What Was Brewing in Milwaukee Baseball in May

Well, we’ve made it to about the one-third mark of the season. Now, let’s take a look at how things progressed during the month of May.

What Went Right:
May was only 31 days long and it has (finally) come to an end. In all seriousness, I would put the first week of May in the what went right category. The Brewers played well that week, winning 5 of the last 6 games on their west coast road trip by taking 2 of 3 from a solid Dodgers team and taking care of business against the Diamondbacks. This stretch got them to within one game of .500 and gave a brief glimpse of hope that contention and the north side of .500 were right around the corner. On a long term note, it looks like (for now) the Brewers found a pitcher than can be relied on to close out games (John Axford).
What Went Wrong:
They followed up this nice stretch by not winning a game for a week and a half. Things have gotten so bad that they are struggling to even keep up with the Pirates for 4th place. The struggles plaguing this pitching staff both last month and last year continued through the month of May. In addition, the injury bug struck hard last month as several players (Hawkins, Davis, Zaun, Gerut, Edmonds & Gomez) have made visits to the disabled list.

Best Hitter:

Corey Hart Photo by Icon SMI

Corey Hart .253/.313/.659
In all likeliness, this is probably the first and last I will refer to someone as a best hitter with an on-base percentage that low. However, anytime someone puts on an awesome display of home run power similar to what Corey Hart has put on, you’ve gotta tip your cap to it. While the aforementioned injuries obviously did more harm than good to the Brewers, this power breakout could be seen as the only silver lining to dealing with the injury bug as Hart did not get regular playing time (i.e. time to hit home runs left and right) until he had the chance to play everyday when Edmonds and Gomez had to go on the DL.
Worst Hitter:
Alcides Escobar: .250/.317/.359

While Escobar projects to be an exciting and better player in the long term, he has endured some growing pains in the short term. His tendency to be not very selective at the plate caught up to him during the month of May. On a positive note, the potential he has shown indicates that this is merely a bump in the road and not a sign of things to come for the next few years.

Best Pitcher:

Yovani Gallardo Photo by Icon SMI

Yovani Gallardo 3-0 2.31 era
While the Brewers pitching staff has (justifiably) taken a lot of flak for the team’s under-performance, Gallardo has quietly put up a really solid month and a really solid season. Based on early returns, Gallardo has indeed taken the next-step in becoming an elite pitcher. He may not be getting this attention as general discussion regarding elite pitchers has been placed (deservedly so) on pitchers such as Ubaldo Jiminez but Gallardo has quietly put up a 2.41 ERA and a 164 ERA+ in 2010 and based on only being 24, its likely that Gallardo is only going to get better.
Worst Pitcher:
Marco Estrada 0-0 9.53 era
Originally, this designation was going to be given to Jeff Suppan. However, since he recently got released, I deemed it necessary to go another direction with this designation. Estrada was one (amongst) many players that was called up from Nashville in an attempt to shore up the pitching staff. Despite Estrada starting strong (giving up 1 run in 4 innings in his Brewers debut) and going through  some unusual situations (starting a game on 0 days rest). However, even within the context of the Brewers, a 9.53 era isn’t going to get it done.

Best Game:

May 9  Brewers 17 Diamondbacks 3
One way (amongst) many to determine the best game is by how much fun you had while watching. Looking back on the month of May, this game was by far the most fun to watch. Why was this game fun to watch? Well outside of the D-Backs scoring a couple first inning runs, the Brewers pretty much imposed their will on the Diamondbacks for a few hours. The Brewers kept hitting and hitting and hitting all night long as the outcome of this game was not in dispute after the 5th inning. Honestly, this game would have gotten the pick even if nothing historical (such as a player hitting for the cycle happened), which Jody Gerut happened to do on this particular night.
Worst Game:

May 31 Marlins 13 Brewers 5
I almost went with the Twins 15-3 blowout win for this designation, but gave this game the nod due to the legitimate hope of winning this game and the cruel way said hope was taken away starting in the sixth inning. For the first 5 innings, this looked to be a fairly easy win as the Brewers opened a nice 4-0 lead and Chris Narveson looked to be un-hittable. Then, the rest of the game happened. The Brewers (with a chance to blow the game open) leave the bases loaded in the 6th as Narveson lined into a double play. Then the Marlins, finally get to Narveson (who was kept in for one hitter too long), the Brewers go to their bullpen and the next thing you know, that promising looking game turns into a blowout loss.
Some Final Thoughts:
Well, that month didn’t go so well. Still, life (and the baseball season) goes on. It’s not the easiest thing to put a positive spin on the last month of ball, but there has been some silver linings.
1) It has become even clearer that Gallardo is a pitcher that the Brewers can build around (for a reasonable price). This may not help the Brewers contend this year but Gallardo’s pitching is good enough to make an impact on a playoff bid in 2011 and beyond.
2) The Brewers are getting a first look at  who they can depend on in the long term. While I would have preferred for this to happen under better circumstances, the in-season looks that the Brewers are getting at pitchers such as Marco Estrada, Zach Braddock, John Axford, Kameron Loe etc. should help to determine who can be counted on to help the Brewers contend in future years and who can be counted on to help the Brewers as we progress deeper into the 2010 season.

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