The Brewers were able to narrowly escape a sweep this weekend, at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies. I knew going into this series that we would learn a great deal about how this team would perform in a playoff environment, whether we liked it or not. While the series as a whole was not “good” (Crew lost 3 of 4), it did provide us with some intriguing questions. The Brewers maintain a 6 game lead with 14 left to play, so we need to get these questions out in the open before it is too late.
Question #1) Do we bench Yuniesky Betancourt for the last two weeks of the season?
– I say yes. Let’s get Taylor Green and JHJ out there to get some work in at shortstop. Betancourt has reverted back to his old tricks. First pitch swinging, 0-for- any runners on base, and a complete lack of offensive prowess. His glove is the only redeeming quality for him this season, but I am fairly confident that Green and JHJ can fill that void while being more solid options at the plate. All season I have gone with the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but Yuni B is broken. When fans are assuming outs, every time he approaches the plate, it is time to sit him down.
Question #2) Will any team pitch to Prince Fielder during the playoffs?
– If they are smart, no. This weekend we saw several intentional walks issued to Fielder with runners in scoring position and it worked every time. McGehee would come up and the inning would end, or Betancourt would end it. Either way, if we have to play the Phillies in October they will keep walking him. Someone other than Braun and Fielder need to produce consistently. Corey Hart has been doing a nice job, but he is our lead-off batter now. Rickie Weeks will need to provide some extra protection against the Fielder IBB’s. If he can’t, the Brewers will lose a lot of those 3-2 ballgames.
Question #3) Aside from Axford and Rodriguez, what do we really have in the bullpen?
– LaTroy Hawkins performance on Saturday night really put this into perspective for me. He surrendered the game winning run after only facing two batters in the Top of the 10th inning. Rodriguez and Axford did their job, but the rest of the bullpen is iffy at best. Kam Loe goes in spurts, Saito is always a gamble, if Tim Dillard goes in that usually means the game is over anyway, De La Cruz is still getting his feet wet, and Marco Estrada is a terrific starter who struggles out of the bullpen. If the Brewers playoff starters can not get through the 7th inning, this team will have major problems. Oh yeah, and not one of those pitchers is left-handed…
Question #4) Can this team hold on and win the division?
– At this time last week, I would have said absolutely, 110% yes. After this past week, I have seen some major chinks in the armor and the Cardinals just got done sweeping the Braves (a team that I thought would dominate the Cards). Over the next 8 days they will play 3 games at the Pirates and 4 games at the Phillies. This is one of the few times you will see me rooting for the Buccos and the Phils. Cardinals losses are just as valuable as Brewers wins at this point. The Brewers should be able to win the majority of the games left on their schedule; Rockies, Reds, Cubs, Marlins, and Pirates. All we can do now is hope.
Question #5) Is Ryan Braun going to be enough to keep this team winning once Prince leaves?
– No. Braun is one of the best players in baseball. In fact the odds are good that he will win the NL MVP award ina few weeks. The fact of the matter is, pitchers are not afraid of him. He is a tremendous hitter, but pitchers and coaches fear Prince Fielder. They are terrified of him. I feel like most pitchers and coaches are willing to let Braun hit. Here is the most telling stat of all, this season Ryan Braun has been intentionally walked twice. Fielder has been intentionally walked 29 times…this season!! Which is 20 more times than Braun has been IBB’d in his career. Braun is good, but with a guy like Fielder batting behind you, you have a lot of opportunities to hit. Next season we might see a very different Ryan Braun.
What questions do you have? After this weekend, I am sure that most of you have a few glaring concerns. Share them with me. I want to know what has you concerned about this team. What is rubbing you the wrong way? Which player do want out of the lineup? Who do you want to see more of in the lineup?
Today is an off day, so why not check in on the Pirates and Cardinals tonight. If the Pirates win, the magic number drops to 9.