Fiers’ solid start spoiled by Brewers’ offense

> This has certainly become a recurring theme over the past few days. The Brewers once again fell to the Reds today, 2-1. That score should tell you what went wrong for the Brewers, and what has gone wrong this entire series: no offense. Thanks to this lack of offense, the Brewers have managed to sweep themselves out of contention for the National League Central, as they now sit 10.5 games back in the division. This season is starting to feel very 2010-ish.

More on that later, but for now here’s the game summary. Aramis Ramirez hit an RBI single in the third inning to give the Brewers a 1-0 lead, but the Reds answered back with two of their own in the bottom of the inning on Wilson Valdez’s RBI single and Brandon Phillips’ sacrifice fly. And that’s your game summary.

Michael (or Mike, still debating on what to call him) Fiers had yet another stellar start today. He went six innings while giving up two runs (one earned) on five hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out four. He lowered his ERA to 1.96 on the year, which leads the Majors in rookie starter ERA. But, courtesy of this so-called “offense,” his record stands at a mediocre 3-4. That’s all due to no-decisions and hard-luck losses.

> I said earlier that this season is starting to feel a lot like 2010. Just like that season, the Brewers went into a season-deciding series against the Reds with a chance to make up some ground. Instead, they lost the series (in this case, were swept), and buried themselves into the bottom of the NL Central with no hope of getting out.

But, unlike 2010, it isn’t the starting pitching’s fault. The starting pitching has been great again this year like it was in 2011, despite some injuries. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of the issue we had in 2010: it’s the offense.

Which is odd. If you look up and down the lineup, there is some talent. Norichika Aoki, Ryan Braun, Ramirez, Corey Hart, and Rickie Weeks are all names that should be productive. But it feels like none of them are; otherwise I don’t have an answer as to why the offense is slumping so horribly.

It’s not that Aoki isn’t producing. But it’s worth noting that his average has dropped from around .300 to .285 in recent days (though he did go 2-for-5 today).

Braun is having another banner year, but did have a pretty terrible series in Cincinnati. He struck out six times- three of those coming today- and his average dropped to .309 (not that it’s a bad average, but it was higher coming into the series). He also left four runners on base today.

Ramirez is the one guy who is producing right now. He went 2-for-4 today, and he’s brought his average up to .277, the highest it’s been all year. But, without guys getting on ahead of him (I should also mention the two-spot in the lineup is a gaping hole), how can he drive in the runs that he’s supposed to be driving in?

Hart has been a streaky hitter his entire career; I’ll give him that. But, he’s been mired in his bad streaks at the wrong times this year, especially with no one else around him producing. His average currently sits at .258 (it’s been flying up and down between .240 and .270 like it always does), which doesn’t give Ramirez much protection.

Then there’s Weeks. Everyone was going crazy when he finally heated up after the All-Star break and brought his average over .200 (there’s definitely an issue when people are getting excited about that), but now he’s falling back down. His average sits at .195, and he’s still on pace to have arguably the worst year of his career.

Those are the core five guys who need to be producing- getting on base, driving in runs, etc.- in order for the Brewers to win. And they aren’t doing that, especially right now. You could make a case that Martin Maldonado, who has brought his average all the way up to .280, should be in that group of core players. And I suppose I’d agree with that, considering he’s performing better than half of them anyway. But he has the same problem Ramirez is having: no one is getting on base for him to drive in.

Anyway, I’ll be done with that tangent, which was basically me trying to explain what’s wrong with the offense. I’m aware a bunch of things don’t add up- I’m just about as confused as the rest of you.

> On a somewhat positive note (it’s been tough to stay positive through this disappointment of a season), John Axford hasn’t given up a run in three appearances since he was removed from the closer’s role, which is a good sign. There was always the danger of him coming in and giving up a run or more before his removal, so it’s nice to see him string together a couple scoreless appearances.

> The Brewers have reached an agreement to sign pitching prospect Yosmer Leal. He’s a 16-year old out of Venezuela who probably will not see big league time with the Brewers any time soon, but it’s always good to stack up young pitchers.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers travel to Philadelphia tomorrow to start a three-game series with the Phillies. But no worries there: the Phillies are having a worse season than the Brewers, if you can believe that. They’ll see Roy Halladay tomorrow, then Cliff Lee and Vance Worley. At first glance that seems like a tough lineup of pitchers, but none of them are having very good seasons up to this point.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

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