Braves Series Wrap-up, July 24-26 — Tastes Great, Less Filling

Another series wrap-up instead of individual game reports; partially because I was too busy, partially because the Brewers are making me want to puke right now.

Tastes Great:

Yovanni Gallardo–Good to see him getting back on track after some hiccups in June and early July.  Walks are still troublesome though, as he’s now given at least 4 free passes in three straight starts and walked 3 or more in 9 of his last 10 outings.  Yo went 2 for 3 at the plate with an RBI as well, his first hits in quite some time.

Ryan Braun–Has really turned it on since his teammate Chris Smith stuck up for him and plunked Karstens in that Pittsburgh series.  Is really driving the ball and driving it up the middle instead of pulling off on everything on the outside part of the plate.

J.J. Hardy–On base 5 times in the three games.  He’s gotta heat up big-time doesn’t he?

Frank Catalanotto–He starts and look at that, 2 for 2 with a walk.  At least Macha is using him as the main pinch-hitter now, as he got AB’s in both other games as well.

Less Filling:

Manny Parra–Ah yes, back to earth.  That’s the Manny we know and love.  Lots of walks, lots of baserunners.

Chris Smith–He’s been terrible since plunking Karstens.  Went 2 2/3 in two outings in this series, and gave up 5 runs.  Just doesn’t have enough stuff to be a legitimate arm down there. 

Seth McClung–Another outing, another run allowed.  Ho hum.

Mike Burns–Removed from the rotation, he still can’t help himself.  Came in in relief on Sunday and promptly gave up two runs (although one was unearned).

Braden Looper–Too many hits and it of course came back to haunt him. 

Pittsburgh Series, July 20-22 — Tastes Great, Less Filling

In the absence of individual game writeups, I’m instead going to do a series wrap-up.

Tastes Great:

Felipe Lopez–A pretty nice debut for your new team, 4 for 4 with a walk as well.  He brings some positive things to this team, but I still say it’s not enough to get them over the hump and into the playoffs.  Having a consistent table-setter at the top will be big though.

Chris Smith–Didn’t pitch all that well really, but him stepping up and beaning that wuss Jeff Karstens was big in my eyes.

Craig Counsell–6 hits in the series.  He’s a nice option to put in the #2 spot right now, as he takes pitches, handles the bat well, and most importantly has been performing well.

Ryan Braun–That late home run in the first game of the series seemed to jump-start him a bit, as he had 5 hits in the series and a couple home runs.  His double with the bases loaded in the finale tied it up after the Brewers initially got down early.

Braden Looper–Probably his best game of the year in the middle game, going 7 shutout innings and looking very efficient in doing so.

Jason Kendall–I’ve been pretty critical of his skills and overall play this year, but he stepped up and showed a lot of fire and grit when Karstens started running his mouth.  He was ready to go, including on “Dale Kerwin”, the Pirates nobody of a pitching coach.

Casey McGehee–He’s been battling a sore knee lately that has limited him, but he stepped right in Sunday and performed once again, including hitting a home run.

Less Filling:

Ken Macha–For once again acting like a wuss.  After earlier this season going way too easy on umps, he tried way too hard to break up that ruckus and seemed to be apologetic towards that idiot “Dale Kerwin”.  Then after the game he kind of chastised his team and said he didn’t like that kind of stuff.

Mike Burns–He’s pitching about the way you’d expect, but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.  I still blame Doug Melvin more than anything though for leaving Burns as the sixth best starter in the organization.

Jeff Suppan–After showing some solid signs of life the previous few outings, he was back to his old (read: crappy) self in failing to make it 4 innings and burying the Brewers early once again.

Seth McClung–He’s looking worse and worse every time out there.

Brewers (3) @ Reds (5) 7/19 — Tastes Great, Less Filling

Tastes Great:

Prince Fielder–It’s fun watching this guy hit when he’s right, because he has become a very good all-around hitter, that also happens to crush the ball.  He’s doing everything he can to get this offense and team going.  He’s also making himself more and more money in free agency with every bomb.  A motivated power hitter is an indispensable asset. 

Less Filling:

Yovanni Gallardo–His outing today was better than some recent ones, but his pitch count and walks are just way too high.  He’s had 3 or more walks in 8 of his last 9 outings, and hasn’t had a 1 or less walk outing since April 29.  He seems to be tiring, as the control is the first thing to go.  Oftentimes the next thing is the arm, which God forbid if that happens.  If it does though, we’ll know who to blame….

Doug Melvin/Ken Macha–They should have gone into this year looking to limit Gallardo’s innings as much as possible and whenever possible.  185 innings and 30 starts.  Skip his start once in the first half, push him back after the break, and skip another one in the second half.  Instead he’s on pace for 211 innings and 33 starts.  That is a recipe for an over-worked, tiring, and high probability of injured young ace.

Seth McClung–He was terrible in the rotation, but seemed to settle down in the pen.  Not so much lately.  Maybe he’s just a bad matchup with the Reds, I don’t know.  But he went 2 1/3 innings this series, and gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs.

Kevin Causey–Congratulations ya fill-in loser, you’ve made a Who’s In Right Field? first……first ump to be included in Less Filling twice in one series.  After a terrible call in Friday’s game to take the Brewers out of it, he apparently was equally as bad today.  And at least someone on the Brewers crew gave him an earfull (Sveum), cuz the manager wouldn’t yet again.

Brewers (5) @ Reds (1) 7/18 — Tastes Great, Less Filling

Tastes Great:

Manny Parra–Gotta give the guy his due, I never thought he would be able to do this after going down.  Let’s see how he reacts when he faces some adversity though before we consider him “rehabilitated”.  But gotta like it so far.

J.J. Hardy–I admit it, I really like J.J., and love seeing him do well.  His bomb in the ninth saved the Brewers bringing in Hoffman, which is big.

Craig Counsell–Craigie, a little pop in that bat huh?  He’s been very good, and kept it up much longer than I thought he would/could.

Todd Coffey–It wasn’t just that he pitched two scoreless innings, it was that he did it with a two hour rain delay in between.  And it had to be nice to do it to the team that released hiim last year too.

Less Filling:

Bill Hall–You are terrible, please leave.

Brewers (0) @ Reds (4) 7/17 — Tastes Great, Less Filling

Tastes Great:

Jeff Suppan–He wasn’t great, but he was solid, and deserved a better fate.  He’s pitched better the last couple weeks, which hopefully can continue into the second half.

Mitch Stetter–Could he be the best lefty reliever in the league?  If he’s not there now, he’s on his way.

Less Filling:

Brewers bats–The fifth shutout of the year, and the third already this month.  This offense is so inconsistent it is ridiculous.  Good thing we brought Sveum in and he was going to change things; oh wait…  Of course it wouldn’t have been a shutout if not for…

Kevin Causey–Who as a minor league call-up ump decided to take the game into his hands and out of the players.  Cameron did start his slide before the bag, and Phillips was not going to even look at turning it at first.  When it is close like that in terms of being interference or not, give the edge to the players.  And since Phillips wasn’t even going to attempt a play, that should be a no-call.

Mike Cameron–He probably shouldn’t have slid like that, not wanting to give the umps any reason to make up a bullcrap call like that.  But he ends up here for his Little League attempt at fielding a liner, as he jumped and let it go right between his legs, allowing an unearned run to score.  For as good of a fielder as Cameron is, he sure makes some boneheaded moves sometimes.

Brewers (9) @ Reds (6) 7/16 — Tastes Great, Less Filling

Tastes Great:

Braden Looper–Going 3 for 3 is what allowed him to end up here, because he really wasn’t very sharp on the mound.  Only went 5 1/3 innings, but walked 5 and gave up 7 hits.  Made some pitches when he had to to “only” give up 3 runs though.  Really needed to be able to finish out that 6th inning.

Prince Fielder–Someone apparently forgot to tell Prince the Home Run Derby ended, as he picked up right where he left off.

Bottom of the order–Cameron, Hart, and Hardy (three much maligned guys earlier this year) combined for 6 his and 4 RBI’s.

Trevor Hoffman–After struggling a bit heading into the break, a solid save to start the second half.

Less Filling:

Seth McClung–“Big Red” (more like “Big Wuss”) was the only thing preventing the Brewers from a comfortable win.  Couldn’t find the strike zone early, then had to groove pitches.  Not surprisingly it got killed.

First Half Analysis — Tastes Great, Less Filling

Well, the “first half” is officially over, and the Brewers limp in with a 45-43 record after losing eight of their last eleven games during the month of July.  This puts them 2.5 games behind the Cardinals in the National League Central.  The Brewers had a three-game lead in the division on May 19 when they were 11 games over .500, and even had a two-game lead as late as June 6.

My pre-season prediction for this team was 85 wins, and that’s looking to be right on the money so far.

For those interested, here’s my mid-season TG,LF Report from last year.

Tastes Great:

Prince Fielder–Without a doubt, the Brewers first half MVP.  The big guy has improved in every area of his game.  He has displayed impressive patience as teams have started pitching around him more and more.  And as we saw in Monday night’s Home Run Derby, he can still hit the longball.  What has been just as impressive is his devotion to driving in runs.  He’s doing whatever it takes, even if it’s lifting the ball for a sac fly or making solid contact to score runs on RBI ground-outs.  With all that said, perhaps the biggest improvement he’s shown this year has been in his defense.  It seems that is where his off-season weight loss has paid the biggest dividends.

Ryan Braun–He is showing the leadership you’d expect from “the guy”.  His comments regarding the pitching were spot on, and Melvin was an idiot to react the way he did.  And of course his play on the field has been spectacular as well.  You would expect his power numbers would pick up a little, but his overall game has been outstanding.  His defense continues to improve, and I think he’s showing the potential to be a near Gold Glove-caliber defender. 

Trevor Hoffman–He’s struggled in the last few weeks, but when looking at the entire body of work you have to be happy with the return on the Brewers’ investment.  He needs to locate his pitches, especially his fastball, like he did early in the year to continue to be effective.

Casey McGehee–Where would the Brewers be without this guy?  He’s filled in at second and third, and just kept producing once he got regular playing time.  You’d love to see his run continue, but he may fall back just a bit.  If he can at least be a threat and drive in runs when they walk Prince, it will be huge. 

Craig Counsell–I’m not a fan of running him out there as much as the Brewers have, but Counsell has way out-produced what I and most others would expect from him.  He’s been a solid replacement at second and in the leadoff spot for the injured Rickie Weeks, and has done what you want from a guy like that, played solid defense and got on base.

Yovanni Gallardo–A lot has been asked of Yo at a very young age, and he’s responded about as well as could be expected.  There’s been a number of games where he looks like a legitimate ace, but unfortunately he’s been the recipient of some very bad run support.  Lately though, it seems as though he may be tiring after not building up that stamina in the last two injury-shortened seasons.  His walks are way up, and he’s lost three in a row with some short, un-spectacular outings in there.

Todd Coffey–Started out hot, struggled a bit, but has picked it up lately.  Macha uses him when he really needs to get out of binds, and Coffey has responded pretty well.  It’s nice for the Brewers to have a hard sinker/slider guy, something they’ve been in fairly short supply of in their bullpen in the past.

Mitch Stetter–Things were a little dicey early on when he had a few control issues, but he has been one of the best relievers in all of baseball over the last month and a half or so.  At one point he recorded 15 consecutive outs via strikeout.  One thing he has done better than his predecessor (Brian Shouse) is contain righties, who sport just a .205 average against him.  Of course lefties remain his bread and butter, with lefties hitting just .117 with a .421 OPS.

Mark DiFelice–A very pleasant surprise down in the bullpen.  His 82 mile per hour cutter has mostly baffled NL batters.  Another guy that you wouldn’t expect to keep up his current pace, but something close to it would be fine.  I am a bit unsure why Macha doesn’t seem to trust him in key situations and instead has run Villanueva out there.

Wow, kind of sad that those are the only guys to make the Tastes Great list.

Kind of warm and flat, but still drinkable:

Corey Hart–He really looked like he was going the Bill Hall route for a while, but a little bit of a hot streak in June pulled him up a bit.  It is still looking right now like he is lost on outside pitches, especially sliders a lot of the time.  And the last few weeks he had a few mistakes in the outfield after playing pretty solid all year.  The jury is still out on him, and this second half could make or break millions of dollars for him depending on if he gets a long-term deal or not.

Braden Looper–He’s been mostly what you expected, maybe a bit less at times.  He’s been helped by some ridiculously high run support.  His ERA is 4.94, but his peripherals (WHIP, walk rate, etc.) suggest it should be lower than that.  If he can get that ERA down in the 4.35 range by the end of the year, I’d be fine with his production.

Mike Cameron–Hey, look at that, he’s doing exactly what you’d expect from him.  Cameron is one of the most predictable players in the league, going to hit somewhere around .250 with 25 homers and 75 RBI while playing solid defense and striking out a lot.  And within that he will go on prolonged hot and cold streaks.  Stay tuned to Who’s In Right Field? as I am the official barometer and predictor of Cameron’s hot streaks (which he will go on in the next week or so, and kind of started to show signs of in the last week or so).

J.J. Hardy–I know, he’s hit under .240 most of the year and some people foolishly want to trade him.  But he will/is getting hot and will bring that average up to .260 or so by the end of the year and will be a key player for the Brewers in the second half.  Add to it his oustanding defense, and I still have plenty of faith in him as an everyday shortstop and one that will be among the best in the league in the second half.

Mat Gamel–Just give him the damned third base job already and let him do his thing.  He’s really struggled when given sporadic time, and the Brewers really mis-handled his first half of the year.  He definitely needs to limit the strikeouts, but hopefully regular time can help him out with that.

Frank Catalanotto–After spending much of his time early in the year on the bench and losing at-bats to duds, Frankie has….surprise….done solid when gotten decent at-bats.  He should be the primary pinch-hitter and the choice when an outfielder needs a day off.

Seth McClung–I’m not sure how his ERA is just 4.17.  He was terrible the first few weeks of the season, then settled down and was solid in a middle relief/long relief role.  The decision to stretch him out and move him to the rotation was ridiculous, and not in his or the Brewers best interest.  Hopefully he can get back to being just a middle relief guy, nothing more, nothing less.

Ken Macha–If you had asked me to rate this in May I probably would have said Tastes Great for Kenny.  But his recent complete mis-management of the bullpen and poor in-game decisions in general have been killers for this team with a relatively low margin for error.  I like the atmosphere of accountability he has brought in, and th
e team seems less frazzled than during Nervous Ned’s tenure.  But if he keeps ruining the bullpen and mis-managing game situations, he will cost this team as many games as Ned did.  He seemed to be a strong second half manager in Oakland, so hopefully that will rub off on this group.  Otherwise he’ll be squarely on the hot seat very early in his Brewers tenure.

Wow, that’s it for the lukewarm group too?  Ouch.

Less Filling:

This could get ugly.

Manny Parra–I’ve said it for a while now, his stuff is overrated and the matter between his ears will limit reaching whatever potential he has anyway.  His stuff is #3 pitcher at best, with a fairly straight fastball and an inconsistent and non-overwhelming breaking ball.  His slider and splitter are slightly above average.  But that doesn’t matter if you can’t throw strikes, can’t pitch under pressure, and have zero heart. 

Carlos Villanueva–See Parra above.  Never even had stuff as good as Parra, and flamed out in the rotation last year.  Seemed to find a niche as a middle/long relief guy, but apparently Macha thought 88-90 per hour straight fastballs make great set-up guys.  His other pitches are slightly above average, but doesn’t have enough of an out pitch nor throws enough ground balls.  And he has blown up this year, with one good month and three terrible months. 

Doug Melvin–He made a nice move in signing Hoffman and bringing in McGehee, but when it is all said and done, the team regressed both in talent and results this year.  He failed to address the over-reliance on right-handed hitters with high strikeout and high inconsistency rates, left the rotation with no legitimate #2 (or even #3) pitcher, built no starting pitching depth in the minors, and over-paid for a few veterans (Cameron, Kendall).  The topper of course was his ridiculous overreaction to Braun’s up-front and honest comments regarding the pitching staff and perhaps getting another pitcher.  I think Melvin is starting to feel the heat now that his security blanket (Jack Z., who drafted the players Melvin is living off of) and the big move (C.C.) aren’t around anymore.  People are seeing he has left this team short and starting to criticize, and Melvin saw Braun’s comments as a preventative strike against any critics.

Jeff Suppan–He’s been better lately, but still sporting a 4.70 ERA and more worrisome, a 1.68 WHIP, meaning it could be a lot worse.  Would it be so terrible to get us at least one sub-4.25 ERA for our $42 million?

Dave Bush–He displayed some promise at the end of last year, and had things going good early this year as well, then things fell apart and he landed on the DL.  He’ll need another storng second half to save his season, and potentially save the Brewers’ season.

Jason Kendall–Yeah, I’m putting him here.  His defense is overrated and he’s basically a zero at the plate.  He had two months (April and June) where he had just one extra-base hit.  That is embarrassing and contributes to the .597 OPS he’s sporting.  Plus he’s got 4 errors and 3 passed balls already, in addition to throwing out an anemic 20% of would-be base-stealers.  And his handling of the pitching staff is so overrated it’s funny.  Hmm….Manny came back from his demotion and pitched seven innings with no runs?  Who was his catcher?  Not Kendall.  He keeps calling pitches that don’t put the pitchers in the best spot to make a quality pitch.  And of course he’s played just as much this year as he did last year, despite being one of the worst hitters in all of baseball.  At this point he needs to play about half the time, or less.

The Nobodies–Brad Nelson, Jody Gerut, Chris Duffy, Chris Narveson, Mike Burns, Chris Smith, Jorge Julio.  All have been bad to downright terrible.  Some have already been shipped out, and some should be.  Having these guys on your roster is not a good thing.

Bill Castro/Dale Sveum–Didn’t like the hire of either of these guys, and as the year goes on they’re both proving me correct.  The pitching staff has been worse than even expected, and the hitters have been the same as always, inconsistent and strikeout prone.  I do give credit to Sveum for bringing a higher emphasis on working the counts and taking walks.  But both have been sub-par and should be moved back to their old roles.

Brian Anderson–He is getting so difficult to listen to, pointing out stupid things like “The Brewers are only three baserunners away from bringing the tying run to the on-deck circle” and other idiocy.

Damnit, Someone Knocked Over My Beer and Ruined It:

Rickie Weeks–Just when he was starting to realize his potential, he suffers yet another set-back injury.  The big question will be how he’ll recover from this latest set-back.

David Riske–Wasn’t doing much when he was healthy, and now it looks like the Brewers will lose two whole years from the $13 million contract they signed him to.  The way he was going, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

God, This Is The Worst Beer I’ve Ever Had:

Bill Hall–I hate him, I hate him, I hate him.  His reluctance to make any effort to change despite some of the most atrocious results ever posted is nothing short of astounding.  The Brewers need to cut their losses with this guy, and eat the remaining salary and just cut him.  He serves no purpose, has no trade value, and is simply taking a roster spot from someone that could potentially help the team.  Get rid of him now and move on. 

Brewers (4) vs Dodgers (7) 7/12 — Tastes Great, Less Filling

Tastes Great:

Umm…..guys?

Less Filling:

Yovanni Gallardo–Seems like the young guy is hitting the wall a bit.  Walks are really piling up this year, which seems uncharacteristic for him.  Hopefully the Brewers do the right thing and push him back after the All-Star Break.  And for the 20th time in the last 38 games a Brewers pitcher allows at least one run in either the first or second inning.  And for the 7th time in the last 14 home games, the Brewers were losing before they even came to bat.

Bill Hall–Hey, hey, he had a hit!!!  1 for 4 to raise his average to .199?  Um…..you’re still Less Filling Billy.

Brewers offense–So they only got 6 hits in the whole game, and just one hit in the first six innings when it mattered, after which they were down 6-0 and the game was basically over.  The Brewers once again sucked it up in a day game.  They’ve now lost their last 8 day home games.

Brewers (6) vs Dodgers (3) 7/11 — Tastes Great, Less Filling

Tastes Great:

Mike Burns–Three runs in just five innings isn’t normally anything to write home about, but it’s an improvement from his previous outing.  What put him over the edge was the RBI he put up.

J.J. Hardy–He’s getting hot.  Hitting the ball hard and the other way consistently.  And he’s starting to take his walks too.

Prince Fielder–Some more hits for the big guy, and per usual he’s taking his walks.

Frank Catalanotto–Hey, hey, his first home run as a Brewer.  He’s been hitting fairly well lately, maybe Macha will wise up and use him as the main pinch-hitter instead of putrid Jody Gerut.

Bullpen–A nice bounce-back outing from the pen after back-to-back shaky outings.  Of course Villanueva didn’t pitch, so it was bound to be better.

Less Filling:

Mat Gamel–Oh Maty, every time I start to sing your praises you pull something like today with an 0’fer with three strikeouts.

Brewers (8) vs Dodgers (12) 7/10 — Tastes Great, Less Filling

Tastes Great:

Mat Gamel–Please Macha and Melvin, make a good decision for a change and let this kid play every day.  Put McGehee at second everyday (as long as he continues to produce) and have Counsell play two days a week between short, second, and third.  Every time the Brewers have let Gamel play several days in a row he’s only gotten better.  When they’ve jerked him around and kept him on the bench for several days in a row, he’s struggled when he gets back in.  And believe it or not he’s actually hit lefties much better than he has righties.  Let him play!!!!!!!!!

J.J. Hardy–I told you all he would come around.  A home run to the opposite field, a hit to the opposite field, and a line-out to the opposite field for a sac fly tell you this guy is locked in and ready to explode.

Mike Cameron–Like J.J., several of his hits were the other way, which is a great sign for Cam.

Frank Catalanotto–After being under-utilized in favor of Jody Gerut in pinch-hitting and late-game situations, Frankie took advantage of the scant playing time he gets.

Less Filling:

1-4 in the order–A combined 3 for 17, although thanks to a few walks and the guys behind them they did score a few runs.  “Leadoff” hitter Jason Kendall was nothing special (weird I know.)

Ken Macha–The players have definitely been sub-par lately, but Macha has done a terrible job managing this team, especially the bullpen, in the last month or so.  There’s not much that can be done about Hoffman blowing the save, but then bringing in an already over-worked and ineffective Villanueva for the 10th was ridiculous.  Wouldn’t Seth McClung have made a ton more sense there?  I’m no big fan
of McClung, but he was much fresher than Villy (who has been terrible
lately anyway) and would seem to be more suited for a potential long
stint in extras.  McClung’s thrown 1 1/3 innings in one appearance in
the last 8 days, while Villy had thrown 2 2/3 (which included last
night getting no one out) in four appearances in that time.  What the hell are you doing leaving a guy in to give up 6 runs in extra innings?

Braden Looper–Any time you give up four home runs you deserve to be here.  Otherwise he wasn’t too bad.

Trevor Hoffman–Has given up runs in four of his last eight outings.  His pitches continue to be up, and other teams are going hard at him early in the count.  His stuff just isn’t good enough to catch that much of the plate.  As we saw early in the year, he has to be pinpoint perfect with his fastball, and lately he hasn’t been.

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