It’s evident that this season has shown that the Milwaukee Brewers are not the team that everyone thought they were last season. This is normally the time of the year where my beloved Brewers tend to slow down, play inconsistent, and cause fans like myself to have major anxiety. I’ve preached time and time again that baseball is a marathon and not a sprint, but I look at the overall state of the team and how they are as a well-oiled unit and I can’t help but notice a few flaws that prevent them from taking that extra step.
As of right now, there is nobody in the NL Central that wants to show that they will represent the division in the postseason. The Cubs have had bullpen issues of their own. The Cardinals show inconsistency with their lineup and starting rotation. The Reds don’t have the offense as of now that everyone thought they would have. And the Pirates can’t get enough pitching.
The bitter taste of Game 7 of the NLCS still is a bitter taste in my mouth. That night, I was getting back from north of Kenora, Ontario, where I was on a well-deserved moose hunting & fishing trip with my parents and my sister. We had planned this trip well in advance, so regardless of how my favorite team was doing, I would be away for a week in the middle of October. I was able to watch Game 1 of the NLCS and watch one of my favorite moments as a fan, where Brandon Woodruff hammered a homer off of Clayton Kershaw. The rest of the games I couldn’t watch, but I could listen while I was in remote northwestern Ontario, where at night, I could barely get the ESPN AM radio station out of Minneapolis. I had to use a piece of wire sticking out of my broken antenna of my sports radio in order to get any connection from that frequency. I sat helpless on October 16th as the Brewers lost in 13 innings, which would’ve given them a 3-1 lead with the chance to clinch the next night. I got back from Canada that Saturday night. My phone blew up. I watched in silence as the Brewers bats got silent and couldn’t do much damage, where the season ended with a 5-1 loss. Watching Manny Machado and his Dodger teammates celebrating in my house made me throw up in my mouth. It was typical of a professional Wisconsin sports team to get so close to the big moment and choke it up last minute at the big game.
I’m still disappointed about Travis Shaw and Jesus Aguilar’s lack of production in the lineup, I think that’s another area of concern that has set this team back a bit. Hernan Perez was a good utility player off the bench, but was designated for assignment even after failing to withhold those expectations. I’m not ready to give up on any of those guys, but in a “win-now” situation, it’s been important for everyone in the lineup to produce. Lorenzo Cain has been battling a banged up thumb, and that’s affected his offense and his swing. I think about where this team is at without Christian Yelich, Yasmani Grandal, and Mike Moustakas, and it’s scary – it’s a below-average ballclub at best. Keston Hiura shows a promise for the future at second base, especially with his offense. I felt like his demotion at the beginning of June threw this team off course. I get the decision to move him to avoid Super-Two, but the demotion couldn’t have come at a worse time.
The bullpen has been used too much, and here in July, we are seeing it first hand. Josh Hader has given up more home runs now, that he did all of last season. And when Corbin Burnes was moved to the bullpen, he continued to give up base hits and more home runs. When Burnes has been on, he’s been on, but when his pitches have been hit, they’ve been hit hard. Check out his ERA right now… Yikes. Alex Claudio was a transaction that was supposed to help the team in the bullpen, but he’s fallen short of expectations given in front of him before the start of this season. Because of the price tag that came with him by a compensation pick to Texas to acquire him, he’s still at the major league level. Jeremy Jeffress started the year injured with shoulder issues and he hasn’t been as effective as he should be.
I hate being negative, and most people might be thinking I’m looking at the glass half-empty right now, but things don’t look good right now from my perspective about this team. It reminds me so much of 2014, where on Labor Day of that season, I watched the Brewers lose to the Cubs at Wrigley & give up their lead in the division and eventually the wild card with players like Aramis Ramirez, a younger and more productive Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, and Mark Reynolds. The next season, the Brewers started off cold, and eventually led to Ron Roenicke being shown the door. While I think that’s not the case here in terms of another rebuild, especially coming off of last year’s success, I expect the Brewers to let good veteran guys in the locker room like Grandal & Moose walk to better deals that they deserve, because as a small market team, they can’t afford to keep those acquisitions here too long. The window of success for a small market team is so short, and while I’ll still try to believe that there’s still a chance, there’s just too many problems to be addressed. The frustrating dog days of July cannot be over soon enough. At this point, this looks like a .500 ballclub.
Maybe this team hasn’t hit their stride yet, maybe that’s coming in August. But it better come soon before it’s too late.
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