Before the season started, I had 10 Questions About the 2014 Brewers. It’s interesting in hindsight to see what I was concerned about at the time. In many cases, the players I was unsure of have exceeded expectations – including Khris Davis, Aramis Ramirez, and Matt Garza. Now that more than half of the 2014 season is ancient history, I thought it might be worth raising a few new questions. As the Brewers slump hard and fast into “someone’s going to get fired” territory, these issues seem particularly relevant.
1. How far can a team go with anemic 1B production?
Despite a listless spring, Lyle Overbay won a roster spot over Juan Francisco, and has been platooning with Mark Reynolds at 1B (with occasional appearances by Jonathan Lucroy). The Brewers were infamously thin at 1B in 2013, and the hope was that Reynolds/Overbay would be an upgrade over Francisco/Betancourt/whoever.
The slash line for the 2013 Brewers 1B position was .206/.259/.370. So far in 2014, it’s .228/.307/.369. That’s an improvement…but a punch in the mouth is an improvement over a kick in the windpipe (arguably). The NL average for 1B is .266/.341/.446, and you better believe that’s the best output at any defensive position. It was one thing when Reynolds and Overbay were bumbling along on a team that was leading its division by five games. The lack of production at 1B is all the more glaring now.
2. How far can a team go with all these damn base running blunders?
The Brewers have a reputation for being aggressive on the base paths, and when they’re hot it’s easy to ignore the mistakes that come with that kind of approach. But in the last week there have been a few incidents that made fans gnash our collective teeth. On Monday, Logan Schafer got caught dead to rights trying to go to 3B on a ground ball hit in front of him – when he was the tying run in a game the Brewers went on to lose by one. Earlier in the game, Carlos Gomez was picked off by a mile at 2B. Last week, in the only game the Brewers have won this month, two base runners were thrown out at the plate in plays that every fan at home saw coming as soon as they rounded 3B.
A nice analysis at RRSMB points out that the Brewers are actually ranked well in base running, despite how it may seem to the impatient fan on the street. Although there might be more to Brewers’ base running than meets the eye, they can ill afford many more mistakes now that the screws have tightened.
3. What are you supposed to do with a pitcher who leads the league in HRs surrendered?
If Marco Estrada has any defenders in Milwaukee outside of his family and the Brewers coaching staff, they are keeping a low profile. Obviously, someone has to lead the league in homeruns, but it feels like the team isn’t doing Estrada any favors by sending out there to serve up taters every fifth day. In his last few starts, the homers he gave up weren’t enough to put the games out of reach, but the Brewers still wilted. Does anyone else get the impression the offense doesn’t bother showing up to Estrada’s starts? Most fans already assume Estrada’s turn in the rotation is a guaranteed loss. I would be surprised if it wasn’t in his teammates’ heads as well.
Derek Harvey at Brew Crew Ball says it’s time to move Estrada to the bullpen. At this point, who could argue otherwise? [Update: The Brewers aren't arguing. To the bullpen with Estrada.] After all, with Tyler Thornburg on the DL, Milwaukee could use an extra reliever who can go multiple innings. And speaking of the bullpen…
4. Can you make the playoffs with one less relief pitcher than everyone else?
Another example of things we could overlook when the team had a comfy division lead, this Wei-Chung Wang business is pretty hard to stomach right now. Granted, I can’t think of any game where Wang was responsible for a loss, although there were times he let the opposing team turn small leads into big leads. It’s just bloody unfair that the Brewers are handicapping themselves by keeping a pitcher on their roster when he can’t contribute. [Update: See above.] If the Reds and Cardinals aren’t going to use 24 players, it’s tough to figure why the Brewers want to. Especially since those Wei-Chung Wang Wednesday videos haven’t kept up.
5. When you didn’t expect your team to contend, shouldn’t you be grateful they’re still leading the division right now?
There’s something to be said for keeping one’s perspective. Before the 2014 season started, no one – probably not even most Brewers fans – thought Milwaukee had a chance to win the division.
Even in the midst of a miserable collapse, the Brewers are still leading the division. With more than 11 weeks left in the season, they are still in a good position to make the playoffs. The first three months of the season have been filled with joyful moments. It makes us sick to watch right now, but the reason it tears us up inside is they still have a chance and they’re letting it slip away. Cubs fans don’t have the luxury of being depressed about their team blowing a big division lead. We might as well be thankful.
(Image: Patrick Breen/azcentral sports)