COMMENTARY | We get it -- the Milwaukee Brewers are a mess right now. They are missing their four and five hitters, watch a player come down with an injury seemingly every game and have a bullpen that blows more leads than it keeps.
Ten players have missed playing time due to injuries, whether severe or minor. But there has been one positive the Brewers can hold their hat on as of late -- quality starting pitching. Marco Estrada continues to rack up strike outs and avoid bases on balls, Wily Peralta took care of business in his most recent start and Kyle Lohse has two quality starts under his belt, fresh off a seven inning and two earned runs allowed effort against his former team.
Assuming Yovani Gallardo begins to turn a corner soon, that's four guys the Brewers can feel good about sending out every fifth day on most occasions. They just had the luxury of skipping Mike Fiers' in the rotation thanks to back-to-back off days, and quite frankly, he's looked lost on the mound since last August.
There's just one problem -- when Milwaukee's starting pitcher puts together a quality start (at least six innings pitched, three or fewer earned runs allowed), the Brewers are 1-3.
5.90 and 2-7. That's the bullpen's ERA and Brewers' record respectively through nine games. They certainly correlate, but it isn't the whole story. When you take the Brewers' first three hitters in the lineup out of the order -- Norichika Aoki, Jean Segura and Ryan Braun -- position players are hitting a balmy .197 with just two home runs through nine games.
It truly indicates just how valuable Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart are to this team, not only for their power, but for their ability to get on base and drive in runners. Even still, players like Rickie Weeks and Jonathan Lucroy are guys the Brewers are expecting to step up in their absence, and instead they have sunk into a corner.
Segura has been the pleasant surprise, and Aoki is among the league leaders in hits. But when the production drops off so significantly after the first three hitters it makes things far too easy for opposing pitchers. It doesn't help that Weeks is hitting cleanup, which puts him out of his comfort zone.
As mangled as the Brewers' lineup may be, they should be expected to take advantage of when the starting pitcher puts together a quality start. They have already wasted three of them. Imagine if they don't waste those starts -- they are roughly .500, a mark everyone would be more than happy with come June when Corey Hart returns from knee surgery.
Of course, it takes two to tango, and the bullpen has done its part to let games get away. On five different occasions, it has either blown a lead or given away a tie game, and Milwaukee is 1-4 in those games. The 'pen also tried its darndest to throw away a five-run lead in Chicago on April 8.
It's not obnoxious to say the Brewers should win a majority of the games that they receive a quality start from their starting pitcher and win half the games in which they are at some point tied. But perhaps it's unrealistic.
Whether it's possible with the current nine the Brewers are putting on the field or not, it's what Milwaukee needs to try and do over the next month and a half. A season can't be won in the first two months, but it can sure as heck be lost.
Ron Roenicke has to be pleased that the Kyle Lohse signing doesn't appear to be a bust and that his starting pitching is general is serviceable. Two days off also gets the team healthier and closer to the return of Ramirez (he should be back during next week's homestand). As role players like Taylor Green and Jeff Bianchi come off the DL, the bench also gains some much-needed experience.
But the Brewers can't afford to continue down the dark and twisting path they are currently headed. They have to pick up their starting pitchers when they do their job, hold onto a majority of the rare leads they are able to obtain and even steal a game or two here and there. It's easier said than done.
They're having trouble doing any of those things, and until the Brewers stop wasting quality starts, get production from the bottom-third of the lineup and stop blowing leads, there's no reason to believe they'll compete for a playoff berth instead of the cellar of the Central division.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who contains an unhealthy amount of knowledge about Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline and as a featured columnist among other sites and publications.
You can follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_ .
- Sports & Recreation
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Kyle Lohse