Question Marks Heading into Second Half

Let me take a minute to introduce myself — I’m Jaymes Langrehr, and I’ve been writing for MVN for about two years now.  I’ve been writing MLB pieces for MVN Outsider since the start of the season, and I’ve been a Brewers fan me entire life.  I’ve been to games at County Stadium, I’ve been to games at Miller Park (including seeing the immortal Jamey Wright pitch in person).  I’ve suffered through Davey Lopes, Jerry Royster, and Ned Yost.  In short, I’m just like every other Brewers fan. 

I’m starting at Brewers Bar during a time that’s both convenient (it’s the All-Star Break, a nice built-in start date) and frustrating (the team’s been maddeningly inconsistent for a solid month and a half).  You’ll eventually come to realize that I tend to be more optimistic than most, but even I can see that some pretty big question marks are looming for the Brewers as they get ready to start the second half in Cincinnati.

For one, the starting pitching is (still) a mess. 


Things may be looking up, though, with
Manny Parra’s impressive return from the minors and Dave Bush eyeing a
July 20 return.  One can only hope that Ken Macha noticed how relaxed
Parra looked with Mike Rivera catching him, and keeps using Rivera as
Parra’s personal catcher.  Bush was probably more lucky than good when
he was mowing down opposing batters earlier this year, but even if he
ends up pitching at his career norms, he’ll be the second or third best
starter on the Brewers’ staff.  He may not be anything special, but
he’ll be a clear upgrade over Mike Burns once he returns.  That’s not
to say that Mr. Burns wasn’t unexpectedly solid in his spot starts, but
if I’m forced to choose between soft-tossing righties, I’ll take Bush
every day of the week.

Offensively, Ken Macha really needs to
stop hitting Jason Kendall leadoff.  I may not be the biggest fan of
Ned Yost, but at least when he tried hitting Kendall 9th in the order
last year he had a good reason and some stats to back it up.  Ken Macha
seems to be hitting Kendall leadoff for no other reason than “he sees a
lot of pitches.”  I don’t know about anyone else, but I like my leadoff
hitters to have OBP’s higher than .322 and generally hitting better
than Yovani Gallardo.  But maybe that’s just me.  The inconsistent
playing time of Mat Gamel has also been frustrating to see — whenever
he’s been in the lineup lately, he’s done nothing but have solid nights
at the plate, only to be back on the bench the next night.  I can
understand wanting Casey McGehee in the lineup while he’s still
swinging a fairly hot bat.  It shouldn’t be at Gamel’s expense, though
— it should be at Craig Counsell’s. 

The bullpen has been
surprisingly and refreshingly good to this point in the season,
especially after seeing the likes of Eric Gagne, Guillermo Mota, and
Derrick Turnbow causing heart problems for many a Brewers fan over the
past few years.  This year, there have been very few, if any, arms in
the bullpen that has been the cause of dread.  For once, not only do
the Brewers have an All-Star closer, but a shut-down high leverage
reliever in Todd Coffey, a lights-out LOOGY in Mitch Stetter, and even
a right-handed specialist with a seemingly unhittable pitch in Mark
DiFelice.  So why bring them up?  The Brewers could run into a similar
problem that the Dodgers have started to run into — with so many
starters being unable to go 7 innings on a consistent basis, the
bullpen has shown signs of cracking under fatigue.  Obviously the
All-Star break will go a long way in resting up some tired arms, but if
the bullpen is going to continue being this good into September, the
Brewers are going to need to cut down on the 5-inning starts.

Feel
free to add a few comments with your own concerns about the team in the
second half.  I have to admit I’d be disappointed if the words “Bill
Hall” didn’t pop up eventually.

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