Brewers: Can they turn it around?
Can the month of May get any more dreadful? The Brewers are 4-16 this month with no series wins (although the team did split with Texas in the first week of May.) They have fallen so far, so fast that it's no longer a question of can they make the playoffs. The question now is can they make it back to .500?
To do so, two things must fall into place. We've discussed the lack of the starting gem and the innings pitched by the starters has dipped recently. Brewers relievers logged a combined 13 innings in the final two games of the Dodgers series. Sure, the team benefits from an off day but that kind of workload will take its toll on the bullpen eventually. Now to make matters worse, Kyle Lohse, the team's most consistent starter, will miss Saturday's start. At some point the Brewers need to see more consistency and more innings out of their starters.
Offensively, the Brewers are seeing a side effect of having Aramis Ramirez miss time. By batting clean up and providing protection for Ryan Braun, Ramirez is a key component of the lineup. One of the hidden benefits of having Prince Fielder back in the day was his ability to play 162 games a year. That meant you could sharpie Fielder's name in the lineup every day and never have to worry about Braun. When Ramirez was signed last year one of my concerns was how many games he would play. Twice in his final four years in Chicago he was able to log 149 games. That's not bad at all but that meant there would be at least 13 games in which the Brewers would need to use someone else to bat fourth.
That may not sound like much but in keeping with our theme of the little things, those 13 games could mean the difference between going to the postseason and having a losing record. Sure enough, Ramirez played 149 games last year. Yet, Braun still put up MVP-like numbers. So as long as Ramirez stayed healthy the Brewers offense should see some nice production from both Ramirez and Braun. So of course, Ramirez hurts his knee, is placed on the DL, and misses a month. Even though he's back now Ramirez isn't at 100% and can't play every day.
Without Ramirez at cleanup the offense has suffered. No one else has been able to provide the same kind of protection and as a result Braun is not seeing enough good pitches. While his batting average remains high, his home run total is down and Braun is on pace to draw about 90 walks this year, which would smash his career high of 63 set last year. Getting on base is never a bad thing but if Braun isn't see pitches to hit his power numbers will drop and subsequently his RBI total is going to drop. Again, it sounds like a little thing but when you add in the fact that Rickie Weeks and Jonathan Lucroy are slumping, you can see why the offensive production drops off after the top three spots in the lineup. Carlos Gomez has been the lone exception, though we're seeing a drop in his numbers as well.
To remedy this the Brewers need Ramirez back in the lineup every day but that's going to take time. The team should also see a boost when Corey Hart makes his debut but that is also going to take time. However, with Ramirez and Hart in the lineup every day and with more innings pitched from the starters the Brewers should have a decent shot of at least getting back to .500. The only question then will be if it's too late to make a playoff run.