Monday, June 11, 2012
Clearing the bases: Don't discount Brewers
By David Schoenfield
First base: Braun and the boys. I'm not ready yet to give up on the Brewers. Yes, they're 28-32, Rickie Weeks is hitting .158, Nyjer Morgan has two RBIs (both on solo home runs), they're only 16-17 at home after posting the best home record in the majors in 2011 and they've had injury problems all season. But in the NL Central, 28-32 means they're far from out of it. The fact that so much has gone wrong and the Brewers are just 4.5 games behind the Reds can be viewed as a positive sign.
The main problem has been the pitching: The Brewers are 14th in the NL in runs allowed. Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo and Shaun Marcum still have the potential to be a solid 1-2-3. Gallardo beat the Padres on Sunday to improve to 5-5, 4.21. While he's allowed three runs or fewer in 10 of his 13 starts, high pitch counts mean he's pitched more than seven innings just once. That's been an issue with the entire rotation as the Milwaukee has pitched the second-most innings in the NL. While more consistency is expected from Gallardo, the key is No. 4 starter Randy Wolf, who is 2-5, 5.45. Take out two starts against the Cubs and his ERA is 6.71. After taking four of six from the Cubs and Padres, the Brewers need to pull off similar results on this week's road trip to Kansas City and Minnesota.
As for Ryan Braun, after posting a .994 OPS during his 2011 MVP season, he's at .985 right now with 15 home runs. In other words, if the Brewers' pitching improves and they climb back over .500 and into the race, he's an MVP candidate once again.
Second base: Jason Kipnis is good. The Cleveland second baseman hit a game-winning three-run homer off St. Louis closer Jason Motte in the ninth inning to give the Indians a 4-1 victory. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Kipnis turned on a 97.8 up-and-in fastball from Motte, only the third left-handed hitter in the last four seasons to homer on an up-and-in fastball of 97+ mph. Kipnis is hitting .285/.345/.460, ranks second in the AL in runs, eighth in RBIs, has 10 home runs and leads the league with 15 steals while getting caught just once. Robinson Cano is probably the deserving All-Star starter right now, but Ron Washington may need to find room for Kipnis on the squad.
Third base: Mariners can't hit at home. The Mariners scored just six runs in their weekend series against the Dodgers although they managed to win on Friday thanks to the six-pitcher combined no-hitter. But after hitting .181 in the three games they're now hitting .192 at home. The Mariners have played 37 road games and just 25 at home; normally, that could be viewed as a good indicator moving forward, but necessarily not with the way Seattle hits at home. It's worth noting that while Seattle's offenses were historically terrible in 2010 and 2011, they did play much better at home those years -- 35-46 in 2010 (25-56 on the road) and 39-45 in 2011 (28-50 on the road). With help from that 21-run outburst in Texas, the Mariners actually rank sixth in the AL in road OPS. They've scored 21 runs over the past nine home games.
Home plate: Tweet of the day. The Phillies have batted 117 times this season with a runner on third and less than outs. They've scored that run 45 times. How bad is that 38 percent success rate?