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Why Are the Milwaukee Brewers Haunted by Fielding, Base Running and Mental Gaffes?

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COMMENTARY | Fresh off their final home game before the All-Star break, the Milwaukee Brewers have to be pleased with taking two out of three from the Cincinnati Reds, a team that was previously 5-1 against the Crew this season.

It was exhilarating to watch Carlos Gomez end a game by way of home run robbery and refreshing to see Wily Peralta throw Milwaukee's first complete game shutout since April of 2011. But the series wasn't without its frustrations, a common theme for the 2013 Brewers.

The bottom line is the Brewers are 16 games below .500 and one of the worst teams in baseball. While the starting pitching hasn't helped matters, forget about that for a second -- why have we seen so many blunders on the bases, fielding miscues and flat out mental mistakes for Milwaukee?

Injuries to key contributors

Absent from the Brewers lineup on July 10 were Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart because of injury. These players are the cornerstone of Milwaukee's roster. They are fundamentally sound, above average defenders and veteran players. No matter who you plug in at left field, third base and first base in their places, you're going to suffer a downgrade.

Youth and inexperience

Partially as a result of these and other injuries, replacement level players at best from Triple-A Nashville have been promoted to the big leagues. Jean Segura is a rising star, but he's only 23 and in his first full season. Sean Halton, Logan Schafer and Jeff Bianchi haven't played a full season at the Major League level, and each of them occupies a spot on the 25-man roster.

That doesn't even include others who have already been back-and-forth between Nashville and Milwaukee this season. When you have that much inexperience and youth on the roster at the same time, mistakes are bound to happen. It's just part of the learning process.

Players out of position

Once again, injuries play a part in this issue. The Brewers have had six players this season make their big league debut at first base, and Milwaukee is tied for sixth in all of baseball in errors. Against the Reds on Wednesday, Bianchi, a natural shortstop, was at third, and Halton, a natural first baseman, was in left field.

The result was evident -- a misplay by Halton cost Milwaukee a run, and Bianchi also had his issues over at the hot corner. It's been a patchwork defense for the Brewers, and naturally, mistakes are going to be made.

Ron Roenicke's aggressive style

It's one thing to be aggressive with an experienced ball club that knows when to take the extra base. It's another when you're trying to do so with a bunch of fill-ins. Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke hasn't wavered from his aggressive base running approach, and it has cost the Brewers on numerous occasions this season.

By nature, both Segura and Carlos Gomez are aggressive on the basepaths, and while more often than not they are successful in advancing on the bases, they have both made bone-headed mistakes. It's OK to be both aggressive and smart on the basepaths, but the Brewers haven't shown it.

There has also been the safety squeeze and the contact play Roenicke refuses to cast away, and the result has been far too many outs at home plate. When you combine this aggression with inexperience, bad things happen, as demonstrated by Milwaukee's 49 TOOTBLANS through July 10, which leads the league (h/t TOOTBLAN's Tumblr).


Major League Baseball teams typically don't practice during the season. This makes sense considering the rigors of travel and playing a game nearly every day.

But really -- how long does it take to take infield, or go over the basics of running the bases?

The Brewers decided enough was enough and took infield practice before their July 8 game against the Reds and just so happened to win their next two games, games in which they committed zero errors.

Coincidence? Maybe.

Milwaukee turned around and kicked the ball around on Wednesday, but that can in part be credited to one of our explanations above -- players playing out of position. It all starts with the injuries, and these injuries have truly tested Roenicke and placed him in an extremely difficult position.

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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