Some Thoughts on the Brewers’ April
- Updated: May 8, 2010
Well, we’ve got one month of play under our belts, time to check in on how the Brewers did.
What Went Right:
The list in this area is smaller than I would like it to be. As always, the Brewers have shown they have the potential to pile up runs at will (as evidenced by 20 and 17 run games they put up against the Pirates). Ryan Braun has hit the cover off the ball, Casey McGehee is showing that his breakout year was no fluke and Rickie Weeks has stayed healthy and shown that his fast start from last year was also no fluke.
Outside the scope of the usual suspects, Free Agent pick-up Jim Edmonds has proven to be a smart move. The greatest strength Doug Melvin has shown as Brewers GM is to find free agent players that have been left on waivers and/or are un-wanted for one reason or another and getting them in a situation where they are able to do well. If Edmonds keeps playing productively all year it looks like he could become the latest player to do so (despite being retired in 2009).
What Went Wrong:
If you read between the lines in the prior category, you’ll notice I don’t mention anything about pitching in the “What Went Right” category. With a team ERA of 5.16 that is only better than the Reds, Diamonbacks and Pirates, these things have a tendency to happen.
The main source of pitching staff struggles have come from one of two categories. Category 1: The 9th inning, especially closer and all time saves leader, Trevor Hoffman. I’m not sure whether it’s just a bad start or if he’s just hit a wall, but one thing that is clear is Trevor Hoffman was a lot better in 2009 than he has been thus far in 2010.
The second category of pitching staff struggles is under-performance from a couple of free-agent signings. The Brewers went out and spent money on free agent pitching over the winter. Out of the 3 pitchers the Brewers went out and signed, one of them (Randy Wolf) is off to a nice start. However, Doug Davis and LaTroy Hawkins struggled mightily last month.
Now, time to hand out some Best and Worst Awards.
Note: All Player Stats Are Through 4/30:
Ryan Braun .355/.430/.581
This one is pretty much a no-brainer. While the Brewers have shown themselves to be equally capable of putting up a 20-spot or absolutely nothing in a given day, the one thing that has remained a constant is Ryan Braun being one of the more reliable hitters. Braun was one of the few bright spots in what has been a highly forgettable month.
Manny Parra 0-1 0.77 era
Unlike Braun, this was a pick that I didn’t foresee making before the season began. While its too early to tell whether this is the start to a nice bounceback year or just an aberration, it is encouraging to see Parra pitching a lot better in 2010. I’m also not sure if his arm is being utilized the best in middle-relief. Either way, it is encouraging to see Parra display some of his high potential.
The Brewers may have only won 9 games in April, they may have had trouble closing out games and they may have had trouble preventing the opposition from scoring runs. However, on this particular Thursday afternoon, none of that really mattered. Their early struggles were forgotten about for a 3 hour and 25 minute stretch where the Brewers hit .481 as a team had a 1.410 team OPS and as an added bonus, didn’t give up any runs to the opposing team and for one day they looked like a team that could be amongst the best in the league.
Gregg Zaun .226/.310/.290
Probably more a case of Zaun having a bad month and hopefully not a sign of things to come. This probably wasn’t what the Brewers had in mind when they let Jason Kendall go and signed Zaun to a very reasonable 1-year deal. My take: it’s more likely than not that Zaun’s numbers improve at least enough to avoid getting more Worst Hitter awards. Even if he doesn’t actually hit any better or any worse, his numbers should benefit from his BABIP normalizing (it was .246 in April). There’s still a decent chance that his batting line will be in the .700-.750 OPS neighborhood once all is said and done.
Trevor Hoffman 1-2 13.00 era 3 saves/4 blown saves
While it was unlikely for Hoffman to completely replicate his strong performance in 2009, it is still shocking that the bottom fell out like it did in April. When I wrote my season preview I thought (and still think) the Brewers hopes for contending hinges heavily on Rickie Weeks staying healthy and effective. After this month, it is time to modify that statement to include whether Hoffman (or whoever closes from here on out) can be a reliable option with the game on the line could be the difference between a contending Brewers team and one that will be lucky to be a .500 team.
There were a lot of directions I could have gone with this one. Not necessarily because the Brewers lost 14 times in April but because of how they lost several of these games. Why this one? This was the first time the Pirates beat the Brewers at Miller Park in 20+ tries. Considering that the prior two Brewers-Pirates match-ups saw the Brewers outscoring the Pirates 37-3, it was tough to comprehend the concept of the Pirates coming from behind to beat the Brewers.
On A Lighter Note:
Since this article has a bit of a cynical tone to it, I should end it on a positive note. That being as we are one week into May, the grass is looking greener on the other side. The Brewers have won 3 of their first 4 this month. Trevor Hoffman got a quick and easy save against his old team on the 1st (a game which included Yovani Gallardo hitting a home run in a game the Brewers happened to win by 1-run). The Brewers have put up a couple of 11-spots at Dodger Stadium (where they’ve historically struggled). A couple of pick-ups that had rough Aprils (Zaun and Davis) are off to decent May’s and the Brewers are only 5 games out in the NL Central (and 4 1/2 games out of the wild card) with 135 games left.