Brewers: It's no longer early
We like to say that the baseball season is still early until Mother's Day. So this road trip is a perfect time to size up what is wrong with the Brewers and what can be fixed.
One issue with this team is the lack of a real starting gem. A number of times this season Brewers starters have logged seven innings, which is certainly solid. But the Brewers have yet to get eight innings out of a starter. Now, it may not appear to be that big of an issue as Kyle Lohse has gone seven innings three times and Marco Estrada just went seven a few nights ago. However, look at some of the mileage the Reds and Cardinals are getting out of their starting pitching. St. Louis leads the majors with an astounding four complete games. Cincinnati got a complete game out of Homer Bailey, who also logged an eight inning ten strikeout gem in April.
That may not sound like much but stretch it out of the course of an entire season. Getting no more than seven innings from their starters means the Brewers must lean on their bullpen that much more. Which in turn is going to lead to more blown leads, like we saw from John Axford earlier this week. In a division that appears to be tight between St. Louis, Cincinnati and even Pittsburgh doing the little things right, like getting the occasional gem, is going to be the difference.
Speaking of the bullpen, it's not a good sign that this deep in the season the Brewers are calling up Francisco Rodriguez. The patience is wearing thin with Axford and we may see the Brewers re-shuffle the bullpen roles (other than closer) with K-Rod. It's okay to do that in April when it's still early but by mid-May you want your bullpen to be set and that's not the case here.
However, all is not lost for the Brewers. We're not even a quarter of the way into the season. Certainly we need to see some percolation and with the Cardinals on tap the sooner the better. If the bullpen gels quickly and the starting pitching picks up a tad the Brewers can get back into the hunt. And consider this: if the season ended today the playoff teams would be St. Louis, San Francisco, Atlanta, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. What are the odds that it stays that way into September?