Monday, September 29, 2014

Brewers Complete Flameout; Changes Could Come

Amazing end to the baseball season, and I'm not talking about former UW-Stevens Point pitcher Jordan Zimmerman throwing a no-hitter for Washington.

No, I'm talking about the Brewers going from 15 games over .500 on Aug. 26 to a 9-22 finish and a third-place ribbon in the National League Central.

150 days in first place, and not even a Wild Card to show for it.


The Brewers had two meltdowns during the season. The big difference is they found a way to stop the first one. Milwaukee lost six in a row -- all at home -- before the All-Star break, but the Brewers beat St. Louis on the last day before the break, held on to first place in the Central, and actually built on their lead in the first month after the break.

It all went to pot quickly.

Nine straight losses knocked the Crew out of first, and they never regained that spot after losing it.

Just an awful finish.

So everyone has to be fired, right? Well, not so fast.

I'm meh on Ron Roenicke. The skipper has his flaws in terms of game management (I think he's too "by the book" at times, including an overuse of sacrifice bunts and an over-reliance on the bullpen). I don't mind his lineup decisions, for the most part, and I think he did a good job entrusting his veterans while also levying some sort of expectations on them.

(If y'all remember, Ned Yost gave his veterans too much rope and loved that ol' managerial book himself, and Ken Macha was too busy sleeping in the dugout to do much of anything.)

I'm not fully convinced Roenicke will stay, but I'm fully convinced that whatever the hell happened here isn't only the fault of the manager.

That said, he might go, and if he doesn't, heads will roll elsewhere. Owner Mark Attanasio isn't happy, and if the check-signer isn't happy, well you know ...
"You can pick the adjectives -- frustrated, disappointed, catatonic," Attanasio said. "Very disappointed. In fact, I'm disappointed in the team, disappointed in the guys. They're better than this and they didn't show it. ... It started with not hitting.

"We have to identify what went wrong, we have to have a good explanation for how we're fixing it, and if we're not making any changes, we'd better have a damn good reason for why."
Reading between the (very pointed) lines, changes are coming. I have no doubt of that.

I just don't know what those changes will be. Ryan Braun is under contract for the next 500 years. The team has Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, and Matt Garza locked up for a few years, and they're likely not tradeable. Gallardo is not an ace -- in fact, none of them are -- but they are solid if not better than that. Mike Fiers and Wily Peralta should finish up the rotation for 2015. The bullpen needs a small amount of work, but it's hard to blame what went down on pitching. Seven of the last 22 losses came in games where the Brewers allowed three or fewer runs.

That's offense. Not enough guys hitting.

Perhaps the Brewers benefit from another year of experience for guys like Scooter Gennett and Khris Davis, but they blew a career year from Jonathan Lucroy because Braun never hit at the level he's paid to hit at, and because the first baseman position was an offensive pit for the team from the start. Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay might be nice guys and they're not defensive butchers, but they can't hit.

The Brewers need to solve these offensive issues, shore up the bullpen a bit, and hope that Braun's scheduled thumb surgery gets him back to his All-Star numbers of the past.

If those things don't happen, it doesn't matter what Attanasio does with Roenicke or any of the coaches.

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