Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Series Recap: Crew splits with Rangers, concludes disappointing homestand

A 9-game homestand that began with such promise ended with the Brewers heading to Cincinnati with a record worse by three games. The finale versus Texas featured the elusive component of success: timely hitting. Given my absence over the past week I am going to expand the scope of my recap a bit. With that in mind here are my takeways from the last few games.

1) Carlos Gomez for MVP

The Brewers' center fielder never had a month nearly as good his April when he posted a 1.031. The month of May has been even kinder to Gomez, with his batting average for the season is up to .386 after going 4-4 tonight, finishing a home run short of the cycle. So what is one to make of Gomez so far?

If this pace continues Gomez will have one of the best seasons any center fielder has ever had. Unfortunately he's hitting so insanely well that his OPS will dip below 1.000 at some point, but when that happen he still projects to be well ahead of the light-hitting pace of his '07-'11 campaigns. My logic to this claim is two fold.

First, you don't get this hot unless you're a good hitter. Our good friend, Yuniesky Betancourt, entered today's action hitting .276/.304/.543. His career hot streak has him sporting an OPS of .846, which while good is not spectacular. Meanwhile Gomez is raking better than 2012 Mike Trout, and I don't see how you can do that for over one month unless you have legitimate talent.

Second, over the past 365 days Gomez has hit .282/.328/.501 with 24 home runs and 39 stolen bases (6 CS) in 517 plate appearances. This is the slash line I expect from Gomez for the rest of his contract with the Brewers. Add in some plus defense and the JJ Hardy trade is looking better and better all the time.

2) You are what your record says you are, even if you might be slightly better

I have always appreciated the no-nonsense, no excuses approach of Bill Parcells. The Brewers finished a home stand against three teams at the top of their divisions with a 3-6 record. They stand at 15-17 because they are a 15-17 team. With that said, I have a nagging feeling that the Brewers will finish the season with a winning percentage greater than .469.

The Crew had late-ininng win percentages in excess of 75% during two of their losses over the home stand (the series finale vs. Pittsburgh and Saturday vs. St. Louis) and in other games scored far fewer runs that you'd expect with the number of baserunners they accumulated. Tonight's loss is a fine illustration of their lack of timely hitting.

The Brewers collected 12 hits, including two doubles and two triples, yet only plated on run. This was partly because of the spectacular throw Leonys Martin to nail Segura at the plate to end the third, as well as the poor decision of Aramis Ramirez to try for third on a ball that squirted away from Soto in the sixth. Baserunning mishaps aside, I find myself encouraged by how the Brewers are stranding baserunners because it means hitters are getting on base. They're going to score a lot of runs if they continue to get 10+ hits.

3) Welcome Back, Aramis

Mr. Ramirez went 4-8 with a home run and 2 RBI in two games against Texas. A healthy Ramirez means the dog days of the 4 hole are over, the dog days are done. And that's all I have to say about that.

4) I don't always make relief appearances, but when I do I leave to a chorus of boos

I fancy Brewer fans to be among the best in MLB. For this reason I am highly disappointed with the treatment of John Axford. There are two conditions required for a player to be booed:

1) They must be performing exceptionally poorly
2) They must be a jerk

Condition #2 could not be further from Axford, thus the Miller Park faithful should cut the guy some slack. It's not like he's oblivious to his struggles and somehow I doubt the boos with make him pitch any better. Booing is low class, so to justify it the player has to be even lower class. That said, I understand why people are booing.

The thing about catching lighting in a bottle is eventually it will escape. Axford was spectacular in relief of Trevor Hoffman and his 2011 season was one for the ages. But ultimately this is a bartender that walked 73 batters with A+ Brevard County in 2008. The pitcher giving up homers like they're going out of style is probably closer to the real John Axford than the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year, and for this reason it's hard to justify having him on the roster. Still, when he hangs 'em up for good I hope he returns as a pre/post game host because he's one cool dude.

Looking Ahead...

The Brewers are 1-6 in the month of May. The good news is their next ten games are at Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis. Come to think of it, that's actually really bad news. It's vital for the Crew to avoid getting buried on the upcoming road trip. I feel good about their chances provided they keep getting hits and the starting pitching remains somewhat steady. Perhaps my sights are low, but a 4-6 stretch would be a success. Anything less would be uncivilized.

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