(Bear with me. I am attempting a post with no links. Wish me well.)
You guys are asleep at the wheel. Here we have the Cubs in town, and nobody offered me any money to stay away. I was 0-4 in Cubs/Brewers games last season, and after the train wreck that was Sunday night's game, I am 0-1 this season.
And what a train wreck it was...
Brewers pitchers walked 10 Cubs and hit another two.
Six Brewers stranded in scoring position.
No clutch hitting - the Brewers had the bases loaded in the first and got a JJ Hardy sacrifice fly before Corey Hart grounded out to end the inning.
The Brewers had the bases loaded in the fifth and only got a Prince Fielder sacrifice fly (but in fairness, Reed Johnson saved a grand slam) (sorry for the link, but it was a game-changing play... check the 0:34 mark) and Hardy grounded out to score another run.
Jeff Suppan and Jorge Julio combined to allow the Cubs to score four runs on bases loaded walks in the fourth inning.
With the Cubs not hitting (they only managed five hits), the succession of relievers Julio, Seth McClung and Mitch Stetter each allowed a run. Note that those three runs were the difference in the game.
Now unlike my good friend Ray Sunshine, I am not a "The sky is falling" Brewers fan. However, the Brewers performance this past week has done nothing to make me think that they will be competitive this season. Look what has happened in their two wins...
Last Wednesday in San Francisco, the Brewers starting pitcher Yovanni Gallardo had to hit a three-run home run.
On Opening Day, the winning run was scored on a fielder's choice by Ryan Braun.
I understand that one week is just 4% of the season. But I am looking at the trends (too many walks by the entire pitching staff and no timely hitting) with no solution in site. Last season, those poor pitching performances by Jeff Suppan and Manny Parra were camouflaged by brilliant pitching from CC Sabathia. Now, those meltdown innings have led to three losses, but worse, they are an extension of what took place last season. As for the lack of clutch hitting, it was overshadowed early in the last season by bludgeoning home runs leading to some comfortable victories, but when that statistical blip ended, it cost Ned Yost his job.
If Suppan can't do anything more than he showed his first two starts, we are in trouble.... Not only because of his struggles, but trotting out Julio and McClung did the Brewers no favors yesterday. 10 walks and two HBP is not acceptable. The Cubs got five hits, and effectively blew out the Brewers last night. I got the same feeling watching Suppan that I did last year in some non-descript game against the Reds on a Tuesday night in September (yeah, I know, another link. But this was some of my best work). Suppan is a slow worker, he nibbles, he throws over to first endlessly, he nibbles some more, runs the count to 2-2 or 3-2 and then doesn't have an "out" pitch, so the batter fouls off about a dozen pitches. Like Yost before, Ken Macha defends Suppan as "an innings eater". But he has only eaten 7-2/3 innings in two games, both games of which got out of hand when the bullpen performed inadequately.
The biggest problem, however, is the big picture. We may be stuck with this team and all its warts. Suppan still has 2 years and $25 million on his contract - he can't be traded because nobody would want him. As for the offense, you can try to move the biggest non-clutch-hitting offenders in Bill Hall, JJ Hardy and Corey Hart, but the Brewers would have to accept a player with a bigger contract than any of those guys, or would have to replace them with sub-par players (if Trot Nixon, Mat Gamel, Mike Lamb or Tony Gwynn were any better, they would be playing in Milwaukee and starting already).
We have to hope that the start of this season is just an early slump, but I see too many of the same negatives that hurt the Brewers late last season, and I just have an ookey feeling about this....