COMMENTARY | The beat goes on for the Milwaukee Brewers, and it's not a very catchy jingle. A devastating 10-game road trip recently came to a close in which the Brewers went 2-8 against the top three teams not only in the National League Central, but in the National League in general.
Perhaps it's unfair to judge what kind of team Milwaukee is based on this mess of a trip, but if it's eventually going to put a run together this season to crawl back into contention like in 2012, the Brewers will need to get past at least one of those teams.
If you happened to watch Milwaukee's final series of the road trip against the St. Louis Cardinals -- we don't blame you if you didn't -- you may have noticed that the Crew didn't play all that poorly. While they barely escaped with a victory, the Brewers played well enough to take all three games from the Cardinals.
It's a familiar tune. St. Louis manages to do just enough, whether that means a pitcher wiggling out of a jam or a hitter coming through in a clutch spot. Yes, the Cardinals are the best team in the NL and therefore better than the Brewers, but it's not as if they blow Milwaukee out of the water. In their last series, the Cardinals won their two games by a combined three runs.
In that sense, the Brewers may be turning a corner, but an alarming statistic was brought to our attention courtesy of the comment's section over at Brew Crew Ball (username: sussemilch). Typically, when a team scores three runs or less, it doesn't result in a victory, and that shows with the Cardinals, who are 6-12 when scoring under four runs.
The Brewers? 0-17.
That is absurdly bad, and the following statistic only builds on the misery (courtesy of sussemilch). When the Brewers have bad pitching and good hitting, they are 2-6 (the Cardinals are 4-1), and when the Brewers have good pitching and bad hitting, they are 3-9 (the Cardinals are 11-4).
Admittedly, we aren't certain what constitutes good hitting and good pitching, but based on the first graphic, we'll assume that allowing three runs or less is good pitching and scoring at least four runs is good hitting.
Either way, the point is that there is one distinct difference between the Cardinals and the Brewers -- pitchers pick up the offense and vice versa in St. Louis, and things couldn't be more of the contrary in Milwaukee.
Well, St. Louis also has the best pitching in the NL, and Milwaukee the worst. But the Brewers have five hitters with an average above .300 -- even without Corey Hart -- so how could it possibly fail to support poor pitching? Some of it is just bad timing, which is why it's not a stretch to say the Cardinals catch more breaks than the Brewers, but it also goes back to hitting with runners in scoring position.
Slowly but surely, the Brewers have actually been moving up these rankings (No. 13 in baseball through May 19) with a .257 average, but that's still over 70 points lower than the Cardinals, who always seem to come through with RISP. There's no conceivable way St. Louis keeps up this pace, but the real issue is who has been coming up in these high-pressure situations.
The drop-off from good hitters to bad hitters in the Brewers' lineup is dramatic, to say the least. The difference between Braun, who is actually fifth in average among the regulars, and Yuniesky Betancourt, who comes in at No. 6, is nearly 90 points. Once you get past the first six hitters in the order, it becomes laughable with Rickie Weeks and the now scuffling (this was inevitable) Betancourt followed by the pitcher's spot.
It has also gotten to the point where Milwaukee can't really feel good about anyone it puts on the mound to start a game, and while the bullpen has been a pleasant surprise, it doesn't matter because the Brewers are almost always losing by the time they get to their relievers.
The law of averages would point to things turning around soon for the Crew, and one would assume they will win at least one game this season in which they score less than four runs. But they have four of the top 11 hitters in the National League -- this comes down to starting pitching, plain and simple.
That, like just about everything with the Brewers, may just take time to begin moving in an upward trend, and with well over 100 games left in the 2013 season, time is not yet of the essence.
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_ .
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