COMMENTARY | Handing out grades in sports may seem like an exhausted notion and is always up for argument and interpretation. But, hey, isn't that part of what sports are all about?
Grading is used as a metric in sports. Once athletes are out of high school or college, they get rated based on several different areas to determine how good of a recruit or prospect they are. Why should that change once someone reaches the professional ranks?
Getting to the Milwaukee Brewers, just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Beermakers up to the All-Star break. But once we hand a grade out, we'll do our best to justify it based on expectations, circumstances, injuries and, of course, performance.
For as much flak as Rickie Weeks caught for his dreadful start, Jonathan Lucroy was right there with him. The difference is that Lucroy was still producing and managed to snap out of his funk earlier. Now he has a .276/.319/.473 split, ranks second on the team in home runs (13) and leads Milwaukee in RBIs (52). His backup, Martin Maldonado (.180/.245/.313) has taken a noticeable step back from last season offensively, but he looks to be one of the better defensive catchers in baseball.
First base: D-
Really, the grade says it all. Season-ending injuries to Corey Hart and Mat Gamel were devastating, and the addition of Juan Francisco has helped to a degree, but between Francisco, Yuniesky Betancourt, Alex Gonzalez (cut), Blake Lalli (Triple-A) and Sean Halton, Brewers' first basemen are hitting a preposterous .193. It's been arguably the biggest reason for Milwaukee's downfall.
Second base: D+
It was another appalling start to the season for Weeks, and even after hitting .355 in June, he features a .226/.327/.380 split. The production has also been a disappointment for the 30-year-old -- just 21 RBIs in 85 games. With Weeks scuffling, prospect Scooter Gennett was promoted, only to hit .214 in 17 games. At least Weeks gets on base and provides some pop, but the Brewers simply need more out of the second base position, especially from someone making $10 million.
Third base: C-
This grade is dedicated to Aramis Ramirez's left knee, a knee that has kept him out of 40 games in 2013. And in nearly every game Ramirez has played, he's been less than 100 percent, and the result is a lackluster .271/.359/.414 split with just 5 HRs and 26 RBIs. Betancourt, Francisco and Jeff Bianchi have also seen time at the hot corner, and as a result, defense and production have suffered. Like Hart, Ramirez (roughly $20 MM left on his contract) would have made for a good trade chip at the deadline, but health stood in the way.
No doubt about this one. Jean Segura, at the ripe young age of 23, went from someone who had no power, inconsistent defense and a mediocre average over the last two months of the 2012 season to an All-Star with surprising pop who can spray the baseball and make spectacular plays on the diamond. Segura is tied for fifth in all of baseball in average (.325), fourth in stolen bases (27), tied for second in triples (8), third in hits (121), and oh by the way, has 11 HRs and 36 RBIs. Reckon that'll do.
Left field: C+
Enjoy watching Ryan Braun the rest of the season, because recent news regarding the former MVP has been rather damning. Still, anything could happen with the Brewers' slugger, who has missed several games with a thumb injury this season. Logan Schafer has provided excellent defense in his place, but Milwaukee loses a ton at the plate with Braun absent from the lineup. This was Braun's first full season in which he wasn't selected to the Midsummer Classic.
Center field: A
So Carlos Gomez may have tailed off at the end of the first half, but his overall numbers (.295/.337/.533, 14 HRs, 45 RBIs) are better than anyone could have hoped for, just like fellow All-Star Jean Segura. What really makes Gomez special is his defense, which is the main reason why he sports the best WAR (5.7 via ESPN) among position players. If you are worth the most wins in baseball, an A is probably an appropriate grade.
Right field: B
Norichika Aoki is just a steady dude who shows up to work each day. He's a valuable leadoff hitter who gets on base (.360 OBP) and plays fairly steady defense, although Aoki can look a bit shaky out in right at times. His name has been discussed in trade rumors as of late, but as someone who comes at a bargain combined with the looming Braun suspension -- the reason Aoki was brought in by Milwaukee in the first place -- it might be best for him to remain a Brewer.
Starting rotation: D-
For nearly the entire season, Milwaukee has had the worst ERA in the National League (4.86). Yovani Gallardo has been such a disappointment that his name has surfaced in trade rumors. So has Kyle Lohse's, who after a slow start has turned things around and is undeniably the team's best starter. But that isn't saying much. Wily Peralta is also making strides, but the slow start across the board was too much to overcome for this group, and injuries haven't helped matters, either.
The starting rotation is what the bullpen was last year for the Brewers, but a near-complete revamp of Milwaukee's relief pitching during the offseason turned out to work wonders. At the break, the Brewers have the fourth-best bullpen in baseball as far as ERA is concerned (2.97). John Axford, after a miserable start, has his ERA down to 3.72. Francisco Rodriguez is 9-for-9 in save opportunities. Other things have gone well. A few relievers will probably be traded.
Overall GPA: 2.433 (Translation: About a C+, or a 38-56 record)
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_.
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