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I love the movie 'High Fidelity'. John Cusack is absolutely amazing in it and the rest of the supporting cast kills, especially Jack Black and Todd Louiso. In the movie Cusack runs a record store and is constantly spewing off his Top Five everything, albums, front sides, B sides and break ups. I tend to use this Top Five game quite often, especially with new people who have a hard time opening up. It breaks the ice and you get to find out what kind of interests and taste the other person has. I got into this game not to long ago and it quickly delved into sports. Since I haven't been able to watch any games lately, I wanted to do something different, and perhaps I can make this a more common occurrence.
Today's Top Five revolves around what the Brewers need to do if they plan on making the playoffs this year. They are currently 7.5 behind the NL Central leading Cubs and five games behind the Wild Card leading Cardinals (two games behind second place Florida). So how does tap this deficit?
1. Stop relying on the homerun.
Yesterday's victory over the Houston Astros took five homeruns, and practically every single one was needed. With guys like Jason Kendall and JJ Hardy in your lineup, you're not going to get long ball production from a third of your lineup. Even worse, these guys' OBP isn't healthy enough to support the idea of multi-run shots. The Brewers are currently sixth in the bigs with 76 dingers this year, which is what you would expect from them. But last night was a clear indication of the problem they have. Of the five shots, three of them were of the solo variety. It's almost as if the team is trying to go long with runners on and over swinging, especially Prince Fielder. RBI opportunities are great and all, but staying within yourself will give you a better shot at taking advantage of them. The Brewers squad needs to spray to all fields and work on improving their lowly .252 average if they want to make a real run.
2. Play better on the road.
This is old news, but stats don't lie. The Brewers are 19-10 at home and 15-21 on the road. While this isn't as bad as years past, it's hardly something to be proud of. Every time the team goes on the road, the offense starts falling flat. As a result, the pitchers start pushing, trying to get more zeros and be too fine. It's a domino effect, and I'm sick of seeing it from a young team that should have figured it out last season, when they did the same exact thing. The best teams in baseball are often times .500 on the road, usually a little better than that. If the Brewers plan on playing October baseball, they'll need to finish the year at the mark. Ten games above will likely get the that Wild Card spot.
3. Trade for a solid, young starting pitcher.
For a lot of Brewers fans, this too is a no brainer, but people don't seem to understand that they can't just get an average guy and expect things to be fine and dandy. Jeff Weaver is not and never was the answer. Doug Melvin just wanted the veteran to help out his young guys down in AAA-Nashville. If you think anything else, you're sadly mistaken. The way Dave Bush has pitched, it doesn't matter how bad Weaver was in AAA, he would have been given the shot. Baseball is a funny sport. They give guys with experience shot after shot no matter how bad they are. Weaver was never given that shot and for a reason. If he got signed and nobody's picked up Kenny Lofton, you know something funky was going on.
But I digress. If the Brewers plan on winning at a .600 clip the rest of the season, they'll need more consistency out of Dave Bush and Seth McClung. I believe that Manny Parra has gotten things figured out. While his start last night wasn't particularly good, he's shown better command of his pitches as well ass significantly better stuff than the other two back end starters. In the end, Dave Bush has to go and a young starter with actual talent should take his place. While McClung isn't particularly good, he's got much better stuff and doesn't let up with two outs. You never know what you're going to get from Bush and their really isn't and in between. It's a good start or a really awful one. Most times that awful start completely takes the team out of the game and destroys the team's confidence.
4. Trade Bill Hall and bring up Mat Gamel.
This is a risk... a big big big risk, but the fact remains that we need an every day third baseman. Russell 'The Muscle' won't be able to keep up this tear for much longer and his strikeout totals are killing rallies with runners on. Gamel has a professional approach and his defense has improved quite a bit, though it is still an adventure. Nevertheless, his bat should more than make up for his blunders in the field. The team seems pretty hell bent on keeping Gamel down, but Hall is a cancer that doesn't hit or walk any more. As a result he becomes a pivotal trading chip alongside Dave Bush and Tony Gwynn Jr., which gives the Brewers the opportunity to get two birds with one stone. The Brewers will have to bite the bullet as far his contract goes, but I think eating the money is actually a positive as far as the team's future goes.
5. Learn to take walks without sacrificing average.
If you haven't noticed yet, the Brewers have gotten a lot more hits lately, leading to more runs. But since that has started, the strikeouts have increased dramatically and the walks have all but disappeared. The Brewers are currently sporting a .323 team on-base. That gives them an isopatience of 71. Where does the best team lie? The Cubs have a 78 and the Red Sox 76. You may not think that's a difference, but it makes a big one. The Cardinals are rocking an 83, but their pitching has finally come back down to earth. If the Brewers can make this jump and continue to push their average up (Around 12 points in the last three weeks), they will score a ton more runs and quell the pressure put on the starting pitcher. More baserunners = more stolen bases = more opportunities with RISP = more runs = more wins. Leave it to the science guy to make an equation out of it.