To prepare for the upcoming series against the Brewers, we sat down with TheJay from one of the top Brewers blogs on the net, Brew Crew Ball, to talk about the club and their future.
The Nats Blog: At the writing of this question the Brewers stand three games out of the lead for the Central division, and four and a half games out in the wild card, what do you think are the odds of the Brewers making the post season, and what would they have to do to get there?
Brew Crew Ball: Well, the Baseball Prospectus postseason odds place the Brewers’ chances at about one in ten. I think if you asked Brewers fans who have watched the team over the last month, you’d have a tough job finding someone who thought they were that good. The pitching staff hit a wall in late June, just in time for the offense to enter a slump. The team has tried to address the offensive woes with a trade for Felipe Lopez, but it’s going to take a dramatic improvement in the starting rotation through a trade to make a run. The minor league cupboard is bare – recent call-up Tim Dillard has been the best of a bad lot, but it’s hard to succeed in the majors when you don’t strike anyone out.
TNB: The Brewers have been on the brink of being a top team in the league for the last several years, what more pieces do they need to get there?
BCB: Pitching, pitching, pitching. The starting rotation is adequate at best and the team’s top pitching prospect, Jeremy Jeffress, struggled at AA Huntsville before being suspended a second time for marijuana use. He’s only 21, so he’s still got plenty of upside and time to mature, but that doesn’t help the team in the immediate future. Given the price of front-line starters in free agency, it will take a major trade or two, this week or after the season, to improve the rotation. Luckily, the Brewers have been able to develop hitter after hitter, so that gives the team more flexibility in making big trades.
TNB: What do the Brewers have to do to be successful in this series?
BCB: Cliché alert: hit consistently and get solid pitching. Too often the offense clicks one night only to be shut down the next two. That’s a big reason the team hasn’t won back-to-back games since June. Felipe Lopez has been a spark plug atop the order since arriving from Arizona and Prince Fielder just keeps racking up RBI, but the rest of the lineup is hit or miss. Of course, it’s hard to win when the pitching staff can’t keep runs off the board. Beyond Yovani Gallardo, the rotation is a crapshoot, with each starter as likely to give up six runs in three innings as they are to give up three runs in six innings. Poor middle and long relief lately makes it that much more difficult for the team to come back from bad outings. On the bright side, if the team can keep it together to the seventh, the set up men and Trevor Hoffman have been great. Keep an eye out for Mark DiFelice, the one-pitch wonder (a low-to-mid 80s cutter).
TNB: What do the Nationals have to do to be successful against the Brewers?
BCB: Keep the ball in the park while on the mound and be patient at bat. It’s not as extreme as it once was, but the Brewers offense relies an awful lot on home runs for offense. Ryan Braun has been heating up lately, so keeping him under wraps is also important. On the mound, Jeff Suppan and presumptive Tuesday starter Tim Dillard (called up from AAA to make his season debut) don’t strike out many batters, while Manny Parra and Yovani Gallardo are prone to wildness/inefficiency at times. Working the count and getting the starters out early means more time facing the Brewers’ weak middle relief.
TNB: Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder?
BCB: That’s a tough one. Before the season, most Brewers fans would have said Ryan Braun in a heartbeat. Braun has been tremendous since being called up in 2007 and will be a Brewer through 2015, so you can’t go wrong with him. That said, I think his cockiness (some euphemistically call it “confidence”) has started to wear on some fans even in Milwaukee. Prince Fielder has always been more of a quiet leader, though he’s been known to act out on occasion. In 2009, he’s really been carrying the team and, as always in baseball, performance talks. Couple that with his strides on defense and likeable personality and I think plenty of Wisconsinites will be disappointed if and when he’s gone. Personally, I’d go with Braun.
TNB: Favorite all time Brewers memory?
BCB: This one is the easiest of the bunch. I wasn’t even born the last time the Brewers made the postseason, so I’ll go with the final week of last year. So maybe calling a whole week one memory is a cop out, but that’s okay. Making up 2 ½ games in a week to win the wild card was a wild ride. Between CC Sabathia winning twice on short rest, adramatic grand slam by Ryan Braun, an injured Ben Sheets essentially costing himself 2009 in a vain attempt to reach the playoffs in game 161, and Ryan Braun’s second huge home run in the final game…just a crazy up-and-down week. I hope Nationals fans get to experience that type of thrill soon, even if clinching in early September would be far less stressful.