his next three years of free agency. Shortstop Jean Segura, just 23, looks like a piece to build around as well. He was plucked from the Angels in the Zack Greinke deal last summer. Segura also has outstanding speed, a good contact bat, and plays solid defense. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy is one of the league’s best offensive catchers—not named Buster Posey or Yadier Molina—and outfielder Nori Aoki provides good on-base skills and more speed from the leadoff spot. On the other hand, 35-year-old third baseman Aramis Ramirez is on the decline and missed significant time this year. Milwaukee has some solid pieces, but aside from Gomez’s sudden offensive spike, there’s no real difference-maker in the lineup.
PITCHING: 4.4 Runs Allowed/Game (12th in NL)
The Cubs will see two of the Brewers’ top prospects this series: Peralta tonight and Tyler Thornburg on Wednesday. The 25-year-old Peralta is a power pitcher, working his fastball into the 95-97 mph range and complementing it with a sharp, mid-80s slider. But his lack of command has gotten the better of him this year, costing him walks and home runs. He also produces surprisingly few strikeouts. Peralta is the polar opposite of Tuesday’s starter Marco Estrada, who sometimes pays for his utterly average three-pitch mix but also has a 40 percent higher strikeout rate (22.2 percent vs. 15.8 percent). Drafted in the third round in 2010, Thornburg might look small, but he has the ability to work downhill and rear back for a mid-90s fastball. His curve and change-up both show promise for the future, and he has done a good job in 16 big league appearances (five starts). Milwaukee will send out their ace, Lohse—the Cubs’ 29th-round pick in 1995—to close out the series on Thursday. Lohse found the market dry because of draft-pick compensation that was tied to him, but he finally signed a three-year deal with the Brewers in March that has been a relative bargain so far. Command is vital for Lohse, who has an average five-pitch mix, but it seems the gains he made in that area with the Cardinals have stuck. It’s paying off with a 3.46 ERA despite a well below-average strikeout rate. Jim Henderson, who features a mid-to-upper 90s fastball and a hard slider, closes out a mediocre bullpen.
All-Star shortstop Jean Segura has been one of the few bright spots for the Brew Crew in 2013. (Photo by Tom Lynn/Getty)
Not much has gone right for the Brewers this season, as Milwaukee continues its tumble from perennial contender to NL Central also-ran. The Brew Crew suffered a huge power outage in the early going thanks to a rash of injuries, starting with preseason surgeries to two first basemen—Corey Hart and Mat Gamel. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who had a terrific 2012 campaign, has played only 54 games because of knee issues. But as stagnant as the offense has been, the pitching has been even worse. Milwaukee’s pitchers own a combined 4.09 ERA, 11th in the NL, and their starters have a league worst 4.79 ERA. To add insult to injury, there’s the inescapable saga of former MVP Ryan Braun, who has drawn the ire of baseball pundits, players and teammates for his reported PED use and links to the Biogenesis Clinic in Florida. Braun’s suspension, which will keep him out of action for the remainder of the season, puts an exclamation point on an already disappointing year in Milwaukee.
HITTING: 3.9 Runs Scored/Game (10th in NL)
Despite their middle-of-the-road offense, the Brew Crew have profited from one of the top one-two punches in the game, with Norichika Aoki leading off and Jean Segura having a breakout season in the second slot. Aoki’s .360 on-base percentage is one of baseball’s best from the top of the order, while Segura has been doing it all. He leads the NL in hits, and is second in the league in triples and stolen bases. And Segura is not the only hitter who has developed In Milwaukee when given a chance to play every day. Center fielder Carlos Gomez has finally become the player many expected him to be when the speedster was a top prospect in Minnesota. On a less positive note, second baseman Rickie Weeks’ game continues to be in free fall, and the Brewers have yet to find a playable bat to man first base with Hart out for the season.
PITCHING: 4.6 Runs Allowed/Game (T-15th in NL)
The Brewers’ initial decision to go with a youth movement in the rotation was moderated by their late-spring signing of veteran free agent Kyle Lohse, who is having another solid season in the NL Central. But whatever Milwaukee’s master plan is—or was—none of it has worked in a rotation that ranks close to the bottom in quality starts. Expected ace Yovani Gallardo hasn’t been able to pitch reliably past the sixth inning, and not one other starter has truly been effective. Just three Milwaukee starters have made more than 20 starts on the season (Lohse, Gallardo and Wily Peralta). Other than those three, only Marco Estrada (12) has made as many as 10 starts. Matters aren’t much better in the bullpen, as John Axford pitched his way out of the closer’s role, and replacement Jim Henderson lost time due to injury. With the trade deadline nearing, the Brewers could be looking to deal experienced bullpen arms such as Mike Gonzalez.
Marco Estrada will take the ball Monday for the Brewers. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
Year after year, there’s little question the Brewers can slug—in their first season without Prince Fielder, Milwaukee ranked third with 4.8 runs per game. But the departures of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum have left some questions in the starting rotation, forcing GM Doug Melvin to cobble together pitching depth right until the end of Spring Training.
Just days before Opening Day, Melvin dipped into the organization’s spending money to sign veteran right-hander Kyle Lohse to a three-year deal (and thus forfeiting the team’s first-round pick in the upcoming draft). Coming off a great start against the Diamondbacks, Lohse is slated to take the mound Wednesday at Wrigley Field. He’s coming off an age-33 season in which he set career bests with a 2.86 ERA, 211 innings, a .234 batting average against, and a 4.4 percent walk rate. His 16.6 percent strikeout rate was also the second best of his career. It’s an open question of which categories Lohse will maintain or regress as he gets another year into his 30s.
The Cubs will also see right-handers Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta. A 2010 waiver claim from the Nationals, Estrada had exceptional command of all three of his pitches last year: fastball, curve and change. It’s not often you see a pitcher with a 90-mph heater striking out a quarter of the hitters he faced—and walking just five percent of all hitters. Meanwhile, Peralta is regarded as one of the Brewers’ top prospects and made the roster after an impressive September call-up. The 23-year-old Dominican pitches with gas, sitting in the mid-90s and able to touch above that. His slider also is a sharp, hard breaker that will get plenty of K’s. But his command and pitching feel are still works in progress that the Cubs will do well to plan against on Tuesday.
With Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart both on the DL at least for the next few weeks, the offense will be headed by the homegrown core of 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks and Jonathan Lucroy. Leadoff hitter Norichika Aoki overcame the doubters in his transition from Japan last year. He’s an all-around threat who will take a walk, steal bases efficiently, find the gaps and even take the ball out of the park from time to time. Lucroy is coming off a tremendous year (.320 AVG/.368 OBP/.513 SLG) from behind the dish, while Weeks hopes to bounce back from a career-worst season (.230/.328/.400). Either way, the Brewers should put up crooked numbers as ever in the NL Central.
Monday, April 8—RHP Marco Estrada vs. RHP Edwin Jackson
Tuesday, April 9—RHP Wily Peralta vs. LHP Travis Wood
Wednesday, April 10—RHP Kyle Lohse vs. RHP Scott Feldman
Former Cardinal pitcher Kyle Lohse joined Milwaukee in the offseason. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
The following is from Vine Line‘s April Gameday Edition. Fans can purchase the full version of the official program and scorecard of the Chicago Cubs at various kiosks around Wrigley Field.
For years, it seemed like the Cubs and Brewers were constantly sparring for NL Central supremacy. But those days are over for the time being, with the Cubs trying to rebound from a 101-loss season and the Brewers perhaps dealing with a rebuilding year after a third-place finish in 2012. The offense, which carried the team last year, should still be solid, but the pitching staff is a big question mark—though the late-spring signing of former Cardinal Kyle Lohse should help.
The Brew Crew were already planning on breaking in a few youngsters in their rotation, signaling they probably wouldn’t be running with the Reds and Cardinals atop the division. But between losing slugger Corey Hart for the first two months of the season and having to do without Mat Gamel for the entire season, they’re dangerously short on depth in the lineup and counting on a pitching staff in transition.
3.7 Runs Scored/Game — 8th in NL
The heart of Milwaukee’s Opening Day lineup looked tough, as would any that had sluggers Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez batting third and fourth. But it appears the Cubs might catch a bit of a break. The Brewers likely won’t get a 100 percent version of Braun as neck stiffness has kept the 2011 NL MVP out of action since April 3 and the North Siders will entirely duck Ramirez, who was recently placed on the DL with a knee sprain.
The injuries and lack of a strong bench will certainly take the Brewers’ 2012 league-leading offense down a peg in the early going, but skipper Ron Roenicke is one of the most active offensive tacticians around. He loves to get runners moving, bunt and slip in the occasional late-inning squeeze play to pressure opposing defenses. With young shortstop Jean Segura settling in, Roenicke might have a quartet of 30-steal players. In the absence of Hart’s power bat, it will be interesting to see if Milwaukee green-lights the running game even more aggressively. One key will be whether center fielder Carlos Gomez and catcher Jonathan Lucroy retain last year’s power gains as they hit their prime, age-27 seasons. If they don’t, things will likely get a whole lot worse for this lineup in 2013.
6.5 Runs Allowed/Game — 13th in NL
Yovani Gallardo is a familiar face at the front end of the rotation, and Lohse (who is slated to pitch against the Cubs Wednesday) should be solid after a few career years in St. Louis. But after that, there’s a whole lot of wish-casting. Can Chris Narveson come back from a torn rotator cuff? Will top prospects Wily Peralta and Mark Rogers break through? Has the NL caught up to Mike Fiers, who did well his first time around the league last year before fading late? With that many question marks, a career utility pitcher like Marco Estrada is sure to come in handy.
The bullpen has experienced some turnover as well. The Brew Crew brought in veteran lefties Mike Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny to set up John Axford. The hirsute closer will have to prove he’s back from a season in which he almost lost his job due to a rash of titanic home runs. But when Axford is on, his swing-and-miss stuff rates among the league’s best. The Brewers need him to be that pitcher again if they hope to contend.
Though our team might be out of the playoff hunt that didn’t exclude the Cubs front office from enjoying a road trip up the interstate to Miller Park, the home of the division-rival Milwaukee Brewers.
About 60 front office employees and their guests made the two-and-a-half hour trip up to Milwaukee. For the last three years or so, we’ve made a trip of some sort like this. Last year it was to Peoria, to see our Class-A Chiefs and then-skipper Ryne Sandberg.
Decked out in our best Cubs blue or some facsimile thereof, we cheered on our team to a 7-1 win. The enthusiasm was overwhelming….The staff bonding was palpable….We saw a great night of hitting from first baseman Derrek Lee and a solid outing from
right-hander Randy Wells. Also, rookie outfielder Tyler Colvin made a spectacular catch in the ninth inning, robbing the Brewers of a home run. Colvin then caught another running line drive to center to end the game. An auspicious start for the 2006 first-round pick, indeed.
But the main attraction was Miller Park’s famous Klement’s Sausage Race. The contest traditionally pits five cased meats against one another in a foot race that can only be described as whole-hog chaos.
Unbeknownst to us, however, our own Hayley DeWitte and Vijay Tekchandani were participating in the race! They successfully kept it quiet until it started filtering out into the stands where we were sitting. For those of you who don’t
know, Vijay serves as a community affairs assistant and Hayley is general manager Jim Hendry’s executive assistant. Hayley donned the “Hot Dog” costume, while Vijay became the “Polish”.
And they were off!
Out of the gate, Vijay the Polish had good position in the middle of the pack, but the Italian Sausage blew right by him, along with the Brat. Hayley the Hot Dog pulled up the rear of the pack. Down the home stretch, Vijay maintained his lead on the Chorizo, but the Italian and Brat were just too many lengths ahead to catch.
Alas, try as their little legs might, Vijay the Polish came in third and Hayley the Hot Dog came in a distant fifth.
Alas, try as their little legs might, Vijay the Polish came in third and Hayley the Hot Dog came in a distant fifth.
Despite coming up short of victory, the experience was “wurst” remembering.
“It was awesome,” Vijay said. “I was on Cloud 9. I actually false started before they said go, so I took a step back right from the start. But I was really concentrating on not falling, to be honest.”