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There won't be a Marlins/Brewers series recap today. Not so much because I don't have time, but because I don't want to spend my day railing on the awful performance the Brewers displayed throughout. With the exception of starting pitching, there was very little to be happy about Friday through Saturday. And I got to see it up close and personal, being at the games on Friday and Saturday. With that being a said, a Brewers/Cubs series preview will get done sometime between today and tomorrow morning.
Nevertheless Brewers fans, it is time to start panicking. A lot of people will tell you otherwise. It's only 25 games into the season, they're only two GB and they're just not sharp yet. But that's clearly not what's going on here. While the Brewers have the talent to be in the upper echelon of teams, there's no doubt they are under-performing. From Corey Hart to Bill Hall and JJ Hardy to Ryan Braun, the Brewers young squad has failed to make the adjustments they need to at the plate and in the field. You can blame the management if you want, but their performances are their own fault. Here's a look at each one of these guys, as well as Rickie Weeks (whom I will defend til my dying day), and why the Brewers need a drastic change if they want to continue to contend.
The rookie reliable Ryan Braun is in fact in the midst of a sophomore slump. Don't get me wrong, he will produce the power numbers you expect and when he hits the ball it's going to be something to behold. But his plate discipline has diminished greatly and it seems quite obvious that teams have realized it. They continue to pound the outer half of the plate with sliders that eventually reach six inches off the plate. And when they catch him chasing, they toss meatball fastballs at the same corner and watch him freeze. He's basically being outsmarted. But here's a stat you may not be used seeing: BABIP (Batting Average for Balls In Play). Last year Braun's BABIP was an unbelievable .367, well above the .300 league average. Even the best hitter in baseball, Alex Rodriguez (debatable I know) averages a .326, so .367 is just ridiculous and is beyond difficult to repeat. Braun is showing that by BABIPing the average .295. Though we're still looking at a relatively small sample size, we should no longer expect a .300+ average from Braun this year. This ultimately says one thing: Braun needs to improve his approach at teh plate. There were a few calls this year haven't gone his way, but if he's not going to bat .324 like he did last year, he needs to find a way to have productive outs and get his OBP above .360. Right now, his OBP is a lowly .280. The league average is about .320. Troy Tulowitzki feels his pain.
Corey Hart has been pretty solid thus far at the plate, going .283/.343/.391. While his slugging leaves something to be desired, it's his defense that has really faltered. A lot of people will disagree with me on this because Corey has great range and an above average arm, but his lackadaisical demeanor out there has really surprised me. For example, in the third inning of Saturday's game, Hanley Ramirez was on first with one out when Dan Uggla hit a lazy flyball down the right field line. Ramirez was on the go in the process and was about to round third as the ball hit the ground. There was no way Corey could have gotten to the ball, but the fact is, as it hit the ground, Hart simply trotted to the ball and was almost at a walk when he picked it up. If the third base coach for the Marlins was paying attention, Ramirez would have scored easily. Or how about the two balls Hart missed in Villanueva's last start. He misjudged the first one, allowing two runs to score and then an error later cost the Brewers the game. Or how about another one. I can't recall the game, and I don't feel like looking for it, but with one out and a runner on the third, a lazy fly ball is hit to shallow right field along the line yet again. Both Weeks and Hart go for it. Rickie backs off and Corey catches it. But instead of catching it square and in a throwing position, Corey sits under it, flat footed and the runner takes off, scoring easily on an awful throw from an ill-positioned Corey Hart. If he plays that ball with the proper effort, the runner is out easily considering how shallow the ball is. Play aggressive, on your toes and with effort, or these fans will start to notice and get on your case.
JJ Hardy has been difficult to watch at the plate, but has had some of the better ABs on the team. JJ is batting .218/.281/.287 with only one homerun and a BABIP of .243, which is the direct result of a ton of pop-ups. But there is great promise. Hardy has walked 8 times and struck out only 12. If this team could somehow follow this trend, it would be in a lot better shape. JJ will get his average back up and if he can maintain this K:BB ratio, we should applaud JJ for his improvement. Don't worry about the slugging either. It's his job to protect the pitcher spot, not hit bombs.
Bill Hall, ugh. I get really frustrated that fans love Hall so much considering how poor he's really been at the plate. It's because fans love the long ball and Hall leads this team in HRs, but it's hard to cheer for a guy who is batting .223/.270/.500. And if we go back three games to before the Marlins' series, he was batting .202/.220/.449. My god! That is terrible. I just can't bring myself to be excited about a guy who OPSs .669. Hopefully the Marlins series lit a fire under his ass, as he went 3/5 with four walks in nine plate appearances. On the plus side of things, Hall is playing Gold Glove type defense right now. While he has two errors already, he has saved a ridiculous amount of runs for this pitching squad.
And finally, Rickie Weeks. Weeks hasn't been impressive, but he is still third on the team with a .333 OBP, when pitted against all regulars. The quietest stat is Rickie's 21 runs in 25 games. He's played reasonable defense, but has struggled turning DP balls, throwing a number in the dirt. If you go to JSOnline and check out today's notes, you'll see Yost defend Weeks by saying that he's hitting balls hard and not getting any luck. Well, the proof is in the pudding. Weeks' BABIP is .214. His career average: .304. If Rickie manages just three of those through the hole, he's above the Mendoza line and fans get off his back. But I would still take his numbers over Hardy and Bill Hall. Nevertheless, Rickie needs to keep doing what he's doing. If he backs down, his numbers will not move up, but by the end of the year, if he improves his average to .250, you're looking at a .390 OBP and a lot of SB and runs.
This team can do it, but until they do it when it matters, and consistently, you can't help but think they have chance at all to make it to the playoffs. They are beyond lucky to be in the position they're in considering they are now 28th in the league in average and 23rd in terms of OBP. The Cubs and the Cardinals and 2 and 1 for OBP and 4 in 6. That is a mountain for this team to climb. What does it take to get them some harnesses and rope?