Friday, August 28, 2009

Brewers Officially in the Tank

As if a recent series losses to the likes of San Diego (twice), Pittsburgh, and Washington weren't bad enough, the Milwaukee Brewers have clearly dropped off the face of the earth.

Suddenly, their biggest problem isn't the first baseman charging towards an opponent's clubhouse to kick the living hell out of a pitcher who threw at him. It's also not the star left fielder popping off about the bad pitching.

No, now it's the team being, well, awful.

The Brewers are 15-26 in day games this season, 19-31 overall since July 1, and just got swept by a team that gave up the ship a month ago (Cincinnati).

Things have gotten awful in Milwaukee, reminiscent of past losing efforts that often blew up in the second half.

So what's gone wrong?

The pitching staff had a razor-thin margin for error this season. Anytime you enter a season with Jeff Suppan as your opening-day starter, things are bound to go wrong. The Brewers have Yovani Gallardo, but he's the only starter who has pitched like a major-league pitcher this season. Dave Bush was okay before he was injured, and as he proved in Thursday's latest Brewer Meltdown, he is still overly prone to huge and disastrous innings out of practically nowhere.

(In case you weren't paying attention, Bush had two out and no one on in the sixth inning, then proceeded to walk the Reds' pitcher to launch a five-run rally that turned a 4-1 lead into a two-run hole.)

If that's not bad enough, the bullpen has completely lost the ability to get people out consistently. Guys like Mark DiFelice and Mitch Stetter were steady early in the season, but have crumbled in the wake of a ridiculous workload. That workload was caused by the starters. Even Gallardo is completely incapable of pitching into the seventh inning on a consistent basis, and the relief pitchers are often responsible for five or more innings in a game.

That will happen when Suppan, Manny Parra, and Mike Burns are taking regular rotation turns. None of them are good enough to be able to do this, and all of them have had more than their share of awful starts this season.

It's a plague that's likely affected the offense. After all, it's tough to know that you need seven or eight (or 15) runs to win games, even against bad teams. Outside of Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, not one of the Brewers' hitters has had a great season. Mike Cameron can't hit for average. Jason Kendall can't hit. Craig Counsell and Casey McGehee have been good, but neither of them should be expected to play every day. Corey Hart wasn't hitting when he had his appendix. J.J. Hardy hit so well that he got sent to the minors.

And the beat goes on.

This team isn't going to the playoffs. They'll be lucky to finish anywhere near .500.

Hopefully, the newly-started playoff drought doesn't last as long as the last one did.

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