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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ouch! This Wasn't in the Plan

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Everything seemed to come in threes for the Brewers on the trip that ended Sunday night, and most of it was bad. In three stops—St. Louis, San Diego, San Francisco—there were three wins, three missed chances to take the rubber game and, stunningly, three starting players lost to injury.

For one of the Observers, though, nothing topped the shame of being subdued by a pitcher who was booed out of Milwaukee two years ago as a $42 million flop.


Artie
: This is ridiculous! I'd say “Trade 'em all,” but you can't trade a guy on the disabled list, which is where half of 'em are, ain'a?

Frank
: I had a feeling you'd be a little down.

Artie
: How can things be worse? First the Astros' version of... who's that tiny guy Bill Veeck used as a pinch-hitter?

Frank
: Eddie Gaedel.

Artie
: First the Astros' version of Eddie Gaedel goes wild at Miller Park...

Frank
: That's 5-foot-5 shortstop Jose Altuve, who went 8 for 13 in three games here and entered this week hitting .352.

Artie
: Then the Brew Crew fails to score in San Diego against... against... I can't say that name.

Frank
: Milwaukee's old pal and favorite jeer-magnet, Jeff Suppan.

Artie
: Who hadn't pitched in the big leagues in two years and was only called up because the Padres were hurting, even though he had an ERA of 12.15 in the minors!

Frank
: But who held off the Brewers for five innings and beat Yovani Gallardo. Maybe we inspired “Soup” with our little crack last week about his name and “supine.”

Artie
: So what's next: When they get to L.A. in three weeks, will Mr. Ed be at third base, go 4 for 5 and make some Brooks Robinson plays?

Frank
: As we know, Mr. Ed did have a tryout with the Dodgers and hit a homer—off Sandy Koufax, no less. You can see it on YouTube.

Artie
: Well, is that any nuttier than the Crew losing three guys to the DL within five days?

Frank
: Mat Gamel tears up a knee Tuesday night, Carlos Gomez strains a hamstring Friday night and Alex Gonzalez wrecks a knee Saturday. Gamel is done for 2012 and Gonzalez might be.

Artie
: The year already was over for Chris Narveson thanks to rotator-cuff surgery. And Ryan Braun tweaked an Achilles' tendon in San Diego. He missed only one game, but those things can nag a guy for a long time.

Frank
: Clearly, you need someone to talk you off the ledge. And I've got some numbers that might do it.

Artie
: Doubtful, but go ahead.

Frank
: The Brewers returned after the disheartening 11-inning finale in San Francisco at 12-16. But last year, on their way to the playoffs, through 28 games they were 13-15.

Artie
: Yeah, but a lot of things are different.

Frank
: I was hoping you'd ignore that. The comparable 2011 record is the good news; a little more number crunching produces the bad news.

Artie
: Big surprise there.

Frank
: Last year through 28 games the Brewers were hitting .268 with an on-base percentage of .333. This year through 28 games their numbers were .228 and .296, both of which ranked 15th in the National League.

Artie
: I don't even want to ask about the pitching.

Frank
: Last year through 28 games the Brewers had an ERA of 3.71. They left San Francisco at 4.88, also 15th in the NL, and they had the same ranking for opponents' batting average (.281) and WHIP (1.53).

Artie
: Shades of 2009 and '10, when an anchor labeled “Suppan” helped drag them down.

Frank
: The bullpen perked up in San Fran, but the key setup men, Jose Veras and Francisco Rodriguez, have had some games where they were really lit up.

Artie
: So has Gallardo, although they're mostly against St. Louis.

Frank
: Gallardo came back to town at 1-3 with a 5.79 ERA. That's not far off from last year, when he was 2-2 and 6.10, and he finished at 17-10 and 3.60.

Artie
: The big difference from last year is in Randy Wolf. Saturday's loss put him at 2-3 with a whopping 6.68 ERA.

Frank
: At the same point last year Wolf was 3-2 and 2.39. But in 2010, his first year here, he startled slowly but came on strong in the second half.

Artie
: Going back to the offense, last year there was the comfort of saying, “Once Prince gets himself going, things will be great.” But who's going to turn things around now, Brooks Conrad, or is it Conrad Brooks? Sounds like the father character in a Gale Storm sitcom.

Frank
: Mr. Ed, Gale Storm—wow, do we make dated references!

Artie
: But we know our audience, ain'a?

Frank
: Gee, I hope we have a few readers who say, “Who's Gale Storm?” But I guess fans can't realistically have the same expectations of Aramis Ramirez that they had of Fielder.

Artie
: Ramirez has been OK at times, but he ended the trip at .214 with 2 homers and 14 RBI.

Frank
: Those numbers are pretty close to the same period last year, and he finished with 26 homers and 93 RBI for the Cubs.

Artie
: Braun is doing his job—three homers and a triple in the San Diego opener—but he's had spells of chasing bad pitches, which he'll keep seeing with Prince no longer behind him. And here's the main problem with the offense: They're getting almost nothing out of Rickie Weeks and Nyjer Morgan.

Frank
: Morgan didn't start against the right arm of Suppan, which says a lot. He returned to town at .169 with only 11 singles, two walks and five runs scored for the season. Those aren't plush stats.

Artie
: If Rickie was hitting .230, people would be worried, but he ended the trip at .181, with a crummy on-base of .317.

Frank
: Last year through 28 games Weeks was hitting .300 with an on-base of .371.

Artie
: And he's striking out so much—34 in his first 105 at-bats. That's Jose Hernandez territory, or like my strikeout ratio on Saturday nights at Victor's. And it's even worse to have it in the leadoff spot.

Frank
: Ron Roenicke agrees, because he dropped Weeks to No. 2 against the Giants.

Artie
: Not good enough. They should put Corey Hart at the top and drop Rickie to... I'd say the 10 spot, but that doesn't exist.

Frank
: Hart has had his moments, but I see him as an underachiever considering all the expectations they had for him. And I mean defensively, too. I know he's had knee problems, but remember, they thought of making him the centerfielder a few years back.

Artie
: He was supposedly one of the fastest guys in the league, was gonna steal a lot of bases. I definitely think he should lead off, which he did pretty well when Weeks was hurt last year.

Frank
: So my advice would be to remember that they were 13-15 a year ago and wound up winning 96. But a year ago in May they got Zack Greinke and Hart back from injury and were almost completely healthy until late July, when Weeks wrecked an ankle.

Artie
: This year, yikes, they're falling apart! There's absolutely nothing to be encouraged about. One small glimmer, one reason I was still watching the games, was Gonzalez's terrific defense at shortstop. But now that's gone too.

Frank
: Well, I tried.

Artie
: There is one thing I'm still enjoying: Prince Albert's futility in Anaheim.

Frank
: Um, did you hear that he finally hit his first homer Sunday?

Artie:
And another glimmer dies.